Saturday, November 05, 2016
Conservative columnist and former George W. Bush White House staffer Michael Gerson has a column in the Washington Post that lays out the case that a vote for Donald Trump is a rejection of America's best ideals and a dangerous turn toward authoritarian politics. It is worth a full read. I agree with Gerson, if Donald Trump should win on Tuesday, America will have jettisoned many of its founding ideals and professed values. It would no longer be the America I grew up in, imperfect as it may have been. I know that it would not be an America in which I want my children and grandchildren to live in. Here are column highlights:
Sixteen years ago I awaited the arrival of Election Day, anxious but hopeful. I was a part of a presidential campaign that had challenged the stereotype of Republicanism with a series of policy proposals on education, addiction treatment and other elements of social welfare. Suspend, for a moment, your views on the efficacy of No Child Left Behind and the faith-based initiative. Accept that we viewed the coming election — if we won — as the mandate for a certain model of governance.
I was deeply and personally invested in the outcome of the 2000 election. I believed that the reform of Republican ideology would serve the whole country, the common good.
I own up to being even more emotionally entangled in the result of the 2016 election — not because of any change in policy or ideology, but because of Donald Trump’s proposed shift in the very purpose of the presidency. His political theory, such as it is, is “us” vs. “them.” The “them” may be Republican elites, or liberal elites, or migrants or Mexicans or Muslims. Trump would be elected on the promise of fighting, rounding up, jailing or humbling any number of personal and political opponents. Take away this appeal, and there is nothing left but grasping, pathetic vanity.
The undercurrents of economic anxiety and cultural disorientation that Trump exploits are real, deserving both attention and sympathy. But Trump has organized these resentments with an unprecedented message: The United States is weak and broken, a hell of crime, terrorism and expanding misery, beset from within and without, and now in need of a strong hand — his strong hand — to turn things around.
The single most frightening, anti-democratic phrase of modern presidential history came in Trump’s convention speech: “I alone can fix it.” A Trump victory would be a mandate for authoritarian politics. Trump’s ambitions would be bounded by strong legislative and legal institutions and by his own risible ignorance of real leadership. But a Trump administration would be a concession to the idea that America needs a little more China, a little more Russia, a little more “so let it be written, so let it be done” in its executive branch.
I never imagined that Republican leaders — many of whom I know and have respected — would fall in line with such dangerous delusions, on the theory that anything is better than Hillary Clinton. Most options are better than Clinton. But not all. And not this. The GOP has largely accommodated itself to a candidate with no respect for, or knowledge of, the constitutional order. Every constitutional conservative should be revolted. Those who are complicit have adopted a particularly dangerous form of power-loving hypocrisy.
It is almost beyond belief that Americans should bless and normalize Trump’s appeal. Normalize vindictiveness and prejudice. Normalize bragging about sexual assault and the objectification of women. Normalize conspiracy theories and the abandonment of reason. Normalize contempt for the vulnerable, including disabled people and refugees fleeing oppression. Normalize a political tone that dehumanizes opponents and excuses violence. Normalize an appeal to white identity in a nation where racial discord and conflict are always close to the surface. Normalize every shouted epithet, every cruel ethnic and religious stereotype, every act of bullying in the cause of American “greatness.”
So much is at stake in this election. I am terrified of Trump supporters who refuse to see that they are taking the same road that Germans did in the early 1930's. That path lead to disaster. So would a Trump presidency.
In some ways this cruise vacation has offered a small respite from politics, but with cable news and network news available in one's cabin, the escape is anything but complete. Nonetheless, it has provided time for reflection on many matters. On the political front, I am more convinced than ever that a deep sickness has taken over the Republican Party and some have shown their true colors and, in my view utter lack of morality, in their vitriolic support of Donald Trump and the GOP's reverse Robin Hood agenda. I've "unfriended" a number of Facebook friends, many of whom once upon a time asked to be my "friend." Blindly supporting a political party that would take away my civil rights - perhaps even re-criminalize gay relations - and a narcissistic pathological liar to me indicates that one is anything but my "friend." So how did American politics get so broken? The media and some pundits like to blame both the GOP and Democrats, but the truth is that the poison and broken state of affairs comes mostly from the GOP. Taken a step further, the GOP's decline directly correlates to the rise of the Christofascists within the GOP. These "godly Christians" lie more than almost anyone else in society and they hold hatred towards others more than any other segment of society. A column in the New York Times looks at the broken political system and correctly lays the blame at the feet of the Republican Party. Here are highlights:
As far as anyone can tell, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — and the leader of what’s left of the Republican establishment — isn’t racist or authoritarian. He is, however, doing all he can to make a racist authoritarian the most powerful man in the world. Why? Because then he could privatize Medicare and slash taxes on the wealthy.And that, in brief, tells you what has happened to the Republican Party, and to America.
This has been an election in which almost every week sees some longstanding norm in U.S. political life get broken. We now have a major-party candidate who refuses to release his tax returns, despite huge questions about his business dealings. He constantly repeats claims that are totally false, like his assertion that crime is at record highs (it’s actually just a bit off historic lows). He stands condemned by his own words as a sexual predator. And there’s much, much more.
Any one of these things would in the past have been considered disqualifying in a presidential candidate. But leading Republicans just shrug.
So how did all our political norms get destroyed? Hint: It started long before Donald Trump.
On one side, Republicans decided long ago that anything went in the effort to delegitimize and destroy Democrats. Those of us old enough to remember the 1990s also remember the endless series of accusations hurled against the Clintons.
Nothing was too implausible to get on talk radio and get favorable mention in Congress and in conservative media: Hillary killed Vince Foster! Bill was a drug smuggler!
When Mrs. Clinton famously spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to undermine her husband’s presidency, she wasn’t being hyperbolic; she was simply describing the obvious reality.
The flip side of the obsessive pursuit of a Democratic president was utter refusal to investigate even the most obvious wrongdoing by Republicans in office.
There were multiple real scandals during the administration of George W. Bush, ranging from what looked like a political purge in the Justice Department to the deceptions that led us into invading Iraq; nobody was ever held accountable.
The erosion of norms continued after President Obama took office. He faced total obstruction at every turn; blackmail over the debt ceiling; and now, a refusal even to hold hearings on his nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Republican leaders have spent the past couple of decades doing exactly what the likes of Mr. Ryan are doing now: trashing democratic norms in pursuit of economic benefits for their donor class.
So we shouldn’t really be too surprised that Mr. Comey, who turns out to be a Republican first and a public servant, well, not so much, decided to politically weaponize his position on the eve of the election; that’s what Republicans have been doing across the board.
Despite Mr. Comey’s abuse of power, Mrs. Clinton will probably win. But Republicans won’t accept it. . . . . And no matter what Mrs. Clinton does, the barrage of fake scandals will continue, now with demands for impeachment.
Can anything be done to limit the damage? It would help if the media finally learned its lesson, and stopped treating Republican scandal-mongering as genuine news. And it would also help if Democrats won the Senate, so that at least some governing could get done.
I differ with the author on one point: in my view, Paul Ryan, is a racist. Once cannot support racists and support racist policies and then claim that you are not part of the problem. In many ways, Ryan is just as despicable as Donald Trump. Perhaps even more so, since he knows what he is doing is wrong and simply doesn't care. Trump at least has the excuse of mental illness to explain his behavior. Paul Ryan does not.
Friday, November 04, 2016
At numerous times I have vented my frustration with much of the mainstream media and the utter irresponsibility that motivates far too many wrongly named "journalists." Many are little better than gossips who care more about quick sensation and anything other than serious policy issues. This complaint extends to both the TV media where most anchors are selected based on looks rather than any requirement of intelligence - much same way as Donald Trump picks women to marry - and to much of the print and digital media. This year's height of irresponsible reporting has swirled around Hillary Clinton's e-mail server even as Donald Trump's possible connections to a hostile foreign dictator gets only brief, passing mention. Now, through Rudy Giuliani's loose lips, we learn that some in the FBI have been passing information to the Trump campaign. A piece in Vox looks at the irresponsible reporting while a piece in Huffington Post looks at FBI dalliances with Donald Trump. Here are highlights, first from Vox:
In total, network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.
This is unfortunate because emailgate, like so many Clinton pseudo-scandals before it, is bullshit. The real scandal here is the way a story that was at best of modest significance came to dominate the US presidential election — overwhelming stories of much more importance, giving the American people a completely skewed impression of one of the two nominees, and creating space for the FBI to intervene in the election in favor of its apparently preferred candidate in a dangerous way.
When Hillary Clinton took office as secretary of state, she, like most people, already had a personal email account. Like most people who started a federal job in 2009, she was also disheartened to learn that the then-current state of federal IT departments was such that she could not connect her personal smartphone to a State Department email address. If she wanted ready access to both her email accounts, she would need to carry two smartphones.
Everyone working in government felt that this was kinda bullshit, but nobody could really do anything about it.
Clinton decided to do something about it. Namely, she told her top aides to just email her at her personal address so she could keep using whichever devices she wanted. This violated an internal State Department policy directive, known as a Foreign Affairs Manual, which stated that while it was okay to use personal digital devices to do work occasionally, “normal day-to-day operations” should be conducted on standard State Department equipment. Clinton chose to ignore this guideline and because she was the boss nobody could stop her. Career foreign service officers and other State personnel have every right to be peeved that Clinton opted out of an annoying policy rather than fixing the underlying issue, but it’s hardly a matter of overwhelming public concern.
And, indeed, it turns out Colin Powell also used a private email address for routine work.
Using a private server violates that rule, but so would using a Gmail address or simply checking your State.gov email address from your personal laptop rather than a Department-issue one.
There are two possible interpretations here. One is that Clinton hatched the private email account plan as an elaborate dodge of federal record-keeping laws, but then months before the public became aware of the server’s existence complied with requests to turn them over. The other is that the federal records rule on the book was antiquated and a bit absurd, requiring officials to turn over paper copies of emails for no good reason, and simply got ignored out of sloppiness.
After Hillary left office, the State Department told her she had to turn all her work-related emails over to them, so she tasked a legal team with determining which emails were work emails and which were not. She turned the work emails over because that’s what she was legally required to do. She deleted the others, presumably because she did not want Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz to rummage through her inbox leaking whatever they happened to find amusing to area journalists.
Now, is it possible that Clinton’s legal team simply decided to entirely disregard the law and delete work-related emails?
In some sense, sure. But there’s no evidence that this happened. Generally speaking, in life we assume it would be moderately difficult to hire a well-known law firm to destroy evidence for you without someone deciding to do the right thing and squeal.
It’s precisely because nothing about the basic setup of the email account was in any way wrong that the investigation ended up focusing on the question of mishandling classified information.
Almost all of the relevant statutes require an intent to mishandle classified information in order to bring a prosecution, a standard that Clinton’s conduct clearly does not meet. Critics have thus chosen to focus on 18 USC § 793, a statute that sets a lower “gross negligence” standard.
However, as Jack Goldsmith, one of the top lawyers in George W. Bush’s administration explains, such a prosecution “would be entirely novel, and would turn in part on very tricky questions about how email exchanges fit into language written with physical removal of classified information in mind.”
This legal analysis is important because it makes it clear that even if the Weiner laptop emails aren’t simply client-side copies of the exact emails the FBI already has, there is essentially no chance it will change the ultimate verdict. The reason Clinton isn’t getting locked up is that there was no malign intent. Finding another email with classified information on it won’t change that conclusion.
Network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined. Cable news has been, if anything, worse, and many prestige outlets have joined the pileup. One malign result of obsessive email coverage is that the public is left totally unaware of the policy stakes in the election.
As for the Trump moles in the FBI, her are highlights from Huffington Post:Clinton broke no laws according to the FBI itself. Her setup gave her no power to evade federal transparency laws beyond what anyone who has a personal email account of any kind has. Her stated explanation for her conduct is entirely believable, fits the facts perfectly, and is entirely plausible to anyone who doesn't simply start with the assumption that she's guilty of something. . . . Given Powell’s conduct, Clinton wasn't even breaking with an informal precedent.
Rudy Giuliani said Friday that he knew the FBI planned to review more emails tied to Hillary Clinton before a public announcement about the investigation last week, confirming that the agency leaked information to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Giuliani has bragged about his close ties to the FBI for months, mentioning in interviews that “outraged FBI agents” have told him they’re frustrated by how the Clinton investigation was handled. And two days before FBI Director James Comey announced that the agency was reviewing the newly uncovered emails, Giuliani teased that Trump’s campaign had “a couple of surprises left.”
“You’ll see, and I think it will be enormously effective,” he said in an interview with Fox News.
All of this has led to suspicion that someone in the FBI is leaking information to Giuliani and the Trump campaign. The Daily Beast’s Wayne Barrett explored those suspicions on Thursday, detailing how Giuliani’s ties to the agency date back to his days as a U.S. attorney in the 1980s.
Giuliani insisted he had nothing to do with Comey’s decision to announce the probe prior to Election Day ― a move that both Republicans and Democrats have condemned. He also insisted his information comes from “former FBI agents.”
|Trump supporter Comey and Clinton|
James Comey really messed up.The FBI director did not commit some garden-variety mistake. This is not an “oops” moment. For reasons that have more to do with protecting himself from dishonest Republican attacks, Comey committed an overtly egregious and political act that roiled the nation’s politics 11 days before Election Day — and undermined public trust in the nation’s criminal justice institutions.
And he needs to go.
[I]t is now increasingly clear that Comey was holding a dud. What he did know is that e-mails from Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, had been found on the computer of her estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. The problem is, that’s all he knew. There was no evidence that the e-mails were from Clinton, contained classified material, or had any investigative value.
The paucity of new information is bad enough, but what’s most troubling about this episode is that Comey violated a long-standing Justice Department precedent discouraging action on a criminal investigation 60 days before an election, because such disclosures risk undermining the political process.
Why didn’t Comey wait until after the election to tell Congress — or at least wait until agents had a chance to review the e-mails? The answer, unfortunately, has everything to do with Comey and little to do with what’s good for the country.
As best that can be gleaned from the now torrent of leaks emanating from FBI headquarters, Comey was concerned that news about the e-mails would become public, which might lead to accusations from Republicans that the FBI was covering up evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton.
Ironically, we know now that FBI agents have been aware of the e-mails for weeks — and yet, somehow, the information didn’t leak out. But for Comey that was too big a personal risk to take.
While some Democratic partisans would like to believe that Comey, a Republican, is trying to tip the election to Trump, in reality the answer is more clear-cut: He’s covering his own posterior.
All of this began back in July, at Comey’s now fateful press conference in which he personally announced that there would be no prosecution of Clinton — even though the decision to prosecute was not his to make. That was bad enough, but then he made matters far worse by editorializing about the case.
Comey’s dubious description at the time — of Clinton’s handling of classified information as “extremely careless” — was prejudicial and inappropriate. But what makes it worse is that he did this, almost certainly, to inoculate himself and the FBI from inevitable GOP attacks asserting that he was not recommending charges against Clinton for political reasons. It speaks to how harmful the GOP’s assertions of an FBI cover-up have been, but that is no defense. Comey has a responsibility to ignore politics in this case. Instead he’s allowed it to dictate his actions.
Now he has doubled down with this latest abuse of power and, in the process, cast undue — and unfair — suspicion on Clinton.
Comey has cast a cloud over this interminable election. His actions run the very real risk of affecting its outcome.
Whatever the result on Election Day, Comey’s path forward is clearer.
He can’t un-ring the bill, since any step to clean up the damage could lead Republicans to believe a cover-up is afoot.
Having fundamentally undermined confidence in the justice system — and abused his power as FBI director — the only way he can repair it is by resigning his office.
I still want to see him prosecuted under the Hatch Act, especially if Clinton wins next Tuesday. An example needs to be made.
|Bohio Dive Resort from the water - click image to enlarge|
Wednesday and Thursday were hectic days. On Wednesday we were in Grand Turk and snorkeled and did rum tasting (the latter pretty much wiped me out) and yesterday I spent much of the day dealing with law firm work and finalizing my November column for VEER Magazine. Both days I simply was worn out and trying to spend some time with the husband and friends also on the cruise.
Of the islands we visited this trip, Grand Turk most won my heart, particularly since it is not over commercialized. The international airport and main tourist hotels lies on the island of Providenciales (Provo as locals call it) on the other side of the island chain. One of our friends arranged our excursion to be a snorkeling outing followed by rum tasting at the Bohio Dive Resort. I cannot say enough good things about this small 16 room resort with a beautiful beach and a short boat ride from the Grand Turk "wall" where the sea bottom drops in a sheer cliff from relatively shallow to over 7000 feet in depth. The fish and coral were amazing!
As for the rum tasting - which was after the snorkeling - our hostess did not skimp on the rum! After trying shots of three local rums we moved on to rum drinks of various sorts. I would definitely come back to Grand Turk and would want to stay at this resort. With only 16 rooms, we could put together a group and have our own resort for a week.
|Busy tasting rum!|
|Boats that ferry scuba divers and snorkeling groups to the "Wall"|
Yesterday was a day at sea. We began the day believing were were bound back to Norfolk only to learn that a passenger had had a medical emergency and that we would be diverting to Nassau and the nearest significant hospital. We ended up leaving Nassau around 8:00 pm and should learn when we will arrive in Norfolk tomorrow. I suspect we will not be making our formerly scheduled 8:00 am arrival time.
|Sunset last evening as we headed South towards Nassau|
Hopefully today will be less crazy work wise and we can savor our last day at sea before returning to the "real world."
Thursday, November 03, 2016
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
The Republican Party in which I grew up and later served as an activist and City Committee member for Virginia Beach is dead and gone. Many of my former Republican colleagues - or at least those who have not fled the party like I have - remain in denial and sadly refuse to see the ugliness and, in my view, evil, that they are condoning through their acquiescence to Trump as the GOP standard bearer. Through the years I have found that "getting along" and "going with the flow" are easy cop outs. In contrast, speaking up for what is right and moral takes a spine and admittedly may not make one popular with one's circle of friends. Indeed, it made me persona non-grata in the Virginia Beach GOP. Nonetheless, I have always opted to speak out for what I perceive to be right. As Frank Rich lays out in a lengthy but wonderful column in New York Magazine opposing Donald Trump and the ugly elements in the GOP party base that have rallied to him required courage and backbone. Most, as Rich notes, Have acted like the Vichy French who opted to get in bed with Hitler in occupied France during WWII. Morality and decency to them, and most of the leadership of today's GOP, is secondary to opportunism and self-advancement. I sincerely hope that history will be especially brutal to these individuals - Paul Ryan in particular - who put self-promotion ahead of morality and decency. Here are column highlights:
In 2016, springtime for Hitler has been held over by popular demand to summer and fall. “It’s difficult to say when the Hitler analogies got out of control,” observed the writer Michael Lind in Politico way back in March, after the somewhat unexpected trilogy of Bill Maher, Louis C.K., and Glenn Beck found common ground in likening Donald Trump to the Führer. But the avalanche of analogies never let up. By June, the onetime Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was comparing Trump to both Hitler and Mussolini when addressing fellow GOP fat cats at Mitt Romney’s annual closed-door conclave in Park City. When a New York Times review of a new Hitler biography in September highlighted some striking Trump parallels, the book in question, a thousand pages long and translated from the German, soared up the Amazon list as perplexed Americans ransacked any source for clues to the provenance of the toxic lunatic who threatened their country.Trump, I’ll argue not for the first time, is no Hitler. . . . . He has neither the attention span, organizational discipline, nor ideological zeal it takes to be a genocidal dictator. He doesn’t even have the skill set to avoid serial bankruptcies.
Yet if Trump is no Hitler, he’s proved himself a stalking horse for a movement with Hitlerian ambitions, psychoses, and allies, the foremost of whom is a strongman with credible Hitler potential, Vladimir Putin. Trump has made himself the supreme leader of an enraged swath of Americans, perhaps some 40 percent of the electorate, as eager to blow up our republic as the Nazis were Weimar. A subset of that Trumpentariat adheres to neo-Nazi values (and in some cases neo-Nazi organizations) defined by a hatred of immigrants, Muslims, Jews, and most other racial and ethnic minorities.
[T]he Trumpist cause will outlive him. The Trumpists themselves, nurtured within the GOP in embryo for a half-century before Trump’s candidacy rallied them and rebranded them in his own image, will march on. Having already been emboldened by their easy conquest of a major political party, they will be more inflamed than ever by a crushing defeat in an election they are certain is rigged. They may yet rally around a new demagogue who is a more effective Hitler surrogate than Trump could ever be.
And that’s why a second, intertwined analogy remains very much on the table: the analogy between Trump’s collaborators and appeasers and their antecedents who stood idly by or actively abetted Hitler as he consolidated power in the Nazi era. The weak Republican elites who did little or nothing to bring Trump down in 2016 — and who have pandered to his constituency ever since Sarah Palin’s rallies boiled over into anti-Obama lynch-mob hysteria two presidential elections ago — cannot slink away from history’s harsh verdict on the grounds that Trump is no Hitler. After all, Hitler wasn’t fully Hitler either when too many men in power gave him a free pass in the 1930s.
It was not until 1942, according to the Holocaust historian Peter Novick, that “the special fate that Hitler had reserved for the Jews of Europe became known in the West.” But history has not judged that timeline to be an exculpatory factor for Chamberlain, the Vichy collaborators, and the startling number of prominent Americans, most notoriously the aviator turned arch-isolationist Charles Lindbergh, who earlier on eased Hitler’s glide path to his subsequent infamy.
Now historical judgment is lying in wait for their contemporary counterparts. Those in power who said “Yes” or “Maybe” to Trump will remain on the moral hook not only for him but for whatever form Trumpism takes after November 8. They’re in a lose-lose bind: As posterity won’t be kind to them over the long term, so voters, including those in their own party, will punish them in the near term, too.
To date, the blame game over accountability for Trump has focused mostly on the press (which, of course, is also found guilty by Trump and his followers of promoting Clinton). But the press didn’t create him and did not have the power to stop him.
His voters didn’t give a hoot about the outright fraud of Trump University, his other egregious businesses, his nonpayment of taxes, and his racial and sexual transgressions. They ridiculed or ignored the high-minded editorials and op-eds skewering Trump even when written by conservative pundits (George Will, Michael Gerson, and Bret Stephens most ferociously and persistently) or published in traditionally conservative outlets from National Review to the Arizona Republic. They didn’t even care that the Koch brothers — one of whom, Charles, described Trump’s proposed Muslim registry as “reminiscent of Nazi Germany” — refused to support him.
The only people with the power to shut down Trump were those sitting at the top of the Republican Party. . . . divided Republican elites into three categories: “Vichy Republicans,” who went along with Trump and the party base enamored of him; “Survival Republicans,” who tried to remain as neutral as Switzerland; and “Resistance Republicans,” who actively battled his nomination.
In the GOP of 2016, a number of big-name figures fell into the Resistance camp or close to it, including Romney, many of Bush 41 and 43’s family members, former appointees and political strategists (like Murphy), and the long lists of retired GOP officeholders who signed anti-Trump letters and churned out an ocean of op-eds. But they had one fatal drawback when it came to stopping Trump: None of them held any actual power within their party.
Unfortunately for America, those with real clout in the GOP were without exception Vichy, not Resistance, Republicans: the current leadership of both chambers of Congress (Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell), the party chair (Reince Priebus), and the incumbent senators with national followings (John McCain, Ted Cruz). Not to mention their big donors. These collaborators, in contrast to the conservative pundits and out-of-power Republicans of the Resistance, did have the means to derail Trump. For them to do so would have required the guts to defy a mob in their own party and to summon the sacrifice, strategy, and cunning that constitute leadership.
No matter what slur Trump disgorged, they failed to act, even when they were the specific targets of his insults. They failed to rally around any plan, however risky or potentially divisive within the party, for challenging Trump at the convention in Cleveland. Indeed, with the exception of three incumbent senators not up for reelection (Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina) and a handful of retro GOP moderates and retiring members in the House, every Republican holding office in Washington remained in the Vichy and Survival camps until long after Trump had locked up the nomination. This hall of shame includes supposedly mainstream northeastern Republicans . . .
It was bad enough that the top Republican leaders gritted their teeth and continued to endorse Trump throughout his cavalcade of indignities over the first 14 months of his campaign. But you’d think even the most cynical of them would have acknowledged that a Rubicon had been reached in mid-August when back-to-back developments left no doubt that Trump was not just a reckless ignoramus and bigot but a clear-and-present danger both to national security and to the Constitution.
First came the Times report of handwritten ledgers indicating that his then–campaign chairman, the dictator-friendly lobbyist Paul Manafort, had been paid $12.7 million from Putin puppets for murky services rendered in Ukraine. Given Trump’s repeated Putin accolades, vocal disdain for NATO, and open invitation to the Kremlin to disrupt an American election, it was still further evidence, if any were needed, that Trump was “an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” in the words of the former CIA official Michael Morell. Then came the supplanting of Manafort by Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon, a kingpin of an alt-right movement well stocked with anti-Semites and white supremacists. But even then the Vichy Republicans stayed in line, either vacillating, hiding, or muttering faint critiques of their party’s standard-bearer.
Much of the cross-referencing of Trump and Hitler this year has invoked Lindbergh because of Trump’s slogan “America First,” which is also the name of the fascist-friendly organization for which Lindbergh became a leading spokesman prior to America’s entry into World War II. Trump dismissed that link, saying that he saw America First as “a brand-new, modern term.” He probably didn’t know he had stumbled into Hitlerspeak (“the Big Lie”) to tar Obamacare either. On the issue of his ignorance, at least, I believe him. Trump is nothing if not an idiot savant when it comes to fascism.
But America First all too soon became a magnet not just for isolationists intent on avoiding another world war but for nativists and bigots embracing Hitler’s pathologies: the populist radio priest Father Coughlin and industrialists like the rabidly anti-Semitic Henry Ford and the textile manufacturer William Regnery (whose son Henry would soon start the eponymous conservative publishing house that nurtured the modern GOP’s radical right). It devolved into what Time condemned as a hot mess of “Jew-haters, Roosevelt-haters, England-haters, Coughlinites, politicians, and demagogues.”
[T]he Vichy Republicans supporting Trump use some of the same arguments Lindbergh and his fellow appeasers trotted out to rationalize their support of Hitler. Their argument of choice is that Trump, however imperfect, is still the lesser of two evils. In the ’30s, the evil sometimes considered greater than Hitler was Stalin, who was thought to be responsible for butchering tens of millions of people, a crime not exactly comparable to Clinton’s worst sins even if you believe she murdered Vince Foster. Some Hitler appeasers also judged Hitler as a lesser evil to FDR. As Hitler’s bombs were raining down on England in 1940, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio argued that “there is a great deal more danger of the infiltration of totalitarian ideas from the New Deal circles in Washington than there will ever be” from the Nazis. This is of a piece with the Vichy Republicans who claim that a Trump presidency is preferable to letting Clinton nominate justices to the Supreme Court.
For much of the campaign, Ryan, McConnell, McCain & Co. were also prone to claiming that the 70-year-old Trump would somehow change or grow over time or be boxed in by the constitution. If elected, he would be contained by “the constraints and accountability built into the U.S. system of government,” in the words of The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which, like Ryan and McConnell, rapped Trump on the wrist for his excesses but still boosted him as the preferable alternative to “Barack Obama’s third term led by Hillary Clinton.” This argument ignores the reality of presidential power in the age of the Imperial Presidency — the very power that conservatives complain Obama has abused — not to mention the realities of human behavior. And again it echoes the naïveté of Hitler’s American appeasers, including Lindbergh, who believed that “the Germans would eventually moderate the excesses of [Hitler’s] Nazi regime.”
[T]oday’s Vichy Republicans, whose reasons for supporting the Putin-embracing Trump were entirely selfish and partisan: clinging to power, holding on to their congressional majority, and preserving a legislative agenda that would reward the party’s biggest donors with further tax cuts. However misguided, obtuse, or bigoted, Lindbergh and his fellow Hitler appeasers, including some of those in Congress, were trying to put America, not their own careers or party, first.
As Election Day approaches, some conservative editorialists are already predicting that a Trump defeat will bring peace in our time to the GOP — a restoration of the pre-Trump status quo. . . . . It should be noted that these are some of the same conservative prognosticators who predicted Republicans would walk away from Trump a year ago. It’s also the same prediction that followed Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The Republicans had rolled the dice on undiluted conservatism and lost catastrophically.
The Trumpists are more radical than Goldwater’s or Reagan’s followers were. They are building their own burgeoning Breitbart–Roger Ailes media empire and are primed to disregard the results of a “stolen” election in which the loser may not concede. The “Second Amendment people” that Trump egged on are already talking openly about rebellion and assassination after a Clinton victory. The damage they may inflict on the country, let alone the Republican Party and the homegrown Nigel Farage–like leaders they may rally around, is yet to be determined. As Steve Schmidt, the former McCain campaign strategist and a #NeverTrumper, told the Washington Post, the postelection GOP will “look like Berlin circa 1945.”
Whatever happens on November 8, few expect a wipeout of Ryan’s 60-seat House majority. But the Berlin analogy is nonetheless apt. There will be chaos and open warfare regardless, and it’s hard to see a world where anything like the ancien régime can be restored. . . . This is the same party that embraced Trump in the first place. Most Republicans prefer his signature platform of sealed borders, protectionism, and opposition to Social Security and Medicare cuts to Ryan’s priorities of immigration reform, open trade, and “privatizing” entitlements. Whether Trump wins or loses, Ryan and his fellow elites are certain to be rejected by their own party’s base much as Bush, Rubio, and Kasich were during the primaries — and much as John Boehner and Eric Cantor were before that. The postelection purge may be particularly ugly, given how unhappy many Trump voters are with what they regarded as the elites’ lukewarm support for their standard-bearer.
With time and distance, the morally self-regarding Ryan, “the Hamlet of southern Wisconsin,” in George Will’s withering dismissal, and some of the other GOP elites who tried to be on both sides of the Trump question may resemble no one so much as Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the Seventh Marquess of Londonderry. The subject of a 2000 biography, Making Friends With Hitler, by the great Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw — and surely a model for the fictional appeaser in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day — Lord Londonderry was a member of the British Cabinet from 1931 to 1935 who sought a friendly peace with the Nazis. Londonderry, Kershaw writes, “had no truck with the fanatical Fascists, or the wide-eyed cranks and mystics who fell for Hitler lock, stock and barrel”; he merely “saw the need to come to a political arrangement with Hitler’s regime.” In the end, however, his noble intentions and distance from the Brownshirts didn’t matter — his “reputation was ruined.”
If history is just, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell will in time be viewed as equivalent with moral bankruptcy and selfishness. Having been on our recent vacation and meeting many kind and wonderful non-white individuals, I am further convinced that those who would further their careers by sowing hatred of others need to become social and political outcasts. Indeed, if the Catholic Church had any moral credibility left, bishops would refuse to allow Ryan to receive communion. What he stands for and advocates for is diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church's supposed social gospel message.
While the American mainstream media continues to play into the hands of Donald Trump - and actually Vladimir Putin as well - by having near orgasms in its rush to sensationalize issues surrounding Hillary Clinton's e-mails, for the most part it is utterly ignoring the 75 lawsuits involving Donald Trump. Even more hypocritically, it is ignoring Trump's history of destroying records and e-mails despite court orders. A piece in Politicususa looks at the Trump's lawsuits while Newsweek looks at Trump's pattern of contempt of court actions and record destruction. First these highlights from the Newsweek piece:
Over the course of decades, Donald Trump’s companies have systematically destroyed or hidden thousands of emails, digital records and paper documents demanded in official proceedings, often in defiance of court orders. These tactics—exposed by a review of thousands of pages of court filings, judicial orders and affidavits from an array of court cases—have enraged judges, prosecutors, opposing lawyers and the many ordinary citizens entangled in litigation with Trump. In each instance, Trump and entities he controlled also erected numerous hurdles that made lawsuits drag on for years, forcing courtroom opponents to spend huge sums of money in legal fees as they struggled—sometimes in vain—to obtain records.This behavior is of particular import given Trump’s frequent condemnations of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, for having deleted more than 30,000 emails from a server she used during her time as secretary of state. While Clinton and her lawyers have said all of those emails were personal, Trump has suggested repeatedly on the campaign trail that they were government documents Clinton was trying to hide and that destroying them constituted a crime. The allegation—which the FBI concluded was not supported by any evidence—is a crowd-pleaser at Trump rallies, often greeted by supporters chanting, “Lock her up!”
and untruthful affidavits, as well as the hiding or improper destruction of documents, dates back to at least 1973, when the Republican nominee, his father and their real estate company battled the federal government over civil charges that they refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. The Trump strategy was simple: deny, impede and delay, while destroying documents the court had ordered them to hand over.
For months, the Trumps ignored the government’s discovery demands, even though court procedure in a civil or criminal case requires each side to produce relevant documents in a timely manner. . . . . When litigation is filed or even contemplated, scrupulous lawyers and corporations immediately impose document-retention programs or require that any shredding or disposing of records be halted. Courts have handed down severe sanctions or even criminal charges of obstruction of justice against executives and companies that destroyed records because they knew they were going to be sued.
Yet when the government filed its standard discovery requests, the Trumps reacted as though seeking that information was outrageous. They argued in court that prosecutors had no case and wanted to riffle through corporate files on a fishing expedition. Once again, this led to more delays, more replies, more hearings...and another specious argument thrown out of court.
Finally, under subpoena, Trump appeared for a short deposition. When asked about the missing documents, he made a shocking admission: The Trumps had been destroying their corporate records for the previous six months and had no document-retention program. They had conducted no inspections to determine which files might have been sought in the discovery requests or might otherwise be related to the case. Instead, in order to “save space,” Trump testified, officials with his company had been tossing documents into the shredder and garbage.
In 2009, a group of plaintiffs claimed Trump duped them into buying apartments in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, development by portraying it as one of his projects. The fine print of the dense and legalistic purchase contracts, however, revealed that Trump had agreed only to license his name to the developers, and when the project hit financial snags, he walked away from it.
In their initial disclosures in 2011, Trump and his company said they had no insurance to cover any of their liability in this case. . . . . Two years after denying that Trump had insurance that could have been used to settle the Fort Lauderdale litigation, one of his lawyers made a startling admission: Trump and his company had been insured all along for up to $5 million. But no more—the policy had recently “dried up,” the lawyer said.
involving Trump and his companies hiding and destroying emails and other records involved real estate developer Cordish Cos., which, through an affiliate called Power Plant Entertainment LLC, built two American Indian casinos in Florida.
Trump offered no evidence in support of his contention except his word, so the opposing lawyers filed extensive discovery demands, seeking emails, computer files, calendars and other records that might prove he knew about the casino deal before 2000.
A full year into the case, Trump and his company, Trump Hotels, had produced only a single box of documents, many of which were not relevant—and no emails, digital files, phone records, calendars or even documents Trump lawyers had promised to turn over. Interrogatories were still unanswered. Lawyers for Power Plant obtained a court order compelling Trump and his company to comply with the discovery demands and hand over the relevant information and documents.
In a March 2006 response, Trump’s lawyers argued that the emails and other electronic documents had not been produced because the company didn’t have them. They claimed it had no servers until 2001—the year Trump claimed he had learned of the Power Plant project. They also claimed Trump Hotels had no policy regarding retaining documents until 2003. In other words, they hadn’t turned over any emails because no emails had been saved on a Trump server.
Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld reacted with near disbelief. “I don't have the patience for this,” he said. “This has been going on too long to have to listen—and I don't mean to be disrespectful—to this double-talk. There has to be an attitude adjustment from the plaintiff.”
[B]y deposing numerous IT specialists with two Trump companies—the Trump Organization and Trump Hotels—lawyers for Power Plant gradually chipped away at it. Finally, during a deposition nine months after he had signed the deceptive affidavit, the same Trump executive admitted his assertions in it were untrue. In fact, an IBM Domino server for emails and other files had been installed in 1999, . . . These startling revelations changed nothing, however, because there was no trove of documents. The Trump records had been destroyed.
There is much more, but you get the drift: Trump and his companies are pathological lies and have nothing but contempt for the legal system and view others as suckers and targets for abuse. The Politicususa piece follows this theme of just how crooked and unscrupulous Trump is in fact. Here are highlights:
[H]ow many people realize that Donald Trump, at this moment, has 75 – SEVENTY-FIVE – legal issues hanging over his head.
He’s lying 20 to 35 times a day and has his followers – and with much less excuse, the mainstream media – thoroughly distracted by the Clinton email non-story so he can divert their attention away from his own legally questionable activities.
USA TODAY reported at the end of October that “Just two weeks before Election Day, at least 75 of the 4,000-plus lawsuits involving Trump and his businesses remain open, according to an ongoing, nationwide analysis of state and federal court records by USA TODAY.”
If one thing has become clear throughout this election it is that Trump does not pay his bills. Earlier, we had covered an incident where he had declined to finish paying a Florida contractor for work it did on one of his resorts, having decided that the contractor had been “paid enough,” even though it wasn’t the agreed-upon amount. Trump got nailed by the court for $300K in attorney’s fees in that case.
Just a few examples from USA TODAY’s investigation:
Trump faces significant open litigation tied to his businesses: angry members at his Jupiter, Fla. golf course say they were cheated out of refunds on their dues and a former employee at the same club claims she was fired after reporting sexual harassment. There’s a fraud case brought by Trump University students who say the mogul’s company ripped them off for tens of thousands in tuition for a sham real estate course.
Trump is also defending lawsuits tied to his campaign. A disgruntled GOP political consultant sued for $4 million saying Trump defamed her. Another suit, a class action, says the campaign violated consumer protection laws by sending unsolicited text messages.
As pointed out by USA TODAY’s Nick Penzenstadler and John Kelly, these lawsuits will dog Trump into the White House, should he win. He will have no immunity because he is president. And America – and the world – will be treated to the spectacle of the President of the United States having to make trip after trip to the court to settle his highly questionable personal and business affairs.
There are harassment cases, sex discrimination lawsuits, fraud, unpaid bills, racist comments, defamation, cases involving Trump University. As USA TODAY notes, “as recently as last spring…New York had to take legal action to collect $8,578 in unpaid taxes on the Trump-owned company that owns the trademark Boeing 757 that jetted the mogul to campaign rallies across the country.”
And those 75 cases will likely grow. . . . All the facts – including the new disclosures about Trump’s ties to a Russian server and his potentially illegal ploy to avoid paying taxes – make it clear that if Trump the deadbeat liar drains the swamp, he will be the first one down the drain.
Many in the German media in the 1930's by laziness and default aided and abetted Hitler. The parallels with the American media today are very disturbing. Trump is a cheat and a perpetual liar, plain and simple.