Trump World: On the Way from the Surreal to the Absurd

Donald Trump’s tweet that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower is looking more and more like a case of the boy who cried wolf.  In other words, his credibility is looking shakier than an alcoholic in detox.

Perhaps he said it to distract attention from FBI probes about Russian involvement in the election.  Or maybe he was angry with Obama for one reason or another.   Who knows with him.  In any case the issue isn’t being left behind like so many of his other outrageous statements that helped propel him to – egads – the presidency.   The story has legs and he and his team would like to undercut them.

However, while his spin-miesters, like spokesman Sean (Bagdad Bob) Spicer and Kellyanne (disinfomainiac) Conway, author of the “alternative facts” line of argument, have continually tried to make the twaddle their master  wrote sound sensible, most observers who aren’t married to conspiracy theories laugh at these evasions.

In short, this fabrication may and hopefully will prove to be a “bridge too far”   for Trump.  That it will produce a “credibility gap” to a degree not quite seen since  President Johnson’s actions fathered the notion during the Vietnam War.

As is usually part of their evasive tactics, Trump and his Trumpeters deny the literal meaning of his own blather, acting as if the president is an inscrutable poet.  They all emphasize that Trump put “wiretapping” in quotes, meaning as everyone should know, not necessarily literal wire tapping but a broad term indicating any kind of surveillance, direct or indirect.  He was speaking figuratively as you many English majors out there should grasp.  Or for you Buddhists, think of Trump as a master of the Zen koen.  Think about it.

And when it comes to surveillance, well that can amount to anything, even a microwave capable of taking your picture, as  Kellyanne suggested in one interview.  These days there are all sorts of instruments that can help surveil, she more or less said.

Her source?  “I read it somewhere.”  Working in the White House, couldn’t she find a better source than “somewhere”?   Say, the huge intelligence agencies we have?

“I read it somewhere” is the standard of proof for any White House inquiry these days, which is why I feel we have moved from the surreal to the absurd.   Trump often backs his wild charges by saying he read or saw something, as if anything out there that can be read or seen can be viewed as a reliable source.

How about something written in a public bathroom stall?   Does that count?   Yes, I would say as long as it supports something our president either already believes or wants us to believe or both.  I feel weak kneed imagining  we elected  a virtual 5th grader on speed to be president, who has brought along a team of playmates to continue the party.

What may be most disturbing is I believe when President Johnson lied, he knew he was not telling the truth.  I’m not sure that this president is always aware of the difference.

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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.”

Some Thoughts About Some Things Not Trump

Donald Trump has done it again.    Just as I had become bored by his outrageous antics and his answer to every problem being how amazing he will be at fixing it, he has found a new way to grab my attention.  This morning he surprisingly acted like a normal candidate by offering a relatively detailed plan to change our tax code.   Boring out of the mouths of others but for him, Mr. Bluster, it works.  It is not what we expect and it doesn’t sound crazy like deporting millions.  He makes the plan sound attractive and possible to do by him alone, unlike those all talk and no action politicians.

This plan is a whole new shiny object to mesmerize the media this week.  I give him credit, but I’d rather think about some other things.  Not the big ticket items like the immigrant crisis in Europe, the unsolvable Mid-East mess, Putin’s machinations and the cap in trade “deal” with China recently announced.  All too much for me to contemplate right now.

And not the other half of the election, the Democratic primaries, either.  I’ve been spoiled by the Trump show.  The Dems are still in pre-production mode as far as a show goes.   I’m waiting for Hillary and Bernie to really start duking it out and for Hamlet, ur I mean Joe, to decide to be or not to be.  Or some really big, likely bad news for Hillary about her server, a word that has become synonymous with liar.

Thinking not Trump, how about the Pope, his polar opposite when it comes to craving attention.   The pontiff must make the Donald drool at the adulation accorded him in his stateside visit.   The difference is while the Donald craves attention, the Pope endures it.  It goes with his calling not something he deeply desires.  He sees his role as God’s will not his will.

Think of how endless his days have been of late.  All those events all day all the time.  What a heavy load he bears, and bears so well.  No wonder that he keeps asking people to pray for him.  A TV commentator seemed to sum him up best when saying.  “He walks in the footsteps of Jesus.”  Isn’t that as good as it gets?  Wonder whose footsteps Donald Trump walks in?

One person Pope Francis asked to pray for him was John Boehner and it changed the Speaker’s life.  At least it sped it up a bit.  He had been planning to resign at the end of the year, but felt so blessed by the Pope’s request, he resigned the next morning.  Somehow the Pope’s request set him free.  Thoughts of future anonymity made John joyous.  Of course he left the House in a mess, but his staying was not likely to improve anything.  To get a better sense of Boehner’s blessedness, check out this piece by John Costa, who talked with the Speaker the night before.

A story that rated more attention than it got (hey, it has been a super busy news period of late, I know) was President Obama selecting Eric Fanning, who is openly gay, to become Secretary of the Army.   Most surprising is the relatively little initial negative reaction, though the naysayers may just be biding their time.  Fanning has been a highly regarded military policy maker and manager for 20 years, so his credentials are strong.

If gays are to be completely integrated in the Army (“Don’t ask don’t tell” wasn’t that long ago and for most of my life being gay was basically a crime), a well qualified gay man at the helm seems a big step forward .   I like the reaction of Iraq war veteran Phil Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security: “My sense is that the Army is over this and has been over it for some time. The Army cares whether you can shoot straight, not whether you are straight.”  (for more details go here).

A final not Trump item is Fareed Zakaria’s contention that Trump is wrong about China, Mexico and Japan killing us economically.    In his regular column in the Washington Post he argues “the reality is almost the opposite.  The United States is more dominant on the global economic landscape than at any point since the heyday of Bill Clinton’s presidency — perhaps even more so.”  

Unlike Trump he actually provides evidence to support his contention rather than simply asserting it as an unequivocal fact.  Zakaria, who also has a TV show on CNN Sunday mornings call Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square (GPS), is my favorite world commentator, though the competition for that honor is slim given the America-centric nature of our news.

Here is the general site in which the recent piece as well as many other interesting articles are available.