In Bracing Terms, Trump Invokes War’s Human Toll to Defend His Policies
“I said, ‘So where were you hurt?’” Trump asked the soldier, whom he did not name. “He said, ‘My face, sir, was almost obliterated.’”
“I said, ‘You have a better face than I do,’” Trump disclosed to nervous laughter in the room, before praising the skill of the man’s surgeons.
Scott Corsaut, a Marine veteran and interim president of America’s Gold Star Families, a support group for the families of people killed during active duty, said he sympathized with the emotional nature of Trump’s interactions.
“It’s got to be tough as a president, whether it’s President Trump or President Obama, to greet the families. I just really feel that as a human being that’s got to be a tough job,” he said.
Others see little introspection on Trump’s part.
“Having a draft dodger come and lecture us about what service to the country means or hard it is to lose troops in combat is hypocrisy at its worst,” said Rep. Seth Moulton D-Mass., a former Marine who served four tours in Iraq. “It’s disgusting. Fake piety is worse than none at all,” added Moulton, who was briefly a Democratic candidate for president. “He’s saying what he believes is politically popular.”
Peter D. Feaver, a scholar of civil-military relations at Duke University who served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, said that Trump may be haunted by his exemption from Vietnam service after a diagnosis of bone spurs that some evidence suggests was unfounded.
“Some presidents struggle with whether they have the moral authority to cause other people to risk their lives,” Feaver said.
Trump’s past two predecessors, Bush and Barack Obama, each regularly visited Walter Reed to meet with service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush was a pilot in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, but Obama, like his successor, did not serve in the military.
But Bush never visited Dover, despite the thousands of troops killed under his watch, although he met privately with the families of hundreds of lost soldiers in other locations. His White House, determined to maintain support for the Iraq War, resisted pressure to allow cameras to film the return of bodies there.
In late 2009, as he weighed whether to send more troops into Afghanistan, Obama paid an unannounced midnight visit to Dover to greet a plane returning several Americans who had been killed there. The White House allowed a photographer to capture the scene, prompting conservatives to accuse Obama of exploiting a sacred ritual.
Trump has also allowed cameras to photograph him at Dover, but families must also agree to any coverage by the news media.
“The burden that both our troops and our families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts,” Obama said the next day. “It is something that I think about each and every day.
When Trump posted a video to his Twitter account defending his first call for a total withdrawal from Syria in December, he suggested that such a disentanglement from a foreign war would comfort those who had died fighting in them.
“I’ll tell you, they’re up there looking down on us,” Trump said, adding that “there is nobody happier” about his withdrawal plan. “That’s the way they want it,” he continued, pointing his finger toward the sky.
Bacevich shares Trump’s skepticism of foreign military action, but he said the president is a flawed and ineffective anti-war messenger, noting that he has overseen Pentagon budget increases and appointed hawkish aides like John Bolton, who has since left as national security adviser.
Trump “doesn’t know how to end endless wars,” he said. “He doesn’t know how to deal with the situations he’s inherited. You can’t just say, ‘Well, we quit.’”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
It appears U.S. troops leaving Syria won’t be coming home — at least not yet — as President Trump had indicated last week, and reiterated today.
Instead, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that all U.S. troops leaving northern Syria will be re-stationed in western Iraq where they will reportedly defend the country and continue to conduct preventative operations against the Islamic State, as the cease-fire brokered with Turkey in northern Syria mostly seems to be holding. Esper also did not rule out counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria.
The plan calls for about 1,000 troops to head to Iraq, adding to the more than 5,000 troops currently in the country. „Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now,” Esper said. The secretary added that he will talk with U.S. allies at a NATO meeting next week to discuss how to handle military operations to block any resurgence from ISIS.
But Trump still maintained that troops were coming home in a Sunday morning tweet, in which he also called Esper the wrong name.
Update: Trump has since removed the original tweet and posted another in which he referred to Esper by his correct name, and said the U.S. is „ending endless wars” rather than „bringing soldiers home.”
Mark Esperanto, Secretary of Defense, “The ceasefire is holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with the Kurds.” USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2019
On any given day, President Donald Trump’s campaign is plastering ads all over Facebook, YouTube and the millions of sites served by Google, hitting the kind of incendiary themes — immigrant invaders, the corrupt media — that play best on platforms where algorithms favor outrage and political campaigns are free to disregard facts.
Even seemingly ominous developments for Trump become fodder for his campaign. When news broke last month that congressional Democrats were opening an impeachment inquiry, the campaign responded with an advertising blitz aimed at firing up the president’s base.
The campaign slapped together an “Impeachment Poll” (sample question: “Do you agree that President Trump has done nothing wrong?”). It invited supporters to join the Official Impeachment Defense Task Force (“All you need to do is DONATE NOW!”). It produced a slick video laying out the debunked conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment battle (“Learn the truth. Watch Now!”).
The onslaught overwhelmed the limited Democratic response. Biden’s campaign put up the stiffest resistance: It demanded Facebook take down the ad, only to be rebuffed. It then proceeded with plans to slash its online advertising budget in favor of more television ads.
That campaigns are now being fought largely online is hardly a revelation, yet only one political party seems to have gotten the message. While the Trump campaign has put its digital operation firmly at the center of the president’s reelection effort, Democrats are struggling to internalize the lessons of the 2016 race and adapt to a political landscape shaped by social media.
Trump’s first campaign took far better advantage of Facebook and other platforms that reward narrowly targeted — and, arguably, nastier — messages. And while the president is now embattled on multiple fronts and disfavored by a majority of Americans in most polls, he has one big advantage: His 2020 campaign, flush with cash, is poised to dominate online again, according to experts on both ends of the political spectrum, independent researchers and tech executives. The difference between the parties’ digital efforts, they said, runs far deeper than the distinction between an incumbent’s general-election operation and challengers’ primary campaigns.
The Trump team has spent the past three years building out its web operation. As a sign of its priorities, the 2016 digital director, Brad Parscale, is now leading the entire campaign. He is at the helm of what experts described as a sophisticated digital marketing effort, one that befits a relentlessly self-promoting candidate who honed his image, and broadcast it into national consciousness, on reality television.
The campaign under Parscale is focused on pushing its product — Trump — by churning out targeted ads, aggressively testing the content and collecting data to further refine its messages. It is selling hats, shirts and other gear, a strategy that yields yet more data, along with cash and, of course, walking campaign billboards.
“We see much less of that kind of experimentation with the Democratic candidates,” said Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University who tracks political advertising on Facebook. “They’re running fewer ads. We don’t see the wide array of targeting.”
The Trump campaign, she said, “is like a supercar racing a little Volkswagen Bug.”
The Democrats would be the Volkswagen. They are largely running what other experts and political operatives compared to brand loyalty campaigns, trying to sway moderates and offend as few people as possible, despite mounting research that suggests persuasion ads have little to no effect on voters in a general election.
The candidates, to be sure, are collectively spending more on Facebook and Google than on television and are trying to target their ads — Biden’s tend to be seen by those born before 1975, for instance, while Sen. Bernie Sanders’ are aimed at those born later. But without the same level of message testing and data collection, Democrats’ efforts are not nearly as robust as Trump’s.
Democratic digital operatives said the problem is a party dominated by an aging professional political class that is too timid in the face of a fiercely partisan Republican machine. The Biden campaign’s decision to tack from digital to television, they said, is only the most glaring example of a party hung up on the kind of broad-based advertising that played well in the television age but fares poorly on social media.
The digital director of a prominent Democratic presidential campaign recounted how he was shut down by an older consultant when pressing for shorter, pithier ads that could drive clicks. “We don’t need any of your cinéma vérité clickbait,” the consultant snapped, according to the digital director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid risking his job.
Other digital consultants and campaign officials told similar stories, and complained that the Democratic establishment was too focused on winning over imagined moderates instead of doing what the Trump campaign has done: firing up its base.
“It’s true that anodyne messaging doesn’t turn anyone off. But it doesn’t turn them on either,” said Elizabeth Spiers, who runs Insurrection, a progressive digital strategy and polling firm.
Republicans are “not messaging around unity and civility, because those things don’t mobilize people,” Spiers said, adding that while everyone may want to live in a less divided country, “nobody takes time off work, gets in their car and drives to the polls to vote specifically for that.”
Facebook Favors the Angry
Far more than any other platform, Facebook is the focus for digital campaign spending, and it is in many ways even friendlier turf for Trump’s campaign than in 2016.
Since then, many younger, more liberal users have abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram, Snapchat and various private messaging apps, while older users — the type most likely to vote Republican — are still flocking to Facebook in droves. People over 65 now make up Facebook’s fastest-growing population in the United States, doubling their use of the platform since 2011, according to Gallup.
In a speech this year in Romania, Parscale recalled telling his team before the 2016 election that Facebook would allow the campaign to reach the “lost, forgotten people of America” with messages tailored to their interests.
“Millions of Americans, older people, are on the internet, watching pictures of their kids because they all moved to cities,” Parscale said. “If we can connect to them, we can change this election.”
Facebook also favors the kind of emotionally charged content that Trump’s campaign has proved adept at creating. Campaigns buy Facebook ads through an automated auction system, with each ad receiving an “engagement rate ranking” based on its predicted likelihood of being clicked, shared or commented on. The divisive themes of Trump’s campaign tend to generate more engagement than Democrats’ calmer, more policy-focused appeals. Often, the more incendiary the campaign, the further its dollars go.
Provocative ads also get shared more often, creating an organic boost that vaults them even further ahead of less inflammatory messages.
“There’s an algorithmic bias that inherently benefits hate and negativity and anger,” said Shomik Dutta, a digital strategist and a founder of Higher Ground Labs, an incubator for Democratic startups. “If anger has an algorithmic bias, then Donald Trump is the captain of that ship.”
A Facebook spokeswoman disputed the notion that ads got more visibility just because they were negative, and noted that users were able to flag offending ads for possible removal.
The company, since the 2016 election, has invested heavily to prevent Russian-style interference campaigns. It has built up its security and fact-checking teams, staffed a “war room” during key elections and changed its rules to crack down on misinformation and false news.
But it has left a critical loophole: Facebook’s fact-checking rules do not apply to political ads, letting candidates spread false or misleading claims. That has allowed Trump’s campaign to show ads that traditional TV networks have declined to air.
One recent video from the Trump campaign said that Biden had offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid if it killed an investigation into a company tied to his son. The video’s claims had already been debunked, and CNN refused to play it. But Facebook rejected the Biden campaign’s demand to take the ad down, arguing that it did not violate its policies.
(Bloomberg) — Malaysia may become a target of sanctions as the export-reliant economy is caught in the crossfire of the U.S.-China trade war, according to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir said trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies could evolve into another Cold war, although he didn’t specify who could impose the curbs.
“Economically we are linked to both markets, and physically we are also caught in between for geographical reasons,” Mahathir said in Kuala Lumpur. “There are even suggestions that we ourselves would be a target for sanctions.”
He said Malaysia will prepare for the worst by cooperating with regional neighbors, but didn’t elaborate.
Neighboring Vietnam has already drawn the U.S. government’s ire, with President Donald Trump describing the Southeast Asian nation as “almost the single worst abuser of everybody” when asked if he wanted to impose tariffs on the nation.
Malaysia was placed on the U.S. Treasury watch list for currency manipulation in May for its bilateral trade and current-account surplus. The central bank has denied the nation manipulates its currency and said it supports free and fair trade.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anisah Shukry in Kuala Lumpur at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Yudith Ho at email@example.com, Liau Y-Sing
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