Reality check

Prologue

As leaks out of the White House continue, we are presented with a clearer picture of a man who is “unraveling…feeling isolated… besieged…(and) erratic”. These characterizations have generated serious concerns about Trump’s ability to competently govern, both here at home and internationally. Indeed, these “concerns” have found expression in August poll results, a topic to be addressed next.

A significant plurality

The Public Religious Research Institute (PRRI) conducted its poll during the period that ran from this August 2nd to the 8th. Forty percent (40%) of respondents were in favor of 45 being removed from office by means of impeachment. Two weeks later, Harvard University replicated the PRRI survey and found that essentially the same plurality (i.e. 43%) agreed.

Impeachment

The aforementioned two results have generated among many Americans, an increased sense of urgency; i.e. can’t we get on with the impeachment process before Trump does any more damage to our standing in the world (1) along with his assault on our laws and Constitution (2,3)? The view held here is that for reasons to be cited next, impeachment (if it happens at all) will not occur sooner, but rather, later.

Advancing on square wheels

There are multiple factors that are currently acting or eventually will act to impede the impeachment process. First, key Republican members of Congress like Senator Chuck Grassley  of Iowa, and Representative Devin Nunes of California, are taking steps to slow congressional investigations into Trump/Russia collusion and/or undermine the credibility of various sources of information that have put 45 in a less-than-favorable light.

Second, Special Prosecutor (SP) Robert Mueller is a “stickler” who “dots all his  ‘i’s’ and crosses all his ‘t’s’. Moreover, he is thorough. That means that he will tie up every loose end that is hanging out there, and won’t issue his conclusions until that has been done. It’s a good bet that will take us into next year.

Third, if impeachment is indeed front and center in 2018, but before that year’s November midterm election, watch for the GOP-controlled House to go to great lengths to stall the process until after that election is over. They simply do not want to face boiling mad Trump supporters after having passed bills of impeachment on to the Senate. It has even been argued that they will vote against those same bills unless the case against Trump is overwhelmingly bad and thus leaves them with virtually no other choice.

The other alternative

There is yet another way in which a sitting president can be removed from office:  The Constitution’s 25th Amendment allows for his cabinet to take such action if it is determined that the Chief Executive cannot discharge the duties of his office due to a serious physical (4) or mental/psychological disability.

Interestingly, former presidential advisor, Steve Bannon, is said to have judged that the chances of 45 even finishing his first term are about “30%”, with the 25th Amendment doing used as the mechanism for removing him from office. This prediction, assigned to Bannon by an anonymous source, was cited in a Vanity Fair magazine article and as of today’s date, has yet to be corroborated by other news agencies. Attempts to reach Bannon for confirmation or denial have been met with silence which cannot be interpreted one way or the other.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the alleged quote from Bannon, where would Trump’s cabinet stand viz a viz the invocation of the 25th? Again, the view here, is that  the majority of those 21 people (5), all 45-nominees, would be absolutely loathe to take such action. Trump would have to become completely unhinged, publicly, to make such a vote even thinkable (6).

End Notes

If the basic two projections offered here have any real validity, then those in the anti-Trump camp had better steel themselves for many more months of his presidency; and that’s at the very least. So, “cool your jets”, practice patience and keep up all legitimate forms of protest.

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  1. The leaders of our closest allies have voiced their disapproval over 45’s “war of words” with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
  2. Trump has urged NFL owners to fire players who have chosen to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem. There are labor laws that make it illegal for an employer to fire or punish an employee for the latter’s political views. How sad that 45 exhibited no knowledge of this before speaking.
  3. Assaulting the constitutional guarantee of a free press, 45 has advocated that TV networks have their licenses revoked in retaliation for their negative stories. One can take this as an indication of Trump’s failure to know that the networks are not licensed; only their affiliates are.
  4. When then-President Reagan was wounded during an assassination attempt, there was brief talk of turning to the 25th Amendment. It was quickly scuttled.
  5. Here, the “cabinet” is considered to be populated by all individuals who had to pass through a Senate confirmation hearing. That includes everyone from the Secretary of State down to the Budget Director.
  6. As his presidency was headed towards its’ ignominious end, Nixon was described by close associates as roaming the halls of the White House, talking to pictures of former presidents. That never became part of the official record of Nixon’s departure from office because said behavior took place out of public view.

 

 

 

 

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How did we end up like this?

Prologue

High up in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Hotel, Stephen Paddock has arranged an arsenal of high-powered weapons, retro-fitted to be more efficient killing machines. He opens up on an unprotected crowd of about 20,000 music festival attendants even as the GOP-controlled Congress considers legislation that would allow gun owners to buy silencers and the so-called bump-stock device that turns a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic machine-gun like one (1). How did we end up like this, in such a dark, evil place?

History

The answer to that question requires that we go all the way back in our history to a time when we were 13 separate colonies, each one thinking of themselves as an independent nation. This was obviously before Washington et al brought us together, believing that we had a better of chance of surviving if we were united.

Separate and independent, the states wanted to protect themselves against intruders, foreign or domestic. So they formed militias; essentially all-volunteer groups that could take up arms and act as a deterrent against any aggressor.

As the colonies came together to form the United States of America, there was no certainty that this union would hold. Our neophyte nation, with no standing army of its own at that point, needed some means of mounting a resistance. The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights made that possible, extending to all citizens, the “…right to bear arms” within the framework of a “…well-regulated militia”. Here, the phrase “well-regulated” is key because it bespeaks of organization, order, discipline and training.

As best we are able to tell from the early history of the USA, the Second Amendment was embraced with nary a dissenting voice heard. That status quo was to remain in effect until well into the 1900’s. But then, something started to change and it involved a slow but steady departure from the need for a “well-regulated militia”. We were becoming a nation of individual gun owners with no more than lip service to the commitment to a militia or to its regulation.

Sifting through history, it is hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened or what prompted this departure from the Constitution. Maybe it had something to do with the facts that we grew into a strong nation, capable of defending itself with a well-developed, armed military, and thus had no need for well-regulated militias. De facto, that would leave an individual free to bear arms, but now as a matter of defending himself and his/her possessions.

There is no question that domestic gun makers seized on this turn of events and capitalized on it:  The widespread marketing of weapons for self-defense had begun. It is also beyond argument that the Republican Party became the champion of Second Amendment rights, a role it has maintained to this day. This advocacy progressed from handguns and hunting rifles to semi-automatic weapons; in other words, to killing with greater certainty and efficiency. Protests like “Who needs a semi-automatic rifle to kill a deer?” were drowned out by “That’s irrelevant ; it’s my right to own pretty much whatever kind of firearm I want!!”.

Pushback

As the right to bear all kinds of weapons enlarged, there were some notable objections. A classic that comes to mind occurred on the evening of December 16, 1991 when Warren Berger, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, made a guest appearance of the PBS show “News Hour”. He argued that over time, the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment had been seriously “adulterated” to the point where an intellectual  “fraud” had been committed on the American people.

If Berger’s judgment had any effect, it was negligible. Gun sales continued unabated; even rose as conservatives in and out of government not only ballyhooed the right to own, but started a narrative to the effect that one needed to be armed to rebel against our own government should it become tyrannical. This fear-mongering reached a fever pitch with the election of Barack Obama who was sure to abridge your Second Amendment rights, come for and confiscate your guns. After all, he was a Muslim, wasn’t he?

During Obama’s eight years as president, we as a nation, lived through the unspeakable horror of learning that 21 individuals, mostly children, had been senselessly murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Surely, this would be a turning point when this “gun-craze” would start to subside. It didn’t happen. And so we progressed on to other mass shootings in places like the church in Charleston, South Carolina and on to Las Vegas.

What do we do?

On October 3, 2017, in the aftermath of Paddock’s attack on thousands of innocents, Thomas Friedman authored a blistering attack on congressional Republicans over their long history of refusing to take a stand against gun manufacturers’ lobbyists (2) and pass some sensible, common sense gun control legislation.

In Friedman’s view, these lawmakers, as a body, are indifferent to public opinion, feckless, having been bought and kept by the aforementioned lobby. As such, he considers them beyond being persuaded. His only recourse then, is to seize power from them by supporting candidates who can and will stand up to groups like the NRA and Gun Owners of America. That support can come in the form of donations, canvassing for the candidate and of course, voting for him/her. Here is another idea that comes from your blogger:  Attend town halls and the debates between candidates and demand an answer to this and like-minded questions; “Will you here and now, publicly disavow any support for legislation that advances the sale of more lethal firearms and their accessories?” Any hedging by a candidate, any unwillingness to provide a clear “yes/no” answer should be taken as a failure of your litmus test query.

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  1. To hear rabid Second Amendment defenders talk, you would think that a gun becomes a useless piece of hardware if it isn’t equipped with a silencer and bump-stock accessory.
  2. Friedman’s op-ed is entitled “If Only Stephen Paddock Were a Muslim”. You can Google Freidman’s name and that title and you will be taken to the New York Times website where you can read it in full.

 

 

 

Trump vs. the NFL: Feeding hate and ignorance

Prologue

It’s pretty much common knowledge now that the NFL has gone to war against Trump. How did this happen? There’s a story here that is over a year in the making so let’s begin with the back story and its main character.

History

As of this moment, Colin Kaepernick is an unemployed professional football quarterback. His former team, the San Francisco 49ers,  refused to sign him to a contract for this year because last season, this young man, all by himself, decided to make a political statement about social injustice in our country, especially as that applied to people of color. At first, he tried to make his point by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. A bit later, he reconsidered at least to the extent that out of respect for our military, he would kneel.

There is no question that Kaepernick paid a price for his demonstration. The public in general found his behavior unpatriotic and there is little question that his team’s management saw fit to distance themselves from him and that included rendering him unemployed as a 49er once the 2016 season ended.

If there were other players who shared Kaepernick’s belief about social injustice, they were slow to join him by “taking a knee”. None the less, a few did (e.g. Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks). But, there was no groundswell of support from the league, the majority of other players and the 32 team owners. Such having been the case, we can ask “Is Colin Kaepertnick a spoiled pro football player with his own personal axe to grind, or has he been onto something since the day he decided to “sit out” the National Anthem (see above)?” The history of our country  answers that question for us.

Social injustice in America

We pledge allegiance to our flag, ending that commitment with “…and liberty and justice for all”. Sadly, the history of our country is replete with instances where that simply did not happen. First with the treatment of slaves as three-fifths of a person (1). Second note that from the actual execution of the Constitution in 1787, it took another 33 years before women were accorded the right to vote in 1920. Third, after that it was another 40 years before the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960’s. Fourth, you have to fast-forward to 1995 to come to the legislation extending equal opportunities to Americans with disabilities. Fifth and finally, one must move ahead to the decade we are in now to find gays being allowed to serve openly in the military and for members of the LGBT community to marry.

Now, all the foregoing said, let’s acknowledge that this history is also one marked by the correction of the social injustices cited. That we have made much-needed progress should go without saying. Such being the case, what’s Kaepernick’s beef? The answer is that it has everything to do with his perception of the various forms of social injustice that continue to be  visited upon people of color, especially by law enforcement, criminal law, and our legal system.

Let’s arbitrarily pick the last five years as a framework:  Look at the number of questionable killings of African-Americans by local police. Check the disproportionately high number of incarcerations of people of color for minor offenses like possession of an ounce or less of marijuana and how lawmakers have ginned up legislation to make that possible. When a policeman is put on trial for the alleged use of excessive force, do juries look past evidence to acquit simply because the defendant is a cop?

Enter Trump

Right up until September 22, 2017, this is where matters stood:   The pro football season began with a small handful of players taking a knee; barely one-percent of the NFL’s player population (2). Kaepernick was not among them as he was unemployed. The hue and cry over his initial demonstration back in 2016 had diminished and the games went on even as some fans had become disaffected with the players who were now demonstrating. All this changed dramatically on the just cited date when Trump traveled to Huntsville, Alabama to campaign for Luther Strange, a candidate for one of the state’s US Senate seats that had been vacated by the appointment of Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General.

It is enough here to say that in his speech to the assemblage, 45 touched upon a number of topics that had nothing whatever to do with pro football or any sport for that matter. But, there came a point during the evening when  he elected to go into a rant about the players who had chosen to demonstrate during the National Anthem. Referring to that as “sons of bitches” he loudly proclaimed that they should all be “fired” and to “get the Hell out”.

At that moment, when Trump decided to say something about the dissident players, he could have risen above politics and behaved like a leader or statesman. Imagine him saying  “As upset as I am about their taking a knee, I have to respect the right of the players to make their make statement and even admit that where social injustice is concerned, they have a point”. Such a remark would have been consistent with our Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and our continuing need to ensure that all Americans benefit from social justice.

Instead, Trump took the low road of a pandering politician who chose to nurture the ignorance and hatred of attendants. In effect, he threw gasoline on a small, contained fire. NFL players, almost to a man, registered some form of protest at the start of games played on the subsequent Sunday (9-24). The teams’ owners saw fit to join their players in a show of solidarity by either taking a knee or standing with arms locked among them. Many issued statements that consistently referred to 45’s remarks as “divisive”.

How will this end?

People polled in the aftermath of the games on the 24th also found Trump’s outburst divisive, but were not in favor of players’ using a sports venue as a place to engage in making a political statement. There were multiple anecdotal reports of diehard fans burning the personal garb of their favorite team in their own form of protest. The prediction here is that the NFL leadership, in company with team owners, will bring the players together and find a way to move forward without engaging in an out-and-out capitulation. In contrast, the prediction here is that 45 will not recognize that conciliatory gesture and respond in kind. He sees this matter as a way of buttressing his own standing with voters and won’t allow that opportunity to pass.

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  1. Arguably perhaps, the greatest injustice in our history was a treatment of the slaves as three-fifths of a person.
  2. The NFL is comprised of 32 teams, each with a 53-man roster. That’s 1,696 players, about a tenth of whom were protesting prior to Trump’s personal assault on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here and there

Here is the US Senate where a group of its Republican members have launched a last-ditch effort to repeal/replace Obamacare (ACA). What they are proposing is more draconian in its particulars than its predecessor that went down to a one-vote defeat a few weeks ago.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the new bill’s co-sponsors, has sought to rally his troops by threatening that a failure to pass it would lead to the imposition on the country of “socialized medicine” in the form of single-payer, universal healthcare for everyone. This is fear-mongering at its worst; congressional Democrats can’t pass anything into law because they are the minority party in both houses of Congress.

So, all this said, why the “hail Mary” at the proverbial eleventh hour? It certainly isn’t about making good policy and thus, actually governing. No, it’s all about keeping the “repeal/replace” promise that GOP candidates used for over seven years to keep getting (re-)elected. It never occurred to them that they might have to deliver on their bold pronouncement. It is also about getting something (anything) done after nine solid months of zero significant accomplishments. The urgency attending all this is well-represented by the facts that the vote on the new bill will be called before a single hearing on it is held, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has completed its “scoring” (1). Thus, as the votes are being cast, not a single senator will know what the new bill will cost, who it will help and how many people it will harm. This is just about as reckless as you can get. It’s like playing Russian roulette but holding the gun, not to your head, but to that of millions of Americans who have benefited from the ACA.

Dire as the foregoing sounds and is, there is hope:  Once again, a simple 51-vote majority is needed to pass the new bill. As this blog is being typed, we know that at least two GOP senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and John McCain of Arizona will join with all 48 Senate Democrats to kill this new legislation. All it will take is one more no vote and that may well come from either or both of the two Republican senators who opposed the previous proposal (Murkowski of Alaska and Collins [2] of Maine).

In the next few days, watch to see if the one more bill-killing “no” vote materializes. If it does, it would not be surprising is Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) decides to avoid the embarrassment of yet another failed repeal/replace attempt and so, skipped the vote so as to move on to other matters of business. In that case, watch Trump speak and act as though a bag of scorpions had been dropped down the front of his pants.

There is the New York City Headquarters of the UN where the General Assembly holds its meetings. In his first opportunity to address the 193 representatives of the member-nations, Trump behaved like, well, Trump. Interspersed throughout his speech, one heard the sorts of rhetorical flourishes that were so characteristic of his campaign speeches. In other words, he was alternately bombastic, mocking, threatening, nationalistic and condescending. All this was aimed at his domestic political base; the international audience, not so much.

What stood out in all of this, was Trump’s threat to tear up the deal that put a limit on Iran’s development of nuclear arms, while promising to “destroy” North Korea if it did not end its own weapons program. There seems to be some curious logic at work here:   How does 45 expect North Korea to enter into any sort of negotiations over ending their weapons regimen when 45 expresses a readiness to tear up an agreement with Iran that is already in place? (3) Could it be that Trump somehow thinks that he can bend North Korea to his will so that negotiating won’t be necessary? That falls into the category of “very wishful thinking”.

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  1. The term “scoring” is used to refer to the process by which the Congressional Budget Office estimates what costs (if any) will attend the passage of a particular bill, and how many people will be impacted, both positively and negatively.
  2. Susan Collins has already said that she is “not comfortable” voting on any bill that has not been preceded by CBO scoring. That could be taken as a signal that she will be the bill-killing 51st “no” vote.
  3. Trump referred to the Iran nuclear deal as an American “embarrassment”  doing so without considering that five other major nations were party to that same agreement. So, insult one, insult all. Whomever wrote 45’s speech clearly never thought of that and it is a “bridge” much too far to expect that 45 himself would have had the good sense to delete that from his talk. This is not what Dale Carnegie had in mind when he wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Grist for the mill

No long narrative today. Rather, an assortment of short bytes, each important in its own right; each one intended to foster a better understanding of what is going on in our nation’s capitol.

Terminology

As reporting on Special Prosecutor (SP) Mueller’s investigation continues apace, some clarity is needed viz a viz words that are showing up frequently and that could mistakenly be looked upon as synonymous when they are not. The terms are “witness”, “subject” and “target”.

A “witness” is someone who the SP wants to talk to because he believes that even as an innocent party, they still have information that may be of value. Think of a person standing on a street corner who witnesses a car accident. S/he saw what happened though not being materially involved in the incident in any way. Mr. Mueller has identified at a minimum, six members of the White House staff who will be called upon to testify as to what they saw/heard/.

In contrast, a “subject” is a person who is in possession of potentially significant information and who may also be criminally involved. Take the example cited immediately above and assume instead, that the onlooker stepped off the curb against the light, and caused the car crash as the drivers tried to avoid hitting that pedestrian. In the ongoing investigation, both Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner fit here.

Third, a “target” is a person who the SP holds strong suspicions against as a law-breaker. It then becomes Mr. Mueller’s job to make that case with credible evidence and testimony. In the present Russiagate probe, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn fall into this category.

Mueller’s strategy

Think of a series of concentric circles with Trump and those closest to him in the very center. Peripheral to them, in the outer circle(s), might be members of 45’s team. It is becoming increasingly clear that the SP will try to get those people to “flip” and give damning testimony against their higher-ups. It is a tactic that prosecutors used with great success in breaking up the Mafia. Just ask the so-called “Teflon Don”, John Gotti, who ended up in prison after having been ratted out by an underling.

Trump moves on tax reform

Now you would think that anyone (especially a president) who was in possession of even piddling knowledge of how tax reform comes about, would know that this sort of legislation always begins in the House. From that fundamental knowledge it would be obligatory for this president to meet with Speaker Paul Ryan and select members of his caucus. Not Trump. Instead, he went a-courting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and his counterpart in the House, Nancy Pelosi.; both Democrats who hold little legislative clout.

Apart from the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, this gambit only served to infuriate Congressional Republicans who were left out in the cold; treated as bastard step-children at a family reunion. Mind you, these are the very folks that Trump must work with to get anything passed.

Who to believe?

At the Trump + Schumer + Pelosi confab, there was also a discussion of how best to work together in support of the so-called “Dreamers”; i.e. non-citizens whose illegal status was the result of their being brought here by their illegal parents. Estimates point to the existence of approximately 800,000 such individuals, many of whom have attended or are attending our schools (including college), are gainfully employed with some even serving in our military.

During his 2011 State of the Union Speech, then President Obama urged Congress to find some means of providing the Dreamers with a form of legal status/protection, warning representatives that if they didn’t act, he would.

In response to that prod, Republicans who now controlled the House, did virtually nothing. In contrast, a bipartisan group of senators came together and crafted a bill that by 2013 passed with a solid majority of 68 votes. Sent over to the House for debate, amending and ultimately, a vote, the legislation was simply buried and allowed to die.

Taking note of this course of events, especially the failure of the House Republicans to actually govern, Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) that shielded the Dreamers from deportation. Challenged in court, parts of the EO were struck down and the rest of it killed off by Trump once he took office.

This is the back story to the aforementioned tripartite meeting (see above) that focused on the status of the Dreamers. Upon leaving that session, both Schumer and Pelosi said that they had reached an “agreement” with Trump that would include new protection for the same group and that this action would not be coupled to any funding for Trump’s notorious wall.

By the next morning, 45 asserted that no such agreement had been reached. Who to believe? Neither Schumer nor Pelosi are saints. But neither has a history of serial lying like Trump. Whomever is telling the truth you can take this to the bank:  45’s rabid, nativist supporters will not tolerate any sort of deal that accommodates the Dreamers, and that puts off the building of the wall. Any actions to the contrary by 45 and he will lose that base. Trump has surely made that calculation which would explain his morning-after disclaimer.

 

 

Scroll, highlight, click delete

Back in 2011, Trump hit on a grand, overarching strategy to win the GOP nomination and even the presidency; i.e. cater to some of the lowest and most un-American of our citizens by playing to their nativist/racist biases. Step-one:  rush to become the most nationally visible person to embrace birtherism. This, combined with a message of economic populism, got him the nod as the Republican candidate.

Once he began campaigning for the presidency, and even after he won the election, the man never took his foot off the gas; What follows in no particular order, is a list of all the promises that he made and actions taken, every one of which was designed to feed the Obama-hating crowd.

Obama supported a woman’s right to choose:  Capture the evangelical vote by promising to repeal Roe v. Wade (1).

Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment:  Repeal and replace the ACA. on “day-1. It will be “easy”.

Obama supported the Paris Climate Change Accord:  Get the US out of it. “I was elected to be president of Pittsburgh, not Paris”.

Obama Justice Department ‘s prosecution of AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio:  Pardon this man who imposed cruel and unusual punishment (2) on the people in his custody, and who was found guilty of extensive, illegal racial profiling. “Sheriff Joe is a great American…a patriot”.

Rescind all of Obama’s Executive Orders protecting the environment:   Who needs clean air and water when all those government-imposed rules stifle innovation and job creation?

End Obama’s protection of children brought here illegally by their parents:  The so-called “Dreamers” need to be sent back from whence they came; so Trump said in a video-interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

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Not only did this strategy get Trump nominated, it played a significant role in his getting elected. He now moves into re-election mode, a topic to be covered next.

In search of a second term

What worked in 2016 is still being used as this blog is being typed. The pardoning of Arpaio, a White Supremacist if there ever was one, certainly fits here. In the same vein, there was 45’s flip-flopping/wandering eventual condemnation of the Neo-Nazis, White  Supremacists, and Al-Righters who demonstrated in Charlottesville. Trump just didn’t dare come forth with a prompt and full-throated calling out of these groups.

Even though the repeal and replacement of Obamacare failed in the Senate, Trump is keeping that Obama program in his sights by badgering the Senate to take another shot at getting rid of it.

As for the aforementioned “Dreamers” the view now is that they will be granted a 6-month reprieve from deportation, a sign that 45 has flinched from his original commitment to send them off. How they will be dealt with between now when the half-year is over is apparently going to be left to Congress. By proceeding in that way, Trump can blame that body if it fails to follow through for him. In turn, that would allow him to save face with his racist base. (3)

End notes

At base, Trump’s re-election strategy is predicated on holding onto the Electoral College votes in the south and rural White American. The people in those states make up the corpus of the 35% that give 45 positive approval ratings. Then, win by just enough in PA, OH and WI to collect their College votes and retain the presidency even if by a slim margin, just as he did almost a year ago.

It would be a mistake to sell this game plan short and to get fixated on the man’s low approval numbers along with the hope that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller will present Congress with a report that would lead to Trump’s impeachment. That kind of pie-in-the sky, passive, fanciful thinking, will almost insure his re-election.

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  1. Evangelicals went, overwhelmingly for Trump because of his anti-abortion stance. How else would one explain how deeply religious people could, as a body, accept, an adulterous, serial liar.
  2. There are civil rights lawyers who have opined that Arpaio could have justifiably been changed with violations of the Constitution’s 8th Amendment.
  3. It is reasonable to assume that when Trump issued his “out with them” comments viz a viz the Dreamers, he could not have anticipated the backlash that is now taking place. Prominent members of the business community and of his own party in Congress have told him to back off and find a better way forward.

 

 

 

Compelling logic

Last week, during his MSNBC show “Hardball”, host Chris Matthews come forward with this which, here, is paraphrased:  Trump and those caught in the web of the investigation by Special Prosecutor (SP) Robert Mueller are well aware of what they have said and done; whether they broke the law, fudged on it, or danced right up to the edge of unethical behavior. Now, given that awareness, if they are convinced that they did nothing wrong, there is absolutely no reason for them to act as guilty parties, and that is especially true of 45. If they all know what they have said and done, and are satisfied that it all falls within acceptable limits, get out of the way and let all investigations proceed through to exoneration. 

Now we know that all of them have hired lawyers, though that hardly constitutes even an implied admission of guilt. But, after an initial flurry of denials and/or obfuscations by the likes of Donald, Jr., they have retreated into silence; most likely on the advice of counsel. But not Trump the elder who continues to lash out, in particular at various news outlets who, he claims are purveyors of “fake news” if any of their articles advance the Russia/Trump connection narrative. This is not the behavior of someone who believes in his own innocence and wants the investigations to run their course.

What makes matters even harder for 45 is his wondering “How much of what I know about my own history does Mueller also know?” The reality, right now, is that Mueller, like the true professional that he is, has held his findings close, revealing almost nothing to the press and public. You can certainly get a general sense of his strategy:  He is going after the most vulnerable of 45’s associates (think Manafort and Flynn), building cases that he can then use to leverage them into testifying against higher-ups, even as he also builds cases against the higher-ups.

It is also telling that the SP has relieved of duty, the one member of his team who was devoted to searching out acts of counter-espionage. That has been taken to mean that the remaining 15 team members are all committed to the sole pursuit of cases involving money! This could include fraud, illegal wire transfers, bribery and money laundering. With that in mind, keep a sharp eye out for exposes’ that deal with financial transitions involving 45, his organization and/or associates just outside that orbit.

One such person has been identified as Felix Sater, a convicted felon with a long history of being connected with Trump through various business dealings. We are now learning that starting in 2006, this man, with strong Russian ties, was actively working to promote the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow with huge sums of money involved. You can be sure that the news media and Mr. Mueller will pull on the “thread” provided by this latest revelation to see where, how far, and to whom it will lead.

So, stay tuned in to the news and watch for key words like “Sater”, and “Trump Tower Moscow”. This story has “legs” as journalists like to say, and isn’t going away any time soon.

 

So many choices

Political news during the past week has offered up so many “nuggets”, each one of which is worthy of attention. So, let’s get at it.

Ban on transgender military

The latest is that we will stop trying to recruit them and will not cover the cost of sexual reassignment surgery. What remains unclear is the status of the transgenders who are already serving. Secretary of Defense Mattis has been given the discretion to make that call and is expected to deliver same within the next six months as he studies the matter.

Trump pardons Arpaio

Twenty-four years ago, Joe Arpaio was elected Sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. He began as a decent law enforcement officer and then, steadily with each re-election, devolved into an over-zealous enforcer of immigration laws by means of racial profiling. That pattern of behavior got so bad that the man was taken to task by the courts and basically, ordered to “cut it out”. Rather than take that as needed guidance, Arpaio simply doubled-down on his MO. As a result, he got cited for criminal contempt and was set to be sentences for same when 45  gave him a “get out of jail card”.

Conservatives argue that the sheriff was the target of a “witch hunt” for simply doing his job. Make no mistake; this is “spin”; a way of mitigating the fact that Arpaio broke the law, even as he had taken an oath to uphold it. That Trump signaled to the audience in a  campaign-style rally that he was ready to issue a pardon reeks of political pandering, not a move to insuring that justice would be served.

Mutiny

Where and involving whom? The answers are “In Washington, DC” and “Some members of Congress as well as Trump”. As regards the latter, some very notable Republican senators (e.g. McConnell, Flake, Corker and Graham) have all openly criticized 45 and not on his policies, but rather on such personal traits as competence, stability, an understanding of how our government works and the character of our country. It is hard to find in the history of the relationship between a sitting president and Senate members of his own party, this kind of mutinous invective.

Trump has returned fire by bashing Senate Republicans for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare. He takes no responsibility for repeatedly telling everyone that it would be “easy”, only to flip-flop later and declare that no one knew it would be “so complicated”, then reversing course and describing a House version of repeal/replace as “beautiful” only to subsequently refer to it as “mean”. This has led to the conclusion that the man’s memory bank is a collection of twisted, frayed wires that are repeatedly given to short-circuiting. He just can’t bother to remember what he said two minutes ago.

The wall

As a campaigner, it was simple for candidate Trump to echo the repeal/replace promise that congressional Republicans had been making for seven straight years. But, it was Trump alone who promised to build “a great wall” along our southern border. And who will pay for the wall Trump asked his followers? “Mexico” they boomed like an amen chorus. He and he alone “owns” that pledge.  That is why, now in office, 45 is demanding that US taxpayers’ dollars be appropriated for the structure, and has threatened to shut down the government if he is not accommodated. Both Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Ryan have sprinkled cold water on such a threat. But, that is just the sort of response that would goad Trump into making good on it. Of all the “wins” that he wants and needs, this is the biggest and that is why his threat cannot be dismissed out of hand as just so much loose rhetoric.

From the immediate foregoing, do not be surprised if spineless congressional Republicans pony up a billion or two as a down payment on the wall’s construction; anything to placate Trump in the short-term and give his cover to promise that more will be forthcoming at some future date, even as he asserts that he will use his great negotiating skills (sic) to extract money from Mexico. All this will  be done to bolster GOP chances of holding onto House and Senate seats in the 2018 election. This is not about country; it is all about party.

 

Update and trial balloon

If you’ve wonder why your e-mail box hasn’t contained any of my blogs for the past month, here’s why:  I have been on an 18-day vacation, but there has also been some sort of snafu that has caused blogs I have posted not to be distributed.

What I am attempting here is a bit of problem-solving:  Trying to get new blogs disseminated. So, if this ditty shows up in your e-mail box, get back to me with an “I got it” or some such so that I’ll know my solution has worked.

In the meantime, you can access my last two blogs by going to my Facebook page and looking for “A sorting in search of moral clarity” and “Wow!! What a Corker”.

Thanks

Blog extra: A “What’s next” update

The last blog posted at this site (“What’s next”; July 22, 2017) offered the prediction that Trump would “gin up some rationale” for returning to Russia, two of their compounds that President Obama had seized in retaliation for meddling in our 2016 election. Thankfully, it can now be reported that this simply isn’t going to happen!

Congress is poised to pass a new set of sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. Included in this act is the provision that 45 must come back to the legislature and seek permission for the removal of these new as well as old sanctions that have been placed upon the same three countries.

The bill passed out of the Senate by a veto-proof vote of 97 – 2. The House leadership has promised that it will pass that chamber with a strong, bipartisan vote. It is only a matter of time before that happens.

What this new legislation signals quite loudly is that the Congress just doesn’t trust 45  especially with respect to his dealings with Putin and Russia.