Tag Archives: Trump

“Mother” Has Many Meanings…

More from the theocrats…

By this time, most politically-aware Americans have read about Karen Pence’s new job.

“Mother” is once again teaching at the Washington, D.C. school where she worked when Mike Pence was in Congress. The Huffington Post describes that school, noting that everyone isn’t welcome there.

In a “parent agreement” posted online, the school says it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity, HuffPost learned through an investigation into discriminatory admissions policies. The 2018 employment application also makes candidates sign a pledge not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the “unique roles of male and female.” …

The application says that the school believes “marriage unites one man and one woman” and that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.” The application asks potential employees to explain their view of the “creation/evolution debate.”

Not only did Mrs. Pence (aka “mother”) previously teach at the school for 12 years, the Pence’s daughter Charlotte attended, according to the school’s website.

JoeDee Winterhof, who is a senior Vice President for policy at the Human Rights Campaign,  had an excellent response.

“Why not teach at a school that welcomes everyone, instead of choosing one that won’t serve LGBTQ kids, kids of LGBTQ parents? The Pences never seem to miss an opportunity to show their public service only extends to some.”

Mrs. Pence is certainly entitled to believe that gay people are sinners, that women should submit to men and that there is actually a “debate” about evolution. (Although–forgive the snarky aside–according to people who worked in the statehouse when Mike Pence was governor, she doesn’t seem to obey that “submission” directive. Quite the contrary.) The fact that a Congressman’s wife chose to work at a school with this philosophy might raise eyebrows, but there are a lot of Congressmen and a lot of wives, and so far as I know, their choice of employment is rarely seen as sending a political message.

The spouses of Presidents and Vice-Presidents, however, are judged by a different standard; at least they were  before this disastrous and embarrassing administration.

When the wife of a Vice President–even an accidental and smarmy Vice President–chooses to work for an institution that labels a significant  proportion of Americans sinful and unworthy, that’s not only a statement of her values, it’s a deliberate message of exclusion that is directly at odds with important American principles.

That message is underlined by its hypocrisy.

If “mother” and Pastor Pence really disapproved of all the forms of sexual immorality described by the school, they wouldn’t even enter the same room with Donald Trump. Since they agreed to be part of the Trump Administration, it’s pretty obvious that they are willing to be selective about the sorts of “immoral” sexual behavior they condemn.

Pussy-grabbing and other assaults on unwilling women, serial infidelity, and consorting with prostitutes–those things are evidently minor transgressions. What must be condemned are relations between people of the same sex who love each other–and who may even be married to each other.

This is bigotry (barely) masquerading as piety, and it’s nauseating.

These people are vile.

 

Blame The Courts

What’s that old saying? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?

 Over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars a few days ago, Ed Brayton actually endorsed a theory offered by Jonah Goldberg.

Both Goldberg’s column and Brayton’s comment on it were offered in the run-up to Trump’s demand that he be given broadcast time to address the nation about the “crisis” at the border. Both predicted that Trump would declare a “national emergency” entitling him to ignore Congress and build his ridiculous wall.

As we now know, during that broadcast Trump simply reiterated his previous, fabricated “reasons” for building the wall. But he has continued to threaten the tactic.

Goldberg noted that such a move would be contrary both to common sense and the rule of law.

Do we really want to establish the precedent that the president can simply declare “It’s an emergency” like some magical incantation and then completely bypass property rights and the will of Congress just so he can fulfill a campaign promise that, if Sam Nunberg is to be believed, began as a consultant’s gimmick to get the candidate Trump to talk about immigration and what a great builder he is?

Moreover, if Trump actually attempted to use the military to seize private land, spending money Congress did not authorize, think of what the news cycle would look like, not from Trump’s perspective but from the perspective of other elected Republicans. Assuming that the Supreme Court or Congress didn’t stop him — a big assumption — would you like to run for office defending hourly images of armed U.S. troops kicking in doors or rolling out concertina wire? Is it beyond imagining that at least one Texas or Arizona rancher would get shot defending his property?

According to Goldberg, the theory then circulating in Washington was that the White House was fully aware that an order of that sort would generate multiple lawsuits and would likely be blocked almost immediately by the courts. That–in their view–would be the best of all possible worlds; it would extricate Trump from a box of his own making. He’d be able to tell his base he’d done everything he could, but his plan for America’s safety had been blocked by those terrible judges.

The reason this scenario seems so plausible is because such a patently illegal declaration would mimic a dishonest and destructive strategy that is pursued with some regularity by legislators at all levels of government. They can pass a bill they know to be unconstitutional, placating the constituents who want it, secure in the knowledge that the courts will bail them out.

I still remember a long-ago conversation with a student in one of my graduate classes, who happened to be a State Representative. He had just voted for a bill requiring schools throughout the state to post the Ten Commandments. I knew he was fully aware that such a law would violate the Establishment Clause, and I asked him why he had voted for something he knew to be unconstitutional. He replied that the “folks back in Mayberry” would be angry if he’d voted no, so he’d decided to “let the courts take the heat.”

There are a number of problems with that strategy. It rewards moral cowardice, and it feeds hostility to the judiciary among people who don’t understand the constitution, the function of the courts, or checks and balances.

And eventually, if Trump and the GOP get their way, pretty soon we won’t have competent, principled judges on the federal bench who are willing to “take the heat” in order to protect the constitution from cynical legislators pandering to constitutionally-illiterate voters.

Progress Report From Juanita Jean

So much winning…

A few days ago, my favorite Texas blogger summed it all up:

As of this moment, we have no Attorney General, no White House Chief of Staff, no Interior Secretary, no Director of the EPA, the Secretary of Education is a religious nut trying to destroy education, the VP is a religious nut who believes women should be subjugated, the Secretary of State is a political hack helping cover up the murder of a Saudi journalist, the Director of National Security wants to bomb Iran, 18 countries have no US ambassador (including Australia), half of the positions in the State Department remain unfilled, the stock market is down almost 3,000 points, China now owns Pacific rim trade, the US is the only major power to NOT be in the Paris accords, the entire world is either terrified or laughing at us, and the president has shut down the government for the last 10 days over his 5th century solution to a 21st century problem. Notice I didn’t mention anything about everyone convicted, in jail, or on the way to jail, or Trump’s current average of telling over 500 lies per month.

This is great? Are we tired of winning yet?

The answer to her (entirely rhetorical) question is: yes, some 60% of us are very tired of Trump and his version of “winning.

The question that is harder to answer is, what the f**k is wrong with that other 40%?”

How Democracies Die

Academia has its prejudices, and they aren’t the ones ascribed to us by rightwing critics. For example, there’s a common opinion that most economists are sort of weird. (Apologies to my friend and colleague Jerome…)

Obviously, I don’t know Paul Krugman personally, but he and Joseph Stiglitz are my very favorite economists, and Krugman ranks right up there with my other favorite political columnists. I particularly liked this year’s Christmas Eve column, in which he addressed the stock market’s free fall.

Two years ago, after the shock of Donald Trump’s election, financial markets briefly freaked out, then quickly recovered. In effect, they decided that while Trump was manifestly unqualified for the job, temperamentally and intellectually, it wouldn’t matter. He might talk the populist talk, but he’d walk the plutocratic walk. He might be erratic and uninformed, but wiser heads would keep him from doing anything too stupid.

In other words, investors convinced themselves that they had a deal: Trump might sound off, but he wouldn’t really get to make policy. And, hey, taxes on corporations and the wealthy would go down.

But now, just in time for Christmas, people are realizing that there was no such deal — or at any rate, that there wasn’t a sanity clause. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Put an unstable, ignorant, belligerent man in the Oval Office, and he will eventually do crazy things.

There is no sanity clause….Love it.

Earlier this month, in a column with the threatening headline “How Democracies Die” he wrote,

Donald Trump, it turns out, may have been the best thing that could have happened to American democracy.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Individual-1 is clearly a wannabe dictator who has contempt for the rule of law, not to mention being corrupt and probably in the pocket of foreign powers. But he’s also lazy, undisciplined, self-absorbed and inept. And since the threat to democracy is much broader and deeper than one man, we’re actually fortunate that the forces menacing America have such a ludicrous person as their public face.

I have actually made similar arguments. What if Trump actually knew what he was doing? What if he was just as greedy, self-important and mentally-ill, but smart? And able to spell…

Trump’s election was a service to democracy, in much the same way that a fire burning down your house when no one was home is a service: it reminds you what is truly valuable.

Of course, there’s a lot of damage to repair…

Like so many Americans, I was (naively) reassured by Obama’s election. Look how far America had come! Then, of course, the rocks lifted and the cockroaches crawled out. Racism and resentment of the black man in the White House motivated despicable behaviors from neighborhoods to Congress.

If Hillary had been elected, it’s almost certain that misogyny would have motivated the same tribal behaviors.  Meanwhile, the erosion of democratic norms–an erosion that began long before Trump, and enabled his election– would have continued unnoticed by the general public.

The election of Trump was our national house fire. He has done an enormous amount of damage, both domestically and to America’s stature in the world, but as the midterm elections confirmed, he has also been democracy’s wake-up call. (Scholars tell us that more people have taken to the streets to protest Trump than protested during the height of the Viet Nam war.)

Thanks to the absence of a sanity clause, we are at a crossroads: we can rebuild the house–and while we’re at it, repair some of the parts that weren’t working properly, or had outlived their usefulness–or we can retreat into our respective tribal enclaves and accuse each other of lighting the match that burned it all down.

We can turn what’s left of our democracy over to the plutocrats who already control so much of it, or we can use the election of this pathetic man as a turning point, and build it back– better. And better–as Krugman points out–means without gerrymandering, without voter suppression, without authoritarian power grabs like those in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Michigan.

We have our marching orders for the New Year…..

Forbes Is Not A Left-Wing Outlet

I’m sure the remaining members of the Trump cult dismiss every critical article about Mr. “He tells it like it is” (i.e., he’s  willing to be publicly as racist and sexist as I’ve wanted to be) as leftwing propaganda.

And I’m equally sure that the fringiest left-wingers dismiss all pro-market businesspeople as apologists for the plutocracy.

They’re both wrong.

For example, Forbes Magazine (hardly a socialist outlet) recently ran an article disapproving of one of the President’s many greedy scams:

On the day Donald Trump became president of the United States, while inauguration festivities were still in full swing, he officially launched his 2020 reelection campaign. Donations poured in from more than 50,000 people across the country. But according to the latest federal filings, Trump still has not donated a penny of his own, while his businesses continued to charge the campaign for hotels, food, rent and legal consulting. That means the richest president in American history has turned $1.1 million from donors across the country into revenue for himself.

A number of articles in the mainstream press had reported on similar grifting during the 2016 campaign. But for the 2020 campaign, the game-playing has become far bolder.

Leading up to the 2016 election, the president’s campaign paid an average of $2,700 in monthly Trump Tower rent for every person listed in campaign filings as receiving a “payroll” payment. The 2020 operation, by contrast, is shelling out an average of $6,300 in monthly rent for every such person.

Then there are the payments flowing into Trump Plaza LLC, a Trump-owned entity that has taken in $42,000 of campaign money since November 2017. Although federal filings list the purpose of those payments as “rent,” it is difficult to tell what the campaign is actually renting. Trump Plaza LLC controls a retail space, garage and two brownstones near Third Avenue in New York City. The retail space at Trump Plaza shows no signs of campaign activity, and a non-Trump company seems to sub-lease the garage from Trump Plaza LLC—leaving just the two brownstones. But they are not open to the public, making it difficult to see who the tenants are, and whether they include the president’s campaign.

Curious, Forbes staked out the buildings. Their reporter arrived at 7:15 a.m. on a November morning, and stayed for the next 14 hours. During that time, seven people went in and out. One refused to talk to the reporter, and the other six said they had seen no sign of the campaign in the buildings. (Neither had the man behind the front desk at Trump Plaza. “I’ve been here since the beginning,” he said. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.”)

From November 2017 to August 2018, the Trump campaign paid Trump Plaza LLC an average of $4,200 per month. The real estate website StreetEasy lists recent rentals in the building for $3,700 to $3,850 per month. Candidates are permitted to do business with their own companies only if they pay fair-market prices.

There are other campaign payments that raise suspicions. One month after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, the campaign paid the Trump Corporation, another one of the president’s companies, $90,000 in “legal consulting” expenses, according to federal records. It is not clear what legal services Trump’s company provided the campaign, or what rate it charged for the work. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

Expenditures benefitting the candidate personally rather than the campaign are, of course, illegal. The President brags that he knows everything, but he is painfully and all-too-obviously ignorant of campaign law. Or for that matter, any law.

I would like to remind those on the political far Right who still support Trump that Forbes is hardly a “liberal” outlet.

I would like to remind those on the political far left who lump all businesses and supporters of market economics together that Forbes is not alone; there are plenty of millionaires and billionaires who are appalled by Donald Trump.

Left and Right, we’re all just waiting for Congressional Republicans to remember that they were elected to serve the country, not their party.