Death Of A Real President – GHWB

George Herbert Walker Bush was a real president, one whose life and service stood high, above the crowd.

I covered his public life in one way or another beginning in 1970, when I moderated a debate in Amarillo, Texas, on the ABC television affiliate between the two contenders for an open Senate seat – Bush and Democrat Lloyd Bentsen.

I thought the debate was a draw but Bentsen won the election.

As you know, Bush then filled a succession of political posts – Chairman of the National Republican party (thanks to Richard Nixon), Envoy to China, CIA Director, Vice President and President.

In later years Barbara was fond of quipping that she had loved her husband dearly for so many years and the only bad thing she knew about him was that he couldn’t keep a job!

Bush was a moderate republican by the standards of his time, meaning he adhered to the fundamental party principles of, fiscal responsibility, upward mobility through the free enterprise system and hard work and a government that helped where needed but otherwise got out of the way.

In running against Ronald Reagan for his party’s presidential nomination in 1980, he called Reagan’s “supply side” economics “Voodoo economics,” which it was. So to try to convince the  hard right conservatives of his party that he had recanted he famously told them to “read my lips…..no new taxes” during his 1988, convention acceptance speech.

Only, once president to make a deal with the Democrats to sign on for a modest tax increase. One that helped lay the foundation for a return to fiscal sanity that resulted in the last four Clinton budgets to produce a surplus, not another huge deficit!

But the hard right never forgave Bush and didn’t work hard for his re-election.

However, that wasn’t what defeated him in 1992. It was that regardless of his achievements, he was not a good “press the flesh, I feel your pain” politician running against the most formidable practitioner of that art I’ve ever seen.

Bush’s father, Prescott (who was in the Senate when I came to Washington) taught his son to be reserved, formal, correct and basically a “patrician.” But underneath that sometimes off-putting exterior was the heart and soul of a warm, caring and compassionate human being.

Let me show you.

Bush loved to write notes to just about anyone he met and interacted with. Every reporter who came in contact with him has a box full of short notes from GB.

He wrote many, many long letters to family, friends and others and in 1999, published a complication of some of those notes and letters. I interviewed him about this for our ABC NEWS 20/20 television magazine program.

Watch it now, please. The 20/20 anchor Jack Ford introduces the interview and he and co-anchor Connie Chung discuss it briefly afterward.

Yes, George Herbert Walker Bush was a Real President and a Great, Good Man.

As the saying goes, We never know how much we miss something until it’s gone.

A REAL PRESIDENT MEETS THE PRESS

I can’t let go of that infamous press conference of November 7, 2018, when Donald J Trump, acting in the role of President of the Untied States, lashed out in fury at reporters who sought answers from him about his actions and his policies.

I’ve previously spoken to the substance of that occasion. But in continuing to think about it, I couldn’t help contrasting this man’s conduct  when confronted with difficult questions with the way REAL presidents handled such situations.

Take a moment and watch the way Ronald Reagan responded at a press conference during the height of the Iran-Contra affair, the most difficult time of his presidency.

In order to get Iran to use its influence on Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist organization, to free American citizens it was holding in captivity as hostages, President Reagan had secretly authorized the shipment of U S arms to Iran, a violation of his own policy of imposing an embargo on arms sales to Iran.

When the word got out there was a huge public reaction against such an action and against the president who had authorized it.

Impeachment was in the air.

At a major news conference he held to take questions on the subject, the press “bombardment” was unrelenting. One after the other, Chris Wallace of NBC, Sam Donaldson of ABC, Bill Plante of CBS, and Charles Bierbauer of CNN, put the difficult questions to him.

Here is the link to what happed.

Yes, he “dodged”  and “weaved” in his answers – later as the scandal continued he was more forthcoming and by finally admitting what he had authorized he escaped impeachment. I am not posting this as a example of how a president should “come clean” about difficult matters,

I am posting it to show how a REAL president  (one who understands the need to show dignity and civility in public) conducts himself (herself) under the most trying of circumstances. It’s called “grace under pressure,” Kennedy had it and except for this man every president I have known has had it.

We will have a REAL president again. Continue to work hard for that day. Continue to be outraged at the conduct  of the man who now inhabits the Oval Office.

When I covered Ronald Reagan as the White House Correspondent  for ABC News, I did not think he did everything right or that his policies in every respect were the best ones for the Country.

But looking back at that time and that president, given what we see before us now, the old saying is so true:

“You never know how good you have it until its gone!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Judge Rules; The Fight May Continue

CNN and its White House Correspondent Jim Acosta have decisively won the first round in what could be a long running fight between Donald J Trump and the First Amendment to the U S Constitution.

Federal Judge Timothy  Kelley (nominated for the bench by Trump last year) has granted a temporary restraining order against Trump’s  lifting of Acosta’s White House pass and Acosta has returned to work in the press room for now.

Make no mistake about it. Trump’s action strikes at the entire press corps as a whole and  at the First Amendment to the U S Constitution and its commandment that Government can not abridge the freedom of the press.

But unless Trump accepts  this ruling as final, the fight is far from over. If Trump appeals the ruling, Acosta stays in only temporarily pending final judgement by higher courts (SCOTUS, are you listening?).

Judge Kelly dodged the central issue – the First Amendment – basing his decision on the Fifth Amendment requiring  harmful Government decisions against individuals  only be taken after a “due process” in reaching them.

Kelley said the White House’s decision-making was “so shrouded in mystery that the government could not tell me . . . who made the decision.” That was somewhat disingenuous even if the record was silent on the subject. Of course it was Donald J. Trump, undoubtedly in a white hot rage, who ordered Acosta’s pass pulled.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement tried to soften the Judge’s decision by saying “Today, the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House.”

Nice try,  Sarah. The judge did sat that but while dodging the First Amendment issue in this case the Judge added that if Trump opened up the White house to reporters as a group (as he has) the First Amendment issue does apply.

Sanders deliberately tried to leave the impression with the unwary reader that the judge had ruled against CNN & Acosta on  the First Amendment and that is simply not true. If the case goes forward a higher court will almost certainly have to rule on the First  Amendment’s application here.

But it was what else Sander’s said in her statement that is so alarming.

She said “In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass. We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future. There must be decorum at the White House.”

Ah, “decorum” at the White House…rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future” and what might that be?

Now, no one can really complain about trying to make a press conference “fair and orderly”depending on what that means. Before the Reagan Administration, when the President finished an  answer we White House reporters all jumped to our feet and in a huge cacophony shouted  in unison “Mr. President, Mr.President…”, in an attempt to gain recognition.

That was both unseemly and counter productive for both the press and the  president. And I don’t recall any of us objecting when President Reagan’s staff decreed no more shouting, raise you hand and stay seated until called on.

But what about a rule from this White House that might say “one question only and if you try to ask a follow up we lift your pass.” So that if the question is Acosta’s  “Why do you call it a Caravan” and Trump answer’s “that’s my opinion” that’s it, and what have we learned about his thinking on the subject? Nothing.

But he doesn’t have to dodge and weave in an effort to give reasons for his opinion that might not make any sense to the public

Back in 1999, I asked  President Clinton at a news conference if Juanita Brodderick’s claim he had raped her was not true, what was his relationship with Ms. Broadrick, if any.

He replied that his attorney David Kendal had spoken to the subject and he would have no comment. To which I asked “But can’t you just deny it, Sir?” To which he replied “see my attorney.” Now, he didn’t answer the questions directly but television watchers may have decided they had learned something anyway.

I’m sure President Clinton did not like my question, still there was no effort by anyone at the White House to retaliate against me. However, in the future if Trump decides that an “orderly press conference” means that if a reporter were to ask such a terrible question like that (and it was terrible , I admit) the reporter’s pass could be lifted, well both reporters and the public would  pay a heavy price.

The Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press (RCFP)  filed a brief in Court supporting CNN and Acosta which put it this way:

“In forcefully and unflinchingly questioning the President, Acosta was engaged in precisely the kind of constitutionally protected newsgathering and questioning of the government that the First Amendment safeguards and upon which our democracy depends.

Nixon tried to demonize and neuter the press and it didn’t save him.

Trump is fiercely trying to do the same thing. And it won’t save him.

The facts and the truth will prevail.

But only if Freedom of the Press is preserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riot In The East Room

On the day after the mid-term elections, Donald J Trump called a press conference in the White House East Room.

And the way he comported himself was an example of what the U S Penal Code has in mind when it says those who deliberately incite a riot are answerable to the law.

True to form, Trump began my celebrating his “victory” in the elections.

“This was a great victory for us,” he said. And when a reporter pointed out that it was, uh, “not a complete victory for you” he replied “I thought it was very close to a complete victory” for me.

Close to a complete victory?

Except, of course, for the fact that Democrats have won control of the U S House of Representatives in convincing fashion which would henceforth stand as a block to his most cruel and  and selfish ambitions.

Trump said he hadn’t devoted much attention to the House races  – except to one in which his candidate won – and failure for the Republicans to hold the House could not be laid at his doorstep.

He said he had concentrated on Senate races, and there “We saw the candidates I supported achieve tremendous success last night,” Trump asserted. And in truth, several of the candidates for whom he campaigned did win their races in Senate contests.

But not all.

Nevada Senate Republican Dean Heller was beaten and Trump’s number one Senate campaign target, Montana Democrat Jon Tester won re-election in a State Trump had carried by almost twenty points in 2016, and despite Trump having visited the State four times this year to campaign against him. Two other Senate races Trump campaigned in – Florida and Arizona – are still too close to call as I write.

The exit polls show that the Blue Wave that gave the Democrats a House majority was propelled by women, minorities, young voters (up to the age of 49) and educated voters.  Uniformly, they said in exit polling that a significant factor in their vote was their dislike for Donald J Trump.

But in Trump’s analysis of the election outcome he saw it differently.

He said the election results show that “People like me and like the job I’m doing.”  And asked about the morality of his leadership style, he said “I think I am a great moral leader.”

The main event in the press conference, however, was not Trump’s fanciful boasting and puffing  – he is who he is and we long since learned who he is – No, the main event was his defensive, angry, intemperate reaction to the legitimate questions of the press, which at moments looked to the television audience like an incitement to riot among reporters in the White House East Room.

It began when Trump called on Jim Acosta of CNN who asked about Trump’s characterization of the migrant caravan making its way through Mexico as  an “invasion” of the United States.

And I borrow now the account from a published CNN report of  the exchanges that followed:

Acosta began – “As you know, Mr. President, the caravan is not an invasion, It’s a group of migrants moving up from Central America towards the border with the US–“Trump, sarcastically, replied, “Thank you for telling me that, I appreciate it.”

Acosta: “Why did you characterize it as such?”

“Because I consider it an invasion. You and I have a difference of opinion.”

“But do you think that you demonized immigrants?”

“No, not at all. I want them to come into the country. But they have to come in legally.”

“That’s what the migrants are trying to do — they say they intend to seek asylum. They’re hundreds of miles away, though. They’re hundreds and hundreds of miles away. That’s not an invasion.”

“You know what? I think you should,” Trump started to say, pointing at Acosta. “Honestly, I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN. And if you did it well, your ratings would be much better.”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Trump said as Acosta tried to ask another question.

A White House staffer hurried over to grab the mic and carry it to the next reporter. Trump chose, NBC’s Peter Alexander.

The White House staffer tried to grab the mic from Acosta, but he held onto it.

“Pardon me, ma’am,” he said, as she looked toward Trump, then ducked out of camera view.

“Peter, let’s go,” Trump said, trying to move on to Alexander.

“If I can ask, on the Russia investigation,” Acosta said, “are you concerned that you may have indictments coming down–”

“I am not concerned about anything with the Russian investigation because it is a hoax,” Trump said, “That is enough, put down the mic.”

Signaling he was done, while Acosta asked the question again and then let go of the mic.

While Alexander started to ask his question, Trump said, “I tell you what, CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you working for them.” He pointed at Acosta: “You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN.”

Then he turned to Alexander: “Go ahead.” But he turned his focus back to Acosta: “You are a very rude person, the way that you treat Sarah Huckabee Sanders is horrible. The way that you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

“Go ahead,” Trump said to Alexander.

The NBC journalist then spoke up in Acosta’s defense: “I’ve traveled with him and watched him, he is a diligent reporter who busts his butt like the rest of us.”

“Well I’m not a big fan of yours either, to be honest,” Trump said, prompting laughs in the room. He disparages NBC almost as often as CNN.

“So let me ask you a question,” Alexander said, not missing a beat.

Acosta stood back up and spoke. His comments were not totally audible on live TV, but Acosta could be heard asking about the dangers of Trump’s anti-media attacks, like the use of the term “enemy of the people.”

“When you report fake news, which CNN does, a lot, you are the enemy of the people,” Trump said, turning back to Alexander.” End of the CNN account.

When April Ryan, a senior African American White House reporter repeatedly sought recognition to ask a question Trump repeatedly told her to sit down and said he would not call on her.

And when he heard a question he didn’t like, Trump returned again and again to the theme of how “dishonest” and “fake” and “enemy of the people” the news media is.

A reporter asked him about accusations that he has made numerous racial slurs against  black people, citing the names of those who have publicly claimed to have heard him do it.

He hotly denied ever having made a slur against blacks saying his approval ratings among blacks was higher than it has ever been  and you could hear mutterings from the assembled press corps suggesting he was not believable on that score.

Another example was this exchange.

Toward the end of the event, Yamiche Alcindor, a correspondent for PBS “NewsHour,” asked Trump about the widely shared view that his rhetoric has emboldened white nationalists.

“That’s a racist question,” Trump said repeatedly in response in an attempt to turn a legitimate question against the questioner instead of answering it.

As this farce of a news conference continued, reporters became agitated in an attempt to gain recognition. Decorum was somewhat abandoned. Clearly the press corps was upset as a whole by this unjustified condemnation of the news media in angry terms by the President of the United States.

When it was over, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders chided the press thusly:

“Journalists may use a range of approaches to carry out their jobs and the WHCA does not police the tone or frequency of the questions its members questions of him and his Administration,” she said.

Then, referring to the attempt by a White House aide to wrest the microphone from Acosta’s hand, Sanders said:”We will, however, never tolerate a reporter placing his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job as a White House intern. This conduct is absolutely unacceptable.”

CNN producer Allie Malloy responded to Sanders via Twitter: “This is a complete lie. The woman grabbed Jim’s arm repeatedly. He never once touched her. In fact at one point @Acosta tells her politely ‘pardon me, mam’ as she’s yanking on his arm.”

The video clearly shows that Sander’s version of the incident is dead wrong.

And shortly thereafter, in a move unprecedented, the White House revoked Jim Acosta’s access by suspending his White House pass.

Donald J Trump in his fantasy world clearly has mis-read the results of the Elections. And in his angry attack on the reporters who are attempting to do the job they are expected to do he has clearly mis-understood both the proper role of a free press and the reaction of the majority of Americans to his intemperate and unjustified actions in this regard.

No politician likes the press which asks uncomfortable questions and digs out uncomfortable information that interferes with a “Worshipful press release fashion existence” but the smart ones understand the role of the press and support it.

As Harry Truman famously said of those seeking public office, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

But whoever thought Donald J Trump was smart in this regard?

I learned how this man viewed the press years ago.

In 1990. when the business reporters were writing that Trump was in financial trouble, not able to service the massive debt he had accumulated in buying “Trump Airlines,” the venerable Plaza Hotel and building the Taj Mahal Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, I interviewed him for our ABC Magazine program “Prime Time Live.”

His critics were wrong, he said, blowing smoke and bravado in non-stop style.

Yes, he might sell some of his holdings to raise cash but not because he had to but to make other investments. For instance, he said  he was going to sell his yacht the Princess which he had bought for twenty million and refurbished for an additional nine million the very next week for 115 million dollars.

“Why would someone pay that price for a twenty million dollar yacht,” I asked.

“Because it’s a trophy,  my possessions are trophies,” he replied in typical Trump modesty.

When I tried to interrupt him to get in a question, he said I was acting rudely,  “You’re rude to everybody else, don’t be rude to me, ” he admonished me.

When I asked him whether all the money he had used to buy the airline, the hotel and build the casino was borrowed he said I was showing my ignorance.

“Why do you say it’s borrowed money, what do you know about ‘borrowed money’ (?) if you were smart you’d want to see my  books.”

I said okay, send me your books. He replied he just might do that.

I’m still waiting.

In the end he accused me of being  “out to get him.”

Well, I didn’t mean to be rude but I discovered that keeping Donald J Trump to the subject, to an answer for the question asked, was a herculean task. The only way to get him to the point was to interrupt him.

And yes, I  didn’t have first hand knowledge of his business but could only ask him to answer to the criticisms of those who apparently did.

As it turned out, he lost the Plaza and the airline to the banks because he could not make his payments on the money he had borrowed to buy them and the only thing that saved him from total  default on the Taj Mahal was his friend Carl Icahn , an actual billionaire, who assumed his massive debt. He did sell the Princess Yacht six months later (not “next week”) and not for 115 million dollars but for twenty million dollars, exactly what he had paid for it. He lost the nine million refurbishing money on the deal.

And as a result of  all this failure, the New York banks wouldn’t lend him any more money. He had to borrow elsewhere. Once we see his Corporate tax returns we’ll know from whom he borrowed and thus to whom he is indebted. I’m betting he will voluntarily make public those tax returns  on the same day I get a look at his books.

Finally, at the time I interviewed Donald J Trump in 1990, I was certainly not out to get him. But as I’ve watched him campaign for and then conduct the office of President of the United States, as I watch how he treats people, all I can say is…

…times change!

 

 

America Today: Bigotry Unleashed

For some time now, I’ve stopped trying to figure out Donald J Trump. We’ve got him cold. We know who he is, how he acts and will act, what single objective motivates him (total selfishness) and how devoid there is in him any sense of common community or decency toward others.

Instead I’ve concentrated on trying to figure out his supporters, our fellow Americans who see in him the “strong man” Richard Rorty famously predicted in 1998, would come to power on the backs of resentment of educated “elitists.”

Blogs I have written reflect my changing view of his primary supporters.

I bought the idea as reflected in their own 2016, voting booth exit interviews that much of it was based on the loss of jobs, earnings, downsizing of middle class economic opportunities and the like. I thought we ought to redouble efforts to help those people quoting Lincoln’s two Inaugural addresses – we are brothers and must not be enemies.

But as time passed and nothing Trump did that offended traditional American values and worked against our Countries ability to continue as a World leader reduced the ranks of his supporters, I swung toward the belief that his hard core supporters can not be redeemed through economic help, that their grievances are based on fear of and bigotry toward “others” (ethnic, religious, class). I believe these fellow Americans whose support fuels Trump’s ability to destroy our Country as we have known it must not only be resisted, they must be defeated.

There is a review in the Washington Post this morning of three books that explore all this. I commend it to you.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/book-party/wp/2018/11/01/feature/trump-didnt-invent-american-bigotry-but-new-books-argue-that-he-released-it-and-he-has-no-incentive-to-extinguish-it/

The next test of Trump vs the Rest of Us comes on Tuesday.

I do not myself have confidence in the broad outcome of the elections. The political analyst consensus is a “likelihood” that the Democrats win Majority in the House but the Republicans retain and even strengthen their Majority in the Senate. Democratic control of the House would reduce Trump/GOP “bloodletting” but the Senate’s ability to confirm future SCOTUS nominees (and lower court judges) would remain unchecked.

But what happens if the election returns do show a razor-thin Democratic victory in the House? Will Trump and his supporters accept it, abide by the rules of Majority control?

I’m not talking about violence in the streets, I’m talking about a refusal to participate in ordinary rules of parliamentary business. I was amazed in 1995, after its Victory in seizing control of Congress that the GOP (Gingrich & Company) moved to shut down the U S Government if they didn’t get their way. Fortunately, Clinton and  the majority of Americans pushed back successfully…although the GOP has returned time and time again to brandishing the “shutdown” tactic – my way or a broken highway. If next January a defeated House GOP simply boycotts the legislative process, what then would be the possibility of violence in the streets?

On the other hand, how should we conduct ourselves if the GOP retains both Houses after Tuesday? There are no “moderates” left in the top ranks of the GOP and instead of working across the aisle in the spirit of compromise I think we would see a flood of new selfish, hateful actions and a resulting increase in the bigoted actions of Trump’s supporters.

As to my question of how we should conduct ourselves if the GOP retains both Houses, I’m not sure just now about tactics but I am sure we must resist vigorously.

History shows that compliance with an evil brings no safety. Hoping that time will moderate the damage is an illusion.

In a fight to retain the America we knew, there is no substitute for victory.

Ashes In Their Mouths

Brett Cavanaugh is now an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

This appears to solidify a Conservative Court Majority to read the Constitution in  ways that threaten:

-A woman’s right to choose whether to have a legal abortion

-The GLBTQ community’s right to the protection of Constitutional and legal safeguards enjoyed by others

-Efforts to act on  the necessity to place environmental safeguards above profits

-The right of workers to join Unions which can bargain for wages and conditions on an equal footing with employers.

-Sensible restrictions on the use of firearms

-The right to vote without having to meet unnecessary voting tests and the fair drawing of district voting lines

-And the list goes on.

President Trump, Senator McConnell and the new Republican Party have won the Confirmation Fight to seat Brett Kavanaugh on the High Court.

But their victory may turn out to be Ashes In Their Mouths (see Genesis 18:27 – Job 30:19 -JFK Cuba Missile Crisis Speech).

Some “victories” turn out to be defeats in that the long term outcome is disastrous and the “victory” turns out to have been a colossal mistake.

This Country of ours was on a path toward the Light, toward better lives for all our citizens and those who come to us seeking haven from violence and oppression.

We have been making progress in “fits and starts” toward ensuring civil rights and equal treatment for those within our shores. And, notably, after defeating the enemies of Democracy in World War II, we became a leader in establishing an Order among nations that worked toward  universal peace and security.

The English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in 1835, of a future time when “..the  war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d

In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world…And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.”

A Dream, perhaps, but one worth working toward.

And suddenly it came to a halt with the election of Donald J Trump and his merry band of selfish enablers. But Trump was not the cause of our present despair, he was merely the willing agent who cashed the check that resulted from years of neglect for people who were being left behind, marginalized and more and more considered unworthy and unwanted inhabitants of their own Country.

Few of us saw it coming.

Richard Rorty did in his famous prediction in 1998, of how so many of our people who were feeling forgotten and downsized would “…decide that the system had failed…and start looking around for a strongman to vote for…and all the  resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

So, they voted for Trump and Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court to solidify a majority which may accelerate the rush to repeal the Progress, to retreat to the days when “might makes right,” where the well to do no longer are willing to care for the less fortunate and Democracy perishes in the name of Tribalism uber alles.

Except, except I’m betting on the good sense of the majority of the American people coming to the rescue. Lincoln said he thought the American people would always do the right thing in the end.

I agree. We are slow to act until our fleet is bombed but then we rise up with a will.

So, at the moment,  the dark side of our political life has prevailed but not forever.

When our fleet was actually bombed at Pearl Harbor the architect of the attack, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto looked into the future and said “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

This “victory” of installing Brett Kavanaugh on the High Court and the consequences which that may bring could  awaken the sleeping giant that is our American majority.

I believe that for Donald J Trump, Senator McConnell and their wiling enablers their “victory” only hastens the day when their effort to turn back Progress toward a fairer, safer and better life for all  comes crashing to a halt and all they have left is ashes in their mouths.

May they choke on them.

 

 

The Kavanaugh Knife Fight- At Last

The Democrats at last are wielding a big knife in the back alley fight of modern day American politics.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has become a target in his quest for a seat on the United States Supreme Court and  is caught in a new dance, one in which  two are “tangoing,” not just one.

In 1988, the Republicans swung a butcher knife to savage poor Mike Dukakis with their soft on crime “Willie Horton” campaign and the Democrats never lifted even a pen knife  to gut them back.

In 2004, the Republicans swung a Bowie knife at poor John Kerry with their “swift boat” denial of his Vietnam heroism and the Democrats never lifted even a paring knife to stick it in the GOP gizzard.

In 2016, the Republicans took  a Guillotine to the job of “criminalizing” poor Hillary Clinton over the use of a personal email account and the Democrats couldn’t even find little George Washington’s hatchet with which to strike them down.

But now when an opportunity has fallen into their hands  to defeat the Kavanaugh nomination, Democrats are using a huge Samurai sword with a skill and savagery heretofore not seen in the party of the Donkey.

Let us see how, forsaking the pristine Marquis of Queensberry rules, they are cutting and slashing with effect.

Senator Diane Feinstein is handed a letter weeks ago with a potentially explosive charge against Kavanaugh and what, she just sits on it? Until almost the “last minute” when she turns it over to the FBI asking for an investigation.

Had she not had sense enough to raise the subject  immediately  the idea of an investigation could have been thoroughly argued and perhaps even done by this time.

But the “last minute” now throws the Republican time table requiring a favorable vote before the mid-term elections into doubt, possibly derailing it.

Kindly have the grace to wipe the blood off your knife in private, Diane.

Now the Republicans realize the problem and, believe it or not, do the best thing they can. Seem sympathetic to the need for a hearing of the charges (smart enough not to cavalierly degrade and dismiss the accuser today as they could  back in the the good old days of Clarence  Thomas).  And, at the same time, gag their “man child” into keeping his mouth shut and not as is his habit speaking stupidly and screwing everything up.

Yes, say the Republicans, the accuser can come and testify before the Committee. Next Monday will do nicely and by the way no other witnesses will be heard. The accuser can accuse and Kavanaugh can deny and the Republicans can, having fairly heard from both sides, deliberate this “she says, he says” quandary, then vote to confirm.

Neat, don’t you think.

But wait, the accuser, seizing the Democrat’s shiny new big knife, says she will not testify before the Committee until the  impartial FBI investigation that Senator Feinstein requested has been conducted.

Hah!

What will the Republicans do? Cave to the growing surge of outrage by women – and men – and agree to an investigation? At best that would mean a delay, perhaps past the mid-term elections. If those elections go badly, surviving Republicans sensing the climate for their own next election may vote against Kavanaugh.

And at worst should an investigation turn up evidence that supports the accuser’s story  the nomination is “cooked,” period.

So, perhaps the Republicans will decide to reject an investigation and bull it through. If the accuser doesn’t agree to testify, just say she had her chance and vote to confirm. If she does come the Committee will hear the accusation, hear Kavanaugh’s denial,  then vote to confirm.

It’s up to  Mitch McConnell. McConnell wielded the big knife in 2017, to deny even a hearing on the Garland nomination and his gamble paid off. He might decide “Damn the (mid term election) torpedoes, let’s just go for it and accept the political consequences for the sake of nailing down a conservative Supreme Court.

But either way, two things have changed.

Donald J Trump is not calling the shots on this one. The old Republican party will decide what to do by and for itself.

And now in that rat infested dark alley of modern American politics which the Republicans organized and played so well alone for years, they must  know that the other fellow is going to come at them with a big knife also.

Neat, or don’t you  think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gospel According To (Saint) Paul

Paul Manafort has “flipped.”

The man whom Donald J Trump called a “brave man” just days ago because Trump said he would never break under pressure. While others might “rat” on him, not Paul.

Manafort weighed the options – Take a jail cell for ten to twenty years for the Donald and see his family suffer incalculable hardships  (never mind him).

Or, make the Deal.

And to his credit (there is always time as long as you draw breathe to do the right thing), Paul “flipped” in D C District Court before Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

The prosecutor (Mueller’s team) Andrew Weissmann, laid before the Judge the details of Manafort’s crimes  (for which he has been convicted)  and the fact of Manafort’s “plea bargain.”

Here’s the way the Washington Post reported it:

“Before Manafort pleaded guilty, Weissmann spent about 40 minutes describing in detail Manafort’s criminal conduct — from a 10-year scheme to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, to hiding millions of dollars he earned from that work, and then, when investigators were on his trail, trying to tamper with witnesses in the case.

After a year of denying the charges and fighting them at every stage of the investigation, Manafort admitted Friday that he did what prosecutors had long said — cheat the IRS out of $15 million and lie repeatedly to try to cover his tracks. While he pleaded guilty to just two of the seven charges he faced at trial, prosecutors forced him to admit to the broad scope of his financial and secret lobbying schemes.

“I believe it’s fair to say that’s probably the longest and most detailed summary that ever preceded this question, but is what the prosecutor said a true and accurate description of what you did in this case?” Jackson asked Manafort.

“I did. It is,” Manafort said, resting both hands on the lectern before him.

Jackson noted Manafort had agreed to cooperate “fully and truthfully” with the investigation conducted by the office of special counsel, including participating in interviews and debriefings, producing documents in his control, testifying and agreeing to delay  sentencing until a time set by the government.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement after the announcement. “This had absolutely nothing to do with the President or his victorious 2016 Presidential campaign” she said. “It is totally unrelated.”

In a Pig’s eye!

The Gospel According to (Saint) Paul may have everything to do with the President and it may be devastating.

Flipping Manafort, as Joe Biden once said to Barrack Obama on the passage of the Affordable  Care act (he thought off mike), is a “Big FXXXXXX Deal!”

Manafort was The Donald’s campaign chairman during a crucial time in 2016, when the question of collusion , conspiracy if you will, with Vladimir Putin and the Russians is being investigated. He was present at the famous “Trump Tower Meeting” with three persons who had ties to the Kremlin along with  Donald Trump, Jr., who had emailed in advance that if he was going to be given information detrimental to Hillary Clinton he would “love it.”

And who knows what Manafort knows?

Robert Mueller knows.

Before the Government agrees to a Deal as part of a Plea Bargain, the subject must tell the Government what he/she is prepared to testify to,  tell what it is he/she knows that the Government finds helpful in pursuing the question of others involvement in criminal activity. And having persuaded Mueller that he has pertinent information that would aide Muller’s investigation, should he renege and refuse to testify accordingly, then he goes to jail big time.

Oh yes, one last thing.

Forget the Pardon, Paul.

It  probably wouldn’t have happened anyway. Loyalty to Donald J Trump is a one way street and no one other than him gets to drive on it.

“If This Be Treason….”

“Treason,” tweeted Donald J Trump, as he reportedly raged in white-hot fury, demanding that the  anonymous author of the incendiary New York Times op-ed article be found and punished. The Times identified the author only as a “Senior Administration Official.”

At one point the man-child who is President of the United States demanded that the Times turn the author “over to the government, ” meaning what – for a public flogging in Lafayette square? Perhaps a firing squad (al paradon) against the wall of the Treasury Department building?

So, now we have senior administration officials beginning with Vice President Pence feeling the necessity to publicly deny it was they who threw a literary can of gasoline  on the fire already burning as a result of Bob Woodward’s devastating account of Trump’s unfitness for the presidency (a proposition previously tendered and since confirmed by a continuing stream of examples delivered by our man child).

Pence was well-advised to declare his innocence. The sleuths are hard at work examining the clues in the style and wording of the document and it has been pointed out that the author used the  word “lodestar,” an un-common word but one that Pence has used publicly on several occasions.

In a blog yesterday, I speculated that clues in the document might have been deliberately planted to throw sleuths off the trail. Do you suppose the anonymous author did that in using a word which pointed  toward Pence? Or is Spence the true author and used the word knowing it would point to him but that a  sleuth would conclude that Spence wouldn’t be that dumb so it must not be him.

The plot thickens!

Yesterday at my regular monthly luncheon group I asked whether a senior official in Trump’s administration feeling as this one does should resign in disgust or stay to do what he or she could to contain the man child’s damage to the rest of us.

Unanimously they and I agreed the person should stay. I failed to ask the second question – should such a person write for publication the op-ed piece the Times published?

My view is the author was unwise in doing so. Why throw gasoline on the firestorm Woodward created. It was sure to burn brightly as it is without help. And why chance discovery which would result in dismissal at the least and thus an end to usefulness as someone checking the damage?

One account says the article was written before the Woodward book was set for publication…but that makes no difference. Surely the author knew of Woodward’s forthcoming book (perhaps is one of Bob’s sources) and thus knew that this anonymous accounting was in no way necessary but would simply act as a validation of the portrait of  chaos the book so ably describes.

Which brings us to another question. If the article was unnecessary, did the fact of its publication help or hurt the cause of ridding us of Donald J Trump as our president?

I think it hurt to the extent that the “hunt” for the miscreant adds to the chaos but more importantly allows Trump supporters to point with some justification to the “disloyalty” of the person Trump has branded “gutless” who hides behind a cloak of anonymity to throw spitballs at his/her sovereign.

Further, by declaring there is, indeed, a network of administration officials who actively work to thwart Trump’s ability to use the power the Constitution gives him, it allows his defenders to push the idea that some insidious “deep state” exists to wrongly depose a person fairly elected to the office (whether “fairly” is another debate at this point as a different set of sleuths search for evidence on that point).

My bottom line is that it would have been better not to speak out anonymously. If the author felt compelled to tell the world what is really going on, he or she should have stepped forward in the daylight and said here I am, you know me, and this is what I have personally witnessed and can no longer in good conscience be part of for any reason.

Yes, Trump and his defenders would shout “Treason” but the author, while suffering insult and possible assault from certain quarters could take pride in having followed the example set by Patrick Henry, who in the Spring of 1765, in his maiden speech as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses rose to complain about King George III’s treatment of  England’s American colonies.

Said Henry, “Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third — At that point he was interrupted by cries of “Treason!” from delegates who easily recognized the reference to assassinated leaders. Henry paused briefly, then calmly finished his sentence: “…may profit by their example.

If this be treason make the most of it.”

Bob Woodward Strikes Again

Good on you, Bob!

Once again, through  “shoe leather” research, through pain staking insistence on multiple sources, through a compilation aimed at accuracy and therefore fairness you have shown a light on the dark shadow lurking in the Oval office whose existence there threatens not only us but the whole world.

But we knew that.

Woodward’s portrait of a man-child, ignorant, self centered, vulgar, cruel and incompetent whose staff works frantically to suppress his dangerous instincts and wild schemes is a picture that has emerged for all to see  from the day Donald J Trump  swore an oath he did not understand and certainly has not upheld.

Still, the new detail Woodward has assembled is fascinating. A sample:

-Defense Secretary Mattis says Trump has “the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.”

-Chief of Staff Kelly says Trump is “an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.”

-Former Economic Advisor Cohn says he stole a memo from Trump’s desk to keep Trump from acting on it in the name of the Nation’s security.

-Former Trump personal lawyer Dowd told Special Counsel Mueller that Trump could not sit down for an interview with Mueller because Trump would lie.

-Trump calls Attorney General Sessions “mentally retarded…a Dumb Southerner.”

Would that all this – and more since these are only a few highlights of a book yet to be read – make a difference. The White House can and already has branded Woodward’s account inaccurate but the author’s reputation, earned in the Watergate trenches and burnished through years of reporting on the powerful makes it difficult to dismiss it as “fake news.”

The truth is, the real Donald J Trump has been on display from day one for all to see but apparently nothing, no outrageous action, no ignorant move, no cruelty will sway about thirty two to thirty five percent of our nation’s population from blindly following and supporting him.

Woodard’s book will not change that.

I have come to believe (reluctantly, sadly) that Trump’s so-called “hard core base” is unredeemable.

The damage they and the spineless, selfish Republicans in Congress are doing our Country is, truly, “deplorable.”

The majority of Americans must stop them. Years ago when the hard right wing’s slogan was “Take Back Our Country” I said this  was not just their Country, it belongs to all of us.

Today, I say this Country belongs to any  who would follow the ideals laid down by our Founders, who would attempt to live up to the “better angels of our nature,” who would attempt to live by the “Golden Rule” and with obedience to the law treat others with understanding, civility and kindness.

We cannot stand aside in the name of “letting all flowers bloom” while weeds among us threaten to choke out the great blossoms of liberty and justice.

So, we must fight Trump’s “base” and check their ability to enable him to wreak his damage. We must fight them in the public square and at the ballot box. We must be relentless and unswerving in our resolve to destroy Trumpism and preserve the America we know.

When he heard Woodward was finishing a book about him, Trump called Woodward and said he would have talked to him if he had only known about it.

When Woodward detailed the many unsuccessful attempts he had made to get an interview Trump at first denied that anyone had told him Bob wanted to talk to him, then conceded perhaps Senator Lindsey Graham had mentioned it to him.

Here is a transcript of that exchange toward the end of the phone conversation.

“Trump: I’m just hearing about it. And I heard — I did hear from Lindsey, but I’m just hearing about it. So we’re going to have a very inaccurate book, and that’s too bad. But I don’t blame you entirely.

BW: No, it’s [?] — it’s going to be accurate, I promise.

Trump: Yeah, okay. Well, accurate is that nobody’s ever done a better job than I’m doing as president. That I can tell you. So that’s . . . And that’s the way a lot of people feel that know what’s going on, and you’ll see that over the years.”

And what about the stinging, contemptuous rebukes from Defense Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelley, who clearly are among those who “know what’s going on,” as reported by Woodward?

Both men deny having said such things and in a tweet Trump claimed “Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public.”

Which reminds me of the time someone said President Reagan had “taken leave of his senses” to which Mr. Reagan replied “It takes one to know one.”