Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Let’s recap

June 10, 2017

The big story, according to Trump and his flacks, is his total vindication by Comey’s testimony that Trump was not under FBI investigation.

This is fake news. A lie. Because that was never even an issue. Instead, the issues were Trump’s improper attempts to stop the investigation of Russian meddling and of Michael Flynn; and his firing Comey.

Comey testified that he made careful notes of his conversations with Trump because he feared Trump would lie about them. And that Trump did lie, “plain and simple,” in saying he was fired because of disarray at the FBI and lack of support within the agency. Trump later said he actually fired Comey to get the Russia investigation off his back. Thus confirming that his other stories about it were, indeed, lies.

Yet White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar.” Seriously? How many of his hundreds of documented lies need one mention? (Like his giant whopper that Obama wiretapped him.)

Then first his lawyer Kasowitz, and then the Liar-in-chief himself, denied that he’d demanded a pledge of loyalty from Comey.* Trump also denied asking Comey to lay off on Flynn. He added that it wouldn’t have been wrong anyway. (Bzzt. It most surely was wrong.) But if it’s Comey’s credibility versus Trump’s — are you kidding me?

Trump also called Comey a “showboater.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump.

And called him a “nutjob.” As if that doesn’t in fact describe Trump. 

The Lie House has also gotten much mileage labeling Comey a “leaker.” This from the guy who actually blabbed highly sensitive classified information to the Russians, in the Oval Office! The very day after a Congressional hearing into Russian meddling! But never mind that. To call Comey a “leaker” is yet another lie. Comey gave the press his personal notes about conversations he’d had that were not privileged or classified. That’s not “leaking.”

Then Paul Ryan covered himself with shame by cheerily waving off the whole ghastly story as merely the missteps of an inexperienced beginner. Begging the issue of having a president so clueless. But it’s naive to think Trump was acting from naivite. Even my cat would know his interactions with Comey were improper.

* Trump accidentally said something true at his press conference when a reporter misspoke by asking whether Comey had asked him for a pledge of loyalty. “No he did not,” Trump robotically answered.

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What is to be done?

May 19, 2017

Around January I wrote about some friends saying, “It’s worse than we expected,” and I said it’s not worse than I expected, because what I expected was very bad.

Well, OK, now it’s worse than even I expected. I thought Trump would better control his irresponsible impulses. Can we endure another 44 months of this?

Forget impeachment. Not gonna happen. Even if the House goes Democratic in 2018 (still unlikely), and he’s impeached, you’d need 67 Senate votes. Dems now have only 48 and can’t increase that much in 2018.

The 25th Amendment allows sidelining a president if the VP and a majority of the cabinet certify his incapacity. But if he resists, then it requires a 2/3 vote in both houses to override him. So forget that too.

Nixon was forced out basically because the whole nation turned against him for what he’d done. It was a different country then. One where Republicans could put country above party. One that was unforgiving toward politicians caught lying or otherwise transgressing — maybe even too unforgiving. But that’s turned upside down. Trump saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and lose no votes was (uncharacteristically) truthful.

And, indeed, through the train wreck of his first four months, full of lies, blunders and misdeeds that in past times would have sunk any politician ten times over, Trump’s core supporters have hardly budged. I guess if you can excuse the pussygrabbing, you can excuse anything.

What might shake them? Maybe nothing. They believe Trump that all the bad news is fake, and he’s doing great. Trumpeters have made a psychological commitment not open to reason (like their belief in a benevolent god). And as long as Trump retains that diehard support from a third of the electorate, few Congressional Republicans will have the intestinal fortitude to do anything but go along. They’re circling the wagons. That’s why he won’t be removed.

I used to bemoan political polarization and each side’s demonization of their opponents. And I considered the left more guilty than the right. But that’s different now too. When Democrats and lefties demonize Trump and Republicans today, there’s ample justification. If anything, they don’t come on too strong, but not strong enough.

Trump’s problems aren’t really White House disarray, bad messaging, press unfairness, “fake news,” simple bungling, a “witch hunt,” or any such. Instead it’s all character: a vile creep, who sought the presidency for all the wrong reasons, who is out of his depth and out of his mind.

America is full of wonderful people. It kills me that we elected as president such a stinker.

His supporters bizarrely continue the mantra that Hillary was the biggest liar in politics, while Trump seems incapable of not lying. But it’s not just a matter of one man’s mental sickness. It’s shredding the whole concept of truth, trying to destroy confidence in an independent press as an information source. Without that, the public cannot hold government and its officials to account; and without that, meaningful democracy is impossible.

The seriousness of the situation can hardly be overstated. I’ve closely studied American political life for over half a century, and this is a discontinuity. A change from one paradigm to a very different one. A downward cultural lurch. And I don’t see the toothpaste being put back in the tube.

Macron

Is my optimism dead? France has meantime decisively rejected — by a 66% vote! — a Trumplike candidate, electing instead Emmanuel Macron, a remarkably good man moved by excellent ideas. He now faces a terrific battle against entrenched interests. But who ever imagined I’d look to France for political inspiration?

The President is insane

March 6, 2017

imagesSo he was able to read a nice speech from a teleprompter and appear “presidential.” Then he tweeted that President Obama had tapped his phones at Trump Tower and is a “bad (or sick) guy.”

Hurling put-downs that uncannily apply more to himself is trademark Trump. Like crying “fake news” at legitimate reporting, while his own wiretap accusation came from what really is fake news.

images-1It’s not just baseless but preposterous. Laws prohibit it, it’s inconceivable that Obama would have directed federal officials to violate them, and inconceivable that they’d have complied (instead of blowing the whistle). A warrant would have been required, issuable by a judge only upon convincing evidence of a crime being investigated.

“Those restrictions,” said Ben Rhodes (a former top Obama security aide), in a tweet addressed to Trump, “were put in place to protect citizens against people like you.”

Who’s the “bad (or sick) guy” — recklessly flinging baseless accusations? Why isn’t the nation totally freaked out by a president behaving so grotesquely? unknownDaniel Patrick Moynihan coined the trope “defining deviancy down.” When something previously unacceptable becomes accepted. The Trump phenomenon has shredded what used to be America’s civic standards. The media are having a hard time reporting soberly on Trump without their hair on fire, thus giving it all a seeming patina of normality. So this is the new normal. Hence no huge uproar over Trump’s insane wiretap accusation.

images-2I use the word insane not figuratively but literally, clinically. Trump’s behavior — not only this instance, but too many others to count — shows a deep psychological pathology. The President is insane. He should be removed from office pursuant to the procedures of the 25th Amendment.

Yet congressional Republicans now promise to investigate not the President’s insane behavior but the imaginary wiretapping. While thousands, all across the nation, joined the “March 4 Trump” to support him. Is insanity contagious?

Earlier, some of my friends (who did not support him) lamented that Trump is even worse than they expected. I said he’s not worse than I expected, because I knew how bad he is. But perhaps I didn’t. I had also expected the weight of the presidency would have some impact on him. It has not.

unknown-1No wonder the Russians wanted Trump elected. To sabotage America with a dysfunctional, bull-in-a-china-shop president. And if there be method in his wiretap lie madness, it’s to distract us from the Russian connection.

Trump’s is not the kind of mental illness that might elicit sympathy. It’s malevolent. Previously I’ve called him a “vile creep” and “stinking piece of crap.”* But now I’ll have to come up with something stronger.

*  The sanitized version.

La commedia è finita

October 9, 2016
"Believe me . . . this much."

“Believe me . . . this much.”

He said, “These words don’t reflect who I am.”

Oh yes they do, you creep. They reflect perfectly who you are. Some of us saw it long ago.

And let’s be clear. It wasn’t just lewd words. It was bragging about criminal sexual assault.

How can any self-respecting person continue to support this disgusting monster? Even before, otherwise intelligent people tied themselves in knots trying to rationalize a vote for him, waving away all his numerous grotesqueries: the lying, the frauds, the rip-offs, the financial chicanery, the ignorance, the egotism, the vulgarity, the encouragement of violence and divisive bigotry. One kept wondering what it might take to finally open their eyes. It turns out not even criminal sexual assault is enough. A quick poll reports three-quarters of Republicans saying the party should still stick by him.

I’ve been a Republican for 52 years. The party used to stand for something. Now it’s nothing but naked tribalism.

The agony of an undecided voter

May 18, 2016

UnknownA person of strong views, in half a century of voting I have never before been “undecided.” But this time it’s an agonizing choice.

Not voting is unthinkable. Voting is, for me, a sacrament.

In some past elections, where I was not enthused about either major candidate (well, the Republican), I’ve voted Libertarian. It’s wrong to think such a vote is wasted. Elections are not games where the aim is to pick a winner. And one vote won’t change the outcome. Instead, the purpose is to express one’s civic opinion, which has value even if few others share it. Maybe especially so.

images-1Actually there’s no party that totally reflects my own politics: I’m a classical liberal (not to be confused with contemporary U.S. “liberalism”). In a nutshell, it’s laissez faire both in economics and personal life. (It’s the editorial stance of The Economist magazine, one of the world’s most respected journals.)

Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson

America’s Libertarian party does not embody that stance perfectly, but comes close. (Its foreign isolationism is my main sticking point.) Its candidate hasn’t been named yet, but will likely be, again, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.* And he seems a great guy, with views close enough to mine that I could gladly support him. (It’s still possible, though unlikely, that another good third party candidate will run.)

And this, if ever, should be the time for such a vote. I’m sure “not enthused about either major candidate.” Both, indeed, are awful. However, one is more so. A lot more.

So we come to the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” For a quarter century I’ve loathed Hillary Clinton. (Sorry, Berners, it’s over.) There’s not room enough here to itemize her indictment. But – to quote P. J. O’Rourke (on the radio show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”) – while Hillary is wrong about everything, she’s wrong within normal parameters. She would not be an existential threat to the America I love. Trump would be. The Economist has explained why: click here.

The Republicans drinking the Kool-Aid and falling into line for the sake of party unity and winning the election are not thinking. They’re treating this like normal politics. It isn’t. Winning isn’t everything. If (God forbid) Trump wins, they’ll regret it even more than if he loses. (See this Michael Gerson column on the GOP ship of fools.)**

I’m pretty sure Trump can’t win (though like so many I was mistaken about his getting the nomination; and a major terrorist episode before the election could spook voters into doing something dumb). However, I want him not just defeated, but crushed, humiliated, annihilated, with all his “winning, winning, winning” talk shoved down his throat. Because I want it proven, finally, that Trumpery is wrong and is not, and never can be, a route to political power in America.

Unknown-2So will I hold my nose and vote for Hillary – piling mine onto, hopefully, a mountain of votes burying Trump? If my top wish in this election is Trump’s repudiation, isn’t it logical to vote for Hillary? And thereby also slap my own party’s face for the mess it’s made?

Still – a vote for a candidate is a positive act, an endorsement. In voting for someone, I feel I take some responsibility for that person in office. And I keep saying that ultimately it’s voters who are responsible for our wretched politics, through their ballot box choices. That’s why a third party vote can be justified. (What a pity so few voters are even aware of Johnson as an excellent alternative choice.) I do not support Hillary’s positions. And if I withhold my vote from her, then later I can criticize her freely, saying, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for her.”

Unknown-3But is that a kind of cop-out, a refusal to exercise responsibility as a citizen? Detaching myself from the battleground and climbing into an ivory tower? Wouldn’t it be the adult thing to face up to the true choice, which is between Trump and Clinton?

And I actually have hopes that Clinton might not be so bad after all. Fortunately I think she’s being (typically) dishonest about all the left-wing rubbish she’s felt compelled to spout, to fend off Bernie, like protectionism. Her foreign policy hand will be a lot stronger and steadier than Obama’s, a welcome change. And dare I imagine she’d have the strength to force Democrats into desperately needed entitlement reform? And might even – unlike Obama – seriously seek detente with a chastened Republican opposition?

So – should I just bite the bullet for Hillary?

Or should I stop overthinking this, and simply vote for policies I actually believe in, and hence for Gary Johnson?

images

I have not made up my mind. Count me “undecided.”

* My daughter in 2012 tortured me by refusing to say who she voted for, letting me suspect it was Obama rather than Romney (my choice). Finally, months later, she blew me away by revealing, “I voted for Johnson.”

** Climbing on board for example is Rick Perry, who once denounced Trump as a “cancer,” but now angles for the VP slot. Democrats would surely run ads featuring Perry’s scathing condemnation.

Splitting the GOP

March 20, 2016

images-1I’ve been writing a lot about politics lately. Every four years we’re told “this election is critical;” it’s a cliché. But this time really is different – reshaping our political landscape.

For a long time, the Republican party prospered as a marriage between a principled segment – supporting limited government, free market economics, fiscal and personal responsibility, free trade, and global engagement – and a working class segment actuated by cultural primitivism, nativism, xenophobia, and bigotry. The former milked the latter for votes without actually delivering much for them. Now they’re rebelling and the marriage is coming apart.

Much punditry says we should understand Trump supporters as moved by legitimate economic concerns. That’s part of it, but not the main thing. The economy could be better but is not in crisis. a-holesThis is more about attitude than economics. It’s people feeling personally alienated from what the American mainstream is becoming; disconnected from the ruling elite. In America 2.0, they’re still stuck in America 1.0. They embrace Trump not in spite of his crudeness, but proudly because of it, which embodies their own. For all his billions, he’s the first presidential candidate with whom they culturally identify. This is not a revolt of the lower class, but of the no-class. That’s why attacking Trump for his various transgressions doesn’t dissuade his voters.

Trump claims he’s uniting the GOP. Yeah, right. Orthodox Republicans, the “establishment,” are freaking out. I’ve heard radio commentary saying it’s because they can’t “control” Trump. That just plays to his appeal. No — Republicans still compos mentis see Trump as turning the party into a grotesquerie, headed for electoral obliteration.

Yet a party schism does not really seem to be happening either. At the February 29 GOP debate, three candidates vilified the fourth as unfit to be president, yet all said they’d support the eventual nominee. That reluctance to break a political taboo is understandable, but it makes it harder for other Republicans to repudiate Trump, and indeed, very few so far have done so. Instead, most seem likely to fall into line behind him because they lack the political imagination to do otherwise.

Unknown-2As a lifelong Republican, if Trump is nominated, I would like to see a party split – as in 1860, 1912 or 1948 – with a rump of delegates walking out to hold their own convention, naming a “True Republican” candidate on a platform of the party’s traditional values.* Yes, that would assure Hillary’s election. But she’s likely to crush the white trash candidate anyway. At least some integrity would be preserved, as a basis for reconstituting, from the wreckage, a Republican party worthy of support.

However, this might also be seen as destroying our two-party system, leaving us with a 1-1/2 party system. Maybe at least that might break the 50-50 partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Washington. But such a settlement could not be lasting, since half the nation (me included) would still be in deep disaffection.

Politics is very tribal; the us-versus-them mentality explains a lot of the partisan bitterness we’ve seen. But this election is exposing the nation’s real division not between two tribes, but more like three (at least) – the Democratic party, increasingly left-wing, in coalition with minorities, unions, and other interest groups – the traditionally conservative, market-economics Republicans – and the disaffected primitivists who really have no ideological affinity with true conservativism. If that three-way split congeals, the first tribe will always outvote the other two.

Trump’s nomination is far from certain. He still needs to win over half the delegates in the remaining primaries; though it’s very possible, most being (stupidly, unlike on the Dem side) winner-take-all (including California, likely to be make-or-break). But Trump is nobody’s second choice; a majority of Republicans still find him repellent. And Cruz is very much the sort of candidate who appeals to the GOP’s traditional base – a quasi-outsider, with religion on his sleeve and a purist right-wing ideology.** So we may well have an open convention, no candidate going in with a majority. What happens then? Who knows?

imagesTrump says there’ll be riots if he’s not nominated. So go riot. America is governed by voting, not rioting. The party is not obliged to nominate a candidate rejected by a majority of primary voters.

Finally, if you think campaigns have been nasty before, just wait for this fall. The attacks will be savage. UnknownSadly, a lot will be justified. Hillary should win, but then we’ll have four more years of bitter partisan divisiveness.

Well, we’re used to that. At least we won’t have an American Putin.

*Actually, to get on the ballot in most states, this would have to be organized much sooner.

**Lindsey Graham once said the choice of Cruz or Trump is like being poisoned or shot. But now he says he’s ready to take the poison.

Presidential politics: Republicans heading toward the abyss

February 10, 2016

UnknownWhat was supposed to happen was that Marco Rubio, surging with momentum out of Iowa, would do very well in New Hampshire, conceivably even winning; Bush, Christie and Kasich fall away so Rubio consolidates the backing of the sensible wing; while Trump and Cruz divide the wing-nut vote; Rubio gets the nomination; and defeats Hillary with all her baggage; making my November 12 prediction prescient.

Well, as Aristotle said, there’s many a slip between cup and lip. And on Saturday night I watched Marco Rubio blow the presidency in ten minutes. I sat there dumbfounded at maybe the worst debate performance I’d ever witnessed. I was frankly bitterly disappointed because I had a high opinion of Rubio, and really hoped after Iowa things would play out nicely as I described above.

imagesSo what we have now is Donald and the Seven Dwarves, more or less. We’ve already had the ridiculous spectacle of the gaggle of lower-polling candidates attacking and even running negative ads against each other, all struggling for the right to be the non-Trump, while Trump himself gets a free pass on the vilest candidacy in memory. It’s now altogether possible that Trump walks off with the nomination without winning more than about 35% of the vote in any primary.

Despite her predictable loss in New Hampshire, at the end of the day it still seems likely that Hillary will wind up as Democratic nominee. And so we could have a race between Hillary and Trump – incredibly, the two figures on the political scene with the highest negative poll ratings. Oy oy oy.

Unknown-1How could this happen? Well, democracy is messy. And there are no inevitabilities in history; contingency reigns supreme. It didn’t have to be this way. What people do matters and changes events. As Marco Rubio unfortunately demonstrated Saturday night.