Kavanaugh and His Accuser: Add Another Ring to the Circus

Permit me to use that tired saw:  You can’t make these things up.   I’d say that fits the whole Trump presidency, but there’s something extra juicy about this.   Two people of sterling reputations (well, at least until they are totally slimed by the opposite side this week), on course to call each other liars face to face under oath in a Senate hearing next Monday.

At stake is whether Judge Kavanaugh will be named to the Supreme Court or not, since only a handful of senators who would otherwise back him, may not now, depending on who they believe once the gun smoke settles.

As you probably know, Christine Blasey Ford, a professor and research psychologist, has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when both were in high school decades ago.  She raised this issue in letters to Senators which she hoped would remain confidential, but once leaked, she decided to go all in and here we are.

I believe Ford’s recollection over Kavanaugh’s, first because she is inviting hell into her life by stepping forward, so she must believe deeply in the righteousness of her stand.   And second because Kavanaugh was quite a drinker in high school and college as well, something that has failed to draw attention until now.

To whatever extent he was an eagle scout, he was also a party guy.  According to a friend with him that night, Mark Judge, such drunken escapades were not rare for him and his friends.

When hearing of the accusations against his friend, Judge called them “absolutely nuts”.   But this is from a pal who wrote a book titled:  Wasted:  Tales of a Gen X Drunk, in which he talks about being “wild drunk” with girls along with his friends.  (Go here to read more.)

Judge has confessed to “bouts of dehumanizing lust.”  I imagine Kavanaugh has some confessing to do as well.  I’ll be curious to see if he tries to maintain his complete innocence as a youth or come clean.

Blasey Ford’s lawyer went too far in indicating in a TV interview that her client would probably have been raped had the boys not been too drunk to pull it off.  How about the possibility that the boys would not have acted quite so badly had they not been so drunk?  Still, acting like asses, still guilty of molestation, but that is not rape even if Blasey Ford feared that would happen.

Whatever happened that night, Blasey Ford clearly feels she was assaulted and Kavenaugh would do well to deal with that in a humane way instead of insisting “it” never happened and acting as if he were some kind of choir boy back then.

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Humpty Trumpty Sat on a Wall. Humpty Trumpty……………..

All these things pushing Trumpty to the ledge.  Like Omarosa and her book and a few tapes and then this past week Bob Woodward’s book Fear, both supporting frequent reporting of a witless president in a wacky White House.  Of course, the account of Watergate press hero Woodward is to be much more respected, but Omarosa’s credibility could be bolstered by more tapes.

Either way it is all grease for Trumpty’s slippery slope.   The plea deals of former fixer/sort-of-personal lawyer Michael Cohen and, just a few days ago, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort seem likely to generate numerous revelations that will push Trump over the edge.

Some time ago Cohen offered all sorts of info to the feds in hopes of preventing a prison cell from becoming a permanent home.  And now  Trump campaign manager (for a crucial five months) Paul Manafort has decided to take his chances with clemency in a similar fashion.

Talk about knowing where all the bodies are buried.  These guys have run the cemetery.

I have assumed Manafort was gambling on a pardon.   Why else would he deny everything in his first court case that led to several convictions?  But the odds seem to have changed in his mind.  Trusting Trump on anything is iffy (unless what is good for you is great for him), but there is an additional consideration now.

This plea shows Manafort placing his chips on some clemency from Mueller if he comes clean rather than a pardon from Trump if he doesn’t.

Perhaps he has concluded Trump might not be around to grant him that pardon.

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.

Bill Maher and Ben Shapiro: Civil Discourse in the Trump Era

I don’t imagine having much civil discourse with Trump supporters any time soon, but I can’t give up on the desire.   When civil discourse totally breaks down it leads to one thing, a civil war.  No, not soon but down the line.  We did that once and I hope it was enough.  I got a recent whiff of the negative potential on a pro-Trump placard.  “Liberals:  If Trump is impeached, you’d better get your guns.”

So, I welcomed running across a video clip of Bill Maher and Ben Shapiro conversing civilly about Trump, heated at times, but civilly, lightened by Maher’s humor.  It helps to be a comedian as well as a sharp political commentator.

Generally speaking, Shapiro is a conservative while Maher has liberal tendencies, but has no qualms about skewering liberal taboos  (e.g. he has argued that Islam is not a peaceful religion).   And they do share the commonality of disliking many things Trump does.

The big difference is Shapiro sees good in enough of what Trump has done –  from a conservative perspective – that despite all (so far), he still would take him over any Democrat.  I doubt if Maher has given trump credit for much.

Both men are very smart and each gives a good account of his positions.  Think of the conversation as a  template of what civil discourse can be and perhaps a beginning point for further conversations.   Also, it points to the usefulness of injecting some wit to lighten the overall load.

Of course, not with the Trump fanatics who would stick with Trump even if he shot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Here is a link to the video which is 11 minutes, so you might want to plan a break and grab a drink in preparation.   I enjoyed the conversation, something I seldom do when it comes to political discussions these days.

Trump is Betting Politics will Save him if the Law Won’t

Rudy Giuliani exploded on the Washington scene last week, supposedly coming on board the Trump legal team, but acting independently in what seemed like a loose cannon being shot at them.   He blabbed all sorts of contradictory statements and misstatements on various political talk shows, beginning with Hannity last Wednesday.

Giuliani seemed to be making Trump’s legal status worse off.  Turns out he hadn’t gone rogue, as he’d cleared much of what he would say with Trump, therefore surprising the legal team but not the president, who later seemed pleased with his work and kept him out there babbling.  I suspect the two bluster boys are working in tandem and let the legal team be damned.

I am guessing this reflects a decision by Trump that Mueller has the goods on him and he can’t escape this legally, so best to put all his money on winning the political game in the fall and afterwards.   Don’t agree to an interview or accept a subpoena and take it all the way to the Supreme Court next year.  Who knows?  There might be a new Trump friendly Supreme by then.

Meanwhile, just make the investigators look bad, so you have an excuse for not complying with their demands.  Trump has been driving his “witch hunt, no collusion” mantras into our brains for months in preparation for this shift in emphasis and the ongoing Giuliani show tells me Trump hopes his political narrative will save him where the law will not.

And part of that thinking is the Stormy Daniels case is a loss, but the kind of thing that Trump can use as an ongoing distraction because the media loves to cover it.  In the end, assuming Trump doesn’t perjure himself, what will the government do, fine him?  Convict him of some minor lie?   The guy that has rattled off about 3000 of them so far in office according to the Washington Post?

Big deal.

I think this kind of disproportionate coverage contributes to a sense of investigation fatigue as captured by this guy who tweeted to a cable host this Saturday:  “….. the length of the probe is making most of us numb to the issues that are lead stories in liberal media.  Wrap it up and let Potus do his job.”  

Of course, his base buys the whole witch hunt argument already, but even for non fanatics, if you are numb to the issues and want Trump free to do his job you just might be swayed by the great salesman’s relentless credit taking for everything deemed good in 2018, while ignoring the positive trends already well established during the Obama years.

I’m worried about numbed voters and I get nervous when I hear someone talking about an expectant “blue wave” in the fall elections.  Although I’d like to see one, so much seems a matter of how events smile or frown on the Trump presidency in the intervening months and how well Trump can sell his “witch hunt” narrative to those who feel numb to the issues and wonder why so much media time was being spent on such things as a porn star and her lawyer over a hush money payment that may have broken campaign financing laws.

What does that have to do with our major problems?  Hate to say it, but it seems kind of witch hunty to me.  Not the actions per se, but the way the liberal media dwells on them.

 

 

The White House Press Corps Owes Sarah Sanders an Apology

Ed Henry of Fox News , a former association president, spoke of Sarah Sanders’ mistreatment at the WHPA dinner:  We “invited her to be the president’s representative. We invited her to dinner, to our event, and we treated her like dirt. It was disgusting; I’m actually getting more angry just thinking about it.”  I don’t feel that angry, but I don’t like the way comedienne Michelle Wolf treated her.

Just because the president often acts like a complete ass, that’s not an excuse to emulate him.

Understand I don’t like Sanders’ dodging or stonewalling every uncomfortable question in White House briefings.  I was happy to hear of one reporter who got so tired of empty answers he stormed out calling her a liar.  But this was a different place and time and this time she was supposed to be a special “guest” of the press core, not a pinata, which is why she was seated on that stage, which made her particularly vulnerable to be batted around mercilessly in Wolf’s performance.

Except for the mean spirited it is not funny to call someone a liar and compare her to a loathsome character in a TV show, while she has to just sit there and take it.  This was a series of insults plain and simple.   Someone once said there is a fine line between the  prick of wit and the sting of insult.  The best roasts tend to be heavy on wit and light on insult.  When it goes the other way, it ruins the show.

Without Trump present, Sanders got to be the special target for vitriol.   Still,  you could tell by the majority of the audience reaction that Michelle had become all sting and little shared wit when it came to treating Sanders.

Watching Sanders squirm in her chair I thought she should get up and go, yelling on the way:   “I don’t need to listen to this crap.”  I could applaud that.

Now that I think of it, though, a number of reporters might have reflexively shouted back:  “Now you know how we feel.”

So, I’m ambivalent.  But bottom line Sarah was treated like dirt and deserves an apology from the White House Press Corps.

Nuclear Deals and Michael Cohen in Trumptopia

I have become stymied trying to write about the upside down weirdness in Trumptopia.  It feels like trying to wash your car in the midst of a mud slide.  Fearing I could freeze up altogether, I’ll say something about the Iran Nuclear Deal, North Korea’s Nukes, and the investigation of Michael Cohen.

Iran Nuclear Deal:   By May 12 Trump must either renew the Iran Nuclear deal or drop out of it.  If he doesn’t renew everything seems up for grabs as Iran as well as Russia and the European nations who signed the agreement say they have no interest in renegotiating it.   Perhaps the foremost reason Macron of France and Merkel of Germany  visited Washington this week was to push Trump not to pull out of the agreement.

One point made:  Dropping out of a previous agreement would not be a good way to preface a meeting with Kim Jong Un  to talk about a future agreement with him.   A couple of wild cards in this game are the recent appointments of long standing hawks, Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State, and John Bolton as National Security Adviser, both of whom have been been staunch critics of the deal.   Lots of room for speculation.

NO KO’s Nukes:   It feels like we have moved from a nightmare scenario of potentially unimaginable destruction to a dream of peace on the Korean peninsula.  It’s a relief.  I just want to point out that we haven’t won anything yet and North Korea has.   It can be argued that Trump’s constant threats, ramped up sanctions and increased pressure on China played a major role in opening up the possibility of negotiations.

But I would argue even more important Kim Jong Un has gotten what he wanted, a nuclear weapons program that works.  Despite Trump’s huffing and puffing,  Jong Un  kept testing and developing and finds it useful to now be friendly.

Now he can afford to be conciliatory on such things as destroying a missile test site.  He’s happy to just hold the cards he’s drawn.   Other presidents could have met with him or his forbears, but they thought such a meeting would raise the prestige of a tin pot dictator.  Well, it has, hasn’t it?

I see Jong Un being all sorts of nice, smiles and warm handshakes with the president of South Korea and seeming open to Trump’s demands, but later drawing the process out, pushing things down the road, a series of steps, but not giving away the nuclear weapons he has.  Those weapons are what have pushed us to treat him as an equal in these negotiations, and he’s not about to give them up.  It is his ticket to be a major player and a key to his  survival.

Trump acts like he has brought a reluctant Jong-Un to the negotiating table.  Actually, Kim has just been waiting for an invitation.

Investigation of Michael Cohen:    While the Mueller investigation may produce either indictable offenses or reasons for presidential impeachment, the separate investigation of Michael Cohen, Trump’s occasional lawyer and frequent “fixer” may prove a sooner threat.

Just the fact the FBI got a hard-to-get warrant to raid his home, office and hotel room to gather information suggests Cohen is indictable for more than one offense.   So, the question is how might Trump be implicated.  The president made things tougher for himself and Cohen by claiming on Fox and Friends yesterday morning, in what amounted to a half an hour wandering rant, that Cohen has done only a “tiny” amount of work for him as a lawyer per se.

The pile of crap Trump stepped in with those comments is that most dealings he has had with Cohen that are recorded can not be protected by lawyer client privilege because Trump himself has indicated most of the work Cohen has done for him was not lawyerly.

So the prosecution can look at and use most of it.   This seems an impossible situation for Cohen, who could face many years in jail unless he “flips”, i.e. rats on the president.  OR, Trump pardons him.  Cohen has a reputation for loyalty to Trump, but he also has a wife and family he might want to continue living with.   He must be pondering whether he can count on a pardon.

I fantasize sometime this summer president Trump may be in the middle of a chummy meeting with Kim Jong Un talking about denuclearization, while back home there is a lot more talk about impeachment and/or the possibility of an indictment or two.

Hard to believe, but in Trumptopia nothing should be surprising.