DACA – Rock and Hard Place

Donald J Trump, finding himself between the Rock of moral justice and the Hard Place of existing law, has “punted” on DACA.

For those of us who argue that this man is unfit to be president of the United States, is a danger in so many ways to this Country and should therefore be speedily removed from office by legal and Constitutional means, the immediate reaction is to condemn this “punt” in the strongest terms. Particularly since clearly many people in his political “base” want the DACA children expelled for the reason that they are “foreign.”

Indeed, if one looks at the fact that the children involved were brought here through no intention of their own to break the law, who then have shown a remarkable  ability to benefit the entire Country by their presence, why it is easy to believe those should be the only things to consider.

I disagree.

The DACA program was established by President Obama by Executive Order in 2012, after appeals to Congress over a good many years to legalize the presence of these children failed. Congressional Republicans led the fight against the so-called “Dream Act” and today lead the fight to see to it that these children are deported.

But, you say, President Obama gave them legal status. Well, let’s talk about that.

Congress has the power to enact laws and the Courts have the power to judge whether those laws are Constitutional. Now, when a president says he, too, has the right to “make law” through an “Executive Order” that, too, has always been open to Court review and  decision, as it should be. Surely none of us wants to be ruled by the unchecked whim of a president.

When Donald J Trump issued his first Executive Order travel ban on people from certain predominantly Muslim countries, the Courts in scathing language invalidated it. When he revised it, the Supreme Court modified it to allow more people in than the president would have.

What now, of President Trump’s Executive Order ending the DACA program established by President Obama’s Executive Order?

Face it, whether the DACA children are here through no fault of their own and whether they have demonstrated they are the kind of people we want here, need here, are proud to see here, they are not here legally. Unless Congress changes the existing Immigration Law or the Courts invalidate the applicable portion, that fact is plain. And though I wish it were otherwise, that is one of those “stubborn facts” of which John Adams spoke.

Of course, should Texas and other states proceed with their suit claiming the DACA act is unconstitutionally illegal, the Courts might disagree and find that President Obama’s DACA order  had a Constitutional or Legislative underpinning. And a suit against President Trump’s new order may convince the Courts that his does not. But those are “weak reeds” on which to pin the hopes for making legal the DACA children’s presence.

The remedy, forced on us by President Trump’s action, is to be found in our System of Government established by the Founders of our Nation.

It is now up to Congress to pass a “Dream Act’ which would not only make legal the DACA children’s presence but to provide a sure path to citizenship for the vast majority of them. And it is up to all of us to put political pressure on Congress to do it. And if Congress fails to act , it is up to us to intensify political and moral pressure on Donald J Trump to modify his order until a new Congress does, as someday it surely will.

But what is not acceptable is that you and I, any of us, get to decide which laws are just and should be obeyed and which laws are not and surely we must agree that the Courts should also decide what laws a president may make or suspend by the stroke of his Executive Pen.

There are many people working today to tear down our system of Government, to tear down our Rule of Law and Donald J Trump has demonstrated again and again that he is one of them.

Not us, not ever us!




Looking at this action through the

After saying some months ago that he would consider President Obama’s Executive Order protecting children who were brought to this Country by their parents with a “big heart,” saying that the some eight hundred thousand members of the DACA class had nothing to fear from him, President Trump has now signed an Executive Order reversing President Obama’s Executive Order of 2012 that established the DACA protection.



Nuclear War – A Possibility? Chapter Two

And now, as Korea tensions escalate and threats continue on both sides, we find that the South Korean Defense Minister proposes that the United States return tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula.

I suppose his reasoning (unreasoning in my view) is that if the United States strikes North Korea’s nuclear capacity with conventional weapons and the North retaliates by hitting Seoul with any kind of weapon, then the U S nukes are ready to rock from closer range. Why, it’s the Boy Scout’s motto: Be Prepared.

What could go wrong?

Enter Peter Sellers: “Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the bomb. The BOMB, Dmitri. The hydrogen bomb. Well now, what happened is, uh…”

Accident, mis-calculation, the hot blood of battle, you name it. Only it wouldn’t be Peter and Dmitri on the phone but Donald and Xi. If war breaks out with nuclear weapons at the “locked and loaded,” China, desperately afraid of losing a  North Korea buffer between South Korea and the South’s United States ally will surely come to Defcon One.

And if the Atom splits , well, you know how that is.

And if you don’t, I do.

In  1957, I was an Army Lieutenant on active duty and one summer morning at 03:50, my post along with others was at the bottom of a six foot deep slit trench in the Nevada desert. With ten seconds to zero hour, the Range Officer on a loud speaker commanded me and the others to shut our eyes tight, and press the palms of our hands over them.

The range officer counted down to zero. Although I had followed instructions, I  saw an instant blinding flash. Then nothing for a few seconds before the ground and those of us huddling on it, shook violently. And an instant later, KABOOM, the loudest, ear splitting noise I’ve ever heard accompanied by half the Nevada desert, sand, rocks, uprooted bushes, cascading down on our helmets.

For a moment there was relative quiet, then WHOSE, a high wind with an additional portion of the Nevada desert rushed back from behind to fill the vacuum that had been created three thousand yards to our front. Finally, the range officer told us to get out of the trench. When I scrambled up the edge and stood up the giant fireball was just losing its last incandescence and the white, mushroom cloud billowed wide and high.  No one laughed or made a joke, in fact no one said anything it was such an awesome and terrible sight.

The bomb that had exploded was roughly the size of the one the United States dropped on Hiroshima. Our slit trench was just over a mile and seven tenths away from ground zero and had we been standing in the open we all would  have been killed instantly.

In Hiroshima the bomb was detonated above the city, it’s killing range was wider and an estimated seventy to eighty thousand people were killed instantly and the total deaths including those later from radiation received on that day are estimated to approach 140 thousand. Fortunately for those of us present that summer morning in Nevada, the trench shielded us from radiation, moreover, the bomb we experienced was not a so-called “dirty” bomb. At least two others that summer were and a large percentage of the military observers to those tests developed cancer years later.

By the way, if I had not followed the range officer’s directions about shielding my eyes (even though my retinas did register the flash) I would most probably have been rendered permanently blind. Despite the good advice you can look at the sun if you choose, but if you do you are a fool.

My bomb was a baby compared to today’s thermonuclear Hydrogen megaton bombs, each Intercontinental Ballistic Missile carrying several of them in it’s nose and when loosed, each one of them honing in on a different target. These bombs beginning with the one I experienced are not like anything else in their ability to destroy life on this planet.

That movie with Peter and Dmitri, we know how it ended. With Vera Lynn singing as the bombs go off all over the world “I’ll see you again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I’ll see you again someday.”

Efforts to de-escalate the Korean crisis must intensify.  There may be nothing short of military action that stops North Korea from continuing down the “garden path” to a  nuclear war but military action on our part must be a last resort; there is no “shortcut” to ending this crisis that does not risk the “unthinkable.”

Vera Lynn has gone on to her reward but somewhere there is a “fat lady” ready to sing the song and believe me, we don’t want to hear it.








Nuclear War – A Possibility?

North Korea has now carried out its most powerful nuclear test to date, claiming it has tested a warhead that can be placed on a missile that can reach the United States.

President Trump called the test “very hostile and dangerous” and when asked as he left Church this Sunday whether he is planning to attack North Korea, the president answered “we’ll see.”

As often happens when President Trump talks tough, other administration sources sought to play down  the implied threat just as they had when he said last month that North Korea “best not make any more threats to the United States” or it would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

North Korea since having been warned about the U S “fire and fury” has continued to threaten. It launched a missile over Japan and now tested a much larger nuclear weapon (North Korea claims it is a Hydrogen bomb, U S analysts have their doubts).

The tension and possibility of miscalculation leading to war is clearly rising  so it’s worth thinking about what such a war would mean.

If the U S strikes North Korea militarily, what would the North’s response be – an attack on South Korea? What would China, fearing destabilization, do? And, most worrisome, could “attack and counter attack” descend into nuclear/thermonuclear War with China?

Enter the fabled Rand Corporation, established after World War II to “game plan” strategic military scenarios and strategies. Last year, a new study by the RAND Corporation titled “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable” was devoted to assessing a US war against China. The study was commissioned by the US Army.

Throughout the Cold War, RAND was the premier think tank for “thinking the unthinkable”—a phrase made famous by one of RAND’s chief strategist in the 1950s, Herman Kahn. In 1960, Kahn published On Thermonuclear War.

“Whether hundreds of millions died or “merely” a few major cities were destroyed, Kahn argued, life would go on – as it had, for instance, after the Black Death in Europe during the 14th century, or in Japan after the limited nuclear attack in 1945 – contrary to the conventional, prevailing doomsday scenarios.  No matter how calamitous the devastation, Kahn argued that the survivors ultimately would not “envy the dead”….” (1)

Others disagreed. in fact, it was the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev who said  if a nuclear war was fought, “The survivors would envy the dead.”

Years later, President Ronald Reagan said “A nuclear war can not be won and must never be fought.”

And now?

The new Rand study (the US vs. China) is based on these assumptions: that a war between the United States and China would not involve other powers; that it would remain confined to the East Asian region; and that nuclear weapons would not be used (itals added). That last point is comforting but, obviously, open to question.

“The study which “game plans” a war with China considers four simplistic scenarios for a conflict defined by two variables: intensity (either mild or severe) and duration (from a few days to a year or more). It also notes that given the pace of advances in military technology—in what is already an undeclared arms race—the outcomes change over time. Thus, it studies the losses and costs for both sides of a war fought in 2015 and one in 2025.” (2)

The study’s projected figures for losses and costs has the United States winning but projects fewer losses and costs for the United States the earlier the war is fought.

Whether you call it “game planning” for war with (fill in the blank) or just another exiting episode of the television series “Game of Thrones,” there can be some value in trying to calculate the future. But also some danger.  Favorable or optimistic “game plans” can tempt leaders to use them as a basis for a decision to act (2015 vs 2025).

The problem is, “the future” as calculated almost never follows the script. It was the German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke who said “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”

North Korea has blustered and threatened and President Trump has replied in kind. He is surely laying down a “red line” for action as President Obama did in the case of the Syrian Government’s use of poison gas. Obama did not follow through. Trump shouldn’t either. Not now.

Let North Korea bluster and threaten while we work within the Six Power group or some other forum to seek a non-military solution. Short of capitulation to North Korean demands and threats, that would be far preferable to relying on military action based on a calculation that it would not lead to nuclear/thermonuclear war.


(1) Strategic Culture Foundation (based in Moscow)

(2) Ibid






President Trump Meets Hurricane Harvey – It’s a Draw!

If Hurricane Harvey is the worst natural disaster in U S History, Donald J  Trump’s  response has been the worst presidential response in our history. Before this week that title was awarded hands down to George W. Bush.

As the storms approached, both men took actions designed to meet the danger – Each declared a federal disaster emergency for the affected areas, ordered federal relief agencies to move into high gear, made available financial aid for hurricane victims and were briefed on the  progress of the storm and on initial relief efforts for victims.  All necessary and good actions but ones that occurred behind closed doors.

In this television age where the Chinese adage that a picture is worth a thousand words was never truer, we look to the president to be seen in leading the nation’s response,  in representing us all in compassion and support for the victims. The president in times of national distress is our leader, our pastor in grief, our chief mourner when deaths occur.

The next day after Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans in 1965, with over a third of the city under water, President Lyndon Johnson flew to New Orleans. Wind and rain were still punishing the area as he drove down Canal Street, and talked to survivors huddled in a shelter.

Two days after Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012, President Obama was on the ground there touring devastated areas and personally hugging and comforting victims of the storm. Later the Republican Governor, Chris Christie, thanked and praised Obama for his sincere help.

So, back to Presidents Bush and Trump.

In Bush’s case, his first personal visit to the Katrina devastation was three days later when he flew over the area on Air Force One while on the way back to Washington from his ranch. He later visited the Gulf area but the image of a president who just “mailed it in” from thirty five thousand feet stuck.

President Trump did not make that mistake. Harvey hit on Friday, August 25, and Trump visited Texas the next Tuesday. The problem in his visit is not that he made it, but why he made it. The problem was in what seemed to be important to him.

This is the way Politico’s opening paragraph of their story summed up the visit:

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was a presidential trip to a deluged state where the president didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street.

But the daylong visit, during which President Donald Trump spent far more time in the air than on the ground, gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted, as he checked in on the government apparatus working on relief efforts and was buoyed by a roaring crowd of locals.

“What a crowd, what a turnout,” Trump said, wearing khakis and a storm jacket — an unusual look for him — while waving a Texas state flag before about 1,000 people gathered across a rural Texas highway.”

According to numerous press reports, while he praised both federal and local relief workers, he did not mention the victims or reach out in words to the survivors a single time.

President Trump did fly to Texas, not over it, and it can be argued that  he “didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street” because he didn’t want to get in the way of the immediate relief efforts like Johnson or Obama. But on Wednesday, the day after his visit to Texas, guess what Trump tweeted:

After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!

No, sir, you didn’t witness first hand the horror & devastation and in saying that you did the motive we’ve come to expect from you was laid bare once again: This trip was all about you and your need for glory and adoration, not about the devastated people of Texas.

Well, Donald J Trump will try again on Saturday, making a second trip which will include Houston. Vice President Pence, often the “clean up man” behind Trump, says the president will see and comfort many storm victims.

By the way, when President Obama quickly visited New Jersey and immediately comforted Hurricane victims there in 2012, private citizen Donald J Trump tweeted his contempt for Obama’s efforts.


Not only giving out money, but Obama will be seen today standing in water and rain like he is a real President — don’t fall for it.

And again, the next day, a second tweet.













WE NEED HIGHER TAXES is the headline for an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Robert J Samuelson and he’s right.

We need to raise taxes for two reasons:

1) To pay for what we spend (pay as you go) rather than pass the deficit spending bill to our children, and their children, and their children with ever increasing interest amounts added to the bill.

2) To bring a halt to profligate spending by the President and Congress because if its “okay” to pass along all the increasing debt to future generations, why it’s easy to just go “skies the limit” on authorizing a continuing raid on the treasury and continuing increases in the debt ceiling in order to allow it.

When Jimmy Carter left office, we had a national debt of just under one trillion dollars and it had taken 190 years to amass it.  Today, in just another thirty six plus years we’ve piled on another eighteen Trillion dollars. The debt as I write is just under twenty Trillion and by the time you read this it will be just over twenty Trillion.

How did we get into this mess?  We started believing that somehow we could pay for what we were spending by not raising enough revenue  through taxes to cover it,  but I tell you this, perhaps for the first time,  the “tooth fairy” to put money under our national pillow does not exist.

So, what made us deviate from the course we had followed from the founding of our Country? An economist named Arthur Laffer was the unwitting culprit.

In 1979, at the Occidental Restaurant in Washington, D. C., while at dinner with friends Laffer drew a curve on a napkin. The curve purported to show the relationship between taxes and economic growth. At some point, Laffer argued that as you increased taxes on the ascending side of the curve you would kill the goose that laid the golden egg, would stifle growth and fewer people would be able to pay taxes while on the descending side of the curve lowering taxes would enable business to expand and hire more workers, consumers would therefore have more money to spend thus energizing the economy. The result of a rising economy would be that more people would be paying taxes which would mean we could raise more tax revenue even with lower tax rates.

The Laffer curve became the symbol of something called “Supply Side” economics and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan who was looking for an economic plan to campaign on bought it.

Laffer’s theory makes a lot of sense up to a point. John Kennedy signed a small tax cut in his administration and the economy seemed to respond positively.

But Reagan’s Republican opponent in the 1980 primaries, George Herbert Walker Bush, called it “Voodoo Economics.” And why? Because it was clear than neither Arthur Laffer or anyone else could tell you in advance how much of a tax cut was too much.

In fact, one year after the Reagan cut which amounted to about three billion dollars, the Congress with the approval of the Administration restored about one third of the cut because it was clear the numbers wouldn’t add up. But even in doing that, when Ronald Reagan left office the national debt had risen to over two and a half trillion dollars.

And the debt kept rising until President Clinton’s second term, when he, and the Republican Congress reached a budget agreement that actually increased taxes. And, lo and behold, we experienced four years of surplus. Other favorable factors helped produce that surplus but clearly increased taxes not only did not keep it from happening but contributed to the good news.

When President George W Bush took office, the debt was about 5.6 Trillion, and the Republicans enacted another huge tax cut. Supply Side economics was in the saddle again. The debt promptly rose by another five Trillion to ten Trillion before George W Bush left office.

In the eight years of the Obama Administration with the low rates in effect and the near depression taking its toll on the economy plus new spending for a Health care plan not offset by new taxes the debt rose to about 19 trillion.  And now the Republicans are plotting to cut taxes once more. Yes, I know, they say their tax bill will be “revenue neutral” in that they intend to eliminate enough so-called tax loopholes to offset the lower revenue from the lower rates.

Excuse me, but Ha, Ha, Ha.

In 1986, President Reagan and Congress to their credit reformed the tax system and cut loopholes. With the speed of summer lightening, Congress, bowing to special interest pleadings, put them all back and added new ones. I assure you, history will repeat itself again.

Listen – if we want to repair and upgrade the nation’s Infrastructure, if we want to get serious about first class education for our young people and good medical care for all our citizens,  if we want adequate remedial help for drug abusers, better training for Law Enforcement personnel,  more aid for medical research, and better programs to make the lives of all our citizens more productive  and happier while providing what is truly necessary for our national defense, why, we need to spend trillions of dollars of new money. And where will we get it?

We can either pay for it the old fashioned way by taxing ourselves to the extent necessary or charge it on the national credit card made out in the name of future generations of our children.

Supply Side Economics has not worked. That’s a fact and you know the old definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Finally, remember (and I tell you this for the second time), There Is No Tooth Fairy.



Donald J Trump’s First Pardon


Josh Cafetz, a Constitutional law professor at Cornell, writes in the Washington Post that Donald J Trump’a pardon of Sherriff Joe Arpaio speaks not so much to the fact that many of us do not think  Arpaio deserved it but to the fact that this president chose this person as the beneficiary of his first use of the Pardon power.

Here are excepts from Chafetz’s op-ed piece:

“After days of hinting about it, President Trump finally pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff best known for his hostility toward undocumented immigrants and his brutality toward prisoners in his custody. Arpaio had been convicted in July of criminal contempt of court for defying an order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants who had not broken any state law. Trump’s pardon ensures that Arpaio will not serve any time for the offense.”

“As sheriff, Arpaio was known for a hostility toward undocumented immigrants that was functionally indistinguishable from hostility toward Latinos. He conducted sweeps of Latino neighborhoods and stops of Latino drivers in attempts to find undocumented immigrants. He held inmates in brutal and degrading conditions. He installed publicly accessible webcams so that the public could gawk at inmates, and one of those cameras showed female prisoners using the toilet. And he was a leading proponent of the racist lie that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born American citizen.

The White House statement announcing the pardon claimed that, “Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” In a tweet, Trump called Arpaio an “American patriot” and wrote, “He kept Arizona safe!”

In other words, Trump pardoned Arpaio because of his actions as sheriff, actions that are consistent with the platform on which Trump campaigned and has attempted to govern. Those actions were appalling — and not only is Arpaio unremorseful, but Trump has actually held him up as a model to be emulated.”

So, the question is asked, Where does Trump’s use of the Pardon power end if this is the way it begins? Who can guess how many additional “American patriot(s)” this president will pardon – police convicted of brutality in the performance of their duties, military officers convicted of sexual crimes toward women, personal friends and supporters convicted of both criminal and civil crimes of various sorts?

The story here is not primarily about Arpaio. The story is about Donald J Trump and the continuing danger to this Country he poses as president.

This is just one more example of why Congress must act now to remove him from the Oval Office.


Trump On The Attack

President Trump has located the enemy, locked and loaded and fired. He has directed his latest jihad against his fellow Republicans. Well, to be precise, against Republican office holders who were Republicans before he decided to use the Grand Old Party as a vehicle for his adventure into the Presidency.

It is certainly not unusual for Presidents to attack their political opponents, usually, however, as a group (liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Nervous Nellies – that was LBJ – Members of the Right Wing Conspiracy – that was Bill & Hillary Clinton – etc.). My favorite of all time was FDR firing back at Republicans who had accused him of sending a U S Destroyer war ship back to the Aleutian Islands to pick up his little dog Fala.

Please paste this link in your browser address line and watch for yourself.

FDR used a witty rejoined to skewer his attackers, President Trump knows only how to swing a sledgehammer.  And who is he hammering?

These five Republican Senators:

John McCain, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee

Bob Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee

Lindsay Graham, Chairman of Subcommittees of the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees

Jeff Flake, the Junior Senator from Arizona who has written a now best selling book, accusing President Trump of betraying the Republican Party’s principles.

And (drum roll)

Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate.

Clearly, except for Flake who is truly not on the team when it comes to support for Donald J Trump , and perhaps Corker who has now publicly questioned his fitness to hold the office of President, these other, senior senators of his own party, are people he needs on his team if he has any chance of passing any of the major legislation he says he wants. Particularly the Majority Leader.

Apparently President Trump thinks he can bully and demand obedience from these members of the Senate just as he has somehow gotten along in his adult life following the wicked advice of one, Roy Cohn (Senator Joseph McCarthy’s aide in searching for Communists in the U S Government). Cohn’s tactics were described in an article in the Electrical Workers Union magazine as  “insult; manipulate the media; never back down; never apologize or admit you were wrong; and when you have nothing to attack with, make stuff up.”

I bring President Trump “first word;” it doesn’t work that way with members of the United States Senate (or a whole bunch of other people you now encounter (eh, Angela Merkel?).

If you were smart, sir (oxymoron, I know), you would woo these Senators. Call them up, invite them down, tell them how much you have always admired them, consult them, ask their advice (take it or not, ask for it most earnestly). enquire what you can do for them in their states, and so forth, and so on. You know the old saying, “Honey works better than vinegar.” You don’t, okay let’s move on.

Take the example of Senator McCain,  a true hero to most Americans (certainly to me), shot down and imprisoned by the North Vietnamese). You said last year “He’s not a war hero…He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured” which didn’t get you off to a great start with him. You were never captured because you never served.

Perhaps you were trying to make amends when, after McCain’s diagnoses of Cancer and he had the choice of staying in Arizona for immediate treatment or returning to Washington for the critical vote to repeal Obamacare, you said: “We hope John McCain gets better very soon. Because we miss him. He is a crusty voice in Washington.” So far, so good. But then you added: “Plus, we need his vote.” Oh vey, can you not just be decent for once?

Then, in the early morning hours of the vote, McCain strode into the Chamber, approached the recording Clerk, raised his hand in the fist that Roman Emperors used to indicate whether the defeated gladiator should be allowed to live or be put to death, and MCCain thrust his thumb down! And the Obamacare repeal failed by one vote.

I don’t know the reason(s) McCain voted the way he did but forgive me if my mind went to the old saying “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

No, trying to get your way in a Congress controlled by Republicans by attacking Republicans will just “get you the gate.”

And, President Trump, if you keep it up, if you continue to follow your late friend Roy Cohn’s playbook, it will also get you Impeached and removed from office.

Come to think of it, sir, please do keep it up!

No Words

I cannot summon the words to adequately report on Donald J Trump’s speech tonight before his partisan followers in Phoenix Arizona. He had gone there to connect with his base, to reassure himself that he is adored and supported by all truly right thinking Americans at a time he is smarting from the outpouring of criticism he has gotten over his comments on the Charlottesville episode, at a time he senses he is losing the public en large in a way that may be fatal to his presidency.

Well, if the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is privately saying as reported that he doubts the Trump presidency can survive, Trump himself gave a performance tonight that strongly supports McConnell’s  assessment.

Monday night, Trump spoke to the war in Afghanistan. His speech was a collection of cliches in search of a policy. Whereas Theodore Roosevelt defined his foreign policy as one of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, Trump spoke loudly but carried  a handful of kindling. Still, it was an attempt at serious discussion of a national problem.

Tonight, Donald J Trump simply lost it. His theme was one of hate and division, one of circling the wagons and lashing out at his enemies. He excoriated the press to whom he devoted the better part of twenty minutes, saying the press, dishonest as a group and totally unfair to him, hates America and wants the Country to fail. He attacked the two Republican Senators from Arizona (particularly John McCain), the Democrats, of course Hillary Clinton.

He spent about half an hour replaying Charlottesville, reading back his own words except for the words that revealed his dance with the deviltry of Nazi and White Supremacy bigotry. Does he not think that video tape exists of all the original words? Does he think it doesn’t matter? Or does he just think with his base he can get away with any lie?

You must watch this speech for yourself. Perhaps you can find the words to describe a man unhinged, out of control, egging the crowd on to join him in his hatreds, perhaps mentally ill. Watch it yourself, watch the hate, the arrogance, the ignorance. Examine the jut of his jaw as he turns his face upward and to one side, his eyes wild with egomaniac contempt for those he called out to condemn.

He said he would shut down the Government if necessary to get his Wall for our Southern border. He said no president in the history of our Country had accomplished more in the first seven months than he has. Was that a laugh I heard from a grave at Hyde Park?  He lied about so many things that I gave up taking notes.

But the thing that is most frightening is that we were not watching some man who had lost control, gone round the bend in a wild public display of mind-boggling incivility and street brawling-like chaos.

We were watching the President of the United States speak to the Country and the World.

Donald J Trump must be removed from the Presidency!

Clichés In Search of A Policy

President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt said famously “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Last night in his speech in announcing a new Afghanistan policy, President Donald J. Trump spoke loudly but carried a stack of kindling.

The goal for America in Afghanistan is to end our longest war. We could just leave, pull out “lock stock and barrel.” But the result for Afghanistan and our own security interests in Southeast Asia and the world might well be disastrous. The Soviet Union just pulled out of Afghanistan after ten years of un-successful occupation of the Country, but that didn’t matter for the Soviet Union; it was already on the brink of extinction.

So what is our new policy, as the president put it last night, to “secure an honorable and enduring win? Ah, the phrase “peace with honor” has a familiar ring to it for those who remember America’s withdrawal from Vietnam.

Let us start with the clichés. Said President Trump at various points in his speech:

-“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

-“…we will push onward to victory.”

-“…and in the end we will win.”

Fair enough. But every coherent policy stems from a realistic definition of the goal. What is “victory,” what is “winning” for the United States in Afghanistan? The answer from the president depends on which of several conflicting and contradictory lines of his speech you read.

President Trump said:

-“As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory….In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear. We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America…”

-“Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.”

Okay, but consider: Who are the “terrorists,” the “enemies” in Afghanistan that we must then fight and achieve the victory over?

Principally, they are the Taliban, an ultra-right Muslim religious organization of some thirty five thousand (estimate) native Afghans, not some invading force of outsiders. In fact, in 1996, the Taliban overthrew the then Afghan Government and ruled the country under strict Shira law until in the aftermath of 9/11, we and our allies pushed them out. They have been in military opposition to the Afghan government ever since; their goal is to re-establish their position as the Government of the country. That sounds like a civil war (and we know what a civil war is). In fact, the Taliban has never been officially classified, designated, or listed as a terrorist organization, but rather as armed insurgents.

So, is “winning” a complete destruction on the battlefield of the Taliban – kill, imprison. expel or “re-educate” them all – in the name of safe guarding the present Government which is not a threat to us while a second Taliban Government might be? The logic of the president’s argument of the threat would seem to suggest that should be the goal, that should be our the policy.

But, no, listen to President Trump in another part of his speech.

“Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” The president even suggested at another point that perhaps someday the Taliban would have a place in a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan without having to change their stripes.

Okay, which is it? Is it destroying the Taliban as the “terrorists “or is it really not dictating to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. If only the Taliban was some rag-tag group of murderers (“terrorists”) or a non-native group of invaders trying to bring a strange religion or ideology to Afghanistan, then fighting them to victory might make sense and might be an achievable goal. But in examining the real situation in Afghanistan, do we not hear the echo of our great mistake called Vietnam?

In Vietnam we attempted to “defeat the enemy” of a South Vietnamese Government there friendly to us (which we had established in 1954). But the “enemy” were indigenousness Vietnamese who had a different philosophy of government (communism) and who, with the vital help of their kinsmen in North Vietnam, waged war against the established Government of South Viet Nam and us. We know how that turned out.

In his speech President Trump tried to have it both ways when it came to the present Government of Afghanistan. He said:

-“America will work with the Afghan Government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check.”

-“…the American people expect to see real reforms, real progress and real results. “Our patience in not unlimited, We will keep our eyes open…”

Now, one of the problems has been that Afghan Governments since 9/11 have been corrupt, unable to Govern effectively because of tribal fiefdoms, whose army, while composed of brave men, has been undertrained and badly led. As we work harder to help the Government overcome these difficult, often seemingly intractable problems, when will our “patience” run out and our “not unlimited commitment” end? In other words, how long will we keep at it?

President Trump wisely didn’t say  as long as it takes but, then, how long?

Consider: President Trump made a big point that we would no longer announce time tables for withdrawal but instead (although he didn’t use the exact words of the saying) just ”play it as it lays,” meaning changing tactics and troop levels as the situation changes on the ground. That makes sense, of course, as long as you know what “success” looks like and are willing to keep at it until that “success” is achieved.

Here, the president seems to be signaling that we’re with you as long as it’s working but if it isn’t (and certainly, we’ll say that’s your fault), well, “see you around.” Now if the idea of not setting public time tables for withdrawal is predicated on not letting the “enemy” feel that he can just wait us out knowing how long he has to wait, what do you think the president’s stated view that we are there unless it isn’t working does? Why, the enemy will just keep pounding until the United States loses that “patience” for that “committment that is not unlimited.”

In fact, in Vietnam we never announced a timetable for complete withdrawal but the communist enemies just kept driving until our Ambassador to South Vietnam got on the  helicopter from our Embassy with the American flag clutched to his breast and there was no more South Vietnam.

And just as North Vietnam fueled the insurgency in South Vietnam, the president said correctly that Pakistan is fueling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

So, he threatened Pakistan.

He said: “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change. And that will change immediately.” No details given of how Pakistan will be forced to change.

Good luck. A Country that felt safe in sheltering America’s arch enemy Osama bin Laden and paid no price for having done so, probably won’t tremble under the president’s bluster.

Yes, the speech, the announced “change in policy” to “win,” was an incoherent jumble but it would take a hard heart indeed not to have some sympathy for President Trump in this matter.

Mr. Trump is correct when he said that when he became president he was given a bad and very complex hand. Certainly, his predecessors, George W Bush and Barack Obama, didn’t figure it out. Although I doubt it, maybe just “muddling through” will work.

President Trump sounded a typical note of optimism that he can do it. He said: “I’m a problem solver. In the end we will win.”

We like optimistic doctors and optimistic presidents.

But, like his predecessors, he hasn’t figured out what “winning” is or how to do it, even though he boasted (again, in typical fashion) that he had studied Afghanistan “in great detail and from every conceivable angle.”

His study is incomplete.

He said, quote: “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.”

There is no “prime minister” in Afghanistan, only a President.


What Would The Lord Say About Charlottesville

Once during a photo opportunity in the Oval office with President Reagan and his visitor Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, another reporter asked the president about the tax cut bill then working its way through congress. After he answered I followed up by telling the two men: “Remember  what the Good Book says that might pertain to taxes: ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s’.”

The president seemed to enjoy the interruption and might have been about to join the discussion of the “Good Book’s” view of taxes but Cardinal Krol shot a look at me that said “where is Torquemada when we need him” and that ended the colloquy.

I thought of that incident while pondering the rise of religion as it is now used routinely in political arguments. The Lord is brandished like a sword of truth by politicians in an argument over secular matters.

A few years ago when there was hot debate over extending the George W Bush tax cuts I heard a member of Congress insist on the floor of the U S House of Representatives that God wanted them extended without modification. The gentlemen did not say how he came to learn this but clearly he was telling his colleagues they had no choice but to follow the Lord’s will as revealed to this Congressman. I thought at the time that surely the Lord had more pressing and important matters to adjudicate that the Bush tax cuts, but what do I know.

In the presidential campaign of 1960, John F Kennedy delivered a speech to Baptist ministers  in an effort to reassure Protestants they need not fear that, if elected, he would seek to impose his views as a Roman Catholic on the Country. He said, in part:

“I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation (bold added) or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.” *

That seems for me to be the right way to separate Church and State when it comes to decisions on secular matters. But, beginning in 1980, when the late Reverend Jerry Falwell and his conservative political action group “Moral Majority” helped elect Ronald Reagan and defeat several liberal Democratic Senators, more and more Protestant Christian leaders have openly campaigned for Conservative Republican candidates. It sometimes seems these pastors believe the Lord wants them to spend their main time and energy on electing Republicans rather than preaching the true Gospel to a bi-partisan flock in need of spiritual and moral revival.

Last year Jerry Falwell’s son, Jerry jr., Billy Graham’s son Franklin, and a host of other Christian Protestant leaders enthusiastically supported Donald J Trump, a man whose well known personal views, actions, words and habits can not possibly be seen as the epitome of  a Christian life as described by Jesus in the New Testament.  The question is asked how can Christian leaders overlook such non-Christian faults as Trump’s?

Cynics might suggest that the religious leaders who are sticking with Donald J Trump are, like politicians looking toward re-election, simply taking the view popular with their constituents. After all, Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote last year and still enjoys high approval ratings from that group even as his overall approval ratings drop sharply. But surely the pastors should be leaders, not followers, and if they are isn’t it fair to ask whether it is they who helped lead their flocks to that 80 percent figure voting figure for Trump?

And if they did have a hand in doing that, why?

The answer seems to be that the partisan tribalism that has overtaken the Country has overtaken the pastors as well and that the benefits they see coming their way from a Republican president outweigh even the most egregious collection of non-Christian faults. When Trump famously said “I could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” I wonder, would he lose any pastors?

But now, Donald J Trump’s response to the events in Charlottesville has given these pastors a big problem.  Falwell, Graham, and others I’ve seen quoted have denounced the racism, bigotry and violence seen there – good for them.  But many have tried to shield the president from any blame connected with that day’s awful events or criticism of his response to those events in which he said that  there were “very fine people on both sides” which, of course, includes the Nazi side. That’s a hard task since the overwhelming majority of Americans do not think any Nazi marchers are “fine people” but some pastors are doing the best they can.

Franklin Graham said: “Shame on the politicians who are trying to push blame on President Trump for what happened in #Charlottesville, VA. That’s absurd. What about the politicians such as the city council who voted to remove a memorial that had been in place since 1924, regardless of the possible repercussions? How about the city politicians who issued the permit for the lawful demonstration to defend the statue?”

Falwell Jr. tweeted: “Finally a leader in the White House. Jobs returning, North Korea backing down, bold truthful statement about Charlottesville tragedy. So proud of Donald Trump.”
Trump’s Evangelical Adviser, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas,  said: “Racism comes in all shapes, all sizes, and yes, all colors…we ought to denounce all racism….The media, the liberals have painted a false narrative that the president is a racist, and anytime he tries to break out of that box, liberals aren’t going to allow him to do it.”
I thought about calling Pastor Jeffress to suggest that finding “very fine people” among the Nazi marchers is not the best way to “break out of that box,” but decided that would probably be a waste of both our times.

While several business leaders immediately resigned from two White House Business Councils (which were then immediately shut down), only one religious leader has resigned so far from the White House Evangelical Council, New York City megachurch pastor A.R. Bernard.

Mark Burns, an African American pastor in Easly, South Carolina, who was a surrogate for Donald J. Trump in campaigning last year, when asked if he would resign from the Council, tweeted: “Calls for Me to RESIGN…If God called me to support and Advise @realDonaldTrump spiritually How Can you Resign?”

I thought perhaps pastor Burns should check with the Lord again since he had been called before Charlottesville and the call might be under review now.

I suppose the question would be, what would the Lord say about the events surrounding Charlottesville and President Trump’s response to them? That seems to be an important question for all of us but particularly so for the pastors who are supposed to lead us.

I wish I could remember the name of the Congressman who told us the Lord wanted the Bush tax cuts extended.

Perhaps he would know the answer.

*Not everyone might agree with Kennedy’s view of not imposing his own religious views on the nation were he the president.

For instance, I wonder what Vice President Mike Pence might say about that. It could be important to know.