Point of View Columns

100 Days of Trump – or – 1362 Days to Go

The designation of the first hundred days of an American presidency as being of singular importance began with the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Since then, the first one hundred days have been seen as a window on the extent to which the new president is on a path to success, mediocrity or failure. Using that basic set of demarcations, it is time to seriously take stock of the Trump administration to date.

One thing that any president has needed to do is to staff an administration. Aside from the Reagan cabinet in 1981, President Trump is presiding over the largest congregation of white men as senior cabinet officials in almost four decades. But aside from giving the cabinet a retro-ivory glow, he has not done much.

Consider that, after one hundred days Barack Obama had appointed 69 officials, George W. Bush had brought 35 people on board, Bill Clinton had appointed 49 men and women and George Herbert Walker Bush had appointed 50. As this is being read, President Trump has appointed on 26, outdueling George W. Bush in a race to the bottom of the presidential mediocre barrel.

It should be clear that there are 1028 positions requiring Presidential appointment and Donald Trump has only nominated 37 individuals for those positions. Indeed, President Trump has publicly stated he may not fill many of these vacancies because he does not see the need to have that many people staffing the government of a country with a multitrillion dollar economy and interests literally all over the planet.

In actuality it may be that Donald Trump simply does not want to go through the trouble of actually working like a real executive instead of a reality-show imposter and that it is easier to just keep kicking the can down the road. After all, he has freely admitted that he thought that the job of President of the United States was “easy” and amazingly, it has turned out to be harder than he thought.

Whatever the case, the desultory approach to executive staffing by the Trump Administration may turn out to be the first halting baby steps down the road of inevitable mediocrity (see George W. Bush) or epic and historic failure (see Warren G. Harding). And of course, the true tragedy would be the demolition of the hopes and dreams of the American people, hopes and dreams that he has pretended to cherish, not realizing that even his most ardent supporters want something more than a speech and a slogan.

The First Hundred Days of Trump has given the nation a collective case of whiplash as the Administration has lurched from one firestorm – failed immigration reform measure – to another maelstrom – picking petty fights with the leaders of Australia, Mexico and Germany for starters.

And all the while the sickly sweet stench of Trump-Russian involvement never leaves the room – and continues to linger as a ticking time bomb for President Trump. He may just find out that there is a limit to how far his lies may take him.

The blatant hypocrisy of the Teapublicans in Congress has also been revealed for all to see. There has to be universal agreement that if President Hillary Clinton had appointed Chelsea Clinton to do anything in an official governmental role, the Teapublican hounds would be baying for immediate impeachment.

But when President Trump appoint his oldest daughter Ivanka Trump to be some kind of aide without portfolio, representing the United States around the world while her personal brand of clothing and accessories gets a billion dollars’ worth of exposure, those same Teapublican hounds are as quiet as the lap dogs that you see carried around in the designer purses of celebrity models and movie stars.

What is clear and certainly more important than the Marxist (as in Marx Brothers) antics of the Trump administration, is the clear intent of this president to try to erase every bit of evidence that Barack Obama was President of the United States.

Most presidents during their first one hundred days have sought to establish their own vision for the country and then have tried to transform that vision into reality. Donald Trump has spent the most time issuing a raft of executive orders designed to erase the Obama legacy in areas ranging from protection of the environment to the rights of women.

Interestingly, what President Trump will learn over time is that Barack Obama’s place in history is engraved in the granite of time. And at some point he might try to focus on coming up with a coherent vision for this country that would actually make things better in this country for someone other than himself.

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Point of View Columns

The Ebola Irony

The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has taken predictable turns for the worst. First leapfrogging from Sierra Leone to Guinea to Liberia to Nigeria, and then moving overseas to Dallas, Texas and Spain, the reality of an intercontinental plague that runs on jet fuel, ignorance and collapsing health infrastructures is difficult to contemplate, much less accept.

We have been assured by distinguished doctors and scientists that Ebola does not pose a real and present danger to Americans. But the recent Texas misadventure does not give us comfort and a sneaking suspicion lurks in the minds of many – suppose the doctors and scientists don’t know what they don’t know?

It took about two heartbeats for the Teapublicans to come thundering out of the Valley of the Stupid to seize upon the tragedy of Ebola to once again criticize President Obama. One can suppose that after almost six years, the Teapublican playbook is worn and dog-eared and that even the most rabid of the Obamaphobes brays their verbal attacks almost by rote.

Somehow, the playbook goes, President Obama should have shown more “leadership” by taking “action” once the Ebola outbreak was made known. Indeed, it is the fault of the Obama Administration that there hasn’t been more research on Ebola before the opening curtain on this tragedy was raised.

The irony of the last bit of moronic critique should not be ignored. Because it is the Teapublican Party that has advocated the draconian cuts in the federal budget that, even when modified, have resulted in massive reductions in the activity of the federal government – the shutdown of the federal government last year being only one surreal example.

The fact is that the majority of the Teapublicans in the House and Senate have signed Grover Norquist’s “No Tax Pledge”. By refusing to raise taxes for any reason at any time, these Teapublican sheep disguised as legislators are buying into the notion that the amount of federal spending should equal a percentage of GDP no higher than the level of government spending in 1895 (that is not a misprint).

Keep in mind that in 1895 there was no Food and Drug Administration, no Environmental Protection Agency and……, …………….no Center for Disease Control. The bizarre lunacy of the Teapublicans criticizing the lack of robust research at the CDC, the same agency that was shut down by Teapublicans, seems to be sheltered in the alternate universe in which they reside –where Everything Obama is Bad – logic, intelligence and common sense be damned.

It is interesting that those who believe in less government really believe that until they don’t. That is, until there is a BP oil spill. That is, until there is a 9/11 tragedy. That is, until the economy goes into a death spiral, threatening to take the automobile industry and banking industry and the rest of us with it.

But once the crisis passes, insanity returns without embarrassment or shame on the part of the Teapublicans. Indeed, they come across as the kind of party that would call for the closing of a fire house after it put out the fire at their headquarters.

This kind of Marx Brothers routine might make sense in a comedy show, but in the real world in which we all reside, the philosophy of smaller government only makes sense until it doesn’t. And it is at that point that we all will suffer.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 15, 2013

The Teapublican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address was typical – a futile effort to go back to the future. But this time, with the unlikely team of Rubio and Paul there seems to be an effort to revive comedy teams. Meanwhile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it right by effectively decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. It is the right step of a journey of many more miles. And finally, with the announced resignation of Pope Benedict Catholics and many others are hoping that the new pope will begin his reign by confronting the reality of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.

Slapstick and Punch Lines

Amazingly the leadership of the Teapublican Party thought that it would be a great idea to put Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul on national television to rebut President Obama’s State of the Union address. It wasn’t a fair fight.

Barack Obama may be one of the great communicators of all time, and when he is on his rhetorical game it is hard to say who is in second place. Last Tuesday he was on his game and with applause echoing through the Capitol Senators Rubio and Paul were asked to counter an awesome performance. They both failed – miserably.

Marco Rubio looked like the loser of a high school student council presidential debate to seem like the adult that he was not, reciting talking points that seem to come from the Young Americans for Freedom playbook of fifty years ago. And then he made this magical transition from Teapublican Savior to Water Boy as he virtually ducked off the stage to get some water in the middle of his presentation.

Rand Paul looked like someone who had just climbed out of a laundry hamper and sounded like someone who didn’t think that anyone was listening. His right wing of the right wing soliloquy repeated themes that were soundly rejected by the majority of American voters but he did his best voice in the wilderness imitation.

During the heyday of old time comedy there were comedic teams like the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and Martin and Lewis, to name a few. We can now add Rubio and Paul to the All Star Clown List.

A Journey of a Thousand Miles…..

New York City Michael Bloomberg announced this week that possession of small amounts of marijuana would no longer result in arrest or being put on an individual’s criminal record. The impact of this directive will mean that hundreds of thousands of mostly young black and Latino men will not have to go to jail for an “offense” that simply doesn’t exist in Colorado and is rarely enforced in suburbs of a different hue. This will also mean that fewer of these young men will be marginalized in the workforce because of a petty criminal record.

That is a great step in the right direction. The next step would be to retroactively eliminate such arrests from the criminal record of the hundreds of thousands of victims of this egregious policy. And the next step after that? That would be to totally eliminate the outrageous “Stop and Frisk” policy which torments hundreds of thousands of young men of color in New York City every year.

The New Pope’s Challenge

The announced resignation of Pope Benedict touched off a flurry of commentaries about his eight year reign and what he should or should not have done while serving as pope. Certainly historians will have plenty to discuss.

It is also important for the next pope to finally and decisively confront the five thousand pound gorilla in the Catholic living room. Unless and until every aspect of the global child abuse scandal (which is most certainly over a century old) is exposed and addressed many people of the faith and outside the faith will view the Catholic Church with suspicion.

It has not only been the horrific tales of continual abuse all over the world that has shocked and dismayed, it has been the institutional cover up of the crimes and the criminals. The steadfast refusal of the leaders of the Catholic Church to fully address not only the criminals but also the enablers who have masked this institutional disgrace is unbecoming of a religious institution with over a billion believers.

We can only hope that the new pope will see that now is the time to right the wrongs by confronting them.

Have a great weekend!

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