Mueller Reports – Does the “Duck” Walk?

As Special Counsel (SC) Robert Mueller’s Investigation proceeded, it appeared that the avenue that held the most danger to President Trump was the SC’s Investigation into whether Trump had committed the crime of Obstruction of Justice.

Trump had done things clearly meant to shut down or thwart the Investigation. Had he acted with criminal, or as it is called in the law, “Corrupt” Intent?

It was that crime that had brought President Nixon to the ignominious end of his presidency.

Mueller decided not to seek an indictment of Trump on the charge of Obstruction, explaining: “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it does not exonerate him.”

Mueller punted. He gives his reasons in Part Two of his Report. Let us examine what he says in Part Two.

The SC cites several instances of the President’s conduct that to the lay person would, certainly taken together, appear to be firm evidence of an attempt to Obstruct Justice. But the SC says the President’s Intent (or for that matter, anyone’s Intent) is important to an Obstruction charge – although not prohibitively critical.

The SC says for instance, Intent to Obstruct usually is based on a person attempting to conceal or cover up an underlying crime in which the person has been engaged. In the case of President Nixon, we hear from his own words on tape how four days after the Watergate break-in he and his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman cooked up a false story in an attempt to cover up the real facts of the break in. Whether Nixon had or had not ordered the crime of burglary is beside the point. That Nixon was attempting to prevent the truth from coming to light in a criminal Investigation was a crime in itself and the evidence of his corrupt Intent in devising the cover up story was plain thanks to the tape.

Whereas in Trump’s case, the SC found (agree with it or not) that Trump had not engaged in a crime concerning the Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, therefore taking actions to shut down or belittle the investigation might be attributed to a desire to avoid political embarrassment or avoid problems interfering with the achievement of his policy objectives or any number of non-corrupt reasons. The SC cites Trump’s constant complaint that the Investigation was a distraction that was interfering with this ability to carry out his duties (as he saw them) as president.

Many might conclude the Intent was, in fact, a corrupt one but for the SC firm evidence to prove that was not found. For instance, Trump’s re-writing of a press release to falsely describe the “Trump Tower meeting between his son, Manafort and Russian contacts might be attributable to several non-corrupt intents unless there was evidence to the contrary which the SC said he did not have.

A second problem with finding that Trump was Obstructing Justice was, according to the SC, the fact that a U S President has unique powers that the Constitution, the Law and precedents bestow on him/her that other people do not have. There are many pages in the SC’s report explaining these powers as the SC understands them.

For instance, the SC points out that President Trump could fire FBI Director Comey anytime he wanted to without offering any explanation at all. That he told Lester Holt of NBC News that when he did it he had the Russian thing on his mind does not prove his Intent was to thwart the Investigation.

The SC also notes that many of Trump’s suspicious actions took place in public view and while that would not in itself insulate him from an Obstruction charge it makes it much harder to prove a “corrupt” motive.

Time and again, the SC cites examples of Trump’s actions that could well be interpreted as attempting to intimidate witnesses and suggestions of future pardons that might be considered attempts to get witnesses to bend their testimony in his direction – a clear attempt to Obstruct. But, again, the SC said he didn’t have conclusive evidence that Trump’s motive was to save himself from being charged with a crime and thus an Obstruction charge could not be successfully prosecuted.

The SC notes that often instructions from Trump to commit acts that might in themselves more easily show a corrupt Intent were not carried out by his subordinates – the SC cites several examples including the instance when Trump’s then White House Counsel said he would resign rather than carry out an order he thought was possibly illegal – which thus saved Trump from the possible dire legal consequences to him of his orders.

Noteworthy, in every case where Trump’s Attorneys argued to Robert Mueller that the Constitution, the Law, the Precedents prevented the indictment of a U S President under the circumstances that surrounded Trump in this Investigation Mueller forcefully rejected their arguments. In every suspected point of Obstruction the SC cited in his report the reason he said he could not charge Obstruction on that point was not that anything prevented him from doing so if he had found the evidence necessary to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt in a Court of Law. Which he said he had not.

To me and other lay persons, to the general public if you will, Robert Mueller has written a report that says of the president and his actions – in my words – “I show you something that walks like a duck, looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. You may reasonably conclude that it’s a duck. But to discharge my duty properly, walking, looking and quacking is not enough for me to bring an indictment under the law and conditions that set a president apart from the rest of us.”

So Trump is home free? Not quite. And Mueller in his report rather artfully suggests why.

In declining to recommend prosecution for lack of evidence in a criminal trial, Mueller adds this line to his report: “Congress has authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”

It’s called Impeachment.

Let’s see if Congress uses Mueller’s “road map” of what he found to go Duck hunting.

MARCH 30, 1981 – A Reflection

If I asked Americans who were old enough to know what was going on around them at the time whether the date November 22, 1963, meant anything special to them a very large percentage would say that was the day President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas (and tell you where they were when they heard the news).

If I asked Americans who were old enough to know what was going on around them at the time whether the date March 30, 1981, meant anything special to them a very large percentage would say, no. That was the date when President Reagan and three other people were shot outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. Of course, there are big differences – principally that Kennedy died and Reagan lived.

I am one of the Americans who remembers and thinks of this day in history. Because I was the White House Correspondent for ABC News, I was there, standing about five and a half feet from John Hinckley, Jr., what he fired the shots.

Reagan walked out of a door on the Washington Hilton hotel’s lower ground level at 2:27 pm after delivering a hum-drum speech inside to an AFL-CIO trade union. I shouted a question from the rope line behind which the news cameras, reporters and civilians (including Hinckley) were stationed.  My question was, what would President Reagan do if the Soviets moved with military force to crush the shipyard freedom movement in Poland led by Lech Walesa. Mike Putzel of the AP also shouted a question and we will never know which question he may actually have heard.

Our ABC Video shot by our camera man Hank Brown shows Reagan beginning to turn toward us when six quick shots were fired from the rope line to my right. I watched the president as his lead Secret Service Agent Jerry Parr pushed him violently through the open door of the Presidential  limousine. I thought I saw a surprised, quizzical look on his face but saw no indication that he had been hit. I was aware that other people were lying on the ground in front of us – I recognized press Secretary Jim Brady and saw blood flowing from his head. Also to my right, I was aware of a large pile of men on top of someone (Hinckley) and an agent with an Uzi weapon pointed skyward in his right hand. All this took place in what seemed to me as an instant.

In those days, there were no cell phones and none of us had hand radios. I ran through the doors of the Hotel in the small lower lobby which was empty looking for a pay phone but instantly spotted a tourist line desk with a regular phone on the desk top.

I called the ABC News Bureau in Washington. In those days there was still no Centrex and business phones were answered by a switchboard operator. Fortunately, our operator had not gone to the bathroom and she answered immediately.

I said “It’s Donaldson, quick give me the 320 line.”

That line rang at the telephones of major importance in our Bureau and in our New York Headquarters. As I heard many answers coming in I said “This is Donaldson and this is no drill!” Why that?

Well if you had watched the movie Tora Tora Tora as many times as I had you remember the scene when the naval officer at Pearl Harbor who had just witnessed Japanese Planes firing on his surroundings rushed into the office lobby and wrote out a message for all local commands saying “Air raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill.” Somehow my agitated brain thought those words were needed here.

I then followed (and I don’t have the verbatim before me) with roughly these words – Shots have been fired at President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton. He was pushed into his limousine by the Secret Service and the car sped away. I did not see any evidence that the president was hit. But I do not know whether he was hit. Others appear to have been hit. I saw Jim Brady lying on the ground with blood coming from his head.

At that point the duty desk man at ABC radio in New York cut in and said – I’m, switching you to the radio line for a report. By this time it was just seconds before our scheduled 2:30 radio news brief that all ABC affiliates carried, and I, uh, well, I was the lead.

You know the rest of the story – how  Secret Service agent Jerry Parr first radioed the White House that “Rawhide,” Reagan’s code name, was returning to the White House after a shooting. Parr reported Reagan did not appear to be hit. But almost immediately, Parr saw frothy blood coming from Reagan’s mouth, blood that he correctly identified as indicating a lung wound and he ordered the limousine to turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue and speed to the George Washington Hospital Emergency room. There was no time to alert the Hospital.

Imagine the scene on a sleepy Friday afternoon when a large, black limousine with two small flags flying from the front fenders rapidly pulled up . A burly young man jumps out and opens the back door and, after hitching up his pants (his man Mike Deaver said Reagan always did that before a public appearance) the President of the United States steps out under his own power then starts to collapse into the arms of Emergency Room attendants who had the good sense to figure out when the limousine suddenly appeared that something unusual was going on and they should see what it was.

Doctors said later that Jerry Parr almost certainly saved Reagan’s life by diverting when he did to the hospital. The Emergency room attendants saved Reagan’s life by quickly stabilizing him and preventing his going into shock. Then, a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses saved his life by making correct decisions.

Dr. Benjamin Arron was the surgeon who performed the operation. First, his fingers could not locate the bullet but after looking at the x-ray realized it had flattened and in probing for it he was actually moving it around so very close to Reagan’s heart. Now he grasped it and removed it.

Of course, the next day a picture of Reagan signing work documents from his bed was released by the White House. He was in no condition to do anything like that but the effort to reassure the Country came before, what…well, we understand.

Back at the studio, I was sitting by our Anchorman Frank Reynolds discussing on live television what anyone outside the Hospital knew (which included the fact that at that time news media were still operating on the belief that Reagan was back at the White House).

While we were talking about what I had seen Frank was handed a note which he glanced at briefly while continuing the theme that we thought Reagan had – and Frank was actually saying these words – “had not been shot”- when I looked at the note closely and pointing to the note said to Frank “has been shot.”

“Has been shot,” Frank repeated in a tone of voice which said “for God’s sakes, this is something we should get right(!)” and from then on the day turned white hot.

I ran for the Hospital and therefore missed Secretary of State Haig insisting that he was in charge. Beginning with my coverage of Jimmy Carter, my rule was always to keep as close to the President except when he was “home” and completely unavailable. Years later when President George H W Bush was making an outdoor speech on a hot summer day somewhere on foreign soil many reporters were watching it on television in a cool tent about a hundred fifty yards away and his press secretary Marlin Fitzwater called those reporters a bunch of “lazy SOBs. I wasn’t covering the White House then and wasn’t there but I told everyone who would listen that Fitzwater was right!

At the hospital as he was wheeled into the operating room Reagan, so badly wounded, showed that an actor always was playing the scene he found himself in. In the operating room he said “All in all, I’d rather be in Philadelphia (a line from the commediane W C Fields)” And to his wife “Honey, I forgot to duck.” And to the Doctors “I hope you are all Republicans.” To which Dr. Aaron (a card carrying Democrat replied) “Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans.”

Another of my favorite quips came when Reagan left the Hospital and someone asked him what he was going to do when he got back to the White House.

“Sit down,” he said.

When Reagan was shot, even though he had defeated Jimmy Carter by a large margin the public including reporters wasn’t sure about him. I believe the way he handled himself that day moved a large segment of doubters into his favorable column. And helped him go down in history as a successful president.

Where are they now?

Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jerry Parr, Dr. Arron, Jim Brady, Frank Reynolds, General Haig and many others who played a role that day are gone.

Hinckley is still alive. Free under supervision.

As for me, I’m older, no wiser but still kicking…like many retired people, remembering the days when one was young and part of the action of life at its most vibrant intensity.

For me, March 30, 1981, is a day I shall never forget.

MUELLER PUNTS

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report has been turned in to the Attorney General and the Attorney General has now made public to Congress the bare-bones conclusions on two central questions.

On Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election – The Special Counsel’s Report says, according to Attorney General Barr’s letter to Congress, that the Russians did, indeed, try to influence the election and in the process committed crimes, however : “”[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

On Obstruction of Justice – The Special Counsel’s Report states, according to Attorney General Barr’s letter: “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

That means that Barr makes the decision on whether to prosecute Tump for Obstruction of Justice and on that, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein concluded “that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”

First, “hat’s off” as the old expression has it to Robert Mueller and his team. Any good prosecutor – and Mueller is one of the best – will not go forward with a criminal charge if he/she does not have rock solid evidence to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt,” particularly in this case against this man.

Attorney General Barr told Congress “the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”

Now, when we see, if we ever do, Mueller’s full report which will show us what evidence he had and how it was weighed any one of us is free to disagree with his decision not to take a yes or no position. It is important that we keep the pressure on Barr to release the entire Mueller report.

And in its own investigation of this matter, the House of Representatives has the ability to prefer an Article of Impeachment on Trump based on an Obstruction charge. However,  regardless of the mountain of evidence testifying to his unfitness  there is not enough support to remove Trump through the Impeachment process. His loyal, fanatical supporters could prevent it.

Second, another tip of the old hat to Attorney General Barr who points out in his letter that an Obstruction charge flows from an attempt to impede an investigation of a crime and in this case, says Barr, the Special Counsel concludes that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime relating to Russian election interference,” and while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction.”

Therefore, Barr says he and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein concluded “that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” 

I’ll leave it up to the lawyers to argue whether a public effort to shut down an investigation of the Russian activities which did constitute a crime is enough to charge Trump with Obstruction of Justice even though he was not a participant in the Russian effort.

But for now, Trump has slipped the noose of a criminal court charge. Trump and his merry band of greedy enablers will hail this as a victory and try to convince the world that the President is home free.

Ha! That’s like trying to convince a sailor who makes it through the first hurricane wall and into the eye that the storm is over

The Special Counsel farmed out other matters being investigated in other jurisdictions. And the Attorney general of New York is hard at work investigating subjects which could bring Trump to criminal court.

But, there is a more important Court that Trump is already squarely in – the Court of Public Opinion . And the jurors in this court will have the final say.

Lincoln was right, Trump cannot fool all of the people all of the time. In fact, every indication we have is that a large majority of Americans is appalled at what the election of 2016 wrought and will rise up at the ballot box to correct it. 

We must work unceasingly to see that that happens.

Mueller punted, probably for good reasons.

Now the rest of us must kick this case through the goal posts.

And kick Donald J Trump out!

 

 

Rethink The 1st Amendment?

Yes.

In light of the latest example in the New Zealand massacre in which at least forty nine people were gunned down while the alleged gunner broadcast via the Internet platforms not only his intentions but delighted in exhibiting pictures of his massacre I am for rethinking this most important safeguard for the freedoms we  have enjoyed in our Country.

For years people have asked me how the news business has changed in my working (and non-working) lifetime. I always have begun my answer by saying every change in what we consider news, in how to package and deliver news, was preceded by a change in technology.

From the simplest of things – the ability of new cameras to broadcast color on television to the emergence of Cable to the World Wide Internet delivery we have adopted (meaning we have changed) how we think of what is news and how we deliver it.

I’m saying this in our own USA system, the (modified) capitalist system in which the profit motive is very important, if let loose out of hand (oh please deregulate some more)  the most important motive.

I learned to move from Here’s what we journalists think is important for you to know to What would you like to hear. Want to know about who is Jlowe’s latest boyfriend instead of the latest movement in controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, no problem. We can package “Jlow” as an important example of societal movement for a changing time and lead with it.

Which brings us to Facebook and Twitter and Google and those other methods for giving everybody, I mean everybody their ability to communicate.

So, isn’t that good?

Almost the day before yesterday, I might have said Yes. Remember, I’m a 1st Amendment guy.

Today, I say No. If you want to go up into the Sandia Mountains where I live in New Mexico and amid “baying at the moon” spew forth your hatred and twisted concept of human life, perhaps okay. Speak to the coyotes and occasional cougar.

But I would strip you of your “1st Amendment” rights to take to the Internet with your hatred and despicable speech which leads to violence. And the Platforms that you have been using must, by force of law if necessary, employ whatever technology available and at whatever cost to them to stop you, to render you silent!

Yes, I know, I am advocating that the meaning of the 1st Amendment which was designed to protect unpopular speech be changed to protect only speech that does not incite to violence and hatred and murder and that those who wish to speak it be banned from modern technology ability to do so.

And if you tell me how difficult it would be to know where to draw the line precisely, I fall back on Justice Potter Stewarts famous reply when asked how to define hard core pornography.

He said I can’t give you an all embracing definition, but “I know it when I see it.”

In the case of the suspect in the Australian massacre, we surely could have known it in his pre-massacre writings when we saw it.

And rendered him silent!



Impeach Trump?

Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democrat, is running a high profile campaign advocating the Impeachment of Donald J Trump. He’s a serious person, he gives logical reasons and strong arguments in favor of removing Trump.

And there is no one more in favor of removing Trump from the Oval Office and the Presidency than I.

But spending time and energy on Impeachment is a “fools errand,” as the saying goes. Nancy Pelosi is right in saying she’s against making such an effort, not became she wants him to stay as president but because the politics in our country at the moment make it impossible. And the opposition energy is best employed elsewhere.

Why?

I covered the Impeachment of two of our presidents who were heavily involved in the process – Nixon and Clinton (I was on another assignment when Andrew Johnson felt the hot iron). And each taught a fundamental lesson in applying the Impeachment process.

The Founders were  wise is writing an impeachment provision into the Constitution that does not call for a Court Room which requires rules of evidence and procedure with a conviction for removal demanding a decision beyond “reasonable doubt” of a definable guilt.

Impeachment of a president simply requires that the overwhelming majority of the Country’s citizens think the removal of the president from office is fair and just and necessary no matter what the reasons.

In the case of Nixon as it became clear such was the case, he resigned before going through the complete process. In the case of Clinton, while in a court of law there well might have been enough evidence to convict him of perjury, in the court of public opinion he still commanded enough majority support for remaining president. 

Which brings us to Trump.

In recent polls, more than sixty percent of the public wants him out, gone, adios. But that isn’t enough. He maintains a strong, unyielding base of support which does not care how much he abuses the office and threatens democracy and peace. Whatever their reasons, they find in him a Champion for their grievances and prejudices, an instrument to “stick it in the eye” of the rest of us who they see as “elites” disregarding their needs and snobbishly putting them down.

Yes, Donald J Trump is a heartless, ignorant thug.  But he is their Thug! And with them behind him, he cannot be successfully removed  from office through the Impeachment process.

But he can and must and I believe with determination and hard work will be shown the door in 2020. In the meantime, there will continue to be strife and upset and many people will be hurt and our Country’s domestic and foreign well being will continue to suffer. But we will make it through.

What’s important now is that we continue to push back and resist. He must not be given a penny for the Wall, we must not continence a “negotiation” on any selfish and ignorant matter of his. The answer to his demands to get his way on such things must be “no,” nothing doing, nada!

We must do this not to punish him and not only to restrict his ability to do continued harm but to show his faithful base that they have backed a con-man loser and to the extent they will never concede that to show them he and they cannot win! When Trump goes they must be made to understand that the truly mean and evil things he stands for go with him and they must join the rest of us in employing civility and factual reason to restoring our Country’s well being.

We must also work hard without any slackening  to elect his successor. Of course, at the moment there are many contenders for the job of next president and the Democratic party will be roiled in intra party warfare but by  the summer of 2020, the party must settle on a candidate who is electable and to me that means someone who reflects the progressive movement of the leftists but recognizes that, as the cliché goes, “politics is the art of the possible”  and that means appealing to a wider base of voters in order to get elected.

Seldom has falling on one’s sword in the name of purity appealed to me but in 2020, to do that and thus make Trump’s re-election possible would be a tragedy of incalculable proportions.

So, let’s make the word Defeat, not Impeach.

Charge!

WASHINGTON POST HEADLINE:Hillary Clinton puts to rest lingering speculation about a White House bid but says she’ll keep speaking out

 To which I say, using an old country expression, “in a pig’s eye!”

So, let’s talk about it.

I have not blogged in over two weeks until now.  As our man child wracked up new stupidity and outrage almost minute by minute, I thought “so, what else is new. What else is to be said?”

It’s as if we are sitting in a court room during the trial  of an accused serial killer. As the  compelling evidence that he/she has murdered 26 people is being presented to the jury, the door bursts open and someone shouts “hold everything – we’ve found a 27th body.” Our reaction, my reaction is “So what? Who cares?” Let’s get on with convicting this murderous, despicable human for killing  26 people. The 27th, 28th, so forth is simply icing on the political Electric Cake.

So, instead of  beating DJT over being taken once again by Kim Jong Un (and other recent follies) today let’s talk about the case for HRC for President.

Of course, as the Headline I cite suggests, she is doing exactly the right thing at this point – any whiff of an expression that she is running would rain down a torrent of abuse from Trump, Republicans everywhere, quite a few Democrats and much thortling  and castigation from the press (in addition to Fox).

She must speak out, loosely keep her team together waiting in the wings and watch the announced contenders contend. What must happen is that the white hot candidates on the far left fight each other to a draw and that no moderate left centrist emerges with any great support.

For instance, based on his record, what I know of his views and his ability at presentation, Colorado’s Hickenlooper might fill that spot but we’re a long way past the time when a “Jimmy who (?)” is likely to emerge.

I like my old friend Jay Inslee but he has the same problem. Sherrod Brown (?), perhaps. He’s solid but where is the pazzazz?

A recent op ed Headline in the Post said of Bernie “His time came. And went.” And as for Biden, I like Joe. Lots of people like Joe and I would certainly vote for him without any reservation should he be the nominee. But he does not have it in his gut (and I’m really not talking age) to fight the fight that will be needed to defeat Trump and his merry band of electorate thugs.

She does. She had a rough but fruitful learning experience in 2016, as to how to handle him.

Next time if Trump were to stand up in a debate when it was her turn and loom behind her she will calmly stop and tell him to sit down until it is his turn again and if he doesn’t, turn around and slap his face!

The party may well come to the end of this year looking at nothing more than an inconclusive primary bloodbath. Then comes the moment of decision as to allowing ones self to be “drafted (there being no such thing)” to enter the fray.

When you objectively think about it, of all the prominent Democrats available (except Biden), HRC has the experience, the understanding of how to make progress on the progressive agenda as speedily as politically possible and certainly she has the determination and skill needed to fight the fight against Trump.

And, of course, if things progress her way Bill must (and I’m sure he knows it) sit this one out.

When I broach this matter when it is appropriate with people here in New Mexico the common reaction from her friends and foes alike is that her negatives are impossibly high.

Lots of people at this point in an election cycle have high negatives – Nixon certainly did and whatever happened to that other woman whose negatives this time last year were even higher than Hillary’s? Oh, yes, she is now the celebrated and effective Speaker of the U S House of Representatives.

Say this is a long shot. But it is a shot worth taking, important to take. 

I know, I could be wrong about this, about her since I don’t claim to know her extremely well – only as a reporter who over the years has followed her trajectory.

When the “Clintons” were elected in 1992, the Washington Post reporter Donnie Radcliffe who had been preparing a long piece about Hillary in anticipation of the election called me to say that Hillary had told her how the two of us had long talks outside the House Judiciary room where she was a young staff lawyer and I was a somewhat younger reporter. That was where I  got to know her. And like her.

So, take what I say here as coming from someone who is not writing as an objective reporter but as someone who got on the HRC train earlier and sees no reason now to get off.

The Education of Donald J Trump

When Nancy Pelosi and her merry band of insurgent Democrats won the battle of the “Federal Shut down” it was over.

Donald J Trump’s terrible “Wall” would not be built, not now, not ever. A wise opponent would have accepted defeat and moved on.

But wait, that was a non-sequitur. This fool – ignorant, vain, narcistic and cruel – was never a wise man. Instead, even to the moment I write, it is reported he wants to continue to dig himself and his faithful followers into a deeper hole of defeat and pubic contempt. And at this point, all for the purpose of attempting to persuade some of his faithful followers he actually was the victor.

We are told that tomorrow Trump will sign the bill to keep the Government open but at the same time declare a National Emergency in an attempt to divert more billions from where, the Defense Department (oh that’s a PR winner) and elsewhere in order to Build his Wall.

Never mind the Constitution of the United States which gives the “power of the purse” to Congress, not the President. Never mind the advice of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who reportedly has warned him repeatedly that any attempt to do an end run around congress could well end in another disastrous defeat. Sure, McConnell, in order to keep the baby on board to sign the authorization bill, told him he, McConnell, would support a Declaration of National Emergency.

I assure you, McConnell’s support will be in tepid lip service only and behind the scenes worried Mitch will do what he can to save his fellow Republicans and himself (he’s up in 2020, also) from going down with this rotten, sinking ship.

The Courts, you say, the Supreme Court which will in good time hear the suit(s) that seek to forbid the end run around the Congress and the Constitution, the Supreme Court with its solid Conservative line up will side with Trump and he’ll get his money.

No it won’t – he only has four votes, not five. Chief Justice John Roberts saved the Affordable Care Act not once but twice. The other day he sided with the Liberals on the Court to stay the ability of the 5th Circuit to defy past SCOTUS rulings and allow the State of Louisiana to further limit the ability of women to obtain an abortion there.

Oh, Roberts is no liberal, he’s a solid Conservative, but he is not a fool, not an ignorant wrecker of American values and Americans sense of justice.

Roberts will vote against Trump’s attempt to get his way no matter who or what he tramples on to do it.

Trump learned his playbook from his father and more importantly, from Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s loyal henchman in divining communists everywhere in our Government and destroying decent Americans lives in the process,

Cohn was Trump’s mentor who taught him that he must win always, no matter the tactics it took, no matter the injustice it wrought, no matter how many decent people were destroyed.

Just win!Now, Donald J Trump is faced with the biggest defeat in his life. Except for his poor, dumb faithful followers, there is no escape or way to spin it. With his Declaration of a National Emergency he may twist and writhe for a while but sunset comes and the corpse lies still. And with it for Trump, the death of his self proclaimed omnipotence.

They say we get “too soon old and too later smart.” In this case, in the Education of Donald J Trump, I fear he will never get smart. I believe this poor, tormented human being is incapable of learning. Certainly incapable of admitting the truth of the lesson being imposed upon him.

As for the rest of us, complacency is an enemy. We must work tirelessly to make certain that less that two years from now, we have a new, decent and above all sane adult president.

Embrace Cato the Elder’s admonition with which it is said he ended every speech in the Roman Senate no matter the subject with these words:

“delenda est Cartago.”

For us,

Delenda est Trumpism!

Governor Northam – RIP

Oh, if only we could erase the mistakes of our youth.  But no, as “ Omar Khayyam warned us –

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

So, now Virginia Governor Ralph Northam takes the fall for the horrible picture in his Yearbook and his racist “nickname,” seen later. And who can say that he doesn’t deserve it?

Not I.

The times have changed – unquestionable for the better – and those who would cling to a dark past deserve no sympathy.  

But who is Northam today? The man who liked the horrible picture and racist nickname? Or the Governor who by most accounts has been a good friend to civil rights for all and rights for women?

I don’t know but I do know of cases where when people age they change. For the better. Allow me to cite just four examples, two I witnessed personally, the other two which are said to be true.

Lyndon Baines Johnson spent twenty three years in the United States Congress, first in the House, then in the Senate. In all that time he voted against every civil rights bill that came before him. Every one including anti-lynching measures. Was he just bowing to political expediency In the Southern state of Texas. Or was that his heart then?

I don’t know.

We do know that once he became President, Johnson forced through  the great Civil Rights Act of 1964, which freed black people from lawful segregation and injustice in public accommodations and housing and much else. He pushed through the Voting Rights Act which expanded the ability of black people and others to participate meaningfully in elections. He elevated the first black person to a seat on the United States Supreme Court. He worked to see Medicare and Medicaid enacted and began a War on Poverty which, if his mistake of expanding the Vietnam war had not brought him low might have freed countless millions from a life of poverty.

Lyndon Johnson was the best civil rights president the United States has had since Abraham Lincoln.  His votes on the other side before his presidency?

If not forgotten long since forgiven.

Then there was George Corley Wallace, Jr, the one time arch-segregationist Governor of Alabama. In his first race for the Gubernatorial nomination he was a “moderate” by Southern standards of the day and was beaten by a truly evil segregationist. Wallace said, “I got out-seged and I’ll never get out-seged again.”

So he won next time around and became the man standing in the schoolhouse door against Federal Integration force, the man who defiantly proclaimed “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Until black voting registration in Alabama swelled. At which point, Wallace ran for re-election as the friend of black people. They supported him enough for him to win against a segregationist opponent and he rewarded his black constituency with high offices in his Administration and policies for their benefit.

Was Wallace just a person who bends with the winds and stands for nothing certain or did he come to be a better person?

I don’t know but I do know that having had his State troopers rip the film from my cameraman’s shoulder in1968, because we had filmed him shaking hands with Robert Shelton who was then the Grand dragon of the main Southern  Ku Klux Klan, Wallace in his wheelchair in 1996, at a gathering we were both attending sought me out to apologize and ask me to forgive him. He seemed sincere and I forgave him.

I never met John Newton, he was long before my time. But I have been to the church in Olney, England, where as Curate, Newton, a priest in the Anglican Church, wrote Hymns, including one known by it’s first words “Amazing Grace,” one of the most famous Hymns of all  time.

Before he came to God fully, John Newton was the Captain of slave ships. He brought blacks from Africa to their bondage in the New World. He made a living for a time doing that before the injustice, the inhumanity of slavery gnawed at his soul.

But now, his days as a cruel Captain of slave ships no longer defines him

Now, we see John Newton through the words of his hymn “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

that saved a wretch like me,

 I once was lost but now am found,

 was blind but now I see.”

My fourth example was of someone I also never met. He lived so long ago and was for his early adult years the cruelest of all the examples I am citing.

His name was Saul, described thusly by a Bible student a few years ago:

“Saul became the worst enemy of Christians. He hunted them down and dragged them out of their homes, imprisoning them and even having them killed. In fact, Saul was a witness to the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen. Because Saul was a leader, he stood by and watched as those stoning Stephen laid their cloaks at his feet. It’s very likely that Saul ordered Stephen to be stoned”

But one day as Saul walked the road to Damascus, a light shone upon him. He heard a voice from heaven that said: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ And Saul said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, Whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’

After some time of penance Saul was fully redeemed and took the name Paul, and, it is said:

“Paul spent the rest of his life traveling and spreading the Gospel of Jesus, establishing churches and teaching others to lead in his absence. Paul’s epistles to the churches that he established make up over one-fourth of the New Testament. He truly is the greatest missionary in Church history.”

St. Paul’s conversion is a dramatic and inspiring story and except in reciting the man’s background, who condemns Paul for once being Saul?

I have told these stories not to excuse Governor Northam. He must pay the price for his early folly; the community fairly demands it.

However, these stories do make the point that the important thing about life is how it ends. The important thing about a person’s heart is where it winds up.

Who among us wants to be known by the ancient contents of the closet we keep so strongly locked and not by the works we stand for today?

Trump & Shakespeare

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney says Trump will secure the Border “with or without Congress (to which the Constitution gives the power of the purse)” meaning, we assume, build his wall, one way or another. 

Really?

You mean even if Congress disagrees the mighty Trump will just do it anyway (somehow).

As usual, Shakespeare says it best: “Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed That he is grown so great?”

I suggest the “meat” of egomaniacal ignorance, fueled by a desire to assume the purple robe of a dictator. Here is the man who said “If we don’t get what we want…I will shut down the Government.”

Which he did.

And now he threatens to do it again or to force his will and just build the Wall on his own authority.

How?

Perhaps he will order money taken from food assistance for the poor, from assistance to Puerto Rico still trying to right itself after that disastrous hurricane (it is a U S Commonwealth and its inhabitants are U S Citizens, or didn’t you know) even take it from the Department of Defense. These are just three of the places his aides are said to be busily searching for Government money that can be diverted to build the Wall.

Perhaps he will declare a National Emergency and attempt to use that Act’s power to just order the Corps of Engineers to start building.

The fact is, any attempt Trump makes to go around Congress (and the will of the majority of Americans) will be met by a flood of lawsuits. And does he think he can thumb his nose at the Courts which will surely stop him at least temporarily while the case(s) are adjudicated?

And surely an Impeachment proceeding (sparked by Trump’s defiant stand on his Wall together with whatever the Special Counsel reports) will begin in the House of Representatives to further slow the Government’s ability to work on other important problems both domestic and foreign.

But Trump doesn’t care. He must have his Wall or his hard-core base of believers may abandon him. Their eyes opened to see the Con Man at last.

Let us hope Donald J Trump does none of this and after the three week respite from Government shut down ends and still Congress won’t give him money for his Wall he stops blustering and accepts the will of Congress and of the Majority of the American People.

To do other wise is dangerous for the Country.

As for Trump…

Listen to  Shakespeare’s soothsayer –

“Beware…Caesar”

A Word for Mitch McConnell

During the longest Federal Government shutdown in history which has just ended, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was criticized in some quarters for “sitting on his hands” instead of actively using  the power of his position to bring about a quick end to the shutdown.

I am not a fan of Senator McConnell’s record of right-wing obstructionism – think his support for almost all things “progressive,” his eight year partisan attack on all-things Obama, his refusal to grant Judge Merritt Garland even a hearing let alone a vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court. The list goes on and on.

But in this case, I think McConnell played it just right, the only way he could. 

He and the president have never liked each other. McConnell wanted Rand Paul to be the nominee in 2016 right up to the time when it was clear the nominee would be Trump. And early on in his presidency, Trump criticized McConnell publicly for failing to get the Affordable Care Act repealed.

But when it comes to power over Republicans, in and out of Congress, Trump wins hands down. To challenge him in the Grand Old Party that like a disease he has invaded and destroyed is to lose.

McConnell did not advocate nor was he in favor of the shutdown. In advance, he cautioned Trump that shutdowns seldom work and the public doesn’t like them and blames the side that engineers one.

Now, a sensible. serious president, one schooled in the way of politics beyond just shouting slogans and boasts to a hot-eyed crowd, might have listened to McConnell , might have respected his record of tactical accomplishment.

But that’s not Trump. Until now, Trump has always  found a way to “win” by simply bullying it through.

So, what should, could McConnell have done once Trump’s shut down folly began?

Should he have taken to the Senate floor and joined Chuck Schumer in denouncing the shutdown? McConnell is the Republican leader of Republican Senators who with rare exceptions follow Trump slavishly.

McConnell could in the name of sanity have said to his fellow Republican Senators “Come on boys and girls and follow me in opposing this shutdown” but no leader can get very far out in front of his troops and in this case when he looked behind him McConnell would have discovered that no one was there.

McConnell would not only have been ineffective he would soon no longer be the leader. How about Tom Cotton or Mike Lee for leader instead of McConnell…would you like that better?

What McConnell did was stand aside and wait Trump out. Oh, yes. he gave the required “I support the president” speech from time to time but with no fire in it. He certainly did not work publicly or behind the scenes to shore up Trump’s crumbling position or approval rating.

At this week’s Senate Republican caucus when McConnell was attacked as bearing some fault for the situation he snapped “Do you think I liked this,” as close as he thought he could come publicly in denouncing the president’s willful and harmful action. And when the president finally capitulated and bowed to the obvious in a phone call to him, McConnell was careful to tell his Republican colleagues that it was Trump’s idea to re-open the Government for three weeks. Kudos to our president.

Should Trump’s position as president become untenable – impeachment or so un-popular that no Republican up for re-election (as McConnell is in 2020) need fear him – then they will all turn on him. But not yet.

McConnell played the shutdown just right – for his Republican colleagues in the Senate and for himself as leader and candidate for re-election.

Thank goodness Donald J Trump doesn’t have McConnell’s tactical smarts. He would be even more dangerous than he is!