'absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics'
The 'North Korea problem'
Following a failed North Korean missile test on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence claimed that “the era of strategic patience is over” and warned North Korea “not to test [President Trump’s] resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.” Pence, who landed in Seoul for a 10-day diplomatic tour through Asia just hours after Pyongyang’s failed missile test, also stressed the US’s willingness to work with China, Japan, and South Korea to achieve “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” and announced plans to continue the early installation of a THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. President Trump himself has said that North Korea’s “gotta behave” and, after receiving criticism for not following through on his campaign promise to label China a currency manipulator, took to Twitter defend his decision, tweeting “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korea problem?”
China has in recent months banned imports of North Korean coal, and as Reuters reports, “has appeared increasingly frustrated with Pyongyang, speaking out against its weapons tests and supporting United Nations sanctions, while repeatedly calling for talks.”
North Korea has been defiant in response to US warnings and Chinese criticism, asserting it will continue to test missiles on “a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis” and claiming that it would respond to US military action with “a nuclear preemptive strike by our own style and method.” On Wednesday, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters the administration was discussing ways to pressure Pyongyang into diplomatic re-engagement, North Korean state media threatened the US and South Korea with a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”
At the National Review, David French wonders if we’re ready for another Korean War, arguing that memory (or the lack of it) plays a powerful role in foreign policy.
Trump signs "Buy American and Hire American" executive order on Tax Day
In keeping with his signature campaign promise to spark US job growth, President Trump signed a “Buy American and Hire American” executive order into action on Tuesday during a visit to the Snap-on Tool Company in Kenosha, Wisconsin. With the order, the Trump administration intends to “promote economic and national security and to help stimulate economic growth, create good jobs at decent wages, strengthen our middle class, and support the American manufacturing and defense industrial bases” by directing the federal government to “maximize…the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States.” The order also directs certain Cabinet members to suggest reforms to the H-1B visa program, which, as NPR reports, “aims to crack down on what the administration calls ‘abuses’ of government guest-worker programs.”
At the New Yorker, Adam Davidson argues that Trump’s new executive order is “absurdist, self-contradicting theatrics.”
Jon Ossoff's 'victory for the ages'
Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff fell just short of the vote total needed to win Georgia’s historically conservative 6th Congressional District outright on Tuesday. The special election to replace Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price had been billed as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency, and Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide, had raised more than eight million dollars for his campaign.
In what he called “a victory for the ages,” Ossoff collected 48.1 percent of the vote, nearly two and a half times the vote total captured by his closest challenger, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, who will challenge him in a June 20th runoff election.
President Trump was quick to frame the results as a victory for his presidency, taking credit for Ossoff’s “loss” in a tweet: “Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” Trump had spent much of the previous two days tweeting about the Georgia special election.
At The Atlantic, Clare Foran explores what Ossoff’s campaign might mean for the 2018 midterm elections.
This week in Russia
According to a Reuters special report, a Russian government think tank “developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system.” The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, which US officials believe is controlled by Vladimir Putin, suggested (1) the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign in print and social media encouraging US voters to support a candidate who would take a softer stance toward Russia, and (2) launch a media campaign about US voter fraud, to undermine what seemed at the time the report was being prepared like an apparent electoral victory for Hillary Clinton.
RISS director Mikhail Fradkov has denied the allegations in the report, claiming that “It seems that the authors of this idea have failed to reconcile in their conspiratorial mindset the existing realities with the desired fantasies…the attempt to engage Russia as a co-conspirator is faulty at its core.”
Also: The FBI used a controversial dossier compiled by opposition researchers to gain approval to secretly monitor Trump campaign advisor Carter Page…The US and Russia are at odds over language omitted from a UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea’s recent failed missile test.
H.R. McMaster met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other high level officials in Kabul on Sunday – McMaster is the first US official to visit Afghanistan since the Trump Administration took over in January…Trump congratulated Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a close vote in a national referendum gave him sweeping new powers…Bill O’Reilly is leaving Fox News after 20 years amid accusations of sexual misconduct…Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chair of the House Oversight Committee, announced he would not seek reelection in 2018, although he is considering a run for Utah governor…Rex Tillerson sends mixed signals on Iran, confirming in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday that Tehran was upholding its commitment to the nuclear deal set in place during the Obama administration, but telling reporters on Wednesday that the deal was “a failure [while] accus[ing] Tehran of following in the footsteps of North Korea”…the House Freedom Caucus agreed on Thursday to the MacArther amendment to the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill, although, as POLITICO reports, a vote is still unlikely to take place next week…Louisiana governor proclaimed a state of emergency over the state’s eroding coastline, which is disappearing at “the equivalent of one football field of land every hour.”
above image: "Kim," diapositiv.fotographie / flickr