Thursday, December 14, 2017

Unfit to Be President

Another MUST READ, USA Today, Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom?, which states in substantial part:

"With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low. . .

A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush. 

This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt. 

Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.

It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: 'Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.' Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, 'Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.'  Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office. Let us count the ways:

    He is enthusiastically supporting Alabama's Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing — and in one case molesting and in another assaulting — teenagers as young as 14 when Moore was a county prosecutor in his 30s. On Tuesday, Trump summed up his willingness to support a man accused of criminal conduct: 'Roy Moore will always vote with us.' 

    Trump apparently is going for some sort of record for lying while in office. As of mid-November, he had made 1,628 misleading or false statements in 298 days in office. That’s 5.5 false claims per day, according to a count kept by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers.

    Trump takes advantage of any occasion — even Monday’s failed terrorist attack in New York — to stir racial, religious or ethnic strife. Congress 'must end chain migration,' he said Monday, because the terror suspect 'entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.' So because one man — 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. who came from Bangladesh on a family immigrant visa in 2011 —  is accused of attacking America, all immigrants brought to this country by family are suspect? Trump might have some credibility if his criticism of immigrants was solely about terrorists. It isn’t.  It makes no difference to him if an immigrant is a terrorist or a federal judge. He once smeared an Indiana-born judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico. It’s all the same to this president.

    A man who clearly wants to put his stamp on the government, Trump hasn’t even done his job when it comes to filling key government positions that require Senate confirmation. As of last week, Trump had failed to nominate anyone for 60% of 1,200 key positions he can fill to keep the government running smoothly. 

    Trump has shown contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory.  He has refused to release his tax returns, with the absurd excuse that it’s because he is under audit.  He has refused to put his multibillion dollar business interests in a blind trust and peddles the fiction that putting them in the hands of his sons does the same thing.

Not to mention calling white supremacists 'very fine people,' pardoning a lawless sheriff, firing a respected FBI director, and pushing the Justice Department to investigate his political foes. . .

The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap, The Reckoning

Another MUST READ, the Washington Post, Who are Republicans really? Look to Alabama., which states in full:

"Just how disordered have our politics become? And how off-the-rails is the Republican Party?

The good people of Alabama will help answer these questions in next Tuesday’s special election for the U.S. Senate. The whole world will be watching them decide whether party and ideology top decency and moderation; whether there is simply no end to the extremism Republican voters are willing to tolerate in their ranks; and whether a majority in their state believe that being a credibly accused sexual predator is better than being a Democrat.

They will also be telling us what they think the word 'Christian' means.

The outcome is likely to be determined by the consciences of conservatives, and of a specific kind: those who see Mitt Romney and Republicans like him as far more reflective of their moral sense than is Judge Roy Moore, the GOP’s ethically defective nominee whose indifference to the law led him to be removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court twice .

Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump Svengali who proudly peddles the ideological wares of the extreme right, inadvertently clarified the stakes at a Moore rally in south Alabama on Tuesday night with a malicious and spiteful attack on Romney. The former Massachusetts governor tweeted this week that having Moore in the Senate “would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation.”

 Bannon’s response? 'Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinkie finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA.'

Yes, he really said that.

For good measure, Bannon not only accused Romney of avoiding service in Vietnam. He also trafficked in the anti-Mormon sentiments common among some evangelical Christians.

'You hid behind your religion,' Bannon said of Romney. 'You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam. Do not talk to me about honor and integrity.' (And never mind that 'while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam,' the president whom Bannon served also avoided the war, courtesy of five draft deferments.)

Bannon is many things, but a fool he is not. It’s no accident he linked his Vietnam attack to Romney’s missionary work, which underscored the 2012 Republican nominee’s deep commitment to Mormonism.

Thanks to Bannon, we now know that this is no longer just a race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who, depending on the poll, is either slightly behind or slightly ahead. It is, in very large part, a decision by Republicans about who they are.

It is also an important choice for devoted Christians. Do they really want their faith defined by those who tried to justify Moore’s alleged relationships with young teenagers by invoking the Holy Family and saying that Joseph was older than Mary (which, besides being absurd, is biblically unfounded)? Or by arguing that an interest in young girls might be explained by a desire for 'a large family,' as a professor at Ouachita Baptist University wrote?

Do those saying such things not realize that they are helping to discredit the very tradition they claim to be defending? No atheist could inflict this much damage to the faith.

This is how haywire politics has gone in the age of Trump.

Party loyalty can, it’s true, be honorable if it is about the defense of principles, and Moore’s backers say they are sticking with him to oppose abortion and multiply conservative judges.

But these rationales ring hollow given Moore’s utterly unconservative claims as a judge that his theological predilections overrode the law and his lies about not profiting from his private charity, which suggest he is a charlatan exploiting the beliefs of his supporters for his own purposes.

Both Moore and President Trump play on the feelings of marginalization experienced by many cultural conservatives. It would be salutary for such voters to declare that there are limits to how much they will allow themselves to be used by politicians whose words and deeds are so often at odds. If Moore is not the limiting case, there are no limits.

Moore’s promoters, including Bannon, want to convince Alabama Republicans that since a Jones triumph will be taken as a rebuke to Trump, they have an obligation to fall into line. But the long-term harm to the GOP from a Moore victory will be far greater than from one lost Senate seat. Bannon is right to cast the election as being about 'honor and integrity.' When it comes to these virtues, it is not a close call."

Monday, November 13, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap (AKA Karma's a B**** Ain't It Republi-CONs)

UPDATE VI:  "Sexual harassment is not the sin of one party. We’ve seen liberals and conservatives alike caught up in the maelstrom of sexual assault and predation complaints. However, Democrats have an easier time dealing with revelations and an opportunity to seize the high ground in a time when voters are furious at politicians who wield power for their own interests.

Let’s begin with the proposition that not all allegations are equal. As David Frum put it, '[Sen. Al] Franken’s prank was cruel and humiliating. [Roy] Moore’s acts ‘if true’ rank among the worst crimes in the statute book. And the president is a confessed serial sexual assaulter, on the record.' That does not excuse Franken nor give him a pass to remain in the Senate (more about that in a moment), but support for Moore and/or President Trump necessitates either 1) willingness to disbelieve multiple women with detailed and similar accounts or 2) toleration of a pattern of sexual assault against multiple women over years. That is the position all Republicans who continue to support Trump are in, and, candidly, I’m surprised Democrats have not made a much bigger deal of this. . .

There are many ways to approach this, but the following seems appropriate for candidates and members of Congress:

An alleged sexual predator/abuser (whose actions are confirmed by reliable accusations and surrounding facts) should not be eligible for the party’s nomination in a House or Senate race. If elected, the person should be expelled from office by the Ethics Committee.

The party should do everything in its power, including support for a third candidate or a write-in, to prevent the alleged predator/abuser from winning.

If the conduct occurs in office, expulsion is the only appropriate remedy.

If the conduct predated the accused lawmaker’s time in office but is discovered once he is in office (as in the Franken situation), the Ethics Committee should consider a full range of options, including expulsion. At the very least, the accused should not be supported for reelection. Parties can and should expel individuals from the party, which is a voluntary association. They can deny anyone the privilege of caucusing with their party or getting assigned to committees.

Now, if that seems reasonable, why should the same standard not apply to the president? . .

Impeachment does not seem to be applicable to conduct before election that was known to voters (although more compelling evidence that comes to light in office might be considered). However, other actions, such as censure, are possible. And certainly Trump is unfit on multiple grounds and has committed conduct that should properly be considered in good faith as impeachable conduct. But at the very least, the GOP going forward cannot support for reelection a candidate against whom so many credible complaints of sexual predation have been launched. There is no moral justification for doing so. There is no political barrier to declaring that henceforth, people of Trump’s ilk cannot run under the GOP’s banner.

And that, you see, is the real difference between the parties. Republicans almost certainly won’t do any of that. Democrats can and should. One party can tolerate an alleged sexual predator, and the other can decide never to do so."

Read the Washington Post, Republican risk being defined as the party of sexual predators.

Read also the Washington Post, Sorry: There’s no equivalence between Republicans and Democrats on sexual harassment., which names the many women who have accused The Donald of sexual harassment or assault, and notes: "we should all be asking ourselves some very hard questions, not only about the people now in positions of power, but about how we’ve each thought about these issues in the past and what we want to change in the future. Democrats are doing that — perhaps imperfectly, and arriving at different answers of varying quality — but at least they’re grappling with it. Republicans, by and large, are doing anything but."

UPDATE V:  Another MUST READ: the Washington Post, Just how bad are Republicans?, which states in substantial part:

"It turns out that electing President Trump was not the apex of Republicans’ political insanity. Since last November, consider the Trump GOP’s track record:

The GOP’s idea of health-care reform was trying to remove millions of people from health-care coverage while giving tax cuts to the super rich. Having learned their lesson (not), Senate Republicans now support a tax bill that will remove millions of people from health-care coverage while giving tax cuts to the super rich — and to big corporations. . .

The GOP’s environmental agenda includes climate-change denial (despite the government’s own confirmation that climate change is real and man-made), lifting the ban on importing elephant trophies (the first sons are avid big-game hunters and Christmas is around the corner) and trying in vain to save the coal industry. Trump’s GOP has made China look like a leader in global environmental issues.

The GOP president now embraces (literally, I think) autocrats like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, applauds autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a stolen election, barely if at all brings up human rights in China and Saudi Arabia, and has not a bad word to say about Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The GOP now opposes multilateral trade deals (the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership) while China makes trade deals and the TPP countries forge a deal among themselves without the United States.

The GOP’s constitutional conservatism amounts to giving a totally unqualified nominee who hid a conflict of interest a lifetime federal court appointment. . .

The Trump GOP does not believe in fiscal responsibility nor in federalism (as evidenced by its attack on localities that don’t do the feds’ bidding on immigration enforcement) nor in legal immigration. It does, however, believe in mass deportation of “dreamers,” who came here illegally as children.

The GOP president believes 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally based on no evidence whatsoever but doesn’t think the Russians meddled in our election despite the unanimous findings of our intelligence services.

The GOP president does not believe the media should be able to write whatever it wants nor that a sheriff found in contempt of court for abusing the rights of suspected illegal immigrants should be convicted and punished.

The GOP-led Congress is content to tolerate Trump’s nepotism, massive conflicts of interest and possible receipt of foreign emoluments. It looks the other way as a president monetizes the office, hawking his properties at every opportunity.

This is not a party that can be described as coherent, sensible, respectful of the rule of law, dedicated to equal protection or grounded in reality — let alone conservative. Today’s GOP stands for a set of crackpot ideas, unworkable and unpopular policies and a president not remotely fit to remain in office. Some sunny optimists think the GOP can be saved. From our perspective, it’s not worth trying." [Emphasis added.]

UPDATE IV:  "With Republicans searching for a solution to having an Alabama Senate nominee who is accused of molesting a teenager, Roll Call’s David Hawkings reports that how Trump will address the situation has emerged as a “pivotal question” for the party. Trump has three options. He can side with the GOP establishment and call on Moore to step aside. He can stick to the White House’s previous middle-ground response, by saying Moore should abandon his candidacy only if it’s true that he did what his accusers claim. Or he can side with Moore, though this appears a remote possibility.

The problem is that, because of the peculiarities of this situation, it’s plausible that none of these options will prove a good one. . .

Trump cannot call on Moore to exit without raising questions as to why the charges against Moore are disqualifying while similar ones against him are nothing more than a fabrication created by a conspiracy between liberal elites and the “fake news” media.

In the end, there is a fair bit of poetic justice in Trump being stuck with this particular dilemma. Moore is feeding his voters a similar set of narratives about allegations against him that Trump has fed to his own voters for well over a year now. But Trump cannot call on Moore to step aside without undermining Moore’s efforts to pull the same scam — and putting his own agenda in serious peril." [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, The Roy Moore problem is now squarely on Trump.

UPDATE III: Do you doubt the accusers?

Read The New Yorker, Locals Were Troubled by Roy Moore’s Interactions with Teen Girls at the Gadsden Mall.

UPDATE II:  Read also the Washington Post, Ignore the spin. Trump and the GOP have made a devil’s bargain with Roy Moore., which notes that the aim of Trump and his syncophant media enablers is to confuse people about what happened and dissuade them from . . . [making] a judgment as to whose account is the more credible one."

UPDATE: "Roy Moore may or may not become a U.S. senator, but he was fortunate that the explosive allegations about him pursuing relationships with teenage girls (one as young as 14) while he was in his 30s emerged at a time in his party’s history when it had been preparing for years to defend something like this.

If Moore’s political ambitions survive, he’ll have President Trump — and the way the GOP, in service to Trump, abandoned any pretense of moral principle — to thank.

Moore is insisting that The Post’s story is all a bunch of lies engineered by people who want to silence Christians like him. He’s even using it as a fundraising tool, asking supporters to contribute so that he can fight back against 'the forces of evil' and 'The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs.'

But if you read the story, it’s almost impossible to believe it isn’t true. Our reporters found four different women, none of whom know each other, telling similar stories of Moore pursuing them when they were teenagers. They didn’t come forward themselves — the reporters, after hearing rumors that apparently had been circulating in Alabama for years, tracked them down and convinced them to share their stories. They have nothing to gain. Relatives and friends corroborate the stories. . .

[The GOP] response gets at two essential things about the GOP. The first is that for Republicans in 2017, there is no such thing as truth. There is only what you want to hear and wish to believe, and anything else can be ignored or explained away. This is the result of an epistemological project that dates back decades, most especially since the founding of Fox News in 1996. From the beginning, the ideology Fox pounded into the heads of Republicans was not only that the mainstream media are biased against them, but that anything the mainstream media says can be dismissed out of hand as nothing but lies, no matter how factual it might appear. The only thing you should believe is what you hear from conservative sources.

That belief system achieved its apotheosis with the nomination of Trump, the most promiscuous liar in American political history. After years of being fed a diet of insane stories about their political opponents — Bill and Hillary Clinton had dozens of their enemies murdered, Barack Obama was born in Kenya — they were perfectly happy to swallow whatever tripe Trump tossed at them. When you hear the phrase, “if it turns out to be true,” this is a line coming from a party that has waged a brutal and systematic assault on the very idea of objective truth.

The second vital feature of today’s GOP is that Trump has led Republicans to a place where there is essentially no behavior that they cannot countenance. This is certainly Trump’s fault. But we shouldn’t excuse Republicans — after getting over some initial qualms, they quite happily followed him down into the moral sewer.

The seminal event in that descent was the release of the 'Access Hollywood' tape, in which the future president bragged about his ability to commit sexual assault with impunity. When it came out, some Republicans condemned it, but they got over their distaste pretty quickly and rallied behind him. When more than a dozen women came forward and said that Trump had groped them, kissed them against their will or otherwise assaulted them, Republicans ignored it or explained it away. To this day, it is the position of the White House that all those women are liars, something I have heard no Republicans dispute.

But that’s hardly all. In the age of Trump, Republicans have taken the position that a hostile power meddling in American elections is no big deal, not even if they got help from people inside the president’s campaign. They’ve stuck with the president as he said that those marching alongside neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were 'very fine people,' as he installed his family members into positions of power, and as he used the office of the presidency, which they once claimed they had such deep respect for, as a vehicle to enhance his own wealth.

In short, the Republican Party has made amply clear that it holds no moral principle above seizing and maintaining power. So a U.S. Senate candidate hit on teenage girls as a man in his 30s? If he can get away with it, Republicans can live with it." [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, The Roy Moore mess actually began with the Trump ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.

Republi-CONs really have no principles and values, or shame anymore.

Read the Washington Post, Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32, which is a detailed and creditable investigation (as much as Republi-CONs will label it FAKE NEWS).

And remember: "[W]hatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Or as the kids might say: 'Karma's a b**** '.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

After One Year of Trump, Is There Hope?

UPDATE:  Read also:

The Washington Post, Virginia bloodbath: Trump is exorcising the Democrats’ midterm curse, and

The New York Times, Democrats Cheer, but They May Have to Do Better in ’18, which notes:

"Make no mistake: The results Tuesday are fully consistent with a so-called wave election, like the ones that brought Democrats to power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010.

All of the conditions for a 2018 wave are in place. The president’s approval rating is stuck in the mid-to-high 30s. The Democrats hold nearly a double-digit lead on the generic congressional ballot. The president’s party nearly always struggles in midterm elections."

Another MUST READ: the Washington Post, Gillespie did not embrace Trump enough, which states in full:

After Republican Ed Gillespie lost the race for Virginia governor on Tuesday, the president tweeted:

Donald J. Trump

Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!
7:40 PM - Nov 7, 2017

That was the problem: Ed Gillespie did not embrace Trump or what he stood for enough.

He forgot that there is more to Trump than just racism: There is also corruption and incompetence.

He did the first part just fine. His MS-13 commercials were exactly the sort of nightmarish dog-horn that is Trump’s specialty. But he forgot: that is not all that “Trumpism” is. Otherwise we would not need a special new -ism for it and could just say “racism.”

No, Gillespie barely even tried. Where was the paranoia? Where were the unhinged rants about wire-tapping? Where were the attacks on the legitimacy of the free press? There was, naturally, some gleeful disregard for fact, and those lines about sanctuary cities were Trump-ish, but there could have been much more. Just to show he was trying. Where were the conspiracy theories? Where was Alex Jones?

At no point in the campaign did Gillespie invite any interference from Russia! And he calls this embracing Trump? Where was the nepotism? Where was the dubiously ethical self-promotion? Where was the total apathy towards governing? Where were the unexpected fits of temper that required constant management? I didn’t see Ed Gillespie out on the road emitting a continuous stream of personal insults that, although spoken aloud, sounded somehow misspelled, but I did miss the debate, so it is possible that it happened. He had a whole campaign to do it, and did he insult a single gold-star widow, or even hint at mocking a disabled reporter? What kind of Trumpism is this, really?

Nothing about Ed Gillespie implied that he had embraced the basic Trumpist tenant of having no idea what the job he was applying for even involved. He had some bad ideas — a hallmark of Trumpism — but then again, he had too many, and they all included specifics. Anyone could tell you that a true Trump plan would never have specifics.

Where was the self-promotion? Where were the hats? Where was the well-heeled family with problematic, undisclosed business ties? Where were the advisors of dubious provenance, some with mustaches and some without? I mean, did Gillespie even golf this election season?

Trumpism is a many-pronged pitchfork.

With no evidence that Gillespie was planning to give major responsibilities to a son-in-law incapable of filling out a simple disclosure form, how could the voters of Virginia believe that he was truly embracing Trump and what he stands for? Was Gillespie motivated by a deep desire to help increase the fortune and prominence of Donald Trump, first and foremost, and anything else afterward? No. He also wanted Ed Gillespie to be elected governor.

This is not Trumpism.

Tuesday night brought more than just Ralph Northam’s election as governor, or Justin Fairfax as the state’s second black Lieutenant Governor, or that a tidal wave of down-ticket races also went vigorously blue. It was not because maybe, just maybe, the state was able to rise out of Trumpist politics based on fear and choose one based on hope, where, in the words of newly elected transgender Virginia state legislator Danica Roem, “we celebrate you because of who you are, not despite it.” (Poetically enough, she will unseat the legislator who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”) It was not because people might want to be better than Trump, both the -ism and the man. It was not that, of course. No one is better than Trump. It must have been Russian interference, or something.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Trump's Big CON: He is a Fool

The Bible foretold of The Donald:

A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. -- Proverbs 29:11 (KJV)

And there are many more, read Open, What does the Bible say about fools?

Trump's Big CON: He is Destroying America

UPDATE:  "A recent Washington “Post-ABC News poll shows that if the Trump/Clinton presidential race were re-held today, it would be a tie. Think on that. Arguably the worst president in modern history might still beat one of the most prominent Democrats in the United States. This indicates a Democratic Party in the midst of its own profound crisis. During the Obama years, it collapsed in large portions of the country. Its national establishment has been revealed — with extensive footnotes provided by Donna Brazile — as arrogant, complacent and corrupt. But the only serious ideological alternative to that establishment is frankly socialist — the fatuous and shallow sort of socialism held by college freshmen and Bernie Sanders.

We have reached a moment of intellectual and moral exhaustion for both major political parties. One is dominated by ethnic politics — which a disturbingly strong majority of Republican regulars have found appealing or acceptable. The other is dominated by identity politics — a movement that counts a growing number of Robespierres. Both seem united only in their resentment of the international economic order that the United States has built and led for 70 years.

Normally, a political party would succeed by taking the best of populist passion and giving it more mainstream expression. But in this particular, polarized environment, how is that possible? Do mainstream Republicans take a dollop of nativism and a dash of racism and add them to their tax cuts? That seemed to be the approach that Ed Gillespie took in the Virginia governor’s race. But this is morally poisonous — like taking a little ricin in your tea. Do mainstream Democrats just take some angry identity politics and a serving of socialism — some extreme pro-choice rhetoric and single-payer health care — and add them to job-training programs?

The lead ideology of the Republican Party at the national level is now immoral and must be overturned — a task that only a smattering of retiring officeholders has undertaken. The lead ideology of the Democratic Party is likely to be overturned — by radicals with little to offer the country save anger and bad economics.

Where does this leave us at Year One of the Trump era? With two very sick political parties that have a monopoly on political power and little prospect for reform and recovery. The stakes are quite high. If America really develops a political competition between ethno-nationalism and identity socialism, it will mean we are a nation in decline — likely to leave pressing problems (educational failure, unconstrained debt, a flawed criminal-justice system) unconfronted. Likely to forfeit global leadership, undermine world markets and cede to others the mantle of stability and firm purpose. . .

So what should we wish for? It is a measure of our moment that this is not obvious. It is quite possible that moderate conservatism and moderate liberalism are inadequate to explain and tame the convulsive economic and social changes of our time. Which places America’s future — uncertain, maybe unknowable — on the other side of an earthquake."

Read the Washington Post, Our political parties can’t save themselves.

Another MUST READ: the Washington Post, How Trump broke conservatism, which states in full:

"A common defense of President Trump points to the positive things he has done from a Republican perspective — his appointment of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and other conservative judges, his pursuit of the Islamic State, his honoring of institutional religious freedom. This argument is not frivolous. What frustrates is the steadfast refusal among most Republicans and conservatives to recognize the costs on the other side of the scale.

Chief among them is Trump’s assault on truth, which takes a now-familiar form. First, assert and maintain a favorable lie. Second, attack and discredit sources of opposition. Third, declare victory based on power or applause. So, Trump claimed that Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account of his conversation with a Gold Star widow was 'totally fabricated.' (Not true.) Wilson, after all, is 'wacky.” (Not relevant.) And Trump won the interchange because Wilson is 'killing the Democrat Party.' (We’ll see.)

The pattern is invariable. President Barack Obama is a Kenyan; the Mexican government deliberately dumps criminals across the border; 'thousands and thousands' of people in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks ; Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald; vaccination schedules can be tied to autism; Obama was “wiretapping” Trump Tower during the presidential campaign; Obama asked British intelligence to spy on Trump; at least 3 million immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election. Any source that disputes Trump is personally defamed or dismissed as 'fake news.' And how is truth ultimately adjudicated? 'The country believes me,' Trump said earlier this year. 'Hey, I went to Kentucky two nights ago. We had 25,000 people.' Confronted by a reporter about his routine deceptions, Trump answered, 'I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president and you’re not.'

Thirty years ago, University of Chicago professor Allan Bloom’s 'The Closing of the American Mind' began with the words: 'There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: Almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.' Bloom found this deeply problematic, because the ability to determine truth from falsehood, right from wrong, is essential to personal flourishing and civic health. I wonder what Bloom would make of a political philosophy in which truth is determined by 25,000 screaming partisans and reality is a function of fabulism. Conservatives were supposed to be the protectors of objective truth from various forms of postmodernism. Now they generally defend our thoroughly post-truth president. Evidently we are all relativists now.

Not quite all. Some of us still think this attack on truth is a dangerous form of political corruption. The problem is not just the constant lies. It is the dismissal of reason and objectivity as inherently elitist and partisan. It is the invitation to supporters to live entirely within Trump’s dark, divisive, dystopian version of reality. It is the attempt to destroy or subvert any source of informed judgment other than Trump himself. This is the construction of a pernicious form of tyranny: a tyranny over the mind.

Not that the attempt is fully conscious. Some of this preference for deception may be the result of pathological compulsions. Some of it is surely the intuitive use of trolling to draw attention away from scandals and failures. Some of it may be a strategy to discredit contending sources of truth in Trump’s upcoming public battle with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

But here is the cost. When there is no objective source of truth — no commonly agreed upon set of facts and rules of argument — political persuasion becomes impossible. There is no reasoned method to choose between one view and another. The only way to settle political disputes is power — determined by screaming mobs or because 'I’m president and you’re not.' Politics becomes an endless battle of true believers, conditioned to distrust and dismiss every bit of evidence that does not confirm their preexisting views. The alternative to reasoned discourse is the will to power.

This is the frightening direction of Trumpism. It is the corruption that good men such as White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly are enabling. And it is a source of enduring shame for many conservatives. 'Sycophancy toward those who hold power,' said Bloom, 'is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist. . . . Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.'

Exactly how the conservative movement was broken." [Links in original, emphasis added.]

Trump's Big CON: The 'I Want The Credit, Don't Blame Me' President, WV Edition

"The fact that West Virginia saw a 3 percent increase after years of limited growth was not lost on Trump. In two interviews on Fox News programs, he touted the state’s economic growth, adding that it was a result of his elimination of regulatory policies on mining and coal. Is the credit deserved?

The short answer is, no. . .

Taking credit for economic advances where no credit is due seems to be a habit for Trump. He should be more careful not to overstate the effect of his administration’s policies when praising economic gains across the country.  For trying to capitalize on the hard work of West Virginians, Trump earns Four Pinocchios."

Read the Washington Post, President Trump’s claim that he ‘turned West Virginia around’ by cutting regulations on mining.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Using Fear, Anger and Hatred for Political Purposes

UPDATE II:  "The terrorists behind the attack, he said, need to be “rubbed out.” “Law and order” must be preserved. The courts are “against the country” and “the media should not have unlimited freedom.” “I will allow the military to try you,” the president warned terrorists, “and put you to death.”

You could be forgiven for thinking these were the words of President Trump reacting to Tuesday’s terrorist attack in New York City that killed eight and wounded 12. It’s all there: The familiar Trump bravado. The call for swift justice. The indictment of other institutions — the courts, the press — that are said to be too weak or unwilling to help safeguard the nation.

But each of the quotes above are from authoritarians who have exploited terrorist attacks to undermine rule of law in their own countries and for whom Trump has breathlessly professed admiration. And this week, he has also sought to emulate them. . .

[Terrorist] groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda seek to do more than kill. With each attack, they hope to provoke divisions in our society and undermine confidence in the institutions and diversity that define our Republic.

This week, we saw that they have an enabler at the highest level — an unpopular, impulsive, ineffective and increasingly isolated president who in attempting to project a strongman image reveals his fundamental weakness as a leader. Trump has once again succumbed to his worst impulses. They question for the rest of us is, which is stronger — the demagogue or our democracy?"

Read the Washington Post, President Trump is responding to terrorism the way demagogues and dictators do

UPDATE:  "[E]ven when we take reasonable, effective actions against Islamist terrorism, we do not guarantee that these incidents will stop. We are defeating the Islamic State and destroying its caliphate, and yet Islamist fundamentalism may still inspire murderous rampages. We can authorize and reauthorize National Security Agency surveillance programs, but a single killer need not communicate with anyone overseas to launch a plot. We can interdict money flowing to terrorism, but all this attack cost was the rental fee for a truck. . .

So what do we do? Do we learn to 'live with' these low-level attacks? Let’s begin with what we should not do — demonize an entire religion, assail our own democratic institutions, demean our intelligence community or politicize every corner of government. . .

Beyond that, we should continue to do the big things (destroy the Islamic State’s territorial haven) and the not-so-big-but-critically-important things (more extensive use of barriers, improved police relations with Muslim communities). We control what we can, and we understand that we cannot eliminate every threat, of every size, of every origin. That is how Israel has survived since its inception; that is how we address ordinary, domestic crime.

This should not be confused with complacency or fatalism. To the contrary, we should remain determined to do whatever is in our power to halt the scourge of Islamist terrorism, but in doing so, we should stop doing silly, time-wasting, counterproductive things for political reasons. We should stop stoke fear of our fellow Americans and of foreigners. Focus on what’s doable and avoid idiotic stunts that make us no safer and that do great damage to the fabric of our democracy. In short, stop Trump from being Trump."

Read the Washington Post, The right and wrong ways to respond to the NYC attack.

"October was bookended by tragedy.

On Halloween, a man who authorities say emigrated from Uzbekistan seven years ago, drove a rented pickup truck down a bike path, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot and subdued. On Oct. 1, a man shooting from the windows of a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip killed 58 and wounded 546. . .

Trump’s response to the attack in New York on Tuesday was immediately different. Since the attack, at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Trump has tweeted (as of writing) six times about it and about the need for policy changes to address it.

Donald J. Trump

My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!
5:57 PM - Oct 31, 2017

Donald J. Trump

I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!
8:26 PM - Oct 31, 2017

 Donald J. Trump

The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.
6:24 AM - Nov 1, 2017

And so on.

This is not a new pattern for Trump. He’s regularly raced to link terrorist attacks (and things that turned out not to be terrorist attacks) to the need to crack down on immigration. It’s of a piece with his campaign, during which he promoted the risks posed by immigrants as a central concern for the public and his own policies as the only way of addressing them.

Contrasting the two incidents in October mirrors the overall difference between gun violence and terrorism. Since Trump was inaugurated, there have been 283 incidents in the United States in which four or more people were shot. The death toll from those incidents, excluding Vegas, is 224. There have been a handful of terrorist attacks, perhaps only two of which involve a Muslim or an immigrant (though it’s not clear). In those two incidents, two people were killed. . .

[These two incidents show how The Donald uses fear, anger and hatred for political purposes,] how Trump considers people like Paddock versus how he considers people like Saipov. Saipov’s actions are inseparable from his status as an immigrant, as Trump’s tweets make clear: What he did is a reflection of all immigrants and therefore immigration laws need to change. Paddock — older, white — was just a guy with a broken brain. What can you possibly do about that?
So, with Saipov, Trump is quick to weigh in on policy proposals meant to address the perceived threat posed by immigrants — even if those proposals are not necessarily rooted in an accurate understanding of the issue."

Read the Washington Post, For Trump, October’s two mass killings lead to very different responses.

Read also the Washington Post, Trump responds to terror attack with petty tweets and demagoguery.

Trump's Big CON: Lie, Deny, & Vilify, Repeat Frequently, And NEVER Admit a Mistake

"Last week John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, tried to defend President Trump against charges that he was grossly insensitive to the widow of a U.S. soldier killed in action. In the process, Kelly accused Frederica Wilson, the member of Congress and friend of the soldier’s family who reported what Trump had said, of having behaved badly previously during the dedication of an F.B.I. building.

Video of the dedication shows, however, that Kelly’s claim was false, and that Representative Wilson’s remarks at the ceremony were entirely appropriate. . .

[O]f course, Kelly has neither admitted error nor apologized. Instead, the White House declared that it’s unpatriotic to criticize generals — which, aside from being a deeply un-American position, is ludicrous given the many times Donald Trump has done just that.

But we are living in the age of Trumpal infallibility: We are ruled by men who never admit error, never apologize and, crucially, never learn from their mistakes. Needless to say, men who think admitting error makes you look weak just keep making bigger mistakes; delusions of infallibility eventually lead to disaster, and one can only hope that the disasters ahead don’t bring catastrophe for all of us. . .

Again, everyone makes [mistakes]. If you’re consistently wrong, that should certainly count against your credibility; track records matter. But it’s much worse if you can never bring yourself to admit past errors and learn from them.

That kind of behavior makes it all too likely that you’ll keep making the same mistakes; but more than that, it shows something wrong with your character. And men with that character flaw should never be placed in positions of policy responsibility."

Read The New York Times, The Doctrine of Trumpal Infallibility.

Read also from March, The New York Times, America’s Epidemic of Infallibility, which states:

"Just to be clear: Everyone makes mistakes. Some of these mistakes are in the 'nobody could have known' category. But there’s also the temptation to engage in motivated reasoning, to let our emotions get the better of our critical faculties — and almost everyone succumbs to that temptation now and then (as I myself did on election night).

So nobody is perfect. The point, however, is to try to do better — which means owning up to your mistakes and learning from them. Yet that is something that the people now ruling America never, ever do.

What happened to us? Some of it surely has to do with ideology: When you’re committed to a fundamentally false narrative about government and the economy, as almost the whole Republican Party now is, facing up to facts becomes an act of political disloyalty. . .

But what’s going on with Mr. Trump and his inner circle seems to have less to do with ideology than with fragile egos. To admit having been wrong about anything, they seem to imagine, would brand them as losers and make them look small.

In reality, of course, inability to engage in reflection and self-criticism is the mark of a tiny, shriveled soul — but they’re not big enough to see that.

But why did so many Americans vote for Mr. Trump, whose character flaws should have been obvious long before the election?

Catastrophic media failure and F.B.I. malfeasance played crucial roles. But my sense is that there’s also something going on in our society: Many Americans no longer seem to understand what a leader is supposed to sound like, mistaking bombast and belligerence for real toughness.

Why? Is it celebrity culture? Is it working-class despair, channeled into a desire for people who spout easy slogans?

The truth is that I don’t know. But we can at least hope that watching Mr. Trump in action will be a learning experience — not for him, because he never learns anything, but for the body politic. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll eventually put a responsible adult back in the White House."

It should be clear by now that a responsible adult will not be back in the White House any time soon.

Trump's Big CON: It's Not Tax Reform, It's a Tax Cut for the Wealthy

UPDATE VI:  "Contrary to the president’s claim, the tax plan is not “so bad” for the wealthy. In fact, no matter how you slice it, the superwealthy do rather well under the House GOP proposal. As we have said, that’s largely because they already pay a large chuck of income taxes already.

Trump could actually make the distribution tables look better if he pushed to keep the AMT in place for incomes above $1 million and the estate tax in place for estates larger than $11 million. The failure to do so underscores the fact that this tax plan is not only for the middle class."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s claim that the House GOP bill is ‘so bad for rich people’.

Read also the Washington Post, Who really pays the estate tax?, which notes that roughly 2.7 million Americans will pass away in 2017, but only 11,310 deceased individuals (the top 0.5 percent wealthiest) will need to file an estate tax return.  After deductions, only 5,460 of them will owe any estate tax, and only 80 will be "small" businesses or small farms (worth between $5-10 million). Those 80 "small" businesses or small farms will pay on average $375,000, and they have "the option to pay it off over a period of 15 years, softening its impact."

So Trump's claim that the proposal is 'so bad for rich people' is a lie, but his tax cut proposal will save him and his family billions (yes, billions).

UPDATE V:  "Killing the estate tax has long been the holy grail of Republicans. (They even succeeded in one year, 2010, but then it came back.) So there is little surprise that the tax bill would include an estate-tax repeal.

But what is surprising is that the tax bill also allows the beneficiaries of estates to not pay capital gains taxes on the increase in value of assets held by the estates. That has not been a feature of most previous estate-tax bills. In fact, President Trump’s campaign plan would have repealed the estate tax but taxed capital gains accumulated at death. . .

But the House GOP tax plan, by contrast, kills the estate tax (starting in 2024) and continues to value assets passed to heirs at a stepped-up basis. (The only exception is certain interest in foreign entities, such as a passive foreign investment company.)

[I]t’s interesting that House tax-writers would press forward with an elimination of the estate tax that goes far beyond previous efforts — or even Trump’s campaign tax plan — to allow tens of billions of untapped capital gains to remain beyond the reach of the U.S. government. The money left on the table because of a difference between two words — 'stepped-up' and 'carryover' — is certainly staggering."

Read the Washington Post, Two words in the GOP tax bill mean tens of billions for the superwealthy.

UPDATE IV:  "The Republican tax bill is often described as being weighted toward 'the rich.' But that’s not the full story.

It’s actually weighted toward the loafer, the freeloader, the heir, the passive investor who spends his time yachting and charity-balling.

In short: the idle rich.

Republicans claim the opposite, of course. For years the GOP has argued that we need to cut taxes to incentivize work and job creation. If only today’s allegedly sky-high marginal rates were lower, millions of talented, driven Americans would apply more of their talent and drive toward growing the economy.

Why? Well, if they got to keep more of their hard-earned cash, there would be a greater payoff from clocking that extra hour, taking on that extra project, seeing that extra patient, scoring that extra client, building that extra business, and so on. Working would look more attractive relative to playing an extra round of golf.

Yet the GOP tax bill offers the biggest windfall to those who sit on their duffs and do nothing.

Rich layabouts benefit in multiple ways from the proposal. . .

So much for the dignity of work."

Read the Washington Post, Who wins biggest in the GOP tax plan? The lazy rich.

UPDATE III: "Many of the ideas in the Republican tax proposal unveiled Thursday have found bipartisan support in the past and endorsements from economists who see a way to improve the U.S. economy. That includes plans to make the corporate rate more competitive, simplify personal taxes, curb several tax breaks of dubious value and provide more assistance to working families.

The controversy is over who will gain the most: the rich and corporations. The GOP bill would cut the corporate rate well below previous attempts, eliminate a tax on inheritance that affects only people with many millions of dollars, and take other actions that do not provide direct benefits to most Americans.

And the proposal represents a significant break with previous tax-rewrite discussions.

Republicans have in the past focused on the importance of not adding to the nation’s debt through tax reform. Democrats have favored overhauling the tax code to raise revenue to pay for needed improvements in America’s infrastructure or to provide services for the middle class and poor.

But in this case, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimated Thursday that the tax plan would be paid for by $1.5 trillion in additional borrowing over the next decade. Much of that reflects tax reductions benefiting the wealthy and companies."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s bill is ‘a sensible framework’ — but ‘still a deficit-exploding tax cut’ for the rich and corporations.

UPDATE II:  "Judging from the initial details, Republican tax-plan writers have thrown out the idea that they should simplify the code. They’ve also decided that high-six-figure earners and wealthy heirs deserve a tax break. . .

As one might expect, Trump’s plan takes care of himself and his real estate pals: 'Many companies would face a new limit on their interest deductions, which would be capped at 30% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, which is a measure of cash flow. Real-estate firms and small businesses would be exempt from that limit.'

In short, this is still a bill that directs enormous benefits to the rich and to corporations and hammers middle-class people in high-cost and high-tax states. The complexity of the proposals undercuts its claim to be “tax simplification” while diminishing some pro-growth aspects. It is a bill in which everyone will find something to hate."

Read the Washington Post, Republicans manage to make the tax code more complicated.

UPDATE:  "In 1986, corporations basically footed the bill for individual tax cuts. It's shaping up to be the reverse this time around."

Read the Washington Post, Who’s really going to pay for Trump’s big tax cut?

Republi-CON so-called tax reform "is, in fact, a gigantic giveaway to corporations and the wealthy . . .

The entire purpose of this exercise is to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations, because it’s a Republican plan and that’s what Republicans do."

Read the Washington Post, Don’t buy the latest spin. The GOP tax plan is still a huge giveaway to the rich., which explains how they are trying to do it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Trump's Big CON: It's All About the Show, Commerce Secretary Edition

"Forbes magazine says that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross 'lied to us' about his net worth, exaggerating it by billions of dollars to make the widely cited 'Forbes 400' list of richest people in America. Ross was dropped from the list for 2017 after being a presence for 13 years.

In an article Dan Alexander posted Tuesday, Forbes said it discovered a discrepancy after examining Ross’s government financial disclosure forms, on which Ross, a Wall Street investor before President Trump put him in his Cabinet, listed his assets at $700 million.

That’s not even close to qualifying for what the magazine calls “the country’s most exclusive club” in which the richest person, Bill Gates, is worth $89 billion and the poorest a mere $2 billion."

Read the Washington Post, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘lied’ about his wealth to make richest Americans list, says Forbes magazine.

Remember: it's all 'bout the show, 'bout the show, stupid people!!! (Repeat til you get it).

Trump's Great Strength: He Know How to Connect to People, Unfortunately He Uses It to Leverage Racism

Again, I've always thought The Donald had an exceptionally high EQ , too bad he misuses it.

Read the Washington Post, What makes President Trump casually dismiss black pain? White rage., which states in part:

"The white resentment that unmasked itself during the Obama era, sparked by the tea party and Trump’s birther crusade, had been pretty obvious even before the predominantly white media devoted legions of stories to it over the past couple of years in a fit of 'Hillbilly Elegy' curiosity. It seemed apparent to people of color that this was the mysterious malady that caused people to support Trump; the press, in the manner of Christopher Columbus, would eventually discover it, too. Much less energy was devoted to, say, examining black anger about racial injustice and other issues. That’s partly why the president was able to get so many (mostly white) Americans to believe the fiction that kneeling athletes were Betsy Ross blasphemers. Those attitudes give Trump license to make targets of outspoken sports commentators and various members of Congress — especially if they’re women of color, his favorite opponents. The act of not believing black folks or performing confusion about our anger has social currency as well, since it makes it look as though we are all crying wolf. Even when we’re talking about a pregnant military widow, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the entire American story. . .

It is also the latest chapter in America’s long history of mistreating African American military veterans, alive or dead. As Peter C. Baker noted in November in the New Yorker, the Equal Justice Institute in Alabama released a report about lynching shortly after the election that indicated that 'no one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans' of America’s wars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Baker wrote that those veterans, returning home from fighting overseas, understandably felt more of an entitlement to equal treatment under the law, and the lynchings were intended to disabuse them of that notion.

Lynching was the most violent form of racial denigration in that era. But racial denigration, that act by which bigots strip any respectability or humanity away from black folks to reinforce their false racial hierarchy, has never gone away. And Trump has such a gift for it that he used it to win the White House. He was elected by a swell of bigotry, and so he serves his masters with aplomb. It may be the only consistent thing he does.

While he didn’t break out a noose for the Johnsons or Wilson, he did sic his dogs on them through his continued insistence that they are lying. Already, an Illinois man is being investigated for a Facebook post threatening to lynch Wilson. Knowing that his base either is racist or willing to vote in a man who would metastasize white supremacy, Trump felt secure putting a black Gold Star family in the crosshairs to escape accountability.

Asked toward the end of the interview Monday whether she had anything to say to the president, Myeshia Johnson said, 'No,' then paused a bit before adding, 'I don’t have nothing to say to him.' You should watch it in its entirety, if for no other reason than to see this moment. Her anger and hurt was palpable throughout the interview, but perhaps none more so than right then. You’ll see a woman who clearly can’t believe that she has to deal with this nonsense.

These are surely the worst days of her life. But rather than talking purely about her husband and any righteous rage she may have over the circumstances of his death, she has to talk about Trump and what he is doing to her. She may even be screaming inside over the fact that this maddening episode will always be a part of La David Johnson’s story. The president could’ve prevented that by trying to act like a human being for the five minutes it took to make that call, but alas.

While we don’t yet understand why La David Johnson was left behind to die, we understand why his family has been treated like trash. A fallen soldier’s family is being forced to make space for the president’s petty grievances in their time of bereavement, all because, even at an unconscious level, America accepts white anger. Even when viewed as wrong, it is at least tolerated more than the fury of black folks. This has been a long con by conservatives, dating back to before the birth of the Southern Strategy after Jim Crow, and it is paying out for them now.

The president knows that white resentment is a perfect fit for his pugnacious politics, so he can continue reflexively picking fights that wiser men ignore. He has cover from his acolytic base, who see the disrespect and hatred they have nurtured for so long exploding into presidential action. What appear to be confounding, unforced errors borne of his inherent cruelty are also chunks of red meat for his base. The satisfaction that Trump derives from feeding them clearly matters more to him than the outrage of a black war widow. If that’s disturbing, consider that it makes some political sense for him to behave like this. Whose fault is that?"

Trump's Big CON: He is Unfit to Be President, And Republi-CONs Know It, CONt. Part 2

UPDATE:  "There is no president in modern memory who has repeatedly and directly called on the Justice Department to investigate a political opponent in such a manner. A politician, one could imagine, upon new and actual evidence of wrongdoing, might say something like, “The appropriate authorities should look into this.” That’s not what Trump is doing here. He is both assuming guilt and applying pressure to go after an opponent based on scurrilous propaganda that he and his followers have generated. This is the conduct of a Third World dictator, and by any stretch of the imagination, an abuse of presidential power.

Trump’s latest call — following “lock her up” chants at rallies that continued after his election — is not an isolated event, but, as noted before, part of an ongoing pattern of trying to lean on the Justice Department either to pursue or not to pursue criminal proceedings against specific individuals. This certainly clears the bar of abuse of power established in the impeachment of Richard Nixon (who “merely” countenanced using the CIA to shut down the FBI’s investigation of the Watergate break-in) and goes well beyond the discrete action of Bill Clinton in lying under oath in the Paula Jones matter and to the grand jury. Trump’s conduct is pervasive, and if allowed to go unpunished will permanently distort our constitutional system. We simply cannot tolerate presidential meddling in our criminal-justice system to protect friends and persecute enemies. . .

Republican leadership, however, has entirely abandoned its constitutional obligations and makes no effort to halt such conduct. The leaders are not acting in good faith to uphold their oaths of office — namely to defend the Constitution."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s latest impeachable actions.

"Trump chooses to ignore this and other evidence that led our intelligence community to conclude Russia had meddled in the election. In refusing to address the issue because his own ego is at stake (and the country’s perception of his legitimacy), he thereby puts out the welcome mat for further efforts to meddle in our democracy. He cannot bring himself to recognize what Russia did for him, so he cannot take seriously his obligation to defend against future Russian attacks on our democracy.

Failing to vet high-ranking officials and disinclination to act to defend America’s electoral democracy are not illegal. Nor is it illegal to deride the First Amendment, equate neo-Nazis with protesters, lie hundreds if not thousands of times or berate one’s attorney general for recusing himself as required by law. It’s not illegal to refuse to master policy basics. Nevertheless, when we consider all that, plus his firing of FBI director James B. Comey, his alleged effort to interfere with the Flynn investigation, his alleged attempt to chase the Justice Department off the prosecution of Joe Arpaio, his lying about the existence of tapes of Comey, his self-enrichment and his conflicts of interest (including receipt of foreign emoluments), the stark portrait emerges of someone unwilling or unable to act in the interests and defense of the Constitution. Whenever the choice is between his own self-interest and the country, the former prevails. The president lacks the ability to sublimate his own interests, and thereby is unable to uphold the oath that requires he put the country first.

When and if Congress ever gets around to considering impeachment, all of this is relevant to the political consideration of 'high crimes and misdemeanors.' And even if all that does not warrant Trump’s removal, it must require much greater congressional oversight (e.g. mandatory disclosure of his tax returns, ending nepotism, required liquidation of his businesses). To the extent that Republicans aren’t willing to do even that, they make the case for voting the whole lot of them out of office."

Read the Washington Post, While Mueller probe plays out, Republicans shouldn’t forget Trump is unfit.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trump's Big CON: He Is Our Savior (NOT), ISIS Edition (The 'I Want The Credit, Don't Blame Me' President, CONt Part 3)

"A president taking credit for a successful outcome started by his predecessor is a time-honored tradition. . . .

That still does not make it right. Trump exacerbates the braggadocio by specifically saying he has done “by far” more than Obama, even though he inherited a structure and plan developed by Obama. Experts credit Trump with some tactical shifts that may have stepped up the tempo — though the number of civilian deaths has soared as a result. But in reality, according to several metrics, more was done under Obama.

Trump earns Three Pinocchios."

 Read the Washington Post, Trump’s claim that he’s done more ‘by far’ than Obama in the fight against ISIS.

Trump's Big CON: It's All About the Show, Federal Reserve Chairman Edition

"President Trump delights in making spectacles out of personnel decisions. He conducted cabinet interviews at his New Jersey golf club, inviting members to gather and gawk. He summoned both finalists for a Supreme Court seat to the White House on the day of the announcement. And now he is conducting the most dramatic and drawn-out search for a Federal Reserve chairman in the long history of the stolid institution.

Mr. Trump is very publicly deliberating between two candidates with strikingly different views about the practice and purpose of monetary policy . .

The choice of a Fed chairman is always a high-stakes political decision, but Mr. Trump’s predecessors uniformly sought to minimize the attendant drama. Past presidents have rarely acknowledged the existence of multiple candidates and, since World War II, every chairman who completed a first term was nominated for a second term.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, announced in July that he was considering candidates to replace Ms. Yellen. . .

On Tuesday, he conducted an informal poll of Senate Republicans, asking them to raise a hand for [for one of two candidates]. Some refused."

Read The New York Times, Trump’s Latest Show: Choosing a Fed Chairman.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The 'I Want The Credit, Don't Blame Me' President, CONt Part 2

Obama, Congress, the courts, Puerto Rico, McCain, McConnell and Ryan, Republicans, and Obama – it’s always someone else's fault.

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s hypocritical quote on taking blame just about says it all.

Trump's Big CON: His $700 Billion Tax Cut for Foreigners

"Now, it may sound extreme to say that Trump and his allies want to take away health care from millions largely so that they can give wealthy foreigners a $700 billion gift. But however it may sound, it’s also the literal truth."

Read The New York Times, Trump’s $700 Billion Gift to Wealthy Foreigners.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The Donald is a Russian Agent, CONt. Part 4 (Why Are He, "His" Party, and "His" Propaganda News Friends So Worried?)

UPDATE X:  Trump is really worried about and afraid of the Russian investigation, and he and his supporters are working vigorously to stop it or at the very least discredit it.


Because Putin has the kompromat to control Trump, and Trump knows it since he knows his own compromising financial and personal information.

Read the Washington Post, In new interview, Trump openly rages at checks on his authoritarianism, which show how much Trump wishes he were a dictator, free to lock up critics and opponents.

Read also the Washington Post, Why is Trump so obsessed with Russia? We’re finally going to find out.

My guess, it is worse than compromising financial information, those salacious stories in the ‘Steele Dossier’ might even be true!

UPDATE IX: ANOTHER MUST READ, the Washington Post, To what circle of hell are Republicans about to consign themselves?, which states in substantial part:

"At our political costume ball, it is definitely ’90s nostalgia night. A president obsessed with attacking all things Clinton stands accused of serial sexual harassment, sends out underlings to dismiss the accusers as liars, condemns a federal investigation as a politically motivated fraud and is attempting to destroy the reputation of the leader of that investigation. Hillary Clinton may be President Trump’s continuing target, but the Clinton years are clearly his inspiration.

It worked the first time around. In President Bill Clinton’s case, the Democratic Party almost uniformly honored tribal loyalties above legal or moral principle. Even the feminist left generally fell into line for partisan reasons. 'American women,' said columnist Nina Burleigh, 'should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.' What is a little sexual misconduct and obstruction of justice among friends when legal abortion is at stake?

Now Trump appeals to the same type of team solidarity, this time on the right. “The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics,” tweeted Trump, “but the R’s are now fighting back like never before.” Note how a federal investigation of Russian influence on American democracy has become “the Dems.” Note also that it is not the president and his lawyers fighting this investigation but the “R’s.” Trump is conditioning Republicans and conservatives to view his upcoming legal defense entirely through the lens of partisanship. With the broad cooperation of conservative media, there is every reason to think he might succeed.

Trump’s ultimate objective in all this matters greatly. If he wants to recruit Republicans into a defense of the shady political and business dealings of Paul Manafort and the rest of the president’s political circle — now exposed by federal indictment — it will be discrediting and humiliating. A party that rallies to the defense of corruption will eventually be seen as a swamp in need of clearing.

As the indictments begin to come down, Republicans need to ponder what legal and ethical lines, if any, they are willing to draw. Continuing the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s own dishonest dealings is all fun and games (except to Clinton, I suppose). Joining the defense of slimy political figures such as Manafort makes one, ceteris paribus, into a slimy political figure. Obscuring or excusing Russian influence on the American political process is a dangerous disservice to the country. Supporting Trump in a power play against the special prosecutor and his investigation would be an attack on the stability and legitimacy of the Republic — a source of infamy in American history. . .

It is worth making clear that every conservative media voice — including, recently, the editorial voice of the Wall Street Journal — that attacks the objectivity and legitimacy of Mueller is giving Trump cover and encouragement to move against him. They are dropping lit matches in the dry tinder of American politics. And they would be responsible, in part, for the resulting wildfire.

Do Republicans and conservatives really want to be remembered as a bodyguard of enablers for this man? For this cause? Few enter the fray of political ideas, or make the considerable sacrifices of entering public life, to defend corruption and the abuse of power. That is now the calling of the Republican partisan, and the downward path of dishonor."

So, 'what legal and ethical lines, if any, the Republi-CONs are willing to draw'?

Think back to Watergate.

UPDATE VIII:  "Look at the whole story and tell me this isn't suspicious. . .

The Trump campaign was filled with operatives connected in shady ways to the Russian government. It included individuals who knew that the Russians had obtained Clinton-related emails and who lied about that knowledge to federal investigators. Top campaign officials (and Trump family members) dropped everything to meet with Russian operatives when they believed there was useful opposition research on offer. Trump publicly asked Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers to find and release her missing emails.

We also know the Russians really did hack into John Podesta’s and the DNC’s email accounts and found and released emails that damaged Clinton. They really did conduct social media operations designed help Trump. Both their targets and their timing were extremely sophisticated for a foreign government that has traditionally shown itself to have a poor understanding of American politics. After winning the White House, Trump attacked the CIA and fired the director of the FBI in an effort to discredit or end their investigations into Russia’s role in the election.

At this point, it would be a truly remarkable coincidence if two entities that had so many ties to each other, that had so much information about what the other was doing, and that were working so hard toward the same goal never found a way to coordinate."

Read Vox, It sure looks like there was collusion between the Trump operation and Russia.

UPDATE VII:  And The Donald and his Propaganda News, AKA Hedgehog News, are really, really worried.

Read the Washington Post, The Fox News-cum-Murdoch effect: Mueller must resign! Or be fired!

UPDATE VI: Of course, given The Donald's intense desire to win at all cost, it is possible that he and/or those very, very, very close to him knowingly and actively colluded with Putin to win the election.

Read the Washington Post, How bad will Mueller probe get for Trump? The Papadopoulos plea may be a big tell., which notes:

"While the biggest news of the day is the indictments Robert S. Mueller III has handed down against former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, today he also released a plea bargain with a heretofore minor figure in the Russia scandal by the name of George Papadopoulos. And that could actually be the day’s biggest news. . .

Who does Papadopoulos have information on? We don’t know. The plea document mentions his discussions (his efforts to set up a meeting with the Russians) with people who are referred to as 'Senior Policy Adviser,' 'Campaign Supervisor,' and 'High-Ranking Campaign Official,' but we don’t know who those are. Then there’s this:

    On or about May 4, 2016, the Russian MFA Connection sent an email (the 'May 4 MFA Email') to defendant PAPADOPOULOS and the Professor that stated: 'I have just talked to my colleagues from the MFA. The[y] are open for cooperation. One of the options is to make a meeting for you at the North America Desk, if you are in Moscow.' Defendant PAPADOPOULOS responded that he was '[g]lad the MFA is interested.' Defendant PAPADOPOULOS forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to the High-Ranking Campaign Official, adding: 'What do you think? Is this something we want to move forward with?' The next day, on or about May 5, 2016, defendant PAPADOPOULOS had a phone call with the Campaign Supervisor, and then forwarded the May 4 MFA Email to him, adding to the top of the email: 'Russia updates.'

This exchange happened not long before Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner had their infamous meeting with representatives of the Russian government who purportedly had damaging information on Clinton to offer. Given that context, it seems rather unlikely that Papadopoulos would not have mentioned the possibility that the Russians had of 'dirt' on Clinton contained in 'thousands of emails.' But we don’t yet know for sure.

What we do know is that the prosecutors believe that Papadopoulos’ information will be valuable to them in building a case against others. Manafort, on the other hand, is not cooperating — at least not yet. . .

If Manfort is going to flip, there are only so many people he could flip on who are closer to the center of whatever happened than he was. That could include Jared Kushner, perhaps Donald Trump Jr., and of course President Trump himself.

But right now, Papadopoulos is the one who is providing Mueller an entry into the heart of the Trump campaign and its relationship to Russia. Which is why McQuade says, 'That one, because of its relevance to that larger question, strikes me as maybe the more important development today.' And this is just getting started."

One hint that this is possible -- The Donald doth protest too much, methinks.

UPDATE V:  As I said early on, The Donald is a Russian agent, perhaps he was originally an unwitting agent, but Putin has the kompromat to control Trump, and Trump knows it since he knows his own compromising financial and personal information.

Those salacious stories in the ‘Steele Dossier’ might even be true!

"Like a poker player whose flagrant tell gives him away, President Donald Trump telegraphed a twitchy bit of direction to Trump Tower scandal-watchers this week. Or was it indirection? After the founder of the oppo-research company Fusion GPS that commissioned the infamous Steele Dossier told the House Intelligence Committee he would take the Fifth Amendment if subpoenaed to testify, Trump responded with a brain-bender of a tweet that thrust the dossier to the center of the stage again.

'Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?' Trump's tweet said.

Like many Trump tweets, it proved more difficult to untangle than a mound of last night's dried out spaghetti. Why was Trump screaming about the dossier now? Does he sense that investigators are closing in on him and he needs to divert them? BuzzFeed published the 35-page smutty and salacious document, which purports that the Russians had compromised Trump personally and financially, more than nine months ago. Was it because the dossier had floated back into the news because Fusion GPS's Glenn Simpson had refused to testify and Trump's a reflexive beast? Or because he worries that the investigations may be used to unlock his secrets? Or is it just a new tactic in his campaign to undercut its origin?

Trump may claim that the contents of the dossier have been discredited, but as Reuters' Mark Hosenball wrote last week, elements of the dossier may have been denied but none of it has been disproved. Trump reliably affixes the "fake" label to every utterance he dislikes or finds threatening, and the dossier abounds with potentially damaging assertions like, 'Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years.' By jumping up and down with the fury of a Yosemite Sam, is Trump really confirming the accuracy and potency of the dossier?"

Read Politico, Trump Singes Fingers Trying to Torch Dossier.

UPDATE IV:  In the investigation of  "Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign . . . three facts are both important and undisputed . . .

Trump’s family and the top echelons of the campaign hoped that a meeting with well-connected Russians would yield dirt on Clinton. The Trump White House dissembled on the purpose of this meeting. And Trump admitted that the primary reason he fired the FBI director was because of the Russia investigation.

These are the facts of the case, and they are not in dispute."

Read the Washington Post, These are the facts of the Russia investigation, and they are not in dispute.

I would add, Putin didn't want Clinton as president, he wanted The Donald.

UPDATE III:  "President Trump and his surrogates — most especially the Fox News lineup (which includes a fleet of conservative pundits who disgrace themselves by facilitating a political distraction game for Trump), obsequious Republicans in Congress, old allies such as Roger Stone (who wound up getting banned by Twitter) and the talk radio crowd — have been frantically fanning Hillary Clinton non-scandals about Uranium One (it was baseless before and baseless now) and the dossier’s funder. (Fusion GPS initially was hired by the conservative Free Beacon, which at one time claimed not to know the identity of the Republican outfit that first hired Fusion.) The unhinged rants from Trump’s defenders demanding Clinton be locked up for one or both of these reveal how tightly Trump and the right-wing ecosystem that supports him rely on Clinton as an all-purpose distraction.

Upon a moment’s reflection, the non-scandals make no sense (Clinton was colluding with Russia to beat herself in the election?), have been debunked before and in no way affect the liability, if any, of current or ex-Trump administration figures. This is “whataboutism” run amok. It does expose the degree to which Fox News has given up the pretense of a real news organization, preferring the role of state propagandist. (And it’s not just the evening hosts; the non-scandals now monopolize the rest of the schedule.)

The intensity of Trump’s frenzy underscores the peril in which the president now finds himself. Beyond the indictments unsealed this morning, Trump does not know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has uncovered; which witnesses are flippable; what financial documents have revealed about the Trump business empire; and whether, for example, Mueller finds support for an obstruction of justice charge from Trump’s own public dissembling (e.g., hinting at non-existent tapes of former FBI director James B. Comey). For someone who insists on holding all the cards and intimidating others, Trump finds himself in a uniquely powerless position."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s meltdown in anticipation of indictments is telling.

UPDATE II: What is The Donald hiding?

We may soon find out.

Read the Washington Post, Indictments signal the beginning of Mueller’s work, not the end

UPDATE: The RepubliCONs are engaged in a "careful, coordinated, and comprehensive strategy" hoping you ignore and forget the "Russian interference in the 2016 election, which it is more than clear was 1) comprehensive, involving hacking, propaganda, and outreach to Trump representatives; and 2) clearly intended to help Donald Trump win the election, or at the very least wound Hillary Clinton should she become president. . .

It has three essential components. The first is the cranking up of the conservative calliope: all of the right’s information sources, from Fox News to conservative talk radio to web sites like Breitbart and Drudge, immediately begin shouting about the same story and repeating the same line. Then to keep it going and force mainstream media to cover it, they create an official 'investigation' that will provide a steady stream of tantalizing leaks and events that can become the occasion of news coverage, even if it all ends up proving nothing. Then the whole narrative gets validated by top-level Republicans whose words are news in and of themselves.

All of these components are now in motion. Fox and the other outlets are doing hour after hour of discussion about what they are calling the 'Russia dossier,' an opposition research document prepared for Democrats that gathered together facts and rumors about Trump’s dealings in Russia (I explained why their line on this document is so bogus here). Now that story is being joined to absurd charges about the sale of a uranium mining company, with all kinds of dark allegations of corruption."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP strategy on the Russia scandal: ‘No puppet. You’re the puppet.’
"There may be no talent the Republican Party and the conservative movement have that is more astounding than the way they are able to take a ludicrous idea with zero relationship to actual facts, light a fuse on it, and turn it into an explosive firework of spin that manages to confuse everyone who tries to look at the issue that started the whole controversy. . .

The most Clinton did was hire an opposition researcher who interviewed sources he knew in Russia to see if her opponent had engaged in any questionable activities there. We don’t even know if she (or anyone else on her staff) even read Steele’s report, since he was a few steps removed from the campaign. Nothing about that even remotely resembles 'collusion with Russia.'" [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, GOP spin about the new ‘Steele Dossier’ story is disingenuous nonsense.

Trump's Big CON: He Can't Close the Deal, CONt.

UPDATE:  "If there's one thing both parties in Congress can agree on, it's this: President Trump, who bills himself as the ultimate dealmaker, is not a very trustworthy one.

That's an unpleasant reality for Republicans as they begin a make-or-break effort to try to rewrite the tax code. They have no margin for error, procedurally or politically, and they need a president who can help persuade reluctant lawmakers to get on board.

Instead, they have a president they don't trust to stick to his word. Trump's actions lately have solidified that. . .

When Congress failed on health care, Trump blamed Congress. If Congress can't pass a tax bill, Trump probably will blame Congress. But that defies reality, Congress argues. Congress takes big steps only with a push from outside. . .

History tells us presidents without a working relationship with Congress don't get a lot done: No modern president who has struggled in the first 100 days of a presidency has suddenly revved up in the next 100 days, or in the next couple of years, says Robert David Johnson, a presidential historian at Brooklyn College. Presidents can't execute their agenda on their own.

As I wrote at Trump's 100-day mark: Every day it gets more difficult to work with Congress. Every day is a day closer to the 2018 midterm elections, when vulnerable Republicans may not want to be seen compromising with an unpopular president.

If the president has proved anything, it's that he has no allegiance to any deal he makes. That makes members of Congress's lives miserable, but it also threatens to derail Trump's agenda."

Read the Washington Post, The art of the unreliable deal: Trump’s bad-faith negotiating could undermine the GOP’s agenda, and his own.

"President Trump campaigned as one of the world’s greatest dealmakers, but after nine months of struggling to broker agreements, lawmakers in both parties increasingly consider him an untrustworthy, chronically inconsistent and easily distracted negotiator .

As Trump prepares to visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday to unify his party ahead of a high-stakes season of votes on tax cuts and budget measures, some Republicans are openly questioning his negotiating abilities and devising strategies to keep him from changing his mind.

The president’s propensity to create diversions and follow tangents has kept him from focusing on his legislative agenda and forced lawmakers who might be natural allies on key policies into the uncomfortable position of having to answer for his behavior and outbursts. . .

If the absence of any signature legislation is an indication, the dealmaking skills that propelled Trump’s career in real estate and reality television have not translated well to government.

Tony Schwartz, a longtime student and now critic of Trump who co-wrote the mogul’s 1987 bestseller 'The Art of the Deal,' said Trump’s dealmaking modus operandi is, 'I am relentless and I am not burdened by the concern that what I’m doing is ethical or truthful or fair.'

'The expectation that you will stand by what you said you would do is higher in politics than it is in the cutthroat world of real estate,' Schwartz added. 'That’s a brutal environment in which misdirection and bullying and making one offer and changing it later are all common practice.' . .

Schwartz said playing to Trump’s ego, as [Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.)] has with his golf compliments, is an effective way to manage him. His advice to those seeking to make deals with Trump: Find the most persuasive way to portray one’s agenda as a personal victory for the president, and be the last person to talk to him.

'Trump is motivated by the same concern in all situations, which is to dominate and to be perceived as having won,' Schwartz said. 'That supersedes everything, including ideology.'"

Read the Washington Post, The great dealmaker? Lawmakers find Trump to be an untrustworthy negotiator.

The Donald can't close a deal because being a bully is not very smart.