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.

 

 

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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.

Can the Revival of the Rosanne Show Help Us Talk about Trump?

The original Rosanne Show lasted about 10 years, ending in 1997.  The success came from (A) many found it funny and (B) it felt like a realistic portrayal of working class life.  It had moments of heart and soul other sitcoms lacked.  A reboot of the show  just returned last week to an audience of about 18 million, enough to promptly give the show an extension.

Whether it is more the Trump factor – Rosanne doesn’t just portray a Trump supporter on TV, she is one in real life – and/or a nostalgia wave that has brought other old shows back, the show seems likely to be around for awhile and my hope is that it can open up small possibilities for never-Trumpers like me to actually talk with and listen to Trump lovers or at least likers (like they like how the economy has picked up over the past year, give Trump a lot of credit for it, and can live with him being a jerk as long as he gets things done they like .  I would argue their joy is fraught with danger but let’s forget that for now).

Though I’m tempted to skewer those bubbles of beliefs, that would not get us any closer to actually being able to talk about Trump without yelling or stamping off.   The crux of the tension so far on the show is that Rosanne’s sister Jackie distains Trump as much as Rosanne likes him.  But other touchy social issues are brought up as well and, as others have observed, the show is more about family than politics.  Efforts to maintain family ties push all sides to rethink what they are saying and doing, at least a little.

To me the key is there are lines that can make many of us on both sides of the divide laugh.  If we can share a laugh, maybe we can share a bit more.  Though the humor at times is forced and feels it is rubbing on sores, everyone gets ribbed, so there is not much to resent.

Of course, it is awkward, but that’s the way things are.  Let’s face it, those of us on each side of the divide think those on the other side don’t know what the hell’s going on.  That provides grounds for dislike, but also for humor.

I lived through the Vietnam war which rent our society apart.  I was a protestor while one of my brothers was in the air force in southeast Asia.  We didn’t talk much about the war, but the divisions weren’t as bad as they are now.  I never thought the whole country could be broken up over those schisms, but I do now.  If we can’t talk with those who believe very differently than we do, we will rely more and more on force to get what we want.  And with force, each action prompts an opposite reaction.  And those forces tend to grow.   Isn’t one civil war enough for us?

Soon I am going to go for a walk with a friend, Ken, who still supports Trump despite hours of my wise counselling.  For all other intents and purposes – he appears to possess a brain (and is happy he is getting a little more money in his paychecks, one reason to like Trump better than Obama.  I’d call it a pittance compared with …..oops, there I go again).

On the phone with Ken I recounted a scene in the show where  Jackie surprises Rosanne appearing at her door wearing one of those pink hat’s from that women’s march and a T-shirt with the words “Nasty Woman”.  She greets Rosanne with:  “What’s up deplorable?”  Made me laugh.

As I was about to hang up, I said:  “See you in awhile deplorable.”  My friend laughed and had a comeback that was kind of funny, for a Trump supporter.  If I had one of those pink hats I’d wear it to see him.  Would make him laugh.  Maybe we can agree on something in our walk today.

The next Rosanne episode is Tuesday evening on ABC.  I missed the debut but caught in on my DVR On Demand.   If you plan on watching Tuesday, you might want to look up the first one first…………or not.

Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.


P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.

A Glance at the Russian Intervention Issues and DACA

The Russian issue and the DACA issue are unrelated, other than I’d rather say something about each topic now rather than so many others, like reducing gun mass violence.

First, the Russian intervention in the 2016 election and Special Council Mueller’s investigation of it.  As for the intervention, our four major intelligence agencies have agreed for months there is no doubt about interference and that it continues and will impact the 2018 election if we don’t make Russia pay a price and to take other steps to combat it.

As retiring NSA director Admiral Mike Rogers testified to a senate committee Monday, he has not received any direction from the president, echoing what he and other security chiefs testified earlier in February.  It is up to the Republican controlled Congress to press Trump on this, but their devil’s pact with him seems to preclude it.

They got tax and regulation cuts and numerous conservative judges through, so, hey, he’s their man under apparently any circumstances.  They see their interest as the nation’s interest (e.g. some Russian hacking helped them in the last election, so……).

Trump’s lack  of response and the failure of the Republican Congress to censure him for that indifference should be big news.  But not in Trumptopia where it dwindles to being just another dime a dozen issue.  His do nothing approach would be denounced as traitorous if a Democratic president did so little to protect the nation’s political structure.

As for the Mueller investigation, I’m struck that Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty today to more charges from Mueller concerning various illegal dealings or lies.  Unless the press are totally off on this, the once-upon-a-time manager of the Trump campaign has brazenly  broken laws all over the world, so I’m drawn to believe he will be convicted of a few things.  Especially because his close long time work associate Rick Gates has entered a plea deal with Mueller, and his knowledge could be enough to sink the man by itself.

So, why plead guilty instead of making a deal himself?   I’d bet Manafort believes that Trump will pardon him.  It’s Manafort’s only way out.  His trial is scheduled for Sept 17 and trials often have their dates moved back, so the mess that is Manafort may stay under wraps (except for leaks) until after the November elections, which might help the Retrumplicans.  Certainly his trial is not likely to help them.

Yes, I said Retrumplicans, meaning what was called “the grand old party” is the party of Trump pure and simple.  As mentioned above, some old Republican values are held on to while others have been dropped as a matter of convenience, like balancing the budget (how old fashioned)  and espousing  some sort of moral code (how quaint).

Moving on, DACA prolonged.  A judge struck down Trump’s order to do away with DACA.  That temporarily saves those in the program but will likely keep them nerve wracked for months to come.  Depends on how long the appellate court’s docket will be too full to handle the case (sometime in the fall?) and then whatever their decision, the case seems likely to go to the Supreme Court ( Trump’s team tried to leap frog the appellate court, but the Supremes would not allow it.)

Upon reflection, this DACA issue being postponed, like with Manafort, until after the election might work to Trump’s advantage as he will continue to blame the Democrats for not settling the issue while acting as if he hadn’t attached other restrictions to his immigration proposal that the Dems see as a poison pill.

Manafort a victim of the witch hunt and the Dems not caring about the Dreamers is how Trump’s narrative will read come election time.

Don’t Arm Teachers. Ban Assault Weapons.

I’m a liberal leaning fellow who has never owned a gun because I most likely would misuse it in some way.   So, my assertion above doesn’t count much unless you are already a part of the choir.

But Ralph Peters agrees with me and he is a gun lover, retired lieutenant colonel who often appears on Fox, sometimes espousing conspiracy theories I dislike.   Peters made the most compelling case I’ve seen for banning assault weapons in yesterday’s New York Post, and I want you to read it, so I’ll keep this short.

Simply put he argues these are military weapons whose sole  “purpose is to kill human beings.” In response to the notion that  that “Guns don’t kill people, people do”  he says “But people with rapid-fire weapons kill a lot more folks a whole lot faster.”  

As for the idea of arming teachers he writes: “When the shooting starts, even the best-trained, most disciplined soldiers and cops — US Army Rangers or NYPD SWAT members — don’t put every round on target. The notion that a guard or teacher who goes to the range once a quarter would keep kids safe is profoundly divorced from reality. ‘Friendly fire’ would simply add to the danger.”

I’m one who feels sorry for Scot Peterson, the police officer stationed at the school since 2009, apparently well liked, even garnering an award one year.  One doesn’t maintain an edge for battle hanging around most schools.  My guess is that he lost the cop’s instinct for danger and ability to respond to it.  He’d become more a staff member than a cop, so  even with that past training and a gun he froze.  Are we assuming teachers with guns are going to become super heroes?   Not to say someone won’t, but it is a dubious plan.

Again, we don’t need more teachers armed, we need less assault weapons easily attainable to attack their schools with.

That Post piece here