That was the Week that Was

The administration of Donald Trump has been unusual from the beginning, but it has morphed into something surreal.   No, more than that.  What word means more surreal than surreal?   Let me see, how about “nuts”?

I have been working on a post that tries to capture what this past week has been like and what it says about this dysfunctional, loony tunes administration, but it has been more than I can handle.  Like trying to get back into the pants I wore in high school.  Not to mention that the words I’ve tried convey a sense of “the sky is falling the sky is falling”.  Well, maybe it is.   But running around screaming doesn’t help, other than my own need to vent.

Fortunately,  Ruth Marcus outlines the White House chaos in calm, relatively short fashion in a Washington Post column titled “The White House is Imploding.”   It doesn’t include everything weird that has happened recently, most notably the sudden priority our Twit-in-Chief has placed on cleaning out our military of those fussy transgender types,  as if North Korea’s nuclear rattling, Middle East chaos and Putin’s nefarious ways belong on back burners.

But, Marcus gives the gist of the incompetency of Donald Trump when it comes to playing president.   Once again reminding us that we have elected a child president whom we must all work around to get anything done.

Here is the column.


P. S. – The title of the post is stolen from a popular British TV show back in 1963 credited with being the first to satirize the British government.   The people loved it; not surprisingly the government did not.  I imagine our Saturday Night Live owes a debt of gratitude to that show.

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Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, Healthcare Bills and that other thing….North Korea

I usually watch Morning Joe on MSNBC, but I watch less of it all the time.  Thank God for recording devices with fast forward.  Today a half hour was more than enough. Turns out Jared Kushner appeared helpful at the Senate hearing and the latest steps on repeal/replace of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are keeping the possibility of change afloat, but leaky.   In short, not much news.

Republicans are so divided it is possible that they will have to swallow their insistence on repeal and work with Democrats to improve healthcare in ways that garners votes from both sides of the aisle.  What a novel approach.

Oh, and Jeff Sessions remains Donnie Trump’s piñata, as our boy who would be king is obsessed in his resentment that Sessions failed to quash this irksome Russia/Trump investigation.   His sin was recusing himself thus opening the door to Trump’s (I surmise) haunted house.  Sessions committed the crime of being more loyal to the constitution than to his sire, something a number of conservatives have noted as a good thing despite their general backing for the Donald.

The strength of Sessions’ support among conservatives is reflected by Russ Limbaugh calling Trump’s treatment of Sessions “unseemly”.   That’s like the pope accusing one of his parishioners of being uncatholic, reason enough for Trump to stop verbally battering the AG, if he can be that reasonable.

So, Donnie is in a bit of a pickle here.  Maybe that’s why he has come out with a new item to be aghast about, the banishing of “transgender” people in the military.  Now that is a big bright object to distract the media from weightier things………….

Such as North Korea.   At the end of the program co-host Mika Brzezinski brought up the issue of that rogue nation apparently about to test another intercontinental missile and a recent report that they might have one capable of hitting our mainland in a year or so, sooner than had been expected.

Then she mused that perhaps they should have spent more time on that and less on  the Trump soap opera on display in Washington.

Good idea Mika.  How about expanding upon that in your next show.

Oh, I still haven’t found a current article on General Mattis.  I assume that is because the Secretary of Defense is working his tail off figuring out what the hell we should do about North Korea and has no time for interviews.

Searching for General Mattis on Jared Kushner Day

Today Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify at a closed door session of the Senate intelligence committee and the cable stations are giving it the attention of the second coming.   If it were an open session I can see some interest, but being closed……we will depend upon leaks and arguments over the legitimacy of the leaks and that will become the story rather than anything Jared says.  That will probably mirror what he wrote in a carefully prepared I’m-not-guilty statement.

End of story.   In a real world, but not the one we have devolved into.

Watching CNN this morning I saw a scene-in-waiting, a camera placed to catch Jared when he stepped foot out of his limousine at the Capitol.  Whoop-de-do!  It struck me as a great example of our TV press often focusing on nothingness.  This mixed in with panels speculating on what Jared might say, should say or shouldn’t say.   Really, where is the substance here?  It’s harder to find than Waldo.

This reminds me of my favorite definition of celebrity:  “Someone who is famous for being famous.”  I’d add a corollary:   The longer one remains famous the famouser one gets.   This is a news story simply because it has something to do with the “famous” Trump/Russia connection.  Jared is one of the players, reason enough for the media to hype the importance of this unimportant event.

Waiting for Jared reminded me of the play Waiting for Godot, except Godot never arrived.  I assume Jared will, but I don’t need to see it.   In fact I don’t want to see it.  Call me old fashioned, but I’d like to see something newsworthy instead.  I don’t accuse the media of “fake news”, but I do of “make news.”  They take a kernel, or acorn of news, and pump it up with endless attention and speculation to become an oak.

And people sit in front of TV’s waiting for Jared to arrive…..

The Trump camp calls the media obsession with the Trump/Russia issue “hysterical”.  I wouldn’t go that far but it is not quite sane journalism, either.  It is a hot story whether or not it should be.  Of course, as usual, the Trumpeteers forget just how much they owe that same media for lavishing attention on the Donald’s early bid for presidency making him a hot story.   The media cashed in on good ratings and it seemed harmless at the time.  If the TV media in particular would have pressed Trump on the birther issue, their job, instead of playing patty cake with him, we might not be in the mess we are.

We may have been spared a president who, give the man some credit, has become the Tyrannosaurus Rex of celebrity-dom.


P. S. – I mentioned Mattis in the title because whatever he is doing seems likely more important than any news I see on TV.  When it comes to foreign policy he is our Command-in-Chief, as I see it.  Trump is the Twit-in-Chief.  I couldn’t find any recent news, so I’ll keep looking and get back to you.

I needed to get my disgust for aspects of our press off my chest anyway.

Gagging from the Smoke of the Trump/Russian Connection

As I have indicated often in posts, I have low regard for our “president”, so low I turn E. B. Browning’s verse on its head:  “How do I loathe thee, let me count the ways.”

So, of course I have enjoyed watching D. Trump, Jr. and the White House Trumpeteers squirm while trying to figure out the right lies to tell about a meeting Jr. had months ago with a Russian lawyer regarding dirt on Hillary Clinton.   However, like many Americans I really have had enough of the constant clatter about the Trump teams collusion with the Russians.  I love steak, too, but I don’t want to eat it every day, let alone every minute.

I would feel differently if there wasn’t the Mueller investigation under way.  I have confidence that he and his crack team of investigators will find a number of fires from which all of today’s smoke stems, and the Trump team will be scorched in the process.  That will be great, but much of that won’t takes place for months to come and by then we may all be sick to death of the subject and need a marathon viewing of our favorite sit coms just to perk up a bit.

MSNBC and CNN are so obsessed with any shred of evidence that casts more doubts on the Trump administration and their Russian connections that I have been driven to watch FOX more than usual.  Sure it feels like traveling to Trump world as the network takes every opportunity to build him up, but since the other two cable stations are constantly tearing down his administration I actually don’t mind it so much.  At least Fox is not focused entirely on one single subject.  You know what they say about variety being the spice of life.

I envy bears their ability to hibernate.  I’d like to hibernate through this winter of our discontent and wake up to find Trump either impeached or at least more commonly seen as the laughing stock he deserves to be.

The G19 Plus One

If you guessed our boy king was the one, you guessed right.  There was the G19 meeting and also the Donald Trump show.   The G19 affirming the Paris climate accord and showing a general desire for free trade and the Donald paying no attention to either and conducting a bunch of photo ops with the heads of some of these states.  Sure he had meetings with them, but who knows what came out of each, if anything.

Of course the meeting that drew the most attention came with Vladimir Putin which many in the media deemed as “momentous”.   Momentous showmentous.  How momentous can it be when two of the world’s foremost liars get together?  Smile and shake hands without wrestling?   Show harmonious body language?  Post meeting statements show they even have different stories when it comes to Russian meddling in our elections.  The interpretation of our Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was that the Donald “pressed” the Russians on the point, while the Russian interpretation was he “accepted” Putin’s denials.

Tillerson tried to clean up the difference by suggesting it was wise not to stick with the issue, but to move on to possible areas of cooperation.  Apparently they came to some agreement on a cease fire in the southwest corner of Syria, which is pretty measly all things considered….and that is hoping against hope it will hold, unlike all previous cease fires there.  At best it is one baby step, with a good chance of the baby falling on his head.

As to whom to believe about Trump’s pressing Putin on election tampering, I believe the Russian account simply because it makes more sense.   Trump has continuously called assertions of Russian election tampering a “hoax” and demeaned our intelligence agencies in the process.  They say they know.   He keeps saying nobody actually knows.  Something he did again the day before in a speech in Poland.

Does this sound like a guy who would get on Putin’s case on election tampering that surely helped him?  When has he ever really gotten on Putin’s case for anything?  He saves that for our withering allies.

Things have become so wacky in the kingdom of Trump that usually smart people have begun to imagine things.   Veteran political insider and regular CNN guest David Gergen praised Trump for acting “presidential” in his meeting with Putin because they reportedly dealt with issues of hacking and cyber attacks and working together in Syria.  He also liked the fact the meeting lasted much longer than projected suggesting it showed they delved deeper into the issues.

No David, it shows nothing.  First, the idea that they would meet for a half an hour or so was ridiculous, given that interpreters were involved cutting actual discussion time to more like 15 minutes.  So, a two hour plus meeting was really about an hour plus.  Given the complexity of these matters, do you really think, David, they dug deeply into anything?

And reportedly no notes were taken, so how will we ever know what was actually said?  There were only six guys in the room.   Two presidents, two foreign secretaries and two interpreters.

David apparently was only half blind as later in the day he said on CNN that this was the first time he had seen an American president come to a G20 meeting “no longer regarded as the world leader.”  Now that’s the real news.

In a few short months Donald Trump has knocked America’s long held world stature off its pedestal.   The attention our boy king gets by seeming to act presidential is laughable in comparison.  It reminds me of that commercial………   “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV….”

Playing the president on TV doesn’t make you the president, either.  Even if you have garnered all the trappings.

Have Fact Checkers Become Obsolete?

The NY Times has come out with an analysis of Trump’s early days in the White House that “verifies” a hundred or so lies he’s told as president.  I’m glad they did it and that they plan to continue to uncover Trump’s lies.  I believe it will be useful over time, but at the moment I don’t care much.

I’m interested in what could make Trump supporters jump ship and a log of Trump lies isn’t likely to do it.  Yes, polls do show that the percent of Americans who think Trump is not honest has jumped from 53% to 60% since the election and maybe the revelations of fact checkers helped with that.  But my sense is many of his backers don’t believe exactly what he says anyway.

They just think it works because it has so far.  Trump has maintained the image of a winner.  Yes, he’s a vulgar bully, but he’s their vulgar bully, their battering ram against the powers that be.  And don’t bother to point out that rather than draining the swamp he’s added alligators of his own.  Their minds are made up and you are not going to confuse them with facts.

At this point you either believe most of what Trump says is B. S. or you believe his B. S. about fake news and all the rest, OR you think of his B. S. as a host of cunning maneuvers to win yet again, and since he’s gotten this far you’ll keep the faith until the end.

There is a nihilism in many Trump voters in that they think, what the hell, the same ‘ol  same ‘ol isn’t going to work for me and at least with Trump we get to watch those in power fidget and get frustrated and angry like we are.   As rocker Kid Rock observed months ago, “if the businessman doesn’t work out we’ll put someone else in.”

So, while I’m impressed by the “truth” project of the Times, it’s greatest value may come after Trump falls, falls in a way that chips off all but his most fanatic fans, falls because it is hard not to notice how badly he has mucked things up.

It has been commonly noted that we have reached an age of post truth, post fact politics.  If facts don’t matter, fact checkers can’t matter much.

Hopefully, some day they will again.


P. S. –  Thinking of the fact checkers I recall the “book people” in the dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.  In a world of complete conformity and apparently completely fireproof, the work of the firemen is to burn books not fight fires.  Books because they have the propensity to prompt questions and in turn nonconformity.  In reaction a group of rebels form in the woods and each memorizes a book to hopefully be passed on until some better future time.  For us it will be a time when a degree of shared political reality can be reestablished.

HEALTH CARE: The Republicans are so Shakespearian

To be “hoist with one’s own petard,” is Shakespeare’s way of saying “To be undone by one’s own schemes.”  It fits the Republican attempts to come up with a replacement for Obamacare.   It makes me so happy.  Probably not in the long run, but for the moment.

It is a wonderful illustration of how different it is to actually try to create something as opposed to trashing something else.   All I’ve heard for seven years is how bad Obamacare is and how they would repeal and replace it.   Well, mostly repeal, they didn’t get around to figuring out what to replace it with.  It was easy to seem like they knew how do to it, until they actually got the chance, much to their surprise I’d say.

But that was their big promise, so they stuck themselves in the butt with it.

Obamacare needs a lot of fixing, but both House and Senate Republican plans don’t fix much of anything except give back more money to the rich and, more important for the moment, they don’t satisfy enough party Congressmen to get anything passed.

That’s because the Republican party has come to stand for little more than grabbing power and holding on tight.  Of course, there are exceptions.  Ohio governor John Kasich being one, but so few as not to matter in the whole picture.   I think the Republican party lost its identity during the G. W. Bush years and all they could salvage was to become the Un-Obama party.  Anyone willing to trash Obama was welcome.  Donald Trump come on down (Do you recall how the other Republican contenders vilified him in the primaries?  They seem unable to.)

Agreeing on doing something concrete is a whole different story as I learned in my 20s when joining an amazing group of high school students who had started their own school, dissatisfied with the public schools.  I was one of the designated teachers, but the school was truly free in that I couldn’t demand anything of students.  I could only try to persuade them.   It was frustrating but taught me much about humans working together.

The relevance here is that the kids and teachers at this school could all agree on the many things wrong with public schools, but when it came to agreeing on what we would do and how we would operate each day, we could not agree on much.

And that is the Republican managed Congress right now.   To call it “controlled” is an overstatement.  The party, once known for its discipline as compared with the Democrat’s comparable anarchy, can’t even control itself.

Maybe the Republican inability to pass a replacement plan will lead to the two parties actually making some improvements in Obamacare.   It would actually make both parties look better.  Stranger things have happened.

Like Donald Trump became president.