Outside of Trump World the Immigration Ban Makes No Sense

No doubt those living in Trumpdom (the Kingdom of Trump) feel safer today now that there is a travel ban, albeit temporary, on seven predominantly Muslim  nations in the Greater Mid-East, but below is some information that suggests this step will change almost nothing, at least not for the good.  There could be lots of bad, as indicated by someone who suggested Trump is snuffing the torch on the Statue of Liberty.

First of all, the way this executive order was turned out shows the difference between promising the moon on the campaign trail and actually doing something in real life.   The president executed his order providing no time to develop an actual policy to implement it, so immigration officials were confused.   A number of people already approved to come here were halted in airports around the country, which in turn prompted demonstrations and law suits and a temporary stay of the order.

It’s no way to do business, Mr. Businessman.   But let’s say the administration had handled it much better, it still doesn’t make sense.  First of all, according to statistics tallied by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, not” a single American was killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of those countries between 1975 and 2015.”  You might want to read that sentence again.

On the other hand, most of the terrorist killings in this country were committed by natives of Muslim countries not banned, with Saudia Arabia leading that group supplying 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

So, why isn’t it on the list?   The Daily News makes an argument that Trump’s decision might be affected by the fact he has various business interests in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and Egypt and no obvious important business interests in the seven nations banned.

I don’t know and our new president isn’t inclined to enlighten us.  Perhaps it is some of that, but it might also be some of this.  Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are all run by strong men and all of them hate Iran.  I imagine Trump thinks these are guys he can work with, like his buddy Vlad.  Just a thought.

But back to reality.  The Cato Institute estimates we each have about a one in 3.64 billion chance of getting killed by a terrorist with a much, much better chance of just getting shot by any good ol’ American who just doesn’t like us.  About 80% of the terror related deaths after 9/11 have not even been committed by foreigners but by native Americans who have become radicalized.   Travel bans aren’t going to stop that.

This travel ban is largely a show for Trump’s base.  He has gained power by playing to people’s fears and resentments creating a terrorist hysteria.  This executive order shows his supporters he will do what he said.

…..even if it makes no sense to the rest of us.

Trump’s Lies and B. S. and the Press

I believe this to have been a watershed week for the press when it comes to covering Donald Trump.  It finally put its foot  down.   Finally.  After all of these months treating Trump as if he were normal.

President Trump would have had a good first week in terms of optics if he could have just kept silent, and untweeted, but of course like an insecure little boy he can’t resist slapping back at anything that makes him feel diminished.

As for the good week part, he certainly appeared to be making things happen, what with meetings with auto execs, other business leaders, labor leaders, congressional leaders and undoubtedly others I’ve missed.  Also, a slew of executive orders which, whether you like them or not, suggest things will be different just as he said they would in his campaign.  No, same ‘ol, same  ‘ol with him.

But he could not leave well enough alone.   He just can’t get over the fact that his win wasn’t as impressive as he believes it should have been.  The lying press just aren’t giving him enough credit.  “They” just talk  of Russian interference in the election, the relatively small size of his inauguration crowd, the fact that Hillary garnered more votes, and the huge number of women demonstrators decrying his policies the following day.  All stuff that seems to cheapen his victory.

To counter balance that Trump has insisted that his inauguration crowd was bigger than the press reported, and for good measure, later repeated to some congressmen that he would have had the popular vote if it weren’t for some three to five million “illegals” who tipped the scales.

As for the first part, Chuck Todd on Meet the Press did something I have not seen another journalist do, he refused to let Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s whirling dervish of spin, get away with deflecting the question as to why in a statement to the press it was asserted that the crowd there was huge, when it was clearly far less than for Obama in 2009  as can be seen in a photo of each.

Todd never got her to answer the question, but he stuck with it for about 20 minutes prompting her to say that their portrayal came from “alternative facts”, to which Todd responded:  “You mean falsehoods.”  The words “alternative facts” captures much of what the Trump team does, as was clear when Trump made his statement about the illegal immigrants.   He had said it before, but it wasn’t glommed onto then like now.

The New York Times called it a “lie” on its front page, and I’ve never seen them do that before.  You see the main stream press avoids using the word “lie”, as if it were a four letter word, as it implies intentionality which gets tricky to assess.  As Ben Mathis-Lilley argued in a piece in Slate yesterday, it was more B. S. than a lie, and I agree with him (check  out the link), but let’s not quibble.   “Lie” like in whopper, is often what the Trump team has gotten away with.

Of course, this all started years ago with the birther controversy that Trump kept fueling while never producing any facts, just indicating his investigative team was discovering things that made him question.  I never saw anyone demand to see his research, or even who was doing it.  He was good for ratings and kind of joke, nothing to really worry about, so why rock the boat.

Much more recently a TV commentator pressed Kellyanne Conway on the fact that despite Trump’s talking about being audited, no proof of that had been given.  And Ms. Conway, with a look of shock (that would have made the “overrated” Meryl Streep envious) shot back:  “Are you saying he is lying?”  The flummoxed commentator backed off.   You see, the press has not wanted to make that kind of accusation, which is why the Times headline is important.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a more feisty press corp that will actually keep pressing when fed a line of bull by this administration.

A Few Inauguration Impressions

The Day Before:

A “welcome to Washington” event in front of the Capitol Building, begun by actor Jon Voight thanking God for helping Donald Trump overcome “all the lies” told about him in the campaign.  OMG!  Homage to the consummate liar, lying so effectively that Trump has convinced millions he is the lone truth teller among hordes of liars, including the press, our intelligence agencies and Meryl Streep.

Inauguration Day: 

Trump and Mel getting out of the limousine with Obama and Michelle waiting to greet them at the Capitol.   Mel sticks out her hand to shake and Michelle gives her a hug.   Awkward but understandable, both trying hard to get through this with class.

Later Bill and Hillary arrive and jack ass reporters yell out:  “How do you feel today?”  And the press wonder why most of us don’t like them much, though Trump is an outstanding reason to like them more now.

Waiting for Trump to be sworn in and watching Hillary and G. W. Bush chatting a few rows behind the rostrum, wishing I were a lip reader.  Let’s imagine.  Hill:  ” And I used to think you were bad.”  George:  “I’m like fine wine.  I get better with time.”

Senator Roy Blunt introduces the new president by describing great divides in the country in years past, a recognition of where we are now.   A fitting introduction as our new president gives few signs of reaching beyond his base, like the alligator in the group lunch commercial who pretends to be reaching for the check .

Then the new president gives a speech that seemed a crystallization of his entire campaign.   I have to praise him for not being shilly-shally.  After thanking the Obama’s for help in the transition, he talks about a rigged America in which the political elite and their wealthy cronies- well represented by  the people sitting behind him – prosper while the “people’s” needs are ignored and  “carnage” abounds like tombstones around the country.   In short, he gives those behind him, including the Obama’s, the finger.

The rest of the speech was basically “America first” in everything in every way.  If this or that might favor a foreigner over an American, Trump was against it.  A foreign company over an American company, he was against it.  A foreign government over our own, he was against it.

I imagine our allies are  wondering what all that means to them.

But typical Trump, at a luncheon after the ceremony, while demonstrators including some violent idiots were kept far away by security, he joked and glad handed with those same virtually criminal elitists.  Always the chameleon capable of matching his colors with those of the audience.   Always prompting me to question what will he actually do.

Later the Trumps and Penses escort the Obamas to the helicopter which takes them away.

I have no idea what those four said waving good bye to the Obamas, but I’d guess that one of the Obama’s said:  “Thank God that’s over.”

The Impending Reign of King Don

Observing the Donald J. Trump show since election day I am most struck by this:  We have not elected another president.  We have elected a king.  Every other American president has adjusted his life to this uniquely powerful position.   With Trump, our government and we the people are doing most of the adjusting, and at this point who knows how many more adjustments we will have to make.

Take King’s Don’s global business empire.   Because he can’t be forced to, he certainly won’t divest his businesses nor show his tax statements, so we’ll just have to keep guessing what conflicts of interest he has.   An ongoing distraction, but probably just one of many.  Get used to it.

And the rest of the world must as well.   For example, Trump makes an off hand comment or tweet vilifying NAFTA, and the Mexican peso goes down.   Or the Japanese Prime Minister visits his majesty at the tower and is probably surprised to find Princess Ivanka, who has her own business interests in Japan and no security clearance, joining them to chat.   Diplomatic protocols schmotocols.

In addition to protocols, Trump has ignored previous U. S. foreign policy positions, such as the one China policy (which recognizes big China as China, not little island Taiwan, which still thinks it’s the real China).   King Don has stated everything with big China is negotiable, including it being the only China.   This is likely but one foreign policy that the king will likely reconfigure in an offhand manner, while the rest of the world tries to figure out what he just tweeted.

Judging from the reaction of the heads of countries like China and Germany, they already realize the tweets of our boy king don’t mean much, which is a relief, as odd as it may be.

The label “King Don” occurred to me watching our soon to be No 1 Guy interviewing supplicants at Trump Tower seeking positions in the new administration.   I heard this described often as “going by to kiss the ring.”  Meanwhile New York City has been forking out about $750,000 per day in security and traffic control, and still will because King Don’s queen is staying put until their young son, the Barron, finishes out the school year.  Also, the king seems partial to sleeping in Trump Tower, so New Yorkers:  Get used to the detours and budget crunch.  The king is concerned about his comfort, not yours.

I think his royal majesty will largely reshape presidential life in whatever way that suits him.   For example, the White House might become more of a stopover  between Trump Tower and Mira Lago than a final destination.

After all he can make royal proclamations  (and slap back at critics) from anywhere a cell phone can be recharged.  Why get stuck in Washington with its often lousy weather, when VP Mike Pence and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus can take care of most of what Trump wants from congress, whatever that may be.

Also, his majesty’s royal court, his cabinet, are strong and capable (for the most part). Though many have never worked in government, most undoubtedly know more about his or her area of governance than King Don knows or would ever want to know.

Oh, I forgot.  His majesty has said he’d be putting his prodigious energy so fully into his job as president that he wouldn’t have time to go golfing or take vacations like other presidents who obviously were slackers in comparison.   So, maybe I’m completely wrong and he will stick to the national governing body like a tick.

I’m not sure which scenario I’d prefer.


P. S. – Barron’s remaining at his private school in Manhattan might work well for him, and Queen Mel, but others at the school aren’t so happy.  See this piece.

How Will Trump’s Cabinet Work?

One theme of the confirmation hearings was that Trump’s nominees often seemed to disagree with him on at least one important issue, such as whether to honor the Iran nuclear agreement or whether to have full confidence in our intelligence services.  So, I will be curious to see who will influence whom more?

The fact that I still don’t know what Trump really believes about anything, other than his own greatness, adds to the uncertainty.   Columnist Ruth Marcus ponders these questions in a piece titled:  Can Trump’s Cabinet Save him from himself?.  If you want to ponder along with her click the title link.

Also, tonight Ivanka Trump will be interviewed by CNN starting 9:00 pm Eastern Time, 6:00 pm Pacific.   I imagine her father listens to her as much as to anyone, so you might want to tune in to get to know her better.

 

Why I Want Cabinet Nominees Rex Tillerson and James Mattis Confirmed

Tillerson for Secretary of State and Mattis for Secretary of Defense.  It is unlikely they will be stopped in a Republican dominated congress, but I think both outstanding picks in any event.   General Mattis is highly respected on both sides of the aisle, while Mr. Tillerson brings much experience in international affairs as the head of ExxonMobil.  His prominence in that company make some question whether he will be able to place serving our country above serving ExxonMobil.   I think he will and, if it seems useful, will argue that in another post.

While there are a multitude of things to judge a president on, I value most a presidential team who can best handle a “world in disarray”, in the words of foreign policy expert Richard Haass.   The potential for a more chaotic international situation abounds and that makes me more anxious than anything else.

That’s why I backed Hillary Clinton, not because I’m a flaming liberal as my more conservative friends think, but because she had the best credentials to deal with this chaos.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, may be more likely to add to it, if judged by his statements.   Fortunately, I do not take his statements seriously, unless he keeps repeating them, like building a wall on the Mexican border.

A contrary example is his proclaiming if elected he would launch an investigation of Hillary Clinton.  Once he won he didn’t care about that and chided his fans for dwelling on the idea, as if he needed to teach them the difference between what one says to win (which can be anything) and what one really cares about.

Beyond wanting full attention all the time, I’m still trying to figure out what Trump cares about.  I guess endless adulation might be a new goal.  Or being the second coming?

Whatever Donald Trump says is what he feels is useful to him at the moment.  He will change it later if some other words seem more useful.   He thinks he has great political instincts and he must have some or he wouldn’t be president.

Back to Mattis and Tillerson.    And I would add Michael Flynn.   General Flynn makes Mattis and Tillerson all the more important.  Flynn is Trump’s national security advisor, the guy tasked with basically synthesizing the foreign security information for the president each day.  He may often be the last guy in the room.

The three men make up the most significant advisers to President Trump when it comes to foreign affairs (1).  And, unlike the other two, Flynn seems a loose canon.   He has called Islam a “cancer,” not radical Islam, but Islam itself.   He also retweeted false and/or scurrilous information during the campaign (2).

While both Mattis and Tillerson seem more inclined to push back harder on aggressive efforts by Russia and other adversaries than has been true with President Obama , both seem likely to offer more measured responses than General Flynn might advise.

Consider this analogy.   Think of President Trump as a guy who drives around with the other three and often gets too drunk to drive, but at times can be persuaded to give up the keys.    I’m hoping that Mattis or Tillerson will be the one to grab them (3).


(1)  A caveat about those three being Trump’s primary advisers on foreign affairs.  It is impossible to know a this point how much Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, or his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, might influence any decisions he will make.  Kushner is hard to peg, but Bannon’s being the former head of Britebart News, which thrives on conspiracy theories, might give you a clue.

(2)   This article at CNN gives details on Flynn’s provocative tweets.

(3)  Yes, I know Trump doesn’t even drink.  But he often says things that remind me of a nasty drunk.   I do not feel much compunction to be fair to a man who was patently unfair to so many in his clamber to the top.  I will point out, however, things he does do that make sense to me, like nominating Mattis and Tillerson.

The Rex Tillerson Senate Hearing and Donald Trump

Too much news coming too fast to deal with in a post other than to do so impressionistically, which means I might regret something I say.   So be it.  The alternative is for me to not post at all.  I see an avalanche of Trump news forming this week, so I have to act fast.

Today two big events, Donald Trump’s first press conference since elected and, simultaneously, a senate hearing for Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil, who is nominated for Secretary of State.   The Tillerson hearing seems more significant and more interesting.   The guy is impressive, so much so I thought at times:  Too bad we can’t make him president.

The hearing was impressive, too, with better questions asked than I usually see at such events.  In other words, questions from both sides of the aisle were tough and seemed fair, with not much pressing of either party agenda.   Though the general tenor was that our foreign policy under Obama has made us weaker on the world stage.

Tillerson’s diplomatic skill showed when he talked about a lessoning of American prestige world wide over the last couple of decades (meaning he was not only blaming Obama but G. W. Bush, too).

Also, when pressed by Marco Rubio to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal, Tillerson asserted he could not say without access to secret intelligence.  Rubio cited a number of public instances indicating that in fact Putin is a war criminal, but Tillerson held his position.

Many would think that a bad thing, but if we want a working relationship with Vladimir Putin, we can’t begin by publicly labelling him a war criminal, even if we believe he is.  Need I remind anyone that we did not trash Joe Stallin when he was a key alley during World War II, and he was responsible for mass murders in Russia.

A common theme during the hearing was the tricky issue of responding to Russian aggression while also recognizing that there are areas that are  in our interest to cooperate.   Even if we might have a Jekyl and Hyde relationship with Putin, that’s the way it is and both nations have enough nuclear arms to destroy the world several times over.

A new year’s resolution is to get back to shorter posts, so I’ll only say this about the Trump press conference.   One point in Trump’s favor was his denouncing a dubious two page memo that asserts Russia has information on Trump that could be black mail material.    I saw reports on CNN and MSNBC which I hope they regret, as the information is unverified by any substantial source.   In fact, those cable stations kept reminding us the report was unverified, so I would ask:  If it is unverified then why do you keep talking about it?

Ah, what’s sensational grabs attention?

On the other hand, Trump overplayed his hand (as usual) by angrily denouncing the fact that  “information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.”

Oh my, how terrible!   This from the guy who for years kept spreading false information about Barack Obama’s birth place.   Citing his investigators who had raised serious questions about Obama’s birth, while never revealing who they were or what evidence they found.

And this guy is going to talk about “false and fake”?

Trump and Our Intelligence Services: Two Separate Realities

We have a president elect who has been able throughout the campaign to by and large getaway with creating a reality in a shape that was useful to him at the moment.  And now we have an intelligence community that doesn’t do that.  It creates a reality based on their best understanding of the facts at the moment.    And those two mind sets are now clashing right in front of us as we run up to the inauguration.

General Michael Hayden, former CIA Director, on Smerconish show January 7

Those two mind sets clashed yesterday, not with all sorts of fireworks but with a clear display of separate realities as to the main points of the report those intel chiefs delivered to Trump.   I made some predictions in a post yesterday as to what might transpire.  While I think I was in the ballpark, I missed the chance to hit a  home run, not foreseeing the big fat possibility that Trump would cherry pick a bit here and there from the report while misrepresenting its main substance.  In other words he would publicly interpret the report in a way that fit his separate reality.

The reality of the report was that Russian hacking is a big problem and that it interfered with our election in various ways with a few aims in mind, one of them to reduce the chances of Hillary Clinton winning.   That is an unwelcome reality for Trump because he will not accept any news that might de-legitimize his victory to any degree nor any information that detracts from his desire to develop a closer relationship with Russia.

I should have realized that Trump might just ignore, or misrepresent the findings of the report as he has done so many times in the past with information that doesn’t suit him.  In other words, work it into his separate reality.  I thought he would back off a bit as long as the report did not conclude that the Russians actions helped him win, as he knew it did not, because the intelligence chiefs don’t believe that’s their call.

But in simply discussing Russian efforts to make an impact it raises the possibility that some of those attempts did influence a number of voters who didn’t care for either candidate much, but felt the duty to vote anyway.   Though impossible to know how much of an impact, it seems unlikely to have had no impact at all, which is what Trump insists on claiming.  Even worse, he acts as if the report backs him up.

Here is the beginning of the official response of Trump to the findings of the intel services:   “While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”

That is a textbook case of disinformation as defined in Wikipedia:   “Disinformation is intentionally false or misleading information that is spread in a calculated way to deceive target audiences.”  For one, as Michael Hayden pointed out, the initial part focusses on a cyber problem we have with several nations, which is true, but it wasn’t the focus of the report.   The problem with Russia was the focus of the report and that is obscured here.

After beginning with that misleading statement, the Trump team jumps to “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election”……as if that has anything to do with the initial comments on the general cyber problem or that the intel report concluded that.   Neither is true.   The intel report concluded nothing as to the impact.  Instead it leaves it to us to form our own opinion from their information.

The “no impact” comment is just made up, a fact hidden by connecting the words to the statement about no tampering with the voting machines, which is actually in the report.

Perhaps this break down is tedious to you, but the Trump team is so good at spreading disinformation that a light needs to be continually cast on instances of them doing just that.   Especially on a topic as important as our relationship to Putin’s Russia.

Over these next two or three weeks this war between separate  realities could heat up, as there are several Republican senators who I believe will resist Trump’s continuous attempts to trivialize Russian actions of interference in our political process.

Donald Trump, the Phony Fan of Our Intelligence Agencies

The Donald Show continues to keep us guessing, which is the biggest reason the show remains hot.  Unpredictable is interesting, maybe scary or sickening at times, but interesting.  Today’s guessing game centers around a meeting Trump will have  with top intelligence officials to discuss Russian hacking during the election.

The case has been floated in the news often in recent weeks, raising questions as to both the intentions and success of Russia’s actions in interfering with the election.   Trump has not welcomed either angle, especially the part that raises doubts about the legitimacy of his win and, as usual, when he feels diminished in any way, he comes out swinging, or throwing.

He has disparaged those intelligence agencies in tweets and other statements, even going to the extent of citing Julian Assange for support, though he denied that yesterday as I will get to later.  When battling, Trump will grab anything to throw at you (and often later deny that’s what he did or meant).

Despite several previous statements to the contrary Trumped tweeted yesterday he “is a big fan of intelligence”.   The intelligence community doesn’t believe that, as James Clapper, Director of Intelligence made clear at an open hearing in the Senate yesterday.   He said that while skepticism of intelligence results is warranted, “I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”  And there was no question who he thought was disparaging them, the same guy they are meeting with in Trump Tower today.

This intelligence team is not likely to pull any punches, especially since they are all about to leave office, so the media buzz revolves around how contentious the meeting might become:   Will Donald Trump deny their findings or accept them?

I think he will likely accept them for the most part and even praise those agencies in the process because to dismiss those findings, once seeing secret information, would be to put him at odds with Republicans he needs help from.

First of all the meeting won’t be all that contentious because Trump has a history of vile attacks at a distance in public, while congenial with the same people in private.  At meeting’s end Trump will announce he has been convinced that Russia did try to interfere with the election, but did not succeed in tipping it (since Clapper has already stated the intelligence agencies have made no conclusion on that, so there is no knowing, just lots of opinions).   Trump will then make a show of the respect he has long held for the intelligence agencies and what a serious matter the hacking is, and might even talk tough, but he won’t do much about it right now

He has boxed himself in here.  The Russian hacking evidence interferes with his apparent desire to be more cozy with Russia by riling up the likes of Republican senators McCain and Graham, the latter having talked about Obama’s response as “throwing pebbles” while Graham wants to throw “rocks” at the Russians.  Those senators likely will push for a stronger reaction, something Trump will have to deal with later.

Right now his biggest consideration is getting  Rex Tillerson, the Exon Mobil chief, confirmed for Secretary of State.  Both a pro and con with Tillerson is that he has worked out various energy deals with Putin over the years, so he knows him well, but maybe too well, too close, too friendly to many who think of Putin as a thug and a virtual dictator.

It would only take a few Republican senators to stop Tillerson’s nomination, so I predict we will see less of the tweeting teen-ager on the attack, and more the conciliator for a few days at least.

By the way, what gives me some confidence in my predictions is this tweet from Trump yesterday, in which he clearly has begun to reverse his story about the dubious intelligence services.  Of course he never thought that way.  It was the dishonest media that made it seem so.

“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people…. to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against “Intelligence” when in fact I am a big fan!”

Thank you for clarifying that misunderstanding Mr. Trump.  Now excuse me as I need to refrain from upchucking all over my computer.