As predictable as Pavlov’s dog

We now have before us, a well-established pattern:  Trump makes a questionable if not completely false assertion, and conservatives in and out of government salivate at the chance to justify his utterance and rush to do so. This has happened so often that this space has referred to it as the Republicans’ “protection” racket.

If this now-recurring theme has started to numb you, hang on. Steel yourself because you can be dead certain that nothing is going to change so long as our liar-in-chief knows that there’s a large swath of people who are determined to have his back, no matter how outrageous and dishonest his utterances become.

The latest example of the foregoing has to do with the still-evolving allegation that when president, Obama had president-elect Trump “wire-tapped”, a term that was quickly re-defined to mean any form of surveillance (1). The early history of this matter was set forth in “Conservatives’ ‘Protection’ Racket”, published at this site in late March. It need not be recited again here. (2)

What has happened most recently is that it was discovered that Susan Rice, Obama’s advisor on national security, had inspected some surveillance audio-tapes and come upon redacted references to members of 45’s transition team i.e. the names of these US citizens had been blackened out to protect their identity since they were not the targets of the surveillance. Because of the contexts in which these redacted names appeared, Rice believed determining their identities was justified. Therefore, she went through appropriate legal channels to get that done. Once the names were in her possession, she held them close and never made them public. Simply put, the redacted (“masked”) names were not made public (leaked).

As matters of fact, all of Rice’s behavior cited in the immediately foregoing paragraph were fully justified given her job and authority as Obama’s advisor on national security. On its face, this all seems so straightforward. But not for conservatives who saw in Rice’s actions, a way to spin it so as to make Trump’s “Obama ‘tapped’ me” falsehood more credible. In that context, senator Rand Paul (R-KY) went so far as to refer to the uncovering of what Rice did as a “smoking gun”. Damn her and damn Obama, all evidence to the contrary.

While all this is working itself out, the counter-intelligence probing of the FBI, and investigative work of the Senate Intelligence Committee continue apace though these efforts are not currently generating headlines as this blog is being typed. Into this lull, conservatives have pushed the faux scandal involving Susan Rice. Notice that by following this course, not only is 45 protected; the general public is distracted away from the aforementioned investigations and what their findings might portend for Trump and/or members of his team.

If the past is prologue to the future, there is no reason to believe that this protect/distract pattern will abate any time soon. It will continue until such time as 45 leaves office, by whatever means. Hopefully, that will be much sooner rather than later.

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  1. This assertion by Trump was put to lie in sworn testimony by FBI Director James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence, Mike Rogers.
  2. Interested readers can re-visit that blog by using the search window that appears along the left-hand margin of this publication.

 

 

 

 

Fall-out

This follows from the “End note” that appeared at the end of the last blog posted at this site. Here is the present fall-out from House Republicans’ failure to repeal Obamacare and pass a replacement healthcare program.

When House Speaker Paul Ryan introduced his “repeal/replace” bill, it was “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office and, on a positive note, found to generate in excess of a $300 billion reduction in deficit spending. That is no small thing to conservatives who  pride themselves on being “fiscal hawks”.

But, when the Ryan “repeal/replace” legislation failed to pass, that $300 billion when pfffffft !! That saving was going to be used to help finance other items on 45’s agenda like building a wall along the US/Mexico border.  Now, that project and funding for it will be put off until a “later date” according to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

The foregoing paragraph described the first and most obvious fall-out from failure of the Ryan legislation. More broadly there is this:  With their one obvious vehicle for deficit reduction now gone, House Republicans are going to have to make harsher cuts elsewhere in the budget; perhaps even ask Trump to scale back his various initiatives.

As the budget process moves forward, watch for members of the House Freedom Caucus (FC) to emerge as key players. They will be the ones to demand severe cuts in social programs and more defunding of those governmental agencies that Trump has already started to neuter; i.e. Energy, the EPA, Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No one will be less willing to negotiate and compromise than the FC folks.

Expect a long, drawn out and contentious budgeting process as House Republicans fight among themselves.

The long road to an epic failure

Hopefully, by retracing the history of the last eight years, vis’ a vis’ the ACA (aka Obamacare), some lessons will be learned.

January 2009 – 2012

Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and promptly sets a legislative agenda that has as its’ top priority, the passage of a healthcare plan that will make this commodity available to more Americans while causing the cost of medical care to decrease. As the broad outlines of his plan become public, conservatives raise full throated Hell; i.e. “It’s socialism…a government takeover of the healthcare industry…a job killer and budget buster”. These attack lines so energized the nascent Tea Party that its’ members turned out  in droves for the 2010 mid-term election and flipped the majority in the House to Republican control.

Coincidental to that electoral turn of events, the ACA had passed into law. Thereupon, the new Republican House majority began what was to become a familiar promise; i.e. “Repeal and Replace the Act”. That was followed by what was to eventually become a string of five dozen votes to achieve that end. Of course, with the Democrats still in control of the Senate and Obama in the Oval Office, that promise must be seen for what it was; i.e. an attempt to placate those conservative voters who wanted the ACA gone.

2012 – 2016

The national election in 2012 saw Obama returned to the White House, but the Democrats’ Senate majority turned over to Republicans. Now in control of both chambers of Congress, conservatives’ hope for the repeal of the ACA grew as Senate Republicans picked up the promise of their counterparts in the House. But, the very real threat of an Obama veto remained ever-present. This led conservatives to urge their voting faithful to turn the presidency over to a Republican and there will be nothing to stop the repeal that you so earnestly want.

2017

Trump’s election is taken by conservatives in and out of government as a dream come true, especially insofar as keeping the “Repeal and replace” promise. That guarantee had already been pumped up by candidate Trump who not only committed himself to an immediate repeal, but a replacement that will be “easy”, cover “everyone”, be “beautiful” and “cost less”. As you can imagine, conservatives’ hopes were now at stratospheric heights. After all, the eminently successful, billionaire, autocratic businessman was going to make it happen.

In both the House and the Senate, there was no question that the votes to repeal were there. But, what about the replacement? One group of Republicans argued that promise be damned; a replacement simply wasn’t necessary, at all. Another group reminded that if a promise was to be kept in full, then a replacement was absolutely necessary. The former set relented but insisted that any replacement had to be on their terms.

Over the next 18 days, House Republicans struggled to craft a replacement that could be embraced by both groups. Along the way, 45 tried, in order, a charm offensive, arm-twisting, and finally threats of retaliation if he did not get a repeal/replacement bill passed. There was no question that his credibility and deal-making expertise were both on the line. Cooperatively, the House GOP leadership tried tweaking the bill in various ways to make it more palatable to those who didn’t want a replacement in the first place. But, with every tweak, the more reasonable Republicans got pushed further away from their own “yes” votes.

Outside the halls of Congress, a groundswell of opposition to the repeal had materialized as citizens took to the streets in protest. Nowhere were they more evident than at the town hall meetings that their GOP representatives held. Was all this activism influential? We cannot know for sure, but the odds are that it had an impact and a decided one at that.

In the end, needing 216 votes for passage, the final version of the repeal/replace bill failed by the slimmest of margins, leaving Trump and the aforementioned leaders to wonder what else they might have done to achieve a different outcome. That they were now the faces of this epic failure was lost on no one, save for 45 who, as per his M.O., launched into blame-casting; i.e. It’s the “Democrats” fault.

Lessons to be learned

  1. Before you start making promises, be sure your own “ducks are in order”. If they are not or cannot be aligned, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  2. Do not confidently assume that skill in business will translate into competent executive government management.Trump has now proven that it doesn’t.
  3. Reject the premise that our federal government can be run like a business, and that putting a businessman in charge can make that happen. Herbert Hoover proved otherwise, and now, 45 has reinforced that outcome.
  4. Bitching is easy; governing, hard.

End note

Trump and Congressional Republicans now want to move on to tax reform which is intimately tied to the president’s proposed budget. The latter has already been declared as  “dead on arrival”  by some representatives who are stumping for less spending and more deficit reduction. Expect more hard bargaining along with 45 having to scale back at least some of his extravagant campaign promises. It may turn out that Democrats’ best strategy will turn out to involve simply getting out of the way as their GOP cohorts form a circular firing squad.

Conservatives’ “Protection” Racket: 3.0

Ordinarily, bringing up the same topic for a third time would be like beating a dead horse. But, congressional Republicans  keep the “horse” alive with their behavior that demands critical commentary. Let’s review what previous blogs have posited regarding the “protection” racket that they are running.

November 30, 2016

This blog identified three areas in which congressional Republicans have either blocked or ignored legitimate challenges to Trump’s presidential behavior:  His withheld tax returns, flip-flops and conflicts of interest.

February 17, 2017; 2.0

In this blog, four congressional Republicans were singled out as playing a major role in the aforementioned “protection racket”:  Jeff Sessions, Kevin Brady, Devin Nunes and Jason Chaffetz.

At the time this blog was posted, Sessions was Trump’s nominee for Attorney General (AG). Asked if he would recuse himself if it happened that Trump came under criminal investigation, the nominee demurred. As the AG, he then would have been in a position to block any such investigation. (1)

Brady, as Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee had the opportunity to bring to a vote, a proposal to force Trump to release his infamous tax returns. He refused to even allow the matter to come up for debate.

The House Select Committee on intelligence is chaired by Nunes. This body might have been tasked with the job of assessing then National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn’s, outside, conflicting business interests. It never happened because Nunes concocted a transparently flimsy excuse to prevent that from happening.

Chaffetz chairs the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee. This group might also have taken on the job of pressing Flynn on his outside activities. But, like Nunes, Chaffetz ginned up an excuse which foreclosed on such a possibility.

March 22, 2017; 3.0

A preclude to yesterday’s events, 45 participated in an interview with Fox News Tucker Carlson. During that tete a’ tete, held on March 15th, Trump promised that in a matter of a “few weeks” there would be revelations supporting his claim that former President Obama had “wire-tapped” him. A day later, the new president expanded on this, saying that “wire-tapping” could involve any number of different forms of surveillance.

On the 22nd, Nunes (again) served as the “front” for the protectionists. From a source that he never identified, the congressman obtained some intelligence (2) which revealed that Trump and members of his administration had been “incidentally” named in some legally collected intelligence. To clarify, what that means is this:  Suppose Russians A and B are chatting. One says to the other “Can we work a trade deal with The US?” The other replies “That would have to go through Trump (or another named member of his administration; say Secretary of State, Tillerson). ” On its’ face this is innocuous. Even more telling is the fact that by law, Trump’s name (or that of any other US citizen) would have been redacted in a print-out of the surveiled conversation.

What does Nunes do with this? He engages in an egregious lapse in judgment and a violation of longstanding committee protocol by skipping right past his Intelligence Committee members and going straight to the president. Having thus alerted 45 to this intel, Nunes then proceeded to hold a press conference and make the same material available for public consumption. Not surprisingly, when asked about all this, Trump allowed that he felt “somewhat vindicated”, referring to the assertion he made in the Carlson interview (see above).

As suggested immediately above, Nunes’ first order of business should have been to go directly to his committee and share this new information with them. That he did not prompted the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff, to state that Nunes must decide if he is going to chair a fair and impartial hearing or act as a surrogate of the president, noting that he can’t do both.

The bottom line is this:  Nunes behavior provided 45 with a convenient “cover” for his thus far baseless claim that Obama had wire-tapped him. If there is one BIG positive that may come out of all of this, it is that Nunes has made it all the more obvious that we need a special prosecutor and independent committee to undertake an in-depth examination of possible criminal collusion between Trump, members of his administration, and the Russians as the latter actively tried to corrupt our 2016 election.

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  1. As events moved forward, Sessions was left with little choice but to finally recuse himself and he did just that.
  2. The source of this  intelligence has yet to be authenticated.

 

 

Trump’s three-part plan

Prologue

Boiled down to essentials, Trump’s tripartite plan involves the following:  (1) Make America great again; (2) put America first; and (3) discredit any source that suggests that progress towards achieving #1-2 isn’t going swimmingly.

Of course, #1-2 are together, a big part of what Trump promised voters. In his near-two months in office, he has signed a flurry of Executive Orders (EO) aimed at demonstrating that he is a promise-keeper. The reality is that some of those EO’s have no immediate impact on policy or the country. They are essentially messages to Congress that outline what needs to be done. For example, we need to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and I expect you to find the money to pay for it. In the commentary that follows, let’s examine how all this is working out.

Commentary

Since the wall was just cited, it can now be reported that the budget that Trump sent to Congress contains a $2.1 billion line item that will go towards paying for it. This, needless to say, involves US taxpayers’ money  and not a centavo from Mexico which we are told, will be collected at some later, by some unspecified date and unspecified means. So, think of this as both a promise that has only started to be kept, and a great deal more of unfinished business.

Then there is the Trump travel ban; the logical extension of his pledge of a “…total and complete shutdown of all Muslims seeking entry….” into our country. This extravagant campaign pledge and others of a similar form produced later by Trump surrogates, have worked to derail the prohibition’s passage by the courts (1). The president has vowed to take this fight all the way to the US Supreme Court. However, before that happens, there are other courts that will be evaluating the constitutionality of the ban. As each of those rules against it, the chances of a reversal at the highest level decrease significantly. That is because the “Supremes” are typically guided by a unanimity of lower court decisions.

Moving on, we come to the commitment to “repeal and replace Obamacare”. An educated guess here is that Trump had absolutely no clue how difficult this would be. Did he ever imagine that hundreds of thousands of citizens both liked the ACA and wanted to keep it? Did he have an inkling that the Republicans in Congress would be so divided on how much of Obamacare to repeal and what would go into a replacement? From all indications, the answer is an emphatic “NO”!!! As this blog is being typed, House Speaker Paul Ryan has done some tweaking of the original bill that he and Trump agreed upon. But, ultra-conservative House members have already signaled those small changes aren’t enough to garner their “yea” votes. What is even more problematic, is that every time Ryan makes a change in the bill aimed at pleasing one group of colleagues, it only serves to alienate  another.

What to do, what to do? There are no easy answers. But, this is a certainty:  If Obamacare isn’t gutted in large part or in whole, Republicans will have Hell to pay with their grass roots supporters. Those voters have lived through seven years’ of GOP assurances that the ACA would be gone. So, this is a promise that those same members of Congress can ill-afford not to keep, especially with midterm elections less than two years away.

The aforementioned Trump budget also includes a $54 billion hike in military spending, to be paid for by draconian cuts in such federal departments as the Environmental Protection Agency and Education. Going hand-in-hand with the former will be a substantial roll-back in environmentally friendly regulations  which puts us back at risk of consuming less clean air and water. The latter is meant to provide parents and students with more school choices at the expense of public education. This may be penny-wise policy, but it is pound-foolish.

End notes

All of Trump’s EO’s and his budget are designed to make Americas great again and put the country first. While the news media have certainly covered the successes, there is no question that more ink has been spilled and more air time allotted to the various problems cited above. This asymmetrical coverage is largely if not completely a function of Trump either lying about or otherwise trying to “spin” away from the difficulties that have been encountered and will not be easily overcome (see above) . But, even a hint that a promise has not been kept, or won’t be kept, or can only be kept “half-way” is intolerable to president #45. So, he pushes back in the aforementioned ways even going so far as to refer to less-than-favorable articles as “fake news”. This, and references to the media as “lying” and “liars” is the stuff of authoritarian tyrants; i.e. thoroughly discredit contradictory “voices” while establishing ones’ self as the ultimate authority on everything. But, that only serve to keep the negative stories alive.  In a very real sense, Trump has placed himself in the midst of an unflattering news cycle that he then perpetuates because he cannot shut up and move on. As the quintessential zero sum game player, he is his own worst enemy.

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  1. What irony that Trump’s own words have served as the basis for the courts’ rejection of his travel ban as being discriminatory and therefore, unconstitutional.

 

 

A little of “This and That”

There’s this

Earlier this week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its estimates of how many people will be affected by the GOP’s plan to repeal Obamacare, and the cost of the replacement Republican plan. For those of you who haven’t been tuned in or have tuned out, that’s the job of the CBO; i.e. to “score” (estimate) the most critical effects of any piece of legislation that is drafted in either house of Congress.

Now, it stands to reason that any estimate is at best, an educated guess that is almost guaranteed to be off-the-mark one way or the other. That variability is not a product of CBO bias and/or some flaw in the Office’s predictive methodology. No, to a very real extent, the variability arises out of the impact of unforeseen that materialize after the CBO’s forecast has become public.

In the present case of the GOP’s repeal and replace legislation, the CBO has come forward with a mixed bag of predictions. On the negative side, there is the estimate that with the repeal of Obamacare, as many as 15 million Americans will lose their healthcare by the end of 2018. Many millions more will have to deal with the same harsh reality across the ensuing ten years. While some age groups will see a drop in their insurance premiums, some will face rises; notably seniors (1). On a positive note, the GOP plan is predicted to lower the federal spending deficit.

Against this background, it is instructive to examine how conservatives in and out of government have responded to the CBO report:  By and large, they have blasted it, saying that the numbers therein are “not to be believed” because the CBO has such a poor record as a predictor. To buttress this claim, conservatives refer to the CBO projections that were overly optimistic vis a vis how many people would sign up for Obamacare.

Notice that there is no claim of bias; no claim that the CBO is using a corrupted predictive methodology. Nor is there the slightest acknowledgement by conservatives that they had a major hand in driving down enrollments in Obamacare. Specifically, they worked to turn potential enrollees away by saying that Obamacare was a “government take-over of the healthcare industry” and as such, involved “socialism”. Then, there were more than two dozen Republican governors who refused to allow for the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid into their states (2). Both the rhetoric and the obstruction had the unquestionable impact of suppressing Obamacare enrollments and in retrospect, making the CBO projections about it look bad, something that is currently making conservatives’ criticism of the CBO look valid.

End note:  Congressional Democrats and Progressives in general are responding to all this by tearing a page out of the GOP playbook that was described above. They are doing their best to discourage potential enrollees in the Republican plan from actually doing so, paying particular attention to the threat of a loss of coverage or to higher out-of-pocket costs in the forms of larger premiums and deductibles. How this all plays out is going to be fascinating theater for those among us who are political junkies.

And then there’s that:  Fantasy vs. reality

Imagine that you are a fly on the wall in the Oval Office, listening to Trump bark orders to his two favorite spinmeisters Sean Spicer and Kelleyeanne Conway, and his Attorney General, the very toady Jeff Sessions. Trump is reacting in a fury to the firestorm of push-back he has received in response to his claim that then-President Obama had him “wire-tapped”.

Trump:  “You know me; I never back down and never apologize or admit to mistakes. So, here is what you three are going to do. Kelleyanne, I want you to capitalize on the recent Wikileaks document dump showing that the CIA has developed the means of turning such everyday gadgets as smart phones, i-pads and common household appliances into spying devices. Don’t go so far as to claim that Obama had the CIA do this to me; just “plant the seed”. Sean, I’ll leave it to you to follow up by noting that beyond what a “wire-tap” is commonly known to involve, there are now other means of surveillance  and make clear that when I tweeted “wire-tap” in quotes, that meant that I was referring to that broader range of possibilities. Jeff, I’m tasking you with the job of stonewalling any and all claims for evidence that I possess on being surveiled.”

Of course, we will never know if the foregoing fantastical directive ever issued from Trump’s mouth. What we do know, for a fact, is that all three components of his counter-attack came to pass. Conway planted the seed, Spicer melded neatly with it, and Sessions has obstructed. Fortunately, that has not stopped congressional investigating committees from moving forward. In so doing, they have ratcheted up the pressure on both Trump and Sessions to hand over any evidence that either or both possesses.

End note:  This is not going to end well for Trump though it is hard to predict if a negative outcome will do him any lasting political damage. It certainly won’t with his diehard supporters who behave towards him like worshipful cult members.

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1. It is ironic that the GOP plan is going to have the worst impact on White, high-school educated, semi-skilled males who comprised the single most devoted bloc among Trump voters.

2. My thanks for “DK” and “Carew” for their insightful and informative comments on why the CBO numbers for Obamacare were so out of whack.

 

 

 

Birds of a feather…

Prologue

Hang in there and follow along all the way through the following sequence of events to what the “Bottom line” tells us about that stalwart, pious, deeply religious Vice-President, Mike Pence.

7-16-16:  This date marked the beginning and unsuccessful end of a coup d’etat in Turkey that was to depose Premier Recep Tayyap Erdogan. In the aftermath, Erdogan singled out a Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish ex-patriot living in exile in the US, as the instigator, and believed the US to be complicit in supporting him and his fellow conspirators. Erdogan demanded that our government under then-President Obama, extradite Gulen so that he could be tried for treason. Quite properly, Obama, citing a lack of evidence, refused.

Fall 2016:  On a date yet to be uncovered, Erdogan’s Turkish government hired General Michael Flynn (US Army-retired) as a lobbyist, his compensation eventually equaling  out to $530,000. It is critical to note that at this point in time, our presidential campaign was in full swing, and Flynn was an avid Trump supporter. On November 10th, Flynn published an op-ed that argued for the extradition of Gulen. This statement got wide circulation within the conservative media, a fact that can easily be documented by means of a simple Google search.  It is also a telltale indicator of what Turkey perhaps hoped for when it paid Flynn over one-half million dollars.

Coincidental to the foregoing, Trump named Flynn as his advisor on national security. On November 18th, Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to VP candidate Pence, warning him that Flynn might be working for a foreign government (i.e. Turkey), something that should have sent off alarms in Pence head given Flynn’s aforementioned status as advisor on national security. This is yet another crucial bit of information given that once Trump had won the election, Pence was put in charge of assembling and vetting Trump’s transition team that would formally include Flynn as advisor on national security.

Late January 2017:  Our Justice Department sent a letter to the White House for the purpose of  sounding still another alert about the apparent Flynn-Turkey link.There is no evidence that anyone  within the Trump team, especially Pence took notice. If they did, there was no evident follow-up.

February 2017:  Now-President Trump fired Flynn, though the dismissal had nothing to do with Flynn’s still-covert relationship with Turkey. No, it was portrayed as having everything to do with the fact that Flynn had been in contact with Russian government officials, concealed that, and then lied in denying that involvement when speaking to Pence.

March 2017:  Flynn finally got around to a post hoc filing with the Justice Department, of his employment as a lobbyist for the government of Turkey, something that he should have done many months’ earlier. Once this becomes known, Pence claimed that it was only through this, that he learned of Flynn’s foreign employment.

The bottom line:  Pence’s assertion that he knew nothing of Flynn’s work for Turkey until said filing flies in the face of the letter he received from Rep. Cummings in November 2016, and the letter from Justice two months’ later. What is to be made of this? Here are our choices:  As the leader of Trump’s transition team, Pence was responsible for vetting Flynn along with other nominees for various positions. That he failed badly at that task isn’t even arguable. The questions that is begged is why? Was Pence:  (1) asleep at the wheel; (2) indifferent to the messages he received from Cummings and Justice; (3) willfully disregarding those messages; or (4) outright lying.

Sloppy? Incompetent? Deceitful? Whatever you pick, Pence fits right in; i.e. birds of a feather.

 

Blog Special: Our Democracy, Trump and Russia

Congressman Eric Swalwall, a Democrat representing California’s 15th District, has started a web page devoted to describing how our democracy is under attack by Russia, and how Trump and his associates may figure into all of this. Rather than try to condense here, the contents of what appears at the site, go directly to it, using the directions shown below. This is MUST READ stuff!!

 

*** Google “Swalwall Protect our Democracy”. When that site opens, read through what is offered there and be sure to pay particular attention to the line diagram that can be found by clicking on “Russia:  Trump and his team’s ties”. ***

 

The material set forth at the representative’s website is less than 24 hours old. Do not be surprised if, in ensuing days, this all gets substantial play in the news media, especially now that Congress has initiated at least two investigations into Russia’s meddling in our last election.

In journalistic parlance, this story has “legs”, meaning that it is going to last well beyond one or two 24-hour news cycles. As it gets wider and more intense media scrutiny, expect Trump to launch into multiple Twitter tirades about “fake news” accompanied by baseless .accusations that he is being maliciously and deceitfully preyed upon by his opponents.

Trump rants, GOP rushes to protect

Last Saturday at 6:30 AM EST, our Twittermeister-in-Chief unleashed a storm in which he accused then-President Obama of having orchestrated a wire-tap on Trump and his surrogates in the Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.  This claim arose out of “sources” of which Trump and his spokespeople cited none!!! However, it has emerged that ahead of Trump’s Twitter rant, the claim of an Obama-inspired wire-tap was tossed out by right-wing, flame-throwing radio host, Mark Levin who offered no supporting evidence. Shortly thereafter this story was picked up by another right-wing source, Breitbart News, again without foundation.

Having succeeded in getting everyone’s attention, Trump then proceeded to demand a congressional investigation. By now, it should come as no surprise that GOP representatives fell right in line. The most notable among these servile toadies is Devin Nunes (R-CA) who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In other words, we are witnessing yet another iteration of the “protection racket” described in this space on two previous occasions (1). Call this new one, 3.0.

In the face of this latest attempt to accommodate Trump, we have these facts:  (1) the absence of any prime facie evidence means that there is no predicate for an investigation; (2) to initiate a wire-tap on an American citizen, a president would have to go through the secret FISA court to start such an enterprise; (3) had Obama done that, a “paper trail” would have been created making it a simple matter of tracing the tap back to him; (4) as president, Trump has the authority to command the release of all such documentation, something that Trump has thus far, failed to do; (5) FBI Director James Comey and former Head of the Department of National Intelligence, James Clapper, have both stated categorically, that no such tap existed. Indeed, it could not have existed without their knowledge.

The amassing of these facts, especially the absence of a predicate (see #1), makes it abundantly clear that Nunes is allowing Trump to engage in his favorite gambit; i.e. when he is the target of unfavorable news, change the subject and get the media to look elsewhere. Even worse, the congressman is providing this baseless diversion with a patina of credibility. No wonder that at recent GOP-sponsored Town Hall meetings, the people in attendance ended up chanting “Shame on you ! Shame on you!”

“Unfavorable news” indeed. Following his well-scripted speech to the joint session of Congress, Trump had every reason to expect a notable uptick in his favorability ratings. While that did happen, the afterglow has been overshadowed by more exposes of Trump’s questionable if not downright illegal business dealings with Communist oligarchs in Azerbaijan, a story that just broke in the New Yorker.

There is one sure place where the truth resides and that is in Trump’s tax returns. If and when those documents enter the public domain, the Trump presidency will be crippled if not over. That cannot happen too soon.

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  1. See “Protection racket”; 11-30-16 and “Protection racket 2.0”, 2-17-17.

 

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Erratum:  The blog “You lost, get over it and stop whining” (3-6-17) erroneously stated that Trump had been in office “barely two months”. In fact, his tenure was five weeks. The error is mine with apologies for it.

 

 

“You lost, get over it and stop whining!”

Cruise the conservative blogosphere and Internet political message boards and it won’t take long for you to come upon the harsh admonition set forth in the above title. The gist of it is that HRC supporters need to get over the fact that their candidate lost and stop whining about Trump’s behavior since his win.

The “stop whining” putdown is well past galling, coming as it does from an assortment of people who began their own kvetching about Obama before he ever set foot in the White House. Remember “birtherism”? The make Obama a “one-term president” as Mitch McConnell’s first priority? Eight solid years of obstruction and talk of Obama’s “imperial presidency”, his lawlessness and disdain for the Constitution? You have to be a hypocrite on a grand scale to have participated in any part of that to then advise others to “stop whining”.

Now that Trump is in office, what are Progressives supposed to do; roll over,  utter not a peep of protest and simply allow the new president to do whatever he wants? No, that’s not the way our two-party system works:  The party not in power takes on the role of the “loyal opposition” (1), seeks to influence policy, offers their support when that is deemed appropriate, and holds the president accountable when he behaves badly or especially  illegally.

The sad fact is that during barely two months in office, Trump has taken at least two steps backwards for every one that was forward, giving those who oppose him plenty of specific issues to “whine” about:  Some members of his administration and close circle are likely targets of at least one of three separate investigations into their possible illegal contact with Russia. Trump’s travel ban was so badly written that it failed to survive scrutiny by the 9th Circuit Court. These examples merely scratch the surface and cannot be outweighed by one good speech to the joint session of Congress last Tuesday night. That address was taken, optimistically, as a sign that Trump had turned the corner and would now act presidential. It didn’t last, a topic covered in a recent blog posted at this site (2).

Added to the foregoing is the growing impression that temperamentally, Trump is not up to the job of being president. His twitter-storms are being seen as the kind of outbursts you would expect from a hypersensitive, petulant child. His claim that in 2016, then-president Obama had his phone tapped is paranoic and drew stern denials from former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and current FBI Director Comey. This is not the cluster of personality traits you would want to find in the one person who has control of our nuclear arsenal.

So, taking all this into account, what should we expect? If Trump’s struggles with acting presidential increase, expect even more symptoms of dysfunction to become apparent. In that same vein, if the findings from ongoing investigations bring illegality to the doorsteps of White House,  that is apt to trigger more questionable behavior. And lastly, do not expect the “whining” to stop. It goes with the territory as Obama found out. Too bad, that thus far, Trump hasn’t handled it with the grace that the former president did.

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1,2.  A blog on the “loyal opposition” was posted at this site many months ago. The blog “Consider the contrasts” is of much more recent vintage; published here on 3-2-17.