The Trumpification of the Fourth of July

Remember the good old days when the Fourth of July was a moment of family barbecues and general celebration of our nation’s independence from England back in 1776?    Presidents have stayed out of it and let the rest of us celebrate as we may.  Even last year was that way, but Trump had barely begun to mark his territory by pissing on everything.

As NPR has stated:  “For this Fourth of July, President Trump has added an address from the Lincoln Memorial, tanks stationed in the area, an extended fireworks display and military aircraft flyovers.”

The tanks had to be hauled in on trains because they are too heavy for the Washington roads to handle.  They figure to have the look of props in a play.  Immobile, they aren’t all that impressive.  Silly even when compared with the rows and rows of moving vehicles most other autocrats display.

NPR mentioned the added cost of Trump’s celebration.   I wouldn’t quibble about that if it were somehow a unifying effort but instead it is simply the latest  Trump try to celebrate himself and divide the rest of us.  If that were not the case there would not be a VIP section close to the stage filled by Republican donors and dignitaries and hardly anyone else.

Of course, Trump will say something about honoring our founding fathers and our military, but as usual translate that in reverse to say he is there to honor himself.  As the Wall Street Journal has put it:  “President Trump will take on a starring role in the capital’s Fourth of July festivities with a speech from the Lincoln Memorial that aides are pitching as a patriotic salute to the military but his critics fear could inject politics into a typically nonpartisan celebration.”

In order to stomach this so I can dissect the performance later, I will pretend to be playing a game of Where’s Waldo.   Looking for how many ways Trump will pretend to honor others and play the unifier while actually focusing attention on himself and his achievements, while swiping at the Dems wherever convenient.

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Survivor Politics: Kamala Harris’ Ambush of Joe Biden

The way to the White House for the herd of Democrat contenders goes through Joe Biden and Kamala Harris showed she knows that in the so-called debate Thursday.  I say “so called” because these shows bear more resemblance to the TV show Survivor than to a debate.  There is no time for any real debate, only for zingers.  The whole point is to survive to the next round which means others must be weakened while you impress.

Congressman Eric Swalwell is a good example of a loser in that his zingers fell flat, so the minimal support he has drummed up so far is destined to become minimaler.

In contrast Harris was impressive throwing Biden for a loop.  Several articles noted much planning went into this, including one generated by the LA Times.  But Harris also was a bit lucky.  When the race issue came up and a moderator tried to reign her in, she made clear as the only black person on the stage she was not going to be shut up, and she wasn’t.  She played that race card masterfully.

This gave her the chance to focus on statements Biden made back in the 1970’s opposing some forms of busing – it’s complicated but Harris made it simple, Biden was anti-busing and that was bad……..   And – surprise, surprise – nobody knew the value of busing better than she, one who actually was bused and obviously benefited from it.  Another trump card well played.

While the show was still going on her staff were tweeting pictures of her, the little black girl who already looked determined.  Soon they were selling T-shirts with the picture, too.  Frankly I thought that was all too cute by half, so blatantly showing how well they planned this hit job.  And what a hit job it was.  But I hear her campaign pulled in two million dollars after the show, and the polls figure to show a nice bump up, so she was the winner all right.

And Biden needs to regroup.  After the debate he bemoaned being mischaracterized and wished he would have been able to talk about the future.  The downside of having such an impressive resume with 40 years in politics, is there is plenty to pick at as Kamala Harris illustrated last Thursday in her time travel back to the 70s.

Biden is in a tough spot.  Being defensive is a bad look, but with so many other candidates attacking him, it is hard to avoid that response and point to the future.

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P. S. –  While what I wrote above may look like a hit job on Ms. Harris, it is actually complimentary.  Part of her campaign is as former prosecutor she will be the one to prosecute Donald Trump.  It was risky to attack popular front runner good old Joe, but  the attack was well planned and well performed and it worked.  She showed a combination of skills suggesting she could take on bully boy Trump if given the chance.

Thoughts about the Democratic Primary Food Fight so Far

First of all, nobody stole the show in last night’s first “debate” in my opinion.  Other than Elizabeth Warren, those doing best in the polls battle tonight, so she was the favorite in the betting, so to speak.   As such, she had the most to lose, and I think she held up well enough.

This is mostly a wait and see for me.  Wait and see who the polls show got a bump and who got a trip, like to stumble.   The long shot candidate that caught my eye (as well as that of my friend Tom located at a separate viewing site) was Tulsi Gabbard.  She had a confident presence on the stage, especially when Middle East policy came up. Deployed twice in the area when in the National Guard, the Hawaii congresswoman looked formidable despite only getting about seven minutes of talk time (Cory Booker got the most, 10 minutes).

I wanted to hear more from her, which wasn’t my reaction to most.

As it turns out, the sample size impressed by Gabbard was much larger than Tom and I.   According to Fox News she was the most googled of the candidates nationally after the show, while Warren had been most googled prior to the performance.

Another point of interest was how much more male candidates interrupted others to speak.    That gave the boys more speaking time, which prompted David Leonardt of the New York Times to criticize the panelists for letting the men get away with it.

It makes me ponder how much we interpret rudeness and bullying as strength (anybody in particular come to mind?)  I also wonder how Kamala Harris, a former district attorney not shy to interrupt, will handle that tonight.

As for this evening’s round of candidate promos, Charlie Sykes, a conservative with a conscience, sums up the likely plot with admiral succinctness:

“This is Joe Biden’s debate and race to lose.   He must come off not doddering, not vague and not defensive.”

Get Mueller to Testify and Then Let’s Consider Impeachment

I still stick with Speaker Polosi’s insistence on a slow go to impeach Trump believing, like her, that first more Americans need to be persuaded of Trump’s unfitness for the presidency before they will favor impeachment.

Ari Melber, one of the sharper analysts at MSNBC, got to the heart of the awareness problem:  He has said:  “Mueller brought a book to a twitter fight.”  The four-word tweet has won the battle of narratives over the painstaking 448 pages of the book.  In a world of mind numbing information, we gravitate towards the simplest “truths”.

To combat Trump’s distorted mantra of “no collusion, no obstruction” it is essential for Special Counsel Mueller to testify before Congress.  Even if he just reads from his report.  Seeing him actually saying those words is a big step beyond hearing others restate them.  Fairly or not, Mueller’s integrity it rated much higher than the media who cover him.

A book cannot beat a twitter mantra, but TV, or a movie, can at least give the Dems a chance to square the narrative.  Americans want to see the movie rather than read the book.  That’s pretty much what we are as a nation now.  So many distractions, work wise or pleasure wise, that hardly anyone reads serious books anymore.   Including me (except for works of history that read like fiction.)

A TV show still can get our attention, thus the necessity for Mueller to testify on TV.  It would be best if he did so voluntarily, but he has been so adamant about staying clear of politics that he has yet to show that willingness.  He believes the report says everything needed.  He doesn’t seem to see that pointing to a book is no longer the right way to present the report.

The Democratically controlled  House Judicial Committee seems hopeful he will see the necessity for him to reiterate the message publicly, but he might need to be subpoenaed to do so.   I have no doubt he would comply with a subpoena, given his allegiance to law and order, just the opposite of the president.

It would help a lot if McGahn, Trump’s former White House attorney would testify, too.  He is quoted often in the Mueller report describing Trump’s attempts at obstruction and I’d like to hear his voice at least repeating some of it on TV, but so far he has fought a subpoena at Trump’s behest.   Odd, in that Trump has called his quoted statements lies.

Hope Hicks, Trump’s former long time personal assistant is actually supposed to testify to Congress tomorrow, Wednesday, in a closed door session.   But I think she will dodge questions where she can given her closeness to Trump.

Mueller, McGahn and Hicks would make a nice trifecta if they all fully testify, but Mueller is the most important.  Fortunately, he is also the one who can be most counted upon to testify.

I just hope it is sooner rather than later.

Trump is Driving Me Crazy and the Trip gets Shorter each Day

Not exactly, but with all the thoughts he prompts with his outrageous distortions, he produces  outrage fatigue, lying so often and changing his tune so frequently, everything blurs together.  He has taken us past a “post truth” politics to a post reality politics.

If you haven’t been driven totally nuts, you may have noticed how the boy who would be king said in an interview there was nothing wrong with receiving information from foreign agents, it just being more opposition research.

He changed his tune a couple of times at least, after even a couple of Republican senators gently chided Trump for basically saying to all the world, send us your dirt on my opponents.  The last version I heard was his claiming in front of the three nodding heads on Fox and Friends that of course he would notify the FBI, because no one loves America more than he does.

I could go on and on, but that would clearly get me closer to the loony bin and prevent me from writing at all.   I just want to make this point, a suggestion as to how to interpret Trump’s words.   Whatever he says, just flip it to the opposite.   So, when Trump says “no one loves America more” than he does, just switch the “more ” to “less”.

He cares so much about himself, there can’t be much love left for the rest of us.

And when he says “believe me”, as he often does, translate it into “don’t believe me”.  And if he says it twice, really don’t believe him.  When he says he has solved a problem, it really is he hasn’t solved the problem:  he just wants us to think so, like in the case of North Korea and its nukes.   Remember how he said after that first meeting with his bosom buddy Kim Jung Un that we could sleep easier because the nuclear threat was gone?

Not only is it not gone, it is undiminished, and is likely even stronger.  But no problem, president deranged Don still believes in Kim Jung Un, and his own ability to sway him.

I just can’t wait till he tells us how he has solved the Iran problem.

Mueller Finally Speaks, Albeit not for Long

I watched Special Counsel Mueller’s 10 minute statement in a press conference this morning in which he told us nothing new.  But that doesn’t make it unimportant.

Many would point out everything he said today is in his 400 page report, but that totally misses the point.  For the many, many, many millions who didn’t read the report, including me, it was a needed, simple way to contrast with Trump’s narrative of innocence – “no collusion, no obstruction.”  Which I believe has been the takeaway for many.

Our politics has diminished to a battle of bumper stickers.  So the challenge is to shorten what Mueller emphasized today to licence plate size.  That there was “insufficient evidence” to charge conspiracy (hardly the same as “innocent”) and there was quite a bit of evidence to charge for obstruction (which he lays out in the report), but Mueller felt constrained by justice department policy preventing charging a sitting president with a crime (see bottom for more on that).

As you can see, the truth is a bit complicated, so turning the truth into a bumper sticker is hard to do, unless like Trump you distort the truth to fit your simple messages.  A powerful technique I have to admit.

How about Not innocent, just not guilty yet.


P. S. – A curious aspect to this report is Mueller’s insisting his actions were circumscribed by D. O. J.  policy disallowing indictments of sitting presidents.  That would suggest that he wouldn’t have indicted for conspiracy even if he had sufficient evidence.

This point has been brought up by both Michael Smerconish and Brit Hume, the former a  moderate CNN talk show host and the latter a conservative senior commentator on Fox.  If Mueller was restricted from indicting on evidence of obstruction, then wouldn’t he also have been restricted from indicting on conspiracy had they found sufficient evidence?

I’d like some congressman to ask Mueller about that, even if it is in a closed door session.

A Preface to the Upcoming Mueller Report

Amidst the usual Trump provoked Loonie Tune “news”,  the Mueller report will finally be made public some time next week according to Bill Barr, Trump’s recently appointed Attorney General.   Barr was Attorney General for the first Bush administration, and has had a sterling legal reputation, so he’s not simply a Trump lackey.  However,  he has voiced and written opinions that favor Trump’s view of presidential power and he has done enough as AG for Trump to make Democrats suspicious of his intentions.

First he put out four pages of what he calls a “bottom line” result of the investigation.  It high lights the fact the report does not announce any new indictments.  Music to Trump’s ears no doubt, fitting well with his long time mantra “no collusion” and “no obstruction”.

However, the “obstruction” issue isn’t as clear cut as that of “collusion”, as Barr indicates by quoting Mueller:  “The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.’ ”  There was evidence on both sides.

Since Mueller did not take a stand on the obstruction issue, Barr stepped in and concluded no charges were warranted.  Whether Barr had a right to do that is an open question.

Bottom line Trump can claim to be innocent, by legal standards.  But that does not mean he did not do many bad things, just not bad enough to meet our high standards for a crime.   Even in terms of collusion, it may be that the Trump team is revealed to be a collection of clowns, made unwitting tools by the Russians.

Not guilty of conspiracy but of being arrogant fools who endangered our national safety and weakened our position as a nation of laws not individual whims. These possibilities are what prompt the Democrats to press for a full release to Congress.

The report will be redacted for at least four legitimate reasons, like national security. The big question is how big that redacted portion will be.  The Democrats think it will be too much, information held back because it will be embarrassing to the president rather than for one of the stated reasons.

In addition to that four page report and a couple of letters added for clarification, Barr has made statements at two congressional hearings that indicate he also intends to take a look at the origins of the Mueller report, because he believes some “spying” had taken place.  Barr also used the term “unauthorized surveillance,” but he held on to the term “spying” when pressed  by a committee member.

It is possible that Barr’s “look” at the origins of the investigation will exonerate the FBI, but at the moment he seems to be offering more support for Trump’s witch hunt accusations.

So, now we wait until the report is released next week.  I hope the above helps you better understand the fireworks likely to erupt.


P. S.  –– If you want to become an expert for yourself on Barr’s four page summary you can find it here.