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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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.

President Trump’s Address to Congress: Free Lunch for All.

President Trump got generally good reviews for his address to congress Tuesday night.

According to various surveys, Trump’s supporters loved the speech, not surprisingly, but even a majority of Americans polled who watched said they felt more optimistic having heard it.  His tone was surprisingly upbeat and uniting, except for those who don’t believe a word he says.  One Democrat described it as “same lies, different tone.”  I’d say the same B. S, but different tone, but let’s not quibble.

Still, the difference in tone was significant, presidential even, and the positive response to the speech of many confirms that.  But can this tone be kept given his temperament amidst a hostile political environment?  Furthermore Trump keeps making sweeping promises that seem impossible to keep because congress will have to get behind them and congress is divided, not just between the two parties but within each.

First:  Trump’s agenda is budget breaking – no, budget exploding – and many in the Republican party have built their careers on criticizing government for over spending and accumulation of debt.  Second:  The senate barely has a Republican majority, so only three Republican “mavericks” are needed to block any of Trump’s agenda, and Lindsay Graham and John McCain  have indicated opposition to several of Trump’s proposals, so that’s two right there.  Third:   There are all those Democrats to deal with.

However, while the Democrats figure to offer opposition often, they may be easier to deal with at times then the Republicans.  The Democrats seem split as to whether to resist all that Trump proposes, as the Republicans did with President Obama, or to just resist some things and work with him on others, like tax reform and/or building infra-structure.

Even though Trump’s selection of a generally conservative cabinet and a supreme court nominee has pleased the right, I think in typical Trump fashion he is only committed to himself and his need to appear successful.   If Republicans resist and deals can be made with Democrats I can see him making them.

And I might even like one here or there.  I’m not one of those resist-everything liberals.  I disliked the Republican party identity being reduced to being the Un-Obama party and I don’t want to see the Democratic party follow suit with Trump.

But no matter how it shakes out, Trump’s fantasied future faces a number of reality checks down the line.   And I will be curious to see what his free lunch is going to cost and who will be willing or forced to pay for it.


P. S. – For those who want to read a good analysis of Trump’s speech, I suggest this piece by Cathleen Decker in the Los Angeles Times.    She sums up the essence in one sentence.

“Trump shifts from doom-and-gloom to a more optimistic vision.  But he offers no clarity on how he’ll get there.”

Outside of Trump World the Immigration Ban Makes No Sense

No doubt those living in Trumpdom (the Kingdom of Trump) feel safer today now that there is a travel ban, albeit temporary, on seven predominantly Muslim  nations in the Greater Mid-East, but below is some information that suggests this step will change almost nothing, at least not for the good.  There could be lots of bad, as indicated by someone who suggested Trump is snuffing the torch on the Statue of Liberty.

First of all, the way this executive order was turned out shows the difference between promising the moon on the campaign trail and actually doing something in real life.   The president executed his order providing no time to develop an actual policy to implement it, so immigration officials were confused.   A number of people already approved to come here were halted in airports around the country, which in turn prompted demonstrations and law suits and a temporary stay of the order.

It’s no way to do business, Mr. Businessman.   But let’s say the administration had handled it much better, it still doesn’t make sense.  First of all, according to statistics tallied by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, not” a single American was killed on U.S. soil by citizens from any of those countries between 1975 and 2015.”  You might want to read that sentence again.

On the other hand, most of the terrorist killings in this country were committed by natives of Muslim countries not banned, with Saudia Arabia leading that group supplying 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers.

So, why isn’t it on the list?   The Daily News makes an argument that Trump’s decision might be affected by the fact he has various business interests in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UAE and Egypt and no obvious important business interests in the seven nations banned.

I don’t know and our new president isn’t inclined to enlighten us.  Perhaps it is some of that, but it might also be some of this.  Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are all run by strong men and all of them hate Iran.  I imagine Trump thinks these are guys he can work with, like his buddy Vlad.  Just a thought.

But back to reality.  The Cato Institute estimates we each have about a one in 3.64 billion chance of getting killed by a terrorist with a much, much better chance of just getting shot by any good ol’ American who just doesn’t like us.  About 80% of the terror related deaths after 9/11 have not even been committed by foreigners but by native Americans who have become radicalized.   Travel bans aren’t going to stop that.

This travel ban is largely a show for Trump’s base.  He has gained power by playing to people’s fears and resentments creating a terrorist hysteria.  This executive order shows his supporters he will do what he said.

…..even if it makes no sense to the rest of us.

Focus On Trump’s Bigotry Misses the Point

The fact that Donald Trump makes racist, misogynistic or Islamic-phobic comments  doesn’t get to the heart of what makes him both unfit to be president while still sufficiently attractive to win a race against Hillary Clinton, who has plenty of detractors of her own.

While devout liberals find those criticisms satisfying, they obscure the fact that many Americans who don’t fit those pejorative labels are backing Trump and more might go that way depending upon what happens over the next few months.  While a recent survey of polls show Hillary up by about 5.5% on Trump nationwide, he is up on her by 5% when it comes to the question of who people trust to keep us safe.

Shocking ISIS successes (or a plunge in the economy) might tip a number of Americans in favor of the guy who talks tough and does whatever it takes to win.  They extrapolate that because he has been a winner in business, in entertainment and so far in politics, he will be a “winner” as president.  What they fail to grasp is that he has one outstanding quality that has accounted for much of his success:  his exceptional ability to promote himself.

Being the American president is arguably the toughest job in the world requiring a host of skills that go beyond self-promotion.  Still, the more people feel anxious about our present circumstances the more attractive Trump’s decisive, tough guy persona could become, despite his shortcomings.

But back to those bigotry charges.  I would say a large majority of his supporters are not racist or misogynist and don’t see him that way.  Prejudiced like we all are, but there is not something basically wrong with them as implied by the application of an “ist” (racist, sexist, etc.), the liberal way of labeling one a secular sinner and a well spring of the anti-P. C. sentiments that Trump regularly cashes in on.

Separate out those rationally challenged beings I call the birther bunch, and Trump supporters come in all sorts of mental shapes and sizes.  I have a young rising executive family member who dislikes Hillary so much, he is reluctantly siding with Trump, but would have voted for Bernie had he won the Democratic candidacy.  A friend who is a patient of a neurosurgeon was aghast at learning her doctor backs Trump.

Many of these supporters see Trump just beating the old pols at their own lying game.  All those outrageous things he says are just to get attention, lots of free media coverage, and he certainly has, or to weaken his opponents, which he did so well in the primary.

The more I examine Trump fan reaction the more I see how each picks and choses the information about him that they want to believe, like ordering a burger at Burger King.   They disregard many things he says just as ploys to get an advantage.  Or making an initial offer, a starting point for negotiation, just as he has always done in making deals.

Ben Carson is a case in point.  Despite being trashed by Trump in the campaign, Carson has come to back the Donald.  Carson exemplifies the Trump supporters’ tendency to let Trump slide in a lot of what he says because they believe he will be a “winner as president”.

While Carson is not happy about some Trump statements, he does not feel down deep Trump is a racist.   He got to know the man personally since his own campaign disappeared and sees two Donald Trumps, the private one absent of the bombast of the public persona, a guy surprisingly “cerebral and a good listener.”

A guy apparently Carson can believe in, at least when compared with the Republican version of Satan, Hillary Clinton.

As for the racist statements, I think Carson would say “it’s all politics.”   He seems to have reluctantly come to this sad, cynical conclusion from watching Trump’s success in the primary.  The lesson learned was all politicians are liars, so whatever you say as a politician doesn’t matter as long as it helps you win.   At the announcement of Carson endorsing Trump, the latter admitted as much by saying the reason he became so nasty with Carson was because he saw him rising in the polls.  That’s a sign of Trump respect, a compliment Trump-Style

Now that Carson is a supporter, Trump says wonderful things about the man, just as he has said about Ted Cruz, the former “lying Ted.”  If you’re with Trump he doesn’t care if you are black, or a woman or have a Mexican heritage or whatever.  You just have to be capable and loyal in his eyes.   Just ask Omarosa, a female, black former apprentice on his TV show often a part of his rallies.

On the other hand,  if you are against Trump he’ll  defame you, or sue you or whatever, until you submit.

Donald Trump is a ruthless liar who would have found a line of attack on Mother Teresa had she ever gotten in his way.  For those Survivor fans, Trump is a rendition of Jonny Fairplay,(real name Jon Dalton) a contestant who faked the death of his grandmother as a way of gaining sympathy from the other contestants who disliked him.

Like Fairplay, Trump is willing to fake anything and defame anyone to come out on top.  It is that aspect of the man that makes him particularly unfit to be the President of the United States.


 

BEING PRESIDENT TRUMP

While I think I have a sense of what either Hillary or Bernie would do or at least try to do as president, I have no idea when it comes to Donald Trump, other than he will try to build a wall on the southern border, because that is one of the few concrete proposals he has made.  I believe he has blown the issue way out of proportion, one of the tricks of a demagogue, but successfully enough that I actually might be in favor of building the stupid wall just so we can stop arguing about it.

While there is much that concerns me about Trump as president, right at this moment I feel most uncomfortable about the Donald’s need to win as a way of continuously building up his ego.  It is as if he needs to continue to notch wins lest he will start shrinking like the wicked witch of the west when doused with water.  Criticism is Trump’s water.

My concern is:  How will he define being a winner as president?  In business winning is to make money and then make more of it.  Winning either a primary race or the presidency (or a game of TV survivor) is even more clear cut.  You win the contest or you are a loser.

But being a winner as president is really a matter of opinion and subject to never ending debate.   Obama takes pride in the nuclear deal with Iran;  Republicans call it a terrible deal.  Trump calls it the worst ever.  Years after the fact historians look back and judge presidents as more or less a winner than they were judged in their time.  And those judgements keep changing over time, too.

There are few clear cut presidential wins like the surrender of Germany and Japan.

Of course, Trump would always act like he is a winner, but since there are no simple ways of keeping score, I think that would unnerve him.   As you may have noticed, he doesn’t react well to criticism.  It takes the gloss off his shiny sense of self.  Last week, for example he did a four western state campaign swing which could have been a victory tour, but because he is a vindictive sort, it was more of a “grudge tour,” as a Washington Post article described it.

He spent much of his time attacking a number of people who as the Post put it, had”done him wrong.” Among the malefactors were Republicans who have yet to endorse him, like “low energy Jeb” and the female Republican governors of South Carolina and New Mexico, Nikki Hailey and Susana Martinez.

The last named happens to be chair of the Republican Governors Association in addition to being a Latina, a backer the self-proclaimed party unifier could particularly use.  But in his unique way of courting support he told a crowd in New Mexico their state was in trouble and their governor needed to do a better job.

If president, given Trump’s diaphanous skin when it comes to criticism, he should be glowing red and seething under the hot light of the 24/7 coverage that comes along with the presidency.  And criticism might eventually sprout from his present true believers who at some point seem likely to feel let down once again by a politician.

The kinds of changes Trump has promised could only be carried out if he were elected king.  At a time when a gridlocked Congress elected by a polarized populace hinders changing much of anything, at what point do King Donald’s subjects begin to question his reign?

Sure he would blame everyone else for getting in his way, but after all he did say to a crowd just last week that “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing…. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

Being the “only one” doesn’t leave him much room for excuses.

At what point do some of his ardent fans look behind the curtain of the all powerful Oz and see a little man at the controls projecting a phony awesome image?


P. S. – The Washington Post article mentioned above can be found at:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/even-in-victory-donald-trump-cant-stop-airing-his-grievances/2016/05/29/a5f7a566-2526-11e6-8690-f14ca9de2972_story.html?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_headlines

Miss the 5th Republican Primary Debate? You Didn’t Miss Much

Given the fact that Ted Cruz had actually topped Donald Trump in a poll of likely caucus goers in Iowa I among many others was hoping to see an interesting encounter last night between the two, as Trump has shown a tendency to verbally cut down whoever seems to be robbing a bit of attention from the great bloviator.

It turned out just the opposite.  Though Cruz had recently suggested Trump’s judgement wasn’t up to snuff for a president and Trump had employed the label “maniac” in describing Cruz, neither went at the other last night.  Just the opposite.  Standing next to each other, they were almost best buds.

When the “maniac” comment was brought up, Trumped disowned it with a laugh and a friendly jab at Cruz.  Ted apparently had morphed from a maniac into a good guy.  Such is the unexpected nature of the Donald’s thinking.

It seems the two have an unstated alliance.   They benefit by not attacking each other at this point as they are well clear of the pack in Iowa and attacking each other at this point would only provide openings for the others to attack them.  They remind me of Hitler and Stalin who found it in their best interests to get along, having each others’ backs until Hitler decided it was time to stab Stalin in the back.

As the February 9 caucus date approaches, will that time come?  I expect to see the fun couple begin to find more wrong with each other and it really could get interesting after that if Cruz has the audacity to win in Iowa.

While I see Cruz as a weasel and Trump as a snake oil salesman, I have to tip my hat to the skillful way they have played this political version of Survivor.  What seems surreal to people like me, seems just a new reality that they have adjusted to better than the rest.

Trump has been playing the media and American angst like a virtuoso while Cruz has been drafting behind him like a nascar driver awaiting his chance to pounce.

Unless something surprising pops up that makes the other candidates relevant, Trump and Cruz are the Republican race in Iowa and I’ll be especially curious to see what Cruz does.   He’s got a better chance to trump Trump in evangelical Iowa than he has in the more secular New Hampshire, but does he really want to get into a mano a mano with Trump?

Perhaps he is hoping like many others that the Trump balloon will eventually pop by itself, which would leave Cruz in a prime position to sweep up his followers and then race to the finish line as the survivor last standing.

Or how about this?   What if the Trump bubble does not  burst and Cruz maintains good relations with the self-proclaimed great man, and rather than stab each other in the back they unite their forces:  President Trump and Vice-President Cruz?

Now that could really get interesting.  Scary, but very interesting.