The God-King’s ‘bill’ for Germany’s ‘NATO debt’ was both insulting and false…. (More)

“The chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations”

Maybe the God-King thought it was a joke, or maybe it was a bargaining ploy:

Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill – thought to be for more than £300bn – for money her country “owed” NATO for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed.

The bill – handed over during private talks in Washington – was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.

“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.

Trump has criticised a number of NATO countries – Germany among them – for insufficient military spending, leaving America to pick up more than its fair share of the tab.

Of course, Out House Sewer Spewer Sean Spicer denies it happened at all:

The White House denied reports on Sunday that President Trump gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel a $374 billion invoice for money her country owed the U.S. for NATO defense.

The Times of London published a story citing anonymous German officials who claimed Trump gave Merkel the bill during their meeting in Washington last week.

“No, this is not true,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said when Business Insider reached out to the White House for comment.

Never mind that the God-King all but admitted it on Twitter:

That was insulting. It’s also just plain wrong.

“This is not a financial transaction”

Thing is, NATO is not a club where members owe dues, or a protection racket run by the U.S.-as-Mafioso:

Trump has long criticized other NATO members for not spending enough money on defense, claiming that it leaves the U.S. to pick up the slack. NATO guidelines proscribe that member nations spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, a target that Germany and most members fall short of.

Meanwhile, the U.S. spends more on its military than any other country in the world - in 2016, the U.S. spent 3.6 percent of GDP on the military, well above NATO’s guideline.

That doesn’t mean, however, that countries that fall short owe the United States anything, or that the U.S. pays more because they pay less - the U.S. decides on its own how much money it wants to spend on the military.

And, the military spending doesn’t all go directly to NATO - that is, the U.S.’s $600 billion plus military budget is not directly handed over to NATO.

“This is not a financial transaction, where NATO countries pay the U.S. to defend them. It is part of our treaty commitment,” Ivo Daalder, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, tweeted in response to Trump’s claims.

In fact, none of the U.S. military budget is “handed over to NATO.” Yes, we have bases in Europe, but those are no longer an anti-Soviet “tripwire.” Those bases now support U.S. operations in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East. Some of those operations are coordinated with NATO, and Germany still has troops training Afghan security forces. But many of those operations are independent of NATO, and NATO allies have often bristled at our staging from or overflying their territory for military actions that their governments did not plan and do not support.

Moreover, the God-King’s ‘NATO debt’ myth assumes that our military-heavy foreign policy is an inevitable response to a dangerous world. If other nations spend less on their militaries, the reasoning goes, then we must spend more to “pick up the slack.” But too often our foreign policy merely reflects The Law of the Instrument – “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” – and the God-King’s proposed budget is expressly intended to throw away the rest of the toolbox.

So I’m not surprised that Chancellor Merkel ignored the God-King’s provocation. Since World War II, Germany has learned that negotiation and compromise are more useful – and less devastating – than military force. Rather than lecturing Chancellor Merkel, the God-King should be listening to her. Like that might happen….

“The American conservative movement’s decades-long battle against institutions that it has deemed irredeemably liberal”

Also, I highly recommend David Roberts’ well-researched and well-written essay at Vox on how conservatism became a ‘post-truth’ movement built on “tribal epistemology”:

The right’s view that the institutions lean liberal is hyperbolic, but not without foundation. Science, academia (at least liberal arts and social sciences), and journalism do tend to draw their personnel from left-leaning demographics.

Those institutions have cosmopolitan aspirations – fair application of transpartisan standards – but there’s no doubt that in practice, those aspirations often cover for more parochial preferences.

But the right has not sought greater fairness in mainstream institutions; it has defected to create its own. Grossmann and Hopkins recently published an article called “How Information Became Ideological.” They sum up:

[O]nly the Republican Party has actively opposed society’s central information-gathering and -disseminating institutions – universities and the news media – while Democrats have remained reliant on those institutions to justify policy choices and engage in political debate, considering them both independent arbiters and allies. Although each party’s elites, activists and voters now depend on different sources of knowledge and selectively interpret the messages they receive, the source of this information polarization is the American conservative movement’s decades-long battle against institutions that it has deemed irredeemably liberal. [Roberts’ emphasis]

Democrats still largely see themselves as playing the game, bound by the ring fence, subject to common referees (e.g., science and media). That’s how most of the mainstream media sees the situation as well. But the right sees the game itself, its institutions and norms, as the enemy.

The right-wing solution was to create a self-contained bubble of distortions, conspiracy theories, and outright lies … and that has now taken over the Republican Party:

When asked about Trump’s false statements regarding his inauguration crowd numbers, adviser Kellyanne Conway famously referred to her boss’s “alternative facts.” When asked about Trump’s false statements regarding widespread voter fraud, his spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes said: “Mr. Trump’s tweets, amongst a certain crowd, a large – a large part of the population, are truth.”

In January, Rep. Lamar Smith (TX) said it’s “better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

That’s tribal epistemology, as clearly articulated as it ever will be.

Alas, Roberts has no solutions. But he does describe a worldview where Salena Zito can claim the God-King’s plummeting approval ratings don’t matter because the people who still like him … still like him:

Because in American politics, geography is everything.

Live in an urban, minority or college setting, and Donald J. Trump is underwater in the polls in a big way; he gets a frosty 29 percent approval rating in the cities, 35 percent approval in the urban suburbs, in the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey.

But, live in the second ring of suburbs outside the cities, or the exurbs or the third and fourth rings that comprise rural America, and the president gets a 53 percent to 59 percent job approval rating in the same poll.

For the most part, the people who live in those regions are pretty much happy with him.

That’s a puzzling notion that has befuddled many journalists, members of the permanent establishment and pundits on both sides of the aisle since the day Trump was inaugurated.

And, in all likelihood, that effervescent support will continue for a very long time. Why? Because the people who live in those outer rings of cities aren’t just separated by geography; they’re separated by culture, traditions and aspirations that differ from those of their city cousins.

Okay, sure. And they are a diminishing minority of voters, except in Zito’s imagination:

If you’re looking toward the midterms in 2018 and hoping Trump will be a drag on a House congressional seat, it’s more important to know how folks see the president in northeast Ohio or Scranton, Pa., than in Boston or Baltimore or Philadelphia.

Why? Because here in Ohio’s Mahoning Valley, there was a 21-point shift in support from Barack Obama toward Trump in the 13th Congressional District held by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan. Ryan didn’t lose, but a once-solid Democratic seat is now vulnerable in the 2018 midterms.

No More Mister Nice Blog’s Steve M. deftly parses and debunks that rubbish:

Tim Ryan “didn’t lose”? He sure didn’t – he won in 2016 by a 68%-32% margin. That means he’s “vulnerable”?

In Zito-land, I guess it does.

Zito, we should remember, is the fawning fangirl who coined the absurd notion that everyone should take the God-King “seriously” rather than “literally.” In her framing, the factual truth of his words is relevant; all that matters is that his followers believe in him.

And people ask why I call him the God-King….

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Photo Credit: Reuters

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Good day and good nuts