Hitler and Assad

Wednesday, April 12, 2017Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 09.04.11

Good Wednesday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, drew an outcry when he said incorrectly that Hitler had not used chemical weapons during World War II or against his own people.
  • A declassified report said Russia tried to confuse the world community about the Syrian government’s culpability in last week’s chemical weapons attack. The strongly worded document marks a striking shift by President Trump, who appears to be moving swiftly to isolate President Vladimir V. Putin.
  • With key staff positions unfilled and no on-site first lady, the White House is trying to organize the easter egg roll — the most elaborate public event of the year.
  • Ron Estes, a Republican, won a close special election in Kansas to fill the House seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director. It was the first national test of the Republicans’ electoral strength under the Trump administration.
— The First Draft Team
News Analysis

Trump’s Shift on Russia Brings Whiplash

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. President Trump’s administration has accused Russia of trying to cover up a Syrian chemical weapons attack on civilians.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. President Trump’s administration has accused Russia of trying to cover up a Syrian chemical weapons attack on civilians. Pool photo by Ivan Sekretarev

A week ago, President Trump was accused of being a tool for the Russians, an unwitting agent of influence, so full of admiration that he defended President Vladimir V. Putin against critics who called him a killer.
Now, Mr. Trump is in a diplomatic clash with Mr. Putin’s Russia, his administration accusing Moscow of trying to cover up a Syrian chemical weapons attack on civilians and his secretary of state delivering us-or-them ultimatums.
Even in a presidency marked by unpredictability, the head-spinning shift from coziness to confrontation has left Washington and other capitals with a case of geopolitical whiplash. The prospects of improving Russian-American relations were already slim given the atmosphere of suspicion stemming from Kremlin meddling in last year’s election, but the détente once envisioned by Mr. Trump has instead deteriorated into the latest cold war.
For Mr. Trump’s camp, the abrupt turnaround simply proved how false the conspiracy narrative was from the start. “If there was anything that Syria did, it was to validate the fact that there is no Russia tie,” said Eric Trump, the president’s son.
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White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack


In a declassified report, White House officials said the Syrian and Russian governments sought to confuse the world about the assault through disinformation and “false narratives.”

Trump Sees China in Arbiter’s Role Over ‘North Korean Problem’


President Trump’s Twitter posts capture his quandary in dealing with the nuclear threat from North Korea: Only China can realistically force a change in the behavior of Kim Jong-un.

Spicer Raises Outcry With Talk of Hitler, Assad and Poison Gas


Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, apologized after incorrectly stating, in a criticism of the Syrian president, that Hitler had not used chemical weapons.

The Latest Test for the White House? The Easter Egg Roll


With key staff positions unfilled and no on-site first lady, the White House is trying to organize the most elaborate and heavily scrutinized public event of the year.

A Republican Wins Kansas Race That Unnerved the G.O.P.


Ron Estes, the Republican candidate, defeated James Thompson, a Democrat, in the first national test of Republican strength since President Trump took office.

For Alabama Christians, Governor Bentley’s Downfall Is a Bitter Blow


When Robert Bentley became Alabama’s governor, evangelical Christians hoped he would be a model of integrity. On Monday, he resigned after a sex scandal.


I Thought I Understood the Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong.


A historian of conservatism looks back at how he and his peers failed to anticipate the rise of the president.

Agencies Are Still Told to Cut as Hiring Freeze Is Lifted


The new guidance is the next step in fulfilling President Trump’s ambition to reshape the federal bureaucracy into a lean, businesslike operation.

Trump’s Trademark Continues Its March, Raising Eyebrows


Whether 157 pending applications in 36 countries risk violating the Constitution is an open question, as no president has tested the limits as Donald J. Trump has.

Congressman Who Shouted ‘You Lie’ at Obama Hears the Same


Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, encountered some heated pushback at a town hall event on Monday.

Secret A.T.F. Account Paid for Nascar Suite and Las Vegas Trip


The revelations highlight the lax oversight at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that allowed agents and informants to spend millions while avoiding the normal accounting process.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
• Joel Kotkin in The Orange County Register:
“California may never secede, or divide into different states, but it has effectively split into entities that could not be more different.”
Outside the booming economies of places like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, there exists a second, less affluent California that Joel Kotkin describes as a “flyover state within a state.” Here, Mr. Kotkin argues, the progressive policies out of Sacramento only worsen the economic divide between the coastal cities and their interior counterparts. Read more »
From the Left
• Mehdi Hasan in The Intercept:
“In the case of support for Donald Trump, the results are in: It isn’t the economy. It’s the racism, stupid.”
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Democrats (and others) sought to explain Hillary Clinton’s surprising loss by highlighting the economic anxiety of President Trump’s voters. While acknowledging that it is good politics to blame economic disparity for voter choices, Mehdi Hasan sees no evidence for this conclusion. Instead, he argues, newly released data from the American National Election Studies supports the view that “the race was about race.” Read more »
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