Tag Archives: Pence

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

A column by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post is unkind, but deadly accurate.

Actually, the subhead says it all: Trump is crazy. What’s Pence’s excuse?

Cohen’s lede:

When history holds its trial to account for the Donald Trump presidency, Trump himself will be acquitted on grounds of madness. History will look at his behavior, his erratic and childish lying and his flamboyant ignorance of history itself and pronounce the man, like George III, a cuckoo for whom restraint, but not punishment, was necessary. Such will not be the case for Mike Pence, the toady vice president and the personification of much that has gone wrong in Washington.

On any given day, Pence will do his customary spot-on imitation of a bobblehead. Standing near Trump in the Oval Office, he will nod his head robotically as the president says one asinine thing after another and then, maybe along with others, he will be honored with a lie or a version of the truth so mangled by contradictions and fabrications that a day in the White House is like a week on LSD.

Those of us who have known Pence prior to his unlikely ascension to the Vice-Presidency aren’t surprised by his acquiescence; Pence is not particularly intelligent, thoughtful or self-aware. The adjective Cohen uses– “toady”– is entirely apt. (In fact, when I see him doing his “bobblehead” routine, or especially when he is proclaiming his Christian piety, I always think of Dickens’ Uriah Heep–the smarmy character who was always proclaiming his humbleness.)

What is worrisome about Mike Pence isn’t that he is, in Cohen’s words, “clueless.” It’s that he is entirely typical of today’s GOP officeholders.

I don’t feel an iota of sympathy for Pence. He was among a perfidious group of political opportunists who pushed Trump’s candidacy while having to know that he was intellectually, temperamentally and morally unfit for the presidency. They stuck with him as he mocked the disabled, belittled women, insulted Hispanics, libeled Mexicans and promiscuously promised the impossible and ridiculous — all that “Day One” nonsense like how the wall would be built and Mexico would pay for it….

The president cannot be trusted. He cannot be believed. He has denigrated the news media, not for its manifest imperfections but for its routine and obligatory search for the truth. He has turned on the judiciary for its fidelity to the law and, once, for the ethnic heritage of a judge. Trump corrupts just about everything he touches.

From most of the Republican Party comes not a whisper of rebuke. The congressional leadership is inert, cowed, scurrying to the White House for this or that ceremonial picture, like members of the erstwhile Politburo flanking Stalin atop Lenin’s mausoleum. They are appalled, but mute. They want to make the best of a bad situation, I know, and they fear the voters back home, but their complicity ought to be obvious even to them.

This captures the situation perfectly. Here in Indiana, the Republicans we’ve sent to represent us in Congress are all doing their best imitation of Pence’s “bobblehead.” They’ve traded whatever honor and integrity they had (and in some cases, that wasn’t much) for more visible committee assignments and financial help from the RNC in the next campaign.

I don’t know how they sleep at night.

Remind Me Again About That “Judge Not” Admonition?

Surely “Pastor Pence” is familiar with the biblical injunction about not judging other people “lest ye be judged.” But perhaps he missed that particular passage…

During the Presidential campaign, Pence constantly criticized Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, insisting that the issue was so serious it should be seen as disqualifying her from holding office.

Now we learn from the Indianapolis Star that Pence

routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues.

Emails released to IndyStar in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.

Cyber-security experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence’s are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence’s personal account was hacked last summer.

Let’s see…Clinton used a private server that appears to have been more secure than the State Department’s official server (the State Department server has been hacked, while hers never was.) Pence used an AOL email account (raising the possibility that he also continues to have dial-up and a modem…).

Paul Waldman considers Pence’s hypocrisy to be “only a part of the story.” He begins his column in the Washington Post with an appropriately snarky observation:

I have some disturbing news to share: Republicans might not be as deeply committed to proper email management as you’ve been led to believe.

Waldman quoted Pence’s remarks criticizing Clinton’s private server during the Vice-Presidential debate, and his repeated insistence that cybersecurity concerns prohibited such carelessness, and asked the obvious question:

did he consider adding that he knew what he was talking about since he used an AOL account to talk about sensitive security matters and had himself been hacked?

The parallels don’t stop there…“Pence’s office said his campaign hired outside counsel as he was departing as governor to review his AOL emails and transfer any involving public business to the state.” Which was exactly what Hillary Clinton did — and what Pence and Trump so vehemently criticized her for. When Trump invited the Russian government to hack Clinton’s email to recover what had been deleted, it was those personal emails he was talking about.

Waldman references reports that the Trump administration is not only leaving significant amounts of sensitive information vulnerable, but that it is not in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which mandates that White House staff members retain their communications — including their emails.

In late January, we learned that top White House officials, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Sean Spicer, were using email addresses from the Republican National Committee — with a private server! Once the story broke their addresses were deleted, but presumably had it remained secret, they would have continued to use them.

The New York Times reported late in January that Trump was still using his old, unsecured Android phone, which–as Waldman observes– is unbelievably reckless for the president of the United States.

As Wired magazine put it, “All it takes is clicking on one malicious link or opening one untoward attachment — either of which can appear as though it were sent from a trusted source — to compromise the device. From there, the phone could be infected with malware that spies on the network the device is connected to, logs keystrokes, takes over the camera and microphone for surreptitious recording, and more.”

I doubt that these obvious security breaches are intentional. It’s far more likely that they are further evidence–as if we needed any–that America’s government is firmly in the control of the Keystone Kops (or perhaps the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight). After all, this is the group of whiz kids who couldn’t figure out how to turn on the lights in the White House cabinet room.

In the aftermath of the disclosures about his own reckless email use, Pence has angrily insisted that his own behavior was “nothing like” Clinton’s.

That’s true. Her server was secure. As a post to Mashable put it,

the real crime here is the fact that Pence still uses an AOL account. Does Pence still use dial-up? Does he rub two sticks together to make a fire? I mean, where does it end?

 

 

Russia Abroad, Theocrats at Home

Welcome to the Trump/Pence Administration.

Per Right Wing Watch

Last month, it was reported that President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team was giving Religious Right activists, especially the members of his presidential campaign’s evangelical advisory board, unprecedented input in shaping his administration,

Earlier this week, one of the members of that board, Richard Land of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, appeared on the “Point of View” radio program, where he told host Kerby Anderson that he has been shocked by how much influence he and other Religious Right activists have had over the make-up of Trump’s administration.

“Some of my conservative friends and I, we have been pinching ourselves, are we hallucinating or is this actually happening?” Land said. “I know a good number of people on the transition team and I can tell you right now, about half of them, Kerby, think I’m liberal. I mean, these are very conservative people.”

Land went on to say that he had personally been solicited several times for names of potential appointees, something that had never happened with prior administrations. He predicted that the Trump/Pence administration would have more conservative Christians in it than any administration he’d had contact with, including the Reagan Administration.

Hoosiers who suffered through four years of his administration can see Mike Pence’s fingerprints all over these appointments.

Americans now have a President who has neither experience with nor interest in government. He still hasn’t filled most staff positions, he hasn’t educated himself about the challenges he’ll face, and he’s given no evidence that he understands what the job of President entails. Instead, he has engaged in the same petty, self-aggrandizing behaviors we’ve come to expect: arguing about the size of inaugural crowds, lashing out at the women and men who marched in opposition to him, threatening the press, and generally acting like a five-year-old spoiled brat.

Meanwhile, reports of his campaign’s Russian connections continue to grow.

It shouldn’t surprise us that, in the absence of any interest in actually governing, Trump would hand off pesky details like staffing to his Vice-President. After all, when Trump Junior approached John Kasich about the Vice-Presidency, he reportedly promised Kasich he could run the country while Trump spent his time “making America great.”

If it were Kasich making the decisions, I would actually feel a lot better. Giving Mike Pence that authority is another matter. Pence is equally uninterested in the boring details of policy (ask anyone who observed his performance as Governor of Indiana), but unlike Trump, who is concerned only with himself, Pence does have an agenda–a theocratic one.

Pence is a Christian culture warrior. His priorities are outlawing abortion, defunding Planned Parenthood, taking money from public education and directing it to Christian schools (Betsy DeVos was deeply involved in Indiana’s voucher program), insuring that Christians can discriminate against LGBTQ citizens and a variety of other measures that would legally privilege fundamentalist Christianity. (He seems to have skipped over those passages in the Christian bible that counsel caring for the poor, refraining from judgment and abstaining from public prayer…like most culture warriors, his is a highly selective reading of the bible.)

So this is what voters in white, rural America have given us: an unstable child-President with mysterious ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the various oligarchs who funded his projects after American banks declined to do so, and an equally vacuous Vice President who is a True Believer intent upon imposing his crabbed version of God’s Will on the rest of us.

Worse, if we somehow got rid of both of them, we’d get Paul Ryan, whose deepest desire is to throw grandma off Medicare…..The next few years are going to be very trying….

Why We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists

The principle that government does not negotiate with terrorists is a longstanding American policy, endorsed (to date, at least) by foreign policy experts of both parties. The reasons are–or should be–obvious: when you reward an activity, you encourage it.

If kidnapping our diplomats or other citizens proves profitable, more kidnappings will occur.

Of course, if you are the spouse or loved one of the person being held hostage, you are likely to have a somewhat different perspective. Which brings me to the recent announcement–made with much fanfare–about Carrier Corporation’s decision to keep a thousand of its employees in Indiana, rather than moving their jobs to Mexico. Affected employees are undoubtedly (and understandably) euphoric.

Details thus far have been sketchy, but it appears that Indiana will provide financial “incentives” to keep the company here for the next few years. Since federal government contracts currently generate $6 billion dollars annually for Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, it is likely that promises about that contracting relationship sweetened the deal.( A spokesperson for Trump hinted that the government might relax regulations United Technologies found “onerous.”)

As one economist tweeted, “Every savvy CEO will now threaten to ship jobs to Mexico, and demand a payment to stay. Great economic policy.”

Trump’s Carrier “accomplishment” is Exhibit A in what would likely be a long list of “teachable moments” if Trump were teachable. The lesson is: deals that make perfect sense in the private business sector can be invitations to disaster in the public sector.

I learned that lesson when I served as Indianapolis’ Corporation Counsel. Cities get sued with some regularity; a car goes in a ditch and the driver blames the design of the road; a building inspector tags a property and the owner disputes the violation; a homeowner objects to a sewer assessment, or a rezoning..the list is endless.

In the business world, it often makes fiscal sense to settle a suspicious “slip and fall” case, for example–especially when the amount at issue is much less than the cost of litigating the matter. If a City did that–if it “bought off” relatively small claims–it would be tantamount to hanging a sign out that said “Come sue us–we’re patsies.” Plaintiffs and their lawyers know that, unlike many private defendants, government entities have money; if all they had to do was file a lawsuit, if they didn’t have to risk going to trial, it would be open season.

So–unless the City was clearly in the wrong– we litigated them all, large or small.

Thanks to Americans’ ignorance of the significant differences between the public and private sectors, there’s a widespread and profoundly naive belief that anyone can “do” government, that public sector experience and/or specialized skills are unnecessary.

I wonder how many terrorists Trump and his cabinet of inexperienced newcomers will negotiate with–and what it will cost us taxpayers– before they figure it out…

 

Facing Up to Reality

When something absolutely unforeseen challenges your worldview, it is probably prudent to take a step back and re-examine your assumptions.

After the shock of a Presidential election that successfully appealed to festering bigotries and primal hatreds that I naively thought had declined, and after a period of disbelief (and nausea), I made myself take that “step back.” You may or may not agree with my conclusions, but I’d ask you to consider them.

America’s democratic institutions and processes haven’t worked properly for quite some time. All of us can tick off evidence: a Senate that simply refuses to hold hearings on a Presidential nominee for the Supreme Court; legislators’ willingness to petulantly shut down government when they don’t get their way; the widespread, obstinate denial of science and rejection of empirical evidence in favor of policies based upon ideology and/or religious dogma; and of course, the toxic partisanship and racial resentments reflected in the decision of Congressional Republicans to block anything and everything proposed by our first African-American President, irrespective of the merits of any particular proposal. I could go on.

Had Hillary Clinton been elected President, she would have faced the same ferocious, partisan hostility that Obama has had to deal with–but on steroids. Irrational hatred of the Clintons, especially Hillary, is baked into Republican DNA. Not only would she have faced constant, repetitive Congressional “investigations,” several House members were already drawing up Articles of Impeachment. (Why wait for her to actually do something impeachable?)

Meanwhile, lawmakers in both parties continue to block policies seen as threatening to the interests of the oligarchs that effectively control our national and state legislatures. It is irrelevant that large majorities of Americans favor background checks for people buying guns, higher taxes on the rich, a discontinuation of obscene subsidies to oil companies or numerous other measures. Especially at the federal level, the policy preferences that count are those of the big donors as conveyed by their lobbyists–many of whom used to be legislators in the incestuous political stew that is Washington, D.C.

This is not the way a working democracy operates.

Although the self-dealing and the nastiness has unquestionably gotten worse, most of this isn’t new. It has become more visible in the Internet Age, but the inability of our governing structure to deal with a technologically integrated, inexorably globalizing, demographically diversifying modern world has been apparent for decades.

American government does not work as it should, and it hasn’t for quite some time. It certainly hasn’t ameliorated or addressed–or even explained– the dramatic changes that have created economic and social distress among so many of our citizens.

Dissatisfied citizens look for someone to blame. To the extent they blame the status quo in Washington, that’s probably fair enough. Given human nature, however, a lot of our fellow-citizens blame immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, “uppity” women…the “other”…for cultural changes that disadvantage them or make them uncomfortable, and for a government that doesn’t work for them.

Social scientists tell us that the two strongest predictors of support for Donald Trump were racial resentment and misogyny.

So now we have a President-elect whose profound ignorance and incompetence is likely to deliver the coup de grace to creaky government institutions and even more likely to exacerbate the social divisions and bigotries he cultivated during the campaign. Whether he serves out his term, or we end up with Mike Pence (a rigid theocrat who is equally incompetent, equally uninterested in the mechanics of governing), all signs suggest we are on the cusp of an era of massive social upheaval.

The question is: when the incommensurate passions triggered by impending conflicts subside, will we be able to construct a fairer, more streamlined and responsive, more (small-d) democratic governing structure, one that is more adapted to the realities of the modern world?

Can we salvage the best parts of our governing philosophy, and create institutional structures that work for all our citizens? Or will four years of authoritarianism and continued exploitation of racial, religious and ethnic divisions leave the oligarchs and white supremacists firmly in charge?

What would a better, more trustworthy American democracy look like?

I have some ideas I’ll share tomorrow. I invite yours.