Tag Archives: Trump

Extortion–And Susan Collins

Well, Susan Collins was right–sorta. Trump did learn a lesson from the Impeachment whitewash that she and the other Republican Senators handed him.

The lesson? Extortion works and I can keep doing it.

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted:

I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harrassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes. Build relationships, but don’t bring Fredo!

This, of course, is vintage Trump, displaying both his trademark ignorance of how government actually works and his mob-godfather behavior.

Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General responded to the obvious ignorance.

When you stop violating the rights and liberties of all New Yorkers, we will stand down. Until then, we have a duty and responsibility to defend the Constitution and the rule of law.

BTW, I file the lawsuits, not the Governor.

As commentators have noted, this new threat followed a more generalized version that Trump had included in his delusional, fact-free State of the Union speech. In that speech, he threatened reprisals against sanctuary cities and states (mischaracterizing, as usual, what sanctuary laws say and do–it really is amazing how impervious he has been to learning anything in the three years he’s held office).

It also followed a previous, petty retaliation against New York, described by a Daily Kos contributor:

When the Department of Homeland Security announced on Feb. 7 that residents of New York would no longer be allowed to participate in programs such as Global Entry that speed passengers through airport security, it seemed like an act of petty vengeance. But then … petty vengeance is Donald Trump’s middle name. He just spells it with a J. So the idea that Trump would make a move designed to irritate millions of New Yorkers because their state passed laws supporting immigrants seemed absolutely believable.

But as it turns out, Trump wasn’t acting out of pure retaliation. Not at all. On Thursday Trump fired off a tweet making it clear that the real purpose behind making New Yorkers go to the back of the line was extortion—to force the state into leaving his taxes, his company, and his friends alone.

After all, it worked so well in Ukraine.

For a more in-depth discussion of this latest, astonishingly brazen effort to obtain a personal quid pro quo–threatening to withhold money meant to protect the citizens of New York unless that state dropped its multiple investigations into his criminal activities–you really should visit (or revisit, if you have already seen it) this discussion on Morning Joe.

Once again, the word that comes to mind is chutzpah.

What I find so astonishing is not the criminal behavior itself–and make no mistake, it is criminal, although I’m sure that the blowback will be dismissed with Trump’s usual “it was a joke” disclaimer (this from a man who wouldn’t know humor if he encountered it)– but the chutzpah of tweeting it out for the whole world to see. All that was missing was “Nah nah nah–you can’t impeach me! I’m protected by the spineless, dishonest, unAmerican Republicans in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.”

Yes indeed, Senator Collins. He certainly learned a lesson…

 

Making A List…

There are no perfect candidates. We all have to overlook various aspects of would-be Democratic nominees–issues where we differ, behaviors we consider problematic, experience we consider questionable or insufficient, doubts about ability to win. But just for fun–and for the (unlikely) edification of the occasional Trumpers who visit here–I have begun making a list of the things that a voter will have to overlook in order to cast a ballot for Donald J. Trump.

I’m not the only one “making a list and checking it twice.” A couple of months before the midterm elections, McSweeneys published “Lest We Forget the Horrors: A Catalog of Trump’s Worst Cruelties, Collusions, Corruptions and Crimes.” Politico has published “138 Things Trump Did While We Weren’t Looking” and other publications have weighed in with their own compendiums.

My own list doesn’t even include the Trump voter’s need to overlook the constant lying, the  pussy-grabbing and multiple accusations of rape/sexual assault, the five kids from three wives, the clear signs of mental illness, and the other personal behaviors that used to be considered inconsistent with authentic Christianity. We know his base doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about any of that. Nor do they care that he’s dumb, can’t spell, has the vocabulary of a third-grader and the geography knowledge of a kindergartener.

Presumably, they also don’t care about the widely documented chaos at the White House–unprecedented turnover, backstabbing and leaks, the (also unprecedented) number of unfilled jobs and jobs filled by “acting” appointees (mostly former lobbyists) who don’t need–and couldn’t get–Senate confirmation even from the spineless Republicans terrified of Trump’s immature rages.

You would think they might care about the fact that the administration has engaged in an unremitting assault on the rule of law. (The most recent episode, in which the President and Bill Barr meddled with the sentencing of Roger Stone, demonstrated that they no longer even feel the need to hide that assault.) Their leniency for corrupt cronies contrasts with their criminalization of humanitarianism–threats to sanctuary cities and prosecutions of people leaving food and water for desperate people trying to cross the border.

You might think they’d care about the decision to forego ABA vetting of judicial nominees–a clear sign that the people Trump is elevating to the federal bench aren’t just ideologues, but also embarrassingly unqualified.

You might think they’d care about deep cuts to the CDC, including cuts to research that would combat pandemics like the one we are dealing with now.

You would hope at least some of them would be appalled at the number of environmental regulations that have been eliminated or eviscerated (that old Tom Lehrer joke about America being a country where you can’t drink the water and can’t breathe the air no longer sounds so funny and old-fashioned).

Evidently no one in Trump’s base enjoys America’s National Parks, or appreciates the public lands we used to protect, since they are willing to overlook the underfunding of park maintenance and the encouragement of drilling and mining on once-protected national monuments.

Trump’s base also must be willing to overlook America’s withdrawal from our international obligations–the petty nastiness shown to our most important allies, the sucking-up to the world’s worst demagogues, and the betrayal of weaker allies like the Kurds, who trusted us. (I guess the fact that America’s President is a laughingstock around the world doesn’t bother them, either.)

Tariffs? The base has to overlook the extra costs burdening American consumers; overlook the spike in farm bankruptcies (despite the fact that taxpayers have paid farmers billions to offset the harm done by those tariffs–much more than the auto industry got during the Great Recession); overlook the fact that the “old” GOP was right to oppose tariffs and trade wars because they inevitably hurt us much more than they hurt the other guy…

So much for overlooking. I’ve reluctantly concluded that Trump’s base actually approves of policies most reasonable people find mean-spirited and/or appalling: enriching the already rich and screwing over the poor, cutting Social Security and Medicare, trying to destroy Obamacare, spending billions on an utterly ridiculous border wall that won’t deter illegal immigration…and especially, keeping brown people out of the country even if it involves caging their brown children.

The fact that Trump and his collection of idiots and gangsters reject science and evidence is actually a plus with the base–Trump’s supporters hate “elitists” (i.e., experts and people who actually know what they are doing) with a passion.

And what about the devotion and endorsement of white nationalist groups, the KKK and Neo-Nazis? That’s a plus too. That’s evidence that he “tells it like it is,” that he recognizes the superiority of straight, white, “Christian” males, and is working to make America “great again”– for them. 

Well, “working” is probably a misnomer…..but they overlook the “executive time” (when we pay him to watch TV) and the excessive amount of golf, too.

 

Will Bribery Work?

Apparently, today’s Republicans–who sure don’t look like the Republicans I grew up with–are no longer bothering to hide their corruption from public view. All of America has witnessed the travesty of the Senate’s impeachment “trial,” and reports of the party’s operation “Redmap” and other efforts at gerrymandering and voter suppression have become ubiquitous.

Now Politico reports that even garden-variety bribery is out in the open.  

Allies of Donald Trump have begun holding events in black communities where organizers lavish praise on the president as they hand out tens of thousands of dollars to lucky attendees.

The first giveaway took place last month in Cleveland, where recipients whose winning tickets were drawn from a bin landed cash gifts in increments of several hundred dollars, stuffed into envelopes. A second giveaway scheduled for this month in Virginia has been postponed, and more are said to be in the works.

The cash giveaways are supposedly under the auspices of an outside charity, the Urban Revitalization Coalition. That stratagem permits donors to remain anonymous and make tax-deductible contributions. (That adds insult to injury–taxpayers are subsidizing partisan bribery.)

One leading legal expert on nonprofit law said the arrangement raises questions about the group’s tax-exempt status, because it does not appear to be vetting the recipients of its money for legitimate charitable need.

“Charities are required to spend their money on charitable and educational activities,” said Marcus Owens, a former director of the Exempt Organizations Division at the Internal Revenue Service who is now in private practice at the law firm Loeb & Loeb. “It’s not immediately clear to me how simply giving money away to people at an event is a charitable act.”

The CEO of the organization is a longtime Trump ally, and the rest of the Politico report is enough to turn your stomach.

But this is hardly the only evidence that the GOP is trading money for votes. Salon has an article documenting contributions to Republican senators in advance of the sham impeachment trial.

President Trump’s legal team made numerous campaign contributions to Republican senators overseeing the impeachment trial.

Former independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray, who both investigated former President Bill Clinton ahead of his impeachment, contributed thousands of dollars to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last year before they joined the president’s team, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CFPR)….

The contributions came months before McConnell bragged to Fox News host Sean Hannity that he would be in “total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.”

It would also be enlightening to know how many projects were recently and generously funded by the federal government in states represented by Republican senators–especially purple states.

And I suppose promising that a senator’s head wouldn’t be “on a pike” might be considered a bribe as well..

Along with raising money for senators who will decide his fate, Trump has also been accused of threatening Republicans after a Trump confidant told CBS News that senators were warned: “vote against the president, and your head will be on a pike.”

In all fairness, Trump has never made a secret of his belief that bribery is just part of doing business. According to the Washington Post,

For years, President Trump has criticized a more than 40-year-old law banning companies from bribing foreign officials to win business.

In 2012, he told CNBC that the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was a “horrible law.” In a 2017 Oval Office meeting, Trump ordered his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to do away with it.

“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump said, according to “A Very Stable Genius,” a book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig that published in January.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said recently that the Trump administration is “looking at” making changes to the global anti-bribery law.

Because of course they are.

Honesty, morality and integrity are so last administration.

 

Indulging My Confirmation Bias….

Oh come on–we all do it. Call it “cherry picking” or “confirmation bias” or just closed-mindedness, most of us scan information sources for items that tell us what we want to hear.

As the Trump Administration continues its daily assault on reason, ethics and democracy, and as evidence continues to emerge confirming its rampant criminality, the lack of movement in the polls becomes more and more worrisome. At 538.com, the average of polls measuring Presidential approval has shown virtually no change for months; some 54% disapprove and around 40% still approve.

I know that even the most sophisticated pollsters encounter all kinds of problems–and that too much reliance on their results is misleading. Figuring out which voters have cell phones or landlines, the dramatic decline in response rates, difficulty in determining the identity of likely voters (especially in atypical times), and other methodological challenges make polling a fraught exercise.

That said, the thought that four out of ten Americans actually approve of Trump’s performance is terrifying.( I know that level of approval is considered abysmally low historically, but this is not a “normal” horrible President.)

So when I saw this headline on a post at 538.com.--Trump May be Even More Unpopular Than His Approval Ratings Show–  I immediately clicked on it.

Polls have consistently shown that President Trump is pretty unpopular, with only about 42 percent of the American public approving of the job he is doing as president. These numbers are much lower than what one might expect given the bustling economy.

But does the standard presidential approval question actually capture what voters think of Trump’s job performance? There are several reasons it might not tell the full story. For one, in this hyper-partisan era, presidential approval numbers have become increasingly polarized and don’t move around all that much, so they may now say more about which “side” people are on (pro-Trump or anti-Trump, Republican or Democrat) than voters’ actual evaluation of how the president is doing.

In order to get what they described as a “more nuanced” result, the pollsters asked respondents to rank their feelings for Trump relative to other notable Republicans, rather than asking people whether they approve or disapprove of the president. The other Republicans they chose were former President George W. Bush, the late Sen. John McCain, McCain’s former running mate Sarah Palin, Vice President Mike Pence, and former President Ronald Reagan.

The results were comforting.

This is now our second survey where we’ve measured Trump’s favorability among likely voters, and in both surveys, we found that the standard presidential approval question may be overestimating Trump’s popularity. Our first survey was conducted before the 2018 midterm elections (July 3 to July 12) and our second survey was conducted soon after the Dec. 18 House vote that formally impeached the president (Dec. 20 to Dec. 22), but in both instances, likely voters rated Trump toward the bottom of our list of Republicans.

Before the midterms, Trump’s favorability rating was statistically indistinguishable from Pence’s, and only Palin was rated less favorably. Following impeachment, Trump was even lower relative to the other Republicans we asked about. Not only is he the least popular president to run for reelection since Gerald Ford according to polls asking the standard presidential approval question, but in our measure, he is now also rated less favorably than his vice president. He’s also essentially tied with Palin for the least favorable Republican on our list.

There was, as expected, a significant partisan split. But among independents thought to be potential swing voters, Trump ranked at the bottom of the list — statistically tied with both Palin and Pence. As the pollsters concluded:

The bottom line is that the president appears even more unpopular than previously thought, and more disliked than the standard presidential approval question is able to reveal. Although the electoral implications of Trump’s unpopularity and impeachment remain to be seen, the data we do have isn’t promising for Trump.

The survey confirms my strong belief that November will be all about turnout. If Democrats  get enough people to the polls to overcome predictable vote suppression efforts and other dirty tricks, we will rid America of the criminal cabal that is currently enriching itself while it trashes the environment, democracy, and the rule of law.

 

Shameless

Last Sunday, the New York Times Magazine’s cover story was “The Fog of Rudy”–a retrospective of sorts on a career that began semi-conventionally and now has a major role in the clown show that is the Trump Administration.

The article was undoubtedly informative for people who don’t obsessively follow political news. Since I’m among the obsessed, I was aware of most of the high and low points of Guiliani’s pursuit of fame and fortune–what the article described as his “seemingly hormonal desire for power and fame.” But I was struck by a theme running through the biographical material: shamelessness.

As a prosecutor,

Giuliani practiced politics in a different key, one characterized by brazenness, by shamelessness, by chutzpah. He embraced publicity indiscriminately, picked the highest-profile fights he could find and took all of them to the furthest possible extreme. He acted as if he were bulletproof; and so, in a way, he was.

Shamelessness is a central characteristic of what the article accurately describes as a new breed of politician

a publicity-obsessed, reality-defying master of resentment politics — that is, just the kind of figure who is now ascendant across the globe in the form of strongmen, oligarchs and even populist Tories. These are not men of vision, but men of appetites.

Shameless is a word that describes both Trump and Guiliani. These are men who are willing to say and do anything that will bring them attention–it’s almost as if they believe they don’t exist when the cameras aren’t on them. The Times article recounts Rudy’s numerous shady and self-serving activities as prosecutor, Mayor and private lawyer monetizing his connection with the tragedy of 9/11, and then returns to the theme of shamelessness:

Watching his invariably viral TV performances, it often felt as if the closest thing to a unifying explanation for his behavior was his pronounced inability to experience shame. Shamelessness is not an art or even a skill. It’s simply a way of operating in the world that informs all of your actions and interactions, for good or ill.

It’s a state of mind that he shares not only with Trump but also with a growing number of blatantly dishonest, nakedly opportunistic political figures. What creates the conditions in which such truly shameless figures can thrive? In 2020, the obvious answer is the rise of an all-consuming media ecosystem in which truth is no longer meaningfully litigated. … Combine that with the ubiquity of social media, which makes no distinctions between truth and lies, and what you end up with is a political conversation without consequences that favors the most outrageous voices. If you reliably make over-the-top claims, you will be rewarded with attention, and Giuliani never fails to make over-the-top claims.

The ability to feel shame requires an ability to recognize the distinction between right and wrong, and a desire to be–and be seen by others as– moral. I couldn’t help wondering about the sort of people who lack that desire, soI googled “mental health and shamelessness,” and found this psychiatrist’s explanation of the phenomenon compelling.

He writes that shamelessness is often displayed by pathological narcissists who are saddled with deep feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness, and who compensate with displays of  “rampant arrogance and a sense of entitlement.”

To be shameless–as opposed to shameful–is also to be guiltless. For in their assuming superiority over others (unconsciously, to dispossess themselves of buried feelings of inferiority), they see themselves as entitled to push their way (as it were) to the front of the line. Having once felt small, unimportant, and possibly demeaned and humiliated as well, their massively constructed defense system now enables them to feel “privileged.” They can experience themselves almost as above the law, and certainly beyond the court of public opinion. These are the individuals who, when convicted of trespassing on others’ rights–of having acted in flagrant disregard of their fellow humans–may demonstrate little, if any, remorse. And shamelessness, at its irremediable worst, is just one of many traits keying into the diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder.

The real question we must ask ourselves is: why do presumably rational people reward these damaged folks with our attention and/or our votes?

And why on earth would we trust one of them with the nuclear codes?