Monday, August 29, 2016

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Photo:  Jesse Walker
 Trump again. I know. I'm obsessed with who he is, how he got here, where he's going, and who's going down with him. Day by day, in every way, it's as if the planet has tilted and those of us still upright are experiencing an existential vertigo.  (In other words, "What the hell is happening??")

In a matter of a precious few months Donald Trump vanquished more than a dozen barely worthy but infinitely better opponents and now he's as astonished as anyone that it's looking less like a political coup and more like a damned junta!

He's the general in charge of an army of rapscallions and scalawags just itching to start the looting and pillaging. But forget all that!  He, Donald J. Trump of Donald J. Trump fame, gets to be the general!

It's the power of positive thinking gone ballistic. It worked! The man is at the top of his game--a bigger con game than even he, Donald J. Trump, could imagine, and he'll do anything to stay up there. It's not about them. It's not about us.  It's about him, him, a thousand times him.

So let's talk about how he got here. (This won't take long.) He got here because the American press and the TV pundits put the last remnant of journalistic ethics in mothballs in order to whoop it up with a goofy blowhard who could be counted on to give them stories that practically wrote themselves.

When Donald Trump won his party's presidential nomination and promised to go after Hillary Clinton with a vengeance the world has never seen, nobody-- not even the alert, ever-ready (cough cough) press corps--thought he actually meant "with a vengeance the world had never seen."

When he took to calling her "crooked Hillary" everyone on his side got a huge laugh out of it, while  our side--the Hillary side--did a kind of "ho-hum, that's all you got?"

It was the press that wouldn't let it go, the press playing the willing foil to Trump's childish attacks on them, the press settling in and going along, no matter how low the road would take them.

Now Trump's attacks have moved from the silly "crooked Hillary", from the astonishing "Hillary Clinton is a bigot", to the outright bald-faced lie, "the Clinton Foundation is a scam".

Just last week, Trump, struggling to follow along with the hated teleprompter, said, about the Clinton Foundation, that "access and favors were sold for cash." That's a lie.

In the same on-the-cuff speech he said, "Clinton used her private email to cover corruption".  That's a lie.

Everyone, including the press, knows by now that any words surrounding "I", "I'm", "she", "they", and "the people" will form as if by magic into outrageous, slanderous lies.  He lies.  Of course he lies.  But the crowds!  The polls!  The ratings! 

Not so with Hillary Clinton.  They grab onto every word, waiting for the moment when what they're hearing can be pulled out and molded into something you might expect from the murky Hillary character they've so carefully crafted over a quarter of a century.

Nobody could be happier than Donald that he gets away with it while Hillary doesn't. So it's not surprising that Trump would latch onto a recent Associated Press story about the numbers of Clinton Foundation donors who were able to have an audience with Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State and claim he knew it was crooked all along.

The article began like this:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money - either personally or through companies or groups - to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.  (My bold)
The perception, the article explains, is that Hillary Clinton has been selling access to the State Department, the price being a substantial donation to the family foundation. The AP has been on this for a long time, it said, working to bring out the truth about how the Clintons might have profited by using both the State Department and the Clinton Foundation for their own personal gain.

There is nothing in the article to suggest the two reporters working on the story found the answer.  Nothing that would raise new questions about the Clinton's ethics or bring to light the need for such a lengthy investigation. (The Clinton Foundation is a 501(C)(3) not-for-profit foundation. Their records are public.)  But Donald Trump, ever the opportunist, weighed in on it as if the evidence against the Clintons was obvious.  From that same AP article: 
Trump fiercely criticized the links between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department, saying his general election opponent had delivered "lie after lie after lie."

"Hillary Clinton is totally unfit to hold public office," Trump said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins. It is now abundantly clear that the Clintons set up a business to profit from public office."
Well, no, this story does not prove Hillary Clinton is unfit to hold public office, and it's not abundantly clear that the Clinton Foundation was set up for anyone's profit. What's unclear (with abundance) is the reasoning behind the AP's decision to publish an article devoid of any actual research, based solely on what it might look like.

Nancy LaTourneau writes in the Washington Monthly:
But here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.
The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

(Note: I'm taking bets on how many times the anti-Hillary opportunists will use that original AP story against her.  Add it to the long list of dubious ammunition.  File it under "I got nothin. Hey! What's this. ..?")

But where is the mea culpa from the press? When will they admit they had a hand in building up Trump's popularity and an equal hand in creating Clinton's unpopularity?  The press reports and the people listen.  We depend on them to give us facts to help us make decisions. Politics can be entertaining but there's a reason it's not categorized as "entertainment".

(I leave you with this breaking news: Hillary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin has just announced she is separating from her husband, Anthony Weiner, presumably over another sexting incident. At MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell is asking Ann Coulter what she thinks Donald Trump will make of this, while. at CNN, a four-person panel is waiting for the commercial break so they can discuss what Donald Trump will have to say about this. Seriously. Or not.)

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

I'm Offended by my Country



As a denizen of the Internets given to spouting personal opinions I'm not easily offended.  I can't afford to be. It's hard enough to write without having to do it curled up in a fetal position, tears in my eyes, sucking my thumb.

But I'm offended by my country.

I'm offended by the very idea of a Donald Trump in the role of public servant, and even more offended by the narcissistic, asocial blowhard billionaire himself.

I'm offended by the Republican party for opening up the deep, dark hole Donald Trump felt encouraged to slither out from.

I'm offended by the press, whose idea of good journalism is the elevation and celebration of a madman who believes he can be president of the United States.

I'm offended by voters who hate our government system so thoroughly they're working to punish the entire nation by electing officials whose qualifications are limited to a mutual need to make us pay for our supposed sins.

I'm offended by my own Democratic Party for allowing this to happen.  We're supposed to be the party of the people and we've let the people down.  Our leaders wimped out and didn't fight hard enough for the people whose age, race, gender, religion, income, or health kept them down and sometimes out. 

The Dems didn't show enough interest in the economy, in our public lands, in our public schools, in our public roads and bridges, in the very water we drink or the air we breathe.  They didn't care enough about the health and welfare of the occupants of our beautiful nation. That's not to say they didn't show any interest. They cared far more than the Republicans ever did. But that's not saying much.

More people now have health coverage but too many are bogged down by crushing deductibles and copays.  We still have not capped the price of pharmaceuticals.  We still have not lifted the cap on Social Security.  We still have not figured out how to convince half the country that helping the least of us is what makes us wholly American.

The stock market is up, the deficit is down, but we're not feeling it.  We've cauterized the job cuts so that more people are working, but  too often they're among the working poor. We're winding down our military presence in countries that are not ours but our pantries still go empty while our war chest fills up. We've allowed our prisons to become for-profit industries.  We don't worry enough about other peoples' children.

We're in thrall to the one-percenters, we're leaning toward a church state, we're ripe for a demagogic takeover. 

I'm offended by my country when it stops being proud of what it can be and reverts to being ashamed of what we've become. We're in a mess of our own choosing, which means we can fix it if we choose to.  Now we have to choose to.  Because this sure as hell isn't us.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Coming Soon: The Trump Show Finale

"Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart."

Ghazala Khan, grieving mother of Army captain Humayun Kahn, killed in action in Iraq trying to save his soldiers and innocent civilians.

Photo: Getty Images
 I can say without reservation, without even checking Google, that this country has never had a presidential candidate like Donald Trump.  The Republicans are stuck with a man who knows nothing about our history, nothing about our government, nothing about our people, nothing about the world we live in, and nothing about common decency.

And he's okay with that.

Donald Trump is a monster of his own making, so comfortable on his solid gold pedestal, so sheltered by his own defensive barriers, there's no chance his hardened heart will ever melt.

He likes it that way.

He thrives on schoolyard bullying, answering every plea to stop his irresponsible childishness with insults meant to slice deep, to leave lasting scars. He brags about taking the gloves off, as if he ever had them on.

He draws huge crowds hungry for blood, ready to jeer at anyone, even people they don't know, when Donald Trump gives the signal. It's a form of entertainment in no danger of being confused with actual leadership.

He would rather be king, but demagogue suits him, too.

He sees his unprecedented, astonishing popularity as a sign that he has at last found his niche. Holding the highest office in the land would give him gravitas.  Nobody, including and maybe especially President Obama, could ever make fun of him, could ever diminish him again.  He would be the top dog, the big cheese, the holder of the keys to his cockamamie kingdom. The people who hate him would be forced to respect him.  He would show those bastards once and for all.

See that quote at the top of the page?  That quote is from a mother who is still grieving after six long years following the death of her hero son.  Her psychic wounds, still so raw, have been opened up again, not by the enemy in a far-off land, but by a lone man right here in the United States who still insists he wants to be president of the country her son died defending.

Mrs. Khan's husband, Khizr Khan, a Muslim, spoke eloquently, near tears, at the Democratic convention, begging Donald Trump to try to understand how painful his words are to Muslims who want simply to live in peace in the country they, too, love. He offered to lend Trump his copy of the Constitution so he would at last understand the purity of our goals, the need to include and not exclude.  Khan's words resonated in such a way they were repeated over and over in the recap of the four-day convention.

Donald Trump could not, of course, let it go.  He went on the attack, accusing the slain captain's father of saying mean things about him, justifying the vengeance he was cooking up, because nobody--but nobody--gets away with insulting Donald Trump.

And then the expected happened: instead of apologizing to the parents of Captain Khan, Trump gave a few seconds of lip service to the heroism of their son and then went on to talk about his own sacrifices.  Honest to god, in a conversation concerning a slain soldier, Trump told George Stephanopoulos he had sacrificed, too:
“I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot.” 
In that same interview, Trump bragged about his work with vets--another example he thought would serve as a "sacrifice". When Paul Rieckoff, the head of the 200,000 member Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, got wind of it, he reacted:
"For anyone to compare their 'sacrifice' to a Gold Star family member is insulting, foolish and ignorant. Especially someone who has never served himself and has no children serving," Rieckoff said. "Our county has been at war for a decade and a half and the truth is most Americans have sacrificed nothing. Most of them are smart and grounded enough to admit it."  
"Smart and grounded" are not words anyone would use to describe Donald Trump. He's a classic braggart, a manchild without boundaries.  He's a flim-flam man, a showman, an actor so hungry for an audience he'll debase himself in gross, disgusting ways in order to keep them coming.


There is one thing he is not.  He is not a candidate for president of the United States.  He pretends he is because he knows if he drops the act his fans will go away. The presidency is the furthest thing from his mind.  He drops hints that he might not take the job if he wins.  He used his son as a surrogate to warn potential vice presidential candidates it'll be a much bigger job than they might think: they'll be doing the day-to-day job of the president, taking care of policy, both foreign and domestic, while Trump will be--and I quote--"making America great again".

Trump is a showman and this season's show is called "The Presidency".  When he loses--and he will lose--a whole new career will open up for him.   He'll become the anti-president--the man who could have got it done, if only.  Every zany, unworkable idea he ever had will balloon to colossal size, now lost to us because of the shortsightedness of the entrenched establishment who, if you can believe it, were terrified of his power.

He'll become Citizen Mussolini, an anachronism with bulging chest and jutting chin and a mouth in a perpetual pout. For a while he'll think he has power just on the strength of his name. He'll be laughed at and ridiculed and then he'll be irrelevant. The cheering crowds will move on.  Except for a loyal few, he'll be alone.

That's my dream, anyway.


(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)