Is Donald Trump Above the Law?

  A new essay in the Economist explores that question, while stating: ” Revelations and convictions will eventually force America to face” that simple question.

In my last post I advocated attempts by pro anti Trumpers to develop civil discussion.  But if we are to have a civil discussion we should begin with that question and what it means to people.  Trump has shown many signs he has no regard for the rule of law when it gets in his way.  And it hasn’t seemed to faze many of his backers.

Some of that I understand because most often Trump doesn’t break the law but finds ways to work around it.   For example, now he is holding up the possibility of a pardon for Paul Manafort, which he legally can do but shows a contempt for the law itself and all the work of prosecutors and juries to decide the case.   And equally bad it provides signs to anyone in legal struggles that reflect on Trump that he has the power to save them.

The revelations and convictions of the past week suggest that we are getting beyond the endless speculation to hard facts.  I firmly believe the “real Trump” is about to be proven to be a crook and a phony.   I just heard this morning that Allen Weisselberg, the CFO of the Trump organization for decades is getting an immunity deal, which follows one given to David Pecker, the executive in control of the National Enquirer and long time Trump friend.

You don’t get an immunity deal if you don’t have much evidence to offer on bigger fish.  Both men should have much to reveal about how Donald Trump and his family have operated, so I suggest we suspend my idea of trying to find a platform for discussing  Trump until it has been decided how big of a crook we are talking about.

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Truth and Lies: Stormy Daniels vs. Donald Trump

I’m writing about Stephanie Clifford (a. k. a. Stormy) because, foremost, she is the only topic in Trumptopia that makes me smile.   Secondly, every other topic I can think of is too complex and/or given to too much speculation.  The speculation is more contained with Stephanie’s issue.   It boils down to who is telling the truth, and it looks like Trump won’t get away with this lie as he has with so many others.  Ironically, Stephanie is a real person known by a fake name, while Trump is a fraud known by his real name.   But not always, as we soon shall see.

As you probably know, Stephanie had an affair with Trump a few years before the election and was paid $130 grand shortly before the voting to hush up about it.  Of course, as with any of his sexual indiscretions (big and small) he denies it ever happened and denies he knew anything about the hush money paid by a long time personal lawyer Michael Cohen.  The fly in the ointment is their account of the story is impossible to believe, unless you have stopped thinking altogether, reminding me of an old Scottish aphorism:  “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

True, Trump has been a Houdini in escaping a multitude of previous webs, but I’m betting Stephanie can be the one to nail him.   Way before Mueller gets around to it.  If the affair never happened, why did Cohen pay Stephanie all that money?   All I’ve heard from Cohen is, yes, he paid the money, but no Trump didn’t know and the affair never happened to begin with.   Ah……could you run that explanation by me again?

Also, why would Trump’s organization and Cohen now be threatening to sue Clifford for $20 million for things they fear she might expose on 60 Minutes this Sunday and who knows when and where afterwards?

As Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti has described the whacky scenario in a tweet:   “How can President Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he (Trump) and Mr. Cohen claim he never was a party to and knew nothing about?”

Avenatti says they aren’t afraid of Trump’s threats, as they argue the non-disclosure agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it, not even signing in the blank space over his alias in the suit, David Dennison.  My guess is they thought if Trumped signed it (bring in the hand writing experts), he couldn’t completely deny knowing about it, even if he signed Santa Clause.

I’m smiling thinking of this, as Clifford and Avenatti appear to have Cohen and Trump caught in their own twisted web, beating them at their own manipulative game.  Avenatti  has been making the political talk show circuit implying all sorts of goodies Stephanie has to share with us Sunday, offering up a lie detector test she passed in 2011 as an appetizer.

You may have noticed, I have avoided the terms “porn star” or the somewhat less derogative “adult film star” in reference to Ms. Clifford because the more I’ve read about her the more respect I feel.  She seems smart and tough and brave.  Sure she welcomes the money and attention but, unlike Trump, if she wins this game it is because her claims are based on facts and honesty, in contrast with Trump’s success formula, a web of deceit spun over years.

If she triumphs, it will help the legal cases against Trump of  a former Apprentice contestant and a former playboy model, not to mention those dozen plus women who accused Trump of molesting them prior to the election, tossed aside because Trump denied the claims of all of them.   And the press let them fall by the wayside, too busy combating Trump’s latest lies after he became president.

It all fits so well in the upside down world of Trumptopia whereby the porn star is actually the one who can be trusted while the president can not be.


P. S. –  Want to know a little more about Ms. Daniels?  Go here.

THE TRUMP SHOW CONTINUES: The Second Republican Debate

Donald Trump’s unique achievement has been to turn politics into entertainment by being the most entertaining of the candidates.  Tonight figures to be another big show.  If it is, I think the Donald’s numbers are safe.   Trump’s support will not go down until his fans have become tired of his shtick, just as fans of any popular TV show drop off over time.  The novelty loses its magic.  The tension now lies in our not knowing how long he can keep the show going.

The curiosity for me is which other candidate or candidates jump up their poll numbers tonight and how they do it.

If I were in a position to ask the Donald a question, I’d ask him to explain what he meant by saying he was an “entertainer”  in response to criticism for his comment about Carly Fiorina (“Would you vote for this face?”)  Is he implying that an entertainer should be judged differently than a politician?

I think he revealed much with that comment, surprisingly so, like an actor in a movie who gives an aside to the audience and then returns to character.   He and the character are not one and the same.   Trump’s authenticity isn’t as authentic as it seems.

I think many of his fans see the actor in Trump, but it doesn’t matter as long as they like the script.

But enough of that……   To go beyond the entertainment factor, how should we judge these candidates as presidential timber?  According to conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin there are seven things to look for in candidates who are not ready to be president .

Though I seldom agree with her on other topics, like her estimation of Obama (“feckless”), I think she’s an astute critic of her own party.  It might be interesting to read the list below and guess who she might be referring to and then go to her column for elaboration and her suggested culprits:

  1. If you plead on a major issue that it is a hypothetical ….. you are not ready for prime time.
  2. If you say you will have “advisers for that” in reference to major policy decisions or a basic understanding of the world, you are not ready for prime time.
  3. If you delight in creating chaos, you are not ready for prime time.
  4. If you make a martyr out of a government employee who refuses to do her job in compliance with the law (common law, statute or constitutional decision), you are not ready for prime time.
  5. If you declare you are in favor of a constitutional amendment to address some issue, you are not ready for prime time.
  6. If you attack the questioner or the question, you are not ready for prime time.
  7. If you promise to “abolish the IRS,” build a wall along the entire Mexican (or Canadian) border, get rid of the National Security Agency (instead only gather information on known terrorists) or start a trade war with China, you are not ready for prime time.

“The Science Behind Trump-Mania”: The Bloomberg Poll

Regular readers know that my disdain for Donald Trump of only a couple of months ago has given way to the excitement of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I just can’t wait to see more.   How far can reality TV go before it is our collective river of reality, not just one of many tributaries?  All the way to the presidency?

When can I laugh at the man again and not worry about it?

Although the Donald is riding a great wave right now, the waters figure to get more and more choppy in the months ahead, something I will speculate upon as time goes by.   But I’m riding his surf board piggy back until the upsurge.   No matter how it eventually plays out, the future of The Candidate reality show is secured.   It’s a big hit that figures to remain big for months to come.  Perhaps the great greatest success of this consummate narcissist.

There has been endless theorizing how Trump has pulled this off, but the recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll breaks it down as well as anybody, so let’s take a look at what they have to say:

“Donald Trump‘s startling transformation from reality TV star to serious presidential contender in the eyes of some key Republican voters happened because he’s been able to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be, a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.

A look underneath the poll’s headline numbers, which put Trump atop the GOP field in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating caucuses on Feb. 1, suggests the New York real estate mogul is making the sale in large part because of qualities that aren’t part of the average political résumé. Everything that conventional wisdom says would torpedo his candidacy is instead making it stronger.

Penchant for brash pronouncements: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say the billionaire’s willingness to “tell it like it is” is the most attractive feature of his candidacy, according the poll.

Lack of political experience: Trump’s next best-scoring assets, at 18 percent each, were his success in business and the fact he’s not a career politician.

Ostentatious lifestyle: His outsized wealth came next in the list of qualities that voters find attractive, with 12 percent saying they like it because it might free him from outside influence. Seven percent said Trump’s most attractive quality was that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.

“I think he would be a good change to have the government run more like a business,” said Trump supporter Garrison Reekers, 43, a deputy sheriff from Belle Plaine, Iowa, who participated in the poll. “He can afford to pay his own way so he doesn’t have to take special interest money.”

So there you have it, or much of it.  Go to the poll and you can find caucus goer mentality sliced and diced in numerous ways.  Two points stick out in my mind. First, that of these projected caucus goers, 35% of them don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States, with the number rising to 46% of Trump supporters.   OMG! Are they still around in such numbers?

Funny, as the birther movement was forging my image of Trump as political clown, it was planting the seeds of his present campaign.  I lose. The Donald wins. (So far).

Second, while Trump gets a favorable response in terms of most campaign issues, especially the economic ones like world trade and job creation (in the 80’s), his worse two ratings are in “working with congress to get things done” (43%) and “improving race relations” (42%)…….

If predominantly white Iowans (over 90% in the state), many of them supporters, see Trump as weak on those last two issues, can you imagine the rest of the country giving him higher marks?

How do you become elected president if race relations and working with congress are your two weakest suits?

Well, it depends on how frustrated and angry we are down deep with our present collective circumstances.  How desperate we are to find a simple solution in the form of a savior.  As shocking as it would be here, it wouldn’t be the first time in history a dictator has been elected.

TRUMP MANIA

An American who has been living in England for many years has written that she is surprised at the attention I have been giving Donald Trump.  No one is more surprised than I, as might be inferred from my initial post on the phenom in late June.   I was part of the chorus that called him a clown.  It turns out he was actually the ringmaster and we were his clowns.

The Apprentice has morphed into The Candidate, now with the smidgen of potential to one day morph again into The President.   Reality TV eventually transformed into surreality TV?

The thought horrifies but fascinates, as if some huge asteroid was hurtling itself towards us.  Why horrified at the thought of a Trump presidency?   Because anyone who basically holds himself up as the answer to all of our major problems (these fool politicians got us into this mess and I alone am rich enough not to be bought and smart enough to fix the problems and “make American great again”) is a snake oil salesman.

But snake oil sales are going good and I don’t see the demand reducing any time soon.

The temptation is to try to analyze Trump as a psycho-sociological phenomenon, but that’s worth a book and the story has just begun.   Still, still there is wide spread disdain for both politicians and politics as usual (Democrat Bernie Sanders being another beneficiary) and with the rise of Trump, politics have become anything but usual.

That’s the point.  The unusual in the form of Trump is a lot more fun and interesting.  In this case  especially for Democrats who love to watch the squabble,  but obviously for many Republicans as well.  It must keep a number of other Republicans awake at night, though.   Unlike literally a few weeks ago, it seems Trump’s getting the party nomination is not totally far fetched.

Jeb Bush is the only other candidate to get much traction in the polls at this point.  But when they juxtapose clips on TV of The Donald in front of a crowd of thousands next to the jeb in front of a few hundred, Trump looks like a star and jeb looks like an undertaker.  And he is the only other Republican candidate to receive even double digit poll support, still only about half of THE DONALD’s.  As is often said, Trump takes all the oxygen out of the room, prompting images of the other candidates gasping for breath and just trying to survive.

The President, hmm….. now that’s a “reality” show I’d watch, frightened as I would be.

The First GOP Debate a.k.a. The Donald Show

As certain as I am that the Donald Trump campaign balloon will pop at some point, I’m revising my thinking as to how he’ll perform tonight.   Forget what I said in my last post about him turning the evening into some form of The Apprentice.  He doesn’t need to make the debate all about him, it already is.

He has already established himself as the clear cut leading Republican candidate in the polls, so he does not need to be as outrageous as usual. He simply has to get through the night without the other candidates successfully tearing him down and I think the other candidates on stage will be wary of doing that, lest they seem like they are ganging up on him and dismissing the anger and frustration of a large proportion of the Republican base.   The Donald’s peeps.

In short, Trump does not need to score points on his opponents.  He’s already the big leader.  He just needs to counter punch a bit if they try to land punches on him.   So, the stage is set for Trump to look more presidential than usual which is all he needs to maintain his lead in the polls. What I’ll be curious to see is whether any of the other candidates impress sufficiently to rise in the polls themselves and what they’ll do to distinguish themselves. (1)

The difficulty for them is that anything that sounds like a serious approach to some problem, such as Chris Christie’s proposal for entitlement reform, will prompt glazed over eyes when compared with the Donald’s hubris.  You want entitlement reform?  Elect me president and I’ll show you entitlement reform, just as I built up a real estate empire.   I’ll also fix the border problem as well as put China in its place.  Wait and see.  The Great Wall will become The Great Wall of Trump.

The basic reason I think the Donald’s campaign will fizzle over time is that as much as we all want to fix a number of problems in this country, we have different ideas as to how to fix what and even what needs to be fixed, often polarized ideas.  The herculean challenge for a president these days is not to fix everything, but to get the rest of us (in the form of Congress) to agree upon a path to fix anything.

About a 100 years ago a wise man said something like:  For every complex problem there is a simple solution.  And it’s wrong. (2)   For Donald Trump and those who favor him in the poles, he is the simple solution.  Elect him and he’ll fix what others have been too feckless to fix.

Ah, I wish life were that easy.

But for now, and tonight and the immediate future, Trump mania seems likely to thrive and the solutions to our complex problems will seem that easy to a sizable some.

—————————

(1)  As you know, there are actually two debates tonight, the first for the seven candidates who did not make the top 10 in the polls.  They have the advantage of not worrying about clashing with Trump directly and one or more might say something that gets pumped up by the media later.  Carly Fiorina, the lone woman GOP candidate and good at articulating her ideas, would be my first guess.

(2)   The guy was H. L. Mencken, an influential American thinker of the period.  He actually wrote:  “There is always an easy solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”  But I think my bastardized version suits the Trump situation better.

A HAPPY NEW YEAR? I HAVE NO IDEA…..

Twas the day before New Year’s and despite wracking my mind, no upbeat year’s end message can I find.   However, I do have a  web site I want to share with you, The Fiscal Times brought to my attention by a reader who sent me a link while saying:   “It is this crap that drives me crazy, and adds further evidence that there really isn’t any difference between the parties after the rhetoric dies.”

He is referring to the 1600 page budget bill Congress passed before heading home for the holidays, which included many late-addition “surprises” hardly anyone noticed before the bill was passed.  The article linked here points out five of them that are head shakers for honest folk whether on the left or right.

The article isn’t long, so rather than me summarize the points I’d rather add a couple of points of my own.  First, despite the outrageous way this bill was passed, I am glad they passed it.  The alternative was to go into next year without a budget and a Republican controlled Congress, including libertarians who seem quite willing to continue to treat the “full faith and credit of the United States” as if it were a pin ball game.

They are so focused upon smaller government they seem not to have noticed the Chinese economy just surpassed ours in size this year and that China has taken various steps to develop currency exchanges that do not hinge upon the American dollar.  Nothing the Chinese would like more than for us to offer further evidence to the world that we have an increasingly unworkable order.

So, I’m glad that budget was passed despite it’s ugly underbelly.

Here is my other point.   While I have run across The Fiscal Times before, I never took a good look at it.  Since I liked that article I began exploring other pieces on the The Fiscal Times web site and found them interesting and not obviously partisan like so many other sites.  In their Statement of Purpose, they claim to be non-partisan, and so far I believe them.

If you do check it out, let me know what you think by replying using the comment link at the end of  all that stuff below.  If you like the site, think of it as a late Christmas (holiday) present.

If not, you can think of me as the Grinch.