Tag Archives: corrupt

Can We Ditch Mitch?

I love Gail Collins, the columnist for the New York Times. Hell, I want to be Gail Collins when I grow up (assuming I ever do).

A couple of days ago, her column was titled “Let’s Ditch Mitch!” It’s a sentiment with which I ardently agree.

She began:

O.K., throwing this one at you without warning: What’s your opinion of Mitch McConnell?

A) Spawn of Satan.

B) Sort of pitiful, what with having Donald Trump on his back.

C) Can we talk about how he looks like a turtle?

Definitely not the last one. It’s true that many Americans think of McConnell as turtle-like, due to his lack of anything resembling a chin.

But this is wrong on two counts. First, you shouldn’t tackle people you disagree with by making fun of their looks. Second, it gives turtles a bad name. Turtles are great for the environment and everybody likes them. They sing to their children. You are never going to see a turtle killing gun control legislation.

Collins proceeds to remind readers of McConnell’s longstanding alliance with the NRA, evidenced by $1.3 million in financial support. As a result, the NRA gets its way; among the bills Mitch has obligingly killed is reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which is “moldering away in a corner because the NRA doesn’t want authorities taking guns away from domestic abusers.”

A bill on strengthening background checks is moldering along with it, despite the fact that several Republican Senators have indicated that they would support it– if McConnell would allow it to come to the floor.

This goes on a lot. McConnell, who has near total control over what comes up for a vote, sits on things he doesn’t like until they smother. Farewell, immigration reform, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug prices, protecting election security, restoring net neutrality.

To which we can now add this week’s burial of the bill the House just passed to protect “Dreamers” from deportation.

As Collins notes, you can’t explain away Mitch’s actions by saying he’s simply doing what Trump wants him to do, since Trump hasn’t the foggiest notion what’s happening in Congress (or, I would add, the foggiest notion what Congress does.)

There are well over 100 House-passed bills sitting around gathering mildew in Mitch’s limbo. What do you think that place looks like? A very depressing bus station waiting room? A hospital ward packed with comatose patients? Or maybe just a dimly lit storage bin where little bills sit around drinking juice and playing video games until the end of time?

All of them in the thrall of Mitch McConnell. Before we move on, can we mention that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is the nation’s secretary of transportation, and possibly on her way to serious contention for Worst Cabinet Member?

Those of you who read the New York Times have probably seen the recent expose of Chao; in a collection of totally corrupt cabinet secretaries, she has managed to out-corrupt most of them. But then, she is married to Mitch, so she’s learned from a master…

And of course, as Collins reminds us, there was that unprecedented, norm-destroying theft of a Supreme Court seat–the “high point” of Mitch’s career-long fixation on filling the federal courts with right-wing ideologues.

A man who has never gotten a single vote from anyone living outside the state of Kentucky decreed that a man twice elected president of the United States had no right to have his nominee for Supreme Court considered in the Senate. McConnell told Charles Homans of The Times it was “the most consequential thing” he’d ever done. He was extremely proud.

McConnell’s argument was that Obama was too close to the end of his term to make a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. But now he’s saying that if there’s a vacancy before the 2020 election, he’ll of course get Trump’s choice for a successor a confirmation vote. “Oh, we’d fill it,” the senator chortled at a Chamber of Commerce lunch back home in Kentucky.

I know you’re not surprised, but isn’t it sort of awful that McConnell’s so proud of himself? You’d hope that, at least in public, he’d murmur something vague and look a tad sheepish.

No self-respecting turtle would ever behave like that.

Donald Trump is an embarrassing and incompetent buffoon–a bull in the governmental china shop who is doing a lot of damage. But he can’t hold a candle to Mitch McConnell. McConnell has singlehandedly broken American government.

Arabian Knights?

It’s obvious that President Trump never met a rich autocrat he didn’t like.

We’ve seen him kiss up to Putin, find common ground–and hair– with “Little Rocket Man.” And his first trip abroad as President was to Saudi Arabia.

Trump’s cozy relationship with the Saudis is finally getting some attention, in the wake of the presumed murder of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the regime. And the relationship was, indeed, quite cozy. It appears that Trump hasn’t just owed the various bailouts of his bad business bets to Russian oligarchs–the Saudis have been equally helpful.

As Talking Points Memo has reported,

He’s booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York’s Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.

President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he’s often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.

“I love the Saudis,” Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. “Many are in this building.”

According to former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, the Saudis have continued funneling money to Trump during his Presidency. Shaub is currently advising a watchdog group that is suing Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause by continuing to profit from foreign government ties to his business.

For a man who is so critical of Muslims, Trump sure is willing to make concessions when money is involved.

Trump has said that he doesn’t want to do anything that might scuttle a pending huge arms sale to the Saudis. (America–that “Shining City on a Hill”–seems perfectly okay with arming the worst people on the globe…).

In all fairness, Trump isn’t the only President who has befriended this deeply troubling Mideast power, mostly for their oil. But in his case, it’s clearly personal.

In 1991, as Trump was teetering on personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise cash, he sold his 282-foot Trump yacht “Princess” to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal for $20 million, a third less than what he reportedly paid for it.

Four years later, the prince came to his rescue again, joining other investors in a $325 million deal for Trump’s money-losing Plaza Hotel.

In 2001, Trump sold the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower across from the United Nations in New York for $12 million, the biggest purchase in that building to that point, according to the brokerage site Streeteasy. The buyer: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Shortly after he announced his run for president, Trump began laying the groundwork for possible new business in the kingdom. He registered eight companies with names tied to the country, such as “THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor LLC” and “DT Jeddah Technical Services,” according to a 2016 financial disclosure report to the federal government. Jeddah is a major city in the country.

The relationship didn’t cool when Trump became President. Far from it.

A public relations firm working for the kingdom spent nearly $270,000 on lodging and catering at his Washington hotel near the Oval Office through March of last year, according to filings to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the firm told The Wall Street Journal that the Trump hotel payments came as part of a Saudi-backed lobbying campaign against a bill that allowed Americans to sue foreign governments for responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The Saudi government has been a valued customer at the Trump International Hotel in New York, where a visit in March by a group accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman boosted room rentals at the hotel by 13 percent for the first three months of the year, after two years of decline.

There’s much more, but I was particularly intrigued by this report from Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Back in 2016, Jamal Khashoggi, who by all indications was murdered by Trump and Kushner’s buddy Mohammad bin Salman at the Saudi embassy in Turkey, was banned from writing for any newspaper in Saudi Arabia because he wrote something critical of Donald Trump. Until then, he had a weekly column in a Saudi paper.

Birds of a feather….

 

Logical Consequences

For the past quarter-century, Americans have been bashing government–not just this or that administration or political party or elected official, but the enterprise of governing.

Want a laugh? Say “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” Want to indulge a conspiracy theory? The government’s giving the Alamo to the UN! Obama plans to impose Sharia law!..  Got a grudge against your state lawmakers? Push for your area’s counties to secede. Hate the feds? Put on a tricorn hat, misspell a placard and hold a rally.

The problem is, there are consequences to this constant and indiscriminate hostility to government authority, and those consequences aren’t pretty.

Example: Yesterday, to its credit and my surprise, The Indianapolis Star ran two actual news stories: one about legislative conflicts of interest and corrupt behavior, and another about inadequate regulation of child care providers.  Stories about the inept rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and other tales of poor management, are everywhere.

Guess what? When we devalue government, we shouldn’t be surprised when government isn’t done very well. When we spend our time and energy arguing whether major elements of government infrastructure should even exist, we don’t have much time or energy left over to insure that all parts of government are operating properly–that public servants are competently performing those tasks that most reasonable people believe government should do.

I will be the first to acknowledge that we have public officials who deserve our scorn, policies that are–at best–counterproductive and need to be changed, and antiquated or corrupted structures that need to be revisited. The difference is, those are criticisms of how well our government is doing–not attacks on the legitimacy of government itself.

Are some regulations unnecessary? Undoubtedly. But supervising people who care for defenseless infants and children certainly seems an appropriate function of government. Most Americans would also agree that we need laws sanctioning officials who abuse their positions for personal gain.

Americans’ attitudes toward government are a lot like their attitudes toward Congress: we famously despise Congress, but approve of our own Representative. We hate government, but not the programs that benefit us, or veterans, or grandma.

Much as we may not want to admit it, we live in a complex modern world where there are   tasks that only government can effectively perform–from FAA supervision of air travel, to FDA oversight of food and drug safety, to regulations preventing banks from ripping off unwary customers…..on and on. When the agencies charged with these tasks fail to do their jobs properly, real people get hurt–planes crash, people get sick and die, and–as we’ve seen– economies fall into recession or worse.

We need to stop bashing government’s legitimacy, and instead turn our attention to how government is doing its job. We need to put down the ax and pick up the scalpel–to stop characterizing government as some sort of enemy,  and begin focusing on making it better.

When we insist that “public service” is an oxymoron, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t get decent public service.