My Content

Donald Trump

The Acrimony Primary (Ep. 203)

 

This week’s podcast features comedian and Portland radio personality Carl Wolfson as the gang discusses Joe Biden entering the Democratic primary race and what that portends for the 2020 election.

Dispatch to Democrats: Let’s Impeach Like Mitch McConnell Would

I said something on last week’s podcast and upon further reflection, I was wrong.

I know. It’s a shocker for one of us to call ourselves wrong instead of waiting for Kevin to do it. But here we are.

Anyway, I said that impeachment is a matter for calendar 2019 and I’m pretty sure I’m wrong and I’m going to tell you why. Buckle up.

Every analyst with a functioning knowledge of Congressional procedures can give you the basic rundown of how a traditionally constituted impeachment process of Donald Trump would go. The House would file articles. There would be hearings, There would be a vote, with a likely outcome of referral to the Senate, passed along party lines. Then the Senate would hold further proceedings, presided over by Chief Justice Roberts, and they would vote to acquit, probably along party lines, with a few possible Dem defections.

The whole circus would take about 4 months and at the end, Trump would go on a victory tour for the entirely of 2020. He’d hold rallies and talk about how the Witchhunt 2.0 exonerated him even more bigly than the Mueller report did. In my opinion, Trump basically wins a traditional impeachment process and probably wins the election as well.

Traditional impeachment proceedings, while the morally correct thing to do, are a political minefield for Democrats and could turn into a giant PR victory for Republicans.

But what if we dispense with tradition? What is we take a page out of the Republican handbook and scrap tradition and decorum and political norms? What if we kick all of that in the teeth? What if we, the Democrats, pull a move as lowdown and dirty as the time Mitch McConnell denied a duly elected president his constitutional right to seat a Justice on the Supreme Court? Something as potentially damaging as Jim Comey dropping a letter about Hillary’s emails mere weeks before the election?

What if we impeach a president during an election year?

Here’s what I’m thinking we do. Let’s spend 2019 investigating Trump some more. We already have several committees subpoenaing documents, requesting testimony, and planning hearings about the Mueller report and about irregularities in the way the Trump organization does business. And the administration is already stonewalling like their freedom depends on it. Powerful House committee chairs like Jerry Nader, Adam Schiff and Gerry Connolly are already threatening contempt of congress Citations, fines, and possible referral to the DC US attorney for prosecution for individuals who defy subpoenas. And they’re not out of line: Princeton professor of history Kevin Kruse was on Twitter saying that the same threats were made during Watergate and they were potent enough (and legitimate enough) to compel reluctant witnesses to head to the Hill.


I say these threats, and more, are all good. Let’s turn the whole thing into a street fright. Lob subpoenas at the administration in a steady stream and start fining the hell out of anyone who refuses to appear. If the administration sues, so what? Let them take it to court. It doesn’t make them look any more innocent or any more cooperative if they’re willing to burn tax dollars defending their refusal to answer to Congress’s enumerated powers of oversight.

We can run the clock out on 2019 with these kinds of ugly little fights and at the same time, non-oversight committees can keep writing bills that deal with healthcare and education and stopping ICE from putting babies in cages. Show the country exactly how well Nancy Pelosi’s caucus can walk and chew gum. Meanwhile, the 2020 Dem candidates can all stay above the fray by saying “Speaker Pelosi is trying to do her job and I support her. Too bad the White House won’t cooperate. But have you seen my latest proposal on universal pre-k? It’s great, if I do say so myself!”

Then, on February 4, 2020, file articles of impeachment.

Why February 4? I’m so glad you asked! That’s the day after the Iowa Caucus. While Trump spends the morning on Twitter wanking to FoxNews’s slavering coverage of his victory, we slap with him impeachment.

Then we play as dirty as we can and schedule every hearing to coincide with a primary. Take every Trump primary win and steal the media attention by bringing in a major witness to testify against him.

Trump will be furious. He will investigate the investigators. He will spend hours on social media calling everyone with a D next to their name horrible things but you know what? He’ll be out of line. The Democrats in the House will just be doing their jobs. It won’t be their fault they had to wait so long to start this process. If the administration had cooperated in 2019, this all could have been over by Thanksgiving.

The key will be keeping it going until after the conventions in August. We do not want to refer to the Senate until after Trump has accepted the nomination because the optics of him accepting the nomination after being acquitting by Putin’s gang of bitches from the Senate will hurt the Dems. McConnell-ski and (Russian) company have to be forced to decide whether to take the vote in the early fall or not take a vote at all.

This would be the ugliest political campaign since Aaron Burr went door to door against Jefferson. But literally nothing I’m proposing is against the law or outside of the role of Congress. Pelosi has a right and a duty to do all of these things. Nothing in the Constitution says she can’t do them during an election year. And I think we all know traditions and norms don’t – can’t – matter in the era of Trumpian politics. 

Republicans have lied, cheated, and used stolen materials to rig the system in their favor. We can’t be afraid of paying them back in kind.

Joe and the Giant Impeachment Question

by Kevin Kelton

Among the first questions former Vice President Joe Biden will face on the campaign trail is whether he thinks congress should begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. Several candidates have already weighed in with qualified (and in the case of Elizabeth Warren, unqualified) answers of “yes.”

But Joe Biden is a different type of presidential candidate, whose candidacy should be based on character, decency and raising the standards of decorum back to where they once stood. So here’s the answer I hope Biden gives to the impeachment question:

I’m not going to answer that directly because I think it’s unseemly for a candidate to call for the removal of his or her political opponent, just as I thought it was unseemly when candidate Donald Trump was going around the country saying that his opponent should be ‘locked up.’ 

But I will say this: the House of Representatives and the Senate both have an important responsibility for oversight and to hold the executive branch accountable. Because no one, not even a president of the United States, is above the law.

And if you ask me if I think the president committed obstruction of justice? The answer is an unqualified, ‘yes.’

If Biden can nail the right answers on his first few campaign questions – such as Medicare expansion versus single payer Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, and issues of income inequality – he will go a long way toward assuring the 2020 electorate that he’s in step with today’s Democratic base and is not a throwback to the 1990s.

Joe Biden is a great American and great public servant who could make a great Commander in Chief. All he has to do is prove he can be a great candidate.

Kevin Kelton is the co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast and a founder of Open Fire Politics.

Trump’s Bad Trade ‘Deal’ With China Takes Shape

by D.J. McGuire

One of the more maddening defenses of Trump’s protectionism is the insistence that his tariffs and trade wars are “temporary.” Give him the chance, his defenders say, and he’ll get “better deals” that remove tariffs all around.

This week’s Bloombergrevelation about trade talks with the Chinese Communist Party completely destroyed that argument.

China is considering a U.S. request to shift some tariffs on key agricultural goods to other products so the Trump administration can sell any eventual trade deal as a win for farmers ahead of the 2020 election, people familiar with the situation said.

The step would involve China moving retaliatory duties it imposed startinglast July on $50 billion worth of U.S. goods to non-agricultural imports, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private. The shift is because the U.S. doesn’t intend to lift its own duties on $50 billion of Chinese imports even if an agreement to resolve the trade war between the two nations is reached, one the people said.

Let’s examine the full implications of this nonsense. First, it’s abundantly clear that Trump has no interest in ever removing the tariffs he has imposed. This should surprise no one. Donald Trump was President of the United States for less than an hourwhen, in his own inaugural, he insisted, “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.” Within fifteen months, he had cleared out the bureaucratic resistance to his dangerous impulse and the tariff spree began. The idea that he would ever get rid of them was foolhardy.

The repercussions of this are now beginning to be seen, in geopolitics as much as economics. The Administration that touted itself as being able and willing to “stand up” to Beijing has been reduced to begging the CCP to switch its tariffs to less visible products.

Meanwhile, the regime gets a free pass on threatening Taiwan, strong-arming its neighbors in the South China Sea, using Kim Jong-un as a foil, and persecuting hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims in occupied East Turkestan.

The president who as a candidate railed against the rest of the world “laughing at us” is only spared hearing side-splitting gales from Zhongnanhai due to the distance of the Pacific Ocean.

The rest of the world is taking notice and will act accordingly. Those hoping for removal of tariffs now must accept the fact that they’re not going anywhere. The world will be a poorer place, with higher prices and lower production across countries and sectors worldwide.

Economically, America has been shielded by timing: we’re in the late stages of a long economic recovery temporarily buttressed by a Keynesian sugar high disguised as a “supply-side” tax cut. That can’t last forever. The economic reckoning will be painful. The geopolitical effects will as well.

The one silver lining is this: no one can credibly claim Trump’s endgame is about reducing or eliminating tariffs. Anyone who still tries peddling that nonsense is gaslighting everyone in the conversation, themselves included.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Our 200th Show! (Ep. 200)

 

This week, the MPU hosts celebrate their 200th broadcast by reflecting on the week in politics. They also talk about the history of the podcast, let us meet their families, and share some fun surprises along the way.

It May Very Well Be the Beginning of the End for Trump

by D.J. McGuire

On 22 March 2019, an event occurred that signaled the Trump Administration may not make it past January 2021.

For this was the day Special Counsel Robert Mueller delivered his reportThis post is not about any of that.

Early that morning, the bond markets witnessed an event not seen in twelve years, months before the Great Recession that some say it predicted – the inversion of the yield curve (Bloomberg).

The Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since the last crisis Friday, triggering the first reliable market signal of an impending recession and rate-cutting cycle.

The gap between the three-month and 10-year yields vanished as a surge of buying pushed the latter to a 14-month low of 2.416 percent. Inversion is considered a reliable harbinger of recession in the U.S., within roughly the next 18 months.

In theory, and almost always in practice, the interest rate on a three-month bond (i.e., loaning money to the government for three months) is lower than the 10-year bond (loaning it to the government for a decade). The longer someone is locking away their money in an asset like a bond, the higher interest rate they would normally want.

The nuts and bolts go like this: bond interest payments are constant – in dollars. The bond interest rate is thus dependent on the bond price. If, say, a bond paying $50 a year in interest sells for $1000, the interest rate is 5 percent. If the interest rate (a.k.a., the yield) falls to 4 percent, it means the price of the bond has risen to $1250. So when, instead, investors are ready to accept lowerinterest rates for longer loans to the feds, it means they’re paying higher prices for the longer bonds than for the shorter ones.

Why would longer bonds, with less relatively liquidity, be in higher demand than short-term bonds? Because investors don’t have a lot of confidence in the short-term health of the American economy.

The last time this happened was in early 2007. The Great Recession started less than a year later.

Lest anyone think this is a recent correlation (USA Today, emphasis added) …

This warning signal has a fairly accurate track record. A rule of thumb is that when the 10-month Treasury yield falls below the three-month yield, a recession may hit in about a year. Such an inversion has preceded each of the last seven recessions, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

Now, predicting the future is a mug’s game (especially for yours truly). Indeed, Michael Darda told CNNthat one day of inversion may not mean much.

Michael Darda, chief economist and market strategist at MKM Partners, said in a note that investors should wait for weekly and monthly averages to show an inversion before they read it as a “powerful recession signal.”

But here’s where Trump could be in serious trouble, according to Darda: “He noted that on average, recessions occur 12 months after an inversion — not immediately.”

In other words, if this inversion is signaling a recession, it could come smack in the middle of Trump’s re-election campaign.

The last time an incumbent president won an election with a recession in an election year was Harry Truman in 1948 – and as that recession began in November, it may not have begun until after the votes were cast.

If you’re looking for the last incumbent to win while a recession inarguably happened during the campaign, you have to go back to Calvin Coolidge – in 1924 (data: National Bureau of Economic Research– the folks who make the official declaration on when recessions begin and when they end).

There are arguments about how much credit Trump deserves for an economic recovery that began more than seven years before he took office. There are arguments about how his tax policies (including tax increases on imports) have affected the economy. However, a recession in 2019 or in 2020 would be one that he owns – and history shows voters do not re-elect presidents campaigning during recessions.

If a recession is indeed coming, it could be what keeps the president from winning a second term – and the first sign of it came with Friday’s yield inversion.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

In Defense of Freer Trade

by D.J. McGuire

As we careen towards another presidential election, one of the issues that has been once again shunted to the side is international trade. This is a mistake, especially for Democrats looking to expand their coalition (or hold the expansions achieved in last year’s Congressional election). Before we get to that, however, we must revisit why protectionism is wrong, and freer trade is better for Americans and for everyone else.

America has had a conflicted history when it comes to trade. One would presume that protectionism had an advantage when tariffs were our primary source of revenue. In fact, protectionists in the nineteenth century preferred tariff rates so high that revenue would fallbecause imports would so low. Indeed, it was just such an economic platform that enabled the Republicans to win the election of 1888 (despite losing the popular vote) and enact the McKinley Tariff. It is the most common historical marker Donald Trump uses in his own speeches when he defends his protectionist outlook.

Here’s what he doesn’t mention: the tariff was so unpopular that the Republicans lost half their House seats in the election of 1890 (including McKinley’s) and the Democrats took back the White House in 1892. By the time McKinley returned to national politics (as the Republican nominee for President in 1896), he had remade himself as a defender of the gold standard.

A generation later, the Republicans once again forgot the economics of freer trade – and the rest of us suffered the consequences. The Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1929 is still mentioned in Economics classes today as an example of short-sighted policy. It either caused or exacerbated the Great Depression (depending upon which economist is talking). The political effects were also acute: the Republicans were denied a Congressional majority for the over a decade and a half, and after Hoover’s defeat in 1932 they would be out of the White House for twenty years. Congress became so mired in self-doubt that it handed the presidency de facto legislative authority to reduce tariffs (before taking it back under Trade Promotion Authority in the 1970s).

Thus was the “free trade” consensus established, a consensus that started fraying when the Democrats began flirting with protectionism in the late 20th century (before the Clinton era), and is now in serious trouble due to the populist takeover of the GOP. While I prefer to use the term “freer trade” (fully “free trade” is an impossible absolute), I am deeply concerned about the protectionist retaking control of the Republican Party, for reasons both economic and political.

Economically, freer trade means more options for Americans and more efficient markets for them. Please note, I did not limit those benefits to America “consumers” – and for good reason. The first tariffs Trump imposed in 2018 were on steel and aluminum, which hits firms across the country with higher production costs. Those costs led to jobs unfilled, products unmade, services not offered, and prices increased.

Those are the direct impacts of tariffs on inputs, but tariffs on goods and services also damage economies indirectly. Higher prices on these goods and services lowers both Americans’ standards of living and their savings balances. Less money saved means fewer funds available for business to invest in themselves. Once again, that leads to jobs unfilled, products unmade, and services not offered.

So why does protectionism still seem so popular among the populist right and the American left? Status quo bias is certainly a part of it. The opportunity cost of protectionism is the loss of jobs and growth not yet seen, compared to disruptions that are easily seen. Trump’s behavior on the “Carrier deal” before he took office is a class example. As I noted at the time, “saving” jobs in one area costs jobs in another (and worse), but those costs are less visible.

Or at least they wereless visible. In the social media era, with access to information much easier, we are seeing more discussion of the overall effects of tariffs. What once required the ability to follow several academic journals now requires little more than following Scott Lincicome. Meanwhile, Boeing’s recent problems have been another revelation on the advantages of freer trade: greater choice of products, services, and inputs – or, as Jane McManusput it: “Was never so relieved to see ‘Airbus’ on my upcoming booking.”

As for the politics of trade, that, too is changing. As Trump increasing rebrands the GOP as the protectionist party it once was in the 1880s and in the 1920s, supporters of freer trade are finding Democratic voters far more receptive to their ideas than certain Democratic elected officials (Pew Research). Even in 2016, a majority of Democratic voters approved of free trade agreements, despite neither of the two major contenders for their nomination openly supporting them. Indeed, the 45% of Americans who supported freer trade agreements only found one November candidate who agreed with them on that issue – and that was Gary Johnson. Democrats looking to be the nominee in 2020 should take note of what the party’s voters actually believe on trade – rather than what protectionists in the party are telling them.

First and foremost, though, those of us who know the damage protectionism can do must speak out against it and ensure the arguments for freer trade are heard – and that is why this post is here.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

The Kim Summit: Is Trump Caving?

by D.J. McGuire

From The Art of the Dealapparently to the Art of the Cave (CNN):

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet face-to-face with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un for a second time, his administration is weighing backing off an earlier demand that North Korea agree during the upcoming summit to make a full accounting of its nuclear and missile programs as a prerequisite for US concessions, multiple administration officials tell CNN.

Keep in mind, without a full accounting, we will have no idea if the Kim regime will have stopped its nuclear weapons production, let alone whether it will have truly denuclearized — as every Administration has demanded since Reagan.

Then again, it’s quite possible the regime could get what it wants (an end to economic sanctions) without even pretendingpromising to denuclearize (same link):

On NBC News this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that some US sanctions would be removed when “We’re confident we’ve substantially reduced that risk” from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In June of last year, at the time of the first Trump-Kim summit, Secretary Pompeo tied sanctions relief to full denuclearization.
“We are going to get complete denuclearization; only then will there be relief from the sanctions,” Pompeo said in June.

Last summit, of course, Trump “shocked top advisers by agreeing to cancel joint U.S.-South Korea war exercises, which was seen as a major concession to Pyongyang.” This time, they clearly won’t be very surprised, as Pompeo et al are already preparing the ground for a cave … in particular Stephen Biegun, who already hinted that some sanctions could be dropped soon (Washington Post).

Add to that all of the whispers of Trump looking to pull American troops out of South Korea (although, to be fair they are only whispers), and it looks like Trump will be the most dovish American president in history regarding North Korea.

Given the regime’s close ties to Beijing and Moscow, appeasing it at the expense of our allies in South Korea and Japan would be a terrible mistake.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Begins … Without the United States

by D.J. McGuire

Remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership? That was the major trade agreement between 12 nations, including the United States, that most Americans thought had died when Donald Trump pulled America out of it in early 2017.

Well, Trump may have pulled us out of TPP, but he didn’t kill it (Telegraph, emphasis added).

The world’s most radical trade pact has come into force across the Pacific as the US sulks on the sidelines, marking a stunning erosion in American strategic leadership.

The White House assumed that the TPP would wither on the vine without US impetus.Instead, long-standing US allies across the Pacific have brushed off pressure from Washington and forged ahead regardless with what is now known as the “anti-Trump pact”.

“America is the biggest loser,” says the Peterson Institute in Washington. The fall in food tariffs under the CPTPP means that US farmers will be undercut by exporters from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand in the lucrative Japanese market. Wheat from Canada will be $70 cheaper per metric tonne by 2020.

Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, and Singapore have ratified the agreement (Quartz). They will all soon benefit from the tariff reductions that will take place (Reuters). Those of us old enough to remember when Japan was considered the corporatist and protectionist bete noire of the free world can only marvel as Japan moves into agreement while the United States does not (Japan News and Nikkei Asian Review).

Much of the coverage regarding America’s exclusion is focused on the man who pulled us out – Donald Trump. My opposition to the president – politicallyand personally– are well known to readers here. In this case, however, Trump is far from the only culprit. His opponent – yes, the one for whom I eventually voted – walked away from her support for TPP during the campaign. Indeed, she walked away from freer trade in general – a policy and political mistake that I firmly believe led directly to her defeat in several states where Gary Johnson (the one pro-TPP candidate) won more votes than Trump’s margin of victory (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona).

The two nominees, sadly, reflected political parties that were, at the time, far more interested in emotional tribalism than well-thought-out economics. The Republicans’ weakness was exposed in 2015 when some of them started calling Trade Promotion Authority and TPP “Obamatrade” – paving the policy road for Trump. Democratic politicians long held protectionist views as a sort of tribal signaling to organized labor (although, as the Pew Research Centerrevealed, Democratic votersdidn’t share that view).

That it led to the wife of the man who managed to get NAFTA through Congress in 1993 became a political casualty of all this was painfully ironic (to some – or maybe just to me).

There is, however, cause for optimism. The Democrats are, if anything, even moresupportive of freer trade agreements (see Pew’s link above), while Trump’s tariffs are losing popularity (Pew again).

Republicans, sadly, are following their leader into protectionism – yet another reason to presume Trump will easily be renominated in 2020. However, if Democrats can choose a nominee that can appeal to supporters of freer trade and opponents of tariffs (or, as I’ve started to call us, “trade doves”), not only can the party hold the swing voters who crossed over in 2018 (and win more of them), but they can also ensure that the country moves away from its current protectionist cul-de-sac.

We might even be able to re-enter the TPP.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Mexican Standoff (Ep. 186)

This episode looks at the partial government shutdown and who will emerge victorious, the Go Fund Me drive to help fund the border wall, Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan, and the looming war between Bernie and Beto for the soul of the Democratic left.

Why Jay Powell Should Stay Right Where He Is

by D.J. McGuire

Having shaken the foreign policy establishment to its core (which, by itself, is not automatically a mistake) by choosing to cut and run from Syria (which, given the situation on the ground, definitely isa mistake), President Trump is now taking aim at the Federal Reserve’s independence in setting monetary policy.

President Donald Trump has begun polling advisers about whether he has the legal authority to fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, according to two people familiar with the matter, who described the President as newly furious at the Fed chief as markets tumble.

Earlier this year, Trump’s advisers told the President that it was doubtful he would have the law behind him if he fired Powell. But Trump has renewed the issue after the Fed again raised its benchmark interest rate this week.

So far, the White House hasn’t come to a final legal determination on Trump’s authority to fire his Fed chairman, whom he nominated a year ago. The law states the President can fire a Fed governor for cause, but it hasn’t been tested on the firing of a chairman.

CNN

This is what Trump said to his Treasury Secretary.

I totally disagree with Fed policy. I think the increasing of interest rates and the shrinking of the Fed portfolio is an absolute terrible thing to do at this time

Mnuchin via Twitter

For those of us in the economic field, this is the equivalent of using a nuclear weapon. As noted above, a Fed Chair has never been fired.

This will be a serious test for both political parties. For my old party (the Republicans), it will be about how much they are willing to let Trump abuse his power and shatter stability. Just about every opponent of Keynesian economics prefers sound money and stable economic policy. A president who fired a Fed Chair because he (Trump) prefers looser money would be the exact opposite of both.

That said, it is just as challenging for my new party (the Democrats). They’ll be willing to call out Trump on abuse of power and stability, but I wonder if they’ll be willing to defend Jay Powell for what he is doing.

This matters because Powell needs defending – not just on a constitutional level, but on a policy one as well. An expansion in its tenth year, a Keynesian sugar high tax cut that is over $150 billion annually, and price hiking tariffs on finished goods and inputs alike are a bonfire worth of inflationary kindling. Any Fed Chair worth his or her salt would respond exactly as Powell did – raising interest rates and reducing the balance sheet from quantitative easing. All that goes double or morefor a Fed Chair in Powell’s situation – with interest rates still well below normal and a balance sheet vastly swelled by quantitative easing.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell is doing exactly what he should be. As such, he should remain exactly where he is. I fear no Republican will be willing to say either. Many Democrats will say the latter, but I fear I may be the one of the very few willing to say both.

That doesn’t make me wrong, though.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.

Trump Leaves Syria With Fight Against Daesh Unfinished and With Putin Ascendant

by D.J. McGuire

Those who know about my long and strange trip through Election 2016 know that I landed on my eventual choice (Hillary Clinton – yes, for those of you who didn’t know, thatHillary Clinton) due to one issue – Syria.

A quick refresher:

…I saw reports from the United States (Reuters) and from the region itself (al-Hayat, although the Jerusalem Post has a better translation, it also gets Akram al-Bunni’s name wrong). They revealed the preference of the Syrian opposition – the real opposition, not the Iraqi Ba’athists who keep Daesh operating – for Mrs. Clinton.

That tipped the balance, and countered Johnson’s superior positions on economic matters, at least to me. This year has been a long-running internal conflict between my inner neoconservative and my inner libertarian…and in the end, the neoconservative won.

For the analyst in me, this is a real leap of faith, but if there is a chance of a free Syria, I have to take it. If that means voting for Hillary Clinton, then God help me, that’s what I must do.

Obviously, we never got to see if Mrs. Clinton lived up to that. Her Republican opponent, by contrast, insisted that all he cared about in Syria was ISIS. He even contradicted his own running mate’s critique of Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad (CNBC).

Only we now know Trump was more interested in the appearance of defeating Daesh (as ISIS is known in the locale) than the reality of defeating Daesh – for he claimed a premature victory this morning and announced he was pulling troops out of Syria (CNN).

Trump issued his first public comments on the decision Wednesday evening in a video message posted to Twitter, in which he pointed to the sky to reference US military personnel who have been killed in Syria.

“We have won against ISIS,” Trump said. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home. I get very saddened when I have to write letters or call parents or wives or husbands of soldiers who have been killed fighting for our country.”

There was only one problem with Trump’s assertion: it was a lie – as folks in his own Administration acknowledged:

Resistance to the move was strong among some in the administration. A senior administration official told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the President’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria is “a mistake of colossal proportions and the President fails to see how it will endanger our country.”

“Senior officials across the administration agree that the President’s decision-by-tweet will recklessly put American and allied lives in danger around the world, take the pressure off of ISIS — allowing them to reconstitute — and hand a strategic victory to our Syrian, Iranian and Russian adversaries,” the official said.

No matter, Trump wants his victory lap – and he’ll have it even if the race is still going on.

In the meantime, Russia and Iran now know there is no one to stop them from propelling Bashar Assad to regain total control of Syria. Any attempt to use the area we controlled to allow Syrians to build a future free of Ba’athismis out the window.

Oh, and in case anyone – anywhere – tries to discount the accusations and evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Putin regime with the what-did-Putin-really-get-for-it question, we have the answer right in front of us.

Putin got Syria. He got his chief client state in the region (the Tehran mullachracy) as the pre-eminent power in the northern Middle East. The forces of tyranny are ascendant in the region (and worldwide) as we retreat.

Once again, for emphasis, the battle with Daesh was notover (CNN).

Tobias Ellwood, a minister in the British Ministry of Defense, said in a tweet that he “strongly” disagrees with Trump’s comment on Wednesday that ISIS had been defeated. “It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive,” Ellwood wrote, while the Defense Ministry told CNN there would be no immediate change to its current operation in Syria.

If anything, the only real surprise here is that people are surprised. Trump has been an isolationist for decades, and has always preferred the big splash of symbolism over the hard work of real action. He has repeatedly promised to pull our troops out of Syria; it has been his staff that pulled a Sir Humphrey Appleby and prevented it until now.

I also understand and appreciate those who are concerned about the lack of Congressional authorization. One could argue that this deployment was consistent with the anti-al Qaeda authorization of 2001, given that Deash was once al Qaeda in Iraq, but even I consider that a slender reed on which to lean. A far more robust argument should have been made by Trump himselffor Congressional authorization against this specific enemy at the very least. Instead, Trump is pretending the battle is over as a cover for his decision to cut and run.

When it became clear Trump had defeated Clinton two years ago, I hoped against hope that I would be able to say I was wrong, and that Trump had confounded my very low expectations of him. Instead, he validated them.

Again, this was the issue that led me to switch from Gary Johnson to Hillary Clinton. I knew it was a leap of faith then. I have been proven right now – in the worst way imaginable.

Donald Trump lost Syria – check that, he gave Syria away.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015. He is also a contributor to Bearing Drift.