Tuesday, October 31, 2017

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

Ever notice how the Trump show is like World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., with an "endlessly evolving band of enemies" (known as heels) for The Good Donald to fight?  

It no coincidence.

Read the Washington Post, For each scene of his presidency, Trump casts a villain (or two, or three …), which states:

"Hillary Clinton is not running for president again in 2020 — she has said so, her aides know it, and there is no political rationale that would argue otherwise. But for President Trump, facts like those simply miss the point.

'I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is going to run in 2020?' Trump declared in a tweet Monday morning. 'My answer was, ‘I hope so!’?'

Just like that, Trump had accomplished his morning task, conjuring and then belittling a political villain with little more than taps on a phone. Using a bit of deadpan humor and his unconventional grammar, Trump’s tweet formed the next turn in his us-against-them story line, which employs an endlessly evolving band of enemies to anchor his presidency.

By the afternoon, his tweet had become a topic in an impromptu Rose Garden news conference, where he was able to repeat the performance in person. 'Hillary, please run again,' he called out in a mocking tone.

Most days bring another round, often at dawn, like plot points in a 24-7 miniseries. In just the past few weeks, Trump has started, without any clear provocation, fights with football players who kneel during the national anthem, departments stores that declare 'happy holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas,' and late-night television hosts for their 'unfunny and repetitive material.'

Then there are the individual targets: Clinton, of course, but also 'Liddle' Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, North Korea’s 'Little Rocket Man' Kim Jong Un, ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), and a shifting array of reporters, newspapers and networks he labels as the 'fake news.'

Although the targets often appear tangential, if not contradictory, to his governing priorities, both the president and his senior aides see them as central to his political strategy. In each instance, the combat allows Trump to underline for his core supporters the populist promise of his election: to challenge the power of political elites and those who have unfairly benefited from their “politically correct” vision.

It’s a tactic he has employed for years — defining himself against a negative space, as a tough truth teller who opposes others. In 1990, he condemned his New York real estate rival, Leona Helmsley, as a “truly evil human being,” and decades later he spent years nursing a viciously personal feud with Rosie O’Donnell, a daytime television host, largely through social media. His rise to politics was built upon sometimes shocking denunciations and insults.

Without a fresh foe to rail against in real time, his political aides have observed, Trump can struggle, uncertain of his next move and unable to frame the political debate.

“The low points, if there are any, are often when his opponent is not clearly defined,” said one senior White House official, who insisted on anonymity to speak freely about the president. The official described the days after the first failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act in March and the weeks near the general election in 2016 as particularly trying times, since Trump was unable for days to clearly define his enemy.

But when the president is on track — he calls Twitter “my voice”-- he can script his presidency like a professional wrestling match, where the heel, or bad guy, is the one who makes the face, or good guy, shine in the ring."

As Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway says with a smile in the article: "'I’m always amazed how easily baited some people are.'" 

Trump's Big CON: He is a Jackass, The Farmers Edition

"Rick Hammond said he wasn’t worried. In more than 30 years of working his wife’s fifth-generation farm in York County, Neb., and steadily acquiring more acres to leave to their kids, he had seen it all: the high inflation and rapid land devaluation of 1980s, the consolidation of farms that followed those bankruptcies, the steady depopulation of rural populations ever since. But he wasn’t worried about a repeat of history. Despite falling grain prices, stalled land values and mounting farm debt, his family was more than equipped to weather a bad year. 'Now, if we see sub-four-dollar corn for two more years,' Hammond continued, 'yeah, you’ll see some people going broke.'

That was the fall of 2014. Today, corn prices remain perilously low. At just $3.50 per bushel, it now costs more to grow corn than a farmer can sell it for. Soybeans, which surged in planted acres when corn prices went into free fall, are only marginally better. Now below $10 per bushel, beans are trading at less than two-thirds of their price of just a few years ago. To get through these lean times, farmers have been taking out more and more loans. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics indicate that while farm income has been cut nearly in half in the past four years, farm debt has increased by more than a quarter — with projections that it could surpass $390 billion in 2017, the highest level since the farm crisis in the 1980s.

And yet, President Trump — whom many farmers voted for specifically because of plunging income — may be about to make things far worse.

With those unsustainable debts and dwindling profit margins in mind, more than 75 percent of rural voters in the Farm Belt cast their ballots for Trump in the last presidential election. They cheered Trump’s promise to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (which props up the ethanol industry), his pledge to eliminate estate taxes on inherited farmland and roll back regulations on farm runoff, and, most of all, they liked his tough talk on trade policy. Roughly one-third of their combined corn and soybean harvest is shipped overseas, so farmers said they were heartened by Trump’s reputation as a hard-nosed negotiator, a businessman renowned for his skill at the art of the deal, who could strong-arm trading partners into paying higher prices for American commodity grains. Instead, Trump is threatening to withdraw entirely from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — a move that farm lobbying organizations, market analysts and trade experts universally agree would be disastrous for farmers."

Read the Washington Post, Farmers voted heavily for Trump. But his trade policies are terrible for them.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trump's Big CON: Trump Has No Principles, CONt Part 3

"President Trump's most faithful supporters like to believe he's always a step ahead of the media and the political establishment — that he's playing three-dimensional chess while we're stuck on checkers. Where we see utter discord, they see carefully orchestrated chaos.

This week should disabuse absolutely everybody of that notion.

On two issues — health care and calling the families of dead service members — the White House has shown itself to be clearly unmoored, careening back and forth based upon the unhelpful and impulsive comments and tweets of its captain.

On the more substantial issue of health care, Trump apparently told Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to craft a deal to replace the Affordable Care Act subsidies for insurers covering low-income Americans. Trump then canceled the subsidies and explained that the money was only making insurers rich (it's not). Then he suggested he would support Alexander's deal. Then he apparently realized that those two things were completely inconsistent, and he backed off his support for the deal, leaving Alexander holding the bag and apparently (understandably) puzzled. . . 

On Gold Star families, Trump . .

    Brought this issue up of his own accord even when he hadn't called some of the very few (relative to his predecessors) new Gold Star families he's seen lose loved ones on his watch. While more than 2,500 service members were killed in action during Obama's tenure, only 20 have died in Trump's first nine months.

    Claimed “proof” that his own White House admits he doesn't have.

    Rehashed the death of his own chief of staff's son, suggesting Obama didn't call John F. Kelly when his son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Kelly hasn't commented.

    Put the White House in the position of disputing the accounts of Gold Star families.

If you think any of these things were planned, you are kidding yourself. . .

There is no game plan on any of this; it's Trump simply floating from one controversy to the next and making things worse by flying off the handle and saying untrue things. Trump's controversies are usually at least within the realm of plausible deniability; these examples just seem totally careless and haphazard."

Read the Washington Post, The Trump White House’s utterly unmoored week.

What do you expect from The President Without Principles.

Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Cabinet Edition, (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 20))

Too fun, and true.

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s Cabinet is the absolute best of all time. Ever., which states:

"It’s about time somebody gives Donald Trump the credit he deserves. Even if that person is Donald Trump.

'We’re doing a lot of great things,' the president said at the start of a Cabinet meeting Monday. Further, he said, 'we are getting tremendous accolades for what we’re doing.' What’s more, 'the Justice Department is doing a fantastic job,' while the economy is growing 'phenomenally,' except for the drag from those hurricanes — the handling of which, Trump would again say Monday, earns him an 'A-plus' grade. He also boasted about his yet-to-be-passed (or even proposed) tax cuts — the 'largest tax cuts in the history of our country.'

But the highest praise of all came for his Cabinet — or, rather, his own acumen in choosing this truly exceptional group of people seated at the table around him. 'There are those that are saying it’s one of the finest group of people ever assembled as a candidate — as a Cabinet,' he said. (Trump’s candidate-Cabinet mix-up followed his Friday mishap when he praised parents who sacrifice for the 'furniture,' rather than future, of their children.) 'This is a tremendous amount of talent,' Trump continued. 'We have just gotten really, really, great people. I’m very proud of them.'

And I’m very proud of Trump for recognizing the greatness of his Cabinet. But he is being modest. This isn’t just 'one of the finest' Cabinets. There has never been a Cabinet like this before — and there probably will never be one like it in the furniture.

Sure, George Washington sat around the Cabinet table with John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph. Abraham Lincoln won the Civil War with William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edwin Stanton. Franklin Roosevelt beat the Depression and the Nazis with Henry Morgenthau, Harold Ickes and Henry Stimson.

But Washington didn’t have a professional-wrestling executive in his Cabinet, nor an education secretary foresighted enough to warn the country about the danger posed to schools by bears. He didn’t even have an education secretary!

Lincoln didn’t think to hire a Cabinet secretary who proposed abolishing the very Cabinet agency he runs, as Trump has found in Energy Secretary Rick Perry. As Lincoln would have said: Oops!

FDR never had on his Cabinet someone he’d compared to a child molester, as Trump has with Ben Carson, his secretary of housing and urban development.

No matter how you measure it — billionaires, white men, oddballs — this Cabinet is extraordinary. Alexander Hamilton’s entire treasury probably didn’t have the amount of money EPA chief Scott Pruitt has spent on a soundproof phone booth, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has spent on her security detail, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife spent taking a government jet to Kentucky, where they viewed the eclipse, or tried to spend, requesting a government plane for their honeymoon."

Do read the rest.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Dead Soldier Edition (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 19))

UPDATE XVI:  "Dear Mr. President, . . .

Probably nothing is more humbling than when your role as commander in chief turns into 'comforter in chief' in the wake of fallen soldiers abroad. . .

You hold the most powerful position in the world, so the fact that you thought of them to make a call will mean far more than the substance of what you say. In fact, it’s best to swallow your pride and admit that you don’t know what to say. . .

Just acknowledge and validate their pain and their sacrifice. Nothing you can say will make it go away. . .

These calls are not supposed to be about photo-ops or news releases or poll numbers. They are private calls focused on listening to the family and letting them know that the nation appreciates their loved one’s service.

You were right to refuse to release a transcript of the calls you made. This should be between you and them. They don’t need grandstanding. They don’t need a politician to become their hero. They already have a hero for their family — one who has given his life in service of this country. . .

Don’t think you can provide satisfactory answers about why this happened. Instead, ask them to tell you a few stories about the deceased service member and sit back and listen. Your goal should be to get to know that person, if only for a moment. The family wants empathy, not platitudes. . .

Rather than explanations or proclamations of revenge, families just want to be assured of one thing. They need to know that the nation weeps with them, Mr. President. And they need to know those tears are real.

Read the Washington Post, Dear Mr. President: Don’t make military deaths about you.

UPDATE XV: Do you think Kelley is "an incredible leader who is beyond reproach"?

Read the Washington Post, John Kelly said ‘women were sacred.’ That attitude perpetuates the military’s culture of misogyny.

Read also the Washington Post, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is wrong about John Kelly, which states:

"Of all the repellent statements issued by President Trump or his aides, the one that came out of the mouth of Sarah Huckabee Sanders last week was maybe the most chilling. There she stood, asking a White House reporter who the hell he thought he was to question the veracity of John F. Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, who had just smeared a congresswoman. 'If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you,' she cautioned. 'If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.'

Well, sorry to pull rank, but I would not hesitate to criticize Kelly. In the first place, Kelly was dead wrong to say that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) made the noise of 'empty barrels' when she helped memorialize the death of two FBI agents in a Florida speech. Wilson had not used the occasion to beat her own drum, as Kelly alleged, but instead insisted on proper respect for the slain agents and for the FBI in general.

Had Trump gotten things so bolloxed up it would have been par for the course. After all, he gets almost nothing right. But Kelly is one of the so-called adults, brought in to bring some order to the White House Romper Room. He’s the details guy, the one who has taken charge of the paper flow, who would have — had Trump been about to deliver such a speech — checked YouTube to see if Wilson had actually grandstanded in her Florida remarks. This was his task. Yet, he failed miserably.

Did Kelly lie or did he misremember? I prefer the second choice, but either way, the stars he once wore on his shoulder do not immunize him. The rank I referred to above — mere citizen — is the one you and I hold. It is the one George Washington chose when he resigned his commission before becoming president of the United States. It is way higher than general. . .

Sanders was relying on the current veneration of the military to deflect criticism of Kelly. It was tawdry of her to do so, if only because it was Kelly and no one else who managed to call into question his vaunted competence. He brought dishonor to his office — the presidency is now too tarnished to dishonor — and signaled he is a better heel-clicker than he is a proud soldier. He should resign — and so, for good measure, should Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She knows how to be a press secretary, but not an American." [Link in original, emphasis added.]

UPDATE XIV: The Donald could learn something from this ex-Marine, who served his last assignment as a military casualty notification officer, one of "the guys who knocked on your door with the bad news", if he wanted to.

Read the Washington Post, This Marine told families when a loved one was killed. It was harder than combat.

The article notes that the Marine "knew how to take a punch, how to have humility and humanity when facing a fellow American’s lowest moment. That’s called leadership. We could use more of it."

As the story notes:

"'What it’s really all about is common sense, use your feelings. Go in there with what’s in your heart.

'Pretend that’s your mom you’re talking to. Think of how you react if someone knocked on your door with that news.'

Merna knew how to take a punch, how to have humility and humanity when facing a fellow American’s lowest moment. That’s called leadership. We could use more of it."

Therein lies the problem, The Donald lack humility, humanity or any ounce of leadership.

BTW, it was a real punch, not like the verbal punches The Donald so bravely trades with military widows.

UPDATE XIII:  "The drama began last Monday with a falsehood by Trump. A reporter asked him during a news conference why he had been silent for 12 days about the deaths of four soldiers in Niger, the deadliest combat incident since he took office. Trump responded defensively, falsely asserting that his predecessors, including President Barack Obama, never or rarely called family members of service members who were killed on their watch. In fact, they regularly did.

Trump’s actions since then have followed a careful formula that he long ago devised for winning a skirmish and that has been described by senior White House advisers: Make it a fight, use controversy to elevate the message and never apologize.

The conflict bears all the hallmarks of a typical Trump rumble: over-broad boasts, inconsistent official accounts, tweeted name-calling, partisan attacks, aides ensnared in controversy and a steady effort to pin the blame for the whole hullabaloo on the news media.

'Trump grew up in a New York PR and media environment of Page Six beefing and gossiping, so he looks at his whole life through that window,' said Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and a vocal Trump critic. 'His philosophy of always fighting back is morally divorced from any other situation. And to stay in Trump’s good graces, his aides have to play that game.' . .

Without Trump’s rules of engagement, the bungled effort to soothe a mourning widow could easily have been resolved with a simple statement of clarification from the president. But Trump chose otherwise, and Kelly followed him into the breach, along with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. . .

In close adherence to the Trump rules, the president and his aides escalated the fight, welcomed the controversy and refused to apologize. And it might have worked more effectively had the whole enterprise not ended with the president in a standoff with a mourning widow."

Red the Washington Post, In sparring with a grieving widow, Trump follows his no-apology playbook.

UPDATE XII:  "Republicans and Democrats alike have been deluding themselves for some time about White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. They were certain that Kelly was a 'grown-up' who understood that the president the American people elected was hobbled — morally, intellectually, temperamentally — and it was Kelly’s job to steer the ship of state away from the rocks. He wouldn’t lie to the American people as President Trump did, these Kelly fans believed.

Recognition is now sinking in that Kelly is not so different than all the other politicians and officials who come in contact with Trump. To serve him requires suspension of integrity, and therefore those who serve become morally corrupted. (The sole exception to this seems to be Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who from day one simply refused to act as Trump’s political flack.) One can hear a palpable sense of sadness after last week’s events, a sense of disillusionment. . .

Kelly’s fall from grace was swift and senseless. It was all so unnecessary; he need not have gone out to spin for the president. . .

So from adult day-care shift supervisor to enabler in a short week, Kelly sacrificed a good deal of his utility to the president for nothing. In seeking to elevate the military above the rest of us, he ironically undercut his own stature as a guarantor of our democratic norms . . .

Those harboring unrealistic expectations about Kelly have learned once again: None of Trump’s advisers can make up for the deficits of this president; and with a lonely exception of Mattis, all of them look worse for having tried."

Read the Washington Post, We’re down to Mattis, I suppose.

UPDATE XI:  "The United States is in the middle of a very unfortunate experiment in how disoriented a great nation can become before it loses its moorings entirely.

At times, politics seems fairly conventional with Republicans and Democrats arguing about health care and tax cuts, as they long have done. But former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama reminded us last week that there is nothing normal about this moment. They issued searing, overlapping condemnations of Trumpism without naming President Trump. Former commanders in chief of opposing parties don’t do this sort of thing unless the country faces an emergency.

Our disorientation is reflected further in the way honorable men and women allow themselves to be pushed into defending the indefensible and twisting noble concepts into cheap and ultimately shameful talking points. These are designed to get the president through one more news cycle or around some controversy he could easily quell if he had any familiarity with the words 'I’m sorry.'

In the realm of political commentary, the now-daily detonations set off by a man who sees the common good as the pursuit of suckers drown out any serious discussion of the problems his voters thought he might try to solve. . .

For all the talk about Trump being something other than a Republican, he always falls back on the party’s old ideas because he has none of his own beyond promising to build a big wall, stop NFL players from kneeling during the national anthem and fix bad trade deals while offering few details.

But we can’t even have predictable, if necessary, partisan and ideological debates. These are blocked by self-involved spectacle and ruthless attacks against any who raise their voices to criticize the president.

We can try to resist being drawn into this swamp of petty invective, knowing that we are being pulled away from the consequential questions. Yet doing so would mean overlooking the central fact of our political situation: that Trump is systematically sapping our democratic capacities through his routine behavior. As Bush put it, 'We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. . . . Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization.'

This is why all except the most blind Trump partisans had to be heartsick over the performance of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Thursday. The retired Marine Corps general, who devoted his life to service and suffered stoically when he lost a son in combat, stepped out as a hatchet man against Rep. Frederica S. Wilson.

It was Wilson, a Florida Democrat, who revealed that the president told the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson that the slain soldier 'knew what he signed up for.' Kelly could not back up Trump’s claim that Wilson had 'totally fabricated' the president’s conversation. In fact, Kelly seemed indirectly to confirm her account. So he resorted to a vicious rebuke of the African American congresswoman.

Kelly didn’t even have the decency to use Wilson’s name, and he compared her to noisy 'empty barrels.' It was hard to hear him and not think of Bush’s warnings about 'dehumanization.' Kelly went on to give a false account of gracious, bipartisan comments Wilson made at the dedication of a Florida FBI building.

Thus is our world turned upside down: A genuine patriot is reduced to the role of propagandist for a boss whose idea of sacrifice, as Trump once explained on ABC News, is running a business from which he profited.

We are numbed to the squalor we see daily. It’s common to hear the president called a 'disrupter.' But unlike the tech-world heroes to whom the label is typically applied, he builds nothing, creates nothing and moves a majority of our fellow citizens only toward rage or a sense of helplessness.

But helplessness is not an option, and rage alone will change nothing." [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, What Trump did to Kelly shows how far we have fallen.

Read also the Washington Post, Gold Star father Khizr Khan knocks White House chief of staff on military condolence controversy, which noted that Kelley should have advised Trump to show respect, restraint and dignity to the widow.

UPDATE X:  "[F]or reasons that are not entirely clear, Kelly then went after Wilson with a vengeance. He didn’t say she lied; to the contrary, he said Trump had delivered the line Kelly had recommended. Rather, he skewered Wilson for politicizing the call (he was stunned, he repeated) and then falsely accused her of bragging at a ceremony dedicating an FBI building to two slain officers that she had gotten the money for the building. That accusation was apparently untrue as well, not to mention irrelevant. . .

We’ve grown sadly accustomed to watching Trump behave badly, punching 'down' at those who call him out. The focus must always be on him, the perpetual victim.

Kelly’s conduct was a sad revelation, however, and a reminder that while he looks upon himself as serving the country (and he is), he is also enabling a dishonest, morally detestable politician. As The Post reported: 'There was evident irony in Kelly’s making that particular point in defense of Trump, whose presidential campaign last year was marked by name-calling, harsh rhetoric about Muslims, Mexicans and other minorities, and allegations of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women.' I would call it hypocrisy, not irony. He’s after all standing next to and by someone who truly treats nothing — people, the truth, democracy — as 'sacred.' He’s using his reservoir of honor and credibility to shield a president who is lacking both.

Moreover, Kelly’s presence brings us back to the unprecedented number of military-men-turned-civilian-counselors in this administration. Stocking an administration with generals diminishes the military (by forcing revered figures to play politics) and undermines the concept of civilian control, especially in an administration in which the ex-military and military advisers are taking 'adult day care' shifts to mind an unfit president, as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) memorably said.

Our men and women placing themselves in harm’s way and their families deserve better than the Trump crowd. The country deserves honest civilian leaders. Unfortunately, like all Americans, our fighting men and women are stuck with Trump — and his reckless saber-rattling — for the time being."

Read the Washington Post, Trump makes himself, John Kelly and everyone around them look rotten yet again.

UPDATE IX:  "President Trump appears unable to opt for the higher moral ground when the gutter beckons so invitingly, and so it is that his battle over his response to the death of La David Johnson, one of four U.S. service members gunned down in Niger, has now entered its fourth day. Trump tweeted:

Donald J. Trump

The Fake News is going crazy with wacky Congresswoman Wilson(D), who was SECRETLY on a very personal call, and gave a total lie on content!
9:53 PM - Oct 19, 2017
In so doing, Trump slathered additional layers of ugliness and dishonesty on top of comments by White House chief of staff John Kelly, who yesterday told reporters that 'it stuns me that a Member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation,' adding: 'I thought at least that was sacred.' . .

But instead of treating this as mere theater of high dudgeon, there is actually a way to at least try to evaluate who is right in this situation. As a start, we can look at the process by which these presidential calls to the families of fallen soldiers come together.

Here’s the short version: It is not unusual for multiple people to be listening in on calls to the families of the fallen. The living next-of-kin generally is deferred to when it comes to who listens in, and it is not that unusual for the president to be placed on speakerphones."

Read the Washington Post, John Kelly’s defense of Trump was absurd. And he surely knows it., which explains the call process in detail.

The article notes that Kelley used "the 'sacredness' of women while defending Trump, who is accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and has repeatedly and very publicly denigrated women in horrifying ways, but Kelly is of course not responsible for Trump’s actions. What is worse is the sleight of hand Kelly used to align Trump culturally and morally with the military and the families of the fallen while casting the Congresswoman as belonging to a kind of cultural category that, in the minds of people of Kelly’s generation, which came of age during the country’s searing divisions over Vietnam, is characterized by empty, valueless showboating and doesn’t have sufficient respect for the military and the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen soldiers and their loved ones. . .

[T]the decision as to who listened in on the call was a personal one made by the next-of-kin. And Kelly should respect that. Instead, he helped Trump play the aggrieved party. But in this case, Trump apparently botched the call to a family. . . Trump and the White House could simply have let this die down or even apologized to the family and treated their feelings as more important than Trump’s personal pique or political fortunes. Yes, this this might mean taking a few lumps that the White House considered unfair, without retaliating. So what? Is it really that awful or unthinkable for Trump to lose a round? Yet the White House chose not to show restraint — even though Kelly understands as well as or better than anyone else what the family is going through." [Bold emphasis added.]

Kelly, just another enabler, should be ashamed for propping up The Donald, who will never change if not forced to do so.

And as the next article highlights, an ego and a lack of empathy are very dangerous.

UPDATE VIII: "Context matters. From another person, at another time, observing that Sergeant La David Johnson 'knew what he signed up for' by joining the Army wouldn’t have sparked outrage. But consider what else Representative Frederica Wilson—with the backing of Johnson’s mother—has alleged: that Trump didn’t know Johnson’s name; he repeatedly called him 'your guy.' And that Trump’s tone was oddly jovial: 'He was almost, like, joking.'

Above all, consider what we know about the way Trump discusses pain and death. This is the man who congratulated Puerto Ricans—whose island had been utterly devastated—for losing only “16” and not 'thousands of people.' The man who told a crowd in Corpus Christi on August 29, while 30,000 Texans were displaced, 'It’s going well.' And who said after touring the convention center where thousands of Houstonians were taking refuge that, 'We saw a lot of happiness.'

Donald Trump minimizes suffering for which he might be held responsible. That’s likely what he was doing in his conversation with Myeshia Johnson. And it’s not just insensitive; it’s dangerous. As the former Missouri Senate candidate, and former Army intelligence officer, Jason Kander observed on Wednesday night on CNN, people say, 'He knew what he signed up for' because 'they are seeking emotional distance from the situation. People say that because they want to avoid feeling that pain.' That’s worrying, Kander added, because 'I want the president, any president … when they’re making a decision about sending people to a dangerous place, I want them to have as one of the things in their mind, the visceral, emotional feeling' that comes from absorbing a widow’s inconsolable grief.

That’s the key point. Trump’s comments bespeak a refusal to face the human costs of violence and war that could have frightening consequences for American foreign policy. . .

Trump still finds the WWE paradigm—candy-corn violence—attractive. . .

By ignoring, or even celebrating, [the horror of real violence and war], he gives himself permission to delight in its pageantry and power. He relishes calling his defense secretary 'Mad Dog.' He dropped the 'mother of all bombs' in Afghanistan. He shocked Chinese president Xi Jinping when he informed him, over chocolate cake, that he had bombed Syria. He relishes public displays of weaponry: In June he flew to France to witness 'one of the greatest parades I have ever seen … two hours' of 'military might,' and then proposed something similar along Pennsylvania Avenue.

And he relishes threatening war against North Korea. . .

'I’m really good at war. I love war in a certain way,' Trump told an Iowa rally in 2015, 'But only when we win.' It’s plausible that Trump will avoid war with North Korea because he fears America cannot prevail. It is far less likely that he will avoid war because he can’t bear the human cost. He never bears it.

That’s what Myeshia Johnson—who has a six-year-old, a two-year-old, and is pregnant, and who said she doesn’t know what she’ll do without her 'soulmate'—confronted Trump with: the human cost. The human cost that doesn’t exist in professional wrestling. The human cost, which proves that violence and war aren’t always grand, manly spectacles, and that America doesn’t always win. The human cost, for which Trump, as commander in chief, bears responsibility.

He couldn’t handle it. His attacks on Wilson suggest he still can’t. He won’t abandon his decades-old intoxication with pretend violence and pretend war. And that makes him a very dangerous man to be leading the most powerful military on earth. "

Read The Atlantic, Why Trump Can't Handle the Cost of War.

UPDATE VII:  "Offering succor to the families of service members killed in the line of duty is one of the most solemn exercises a president must undertake. It is a task requiring, above all, a sense of humility. 'In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of . . . your brave and early fallen child,' Abraham Lincoln wrote to the parents of a deceased Union soldier.

Unlike true leaders, however, Trump seems to associate humility with weakness. . . He always seeks to deflect responsibility. Somebody else is really at fault. Others who came before him have done worse. Bad people in the media are treating him unfairly.

Trump is a weak, narcissistic man in a job that requires strength and empathy. I’m not sure that empathy is a concept he even understands. He acts as if he believes that feeling someone else’s pain is strictly for losers, not winners.

None of this is a surprise. We learned a lot about Trump during the campaign when he attacked the Khan family, who lost a son in Iraq, for having the temerity to criticize him politically. We have a president who believes that making the ultimate sacrifice for the nation is less important than supporting or opposing Trump.

The Post reported Wednesday that earlier this year, Trump phoned the father of Army Sgt. Dillon Baldridge, who was killed June 10 in Afghanistan. In the course of the conversation, Trump offered to send the father a personal check for $25,000 — but did not follow through. The check was finally sent this week only after The Post asked about it.

Sadly, that’s typical Trump. He makes a grand promise, which allows him to feel big and generous — which is the whole point. Even in interactions with Gold Star families, it’s all about him. Later, having played the role of Trump the Munificent, he forgets about it and goes in search of the next opportunity to shore up his fragile ego.

No one should expect him to grow in office. He’s 71. At that age, either you have compassion, self-knowledge and a conscience, or you don’t." [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s mindless cruelty to a soldier’s widow speaks to the core of his character.

UPDATE VI:  ANOTHER MUST READ, the Washington Post, Trump does not possess an ounce of compassion, which states in full:

"Just when you think that President Trump cannot go lower, he goes lower. First, he managed to turn the deaths of four U.S. soldiers in Niger into a spectacle of narcissism. The victims included not only the dead soldiers but also the president who had to call the bereaved and offer his — and the nation’s — condolences. 'It’s the toughest calls I have to make,' the president said. Actually, it’s the toughest call a family ever has to receive.

Then Trump said that President Barack Obama did not make such calls. He contrasted Obama’s alleged indifference to the deaths of American soldiers to his own practice of making such calls. Trouble was, Obama did make such calls. Trump never misses an opportunity to take a cheap shot at this predecessor. Each time, Obama rises in stature and Trump descends. He is pretty close to the floor already.

You will notice that everything so far is about Trump. He must have noticed, too, because he’s been on a roll. He then took another shot at Obama. He said Obama never called Gen. John F. Kelly after his son, 1st Lt. Robert M. Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan while on patrol in 2010. Kelly himself has refrained from using his son’s death in a political context, but Trump did not. He used the death to once again go at Obama and defend his own actions.

Then Tuesday, Trump did indeed call the widow of one of the slain soldiers. Her name is Myeshia Johnson and her husband was Sgt. La David T. Johnson. She is the mother of two children and is pregnant with a third. Trump reached her in a car and supposedly said that Johnson 'must have known what he signed up for.' It was an odd way to extend sympathy and Trump later insisted he said nothing of the sort. A witness, Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), who was in the car at the time, also said she heard it. So did the sergeant’s mother, another passenger in the car.

It nevertheless remains possible that either Trump was misunderstood or that he failed to say what he meant to say. We all do that from time to time. And when we do, we offer our apologies. We concede that we might have been misunderstood, and we reiterate what we meant to say — what we should have said. Trump did not do that. Instead, he said his words were 'fabricated' and he dared Wilson to repeat her words.

Trump does not possess an ounce of compassion. He is reptilian, knowing only to show his fangs, hiss and attack. This is why he mocked a physically disabled reporter for the New York Times, why he derided the heroism of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and why he dismissed the authenticity of the Khans, who had lost their son in Iraq.

This inability to feel the pain of others — even to acknowledge it — is not a minor tick in an otherwise good man. It is the salient characteristic of a sadist, of someone so wrapped up in himself that he has contempt for victims. Trump’s name for them is 'losers.' They are the poor and the unlucky. They deserve what they get.

Trump is not a conservative nor a nationalist nor some reality show creation. He is a mean S.O.B., base in his motives and cruel in his targets and, until he won in November, unthinkable in American history — a brat in the Oval Office. He’s not man enough to throw an arm around a grieving widow. He disgraces his office and will be remembered by history as a lout. It is now a fate he cannot escape. Sorry, but he knew what he was signing up for." {Emphasis added.]

UPDATE V: What do you think of The Donald's condolence call to the familes of service members killed under his presidency: 'The President sends his condolences on the death of ______ (please fill in the blank, he is to busy to bother) but he "must have known what he signed up for".

Read the Washington Post:

Fallen soldier’s mother: ‘Trump did disrespect my son’;

Trump’s alleged ‘knew what he signed up for’ comment to widow is worth caution, but fits a clear pattern, which noted that:

"[T]he widow was in tears after the call and lamented that Trump 'didn't even remember his name', and
"And whatever you think about Trump, displaying empathy is not his strong suit. The way he talks about tragedy is routinely awkward, at best, and tasteless, at worst. Puerto Rico is dealing with the fallout of a devastating hurricane, and Trump talks about how it will pay for the relief effort, suggests the island is at fault for its poor situation, and attacks San Juan's mayor. He turned a death during a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville from a tragedy into a political football when he blamed 'both sides.' While in Florida for the Hurricane Irma relief effort, he seemed to be more reserved, but then he asked a man to attack Obama on camera. When Navy sailors were missing after a tanker collided with a destroyer near Singapore, Trump responded, 'That’s too bad, too bad.' There are plenty more examples. [Links in original.]; and

Yet again, Trump’s defensiveness makes his handling of a Gold Star family’s grief worse.

The Donald says there is a recording.  He should release it, or resign.

BTW, in an attempt to remedy his lack of empathy, how about an offer of money, which will never be sent.

Read the Washington Post, Trump offered a grieving military father $25,000 in a call, but didn’t follow through.

Who wants to admit they voted for this disgusting despicable person?

UPDATE IV:  "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that President Trump’s chief of staff is 'disgusted' that the death of his son has become politicized — even though it was Trump who thrust the Marine's death into the political glare.

In an interview with Fox News radio this week, Trump cited John Kelly, his chief of staff, as he attempted to bolster his false claim a day earlier that President Barack Obama had never called families of fallen U.S. service members."

Read the Washington Post, White House decries ‘politicized’ death of chief of staff’s son — which Trump thrust into the spotlight.

The lesson here: if you work for a psycho-narcissistic con man, expect to be shamelessly exploited and used.

UPDATE III:  "Every once in a while, a politician says something so outrageous that it produces not the feigned outrage that has become so familiar, but genuine outrage. That’s what President Trump managed yesterday, when in a news conference he was asked about his public silence on the four American soldiers who were killed in Niger, and claimed that while he calls the families of those killed in action to express his condolences, previous presidents, particularly Barack Obama, hadn’t done so.

This was a particularly despicable lie, because it painted Obama — and other presidents, but let’s be honest, mostly Obama — as cruel and dismissive when it comes to the sacrifice of those in uniform, while portraying Trump as the only one who truly cares. . .

It’s obvious from his [statements] that Trump had absolutely no idea what presidents before him did or didn’t do in this situation, which he admitted again today ('I don’t know what Obama’s policy was'). But he went ahead and claimed that only he calls the families.

This is quite familiar to anyone who has been watching Trump these past couple of years. He takes his own limited experience and characterizes it as unique, extraordinary and unprecedented. No one has ever done this before, no one has accomplished so much, no one knows more than I do. There’s an element of the salesman’s puffery at work, but it also comes from a place of pure ignorance. . .

When a normal person is in a state of ignorance, he or she might exercise some caution, and refrain from making a volatile accusation that, for instance, his or her predecessors were callous to Gold Star families. But not Trump. You’ll notice that the first time he says it, he asserts it as simple fact: 'if you look at President Obama and other Presidents, most of them didn’t make calls.' When he’s challenged, he equivocates: 'I don’t know if he did … President Obama I think probably did sometimes, and maybe sometimes he didn’t. I don’t know. That’s what I was told.'

Now here’s why this matters. Yes, many news outlets pointed out that Trump wasn’t telling the truth. But there are probably three interns at Fox News who are now scouring old news reports to find some family member of a fallen soldier who didn’t get a call from Obama. If they find it, that person’s story will then become the subject of a segment on Sean Hannity’s show, and it will then get retold on a hundred talk radio programs and conservative websites as proof that Obama was a monster and the media are all lying about this. (Trump’s insistence that there was 'fake news' at work is another way of telling his supporters not to believe whatever they hear about this subject that comes from sources not explicitly supporting him.) And I promise you that if you took a poll two weeks from now, you’d find that 40 percent of the public (or more) believes that Obama never called the family of any fallen soldier, and only Trump has the sensitivity to do so.

And that’s how Trump takes his own particular combination of ignorance, bluster and malice, and sets it off like a nuclear bomb of misinformation. The fallout spreads throughout the country, and no volume of corrections and fact checks can stop it. It wasn’t even part of a thought-out strategy, just a loathsome impulse that found its way out of the president’s mouth to spread far and wide.

If you’re one of those who marvel at the fact that Trump’s approval ratings aren’t even lower than they are, this is a big reason. It’s absolutely necessary to correct Trump’s falsehoods, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that any poisonous lie he tells won’t find an eager audience. And the whole country gets dumber and dumber."

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s lie about Obama and fallen soldiers shows how he makes America dumber.

UPDATE II:  There is nothing The Donald can not shamelessly lie about.

Read the Washington Post, ‘Disrespectful lie’: Anger grows over Trump’s claims about past presidents and fallen troops.

UPDATE:  As the article notes, normal people don't brag about contacting the "families of soldiers who died in combat".

Read the Washington Post, Trump’s claim that Obama ‘didn’t make calls’ to families of the fallen.

''This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner — and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers — is as low as it gets.'" [Emphasis added.]

Read the Washington Post, ‘A soulless coward’: Gregg Popovich slams Trump’s comments on slain soldiers.

I do disagree on one point, I'm sure The Donald will find a way to impress us yet again with his narcissistic focus on his greatness.

Let's not forget the danger he faced down in his "persoanl Vietnam . . [as] a great and very brave solider".

Trump's Big CON: He Might Be the Devil

UPDATE:  "At the Family Research Council’s recent Values Voter Summit, the religious right effectively declared its conversion to Trumpism.

The president was received as a hero. Stephen K. Bannon and Sebastian Gorka — both fired from the White House, in part, for their extremism — set the tone and agenda. . .

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives. Forget Augustine and Aquinas, Wilberforce and Shaftesbury. For many years, leaders of the religious right exactly conformed Christian social teaching to the contours of Fox News evening programming. . .

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear?"

Read the Washington Post, The religious right carries its golden calf into Steve Bannon’s battles.

For evangelical conservatives Trump is a "God-chosen president [who] can do no wrong, tell no lie, make no error. And that, it seems, has been the default setting for many of Trump’s most loyal supporters among the religious right.

The notion that lies don’t matter, that politics is akin to a religious mission, strikes many Americans as a scary repudiation of the Constitution’s establishment clause. Protecting Trump and dodging critics who raise legitimate issues about his behavior have now become acts of faith. . .

We’ve tracked the evolution of Christian conservative leaders from public moralists to leaders of tribal identity. Their most visible leaders increasingly consider themselves the vanguard of white rural America (where so many of their flock reside), a group resentful of its demographic and cultural decline. Trump’s coterie of evangelical pastors is among the inaptly named 'values voters' leadership that, having lost on gay marriage, on legalized abortion and on cultural decay, now takes refuge in nativism, xenophobia and white grievance. For these evangelical figureheads, 'us vs. them' has replaced a message of brotherly love and Christian charity.

Robert P. Jones, author of 'The End of White Christian America,' observes, 'One of the most astounding shifts in modern politics has been the utter transformation of white evangelical Protestants from being confident self-described ‘values voters,’ who measured candidates for office against a high bar of moral character, to anxious and unwavering Trump supporters who have largely dropped these standards for a candidate they believe will deliver policies that benefit them.' He explains that 'white evangelicals have exchanged an ethic of principle that might hold a political leader accountable to consistent standards for a consequentialist ends-justify-the-means posture that simply stops interrogating character, the quality of leadership, or the morality of actions when it’s beneficial.' . .

Under a president who now actively courts theocratic leaders and seeks to widen racial and religious division, the United States is being seriously tested. It will take people of faith and of no faith committed to democratic norms and American diversity to repel this assault on the country’s animating principles."

Read the Washington Post, Evangelical conservatives are proving their harshest critics right.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

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

"President Trump’s supporters have reveled in his and his administration’s assault on the media. Trumpkins were thrilled when then-chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon declared the media to be the “opposition party.” Any unfavorable news could be written off as “fake news.” With the mainstream media discredited, Trump could keep his supporters loyal and his opponents on defense. Republicans officials, out of fear or indifference or mutual disdain for the media, haven’t objected. Just blowing off Trump. Just being Trump. What could he actually do?

Well, lots, actually. The Post reports:

    President Trump attacked NBC News on Wednesday, dismissing as “pure fiction” an explosive report that he had sought a massive increase in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

    On Twitter, Trump also raised the possibility that he would support stripping the broadcast licenses of news networks that report what he believes to be inaccurate information. The tweets came after NBC News reported that Trump purportedly told senior national security advisers during a meeting last summer that he favored what amounted to nearly a tenfold increase in nuclear weapons.

No president has publicly threatened to shut down a media outlet for unfavorable coverage. This is beyond the pale, further evidence that Trump seeks to emulate the thugs around the world like Russian President Vladimir Putin (whose alleged killing of journalists Trump once wrote off, because “our country does plenty of killing, too”), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (whom he congratulated after a vote that outside observers found rife with irregularities) and Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines (whose “drug war” Trump praised despite thousands of extrajudicial killings). House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), self-styled libertarians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), self-proclaimed constitutional conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), high-minded “thought leaders” such as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), once-independent and intellectually honest think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the entire retinue of Beltway right-wing groups that castigate the left nonstop would be horrified if a Democratic president ever suggested such a thing. . .

Consider by contrast the Trumpian defenders and other conservatives who’ve bashed Hollywood for years who now are in full dungeon over the failure of Hollywood elite and docile entertainment press to out Harvey Weinstein years ago for his abusive behavior toward women. Hypocrites! Enablers! Complacent! In many cases, that would be true. But for Republicans who sit silently, who enable a president who abuses democracy and violates constitutional norms, and who refused to disqualify as president a serial abuser of women to decry hypocrisy and chide others for lacking moral courage and putting politics over morality is rich — and infuriating."

Read the Washington Post, In case you didn’t take Trump’s threat to the First Amendment seriously.

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

Trump's Big CON: He Was For the War, Before He Was Against It

The CON Man is never wrong, because he says one thing, then something completely inconsistent.

Read the Washington Post:

Trump basically endorsed Bannon’s war on McConnell and the Republican establishment, and

Trump hints he might try to get Bannon to back off, as he seeks to project unity with McConnell.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

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

UPDATE IV:  Read also the Washington Post:

Bob Corker just said it again: Trump is unfit. Okay, now what?, which suggests that if Corker really thinks Trump is unfit to be President, he should use his position as Corker, who happens to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to full expose the extent of Russian interference in our election, and not a hoax as Trump claims.

‘Utterly untruthful’: Corker unbound as he attacks Trump over fitness, competence,

‘Dangerous,’ ‘utterly untruthful’: Two retiring GOP senators sound alarm on Trump, which noted that Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said that Trump’s “reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior” was “dangerous to our democracy” “undermining of our democratic norms and ideals” with the personal attacks; the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions; the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.”

Bob Corker sounds like he’s making a case for removing Trump from office, which noted that Corker is "basically labeling Trump an irredeemable failure who cannot be prevailed upon to perform his job functions. Corker previously said Trump hadn't yet demonstrated the 'stability' or 'competence' needed to serve; now he's basically saying it's a lost cause", and

Corker shows how Republicans can dump Trump, which states:

"Whether it is a pregnant Gold Star widow such as Myeshia Johnson or a powerful U.S. senator whose help Trump needs both on Iran and the do-or-die tax plan, Trump is incapable of disengaging from a fight that he is obviously losing. He cannot cede the field to anyone, no matter how destructive the prolonged fight is to his own goals. Everything comes back to a personal battle of wills in which Trump cannot stand to be seen on the losing side. For Trump, all human and personal interactions are reduced to a test of his ego; any perceived defeat is intolerable for him. Extending these exchanges, of course, leads to bigger and more serious defeats, but those he can justify as the result of 'fake media' or hapless Republicans.

Corker is demonstrating that the GOP sycophants who feed Trump’s ego have it all wrong. The president cannot be cajoled into being a responsible, effective president. He cannot be pinned down to any specific position. No loyalty can be expected from him. Rather than lose one’s political soul and waste endless time trying to placate the impulsive, irrational president, the best course of action is to expose his craziness, minimize his influence and then ignore him. . .

Trump is not only a failure but also a menace to our democracy and national security. Egging on the North Korean dictator, compulsively lying, subverting an independent judiciary, trampling on the First Amendment and lacking the requisite skills to manage the executive branch and push through legislation should preclude a second term (if Trump makes it through this one.)

For now, Republicans should watch Corker — or better yet, join him. He’s showing them how to save their own reputations, their party and ultimately the country from the grip of an unbalanced, dysfunctional president."

UPDATE III:  "Politics, at its best, is about creating a decent society, a task that can only be accomplished when citizens find ways of cooperating. One of the best descriptions of what our aspirations should be was offered by the political philosopher Michael Sandel. 'When politics goes well,' he wrote, 'we can know a good in common that we cannot know alone.'

President Trump has always prided himself on being an anti-politician. This is supposed to be one of his greatest assets. But he has thrown our government into chaos and our country into tumult precisely because his disrespect for politics and what it requires leads him to debase our public life. He offers a torrent of lies, willfully tries to tear the country apart — his tweet on Wednesday continuing his verbal war on kneeling NFL players epitomizes his eagerness to polarize — and puts everyone else down because doing so is the only way he knows how to lift himself up.

Trump takes no responsibility for — well, anything. . .

Many of Trump’s lies are hideously personal. . .

It has become a dreary Washington game to ask at what point Republican politicians (besides Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John McCain (Ariz.) and a few others) will stand up for basic decency by telling Trump: Enough. Up to now, most have cravenly absorbed all manner of insults, accepted unspeakable unseemliness, and sat by with wan smiles as Trump left them hanging by shifting his positions moment to moment. . .

Sorry, but all Republican politicians who take their obligations seriously must stop rationalizing the irrational and say what has long been obvious, that Trump’s way of doing business is unproductive, erratic, mean and scary. Until this happens, Republicans deserve to be seen as enablers of a dangerous presidency.

Alas, you can count on GOP leaders to maintain their complicity until the tax cut that is their lodestar is enacted into law. On this question, Trump and his party are as one in offering misleading claims that their bill is designed primarily to help ordinary Americans when in fact its largest benefits will flow to the very wealthy.

But is a tax cut worth the price of colluding to undermine an honorable profession?"

Read the Washington Post, The enablers of Trump’s dangerous presidency.

UPDATE II:  "Donald Trump likes to say that no president in American history accomplished as much in as short a time as he has, and in a few ways, he’s actually right. What other president could say that in less than nine months, they did this much damage to the future of American diplomacy?

Congratulations, Mr. President: America’s word is now practically worthless. And the damage will persist even after you’re gone.

[Whether it is a trade or climate deal, or arms negotiation, t]here would be only one reasonable conclusion: America doesn’t keep its promises, and there is no point in negotiating with them to give up your own nuclear weapons.. .

Donald Trump has a conception of 'dealmaking' that is fundamentally unsuited to politics, both domestically and internationally. In Trump’s career as a businessman, he came to believe that all deals are zero-sum. They have a winner and a loser, and if you’re not the former than you’re the latter. The measure of a 'good deal' is whether you came out ahead and the other guy lost his shirt. In practice that meant running a series of scams, his assumption being that there were always more marks out there who only knew about his celebrity and didn’t realize how he actually did business. He could stiff contractors or set up a sham university selling real estate 'secrets,' and no matter how angry those who got conned were, there would still be suckers lining up for the next grift.

But that’s not how it works in politics. The number of potential partners for deals, whether it’s members of Congress or other nations, is finite. And they all know what you did last time. Each potential deal is affected by what happened in the deal before it, and trust is absolutely vital.

But it goes even farther. When you’re president, the deals you make will be affected by the deals your predecessors made, and this is where the long-term damage becomes evident. After Paris and (perhaps) NAFTA and Iran, it isn’t just that other countries won’t be willing to sign an agreement with Donald Trump. They may not even be willing to sign one with the next president."

Read the Washington Post, Thanks to Trump, America’s word is now worthless.

UPDATE: "Their writings and debates surrounding the creation of the Constitution make clear that the framers feared a certain kind of character coming to power and usurping the republican ideal of their new nation. Having just defeated a tyrant — 'Mad' King George III of England — they carefully crafted rules to remove such a character: impeachment. In the process, they revealed precisely the kind of corrupt, venal, inattentive and impulsive character they were worried about.

The very embodiment of what the Founding Fathers feared is now residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Again and again, they anticipated attributes and behaviors that President Trump exhibits on an all-too-regular basis. By describing 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors,' the grounds for impeachment, as any act that poses a significant threat to society — either through incompetence or other misdeeds — the framers made it clear that an official does not have to commit a crime to be subject to impeachment. Instead, they made impeachment a political process, understanding that the true threat to the republic was not criminality but unfitness, that a president who violated the country’s norms and values was as much a threat as one who broke its laws.

Gouverneur Morris, who wrote the Constitution’s preamble, and future president James Madison were worried about a leader who would 'pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation' — theft of public funds — 'or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers,' as Madison put it. Morris, who like many in the colonies believed King Charles had taken bribes from Louis XIV to support France’s war against the Dutch, declared that without impeachment we 'expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate [the President] in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him.' . .

[His ties to Russia, "decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey, the man investigating his administration’s Russian connections," failing to "to properly staff the executive branch",  "abuse of the power to issue pardons", and  "on it goes".]

But prescient as they were, what the framers may not have anticipated was someone who epitomized so many of their fears at once — someone like Donald Trump — being elected to the presidency in the first place. They hoped that the electoral college system would prevent that from happening. But in the event that didn’t happen, they added an additional fail-safe: impeachment."

Read the Washington Post, The Founding Fathers designed impeachment for someone exactly like Donald Trump.

"Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers, most of whom insisted on anonymity to speak candidly. . .

Trump is hardly the first president whose aides have arranged themselves around him and his management style — part of a natural effort, one senior White House official said, to help ensure the president’s success. But Trump’s penchant for Twitter feuds, name-calling and temperamental outbursts presents a unique challenge.

One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments. The White House pushes out news releases overflowing with top officials heaping flattery on Trump; in one particularly memorable Cabinet meeting this year, each member went around the room lavishing the president with accolades.

Senior administration officials call this speaking to an 'audience of one.' . .

Sam Nunberg, who worked for Trump but was fired in 2015, said he always found him to be 'reasonable,' but noted that delaying a decision often helped influence the outcome. . .

Corker’s quip comparing the White House to a day-care center on Oct. 8 came in the middle of a feud between him and Trump, who attacked Corker by tweeting that the retiring senator 'didn’t have the guts' to run for reelection and had begged for his endorsement. Corker fired back on Twitter and in a New York Times interview, warning that Trump was running the White House like 'a reality show' and that his reckless threats against other nations could put the country 'on the path to World War III.' . .

Still, Corker’s comments underscored the uneasy dichotomy within the West Wing, where criticism of the president’s behavior is only whispered.

'They have an on-the-record ‘Dear Leader’ culture, and an on-background ‘This-guy-is-a-joke’ culture,' said Tommy Vietor, who served as a spokesman for former president Barack Obama. 'I don’t understand how he can countenance both.'

Read the Washington Post, Inside the ‘adult day-care center’: How aides try to control and coerce Trump.

Trump's Big CON: It's All About the Show, Explained, CONt. Part 6

UPDATE II:  "Increasingly, those around Trump are opting to plead with him through the media, hoping that will do what private conversations cannot. They are all unmistakable cries for help. But now, for the first time, we have a very public cry for help from someone who is extremely close — personally — to Trump. . .

[I]t suggests Barrack is hugely frustrated by his friend's unwillingness to take his advice. And it explains why Barrack would go public.

Of course, saying these things publicly also only adds to the circus that is the Trump administration. But Barrack — and plenty of others — have made the calculated decision to say them even if it increases the perception of discord in the White House. They've clearly decided this is the best, highly imperfect method for getting through to Trump. That's desperation, pure and simple.

If someone like Barrack can't prevail upon Trump using that method, it's unlikely anyone will. And by Barrack's description of Trump, I wouldn't hold my breath."

Read the Washington Post, This is the biggest cry for help from a Trump adviser yet.

UPDATE:  Sometimes, even your closest friends don't know you that well.

"Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a billionaire who is one of President Trump’s oldest friends . . .

in interviews with The Washington Post, said he has been 'shocked' and 'stunned' by some of the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets. He disagrees with some of Trump’s proposals, including his efforts to ban immigrants from certain Muslim countries and his push for a border wall with Mexico. He wonders why his longtime friend spends so much of his time appealing to the fringes of American politics.

'He thinks he has to be loyal to his base,' Barrack said. 'I keep on saying, ‘But who is your base? You don’t have a natural base. Your base now is the world and America, so you have all these constituencies; show them who you really are.’ In my opinion, he’s better than this.' . .

Barrack said he has often thought about how he has remained a close friend for 30 years with a man whose 'reputation is selfish and egotistical. Here’s what I think the answer is: I’ve never needed anything from him . . . I was always subservient to him.' Barrack said that his life intersected with Trump “at soft moments,” such as discussions about their divorces and children. He was at Trump’s side during the funeral of Trump’s father, Fred, and they talked for a half-hour about “the weight of a hard dad, and the baton passing.” As a result, Barrack said, he has seen within Trump “a kind of compassion at a very lonely level.”

Read the Washington Post, ‘He’s better than this,’ says Thomas Barrack, Trump’s loyal whisperer.

"Over the weekend, President Trump was accused by a Republican senator of running the White House like a “reality show.” In the 48 hours that followed, this is how the president rebutted the characterization.

He called out the offending senator for being short and sounding like 'a fool.' He challenged his secretary of state to an I.Q. contest and insisted he would win. He celebrated the downfall of a critic who was suspended from her job. And his first wife and third wife waged a public war of words over who was really his first lady.

Mr. Trump’s West Wing has always seemed to be the crossroads between cutthroat politics and television drama, presided over by a seasoned showman who has made a career of keeping the audience engaged and coming back for more. Obsessed by ratings and always on the hunt for new story lines, Mr. Trump leaves the characters on edge, none of them ever really certain whether they might soon be voted off the island.

'Absolutely, I see those techniques playing out,' said Laurie Ouellette, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied reality television extensively. 'Reality TV is known for its humiliation tactics and its aggressive showmanship and also the idea that either you’re in or you’re out, with momentum building to the final decision on who stays and who goes.'

Among those on the in-or-out bubble in this week’s episode was Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the frustrated Republican who described — and derided — the conversion of the White House into a virtual set for “The Apprentice” and, for good measure, expressed concern in a weekend interview with The New York Times that the president could stumble the country into a nuclear war.

Mr. Trump, who hosted 'The Apprentice' on NBC for 14 seasons, dismissed Mr. Corker on Tuesday by mocking his height and suggesting he had somehow been conned. 'The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation,' Mr. Trump wrote. 'Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!'

In labeling Mr. Corker 'liddle,' the president was evidently returning to a theme. He considered Mr. Corker for secretary of state during the transition after last year’s election but was reported to have told associates that Mr. Corker, at 5-foot-7, was too short to be the nation’s top diplomat. Instead, Mr. Trump picked Rex W. Tillerson, who is several inches taller but whose own relationship with the president has deteriorated to the point that he was said to have called Mr. Trump a 'moron.' . .

In an interview aired on Monday to promote her new memoir, Ivana Trump, his first wife, told ABC News that 'I’m basically first Trump wife, O.K.? I’m first lady, O.K.?'

That did not sit well with Melania Trump, his third wife and the actual first lady, who issued a retort through a spokeswoman dismissing what she called 'attention-seeking and self-serving noise.'

Andy Cohen, the creator of the 'Real Housewives' reality television show franchise, found that too rich. “This is actually happening,” he wrote on Twitter. 'All the wives are fighting. Even I AM SPEECHLESS.'

Mr. Trump’s gibe at Mr. Corker echoed his name calling during the presidential campaign when he labeled Senator Marco Rubio of Florida 'Little Marco,' Senator Ted Cruz of Texas 'Lyin’ Ted' and Hillary Clinton 'Crooked Hillary.' He has used belittling nicknames to diminish political foes since taking office, as well — think 'Cryin’ Chuck' Schumer, 'Psycho Joe' Scarborough and 'Little Rocket Man' Kim Jong-un — but has generally avoided doing so with powerful Republican committee chairmen who control appointments and legislation. . .

Ms. Ouellette, who has written or edited several books on reality television, including 'Better Living Through Reality TV,' said Mr. Trump the president had gone even further than Mr. Trump the reality show star ever did.

'This has exceeded what would have been allowed on ‘The Apprentice,’' she said. 'It’s almost a magnification. It’s like reality TV unleashed. Yes, he was good at it, but I always felt like he had to be reined in in order not to mess up the formula. Here, he doesn’t have that same sort of constraint.'"

Read The New York Times, For Trump, the Reality Show Has Never Ended.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trump's Big CON: He is a Jackass

"Legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn once said, 'Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.' Simply put, Trump is about as far from being a good carpenter as one can be in the world of politics." [Link in original.]

Read the Washington Post, Donald Trump’s appetite for half-hearted destruction.

Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Hurricane Maria Edition, CONt. (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 18))

UPDATE: Trump says whatever pleases him at the moment.

Originally, in defending the slow response in Puerto Rico, he said  Hurricane Maria wasn't a "real catastrophe, like Katrina".

Now, Maria was worse.

But he rates " his administration's response to the hurricane a 10 out of 10."

Read CNN, Trump now says Puerto Rico faced 'worse than Katrina'.

"A few minutes into a video about Puerto Rico relief efforts that President Trump tweeted out this week is a short clip about U.S. Forest Service workers clearing fallen trees off a road in the rural interior.

Over the sound of chain saws, the Forest Service’s fire chief explains how this will allow for the easier distribution of food, medical supplies and other aid. But his full comments are cut off by a shift to footage of a ship used as a hospital.

Had the road-clearing clip continued for 15 seconds, the president’s millions of Twitter followers would have heard the fire chief praise the people of Puerto Rico for successfully clearing many roads before the federal government arrived. The sentiment seems contrary to the president’s repeated criticism of local efforts and his claim in the tweet accompanying the video: 'Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!'

In the full clip, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency posted on its Twitter account Saturday, Jaime Gamboa says: 'So the citizens of Puerto Rico were doing an outstanding job coming out and clearing roads to help get the aid that’s needed. Because that’s occurring, we’re bringing our folks in and they’re just making the roads wider, more usable.'

The 8-minute-48-second video provides the kind of narrow, positive view of relief efforts in Puerto Rico that the president has been trying to convey amid the humanitarian crisis there — a montage of stacks of bottled water, helicopters moving concrete slabs and supplies, boats carrying medical items and trucks hauling diesel. There are many more federal workers and military members featured than Puerto Ricans in need of aid, and there is no mention of the fact that 84 percent of the island is still without power and more than one-third of residents do not have access to clean drinking water. The last 81 seconds are devoted to documenting Trump’s four-hour visit to the island last week.

The selectively edited compilation shows the extent to which Trump and his administration are portraying the federal government’s handling of the disaster in Puerto Rico in the best possible light, despite the enduring power, water and health problems there nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall. . .

The video tweeted by Trump hours later opened with the message: 'What the fake news media will not show you in Puerto Rico . . . '

The production pulls together a hodgepodge of videos from a variety of sources, mostly within the government but also including a charity and a media outlet. All the footage is aimed at an upbeat message. . .

The final part of the video is an 81-second documentary that the White House released following Trump’s visit last Tuesday. The quality is higher than the rest of the production, and there is a soaring soundtrack and footage taken from various angles.

The president and first lady step off Air Force One waving. Trump chats with some of those at the airport as a horde of reporters records his every move. There is brief footage of fallen trees in San Juan and Trump meeting with local officials in an Air National Guard hangar. Trump arrives on the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Puerto Rico in a helicopter and salutes members of the military. Then the video jolts back in time to Trump touring a neighborhood just outside San Juan — which was easily reached by motorcade and did not require helicopter travel — and visiting an evangelical church. . .

On the video, the footage goes into slow-motion as Trump hands a can of chicken into the crowd at the church. The camera also zooms in on pro-Trump signs in the church, including one that reads 'Let’s Make Puerto Rico Great Again,' a play on the president’s campaign slogan.

At the end, it’s back to the helicopter ride to the Kearsarge, into a briefing with members of the military and on to the deck, where Trump shook hands with those aboard.

The video then fades to black, and a white icon of the White House pops onto the screen."
Read the Washington Post, Trump’s Puerto Rico video tells positive story but leaves a lot on cutting-room floor.

Read also Trump's Big CON: "He's So Pretty", Hurricane Maria Edition (AKA Trump is a Psycho-Narcissistic Con Man (CONt., Part 15)).

Monday, October 23, 2017

Trump's Big CON: The Populist Tax Cuts for the Wealth (AKA The Trump-Bannon Scam)

UPDATE III:  Last wee "the Senate approved its budget blueprint, a critical step in getting to the Republican Party’s most important legislative priority: tax cuts. Their plan now is to rush a tax bill through as quickly as possible so that opponents don’t have time to mobilize, of course without any input from Democrats.

We knew from the beginning that the bill would be a massive giveaway to corporations and the wealthy, because that’s what a Republican tax bill will inevitably be. But if you think this has anything to do with 'tax reform,' you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley has a good description of the Republican strategy:

    Almost no one on or off Capitol Hill has seen the tax overhaul bill that Republicans are drafting behind closed doors. Congressional staff members have not settled on many key details. Yet party leaders are preparing to move ahead on a timeline even more aggressive than their unsuccessful attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

    The swift pace to complete, release and quickly vote on a tax cut is aimed at leaving little time for the type of dissent that has scuttled previous tax proposals.

    Senators approved a budget resolution for the 2018 fiscal year on Thursday night, setting up a rapid series of hearings and votes with the aim of getting a bill to President Trump by Christmas.

The most important thing to understand about this process is that Republicans are in a state of near-panic over the prospect of this bill not passing. Having failed to repeal the ACA — or pass any bill of real consequence — they feel that they need to deliver something they can call a victory, or their base will punish them mercilessly in the 2018 elections. They’re already getting nervous about Stephen K. Bannon’s project to run right-wing nut-bar challengers against Republican incumbents. Not passing this bill 'will be the end of us as a party,' said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), 'because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?' . .

At the end of all this, Republicans are going to have a Rose Garden ceremony vibrating with such celebratory joy that you’d think they just cured cancer, ended global warming and terraformed Mars. The actual bill will be nothing like what they describe — it won’t be aimed at the middle class, it won’t simplify the tax code and it won’t be real 'reform.' Nor will it produce the spectacular trickle-down effects they promise. In other words, it’ll be pretty much like every other Republican tax cut."

Read the Washington Post, The Republican tax scam is about to kick into overdrive.

UPDATE II:  "The Trump administration and its allies are lying about every aspect of their tax plan.

I’m not talking about dubious interpretations of evidence or misleading presentation of the facts — the kind of thing the Bush administration used to specialize in. I’m talking about flat-out, easily refuted lies, like the claim that America has the world’s highest taxes (among rich countries, we have close to the lowest), or the claim that estate taxes are a huge burden on small business (almost no small businesses pay any estate tax).

Nor do I mean that there are just one or two big lies. There are many — so many I literally don’t have space to so much as list them in this column. In a long blog post this past weekend I tried to provide a systematic list; I came up with 10 major Republican lies about tax cuts, and I’m sure I missed a few.

So, politically, can they really get away with this? A lot depends on how the news media handles it. If an administration spokesperson declares that up is down, will news reports simply say 'so-and-so says up is down, but Democrats disagree,' or will they also report that up is not, in fact, down? I wish I were confident about the answer to that question.

One thing we know for sure, however, is that a great majority of Republican politicians know perfectly well that their party is lying about its tax plan — and every even halfway competent economist aligned with the party definitely understands what’s going on.

What this means is that everyone who goes along with this plan, or even remains silent in the face of the campaign of mass dissimulation, is complicit — is in effect an accomplice to the most dishonest political selling job in American history."

Read The New York Times, The G.O.P. Is No Party for Honest Men.

UPDATE: "Alas when it comes to governance, Trumpism turns to have two fatal weaknesses: the dearth of Trumpists among elected Republicans, and the total policy incapacity of Trump himself. So having failed in his appointed role as Trump whisperer and White House brain, Bannon has decided to do the Tea Party insurgency thing all over again, except this time with his nationalist-populist cocktail instead of the last round’s notional libertarianism.

Maybe it will work. Maybe repetition is the charm. Maybe the Tea Party was a dead end, but some Trumpist primary candidates will finally produce a Republican Party capable of doing something with its power.

If you squint at the Bannon vision, you can almost imagine it. His professed nationalism, with its promise of infrastructure projects and antitrust actions and maybe even tax hikes on the rich, is potentially more popular than the Tea Party vision — an easier sell to swing voters than a stringent libertarianism or a zombie Reaganism, a more plausible response to the new political landscape that the stale agenda currently on offer on a Republican-controlled Capitol Hill.

But this imaginative exercise collapses when you look at Bannon’s own record and the candidates he’s recruiting.

The record features big talk about populism and political realignment, plus a dismissal of the white identitarians and racists drawn to his flame as just incidental idiots ... but it never seems to cash out in anything except a return to empty, race-baiting culture war.

At the White House, Bannon did not manage to inject much heterodoxy into any part of the same old, same old Republican agenda. But he did encourage the president to pick racialized fights at every chance. On the evidence so far, his new grass-roots populism promises to be more of the same: a notional commitment to some nebulous new agenda, with white-identity politics and the fear of liberalism supplying the real cultural-political cement.

Especially because the would-be senators he’s recruiting are a mix of cynics and fanatics who seem to share no coherent vision, just a common mix of ambition and resentment. . .

Which is not to say Bannon is delusional. He and his allies are the latest group to recognize the void at the heart of the contemporary Republican Party, the vacuum that somebody, somehow needs to fill. The activists and enforcers of the Tea Party era tried with a libertarian style of populism. Paul Ryan tried with his warmed-over Jack Kempism. My friends the “reform conservatives” tried with blueprints for tax credits and wage subsidies. They all failed, and the Bannon crew actually got furthest, in the sense that they got the most unlikely figure imaginable elected president on something resembling their platform. . .

But if I were Steve Bannon, or any other Republican with a vision for the G.O.P. future beyond the hapless 'governance' on display today, I would not be wasting my time trying to elect a few cranks and gadflies who will make Mitch McConnell’s life more difficult.

Instead I would be looking for the thing that too many people deceived themselves into believing Trump might be, and that Bannonite populism for all its potential strength now lacks: a leader."

Read The New York Times, The Bannon Revolution.

"The Trump administration is set to roll out a new analysis on Monday that supposedly demonstrates that Trump’s proposed tax plan would ultimately boost middle class incomes by thousands of dollars. This is based on the notion that corporations will pass their tax savings under Trump’s plan on to workers, something that other researchers doubt. In reality, this line of argument is really meant to mask the fact that Trump’s tax framework — which Republicans are working on in Congress — would lavish most of its benefits on the very highest earners.

Trump allies and Republicans are so desperate to pass this tax plan that they’re also doubling down on another strange argument: If Republicans don’t get this plan passed, their majority in Congress is doomed — and with it, so is the Trump agenda. Senator Lindsey Graham pushed this line yesterday on 'Face the Nation,' arguing that if Republicans don’t pass tax reform, 'we’re dead.'

But these two lines of argument, when taken together, actually illustrate just how deep the scamming around these matters really runs. In fact, the scamming is so out of control that it has taken on a life of its own, and it is hard to keep track of all of its various components at this point.

Here is the storyline we are being asked to believe. Former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon is promoting primary challengers against Senate GOP incumbents, arguing that the GOP establishment has diverted from the 'populist economic nationalist' agenda that powered Trump’s victory. Republicans lament that this constitutes a serious threat to both the GOP and Trump — and now they’re saying that getting the tax cuts passed is the only way to ward off that threat. . .

Really? The only conceivable way for the GOP to save itself from the 'economic populist' ferment among GOP voters is to pass an enormous tax cut for the wealthy and corporations? Can someone explain why we are supposed to believe this?

Read the Washington Post, The scamming runs very, very deep.