The U. S. Government Shutdown: Who will Win the Message Battle?

I don’t like the idea, but I think Trump will.  His message seems stronger, which is:  The Democrats are choosing to support illegals over protecting our borders and paying our troops and building our military.  They are holding the government hostage for their pet cause the DACA dreamers, which is a separate issue from funding the government and one that can wait for awhile as the executive order protecting them doesn’t expire until March.

The essential thinking goes:  Say what you will liberals, but those people are here illegally and while we may be sympathetic (except the immigration hawks), we do not want to close the government down over this issue.

Of course, Democrats counter with the fact Republicans control the presidency and Congress so if there is a shut down it is their fault.  Also, the Republicans have had months to resolve the DACA issue, and seemed close to doing so before that “holes” meeting in the oval office blew up the chances. The Republican need for Democratic votes to pass their bill in the Senate is the only way the Democrats have any leverage on their side.

Democrats and liberal commentators also often cite a poll that roughly 80% of the population are in favor of passing DACA, all the more reason for the Dems to dig in their heels here.

Less often they point to another poll where people were asked which was more important to them protecting the dreamers or keeping the government open, and the latter got 54% or so and the former 39% or so.  In short a majority may be sympathetic to the dreamers, but not at the cost of shutting down the government and not paying our troops and strengthening our military.  To them the dreamers can wait.

With that poll in mind, digging in on DACA is easy to sell as hostage taking and the longer the situation lasts, the more it it is going to be seen that way by a majority of Americans, especially as the Republicans will hammer that point deep into our psyches.  Right now they have ads on TV blaming the Democrat softness on immigration for murders committed by illegal immigrants.  (Which has nothing to do with the dreamers, but fosters subliminal guilt by association).  Since the message is so simple and negative, even Trump seems likely to stay on it.

I love being right, but in this case I would welcome being wrong.  I would be happy to be wrong.


P. S. – A pet peeve of mine is the tendency of commentators and politicians to indicate one party or the other has “control of the senate” because they have a simple majority.  A majority means control mostly in a negative sense.  You can stop things from happening, but because of Senate rules you need 60 votes on most important matters, like the budget extension, to make something happen, i.e. to pass it.   Obamacare was passed with 60 votes exactly.  The primary reason the ACA has so many flaws is it had to satisfy the concerns of so many different Senators to reach 60.  In short, while the Republicans manage the senate now, they don’t control it as illustrated by this impasse.  Of course, they could lower all decisions to a simple majority, as they have with selecting federal judges other than the Supreme Court, but that would make the opposition party totally impotent.  Not surprisingly, the authoritarian Trump is now trumpeting that “nuclear option” in tweets.

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The Truth about the “Holes” Meeting and why Care?

Did Trump say “S…holes” or some variation (e.g “houses”) at that ….meeting?  We have two Republican Senators who now say he did not, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, after initially saying they couldn’t recall, and Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Dick Durbin saying he did say those things, so someone is clearly lying.

You may well be thinking what is one more lie among Trump’s ever growing galaxy of fabrications.  I say once in awhile we should pin one down for it will likely have future implications.  With a government shutdown pending and both parties blaming the other, it seems important to pin down what happened at that meeting and who is lying about it.

A New York Times piece today described that meeting well, so I ask you to go to that link to get a fuller picture, but not quite yet.

Here are two reasons to believe Graham and Durbin.  For one, Graham has tried hard to stay on Trump’s good side (including some games of golf) so they could work together, while maintaining some integrity in the process, meaning he will criticize Trump but he tries not to trash him.

That tight rope walking left him at first both supporting Durbin while not exactly accusing Trump of those words, until Perdue and Cotton suddenly located their memories in time for talk shows last Sunday where they were sure the “holes” word was not used.  Their lies were too much for Graham to take, so he came out with stronger words backing Durbin.

My point being, Graham didn’t want this to happen, but after working on a compromise with Durbin that Trump seemed to like, he just wasn’t going to roll over for the president and the party when it was so clear to him who was lying.

Here’s a second reason to believe Graham and Durbin:   At that Senate hearing Tuesday, homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen actually claimed she did not know whether Norway was predominantly white, in response to a question referring to Trump’s racial bias.  Huh?

That prompted another Senator to question Nielsen’s competence for the job and for Stephen Colbert to make a joke about it, her Nordic name making the ignorance particularly odd.  But I watched her prior to that and she looked quite capable to me until she started dodging questions as to what was said at that meeting which she attended (“I can’t recall….there was a lot of tough language used from both sides”….never giving exact words she heard).

I say she was in such a CYA mode trying to shield the president that she responded to the Norway question as if it were a trick.  So the safest answer that second was  “I don’t know”.  Dumb as it seems now and proof she was hiding her real knowledge of the meeting.

My point in all of this is the shut down we will soon face could have been avoided had this meeting not devolved into the sewer (to maintain a theme).  So, it matters who is telling the truth about the meeting when it comes to the blame game.

In a televised meeting of Congressional leaders the Tuesday before the “holes” meeting Trump acted as if he welcomed the idea of more money for border security in exchange for legalizing the “dreamers”  (so many warm feelings I was expecting hand holding and Kumbaya to burst forth), but by meeting time Thursday Trump’s mind frame totally changed, undoubtedly from negative reactions from his base.  Cotton and Perdue, hardliners on immigration, were obviously there to prevent Trump from flipping back to flop.

The seeds for a shut down were sewed in that meeting and Trump, Cotton and Perdue planted them.


P. S. NEWS FLASH:    Senate Minority Chuck Schumer is at the White House (10:35 a.m. Pacific Time) in what is reported as a one to one talk with Trump.  Could the two New Yorkers forge some kind of last minute deal to keep the government open?   It’s a matter of which Trump wants less, to have a government shut down marring  the celebration of his first year as president in Florida this weekend, or to have the base that he continuously courts unhappy with some kind of compromise.

Epilogue to Last Week’s “Holes” Post

In my previous post I tried to etch a rough line between the Trump TV show and the Trump presidency, while trying to make the point that the show has gotten most of the attention while Republican congressional actions have often been sidetracked or delayed by Trump speaking his mindless.

On the other hand, Trump’s outrageous speech and actions have drawn attention away from the right’s steady actions to dismantle the administrative state allowing them to progress steadily unnoticed like termites in your attic.  In short, it’s a twisted relationship.

BUT THE KEY POINT TO KEEP IN MIND IS WHAT MATTERS MOST TO TRUMP IS THE SHOW NOT THE PRESIDENCY.

What matters most is not achieving anything in particular but to hold our constant attention while appearing to win often while blaming anyone he can think of when he doesn’t.  This is most clear in situations like the attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, where he was obviously ready to sign anything and call it a great victory for the people with no clue of what impact any of it would have.

That Trump sees this all as a show was supported in a tweet by conservative talk show host Erick Erickson Saturday.  Referring to the now infamous “hole” comment, Erickson wrote:

“It’s weird that people in the room don’t remember Trump using that word when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards.  I spoke to one of those friends.  The president thought it would play well to his base.”

Trump bragging about using the word.  (get that Paul Ryan? who called the comment “unfortunate and unhelpful” as if Trump had just misspoken with his 4th grade vocabulary.   No, he meant to say that.  He was proud of saying that.).  To be fair Erickson, formerly the editor of the conservative blog Red State has been a strong critic of Trump since the vulgarian described Megan Kelly’s bleeding from somewhere in that debate.  Because of that Erikson disinvited Trump from a Red State event.

I infer he disinvited Trump because of a sense of common decency which mattered more than whatever political overlap there was.  This is just a theory, but I think where there is decency, you’ll also find more honesty.

So, Erikson can’t stand the guy either, but he sure has a lot of conservative friends who would have connection to Trump and I believe his comments because he has shown decency and honesty in the past, qualities harder to detect in Trump than finding oxygen on the moon.

Today is Martin Luther King day, so many Republican politicians must feel those comments by Trump were particularly unfortunate and unhelpful, especially to their own political careers.  Trump doesn’t care.  MLK day only amplifies his “unfortunate” comments from last week assuring him the spotlight, which to him is fortunate.

Well, boys and girls that’s what comes of making a pact with the devil’s showman.


P. S. – There is a piece on Red State that discusses two problems of Trump’s “holes” comments in a thoughtful way.  I suggest you look at it as it seems the kind of piece that many could read and actually discuss without yelling at each other, such a novelty these days.

Struggling at the Bottom of a Trump Made Shithole

This past week must be one of the most action packed of the long running Trumped-Up show:  I, President.  – which is saying a lot.  That doesn’t mean this episode deserves an award, just the reverse, and there is so much crap involved, I don’t want to touch it.  But I feel a need to say something, to find some take on Trumptopia that sheds some light.

It helps me to think of this whole week as a show because that is the way Trump sees it.  In December, the New York Times reported that “Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.”  That seems to sum up Trump’s approach to both TV producing and governing, a shared hodgepodge.

Much of last week has been aimed at vanquishing the author of a big tell all book about fast times at White House High, which seemed to set the table in the days that followed as the book portrayed (I hear) Trump as the nitwit in chief of a loony tune WH.  Trump’s response was to hold some meetings and do other things to look presidential.

Much that transpired revealed the opposite, but I doubt he cares.  Even when he plays the fool he remains the center of attention, often more so, prompting hard working reporters to deconstruct his big lies, like the one that the random lottery that is used for a small part of immigration gives us the people those countries don’t want.  Totally false, but so what, Trump pumps out more whoppers than Burger King.  And regurgitates old ones.  Easier for him to just keep telling a lie than for others to constantly refute it.

In those meetings Trump showed his usual lack of any grasp of complex issues and said things that contradicted Republican positions.  In a televised meeting of leaders of both parties he seemed to favor a simple DACA fix (as if to show he is cooperative and kindly, calling it an “act of love”).  But after the meeting he flipped positions and refused the deal, apparently deciding that love was not shared by his base.

Also, he criticized the FISA act in a tweet for not protecting him implying he was for changes in the act even though the WH had already indicated they did not want changes in the bill voted on Thursday in the House.  In both cases Trump had to be reminded he was actually against what he said he was for or vice-versa.

Heh, but so what?  The DACA deal wasn’t made and Trump blamed the Dems, of course, even though he was the one who changed positions.  And FISA got passed after Trump stopped getting in the way.  So despite floundering, Trump filled the Republican bill and was the center of attention in the process.

Of course, the shitholes comment seemed to garner too much of the wrong attention from around the world.   He called African countries shitholes, while implying Haiti and some south American countries weren’t much different.   However, he denied in a tweet he ever said that.  He had only “talked tough,” but not those words.  Also, his word spinners have construed it as reflecting his America First emphasis.  Those who oppose him love those other nations more than the U. S.

With Trump it seems we often have to turn things upside down to see more clearly.  While normally incurring the wrath of much of the world would seem a bad presidential move, the shithole story became THE STORY of the week, grabbing attention away from many criticisms and self-made errors by the president.  It is outrageous, but our outrage works for Trump, prompting us to lose sight of his general incompetence while emphasizing his America first message and giving him the constant media coverage he hungers for, like Dracula needs blood.

So, did Trump vanquish his rivals this past week?  I’d say it is hard to judge, but in his own tumultuous way he held his own.  Constantly being the center of attention certainly makes him a winner of his television show.  Hard to get higher ratings.  And I don’t think his fan base of about one third of the country will have many complaints, so I’d say he’s a winner of his own little game.

Unfortunately, the rest of us are being forced to play it.


P. S. – I’m from a time when you didn’t completely type profanities, like sh–holes out of a reluctance to be vulgar.  But I noticed the term being used in its entirety in reports and learned that while normally the word would be slightly disguised, reporting guidelines make an exception when the president says or writes it.  In short, an exception is made out of respect for the president’s position.  Sickenly so , we have a president who doesn’t have respect for the position himself.

Also, I got the NY Times quote I used from a piece by Eugene Robinson about how Trump seldom knows what he thinks.  Robinson’s descriptions of a couple of meetings mentioned above fit with my own observations, in case you’d like to check them out at :  Eugene Robinson

The Trumped Up Presidency

I was going to write a post on the impact of the Trumped up presidency, but got side tracked thinking about the word, name, itself, so that other post will have to wait for a day or two or three.  I am struck by the definition of trump up: “to concoct especially with intent to deceive : fabricate, invent.”

 

What a perfect description of the empty essence of the current president.  I have thought so for some time, but can’t recall anyone zeroing in on the perfect fit as I am about to do.  Hillary Clinton did make a tangential remark at a debate referring to his “Trumped up trickle down theory of economics,” but that was a misguided attempt to be clever with little impact.

 

That aside, let’s look at another version of the word: trumpery. While today it refers to material objects of little or no value, back in the mid-15th century it meant deceit or fraud or worthless nonsense.  That sense is now obsolete, but the Trump phenomenon may wind up prompting its rejuvenation.

 

We might also add:  to trump:  as in bridge where one suit is all powerful over the other three, which certainly suits Trumped-Up’s vision of presidential powers in relationship to congress, the judiciary and the press.

 

For the Donald to have such a suitable name reminds me of what Carl Jung, Freud’s most well known “student”, called “synchronicity”, which means coincidental acts that seem too coincidental to be mere coincidence, eerily so.  We are being led by the shallowest of fabricating fools as if the”the force” has declared we deserve to be , and provided that name as our clue.

 

So, when in the future I refer to President Trumped-Up or the Trumped-Up presidency, know that I’m not trying to be cute or clever.  Simply concise.

Donald Trump: The Grinch that is Stealing Reality

Watching Donald Trump at a cabinet “show” this morning patting himself on the back for many so-called successes in his first year as president, I felt sick, like I had been transported to the dystopia of the book 1984 .  He churns out so much B. S. so fast I really can’t handle it anymore.  Fact checkers figure to tear this little talk apart, but so what?

His B. S. machine will go into overdrive on something else tomorrow or soon after.  It feels futile to say anything.  As I’ve said before, it is so easy for him to make things up, and just keep repeating the lies, while it is much work to disprove them.  And the falsehoods keep coming at you like bullets from a machine gun.  And about one-third of our population believes Trump no matter what.

Trump can go on and on acting as if his Trumped up world is real and because he is president no one is in the position to yell:  “Shut the “F” up you lying piece of Sh_t!   Without that bit of corrective action, Trump gets to create his own reality and those in attendance, both in the room and at home, have to just listen, as if we actually believe him.

Watching VP Mike Pence putting his imprimatur on this perverted picture made me even sicker.   He chimed in on how honored he was to serve the great man, how grateful to be in that position and what wonders his boss has created so far.

If Trump is impeached, the fond hope of many of us, the pandering Pence will become president, who is as big of a phony as Trump but in a different way.   He has turned false sincerity into an art form, so I’m hoping he’s impeached, too, and Ryan gets the job.   No matter what you think of him, Ryan  has to be better than the other two.

I was going to say a few things about the tax plan, but since it is hard to write anything today and I feel like an ant looking up at an elephant, I’ll let it slide.  Other than to say the obvious that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is not a great gift to the middle class, no matter how often Trump and his minions say it is, and he and his fellow billionaires make out way better than the rest of us, no matter how often he says they’ll actually lose money.  These are two major points that are preposterous falsehoods, reason enough not believe anything Trump says about the bill.  Or for that matter, anything else.


P. S. –  Just to give you a taste of reality in contrast to what Trump is dishing out, check out this interview of Paul Ryan by Savannah Guthrie.   Supported by a statement by Mike Bloomberg, former mayor of New York and ongoing billionaire, Guthrie asks Ryan if he “is living in a fantasy world” to say that the tax bill will help workers.

President Trump as a “Brain-eating Disease.” 

In the other room I hear Trump bloviating about what a wonderful job he’s done about making us a “great, beautiful, crime free country” again.   I have fantasies of parting his hair with a meat cleaver.

His bluster is mostly B. S. at best or misleading or untethered to reality and just plain lies.  What is soul sapping is he seems to pay even less adherence to the truth as time goes by, so much so that the press can’t quite combat it.   He keeps belching forth more mind pollution than our reportorial devices can dissipate.

The Washington Post will need to hire more fact checkers just to handle this one short speech.   And many citizens won’t believe them anyway.  That’s the problem with our traditional belief that truth will prevail in the market place.  Many think the custodians of political truth are so corrupt that they’ll take whatever cockeyed version Trump can come up with as more real.

Another problem is it’s usually so much easier to just make up something than to disprove it these days.  Trump creates new realities with a whim, which take numerous bull dozers of reality checkers to knock down.

And then Trump counters with a simple “fake news” accusation and the score is about even.

Like when Trump claimed three million illegal residents voted.  It takes just one sentence to claim, but it takes a lot of work to actually disprove it.  Think of the work Obama had to do in proving he was born in Hawaii.   How absurd was that?  Trump never produced a shred of evidence, just a crap heap of innuendo was all it took to gain a large following.  I imagine Trump was so surprised that it worked so well he began seeing a path for himself to the presidency.   He saw how easy many of us could be had.

His brag fest this morning shows he has come to the point where reality is whatever suits him.   He assumes that if he repeats it often enough, and bolsters it with more fabrications here and there, his truthiness will win out.

I don’t think that’s entirely impossible.   It’s actually been working pretty well.  Think of the high consumer confidence ratings these days.  I believe much of it is the belief that Trump the businessman will make our lives better.   I believe much of that will be proven false, but that might take months and I wonder how many of his fans will believe the evidence.

I got my title  “brain-eating disease” from Thomas Friedman in an article suggesting we all need to focus on something other than Trump more often.    A columnist and prolific writer of thought-provoking books assessing present trends and the future (a mind set in stark contrast with Trump’s), he describes the president placing commentators  “into a terrible choice: either ignore it all and risk normalizing Trump’s excesses or write about him constantly and risk not having the time to learn and report about the big trends now reshaping the world”.

There is so much happening all over the world that we become increasingly ignorant of because of our 24/7 focus on Trump.

Friedman takes a healthy breather by focusing on impressive technological developments in India, but I fear my case of the Trumps is worse than his.  I feel that the disease has taken hold sufficiently that I’m now an addict beginning to wonder whether they have begun chapters of Trumpaholics Anonymous yet.

I can not think about much else until I come to believe that Trump’s fall is imminent.  Despite the sense the Mueller investigation is slowly tightening a noose, I continue to see Trump in control of the game.  Until I see him in a real pickle, I’ll keep trying to figure out what’s happening with him and how much the brain-eating disease is spreading or being contained.

That’s all this addict can do.


Those of you who actually can see your way clear to look at that vast complicated world outside of Trump’s Gothic City-like Underland might want to check out Friedman’s article on the impressive tech developments in India  here.  It’s a shock to me as I lived in India for 10 months in 1966/67 and thought India, so slow moving, poor and tied to its past, would never change much.