Point of View Columns

It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Not

One can imagine that there are significant numbers of Donald Trump worshipers who took great pleasure in watching him dismantle the norms of propriety along with the protocols of American government from the moment that he took the oath of office. His refusal to be guided by common sense or good advice must have been refreshing to those who felt stifled by the so-called Deep State.

Trump’s adoration of Vladimir Putin might have given some members of the Trump Base pause. But like their leader, they like strong leaders who don’t respect convention.

The false equivalency between neo-Nazi nationalists and civil rights advocates was clearly not a problem and even Trump’s servile posture at the altar of the National Rifle Association was o.k. Even as the American body count from mass shootings and random gun killings continued to mount, the Trump Nation was clearly willing to Stand by Their Man.

Insulting foreign leaders and entire countries was just Trump being Strong. And besides, these leaders and countries were FOREIGN and not American and therefore not worthy of even basic respect.

Railing against black Americans, Latino Americans, Mexicans and “others” was not only not a problem for Trumpistas, it was what they wanted, indeed needed. Validation that the American that was going to Great Again was also going to be White Again washed away any and all missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds when it came to Donald J. Trump.

Indeed it was all fun and games until Trump found a toy that should have been put in a shoe box in the back of a top shelf of a closet, the way dangerous items are kept hidden from children. Because when Trump discovered that he could engage in trade wars with the world without the consent or approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or any other aspect of government, he found his ultimate toy.

Trump found that he could threaten allies and enemies at will, with his tariff pen in hand he could roil the financial markets of the planet and be assured that everyone would care about what he might do next. Indeed, tariffs turned out the be the ultimate toy for a bully like Trump in that he discovered he could threaten without fear of any serious harm – at least that’s what he thought.

And then Harley-Davidson decided to build its next plant abroad in the wake of yet another tariff tsunami. Other U.S. companies reduced or shut down operations, and the entire auto industry and its millions of direct and indirect employees tried to tell Trump that he was playing with their livelihoods.

And then the bully decided it was time to punch up in class and go after China. The thing is that not being a student of history, or anything else for that matter, Trump did not realize that China would be more than sensitive to being bullied by foreign powers, the era of European-American neo-colonialism in the 19th century not being that far away. And so when Trump punched, China punched back. And then Trump nation got punched in the nose.

Farmers, manufacturers who literally earned a living selling to China found themselves on the outside looking in. Trump has been providing bailouts to some farmers, but those “farmers” are typically corporate behemoths and the MAGA hat-wearing tractor drivers are weeping in their beer.

What is tragic about all of this is that the carnage that will soon hit American consumers in a very real way could have been easily predicted and just as easily avoided. Trump minions keep saying that the harm to the American public will be “minimal”, but when people are already earning “minimal” paychecks, even “minimal” harm will hurt.

It remains to be seen whether Trump nation will turn on its hero because of the pain of the tariff wars. Keep in mind that racism, stupidity, coarseness, ignorance, misogyny and lies have not moved the needle. But economic pain has a way of drawing attention and the weeks and months to come we will learn whether Trump has overplayed his hand —–again.

 

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Point of View Columns

The Unending Saga of Trump against America

The Mueller Report and the Barr Cover Letter bring to mind the old fable about the mountain laboring and bringing forth a mouse. There is no rational scenario whereby Donald Trump was going to be indicted and now lawyers can dance on the tip of a needle deciding whether he might be guilty of obstruction of justice, even though he has stated in his own words that he did seek to impair the process of justice at every turn during these past two years.

And so it would seem that the Saga that is Trump will continue to torment this country and this world. But for those that were hoping that the Mueller Report would signal the beginning of the end for Trump, an end that looked a lot like impeachment, it is important to note that this Report might be the gift that keeps on giving. And the final gift might be a new President of the United States in January of 2020.

But before moving on, however, it should be noted what the Mueller Report appears to say, and as importantly, what it does not say. The Report does say that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump and his minions colluded with the Russian government. To translate into simple English, the Report states that at this point it is not possible to prove collusion beyond a reasonable doubt.

What the Report does not say is why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to praise Vladimir Putin on every conceivable issue. The Report does not say why at every possible opportunity Trump has chosen to take the word of Putin over the national security and intelligence community of the United States. And the Report certainly does not explain why Trump has never provided any contemporaneous notes or reports of his solitary private meetings with Putin, even going to the extent of confiscating the notes of his interpreter.

What the Report does say is that Trump is not exonerated when it comes to the issue of obstruction of justice. But anyone with eyes and ears over the past eighteen months has seen Trump say and do everything imaginable and unimaginable to derail the Russia investigation.

From firing the FBI Director (James Comey), to harassing and bullying his Attorney General (Jeff Sessions), to publicly dangling the offer of pardons to witnesses and defendants called to account by Robert Mueller and by casting major shade at Mueller. And then, there is the constant “witch hunt” refrain that Trump has repeated whenever and wherever. These actions and rhetoric by the President of the United States with respect to the Russia investigation certainly sound like the quacks of an obstructionist duck.

It is highly doubtful that the current Attorney General William Barr will ever pursue this matter any further, regardless of any feckless rhetoric that his office might issue. He may not have taken a bloodbrothersohelpmeGod oath to protect Trump with the lives of his children if necessary, but it is a pretty safe bet that he accepted the appointment with the clear understanding that his job was to play the role of Tom Hagen to Trump’s Vito Corleone. And, by the way, there is probably no truth to the rumor that Barr also had a hand in crafting the Jessie Smollett exoneration letter.

Democrats have to be careful not to wrestle with the Russia/Collusion Tar Baby in Trump’s briar patch. Because while the nation is watching the multitude of sideshows that characterize his presidency, other of his minions are working to take away the current healthcare apparatus for over 150 million Americans, as well as destroying the environment and degrading America’s international relationships, to name just a few really important issues. And while it might provide psychic satisfaction to have a Trump impeachment, the Trump lackeys, a.k.a. Senate Republicans, will never convict him.

Nothing would please Trump more than to be able to play the role of Trump Agonistes – a Martyr for All Time. And make no mistake about it, martyrdom might be the role that could actually result in Trump being a two-term president, dooming this country to an unimaginably bleak and dystopian future.

There are enough reasons why Trump should not be president aside from the Russia issue. The busloads and boatloads of Democratic candidates for president would do well to focus on the reasons why they should be president as it is already painfully obvious as why Trump should not be president.

It is said that free advice is worth what you pay for it. But in this case let’s hope that the Democrats are listening.

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Point of View Columns

And It All Came Tumbling Down

According to the American governmental protocols, barring impeachment or being kidnapped by Martians and held for ransom, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until noon on January 20, 2021. That is a long time for Americans to hold their noses and pray for relief at the same time.

That is also a long time for the Tweeter in Chief to continue to wreak havoc in this country and literally all over the world. There are already serious questions as to how the population of this planet will survive climate change. Now there is a more immediate concern as to how we will survive Trump. And that is now a real question.

The history of the great civilizations of this planet – The Ming Dynasty in China, the Roman Empire, the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, the Greek Empire, the Egyptian dynasties – all have something in common. The common cause of their demise came from within. Complacency, belief in their own inevitability, an unwillingness to adapt to change – all of these flaws multiplied and metastasized until each and every one of these landmark achievements of human accomplishment were relegated to the dusty pages of history.

One could never imagine this happening to the United States, and certainly not after only 230 years. But then one could never imagine a President of the United States who revels in the notion that the federal government might be shut down for weeks, months or even years, in the process bringing about the degradation of the daily lives of over a third of a billion Americans. And one could never imagine a President who has been the serious target of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the possibility that the President could be an asset for the Russian government. And what can be said about a President who meets with the head of America’s greatest adversary and then confiscates the notes of that meeting?

The Era of Trump has exhausted the American vocabulary – the worst, the most ignorant, the most immoral, the most amoral, the most ignorant, the most callous, the most racist, the most sexist, the most careless, the most ignorant – these words lose their meaning due to overuse and in any event mean nothing to Trump because he has heard these words used to describe him for his entire adult life. And the reality is that, barring those aforementioned Martians coming to take him away, he will continue to be President for two more years. Because even if Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives his feckless Republican enablers in the Senate will simply never convict him and remove him from office.

And so we watch the national parks and monuments drown in garbage. We watch airline safety degrade by the moment. An epic outbreak of E-coli killing thousands is only an unwashed hand away. And if a blizzard or a reprise of 9-11 were to occur, this country would be staggered if not down for the count.

And yet, the unindicted domestic terrorist in the White House thinks that his Wall Complex is worth all of this damage. Just as he thinks that threatening to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, or bailing out on the Paris Climate Accords is making America great. But what he is really doing is making America a lesser country every day. It is a hard thing to do, but clearly Trump is the man for that job.

There is this assumption that once the federal government shutdown ends that within a few days or weeks America will be back to normal. But ask the 800,000 federal workers and their families what “normal” feels like. Ask the men, women, children, veterans and disabled who rely on the federal government every day what “normal” will look like. And as Americans lose faith in their government and in the leadership of that government, it is only a matter of time before the assumption of the Inevitable America isn’t so inevitable any more.

There is no clear proof that Trump is a Russian asset. And there probably never will be clear proof. But is clear that Trump as President of the United States is the greatest gift that Vladimir Putin could have ever hoped for, and that truth should make every American very afraid. And we should remember the common cause of the death of every great empire has always come from within.

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Point of View Columns

The White House as a Carousel

Anthony Scaramucci, a leftover from the cutting room floor of “Goodfellas” is hired and fired by Donald Tinyhands in the span of ten days. The White House Chief of Staff and the White House Communications Director are unceremoniously jettisoned during that same day period. Nowhere is it written in the Constitution that the White House cannot be a circus act. There is no clause or amendment which prevents the President of the United States from turning his/her administration into, by turns, a vulgar, bizarre or ludicrous set of sideshows that would make the most jaded vaudevillian blush.

The last several Point of View columns have pointed out that burlesque-like chaos in the White House should be viewed as a sideshow lest we take our eyes off what is really going on during the first six months of the Trump presidency. While SNL writers rub their hands with glee every time Kelly Ann Conway or Sean Spicer or Anthony Scaramucci have executed rhetorical pratfalls every time a microphone is near, the soundtrack for this madness could easily feature that old school  Temptations hit, “Ball of Confusion” as its theme song.

While Donald Tinyhands plays the part of maestro while the West Wing staff plays musical chairs on hoverboards, the blood soaked regime Kim Jong-un in North Korea threatens this country with a nuclear holocaust. While President Trump touts the record gains on Wall Street, unemployment and job growth, he recalls the rooster who takes credit for the sunrise, since he clearly believes that no one is aware that he Administration is riding the wave of economic growth and progress that began 7 years ago during the Obama Administration.

Meanwhile, Russia has imposed the harshest diplomatic sanctions on the United States since 1917. As the Trump administration has misplayed it hand when it comes to sanctions vs. rapprochement with Russia, Vladimir Putin is clearly outplaying President Trump at every turn.

Nevertheless, the Trump White House Follies have become Must See TV for anyone who has a passing interest in what the hell is going on in this country. Anyone who has ever managed a company, government agency or candy store knows that stability and predictability in management is critical to the success of the enterprise. The fact that Donald Trump has tried to graft his cult of personality onto the American presidency bespeaks a level of pathological narcissism not seen in the American White House in history of the Republic.

Quite frankly, the narcissism and self-adulation and infantile demands for personal loyalty would not be such a problem if Trump was able to produce results that benefited the American people. But unless you believe that demolishing environmental protection regulations, reviving the era of mass incarceration and managing to alienate the leadership of most countries on the planet are accomplishments, it is pretty clear that “failure” and “Trump” will be synonyms in the dictionaries of the future.

Even the hard core of the hard core supporters of Donald Tinyhands have to be asking where is the wall? Where is the replacement for Obamacare? Where are the new jobs in our shuttered factories? And, exactly when is America going to be great again?
The takeaway lesson from what historians will one day refer to as “The Trump Tragedy”, is that elections do matter.

Barely half of the Americans eligible to vote did so in the 2016 elections – and less than half of those who voted cast their ballot for Donald Trump.

What has happened is that a motivated, dedicated and desperate minority has hijacked the American government, leaving most Americans in the unenviable position of clinging to the desperate hope that 2018 and/or 2020 will make a difference.

Perhaps it will. But wishing will not make it so.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – March 14, 2014

Clearly the one of the life missions of the Teapublican Chicken Hawks is to get the United States involved in another war – anywhere. There is no other reasonable explanation for the bellicose saber rattling that we are hearing from the right wing of the right wing. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton must have sipped some Teapublican Kool-Aid by going so far as to compare Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. And, not to be outdone, Teapublican Congressman Darrell Issa has proved by his behavior that there is no limit to rudeness, crudeness or barbaric conduct in the congressional right wing of the right wing.

The “Freedom Loving” People of Ukraine

To hear Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham and their Teapublican colleagues tell it, the United States has some kind of moral imperative to intervene militarily in the Ukraine. This is the same John McCain who went to Syria and posed for photo ops with a known Al Qaeda operative, and the same Lindsay Graham who thought that it would be a good idea to put “boots on the ground” in Libya.

The facts are that the relationship between Russian and the Ukraine is complicated, to be charitable. And any policeman will tell you that intervening in a domestic dispute is dangerous business.

And we should be clear that the “freedom loving” peoples of Ukraine boast a robust anti-Semitic population segment and they are very vocal and very active. These same “freedom loving” people have no problems calling black soccer players “monkeys” and worse in their Ukraine stadiums.

And one has to wonder exactly who are what American troops would be fighting for in a worst case scenario?

Hillary’s Misstep

Virtually every political expert concedes the fact that Hillary Clinton will run for president. The problem with being the early prohibitive frontrunner is that such a candidate is forced to comment on anything and everything in order to establish bona fides on this issue or that one which may come in handy when the real campaign begins.

That may explain why Ms. Clinton felt compelled to say anything about the faux Crimean crisis (faux in terms of direct American interests). Endeavoring to demonstrate that no potential Democrat (or Republican) will be able to impugn her willingness to project “strength”, she compare Russian President Putin’s tactics in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s tactics in Austria and Czechoslovakia.

This was wrong on so many levels. We can begin with the fact that the relationship between Russian and Ukraine is complicated and similar to the German/Austrian/Czechoslovakian situation optically, but not substantively. But it is also wrong because to compare Putin to Hitler because the Russians lost 30 million people in a war with Hitler’s Germany and that particular comparison is grotesque insult that is stained with stunning insensitivity and ignorance of history.

There are many reasons why Hillary Clinton might be a great president; her comments regarding Putin and Hitler are not part of that list.

Barbarians in the House

Less than two weeks ago at a House Oversight Committee meeting Chairman Darrell Issa decided that he had had enough of Congressman Elijah Cummings so he peremptorily adjourned the meeting and ordered that Congressman Cummings’ microphone be cut off. Just like that.

It should not come as news that yet another Teapublican, this time Congressman Issa, seems to have majored in rudeness and minored in crudeness in a previous life. Partisanship in Congress is approaching the levels of blood sport and it is clear that there is very little benefit to the American people coming from this.

There will be commentary about there being raucous and reckless and rude behavior on “both sides of the aisle” but it will be hard to find comparisons to Congressman Issa’s behavior or that of Congressman Joe “You Lie” Wilson on the progressive side of the aisle.

Clearly on the Planet Teapublican being right makes it alright.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

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Point of View Columns

The Harder They Fall

Recent events in Ukraine have resulted in predictable, though bizarre, reaction in the United States. Suddenly people who couldn’t spell “Ukraine” if you spotted them a “k” and a “U” are clamoring for President Obama to take bold action. American politicians who couldn’t find Crimea on a map with the aid of Google maps now make the argument that American interests are at stake because of the invasion tactics employed by Russia.

The rest of the world must find the United States to be increasingly odd in its world view. Because it is the United States that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because it believed that its national interests called for such action. And, going back just a little further in time it was the United States that invaded Grenada and Panama for the same reasons of self-interest and continues to beleaguer the Republic of Cuba because its sociopolitical structure is not to the liking of a very loud and exceedingly vocal minority in this country.

Of course that is just relatively recent U.S. history. A further review of this country’s invasions and incursions include the occupation of Haiti and the annexation of Texas along with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran at the behest of oil interests. The point is, the United States is the historical invading pot that should have difficulty calling any other invading kettle black.

The reality of the Planet Earth is that countries take actions to protect and preserve what they perceive as their national interests. Russia has taken actions in the Ukraine that certainly have a plausible connection to that country’s perceived national interests however inconvenient that particular truth might be. And, as noted, the United States is one of the last countries on earth that should criticize another country that utilizes military action to protect and preserve those national interests.

But, never letting reality getting in the way of an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, the Teapublicans are now claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to invade Ukraine because of some undefined weakness that President Obama has shown. These same Teapublicans conveniently forget that President Putin also felt emboldened to invade Georgia when Republican President George W. Bush resided in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Putin doesn’t really care what the United States thinks when he acts on behalf of his country.

Nevertheless, we are being showered with by the Teapublican noise machine with the usual suspects, chicken hawk Senator Lindsay Graham, twice failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain and hasbeen wannabe celebrity Sarah Palin claiming that President Obama is not demonstrating “leadership”. Their thought process must embrace the notion that the only leadership that counts is leading a country into war even as President Obama has been leading this country away from war and perilous military actions.

Another failed presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has contended that President Obama hasn’t shown “leadership” because he takes too long to think and consider various options and that he consults with his advisors to excess. He favorably compares Vladimir Putin as a “leader” because he makes up his mind quickly and acts.

One would think that after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq the one thing that the American people want, and the one thing that this country needs, is a leader who thinks about the consequences of acting before acting. If it were up to the Teapublican chicken hawks the United States would be mired in wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea right now. And if it were up to these same Teapublican chicken hawks more Americans would be killed and maimed, more of this country’s wealth would be squandered and the security of this planet would be all the worse for these actions.

History will show that by being a thoughtful and deliberative president, Barack Obama has been a good steward of the White House. Although it is doubtful that the Teapublicans who have already determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.

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Point of View Columns

Basketball Diplomacy

The New Year has transitioned seamlessly from 2013 with double standards in full bloom. Most recently former NBA star Dennis Rodman has led a delegation of basketball players to North Korea as part of a cultural exchange program. It is not clear what North Korea is offering to exchange but Rodman’s sojourn has lifted the steel curtain that surrounds that country just a bit allowing for the possibility of the light of inquiry and the air of communication to slip in. And for that, Dennis Rodman and his colleagues have been excoriated by members of the American press.

In the view of some commentators, by merely setting foot in North Korea, Dennis Rodman is providing some kind of tacit endorsement of that country’s government and its peerless and apparently brutal leader Kim Jong-un. In condemning Rodman it appears that the naysayers are simply not willing to take his words at face value while also refusing to face the realities of world politics.

If American cultural exchange initiatives were to be limited to countries whose policies and practices are completely acceptable to the American people there would be very few countries left off the “no fly” list. Political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have routinely disappeared or ended up in Siberia. Yet an American delegation is at this very moment packing its bags to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Israel is routinely acknowledged to be the key and primary ally of the United States in the Middle East. The partnership between Israel and this country is historic and institutional. Yet, in 1967 Israel attacked and sank the American navy vessel U.S.S. Liberty killing 34 Americans. An apology was issued and accepted and both countries found a way to move on.

Moving on, there are virtually limitless claims of human rights abuses taking place in China. The Chinese government has imprisoned dissenters and simply does not countenance any criticism of its practices and shows no signs of changing in the near, or far future. Yet most American observers contend that continued engagement with China offers the best chance of meaningful and institutional change in that country.

Accepting the fact that Dennis Rodman is better known for his outrageous conduct, occasional cross dressing, unique choices in clothing and hairstyles, there is every reason to believe that only someone like Dennis Rodman could gain admittance to North Korea and achieve some measure of communication with Kim Jon-un. There really doesn’t seem to be a downside to whatever inroads that he and his band of ball players might make since they are clearly not diplomats and they are just as clearly not endorsing anything.

But just as a generation ago a series of ping pong matches opened the way for formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, is it too farfetched to imagine that basketball diplomacy might succeed in prying open a door to actual communications between two countries that have spent over half a century demonizing each other?

There may be many reasons to criticize Dennis Rodman – role model he is not – but his role in changing the interaction between the U.S. and North Korea may turn out to be more meaningful than all of his NBA championship rings.

We can only wait and see.

 

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