Trump vs. Comey: A Showdown Over the Truth

On May 12 Donald Trump tweeted:  “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”  This in response to fired FBI Director Comey’s indicating that Trump had asked for a pledge of loyalty, two or three times it seems.  Not what a president should request from someone whose position dictates independence, with loyalty only to the constitution and to the truth.

I’m wondering if Trump is simply unraveling…..

This may be the president’s strangest tweet because, unlike those hundreds of others that have garnered attention, it makes no sense.   Of course, he has said plenty of outrageous things, many of which he just made up, but they helped his situation in creating an image of a strong decisive leader, a guy who would shake up Washington, or in providing a distraction from topics he no longer wanted to talk about.   Here it only draws more attention to the lingering sore issue of whether his campaign colluded with the Russians during the election.

It is the same as the firing of Comey, with Trump’s team giving false reasons for doing so and then the president admitting it was largely Comey’s refusal to let go of the “fake Russian story.”   Again prompting more attention on the Russian connection, rather than less.

Many commentators suggest that email above was a threat to Comey.  That would only be true if Comey is lying.  I think Trump is the one who is lying.   If so, talk of tapes is like you threatening someone with a gun pointed at yourself.

And mentioning the tapes (unless they actually exist and prove his point) has only served to prompt calls from congress to see them and left Trump’s surrogates, like national joke spokesman Sean Spicer, to feebly admit the president doesn’t want to talk about it.  Some threat.

Again prompting more attention on the Russian connection, rather than less.

Unlike so much else in Washington that just seems to drift a long, this specific conflict over the truth figures to come to a head.  It will be settled somehow.  It comes down to who you think is fundamentally more honest and, unless you are a Trump Fanatic, there is no question.  Comey has spent decades developing a reputation for integrity.  Trump has spent decades developing real estate deals saying and doing whatever it took to succeed.

The Trumpites like to point to the criticism the Democrats have had of Comey’s handling of the Hillary email mess, some even calling for his resignation.  But for the most part, it was his judgement that was criticized not his integrity.  After all this is a guy who wouldn’t even play basketball with President Obama as it might imply too close of a relationship.   And this is a professional who has been keeping detailed memos in FBI files of all of his exchanges with Trump and his team.

Like the gunfight at the OK corral, it will come to a head.  And I think Comey is looking forward to it.

Comey’s host of memos may come out like a series of poison darts, or he might reveal a bunch of them at a public hearing.  The initial one yesterday details Trump asking Comey if he “could see fit” to drop the investigation of Mike Flynn.  The White House says “this is not a truthful or accurate portrayal” of that conversation.  One side of the other is lying and the truth will out.

The president is probably happy to be leaving town this weekend for visits to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Vatican.  You have to give it to Trump.  He knows how to put on a show.   Who knows what will actually be accomplished, but those meetings should provide some great optics (handshakes with three great religions) and of course Trump will tell us of the great meetings he had all around.

But whatever happens abroad the Comey problem will still be here on his return and if anything, it will look bigger not smaller.


P. S. – Of course I’m aware of the meeting of Russian diplomats with Trump in the oval office and the controversy that has ensued.  You want to bury the story line of the Russian connection?   So, right after firing Comey you host key Russian diplomats in the Oval Office, allowing jovial photos to come out?  Really?  I mean really?

Besides national security implications, it just seems like another poorly thought out tactical mistake reinforcing questions as to whether Trump really wants this job.

After all he has admitted it is harder than he thought.

American Titanic in Dry Dock for Repairs

A few days ago I took  a tumble and in trying to break the fall I broke my left hand.  I’m practicing one handed typing right now.

So, I will be out of commission for a few weeks while I concentrate on how to live a one handed life.   Tying my shoes and operating zippers are now challenges.

Frankly I welcome this as an excuse for not posting.  Our impetuous president is prompting more news than I can process.  I’ll take a broken hand over a  brain hemorrhage any day.   Also maybe the White House and world events will magically become more decipherable.   A longshot I know, but…..

Unfortunately a friend has offered to type my posts, so at some point I will feel compelled to post again.

By then I will either have learned to tie my shoes or bought some loafers.  And the weather in San Diego will be consistently warm enough to care little about zippers.

Trump Still Living and Dying on his Biggest Lie, and the Other Version of March Madness

By biggest lie, I mean the most disgusting with the biggest ramifications as to our already shaky beliefs in our political institutions.  Not to mention to our standing around the world.  Trump has asserted our former president is a criminal while providing no substantial evidence.  And, as it always works with him.  That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

Almost a week ago Trump accused predecessor Barack Obama of wire tapping Trump Tower, a felony.  And he continues to hold that position despite members of his own party on key intelligence committees asking:  Where’s the proof?

While many of Trump’s outrageous statements can be viewed as cagey maneuvers to change topics he no longer wants focused upon, this bait and switch seems to have gone awry because he has pushed some of his fellow Republicans in key committee positions, like Senators John Mc Cain and Lindsay Graham and Representative Devin Nunez, to call him on this charade.   Call it the faded shades of Republican integrity arisen.

Over the next two weeks there will be hearings and FBI Director Comey is scheduled to appear at one Monday.   It seems best to see how this sorts itself out, but for those wanting an update here is spokesperson Sean Spicer echoing his boss’s adamant refusal to give up his claim (though look for much upcoming spinning of terms and blaming of others by the Trump team to avoid being nailed.)

I am rushing this post because I want to escape my obsession with Trumpenstein by replacing it with another:  MARCH MADNESS.   It is much more fun with little likelihood of it endangering our democracy and/or the entire world.

Gotta go.  Games and brews and laughs await me.

The Coverage of the Congressional Town Hall Meetings is Lousy

As one who is angered by the new president’s deforming reality daily to suit his purposes while also blaming the media for creating “fake news,” I feel even more anger today at the the liberal media for the poor job it is doing covering the raucous Republican congressional town meetings being held this week.  In short, I’m accusing them of creating some fake news.

It seems they have decided on a story line and are sticking to it.    Much of the attention is paid to the anger shown by “constituents” while drawing an analogy to the Tea Party anger expressed in 2009 and after.  And TV pundits rehash these events suggesting the Republican party should take notice of “constituent” discontent as it might impact future elections as it did in Tea Party halcyon days.

What baloney.   I put “constituents” in quotes because it is a cover for not really analyzing the make up of these crowds.   Who are these people at these events, especially the outspoken angry ones?  I would bet most  expressing anger didn’t vote for Trump and the fervent Trump backers who would counter that anger with their own didn’t bother to show up because they won.   Look for them at later town meetings if they come to have buyer’s remorse.

So if this is primarily a crowd of angry democrats yelling at Republican congressmen, where’s the news value?   It is not news.  It is what one might expect given the organizing powers on both left and right these days.

While it might be a first, I agree with much of a Trump tweet, the one on Tuesday saying:   “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”  The anger is not so-called but real but the protests wouldn’t look similar if there were not similar elements of organizing.  Don’t know what Trump’s  “sad” about, but what makes me sad is the shallow level of journalistic coverage, especially of the TV variety.

I suggest that a deep look would reveal there isn’t much here to look at.   Maybe I’m wrong but would like to be proven so by some real research as opposed to the puff impressionistic pieces I’ve seen.

I’ve done quite a bit of surfing of the internet and can’t find a single piece that really tries to analyze the composition of one of these town meetings or exactly who helped organize the collective response.   As to the latter point, at least some organizational agents are occasionally mentioned, like Indivisible, which provides such things as instructions for organizing anti-Trump efforts.   With cell phones and organizational guidance on the net, getting a protest effort together against Trump doesn’t need many if any paid activists.

To repeat, what I see at these protests is an outpouring of anti-Trump anger mostly from those people, like me,  who didn’t vote for him.  So where’s the news?

As to the analogy to the rise and impact of the Tea Party, it doesn’t hold up.   The Tea Party grew through its efforts to push the Republican Party to the right.   While they were angry at Obama, they were also angry at their own representatives, many of whom they managed to “get primaried”, i.e. replaced by their own candidates.

The protesters at these Republican town halls aren’t going to impact the party at large because they aren’t Republicans for the most part.   Whatever influence they’ll have will be on their own party.

Trump disgusts me, but one major reason for that is because he is such a bull shitter, the last thing I want in a president.   I hate B. S., even more so when it comes from sources I respect for the most part.

Journalists:  Do your effing job!

Twirling Around in the Trump Tornado

Or is it swirling around down the rabbit hole?  Or toilet.  Choose a metaphor for how off balanced, how out of sorts, how discombobulated only three weeks of a Trump presidency has wrought.  Really?  Only three weeks?  OMG!   I don’t know if I can hold on for four years of this.

I feel the need to say something while questioning whether it is useful to say anything?   Since we cannot depend on Trump sticking to anything he says why do we spend so much time talking about all that he says?   The Trump administration brings to mind Macbeth’s reflection on life as “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I imagine there is significance here or there, but it is a moving target that might turn around and shoot back.   Today’s biggest news flash is El Presidente finally recognizing a well established foreign policy doctrine that states mainland China is the “China” with Taiwan but a prodigal part, an unquestioned U.S. position for 38 years.  Until Trump indicated that was on the table along with the rest of our foreign policy.

So, today Trump officially recognized China.   Whoopi! 

A TV talking head called this a “sign of rationality”.  This is what qualifies as news in Wacky-land.   But it is news because people around the world have been unsettled by what policy Trump would have towards China, especially the Chinese.   In this one case, we can count on normalcy, at least for now, today.  A raft of international relief in an ocean of uncertainty.

What about all the rest of our foreign policies?  Will we know what they are by the end of Trump’s term? A jerry-rigged foreign policy will keep ’em guessing.  That’s what Trump likes.

Another news story today is that Jerod Kushner, Trump son-in-law and virtual ambassador at large, had chats with the Mexican foreign minister about The Wall, our shared economy and (who knows?) Ivanka’s clothing line?   The last-named is another hot topic today as special counsel Kellyanne Conway raised ethics flags by suggesting from the White House that viewers buy some of Ivanka’s clothes.

Untraditional foreign policy conducted by whomever and conflicts of interest seem likely to be daily reportorial fare.  While that would make sense in a normal presidency,  I think they are largely distractions in this one.  I don’t believe a majority of Americans really care about these things right now.  Even non-Trumpeteers don’t care because there is too much else to care about.

Trump supporters especially do not care and the more carefully argued the attacks on Trump for such things, the less they listen.   They want the story simple as Trump tells it.  To them complication is obfuscation.

The travel ban Trump has rolled out like a car with four flat tires still appears to keep his promise to increase our protection from terrorism, even though the so-called plan is mostly a show as I argued in my last post and, I would add,  heartless.  But it is Trump doing what he said and no matter how this turns out he will portray himself as a winner, or at least a victim of foul play.  A should be winner.

That’s enough babbling on.

It may be best to take the long view as expressed by Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser for President George W. Bush:  “Trump is an insurgent president leading a populist movement. He came in with an agenda that was disruptive and destructive — throw over the money changers’ tables. The next six months will see destruction, some of it creative and some just destructive. The question is what Trump will want to build after that.”

I wonder what will be left when we get to the “after that”.

Why I Want Cabinet Nominees Rex Tillerson and James Mattis Confirmed

Tillerson for Secretary of State and Mattis for Secretary of Defense.  It is unlikely they will be stopped in a Republican dominated congress, but I think both outstanding picks in any event.   General Mattis is highly respected on both sides of the aisle, while Mr. Tillerson brings much experience in international affairs as the head of ExxonMobil.  His prominence in that company make some question whether he will be able to place serving our country above serving ExxonMobil.   I think he will and, if it seems useful, will argue that in another post.

While there are a multitude of things to judge a president on, I value most a presidential team who can best handle a “world in disarray”, in the words of foreign policy expert Richard Haass.   The potential for a more chaotic international situation abounds and that makes me more anxious than anything else.

That’s why I backed Hillary Clinton, not because I’m a flaming liberal as my more conservative friends think, but because she had the best credentials to deal with this chaos.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, may be more likely to add to it, if judged by his statements.   Fortunately, I do not take his statements seriously, unless he keeps repeating them, like building a wall on the Mexican border.

A contrary example is his proclaiming if elected he would launch an investigation of Hillary Clinton.  Once he won he didn’t care about that and chided his fans for dwelling on the idea, as if he needed to teach them the difference between what one says to win (which can be anything) and what one really cares about.

Beyond wanting full attention all the time, I’m still trying to figure out what Trump cares about.  I guess endless adulation might be a new goal.  Or being the second coming?

Whatever Donald Trump says is what he feels is useful to him at the moment.  He will change it later if some other words seem more useful.   He thinks he has great political instincts and he must have some or he wouldn’t be president.

Back to Mattis and Tillerson.    And I would add Michael Flynn.   General Flynn makes Mattis and Tillerson all the more important.  Flynn is Trump’s national security advisor, the guy tasked with basically synthesizing the foreign security information for the president each day.  He may often be the last guy in the room.

The three men make up the most significant advisers to President Trump when it comes to foreign affairs (1).  And, unlike the other two, Flynn seems a loose canon.   He has called Islam a “cancer,” not radical Islam, but Islam itself.   He also retweeted false and/or scurrilous information during the campaign (2).

While both Mattis and Tillerson seem more inclined to push back harder on aggressive efforts by Russia and other adversaries than has been true with President Obama , both seem likely to offer more measured responses than General Flynn might advise.

Consider this analogy.   Think of President Trump as a guy who drives around with the other three and often gets too drunk to drive, but at times can be persuaded to give up the keys.    I’m hoping that Mattis or Tillerson will be the one to grab them (3).


(1)  A caveat about those three being Trump’s primary advisers on foreign affairs.  It is impossible to know a this point how much Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, or his Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, might influence any decisions he will make.  Kushner is hard to peg, but Bannon’s being the former head of Britebart News, which thrives on conspiracy theories, might give you a clue.

(2)   This article at CNN gives details on Flynn’s provocative tweets.

(3)  Yes, I know Trump doesn’t even drink.  But he often says things that remind me of a nasty drunk.   I do not feel much compunction to be fair to a man who was patently unfair to so many in his clamber to the top.  I will point out, however, things he does do that make sense to me, like nominating Mattis and Tillerson.

Hillary’s Character is Questionable, but Trump is Worse. Much Worse.

(NOTE:  This is a particularly long post.  You might want to grab a drink before reading it, or put it off to when you have a few extra minutes.)

I’m not all that religious but at this point I have to wonder whether God is going to punish us with a Trump presidency.  While I have thought the election would be tighter than the polls had been showing, I felt that Hillary would win.  In a battle of two questionable characters – or as Michael Gerson puts it “one candidate stale and tainted, the other “vapid and vile” – I, like Gerson, see Trump as worse.   Much worse.

Since he announced his bid for the presidency, Trump has always had the advantage of offering something new and different to a people who are tired of the same ‘ol same ‘ol and who give no weight to how complex things are these days, i. e. there are no easy answers to any major problem because the interconnectivity of the world has grown so great.

Even I who can’t stand this childish, vindictive man am attracted to his being something  interesting and really different.  Even if awful, a Trump presidency would be really different.  And no doubt interesting, unless it reaches the point of scaring us to death.

We must understand that our political values have been infiltrated and made subservient to those of entertainment.  That is the undercurrent that has propelled Donald the reality TV star into his present position.  Potentially the first TV reality president.  In the world of entertainment sensational is very good and boring is very bad.   And Donald J. Trump regularly makes news saying something sensational (often outrageous), while he is seldom boring except when momentarily following a script devised by others to make him seem less dangerous.

Given the wide spread hunger for change the big question is how many voters out there have been waiting for a sufficient excuse to go with the “vapid and vile” danger man Trump over the “stale and tainted”  and boring Hillary (the degree of the taint is debatable, but she is no Bernie Sanders).  Now that FBI director Comey has decided to reopen an investigation on Hillary, those hidden Trumpsters might have the excuse they’ve been longing for.

With the election only a week away the Comey probe, no matter how unsubstantial  it may prove to be later, may turn out the straw that breaks Hillary’s back.  I can imagine some in those private voting booths thinking:  What the hell.  Let’s take a chance on the business man who is a proven winner.  Let’s shake things up in Washington.

The thought of having a hand in big changes gets the blood going, doesn’t it?  In such a situation one’s vote really feels like it counts.  Voting for the possibility of incremental improvement can’t hold a candle to that when it comes to enthusiasm.

Someone summed up Trump’s followers as wanting to punch Washington in the face.  And no one represents Washington more than Hillary, the ultimate insider.  I share the sentiment at times but for President Trump it would be his golden rule.

He would get involved in a number of fights with just about everyone, but besides making many of his followers feel good about his taking down those big wigs a peg or two, what’s that going to solve?   Who’s that going to help?   Who will be willing to work with him?  He will be an elected president, not an elected dictator or monarch, unless things really go awry.

Sure Washington is a classic example of SNAFU (a military acronym for  “situation normal all …..”    you know the rest.)  But the idea that Donald Trump will be able to fix anything is sheer fantasy.  It is clear from studying his past that his primary drive has been to get attention, or aiming higher “adoration” as the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has put it.   Trump has been amazingly successful at that, but tell me the last president who has been adored by a majority of Americans for more than a few days here and there, if ever.  At various times they were all vilified by the press and much of the public.

Does anyone believe Trump will handle vilification well?

Along with Trump’s genius for getting attention goes a blister-thin skin which prompts him to strike back at anyone who criticizes him.  He views every caustic comment as life threatening.  Since he has a complete disregard for the truth, he doesn’t mind lying in his defense and then telling bigger lies to defend his previous ones or to distract us from the original issues.

After a number of women came forth (11 at my last count) to say Trump did to them what Trump bragged he did to women on those Access Hollywood tapes, he first said he didn’t know any of them, and when it was proven he had known at least two, he called them all liars.  To take attention away from their accusations he dismissed them as agents of a media conspiracy against him, which grew to international proportions including bankers and anyone else profiting from the present rigged system that Trump promises to do away with.

I am the Donald hear me roar.  Drowning out all efforts to hold him accountable for anything.

We don’t have enough press to disprove all the B. S.  that he and his surrogates, which I like to think of as minions, churn out and perpetuate daily.   A special shout out to you Kellyanne Conway, Trump handler in chief, to the extent you can, and the whirling dervish of political spin.

Trump as president would spend much of his time counter attacking all those who would criticize or challenge him while contriving all sorts of falsehoods about them.   Worst of all to me are those falsehoods pumped up to full blown conspiracies.  Since he has absolutely no regard for the truth, he would not hesitate to make up conspiracies or develop baseless attacks as he did with such success to his primary opponents, e. g. “lying” Ted the Canadian with a father who might have been involved in the Jack Kennedy assassination.

Trump saw that last implication in The National Enquirer, obviously a source as trusted as the slab with the 10 commandments.

In short, while all politicians pollute our national discourse (such as it is) with the way they spin events to make themselves look good and their opponents bad, Trump is the biggest polluter of all, the coal industry of political pollution.

Years from now many  of our descendants will still believe President Obama was born in Kenya because Trump created his political career spewing that lie often for about five years.  The Republicans welcomed any attack on Obama, and the press never forced the issue, allowing much of the public to believe it and teaching Trump how easy it can be to create a false reality and convince others of its validity.

How many other grand lies would the presidency give Trump the opportunity to foment and infest us like a virus?   Until the notion of truth itself loses the little meaning it has left in politics.

 


P. S. – I can imagine a Trump supporter pointing out that several weeks ago Trump indeed did state that Obama was born in the United States, a one sentence statement tucked into a Trump rally late that he conned the press into covering like a major announcement.

To continue the coal analogy, five years of spewing coal dust all about and then in one sentence he tells the truth and acts as if all the damage done had been rectified, as if he were a pope announcing an encyclical.   That was the truth then.  This is the truth now.

Or to try another analogy, there is Trump on the front page accusing  Obama of lying about his birthplace for five years and then one day, on page 55, he inserts one sentence of truth as if the two balance out.   As if one sentence of truth equates to five years of lying.