Point of View Columns

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear

In 1933, in an effort to raise the spirits of an America that was in the seeming death spiral of the Great Depression, then President Franklin Roosevelt stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Having read “Fear”, Bob Woodward’s epic account of the chaos in the Trump White House it is now appropriate to say that we have to fear is fear.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is an agent of chaos. It may also be true that Trump is a punishment visited upon America for all of its collective sins. What is undeniable is that his disruption and attempts at destruction of American institutions is more dangerous than all of his foul rhetoric and dismaying disregard for anything resembling the truth. To be clear – the man lies….all the time, every day, every time that he opens his mouth or tweets his latest institutional obscenity. But that aspect of the Trump terror is not what we should fear the most.

There is this prevailing notion that the possibly mythical “Blue Wave” will cleanse this nation of the Stain of Trump in the November 2018 midterm elections. And in any event, so the thinking goes, there is no way that Trump will be reelected in 2020 and his successor will right all of his wrongs and wash away the trash and garbage that characterizes his presidency.

That kind of thinking is reflective of the kind of distraction that has allowed Trump to wreak such horrific damage to the environment, social justice, immigration equity, foreign relations, criminal justice and healthcare. The notion that a new Congress or a new president will be able to right the Trump wrongs is a dangerous misperception and diminishes the understanding that the time to resist Trump and all that he stands for his today, every day – and at the rate Trump is going, that will not be enough.

Take the Environmental Protection Agency as an example. The EPA has, over the last 18 months embarked on a campaign to roll back, diminish or eliminate literally hundreds of rules and regulations that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the national park lands that we treasure and the health of millions of Americans. The sludge that is flowing into rivers, the mining that is taking place in former national parklands, the lead that is being consumed by children as you read these words, cannot be reversed by a new EPA director in another 18 months. The damages are real. The harm is in many ways irreversible for today’s victims. And all the while we watch in horror as Trump lurches from obscenity to tragedy to horror show.

Take the Department of Justice as another example. The successful efforts by the Session DOJ to increase incarceration penalties for various offenders means that as you are reading these words there are thousands upon thousands of Americans (and their families) whose lives are being ruined by such draconian measures. And a new President, a new Attorney General, a new Congress, will have an uphill battle to reverse these tragic consequences.

It is important to vote in November. It is important for Democrats, Progressives and any Americans who truly care about something more than tax cuts and bully talk to find a way to reclaim the federal government apparatus that has been hijacked by Trump and his feckless enablers.

But is it truly important to realize that whatever happens in November 2018 or November 2020 that the damage has already been done. The damage is real. And while that damage is reversible there will be no miracles as the planet is fresh out of magic wands.

Any commitment to change needs to be a commitment to a lifetime of change. That is only answer to the Fear that is Trump.

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Point of View Columns

The Trump Phenomenon – Beware of Shiny Objects

The first 100 plus days of the Trump presidency has turned out to be a compelling horror show for anyone who cares about governance, the Constitution or the future of this nation. It is hard not to watch an individual who seems to be dedicated to offending, insulting and repelling virtually every person who does not swear absolute fealty to him, and him alone. The institutional damage that he has committed in so little time is awesome to behold. But it is important to note that when the history books are written the Hurricane Called Trump may turn out to have been a head fake, a distraction from the real damage that is being done to the American people.

Consider the fact that we stared in awe and dismay at the naked lawlessness and infinitely perfect and disgraceful bad taste of President Trump in firing FBI Director James Comey. Meanwhile a mouth breathing direct descendant of Neanderthals named Scott Pruitt heads up the Environmental Protection Agency.

All that Mr. Pruitt has done has been to fire scientists who have been trying to quantify the effects of climate change. He has also declared the policy of his agency as denying the impact of human activity on climate change. And, just to keep things interesting, Mr. Pruitt has begun to allow coal and oil exploration on federal lands in the Arctic and through the lower 48 states.

One day the Terror of Trump will fade into the dustbin of history, but yet unborn children will suffer from the diminished and degraded environment that they will inherit thanks in no small part to Scott Pruitt and his science denying minions. The damage that Pruitt can wreak in just a few short years is fearsome and real.

Consider the fact we are absolutely dumbfounded by the notion that the President of the United States would bar American press from his meeting with senior Russian officials while allowing Russian press to attend. And then, to keep things interest, Terrible Trump shared highly confidential and classified information with these same Russians.

But while the Trump Circus lumbers through the American political landscape, President Trump appointed as Attorney General, none other than Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III from Alabama – a state whose flag is modeled after that of a Confederate State of America regiment (to remove any doubt regarding the heart and soul of the ruling citizenry of that state). Aside from lying to Congress regarding his association with representatives of Russia, Mr. Sessions has been quietly at work reviving the spirit of mass incarceration.

Mr. Sessions has already stated his belief that maximum criminal penalties for even low level marijuana usage will be the hallmark of his tenure. He has also directed all United States Attorneys to seek maximum prison sentences whenever and wherever possible. While the executives and shareholders of CoreCivic (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America) are doing the 21st century version of the Macarena, hundreds of thousands of American families and thousands of American communities will suffer due to the revival of punitive action as the driving force of the American criminal justice system.

Recent news has reported that in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Officer Betty Jo Shelby (who is white) has been acquitted of all charges in the shooting of the unarmed Terrence Crutcher (who was black). Prior to this verdict, Attorney General Sessions had announced that the United States Department of Justice will no longer look into these matters, thereby turning back the clock to a time when black Americans could be beaten and killed by police with apparent impunity. Perhaps this is what Making America Great really means.

We have been watching the Trump Rocky Horror Show, wondering who will be fired, indicted or arrested next. Meanwhile his appointee to the Office of Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, has been busy supporting a proposal to totally eliminate the 42 year old Community Development Block Grant Program.

During the Republican presidential primaries Dr. Carson did two amazing things. He made “brain surgeon” a pejorative term and he actually made Herman Cain look good as a black Republican presidential candidate. Now that he has a real job, Dr. Carson seems to be operating on the assumption that he should perform surgery, indeed amputations, on the programs upon which poor and aspiring Americans have depended upon for years. Even the short term impact of his short term thinking can be horrific – and over the long term the damage may well be unknowable.

The point is that in less than four months Donald Trump has proven himself to be miscast as President of the United States. He may or may not be “fired” at some point. But while we are watching the Spectacle That is Trump, we should not lose sight of the real damage that his Administration is doing every day – out of sight of the news cycle.

Watching shiny objects can be dangerous to your health.

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