Wallace’s Interview with Trump Sunday: Accessibility in Action

I regret Monday’s post in which I muddled together praise for three fine men with knowledge and integrity:  General Mattis, Doctor Fauci and TV journalist Chris Wallace.  The first two are better known, especially Fauci, than the third and they deserve it.

But Wallace exemplifies political interviewing at its best and, in my opinion, does not get the praise he deserves.  It is particularly tough to pin down the truth these days, and he’s particularly good at it in his interviews.

Liberals can’t forgive him for working at Fox (see P. S. below) and actually exemplifying the station’s slogan of “fair and balanced” journalism better than the liberals on MSNBC and CNN do.

He did the best interview I’ve seen of our pretend president Sunday (while his interview of Putin at Helsinki may be the best I’ve ever seen in terms of political toughness [Would you want to get tough with Putin?]).

But let’s get to the point.

The White House spinners of their made up truth often argue that Trump is the most accessible president ever (always that ridiculous degree of hyperbole) which is as phony as most things that come out of their mouths.  While Trump is often seen giving brief attention to reporters before helicoptering from the White House, the press questions are never fully answered and often can’t be heard over the roar of helicopter blades.

In other contexts he evades reporter’s questions by calling them “nasty” or using some other form of distraction, like terribly twisted distortions or just plain lying.  Basking in his false narrative and the power of his presidency to ignore.  Only in the warped little minds of the Trump mouth pieces can this be seen as accessibility.

I think the only reason Republicans agree to be interviewed by Wallace is because he works at Fox.  Maybe they think they’ll get a warm reception.  Often they don’t, but he’s always polite.  I don’t see many cheap shots from him.  Wallace tends to be fair and balanced, in stark contrast to Fox’s biggest stars, the week day evening crew of Hannity, Carlson and Ingraham, who remind me of the laughing hyenas in The Lion King.

But crawling back to my main point:   I want Wallace’s interview of Trump to get the attention it deserves.  Wallace actually made Trump accessible through his penetrating questions and his feisty responses.  Here are a couple of ways to digest the interview.  You can actually watch the so-called president flailing around in full by going to this link to Fox, but have a drink and some snacks at hand as the interview is 40 minutes.

Or you could flip through CNN’s ” 55 most schocking lines”.  And follow those up.  Or simply google around.  There are plenty of articles about the interview.

P. S. – A number of liberal commentators have praised Wallace, while also criticizing him for various missteps, such as not taking Trump to task for stories of Putin’s paying Taliban members to kill American troops, or making Fox look better than they are by actually exhibiting a fair, balanced and hard hitting interview.

My thoughts:  Wallace knew that bringing up the Taliban would simply prompt lies and denies from Trump and waste valuable time.  As for the unfortunate fact for liberals that Wallace is more fair and balanced then they are…. Well, I don’t think many people confuse Wallace with the opinionaters at Fox headed up by the three hyenas.  In any event, I’m eager to see a smart, tough interview from any source these days.  Just so we don’ forget what it looks like.

Anyone remember how good Tim Russert was?

Who do you Trust: Mattis, Fauci and Other Well Respected Experts, or Trump?

Trump acts as if his beliefs carry at least the same weight as the knowledge of real experts in their fields like General Mattis, former Secretary of Defense,and highly esteemed among our military, and Doctor Anthony Fauci, arguably the most respected authority worldwide on infectious diseases.

Not enough to impress Trump, though, his being a “stable genius” and all. Trump defamed Mattis’ ability after he resigned (Not to mention all the top brass before that, “I know more than the generals.”) and he has taken roundabout swipes at Dr. Fauci through some of his lackey’s.

He’s afraid of making direct attacks as polls show Fauci to be much more trusted than the president, which is why we don’t see the two together anymore.

In Mattis and Fauci we have two figures highly experienced in their fields while Trump’s military experience (beyond attending a military academy) consists in avoiding the draft pleading bone spurs a few times.  His lone scientific credential seems to lie in having an uncle who was a professor at MIT years ago (I guess we are to surmise the ability lies in his genes).

General Mattis has asserted Trump lies too much to be president (not to mention other major shortcomings) and Fauci, ever measured in his statements, has consistently been a beacon of truth about Cofid-19, which should mean a lot given his international stature.  But not to Trump, except as a threat.

In Trump’s view, Fauci has his opinion and Trump has his, as if an expert with decades of proven experience and success with pandemics rates only equal standing to some boastful drunk bragging about his accomplishments at a bar.

Those who except Trump’s demand that he alone purveys the truth have swallowed assertions like this: ” Don’t believe what you see or hear.  Just believe what I say.”  This is the stuff of burgeoning dictatorships, as is the recent appearance of federal agents, our own version of little green men (remember Russian soldiers in the Crimea?) jumping out of vans in Portland, Oregon and seizing whomever, while refusing to identify themselves.

This action would be the most scary of Trump’s many that disregard and rip apart the institutional fabric of our society if this were all real rather than another episode of a “reality TV” show.  I’m guessing the tan men with no names were there to show what Trump could do, what a tough guy he could be.   And to provide one more plot of quicksand to consume and distract us.

Of course most of you know all of this.  Think of it as a an overly long preamble, a warm-up to reading a linked piece on Trump’s interview today by Chris Wallace of Fox.  I have argued more than once that Wallace, despite working at Fox, is the best political interviewer on TV and today provided further evidence as he gave Trump a real grilling over his version of the truth when it comes to fighting the virus and other major issues we all face.

This is a summary from Yahoo News.

Read it and make your own judgement as to who is smarter and more knowledgeable between the two.  If you want to see the full interview, I imagine you can find it if you try.

“Trump is not a King,” says Cuomo. How About a Mafia Don?

Since his self-aggrandizing mostly pseudo update on the U. S. fight against the carona virus yesterday, Trump has lambasted governors for not being sufficiently appreciative for his support and having the nerve to challenge his “authority.”

For example, it angers him that New York’s governor Cuomo has stated Trump is not a king, as if Trump needed to be reminded.   But Trump acted like a king asserting his “great powers” as president to do what he wills, including “re-opening” the economy.

Legally,  Trump lacks constitutional authority to open the economy just as he had none to close it.  (These are the realms of governors.).  Trump didn’t even want the responsibility for closing the economy of states.  He might be blamed then, and he always avoids taking responsibility for anything, except whatever seems praiseworthy after the fact.  But now he wants credit for those successes and pretends he has the authority to open businesses in those states.

I believe that when Trump says he has the final authority on all such measures, he is not talking about constitutional authority, but the authority of fear, the kind of authority a mafia don possesses.  He is saying in, reality, he can make things so tough on the governors that they had better heed his wishes.  That’s what “authority” means to Trump.

That’s Trump’s vision of being a leader.

At these briefings Governor Cuomo does a good job of walking the line, praising Trump while stopping short of ingratiating himself by allowing key Trump falsehoods to stand.  As he said this morning, “I don’t want to fight with the president.  This is too important for that.”  But he could not let Trump’s kingly behavior stand unchallenged.

If you haven’t checked out Cuomo’s morning TV updates on New York’s battle with the pandemic, please do.   They are usually on daily about 8:00 a.m. PDT.   As I’ve asserted before, Cuomo acts like a president, including an overall strategy for beating the virus back.

The more you watch both president and governor, you will likely see the latter has a plan to beat this virus, while the former keeps defending what he has done and not done about it, while claiming a lack of respect for his “great” efforts and spouting off on the need to open the economy.

Trump has a goal with no plan.   Cuomo has both.  Watch him and you’ll see.

P. S. – There is a dynamic at work regarding the Cuomo press conferences that I find interesting yet not commented upon in the media I’ve seen.  Fox News carry’s the Cuomo updates and I know a couple of regular Fox watchers who find Cuomo to be “OK”, unlike any other Democrat.  Don’t know what this means in terms of the election, but Cuomo has made himself a player in some way.

I’ve seen some whimsical thinking about how it would be nice to have Cuomo as the Dem candidate instead of Biden.  Obama gave his support to his former VP today.  That would seem to seal the deal, but it certainly would be nice to see Cuomo a lot as Dem attack dog during the presidential race.


Democratic Presidential Survivor: Episode Two

If you are looking for insights on last night’s episode of “Survivor”, don’t look to me.  I’m still stuck on what many have called a good debate on healthcare.”   I saw it as a bunch of squabbling over a very complex issue that needs a lot of clarifying, so I’ll just wait until I hear more in some more or less real debate some time in the future.

I liked Amy Klobuchar, a centrist who might move up if Joe Biden shows his age again tonight.  For those who really want to look into a break down of the food fight, you can find a good one at the New York Times, where each candidate’s performance is rated like an ice skating competition.  A host of smart commentators draw their various conclusions, none really liking Klobuchar much.

According to those judges, Sanders, Warren and Mayor Pete did best, a cut above the rest.

Here’s the Times breakdown.



July 4th, Trump on Parade

The big news on the 4th of July was Trump acting like a fairly normal president, except for the fact no other president has made the 4th essentially about him.  At least Trump sounded somewhat presidential but that’s because he stuck to a speech on a teleprompter.  News of a sort I suppose, because he usually goes off on more tangents than a fireworks display.

Trump was apparently so stuck to the teleprompter that he wound up saying something nonsensical, a claim that revolutionary troops took over airports.  The next morning he blamed that statement on a broken prompter.  The oddity was that while giving the speech he didn’t seem to notice the irregularity and just powered on as if no one would notice.

It makes me wonder if you put a recipe for lasagna on the prompter would he just read through that, too?

When I write about Trump as I just did I feel kind of sick as none of it is really worth telling.  But that’s what I’ll remember about the Donald’s 4th.   And, like with air pollution, it does seem useful to point out when it continues to strangle us.

More noteworthy was Trump’s amble to the helicopter the next morning headed for his New Jersey resort.  With the rotating blades of the copter making everything hard to hear Trump easily fended off a gaggle of reporters who tossed questions at him.

Here he returned to his real self, the usual complement of distractions, misrepresentations, fabrications, and just plain lies in what I think of as a drive by press briefing.  Which is basically the only kind of press interaction we get these days.

A reporter yells out a question.  Trump lies.  Or just ignores it.  Another reporter screams out another and Trump says something that has been proven untrue over and over.  And then on to the next question.  Or Trump will go on some kind of tangent, often unrelated.  Something that either promotes his genius or defames someone else.

If a reporter tries to present a follow up question he or she is either ignored or Trump repeats his falsehood often saying “you all know that.”  Which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The last question Trump fielded is a good example.  The reporter asked about his assertion that President Obama had virtually begged Kim Jong Un to meet,  but Kim refused.  When asked for a source on that, Trump just repeated the claim.  It is untrue just as is previous statements that all those other fairly recent presidents wanted to meet with Kim or his dad or granddad but couldn’t pull it off.

No, no, no.  None of these presidents wanted to give Kim (or his father or grandfather)  the prestige of being treated like an equal in such a meeting.  The tin pot dictators wanted the meeting, not our presidents, formerly the leaders of the western world.  It makes me sick that Trump can continue to get away with this charade.

Trump’s whole portrayal of  what he has accomplished with Kim is, to use the technical term, BULLSHIT……  A huge metaphorical mound of it that he succeeds in adding to.

All his government has done is to quietly accept the idea that NOKO is going to have nukes while acting as if the reality was otherwise.  There is little we can do about it short of war, despite Trump’s fantasied account.   If we had a close relationship with China there would be a chance that things would be different, but we don’t.

If you were a murderous dictator like Kim would you give up the one thing that keeps you in power?  And trust the proudly unpredictable Trump to safeguard you?

Leaving the feckless questioners in the dust, Trump twirled out of town while the reporters and their anchors back at the stations pretended to make sense out of the senseless.

The Trumpification of the Fourth of July

Remember the good old days when the Fourth of July was a moment of family barbecues and general celebration of our nation’s independence from England back in 1776?    Presidents have stayed out of it and let the rest of us celebrate as we may.  Even last year was that way, but Trump had barely begun to mark his territory by pissing on everything.

As NPR has stated:  “For this Fourth of July, President Trump has added an address from the Lincoln Memorial, tanks stationed in the area, an extended fireworks display and military aircraft flyovers.”

The tanks had to be hauled in on trains because they are too heavy for the Washington roads to handle.  They figure to have the look of props in a play.  Immobile, they aren’t all that impressive.  Silly even when compared with the rows and rows of moving vehicles most other autocrats display.

NPR mentioned the added cost of Trump’s celebration.   I wouldn’t quibble about that if it were somehow a unifying effort but instead it is simply the latest  Trump try to celebrate himself and divide the rest of us.  If that were not the case there would not be a VIP section close to the stage filled by Republican donors and dignitaries and hardly anyone else.

Of course, Trump will say something about honoring our founding fathers and our military, but as usual translate that in reverse to say he is there to honor himself.  As the Wall Street Journal has put it:  “President Trump will take on a starring role in the capital’s Fourth of July festivities with a speech from the Lincoln Memorial that aides are pitching as a patriotic salute to the military but his critics fear could inject politics into a typically nonpartisan celebration.”

In order to stomach this so I can dissect the performance later, I will pretend to be playing a game of Where’s Waldo.   Looking for how many ways Trump will pretend to honor others and play the unifier while actually focusing attention on himself and his achievements, while swiping at the Dems wherever convenient.

Trump is Driving Me Crazy and the Trip gets Shorter each Day

Not exactly, but with all the thoughts he prompts with his outrageous distortions, he produces  outrage fatigue, lying so often and changing his tune so frequently, everything blurs together.  He has taken us past a “post truth” politics to a post reality politics.

If you haven’t been driven totally nuts, you may have noticed how the boy who would be king said in an interview there was nothing wrong with receiving information from foreign agents, it just being more opposition research.

He changed his tune a couple of times at least, after even a couple of Republican senators gently chided Trump for basically saying to all the world, send us your dirt on my opponents.  The last version I heard was his claiming in front of the three nodding heads on Fox and Friends that of course he would notify the FBI, because no one loves America more than he does.

I could go on and on, but that would clearly get me closer to the loony bin and prevent me from writing at all.   I just want to make this point, a suggestion as to how to interpret Trump’s words.   Whatever he says, just flip it to the opposite.   So, when Trump says “no one loves America more” than he does, just switch the “more ” to “less”.

He cares so much about himself, there can’t be much love left for the rest of us.

And when he says “believe me”, as he often does, translate it into “don’t believe me”.  And if he says it twice, really don’t believe him.  When he says he has solved a problem, it really is he hasn’t solved the problem:  he just wants us to think so, like in the case of North Korea and its nukes.   Remember how he said after that first meeting with his bosom buddy Kim Jung Un that we could sleep easier because the nuclear threat was gone?

Not only is it not gone, it is undiminished, and is likely even stronger.  But no problem, president deranged Don still believes in Kim Jung Un, and his own ability to sway him.

I just can’t wait till he tells us how he has solved the Iran problem.

Still Waiting for Mueller to Testify to Congress

The Trump extravaganza of issues keeps expanding exponentially, but short of a noteworthy military conflict, I’m still most concerned if and when Special Counsel Robert Mueller will testify to Congress.  I’ve heard May 15 bandied about for a testimony date, but nothing from Mueller about that.

At the moment, my sense is Trump is winning the message game, asserting that the report’s lack of indictments clear the president.  From what I’ve gleaned from many who have read the report, the actual picture is much less flattering.  Even incriminating if you believe over 700 federal prosecutors who have signed a joint letter to that effect.

But we need Mueller to testify in order to substantiate that, as well as showing Attorney General Barr has misinterpreted the findings to the public.  Which in turn has allowed Republicans to parrot it’s a done deal.  Let’s move on.

Linked here is a story from CBS news that delve’s into the question of whether Trump can stop Mueller from testifying once he leaves office (no public date set yet).

I would say the basic conclusion is that while Trump might be able to limit Mueller’s comments to only what he said in the report on the basis of executive privilege, even that argument might not prevail.  In any case, it looks like it comes down to Mueller’s willingness to testify and I can only hope he wants to set the record straight enough to overcome his preference to remain out of the public eye.

Will McGahn and Mueller Testify Before the House?

Trump loves walls, so now he is trying to build another one sealing off his office from Congress.   He has told his people to ignore subpoenas from the committees in the House that are trying to fulfill their constitutional role of oversight, a role the previous Republican controlled House thought was optional.

Of course the Trumpeters are arguing that this is old news made ancient by the completion of the Mueller report, but there is a problem there:  The Mueller report does not come up with the clear cut conclusions the Trumpsters assert.   It is more complicated than that, requiring Mueller to clarify a number of things to Congress.

My first question would be:  Did you believe that you could not actually indict Trump because of a Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president?  If Mueller did feel constrained it sheds much light on why no obstruction of justice charges were filed.  Not because Trump was innocent, but because Mueller believed department policy prohibited indictments of the president.

I do not know if Mueller is willing, but I certainly hope he is.  Otherwise the summation of the report made by Trump’s disappointing pick for AG, Robert Barr, may be allowed to stand in many a voter’s mind.  “No Collusion.”  “No Obstruction.”

The report is much more nuanced than that, but those nuances must be fought for in order to survive in a Trumptopia where nuances are ignored or blurred or lied about and in the process critical thinking deformed.  Despite all that he lacks, Trump has proved himself a genius at sloganeering and other tricks to fabricate a false world of “alternative facts.”  He has already gotten the jump on the latest Dem presidential candidate, Joe Biden, labeling him “sleepy Joe,” a guy who lacks the smarts to be president.

The Dems should hold a contest for just the right  label to nail Trumpty Dumpty with.   “Deranged Donald” isn’t bad, borrowed from tweets of conservative George Conway, once a backer of Trump and now one of his harshest critics and, YES!, also the husband of Trump’s Queen of Spin, Kelly Anne.  The perfect couple for a Loony Tune Land (see bottom).

Anyway, I’ve Googled around looking for an indication that 1) Mueller and/or former White House counsel Don McGahn are willing to testify before the House and 2) whether Trump can prevent them from doing so.  I can’t find anything clear cut about that.  However, since neither work for the president anymore and he has already allowed McGahn to testify fully to Mueller (without claiming executive privilege),  I’m thinking both will eventually testify to Congress.

Or should I say I hope to high heavens that is the case.   Ah, but yesterday I heard that Trump helped make McGahn’s testimony more likely, as the Trumpster has accused McGahn of lying to Mueller………..which would be a crime, so I would think McGahn would want to testify again under oath refuting Trump’s claims to the public at large.

Thanks for your help on this Mr. president.

P. S. – By now I would think most if not all of you are aware of how the Trump presidency has placed a lot of stress on the family life of George and Kellyanne Conway.   Both were Trump supporters at the beginning of his presidency, but while Kellyanne defends Trump’s actions daily, George has turned completely against the president, skewering him often on Twitter, even calling for his impeachment.  Want to know more?  Check out this piece from the BBC.

The Report is Out but I’m Still Waiting for Mueller to Speak

…..  Because I want him to clarify what some of his statements mean.  The 400+ page report is divided into two sections, one on “conspiracy” and the other on “obstruction of justice”. The Trump narrative reduces the report to “no collusion”, “no obstruction.”  But as with everything Trump, his depiction vacillates between being not quite true, to just plain false.  This is especially true as to the second section on obstruction.

First, on the “collusion” aspect, Mueller does not use that word, but instead “criminal conspiracy”.   The former is not a legal term, despite its constant use by Trump and the media;  the latter is a legal term with several hurdles to overcome in order to indict.  Therefore, one could collude quite a bit without actually committing the crime of conspiracy.

There is plenty of evidence that the Trump team and the Russians played off each other in ways that may not be judged criminal conspiracy, but still were improper, especially for a presidential candidate.  Trump’s team clearly welcomed Russian efforts that would help him, even if they did not exactly “conspire” with them.

Still, Mueller states at the end of the first section that he could not find sufficient evidence to indict………..points for the Trump team.  But of key significance, Mueller does not make the same claim in the second section on the obstruction of justice.  Instead, he states clearly that a lack of indictments here should not be seen as an “exoneration” of the president, listing 10 episodes that could be seen as obstruction.  The AP has summed up this aspect so well I will quote them at length:

“THE FACTS: The special counsel’s 400-plus-page report specifically does not exonerate Trump, leaving open the question of whether the president obstructed justice.

“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” Mueller wrote. “Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

The report identifies 10 instances of possible obstruction by Trump and said he might have “had a motive” to impede the investigation because of what it could find on a variety of personal matters, such as his proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

“The evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal and political concerns,” the report states.

In explaining its decision, Mueller’s team said reaching a conclusion on whether Trump committed crimes would be inappropriate because of a Justice Department legal opinion indicating that a sitting president should not be prosecuted.  It nevertheless left open at least the theoretical possibility that Trump could be charged after he leaves office, noting that its factual investigation was conducted “in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary material were available.”

“Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” the report states.”

I highlighted that section above in blue because it raises a curious, likely confusing point that has not been dwelt upon in the media for the most part.  Mueller seems to be saying that the Justice Department’s rule against indicting a president while still in office prevented him from making a decision on obstruction indictments, as that would exceed his mandate.  But he could preserve evidence for possible future investigations, such as the House is undertaking now.

Mueller has been or will be invited to speak to House committees.  I expect him to attend willingly and figure he will be asked to clarify points I have just raised.  I’m looking forward to it.

P. S.  Michael Smerconish, one of my favorite TV political hosts, did concentrate on this very issue this morning, so if you want to know more about this, go to his website and look for a picture of Trump on the top right:   https://www.smerconish.com/home

Or, if you already have had enough of this, just wait for Mueller to testify in a couple of weeks or so, because he will likely clear up many questions the report raises.