Monthly Archives: October 2018

Trump Guilty of Impersonating a President

According to a law passed in 1948, it is a federal crime to impersonate a federal officer. Title 18 of the U.S. Code, section 912 provides:

Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

In the case of Donald Trump, I vote for “both.” Any relationship between Donald Trump and an actual president of the United States is both purely coincidental and fictitious. He was elected with the help of a hostile foreign power and lost the popular vote. I understand that he and the White House Press Secretary continue to claim he won the popular vote but that assertion, as with so many others, is blatantly and demonstrably false. We have a serial liar for president.

The latest example of Trump’s grossly inappropriate conduct is his visit to Pittsburgh that was resisted by most of the responsible, and respectful, people there. It wasn’t that they all opposed his visit. They just didn’t want the distraction while they were grieving and planning the prompt burials required by the Jewish faith.

Trump, however, could care less about the latest victims of AR-15 enabled mass violence. His visit was a political gesture that, like so many others, was designed to suit his political base and has nothing to do with respect for the dead, for Jewish people or anything other than self-interest and maintenance of political power. If it were otherwise, Trump would have respected the request of local officials and families of the dead to come at another time. His political calculation is that this is the best time. Otherwise, according to the White House, the visit might have interfered with Trump’s planned election rallies for the mid-term elections. Always first-things-first at the Trump White House.

I actually expect that Trump is quite happy that the Pittsburgh visit has stirred yet another hornet’s nest of turmoil. Trump’s political strategy is to dominate the news regardless of the circumstances and regardless of who may be affected. It’s part of his deflection strategy that often works because the news media, the people he claims to hate because they criticize him, hang on his every word and his every move. Jake Tapper just stated on CNN that Trump came with the “best of intentions.” How Tapper knows that will remain a mystery. Why he felt it was appropriate to say it is beyond my understanding as well. It is just one example of the media fawning on the man that responds to them with the charge that they are the “enemy of the people.” Someday, historians will explore the devil’s bargain the media have made with Trump: “kick me again, I love the pain and the attention.”

Look at it this way. The school yard bully beats up a different kid every day for six months. Then, as the school year ends, he gives some candy to one of his victims. Should everyone conclude from this one act of generosity amidst dozens of acts of evil that the bully had good intentions and was “doing the right thing?” I rest my case.

Maybe the media should try another approach – like ignoring what Trump says and does once in a while. CNN, for example, will apparently spend the entire day and evening rehashing and rehashing Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh. Surely there is more news to report than this. Nothing new is emerging. The same people are interviewed repeatedly and asked the same questions and make the same remarks. Many local officials are obviously reluctant to question the president’s motives publicly. Why?  Because they know he’s a bully and could turn on them in a heartbeat with vicious tweets and humiliating statements at his “rallies.” How about the media tries depriving Trump of the constant free national and worldwide publicity he seeks and see how he likes it? Fox News will always be there for him, making stuff up and promoting his far-right authoritarian agenda.

The so-called mainstream media have, I suggest, aided the “normalization” of Trump’s behavior to such an extent that many of his outrageous lies get little or no pushback, further enhancing the fantastical beliefs of his sycophants that he speaks the truth. The mid-term elections may well be the last chance the United States has to re-establish some balance of power in the government, rebuilding the system of checks and balances that the Framers of the Constitution assumed would always exist. They were wrong. Having all three branches of the federal government in the hands of one political party headed by an authoritarian bully has been catastrophic for American democratic institutions. One need look no further than the voter suppression activities being pursued by the Republican Party around the country in an effort to steal another election from the people. If you agree with me about this, it is imperative that you vote, no matter where you live. And take some other people with you. Don’t let the apathy of others undermine your rights as an American. November 6. Do it.

No Führer in America

Donald Trump, the illegitimate president of the United States, hasn’t brought up the idea of a master race yet, but it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time. The concept is already implicit in his views on immigration and citizenship. How long will it be before it gives up that ridiculous thumbs up routine of his and demands some form of salute from everyone? Meanwhile, he continues his deflection strategy as the mid-term elections draw near.

Trump has ordered more than 5,000 American troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to, presumably, confront the “caravan” of refugees and asylum seekers moving slowly through Mexico toward the United States. He has claimed, with the usual lack of evidence or truth, that the group has been seeded with Middle Eastern terrorists.

So, what do we expect to come of this?  Will the troops be ordered to fire on the refugees? Is this going to be another Kent State to a higher power with mass casualties? Will Trump’s racist base support a massacre of unarmed people fleeing oppression? Will the troops follow an order to fire on unarmed immigrants for trying to cross the border illegally? Or bayonet them? Beat them into submission? He will stop at nothing to get what he wants. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this incident, if it turns violent, will be the Trumpian equivalent of the Reichstag fire that gave Hitler the excuse he wanted (blaming the attack on the communists) to begin the final takeover of Germany by the Nazi Party. As reported by Wikipedia, “The term Reichstag fire has come to refer to false flag actions perpetrated or facilitated by an authority to promote their own interests through popular approval of retribution or retraction of civil rights.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_fire That’s close enough.

Trump no doubt loves the idea of ordering the Army around but he is not, and never will be, the American version of the Führer. One of those in history was one too many. But he is playing with fire, literally, in ordering troops to the border. Will the troops cross the border, entering under arms a foreign country’s territory? If so, Trump will, in keeping with his usual approach, blame the outcome on the members of the caravan. “If they hadn’t threatened to cross our border, we would not have had to invade Mexico and shoot them!”

In a related vein, and also connected to the imminent mid-term elections, Trump has announced that he has received advice that he can, by executive order, nullify the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Almost all authentic legal commentators believe that idea is ridiculous. Here is the relevant text:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [emphasis added]

The idea that Trump can change the meaning of the 14th Amendment is indeed ridiculous. Even a few Republicans think so. That doesn’t mean he won’t try. He knows he’ll be challenged in the courts, which is fine with him. Being challenged in court will give Trump yet another pretext for accusing the court system of bias against him, giving his political base yet another reason to feel oppressed by the “system.”

Rick Santorum was on television last night, playing the role of the loyal Republican mouthpiece, blathering and blaming the divisiveness surrounding Trump’s Pittsburgh incursion on the local people in Pittsburgh rather than Trump’s typically insensitive decision to visit when he was told it was too soon and he was not welcome. Some of CNN’s pundits are falling all over themselves to justify Trump’s decision, arguing that Trump is actually trying to engage in healing actions rather than taking political advantage of the national focus on the Pittsburgh situation.

It is beyond remarkable that these same pundits who routinely question Trump’s divisive comments about race now wipe out that record in an effort to attribute sincerity to his visit. Trump is an insensitive, self-interested bully and nothing he does in one moment can wipe out his racism, misogyny and hate-filled agenda that he pursues at every other opportunity. It comes with ill grace every time the press says “oh, look, Trump is acting like a human being.” It’s not only rare but it’s utterly false.

Trump’s proposal to override the Constitution by executive order reflects a total lack of understanding of the Constitution but, more fundamentally, total indifference to its meaning. Trump will do whatever he thinks will win him political points with his hard-core base of supporters who apparently have also not been schooled in the fundamentals of the Constitution they claim to revere. Trump has violated his oath of office multiple times and this would be just another one. He’ll lose in court and use that to proclaim himself and his supporters as victims. And his base will buy it.

It’s time for Trump to go.  Time to say goodbye. But first there is an election. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “you’ll have a republic if you can keep it.” People of good will must vote for Democrats or we will lose the republic. History teaches that once democracy fails, it is nearly impossible to restore. Let’s not fail. Take your family and friends to the polls and vote.

 

Woodward & Rhodes – Two Worlds

I have just finished reading two books: Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House and Ben Rhodes’ The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. I read them more or less together, two chapters of Woodward, then one or two chapters of Rhodes. I did this because reading the inside story of Trump and his enablers inside the nation’s presidential home was so disturbing that I literally needed an ongoing antidote to avoid being ill. Woodward’s authorial bio needs no recital here. Rhodes was officially the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

It did not help that the fools comprising the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee were, as I neared the end of my reading, pretending to take seriously the testimony of a woman claiming that Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court had sexually assaulted her in high school. That charade ended in what purported to be a serious investigation by the FBI into the allegations, and similar ones from other women, but it’s now abundantly clear that the FBI’s investigation was compromised by the instructions issued by the White House to assure that it led nowhere. And the so-called president of the United States has quickly, and predictably, moved from stating that he was impressed by Dr. Ford’s testimony to openly mocking her at yet another of his mob gatherings in Mississippi. And, also quite predictably, Press Secretary Sanders once again spoke the ludicrous words that Trump was not mocking Dr. Ford but repeating “facts.” Of course, Trump’s mockery itself denied there were any facts, so Sanders once again is tangled up in her own deceits.

Returning to the matter at hand, I have thought a lot about the essential narratives of the two books. The table below represents what I believe are the fair and true portraits of the two presidents. One , who was elected twice, successfully led the country out of a recession/depression that threatened to bring down the world economy and also tracked down and directed the killing of Osama bin Laden. The other, elected with the help of a hostile foreign power whose authoritarian leadership he now embraces, is dedicated mainly to enriching himself, his family and the already extremely well-off top one percent of Americans while reversing as fast as possible the environmental and financial protections emplaced by the Obama administration for the welfare of all Americans.

OBAMA TRUMP
Collaborative Solitary
Reflective & Deliberative Impulsive
Honest Remorseless liar
Intelligent & Studious Uninformed & uninterested in learning
Empathetic Completely lacking empathy
Student of history Driven by money
Outwardly focused Self-centered
Hard working Lazy, physically & intellectually
Able to understand complex ideas Simplistic; gets ideas from Fox News
Calm under pressure Chaotic & unstable
Reads Watches TV
Listens to advice Claims to already know everything
Humane Cruel & shallow
Appeals to traditional American values Appeals to economic fear & racial anxiety

Anyone watching closely has to be aware that there are many Trump supporters who literally hate Barack Obama. The source of those feelings remains something of a mystery, though many of us believe it’s racism, pure and simple. But one thing seems certain – no matter what one may think of Obama’s policies, no one of even modest intelligence could argue that Barack Obama was dumb. On the other hand, several of Trump’s enablers in the White House have characterized him asa “moron” who is “unable to learn anything.”

One of the most prominent ideas in Rhodes’ memoir is the sheer difficulty of accomplishing anything meaningful, especially in foreign affairs, even without considering the relentless Republican obstruction of virtually everything that Obama sought to do. Obama had a clear-eyed understanding of what he wanted to achieve, not just because he had campaign promises to keep, but because he was trying to establish policies that would lift up the entire country for the benefit of all its citizens.

Trump, on the other hand, has surrounded himself mainly with right-wing ideologues who are often blatantly incompetent to manage a complex government while dishonestly stealing from the government, and thus from the people. They don’t understand how the government works, and they don’t expect it to work. Their goal is to undermine it. Theirs is a victory of ignorance, assisted by a foreign power hostile to the interests of the United States. The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Putin. Trump led his party there and it went along enthusiastically. Republicans in Congress and at his “rallies” cheer wildly for his sneering denunciation of American values.

Rhodes’ personal life was drastically affected by his tenure in the Obama White House, as you would expect. His memoir is worth reading for its insights into the person of President Obama and as an insider reveal of life in and around the White House during a tumultuous period in our history. We can only hope that Trump’s administration will somehow avoid any major crises during what I hope will be a one-term, or less, presidential term. We must hope for this because there is a serious question whether the leadership can manage a crisis with Donald Trump at the helm of the ship of state. According to many reports, Trump will clean house after the mid-term elections. If that happens, we will have yet another collection of inexperienced incompetents surrounding the president and another otherworldly leadership failure.