Saturday, June 10, 2017

How the G-Man Worked To Bring Down POTUS

After former FBI director James Comey's testimony on Thursday, there were questions about why he waited so long to go public with all he knew.  He'd had two one-on-one meetings with Trump, along with several Trump-initiated phone calls, all deemed inappropriate, at the very least, by anyone who knows anything about how our system is supposed to work.

Comey first met with Trump at Trump Tower on January 6, when the then-FBI director had to tell President-elect Trump about some Russian-generated salacious material against him.  There were others in the room, but Comey said he was  unnerved by the tenor of Trump's comments and began recording the details on his laptop the minute he got back into his car.  He shared those notes almost immediately with other FBI members, so there would be no question about fuzzy recollections or later alterations.

The first private meeting took place on January 27, at a dinner set up by the White House. Comey testified he had no idea he would be the only guest until he walked in the door and say a small oval table set for two.  The conversation took an awkward turn toward his loyalty to the president.  Comey says Trump said, "I need loyalty. I expect loyalty."  Awkward pause, wherein Comey blew it by not saying, "My loyalty is to the country, to the constitution, blah, blah, blah".  Instead, he said something about honesty, and then muttered--to his own chagrin--something about "honest loyalty". Which Trump, of course, took to mean he'd just finagled a loyalty oath from the director of the FBI.

Game on!

On February 14, after an Oval Office meeting, Trump asked everyone but Comey to leave the room so they could talk about Mike Flynn, who had resigned as National Security Officer the day before.  According to Comey, Trump said Flynn was a "good guy" and he hoped Comey would see fit to "let this go". Comey says he only agreed that Flynn was a good guy and made no promises. Comey again took notes and discussed it with other FBI officials. He didn't go to the DOJ, he said, but asked DOJ head, Jeff Sessions, to keep him away from any more one-on-ones with Trump.

Then there were the phone calls, all generated by the president. The whole thing must have seemed satisfying and so buddy-buddy to Trump. Comey, as uncomfortable as he might have felt, took the meetings and took the calls and never told Trump this was wrong.

I submit it wasn't simply because Comey didn't want to hurt Trump's feelings.  Comey is the consummate FBI man and his sniffer is in fine working order. He was on the case and Trump was his mark. With each encounter came more revelations, more ammunition to use to build a case.  He took copious notes, clearly written to share when it came time for a showdown. (He knew contemporaneous notes had been accepted and used effectively in courts in other FBI matters. )

How long this might have gone on if Comey hadn't been fired is anybody's guess, but the firing opened the floodgates for Comey.  If he had insisted at the very start that private conversations with the president were off-limits, his case against Trump would be non-existent.  It may come down to "he said, he said", but given Trump's penchant for lying to save his skin, it'll be more like "he said, he lied".

But the capper came yesterday, when Trump was asked at a press conference if he would be willing to testify under oath that Comey lied about his version of their conversations. Trump said, and I quote, "A hundred percent". 

I call that a clear victory for the G-man.


(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)



Friday, May 26, 2017

Our First Un-American President

When Donald Trump rode down that golden escalator in June, 2015 and announced he would run for President of the United States, the guffaws could be heard round the world. What a colossal doofus!  A shady real estate mogul, a beauty pageant owner, a dubious celebrity famous for firing people, saw himself as the perfect person to fill the highest job in the land. Clearly the run would be short-lived and hilariously inept.  In his long history as a famous figure, there was not a moment spent in public service. No sign that he knew a thing about governing or world affairs. No sign that he even cared. What on earth would qualify him?

The closest he had ever come to government involvement was when he pretended he had proof positive our then-sitting president, Barack Obama, was born in Africa, making him illegitimate and unfit to serve.  It turned out, of course, to be a lie, but the fact that the lie would not die energized Trump and gave him the idea that he of all people might just be able to pull that president thing off.

He blustered his way through a long campaign that put him in front as the fiery populist against a rigid, anachronistic loser of an establishment. Along the way he discovered the benefits of the religious right, a gun culture based on fuzzy Second Amendment logic, fears fueled by right wing talk radio and Fox News of a rogue government, and a work force desperate enough to want to believe a slimy billionaire known for stiffing underlings could be their messiah.

The seduction of screaming crowds hooked him but good.  From that first rally forward he would do whatever he had to do to win. He knew he had to give lip service to the needs of the country, but it would always be Trump first, cronies second, and the country a distant third.


He saw early on that his crowds loved him most when he dropped his billionaire mantel and pretended to be one of them. He took to wearing flaming red "Make America Great Again" baseball caps. He developed a rumpled look, used superlatives like "beautiful, fantastic, the greatest", and made promises he could never keep about what he and he alone would do if elected.

He waged war against the press, a known fascist tactic, and the press, to our surprise, didn't fight back.

But his ace-in-the-hole turned out to be Hillary Clinton, a far more qualified candidate who, after years of attacks from both the left and the right, was waging an uphill battle. Just as Trump had pressed for Obama's birthplace illegitimacy with no basis in fact, he took to calling his opponent--without a shred of evidence--a crook. He built a flimsy case based on a handful of errant emails and rejoiced when his crowds took to chanting "lock her up!"

He found he could say anything and his followers would buy it. He was eerily on to something when he said "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn't lose any voters."  He knew his people far better than we did.

And then the thing happened that was so far-fetched no one but a few observant pundits would have believed it:  Donald Trump became president of a country that had long warned against creeping fascism and the threat of oligarchy.  His mission was to take apart a government based on constitutional regulations and social constructs, and now he was on his way.  His motto and guiding principal is as he said soon after taking office: "I'm president. I can do what I want."

Did the Russians have a hand in attempting to alter our election?  Of course they did. Could Trump surround himself with any more Russian operatives? Yes, he could and probably will.  A country that once saw Russia as our enemy now embraces a president who cannot and will not condemn them.  In time, we'll find out why. We will follow the money and find out why. But in the meantime, who are these people with access to our most sensitive secrets? Top security clearances go to anyone Trump wants in the room. The vetting process--a process once seen as serious and inviolate, with a threat of jail for lying on security clearance applications--is another in a long list of obligatory regulations meant only for other people.

Already, less than a half-year in, the Trump administration is embroiled in scandals of a magnitude far beyond anything we could imagine that night we gasped at the realization that this vicious, egotistical, supremely unqualified man-child would be leading our country.  The scope of scandal is breathtaking, even at this early stage, and it promises to get worse.

And now Donald Trump has taken his Ugly American act outside our borders, showing the rest of the world what a terrible choice we've made.  In every country he has visited--Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Belgium--he is an embarrassment, an object of ridicule, a preening, ignorant, crude representation of the worst of us.

He is our first un-American president.  Americans now have to decide what that means and how we'll deal with it.  Our true character is being tested and the fate of our nation depends on the course we take.  Trump may see our presidency as a joke, and Washington as his playground, but we've struggled too long and too hard as a country to become Donald Trump's willing foils. No matter what he says, he just isn't worth it.

(Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oh, That Trump! What a Guy! Huh?

So once again I have to apologize for being away after I said I wasn't going away. I went away.  But I wasn't gone. I settled in at Facebook and Twitter, talking short, saving my energies for some real stuff.

So now I'm tussling with what some laughingly call "chemo brain", but even I can see that Donald J. Trump has brought himself around to some heavy shit.  It's as if the whole world is watching, horrified, and all Trump is willing to acknowledge is he's the supreme-top-dog-celebrity-du-jour holding the golden Get Out Of Jail Free card.  Tralalala and fiddle-de-dee. (I'm the President! Can you believe it?)



Lots to cover, but it won't come from me. I can't keep up, let alone make sense of it.  But today a memo surfaced wherein James Comey,  famously canned FBI Director, wrote at the time and for the record that Donald Trump asked him to lay off on an on-going investigation of reluctantly canned National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.  That's a big no-no, but Teflon Don lets this stuff slide off of him.  Lucky for us, those we count on are attempting to stay sane. Things are unraveling, unhinging, getting rather, shall we say, nuts.

And, oh, the foaming! Just today!

What??  That's obstruction of justice! No, it's not! Where's the memo? Why now? Was the convo taped? Nothing to see here. Get those damned leakers!

In that same memo, Comey says Trump started the conversation by telling him he should be throwing reporters who leak classified information in jail.  That was the softball.  Then Trump asked Comey ever so nicely if he couldn't see his way to just let Flynn go.  "He's a good guy", sez Trump.  "Yes, he's a good guy," sez Comey. 

Sigh...

I should be reporting now on what Comey said to Trump but here's the thing: I'm not finding it.  Did he wriggle, did he waffle, did he pretend he didn't hear?  Did he grunt and shrug his big shoulders?  DID HE SAY ANYTHING??

I don't know.

But I just want to say, Go Democrats! I mean it. GO. The ball is in your court. You're in the catbird seat. (Feels good, huh?) You can do this!  Stay calm, get the facts, don't follow dead ends, eyes on the prize. Don't back down. Don't even think about all those other times you thought you had him but you didn't.  Beat the bushes for any Republican wiping tears or rending garments. Bring them into the fold. Don't even hint you're judging the hell out of them. Grab every Independent.  Be nice.

Go, go, go.

Git!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wherein I'm forced To Admit Only The GOP Can Save Us


So here we are, a month into Donald Trump's wacky version of an American presidency and every day it's something new and nutty. If the actor in this saga weren't actually the president of the United States, this whole thing would be highly entertaining.  A daily heart-pounding serial, picking up where the cliff-hanger from the day before left off--confusing, terrifying, laugh-out-loud--what's going to happen next?


The hapless Democrats, bless their pure hearts--relatively speaking--can only wring their hands and beg the people with the power to look behind a curtain so obviously transparent it's a mystery why we're the only ones able to see through it.

Trump ran on a campaign of shaking things up and now he's delivering in the only way he knows how--by remaining on the campaign trail promising to shake things up.  He loves the crowds that love him back. He pouts, he flounces, he sneers, he snarls, he laughs derisively at anyone who casts doubt. He threatens the people of the world. He cares not a whit about diplomacy or protocol. It's not in him to care. He's here to shake things up.

So last week he tweeted (Note to future historians: when you talk about our first tweeting president, don't hold back), calling certain members of the American press "the enemy of the people".


Well!  Let me tell you! That stirred the dust!  Even more than those times he tweeted about the various intelligence communities' failure to kowtow:

 
Every day we have to remind ourselves that the tweeter calling himself  @realDonaldTrump isn't a fake, he's actually the guy who won that crazy election and is now the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.  The president of the United States is a plain-out ignorant doofus.

So now what? Well, now we admit to our own limitations and look to the Republican leaders to get us out of this. At this point they and only they can do it.  But will they?  We're seeing faint signs of insurrection among the GOP elite, but mostly they're all still of a mind to circle the wagons and pretend (a) this isn't happening, (b) their dignity is intact, and (c) their power is absolutely, wonderfully, absolute.

But, come on, they know better.  Here's the problem: Trump has opened the doors to the candy store and they're the kids rushing inside, grabbing, chewing, swallowing whole before the doors swing shut again.  Too, too delicious.

With the rise of Trump comes such enormous power for the GOP it would take bigger men than they are to look beyond the goodies to see the horrors ahead.  Only Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are saying out loud what many of them are thinking: This could go bad.  Real bad.  Don't shut out the messengers. Don't turn off the normal people.  There will come a day when we'll need them.

The rest of us won't sit back and watch this debacle without a fight, but it'll be a long battle unless the GOP gives up some ground, unless they see what the rest of us so clearly see.  Donald Trump may deliver the goods for them but at what price?  When it's all over, where will the country be?  Will those pounds of flesh, the selling of souls, have been worth it?

We know the answers. Now we have to convince the impenetrable Republicans that an unwitting "enemy of the people" sits in the ultimate catbird seat and it's up to them to do something about it. 

I'm wishing us good luck with that.  And Godspeed.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Now it Gets Personal



For a couple of months now I've been away from here more than I've been around. There are many reasons for that, but the main reason--the major reason--is because one week ago today I had a radical mastectomy. My right breast is gone, along with a nasty tangle of lymph nodes. 

I'll have a bit of a reprieve while I'm healing but chemo is ahead, followed by radiation.  It won't be a walk in the park--I'm not looking forward to baldness and barf buckets--but the one thing I have going for me that too many women in my same situation don't is the reality and the promise of excellent care.  I've had plenty to worry about, but throughout it all--expensive tests, surgery, after-care--cost has never been a factor.

I have Medicare and a moderate-cost, very good supplemental plan. As long as Trump and his cohorts don't foul it up, I should be okay.  But too many people--men, women, and children--are facing frightening medical issues exacerbated by worries based solely on their ability to pay.

We live in a country where most of our wealth has been shuffled to the top 10 percent of our population, where wages and benefits have dropped like rocks and are dropping still, where social and health care programs are at the mercy of reckless, thoughtless, profit-driven politicians.

In every city, in every town, concerned friends and families are forced to set up Go-Fund-Me pages or place money jugs on store countertops in order to pay for desperately needed health care. It kills me to see it, knowing it doesn't have to be this way. It's obscene.

There are bigger fish to fry out there, and I don't plan on using this blog as a personal heath diary.  Ever. I want to be here and everywhere, still fighting against a system that has to be challenged at every turn, and, if necessary, stopped. 

The posts may be shorter for a while, using links to pieces I've found that I want to share, possibly adding more guest posts, but I'll be here. This blog has been up and running for eight years, and with that fool Trump out there stomping our country to bits I'm not about to give it up.

One thing I need to stress: You should know me well enough to know this is not a call for sympathy. In fact, I forbid you to feel sorry for me. I'm in good hands, both personally and professionally, and I have great hope that after the long haul I'll be fine.

There is a cancer among us and it's much bigger than the one newly removed from my body. It will keep growing unless we weaken it, stop it in its tracks, and  then find a lasting cure.
 
We're not quitters and never have been. The GOP is banking on short attention spans to get them through this, but we're paying attention. We've been paying attention. And nothing's gonna stop us now.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

No, I Won't Quit

I'll be the first to admit that one of the reasons I haven't been as active here as I've been on Facebook and Twitter is because chaos--even planned, organized chaos, as we've seen coming from the Bannon White House--is exhausting!

But there's another reason. Lately I've been raging on in short spurts because it's all I've got. I'm going in for surgery in two days, but I'm confident it'll only be a temporary setback.  The anticipation, I'm hoping, is far worse than the actual deed and the aftermath. The tests, the paperwork, the ups and downs--it's nothing compared to what's going on in my favorite country in the world. (And then there's this: I have Medicare and a good supplemental, ensuring very good care.  Millions of Americans can't say the same. When I get out of this I'm going after those self-serving, self-absorbed bastards forcing us to stay at the very bottom of the list of civilized countries providing health care for their citizens. There must be a limit to our patience; people are hurting and dying because of them.)

We've worked too hard to build this nation. We're not going to let it go up in flames simply because the notion of a celebrity president going rogue was too seductive to turn down.  We'll get back to sanity, no matter how long it takes or how we have to get there. 

And me--I'm not done yet. I want to be there right along with the rest of you, fighting the good fight, storming the walls, voices raised in battle cries heard round the world.  (We'll be doing that, right?)

I'll be doing it at my keyboard but you can bet I'll be doing it. 

See you soon.





Friday, January 20, 2017

Thoughts on President Obama's Last Day


It saddens me to have to write this, but today marks the end of Barack Obama's eight-year term as president of the United States. (You'll forgive me if I don't mention what else is going on today.) 

It also marks the eighth anniversary of this blog, Ramona's Voices. I started it in 2009, during the afternoon of Obama's first inauguration. I'd been playing with the idea of  launching a political blog for months before I actually did, but I had no idea when I woke up that morning that some time during the day an idea for a blog would come to me. 

I began taking notes and at some point the notes began to look like a blog post.  This wasn't my first blog so I knew how to set up Blogspot and buy a domain name.  I called it "Ramona's Voices", first because it was getting late and I couldn't think of anything else, but second because I knew I couldn't carry an entire political blog all by myself and so would be relying on pulling in quotes and links from people who actually knew what they were talking about and could put words together in ways that looked pretty good.

 It was Obama's energy, his promise of hope, his call for citizen duty. It set millions of us on a path we thought would surely pull us out of the muck left behind by the previous administration. In some ways it did, but the disappointments built up early: Obama's cabinet choices leaned toward Wall Street and more of the same. The Democrats held the House and the Senate for two full years and squandered their power by capitulating to Republican demands and ignoring the rising threat of outside influences like the Tea Party, the NRA, and the Religious Right.

Looking back at my blog posts over the years, I see I wasn't especially tough on either Obama or the Democrats. I'm okay with that. There were plenty of other writers who relished going on the attack against everything they did. I chose to see them as family members who needed some guidance, a push, a nudge, a smack upside the head.

That wasn't always popular, and I admit there were times I was too easy on them, but I chose, instead, to concentrate on the Republicans--something I sorely wish the press had done more often. I saw the Democrats as the good guys--and still do. I saw the Republicans as a scourge against humanity--and still do. I had no idea how bad they could get, and now the proof is before us:  Donald J. Trump, a purported billionaire with a penchant for lying, for cheating, for vendettas, a man with no knowledge of the workings of government and no interest in learning, a man who sees the highest office in the land not as the ultimate in public service but as the ultimate in power, is about to become our 45th president.

I'll miss President Obama, but until recently I had no feel for exactly how much. At some point during the last few months Obama's star power changed from shine to dazzle. His appearances drew breathless crowds. His speeches rose to such oratorical heights he left us cheering while dripping with tears. Did he change, finally becoming the leader we thought we were getting eight years ago, or is the contrast between President Obama and the prospect of a President Donald Trump so stark he couldn't help but come out the better man?

I think, during this past year and especially after that shocking November loss, Barack Obama woke up to the fact that millions of people across the country still lived in fear and desperation. His dream, it seemed, had all but died. Whether is was racism, classism, or the years of lies and ruthless interference, the job did not get done. It wasn't that he didn't try--it wasn't that he hadn't pushed for equity and unity and economic stability--it's that he didn't push hard enough, and the demagogic rise of Donald Trump, the most unlikely, unlikable presidential candidate in our history, proved it.

I'm not suggesting the Republicans had no blame in all of this. In fact, much of the blame falls on them. Wages remain low, social programs have been gutted, health insurance has descended into chaos, and our middle class is still far behind--mainly because of them. So how did they win? They won by promising to fix it all--all that they have broken will now be fixed--by them.  They talk a good game, they play on fears, they push the right buttons, they lie, cheat, and gerrymander. They win.

Obama made mistakes. He didn't seem to understand the need for economic populism, he ignored the plight of unions, he did nothing about off-shoring and outsourcing, he advocated for unpopular trade agreements, he pushed a flawed health care system that often caused more problems than it solved. In that sense, he may have opened the door to demagoguery.

Still, Barack Obama's presidency was not in any realm a failure, and may even be a greater success than we even realize. It may not have lived up to its promise, but I doubt any presidency does. His ideas, if not bold, were positive and honorable. He worked hard, he brought us eight scandal-free years, he gained respect throughout the world.  He was forced to work with the most adversarial congress in modern history. From the start they announced there would be no bipartisan teamwork. Their mission was to thwart him at every turn and they didn't disappoint.

To the president's credit, he was never vindictive, never appeared bitter. He believes in hope. He believes we can do this. What role he'll play now as a private citizen is anybody's guess, but he'll be with us. His voice will be heard. He's a man who believes in tradition and in obligation and in country. He may no longer be president but his presidential mantle will forever be with him.  We can count on that.

So thank you for your years of service, Mr. President, and for your amazing grace.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

First Things First: If You Want to be One of the Good Guys, Act Like It


First we have to accept that Donald J. Trump will become the president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Against our better judgement, and in spite of our many protests, members of the Electoral College signed off on it and now it's a done deal. While we might call it many things--and we have--we haven't been able to prove enough hanky panky to make it illegal or even illegitimate.  It's going to happen.

So, okay, we hate the idea with a passion so rabid it's almost to the point of destroying us, of killing us, of making us eat and drink stuff that's bad for us late into the night when we can't sleep because we know that unbelievable excuse for a human being is going to be president and we can't do anything about it.

As Democrats, liberals, progressives--whatever--we should be used to not having control over anything coming out of Washington, but because we're Democrats, liberals, progressives, we live on hope. We think it WILL happen because it SHOULD happen. Because we're the Good Guys.

I can't stress enough that we're the good guys. We're going to need to keep repeating that to get us through the days ahead, and I'm going to be here doing just that, making a pest of myself, because I believe it so strongly. I have faith in us. We want what's best for the country--even for those clueless Americans who voted for Trump and keep supporting him as if he's just a normal guy who isn't really going to do all those bad things it looks like he's planning to do, by God.

The Trump presidency will be every bit as bad as we think it will be. Maybe even worse. But first things first: We've spent the last 18 months trying like hell to counter the attacks against everything we hold sacred. The things we hold sacred are still there, except now they're even more vulnerable, even more in need of our undivided attention.  So no wimps allowed. No whining. No carrying on about how it should have been, could have been, if only we had. . .

Got that?  Good. So let's get something else straight: The attacks on Hillary, Bernie, and anyone else who doesn't fit your idea of political perfection--they have to stop.  Hillary and Bill are going to the inauguration: get over it. Bernie is about to hold a rally: get over it. Chuck Schumer is going to be a pit-bull against the Republicans but there's that thing about Israel: get over it.

This isn't about your disapproval or your disappointment, it's about our survival.  We have bigger fish to fry, and they don't include the people in the trenches beside us. We're not all going to agree on strategy and some of us may even stink up the place, but if we don't fight this madness together the whole country will suffer. Keep that in mind the next time you want to sniff about some inane item wafting up to your pristine pedestal, forcing you to post or tweet in all caps ABOUT HOW AWFUL IT IS!!

What's awful is that Donald Trump is about to become the president, the Republicans are about to own everything from the House to the Senate to the Supreme Court to the majority of the states, and everyone from the Russians to the Religious ultra-right to the NRA to the KKK are gloating about their own part in making it happen.

What's awful is that we haven't yet convinced the press that they have a responsibility to report the unvarnished truth; that it's cowardice to hide behind ratings or paychecks or popularity while the country suffers from their silence.

What's awful is that millions of people will choose to go along and will fight us every step of the way. They'll work to undermine even those programs designed to help them and their own families. They'll choose to blame us when things go wrong because it must be our fault. Their propaganda machines say it's our fault, so it's our fault.

So first things first: Accept that Trump will be president. Accept that our ideas will be displaced, our goals will be postponed, our fears will be realized. Then recognize our true enemies, remember that we're the good guys, and let the battles begin.