Transcripts of two Trump phone calls released, and it ain’t pretty

You may have heard that today’s Washington Post published transcripts of two phone calls made by Donald Trump to foreign leaders soon after he was inaugurated. One was to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and the other to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The one to Peña Nieto (Jan. 27) has received most of the attention because Trump discusses The Big Mexican-Inhibiting Wall, and concentrates largely on his own image (surprise!).

Here’s Trump telling Peña Nieto that he simply has to say that Mexico will pay for the wall, even if it won’t:

The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of U.S. trade representatives. They are beating us at trade and they are beating us at the border, and they are killing us with drugs. Now I know you are not involved with that, but regardless of who is making all the money, billions and billions and billions – some people say more – is being made on drug trafficking that is coming through Mexico. Some people say that the business of drug trafficking is bigger than the business of taking our factory jobs. So what I would like to recommend is – if we are going to have continued dialogue – we will work out the wall. They are going to say, “who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?” to both of us, and we should both say, “we will work it out.” It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, “we will not pay” and me saying, “we will not pay.”

. . . We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.

Peña Nieto says this:

. . . This is what I suggest, Mr. President – let us stop talking about the wall. I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.

And Trump replies:

But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.

Well, we’ve known for a long time that Mexico won’t pay a peso for the damn Wall, and Trump couldn’t control the narrative.

You can read more at the Post site. I wonder how the paper got these transcripts!

Oh, one snippet from the call to Turnbull on January 28. Neither man looks good, for they both discuss trying to keep immigrants out of their country. At one point Trump emits some unintentional hilarity when Turnbull asked The Donald to keep a pledge from the Obama administration for the U.S. to accept between 1000 and 2000 incarcerated refugees to Australia. (Turnbull calls them “bad people”, and they’re kept on islands away from the Austrlian mainland.)  Trump then brags in a characteristic way, but it’s really insane (my emphasis):

Malcom [sic], why is this so important? I do not understand. This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.

Oy vey! He’ll be here for 3.5 more years, folks! Don’t forget to try the roast beef!


  1. Phil Rounds
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    He does seem primarily concerned with how those things make him look, doesn’t he?

    The US uses Mexico for cheap, convenient labor and then complains when desperate people cross the boarder so they can earn enough to eat. Then we destabilize the middle east and complain about the refugees fleeing the clusterfrak we’ve helped create there.

    The problem isn’t the immigrants…it’s the situations they’re fleeing.

  2. Craw
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I think you are misreading his comment to Turnbull. He means “I am the poster boy for not letting people into the country.” He is not actually saying he is the greatest person in the world, nor even the greatest person who coincidentally opposes letting people in. He means he is the person most identified with that stand.

    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I know that, but he’s also bragging that he has that image and wants to keep it.

      • Craw
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        That isn’t bragging. It is citing a relevant fact in a discussion about what would or would not serve his interests and hence what he can or cannot barter with Turnbull for other favours. Which forms of reciprocal back scratching are on offer. It seems cynical and calculating to me, not an attempt to impress Turnbull.

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, I don’t think it’s an attempt to impress Turnbull; I meant that it is a way to keep an image of himself that he WANTS. Trump is bragging to himself.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          Jeez, Craw, how many contortions are you going to go through to try to show that Trump meant something other than what he said?

          Either the guy has the world’s biggest ego, or he’s so bad at expressing himself he’s practically incoherent. He doesn’t occasionally mis-speak like Obama or Bush or [any other politician you care to name], he does it continuously, non-stop. (You can substitute ‘lie’ for ‘mis-speak’ there if you like, it’s often hard to tell the difference).


          • Craw
            Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            There’s no contortion. You seem determined to find exculpation for Trump in any dispute of any criticism of Trump, even mistaken ones, even when the emendation is itself critical. I for one don’t see “cynical and calculating” as praise. Maybe Hillary voters do?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 4, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

              Okay, point taken with regard to my first paragraph.

              All I would say is, Trump seems to be so bad at expressing himself that you’re going to have a lot of work ahead of you…


    • Mark R.
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      It doesn’t matter what he intended. Either way, Trump still believes he is the greatest person in the world. Sad.

      • Craw
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        Actually, when inferring what people really believe what they intended to say does matter. Or do you think Obama really believes there are 57 states?

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

          …or only 50 varieties of Heinz products?




        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          Who do you think Trump thinks is better than he is? (Apart from Putin or other dictators to whom he subordinates himself.)

      • BJ
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I really don’t think that’s what he was saying either. He was trying (poorly, because the man doesn’t know how to speak) to say he is the leading example of someone who doesn’t want to let people into his country, not that he’s the greatest man in the world who also doesn’t want to let people into his country.

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

          One more time: I didn’t MEAN to say that he thought he was the greatest man in the world who also xyz. I meant that he was the GREATEST PERSON IN THE PRACTICE OF NOT LETTING PEOPLE INTO HIS OUNTRY.

          Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but this is my clarification. And it’s hilarious under my construal.

          • BJ
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

            I know. I wasn’t responding to you with that comment…

            And yes, it is amusing and still *probably* true.

            • Craw
              Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

              To beat a dead horse. You are not listening to the tape. You are reading a transcript. I think if you try you can easily recite Trump’s statement in a way that makes its meaning quite clear. That makes it illegitimate to reject out of hand such a reading. Inferentially, from the rest of the discussion, I think that is the best reading. But I am not accusing anyone who disagrees of “contortion”. I am simply trying to show why I think they have it wrong.

              Remove any preconception about Trump and from that I think you clearly see a calculating politician saying “well I have this great reputation for X and I don’t want to give it up it will make it look like it was just demagoguery.”

              Why is this worth debating at all? Because this site is plagued by people who reject any principle of charity in interpretation. [You ,BJ, are not one of those.] That is not a legitimate way to debate.

              • Craw
                Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

                Do you remember Obama’s “you didn’t build that”? On paper, in a transcipt with the transcriber supplying his own punctuation, it did look that perhaps Obama meant “you didn’t build your business”. But in context of his argument, and *especially from his vocal inflexions*, from the recording it was clear that his “that” meant the greater system to which he had referred just before. (The way you gesture or speak when you say “that” can make it plain it does not refer to the closest referent, but to a more distant one.)
                I was able to convince a prominent Libertarian to recant his criticism of the speech, by pointing that out.

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          At some point, if you can’t speak clearly enough that *everyone* has to explain what you *really* meant, maybe you should learn something new. Or shut up.

          • BJ
            Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:02 am | Permalink

            No kidding. It’s not like I disagree with that.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Compare Trump’s truculence with our closest allies to his abject failure to respond to Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who’s called him everything but a pussygrabber in response to his recent signing of the Russian sanctions bill (forced upon him by congress). Medvedev has hit him where he’s most vulnerable, in his manhood (“weak”!), yet Trump, who prides himself on hitting back 10 times as hard, has said … nada.

    It’s become blindingly obvious that the Donald has been compromised by a big Russian bear.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      It is getting more obvious every day. And didn’t Medvedev also say Trump needed to be “liquidated”? Maybe lost in translation, but I found that particular word very interesting.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        Why on earth would any opponent wish to liquidate Trump, since he would be replaced by someone who would almost certainly be more competent. (I don’t mean Pence specifically, I mean almost any politician selected at random.)


        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Look at it from Putin’s perspective.

          The chances of getting a pro-Russian policy agenda implemented on Drumpf’s watch are zero because of his gross incompetence. Earlier, Putin could have reasonably hoped for something out of Drumpf — Drumpf is the Resident, after all.

          Now, there may still be zero chance of pro-Russia policy from any of Drumpf’s replacements; however, even if that’s the case, it’s still true that there’s nothing further to be gained for Putin from Drumpf in that regards.

          So Putin’s calculus is going to be whether Russia’s best interests are otherwise served better with Drumpf or without him.

          The remaining “best interests” that Putin has levers to pull would be destabilizing the US, knocking us from the top of the global superpower heap.

          A continued Drumpf Residency is the least chaotic outcome. Historians would view Drumpf as an obscene conservative analogue to Jimmy Carter.

          A Democratic victory next year followed by impeachment would be more chaotic, yes, but that mirrors Nixon…and Reagan and the collapse of the Soviet Union followed too closely after Nixon for that to appeal to Putin.

          Lighting the match now in so dramatic a way that the Republicans are forced to eat their own, especially if the match is made to be seen to be lit by Clinton sympathizers…that would be maximum chaos, unprecedented in American history, and lead to a Constitutional crisis that could easily result in a new government that doesn’t derive its authority from the Constitution. And if that doesn’t give Putin an hard-on, what would?




        • gijswijs
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          Maybe Medvedev meant liquidated in the sense of selling your assets for money.

          They have a position in the geo-political market with Trump as their puppet (nobody really doubts this anymore, right?) and maybe Medvedev feels that it’s time to start banking on that position.

          In any case I don’t agree with Ben Goren that there’s nothing to gain from Trump’s presidency from Putin’s perspective. Especially internationally they could play the Trump card for while.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        @Mark R Regarding the word “Liquidated”…

        Medvedev [& therefore Putin] is sending a message to Trump. Not that he will be killed, but that he will be toppled by his fellows. Medvedev & Putin are washing their hands of Trump & letting him know – “you are on your own”

        Here is the original Dmitry Medvedev facebook post in Russian with the English version below the Russian – it is worth reading all the paragraphs:

        ENGLISH VERSION OF PARAGRAPH TWO: “What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A NON-SYSTEMIC PLAYER HAS TO BE REMOVED. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).”

        “Liquidated” is just a bit of imaginative translation – I showed the original Russian to a Ukrainian friend who is fluent in a gazillion Slavic languages & she says “eliminated” is the closest English, but “removed” is also fine. Her English is better than mine so I take her word.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:44 am | Permalink

          The facebook post:

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 3:46 am | Permalink

          I can’t see the facebook link for some reason here it is again in part. Put facebook dot com in front:


          • Mark R.
            Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for your response and clarification Michael.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Compromised? As in buggered?

      • BJ
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        Well, that wouldn’t surprise me either…

        And at the very least, it’s absolutely true metaphorically!

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Nah, this was a Russian bear. You’re thinking of the grizzly bear that had his way with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant. 🙂

        • BJ
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          Or another kind of “bear.”


    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      It’s just a matter of time — and likely not that much time — before that video of Drumpf’s golden shower gets “leaked.” About the only mystery is the timing: will it come before, during, or after leaks of “campaign strategy meetings” between Kushner and the FSB? And when will the recordings of Sessions getting instruction from Kisylak be leaked?

      It’s all coming, and with timing calculated for the greatest effect — exactly as was the case with Wikileaks releases and trollbot campaigns.


      • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        Ben – what makes you think the golden shower thing is even true?

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          Drumpf was waaaaay too knowledgeable and specific in his denials of it. And he’s consistently advocated for nuanced Putin party-line policy positions — this from a man whose idea of “nuance” is threatening Nieto by bragging that he won the vote in Cuba. How else do you think Putin could get Drumpf to be such a good parrot, other than by telling him to say exactly this-and-that else face the kompromat konsequences?



          • Ken Kukec
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

            Times Trump raised subject during his seven conversations with FBI director James Comey:

            Russian hookers: 2
            Russian hackers: 0

        • Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:05 am | Permalink

          I tend to think that the fact that it hasn’t leaked already makes it fictitious.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        It’s all coming, and with timing calculated for the greatest effect —

        That calculation being carried out by knowledgable, skilful, experienced politicians.
        That rules out anyone left in Trump’s camp? Well, boo-hoo-hoo. Oh dear. What a pity. Never mind.

  4. Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    The big news in this is that Drumpf was making no bones about the fact that he doesn’t give a good goddamn about actually building the wall, and only wanted to convince people that he’d build it. When he knows full well that he won’t.

    The Great Wall of Drumpf was and still is one of the things that galvanized his base, that kept and keeps them loyal to him. If it fell through because of Democratic opposition, that’d be one thing…but to discover that Drumpf sold them up the Big River on this?

    But never mind that. It’s now becoming increasingly plain that Putin thinks his own optimal strategy is to pull the plug on Drumpf sooner rather than later. There’s zero chance left of policy gains under a Drumpf administration, and not much chaos to be had from a four-year Drumpf Residency. Should Democrats win big next year and impeach him…that’s just Nixon, who was followed relatively shortly by Reagan — not a good template for Putin. But to make Drumpf so toxic as to force the Republicans to eat their own? That’ll rip the country apart in ways we simply haven’t seen.



    • Kevin
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Trump’s Big River is Christianity. I endured nearly two hours of listening to Harris talk to Scott Adams. It was instructive to learn that virtually all strong supporters of Trump miss (or do not want to reveal) the crucial feature that Trump will back track on anything except religion.

      Repeal Obamacare…well not really
      Build wall…not really
      Have China take care of North Korea…not really

      The man accomplishes none of his goals, but I predict he will never let people know he thinks religion is bullshit. He’s be done.

      • Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t be too sure about that. It was painfully obvious during the campaign that he hadn’t the slightest clue about Christianity. Remember the whole dust-up about him not even being capable of identifying his favorite Bible verse?

        Christians have been consistent in identifying him not as personally godly, but as God’s vessel, chosen for whatever mysterious reason, to carry out God’s will. God could even choose Satan to carry out his will, so revelations that Drumpf doesn’t believe in God wouldn’t make a difference.

        Indeed…Drumpf put Gorsuch on the Court, seriously imperiling access to reproductive health care. That alone is all the “proof” these sorts of Christians need to know that he’s carrying out God’s will.



        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          As Sastra has pointed out here, Trump’s pastor was Norman Vincent Peale — author of The Power of Positive Thinking. I doubt he remembers a thing he was taught, but that stuff is more a behavioral program than a set of ideas to be remembered.

          It teaches:
          * create your own reality with your thoughts
          -> think only positive thoughts and state positive intentions clearly, and this will be delivered unto you (like “it was the biggest inauguration crowd ever)
          * avoid negative thoughts (like “this might be difficult, I need help on this”)
          * avoid “negative” people as they only threaten your plans with their bad vibes
          * use words to bring your own truth into effect (aka narcissistic grandstanding)

          Such a person with the power to “create their own reality” would not feel any need to plan before a meeting — that would only bring in fear and doubt; nor would they see any need to get advice from experts — why bother if you can just visualize what you want and it will be delivered?

          Beyond that he acts like a typical scammer, like all the other proponents of the law of attraction.

          • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            Crazy as it sounds, Trumps idea that McCain isn’t a war hero “because he got caught” is a straight forward law of attraction teaching — he created the capture himself through his negative thinking.

            (I’m really not kidding!)

            • Sastra
              Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

              I hadn’t considered that particular rationale re McCaine not being a real hero, but you could very well be right.Combine Positive Thinking (the power of the will) with Alec Baldwin’s character from Glengarry Glen Ross.

              “Prisoner of war camps are for LOSERS! You can’t avoid capture, you can’t avoid shit. You ARE shit!”

        • Kevin
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          Trump has made many Christians uncomfortable. he certainly makes Christianity seem foolish with his bible studies for adults. He may very well be one of the best things going to make people want to leave Christianity just because Trump appears to have so many wackos want to follow him.

          I still content it’s one of the few areas that Trump would ever concede the truth that he is atheism and thinks people who believe in God are idiots.

          • Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            He’s not quite dumb enough to say so in public, but he’s plenty enough to say so in a context (such as these phone calls with foreign leaders) where he doesn’t realize it’ll become public later.

            But, again, his Christian supporters see him not as one of their own, but the mysterious mechanism God has chosen to bring about whatever it is they think God wants brought about.



      • Historian
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Rod Dreher, a very conservative Christian, has an op-ed in today’s NYT. His main argument is that Christians should retreat from politics and devote their time to rebuilding the Churches as secularism grows more and more powerful in the United States. He makes this observation:


        “Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.”

        “This is not only wrong, but tragically so. The most pressing problem Christianity faces is not in politics. It’s in parishes. It’s with the pastors. Most of all, it’s among an increasingly faithless people.”


        Dreher seems to be disgusted with most of his fellow evangelicals. The polls confirm that white evangelicals are a bedrock of Trump’s support. Maybe they will take Dreher’s advice and stop embarrassing themselves to the world with their extraordinary hypocrisy. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen. Being so scared of a changing world they neither understand nor desire, evangelicals have grasped on to Trump as if he were Jesus returned. Trump will do nothing to dissuade them of this delusion.

        • Kevin
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          That’s a great article. Thanks. I did not consider how Trump is causing a rift in Christian America. Whether he intended this is not clear.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

          “Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him?”

          Short of Trump replacing the portrait of George Washington in the Oval Office with Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, I can’t think what it might be. 🙂

          • Kevin
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

            I’ve given this some thought…

            He can tax churches.

            He can push for legislation to make abortions 100% paid for by the state.

            He can mandate there be a national registry for all Christians, much like there is for sexual offenders or his proposal for some immigrants.

            Trust me…I can go on and on. Any one of these things would cause significant, if not complete, alienation of his conservative Christian supports.

            • Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

              …or Putin can “leak” that tape of him with the golden shower with the Russian prostitute.

              For bonus points…imagine Putin orchestrating the release such that it’s a Clinton surrogate who leaks the tape to CNN, after a relentless string of other leaks about Drumpf campaign and administration officials having undoubtedly inappropriate contacts with Russian agents. Anybody here think that the American body politic would survive that? Fox & Friends wouldn’t know whether to condemn Drumpf more than Clinton, but the heads, they would be asplodin’.



              • Kevin
                Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

                Leaked trio sex tape….Trump, Clinton, and Clinton. That may actual beguile all followers of every deity since the dawn of time.

  5. Tom
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Political horse trading is never pretty and like diplomacy is best left to experts and out of site.
    If any selected politician was to release transcripts of political telephone conversations or emails the public would NOT understand.
    Consider Mr Nixon and the shock the public felt when he actually swore and I’m pretty certain he was not unique.

    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

      This is an oft-repeated claim…that not only does not hold up, but, in fact, only serves the interests of corruption.

      Arizona has very strict “open meeting” laws. Basically, no government business can be done behind closed doors, including informally. Even “informal” discussions in “chance” meetings in elevators is forbidden — and, as a result, it’s not uncommon to see otherwise-friendly people politely avoid getting on the same elevator car. Closed meetings are still permitted, but only in very specific circumstances; even then, there are still requirements for minutes and the like.

      This certainly hasn’t been the end of corruption here, nor in other states and jurisdictions with similar laws. But it certainly hasn’t resulted in the sort of doom-and-gloom that secretists would have us believe is the inevitable result.

      Indeed, Drumpf here paints a perfect picture of why these sorts of things should not be secret. His public face has been telling the world about the vital importance of the well at the same time his private face has been saying its only importance is in fooling his base into supporting him. At the very least, were this meeting to be on the record from the get-go, Drumpf would have been much less likely to be so unashamedly traitorous to his most loyal supporters.




      • BJ
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        “Indeed, Drumpf here paints a perfect picture of why these sorts of things should not be secret.”

        I’m sorry, but there is no way leaders of entire nations who have to negotiate with other world leaders can have any and all of their conversations in front of the public, nor can their administrations or surrogates. Diplomacy international dealing are unbelievably fraught and delicate dances. Often, one must say things they don’t mean. Sometimes, one must make promises the country either shouldn’t know about or wouldn’t understand in the least. It is something that is supposed to be carried out by pragmatists (even if it is sometimes not, as here), and pragmatism isn’t something most people understand. Sometimes, one must discuss situations and events that simply cannot be known to the public.

        Open meetings for all international government business would be disastrous not just for the government, but for the people it serves.

        • Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

          Again, I’ll see you your un-evidenced assertion and raise you the entire state of Arizona.

          I’m not sure which other states have similar laws, but a quick search suggests that at least Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, Nevada, and Texas have them. Last I checked, they do all sorts of business with not only other states but other countries.

          At best, you’re proposing a “little people” argument, that the leaders are more equal than the proles. Such bullshit doesn’t go over very well with the proles, especially in Western countries — and for very good reason.




          • BJ
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Frankly, I don’t really care about what goes over well with the proles. That’s basically the entire point of my argument: that much of what happens in international dealing between governments — indeed, much of what is necessary — couldn’t get done if the proles constantly knew about it. It’s like inviting the public — including me — to assess every individual economic decision made deep within the halls of the treasury: most of us don’t know what those decisions mean, why they’re being carried out, or how they work within the larger framework of economic policy. But we might think they sound bad individually, and then the economists will be too afraid to make such decisions, even when they believe them necessary. It’s important to let the public know about the broad strokes and intentions of the government, not every little detail.

            And no, I don’t think single-state administration is in any way analagous, and what works on a state level will not necessarily work on the level of the world stage, so as far as I see it, your assertion is also “un-evidenced.”

            • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

              Frankly, I don’t really care about what goes over well with the proles.

              Well, that’s as frank an anti-democratic and authoritarian declaration as one could make, so I don’t see any point in continuing to encourage you to shout your profoundly regressive and uncivilized rhetoric.

              You may be happy that Big Brother knows best, but that’s only because you’re terrified at the thought of thinking for yourself.

              (And, no. Open meeting laws don’t mean that anybody can come in off the street and dictate policy — that’s a classic straw man invented by dictators and their cronies. Further, time and time again, we see better laws come out of public meetings than out of smoke-filled back rooms…with the latest Republican debacle on Trumpcare being but the most recent in a long history of examples.)




              • BJ
                Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

                OK, let’s go over what you said here before you completely lose your cool and continue making me out to be and say things I’m not.

                1. If what I said is part of some authoritarian hellscape, then literally every single democracy in the world is actually the authoritarian nightmare of which you’re so afraid. Sometimes experts need to be able to do their shit without us butting in.

                2. I’m not OK with big brother doing everything without our consent. That’s why we have laws against things we don’t want.

                3. I never said open meeting laws allow people to “come in off the streets and dictate policy,” so who is the one straw-manning here? Apparently, it’s you. What I did say is that public perception can and indeed does, in a democracy, often dictate policy, and once you allow that to go to the nitty gritty level of everyday shit, that’s when it becomes a problem.

                Don’t put words in my mouth and don’t act like I said things I didn’t. It’s a pretty simple tenet of good faith argumentation.

              • Historian
                Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

                I note this from the U.S. Constitution Center: “The U.S. Constitution was prepared in secret, behind locked doors that were guarded by sentries.” Whether a better document could have been drafted if it had been debated in an open forum is an unanswerable question.

              • Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

                Many of those who drafted the Constitution were also slaveholders. We note that as a flaw in their characters, not an example to emulate.

                Open meeting laws, FOIA, sunshine laws of all sorts are widely embraced, with the trend always towards more transparency in government. Those opposing transparency are uniformly corrupt, and the degree to which they oppose transparency is proportional to their corruption.

                Hell, that trend is itself encoded into the Constitution. The original version said nothing about freedom of the press, but that increase in transparency made it into the very first Amendment. And, ultimately, what is a closed door but an impediment to the freedom of the press?



              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

                Ben, come off it and stop grandstanding and making personal comments at BJ. You know better than that.

                We all know that international diplomacy often involves complex, often confidential, and sometimes highly secret facts. Think back to the cold war when the US President had all the information from U2 and SR71 flights (and Russia knew they did). Do you suppose the Pentagon would have told the President *anything* if he had had to instantly disclose it to the public? Do you suppose the Russians would have agreed to negotiate anything?

                And given that the proles elected Trump, do you really hold their right to knowledge in that high regard?

                There’s always a tension between secret deals at one extreme and total public exposure (with a consequent inability to decide anything) at the other. I tend to favour openness *where possible* and yes, ‘where possible’ begs a hell of a lot of questions, which is inevitable in any real situation.


              • Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                There’s essentially unanimous agreement that sunshine laws don’t and shouldn’t extend to “sources and methods,” or to operational military planning, or those sorts of things. Contractor bids are often sealed and not uncommonly evaluated in closed session — though that latter practice has shown potential for abuse.

                That covers all your substantive objections.

                As for the whole “negotiations” thing…we see right here with Drumpf how easy it is for secret negotiations to proceed in bad faith to the detriment of those on whose behalf the negotiations are being carried out. Nobody, but nobody, would have supported Drumpf’s position in his talks with either of those gentlemen, and Drumpf himself wouldn’t have adopted that position in public talks. And yet we’re supposed to believe that the one thing that permitted Drumpf to betray everybody except his own personal expediency is a good policy?

                An honest, mutually-beneficial agreement between Mexico or Australia and the United States on the matter of migration can most emphatically be worked out in an open fashion without any need for secrecy. Secrecy adds nothing whatsoever to the process…and here we have a textbook example of the corruption that follows far too easily from secrecy.

                You cite Drumpf as reason why we should trust the executive with secrecy? He’s the very poster boy for why there should be live-streamed cameras in every room of the White House save the “situation room.”




              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:41 am | Permalink


                I certainly wouldn’t cite Trump as an example of why negotiations might need to be confidential. In fact I wouldn’t cite Trump as a useful example of *anything*. I’m reminded of the legal adage ‘hard cases make bad law’.

                But do you suppose anything better would have been forthcoming from Trump if he’d known it was being recorded? ‘cos I don’t.


              • BJ
                Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

                Ben: “Those opposing transparency are uniformly corrupt, and the degree to which they oppose transparency is proportional to their corruption.”

                Talk about “un-evidenced” claims. NY state’s open meetings law was passed by some of the most corrupt politicians in the state, some of them later convicted for their corruption.

            • Craw
              Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              His is not just unevidenced; it is unevidencible. 😉

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

              Frankly, I don’t really care about what goes over well with the proles.

              As opposed to the petite, grande, and haute bourgeoisie? 🙂

              • BJ
                Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

                Well, I care about some of them! What if the rich bourgeoisie stops inviting me to all those flapper parties I love so much?

                That’s all I really care about. That and flagpole sitting.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

      Sure, it’s never pleasant watching the sausage get made. But unless a conversation contains classified material (in which it should be redacted), there’s no reason it shouldn’t be released. All else being equal, a democratic republic functions best the more informed the public is. Those who lack the stomach for rough language and Nixonian-style profanity aren’t compelled to peek behind the curtain.

      • Craw
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        Need I once gain link to stories about the Democrats holding closed door caucus meetings?

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

          And if The Washington Post were to obtain transcripts of those meetings, I’d have no objection to them being published, either.

  6. jay
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I found it amusing that at the same time as Australia was trying to push those apparently undesirable folks on us (what the hell was Obama thinking?) Bruce Springsteen was performing in Australia and said he was embarrassed by the US refusal.

    Like the folks who claimed they’d migrate to Canada, not realizing that Canada’s immigration restrictions are far more severe than ours, and most of them would not be admitted.

    • John Taylor
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      In what way are Canada’s immigration restrictions more severe than yours?

      • Craw
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Canada has long had a points system. You get points for speaking English by the way. You get points for education. You get points for bringing wealth. You get points for job offers. It is not remotely an open to all system.

        • chrism
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

          Et aussi pour parler français!

          • Mark R.
            Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

            I have a curiosity question. Do most Canadians speak French? I guess I can google it, but I’d rather ask Canadians directly. Is French mandatory in grade school? From my naive point of view, I envision Quebec as the French-speaking stronghold, but French speakers are less common in provinces like B.C., the Yukon Territories and such.

            • John Taylor
              Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink


          • nicky
            Posted August 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

            Just completed the points calculator (although I’m not planning to emigrate to Canada).
            The language you choose as first language is either English or French, and can earn you a maximum of 24 points: 4×6 (reading, writing, speaking and listening). The second language, either French or English, can earn you a maximum of 4×4=16 points. So fluency in Frech
            and and English can earn you 40 of the 67 points required.
            What I found intriguing was that while qualifying for a Canadian ‘skilled worker permit’, I was informed I would also qualify for Australia.

        • John Taylor
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

          I looked up some stats and it seems that Canada has about twice as many immigrants per capita compared to the US.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      “(what the hell was Obama thinking?)”

      Isn’t it obvious? According to the right-wing fever swamp, he’s a not-so-secret Muslim, the founder of ISIS, machinating to subvert the American project from within.

      Trump got his political toehold pushing that theory.

      • BJ
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

        If Obama’s policies imply he was trying to create ISIS, then the Reagan administration’s demonstrate Reagan to have been the Ayatollah siting on Osama Bid Laden’s shoulders in a trenchcoat that looked like a suit.

  7. Randy schenck
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    And this is the guy who thinks he can make the deal. It’s like having a 6 year old as your president and all you can do is hope it ends soon. I still feel that once they get the Trump involvement with the Russians opened up, he will be gone. He is now, officially the weakest president in history as he should be because he knows nothing.

    The Congress has now taken any Russian dealing out of his hands and put the sanctions in and they say — only congress can lift. That is sticking it to Trump. He cannot build the wall, he cannot do anything on getting rid of the ACA, he cannot do anything on immigration. You can stick the fork in now or stick it in later, he is done.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      And now Mueller has selected a Grand Jury. Check and getting closer to check and mate.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        And congress has begun considering legislation to prevent Mueller from being discharged inappropriately, because it would be just like Trump to clear the board as his position becomes untenable.

        • Randy schenck
          Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

          Trump most likely is a Sociopathological liar because he even makes up stuff after the fact to make the initial embarrassment worse. Yesterday he says the boy scouts called him up to say what a great speech he gave. The scouts said there was no phone call. So this was a lie to somehow cover for the idiotic speech he gave earlier and the scout leadership had to publicly apologize to all the scouts for this speech. Only someone that is really unbalanced would do this. Maybe this should be the press secretaries new line – Well, it’s not really a lie because he is a sociopath.

    • Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      I wasn’t expecting congress to stand up to him like that. He stinks too much even for Republicans. If the legislation preventing him from firing Mueller gets passed, it might get very interesting indeed.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Just for the record, Mueller has called the Grand Jury up. So it looks like they are off to the races.

        • Posted August 4, 2017 at 5:27 am | Permalink

          And the Senate not declared in recess. I’ve been wrong about Republicans plenty of times, but never before by underestimating their ability to do something right.

          Though I do wonder if Trump is acting so guilty because he is, or if he really hasn’t personally done anything illegal or impeachable, but is just instinctively terrified of being in a submissive position.

  8. BJ
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I don’t see why Turnbull doesn’t come out of this looking just fine. You may disagree with his policies, but he didn’t say anything nasty about immigrants or even about keeping them entirely out of his country. In fact, even in a private discussion he never thought would be seen or heard by the outside world, he explained why the Australian government doesn’t except refugees coming in by boat: because it results in people smugglers profiting, a non-system of immigration by which the country’s population is not protected and they can’t properly vet the people coming in, and people drowning and dying.

    As for Trump, these calls are a complete embarrassment. The call with Turnbull was especially painful to read. He repeatedly lies to Turnbull about a deal Turnbull signed and knows well, and in spite of Turnbull correcting him over and over, he refuses to budge from his lies. He’s insulting, condescending, and just plain stupid. It’s atrocious.

    • BJ
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Permalink


    • nicky
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      I can somehow understand why Mr Trump failed
      (deliberately?) to understand.
      It makes absolutely no sense. Smuggling by eg. small planes may just be as dangerous of not more so.
      And if you arrive by boat you may not enter Australia, but have a good chance of making it to the US? What is the deterrent/discouragement in that? No kangaroos?
      I suspect that Turnbull is not honest, it does make a difference where they are coming from: SE Asia. It appears this boat stuff just turns out to be bull.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        I think you have failed to understand.

        The arrivals are coming from Indonesia but they do not *originate* in Indonesia, they originate in the Middle East.

        Light-plane people smuggling is not a problem because it does not exist as a significant thing. Indonesia to Australia is at least 400 miles – and that’s from the nearest part. That part of Indonesia is all islands – hundreds of boats there. 800 miles return trip is probably beyond the range of most light planes. Operating costs alone would make it way beyond the finances of almost all refugees. Anyone with a light plane capable of it is more likely to find it profitable smuggling drugs than people.

        It’s a quite different proposition than a quick half-hour 50-mile hop across the Mexico-US border.

        Whereas an old fishing boat is cheap, easily has the range and can carry dozens or hundreds of refugees at a price they can (just) afford.


  9. Rita
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    “People smugglers profiting, a non-system of immigration by which the country’s population is not protected and they can’t properly vet the people coming in, and people drowning and dying.” Just like we we have in the U.S. – remember the recent discovery of would-be immigrants left to die in a truck in Arizona?

    • BJ
      Posted August 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Although, in our defense, it’s a little harder to police enormous land borders several thousand miles long than borders made up entirely of water.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 3, 2017 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

        It’s somewhat of a no-win for the Australian authorities. Yes they can intercept boats (though it’s probably not as simple as it sounds), but many of those boats are overloaded and unseaworthy. If they just turn them back at gunpoint, there’s a fair chance they’ll sink. If they ‘rescue’ the refugees, what to do with them? If they treat them harshly they come under criticism (mine included, at times, I admit); if they treat them leniently then it does just encourage more boats.

        Though it is a different situation from the US, in that Australia’s ‘boat people’ are from much further afield than Indonesia.

        But if you look at the numbers, it’s hard to dismiss the suspicion that the Australian government is deliberately exaggerating the problem for political purposes.


        • BJ
          Posted August 4, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I both feel for the Australian government on this issue and somewhat distrust it. But I certainly understand where they’re coming from (especially after the more recent terrorism there, which they and the public are not used to), as this is basically the only method of illegal crossing for immigrants to their country. If your country is entirely surrounded by ocean, it’s just easier to protect your borders, and every country wishes to do that. The only other method of illegal immigration in any manner is getting a visa and then staying after it has expired.

          I honestly don’t know what the most humanitarian method of dealing with the boats would be, considering the issues you bought up. I just have no idea…

  10. James Walker
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Trump’s conversation with Peña Nieto reminds me of this bit from The Simpsons:

  11. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    And in breaking news, that ludicrously large hotel tower block in Dubai has taken fire again. Reports are of a successful evacuation – no reported casualties – but that is such a small crumb of comfort for the company, and for the country’s safety management regime.
    [Shakes head] Trump isn’t the only problem in the world.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 3, 2017 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Trump on the phone with Enrique Nieto admitting how The Wall doesn’t really matter, so let’s not talk in public about who’s gonna pay for it, is Lonesome Rhodes caught on a hot mic at the end of A Face in the Crowd, talking about what rubes his fans are.

  13. Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    It was actually Trump who called the Australian refugees ‘bad people’ not Turnbull.

    • Posted August 4, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

      I think that it was Turnbull who used the phrase ‘bad people’ first, but obviously while trying to convince Trump that they *weren’t* bad people. Trump later says “I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now.” (!)

      Trump appears to be too stupid to understand the whole situation. This article sums up the conversation rather well:

      Hard to believe that someone could make Turnbull look like Stephen Pinker.

  14. Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    It was Trump who called the Australian refugees ‘bad people’ not Turnbull.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      Thank you for pointing that out.

      Turnbull is far too experienced and careful a politician to make a gaffe like that, even off the record.


  15. Mark R.
    Posted August 4, 2017 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.

    I thought we could be friends. I mean, you know the plebes are stupid, so throw me a bone. Why are you cock-blocking me? Just say what the plebes need to hear and we’ll hash it out in the back rooms. I know you’re not paying, but don’t let them know. You know? OK, hashtag, I fucking hate this job. It’s way too hard. I could be smart and say something about Macbeth ambition or Machiavellian malevolence, but I’ll suffice it to say that this job is a lot harder than they said it would be. I’m still not sure if they is me. It all stinks of rotting fish. Theirs…not mine. Am I using italics right? I haz Grand Jury now.

    • claudia baker
      Posted August 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink


  16. Posted August 4, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink


    Well, we’ve known for a long time that Mexico won’t pay a peso for the damn Wall

    I take issue with this sentence because it implies that there once was a time when we thought Mexico would pay for the wall.

    When Trump first announced his wall idea, nobody I knew thought it was going to happen (partly because we didn’t think Trump would ever be president). When Trump announced that Mexico would be paying for it, most people I know could barely believe it. two seconds thought is all that is required to understand that that definitely won’t happen. However, two seconds is obviously beyond Trump’s attention span.

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