Leopards Don’t Change Their Spots …

When I heard the news last week about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, my jaw dropped.  WTF???  I saw the yearbook picture, and my heart clenched.  I heard his apology that, on the surface, seemed sincere, but in the back of my mind kept ringing this refrain:  “Leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots.”

I went to bed sometime that night, having moved on to other topics, and early that morning, Politico, The Washington Post and the New York Times all woke me to inform me that Governor Northam had decided, after admitting the night before that he was in the picture, that he wasn’t actually in the picture.  Though for the record, he did wear blackface once when entering a dance contest and doing Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk.

By now, I had the man pegged as a liar and a bigot.  The sooner he stepped down, as surely he must, the better for the State of Virginia.  But, rather than stepping down, the man dug in, refusing to resign, declaring that this, too, can be fixed.  He sounded so Trump-like that I’m fairly certain there was a conversation between the two between the first and second public announcement.  It was reminiscent of Trump’s apology for his horribly sexist remarks heard on the campaign trail in 2016, and then later his denial that he had ever made the remarks … plainly heard … on tape … by the world.

If you were wondering why I hadn’t tackled this subject yet, it’s largely because I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.  I couldn’t believe that some were actually taking his side, defending him.  I knew that it was unlikely he could be impeached, for the crimes of which he is accused do not meet the legal criteria for impeachment.  The president of the United States can remove a governor at any time, but we have no president, at least not one with any degree of morality or set of values.  And the last option would be for Northam to step down, which he said he wouldn’t do.  My head spun, as I pondered what this would mean for the State of Virginia, for the Democratic Party, and for the value of morality in the 21st century.  I also wondered who dug into Northam’s past to come up with this … why now?  Somewhere, there is more to this than meets the eye.

So, I have been silent, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, but fortunately our friend Don Lemon has not shared my silence, and in this video, I think he lays out the facts clearly.  Take just a couple of minutes to listen to him, then think about it.  Is this the direction our nation is going?  We are 21 months from the next election, and guess what, folks … we are going to see more and more and more and more of this.  At the end of the day, we may have to ask ourselves if there is anybody in our government who is not corrupt, who has values, who represents We the People.

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.

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.

Trump Is Leading Cause Of Depression In Americans

I saw this on Twitter earlier this afternoon, and enjoyed the bit of tongue-in-cheek humour, so I thought you guys might enjoy it also! Thank you, Austin, for this post and for your generous permission to share it with my readers!

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Trump, politics, humor, Modern PhilosopherAccording to a new report, President Trump is now the leading cause of depression in Americans, Modern Philosophers

The study, released by the Department Utilizing Statistics and Tables (DUST), revealed that Trump caused depression in more Americans than the next four items on the list combined.

Here is the rest of the Top 5:

2. Finances.

3. Realizing that you are trapped in a dead end job because of your finances.

4. Listening to someone from an older generation tell stories about the good old days.

5. Watching an episode of This Is Us.

The White House has yet to release a statement about the study, but anonymous sources have revealed that President Trump was ecstatic to top the list.

He was even heard to say, “Obama was never number one on that list!”

Experts have put together a list of suggestions for coping with Trump Induced Depression (ICD-10 code…

View original post 342 more words

Another WTF Moment …

Now wait just a doggone minute here!  Donald Trump willfully, irresponsibly, and recklessly shuts down the government, affecting close to one million federal workers, emasculating the food stamp program, demands that the case against him for emoluments violations cannot proceed, as his lawyers are not allowed to work during the shutdown, but he can take Air Force One and make an unplanned trip to Iraq for no better reason than a photo op???

Would you all like to know that it costs between $180,000 and $200,000 per flight hour to operate Air Force One?  PER. FLIGHT. HOUR.  The trip to Iraq would have taken somewhere between 13- 15 hours.  Do the math.  No wait, I’ll even do it for you.  Round trip, the cost of Air Force One alone for this photo op on which Trump also took his ‘wife’, was between $4,680,000 and $6,000,000.  Let me repeat … it cost between $4.7 million and $6 million of our taxpayer dollars in travel alone, not counting security, meals, lodging, etc. for Donnie & Melania to go have their picture taken with soldiers in Iraq! How many of you have ever even seen one measly million dollars in your lifetime?  Not me, that’s for sure! If you aren’t furious over this, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch …

  • Only about 5% of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Services’ employees are at work. This is the department that administers food assistance programs to low-income families and individuals.

  • More than 800,000 federal employees (more than one-third of the total) are impacted, either being laid off or working without pay. Many are like the rest of us and live from one payday to the next, contrary to what Scott Perry, a congressman from Pennsylvania said: “Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?”  Nice, Mr. Perry, real nice.  Such empathy.


  • Most of those who are expected to work without pay during the shutdown will be given backpay once the government is once again ‘open for business’. However, non-citizens who are employed by U.S. embassies overseas may well not be eligible for back pay!


  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is closed, but don’t worry … your income taxes will still be withheld from your paycheck! Gotta keep paying for Donnie’s travel on Air Force One now, don’t we?

Trump has claimed that the federal workers are supportive of the shutdown, saying he’s heard from federal workers who want him to “stay out until you get the funding for the wall.”  Predictably, it’s another of his multitude of blatant lies, and federal workers were none too happy hearing him tell it …

“I am a federal worker who is working without pay. And yes, we live paycheck to paycheck. Who will pay my mortgage January 1st? You?”

“My husband is a federal worker, we need our paycheck next week to pay our mortgage.”fuck wall

Now, Trump claims that he will keep the government shut down until such time as the $5 billion initial funding for his wall is approved by Congress.  Well, first of all, as I have discussed before, $5 billion is only the first part, and the wall has the likely potential to end up costing around $70 billion.  And frankly one billion would be too much.  No, Donnie, I ain’t giving you a damn dime toward your wall!  Congress is highly unlikely to give in to Trump’s bullying tactics to get his white elephant … thankfully.

Any president who would keep the government shut down ‘indefinitely’ for his own ego is no president, for he is failing to even consider the people he was hired to represent.  Other nations agree …

“Canadians like to think their system of governance is better than the American one. If they want more evidence, they need only look at what’s happening now — a government shutdown in Washington — and be thankful their system doesn’t allow the same shenanigans.”

I can think of a couple of solutions here.  First, what if all the White House crew, such as chefs & cooks, housekeepers, laundry staff, maintenance staff, groundskeepers were to be furloughed during the shutdown?  Now, include Trump’s chauffeur and limo, and furlough the cast & crew of Air Force One and the helicopters Trump frequently flits about in.  Think he might have second thoughts now?

And the best solution of all, though I’m sure nobody would have the guts to participate, is a massive nationwide worker’s strike.  Every employee in the manufacturing industries, from the auto industry to the coal industry should walk off the job the first Monday after the new year.  The only language Donald Trump understands is the one where ‘money talks’, and he is indebted to his wealthy cronies in the upper echelons of nearly every industry.  When General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods, Smith & Wesson, and many, many others are dead in the water for they have no workers, I give it two days until they demand Trump sign the budget bill sans wall and get on with the business of governance.

Folks, this situation is both unconscionable and untenable.  Somewhere, sometime soon, Mr. Trump is going to need to be forced to realize that he is not “making America great”, but instead is making America a) the brunt of jokes in every nation on the globe, b) less safe than we have been in more than 50 years, c) economically unstable.  He.  He alone.  He alone is responsible for the chaos in our government, for the highest turnover rates of any administration before, for the divisiveness of our nation, and for isolating us from our allies while pandering to our enemies.

One theory is that Trump knows he will never get the wall funded, and as such is using it as a point to get the shutdown for another reason … to keep his own posterior out of legal trouble (see Xena’s post for more information).  This theory may well have merit, and if so, Trump’s shutdown is even more unconscionable.  At this point, I think we seriously need to wake up the GOP senators and make it clear that We The People are against this shutdown and against the damn wall.  So, stretch your fingers and start writing again, folks … please … for our future, our lives as well as lives around the globe depend on stopping this runaway train!

And one last thing … would somebody stop him from all this wasteful travel that serves no purpose?  Federal employees aren’t getting paid and he’s wasting $6 million for a photo op???

A Crumbling House — A Story by Filosofa

This is the story of a man named Donnie and his new house.  Donnie had a nice enough house, albeit a bit tacky with gold everywhere you look, even the toilets!Trump-tacky-houseBut one day while playing a game of golf with a friend, the friend said he knew of an even nicer house, a big white house with columns in the front and a huge lawn.  This house had 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There were 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.  There was a garden, a solarium, a game room with full-size pool table, and a swimming pool!  Well, Donnie, never satisfied with what he has but always wanting more, became determined to have that house!white houseTurned out that the house was not for sale but was up for a four-year lease. The people who owned the house knew of Donnie’s reputation as rather a nasty, trashy person, and they did not wish to lease the house to him.  But eventually Donnie engaged the help of a rather seedy character named Vlad, and with Vlad’s help, Donnie was able to fool the owners of the white house into leasing the house to him for four years.   Once the people realized how they had been tricked, they were furious, but the lease was a legally binding document and they had little recourse.

Moving day was an exciting day, indeed!  It was January 20th, 2017, and a few people lined the streets to watch Donnie move into his new home.  And for just a while, Donnie was satisfied, Donnie was happy to wander through his new home, proud to have made such a great deal with Vlad.  But then, little things began to bother Donnie, and as has happened all throughout his life, he grew restless.  While out playing golf one day a few months after moving in, Donnie told a group of friends that his new house was “a dump”.  Word got back to the owners who were incensed but hoped that perhaps he would tire of it and move out.

Donnie’s reputation for being a bit trashy was well-deserved, and as time went by, the house began to fall into disrepair.  Now, you must understand that Donnie had been spoiled from the day he was born, had never been held accountable for anything, and had learned early in his life that if something went wrong, it must always be somebody else’s fault, never his own.  So, as little things began to go amiss, Donnie looked around for someone to blame, and when he found a likely candidate, he fired them.  “You’re Fired” became his slogan, it seemed. Trump_Youre_Fired_02

One day one of the toilets became clogged, after Donnie used too much tissue paper, so he fired the entire maintenance crew.  Another day he found ants in his bed, for he had been eating Big Mac hamburgers in his bed, which attracted the ants.  But rather than accept the blame, he fired the entire housekeeping staff.  When a ketchup stain didn’t come out of his shirt, he fired the laundry staff, and when he found mud on the floor from his own shoes, he fired the newest housekeepers.  And so it was that the house was soon in chaos, for although Donnie hired new staff to replace the ones he had fired, the new ones were never quite able to please him, and staff turnover was beyond belief.

Donnie had a temper, and his wife was a cold, arrogant woman.  One day, Donnie was in a rage because he found a fingerprint (his own) on the brass doorknob.  He began throwing things, breaking windows, and screeching like a banshee.  The staff cowered in the kitchen pantry, afraid for their lives.  This house was in total chaos!  When quiet finally resumed, the staff quietly gathered their own belongings, each took a few pieces of silver or a goblet as a memento of this most horrible experience, and they exited, never to return.

falling apart-2The house was destroyed nearly beyond repair, and the owners were horrified at what had become of their beautiful, historic house that had survived many tenants since being built more than two hundred years before.  Never before had such a destructive tenant lived there.  Though it was only two years into Donnie’s four-year lease, the owners were determined to remove him from the house, for it was obvious that the house could not withstand another two years of this tenant.

falling apartWill the people who own the house be able to evict Donnie?  Will the house be able to be repaired?  Or will Donnie have his way and stay in the house until it finally falls down around his ears?  The answer?  Stay tuned, my friends …

CHAOS!!!

He is … he isn’t … he will … he won’t.  Our federal government is in full-chaos mode and for the most part, the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of the so-called president, who is playing childish games, and those who put him in office.

“I am proud to shut down the government for border security. I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.” – Donald Trump in meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, 11 December

Then only two days later, he appeared to signal he was on board with backing down, writing in a series of Twitter posts that he would continue to press Democrats for wall funding next year and also claiming that he had taken other steps to make the border “tight.”

And now, one week later …

“At this moment, the President does not want to go further without border security, which includes steel slats or a wall. The President is continuing to weigh his options.” – Sarah Huckabee Sanders, 20 December

And now, to add insult to injury … as if Trump isn’t already creating enough turmoil … enter Mark Meadows and his mis-named “Freedom Caucus”.

Meadows appeared on Fox News on Thursday morning, warning that a continuing resolution without border wall funding was not a “punt” but a “fumble,” and complaining that Trump’s mind must have been poisoned by “bad advice.” Meadows urged Trump to veto the spending bill, should it reach his desk, and to shut down much of the government days before the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.  How very mature, yes?

Then Trump tweets …

“The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security. U.S.A. WINS!”

Does anybody in this administration have a maturity level beyond 3rd grade?  This isn’t a government – it’s a zoo!!!

The fact is that the wall is not a pragmatic solution to illegal immigration.  It will be costly, likely somewhere near $70 billion, and experts who have studied the situation have plainly said it will achieve little.  Border states stand to lose billions of dollars in tourism.  There is the potential for significant damage to wildlife and the environment. And frankly, there are much better uses that money could be put to … silly little things like feeding the poor, improving our foundering education system, affordable healthcare, renewable energy development, updating our infrastructure, and the list goes on.

baby-trump-temperCongress cannot cave in to Donald Trump’s virulent temper tantrum, for just as with a child, he would then know the way to get what he wants is to throw a 2-year-old fit.  In fact, I’ve known 2-year-olds with more maturity than Trump.

Last January, during another of Trump’s back-and-forth position-shifting episodes, Chuck Schumer said that negotiating with Trump was like “Negotiating with Jello”.  Seems an appropriate comparison, for Jello has just about as much substance and intellect as Donald Trump, and it’s jiggly.

This type of petulance in a world leader is simply unacceptable.  It is counter-productive and extremely dangerous.  If Donald Trump’s goal is to thoroughly destroy the government of the United States, he is doing a damned good job of it.  If ever, in the history of this nation, there was a cause to remove a leader from office, this is it.  His announcement that he is, against all advice, pulling out of Syria is dangerous and potentially catastrophic, but he woke one morning and just decided that it was what he wanted to do to please his buddy Putin.  Some will applaud the move … most will not, and I will have more on that in another post. Trump-chaosBut the evidence is clear that we cannot afford another two years of this madman in the White House.  Impeachment?  Amendment 25?  Neither seem feasible at the moment because of the sycophants in both the Senate and the cabinet.  I don’t know the solution, but I know that these past weeks, ever since the mid-term elections, have proven what an inept and dangerous situation we have with Trump in the White House.  Republicans in Congress and in the cabinet need to be finding their consciences and putting this nation ahead of their own gluttony.  Those 40% of voters who still support Trump might want to take their blinders off, turn off state-run Fox News, and do a bit of research, enlighten themselves, before they get us all killed.

Make America great again?  What he has done is the exact opposite.  He is destroying the country with every breath he takes.  Would that he would simply stop taking them.

What Happens If …

There are a number of opinion writers I greatly respect, and Charles M. Blow is in the top ten.  Mr. Blow writes for the New York Times and his work is most always level-headed and thoughtful.  Amid the many calls for impeachment to remove Trump from office, cooler heads must sometimes prevail.  In Blow’s column from December 2nd he explains why removing Trump from office is not a likely scenario, but would be the beginning of a new nightmare.

What Happens If …

The possibilities ahead in the Russia investigation suggest we are not reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather entering one.

Charles BlowBy Charles M. Blow

I no longer think that anyone in America, including Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters, can afford to put off the consideration of the central question of this administration: What if Donald Trump or those closest to him were compromised by the Russians or colluded with them?

There have always been those of us on the left who viewed his presidency as compromised, asterisk-worthy if not wholly illegitimate, because of the Russian interference.

A crime had been committed by Russia and Trump cheered the crime and used the loot thereof to advance his candidacy. That is clear.

The Russians made repeated attempts to contact people in Trump’s orbit and in some cases were able to meet with members of the team, as evidenced by the Trump Tower meeting. That is clear.

Members of Trump’s team were extremely interested in and eager to accept any assistance that the Russians could provide. That is clear.

And since assuming office, Trump has openly attempted to obstruct justice and damage or impede the investigation into what the Russians did and whether anyone in his orbit was part of the crime. That too is clear.

But for the people who support and defend Trump, this has already been absorbed andabsolved. They may not like it, but they are willing to overlook it. Indeed, they are so attached to Trump that his fortunes and his fate have become synonymous with theirs. There is a spiritual linkage, a baleful bond, between the man and his minions.

But what happens if the evidence that the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, uncovers reveals a direct link between Trump and the Russians? How do Trump’s boosters respond?

Last week, when Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline and the extent of Mr. Trump’s involvement in negotiations for a Trump Tower in Moscow, the political earth shifted.

If Trump was lying to or misleading the American people about his efforts to do business in Russia while running for president and the Russians knew — and presumably had evidence — that he wasn’t being completely honest and forthcoming, then he was compromised.

While it is by no means clear that the Russians ever used any information that they may have had to blackmail or otherwise pressure Trump, Cohen’s plea makes clear that they had the material to do just that.

This brings ever more clarity to Trump’s curious inclination to go soft on Russia condemnation, to take Russian President Vladimir Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence agencies, and to drag his feet in acknowledging that Russia attacked our election in 2016 and may continue to do so in the future.

How would Americans who support Trump now respond to evidence that Team Trump put their own personal and financial interests over the national interest? Would they break from their blind support and turn away from him and turn on him? How could they justify wearing the blinders for so long and countenancing so much? What language would they use to correct their complicity?

There is a precedent in the Nixon investigation. When the evidence of wrongdoing was clear and incontrovertible, people began to peel away, tails tucked and full of shame.

But that was a different time, one in which media wasn’t so fractured and partisan, before the advent of social media and our current dissociable mentalities.

Nixon had no propaganda arm. Trump has one. It’s called Fox News. There is little daylight between the network’s programming and the White House’s priorities. If Trump goes down, so too does Fox, in some measure. So the network has a vested interest in defending Trump until the bitter end, and that narrative-crafting could impede an otherwise natural and normal disaffection with Trump.

Furthermore, Trump does not strike me as a man amenable to contrition or one interested in the health and stability of the nation.

I expect Trump to admit nothing, even if faced with proof positive of his own misconduct. There is nothing in the record to convince me otherwise. He will call the truth a lie and vice versa.

I also don’t think that Trump would ever voluntarily leave office as Nixon did, even if he felt impeachment was imminent. I’m not even sure that he would willingly leave if he were impeached and the Senate moved to convict, a scenario that is hard to imagine at this point.

I don’t think any of this gets better, even as the evidence becomes clearer. I don’t believe that Trump’s supporters would reverse course in the same way that Nixon’s did. I don’t believe that the facts Mueller presents will be considered unassailable. I don’t believe Trump will go down without bringing the country down with him.

In short, I don’t believe we are reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather we are entering one. This will not get easier, but harder.

The country is about to enter the crucible. This test of our republic is without a true comparison. And we do not have a clear picture of how the test will resolve. But, I believe damage is certain.

De-bunking the 25th Amendment Myth

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past week, you are no doubt aware of the Anonymous OpEd piece published by the New York Times last Wednesday, September 5th.  Anonymous claims to be a ‘senior official in the Trump administration’ who is part of a group within the White House attempting to quell the worst of Trump’s inclinations.  One line in the letter stirred a great deal of conversation:

“Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”

Early on in the Trump presidency, I mentioned the 25th Amendment a few times as a possible means for removing the madman, and at that time, I saw some hope.  But, just as I have cautioned you that impeachment is absolutely not going to fly, I must now do the same regarding the 25th Amendment.

A quick explanation of how the 25th Amendment is supposed to work:

Under Section IV of the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can send a letter to the president pro-tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House notifying them that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” When that happens, the vice president will assume the role of “acting president” and the president is (temporarily) relieved of his duties. The president can notify congressional leadership that no incapacity exists and unless the vice president and the majority of the cabinet disagree, the president will reassume his duties. Otherwise, two-thirds of both houses of Congress would be required to vote to permanently bestow the title of “acting president” upon the vice president.

The 25th Amendment was intended to deal with a situation in which the president was incapacitated but still alive. Imagine a scenario in which the president has suffered a massive stroke. The stroke has put him in a persistent vegetative state. He is unable to discharge the office but, because he has not died, the vice president cannot assume the presidency in the normal manner. Prior to the passage of the 25th Amendment in 1967, there was no constitutional remedy for such a situation. Such a scenario is real—such a medical crisis happens to Americans every day—and if it afflicted a president, the stakes would be profound.

The intent of the 25th Amendment was not to remove presidential powers because people disagreed with the president or because they questioned his judgment. It could be argued that Trump’s behaviors and actions in office suggest that he is suffering from some mental defect or other psychological disorder that renders him “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” However, the president’s physicians have not declared that to be true, nor are they likely to. We may disagree with Trump, question his motives, or even question his competence in office, but short of a medical assessment saying otherwise, he would not be considered to be incapacitated.

Look at Mike Pence last Sunday, making the rounds of the morning talk shows and licking Trump’s boots at every stop.  Is this a man who is going to invoke the 25th?  Check out his cabinet members … find even two who would be willing to take the risk, let alone a majority.  And think about this … if they did grow a pair of cojones and take that first step … all Trump would have to do is fire the lot of them.  Ridiculous, you say?  Remember who we’re talking about here.

And then, even if all the above obstacles were overcome, we come back to the same argument I made to prove that an impeachment is not feasible:  it requires a 2/3 majority in both chambers of Congress.  The Senate, again, will be sort of a democratic majority even if every single seat that is open in November is filled by a democrat.  The republicans in Congress are not going to risk their necks, their ‘good standing’ with their voters to remove Trump from office.  Period.

So, no, Trump will not be impeached nor removed via the 25th Amendment in the foreseeable future.  My best guess is that, barring a true meltdown such as him removing all his clothing and running naked through the White House brandishing a flaming sword and screaming, “Burn, baby, burn!!!”, he will be in office until 20 January 2021.  The only way I can predict that changing is if the 36% or so who still support Trump can be convinced to listen to reason, to consider facts, to realize the dangers of him remaining in office.  As I have noted before, the republicans in Congress will move against Trump just as soon as their voters tell them to, and not one moment sooner.   It’s gonna be a long 783 days until election day 2020.

Bursting the Bubble …

I’ve talked and listened to a lot of people in the past few days who are convinced Donald Trump will be out of office before the 2020 presidential election.  Some are applauding, others are more concerned that the blatantly bigoted Michael Pence will prove to be more dangerous than Trump (highly unlikely).  A few nights ago, I said I would be writing more about the Manafort/Cohen situations after the dust settled and I had time to sit back and ponder the long and the short of it all.  Although the dust has not quite settled, I have pondered, and here is my take.

Donald Trump has undoubtedly broken the law, as confirmed by former lawyer Michael Cohen, and he is a sleazeball, to boot.  He has robbed this nation of many things, not the least of which is a fair and honest election. But folks … put away the party hats and put the champagne back in the fridge, because it doesn’t look as if Donald Trump is leaving the Oval Office any time soon.  Please … stop throwing the tomatoes at me … I know I am bursting your bubbles and raining on your parade, but that is no reason to throw rotten fruits at me.  Don’t shoot the messenger. Let me explain …

First of all:  impeachment.  As I told you in my post from July titled No Dancing in the Streets … Sorry! Donald Trump is very unlikely to be impeached as long as Congress remains divided almost completely along party lines.  Impeachment proceedings could be introduced in the House, and might even pass, depending on the demographics of the House after the November mid-terms.  But that does not remove him from office, does not even tie his hands.  Remember Bill Clinton’s impeachment?  It had no effect on his presidency, except to cast a dark cloud.

The Senate, even if every one of the 35 seats up for grabs in November goes to a democrat, still will not be able to garner the 2/3 majority required to remove the impeached president from office.  It would require a minimum of nine republican senators to find their cojones and vote to remove him, and at this point, I do not see it happening.

Next:  resignation.  I’ve heard a few say, “Well, he has to be feeling the pressure … perhaps he’ll just resign to save face”.  Sigh.  Think about it, friends.  Save face?  He lost that a long time ago, and his ego, his megalomania, keeps him convinced that he is Donald The Invincible, The Terminator, and The Incredible Hulk all rolled into one.  No, he is many things, but a quitter is not one.  He will not be like Richard Nixon and say “Good-bye” and ride off into the sunset.  He will stay until he is physically removed, dead or alive.

Third:  criminal indictment.  The Justice Department has taken the position twice that the president is not subject to indictment while in office and that no criminal charges can proceed against him unless he’s either removed from office by impeachment or has served out his term.  As a constitutional issue, it remains to be seen, but the precedent set by the Justice Department is clearly against indicting a sitting president.

The question then becomes:  Why are the republicans in Congress still supporting Trump, unwilling to even talk about removing him from office?  And the answer to that is simple … Trump’s base is as supportive as ever.  They have decided that he is their man, and thus far they haven’t heard anything that has changed their mind. Trump’s approval rating from Wednesday, when Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of the 18 charges against him, and Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 charges, until early this morning, dropped by … one-tenth of one percent … no more than the normal fluctuations of any average day.  And 80+% of all republican voters are supporters of Trump.Red state Blue stateNow, if you’re a republican senator from Iowa, a red state, and you’re up for re-election this year, the only way you stand a snowball’s chance in hell is if you are seen by the republican voters in your state as being a Trump supporter, for they definitely are.  And if the republicans won’t vote for you, who will?  Damn sure not the democrats or the independents, for you have been screwing them over for nearly two years now!  And thus, do not hold your breath waiting for any republican in Congress to do the right thing where Trump is concerned.

But why is he still popular?  His popularity with the republicans hinges on some of the very things we find most repugnant about him.  A Pew Research poll* released this month summarizes what Trump supporters most like about him:PEW pollAll of which goes to prove that the most ardent among Trump’s supporters are more interested in his personality than his policy positions.  Okay, frankly I don’t get it, for I find his personality thoroughly disgusting, but … different strokes for different folks.  But seriously … “he’s draining the swamp”?  NO … he has made it worse than it has ever been in the history of this nation!!!  And they’re still hung up on that old “he tells it like it is”.  NO … he has no clue how it is!!!  But anyway, all of this is irrelevant, for the bottom line is that his supporters still love him.

Jean Sickler of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was asked last week how she would rate Trump’s presidency. She gave him a 9 out of 10, and when asked why he lost a point, her reply was, “A little bit of the things in his tweeting.”  This, folks, is what we are up against.

Then what will it take … ??? 

The only thing that is going to see Trump leaving office before January 20th 2021 is if his base finally turns the tide against him.  Once his base, his loyal supporters realize that maybe, just maybe he isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, then the dominoes can begin to fall, the republicans in Congress will play to the masses and step back away from Trump, and we can begin to have serious discussions about impeachment.  I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking these past few days, and I have concluded that there is only one thing that is going to sway his base:  jobs and the economy.

When Trump’s policies start to hit his base in an up-close-and-personal way, they will open their eyes, stretch, yawn, and enlightenment will begin.  I say it will begin, because even at that point – and make no mistake, that day will come – if Trump can blame it on someone or something else in such a way that his followers buy his excuses, they may still support him.  It’s hard to say, for my crystal ball is in the shop this week, but I truly believe that when, due mostly to the tariffs he has imposed on friends and antagonists alike, jobs are lost, prices of food and other goods rise, the cost of health insurance goes up, and they suddenly find they are struggling just to provide the basics for their families, their eyes will begin to open.  I do not see anything else that will have that effect, for they frankly don’t care about his morals, they don’t care about his honesty or lack thereof, and they don’t care that he is a crass, vulgar cheater.

So, no my friends, much as I wish I could claim otherwise, Trump will not be leaving the White House soon.  I leave you with two parting thoughts:

  • Trump registered on the day after his January 2017 inauguration to run in 2020. He could very well actually win that election.
  • I’ve been wrong before … remember that I was the one who swore there was no way he was going to win in 2016. Let’s hope I’m wrong this time too!

* The article from which I took the Pew data has a number of other graphs and some interesting information about Trump supporters, so here is a link in case you’re interested.