Thursday, July 13, 2017

Working Together We Are Great

Sometimes, reading about our current partisanship, I begin to wonder about the future of our great experiment in democracy.

Then I read a story like this:

Read the Washington Post, A riptide swept away a Florida family. Then beachgoers formed a human chain.

Trump's Big CON: Is This the Beginning of the End of Trump?

UPDATE: "That quaking beneath your feet is from shock waves in Washington where tipping points are merging with other tipping points to create the Mother of All Tipping Points.

Not only did Donald Trump Jr. meet with a Russian attorney who, he was told, had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but also there are emails indicating that he knew in advance that the opposition research was part of the Kremlin’s effort to help Donald Trump become president.

If that’s not collusion, it seems at least 'collusioney,' a newly minted term surely destined to erase all memory of Monday’s exhaustively used 'nothing-burger.'

Smoking guns don’t need to be nearly this hot to capture Washington’s attention, but these latest revelations should be enough to make every American take a deep breath. Whether Trump Jr. is merely stupid is yet to be determined, but he wasn’t alone in that meeting. Joining him were his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul J. Manafort, then Trump Sr.’s campaign manager, who is known to have had business dealings in Russia for a number of years. . .

The fact that the alleged opposition research was part of Russia’s war on Clinton, as indicated in one of the emails, would have raised flags for most people — no, make that for all but these people. I’m confident that, if the nice Ace Hardware man who recently helped me select a mailbox were to receive such an email, he’d contact the FBI as soon as possible.

Which, obviously, is what Junior, Manafort and Kushner should have done.

Thus, we can presume that all three knew better than to attend such a meeting. After all, it could well have been a trap — and I’m not sure it wasn’t. But to the inexperienced minds of Kushner and Trump Jr., the calculation may have been as simple (and feeble) as: Why not? Defeating Clinton was in the national interest, wasn’t it? And the Trumps have (or had) no pique with Russia.

Trump Jr.’s claim that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting rather strains credulity, don’t you think? Ditto [the Russian lawyer Natalia] Veselnitskaya’s claim that she has never worked for the Kremlin and has no idea what all the fuss is about. She was here to lobby against American legislation that her client finds objectionable.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday with NBC News, Veselnitskaya said she never had any 'damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.' Asked where Trump Jr. could have gotten that idea, she responded, 'It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.'

More shock waves are doubtless coming. Meanwhile, we know for certain: When a Russian lawyer meets privately with the future president’s son, his son-in-law and his campaign manager on a third-party promise of Clinton-disabling intel, it’s hard to say the Trump campaign had nothing to do with Russia. For now: Collusioney.

Read the Washington Post, This is the mother of all tipping points.

Or the end of the beginning?

"Every great American scandal follows a similar arc, historians say. One side smells nefarious behavior. The other side contends there’s no there there. Shreds of evidence and whispers of proof energize one side and appall the other. This goes on for a long time.

Sometimes, the scandal talk fizzles out. And sometimes, something comes along that changes everything — the smoking gun.

When Donald Trump Jr. said 'I love it' to the prospect of scoring nasty information from friendly Russians about Hillary Clinton in June of last year, did that constitute a smoking gun?

In one America, the answer was a pretty solid yes. Slate, Politico, Vanity Fair and some Democrats straight-out declared the president’s son’s email the 'smoking gun' in the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to take down the Clinton candidacy. Many other news organizations hedged a bit, attaching a question mark to the smoldering term.

But in Trump Country, the gun wasn’t smoking — it was just one more toy gun masquerading as the real thing, just one more burst of the same noise that has been cluttering up this presidency since its inception.

Al Baldasaro, a six-term Republican member of New Hampshire’s legislature and an early Trump backer, said on a radio show last summer that Clinton should be 'put in the firing line and shot for treason' over her role as secretary of state during the 2012 attacks on two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya.

Now, Baldasaro sees not treason but normal behavior. In politics, he said, 'People come to us all the time with stuff on our opponents. . . . I don’t think there’s anything there. It’s a typical witch hunt. Some media are keeping it alive, making money off this.' . .

From the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s through Watergate in the 1970s and the stream of -gates that have followed in the decades since, American political scandals have followed a distinct pattern, said David Dewberry, a professor at Rider University who wrote a book called 'The American Political Scandal: Free Speech, Public Discourse, and Democracy.'

'Scandals are stories, cliffhangers that play out in real time,' Dewberry said. 'You have two sides, one saying this is not important and the other saying we know there’s documented proof of wrongdoing. With Donald Trump Jr.’s email, this is the point where this scandal has changed.'

But that doesn’t mean that this email is the smoking gun — the one piece of evidence that produces instant consensus that something unacceptably wrong has taken place.

'This is not the [Watergate] tapes, this is not the blue dress from the Clinton scandal' in 1998, Dewberry said. 'We still don’t know from this email if President Trump did anything.' . .

But in the operatic structure of political scandals, the 'I love it' email might eventually be seen as the first appearance of the prop that turn outs to be vital to the denouement of the story.

In most political scandals, the search for a smoking gun fails to result in any such dramatic find. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. News databases are jammed full of quotations from defenders of Bill and Hillary Clinton through the years, insisting that 'there is no there there' regarding allegations about purported scandals in Arkansas, the White House, Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and the former secretary of state’s email server. . .

All of which led Alistair Cooke, the late longtime BBC commentator on American affairs, to say that the eternal hunt for smoking guns was a classic bit of misdirection. 'We’ve been conducting the wrong kind of search,' Cooke said in a 1996 piece. 'The object in question is the body of the constitution. When we find it with a hundred stab wounds, there’s no point in looking for a smoking gun.'"

Read the Washington Post, Is Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘I love it’ email a smoking gun or a distraction?

Trump's Big CON: He Is Our Savior (NOT)

"Somewhere over the Atlantic, as Air Force One was hurtling toward Poland, President Trump opened the door and threw out America’s values. In Warsaw, he delivered a speech a parakeet could have swiftly mastered — 'That’s trouble, that’s tough,' he called the 1939 dual invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union. He then moved on to Hamburg to issue his first presidential pardon, this one to Vladimir Putin for interfering in the election, and finally departed Europe having left America’s moral and political leadership behind. Maybe he’ll send for it.

The Wall Street Journal called the president’s Warsaw address 'Trump’s Defining Speech' because of its 'affirmative defense of the Western tradition.' Like much of the conservative press, the Journal cited his statement that 'The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.' But the speech was neither defining nor persuasive. Instead, it was Trump once again mounting an imaginary horse and sallying forth to slay the Muslim hordes. This time he conflated Warsaw 2017 with Vienna 1529, when the advancing Muslim Ottomans were turned back. The question is not whether the West has the will to survive but whether it has the wit to deal with Trump."

Read the Washington Post, On his trip abroad, Trump left America’s values behind.

Read also:

Trump's Big CON: He Saved Us, Hallelujah, and

Trump's Big CON: 'I Saved Us From China'