- Whether you think President Trump is guilty of crimes or not, one thing is clear. He’s an unethical, mobster-like (at least the Hollywood version) president who daily lies, gives orders to staff who, according to the report and its assigned tasks to investigate, smart enough to ignore his orders.(Uh, read that last part again: the President of the United States orders to his staff often are ignored because following them would be criminal or morally wrong.)
- Trump, who fancies himself – and is – a brilliant marketer and master of branding has succeeded in damaging seriously the United States brand of free speech, freedom of the press, a beacon for immigrants, rule of law and other institutions we are respected for. And he did it in just two years.
- Trump was smart enough to know that when a special counsel was appointed he was “fucked” -- a quote that likely will be widely remembered in future volumes of presidential quotes. The counsel, though, didn’t “fuck” the President, the President “fucked” himself with his conduct in office.
- Special Counsel Bob Mueller once again in his career proved he is a straight shooter. Every word of his report was carefully chosen, every rule of the Department of Justice was followed. He did not “charge” Trump with obstruction of justice because the Department of Justice has a rule or policy against indicting a sitting President. But he chose a path where he certainly laid out the case if the Congress wants to make it.
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team are right not to pursue impeachment now – there isn’t enough time for the process to happen before the next presidential election and it would, politically, split this country even more. There will be great pressure on her but she’ll withstand it and the firebrands of the freshmen class will learn leadership is there for a reason.
- Bottom line, the Russians interfered with our election and are doing it still. The President should at least acknowledge that because as much of a danger as Trump is to this country’s foundations – Russia succeeded bigly in its efforts to create havoc in our free society.
- The combination of a morally-challenged President and an adversary/enemy the size of Russia is a serious threat to the country as we know it. Neither can be ignored.
- Trump feels entitled to run the country like he ran his businesses – centered in family and personal loyalty and rule/law breaking – in his first term. Imagine a second term when he could say with some credibility “the voters knew all the information and still re-elected me.” It will be utter chaos.
- The Mueller Report proves more than a few times, that when Trump and his henchmen yell “fake news” it is they who are lying, not the media. People should pay attention to that because in recent surveys, the media are falling in their respect. Some of that is their own doing (cable talking heads come to mind) and a lot of it is Trump yelling “fake news” every time a story appears that he doesn’t like. Funny, he’ll quote the New York Times, Washington Post and others when it makes him look good, and yell “enemy of the people” when he looks bad.
- This White House has lied to the people, and the media, literally from Day One of its swearing in (does attendance at the inaugural ring a bell?). They lie with abandon and without even thinking about it. Take, Trump’s spokesman, Sarah Sanders. She makes things up on the spot like Trump does. The report specifically mentions the time Ms Sanders told the then-then daily, or close to it, briefing that many FBI agents called or wrote her(why they’d call her never made sense) to support Trump’s firing of the FBI director, James Comey. She made it up on the spot and claimed to the special counsel that it was a ‘slip of the tongue.’ No, Sarah, that is not a slip of the tongue – that is a lie. And you know it. And you’re lucky you didn’t get charged with perjury for lying to the special counsel.
- Attorney General William Barr came into this Administration with a good reputation as a lawyer and former AG. His performance the last few weeks runs in the face of that. For a guy who came in saying he had nothing to lose by standing up to the President, if need be, he failed his first test based on the evidence.
- The final report card on Trump won’t be marked until the 2020 election. Trump will be able to beat some Democrats, barring any other crazy happenings in his last year and a half (I won’t even attempt to define “crazy” with this president. The Democrats need to choose their candidate with care.
The long-awaited Mueller Report is out (redacted) and basically tells each side of America’s polarization they were right. Some thoughts:
The Democratic Party with its factions on the far left and the middle and with Bernie Sanders looking like a strong presidential contender at the moment, puts Nancy Pelosi in a precarious position.
Once-upon-not-too-long-a-time ago, the Republican Party floundered and the right wing of the party began to grow, fueled by strategists and others who saw a way to leverage the right to win presidential and congressional elections. Think Newt Gingrich and the takeover by the right (Tea Party) in the House. Think Southern Strategy.
Eventually that right wing took over the party and then Donald Trump leveraged it all to his advantage so that the old Republican Party is not recognizable.
Skip ahead to now and the Democratic Party. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent self-proclaimed Socialist, tinkered away on the edges of the party until 2016 when he gave Hillary Clinton a run for the nomination and 2018 when the party took back the House and added more progressives (socialists?). He also gave the liberal-est in the Democratic Party a place to reside. And with the take-back of the House last year, many more liberal-est and self-empowered new members were elected.
Pelosi as Speaker of the House and the party’s senior elected official has to wrangle not only an impossible to wrangle President but an empowered left of her caucus that led her back to being the Speaker.
Sanders, with a deep bank account (professionally and personally) and a loyal group of supporters (akin to Trump’s base) is leading the announced candidates in a too-early-to-matter-except-to-political-fanatics contest for the presidential nomination. He has the money to last a long time and the base to possibly build on his record of winning 23 caucuses or primaries in the 2016 race.
Bottom line, the Democratic Party is facing a challenge not unlike the GOP in years past.
Adding to it, President Trump is focusing more on his favorite political tactic of divide-and-conquer by trying to make freshman Cong. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) the face of the Republican Party. Omar, one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, has all the elements the hateful Trump likes to leverage: she wears a hajib, she seemingly favors the Palestinian position over the Israeli position in the Middle East and she has slips of the tongue that Trump and his supporters cherry-pick to advance their propaganda.
It’s only a matter of time before Trump aims his hate speech more at Sanders as we get closer to primaries and caucuses. Put Sanders and Omar together, and Trump has the symbolic campaign he wants – a Democratic Party dominated by a Socialist and a Muslim.
Sanders also will be a Trump target because his books made money, enough for his opponents to be able to claim that he is a millionaire. Thus, in his opponents minds, making him being the spokesmen for the poor in the country a myth at worst and hypocritical at best. I don’t’ know where it says millionaires or billionaires can’t also be advocates for the lesser off. In fact, many wealthy people do that (see George H.W. Bush’s life).
It’s too early to say who emerges from the Democratic pack as another front-runner. Joe Biden is lurking. California Sen. Kamala Harris is impressive so far, as is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Neither has yet undergone the national media gauntlet that awaits any candidate who steps ahead and it will be interesting to see not only what is in their backgrounds but how they handle it when it comes out.
This can only get uglier as we go because Trump learned long ago that his style is effective, especially with his base. And he truly has no filter or empathy.
Sanders and Omar will likely become more prominent, giving him the foils he loves for his campaign of hate. And if Harris, a black woman, and Buggigieg, an out politician, gain more prominence we’ll see just how far Trump is willing to take his rhetoric, which so far knows no bounds.
President Trump has two deferred positions when his policies don’t work – lie or fire people, and usually he defaults to both.
His primary campaign promise (to decrease immigration, build a wall on the southern border and have Mexico pay for it) has turned into increased illegal immigration, no new wall built and not only Mexico not paying for it, but him closing the government to get money from taxpayers to pay for it.
Trump, despite trying for two years, has not only not made a dent in holding back immigrants from entering the country via the southern border, the numbers have increased. And even though he has built not one foot of his wall, he says he has started – but what he really is doing is replacing wall, not building new wall, a program begun before he was elected.
Thus, he has done what he does whenever his policies don’t work – he fires people. In this case, the top of the leadership at the Department of Homeland Security, including the secretary, Kirstjen Nielson, who has gone from someone he didn’t like, to someone who sucked up completely to him and winning his approval to someone he doesn’t like because his policies aren’t working and he’s pointing the finger at her.
Trump is at his best (worst) when something is wrong and he has someone(s) to blame. His current targets to blame are Nielson, others in her department and the courts. Trump is the most lawless-abiding president we’ve ever had. He wants, according to sources unnamed in the media, his appointees to break the law to stop the immigration, legal and illegal.
It is legal to enter the United States and seek asylum. It’s one of the strengths of our country – “give me your tired…” etc.
Trump says his dad was born in Germany (he wasn’t) but in any event his ancestors, like all of ours (unless you’re an American Indians), came from other countries. His chief immigration brain, Stephen Miller, is also the son of immigrants who came to the U.S. for a better life. Miller is the mastermind of Trump’s failed immigration policy and basically wants to stop everything this country provided to his ancestors, and thus him, for their success – and even for the son of immigrants to work at the White House.
Miller, it’s safe to say, is a raging lunatic on the subject. And he stays in his safe White House job of advising the President instead of seeking a line job where he actually would be responsible for immigration. This way, when things don’t work he, like his boss, he can blame someone else and lobby for their firing.
Fortunately, America’s institutions are still working and the courts have become what they were intended to be – interpreter and applicator of the law in the name of the state and the mechanism for dispute resolution. When Trump takes a turn for the worse, the courts snap the choke collar and right the American ship again. So far.
You may have noticed that not only has Trump had two picks for the Supreme Court, which he thinks gives him a majority once his crimes (and many are crimes) reach the Court for a decision. Fortunately so far in our history, the Supreme Court almost always does the right thing based on the Constitution. So far.
Trump, as he is trying to do on the Federal Reserve board, is placing Trump acolytes – folks (all men so far) he thinks will be loyal to his way of thinking and, thus, he expects, they will back him up when the time comes despite the law.
If he’s right, our system will have failed us if those independent institutions start following his loony lead.
Trump’s new immigration mantra is “our country is full,” which in his mind means we stop accepting immigrants. I guess that also means his Trump Organization can stop building new housing in this country since we are full.
A challenge though is our country is not full in any sense of the word. My generation, baby boomers, are retiring and dying, which lessens the population pool and the employee inventory. We not only have room for immigrants, we need them to keep the country going.
But that would take looking ahead, something this White House seems allergic to. Its temporary inhabitants only see today, not tomorrow. Those who run Trump properties understand as they regularly have used illegal immigrants as waiters and waitresses, cooks and caretakers of his golf resorts. It’s been part of their business model.
Imagine what we will see from President Trump if he should win a second term and no longer has to worry about reelection and, thus, is free(er) to run things as he chooses. Right now, according to reports, he orders his underlings to break the laws and from what we know, that has been mostly resisted.
It goes, too, to the release of his taxes. His Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on the Sunday shows last weekend: “Keep in mind that that’s an issue that was already litigated during the election. Voters knew the president could have given his tax returns, they knew he didn’t and they elected him anyway.”
Which would be a good explanation if it were true.
The facts are that the President said he would release his taxes if they weren’t under audit (a claim that has not been confirmed by anyone) so the voters elected him on the promise of the release of his taxes and for many other reasons, of course.
A piece in today’s New York Times by Ruchir Sharma makes the case that Trump runs much of his economic policy based on what will keep the stock market healthy. That could be his focus as a New Yorker on the exchange's reflection of the economy (which it is not completely) or because maybe he is doing his best to focus on the market because of his investments?
We don’t know and won’t unless he releases his taxes, like every other president has done in recent decades.
The fact is, as reported by credible news outlets, the people who work for him have referred to him as “unhinged,” especially as the 2020 elections get closer and he worries about his reelection and his failure to deliver on many of his promises.
Not often the person who depends on you for his or her job calls you “unhinged.”
His acting chief of staff, it's been reported, defers to Trump's gut on many important issues, which is one reason he is so far successful in Trump's eyes. He reinforces the President's desires and doesn't often try to stop his gut.
Prior to joining this Administration Mulvaney was a leader of the right-wing Tea Party in the House of Representatives. That's the crowd that, pre-Trump, wanted to burn down Washington as it exists.
He's gone from trying to burn it down to just working to blow it up.
(Editor’s Note: The Screaming Moderate has not been published in a few weeks which was either gremlins in the system or me being away from home using a computer that for some reason wouldn’t allow me to publish. Maybe the Gremlins were sending me a message? Anyway apologies. I did miss some big news events which I try to cover in this post.)
Mueller Report. Well, we don’t really know what the full report says because all we have so far is the Attorney General’s (AG) summary of the conclusions. We’re missing the nuance and many facts. Normally if the person isn’t being charged the Justice Department doesn’t release that information, understandably. Clearly this is a different case that has major interest across ideological and political lines. A huge majority of Americans want to see the report. The Congress is doing its best to get the full report released. I never though Trump “colluded” with the Russians but I do believe, from a non-lawyer’s view, that he obstructed justice. The Special Counsel left that call, though, apparently to either the AG or the Congress. The AG chose to make the call. Members of Mueller’s former staff are privately complaining that the AG didn’t release more info. While AG William Barr has a strong record for high integrity, he followed DoJ policy and didn’t release more info. We need to see that information. The likely result will be half the country will believe one thing, the other half another. But transparency is mandatory in this case.
Joe Biden space invader. The big noise this week is the former vice president’s invading (mostly) women’s space with his personal approach to politics. No one is accusing Biden of sexual aggressiveness. He has said he’s now learned about invading someone else’s space and will improve in that area. He needs to but he also means nothing by his style. I’ve experienced it myself. His style is genuine. As empty as President Trump is of empathy, Biden has it in barrels. His physical behavior, though, is of another era. He may try to change but it’ll be hard since it is who he is. In any event, Biden is of a different era in many other ways too. Some good, some whose time has passed. He was never a successful or good campaigner for the presidency. He indeed is of another era and I wish he’d pass on this campaign and remain an elder in the party and the country whose voice is listened to. Another unsuccessful effort would lessen his stature. And it’s past time to hane over the keys to a different generation.
Hill investigates Trump. While the Congress is correct in pursuing President Trump’s tax returns and more info on how he conducts his commercial businesses, in a way they are playing into Trump’s strength: stall, lie, and litigate. He can run enough stalls and file enough litigation to easily get him past his re-election bid, at least. And that’s what he will do. I don’t know what his truth is but I, along with many others, suspect he has done some illegal things in his past and dealt with some less than honorable people, intentionally. Unfortunately for Trump, once those things are uncovered his presidency’s legacy will be based less on what he may have accomplished and more on his lies to get and maintain power.
Mueller report aftermath. One good result from the Mueller investigation being over is that the news coverage will be less on that and more on what the various agencies are and have been doing in this Administration. That’s a good thing because many of the Cabinet members have been pursuing policies that are at best questionable and at worse very bad for the country and the environment. Trump may believe that wind power isn’t good because “the wind isn’t always blowing,” or climate change will reverse its effects on its own but his policies on those issues, the courts, and regulation alone will cause serious and possibly irreversible problems for the country and the world, and our kids and grandkids.
Michael Avenotti. Here’s a guy whose ego may have overtaken his greed. He actually thought he could run for president. Lord. Another result of a Trump presidency is everyone thinks he or she is qualified to be president.
Trump and free speech. So, the President thought he needed to sign an executive order to guarantee free speech on college campuses. Obviously, the Constitution already had that covered. But Trump thinks it isn’t so unless he makes it so, I guess.
Democratic primary. It’s “Olly olly oxen free” when it comes candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to be the standard bearer in 2020. We thought Republicans won the “everyone in the pool” bet in 2016. Democrats should learn from the 2016 GOP race which ultimately gave us Donald Trump. I’m not sure who the Trump of the Democrats is. Trump really didn’t have much a belief set before he was elected. On the Democrat side, many are saying that Sen. Bernie Sanders could be the Trump of the Democrats. For one thing, he isn’t even a Democrat but he feels empowered to tell that party what it’s doing wrong and to seek their nomination. And he may. For reasons similar to Biden, Sanders is of another era and another set of political beliefs. While Trump may be the crazy old uncle at holiday dinner, Sanders may be the angry old uncle.
Before heading to Vietnam for his summit with Kim Jong Un, President Trump was fretting because his former lawyer’s testimony would happen the same day in Washington and he’d have to share his positive summit coverage with the negative hearing coverage. Today, he should be happy because his summit was not a success. Which means his failure didn’t get as much play as if it were the only news of the day.
But he can proudly point to both events as being all about him, as he likes it.
The hearing with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, while reinforcing some things anti-Trumpers believe and disclosing very little new information, wasn’t as revealing as anticipated. The summit, something Trump has built up as one of his crowning achievements was a failure.
Cohen was quite credible on most topics and he reinforced confidence in his testimony when he said a tape of Trump allegedly hitting his wife in an elevator didn’t exist, to his knowledge or investigation. Also, he said he saw no evidence of Trump colluding with Russia over his election. (Naturally, while Trump said Cohen is a liar he cherry-picked that fact out as proof there was no collusion.)
The hearing was a typical Hill hearing: lots of grandstanding by both sides of the aisle who played to the cameras without a real effort to elicit useful information from Cohen. Though it did get more than its share of “wow” statements.
As pointed out in a New York Times column this morning by Caroline Frederickson, president of the American Constitution Society, the only questioner who really did her job was, surprisingly, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York who asked questions as would a prosecutor in a trial to get necessary information that can be further investigated.
The Republican strategy was for everyone to attack Cohen’s credibility and it did not work. He admitted up front as he has in court that he lied to Congress and committed other crimes. And, as the Republicans noted time after time, Cohen is going to prison in May for his crimes. Then Cong. Mark Meadows (R-NC) brought out his show and tell -- a black woman who worked for Trump thus, he claimed, proving Trump is not a racist -- well, do I need to say more? A stupid idea based on an ignorant theory and using a black woman as a prop to try to make his point. Only Trump’s basest base might possibly buy that stunt.
Cohen held up well under the constant attacks, though he showed moments of being on the verge of displaying his well-known anger (real or not). When talking about letting his wife and children down, I thought he’d crack. But he didn’t. Not until committee Chairman Elijah Cummings closed out the hearing with an impassioned plea to get the countr8y back to “normal” and civility. Then Cohen’s eyes welled up and it earned Cummings a rare hearing standing ovation.
On the other side of the world, Trump and Kim ended their summit early when they couldn’t reach agreement on eliminating North Korea’s nuclear capability. On top of that, because they didn’t like questions asked at an earlier event, the White House disinvited four print reporters from the next event. Typically when American presidents are overseas, especially when meeting with dictators, they go out of their way to showcase that our press is free, even if they don’t like the coverage at times. This time, not so much. One more stab in the back of the American press by the American president in front of a murderous dictator that Trump has admitted he is “in love” with.
Bottom line, nothing accomplished at the summit and no movement of the ball at the Cohen hearing. Whoever disliked Trump before the hearing heard further evidence of his bad behavior and, possibly, crimes; and whoever liked Trump just chalked it up to another liar trying to reduce his prison term (Fact Check: nothing Cohen said in the hearing will reduce his sentence. It’s only when a cooperating witness gives investigators information that leads to discovering crimes that a sentence reduction may be considered.)
At the summit, Trump once again demonstrated he does not have the fantastic negotiating skills he claimed. The only winner at the summit was Kim – who wins just sitting next to an American president and giving him credibility.
At the Cohen hearing one thing that struck me as ominous is it that Cohen worries that if the 2020 election is not a clear victory for whoever opposes Trump, Trump will not give up power easily – another fundamental of our democracy. That is a very scary prediction.
There also was nothing that was clear evidence that Trump should be impeached though the Left is likely to push harder for impeachment now. Cohen may have offered up allegations that could result in impeachment but lots of corroboration would be necessary. And now focus turns not only to the Mueller investigation but the investigation going on in the Southern District of New York. Those folks have information beyond Cohen’s testimony that either backs it up, or doesn’t.
The other thing Cohen said that explains a lot is that he confirmed Trump never expected to win the election. He looked at it as one big marketing opportunity to make money, thus the push to build Trump Tower in Moscow. Thus all the visits to Trump owned properties. Thus Trump, when he did win, not giving up his companies.
Despite a summit staged by Trump to be a foreign policy success, but failed; and despite a Congressional hearing that was entertaining but provided no smoking gun – nothing changed at the end of the day. Except we still have a president who didn’t think he’d win running a country as if it was his personal business and being surrounded, in his administration and the Congress, by a bunch of men and women who do everything they can to enable him.
I slowly am coming around to the impossible thought that Donald Trump is working on someone else’s behalf, and not the American people.
I know this possibility has been around a long time – and many believed it -- but I’m just beginning to really accept the possibility. I’ve had disagreements with many presidents, a couple of whom I worked for, but I never doubted they had the country’s best interest at heart. I chalk up Trump’s insan-er institincts to him being stupid or a narcissist or simply trying to keep his base together.
Let us consider that Trump, indeed, was the Manchurian candidate, inserted as our president quite by accident but being leveraged by, let’s say, Vladimir Putin: He certainly is doing all the things Putin would want:
He has upset the Washington apple cart, especially with his power grab to build a wall despite the fact that the Congress won’t approve money for it. If he can get away with that – and he might – he can do most anything as President. There’s nothing wrong with shaking up D.C. some, but Trump is contradicting the Constitution. And with all the judicial appointments he’s made, he could get away with it. He is trying to make Americans, or at least his base, believe there is an “invasion” going on at our southern border. There is not. There are military troops at the border, because Trump forced them there, and now he uses their presence as evidence to support his bogus “emergency.” If you look at the dozens of instances the emergency powers have been used, they are pretty much all for international reasons – boycotts, blockades, tariffs. None, zero are because a President didn’t get his way, which is what Trump is doing. That is not what our Constitution lays out for us.
He has turned international relationships topsy turvy. VP Pence mentioned Trump’s name at an international conference this weekend and there was silence, where normally there would have been applause for an American president. As Karl Kaiser, a longtime German-American analyst put it: “Two years of Mr. Trump, and a majority of French and Germans now trust Russia and China more than the United States.” That makes them even with Trump because…
Trump trusts Putin more than his intelligence agencies. He has said that at least twice. Once with Putin standing alongside him as he said Putin did not mess with our elections (despite heavy evidence to the contrary). And, he recently stated that he trusts Putin saying North Korea does not have the capability to strike the U.S. with its missiles. Our intelligence people believe the opposite. Please read that again because he is jeopardizing the safety of America because he believes our primary geopolitical enemy --Russia.
Dating North Korea. It’s one thing to meet with the tyrant who runs North Korea – and kills his enemies at will (including family members) – it’s another to lust after him as Trump has been doing, even admitting “we fell in love.” Cheap shot, I know, but it’s true. Maybe he thinks his adventures with Kim should earn him the Nobel Peace Prize because …
Nobel Peace Prize. Trump craves the Prize so much that the U.S. government asked Japan to submit a nomination for him. They did. Look, I didn’t think Obama had done anything to deserve the Prize when he got it either, but Trump equally has accomplished nothing yet except to make allies question us.
Damaging U.S. institutions. Trump has criticized judges. He daily criticizes the media, calling them the “enemy of the people,” damaging those institutions more than they’ve ever been. This creates distrust by Americans of the up-to-now trusted institutions that we rely on to keep public officials honest and criminals behind bars. Each can, and has, made mistakes but we aren’t united states without them. He also has criticized the Department of Justice which continues to investigate whether Russia mucked in our elections (clearly they did) and whether the Trump campaign had any involvement with that. It’s beginning to appear that more than a few in his campaign did collude, whether Trump believes it or knew about it or not.
His fellow elected Republicans fear him. Trump, never a Republican, has the Republican Senate scared to death of him so few feel they can challenge him. Why? They fear that if they anger Trump, they will be opposed in party primary and lose. So, their backbones have disappeared, thus killing off one Constitutionally mandated branch of government from restraining Trump from his worst (or Putin’s worst) instincts.
Add it all up, and we are in dangerous territory with at least two years left of Trump’s governing. If the premise of this piece is true, he’s certainly saving his boldest attacks on our country if he gets a second term, when he has literally nothing to lose.
Random thoughts over the past few days:
“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you” -- Friedrich Nietzsche President Trump who you may have noticed likes to lie a lot, has now begun saying things about his border wall like, “the wall is being built.” Which, we know, is not true. Sections already were in place and repairs are being made to those but no new footage is being built. So, it occurs to me why doesn’t he just solve the big problem between himself and the Democrats by saying, “the wall is built!” Then the country can move on to more important things.
“Folks, I can tell you I've known eight presidents, three of them intimately" – Joe Biden Biden seems to be doing the old Mario Cuomo moonwalk, keeping us all guessing as to whether he’ll run for president or not in 2020. While there was a time I would have liked to see a President Biden, that time is long gone. I do think though the wise old men in the Democratic Party should start impressing upon him why he shouldn’t run. Then whoever the Democratic candidate is, he or she will have two of the best surrogates in history – Biden and former President Obama. That would be a fun campaign to watch, those two against Trump, thus keeping the candidate a little above the fray.
Virginia is for... What? One might think that Virginia Gov. Northam is having a bad year already. But, he got very lucky. Rather than the attention being solely on him and why, as a medical student he thought putting shoe polish on his face to imitate an African-American was cool, he now has two other statewide office holders for competition as dumbest elected official in the state. One has admitted to the same offense of putting on blackface and the other is fighting off accusations of sexual offenses. Lucky Northam, unlucky Virginia voters.
“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” – Alexis de Tocqueville. The 2020 campaign is already underway. It’s kind of like seeing those Christmas decorations being displayed before Halloween. Uh, too soon? Also, for those of my vintage, it seems the current crop of candidates is diminished in my eyes because I’m older than all of them. No one younger than me should be president! (Just kidding)
Seattle got 6.4 inches of snow on Friday, which is just shy of the 6.8 inches the city usually receives in an entire year. Our Seattle correspondent, Barry Schumacher, reports that as the heavy snows were approaching, consumers rushed to the grocery stores to stock up. There was plenty of milk and bread left on the shelves after the onslaught, but the stores ran out of Kale.
Never Again. Antisemitism has never, and never will, disappear completely but lately it seems to be a lot more public than it has been. The German government has reported a 10 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents last year. A new American congresswoman was forced to apologize for using anti-Semitic tropes. France is calling for a firm response to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents there. Women’s March leaders in this country were criticized for attending an event with Louis Farrakhan who, as always, made incendiary remarks about Jews. All a demonstration of why we can never let our guards down about prejudice against any segment of our society. Bad things are always just a step away.
“You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you on socialism from birth” – Donald Trump Jr. President Trump already is using what will be one of his re-election campaign arguments next year – He’s alining Democrats with Socialists and claiming, in effect, that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for socialism. With his record, he knows that his primary path to re-election is to make the Democrats appear worse than he is. This will be a very ugly campaign.
Shutdown Shmutdown. Don’t forget, it was Trump who said he would take “credit” for the first shutdown earlier this year after grabbing the bait Senate Minority Leader Schumer held out to him in an Oval Office meeting. This time, he claimed he “always accepted” blame for the first one (which he didn't) but would never accept it again, if it happens. People, he never was going to shut down the government again after seeing the dire effects the last one had. Plus, he says the shutdown really was to emphasize how bad a shutdown is. People wouldn't have understood it otherwise, he said. Oy.
The Dean’s last words. John Dingell, who served in Congress longer than anyone, died a few days ago and literally on his death bed dictated an op-ed which The Wasahington Post ran after he pased, leaving a message behind for the rest of us. In part his message was:
“In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).”
Amen, Mr. Chairman. RIP
The White House is guiding reporters that during tonight’s State of the Union address President Trump will call for comity, for a coming together of Republicans and Democrats for the good of the country.
Yes, they are giving that guidance with a straight face.
There will be a great yawn or sense of bewilderment from most of the country because (1) they’ve heard it from Trump before and those good tidings lasted long enough for him to get his thumbs on his Twitter account; (2) because during his two years in office Trump has given away any credibility he might have once had by dissembling at best and lying at his worst on a daily basis, multiple times a day.
He will get through reading his text because he knows that he will have one of his largest audiences tonight and that audience likely reflects the country’s beliefs about him – 37 or 40 percent support him, the rest doubt him at best, despise him at worst. For one of the few times my guess is he will try to appeal somewhat to the more than 50 percent of the country that don’t approve of the job he is doing.
In his heart, Trump knows he cannot win reelection with only his base. Tonight he gets to talk to the rest of America. Time to put on the “let’s all work together” face.
His challenge is: other than his base, his credibility is near zero and why should anyone believe him tonight?
He’ll call for Democrats to join him in a bill to improve the country’s infrastructure, knowing there is general agreement on that issue but he’s had two years to deal with infrastructure, which is easier than most, and instead focused on building his border wall to keep crime, drugs and disease out of the country and in trying to repeal and replace Obamacare and other Obama era initiatives. The Democrats in the hall don’t believe him just because he is upending everything they achieved with Obama.
He has to talk about his support for the wall tonight because his base will be watching. The guess here is, tough, that won't take up much of the speech. He can dodge it by saying there are bi-partisan, bi-cameral negotiations going on now and he wants to see how that goes. Of course, that's after he said last week that those talks will go no where.
He’ll have Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his right shoulder and not the former Speaker, the toady Paul Ryan. Millions of eyes will watch for Pelosi’s reactions tonight. Spoiler alert: She’ll be respectful because she respects the Office of the President.
Trump’s call for comity won’t last long, certainly not past tonight. He can’t operate without an enemy and his enemy is the Democrats, figure-headed by Nancy Pelosi. But he can’t press her tonight for many reasons, not the least of which is he now knows that she is the toughest person in Washington at the moment.
Trump is saying Pelosi won’t cave to his wall demands because she wants the issue for 2020. He’s projecting, here. He knows it is he who wants the issue for 2020. He likely won’t say tonight that he will use his emergency powers to pay for the wall – even Republican Leader McConnell knows that’s a loser. But he may at some point do that because he knows it is an issue that is headed to the courts and I’m sure he’d just as soon see it languish there so he can claim he’s pushed it as far as he can, thus preserving the talking point for his reelection campaign.
He’s “set the table” as he has teased for using the emergency option and he even ordered a few thousand more troops to the border this week to show what an emergency it is. Doing that plus his saying it's a crisis and emergency he beleives makes it so. So far, the troops deployed there have basically been erecting concertina wire. And when his intelligence chiefs delivered the annual terror threat report to Congress last week, the border issue never came up. It is a crisis of his own rhetoric.
If Trump really wanted to display some comity tonight he would start by congratulating Pelosi on her return to power in the House and be sincere about it. But sincerity is difficult for this president to display. He’d make a self-deprecating joke at some point. Something like, “Gee, did you see what happened last November? I lost bigly.” But he won’t. Because he thinks he won the 2018 election.
He likely won’t veer much from his prepared remarks, but that’s when he looks least sincere of all. He should have kept that campaign promise of never using a TelePrompter – he’s really bad at it and shows it in his softer voice, his half closed (sincere look) eyes and his calmer demeanor. We all know by now that is his false look. At least that’s not the character he’s chosen to play in his reality show of The Celebrity White House.
Last year Trump spoke for a Clinton-esque 80 minutes. This year, I'll take the over. He does like being the focus of attention, after all.
It is time to end the shutdown. You can have the $5.7 billion you want to build your wall to ensure that brown people seeking a better life don’t come here.
You can have the money because you have damaged this country enough with this shutdown, keeping dedicated federal workers from doing their jobs and stopping millions of Americans from getting the services they pay their taxes for.
You, as the head of the federal government, should know better. But since you don’t, we in the legislative branch will give in to your selfish approach to running this country.
You can have your $5.7 million so we can get back to having a secure nation.
Maybe you hadn’t noticed but polls consistently show that a majority of our country support border security, as do I, but not a wall which will become a symbol not of the beacon of freedom our country has always been, welcoming immigrants from all walks of life, but a wall which blocks people from coming here.
You can have the money because I prefer that when other countries think of the United States of America they see an image of the Statue of Liberty welcoming them, not a wall barring them from our country.
You can have the money not because your wall is right or just, but because while it’s not a piddling amount, it is not enough money to stop this country from being the best in the world. If you are able to build even a mile of the wall before you leave office, I will be surprised, so here's the money...try to build your wall.
You can have the money despite your repeated promise that Mexico will pay for it. You can have the money not because you have fantasized a roundabout way that Mexico will pay for it – they won’t – but because this nonsense has gone on long enough.
You can have the money not because you are a great negotiator – you are not – but because your mean, petulant decision to close our government is unfair to the people who elected you and me to serve them.
You can have the money because federal workers are putting off mammograms because they need to spend what would have been their copay to buy food for their children. These people who dedicate their lives to the rest of us deserve far better treatment than being told to work without pay. Or to stay home and we'll pay you later even though you say this shutdown could go on for years. How do you expect these folks to last years without a paycheck?
You can have the money because we have FBI agents, Secret Service agents, TSA agents and others whose minds are on how they will provide for their families rather than the important jobs they have keeping us all safe.
Mr. President, you can have the money and I’m not asking for anything in return except for you to learn that you and I are not important. The people of this country are.
President Trump’s low-energy performance last night I doubt changed any minds in the general population but I don’t think that was his target audience.
Best guess is it was the minority Republicans in the House and the majority Republicans in the Senate, who really hold the key to whether he wins the border wall battle or not.
Republican Senate support is slowly peeling away and if that disappears, there is no chance of a border wall and Mr. Trump’s presidency will hit a significant turning point. And a significant promise made to his all-important base will be broken.
I think another result of last night’s speech to the nation is that he gave away leverage to the TV networks. All of them carried his speech, as they should have. But it contained no news. Only a partisan pitch for his wall. That allows the nets to be more publicly un-trusting of any White House requests for air time. This time, they really had no choice. Next time, they will. That’s an important tool in a President’s bag to lose.
This administration has lost its credibility with all but his base and when you request network time, there better be a good reason. This speech was not a good reason.
Trump claimed to network representatives at an off-the-record lunch yesterday that he didn’t want to do the speech but his advisors wanted him to. Uh, he hasn’t listened to advisors, especially on media counsel, before and I doubt he did now. Anytime this president goes on TV live, he has a reason and a goal and I doubt his staff forces him to do anything. He also is scheduled to make a trip to the Mexican border this week, which he also claims he doesn’t want to do. Lowering expectations anyone?
From his first sentence last night, he lied or misrepresented the truth. This was his first line: “Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.” There is no security crisis at the border. None. Have illegal immigrants snuck through and committed crimes? Yes, but they are isolated incidents, not reaching “crisis” status. And any humanitarian crisis is more attributable to Trump having migrants blocked from entering or taking children away from their parents. (Do we know if they all have been reunited, by the way? I'm asking you, The Media.)
Trump has painted himself into a corner on the wall. So have the Democrats but they actually have the votes to stop a wall. Both sides should agree to end the shutdown which is doing nothing but hurting 800,000 federal employees and their families and the beneficiaries of some key government programs, like food stamps. The Administration agreed to pay those stamps for February. The shutdown is also hurting travelers waiting in long lines at airports, as TSA folks work without pay and are starting to quit their jobs because no pay doesn’t pay the bills. Students are being hurt because they can’t get government approvals on college loans. And a host of other services stopped.
And if, as the President claims, many federal workers support his shutdown and his wall, I’d like to see their names. We know an organization representing border agents supports him because he posed with five agents recently to make that point. But I know of no one else.
That’s a claim similar to Trump saying past presidents support his wall. They don’t. Did any of them support a wall at one time? Maybe but time marched on and technologies have been developed that are more successful at border control.
Trump is trying to keep his biggest promise to voters in 2016. Well, half of his promise. He did say Mexico would pay for the wall. They won’t.
Who’s paying for the wall? You, me and the furloughed federal workers who aren’t getting paid for doing jobs that are important services to the country. I don't see any of us getting a refund for services not given.
And, the President gets elected and paid to lead a government that provides those services. He needs to end the shutdown and start doing his job.
B. Jay Cooper
B. Jay is a former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He also headed the communications offices at the Republican National Committee, U.S. Department of Commerce, and Yale University. He is a former reporter and is the retired deputy managing director of APCO Worldwide's Washington, D.C., office.