Sunday, June 25, 2017

Stalwarts and Turncoats in Today's GOP

Thank you, Richard Painter.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the news lately (and really, who can blame you), you should know that Mr. Painter is one of the few Republicans who has not cast his lot with the grossly unpresidential President Trump.

Richard Painter was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration. Yes, George W. Bush had an ethics lawyer, at least late in his term he did, and, based on what Painter has been up to lately, he must have been quite a good one. Mr. Painter, along with other legal specialists, has filed suit against Trump for failing to divest himself of properties that stand to benefit from his policies. Every other president has sold off or put in a blind trust their economic holdings, why hasn’t Trump?

Well, because he’s a shockingly dishonest and thoroughly self-centered egomaniac. Trump’s single-minded interest in his own well-being gives me the unsettling feeling that the nation doesn’t really have a president – there’s just some guy in the White House who is trying to promote his brand and get the people around him to tell him he’s awesome.

This is tragic, but equally tragic is the fact that the Republican Party, with the exception of a few good souls like Richard Painter, Joe Scarborough, and Ana Navarro, has sold its soul to the Trump franchise. What Republican sell-outs like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell seem to think is that they can get their pound of political flesh from the system before the whole Trump presidency begins to collapse.

And collapse it will. I’m not at all sure that Trump will be impeached, but I do feel sure that by the end of this year, his dirty dealings will be out in the open and then his political wings will be clipped. He may end up sitting in the White House tweeting out his accusations at the world, but the world will have moved on.

On Trump’s fatal weakness, I agree with commentator Donny Deutsch. Speaking on Morning Joe, Deutsch has convincingly argued that to get to the bottom of the Trump Swamp, we need to follow the money. Shades of Deep Throat.

According to Deutsch, Trump has very likely taken lots of money from nefarious Russian sources, and this is why he won’t release his tax returns. And won’t criticize Putin.

Let’s not forget that when golf journalist James Dodson asked Eric Trump about funding for the Trump golf courses a few years ago, Eric said, “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

Dodson reported this conversation during a WBUR interview last May, and Eric, of course, immediately denied that he had said it. I don’t know about you, but I believe the journalist, not the Trump Boy.

Donald Trump himself also denied the story, tweeting, “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

Well then, Mr. Trump, release your tax returns.

Those of us who still have the capacity to tell up from down recognize that Trump lies at least as often as he tells the truth.

The undeniable fact is that scads of Trump’s campaign team talked to the Russians and then declined to admit they had done so, including now Attorney General (!) Jeff Sessions, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former National Security Adviser (!!!) Michael Flynn – to name a few.

Interestingly, Kushner had a previously unreported conversation with officials from the Russian bank Vnesheconombank. He claimed that he talked about diplomatic issues, but the bank reported that the conversation concerned finances.

Who’s lying now? I’d say very likely Kushner - because he does not want us to “follow the money.”

Donald Trump is likely to be known as the worst president ever to ooze his way into the Oval Office. But as his house-of-cards administration crumbles under the weight of his rank corruption, what will happen to Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the other Republican Turncoats who put their own interests ahead of the nation’s? I’d like to think they will be disgraced along with the man whose fate they are now trying to exploit. Certainly, that’s what they deserve.

But in the meantime, let’s not forget to express our appreciation to Republican Stalwarts like Richard Painter who are standing with us, the American people.

                              Richard Painter
Image from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stupid Planet. Who Needs It?

Screw the Paris Agreement! 

Or so says Donald Trump by backing out of the international effort to protect the global community from catastrophic climate change. Just before he rejected this agreement, two members of his administration pointedly dismissed the idea that there is such a thing as a global community. Let's be real now: to deny that we are part of an international community, albeit an occasionally contentious one, is absolutely loony. However, I am willing to grant that Donald Trump, with his astonishingly shallow and narrow grasp of history, may honestly not understand this fact.

The latest evidence for his failure to grasp the reality of the global community is revealed in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster and Economic Advisor Gary D. Cohn. Here are some excerpts:

“The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”


“We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.”

Ironically, this article, in which the authors portray America as an ass-kicking cage fighter, is titled “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone.”

Some observers have accused Trump’s team members of competing against each other to get the “employee of the month award” from their boss, and perhaps this explains how two intelligent men could produce such childish drivel. For sure, Trump will approve of these words if he reads them. The image of America swaggering about in an arena, dominating all others with its matchless prowess, has got to warm the Donald’s heart, or whatever he has where normal people nurture a heart. So, brownie points for McMaster and Cohn.

But, like so much that comes out of the Trump White House, it’s nonsense. Just to focus on one questionable point, America’s “moral strength” is anything but unmatched these days. The very fact that we have allowed into the Oval Office a man whose behavior includes outright fraud (Trump University), anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican bigotry, admitted acts of sexual assault, pathological lying, mocking of people with disabilities, and of military heroes, etc., etc., naturally throws our nation’s moral standing into question. I may be called unpatriotic for suggesting this, but if there were an international survey in which respondents were asked to rank the leaders of the following countries in terms of their moral standing…






…I don’t believe we would come out on top.

Same goes for our “political” and “cultural” strength. The election of Donald Trump, which sent shock waves throughout much of the world (not Moscow), has actually given Jeffersonian democracy a serious black eye.

This leaves America’s military and economic strength, and on these fronts, I believe we are still unmatched. These may, in fact, be the only fronts that the Bullshitter in Chief genuinely cares about.

But why would Trump want to follow up his rude and pushy European visit with an editorial that emphasizes his contempt for the world community? Either he wants to make sure our (former) allies understand he regards them as adversaries or he’s struggling to pretend he did all that political damage on purpose - for his own secret, covfefe* reasons maybe? Or perhaps he simply believes that this message is the perfect concoction for getting his base to continue loving him.

Honestly, I’d like to ask McMaster and Cohn why they don’t believe there is a global community. Have they never heard of the United Nations? Are they not aware that all 190-plus of the world’s nations are linked together through an intricate web of international treaties? Do they not understand that rising ocean levels and increasingly brutal storm systems affect us all? Have they forgotten that there is, after all, only One World and, that we Earthlings, as its only caretakers, are obligated to work together to maintain it?

Or what?

               March for Science, March 22, 2017

* Culture World’s crack team of cryptographers has finally determined the meaning of the mysterious Trump tweet term “covfefe.” It is Russian code for “They’re on to us!”