Why is Trump doing it?

Two questions to ask about Donald Trump’s run for the White House:

  1. Why is he doing it?
  2. Why is anyone supporting him?

I’ve had a crack at the latter, with a trip to New Hampshire on my other blog here, and Time has the answer to the first: his business and himself…

The other reason I wanted to do this for myself. I didn’t want to look back in ten years and say I could have done that or I could have done that. My family would look at me and say, “Ugh, stop.” I had to do it for myself.

Trump’s end game


Forget the circus act, ignore the hooplah, put aside the boos. What did Donald Trump tell us last night?

I’ve pulled out three key passages from last night that I think give us an idea of Donald Trump’s strategy and his end game: Get in behind Jeb Bush, leverage his position and walk away with some very big business deals. Maybe in Cuba?

On running as an independent:

But — and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.

On transactional politics:

I will tell you that our system is broken. I gave to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me.

On liking Jeb Bush:

And I have really started to see some of the negatives — as an example, and I have a lot of liking for this man, but the last number of months of his brother’s administration were a catastrophe. And unfortunately, those few months gave us President Obama. And you can’t be happy about that.

So it’s all about leverage. And when Donald Trump puts something in he expects something back.

Mullah Omar’s potatoes

When I lived in Pakistan I was frequently (three times maybe) offered the real story about the location of Mullah Omar. He was hiding in plain sight in Karachi selling potatoes from a handcart, I was told by people very clearly convinced it was true and by some people who clearly thought it was toss.

They never knew quite where. Or whether he favoured the Maris Piper or the Golden Wonder. So I never wrote the story. But now the fella is dead (as far as we know) I guess we can write pretty much anything we like. Like this from my old pal Tom Hussain for McClatchy

If Mullah Omar is dead, then what comes next?

If it is true that Mullah Omar died in Pakistan in 2013 then there are some pretty serious consequences:

  1. What happens to peace talks? Things were ticking along in the right direction. The crucial issue was always what does Mullah Omar want? And there was a clear feeling that credible negotiators could do nothing without his say so. So what if Omar is dead…? Can peace talks survive?
  2. The Taliban’s coalition of militias essentially held together over two issues: Loyalty to Mullah Omar and opposition to US troops in Afghanistan. If Omar is dead, can the Taliban hold together… particularly when the well-financed Islamic State is trying to attract converts…?
  3. Who sent Mullah Omar’s last few Eid messages? Given that diplomats in Islamabad believed the ISI was able to get a line to the leader of the Taliban when it needed to, it will reinforce the idea that Pakistan has been the hidden hand behind the group

Update… on reflection

Jihadist approaches to social media

The director of the FBI was at a security conference this week and discussed Isil’s use of social media.

“Isil’s MO is to broadcast on Twitter, get people to follow them, then move them to Twitter direct messaging” to evaluate if they are a legitimate recruit, he said, according to The Aspen Times. “Then they’ll move them to an encrypted mobile-messaging app so they go dark to us.”

He contrasted it with al-Qaeda, which required much more of an effort on behalf of a would-be Jihadist to seek them out online. Emails may or may not be answered. (In the trial of Abid Naseer it was notable that many of his emails to a handler in Pakistan went unanswered, for example, much to his frustration.)

It all shows the difference in approach between AQ and Isil. While one saw itself as a core cabal of revolutionaries whose task was to wake the ummah, the other is a mass movement open to all. While one vetted would-be recruits for strength of mind and devotion, the other is open to the lonely and lost. While one is elitist, the other is populist.

And it seems AQ has lost out not only because of drone strikes over Pakistan and its failure to react rapidly to the Arab Spring, it has also failed to react to the growth of social media.


I spent a chunk of last week in Chattanooga after the terrible murders of four marines and a sailor.

The overriding sense in the city was one of shock: Shock at the killings but also utter bewilderment that it could have happened in a small city in Tennessee. I wrote about that sense here…

Chattanooga searches for answers amid the grief

And then over at my burger blog attempted to make some sense out of the gunman’s links to the Middle East, which for my money aren’t what led him to such a terrible act. His Islamic quotes, to me, seem more a manifestation of his misery, rather than the driving force behind his actions…

You don’t need Islam to explain the Chattanooga shootings

The wit and wisdom of Harper Lee

I arrived back from Monroeville last night. Attending the launch of Harper Lee’s new/old novel in her home town was a lot of fun. (And a rare good news story – so long as your first born son wasn’t named Atticus.) I picked up the book at 2am on Tuesday morning and only really had a chance to start reading it on the plane home.

The reviews have been decidedly mixed. And I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve finished. But there have been plenty of barbed moments to savour and a huge amount of evidence that this first draft contains all the bite of Harper Lee’s first/second novel To kill A Mockingbird.

I particularly enjoyed her take on America’s newspapers (and there’s another dig later at The New York Post and its lack of a sense of humour…)


And then there’s her casual dismissal of what essentially was the plot of seven seasons of Mad Men…