Funeral for a Friend

Funeral for a Friend

The acquittal of Donald Trump was an outrage – one of many over the past three years. But this one was different.

It’s not just that Republican Senators voted against hearing key witnesses like John Bolton who had important new testimony. It’s not that, with the exception of Mitt Romney, they voted to give the President no consequences, despite many of them privately saying that he was guilty, and despite some even admitting that what he did was impeachable. It’s not even the frightening new legal precedent that their vote ushered in, that a President can wrap his own reelection campaign into official U.S. policy – even if it diverges from publicly known official U.S. policy, even if it involves coercing another country to interfere in a U.S. election – if he believes that his own reelection is in the “public interest.”

Of course, it’s all of those things.

But it’s also the sheer brazenness of it all. Those Senators looked their country in the eye, looked at the Constitution, and said “all of this matters less to us than continuing to enable Donald Trump.”

In a moving and heartfelt speech before the Senate, Adam Schiff said, “If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the Framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Those Senators made their statement loud and clear: to them, right doesn’t matter, truth doesn’t matter. Trump matters.

In an odd way, it was liberating. Many of us on the left have said over the past three years that there just has to come a time when Donald Trump will go too far, when Republican lawmakers will be shocked into a reawakening of what they once said their values were, when they will stop and say “my God, look what we have become – this is not us,” when they will finally serve as a moral bulwark and a check on this President’s power.

Their vote on Thursday made it crystal clear: for the vast majority of Republicans, that moment will never come. Nothing will be too much, too far, too grotesque to abandon Donald Trump and look elsewhere for leadership. They will not change. Trump will not change. He will not face consequences. He will only continuously avoid consequences, laugh at our outrage, and become further emboldened by it all. The moment of introspection and moral conscience that we have expected and hoped for from Republicans will not happen. It is a fantasy and a waste of mental energy. This is what we have.

It is sad, like the death of a loved one after years of hoping and praying that they would pull through from a long-lingering illness. But it is also freeing. There is no longer any need to waste time puzzling over what’s behind their actions – cult of personality, support for policy, blackmail, bribery, fear, political calculation, power grab. It doesn’t matter. They are what they are. They’re doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter why they’re burning down the house. What matters is that they’re doing it, water is desperately needed, and sitting around trying to figure out the cause of the fire or trying to reason with it wastes time while the house gets further engulfed in flames.

From here on, the course forward is clear, and the obstacles are clear. Donald Trump and the Republicans will do what they’re going to do, and it will be awful. Beyond policy, there will be voter suppression, cheating, foreign interference on a level that we have never experienced, deepfake videos and audio, and some of the ugliest campaign tactics that this country has seen.

But our energies must be focused on overcoming all of that to defeat Trump in November and to get as many Democrats elected as possible – it’s time for pissed off pragmatism. Some tools:

  • GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. You’re preaching to the converted.
  • Vote in the Primaries/Caucuses to have a say in who the Democrats’ Presidential nominee is.
  • Accept that our first choice may not be the Democrats’ final nominee, and we need to work our butts off for them anyway.
  • Volunteer for and donate to campaigns for House and Senate.
  • Spend our weekends registering nonvoters, who outnumber those who voted for either Clinton or Trump in 2016. Organizations that do this include the League of Women Voters.
  • Get involved in organizations like the Payback Project who are working specifically to defeat Republican Senators.
  • Take Election Day off work to drive voters to and from the polls all day.
  • Vote.

If all our efforts still don’t make a difference, we have a much bigger problem, but we have to do all that we can to ensure we do not face four more years of Donald Trump: America cannot survive it.

– rob rünt

 

 

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

Yet Another Reason to Impeach

The September 5th New York Times Op-Ed by an anonymous senior White House Official confirms what many have long believed about the President and his leadership capabilities. President Trump is described by the senior staffer as amoral, anti-democratic, ill-informed, erratic, reckless, “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” While these character traits are about as undesirable as one can imagine in a President, it is the response that they inspire from his staff that gives a very clear reason to seriously consider impeachment.

The senior staffer describes efforts by those around the President to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” and “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” It is hard to find precedent for this, particularly as a long-term daily dynamic within the White House.

That things have come to this point is evidence of how truly broken our government system has become, particularly under Donald Trump. The staffer and his/her allies within the White House apparently (and rightly) have little faith in the Trump-intimidated, Republican-led Congress to respond appropriately to protect the nation from an unstable President. This particular staffer has thus instead chosen to go to the media, and the others have resigned themselves to grimly serving as an internal “resistance” to the Commander in Chief.

This is a risky situation under normal global conditions, which thankfully is all that our nation has thus far been confronted with during the Trump Presidency. But what happens in a crisis – particularly a military crisis? We have seen nations like Russia and China taking note of the global leadership vacuum left by Trump’s erratic and isolating approach. Such a void of steady, trusted leadership – which the United States and its western allies have imperfectly provided since World War II – can cause unscrupulous and power-hungry adversaries to test the boundaries, to try to fill the void.

So what happens if a foreign adversary were to launch a nuclear missile at the United States? In a normal White House, the President would have a scant few minutes to verify that the threat is real and decide how to respond. After that decision, it is imperative that the system operates smoothly, and that smooth operation is dependent on trust in the President’s judgment.

But what happens with this President under such a scenario? Do his staff respond by immediately rallying to his side, or do they reasonably write off his commands as the latest delusion or impulse? They have only minutes to choose the right path through their justifiable uncertainty.

If the pictures painted in the Op-Ed and the upcoming Bob Woodward book are accurate, we have a President who is incapable of leading his staff, and who, in his ineffectiveness, poses a danger to the country. There are two remedies for this.

One is to view the senior staff as the problem. In this case, the solution is to weed out these disobedient bad apples and replace them with senior staff who are more comfortably aligned with amoral, anti-democratic, ill-informed, erratic, reckless leadership. It is hard to see how this would benefit our nation.

The other is to use the impeachment process to remove the President and replace him with a leader whose judgment can be trusted by White House staff and the military. In general (Trump excepted), this would be anyone who has risen to the level of being elected to high-level national public office. In this case, of course, that replacement would be Mike Pence.

I personally disagree with Mike Pence on virtually every issue. I have disagreed with the policies of many Presidents. However, Mike Pence fits the bill as someone who can be trusted (as much as most Presidents in our nation’s history) by his White House staff and the military to show judgment that is within the spectrum of “reasonable,” and to make decisions accordingly – particularly on military issues. In short, he can lead. Trump cannot.

The New York Times Op-Ed on its own may not be sufficient justification to impeach Donald Trump. However, it absolutely warrants confidential, closed-committee House and Senate hearings to determine how widespread the apparent chaos and “resistance” within the White House actually is, and to learn what some of the President’s thwarted impulses have been. If what is revealed matches the White House described in the anonymous New York Times Op-Ed, impeachment is appropriate and necessary for the security of the nation.

– rob rünt

On Impeachment

On Impeachment

On Impeachment


2/18/17


Each day, many of us watch slack-jawed as we witness further evidence of President Trump’s potential corruption, ties to Russia, mental instability, administrative chaos, lack of knowledge of political basics, divisiveness, and extremism. Many of us consider at least some of these things to be cause for impeachment, and we wonder why the wheels are not being put in motion for a removal from office. There are a number of explanations.

First, and most obviously, Congress needs to initiate and follow through on any impeachment proceedings, and both houses are currently controlled by Republicans. Those Republican Congresspeople are, by and large, getting exactly what they want right now – and more: Trump is doing all of the most extreme and unpopular things that they have wanted to do for years, and is taking all of the public heat for it. All that the Congressional Republicans have to do is keep their mouths shut, look the other way and whistle a happy tune. What could be better?

Second, many Congressional Republicans are the kind of politicians that Trump voters couldn’t stand: politically cowardly, insincere, ready to change positions whenever they believe that doing so is politically expedient. They see a lot of unrest in the streets and at their town halls right now. But they also know that Trump voters were silent before they elected Trump, and are quite possibly being silent right now. Politically, that is a very smart observation, and is an important thing for people on the left to be aware of as well: despite the impression that the left’s echo chamber might create for itself, the lack of vocal support for Trump right now does not mean that that support may not still be widespread. Congressional Republicans do not want to outrage this “silent majority” (realistically a minority), because Trump’s people are much more likely to vote Republican in future elections than are the masses who are swarming out into the streets.

Third, like many other Americans, Congressional Republicans watched the Presidential debates, where Trump effectively used aggressive, simplistic, elementary-schoolyard-style branding to inescapably trample each of his opponents – Republican and Democrat. They know that opposing him could be politically disastrous. They also know that the time will eventually come when they have no choice but to do so.

Right now is the honeymoon period for Congressional Republicans. Trump has behaved more like a king than a President. As the former top decision-maker for his own companies, that is how he is used to operating all his life. His main Presidential actions have been to sign his own executive orders. There has not yet been much of the usual back-and-forth that takes place between a President and the Legislature. That kind of interaction will eventually come, but for now, Congress is happy to have the President do what he wants and let him experience all of the flack for it.

Fourth, Congressional Republicans have made the political calculation that the impeachable things that Trump can be proven in a court of law to have done thus far do not yet rise to the level of public outrage that would prompt them to impeach. Realistically, all that is provable is that Trump has conflicts between his Presidential duties and his financial interests – bad, but not bad enough. Arguments about his mental instability could result in impeachment under the 25th Amendment, but such mental instability is difficult to prove in court. His divisiveness and extremism are part of what appealed to his most enthusiastic base, and that base is generally pleased with what they have seen from him so far. His lack of knowledge of politics is something that could be fully expected from a political “outsider,” so there is little surprising there beyond perhaps his seeming willful determination to flaunt that lack of knowledge internationally, offending America’s traditional allies and adversaries alike. Similarly, his Administration’s inner chaos and incompetence could be expected from a Washington novice, and he has dismissed reports of disorganization as “fake news” from the “lying press” – a characterization that his supporters likely believe.

That leaves us with his ties to Russia. Despite the seething anger of Congressional Democrats after a confidential briefing several weeks ago from FBI Director James Comey, I am of the belief that Comey’s FBI and other intelligence agencies are in the process of diligently investigating these Russian connections, and that any silence from the FBI and others is out of a desire not to jeopardize those investigations by tipping off the Administration about what leads they are pursuing. I also believe that the law enforcement and intelligence communities are investigating Trump’s business interests as they relate to corruption of his position as an elected public official.

Until one of these two investigations is complete, we are unlikely to see any serious moves toward impeachment. However, I do believe that at that point, there will be ample and irrefutable evidence, it will be made public, and Congress will have no choice but to take action.

In practical terms, such action will be far from undesirable for Congress: they will have in Mike Pence a mentally stable, cooperative President with whom they are ideologically in perfect step; all of the really ugly, controversial measures will already have been put in place by Trump; and people on the left will be jumping for joy at their “victory” and breathing a sigh of relief that there is no longer a lunatic in the White House with one finger on the nuclear button and one finger on his Twitter account.

And that’s the way that I believe the American Constitutional system will ultimately force/empower a dysfunctional political system to remove a profoundly unfit leader from office in the year 2017. If we can get there without a nuclear war, major financial collapse, or the irreversible implementation of an authoritarian state along the way, I’ll be happy. Yeah, I’m setting the bar pretty low.

– rob rünt


February 13-19, 2017

February 13-19, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Russian Connections


Justice Department Warned White House That Flynn Could be Vulnerable to Russian Blackmail
(Washington Post – 2/13/17)


Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contact With Russian Intelligence
(New York Times – 2/14/17)


The 3 Trump-Russia Scandals, Explained
(Vox – 2/15/17)


Trump is Treating Media Like Fools for Asking About Russia (1:05)
(Fox News – yep, you read correctly: Fox News – 2/16/17)

Link: https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FMediamatters%2Fvideos%2F10154339389146167%2F&show_text=0&width=560


Flynn Reportedly Lied to FBI About Sanctions Talk With Russian Envoy
(Fox News – again?! – 2/16/17)


Six Unanswered Questions After Michael Flynn’s Resignation
(National Public Radio – 2/14/17)


Russian Aggression


Russian Spy Ship Off Coast of Delaware
(CNN – 2/14/17)


Russian Spy Ship Patrols 30 Miles [From US Navy Base] Off the Coast of Connecticut
(USA Today – 2/15/17)


Four Russian Aircraft Buzzed a US Destroyer in Black Sea
(NBC News – 2/15/17)


Russia Tells White House That It Will Not Return Crimea to Ukraine
(Reuters – 2/15/17)


Senior Trump Policy Adviser Stephen Miller


Stephen Miller’s History of Racial Intolerance
(Univision – 2/8/17)


Stephen Miller’s Media Debut in Review (11:42)
(Morning Joe, MSNBC – 2/13/17)


“He’s the most sanctimonious student I think I ever encountered. He seemed to be absolutely sure of his own views and the correctness of them, and seemed to assume that if you were in disagreement with him, there was something malevolent or stupid about your thinking. Incredibly intolerant.”

John Burness
Former Sr. VP of Public Affairs & Government Relations – Duke University
Describing Duke Graduate/Senior Trump Policy Advisor Stephen Miller
(Quoted in the Univision Article Above)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Financial Cost of Trump As President – SO Worth It!

Trump Family’s Elaborate Lifestyle is a “Logistical Nightmare” – At Taxpayer Expense
(Washington Post – 2/16/17)


170219-14


Trump Family Trips Cost Taxpayers $11.3 Million in One Month – Almost as Much as Obama’s Cost in a Year
(The Independent UK – 2/18/17)


Kellyanne Con Artist  Con Woman  Con Job Conway

Interview Tricks Explained (6:32)
(Published by Vox – 2/13/17)


Trump’s Mental Health


AL FRANKEN “GOP Senators Privately Express Concerns About TRUMP Mental Health” (0:49)
(CNN Interview – 2/12/17)


35 Mental Health Professionals Warn About Trump
(New York Times – 2/13/17)


White House Tumult Threatens to Derail Trump’s Agenda
(CNBC – 2/14/17)


170219-13


“When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. We need to learn the lessons of history.”

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd about Trump’s statement that the news media is the enemy of the American people
(Full Interview – NBC News – 2/18/17)


Trump Says “I Inherited a Mess,” Blasts Media and Detractors in Combative News Conference
(Washington Post – 2/16/17)


170219-16

(Photo ©www.automechanicschools.net)

“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

President Donald Trump
During press conference
 on 2/16/17
(Full Transcript – CNBC)


Swedes Scratch Heads at Trump’s Suggestion of Major Incident
(San Francisco Chronicle – 2/19/17)


Fox News Chris Wallace to Reince Priebus: “You Don’t Get to Tell Us What to Do”
(Fox News – 2/19/17)


EPA


Trump to Sign Executive Order Cutting EPA’s Climate Change Work
(The Hill – 2/15/17)


Conservatives Demanding Details on Federal Employees’ Encryption Use
(Politico – 2/15/17)


Trump’s Looseness on National Security

Trump Turns Mar-a-Lago Club Terrace into Open-Air Situation Room
(Washington Post – 2/13/17)


Trump’s Saturday Florida “Campaign” Rally

Trump Savages Media at Florida Rally
(BBC – 2/18/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


And Then The Breitbart Lynch Mob Came For Me
(Rosa Brooks, posted on Moyers & Company, 2/8/17)

“We Have At Most a Year to Defend American Democracy, Perhaps Less”
(Interview with Timothy Snyder, Yale History Professor – 2/10/17)
Note: I debated whether to include this piece due to an odd statement that he makes halfway through regarding African Americans. Given the rest of the interview, I can’t imagine that he is saying what it sounds like he is saying, but I also can’t imagine what he actually is trying to communicate in that sentence. I think that the rest of the interview has a lot of merit, so I decided to include it here.

Time for Congress to Investigate Mr. Trump’s Ties to Russia
(New York Times Editorial Board, New York Times – 2/15/17)

Ignorance is Strength
(Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize Winning Economist, New York Times – 2/13/17)


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe

Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.

Town Hall Meeting in Cudahy, California (about midway between Compton and downtown Los Angeles) – Posted to YouTube 2/16/17 (2:21)


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Posted on Twitter by Stephen Colbert:

170219-01


Published by Telegraph UK – 2/14/17

170219-06


Posted on Facebook by Occupy Democrats:

170219-02


170219-09


Sign on the door at Pizza Luce in Hopkins, MN:

170219-08


“Tiny Trump” Photos – Huffington Post


Source: Unknown

170219-17


Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Monday, February 20, 2017: “Not My President’s Day Rallies” across the country – find your nearest rally here!
  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches across the country to let him know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest rally here!

Resources & Organizations