The Essence of the Helsinki Summit: Trump Looked Small and Putin Won Big

Mr. Trump’s performance before the press after meeting Vladimir Putin privately for over two hours (only the two presidents and their interpreters) is being called “disgraceful,” “disastrous” and “shameful”, not only by Democrats but by many Republicans.  This seems likely to linger longer than most of Trump’s gaffs, so let’s take a look at it.

Much of the criticism of Trump stems from his answers to two questions by AP reporter Jonathan Lamire.   Below are the questions and Trump’s response.  On the world stage he looked the part of a buffoon.  Still defending his election win, unable to think beyond what impacts him, rambling, dodging, distracting, fabricating and in the end failing to answer the first question and ignoring the second, leaving the sense that he trusts Putin at least as much as our own intelligence services.   Let me add one more adjective:  Deranged.  You decide…

“Question ….. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.   … who do you believe?……My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching…….warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server? And what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.

I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have — I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.

So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay? Thank you.”


P. S.  –  Putin’s “incredible offer” was that that his intelligence services would work with ours to, it seems, get to the bottom of all these accusations.  As if the recent indictment of several Russians giving details of their culpability was just a puff piece in a local gossip column.

If you want to look at the entire transcript of that press conference you can find it here.

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Dilbert says: Politics has Always been 100% B. S. …. Trump Just Does it Better than Anyone Else.

Not really the comic strip character Dilbert saying it, but his creator Scott Adams, who asserted very early in Trump’s campaign that Trump would not only win the nomination but the presidency as well while other commentators, like moi, were calling him a clown.

The basis for Adam’s assertion was that Trump was such a highly skilled persuader that only a fellow expert persuader, as Adams dubbed himself, could appreciate Trump’s advantage.  I have qualms about Adam’s acting as if he were the voice of detached reason in all of this – he has done his own B. S. ing to promote his stature –  but the insight that Trump is the Albert Einstein of B. S. and could make facts seem irrelevant cannot be denied.

These days he completely ignores anything that does not fit with the message he wants to sell, and the press seem impotent to challenge him, like a few days ago on the White House lawn when they appeared like a bunch of yapping puppies and he their master, avoiding answering anything really, just a lot of B. S. and evasion.  The press must rethink how they are going to handle this slippery serpent.

I’m not going to further describe the obvious as one either sees what I’m talking about or can’t be convinced, but I get nervous when I hear talk of a “blue wave”  when so much depends on who wins the battle of conflicting narratives in the minds of those relatively few who seem likely to tip the fall elections to one party or the other.  Just like with the presidential election.

And in winning those folks over, successful B. S. might be the big divider – certainly not the weight of facts – so I think it a good idea to become familiar with Scott Adams’ views expressed in his:  blog.dilbert.com  By the way, the truncated analysis borrowed for the title above comes from Episode 104 of his blog, titled:  Propaganda videos, Peace with NK and Racism.

In there you’ll also find Adam’s high praise for the propaganda video given to Kim Jong Un, a video that most observers, again like myself, laughed at.  Before wading in be prepared to feel uncomfortable.  Seeing him tearing apart positions you might hold dear, such as the inhumanity of putting “kids in cages,” a position he calls “fraudulent, but deeply effective persuasion.”

His emphasis on the effectiveness of the persuasion rather than the right or wrong of it can be disconcerting.   I would imagine he would give high marks for Hitler’s persuasiveness.  Still, bottom line.  His analyses seem well worth reflecting upon, especially for liberals who place too much emphasis on facts to sway others, which could leave us shocked once again by the results of the next election.


P. S. – A little self confession.  I can’t watch much of Rachel Maddow’s show anymore.  I respect her ability and knowledge, but she continues to teach facts, often repeating and reconnecting ones she has taught before, as if continued speculative analysis of  of the Mueller probe is going to persuade anyone anew.  I for one just want Mueller (and those investigating Michael Cohen) to finally present their findings before it becomes awkward to do so too close to the fall election.   People hearing “witch hunt” incessantly while Mueller remains silent is a troubling brew.

I think for these cases to drag on through the election will confirm Trump’s being a victim B. S. in the minds of many who are on the fence awaiting a push to the Dem side or to that of the Trumpublicans.

Much more than usual, which party winds up controlling the House of Representatives will dictate much of what is to come in the next two years.

Trump declares North Korea ‘no longer a nuclear threat’….Really??

When it comes to creating illusions, my first thought would normally be David Copperfield, but the “historic event” in Singapore that Trump ginned up takes the cake.  Like most I would agree with Churchill’s statement that “jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”  But if the continued jawing creates a false fantasy of progress, that is a danger in itself.  Pleasant dreams our nice, but at some point we must wake up.

“No longer a nuclear threat,” Trump tweets.  Why?  Because he got a long famously with the former little rocket man who Trump now views (or says he does, who knows?) as “talented… funny… smart… a man who loves his people”.

Loves his people?  This is a guy blamed for the murder of his half-brother, not to mention many others in his regime who he viewed as threats.  And this is also a guy who has continued the family tradition of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of possible detractors earning his nation the reputation of being the most oppressive on earth.

All Kim Jong Un offered was a promise to “work toward the complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula”…… No specifics whatsoever (including what complete denuclearization means) and Trump treats this as a huge victory for peace from a nation that has broken every arms agreement it has made with us.  Trump was so grateful to appear to have made peace that he offered to stop joint military exercises with South Korea (like the ones this August), or at least suspend them until further notice.

(This must have come off the cuff as South Korea and other allies along with our military seemed startled at the announcement).

In exchange for this fantasy the American president acted like he just found his long lost brother while the world watched Trump embrace the most oppressive dictator on the globe as if we Americans had no history of being the beacon of freedom in the world.

This is where Trump’s lack of knowledge and concern about history comes into play.   His sense of history goes back about two weeks, the time he and Kim have been being nice to each other.  As he has indicated, all he knows is that with him Kim has been a fun guy, a guy who Trump believes he can do business with.

Gag me with a spoon.   Trump has pulled out of the Iran agreement for being too weak.  It has over 100 specific, verifiable demands that Iran has been meeting, while all he has from Kim is a promise to try to work things out.  It is that belief alone that separates us from NOKO being a nuclear threat.  All the threats and tough talk and this empty document is what Trump got out of it.  It is only about two to four pages depending how you space it…… Hey, you can read it in 10 minutes (includes a break to get coffee).

What I find particularly irritating is the tendency for commentators to call this meeting a “historic event,”  even those quite critical of it.   Such a term tends to carry positive connotations, implying – as Trump claims – that only he could bring about such a meeting.

WRONG, VERY WRONG………..  the Kim family line has always craved such a meeting, but previous presidents did not want to legitimize this string of dictators in the world’s eye.  Dictators who, to remind you again, have broken every arms agreement we have made with them.

Now, with the president saying “there is no longer a nuclear threat,” how can we hold together the nations that have been sanctioning North Korea?   Those who call this a historic event should occasionally note that such events are not always good, such as the Munich agreement between Hitler and English prime minister Chamberlain, who believed Hitler could be bargained with and when returning home announced to his nation that he had “saved peace in our time.”  A premature judgement if there ever was one.

When it comes to being a historic event, I’ll borrow Trump’s frequent answer to any question that touches upon the future “We’ll have to wait and see.”

I’ll wait to see if this mutual expression of good will between two of the biggest liars on the planet actually leads to a North Korean denuclearization plan with  a series of verifiable steps.   Until then,  I’ll just mark this summit down as one more self-congratulatory publicity stunt by the man I affectionately think of as Trumpenstein.

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P. S. – I did not cover all of the wacky elements of the Singapore meeting.   Trump also presented Kim with a four minute movie apparently designed to dazzle him with the economic possibilities of playing ball with us.  This film was labelled “sensational idiocy” by the folks at the New Yorker, a term that pretty much sums up my sense of the entire summit.  Take a glance at the video and the magazine’s response here.

A Day Without You Know Who

It is 6:00 a.m. and normally I would be sitting on my couch channel surfing between MSNBC, CNN, and FOX, watching the latest so-called news, mostly speculation, about you know who (YKW).  I don’t recommend starting your day that way, as I’m usually left with a slight nausea, and feeling in desperate need for a spark of enthusiasm to meet the rest of the day.

While my goal with this blog is to shed a little light to dispel here and there the Gotham-like miasma that YKW cloaks the truth with by the hour, I can’t help but feel I’m just another pawn in his game.  I am one of the many who spend way to much time focused upon him.  And in writing this blog I am pushing others to do the same.  All just what he wants.  It is a conundrum.

This came to mind when I sent a friend/blog-reader a web site which tracks the YKW roller coaster ride daily.  His name is John and his wife Deb.  While he thought the site could be useful, he added:  “Deb and I are trying to persuade each other to spend less time watching cable news because you just get spun around faster and faster into the vortex, and you end up knowing only what you knew before the dizzying spin”. 

In other words, thanks but no thanks for more about YKW.

I can hear you, man.  My excuse is I’m addicted.

But I still haven’t turned on cable news and hope not to, while referring to the oversized boy who would-be king as YKW adds some distance, too.  If his name comes up later in the day it won’t come out of my mouth.  And I’ll keep mum if others talk about him.  Or at least try to.

It is only one day, but you know how it is with us addicts.  We take it one day at a time.

The WSJ Editorial Board Can’t Stand Trump’s Behavior, Either

The right leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal tends to say nice things about Trump when they are somewhat warranted, rather than attack him, but even they are getting sick of his juvenile behavior as reflected in yesterday’s editorial titled:  The Tale of Stormy Donald:  His willful self-indulgence catches up to President Trump.

There are tons of left leaning and centrist criticisms of Trump, but when the WSJ mirrors them, it suggests there is some sense of a common reality among those across the political spectrum.  The White House does not only look chaotic to liberals, but to thinking conservatives as well.

“Every sentient voter in 2016 understood that Donald Trump had a bad history with women. He survived politically because his opponent had spent 20 years denying or apologizing for even worse behavior by her husband. But mistakes of character tend to catch up with everyone, and that’s what is now happening with President Trump and his many women.

Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) may be a porn star and admitted liar with a shark for a lawyer, but her tale on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday still has the potential to harm Mr. Trump. That’s not because of the 2006 hookup or its mockable details. Mr. Trump denies that it happened, but then why did his lawyer Michael Cohen go to such lengths to keep it quiet before Election Day in 2016?

The problem as ever is the cover-up. The Journal broke the story earlier this year that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 in late October of 2016 not to talk about the liaison with Mr. Trump. On Sunday Ms. Clifford agreed it was “hush money.” The legal agreement has now broken down in mutual recriminations, and Mr. Cohen insists that he paid the $130,000 on his own without any discussion or repayment from Mr. Trump.

The legal issue is whether Mr. Cohen’s payment violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding the $5,400 donation limit from any individual. John Edwards, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, was indicted in 2011 for using illegal campaign donations to conceal news about his mistress from voters.

A jury acquitted Mr. Edwards in 2012, in part due to the complexity of campaign-finance law, but that may not matter to Robert Mueller. The special counsel is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election but has already gone far afield to indict Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on money-laundering charges. Don’t be surprised if he also tries to squeeze Mr. Cohen to get to Mr. Trump.

It’s impossible to predict how all of this will play out politically. Many Trump partisans will refuse to believe it or claim it’s irrelevant. But our guess is that at the margin this contributes to a growing public belief that Mr. Trump’s personal flaws are undermining his chances for a successful Presidency.

Two months ago he had emerged from a tumultuous first year with the triumph of tax reform and rising poll numbers. The strong economy had Republicans closing the gap with Democrats on who should run Congress next year. But Mr. Trump can’t resist promoting White House strife and making himself the center of political tumult.

His recent selections of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo for his security team are first rate. But Mr. Trump’s reality-TV dismissal of their predecessors was nasty and chaotic. On Friday he threatened to veto a budget bill his own staff had been negotiating for weeks—further souring voters on the GOP Congress. Doesn’t he realize that if Democrats win the House, they will vote to impeach him?

Mr. Trump can’t retain the best legal counsel because no one wants a client who ignores all advice. He wants to answer questions from Mr. Mueller but probably won’t prepare enough to avoid even accidental self-incrimination. The Stormy Daniels case is typical of Mr. Trump’s pre-presidential behavior in thinking he can, with enough threats and dissembling, get away with anything. He’s never understood that a President can’t behave that way, and this may be the cause of his downfall.”


P. S. – There has long been a split between the news division and editorial division of the WSJ.  The news division comes up with some great scoops regardless of their political impact, scoops that provide facts not necessarily supportive of their editorials.   Anyway, the above is an example of the two divisions coming together on the issue of Trump’s behavior.   I guess as he touts, in some cases he is a unifier.

Michael Avennati, Game Playing and Public Opinion

While I still think Stephanie Clifford is much more honest than Donald Trump (a low bar I know), her lawyer, Michael Avennati, undermined the power of that contrast by trying to get too cute regarding the 60 Minutes interview with Clifford yesterday.

Last week he popped up everywhere on politics TV, teasing out all sorts of possibilities of what Stormy would reveal Sunday, implying hard evidence would be displayed.   It turned out no hard evidence was produced and the only thing significantly new was her assertion that a man physically threatened her in a parking garage if she didn’t shut up about Trump.  No proof was given, so how do we know she didn’t make that up?

In the court of public opinion it comes down to whether you tend to believe her or not.  Does she deserve credit for standing up to Trump, or is she just playing us a long as Trump regularly tries to do.

I feel played and I feel pissed.

You can’t project yourself as a truth teller and then offer no proof and/or little in the way of new information, especially after hyping the appearance for days.

Being known as a “porn star” provides a couple of strikes against Clifford’s character to begin with.  Implying goods would be revealed and then holding them back Sunday further diminishes trust in her and her arguments.

I don’t want to hear anything more from either of them unless it is accompanied with the hard evidence they keep implying they have.

Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.


P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.