Thursday, June 15, 2017

Another British Surprise Election

Conservative British Prime Ministers should stop calling elections. The Brexit referendum cost Prime Minister Cameron his position and this latest snap parliamentary election has ended Theresa May’s political clout, although she may remain in office for now.

Once again, the British polls missed the full late surge of Labour, although they captured the race closing. In my blog of June 7, British ElectionDraws Closer, I cited what most British pundits now agree were the major causes of the upset:
  •  May’s poor campaign performance, Corbyn’s new style and anti-austerity proposals
  •  Conservative election platform problems, Conservatives lost control of the narrative
  •   A still divided electorate and anti-establishment attitudes
Post-election polling data and results refine those general observations with the following:
  •  The youth vote, which failed to show up in the Brexit vote, came out in strength for Labour. They were mostly anti-Brexit and Labour offered a soft Brexit position (keep as many ties as possible, less harsh on immigration). May offered a hard exit from the EU. They also liked Labour’s anti-austerity positions.
  •  The Brexit fight may be over in terms of leaving the EU, but the disagreements on how to do it are just beginning.




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Three Reasons Trump had Two Different Trips

Both the optics and the reaction to President Donald Trump’s nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe highlight that there was, in fact, two very distinct outings. Even Trump made clear how much he enjoyed the Riyadh and Jerusalem visits and was bored and uncomfortable in Brussels and Taormina.

The trip’s dissimilarities corresponded to Trump’s different values, preferences and approaches.

Un-Obama and Obama 
World leaders at the G-7 summit | Reuters
As described in a previous blog, Staging the First 100 Days from The White House, much of what Trump does is to reverse Barack Obama’s policies, rhetoric and actions. The Middle East was the perfect platform to be the “un-Obama.” Obama’s policies toward Iran, Syria and Israel were not liked by most of the major players in the region. Trump reversed them. In Europe, Obama was mostly appreciated, at least west of the Danube. Germany, France, Italy and Brussels shared Obama’s global and high-minded values and mostly supported his restrained policies. Trump’s hostility to the climate change agreement inverted Obama’s position and it won him no admiration.

Bilateral and Multilateral
Trump is a bilateral negotiator. He doesn’t do groups. NATO and the EU are complex and collaborative. He likes the simple single-party deal. The Saudis and Israelis were generous hosts, and he brought arms to the Saudis and anti-Iranian rhetoric and much symbolism from sword dances to wailing walls. In Europe, he was only one of many following in a golf cart.

Autocrats and Democrats
Trump is more comfortable with kings, dictators and leaders with very secure majorities who operate autocratically. The politicians of Europe often depend on coalitions to govern and regularly attend to democratic politics. Trump prefers the royals.

President Trump holds a sword and says with traditional dancers during
 welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
As a nationalist, Trump has some support in Eastern Europe, but little in the West. His emphasis on sovereignty and lack of interest in human rights fits well with the Middle Eastern states’ preferences, but his hostility to established alliances and regional governance was an anathema in Brussels.

Like a royal, Trump dislikes press conferences. It’s harder and more obvious to avoid the press among peer presidents, chancellors and prime ministers than it is among kings and autocrats. This was nine days with the press at bay and an unprecedented trip without a conference.

The Beer Hall Awakening

Angela Merkel has finally had enough of Donald Trump and “America First.” After two generally hostile meetings with Trump and especially his worst behavior at Brussels and Taormina, she told her party stalwarts at a Munich beer hall rally that:
“Recent days have shown me that the times when we could rely completely on others are over to a certain extent,” Merkel said. “We also know that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands. . . . It became clear at the G7, when there was no agreement with the USA, how long and rocky this path would be. I think it was good not to gloss over the differences,” she added.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer
sit in a beer tent, May 28, 2017 | Sven Hoppe/AFP via Getty Images
Most of her colleagues west of the Danube would agree. In fact, new French President Emmanuel Macron practically armed wrestled the always aggressive Trump and later declared:
"Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of balance of power. That doesn't bother me. I don't believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues. I won't let anything pass.
He said that a leader must show that they will not ‘make small concessions, even symbolic ones’ or over publicize their achievements."
President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel
 Macron during a meeting in Brussels, May 25, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
Chancellor Merkel is campaigning. Trump is highly disliked by the German public and its elites. Her opponent, a social democrat, makes attacking Trump one of his main campaign strategies. Trump is seen as somewhere between dangerous or a buffoon in the capitals of Europe. Of course, like in America, there are blocs of nationalist leaders and publics that identify with his views. But, they are not dominant in the West.

The upshot of this awakening is that American foreign policy objectives that even slightly misalign with European interests could come in for condemnation, including in the U.N. Security Council. Also, expect Europe, especially Germany, as Merkel articulated, to start thinking seriously about an independent defense – indeed Trump is helping make NATO obsolete.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Korbel School Sponsors Second Session on Trump Presidency – The First 100 Days

Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director, Floyd Ciruli, teamed up to present an assessment and discussion on the First 100 Days of the Trump administration. A record crowd of 280 filled Maglione Hall on May 1 for the two hour session.


The talk was the second sponsored by the Korbel School since the extraordinary election of Donald Trump. On November 9, the day after the election, Hill and Ciruli presented an early deconstructed what happened and offered some initial predictions.

In this latest talk, the high and low points of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office were assessed, especially as related to foreign policy.

Several blogs on the main topics discussed have been posted on the Crossley Center site:

Election Dashboard, 6-1
How About the French Transition, 5-24
The EU Get a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy, 5-24
French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism, 5-24
Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired, 5-15
Four Reasons Trump Fired Comey, 5-15
French Nationalism Hits a Wall: Not Good News for Putin and Trump, 5-15
Obamacare Repeal Passes, But Fight Over Replacement Just Begins, 5-9
Flip-Flop or Flexible? Trump First 100 Days, 5-15
Staging the First 100 Days From the White House, 5-12
Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump: Not Good, 5-12

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Election Dashboard

Although it is more than a year and a half until the next congressional elections, Washington, D.C. is watching the calendar early, mostly due to the chaos of Trump administration’s start-up. House Republicans are worried about holding their majority and Democrats are busy recruiting candidates.

Democrats need 24 House seats and 3 in the Senate. Both goals appeared unlikely after the November elections, but the beginning of Donald Trump’s second 100 days brings early speculation that Democrat could take both houses.

We will begin regularly publishing the 2018 political Dashboard to quantify and comment on the status of the congressional races, which are likely to be the most watched and analyzed in recent history. Control of Congress, especially the House, will not just decide the Trump and Republican legislative agenda, it may decide Trump’s survival as president. Bills of impeachment are in drafting, with many of the particular charges already identified. It is no doubt premature, but it reflects the President’s vulnerability and the Democrats’ passion.

The elements of the Dashboard are: presidential approval, congressional approval, the generic congressional ballot test, direction of the country, and the number of seats Democrats and Republicans need or enjoy respectively for a majority.


The President’s approval is at a record-low for this early in a term. There are more than 500 days until the November 2018 elections, but now is the time for recruitment and fundraising. Democrats have been benefiting from post-election activism and Obamacare rage. Now, of course, the White House and Trump’s performance are energizing them.

The RealClearPolitics presidential average rating is 40 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval, a 14-percent negative spread. And, the polls of the last few days have uniformly been below 40 percent.


The campaign for the House has already begun with heated town hall meetings for Republican incumbents and Democratic support organizations buying ads in 23 House Republican districts where Hillary Clinton won last year, including Colorado’s Mike Coffman’s 6th district. He won in November by 7 points, while Clinton was carrying the district by 9 points. Coffman voted against the Republican AHCA repeal and replacement legislation.

Democrats also need to defend 12 seats that Trump won, but with Trump’s low approval and the Republicans’ AHCA legislation having only a 25 percent public approval, it’s Republicans who are the most concerned.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

How About the French Transition?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R)
greets visiting French President
Emmanuel Macron in Berlin 
on May 15, 2017 | Xinhua/Shan Yuqi
The first round of the French presidential election was April 23, the second round 14 days later on May 7 and the transition completed on Sunday, May 14. It was a simple ceremony at the Élysée Palace, a speech by the new president and the brief ride down Avenue des Champs-Élysées in a military vehicle. A wreath was laid and President Macron went to work.

One day later, he was in Berlin building an essential relationship with German Chancellor Merkel. Nice transition – less money spent and time wasted and no arguments about crowd size.

New French President Emmanuel Macron waves from a military vehicle as 
he rides on Avenue des Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris, France, May 14, 2017 | AP Photo/Michel Euler, POOL

The EU Gets a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy.

With the victory of Emmanuel Macron, the EU gets a moment to reconfigure its future. It would be wise not to waste time. European electorates are in considerable stress with far-right and far-left movements adopting nationalist, anti-EU positions to compete with old center parties.

The next European elections are as important as Brexit, Trump and Macron. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to strengthen a governing majority in Great Britain for EU negotiations. Chancellor Angela Merkel must renew her five-year mandate. She represents the dean of world globalists, and with the new French president, the essential partner in preserving the EU. And finally, the most troubled Mediterranean EU member, Italy, will likely have an election in 2018. It could put an anti-EU populist party in control. Italy’s parliamentary election isn’t set yet. It’s likely to be in mid-2018 and the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement could be the largest party.


Nationalists and Eurosceptics continue to have clout. They control the Polish government and are a force in Britain, France, Austria and various parts of Eastern Europe. In fact, a snap election has been called in Austria due to the instability of old governing coalitions and politicians.

Although Ms. Merkel’s party appears well-positioned to be the dominant player in the September 24 election, this will continue a government that has lasted 12 years, a very long run in current European politics. Her challenge comes from the center-left more than the far-right.