We Have Met The Enemy …

… and it is us.

This is an OpEd written by former Nightline host and journalist, Ted Koppel, in The Washington Post yesterday.  His words ring true, predictive, and if so … we are our own worst enemy.  The “enemy of the people” may well be … the people.


ted-koppelOn July 21, 2016, just hours before he accepted the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump and I sat down for an interview. What he said on that occasion would serve as a remarkably candid foreshadowing of how Trump would handle his relationship with the media in what, on that day, seemed the unlikely event that he would actually become president.

“I don’t need you guys anymore,” Trump told me.

He pointed to his millions of followers on Twitter and Facebook, explaining that the days of television anchors and commentators acting as gatekeepers between newsmakers and the public were essentially over. Without discernible acrimony, Trump trotted out one of the early versions of what would eventually become a leitmotif of his presidency: The media was made up of largely terrible people trafficking in fake news. There was nothing personal in the observation. It was the unsheathing of a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office?

There is a disarming innocence to the assumption that whether by impeachment, indictment or a cleansing electoral redo in 2020, President Trump will be exorcised from the White House and that thereby he and his base will largely revert to irrelevance.

It imagines that, for some reason, Trump in defeat or disgrace will become a quieter, humbler, more restrained presence on Twitter and Facebook than heretofore. It assumes further that CNN and Fox News and MSNBC, perhaps chastened by the consequences of their addictive coverage of Trump the Candidate and Trump the President, will resist the urge to pay similar attention to Trump the Exile.

Let the record show that Trump has launched the careers of numerous media stars and that expressions of indignant outrage on the left and breathless admiration on the right have resulted in large, entirely nonpartisan profits for the industry of journalism. Why anyone should assume that Trump and those who cherish or loathe him in the news business will easily surrender such a hugely symbiotic relationship is hard to understand.

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

The dirty little secret about the United States’ relationship with Trump is that we have become addicted to him. His ups, his downs, his laughs, his frowns are (as the lovely song from “My Fair Lady” once put it in another context altogether) “second nature to [us] now, like breathing out and breathing in.”

When he fails to tweet for even a few hours, Trumpologists search for meaning in the silence. Hours are devoted on cable television, each and every day, to examining the entrails of his most recent utterances. Has there been a day in the past two years without a Trump-related story on the front page of every major U.S. newspaper? How does the president lie to us? Let us count the ways. And we do, endlessly, meticulously.

Do you believe for a moment that Americans are ready to give that up merely because, for one reason or another, Trump has been obliged to reoccupy Trump Tower full-time?

A President Pence would not satisfy that hunger. Nor, for now at least, is it easy to discern within the growing ranks of potential Democratic candidates a man or woman with a matching aura of glitz, a similar degree of shamelessness, a comparable pairing of so much to be humble about with a total lack of humility.

A new president may provide a sense of relief and normalcy. But he or she will not satisfy our craving for outrage. Trump’s detractors are outraged by him. His supporters are outraged with him. He is a national Rorschach test. Love him or hate him, you can’t ignore him. One way or another, Trump will be renewed for another season.

More Snarky Snippets …

I have an overload of sarcasm built up in me today, so … it must be time for some snarky snippets, don’t you think?  But first, I want to begin with something positive for a change!


Thumbs up to the new Governor of Maine …

Maine has a new Governor, Janet Mills, who replaced the bigoted Paul LePage.  As I wrote a while back, the people of Maine had approved Medicaid expansion by a ballot initiative more than a year ago, but former Governor Paul LePage had blocked it from taking effect.  Janet Mills promised during her campaign that she would ensure the initiative moved forward, and thankfully for the people of Maine, she keeps her promises.Janet Mills.jpgOn Thursday, in her first executive order on her first day in office, Mills ordered Maine to move forward with Medicaid expansion, which is likely to provide health insurance for an additional 70,000 Maine residents.  LePage had been fighting tooth and nail to prevent Medicaid expansion in the state for years, vetoing no less than five different bills.  Then, when the issue was passed as a separate ballot issue in 2017, he blocked it … went directly against the will of the people.  Is it any wonder he lost his bid for re-election?  Ms. Mills has certainly started on the right foot.


In order to protect Trump …

What if you’re a republican who does not support Donald Trump?  Yes, there are actually some of them out there, although we are told only about 20% of republicans do not support him.  Well, if you are hoping for a better option on the republican ticket for 2020, you may just be out of luck, especially if you live in South Carolina.

The Republican Party in South Carolina is giving serious consideration to cancelling the primary in their state in order to “protect Donald Trump from potential challengers”.  Say WHAT???  They can do that?  Yes, they can do that and in fact did do that in 1984 when Reagan was running for re-election and again in 2004 when George W. Bush was running.

Drew McKissick, the chairman of the South Carolina GOP, had this to say …

“We have complete autonomy and flexibility in either direction.  Considering the fact that the entire party supports the president, we’ll end up doing what’s in the president’s best interest.”

My question is … if they are so damn sure that Trump has the support of all republicans, then why is there a need to “protect” him? What are they afraid of?  Other potential candidates who are considering a run on the GOP ticket include former Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.  Personally, I think any of those three would make a much better president than Trump!


On inventing a crisis …

First, let me say this:  THERE IS NO NATIONAL SECURITY CRISIS!!!

Well, actually there is a national security crisis, and it has a name:  Donald Trump.trump-tweet.pngAnd then he plans to travel to the southern border on Thursday, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Now why would he feel a need to ‘address the nation’ on live television at this time?  It isn’t as if we don’t have his opinions, his hateful rhetoric, shoved in our faces 24/7 by the media and on Twitter.  But to interrupt prime-time television programming … presidents typically only do that when they have a major announcement, such as when Obama interrupted programming on May 2nd, 2011, to inform the nation that 9/11 master planner Osama bin Laden had been captured and killed.

Given Trump’s recent threats, I can’t help wondering if his ‘announcement’ will be that he is declaring a state of national emergency in order to attempt to circumvent democratic processes to get his wall.  I hope I am wrong, for if he does that, it will throw this nation into chaos and create the biggest constitutional crisis this nation has seen in our lifetime.  In the end, I do not believe that Trump will be successful in this endeavor, for the legality is highly questionable, given that there is no crisis.  Still, Congress and the Courts will be the ones to deal with that, meaning there will be little else accomplished.  The cost will be high and it will further divide an already unstable nation.  Meanwhile, the U.S. government is still in shut down mode, 800,000+ federal employees are going without pay, including many who are critical to the safety of this nation.


One man is to blame …

The entire Trump administration is to blame for the ongoing shutdown, for they have enabled Trump and forsaken the nation in so doing.  Donald Trump is responsible for his horrifying behaviour and failure to uphold his duty to the nation.  But that said, there is one man who I hold more accountable than the rest (except Trump himself, that is) and that man is Senate Majority Leader Mitchell McConnell.mcconnell dartboard.jpgMcConnell refused to allow a vote on the spending bill that was passed by the House of Representatives, saying …

“Any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote in either House of Congress. Under these conditions … the package presented by the House’s new Democratic leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing.”

But that may not be true.  There are a number of republican senators who have expressed a willingness to at least consider the bill passed by the House, and it may well be that, if put to a vote, the bill would pass the Senate with a veto-proof majority.  It might not, but we’ll never know if McConnell doesn’t stop pandering to Trump and let the Senate vote on the bloomin’ bill!!!

Apparently, Mitch McConnell has no more conscience than does Donald Trump.  They are both in the process of destroying this nation and killing its people.  Great job, guys!


Th-th-that’s all for now folks!bugs bunny

A Letter To Senators

The following is a letter that I have sent to the two senators from my own state, as well as a number of other republican senators including Mitch McConnell, and every other who will face re-election in 2020*.  In truth, I question whether our letters are ever seen by the intended recipient, but we have to try.  And keep trying.  The stakes are too high to give up.


Dear Senator _________________,

Tonight is a sad night for this nation, for it is crystal clear that we do not have a president, but we have a dictator.  Further, it is equally clear that said dictator is highly irresponsible with the reins of our government, proving time and again that to him the people of this nation are naught but pawns, tools to be used to expand his own power and wealth.

I write to you tonight, not asking, not hoping, but insisting that the Senate, starting with you, step away from Mr. Trump and become the independent law-making body that the Article I of the U.S. Constitution defines.  You often seem to forget that you are not beholden to Mr. Trump in any fashion, but rather are tasked with doing what is in the best interests of this nation and the approximately 328 million people who live here.

Mr. Trump has said that he would be proud to shut down the government, which he did.  Now he says he will keep it shut down for months, or even years, and further that he is considering declaring a national state of emergency where there is none.  More than 800,000 federal workers are going without pay.  Three people have died in accidents in our national parks that might have been avoided if the park rangers had been on duty.  The lines outside social security offices are reminiscent of the lines of concert-goers waiting for tickets.

This is the single most irresponsible act that I can recall by any president in my 67 years on this earth.  Some federal workers stand to lose their homes.  Food stamp offices are essentially closed, with only a skeleton staff.  People are going to die, Senator ______________, and those deaths will be on Trump’s shoulders, certainly, but also on yours as long as you continue to support his ignominious demands that the government stay shut down until he is awarded initial funding for what will in all likelihood turn out to be a $70 billion white elephant.  The wall is not needed, for immigrants are not our major problem.  A president with no conscience is our major problem.  Unregulated guns are our major problem.  And a boot-licking Senate that puts their own well-being ahead of that of the nation are our major problem.

The problem of the government shutdown is easily enough solved if the Republicans and Democrats in the Senate get off their collective asses and determine that they will work for the good of the nation, pass a veto-proof spending bill in conjunction with the House, and open the government.  If you fail in this, I and many others will make a concerted effort to see that you are not re-elected when your current term comes to an end.  Please, for a change, do your job!

Sincerely,

Jill E Dennison, taxpayer and voter


*List of all Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020

  • Dan Sullivan – Alaska
  • Martha McSally – Arizona
  • Tom Cotton – Arkansas
  • Cory Gardner – Colorado
  • David Perdue – Georgia
  • Jim Risch – Idaho
  • Joni Ernst – Iowa
  • Mitch McConnell – Kentucky
  • Bill Cassidy – Louisiana
  • Susan Collins – Maine
  • Cindy Hyde-Smith – Mississippi
  • Steve Daines – Montana
  • Ben Sasse – Nebraska
  • Thom Tillis – North Carolina
  • Jim Inhofe – Oklahoma
  • Lindsey Graham – South Carolina
  • Mike Rounds – South Dakota
  • John Cornyn – Texas
  • Shelley Moore Capito – West Virginia
  • Mike Enzi – Wyoming

The Circus Is Coming To Town …

Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced that she will be running for president in 2020.  Well, to be fair, she announced that she has launched a campaign “exploratory committee” to determine whether she has a chance at winning.  Rarely, if ever, has such a committee in modern times concluded that the potential candidate stands no chance and should go back to the farm, so in essence, Senator Warren announced her intent to run.  There are at least 32 others who have either announced their intent or are said to be considering a run, namely …

  • Joe Biden (former Vice President under Obama)
  • Senator Kamala Harris (California)
  • Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont)
  • John Kerry (former Secretary of State under Obama)
  • Julián Castro (former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Obama)
  • Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey)
  • Michael Bloomberg (former Mayor of New York)
  • Eric Holder (former Attorney General under Obama)
  • Michael Avenatti (attorney for Stormy Daniels, Trump’s former paramour)
  • Senator Kirsten Gilibrand (New York)
  • Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota)
  • Deval Patrick (former Governor of Massachusetts)
  • Governor Steve Bullock (Montana)
  • Representative John Delaney (Maryland)
  • Beto O’Rourke (former Senate candidate from Texas)
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles)
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
  • Senator Michael F. Bennet (Colorado)
  • Senator Jeff Merkley (Oregon)
  • Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
  • Senator Chris Murphy (Connecticut)
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg (South Bend, Indiana)
  • Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks sports team)
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio (New York)
  • Representative Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
  • Andrew Gillum (former candidate for Governor of Florida)
  • Governor John Hickenlooper (Colorado)
  • Governor Jay Inslee (Washington)
  • Mitch Landrieu (former Mayor of New Orleans)
  • Terry McAuliffe (former Governor of Virginia)
  • Representative Seth Moulton (Massachusetts)
  • Richard Ojeda (West Virginia State Senator)

And those are just the ones who are already talking the talk.  I actually left a few out, such as Howard Schultz, the former Chairman of Starbucks, and entertainer/philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, for I think they are beyond the realm of what is reasonable.  Then again, I said the same about Donald Trump four years ago.  Sigh. Some even speculate that Hillary Clinton might give it another shot.  Personally, I think (and hope) that she is far smarter than that.

Now think about this.  There is just over 22 months until the 2020 election.  That is 672 days, folks.  672 days of listening to the ranting, the babbling, watching the mud-fest and slinging of dirt.  Donald Trump on one side and all these others on the other side.  Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro will be in their element. For 672 days!  Shoot me now, please. The title of a podcast on The Washington Post yesterday sums it up: “Goodbye, 2018. Hello, 2020.”  In other words, welcome to 2019, the year that wasn’t.

The above list of candidates all have some positive attributes, with the possible exception of Michael Avenatti, who I believe is saying he will run mostly as a publicity stunt anyway.  But along with the positive, each one also carries with him/her some baggage.  Okay, nobody is perfect, but this is the year the democrats really, really need a perfect candidate, one with no skeletons in the closet, no dirt hiding in their past.  Donald Trump’s campaign will be brutal this year and next in digging up dirt and buried skeletons.  They will leave no stone unturned.  And we will have to listen to it all … every day … ad nauseam.  And you thought 2019 would be an improvement over 2018?

Unless I miss my guess, there will likely be somewhere around 25-30 candidates in the running initially.  Some will be weeded out in short order, whittling the list down to around 10-12 by the end of this year.  Folks … Barnum & Bailey might not be around any longer but trust me … a circus is coming to town.

A circus is exactly what we don’t need.  The Democratic Party needs to be the responsible one with candidates who can stand up to close scrutiny and who are focused, who have strong ideologies, well-communicated platforms, and who will not be distracted by mud-slinging and name-calling.  They need to be above the fray of the GOP and not wallow in the hog pen with Donald Trump.

Given that there are 22 months yet until the election, and given the above list of potential candidates, some of whom I’ve never even heard of, and in light of my disastrous predictions in 2016, I make no predictions at this point as to whose name will end up on the ballot by November 3rd, 2020.  I will make one prediction, however, that alcohol and tobacco sales will increase dramatically this year!  It is going to be a looooooong and ugly 22 months.  And I voice a serious hope that whoever ultimately becomes the Democratic candidate can stand firm and defeat either Donald Trump or Michael Pence, whichever name is on the GOP ticket by then.  Welcome to the never-ending election season!

Executive Power …

More than a few times over the past year or so, people have tried to assure me that there are limits to what Trump can do, that the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts will stop him from going too far, and all will be well.  It is true that the Constitution defines and limits the power of the office of president … except in certain circumstances.  And Congress has a large degree of control … if they can agree to agree on anything and if the issue at hand cannot be done by executive order.  And the Courts can intervene … but there are levels within the court system leading up to the Supreme Court – the one that Trump is stacking with his and the Federalist Society’s hand-picked justices.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt allegedly aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.  Although Turkey is considered a democracy and Erdoğan was democratically elected, he was and is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism.  As leader of the AKP Islamist party, Erdoğan had ‘reformed’ Turkish schools along Islamist lines, cracked down on freedom of the press, and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

It has been my belief since the beginning that Erdoğan himself played a leading role in staging the coup.  If so, to what end?  To give him the justification to declare a ‘state of emergency’ that would increase the powers of his office.  As part of the state of emergency, Turkey temporarily suspended part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The initial state of emergency was for three months, but in October 2016, it was extended to be for a year, and the following year it was again extended, and was only lifted in July 2018, after new elections that gave Erdoğan greatly expanded powers.  During that time, there was an extensive purge of the Turkish civil service employees, with more than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors, and civil servants arrested or suspended, including 2,700 judges, 15,000 teachers, and every university dean in the country.  Turkish authorities said the crackdown was meant to “suppress dissent”.  journalists-TurkeyAccording to Amnesty International, detainees in Turkey have been denied access to legal counsel, have been beaten and tortured, and have not been provided with adequate food, water, or medical care.

Now tuck into the back of your mind for a bit the fact that Donald Trump made the decision, without consulting Congress, without consulting his military and foreign affairs advisors, without consulting our allies, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria based on a telephone conversation with Erdoğan.  Consider how much Trump admires those ‘strong-arm’ leaders such as Erdoğan, Putin, and even the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte.  Ever since he took office, Trump has chafed against the constraints of the office, believing that as president his powers ought to be unlimited.

Fast forward … it is rumoured that Robert Mueller will complete his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and the Trump family/campaign role in such interference around mid-February.  While that is strictly rumour at this point, the timing makes sense.  What do you think will happen if, as I firmly believe, Mueller has evidence that Trump’s family with Trump’s knowledge, and perhaps even Trump himself were involved in underhanded dealings to influence the outcome of the election? Trump-angry What if it is proven that Trump broke the trust of his office?  No doubt impeachment proceedings would begin in the democratic-majority House of Representatives.  Given what we know about Trump and his erratic temperament, what is your best guess about his reaction?  Think he’ll just sit down and shut up?  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you dirt-cheap.

Fast forward even more … the year is 2020 and the election for which Trump has been campaigning for four years is rapidly approaching.  And yet … Trump is not winning any popularity contests … his temper tantrums are no longer playing well among his masses, in light of the financial recession caused largely by his tariffs and by the chaos he wrought at the end of 2018 by shutting the government down needlessly while demanding billions of dollars for his ignominious border wall.  Trump is not being supported by the majority of the GOP in Congress, and the Republican Party is lukewarm about his re-election bid, at best.  trump-tantrumThink he’s going to just put his nose to the grindstone, do the best job he can while trying to win over the masses with his honesty and integrity?  Again … see above comment about my bridge.

Not quite two years into his term of office, Donald Trump has signed …

  • 86 Executive orders
  • 42 Presidential memoranda
  • 12 Presidential determinations
  • 01 Administrative order
  • 22 Presidential notices
  • 01 Presidential sequestration order
  • 07 National security presidential memoranda
Trump-sign-bill

Can’t you just hear him saying, “nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah”?

None of these required the advice and consent of Congress.  Many were to overturn regulations that were in place to safeguard our health and safety.  Others were simply to exert his power.  None, as far as I can tell, were in our collective best interest.

Back now to 2019 when impeachment is looming, or 2020 when an election looms large.  What does Trump do?  Does he follow the example of his buddy Erdoğan and create a diversion that will allow him to declare a ‘state of emergency’?  Oh yes, he most certainly can do that, and with little or no reason.  The decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ is entirely within his discretion, and it makes more than 100 ‘special provisions’ available to him.  The framers of the Constitution never in their wildest dreams imagined a Donald Trump, never believed the nation would need to be protected from its own leader.

What, then, could happen if, say to detract from impeachment proceedings, Trump declared a state of emergency?  Worst case scenario, he could shut down electronic communications.  He could freeze the bank accounts of those he believed to be subversive.  He could disperse troops within the country to subdue domestic unrest, ie., legitimate protests.  And the list goes on.state-of-emergencyIt is not my intent to fear-monger … I don’t play Trump’s games.  It is, however, my intent to proclaim that the time is now to rein in this president.  Now, before it becomes impossible, is the time to set limits on the ‘executive authority’ that the Founding Fathers never thought would be necessary.  When the 116th Congress is seated next Thursday, one of the first orders of business, besides getting the government open without giving in on “the wall”, should be to set limits on what the president can and cannot do without the consent of Congress.

Personally, I would like to see strict guidelines for declaring a state of emergency, and a very narrow interpretation of what he can or cannot do under such a state.  He must not be allowed to shut down the internet, the only means many of us have of getting news of national and world events.  He must not be allowed to stifle the freedom of the press or our First Amendment rights of free speech.

There have been situations before where a president overstepped the reasonable limits of his power and Congress or the Courts stepped in, such as the Youngstown Steel case in 1952 where President Truman attempted to take over the steel plants, but the Supreme Court said, “no”.  But with Donald Trump the bully in office, I don’t think we can assume that he would be easily stopped from assuming far greater power than he should have, and it would behoove us to put restraints in place before they are needed rather than wait until it is too late.