Category Archives: Politics
Commentary on the US ways of politics
A photo that seems to me to sum up Helsinki.
Putin looking like the cat who swallowed the canary with Trump who looks like the kid who just got chewed out in the principal’s office, busily searching his brain for excuses to tell his parents about his bad behavior.
Good grief, America! What have we done to ourselves, our USA? There is no doubt we have let ourselves be taken in by a con man who has no interest at heart but his own, who has been so twisted by reliance on the fringes of right-wing conspiratorial political thought that he could think of selling us out to our firmest of enemies. I suppose that he does not recognize the possibility that his behavior could have that result, but what, exactly, is he thinking?
I wrote that just after the disaster in Helsinki. My gut reaction to Trump now seems to have roots I have known about for a long time, but haven’t researched in any organized way. Today I came across an article in the Smithsonian by Sasha Isenberg that reminded me of the long history of the fundamentalist right in the USA with all the conspiracy theories and religious zealotry. It reminds me that Trump is not an aberration, but a continuation of line of political-religious fever that’s been part of this country practically since the beginning.
Trump’s rallies have a lot in common with the descriptions of camp meetings in Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis.
One small detail from Isenberg’s article gives food for reflection. Hargis and Walker did their tour in 1963.
Walker arrived back in Dallas on April 8 to a
home filled with drifts of fan mail and financial contributions. Two
nights later he was sitting at a desk in his study, working on his
income-tax return, when a bullet shattered his window and lodged in a
wall just behind him, spraying metal shards into his arm. He grabbed his
gun and went outside to look for the shooter, but found no one.
… It would take months for Walker to learn the identity of his would-be assassin: Lee Harvey Oswald.
Irony of ironies.
Go read Main Street and Elmer Gantry and find what we now call Trumpism buried in our roots.
Last night I watched the movie “All the President’s Men”. In its way it was exciting and a bit scary wrapped in what was at the time the fear of spies and spooks both foreign and domestic. It does a fine job of showing the viewer the kind of hard work that goes into the best of our American journalism and deserves all the praise and awards it got.
I missed something when the film came to an end. I missed what I had always thought of (having lived through it) as the real drama of the Nixon downfall, and that was the hearings by the Congressional Committee where the various members of Nixon’s administration had to anwer the questions of the members of Congress. While the stories of the Woodward and Bernstein are the key ingredient that brought on the hearings, the fact that members of Congress stood up for our country’s democratic principles against their gross distortion by a man obsessed with punishing his “enemies” by any means whatever is the truly heroic feat we should look back on.
It is worth the time in the era of Trump to look back on what was said and done in the Watergate Hearings during the spring and summer of 1973 as a useful insight into what we should think about in the era of Trump. Video of the hearings can be found here. Take a look.
Lots of talk about civility today. Do we even know what the word means? If we mean in-your-face nasty politics, that began a long time ago. Anyone remember the Tea Party rallies during the elections of 1999 and 2003? Sarah Palin? Lots of racial animus as an undertone then, but with the posters and yellings then we were pointed in the direction we have reached today. Trump just makes it all worse. If civility is as the dictionary says, formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech, I’m not sure we ever had it here in our United States politics. It seems more like something out of one of those English movies about Parliamentary history. If we knew more about our own history, we might remember the battles of earlier years when members of Congress threatened eachother with sticks, and duels between members were not uncommon.
The NPR program 1A Wednesday morning had a discussion on “civility” which I came in on the end of. One of the women, Christine Fair, seemed to support civility except when racism or her status as a woman were called into question. There, it seems to me, is the problem. People called names, asked to leave restaurants, denied a wedding cake or other service because of another person’s “deeply held beliefs” seem to have brought this on, at least among “liberals”.
Haven’t we been listening to childish name calling and meanness from the White House for the last year? Why the sudden hand-wringing about civility now? Does it do anyone any good to get in someone else’s face, because you disagree? What good does it do you to ask Ms. Sanders to leave your restaurant, to shout at diners in another restaurant, to call Stephen Miller a facist? Does it make Ms. Waters a better person? Will such behavior do anything to change people like Sanders and Miller or Trump?
Ms. Fair seemd to think that our very democracy was in danger of being destroyed, but she didn’t have the civility herself not to keep talking over the host, Joshua Johnson when he was trying to get her to stop. Yes, our democracy is in danger, but should we get down in the mud with Trump and his supporters. It seems far more important to do all we can to elect people who support democratic institutions and rule.
What threatens our democracy more is the retirement of Justice Kennedy giving Trump another chance to appoint a justice who will continue the assault on some of our freedoms.
And after several days, I’m still chewing on this topic. When has being civil gotten us anywhere? Civility didn’t halt the lynching of black people, the internment of Japanese, the slaughter and displacement of native Americans or the Chinese expulsion. At this point, Trump and his followers will probably see civility on the part of his opponents as weakness, and ratchet up the ugliness even more as Trey Gowdy and jim Jordan did yesterday in the Rosenstein hearings.
Finally, Trump has signed an order (according to the Washington Post) to keep border crossing families together – to stop tearing small children and babies from their parents. That takes care of what happens right away. I wonder how they will get the children they’ve detained back together with their parents, for our government is now responsible for seeing to it. What if parents have already been deported? Will DHS search El Salvador for them? Or will they set up some fancy phone system that will not work well and the moms from the highland towns without even spanish won’t understand.
Thank goodness Trump is sensitive to media coverage! But keep the pressure on. We still have the 2,000 or so children who need to be reunited with their parents and who are already scattered over the Texas and Florida landscapes. Did he really think he could trade interned kids for his wall?
Details. Will the kids now be detained by ICE with their parents? And if so how much difference is there? Ice can only detain for 20 days. Are we back to GPS anklets in the surrounding communities? From the New York Times:
“There is no system whatsoever to track these family separations, no
efforts systematically to reunite these families,” Mr. Enriquez said.
“There is no supervisor, there is no database saying, ‘child here,
parent there,’ so they can come back together.”
It takes ones breath away. If what they did in the House ever becomes the law of the land, they will have much to reckon with. The crowd outside the House had it right with its “Shame, shame shame!” Democrats inside singing should also be shamed. It was not a party victory or defeat. It was a victory for the rich and infamous who have thoughts only for themselves and their wallets. Amazing that some can still call themselves “Christians”.
Let’s face it, anything Barack Obama did as President is anathema to those now in power because he is black. The hatred underpinning the latest Congressional and Presidential actions is barefaced and appalling. It’s even likely to bring on a backlash that will change the make up of the House of Representatives if the Democrats don’t throw away their advantage in their glee at opponent’s seemingly fatal mistakes. It’s much too soon to crow. There is still real danger that this white-men-supremacist measure could become law.
If anyone out there still reads, check this article in today’s Washington Post, and then take a good long look at all of those smug, self-satisfied faces in the Rose Garden as they celebrate taking away health care from those in society who need it most. This is America? Isn’t it time for the USA to join the rest of the civilized world and provide basic government healthcare for everyone?
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Those guys turn my stomach.
How many people are aware that the Trump administration has been doing its best to pick apart the ACA even before the “replacement” by cutting funds for pass through payments to insurance companies and doctoring the healthcare.gov website just so they could say it was failing? All that for white supremacy?
If Peter Suderman is correct that this is not a health care bill at all, but a bald effort to cut taxes for the wealthy, then the House Republicans may well have snookered the “Deal Maker” himself (as well as the rest of us) since Trump apparently has little knowledge of what is actually in the bill.
Trump’s continued ignorance about the policy details should worry House Republicans, who are being pressured by the president and his team to support deeply unpopular legislation that the president doesn’t himself understand. (That problem will be compounded and repeated if the bill eventually manages to clear the House, because the Senate is all but certain to significantly alter the legislation, and because those alterations are likely to shatter whatever fragile consensus may exist in the House.)
In a way, Trump’s inability to understand the bill means that he cannot really be said to support it, or at least that his support is far from stable. Privately, Trump has questioned whether or not the bill is worthwhile. During the initial push to pass the bill, Trump sometimes expressed his anxiety about the bill’s merits, according to The Washington Post. He did not possess sufficient understanding of its particular to judge its quality for himself, so he repeatedly asked his aides, “Is this really a good bill?” If you have to ask, the answer is probably no.
The brat (my word) in the Whitehouse has decided that we need to be “protected” from terrorists native to countries that have never perpetrated a mass attack on anyone in the US. His ban on those from 7 countries in the Middle East and Africa (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen) is the first step to a complete ban on all Muslims (unconstitutional). Just give him time. Along the way, he sows disrespect for our justice system on Twitter by attacking judges whose opinions or decisions cross him.
The Donald is always right, never wrong about anything he on which chooses to have an opinion. If only he had some real knowledge to back up those tweets! What does he know about those countries, their histories, their cultures? Does he really think that because a person is a Muslim, that person is “bad”? Does he understand that no one in the US has been killed by any person from those 7 countries?
More twitter tantrum on judge Robart’s original decision:
“Ridiculous” to try to protect the separation of Powers outlined in the Constitution? And why is Trump having fearful nightmares about “bad people” who do not, in fact, pose a threat? Women and children threatening? Our “President” has a bad case of paranoia based on little but scare mongering pushed by Breitbart, Fox News, and the Drudge Report. We do not make America GREAT by showing the extent of our fears to the world, and lashing out against anyone who disagrees with the man a few of us elected to the Presidency.
What ethics? Trump’s “newsconference” proves, as if there were any doubt, that he has no idea of ethics. He’s the spoiled child who insists on having his cake and eating it too, both the Presidency and his business, all for the glory of Trump, and to the sorrow of all those Americans who thought he would be their savior. Seems to me that he would rather have his business than be President, and it may possibly happen that he will get his choice. How long will Americans put up with the kind of childish behavior he showed on Wednesday – piles of papers so we’d see how impossibly complicated divestiture would be for him, a baseless attack on a CNN reporter, and an imported audience of employees who cheered and applauded like those at his rallies. Not all of us are stupid enough to be fooled.
It wouldn’t hurt to remember the history lessons we once knew about state sponsored propaganda and the kinds of skepticism needed when approaching performances like Trump’s Wednesday news conference. I wonder if it will be as easy or easier even to stage such performances once in the Whitehouse. Common sense says we’d best be on our guard against manipulation by TV performance by a man who is something of an expert showman and manipulator.
Popular vote or no, she didn’t win, and while I’m sorry she didn’t break the glass ceiling, I think she was her own worst enemy. The emails on the server in the basement and “the basket of deplorables” did enormous damage for the opportunities they gave her critics. One also got the sense that especially in the early appearances on TV with her nose in the air and body language seeming to see all the rest of us as beneath her – she entitled after all those years of hard work – to be elected President just because she felt she’d worked hard enough to earn it. The sense that she felt entitled to the office merely because of who she was I think turned off a lot of people.
There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate for President (or any other office), but perhaps there should have been more deep thought at the DNC and in the higher reaches of the party about the Clinton legacy and what that would mean to the millions of those who felt forgotten by Washington and voted for Trump. I voted for her, but I was never happy about it. The thought of both of them back in the White House curdled. What if there were more Libyas? Worse ones? What if there were more careless dismantling of protections put in place to free us from the vagaries of financial melt downs?
And if she and he were so darned intelligent, why did they think that using a private email server was such a great idea? Was it really so very “convenient”? Were they just playing with the new technology without knowing enough to realize the risks? After the experience of intense criticism about the emails, wouldn’t you think she’d warn others near her to beware of what they said in emails in case of hacking? It’s not as if hacking was unknown in 2015 – 16. Our own NSA was doing its share of it on foreign leaders and got caught in the act. The stupidity (ignorance) of intelligent people is sometimes appalling and inexcusable.
And now we’re stuck with Trump. What a tragedy!
The Globalist today had an essay by Hardeep Puri who was President of the UN Security Council in August 2011 and November 2012. He pins responsibility for the present mess in Libya on feelings of guilt in the West over its inaction in Rwandan genocide in 1994 during Bill Clinton’s Presidency. The use of military force was supposed to rid the country of Libya of a terrible dictator and protect the people from his supposedly brutal treatment of his population. There was no government structure as the west might recognize such. Gaddifi was all there was. This was to be “humanitarian regime-change”, at least that was how it was sold. And the result?
The result is out there for the world to helplessly watch – a desperate migration crisis leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees either dead or deserted, and an unraveling country overrun by mercenaries, militia, and the world’s worst nightmare today – the ISIS – with a paralyzed government at the apex.
Whether the West likes it or not, there is a reason the Libyan “mad dog” managed to rule the country for 42 years. The articulation of pro-Gaddafi sentiment and demonstrations in what’s left of Libya testify exactly to that.
Our adventure in Iraq has taught us nothing, and sadly, it could still be true that we will sell ourselves on the idea humanitarian “rescue” of a country we do not understand.
An article in the Boston Globe dated yesterday expresses the Russian view that all of Syria must be “liberated” before there can be any move toward removing Assad from power. Regime change seems to have become a western knee-jerk reaction to dictators without much thought as to what, if anything, is to replace the hated present regime. Assad is definitely not a “nice” man. He’s directly responsible for the deaths of thousands and the destruction of some of his own country’s cities. He could have avoided much of the bloodshed by talking with the protesters back in 2011, but he chose to shoot them instead. The battles that followed have led to terrible destruction of once beautiful cities. We’ve all seen the photos many times over, and well as the pitiful ones of children caught in the battle.
Brutal though he may be, his is the only government there is in Syria since we can’t really claim that the so-called Caliphate in Raqqa is anything like a recognizable government, unless, of course, the West is looking to make sure they seize power over the whole country. The theory that there are “moderate” islamists that deserve support seems to be just that, a theory. While there may be individuals who embrace some western ideas, they have undoubtedly left by now, or are busy fighting over bits of territory among themselves.
From Josh Landis’ Syria Comment:
The sad truth is that those hoping for a quick resolution to this crisis are likely to be disappointed. Contrary to expectations, the US is unlikely to enter into war with Russia over Syria. The moral argument for intervention cannot out-weigh the immense risks that the US military would be taking were it to engage in a direct and costly war with Russia. Despite the hawkish rhetoric of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, chances are that once in the White House, she will come to the same conclusion about using American military force as President Obama. Real world constraints reduce the chance that US will deploy force in Syria. The Syrian opposition and their backers will be forced to rethink their current path.
Most policy makers involved in the Syria crisis insist that “there is only a political solution to the Syria crisis.” The unstated problem with this argument is timing. Can a political solution be arrived at before a clear military winner emerges on the battlefield? Mustn’t one side realize that it has no choice but to accept a settlement before both sides will come to the table? The answer to this question is clear. No political solution can take place before a clear winner emerges on the battlefield. The longer this process is delayed, the longer the crisis will drag on, and the greater will be the death count.
Based on our sad experience in Iraq, I find these arguments persuasive. Everyone who thinks should read Ehsani’s entire post, even though it’s unlikely now that we’ll try what failed so miserably in Iraq in Syria. For once, the Russians seem to be right.
There’s another interesting piece from Aaron David Miller at the Wall Street Journal Blogs well worth a careful read.