Point of View Columns

Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes

It is a crystal clear fact that by now the question is no longer could or should Donald Trump be impeached. The only question is whether he will be impeached as the known facts give a sufficient basis for impeachment, even in this highly partisan political universe in which we live.

We have heard Trump supporters such as Senator Marco Rubio proclaim that Trump was just joking when he publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Joe Biden and his son. And the only response that might even be remotely useful is to ask those supporters to turn back the hands of time to 2015 and to consider their response if President Barack Obama had publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Mitt Romney and his many sons.

Not that logic has a place at the table these days, but it is simply impossible to imagine any president of the United States, from the hapless Warren G. Harding to the racist and hate-soaked Andrew Johnson to the venal Richard Nixon, who on their worst day would not have asked a foreign nation to assist them in their reelection efforts – much less to “find dirt” on them. And it is a sad but true commentary on the times in which we live that there is even a conversation as to whether Trump’s ham handed attempts at international electoral intrigue are objectionable and impeachable – of course they are.

The real question now is whether institutions established over two centuries ago will withstand the stress test of a President of the United States – and his enablers – who simply refuses to accept or respect the legitimacy of these institutions. The further test is whether norms and protocols of conduct not necessarily set forth in the Constitution will have any future meaning or value if Trump can simply wipe his considerable feet and tiny hands on them without any consequence.

It is clear that at this point in time that Trump feels that he need not treat Congress as a branch of government co-equal to that of the Executive branch. If he can ignore a valid subpoena from Congress without obtaining some kind of judicial approbation, then he is literally declaring the supremacy of the presidency over both the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government. And this, it should be pointed out, is exactly what the framers of the Constitution sought to avoid.

But we are now long past the time for debating how many so-called Founding Fathers can stand on the head of a pin. Now that Trump has defied Congress and will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, Congress really has no way to enforce any aspect of its impeachment inquiry except by going to the Supreme Court.

If the majority of the Supreme Court – including recent Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – stay true to their political DNA Congress and the people who elected its members will continue to be stonewalled by the Trump White House and any subsequent impeachment action will be diminished. If the Supreme Court supports Congress the question still stands – how will the Constitution and the norms and protocols of the American government be enforced when the president simply refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Constitution and those norms and protocols?

We are literally at the precipice of an unprecedented constitutional crisis that, if not resolved soon, can end very badly for this country.

The danger is clear and present.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and the Unreality of Reality

If you are not a resident of the New York City metroplex, it is quite possible that you knew very little about one Donald J. Trump except that he was the host of a reality show. Of course, typical of the life of Trump, there was nothing real about that show, just as there was nothing real about Trump University or the his vision of successful casinos….you get the idea. So it should not be surprising that the reality of the Trump presidency is swathed in unreality.

As soon as he was inaugurated in January of 2017, he began his presidency by lying about the size of the crowd that attended his swearing in. In ensuing two and half years the Washington Post has recording him lying over 12,000 times. There has literally never been a president who has lied as much as Trump – his mendacity is unreal……except that it is real.

We have never had a president who has treated misogyny and racism as ordinary aspects of his daily language. And while it would seem to be unreal that his defamatory, inflammatory and plain disgusting daily tweets are being issued by the President of the United States……..they are real.

And now, as we learn more about the muck and mud of Trump’s attempt to strong arm the president of Ukraine to help him smear his political enemy, we realize that there is nothing unreal about Trump’s behavior. Indeed, in some bizarre and unreal way he seems to have no shame, and indeed has misplaced pride, that he has behaved in such a nefarious fashion.

He has not even given us the decency of lying about his now infamous phone call – freely releasing the transcript of the call and then telling us not to believe our lying eyes as we read the words that can only be interpreted and threatening, bullying and clearly seeking to damage Joe Biden with the assistance of the Ukrainian government.

The water torture-like drip of revelations of Trump’s dishonest, misleading and obscene behavior coupled with his incredible disregard of presidential norms and the Constitution should be enough to warrant his impeachment several times overs. But Trump has become a master of misdirection and distraction. Even as the evidence mounts that he used the foreign policy powers of the presidency to attempt to advance his own personal political interests, Trump is the one hurling words like “treason” as if they were toxic manhole covers that will obliterate his opponents and the mounting opposition to his presidency.

And now it appears that more and more members of the Executive Branch are coming to understand how dangerous Trump is, and how much the system of government that we know is in trouble. And when we learn that Trump seriously proposed that, instead of building a wall at the Mexican border, a canal should be installed complete with snakes and alligators, we can understand that deranged would be an improved condition for this man.

Asking the Australian Prime Minister to dig up dirt on Hilary Clinton so that Trump can follow through on his “Lock Her Up” chant is not some fevered dream out of the right wing echo chamber, it is the confirmed conversation of the Donald Trump in his role as president of the United States. And it is clear that we are long past the time to be worried – we should be alarmed.

Things have gotten so bad that it is not even clear that Trump would leave the White House if he were impeached and convicted or even if he lost the election in November of 2020. The transition of presidential power, no matter how bitter the political differences has never been at question — until now — and it can only be hoped that responsible men and women on both sides of the aisle and throughout the federal government have a plan.

When the history of the Trump presidency is told years from now, we can only hope that the courage and intelligence of all three branches of government will be the heroes in limiting the damage that this man is doing to the United States government and to the people that he so falsely swore to serve and protect.

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Point of View Columns

To Impeach or Not to Impeach

When it comes to Donald Trump there is little to admire. Indeed there is little to respect and there is nothing honorable about the man who will go (way) down in American history as the worst President. But he does have this extraordinary capacity to shock, disgust, horrify and appall just when we think that we have seen all that Trump has to offer.

We have seen him insult world leaders, indeed he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way for a photo op. We have seen him denigrate women in the most outrageous manner and we have heard racist and sexist and xenophobic rhetoric unleashed upon us in colossal torrents. We know that he has no respect for the rule of law and regularly tests the limits of the law (for which he cares little) or the Constitution (of which he clearly knows nothing). And he uses threats that could bring this nation to the brink of war like some people change their lunch order. So what could be left in the Trump Bag of Tricks?

Well, as it turns out, there is actually more in that Bag. Specifically, a federal Whistleblower Report indicates that Trump pressured the incoming president of the Ukraine to investigate possibly wrongdoing by Joe Biden, his potential opponent in the next presidential election. And this pressure was not benign, at the time of this shakedown Trump was holding up a quarter billion dollars of military aid for the Ukraine that had been authorized by Congress (so much for Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances).

We literally do not know if the Ukrainian government took any steps to mollify Trump. What we do know is that days after Congress became aware of this Whistleblower report Trump relented and released the $250 million dollars that he had been using a bludgeon to get a foreign government to assist his campaign against a possible political opponent.

That Trump’s actions are wrong goes without saying – except for his Republican enablers and minions who are doing a terrific imitation of being deaf, dumb and blind to any and all of Trump’s offenses as long as they get their anti-abortion/anti-gun control judge’s from this man. Their silence is the price they pay for demeaning and denigrating this Republic one disgrace at a time.

So the impeachment question arises. And it is important to note that many who believe that Trump has committed countless impeachable offenses should not be impeached because impeachment proceedings in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would mobilize the Trump “base”.

That seemed to make sense for a while. But now, with this latest outrage, it might be safe to say that dragging Trump to the town square to at least reveal all of his sins and transgressions would also mobilize the base of Americans who simply cannot abide by his disgraceful, illegal and likely treasonous behavior for one more orange-hued minute.

Maybe it is time to impeach and not worry about the Trump Base and to start worrying about the American Base.

 

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Point of View Columns

No Time For a Debate When the House is on Fire

A recent article in the The Atlantic by Peter Wehner deals with Trump’s mental health in a manner that is neither medically based nor partisan. Indeed, Wehner simply asks what our reaction/response would be if we had a friend, colleague or family member who behaved in the manner of the 45th President of the United States.

One can always begin with the lies. Trump lies because he needs to lie. He lies when attacking, he lies when he is deflecting and he lies even when he has no reason to lie. In fact, he lies even when he must know that everyone knows that he is lying. And yet he still lies. And if we had a friend, colleague or family member who behaved in this fashion we would be very concerned for the state of their mental health would hope that they would seek health.

But with Trump, that is only the beginning. In savage jungle that is Trump’s mind there is racism and misogyny lurking in broad daylight. Megalomania illuminates the dark recesses of his imagination and in that heart of darkness the only person who truly matters to Trump is Trump…………..and yet, if the presidential election were to be held tomorrow, he has more than a puncher’s chance of being elected.

Which brings us to the continuing saga of the Democratic cattle call/presidential candidate selection process. If only because Trump may be certifiably insane and is certainly a clear and present danger to this country and to all who are in his presence, the selection of a candidate who will remove this curse from the Oval Office takes on almost mythical importance. That is because it is clear that if Trump remains President for 5 ½ more years this country will be hard pressed to ever recover from the structural damage to American institutions that will be his true and only legacy.

One would think that in this dire scenario someone in the Democratic National Committee would realize that this is no time for a traditional nominee selection process. The United States is being held hostage by a mentally unstable megalomaniac who wreaks havoc with preternatural ease. And so, one would think that someone in the DNC might realize that having more than 20 candidates traipsing across the country, raising money for their individual crusades for self-validation and exhausting the attention span of the Democratic base is simply not a good thing.

The week the DNC is sponsoring a debate with ten (10) candidates and one can reasonably ask what could possibly be a useful outcome of this political equivalent of speed dating for two hours. The real outcome will be the continued exhaustion of the attention span of the American/Democratic electorate thereby paving the way for a true American Tragedy – which is what a Trump second term would be called by historians of the future.

It is beyond frustrating, it is terrifying to watch the 21 current candidates soliciting support and money for their cause, in the process diminishing the amount of resources that will be available for the general election while also anesthetizing a significant part of the American electorate with an overdose of rhetoric, policy proposals and “hey look at me” appeals.

In traditional times it would be refreshing to see so many talented men and women looking to define themselves while redefining what or who a presidential candidate might be. But right now there are 21 men and women running which means that by the time of the Democratic convention in Milwaukee in 2020 there will be 20 separate and distinct set of constituencies who will be disappointed and dispirited – and therefore members of these 20 losing teams might not be inclined to support the Democratic nominee with the vigor and enthusiasm that it will take to defeat a sociopathic serial liar who will literally say or do anything to win.

And consider the fact that defeating Trump in November of 2020 will not be enough. Even if he loses he will not easily give up his position in the center of the American media universe and he will continue to sow seeds of distraction, destruction and disharmony throughout this country and throughout the world.

With all that will be facing a successful Democratic candidate when he/she wins, it is important that the nominee be selected soon and that this person will begin solidifying their base and preparing to attack Trump and be attacked by Trump – continuously.

It has been said – There is no time for a debate when the house is on fire.

Someone please tell Tom Perez and the leadership of the DNC that the American house is officially on fire.

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

A Brief Tour of Trump World

This past weekend provided a shockingly bizarre visit to the world in which Donald Trump resides. He is clearly a citizen of an alternative universe where no sense makes sense, and his minions and sycophants and enablers continue to allow him to unleash his special brand of madness all over the world.

Consider that in an unusual display of his recognizing his duties as President of the United States Trump seemed to wisely decide to forego attending the observance of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland and attend to what appeared to be impending disaster and emergency management concerns related to the approach of Hurricane Dorian. And then he spent this past weekend golfing at one his private clubs while posting ridiculous and insane weather tweets and ad hominem attacks directed at his target du jour, or sometimes target of the minute.

And so, when London Mayor Sadiq Khan noted Trump’s absence in Poland while being a ubiquitous denizen of the golf course, Trump lost it. Butchering the spelling of Mayor Khan’s name – i.e. Sadique Kahn – he insulted the mayor, claimed that there was a knife crime wave in London and that the first Muslim mayor of London should “stay out of our business”. And, of course, the fact that he was being criticized by a Muslim was just more than the bigot in Trump could stand.

And it should be recalled that when the female Prime Minister of Denmark called his proposal to purchase Greenland “ridiculous”, Trump lost it again, calling her “nasty” in his inimitable low grade schoolyard fashion. Clearly criticism from anybody that he views as the “other”, or any female for that matter, is enough to cause the so-called leader of the free world into a raging, raving bull, with no pretense of self-control.

And it is noteworthy that in the midst of yet another Trump golfing controversy, news sources reported that in his two and one half years as president, Trump has spent 227 days at Trump-owned golf clubs. The cost of this indulgence to taxpayers is estimated to be $100 million.

And it should also be noted that when Trump stays at one of his properties, Secret Service and presidential staff personnel also have to stay at the facility. The cost of this accompaniment is part of the previously stated $100 million figure and that money is paid to the Trump Organization which is owned by…………Donald J. Trump.

So not only is Trump’s extensive and indulgent lounging and lurching around his golf clubs a pretty obvious dereliction of his presumed presidential duties, his is also getting the American taxpayer to pay for it and…………the money to pay for these costs goes into Trump’s pockets. This is known as stealing in broad daylight.

Of course, the World According to Trump this all makes perfect sense given the “sacrifices”, both monetary and personal, that he is making by gracing the American presidency with his awesome presence. So, in Trump World, we should be glad to be getting such a bargain.

The worst part about all of this is that Trump is doing all of this in plain sight, without the slightest concern for propriety or decency. He should be ashamed, but he is not. The American people should be ashamed that this is just another Trump story, and we all know that by the end of this week there will be more.

And that is truly the worst part of all of this.

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Requiem for America

Any honest appraisal of the history of the United States would conclude that this is a highly imperfect country. Founded on the conquest and slaughter of the indigenous people encountered by the first Europeans on this continent, there is no way to find any aspect of its beginnings that should be celebrated.

Built upon the unholy twin pillars of slavery and white supremacy, the establishment of what became the United States of America cannot possibly be the source of pride for any human being with a sense of decency and an appreciation of universal humanity.

Any student of American history, which Donald Trump is decidedly not, would have to admit that the notion of Making America Great Again is a logical impossibility, since there has been no point at which this country has been great, its aspirations and mythologies notwithstanding. There have too many crimes against humanity and nature, too many inequities and far too many lies that would make any claim to greatness a false one.

Yet, in these days and times, there is a sense of danger and true peril. There is a sense that whatever pretensions or aspirations to greatness there might be, whatever glimmer of hope there might be for the future of this country, whatever possibility that dreams could become reality are in jeopardy. And that danger, that peril, that jeopardy is clearly seen in the presidency and person of Donald Trump.

For decades Trump skulked and slinked across the tabloid headlines of New York City, always pretending to be more than he was when clearly he was a lesser human being and a very unfunny clown. He claims to great fortune were always untrue and his claims to great achievement were always provably false. The bankruptcies, fake universities, unbuilt developments, sunken casinos, multiple avalanches of lawsuits, cheap steaks and even cheaper ties and general turmoil that surrounded this man condemned him to always being a sideshow in the big circus that is New York.

Historians in the future will always wonder how this classic example of the word “charlatan” ever became President of the United States. And those same historians will be very clear that Trump is the most dangerous president that this country has ever had.

While the daily kaleidoscope of his malodorous persona seeps into our consciousness through Twitter, news shows and the very atmosphere that he seeks to pollute, we are distracted from the very real danger that he personifies. We awaken with dread, wondering what terrible lie he will tell, what war he will threaten, what ally he will insult, what enemy he will bait or what part of the black community, the LGBTQI community, the women’s community or anyone who is non-white community he will seek to demean and dehumanize.

Meanwhile his minions and footmen are busily reincarnating the incarceration state and tearing down the scaffolding of regulations that protect our food, our air, our environment, our climate and our future. Trump’s reckless use of executive powers, this time seeking to circumvent the Supreme Court decision that prevents his administration from using a citizenship question in the census because of its racist and partisan intent, is yet another step in his efforts to virtually demolish the concept of balance of power and checks and balances in the federal government.

Trump will abide by no article, section or interpretation of the Constitution that keeps him from getting his way. And history clearly tells that this is how failed democracies devolve into autocracies and finally into dictatorships.

Trump personifies the trouble with modern day America. The pseudo-Christian ethno-nationalism that neatly describes what passes for his political philosophy appeals to the basest fears and meanest prejudices of his so-called base.

And, in the final analysis, Trump may be the one who proves that, despite all of its faults and errors, America could actually be worse.

 

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Point of View Columns

War is No Game

In the military, efficiency is based upon training, practicing and training and practicing. Some of that practice involves simulations of combat and those are called “war games”. However, it is clear to anyone and everyone connected to the military that war is not a game.

That particular wisdom has not seeped into the American bunker also known as the Trump White House. It appears that Trump and his enablers, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have concocted an international policy modus operandi that entails threats and faux confrontations, goading and threatening adversaries and then stepping back from the brink of actual confrontation and combat….just…. in…. time.

But if anyone seriously thinks that tightrope diplomacy is a good thing in these days and times of instantaneous communications and response, they also think that dancing on active airplane runways is a good thing.

What is most disturbing in the recent near-clashes with Iran is that there are people in the Trump administration who think that a war with Iran is a viable option and that it is “winnable”, whatever that means. Even more disturbing is that some of these people are the same people who said that a war with Iraq was “winnable” and that a war in Afghanistan was a viable option.

How these advisors can be credible after a trillion dollars of expense and the loss of life of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children is a wonder in an of itself. One would think that John Bolton and his running partners – like Mike Pompeo and Liz Cheney – should be banned from ever advising anyone about anything, much less advising the President of the United States on matters involving war and peace.

Mike Pompeo is graduate of West Point and served in the Army for five years. He never went near a combat theater and left the military to pursue a career in business and politics. John Bolton was eligible for the draft during the tail end of the war in Vietnam and joined the National Guard as a way of assuring that he would not have to go into combat. Research does not indicate any military service by Liz Cheney.

So the three loudest voices in favor of military action against Iran have never been in combat and have avoided combat when there was any opportunity to do so (Pompeo could have re-enlisted in participated in Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq). They are certainly intellectually capable of understanding the human and financial costs of war, but they ignore these costs so as to support a world view that could turn apocalyptic in a literal nanosecond.

It almost seems that these pseudo-war hawks look at war as being part of some great global game where they get to play Masters of the Universe. But in fact, they are playing with the lives of Americans and men, women and children all over the world. And if they think for even a brief moment that America is not vulnerable to a counterattack by Iran then they clearly have managed to erase 9/11 from their collective memories.

But Americans in New York and Washington remember 9/11. Americans who are in veteran’s hospitals suffering from PTSD and countless other injuries and disabilities remember the cost of war. And if these pseudo war hawks think that bombing Iran today and North Korea tomorrow will make America safe they are either stupid or deranged or both.

America and Americans have interests all over the world – therefore we are vulnerable all over the world. No American city will be safe in the event of another conflagration along the lines of an Iranian war. No American who travels anywhere in this world will be safe at a time when America is at war with the world.

Trump has shown some signs of baseline intelligence and common sense by calling off a missile strike against Iran – 15 minutes prior to launch. How close did we come to Trump Induced Trauma throughout the world, we may never know.

But Trump cannot continue to play with fire without America getting burned.

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