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Trump’s midterm strategy is right out of the ‘Wag the Dog’ political playbook

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- Commentary

President Donald Trump faces real risks from the upcoming midterm elections, and he’s clearly getting desperate. Instead of boasting about his supposed “successes” in an attempt to rally his voters, he’s going on the attack against Democrats — and against immigrants.

Most prominently, he’s whipping up fears about a caravan of immigrants from Central America. In so doing, he’s taking a strategy right out of the “wag the dog” playbook.

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In the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog,” the White House creates a fake war in order to distract the public from the president’s sex scandal. In 2018, the reality is not that far from the fiction.

Trump hasn’t brought us to war, but he has raised a relatively minor issue to the level of a military problem. Despite a complete lack of reason to believe the caravan poses a serious threat to the United States, Trump has threatened to “CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER” and call in the military to protect the country.

And on Monday, Trump lied and said of the caravan, “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in.”

“You’re going to find MS-13, you’re going to find Middle Eastern, you’re going to find everything. And guess what? We’re not allowing them in our country,” Trump said in response to a reporter who asked if he had any evidence for such claims. “We want safety.”

Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and an ally of Trump, has been even more explicit about the use of the caravan as a boogeyman: “This is a great Republican issue,” he said.

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But what Trump and his allies never mention about the caravan is also crucial. It is perfectly legal for immigrants to come to the U.S. border and apply for asylum, which is what many Central Americans hope to do. And by traveling together, they can avoid the dangers of joining smuggling cartels.

Meanwhile, Trump has floated completely counterproductive policies, such as cutting off aid to Central America, demonstrating that he cares much more about using the immigrants as a political wedge more than solving any problem.

If drumming up fears about the border is playing the role of a fake war in the “wag the dog” strategy, what is Trump distracting from?

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Well, where to begin? Republicans have realized that the tax reform bill was not popular — hardly surprising since it gave disproportionate benefits to wealthy people and corporations. And the party knows it’s vulnerable on health care, so GOP lawmakers been lying about their own views. And Trump and his Cabinet are buckling under the weight of an ever-growing number scandals, which is likely why the Trump himself has been historically unpopular.

Trump also seems to think that immigration is a particularly strong issue for him, which is why fearmongering about the caravan plays into his perceived strengths. But while his focus on the issue is likely the reason he won the Republican primary, it’s far less certain his anti-immigrant rhetoric is as popular with the general electorate.

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Sondland is in ‘tremendous trouble’ no matter how he tries to change his testimony tomorrow: NYT columnist

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On Tuesday, in the wake of testimony from several witnesses in the impeachment hearing that broadly implicated EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland in improper backchannel foreign policy, New York Times columnist Wajahat Ali suggested that Sondland is in "tremendous trouble" — and that no testimony he could give tomorrow will get him out of this mess:

No. He will be trying to save himself. The perjury plus multiple stellar witnesses paint a damning portrait. He's in tremendous trouble. https://t.co/CxN5w0EErb

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Even the Republican witnesses make Donald Trump look like a depraved criminal

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The second half of Tuesday's hearing offered something new in the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry: Witnesses called by the Republican minority on the House Intelligence Committee. It's understandable why Republicans would want these two men.

One of them was Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide who is among the few people directly exposed to Trump's famous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who claims to believe there was nothing wrong with it. The other was Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, who appears to have been a major actor in Trump's extortion scheme in that country. Indeed, Volker was deemed one of the "three amigos" — along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Trump donor/EU ambassador Gordon Sondland — who Trump entrusted with Ukrainian relations as he exerted increasing pressure on the country's leaders to give into his extortion scheme.

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Impeachment: Trump’s ‘hearsay’ defense just crashed and burned

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In the panoply of contradictory and incoherent defenses of Donald Trump, a favorite of Republicans has been to harp on the claim that witnesses to Trump's extortion scheme against Ukraine were all "second-hand" or "third-hand." This has always been confounding, as the official summary readout of the famous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows Trump clearly conditioning military aid and U.S. support on Zelensky giving a public boost to Trump's conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders. The witnesses so far have simply affirmed what the written record demonstrates amply.

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