The Arpaio Pardon: One More Shake of the Wobbly Pillars of our Republic

As you all probably know there is a huge storm lashing and flooding the Texas coast.  It is creating mass destruction but at least it will blow over in a few days.  What will remain are Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt our political system, a growing storm of a different kind.

It would take a book to portray the numerous incidents whereby Trump has weakened the pillars of our political system, lambasting the press as fake, our intelligence agencies as politicized and/or incompetent, the judiciary as overreaching and the congress as impotent.  Of course,  many of us may share such sentiments as the public image of all of those institutions has suffered for some time now.  However, it is one thing to be critical of them and another to have no respect for them at all, to act with impunity as if the health of those institutions is not vitally important to the maintenance of our Republic.

Trump’s basic message is we cannot trust anyone but him.  The basic message of all demagogues.

The pardon Friday of Sherriff Joe Arpaio  exemplifies this attitude.   As described by Yahoo News, Arpaio, a Trump supporter, had  “been convicted of criminal contempt last month for failing to obey a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos on the basis of their suspected immigration status.”

Trump’s position is Arpaio was just “doing his job.”   In other words, it is fine for law officers to ignore laws they find inconvenient.   Senator John McCain reacted by charging Trump with undermining the “law and order” emphasis of his campaign, but Trump has always emphasized order over law, contemptuous of legal niceties.

Arpaio’s tactics suit the Donald to a Tee.  That is really what the “president” has in mind by law and order.   I imagine police across the land have taken note.

Besides an ignoring-civil-rights tone to police work, the pardoning of Arpaio sends a message to all in Trump’s immediate orbit that the Donald is basically free to pardon any of them if they get in a tight spot.   How reassuring.

So often we hear of the wisdom of the founders in setting up the institutions of American government, but Trump may have found a loop hole.   The founders seem not to have imagined the possibility of a president pardoning with abandon.  Even using the pardon as a negotiating tool for his own self-protection.

I have heard some discussion as to whether the president can pardon himself.  I have no idea if the matter is clear cut.   Certainly if he thinks it might be of help, he’ll give it a try.

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What Does it Take for Some People to be Disgusted by Trump’s Amorality?

I watched FOX cable news this morning figuring I would see a defense of our “president’s” flipping back to the position yesterday that he espoused Saturday that there was blame on both sides for the violence in Charlotte.  And “fine people” on both sides, too.

I think it would take a major research project to find some of those fine people among the white supremacists who were shouting anti-Jewish and other threatening slogans.  I am just so sick of Trump and his B. S. and those who still act as if he is a normal person. Either by now you see what a weak moral compass he has spinning around like a broken top or you likely never will.

Still, I’m happy to report that while Trump friendly arguments were made on FOX, of course, they were challenged by other FOX guests.  (And, I might add, despite the frequent silliness, some good debates pop out there, something I’d like to see more of on the liberal mutual admiration society that is MSNBC .)

Those wanting to defend Trump’s equal blame theory can point to some violence on the left from a radical fringe we might loosely call Antifa (anti-fascists), but they weren’t there to spew racism and white supremacy.  They were there to protest it.

This captures the gist:   Former KKK Grand Wizzard David Duke, now calling himself a white nationalist, reflected many on the far right who praised Trump’s equal blame statement given Saturday as it essentially diluted their greater share of the blame.   But then Duke reviled Trump for the obviously phony shift Monday where he finally pointed to neo-nazi’s and white supremacists as being the primary culprits.

Hey, get this.  I agree with David Duke, the second statement was phony, or as Charles Krauthammer said on Fox:  “His heart wasn’t in it.”  That’s why Trump later reversed course, reportedly surprising his staff in the process.

Now that Trump has returned to reiterating the Saturday statement, Duke is ecstatic again.

How can anyone in their right mind view praise from David Duke to be a good thing?

At this point one wonders if any major Republican figure will make some major stand against Trump for this, as have a few members of his manufacturing council who have resigned in protest.

Love to see it, but I’m not holding my breath.   When you’ve been dancing with the devil it is tough to bow out.  Especially when you still believe he might do you some good despite much evidence to the contrary.


P. S. – The white supremacist activities figure to blossom and I think it useful to read this portrait of what I think of as the new white far right.   They aren’t just your grandfather’s KKK or even neo-Nazi’s but various new groups of largely young men, usually clean cut and at times well spoken and well organized.   More attractive white supremacists.

Also, Antifa will undoubtedly be showing up at these white supremacist rallies and unfortunately provide a foil for the likes of Donald Trump to point to as say….  “see, they’re to blame, too.”   Take a glance at them.

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.

“When the World is Led by a Child”

I think of Donald Trump as the boy who would be king rather than the man who is president.  Certainly he acts like he thinks he’s king, ignoring traditional protocols and government norms and treating his children, and one particular spouse, as princes and a princess, his closest advisors.  Also, he acts like a difficult child who won’t pay attention, wants what he wants right now and has temper tantrums.

That is the gist of the abnormal, even surreal, political environment our Republic has fallen prey to and it makes a difference in how to deal with this so-called president.   It is his impulsivity, his inability to pay attention and desperation for approval which prompt him to careen all over the place, like a small child behind the wheel of a car.

You just can’t hand him the keys and wish him well.

I believe many people in positions of authority both at home and abroad see Trump in this way and their reaction is to work around him not with him.  The key is to appease him or ignore him, whatever it takes to go about one’s own work.   The recent meeting of the G20 nations is illustrative of this tendency, as the gathering now can be seen as the G19 who conducted business around our boy king, such as affirming the Paris climate accord.

I will elaborate more on that in a future post.  Right now I want to provide support for what I’ve just said by directing you to an essay by David Brooks, a moderate conservative columnist, a fine writer and deep thinker.  I stole the title of his piece because it captures my contention so well and Brooks’ analysis goes deeper and is better than I could write myself.

He illuminates Trump’s immaturity and then sums up why we can’t count on him to be our leader:  Trump is “sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires.”

Here is a link to the essay.    It is worth reading a couple of times.  Let it sink in.

I’ll make you a deal.  You read that twice and I won’t darken your email door until at least Wednesday.

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.

Believing in America on the 4th of July

July 4 is normally a joyous weekend celebrating the birth of our nation.  I realize thoughts of barbecues and the beach usually grab more of our attention than thoughts of our political origins, but we have a president who shows no respect for American political institutions, or even what I believe to be the best of our American character, so July 4 takes on a more serious demeanor this year.

Donald Trump distains the press and tends to appeal to our worse instincts, such as the tendency to blame others for our problems, especially others who look different than ourselves or practice a different religion or are of certain nationalities.

The way Trump drums up hysteria is somewhat akin to what happened to the Japanese Americans, over 100,000 of whom were interned as threats after Pearl Harbor despite virtually no evidence.   Showing a better side of the American character was the small town of Gallup, N. M, where the town’s sheriff said, “They are citizens here, and we are not going to round them up.”

This linked story in the LA Times is about Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, who was a Japanese American teenager in Gallup at the time and would later earn a Medal of Honor in the Korean war.

While much of America was falling prey to hysteria, this little town did us proud.   There is little that Donald Trump advocates in tweets or through his mouth pieces that make me proud to be an American.  He keeps touting “America First” and I hear a little boy crying “me, me, me.”

Trump keeps pretending he is making America great again, while what he is actually doing is placing a pall over our institutions and what’s left of our common sense of reality.  When I think of Trump world I envision Gotham City.

The story is fairly long, but you can skim much of it.  I like best the early part about Miyamura’s childhood in Gallup.

HAPPY FOURTH!

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.