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.

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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.

A School Slaughter and the Normal Abnormal in Trumptopia Last Week

(I want to give the political gist of some of last week.  To give more would be way too much for a post.  As is this may be my longest post ever.  It was a big news week.) 

School slaughters have become part of our new normal but one thing different here is how a number of the teenage victims seem new born activists determined to not let the rest of us forget this time.  To begin with, several have tweeted to Trump to forget his hopes and prayers. They want actions.  Maybe just maybe…. 


The other points are the more normal incidents of Trump’s governance by chaos.  The scandal of the week grew out of his WH staff.   His staff secretary, Rob Porter, resigned after allegations he abused his two former wives.  The bigger issue was the poor vetting process that allowed him to handle top security papers, which raised questions about WH chief of staff General Kelly’s handling of that, which Kelly appears to have lied about.  Most interesting to me is Representative Trey Gowdy opened an investigation of the matter.  I only hope he is half as tenacious as he was in grilling Hillary Clinton about Benghazi over several years.


The issue of Russian interference in our elections figured prominently last week in various ways, most misinterpreted by Trump to suit his narrative that any efforts Russia made were negligible and, most importantly, his campaign had not colluded with them.

In stark contrast to Trump’s assertions, the heads of the major intelligence branches testified to Congress Monday and all of them believe Russia interfered with the last election and will continue to do so as long as we let them.  Also, upon questioning, it became clear that the WH had not given them specific instructions on how to deal with it.  I might add  Trump has refused to enact stricter sanctions on Russia voted by Congress almost unanimously last summer.

Then later in the week Special Prosecutor Mueller’s team announced indictments of 13 Russians for their interference in 2016, removing all doubt.  As he always has done, Trump ignored the interference, stressing that “no collusion was proven.”  Well, not yet, but the investigation seems far from over.  And, collusion or no, what about the interference, Donald?  What about that?   It’s OK with you as long as it helps you?

I’m continuously stunned by how Trump ignores Russian interference while never criticizing Putin, and most Republicans say nothing.  If the situation was reversed they would never stop yelling traitor.  I can imagine only two reasons for Trump’s behavior, one being his supreme narcissism that makes any admission of interference diminish his win.  And/or Putin has information that could sink him.


As he said he would, Senate Republican leader McConnell took up the immigration issue Monday. Four bills were brought up but none received more than 54 votes while it takes 60 to pass under Senate guidelines.  The one reflective of Trump’s proposal got the fewest votes, 39.

The Dreamers remain in limbo while Trump blames the Democrats, of course, even though he showed no willingness to make a deal, I. E. show some give and take in the process.  Trump doesn’t make deals.  He gives fiats and when the other side isn’t willing to accept his position in total, he blames them for not wanting a deal.

By the way, remember how Trump said he would rewrite our trade deals and make much better ones.  Can anyone come up with a single new trade deal he has actually made this past year?  He has broken deals and threatened to break others, but give me an example of one new deal he has made.  If he had he would have tweeted up a storm.


The Infrastructure Week that Wasn’t:   The Porter scandal dominated the headlines in the first half of the week and then the Florida massacre took over from then on.  No matter,  Trump’s infrastructure plan is just more of his B. S.  He talks about $1.5 trillion investment, but the federal government will only pay 200 billion of that, the rest is to come from states and public/private investments.

State budgets have been creaking for years so forget that and the other part is guesswork at this point.  Also, Trump’s new budget plan shows infrastructure cuts, not hikes, so some of the that 200 billion will be needed to get back to previous spending levels.

By the way, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates it will take $3.6 trillion invested by 2020 just to raise the country’s support systems to acceptable levels, so under the most optimistic vision Trump’s Great America will still be undergirded by crumbling roads, bridges and airports.


Trump Sexcapades – Trump has given so many signs of being a sexual sleaze bag, that recent stories about big hush money payments to two mistresses prior to the election are hardly a surprise and not worth going into unless they turn into something prosecutable.


The Weekend Tweet Storm: Trump reportedly spent the weekend largely watching TV news and commentary while growing more and more furious about the ongoing Russia investigation, spewing out a dozen or so emails blaming or criticizing others, mischaracterizing situations and continuously emphasizing “no collusion” while now arguing he has always meant the “hoax’ was the collusion part, not Russia’s meddling itself.  No, he continually conflated the two until Mueller’s Russian indictments this week.  He is an expert at saying things imprecisely, so later he can always say he didn’t mean what had seemed obvious.

His last tweet  target was Oprah who was on 60 Minutes last night with a panel of voters talking about Trump and the election.  His tweet began calling Oprah “insecure” and went on to state:  “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect.”

Leaving aside that last accusation from the King of Falsehoods, let’s take a vote as to who is more insecure:  Oprah, who rose from poverty to become hugely successful and gets along with most people while loved by many, or Donald, who began rich and though he’s had his own share of success is always puffing himself up while battling with others, usually tearing them down?

And Oprah is the insecure one?

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.

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.