Trump’s sudden announcement that the US intends to “immediately withdraw” troops from Syria (and much reduced troops for Afghanistan) has caused much confusion as to US defence policy and, following the resignation of Mattis as Defence Secretary, Trump has found it difficult to get a replacement. While consistent with his election manifesto, Trump appears to have recognised that he was being too hasty and it appears he has accepted the view of National Security adviser, John Bolton, that the withdrawal be extended over a longer period and that it should first involve the elimination of IS (which Trump initially claimed had been achieved). Even so, policy uncertainty remains.
It is widely accepted that, through its films and those acting in them, Hollywood favourably portrays the left and criticises the right. Because it has established this position over the years, most viewers/readers take account of this bias when commenting on a film and simply say no more than “well just as one expected”. But occasionally the bias is so bad that an observer feels forced to draw attention to it.
For Republicans the US mid-term elections provide a forecast increase in Senate seats to 52/48 (from 51/49) and a forecast reduction in House seats to 197/235 (from 241/194). All 435 seats in House were up for election but only 35 of the 100 Senate seats were. If the forecast loss by Republicans of 44 seats occurs in the House, that would be the smallest mid-term loss under a post war President except for Reagan’s loss of only 26 seats in 1982 ie a mid-term loss of House seats is “normal”.
My last Commentary (4 November) was headed “How Much Longer Can Morrison Last” and suggested that he must quickly address major policy issues and stop announcing handouts mainly designed to demonstrate that he is an “active” PM. But his decision to establish a electoral promotion bus to travel around parts of Queensland has so far not produced major policy statements. Of some interest is that senior Queensland Liberal Steve Ciobo (who voted for Dutton in the leadership spill) “refused to say yesterday whether the leadership switch to Mr Morrison would help improve the government’s stocks in the state”: ‘I don’t think it serves anyone’s purpose and I also don’t think, frankly, that Queenslanders or indeed Australians more generally, care about what’s happened,’ Mr Ciobo told Sky News (see Morrison Qld Bus Tour).
As might be expected with a meeting which lacked definitive agreements, the media (and other commentarists) containmuch speculation today about what has happened and what might now happen. The general reaction seems to be that, while NK has agreed in principle to denuke, that is no different to what his father and grandfather did and it is unlikely that much will be achieved on that side. On the Trump side there are expressions of concern that too much has been conceded unnecessarily.
My Commentary of 5 June suggested that the ANU should explain if programs funded by Arab money are free from attempts to persuade students of the benefits in the Koran. It appears that so far there has been no such explanation and Vice-Chancellor Schmidt has refused to interview The Australian’s rep (see ANU’s Program on Arab/Islamic Studies). However, according to The Australian report, the ANU’s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies “has been at the forefront of contentious discussions around Middle Eastern politics and society with minimal backlash from its academics” and has received “sizeable donations from the United Arab Emirates and the governments of Iran and Turkey, frequently publishes articles supportive of a Palestine state and Iran, hosts lectures on ‘deconstructing the extremist narrative’ and ‘Islamophobia in post-communist Europe’, and has featured guest speakers who are critical of US policy”.
It is difficult to understate the importance of Israel’s “discovery” that, after in 2005 Iran signed a deal with the US (under Obama) and major European countries, it did not in fact comply with the agreed restrictions on its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of sanctions which included considerable US dollar “reserves”. The press conference by Israel PM Netanyahu and initial reactions from Trump are reported in Trump on Iran. This report appeared in my inbox at about 10 am this morning but was not mentioned on “our” ABC’s lunch time news. Another one for CEO Michelle Guthrie to explain.
Today’s Australian runs a Letters section titled “Newspoll is not all bad news for the Prime Minister”. Indeed! Even though it includes eight leadership quality measures showing a quite sharp deterioration in Turnbull’s assessment (see yesterday’s Commentary on web), no Liberal Party MP comes forward to challenge Turnbull (partly because he or she realises the enormous task required to undo his decisions). This suggests we face with another year or so of Turnbullism.
Weekend Australian ran an article by former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove, in which, contrary to his usual practice with articles written for the Wall St Journal, he states no outright opinions and suggests no answers because it was “an especially chaotic and jam-packed week” (see attached Rove Asks What is Happening in the US). I have much the same feeling about developments in Australia as well as in the US, both of which leave some important questions outstanding.
Just announced have been some important policy decisions both here and in the US. The US changes are the most important but Shorten’s proposed changes to restore double taxation are of course most significant too (see Shorten’s Tax Breaks). This shows today’s Letters to the Editor , which include one by former Treasury Head, John Stone and are headed“An attack on hard-working savers and job creators”. I envisage that I will include further comments in due course. As to US developments, as Andrew Bolt points out in the attached (see Bolt on Tillerson Dismissal),