Links: Today’s Hot Topics SL 764

This president has done a lot of crappy stuff over the past two years, but I think dooming the Kurds to Turkish genocide should top that list.

What do we think about the Matt Lauer story? Who do you believe? He said. He/she said.

Interesting article about Cory Booker. It’s more positive than the title implies. It’s hard to get attention, when the gatekeepers aren’t impressed. Right now, I think this fight is Warren’s to lose.

AOC’s haircut. Please. The amount that she spent on her haircut is totally average for color treatments. As we talked about last week, these expectations of self-maintenance is commonplace.

One of my favorite articles that I wrote for The Atlantic was about the demise of Sweet Briar college, which ended up rebooting itself with massive donations from its Southern belle alumni. Since writing that article, dozens of colleges have closed. Tiny SLACs are looking for ways to keep their doors open.

49 thoughts on “Links: Today’s Hot Topics SL 764

  1. Isn’t part of Sweet Briar’s problem that its history is of being a finishing school and that’s a thing that hasn’t had a reason to exist for several decades? I understand that it redid itself as a SLAC, but when tuition is $50k, the campus looks like the sound stage for Gone With the Wind, and you only admit women, maybe not every potential student is convinced you aren’t still a finishing school?

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  2. Isn’t Matt Lauer the one who had a way to lock the door to his office via a hidden remote control at his desk? Nothing creepy there at all…

    Here’s some notes from Variety, via LGM, back in 2017:

    As the co-host of NBC’s “Today,” Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified.

    On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.

    He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: “f—, marry, or kill,” in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with.

    […]

    Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding “Today.” NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenture at “Today,” the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.

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  3. “What do we think about the Matt Lauer story? Who do you believe? He said. He/she said.”

    LOLOL! I think we know where I stand on this issue. (The other side of Lauer’s remote-controlled door, for one.)

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    1. I read somewhere that he does his own makeup. I think it was in the article riffing off the comment on how he didn’t like LED lights because they made him look orange (which seems unlikely — incandescent are warmer and more likely to make him look orange). A makeup artist said that he was usually made up (in private).

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  4. I have some desire to comment on AOC’s upkeep, but, honestly, the real answer is that she has a right to spend her money (and I don’t consider her over paid) as she wishes. None of my money gets spent on “low lights” (I don’t know what they are). But, I might just have bought my 100th camera last week (OK, not 100th, but I have/have had a *lot* of cameras).

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    1. She’s not being extravagant (not that it matters). That’s about what it costs at a high end salon. She’s not going to be doing it at home, she has to be looks conscious.

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  5. The Turkey/Kurd/Syria issue is just another example of how is analysis/knowledge free policies (in general) and foreign policy (in specific) have real immediate victims. It’s scary and sad and I hope there is some end to it.

    There were times when I wondered whether a more rational measured president whose policies I abhorred (i.e. Pence) would be worse, but I have reached the stage where the erratic unpredictability seems more dangerous than the more coherent wrongness. I don’t understand (though that’s not surprising; I really don’t understand Republicans) why Republicans aren’t deciding the same — with an easier choice that coherent rightness would be there choice, if they agree with Pence.

    I have had a long standing fantasy where Pelosi ends up as the first woman American President, but I can’t remember how that was going to happen.

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  6. bj said, “There were times when I wondered whether a more rational measured president whose policies I abhorred (i.e. Pence) would be worse, but I have reached the stage where the erratic unpredictability seems more dangerous than the more coherent wrongness.”

    Not that it matters, but here’s my working theory on Trump’s issues:

    a) He can’t see properly without glasses, and he almost never wears them.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/08/what-if-donald-trump-is-just-blind.html

    b) He can’t hear properly, and he’s too vain to use a hearing aid. Here’s him talking to a Yazidi woman and rather clearly not registering who she was/what she was saying:

    A lot of people thought that he was being rude by not facing her, but I would note that turning your ear to your interlocutor is something that people with hearing loss do. I’d also say that if you can’t hear what people around you are saying, filibustering and monologing are one way to “fake” it.

    Needless to say, being unable to either see or hear properly is a fairly major obstacle to carrying out one’s duties as president, especially if one is unwilling/unable to accept accommodations.

    I am personally very concerned by the rise of septuagenarian politicians (Trump, Sanders, Biden and Warren), and I think that there’s a lot of denial, both in the political class and among aging voters, about what it means to be 70+. People gave Reagan SO much grief for being old and senile in the 1980s, and he was inaugurated just shy of 70–a spring chicken compared to both Biden and Sanders.

    I kind of like the idea of a constitutional amendment stating that a new president must be under 70 at initial inauguration, although my husband points out that medical progress may eventually render this moot. In the meantime, we were talking about how we should maybe replace some of these @#$%^&* debates with vision tests, hearing tests and cognitive tests. Husband and I also like the idea of replacing some of the debates with board game tournaments.

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    1. My dad is 79 and is, at this point, perfectly cognitively able (and can see & hear just fine) as well as move around to the point that I have to remind him that at 79, carrying things for me is not something he should be doing. But, I wouldn’t recommend electing him president now. But, at 70, it would have been fine. I think people are remaining cognitively healthier for longer than they used to (in addition to living longer), but I also think there’s an age where that stops being true, and that we have not grappled with the legal consequences.

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      1. We’ve got a general problem of seeing people as either fully competent or not at all competent, legally. It’s not just older people – my teens are gradually coming into competence. Some people are vulnerable to scammers their whole lives through.

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      2. dave s. said, “We’ve got a general problem of seeing people as either fully competent or not at all competent, legally. It’s not just older people – my teens are gradually coming into competence. Some people are vulnerable to scammers their whole lives through.”

        That is so true.

        I think that that is going to be true for the average 70 to 75-year-old person. On the one hand, they may be able to manage their personal affairs more or less as well as they ever did, but on the other hand, if you pay close attention, you can see the beginning of some cognitive issues.

        While I’m thinking of it, Joe Biden has some concerning medical history.

        https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/campaigns/surgeon-who-operated-on-joe-biden-hes-better-now-than-before-brain-surgery

        There’s a lot of happy talk in that article, but the bottom line is that he’s had a couple of aneurysms and he’s had brain surgery. It was noticeable even during his Obama VP days that he wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

        Setting ideology aside, of the oldest 4 candidates (Trump, Warren, Biden and Sanders), I believe that Elizabeth Warren is probably in the best physical and mental shape.

        Oh, while we’re putting together some debate alternatives, I’d like to see a stair-climbing competition (measure both time and heart rate after completion) and I’d like to see all of the candidates walk or jog a mile in under 20 minutes.

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  7. I forgot my c):

    c) Trump is having some cognitive deterioration, but it’s difficult to tease out which of his actions are due to mental deterioration and which are due to vision and hearing impairment.

    I would say that the vision, hearing and cognitive issues probably all compound each other.

    It’s time for a dad-shouldn’t-be-driving/dad-shouldn’t-be-commanding-the-armed-forces conversation, but (as is common in those situations!) there’s a lot of denial.

    https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendment/amendment-xxv

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    1. Amy – Well said! & you and my dad have the same theory. (My dad is about the same age, and is experiencing hearing/sight loss and thinks Trump is doing the same). “Time for the dad shouldn’t be driving” conversation – exactly. Except I imagine those are harder to have with malignant narcissists.

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  8. Wow, just three years Democrats worried that Trump would draft their sons and send them to fight in a land war in the Mideast, now they all want other people’s sons to fight a land war in the Mideast. For myself, no one who supported abandoning the South Vietnamese (i.e., every single Democrat in the 1970s) has any moral standing to complain about abandoning the Kurds.

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    1. y81,

      “Wow, just three years Democrats worried that Trump would draft their sons and send them to fight in a land war in the Mideast, now they all want other people’s sons to fight a land war in the Mideast.”

      A lot of people don’t realize that he’s a dove. A big, pugnacious dove.

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      1. He’s not a dove or a hawk. He’s a piece of shit with a foreign policy that depends on who spend money at his hotels.

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  9. d) No attention span at all/no ability to take in new information that conflicts with existing beliefs (for example his apparent continuing belief that China is paying tariffs).

    I don’t know if d) represents a deterioration from Trump’s previous level of cognitive functioning or if he’s been like this his entire adult life, although I lean toward thinking that there’s probably been some deterioration.

    https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-in-seniors-diagnosis-and-treatment-after-60/

    “Preliminary research suggests that seniors with ADHD experience unique and evolving symptoms that are commonly mistaken for — and overlap with — normal signs of aging.”

    “In fact, symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) may flare and grow after midlife — especially when mixed with normal age-related cognitive decline, worsening physical health, and the lack of structure that often comes with retirement.”

    There’s a really interesting list of elderly ADHD symptoms there. I thought these may be relevant:

    “Difficulty learning new things
    Talking too much, often without realizing it
    Interrupting others
    Trouble following conversations”

    “Based on her research, Nadeau said, “these adults [with ADHD] need a lot more support” than average aging adults. They struggle to manage their time, conduct themselves appropriately in social settings, or accomplish short- and long-term goals — especially after retirement and the loss of a reliable day-to-day routine.”

    “Though MCI and dementia are hardly ubiquitous, cognitive decline is a natural part of aging, as blood flow to the brain decreases over time.”

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    1. The incidence of tariffs is a rather difficult topic. To some extent, they are paid by producers. To the extent that they are paid by consumers, they are the equivalent of taxes, and many people think Americans should pay higher taxes. Indeed, many people think we should have a VAT, which is how most European countries fund their social welfare programs. So I can’t get too upset about the tariffs.

      I used to be a free trader, but the fact that overwhelming majority of my fellow countrymen disagree with me on has caused me to change my mind. Although the neoliberal Democratic elite has now become rather rabid on the topic of free trade.

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  10. I can’t do nesting comments right on my phone, apparently. I’m wondering if Giuliani is going to be in jail next to Cohen? It’s probably a good time for Congress to try to take up prison reform before the Republicans can be sure which ones are going to have to take the fall for Trump.

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  11. I am (and continue to be) pro-trade and anti-war for profit. I also think that entering messy wars that we are only willing to be half way committed to (lebanon, vietnam, afghanistan) is dangerous. But, the real problem with Trump’s foreign policy is that it is impetuous and unreasoned, and in a particularly messy situations. I don’t think there are any simple solutions to the Syria/Isis/Turkey/Kurd/Iran/Houthi/Yemen/Saudi Arabia . . . conflict. But I think that Trump really doesn’t know any solution but acts on the basis of his impulses anyway, contributing to conflagrations that kill people.

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    1. bj said, “I also think that entering messy wars that we are only willing to be half way committed to (lebanon, vietnam, afghanistan) is dangerous.”

      I don’t think that lack of US commitment has been our problem in Afghanistan.

      I think the problem with Afghanistan is that it’s an irredeemable hellhole (at least in our lifetimes).

      “But I think that Trump really doesn’t know any solution but acts on the basis of his impulses anyway, contributing to conflagrations that kill people.”

      Right.

      I’ve personally been weirded out by his recent tweet explaining that we needed to get out of Northern Syria because we shouldn’t be in the Middle East anyway…accompanied by sending thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia because the Saudis’ check cleared.

      https://www.reuters.com/video/2019/10/11/trump-says-saudi-arabia-will-pay-the-usf?videoId=611590123

      There’s also the weirdness of saying that we shouldn’t support the Kurds, because where were they at Normandy, combined with sending US troops to the Saudis (who also weren’t much of a presence on Omaha Beach).

      https://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment25.html

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    2. “I think the problem with Afghanistan is that it’s an irredeemable hellhole”

      Seriously? You don’t want to use more Trumpian words (i.e. instead of hellhole)? It wouldn’t make the statement any worse.

      To be concerned or acknowledge that we cannot effectively intervene doesn’t require saying that a place (any place) is a irredeemable hellhole. I might sometimes fall into the trap about saying that about the Republican party, but that is at least, a voluntary organization.

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      1. bj said,

        “Seriously? You don’t want to use more Trumpian words (i.e. instead of hellhole)? It wouldn’t make the statement any worse.To be concerned or acknowledge that we cannot effectively intervene doesn’t require saying that a place (any place) is a irredeemable hellhole. I might sometimes fall into the trap about saying that about the Republican party, but that is at least, a voluntary organization.”

        bj,

        Given the history of US involvement with Afghanistan over the last 18-40 years and our level of investment there (over a trillion dollars and over 2,300 dead American serviceman and 1,700 dead US civilian contractors) and the very minimal results, I feel like I’m being really optimistic here in saying that Afghanistan may stop being an irredeemable hellhole after our lifetimes. (My exact words were “it’s an irredeemable hellhole (at least in our lifetimes).”) I was thinking of writing “at least for the next 20 years,” but then I realized that I couldn’t even imagine the mechanism by which Afghanistan would be more functional in 20 years, so I went for a longer, more realistic timeline for Afghanistan improving. Remember, Trump was planning to host Camp David talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban this September…which suggests that the Taliban is doing pretty well these days.

        https://www.cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-war-why-us-troops-still-killed-how-much-taliban-territory-charlie-dagata-2019-09-19/

        Plus, isn’t global warming supposed to make the whole planet into an irredeemable hellhole in 12 years? If that’s true, then of course Afghanistan in particular is only going to get more unpleasant…

        Lastly, while I’m not thrilled with the current state of Republican party leadership, do you not see that being verbally nicer to the Taliban than the Republican party is pretty whacked?

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    3. My use of the phrase “lack of US commitment” is supposed to refer to the Powell doctrine: that we only enter wars when we know what our end goals are (what does “victory” look like), the estimate of the resources that will be required (in time, economic investment, and blood), and the ripple effects of our war on rest of our interests.

      Which would be the very opposite of what Trump does and did and what we fear will drive us into an even more scary world where American interests are threatened and we cede power to others (Syria, Turkey, Russia to start).

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      1. Getting involved in a war to protect the Kurds from the Turks (or vice versa, for that matter) would fail the Powell test pretty thoroughly. Trump’s rationale is typically incoherent (D-Day?), but the results are correct, which is a lot better than erudite talk from the best and brightest of Harvard grads. In any case, moral fervor is wholly misplaced, and appallingly hypocritical from anyone who supported withdrawal from Vietnam.

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  12. I would like to see an experiment in lower looks care for AOC and see what happens. Now, I feel like AOC actually wants to look good (kind of like what Laura wrote about manicures for herself). Then I’m not concerned about the systemic influence of her personal choices, which she has a right to make. Say, in parallel, if one likes to bake cookies and has a favorite recipe to share, well, great. If, on the other hand, systemic gender bias requires you to come up with a cookie or color your hair to be politically viable, that’s an issue.

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  13. I’m not worried about the 70 year olds in the race (is that just Warren?), but it is interesting to think of how old we thought Reagan was, as well as the feeling that he was suffering from Alzheimers at the end of his presidency at 79.

    It’s interesting to think of the age of our past presidents. Reagan & Bush were, 93 & 94 when they died. Carter is now 95. Clinton & Bush II & Trump, 73, and Obama 58.

    Biden (76) and Sanders (78) are too old for my comfort.

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      1. “Reagan turned 80 less than three weeks after his first inauguration, so he really was that old.” Um, Doug? The Intertubes say “The youngest person to be elected president was John F. Kennedy, at 43 years, 163 days of age on election day; the oldest was Ronald Reagan, who was 73 years, 274 days old at the time of his election to a second term.”

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      2. dave s said, ““Reagan turned 80 less than three weeks after his first inauguration, so he really was that old.” Um, Doug? The Intertubes say “The youngest person to be elected president was John F. Kennedy, at 43 years, 163 days of age on election day; the oldest was Ronald Reagan, who was 73 years, 274 days old at the time of his election to a second term.””

        I suspect Doug had a slight math fail, facilitated by the fact that back in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan really did seem SO OLD. Back in the 1980s, people talked as though he had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

        There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance standing in the way of people of our generation realizing that (in the context of the 2020 field), Ronald Reagan was a relatively young guy in 1980.

        My oldest turns 18 not long before the 2020 general election. She’s Generation Z, and she is going to have the exciting opportunity to choose between a Boomer (Trump) and probably another Boomer (Warren) or a pre-Boomer (Biden or Sanders).

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    1. I trust the outcomes of democratic processes more than polls as representing the views of my fellow citizens, and there is no major political party advocating for free trade at present.

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      1. y81 said,

        “I trust the outcomes of democratic processes more than polls as representing the views of my fellow citizens, and there is no major political party advocating for free trade at present.”

        Some problems:

        –Free trade was not specifically on the ballot–particular individuals were, with those individuals representing particular bundles of policy positions.
        –In particular, “Do you want a trade war with China?” and “Do you want your household to pay an extra $1,000 a year in tariffs?” and “Do you want to pay US soybean farmers tens of billions of dollars in compensation after starting a trade war that cost US households $1,000 a year?” were not on the ballot.

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      2. I guess that experience is the only school where education really sticks. The lesson we’re currently paying for is that it’s just as easy to lose a trade war as it is to lose shooting wars.

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      3. With unemployment at 3.5%, you will have a hard time convincing the average working man or woman that we are losing a trade war. And again, based on the fairly consistent results of democratic political processes in multiple countries, I conclude that aid to farmers is very popular.

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      4. The farmers are still feeling under-compensated for their loses. And jobs are up overall, but the manufacturing sector is down by a lot, as is coal. I’m seeing lots of people trying to pay me for my work, but it’s probably not work that can do.

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      5. I know everyone here thinks that coal miners are moronic yahoos, but I assure you, they are not stupid enough to believe that either free trade or a Democratic president will bring back their jobs, no matter how many college professors assure them that it’s true.

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      6. They are not and I don’t think anybody says they were. They were stupid enough to believe Trump both wanted to and would be able to restore the jobs. The question is whether they will believe it twice.

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  14. There’s a video floating around of a Russian speaker doing a video tour of a hastily abandoned US outpost in Manbij, Syria. I assumed that it was a native speaker initially, but by the end of the video, I decided that it is a native speaker of some Middle Eastern language (probably Arabic) with what seems to be reasonably good Russian.

    https://mobile.twitter.com/DionNissenbaum/status/1184157051594903553

    It’s clear from the random debris and personal belongings shown in the video that the US troops had minimal time to pack up (although there was apparently enough time to leave some rude white board messages directed at the Russians–who were obviously expected).

    A few thoughts:

    –The Turkish government probably knew about the US withdrawal before US forces knew about the withdrawal.
    –My primary concern at this point is that ANYTHING can happen when Donald Trump gets on the phone with foreign leaders. The US grants the president a lot of leeway with regard to foreign policy, which is colliding with the fact that DJT obviously needs a babysitter when talking to unfriendly foreign governments.
    –It is true that Syria has brought US forces uncomfortably close to direct hostilities with Russian forces. (I forget, are they “volunteers” or “mercenaries” or are openly Russian Army forces?)

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    1. –On reflection, DJT does have a lot of babysitters–but he gets loose a lot. That sounds rude to say of an adult man, but how else do you phrase it? It’s also exhausting for the babysitters.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Trump_administration_dismissals_and_resignations

      I haven’t looked at the list in detail, but there seems to be a lot of churn in national security/defense and in the chief of staff position.

      –It seems like various foreign leaders have Trump’s number and have figured out that they can get much better deals by negotiating directly with DJT, who believes that he is a deal-making genius:

      https://www.businessinsider.com/syria-turkey-erdogan-snub-pence-pompeo-talks-only-trump-2019-10

      “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused to speak to US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when they go to his country, saying that he only deals with President Donald Trump.”
      “Erdogan flat-out refused to meet the US delegation on Wednesday. When asked by Sky News’ Alex Crawford if the US demand for a ceasefire worried him, he said via a translator: “Why would we be? I am not going to talk to them, they will be talking to their counterparts.””

      “”When Trump comes here I will talk,” he added.
      “Pence had been scheduled to meet Erdogan personally on Thursday, NBC News reported, citing his office.”

      There has been some backpedaling from Erdogan’s office since then, but OH MY GOSH! So disrespectful! This is probably partly due to Trump’s one-on-one meetings with Kim Jong-un. Meet with one creepy, oppressive tin pot dictator, and then all of them think they deserve one-on-one meetings…

      https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37883006

      –The odds are very high that with US forces’ precipitous exit from Northern Syria, that important technology or sensitive intelligence information got left behind.

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      1. Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president. I will not forget those who have run interference for him to remain even more invulnerable to oversight than is typical for a president. This includes weasels like Sasse.

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      2. “On reflection, DJT does have a lot of babysitters–but he gets loose a lot.”

        Dan Drezner’s toddler-in-chief Twitter thread has now crossed 1000 items.

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