Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Hurricane Harvey Edition (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 12))

UPDATE III: "Late Tuesday night, the White House press office sent out photos of President Trump visiting Texas to see the floods unleashed by Hurricane Harvey. In each photo, the president was wearing a white hat that read “USA” in blue letters. On Sunday, the White House put out photos of Trump monitoring the storm and the floods from Camp David, wearing a similar hat — this one in red, with white letters.

You, too, can wear one of these hats. They are, apparently, the “official USA 45th presidential hat.” They’re sold exclusively online by Trump’s reelection campaign, and they cost $40 each.

The president, in other words, was decked out in campaign gear while representing the people of the United States during a massive natural disaster. And the U.S. government made sure everyone saw him wearing it.

Trump may not have violated a regulation in doing so, but there is a difference between what is technically legal and what is ethically right. . .

Unfortunately, financial conflicts of interest dominate this White House. As many of his businesses started to falter along with his approval ratings, Trump has spent 75 days at Trump-branded properties he still owns and earns profits from, properties that have advertised potential access to him in their brochures. . .

This is an administration that has placed an emphasis on Trump family businesses all along. . .

Given how often the presidency overlaps with Trump’s personal interests, it should come as no surprise that the president and the White House are showcasing apparel sold exclusively on his campaign website. This administration is in the business of Trump, and it’s business as usual."

Read the Washington Post, How President Trump turned hurricane relief into product placement for campaign swag.

UPDATE  II:  "Little of [the] high-minded rhetoric [that past presidents showed when visiting places after disasters] was on display when President Trump visited Texas on Tuesday to discuss the devastation from Hurricane Harvey. Trump, who ran on a promise of being a different kind of president, once again kept that promise.

He made virtually no mention of the storm’s victims, and there was no indication he met with any. He didn’t call for donations or volunteers. He didn’t mourn the dead.

Instead, Trump marveled at the size of Harvey ('it’s epic, what happened'), gushed about the crowd that had gathered to see him ('what a turnout'), offered hyperbole about the recovery effort (it will be 'something very special'), and thanked his FEMA administrator ('a man who has really become very famous on television over the last couple of days').

At one point he told a crowd in Corpus Christi — some carrying Trump regalia and chanting 'U.S.A., U.S.A.' — that 'we are here to take care of you, it’s going well.' And he added later that 'Texas can handle anything.'

But that was about as empathetic as he got. There was no call to action, no sweeping reassurance that his administration — and indeed, the nation — had adopted the storm victims’ struggle as its own. All told, it felt a bit like a political rally, as The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson reported.

An array of political observers and others said Trump’s message was weak and tone deaf considering the immense scale of Harvey’s destruction."

Read the Washington Post, Trump and Harvey: ‘There was something missing’ from what the president said.

UPDATE: After tragedy, "Trump's default is not to wait and see how a situation shakes out or to be excessively cautious; it's to try to take credit and to politicize it."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s default response to tragedy: Politicize, promote and provoke.

My Mr. President, what a big hurricane you had!

The hurricane was 'epic' & 'historic', so 'his' rebuilding effort could be heroic "something very special."

And while you are waiting, no need to donate to relief efforts, his white "USA" caps "are being sold on his campaign website for $40."

Read the Washington Post, Even in visiting hurricane-ravaged Texas, Trump keeps the focus on himself.

And pay no attention to The Donald's proposed "budget calling for cuts to some of the federal government’s most consequential efforts to prepare states and local communities and help them recover from catastrophic events such as Harvey."

Trump's Big CON: No Balanced Budget, CONt'

UPDATE IV:  "President Trump on Wednesday delivered an address on his 'principles' for a tax plan in Springfield, Mo., though he provided few details. He also shifted from extolling how well the economy is doing to language that suggested the United States was suffering terribly. As usual, some of the president’s  facts and figures were a bit fishy, so here’s a roundup of 10 of his claims."

Read the Washington Post, Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on his tax plan, which shows that his claims were grossly mislead and/or false.

UPDATE III:  "Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas. Now board your windows, evacuate the low ground and watch the damage it is poised to unleash on the nation’s finances.

Harvey makes landfall in Washington as soon as next week, when President Trump is expected to ask for what could be tens of billions of dollars in storm relief. And paying for storm recovery — probably with few offsetting spending cuts — will be but the first blow to fiscal discipline in what looks to be a particularly active, and calamitous, spending season.

After Harvey comes the debt ceiling, and there are rumblings that the vote to raise the limit could actually be used to increase spending. (In the past, such votes were used by fiscal hawks to cut spending.) At the same time come negotiations to fund the government for fiscal year 2018, and indications are that lawmakers will try to avoid a shutdown with a short-term spending deal that will include a Pentagon slush fund worth tens of billions of dollars.

Then, still forming over the Treasury Department is a fiscal Category 4: Trump and Republicans have given clear signs they are moving away from tax reform (a simplification of the tax code that doesn’t necessarily reduce revenue) toward all-out tax cuts, financed by deficit spending.

Trump, who came to power promising to eliminate the $20 trillion debt, or at least to cut it in half, is poised to oversee an exponential increase in that debt. Republicans, who came to power with demands that Washington tackle the debt problem, could wind up doing at least as much damage to the nation’s finances as the Democrats did.

Rising are the floodwaters of hypocrisy. Surging is the tide of amnesia. Blowing are the gales of profligacy. . .

[Past storms have already saturated the ground and weakened the roots of fiscal responsibility.]

First, a Harvey recovery bill without the spending 'offsets' so many Republicans demanded of previous bills. Then, a debt-limit increase, possibly secured with promises to spend more money on defense (which would buy GOP votes) and domestic priorities (for Democratic votes). Next, a spending deal that busts previously agreed budget caps by allowing an extra $70 billion or so for an 'Overseas Contingency Operations' slush fund. Eventually, a reckless tax cut doesn’t seem so crazy — particularly with midterm elections looming and no accomplishments to show.

When it rains, it pours."
 Read the Washington Post, Republicans slip into a ‘predictable spiral’.

UPDATE II: There are many ways to call the Republi-CON bluffs.

Certainly in the short term it will hurt.

But it's the only way to prove to reasonable voters that they are being CON'ed. (It's a waste of time to try to reason with diehard Republi-CONs.)

Read the Washington Post, Trump has over-promised to his base. That makes a terrible outcome more likely.

UPDATE:  "It’s finally time to stop believing Republicans when they say they’re the party of balanced budgets.

For eight years, Republicans warned the American public that we were hurtling toward certain fiscal doom. President Barack Obama’s oversight of the deficit was leaving 'America’s future in the balance,' the Republican National Committee said in 2011. A year later, Senator Mitch McConnell said the federal debt was 'the nation’s most serious long-term problem.' The debt was 'killing our economy,' according to John Boehner in 2013, when he was the House speaker.

President Trump, ostensibly the party’s standard-bearer, made it clear Thursday that he’s not very concerned about the national debt. In a series of tweets, he blamed Mr. McConnell and Speaker Paul D. Ryan for their handling of legislation to raise the debt ceiling, something Republicans argued for years had to be paired with spending cuts. 'Could have been so easy — now a mess!' the president said.

He’s right. It is a mess. But it’s not a mess Mr. McConnell and Mr. Ryan created this summer. It’s a mess Republicans laid the groundwork for over eight years of impeding a presidency and an economy because of their professed desire for fiscal restraint.

In early 2016, the R.N.C. was still warning about 'an unsustainable path toward crippling debt' after President Obama released his final budget. Mr. Trump got in on the game during the campaign, blaming Mr. Obama for leaving the country buried under a “mountain of debt.”

But once in office, Mr. Trump put forward some broad outlines for a tax reform package, signaling that he wants a variety of large cuts, regardless of whether they increase the deficit.

The Trump administration claimed that the proposed tax cuts would pay for themselves through faster economic growth. But past experience hasn’t borne that out, and it seems nearly impossible to find an economist who thinks it’s a viable theory.

None of this takes into account Mr. Trump’s plans for spending. In his first budget, he increased funding for the military and his border wall while still promising to eliminate the deficit in 10 years. Once again, economic growth was offered as the magic elixir, though the Congressional Budget Office thinks otherwise.

On cue, Mr. Ryan said President Trump’s budget was 'right on target' even as he released a statement about it that criticized Mr. Obama’s “bloated budgets that never balance.”

This about-face is not new for the party of financial responsibility. President Ronald Reagan promised to balance the federal budget and then, while in office, pushed through tax cuts and military spending that more than doubled the national debt. President George W. Bush promised to pay down the debt only to sign tax cuts and defense increases that doubled it. Republicans have a pattern of caring deeply about government finances while out of power and then forgetting those concerns when they’re in control. . .

[T]he Democrats should call the Republicans’ bluff and demand the limit be abolished altogether. Republicans have shown their hand: They don’t care about the deficit or the debt. Democrats should point that out and push for an end to brinkmanship over the country’s finances." [Emphasis added.]

Read The New York Times, Republicans Learn to Love Debt.

Bravo, bravo!!  I've been suggesting Democrats should call the Republi-CON bluffs on many issues, for many years.

It's not just The Donald, the Republi-CON Budget CON has been going on for years and years.

"President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are courting an economic catastrophe with a standoff over how to raise the debt limit.

Unless Trump and Congress pass a law raising the U.S. debt limit — a legal cap on how much the U.S. government is allowed to borrow — the Treasury Department will soon run out of money to pay its bills, triggering a first-in-modern-U.S.-history default that threatens to turn the world economy on its head. A default would crack the world’s faith in the United States’ ability to pay its bills and repay its loans, and that faith serves as the underpinning of the entire global financial system. . .

The overriding belief in Washington and on Wall Street is that a default is highly unlikely. But there's still a chance it could happen. Greg Valliere of Horizon Investments puts the odds at 5 percent. Given what's at stake, that's not comforting.

Read the Washington Post, With the debt ceiling, President Trump is playing with fire.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Who Will He Be: Teleprompter Trump or Unplugged Donald

UPDATE:  The "overwhelming majority of Americans thinks [Trump] is a lying, divisive hothead who is making race relations much worse. Trump barely has majority support (52 percent) among his most loyal segment of the electorate (whites with no college education). He has managed to turn off just about everyone else. He knows how to feed his base red meat but not how to earn the respect and confidence of everyone else. Several thousand people in an auditorium in Phoenix, it turns out, bear little resemblance to the country as a whole.

Trump can read off a teleprompter as he did in announcing his Afghanistan policy on Monday, behave like a madman on Tuesday and revert to a perfectly adequate (though wooden) speech to veterans on Wednesday. While some Americans might suffer from whiplash, most, we suspect, have figured out which is the real Trump is and which is the Trump who is playing the dummy to ventriloquists trying desperately to protect the country (e.g., Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster).

Trump cannot operate off script without losing his cool and revealing his ignorance; his moments of restraint never last long. When he reads other people’s words and expresses sentiments not his own his delivery is flat and stilted. Only when he is in full rage-mode does he become animated. He must distract and attack lest the focus fall on him and his lack of accomplishments.

This is a man plainly driven by hate, resentment and maybe a little fear — yes, fear that the presidency is beyond his abilities and severely taxing his meager intellectual and emotional resources. Don’t expect him to improve. Failure begets more rage, which begets greater rejection by the public. It would be pathetic if it were not petrifying."

Read the Washington Post, Trump is losing.

A "recurring motif of his presidency: Mr. Trump has toggled between Teleprompter Trump and Unplugged Trump every day since the deadly clashes in Virginia, leaving Washington and the rest of the nation with a chronic case of rhetorical whiplash.

The split speaking personality is not new. Mr. Trump spent years mocking President Barack Obama for using a teleprompter.

But ever since Mr. Trump won his first round of primaries and his path toward the Republican presidential nomination became likelier, his family members and some supporters have urged him — not with a lot of success — to professionalize his performances, and to try to avoid the dangers of the kind of spontaneous remarks he made in Arizona.

There were obvious differences between the venue and audience for the Phoenix speech and those here on Wednesday [in Reno at the national convention of the American Legion]. The first was a campaign-style rally for his most boisterous supporters, against a thumping soundtrack of the Rolling Stones; the second was an official presidential event for an audience of veterans, complete with a bill-signing ceremony.

There were many reasons to believe that the president’s angry performance in Phoenix was the real Donald J. Trump. It was consistent with the way he has reacted to all sorts of setbacks since he took office, including the Senate’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the multiple investigations of his links to Russia. . .

Many presidents, of course, have complained bitterly behind closed doors about their treatment at the hands of the news media or their political opponents. . . .

The difference with Mr. Trump, he said, is that the president not only vents those feelings publicly, but also makes that venting a central part of his message."

Read The New York Times, Different Day, Different Audience, and a Completely Different Trump.

Trump's Big CON: Another Big Shout Out to Birthers & Other Racist

UPDATE V:  "President Trump said after pardoning Arpaio that the former sheriff had been treated 'unbelievably unfairly,' too."

That's not true, the judge who ordered Arpaio to stop racial profiling is "fair, honest, conservative."

Read the Washington Post, Joe Arpaio and President Trump say Arpaio was treated unfairly. That’s not true.

UPDATE IV:  "Repetition is the enemy of maintaining proper distinctions. It is a short road from being serially outraged to being slightly bored to being completely inured.

Thus many are likely to find the pardon of former Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio to be just another . . . something. Just another public feeding of President Trump’s base; or just an additional shiny distraction from real issues; or just one more cause for head-shaking and shoulder-shrugging; or just further evidence of the tawdry political company kept by the president of the United States.

This would be a mistake. This presidential action is not 'just' anything. Following his expression of sympathy for the 'very fine people' attending a white- supremacist rally in Charlottesville — who were, he said, defending 'our history and heritage' — Trump must have known his next move would be highly symbolic, either as a retreat from prejudice or as its affirmation. What followed with the Arpaio pardon constitutes the most forthright racist incitement of the Trump era.

Trump has called Arpaio a 'great American patriot,' employing a definition of patriotism that includes extreme ethnic profiling, terror raids, and cruel and unusual punishment. A definition of patriotism that covers using internment camps in extreme heat, parading women and juvenile offenders for the cameras in chain gangs, and degrading inmates in creative acts of bullying. This is not patriotism; it is the abuse of power in the cause of bigotry.

Others have commented on the legal precedent of effectively pardoning someone for abusing the constitutional rights of an ethnic minority. Done in a manner that employs the pardon power as a reward for political loyalty. Resulting from a process that evidently did not involve the normal review and recommendation of the Justice Department’s pardon attorney."

Read the Washington Post, Trump abuses his power to help the cause of bigotry.

UPDATE III:  "Trump sees himself — or what he sometimes aspires to accomplish, anyway — in this local tin-pot dictator.

Think about it. Trump has not exactly proved himself to be the forward-looking, calculating mastermind implied by those alternative explanations. And he makes everything — including the Charlottesville violence, the Houston catastrophe, even the eclipse — about himself.

Trump and Arpaio both built their political careers by demonizing immigrants. They also both raised their national profiles by claiming that Barack Obama was secretly a Kenyan-born Muslim, a racist conspiracy theory that Arpaio even sent a taxpayer-funded deputy to Hawaii to investigate.

And more broadly they both seem to use 'law and order' as code for encouraging law enforcement to harass people of color.

Those are the best-known parallels between the two politicians, but they’re hardly the only ones. There are many other ways in which Arpaio has proved to be Trump’s mini-me."

Read the Washington Post, Why did Trump pardon Arpaio? Because he sees himself in the former sheriff.

UPDATE II:  "[O]f all the people with criminal records in this country, Trump chose to make Arpaio his first pardonee.

As sheriff, Arpaio was known for a hostility toward undocumented immigrants that was functionally indistinguishable from hostility toward Latinos. He conducted sweeps of Latino neighborhoods and stops of Latino drivers in attempts to find undocumented immigrants. He held inmates in brutal and degrading conditions. He installed publicly accessible webcams so that the public could gawk at inmates, and one of those cameras showed female prisoners using the toilet. And he was a leading proponent of the racist lie that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born American citizen.

Arpaio’s entire claim to national recognition was based on his being a xenophobe, a racist and an officer of the machinery of government who relished wielding that machinery to degrade some of the most powerless members of our society. . .

Trump pardoned Arpaio because of his actions as sheriff, actions that are consistent with the platform on which Trump campaigned and has attempted to govern. Those actions were appalling — and not only is Arpaio unremorseful, but Trump has actually held him up as a model to be emulated."

Read the Washington Post, The problem with Joe Arpaio’s pardon isn’t the process. The problem is Joe Arpaio.

UPDATE:  "As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up when they questioned those charges. Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.

Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a 'concentration camp,' where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.

And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump, who had already suggested that Arpaio was 'convicted for doing his job,' pardoned him.

By the way, about 'doing his job,' it turns out that Arpaio’s officers were too busy rounding up brown-skinned people and investigating President Barack Obama’s birth certificate to do other things, like investigate cases of sexually abused children. Priorities!

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you. . .

What makes it possible for someone like Trump to attain power and hold it is the acquiescence of people, both voters and politicians, who aren’t white supremacists, who sort-of kind-of believe in the rule of law, but are willing to go along with racists and lawbreakers if it seems to serve their interests.

There have been endless reports about the low-education white voters who went overwhelmingly for Trump last November. But he wouldn’t have made it over the top without millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who — despite the media’s orgy of false equivalence or worse (emails!) — had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. For whatever reason, be it political tribalism or the desire for lower taxes, they voted for him anyway.

Given the powers we grant to the president, who in some ways is almost like an elected dictator, giving the office to someone likely to abuse that power invites catastrophe. The only real check comes from Congress, which retains the power to impeach; even the potential for impeachment can constrain a bad president. But Republicans control Congress; how many of them besides John McCain have offered full-throated denunciations of the Arpaio pardon?

The answer is, very few. . .

This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?

As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.

Read The New York Times, Fascism, American Style.

Sheriff Joe 'Scooby-Doo' Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court for defying the Obama administration.

The Donald is under siege as an investigation started under the Obama administration shows The Donald is Putin's Puppet.

What better time to release those 'universe-shattering' revelations that Obama is a "Indo-Kenyan radical Muslim sleeper agent".

But don't hold your breath, it was all a CON job!!!

Instead, Trump had to pardon Arpaio.

Read the Washington Post, Trump asked Sessions about closing case against Arpaio, an ally since ‘birtherism’.

Birthers, hear me now, can you say sucker?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The Dictators' Favorite President

"We are seeing the sad effects of President Trump’s renunciation of moral leadership on American politics and culture — the waning of civility, idealism and respect, and the waxing of contempt, prejudice and racial division. But how is a similar moral abdication — summarized as the doctrine of 'America first' — influencing America’s place in the world? And does that really matter? . .

[So far Trump has not held dictators] to an international human rights standard. . .

So this, very concretely, is what Trump’s renunciation of foreign policy idealism means: delighted dictators, bolder attacks on a free press, expanded Russian influence, and betrayed dissidents and exiles."

Read the Washington Post, Trump is delighting dictators everywhere.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trump's Big CON: What Goes Around, Comes Around

UPDATE II:  Read also the Washington Post:

Trump attacks Republicans on Twitter, but Democrats? Not so much, and

Trump has over-promised to his base. That makes a terrible outcome more likely.

UPDATE:  "Donald Trump is not a strategic thinker. He’s impulsive and reactive, sometimes to his benefit, but often to his detriment. And right now, he’s reacting to his political troubles by lashing out at his own party in Congress. This doubtless makes him feel good — it’s obvious that he never feels more alive than when he’s fighting with somebody.

But it also poses a serious threat to his entire presidency. That’s because you could hardly come up with a better way to depress Republican turnout in the 2018 midterm elections than what he’s doing right now."

Read the Washington Post, Trump is making life a lot harder for the GOP in 2018.

After whipping them into a frenzy for years (as former House Speaker John Boehner said), what goes around comes around! :)

"President Trump is now openly attacking the GOP leaders of both the House and the Senate. In tweets Thursday morning, he blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for having 'failed' to replace Obamacare, and he said both McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) created the current debt ceiling 'mess' by using the wrong tactics. . .

The tweets lay bare tensions that both the White House and McConnell’s office have sought to play down in recent days, after an extensive New York Times piece detailed a strained relationship between the president and the GOP Senate leader, including Trump berating McConnell in a phone call two weeks ago. Although Trump has been known to attack pretty much anybody and this could just as soon blow over, the tweets suggest a looming showdown between Trump and his own party in Congress if it doesn’t deliver on his agenda to his satisfaction.

Congressional Republicans should be very worried. Trump could tear them apart — and he’s already starting to do so.

Despite Trump’s broad and unprecedented unpopularity early in his presidency, he retains a pretty strong hold on his base, with around 75 to 80 percent still approving of him. There are signs that his hold on that base is cracking, yes, but the vast majority of Republicans remain loyal and are following Trump’s lead.

What’s more, a growing body of polling evidence suggests real peril in Republicans being seen as failing or undermining Trump."

Read the Washington Post, Trump is starting to tear the GOP apart.

Go Donald, Go!!

Trump's Big CON: When Criticized or Cornered, He Responds With Lies and Threats

"As with so much about President Trump, his Phoenix rally on Tuesday night was two contradictory things: both shocking and completely predictable.

Shocking because it was the most sustained attack any president has made on the news media. . .

And predictable because this is exactly what Trump does when he’s in trouble. He finds an enemy and punches as hard as he can.

Make no mistake, he is in trouble. With a special prosecutor breathing down his neck and even once-loyal Breitbart News turning on him, Trump is, according to one new poll, at the lowest point of his presidency. . .

Never one to examine his own conscience, or look for self-improvement, Trump apparently consulted his tried-and-true playbook.

'Go for the jugular,' Trump advised in his 2009 book 'Think Big.'

Always get even: 'You need to screw them back 15 times harder. You do it not only to get the person who messed with you but also to show the others who are watching what will happen to them if they mess with you.'

It is a philosophy learned decades ago from his mentor, the ruthless lawyer Roy Cohn. In a recent Vanity Fair article on Trump and Cohn, Marie Brenner quotes lawyer Victor Kovner: 'You knew when you were in Cohn’s presence you were in the presence of pure evil.'

She writes: 'Cohn’s power derived largely from his ability to scare potential adversaries with hollow threats and spurious lawsuits. And the fee he demanded for his services? Ironclad loyalty.' Sounds familiar.

Trump lapped up this advice. No target is sacrosanct.

Even if the person or organization that 'screwed him' is a Gold Star parent like Khizr Khan, in the Trump philosophy, you must counterpunch.

If it’s one of the cornerstones of American democracy like the independent news media, that’s fair game, too.

The president may be able to convince his die-hard supporters, like the ones at the Phoenix rally, that he was misquoted or misrepresented, but that’s simply not true. Anyone who was paying attention knows that.

What happens next? Under siege, Trump needs a foil more than ever, so these media attacks are only going to grow in intensity.

It will be journalists’ continued challenge not to take the bait, to refuse to play the assigned role of presidential enemy. Leave the revenge to the expert.

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s vicious attack on the media shows one thing clearly: He’s running scared.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 11), But Is There More?

I have come to believe that Trump has always been, to some degree, a psycho-narcissistic con man.

 But as he has become older, he has become worse.

"Anyone can have a bad day. But according to many published reports, Trump often erupts into rage — especially when he sees something he doesn’t like on the cable news shows he is said to watch compulsively. . .

[P]eople who have known Trump for decades . . . say he has changed. He exhibits less self-awareness, these longtime acquaintances say, and less capacity for sustained focus. Indeed, it is instructive to compare television interviews of Trump recorded years ago with those conducted now. To this layman’s eyes and ears, there seems to have been deterioration. . .

It is uncomfortable to talk about the president’s mental health. But at this point it is irresponsible not to."

Read the Washington Post, It’s time to talk about Trump’s mental health.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Trump's Big CON: His 'Successful' Business Experience Will Make Him a Great Government Leader

UPDATE:  The "event was part of a familiar pattern for Trump.

When he finds himself under attack or slipping in popularity, he often holds a rally in a place like this: a diverse blue city that’s home to liberal protesters but surrounded by red suburbs and rural towns filled with Trump supporters who will turn out in droves.

It happened in the first weeks of his presidential campaign, when he was dismissed as a sideshow and criticized for his comments on undocumented immigrants — only to be greeted by thousands of fans, along with protesters, at a rally at the convention center.

Then in March 2016, when Trump grew frustrated that he still had not become the presumptive Republican nominee, he planned a massive rally in Chicago that attracted thousands of supporters but was canceled at the last minute because of the high number of protesters. This March, when his presidency seemed constantly under attack, Trump held a rally in Nashville that attracted at least 2,500 protesters.

Unlike rallies in states that are solidly Republican, these events allow Trump to highlight the deep division in the country — and force voters to pick a side.

In Phoenix, campaign organizers expected more than 10,000 supporters to show up at the convention center on Tuesday night, and numerous counterprotests were planned for outside the rally. Local activists said they hoped to outnumber the rally-goers, sending a clear message to the president after the Charlottesville rally this month that attracted neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

'By coming here in a time of national crisis and a national question of where people stand, he is doubling down on his bigotry, continuing to race-bait and speak to his base,' said Carlos GarcĂ­a, executive director of Puente Arizona, which advocates for migrants.

Read the Washington Post, Trump threatens shutdown, suggests controversial pardon at Arizona rally.

"A GOP trope that long predates the Trump administration is the desire to see the federal government run more like a business. George W. Bush was the MBA president, after all. Mitt Romney was very successful in the private sector, and during the 2012 campaign he pledged to apply lean management techniques to the federal government.

From these early tendrils, the Trump administration has let a thousand CEOs bloom. Among the more prominent private-sector folks in Trump’s Cabinet are: Goldman Sachs exec-turned Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, financial manager-turned-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and, most notably, former ExxonMobil CEO-turned mythical Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was not an exaggeration when Trump’s Cabinet was described as consisting of generals and plutocrats.

Nine months in, looking at Trump’s Cabinet, it is striking at how those with prior government or military service have vastly outperformed the plutocrats. Jim Mattis has received strong reviews for his performance as secretary of defense, as has Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. John F. Kelly impressed enough during his stint at Homeland Security to be made the new Prime Minister White House chief of staff. Jeff Sessions is more controversial, but no one disputes that he has been effective in pursuing his policy objectives at Justice. Slowly but steadily, H.R. McMaster is professionalizing the National Security Council staff.

The contrast with the CEO Cabinet secretaries is pretty stark. . .

Trump’s private-sector hires have performed abysmally. This does not even get into the dysfunction at the White House, in which the three leading players — Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and Trump himself — had zero senior government experience prior to January of this year.

Mnuchin, Ross, Tillerson and even Trump had some measure of private sector success in their lives. Why have they proven to be such poor stewards of the public sector?

Maybe — and I’m just spitballing here — but maybe running the public sector well is different from running a for-profit organization."

Read the Washington Post, The one GOP myth that the Trump administration has managed to discredit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trump's Big CON: He's So Pretty, Arizona Edition

UPDATE VI:  "President Trump rallied his crowd in Phoenix on Tuesday night by invoking the name of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. The reaction was exactly as expected.

'Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?' Trump asked the crowd to thunderous applause. 'I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine.'

With those words, Trump effectively promised to pardon Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court, publicly disgraced and voted out of office by the majority of Maricopa County, Ariz., voters. In doing so, the president of the United States sealed another deal with an emboldened white-nationalist movement in our country. . .

Anyone who has paid attention to Trump’s policies knows that a potential pardon for Arpaio would not be his first expression of official racism. As a candidate, Trump made openly racist statements against Mexicans and Muslims. As president, he has followed through on those statements by promulgating policies that attack immigrants and communities of color.

In his first week in office, Trump issued a trio of discriminatory executive orders. On Jan. 25, Trump issued one to build a wall on the southern border and another to unleash a massive deportation force, including measures to force local police into Arpaio-style tactics that have led to racial profiling and damage to public safety. Two days later, Trump issued his infamous ban on the admission of all refugees as well as all immigrants and visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries.

When white supremacists marching in Charlottesville praised Trump’s policies, this is what they were praising. A pardon of Arpaio should be seen for what it is: the latest attack on people of color by Trump."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s most recent shout to white supremacists: I’m with you.

UPDATE V:  "James R. Clapper Jr., former national intelligence director, questioned President Trump’s fitness for office following his freewheeling speech in Phoenix on Tuesday night, which Clapper labeled 'downright scary and disturbing.'

'I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,' Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon early Wednesday morning. 'I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.' . .

Clapper said watching Trump’s speech, he worried about the president’s access to nuclear codes.

'In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,' Clapper said, referencing North Korea’s leader. 'The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.'

Clapper has become a regular critic of Trump, who routinely disparaged the intelligence agencies during his campaign. But such a statement about a president by a lifelong military and intelligence professional — who has served at the highest levels of government under Republicans and Democrats alike — is extraordinary and perhaps unprecedented."

Read the Washington Post, James Clapper questions Trump’s fitness, worries about his access to nuclear codes.

UPDATE IV:  "[W]Without minimizing the dangers that Trump still poses, it’s worth considering Trump’s act in a somewhat less alarming light, by comparing it with another, similar performance: Dustin Hoffman’s powerful depiction of the public deterioration of legendary political satirist and comedian Lenny Bruce, in the movie “Lenny.” And this hints at where this could — could — all end up. . .

Obviously, the comparison between Trump and Lenny Bruce, as portrayed by Hoffman, is imperfect in all kinds of ways. But not in this one way. Bruce was arrested for various low-level charges, including obscenity and drug possession, and in the movie 'Lenny,' Hoffman depicts Bruce’s later performances as public displays of increasing grievance, resentment and self-absorption over his legal plight, and deteriorating awareness of his audience. . .

There were hints of this sort of deterioration from Trump last night. There was the self-pity, the self-absorption, the outsize resentment and grievance. And it could get worse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) reportedly has confided that he isn’t sure Trump’s presidency can be saved. Degenerating relations with congressional Republicans could imperil other pieces of his agenda, leading to more anger and frustration. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe continues, meaning more revelations lie ahead."

Read the Washington Post, President Trump is deteriorating before our very eyes.

UPDATE III:  "Only 24 hours after he read a serious speech off a teleprompter committing to send more young men and women to fight in Afghanistan, President Trump reverted to form, delivering a rambling, rage-filled, 77-minute harangue that was alternately defensive, angry, accusatory and just plain weird. Like a trapped animal, he lashed out in every direction, trying unsuccessfully to draw blood.

The opening 15 minutes or so were devoted to relitigating — and lying about — his response to the Charlottesville incident. He omitted his words a few days after the death of Heather Heyer in which he claimed that there were 'fine people' on both sides and that there was blame on 'many sides.' But once again, he dwelled on himself, not on the death of a young woman or the flare-up of anti-Semitic, racist groups. He railed at the media, claiming that they did not cover the crowd (they did, revealing a modest gathering) and that there were not many protesters outside (there were thousands). The sight of the president, eight months into office, still lying about crowd size and whining about the media was stunning but not surprising.

He insisted that he was all about unifying the country, and then launched into a diatribe against his perceived enemies, painting himself as simultaneously the most successful president (repeating the lie that he has signed more legislation than anyone) and the victim of Democrats, the filibuster (which he wrongly blamed his loss on health-care legislation that could not garner even 50 votes) and always, always the 'sick' media (whom he accused of not liking America).

All in all, he appeared desperate, out of control and emotionally needy. . .

All he knows is how to beat the drum of white grievance, rile up an angry crowd and spread discord. His hate is consuming him, bringing  his presidency crashing down before a horrified public."

Read the Washington Post, Trump in Arizona shows just how unfit he is

UPDATE II"  "President Trump’s raucous rally in Phoenix last night was one giant attempt to rewrite history."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s penchant for revisionist history on display during Arizona rally.

UPDATE: "Coming a week after President Trump’s disastrous comments about Charlottesville and a day after a speech about sending more young men and women into combat, Trump’s choice to go to Arizona for a campaign-style rally is bizarre, even for him. It is now when he should be reassuring the country that he’s mentally and emotionally fit to lead. Americans are entitled to question the judgment of a president who just days ago was repeating (approvingly!) a known hoax about Gen. John J. Pershing committing war crimes against Muslim rebels. A demonstration of maturity and sobriety would seem to be in order. Trump is not capable of such displays, at least not for more than a day in a row. . .

The Phoenix visit and potential pardon demonstrate once again that Trump is incapable of leading and unifying a great, diverse country. His yearning for adulation and incapacity for empathy or graciousness cast him in the perpetual role of instigator, divider and provocateur when he should be healing, uniting and inspiring a country he was elected to lead and which he is committing to continued war. Never has a president been so ill-suited to the moment and the needs of the country."

Read the Washington Post, Why Arizona, why now?

"We justifiably mark Donald Trump’s campaign launch on June 16, 2015, as the beginning of his push to the White House. That was the day that he slipped down that escalator in Trump Tower and began riffing about Mexican immigrants and how America doesn’t win any more before formally declaring his candidacy.
But that wasn’t the day that his campaign first seemed real. At that point, he was still just Donald Trump, the guy from the TV and the tabloids. The day his campaign really became tangible came a few weeks later, at a rally in Phoenix — the place to which Trump will return Tuesday night.

Two related things happened around that July 11, 2015, speech in Phoenix that defined the next two years. Trump showed, first, that his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric had a fervent audience. And he showed, second, that he wouldn’t pay a price for defending his rhetoric against the Republican establishment. . .

The rally was carried live on cable news networks, one of the first Trump events to earn that sort of attention. Trump got to make his case to the whole country, live.

It worked.

Some of the spike in Trump’s poll numbers after the Phoenix rally was part of the aggregated effect of the attention being paid to his position on immigration. Some of it was thanks to the rally itself. Either way, 10 days before the rally, he was in seventh place. Ten days after, he led the field — and would hold that lead with only one exception throughout the primaries.

A Time report from the rally describes Trump’s now-familiar formula as a novelty."

Read the Washington Post, Trump returns to Phoenix, the place his campaign truly began.

Now repeat after me:  He's so pretty!

Trump's Big CON: Celebrating Stupidity

Yesterday's afternoon New York Daily News cover announced:

Trump ignores fake news warning, stares at eclipse."

"Trump’s disregard of expert advice is unsurprising. We are talking about the man who once said, 'I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.'

Claiming to know better than people who actually know better is part of Trump’s shtick.

Plus, he’s a contrarian. His former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, explained last week that 'it’s almost like a counterintuitive thing with him, as it relates to the media. The media’s expecting him to do something; he sometimes does the exact opposite.'

Like look at an eclipse without special glasses, when the media is expecting him to don shades.

[On Hedgehog News, Tucker Carlson said it was 'perhaps the most impressive thing any president has ever done.']

Carlson’s appraisal of Trump’s move ('impressive') reflects an appreciation of the president’s unconventional style. Trump doesn’t do what’s predictable — what he should, in some cases — and his supporters love him for it. Some voters seem to find Trump so refreshing that they overlook the moments when the standard course of action really would have been the best course of action.

A recent situation involving white supremacists comes to mind."

Read the Washington Post, Trump looking at the eclipse without glasses is ‘perhaps the most impressive thing any president has ever done,’ says Tucker Carlson.

Stupid is as stupid does, and Trump has proven himself to be too stupid to be president.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trump's Big CON: "Just Whistling Dixie"

UPDATE:  Another MUST READ: the Washington Post, Republicans and conservatives defending Trump on Charlottesville are morally bankrupt, which states in full:

The affront that is the Trump presidency is a violation of everything I learned about morality and reverence for the Constitution and the presidency — from Republicans. The party that spent my entire life lecturing liberals and Democrats on the finer points of being an upstanding American and upholding the honor and dignity of the presidency can’t speak with a clear, unified voice when it comes to President Trump.

Democrats were soft on crime. Democrats weren’t serious about that 'bear in the woods,' otherwise known as Russia. The late Jerry Falwell thundered about moral decline from his perches at the Moral Majority and Liberty University (nee Lynchburg Baptist College), helping Republicans win elective office all the way up to the Oval. And President Bill Clinton was impeached nearly 20 years ago for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Because of Clinton’s reprehensible conduct, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush rallied Republicans by promising to restore “honor and dignity to the White House.”

Trump has used every minute of his 213 days in the White House (as of this writing) to upend all of those Republican lessons I learned. After running an overtly racist and xenophobic campaign for the presidency, Trump squandered its moral authority with a 20-minute celebration of white supremacy that gave aid and comfort to bigots, Nazis and white supremacists everywhere. He didn’t even give a full-throated condemnation of the hate in Charlottesville that led to the death of Heather Heyer. Talk about being soft on crime. And as shameful and un-American as that is, there’s Falwell’s namesake on TV on Sunday, uttering nonsense like this in support of the president:

ABC News Politics

.@JerryFalwellJr: Pres. Trump "doesn't say what's politically correct, he says what's in his heart...and sometimes that gets him in trouble"
8:18 AM - Aug 20, 2017

    One of the reasons I support him is because he doesn’t say what’s politically correct, he says what’s in his heart. What he believes. And sometimes that gets him in trouble. But he does not have a racist bone in his body. I know him well.

If Trump 'does not have a racist bone in his body,' then my eyes and ears have been lying to me all these years.

Listen, I’ve already had my say about Trump and Charlottesville. How his coddling of the Confederacy and those who revere its treason make him unfit to be president. That many Republicans, including our 41st and 43rd presidents, have stepped forward to condemn what the 45th would not doesn’t leave me entirely despairing of the sorry state of the GOP and our national psyche.

So, my message is for all those Republicans and conservatives rallying around Trump and his offensive “both sides” idiocy and the racism it supports: You’re morally bankrupt. Your lectures and righteous indignation are meaningless in the age of Trump. And you have harangued me and other liberals on our morality and patriotism for the last time."

MUST READ: the Washington Post, Why Stephen K. Bannon was such a failure, which states in full:

"Stephen K. Bannon, the recently deposed architect of President Trump’s nonexistent populist agenda, wishes it was the 1930s.

That, of course, is what he promised to do: to make things as 'exciting' now as they were back then. Now, he might not have been talking about the war or the depression or the fascists in other countries, but what he did mean was a politics where racial resentment and economic populism could once again exist side-by-side. Where Republicans could target Muslims for special restrictions and raise the top marginal tax rate to 44 percent; could cut legal immigration in half and undo free trade deals; could stick up for white supremacists and spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. In other words, where the ideological heirs of the Dixiecrats were the ones calling the shots.

They haven’t been for a long time now.

Why not? Well, because our parties have sorted themselves based on race first and economics second. The political history of the past 100 years, you see, has really been the story of the rise and fall of the New Deal coalition. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the Great Depression brought blacks, liberals, Northern ethnics and Southern whites all together until the civil rights movement drove them apart. It’s true that the Dixiecrats — the Jim Crow-supporting Southerners who left the Democratic Party to form their own, before eventually migrating over to the Republican one — weren’t all in favor of big government, but a lot of them were. Forced to choose between that and racial backlash, however, they chose racial backlash, whether that was calls for 'law and order' or denunciations of 'welfare queens' or, in the past few years, chants of 'build the wall.'

Bannon didn’t want them to choose anymore. He understood that a lot of Republicans don’t care about Ayn Rand-inspired odes to heroic entrepreneurs, or paeans to the Schumpeterian beauty of creative destruction, or how much capital gains are taxed. They want their Social Security and their Medicare. They’re called Trump voters, and they aren’t really represented in Washington. That’s because the money men and interest groups that members of Congress rely on ensure complete ideological conformity on the issue nearest and dearest to the hearts — or rather the wallets — of the donor class: how much they’re taxed. Bannon wanted to change that so people could get Democratic economic policies together with a Republican brand of racial pandering.

The only problem is you can’t. Just look at Bannon’s proposal to increase the top tax rate to 44 percent. Who was ever going to vote for that? Republicans never would when their party’s entire raison d’etre for the past 40 years has been keeping taxes as low as possible on the rich. And neither would Democrats when Bannon had alienated them about as much as possible with his barely disguised attempt to ban Muslims. The same was true of infrastructure. Republicans didn’t really want to do it, and Democrats didn’t want to with Trump. It reduced Bannon to being able to do little more than alternately insist that he wanted to build a rainbow coalition of populists — 'we'll get 60 percent of the white vote and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote, and we’ll govern for 50 years,' he rather modestly claimed — and cheer, for example, when Trump said last Friday’s neo-Nazi rally was full of 'very fine people.' Bannon never understood that one made the other impossible.

Bannon thought he was a revolutionary, but he was just whistling Dixie."

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

UPDATE VII"  "To some of the Marines, though, optimism, no matter how cautious, rings hollow after nearly 16 years of war and new approaches that sound a lot like the old ones."

Read the Washington Post, ‘It’s like everyone forgot’: On a familiar battlefield, Marines prepare for their next chapter in the Forever War.

UPDATE VI:  "President Trump proved one thing beyond the shadow of a doubt in his Afghanistan strategy speech Monday night: After nearly 16 years of fighting America’s longest war, there are no new ideas.

He called his plan 'dramatically different.'

It wasn’t. The only thing that seemed a striking change from his two presidential predecessors’ approach to the war launched after the attacks of September 11, 2001, was Trump’s escalatory rhetoric. He repeatedly vowed to 'win' a conflict that his Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress recently 'we are not winning' and sharply criticized Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan, a troublesome ally Trump excoriated for offering 'safe haven' to terrorists. . .

In many ways, the target of much of his speech was neither al Qaeda nor the Taliban but Barack Obama. Trump went out of his way, for example, to criticize his successor for “hastily and mistakenly” withdrawing from Iraq in 2011—without mentioning that he supported that move at the time. In his speech on Monday, he claimed that he now viewed it as a mistake so consequential it had shaped his own determination to fight on in Afghanistan.

Read Politico, America Is Out of Ideas in Afghanistan.

In blaming Obama, there was "one layer of dishonesty piled on top of another."

UPDATE V:  "The president has escalated fights in six countries. Now his supporters are wondering what happened to ‘America First.’"

Read the Daily Beast, Trump’s Base Goes Ballistic Over His ‘Unlimited War’.

UPDATE IV:  "At a low ebb in his presidency, amidst questions about his judgment and mental stability, President Trump on Monday night asked the country to trust him in sending more troops into the nation’s longest war. Coming after his panned tweet to throw transgender people out of the military and his incendiary remarks about Charlottesville, his paean to military cohesion and diversity rang hollow. ('The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose,' he said. 'They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They are all part of the same family. It’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law.') At times he seemed to be defensively rewriting his remarks on Charlottesville. ('Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.')

What we did learn was the 'America First' has no meaning (other than to deceive gullible isolationists). Aside from that and a general disposition toward 'winning,' we did not hear with any specificity how he intends to achieve victory or even how he defines 'victory.' . .

Unfortunately, the means to achieve victory seemed both vague and insufficient. 'We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on,' he said. (That’s fine, but could we get a ballpark figure to assess whether the commitment is sufficient to obtain the desired result?) One platitude followed another. '“Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power, diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome.' But have we not been doing that for almost 16 years? The result hardly sounded like a definitive victory. . .

[Former ambassador Eric] Edelman observed: 'It is hard to call it an approach, it is really more of an attitude. The speech was in keeping with Trump’s approach to everything, which is to say it was more about him than anything else.' Edelman pointed out that from the effort to recover from the Charlottesville debacle to his ''I wanted to pull out' instincts to his pathetic whining about the crappy hand he was dealt — it read less like a carefully thought-out strategy and policy and more like an internal monologue.' He added, 'It was not a compelling argument to the public for continued involvement and sacrifice.'"

Read the Washington Post, A hobbled commander in chief tries to rally the country.

UPDATE III:  "In his televised speech last night, the president flip-flopped his position on the war in Afghanistan. We know this because, to his credit, Trump explicitly copped to it:

'My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my Cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.'

There’s a lot to unpack in that paragraph. Watching it live, when he said 'I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,' I literally laughed out loud. Let’s be blunt: The only printed material that Trump has studied in great detail from every conceivable angle are periodicals that contain glossy centerfolds.

That said, I do believe Trump’s claim that he preferred to pull out and subsequently changed his mind. The question is why. For all the myriad ways the president tried to claim that his strategy of 'principled realism' was different from President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, it’s pretty much the same. The Trump administration cares a little less about democracy promotion and a lot less about civilian casualties than the Obama administration. . .

[W]hy the shift? Two big factors pushed him in the same direction. The first, obvious one is path dependence: Given the situation today, there is no magic formula to change things for the better with dramatic action. . .

The second factor is one that I have been hammering again and again, but it bears repeating: Trump is an exceptionally weak commander in chief. He lacks the gravitas and expertise to countermand his military advisers, even when his instincts push him in that direction. . .

What was unusual about this decision is that when faced with a choice between an unappetizing status quo and a future of even worse alternatives, Trump chose the status quo. He does not normally do this — except when it comes to decisions involving the military. That is consistent with what he did in Syria in the spring. . .

The U.S. military is not really all that hawkish, but the armed forces do tend to prefer more firepower to less in those conflicts where they already have a footprint. So while the military might not advocate for any new conflicts, they have and will advocate for more resources to prosecute the conflicts they are enmeshed in.

Which means that, contrary to some who believed that Trump was the less hawkish candidate in 2016, Trump will repeatedly defer to the military in his grand strategy. No matter what he claims, he has no better ideas.

This means longer and bloodier wars."

Read the Washington Post, Why did Trump flip-flop on Afghanistan?

UPDATE II: It's the status quo plus a little more in Afghanistan.

Read the Washington Post:

Trump announces new strategy for Afghanistan that calls for a troop increase,

‘It’s a hard problem’: Inside Trump’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan,

Trump’s muscular but vague Afghanistan speech, annotated,

In escalating America’s longest war, Trump acts against his ‘original instinct’,

Trump faces the grim reality of Afghanistan: No quick path to victory and no clear way out, and

Bannon’s Breitbart spins Trump’s Afghanistan speech as ‘flip-flop’, which noted:

"Trump — who has for years called for a withdrawal from the war — said during his speech that although his 'original instinct' was to pull out, 'decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.'

He provided few specifics about how much the U.S. military commitment would increase."

UPDATE:  The problem with Afghanistan, there are no good options to what is essentially a series of civil war that have been a feature of Afghanistan's history for more than 100 years.


The Washington Post, Trump’s ‘strategy’ on Afghanistan: Let the next president figure it out, and

NPR, Trump To Deliver Prime-Time Address On Afghanistan.

Trump always has a secret plan, even one to "win" in Afghanistan.

Now, approximately 9 months after the election and 7 months after taking office, he might tell us.

Read the Washington Post, The Latest: Trump to address nation Monday on Afghanistan.

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

Read also:

Trump's Big CON: 'I Can Win in Afghanistan', and

Trump's Big CON: The Generals Decide How to Fight.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Even If He Is Not Racist, Trump Uses Racism

UPDATE IV:  "We have learned today that Stephen Bannon, the most prominent nationalist and friend to the alt-right in the White House, is on his way out. . .

Don’t be fooled.

Republicans will likely seize on Bannon’s ouster to argue that, in his heart, Trump isn’t really a racist. . .

Trump himself has said that he is 'the least racist person that you have ever met.' I could make a long and detailed case for why Trump is not in fact the least racist person you have ever met.

But this is the wrong question to ask. Not only can’t we know with absolute certainty what lies in Trump’s heart, but it also could not matter less. He’s the president of the United States — what matters isn’t what he feels but what he does and the kind of example he sets.

And by those much more important measures, Trump is the most racially divisive president in our lifetimes — and it’s not even close. "

Read the Washington Post, Steve Bannon is out. That’s good, but the problem is still Donald Trump., which notes:

"Let’s give ourselves a reminder of what President Trump has done just since becoming a candidate, setting aside his history as a private citizen:

    In the speech announcing his presidential candidacy, he attacked Mexican immigrants, saying 'When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.'

    He retweeted a racist graphic showing a dark-skinned man wielding a gun and listing bogus statistics alleging falsely that black people are responsible for the vast majority of homicides of white people. That was in addition to the multiple times he retweeted messages from the Twitter accounts of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

    Though immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans, he put an intense focus on individual crimes committed by an undocumented person, telling lurid stories meant to inflame as much hatred as possible. After becoming president, he created the Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement office, whose purpose is to publicize crimes committed by immigrants.

    He repeatedly characterized African Americans as living in a hellish nightmare that could only be saved by him. 'You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose?' he said. That statistic, of course, was bogus.

    He said that the judge presiding over his trial for fraud in the Trump University lawsuit (for which he eventually agreed to pay $25 million to compensate his victims) couldn’t be impartial, because 'He’s a Mexican.' The judge in fact is an American who was born in Indiana; saying 'He’s a Mexican' is no more accurate than saying about Trump, 'He’s a German.' But the idea that your heritage forever defines your identity and determines whether you qualify as a 'real' American is an old racist notion.

    He proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, and even said he’d be open to creating a registry to track all Muslims in the country.

    His 'America First' slogan was a deliberate echo of the America First party of the early 1940s, which trafficked in anti-Semitism as it attempted to keep America out of World War II.

    For almost the entirety of the campaign he continued to hold to the racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States, the issue that enabled him to transform himself from a reality TV star into a political figure. In addition, he frequently questioned whether Obama could have fairly been admitted to Columbia University and Harvard Law School, demanding to see Obama’s grades to prove that he was actually qualified.

    His Justice Department is reportedly planning to seek out cases where it can sue universities for discriminating against white people.

    Soon after taking office, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, made clear that the Justice Department would no longer concern itself with investigating police abuse of minority citizens, and has taken steps to pull back from the consent decrees the Obama administration negotiated with local police departments to improve their conduct.

    He made the ludicrous claim that he only lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally, then set up a commission to 'investigate' the matter, the results of which will be used to further the Republican effort to make it as hard as possible for African Americans and other minorities to register and vote.

    On Thursday, he made another reference to a bogus story he told repeatedly on the campaign trail, in which Gen. John Pershing supposedly responded to terrorism by taking 50 Muslim prisoners and summarily executing 49 of them with bullets dipped in pig’s blood, on the theory that this would be particularly offensive to Muslims. So in addition to proclaiming his support for a fictional war crime, Trump is arguing that offending Muslim religious sensibilities is the way to fight terrorism (this from a man who says it’s a deep insult to Christians when a department store puts up a 'Happy Holidays' sign).

    And of course, not only has he now embraced the cause of monuments celebrating the Confederacy — a rebellion against the United States for the purpose of maintaining slavery — he has explicitly equated its leaders to the founders of the American republic, putting figures like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on the same plane as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Given this extraordinary record, no sane person believes that it’s some kind of accident that all manner of neo-Nazis and white supremacists have felt emboldened by Trump’s campaign, his election victory and his presidency to become more vocal and demonstrative than they ever have before.

Indeed, if you ask them that’s exactly what they’ll tell you. They regularly praise and celebrate President Trump, and say that his words and actions show that they no longer need to hide their ideology of hate."

UPDATE III: "James Murdoch, chief executive of 21st Century Fox, has pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League, according to an email he sent to friends. He told them, 'What we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people.' He continued: 'These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals. The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob.' In pointed criticism of President Trump, he went on: “I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”

The sentiment is lovely, and the money is certainly appreciated by those fighting anti-Semitism and bigotry, but the email reeks of hypocrisy, to be blunt. Murdoch seems blissfully unaware of — or in denial about — his family’s role in creating the Trump phenomenon, fueling the rise of a xenophobic, racist demagogue and continuing to fan the flames of his noxious populism, which has brought us to where we are. . .

Instead of giving the ADL what amounts to pocket change for James Murdoch, why doesn’t he clean up his own news operation? Fox News has, more than any other outlet, popularized birtherism, Trumpism and white grievance-mongering, creating an alternative universe for white, older, working-class voters whom Trump whipped into a frenzy. That might cost more than $1 million, but at least Murdoch could sleep well at night, look at himself in the mirror and tell his family that he is a patriot, not a guy who’s making a mint tearing apart the country."

Read the Washington Post, To curtail hate, James Murdoch must clean house at Fox News.

With a few few exceptions, the Republi-CON handwringers, who pandered to fear, anger, and hatred for years to win elections, are hypocrites.

UPDATE II:  How could The Donald equate Nazis, racisits and murder with those protesting the same?

Because "moral equivalence is an option — for those who are willfully blind to history and have a shriveled emptiness where their soul once resided."

Read the Washington Post, There is a shriveled emptiness where Trump’s soul once resided.

UPDATE:  In some respects, until very recently The Donald had diffent views.

"In 2015, Trump endorsed then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision to remove a Confederate flag from the statehouse after the shooting in Charleston. 'I would take it down, yes,' he said. 'I think they should put it in a museum and respect whatever it is you have to respect.'

But Trump can never turn down a good wedge issue, if he’s convinced it will gin up conservatives: In November 2012, Trump said Mitt Romney lost the election because he was too 'mean-spirited' on immigration and toward Hispanics. 'He had a crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal,' Trump told Newsmax. 'It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. … He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.' Just months later, though, Trump was convinced by his advisers that an especially hardline on Mexican immigration was crucial to win the GOP nomination. So he went vastly further than Romney ever did."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s embrace of Confederate statues as a wedge issue underscores Bannon’s enduring influence.

"The truly shocking thing, looking back at what has been written and said since the events in Charlottesville, is that anybody is shocked. Donald Trump’s first appearance on the front page of the New York Times was in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department sued his family’s real estate company for discriminating against black would-be tenants. In the 4½ decades since, he has used racial smears and stereotypes — Mexican rapists, sly Jews, lazy blacks — over and over again, in public, including during last year’s election campaign.

During that campaign, he, his sons and his campaign advisers tweeted and passed on anti-Semitic and racist memes, sometimes deleting them later and sometimes defending them. He was signaling constantly to those who held anti-Semitic and racist views, implying that he understood them, that he was on their side. 'But his grandchildren are Jewish' has always been a pretty thin defense, right up there with 'But some of his best friends are black.' And it doesn’t matter anyway: It makes no difference what this president (or any president) thinks privately about black or brown people, or which churches or synagogues his friends and family attend. What matters is something different: how the president uses racism in politics — and whether it works.

To date, Trump has used bigotry mainly as an electoral tool, to excite a relatively small group of supporters — let’s call them the alt-right because it’s a useful shorthand — and to persuade them to attend his rallies, to donate money, and above all to coordinate and staff (I suspect both as volunteers and professionals) his online campaign. This tactic was successful largely because the rest of his voters, mainstream Republicans, were not bothered by the tactics that Trump used to win the election. Either they didn’t see the online racism — not everyone uses social media, especially Twitter — or they found compelling reasons, such as hatred of Hillary Clinton or desire for a conservative Supreme Court, to overlook it.

The question now is whether Trump will go further, manipulating racism for political ends as others have done in other countries."

Read the Washington Post, Beware: Trump may use the alt-right to turn himself into the center.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time to Remove the Monuments to the War to Perpetuate Slavery

A “a peaceful, nonviolent protester” from Pensacola attended the neo-Nazis and white supremacists rally in Charlottesville carrying his pistol and assault rifle to protect ‘the true history and heritage of the Confederacy and the American South.’

Our local congressman, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, says that removing a Confederate monument in Pensacola would be “whitewashing history."  President Trump would agree.

But Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward wants the monument to come down.

What might he understand that the others refuse to acknowledge?

More than 240 years ago, our country was founded on the principle of life, liberty and property protected by the rule of law, enshrined in the Constitution adopted in 1787. What many people forget is, at the time, property included people held in slavery, an abhorrent practice. The founding fathers knew the contradiction, but made a bargain with the understanding that the Constitution provided a peaceful method of change in the future by amendment.

As the U.S. moved toward that change to end and outlaw slavery, Southern states, which benefitted economically from free labor at the end of a lash, refused to accept this change and decided to create a new country that would protect their right to enslave people.

It wasn’t a War Between the States, to protect states’ rights, except to the extent it was meant to allow the continuation of chattel slavery. The Southern states said so, read their declarations of succession defending the practice and angry with the states that were refusing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. The Southern states were also being denied “equal rights” in the new territories, which meant the days of slavery were near an end. And many Confederate politician and soldiers freely acknowledged, before and after the war, that they would and did fight to stop the abolitionists who were rallying support to end slavery, which was so important to the way of life in the South.

These states renounced the bargain, rebelled and used violence and war to prevent that change. This was treason plain and simple. Thankfully they were defeated.

But in the years after, Southerners created an heroic myth, the Lost Cause, to convince themselves that the war was “just” and noble and the Confederate flag represented freedom, not slavery. Reconstruction was abandoned in the 1870s, and the terrorism of the freed men and women began in earnest. Jim Crow laws, violence, lynching, the KKK, and White Citizen Councils were just a few of the methods used. (Ask Rep. Gaetz and that young man celebrating his history about Rosewood, Florida.)

Confederate flags were adopted and monuments were built, many between the 1890s and 1930s. The whole point of these methods, and the Confederate flags and monuments, was to institutionalize and celebrate white supremacy.

Substantial movement toward equal protection under the law began in the 1950s, and continues today, despite the ignorance of some, and the efforts of others. (If “national unite” is so important, why the effort to undermine the right to vote.)

So Rep. Gaetz, tell me a little more about “whitewashing history,” I find your use of the term a little ironic.

Maybe that is the reason that young man who attended the rally has so little knowledge of ‘the true history and heritage of the Confederacy and the American South.’ If he is a peaceful, nonviolent protester, he should leave the pistol and assault rifle at home. Our understanding, empathy, laws and Constitution – not violence – are all that are needed for change.

And thank you Mayor Hayward for agreeing that it is time for Pensacola's Confederate monument to come down.

Trump's Big CON: Counter-Demonstrators Lacked a Permit

UPDATE:  "Trump should have left his Monday statement condemning white supremacists as his last word, 'but he just can’t stop himself, so he goes off without understanding the history of neo-Nazism and white supremacy. And those of us who had so much hope for him are just exhausted, because this is every day. People see it as a betrayal. Soon, he won’t have anybody, because when you start talking about Nazis and supremacy, who’s going to defend him on that?'" said Armstrong Williams, a conservative, African-American TV and radio talk show host and longtime supporter of Trump.

Read the Washington Post, Trump and race: Decades of fueling divisions.

"In blaming both sides for the violence in Charlottesville that left one person dead, President Trump twice asserted that the people protesting white supremacists and neo-Nazis lacked a permit, unlike the groups that gathered to protest the possible removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

But that’s turned out to be false".

Read the Washington Post, President Trump’s false claim that counter-demonstrators lacked a permit.

You can NEVER believe anything The Donald says unless it is verified.

Trump's Big CON: Trump's Brown-Nosers (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 10))

"On Thursday, Foreign Policy published a remarkable memo penned by a former staffer on President Trump’s National Security Council. The author, Rich Higgins, was forced out last month by national security adviser H.R. McMaster for composing it. The memo contends that the president is the target of a vast conspiracy spearheaded by so-called cultural Marxists, who have allied with Islamists and captured (among other groups) the media, the deep state, academia, 'global corporatists' and leaders of both parties. That Higgins worked for the NSC is disturbing enough. But more disturbing is that Trump, who saw the memo when it was passed to him by his son Donald Trump Jr., was 'furious' at Higgins’s removal — a sign of the scary conspiratorial depths the president is already descending to. . .

Trump’s paranoia echoes that of another president: Richard Nixon. Nixon rejected the Birchers publicly, but he shared the idea of a campaign against the president. 'Never forget, the press is the enemy … the establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy,' he said in December 1972. More frighteningly, as Nixon’s presidency ended in disaster, Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, worried about Nixon’s growing instability and increased drinking, told commanders that any order of a nuclear launch should be routed through him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Less than 50 years later, the Oval Office is at the center of a terrifying combination of delusions, a foreign policy crisis and nuclear launch codes. "

Read the Washington Post, This NSC ex-staffer’s memo is crazy. Trump’s reaction is more disturbing.

 Now repeat after me:  He's so pretty!

Trump's Big CON: The Wisconsin Foxconn Jobs CON

UPDATE:  Some think Wisconsin rubber-stamped the bundle of perks with with "no guarantee Foxconn will hold up its side of the bargain.

Kathleen Gallagher, executive director of the Milwaukee Institute, a technology-focused not-for-profit, pointed out that the company has previously pledged to open factories elsewhere that never materialized.

In 2013, Foxconn’s chairman said the firm would build a $30-million factory and hire 500 workers in central Pennsylvania — a promise that has not come to fruition. "

Read the Washington Post, Trump is celebrating the Foxconn deal. The people paying for it aren’t so sure.

"The deal President Trump called “incredible” and Gov. Scott Walker hailed as a “once-in-a-century” opportunity to bring the electronic manufacturing giant Foxconn to Wisconsin wouldn’t generate profits for the state until 2042, a new legislative analysis projects.

The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan agency that analyzes proposed economic investments, looked at Walker’s bid last month to bring a new flat-screen-display factory to the state in exchange for a roughly $3 billion-incentives package.

Foxconn said it would break ground in southeastern Wisconsin and hire 3,000 workers there over the next four years, with the “potential” to create 13,000 jobs.

If the company hits that growth target, Wisconsin would break even after 25 years, said Rob Reinhardt, a program manager who worked on the report. If 13,000 jobs never materialize, it could take decades longer. . .

Wisconsin [already] has an unusually low unemployment rate (3.2 percent), which is significantly lower than the country’s 4.3 percent. Employers there already complain about having trouble finding workers. . .

If Foxconn fills jobs with workers from neighboring Illinois, where the unemployment rate is 4.7 percent, analysts predict the deal won’t start making money for Wisconsin until 2045."

Read the Washington Post, The Foxconn deal Trump championed won’t make Wisconsin money for 25 years, report says.