#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily, Romney said. (AP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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#NeverTrump to #OKTrump: Romney's evolution mirrors party

  • Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement
  • Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington

PARK CITY, Utah: Mitt Romney did not ride a donkey.
But the one-time presidential nominee and now candidate for Senate did cheer enthusiastically at a donkey basketball game, where 4-H members shot hoops while mounted on the beasts. Romney’s campaigning on the ground in Utah like a homegrown hero — even though he grew up somewhere else.
What he isn’t doing much is talking about President Trump.
Romney was once a leading figure in the “Never Trump” movement, but now he says he wants to work with the president. What does his evolution mean for Republicans still opposed to Trump?

What’s happening
Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, has dropped his harsh critique of Trump as he mounts a political comeback as a Senate candidate in Utah ahead of a June 26 primary. Romney recently surprised his most loyal supporters, who include many Trump critics, by predicting the Republican president would win a second term in 2020. He also downplayed concerns about Trump’s policies on trade, spending and national security — the same policies he warned, in a high-profile 2016 speech, would trigger an economic recession and jeopardize national security.
“I think President Trump will be re-nominated by my party easily and I think he’ll be re-elected solidly,” Romney told dozens of supporters at a luxury Utah resort.

Why it matters
Romney’s team is downplaying the significance of his new position, but by embracing Trump’s re-election he’s sending a strong message to the president’s Republican critics just as they’re beginning to contemplate strategies to stop — or at least slow — his 2020 re-election. The message, according to some Republicans who shared their reaction on and off the record: “No matter how you feel, stop fighting Trump; it’s not worth it.”
While many Republicans in Congress got that message after the 2016 election, for a smaller group of others, quiet conversations had continued about the possibility of mounting a 2020 challenge against him — either in a Republican primary or as an independent. High-profile Republicans such as Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are openly contemplating such a move.
Romney’s position doesn’t kill their prospective plans, but it certainly makes them harder to pull off with any kind of legitimacy.

What to watch
Will Romney continue his deferential tone with Trump after his Republican Senate primary on Tuesday? In a heavily Republican state, his election to the US Senate is all but assured if he wins the June 26 primary as expected.
Many Trump skeptics in the Republican establishment hope Romney will emerge as a Trump cudgel when he gets to Washington.
It could be that Romney has simply been downplaying his opposition to the Republican president in recent months to avoid enflaming Trump’s loyal supporters before next week’s Republican-on-Republican contest. Or, as some of his closest advisers suggest, it could be that Romney was never going to be the Trump antagonist that some hoped for.
Either way, the 71-year-old Republican leader should have an extraordinary megaphone on Capitol Hill that will help elevate his standing as a freshman. As a former presidential nominee, he’s sure to command attention wherever he goes. It remains unclear, however, whether he’ll use that status to challenge the president he once called “a con man.”

One last thing
Despite all the interest in his relationship with the president, Romney isn’t running as a big shot.
The one-time political celebrity is turning down national media requests in favor of local outlets. On the ground in Utah, he’s kept a packed schedule, campaigning at local parks, private homes and sporting events.
The aim is to convince Utah voters that he knows state issues and priorities. And that he’ll use his clout on their behalf in Washington.


India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Updated 22 September 2018
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India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

  • Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
  • Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”

DELHI: India’s prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. Hollande was quoted as saying Narendra Modi’s government had influenced the choice of a local partner.
Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
The opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, spent the past year alleging that the deal is a scam, in which India is overpaying for jets and the government is allowing a private company — billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense — to benefit instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.
“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fueling a political storm in India.
The Indian government, however, has insisted all along that it had nothing to do with Dassault’s decision to work with Reliance Defense.
Under Indian defense procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip the Reliance Defense procured the contract .
“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to ...Anil Ambani,” said Mr. Gandhi in a tweet.
Gandhi further tweeted: “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a ... SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defense forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul.”
Gandhi repeated the charge in a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
The BJP, however, says that there is no corruption.
“The fact that two sovereign heads of States negotiated a deal means that there is no room for corruption,” said Sudesh Verma, BJP spokesperson.
Talking to Arab News Verma emphasized that “the highest integrity was maintained in the deal. Now the Congress is not talking of corruption but favoritism. Merely by saying that Reliance Defense was favored by us would not cut any ice. These are insinuations and are irresponsible.”
Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”
“No matter what the indian government says that perception is that the Indian government gave the offset contract to Anil Ambani, a guy who has no history of producing defense equipment,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi based political analyst.
He added: “The halo around Modi has been severely diminished after the recent revelations. This is something which it would be very difficult to live it down now.”