Monday, May 22, 2017
NIXON & TRUMP
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
In the 1976 movie All The President’s Men, a chronicle of two Washington Post reporters unraveling the scandal that would take down Richard Nixon, the mysterious Deep Throat kept advising the young reporters: Follow the money.
The linguistics professor turned political analyst Noam Chomsky advised his readers that if they really wanted to know what was going on in government, they should read the Wall Street Journal – not the editorial page which is bald faced, rightwing propaganda but the factual reportage, the numbers, the trail of money.
The day following the revelation that Donald Trump attempted to stop the FBI investigation into the wrongdoings of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, the Dow Jones industrial average fell over 300 points – down 372.82 at the closing bell. It was the largest drop since Trump was elected. While it does not necessarily signal the end of the Trump rally it does say the smart money is now betting against this president. The market loves Trump. The market had already banked anticipated dividends from tax cuts, deregulation and exploitation of the environment. Now everything is on hold. A wounded president collects no favors. A paralyzed president has no leverage. A toxic president has no friends.
Is this the beginning of the end? The smart money says it is – maybe. You always want to hedge your bets.
A brief recap of recent events: FBI Director James Comey is abruptly relieved of duty. The White House issues an obvious cover story involving Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails and pins the blame on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein refuses to serve as the fall guy and the president promptly and publicly admits he fired Comey for his handling of the Russia Gate investigation. Trump hosts the Russian ambassador and foreign minister to the Oval Office where, according to a Washington Post report, he reveals classified information. Democrats demand a special prosecutor and Republicans are unusually mum.
Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee says the White House is in a “downward spiral.” It seems the president is going under and everyone knows what happens when you try to help a drowning man.
The New York Times reports a February 14 memo authored by James Comey the day after he met with the president behind closed doors and without a witness: It says the president asked him to lay off Flynn in the wake of the National Security Advisor’s resignation.
We can conclude at this point that the president is either guilty of obstruction of justice or is stupid as hell or both. How any reasonable person could arrive at any other conclusion is impossible to imagine.
It is apparent that Rod Rosenstein came to that conclusion along with everyone else that lives in a world where reason still applies. Without delay he appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to take over the Russia Gate investigation as special counsel, i.e., special prosecutor. The appointment provides sufficient latitude, independence and resources to virtually assure an unbiased investigation.
Rosenstein took no chances. He informed the president and his staff only after the appointment was signed, sealed and delivered. It’s a done deal.
There is no joy in the West Wing tonight.
Vladimir Putin tried to lift the president’s spirits by offering to release his transcript of Trump’s meeting with the two Sergei’s: Lavrov and Kislyak. Fascinating. It seems someone in that room recorded the conversation and it was not an American. Putin joked that his foreign minister had failed to share his secrets with him or Russian intelligence.
The walls are closing in. At this point there is no one who wishes to be engaged in a conversation with the president for fear that his or her words might be recorded. No one wishes to cooperate with the president for fear that he or she might be swept into the lair. What do you say when the president asks you for a pledge of loyalty?
Who dares tell the president that firing the FBI Director for conducting an investigation into his misdeeds is not only inappropriate and morally reprehensible but also illegal?
Who tells the president that when he asked Comey to lay off Flynn he committed obstruction of justice?
Trump thought he was the king. He thought he was the emperor. He thought he could do and say anything he wanted and they’d let him do it.
Along comes a bureaucrat, a simple civil servant, with just enough nerve to inform the president who thought he was an emperor that he has no clothes.
This is the beginning of the end.
Unfortunately, justice moves like a tortoise through quicksand: slow and slower.
In the Nixon-Watergate case: Archibald Cox is named Special Prosecutor to investigate Watergate in May 1973. In October Nixon fires Cox, triggering the resignations now known as the Saturday Night Massacre. In November Leon Jaworski is appointed as the new special prosecutor. In March 1974 Nixon is named as an unindicted co-conspirator with seven of his aides. In April Jaworski surprises the president by issuing a subpoena for sixty-four White House tapes. Nixon releases edited transcripts of the tapes to the House Judiciary Committee. Congress demands the unedited tapes. Nixon refuses. In May the House Judiciary Committee begins impeachment hearings. In July Nixon loses his appeal to the Supreme Court and is ordered to hand over the tapes. On August 9, after the release of the infamous “smoking gun” tape, Nixon resigns.
It took fifteen months from the naming of a Special Prosecutor to Nixon’s resignation. That is probably the best we can hope for in the Trump Gate case.
There is a lot of harm that can be done in fifteen months. How many more productive and law abiding immigrants will be deported in the next fifteen months? How many more missiles will be dropped in foreign lands? How many wars will be initiated or prolonged? How many rivers will be poisoned? How much carbon dioxide will be injected into our atmosphere? Fifteen months takes us to the midterm elections.
There are major differences between Watergate and Trump Gate. Despite inexplicable actions – firing the special prosecutor and recording conversations in the Oval Office – Nixon was a highly skilled politician with a deep understanding of how Washington works. Trump is not.
Trump fired Comey not knowing or understanding the impact it would have on the press, the public and members of congress. Nixon would not have made that mistake. Trump admitted that he fired Comey out of concern for the Russia investigation and compounded the error by meeting with agents of the Russian government in the Oval Office. Nixon would not have made those mistakes. Trump apparently revealed state secrets in that meeting. Nixon definitely would not have made that mistake.
Nixon acted out of desperation when he fired Cox. The vultures were circling and the existence of the tapes was public knowledge. Trump had no apparent need to panic.
The hope now is that Trump continues to act on impulse and against his own interests. If he alienates his core support and members of his own party abandon ship, the process could be accelerated. We are hoping for arrogance and ignorance at a level we never expected to witness in an American president. It could happen.
In any case we must continue the resistance. Each of us in our own ways – protesting in the streets, civil disobedience, letters to the editor, emails to our representatives, phone calls to senators – must make it hard for our president and his still loyal minions to do anything at all.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, PAWNS TO PLAYERS, NUMBER NINE AND TWO VOLUMES OF PLAYS (CROW DOG PRESS).
Tuesday, May 09, 2017
TRUMP CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY
SURVIVING THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY
On the ninety-ninth day, the president announced that nuclear war on the Korean peninsula was possible. On the one-hundredth day Trump held a victory rally in Pennsylvania while protestors took to the streets throughout America and much of the world to protest the president’s policies regarding climate change. On the one hundred and first day the president defended his invitation of Philippines president and butcher Rodrigo Duterte to the White House.
It is fitting that the last days of Trump’s first one hundred highlighted the greatest dangers of his presidency: nuclear war, climate change and his egregious disregard for human rights. The first two can fairly be characterized as risking the end of the human race as we know it. The third is a direct threat to the democratic form of government for democracy cannot exist without deep respect for human rights. What will tomorrow bring?
Trump is right about one thing: One hundred days is an arbitrary distinction. It is a small but significant sample. But like the January barometer for the stock market, it has some measurable value in predicting the future.
After one hundred and one days of a Trump White House, we can draw a number of conclusions:
1. Donald Trump wanted to win the White House but he did not want to run the government. Recall that strange report during the campaign that he offered policy, domestic and foreign, to governor John Kasich of Ohio if only Kasich would endorse him and become his running mate. It seemed too bizarre to be true back then. It does not seem so now. The president has turned virtually all policy matters over to his son-in-law Jared Kushner – a man whose inexperience equals that of the president.
If Trump wanted and expected to become president, why didn’t he spend a moment in preparation? It is clear he knows very little about the complex issues that awaited his arrival in Washington. He was going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over a long weekend. He was going to repeal and replace Obamacare in the blink of an eye – who knew healthcare was so complicated? He was going to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure. It would be so easy. Not today, boss. He was going to pull out of NAFTA and CAFTA on day one. Now, he appoints commissions to study the problem.
He’s in over his head and he knows it. Unfortunately his ego will not allow him to sit on his hands and do nothing. He must act and there lies the danger.
2. Donald Trump has no philosophy, no ideology and no grounding principles of government to guide him. He believes his unpredictable quality serves him well. Maybe it did in real estate transactions but as commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military, it can result in unnecessary wars that never end. If all goes perfectly wrong, it can result in nuclear holocaust.
3. The Trump administration was divided from the beginning. In the beginning the dark knight Steve Bannon was clearly in charge. He had his buddies and allies, including the Russian connection – National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – and they had his back. But when the protestors, the media and the opposition turned up the heat the Russian connection peeled away and Jared Kushner became the president’s closest adviser. Is there unity in the White House now? Definitely not. Bannon is still kicking around the halls. He will not go quietly. Maybe he holds a few trump cards of his own.
4. Russia Gate may well die a natural death. Oh, there was collusion. Trump’s team met with Putin’s people on numerous occasions. They shared information. Trump’s people knew in advance what WikiLeaks would dump in the days and weeks ahead. They coordinated their campaigns.
Unfortunately, we do not know if Donald Trump was in the circle. He had no need to know. His advisors gave him his schedule and told him what to say. Yes, Donald had his spontaneous moments but the broad strokes of his campaign were given to him. Bannon was the man who made Trump president. Not Kushner. Not Ivanka. Not Kellyanne. Bannon.
Tillerson could go down. Bannon and Sessions should as well. But Trump will probably escape relatively unscathed. Should he have known? Yes. Did he know? Maybe not.
5. The Trump administration is guilty of gross incompetence. In real estate, you can always walk away from a bad deal. In government, there is only one congress and only a handful of legislative opportunities. In politics, you don’t roll out a major legislative initiative like healthcare unless you have a good idea you’ll win. You can say Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sabotaged Trump. You can say it was the Freedom Caucus. Whatever. Trump stumbled out the gate and got trumped. Even as the new and improved healthcare bill squeaks by the House, the Senate is poised to strike it down. The celebration, reminiscent of George W. Bush’s Mission Accomplished, was premature.
In Washington, failure begets failure. Trump doesn’t get it. Kushner doesn’t get. At the moment, Bannon doesn’t care. This mess belongs to the president.
6. Donald loves adulation and the only love he gets now is when he drops a bomb. Nobody loves Donald for releasing toxic chemicals into the air and water. Nobody loves him for judicial appointees. Nobody loves him for executive orders that never seem to matter. But everybody loves him when he drops a bomb. Will they still love him if he escalates the ongoing wars? That is an open question. Americans are tired of war. Trump promised to stay out of war. Can he get away with raising the flag and pounding the drums of war? I don’t think so. Not this time. This time it will be as it was for LBJ who dropped out of the presidential race rather than face the antiwar movement. Trump may hate us – the protestors, the dissidents, the resistance – but he doesn’t want to be the most despised president since Richard Nixon.
7. The president will keep his campaign promises on climate change and Supreme Court appointments. The issues are interrelated and together they represent the greatest damage this White House can do short of nuclear war.
Trump loves coal and believes that all environmental concerns are secondary to economic interests. Left to his own and his Republican allies, they will wait for the rising tide of global warming to swallow Miami before they will yield an inch. They don’t believe in science. They don’t believe in renewable energy. They don’t believe that pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has any significant effect. They don’t believe that releasing toxic chemicals into the water supply will kill and maim humans and animals alike. At least they pretend they don’t believe.
They sit in their golden towers, protected from the suffering masses, and go about the business of amassing fortunes. They will erect monuments to greed and allow the natural wonders of the world to crumble. They will fracture the earth for natural gas and drill for oil in Monument Valley. They will build a bridge over Grand Canyon and let the Colorado River run dry. They will dig up ancient burial grounds and deface sacred lands with hotels, oil pipelines and residential development. They will destroy the planet and build a rocket to the moon so that they and only they can escape the fallout.
THE ROLE OF THE RESISTANCE
The great hope was and is that Trump could be successfully impeached in less than a year. That almost certainly will not happen. As long as the Republicans control both houses of congress they will protect the president from Russia Gate. It is obvious. They don’t like Trump. Many of them don’t believe in his policies. But he delivered the White House to Republican hands and they will go to great lengths to protect him from disgrace.
But do not believe the resistance doesn’t matter. It matters more than ever. The only thing that holds the president and his party back is the resistance.
Even as the prospects of impeachment grow dimmer with every day the investigations in the House and Senate stall and fail to deliver, the cry for impeachment in the streets must be heard. The politicians may forget; the people cannot.
This president, knowingly or not, was elected by the corrupt influence of an adversarial foreign power and a meddling FBI director whose true motives are not yet known. If we are not able to take this president down then we must cripple him. We must make it impossible for him to conduct business as usual. Politically, we must push forward to the midterm elections. Without control of the House or the Senate it will be difficult to mitigate the harm. With control of the House or the Senate, we would control the agenda.
An investigation of the president’s conflict of interests would compel him to release his tax returns. The investigation of his connections to Russia and Putin’s determined effort to elect Trump would gain momentum. The heat would bear down on every inhabitant of this White House like the oppressive humidity of a Louisiana summer. They would hide in their rooms or retire to spend more time with their children. Their every action would be under a microscope. The pressure would paralyze.
They will act impulsively. Trump will fire anyone who even looked at a Russian spy novel. Even Ivanka and Kushner will step down in the hope they can save their business empire.
And the chips will begin to fall.
This is the hope: that the resistance born in the first 101 days of Trump will remain strong and grow into a movement that gives birth to a new kind of government, the kind of government that many have promised but few have delivered – a government that not only responds to the people but engages and protects the people’s interests.
As anyone who has read the late great Howard Zinn knows, the struggle never ends. As Neil Young said, rust never sleeps. The people must remain alert, informed and ready to take action. The people must stand in constant, unified resistance to the forces that will always seek to exploit them and the natural resources that support us all.
The Trumps succeeded in exploiting our democracy because the institutions that control and dominate our political system have failed in a fundamental way. The people know by raw instinct that no one in government – from the local council to the state house to the halls of congress and the oval office – represents their interests.
People are not human beings with needs and desire. They are digits in a database. They can be manipulated for political gain.
Well, it didn’t work this last time around and I suppose that’s the good news. The Clinton machine crashed and burned and failed to defeat a crude political neophyte – a con man and pretender who worked his magic tricks on a public ready to believe.
Perhaps the most astounding development of all is that those who formed Trump’s base, who worked for him, voted for him and contributed despite the candidate’s pledge to finance his own campaign, remain loyal to this day.
It would be a mistake to dismiss these people outright. If they are watching at all they have seen Trump without his mask. They know he is inept. They know he changes his positions like a laborer changes shirts. They know he is not a man of his word. They stick with him because they have seen no evidence that anyone else has changed.
Politicians of both parties continue to play their games. Senators weeping like small children over the demise of the filibuster. Threats and counter-threats over a self-imposed deadline for funding the government. Calculated responses to launching missiles and dropping bombs in faraway lands.
It’s all theater and the people see through it.
What do we do about all this? We do what we’ve always done. We keep working for change – each in his and her own way. We push our elected leaders for actions and answers. We vote for people who break the mold. We contribute what we can when we see the potential for real change.
We can take heart from the recent presidential election in France. While Marine Le Pen gets most of the publicity, perhaps the more important lesson is that the two parties – Socialist and Republican – that have controlled French politics for half a century lost their grip on the reins of power.
Can it happen here? Why not? Of course it is easier to upset the established order in a parliamentary system like France. Of course it might have been easier before the Supreme Court opened the doors to unlimited corporate financing of elections. But it is still possible. The candidacy of Bernie Sanders demonstrated the potential of small individual contributions in a presidential election. That it has carried over to some degree in congressional elections under the reign of Trump is encouraging.
Congress continues to suffer some the lowest approval marks in history. Trump’s approval continues to hover at 40% -- another historically low mark. When government is this unpopular in a democracy, the people are begging for change. The people are so fed up with our officials that in the last election many who voted for Trump were willing to listen and consider the Bernie Sanders alternative. This is not a philosophical divide.
The issues that Trump and Sanders had in common were their antiwar stands, trade policy and rebuilding the infrastructure. Those issues should define the next generation of candidates. That Trump cannot deliver does not mean that the issues will vanish. His ultimate failure on healthcare – both with congress and with the people – suggests the people want Medicare for all. That is another issue that can win elections.
Trump and Sanders stood for basic, comprehensive systemic change. No one currently in power gets it – or if they do, they are unable to advocate a position that does not attract corporate contributions. If the politicians we have cannot deliver we must find new politicians. We need independents to take their rightful place in the body politic.
It can happen. We have to believe it can. The first goal is to win the Senate in the midterm election. If we win the Senate, there is a chance we can win the House – even with gerrymandered districts. If we win the Senate, we can stop Trump’s regressive appointments to the Supreme Court. We can force him to moderation. If we win the House, we can enact electoral reforms, prohibit gerrymandering and push the ball forward on Medicare for all, infrastructure spending and fair trade.
If we take the House or the Senate we can weigh this president down with serious investigations armed with subpoena powers. There are a whole lot of people in the Trump White House – including Trump – who are praying that doesn’t happen. The resistance must make it so.
The fact that Trump has no philosophy is an opportunity. He would be open to a Clinton pivot. Just as Clinton became a champion of conservative causes – trade policy, welfare reform and deregulation of Wall Street – so Trump could become a champion of progressive causes.
Trump doesn’t care who loves him. He just wants to be loved. He wants to be led. He wants someone to take hold of the reins and tell him what to do.
Let’s take that role and run with it.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT, NUMBER NINE, A PATRIOT DIRGE, RANDOM JACK AND OTHER WORKS.
Monday, May 01, 2017
TRUMP! GOOD GOD!
THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK FOURTEEN +
99 Days of Trump
By Jack Random
Thirteen weeks in Donald Trump’s approach to his litany of campaign promises seems to be: Let’s not and say we did. This is not the presidency anyone voted for.
He promised to build a magnificent wall, a wall for the ages, a shining symbol to christen the era of American oppression. He promised that it wouldn’t cost a plug nickel because Mexico would pay for it. Well, Mexico has failed to do its part and the wall remains without funding.
He promised to dump Obamacare on day one but his party failed him. It turns out they’re not really interested in reforming healthcare. It’s become the third rail of politics. Obama gave us a system that nobody really likes but nobody really wants to do without. Along with a myriad of factors, it may have cost the Democrats the White House. If the Republicans touch it’ll cost them the house. They’re already on the path to losing the presidency.
Above all Donald Trump, the great negotiator, promised success – so much success we’ll get tired of winning. Thus far the only “successes” he has had are dropping bombs on foreign lands without strategic impact or intent. We’re still waiting for all that winning and while we wait we’re hoping he doesn’t trigger a world war or a nuclear holocaust.
This is the fourteenth and final installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY 92: TRUMPCARE REVISITED
April 21, 2017
Despite a distinct lack of interest in the halls of congress, the president proclaims his replacement bill for healthcare is still alive. Congress is on recess. When they return they will have to find a way to keep the government running against the wishes of their Freedom Caucus – freedom’s just another word for incompetent government. Healthcare is not on the agenda.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announces that we will not be granting waivers to Exxon or any other companies to drill for Russian oil. The sanction will remain in place for now. The refusal nixes the $500 billion dollar deal between Rosneft and Exxon to drill in the Arctic Sea – a project Russia is incapable of doing.
Vladimir Putin cannot be happy about this.
On Sunday France holds the first round of its presidential election. In the wake of Thursday’s terrorist shooting on the Champs Elysees in Paris, the Donald Trump of France and Putin’s candidate, Marine Le Pen, is very much in the running.
DAY 93: MARCHING FOR SCIENCE
April 22, 2017
Today is Earth Day. The president makes an impassioned plea to the industrial world to preserve the planet’s natural wonders and precious resources – clean air, drinkable water and fertile land – for future generations.
That is what presidents should do on Earth Day. Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t mean a word of it. As massive crowds take to the streets around the world in a March for Science, streaming in droves by Trump Tower in Manhattan, filling the National Mall in Washington, converging on Parliament Square in London, taking a stand throughout Europe, North, South and Central America, Australia, Africa and Asia, Trump stands with climate change deniers. He buries his head in the sand and dares the earth to defy him.
People everywhere understand that the only answer to the global crisis of climate change is science – people everywhere except those inhabiting the White House and the majority in congress. The glaciers and polar ice caps melt while Trump appoints a climate change denier to administrate protection of the environment. Miami will be submerged in a rising tide and Trump cuts funding for research and innovation.
Barring nuclear catastrophe this is where Trump will do the greatest amount of damage in his tenure at the helm of government. This is the critical time when the world should be united in preparing for the greatest disaster in human history. This is the time when we should be leading the transition to clean energy. Instead, we have a president who defends coal and believes that jobs and profit margins trump all other concerns.
DAY 94: LE PEN V. MACRON
April 23, 2017
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will contend for the French presidency on May 7th. Macron has been described as a center-right, pro-European, free trade economist without political experience. Le Pen has been described as an anti-immigrant, anti-European populist with racist leanings.
The combination of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen has given populism a bad name. Populism refers to a nonpartisan leader who listens to the people and reflects their concerns in policy proposals. Populist is not a synonym for demagogue. Huey Long of Louisiana was a populist whose platform was the foundation for FDR’s New Deal. Having changed his positions on virtually all issues, Trump is a demagogue. We’ll have to wait on Le Pen but the racist element of both politicians is undeniable.
Living in his bubble, Trump demands money for his wall before he allows a spending bill to keep the government running. He still doesn’t get it: His party is in control. If they shut down the government, he gets the blame.
DAY 95: TRUMP HAS HEART
April 24, 2017
Breaking News: Trump discovers he has a heart.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Trump reveals the difference between being a businessman and a president. In business he didn’t need a heart. In government he does. For example, when Trump made the decision to drop missiles on an airbase in Syria he had to deal with the fact that someone might die. 
“People could have been killed.”
Yes, Mr. President, people were killed. Are we really supposed to be comforted that our president, 95 days into his presidency, has realized that his actions have real-world consequences?
With the deadline for government funding coming due on Friday, Trump proposes a deal to congressional Democrats: Give me funding for the wall and I’ll give you funding for Obamacare.
No deal, Donald. Let the government shut down. You have full control of congress and the hammer of an executive veto. Let the people decide whose responsible for the mess we’re in. If you want to sabotage healthcare for millions of common people, don’t talk about it, do it! What happened to that presidential heart?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announces new sanctions on Syria. The sanctions target 271 employees of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, the agency responsible for developing chemical weapons. The action mirrors George W. Bush’s action in 2005 and Barrack Obama’s sanctions in 2016. 
Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis makes an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. After reports that Russia is arming the Taliban, Mattis is assessing the situation. 
Get ready for the long war getting longer. Afghan Defense Minister Abdullah Habibi resigned in the wake of a deadly Taliban attack that killed an estimated 140 Afghan soldiers. General John Nicholson, American commander in Afghanistan, has already requested more troops. We all know that Trump will give the general what he wants. Only Mad Dog stands in the way.
We will not be getting out of Afghanistan or Iraq while Trump is the White House. Sadly, despite all his lip service about stupid wars, Trump is the president the military has been waiting for.
DAY 96: A DOUBLE HEADER OF EXECUTIONS
April 25, 2017
US District Court Judge William Orrick of the ninth circuit court of appeals issues a temporary injunction blocking a Trump executive order intended to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal grants. It is yet another judicial loss for Trump and his feckless attorney general.
Arkansas executes two death row inmates. It is a reminder that the inhumane, cruel and barbaric practice of capital punishment will continue for the foreseeable future. With every Trump appointment to the Supreme Court and the judiciary, the practice is cemented into the American system of crime and punishment. It is a reminder that we are alone among civilized nations that still execute human beings.
Had the founders the foresight to banish cruel and unnecessary punishment – as opposed to cruel and unusual punishment – executions would have ceased long ago. Capital punishment does not prevent criminal acts; it satisfies a morbid desire for vengeance.
A day after Trump announced tariffs on Canadian lumber, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warns Trump that trade between the United States and its neighbor to the north is a two-way street. After all the campaign lip service about NAFTA, CAFTA, Mexico and China, the irony of Trump going after Canada is rich.
DAY 97: FLYNN AGAIN
April 26, 2017
House Oversight Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) give a joint statement that beleaguered former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn likely broke the law by receiving money from Turkey and Russia and not revealing that fact when he accepted his job in the White House.
While the story keeps Russia Gate alive, it appears that Flynn is the designated fall guy in this scandal. Flynn’s offer of testimony in exchange for immunity has fallen on deaf ears. Congress should accept his offer. We have no interest in putting the former General behind bars. We have a great deal of interest in learning how far up this scandal goes.
Trump signs an executive order calling for a review of lands protected by designation as national monuments. The review could clear the way for corporate ranchers and energy companies to exploit federal lands. When it comes to protecting the earth our president is consistently opposed. It may be the only consistent policy he has advocated to date.
The White House provides a sneak preview of the promised tax reform to CNN reporter Jim Acosta. The plan reportedly includes: Lower taxes for middle-class families, including deductions for childcare, elimination of the estate tax – a break for the Trump children, elimination of the alternative minimum tax – another break for the Trumps, lower tax rates for the wealthy, reduction of the corporate tax rate, elimination of the surtax on speculative investments – an essential funding mechanism for Obamacare, elimination of itemized deductions except mortgage interest and charitable contributions and elimination of taxes on corporate earnings abroad. 
At first glance the proposal is typical Republican tax relief for the wealthy. Much of it seems specifically geared to Trump’s corporate interests. In exchange they may allow some relief to trickle down to the middle class but they refuse outright to fund the cuts.
We will see how much of this proposal survives the process. If it passes in any form the national debt will rise dramatically. More likely it flounders like the rest of Trump’s agenda.
House Republicans have reconstituted the healthcare proposal according to the wishes of the rightwing Freedom Caucus. The GOP now faces the prospect of losing so-called moderate Republicans in the house. Try again, Donald.
Trump summons all one hundred members of the United State Senate to the White House for a rare and private briefing on the situation in North Korea. The White House announces that a missile defense system is being finalized in South Korea. Does this mean we are about to strike Pyongyang? If I am thinking this, what does the little dictator think?
It turns out it was all theater: theater of the absurd.
DAY 98: NAFTA JUKE
April 27, 2017
Trump announces that he will not withdraw from NAFTA after all. He says he was on the verge of triggering the withdrawal process – a necessary step in nullifying the agreement – when he received calls from the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada imploring him to give renegotiation a chance.
It has become the president’s fallback approach on virtually every issue: Let’s not and say we did. This president called out the North America Free Trade Agreement at every stop on his campaign tour of the rust belt states – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the states that gave him the White House. Now it turns out he didn’t mean it at all. Or maybe he did. Who can tell? He called NAFTA the singular worst deal ever negotiated. Don’t get me started on the Iranian nuclear deal! Now it’s negotiable. He was going to repeal NAFTA and its sister CAFTA on day one. Now it’s wait and see.
Was Trump lying all along? No one on his economic team – a team dominated by Wall Street – is in favor of fair trade.  From top economic advisor and former president of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs executive and current Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, billionaire banker and Secretary of Commerce Wilber Ross to son-in-law financier Jared Kushner, they are all globalists committed to the exploitation of labor that Free Trade empowers. What does that tell us?
The president signs yet another executive order ostensibly to protect the American aluminum industry. In fact, the order calls for another study.
Trump signs an executive order creating the Veterans Affairs Accountability Office. Isn’t that another bureaucracy? He wants to protect whistle blowers in the Veterans Administration. How about protecting whistle blowers in the White House, the CIA, the FBI and NSA?
Elijah Cummings wants to know why the White House is protecting former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn by refusing to release documents concerning his security clearance. In a surprise move, spokesman Sean Spicer blames the Obama administration.
Now that is rich: Trump relied on Obama to clear his highest-ranking foreign policy advisor! Fine. Obama did it. Let’s move on.
DAY 99: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
April 28, 2017
In his 99th day as president Trump confesses he was wrong: he thought the presidency would be easier. Who knew?
Secretary of State Tillerson advocates international sanctions and diplomacy to solve the North Korea problem. Kim Jung Un fires another missile into the Sea of Japan and Donald Trump tells Reuters News Service that a major military conflict is possible. He also said he’d like South Korea to pay for the missile defense system we’ve set up to the tune of one billion dollars.
South Korea has enough problems without an American president trying to extort a billion dollars from their treasury.
That Donald J. Trump is delusional is convincingly demonstrated by his assertion that he accomplished more in his first ninety days than any president in history.  The question is: Does Trump believe the words that emerge from his vocal chords or is he trying to persuade the rest of us? Does he keep a scorecard of points accumulated like a basketball game? What are his criteria? Does he get a point for shutting up a reporter? Two points for firing a corrupt advisor? Three points for signing an executive order that stalls in the courts? Seven points for legislation that never gets out of the House? A point per missile in an attack on an empty Syrian airbase? One hundred points for dropping the Mother of All Bombs?
THE FIRST 100 DAYS
With one solitary day remaining, I assert that this president has accomplished absolutely nothing.
Trump! Good God! What is he good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again. 
It’s a classic good news, bad news scenario: The bad news is the president has accomplished nothing. The good news is the president has accomplished nothing.
Trump! Good God! What is he good for? Absolutely nothing! Say it again.
The president may have broken a record for executive orders but without the support of congress, a congress controlled by the president’s party, few amount to anything. Many are the standard dodge of assigning an issue to a committee for further study. Those that do have an impact cannot be characterized as positive accomplishments. Is it an accomplishment to enable industries to dump toxic waste in rivers? Is it an accomplishment to break apart families and deport valued members of our society for having brown skin? Is it an accomplishment to withdraw from a trade agreement (TPP) that was never approved, no less enacted? Is it an accomplishment to protect the right of mentally disturbed individuals to buy a gun? Is it an accomplishment to place a lifetime ban on lobbying for foreign governments when (a) it is not binding on the next president and (b) it allows waivers that will surely be granted?
On and on, Trump gives lip service to his keystone issues but fails to back them up with action. His signature issue, of course, is The Wall – meaning a spectacular thirty-foot tall border wall from the California coast to the Gulf of Mexico. While still insisting that Mexico will pay for the wall, he has requested but not received $999 million as a first installment. He has requested $2.6 billion in 2018. A Republican controlled congress does not seem eager to provide it and even if it does it would fall dismally short of the amount required.
No, Donald, the wall is not on your accomplishments list.
Trump will likely get money to hire more border patrol and ICE agents. This is only an accomplishment if you favor a mass deportation effort that will create a new and powerful police apparatus and leave numerous American employers in agriculture, construction and service fields with a severe labor shortage.
Trump has quietly authorized mission creep in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. In an age of global climate change, Trump is in the process of demolishing the Environmental Protection Agency. He pushed through the Keystone and Dakota oil pipelines and eviscerated the agencies that will be responsible for cleaning up when the inevitable leaks poison the water supply.
None of these are accomplishments.
It all comes down to two things: The Supreme Court and bombing our adversaries.
That Trump fulfilled his promise to appoint a corporate conservative to the Supreme Court is undeniable. If you are obsessed with abortion and believe it is murder you can rejoice. If you loved the corporate bias of the late Antonin Scalia, you can go all in. But let’s be clear: Trump only had to show up and place the name in nomination. The rest was up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Had Trump been a more effective advocate, McConnell would not have had to invoke the so-called “nuclear” option. The antiquated and anti-democratic filibuster moved another step closer to its final and inevitable demise. While I consider that a positive, Senate Republicans consider it a tragedy.
No clear-cut accomplishment here.
That leaves the bombings. First, those fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles fired at a Syrian airbase. It accomplished a great deal for politics at home. The media fawned and the president’s leading critics in the Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, switched from opposing voices to water carriers. They stood and cheered when the Mother of All Bombs was dropped on a cave complex in Afghanistan.
Few would argue that these were not political accomplishments. They served to change the dynamic. They triggered that strange patriotic response that begins with the media and courses through the American public. Drop a bomb and they hold a parade. But these were neither strategic nor military accomplishments. The missile attack in Syria did not affect the reality of that war. The bomb in Afghanistan had no measurable effect in the war on ISIS. The blowback effect makes it thoroughly unclear.
The use of military force on such a grand stage does signal a change in American policy. It signals that we do not intend to extract ourselves from these conflicts any time soon. It means that one of the hallmarks of candidate Trump’s foreign policy pledges was as empty as his promise to pull out of NAFTA. We will remain in Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria for as long as the military deems it necessary.
Above all, that is not an accomplishment.
1. “Trump at 100 days: It’s a different kind of presidency” by Julie Pace. Associated Press, April 24, 2017.
2. “US sanctions hundreds of employees of Syrian research center.” Reuters, April 24, 2017.
3. “US general in Afghanistan suggests Russia arming the Taliban” by Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer. ABC News, April 24, 2017.
4. “Trump’s tax plan would repeal AMT, estate tax: report” by Naomi Jagoda. The Hill, April 26, 2017.
5. “Donald Trump: Ruling Class President” by Paul Street. Counterpunch, April 21, 2017.
6. “What Trump has done in his first 100 days in office” by Miriam Valverde. PolitiFact, April 26, 2017.
7. Paraphrase of the protest anthem “War!” by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, originally recorded by The Temptations (1969) and more famously by Edwin Starr (1970) and Bruce Springsteen (1986).
Sunday, April 23, 2017
LITTLE FINGERS & BIG EGOS
91 Days of Trump
By Jack Random
The twelfth week of Trump’s rule was notable for his turn to militarism as well as the total abandonment of campaign promises. Trump returned to Florida for Easter weekend and no doubt another round of golf. His twitter feed went strangely silent. One rumor says we are going to war with North Korea.
I don’t think so. Trump got what he wanted out of dropping missiles on Syria and a big bomb in Afghanistan. He is posturing like a fighting cock with his chest out and his feathers primed. He is enjoying the respect and media fawning he gets from being “strong” and tempting fate. He is acting a lot like the little dictator in Pyongyang.
The media has spent much of its time chronicling Trump’s reversals: China does not manipulate its currency after all. President Xi Jinping is Trump’s new best buddy. His policy of non-intervention in Syria is dead. He now apparently favors regime change. He has forgotten about NAFTA and CAFTA. To the extent he thinks about trade policy at all, he now favors renegotiation over repeal. He once promised to fire Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve. Now he likes her. On and on, Trump is the ultimate pragmatist or an extreme panderer. We have no idea what operates beneath the curtain of his coifed exterior. We do know that he is not to be trusted.
This is the thirteenth installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY 85: STORM CLOUDS OVER PYONGYANG
April 14, 2017
With a US naval strike force heading to the coast of North Korea, a US military exercise with South Korea and North Korea providing a display of their most powerful weapons, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warns both sides that they are drifting toward military conflict. He describes the situation as “storm clouds” over the Korean peninsula.
Head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt advocates leaving the Paris agreement on climate change. The White House is surprisingly divided on the issue with the recently demoted Steve Bannon on one side and Jared Kushner on the other. The biggest surprise is that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his former company Exxon-Mobil support remaining in the accord.
DAY 86: TAX PROTESTS
April 15, 2017
Thousands of protestors take to the streets in an estimated 150 cities across America to demand that our president release his tax returns. Trump is the first president since Richard Nixon not to do so. We all know how it turned out for Tricky Dick, who won the 1972 presidential election by one of the greatest Electoral College margins in history. How will it turn out for Donald J. Trump?
Vice president Mike Pence heads to South Korea as the president remains hunkered down in Mar-a-Lago. Would the president approve a shock and awe attack on Pyongyang while Pence is in the neighborhood?
A failed missile launch by North Korea leads to speculation that the US sabotaged the effort. My question: If they did, did they let Trump know about it?
DAY 87: EASTER SUNDAY
April 16, 2017
Trump tweets his conviction founded in the universe of alternative facts that the Saturday tax protesters were paid. Now that’s a job I’d like to get: getting paid to march in protest! We could end homelessness overnight. Where do we sign up? Happy Easter!
The Washington Post reports that immigration arrests rose nearly 33 percent in the first weeks of the Trump administration. Contrary to his expressed policy the arrests have not focused on immigrants with criminal records: 5,441 of 21,362 arrests involved individuals without criminal records.  An internal Homeland Security memo suggests they are mobilizing to create a national deportation force, including expanded detention facilities and lowered standards for recruiting 5,000 new ICE and Border Patrol agents.
Anyone who thought Trump would soften his stance on immigration – considering the acute labor shortages in agriculture and service fields – is dead wrong. Trump and his attorney general intend to deport as many as they can as fast as they can and they want to spend a lot of money doing it.
The mass deportation is coming and it will create a massive new police apparatus. It will also trigger a massive resistance and feed an underground economy.
DAY 88: LITTLE FINGERS AND BIG EGOS
April 17, 2017
Vice foreign minister Han Song-Ryol informs British Broadcasting that North Korea will continue to test missile technology on a “weekly, monthly and yearly basis.” 
Vice president Pence warns the North Koreans “not to test” the commander’s resolve. Hasn’t the VP heard Trump has no resolve? He has yielded military decisions to the generals. He loves the generals. Civilian control of the military is an overrated and outdated concept – like representative democracy or separation of church and state.
The pissing contest between the little dictator and the man with little hands (actually little fingers; his hands are fairly large) goes on unabated. It is developing into a classic game of chicken with literally millions of lives in the balance. I have to ask those who supported Trump in his march to the White House: How do you feel about the future of the planet – or at least the planet’s ability to sustain human and animal life – being in those large hands with little fingers? Is this the gamble you wanted to take? Is this the message you wanted to drive home to a government that has ignored your welfare for as long as we can remember? Was it worth it? Will it still be worth it if Trump drops the big one? Do you still believe he’s a rational businessman?
Trump has already yielded control of the military to the generals. Do the generals want another crack at victory on the Korean peninsula? Are we counting on China to rescue the world from global catastrophe? Roll the dice and take your chances. No one voted for the generals. And no one voted for war. I seem to recall a candidate who condemned the warmongering politicians and promised to extract us from stupid wars.
A Gallup poll reveals that only 45% of the people believe Trump keeps his word. The number is down from 62% in February. His daily approval rating is up two points to 41 percent.  It seems Trump has to keep bombing people to bolster his support – a dangerous phenomenon for a man who so wants to be liked.
Trump calls to congratulate Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his success in the recent referendum transforming Turkey into a dictatorship. The contested referendum abolishes the office of Prime Minister and grants Erdogan final approval of nominees for parliament. The vote was conducted under a state of emergency with thousands detained in the wake of a failed coup last summer.
Trump has a vested interest in Turkey: Trump Towers in Istanbul was completed in 2012. The ceremony was presided over by then Prime Minister Erdogan.  It does not bode well for the Kurds – our strongest ally in Iraq and Syria but Turkey’s mortal enemy.
The president also has a Trump Tower in the Philippines, where strongman president Rodrigo Duterte is committing his version of genocide under the name of a war on drugs. In 2015 Duterte promised to kill up to 100,000 people to eradicate the drug problem and compared himself to Hitler.  Duterte has expressed admiration for the American president and told reporters that Trump told him in a December phone conversation that he was going about his drug war “the right way.”  If the “right way” is extrajudicial assassination let us hope Trump never gets the authoritarian power he seems to admire in other nations.
DAY 89: THE LOST ARMADA
April 18, 2017
Those fighting ships that were heading to the Sea of Japan off the coast of Korea – the ones described as an armada by our president – were never headed there after all. Was it miscommunication? Was it a bluff? Has our president completely lost touch with the military? Or was it a fleet of Spanish ghost ships from the sixteenth century? No one seems to know.
Trump signs what he calls a “Buy American and Hire American” executive decree that makes modest changes in the hiring of highly skilled foreign workers. Like his stipulation that the Dakota and Keystone oil pipelines use American steel, it turns out to be little more than lip service. They will not use American steel. It was just a talking point. Buy and hire American is more of the same.
Trump targets Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff and takes credit when the Democrat falls short of winning the special election outright. Ossoff will face Republican Karen Handel in a June runoff.
DAY 90: KILLING THE DREAM & TILLERSON’S PAYBACK
April 19, 2017
On February 17, 23-year-old Juan Manuel Montes became the first dreamer under the protection of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to be deported by the Trump administration. DACA was implemented by the Obama administration to protect immigrants who entered the nation as children and who have since led law-abiding lives.
Immigrant groups rightly fear the beginning of mass deportations without regard for family bonds or humanitarian interests. Many of the immigrants who arrived as children have no family or community ties in their nations of origin.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joins the hypocrisy parade, pledging his undying devotion – formerly reserved for Senator John McCain – to the president. Said Graham on Fox & Friends: “We have got a president and a security team that I’ve been dreaming of for eight years.”
This from the man who led the Never Trump movement and refused to endorse the Republican nominee for president. All it took was 59 Tomahawk missiles and the Mother of All Bombs to turn on Graham’s love light.
Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News. Fellow woman groper Trump has said he doesn’t think O’Reilly did anything wrong. Of course you don’t, Donald. You can get away with anything when you’re rich and famous.
Exxon Mobil applies to the Treasury Department for a waiver to the sanctions that blocked former CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft.  Is this the payback both Putin and Tillerson expected when they made the Donald king? That it comes only ninety days into Trump’s reign is an indication of their collective arrogance.
The Trump people do not believe they will be held accountable for anything: corruption, cronyism, conflict-of-interest, tax evasion or collusion to defraud an election. They believe Russia Gate is a done deal. The president can get away with pretty much anything he wants to do as long as he’s willing to drop a few bombs and toe the party line. Out goes Bannon and friends; in come Kushner and the Wall Street Crowd.
We’ll hear no more of “deconstructing the administrative state.” We’ll get tax reform and budget cuts and military adventurism.
Lindsey Graham joins the party but John McCain steps back, tweeting in response the Wall Street Journal’s story: Are they crazy?
Yes, they are, senator. Crazy like a fox. Billions upon billions are in the balance – an estimated half a trillion. If Putin can swing the Arctic deal with Exxon, he would buy a few more years for the stumbling Russian economy.
DAY 91: NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
April 20, 2017
The day speaks for itself. A new CBS poll finds that 61% favor legalization and an even greater number support medical use of cannabis. Unfortunately, our antebellum attorney general Jeff Sessions is not among the majority.
Sessions tells a rightwing talk show he is amazed that “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” can block the actions of the president. He was referring to U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Hawaii with equal amounts of contempt for the judiciary and the state of Hawaii.
The Department of Justice is preparing to indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange despite his assistance in putting Trump in the White House and Sessions in the attorney general’s office. “I love WikiLeaks” used to be a virtual campaign slogan.
Trump issues an executive order calling for a study of the problem of dumping on the American steel industry. That’s like a study to determine if smoking cannabis is related to a feeling of euphoria. He doesn’t mention China – his new best friend – but he has plenty of venom for the Canadian dairy and lumber industries.
China is on alert and preparing contingencies in the event war breaks out between America and North Korea.
Secretary of State Tillerson notifies Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that Iran is complying with the agreement not to develop nuclear weapons. Had the Trump administration refused to certify compliance, Obama’s five-nation deal with Iran – a deal Trump called the worst ever – would have collapsed.
Clearly, there is nothing Trump the candidate said that Trump the president stands by. His entire presidency is some kind of charade, a display of smoke and mirrors, a two-bit magic act or a carnival trick show. Look as hard and long as you like, there is nothing there. He stands for nothing, envisions nothing, understands nothing and hopes for nothing. In the thirteenth week of his presidency, he is trying to run the clock out.
Trump swears that his healthcare program is still alive despite the collective groan emanating from the halls of congress. He swears they’ll bring it up again and maybe they will. They have nothing else. They can’t push through tax reform, infrastructure spending or immigration reform. Trump has no legislative agenda. He expected Paul Ryan to provide one for him but Ryan wants nothing to do with Trump.
We are witnessing a presidency that practices incompetence on a level never before experienced. We have had incompetent presidents but this is a president who doesn’t want the office. Trump wanted to win the White House but he didn’t want to run it. He has no clue how to operate government. He has no idea what to do next. He knows he’s in over his head. He just wants to play golf and dream of happier times when he was a billionaire alone in his tower, groping women and boasting about what he would do if he were in the White House.
1. “ICE immigration arrests of noncriminals double under Trump” by Maria Sacchetti. Washington Post, April 16, 2017.
2. “North Korea ‘will test missiles weekly’ senior official tell BBC.” British Broadcasting Corporation, April 17, 2017.
3. “Majority in US No Longer Thinks Trump Keeps His Promises.” Gallup, April 17, 2017.
4. “Donald Trump Has a Conflict of Interest in Turkey. Just Ask Donald Trump.” By Ashley Dejean. Mother Jones, April 18, 2017.
5. “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interests” by Kurt Eichenwald. Newsweek, December 13, 2016.
6. “Duterte: Trump Says Philippines tackling drug problem ‘the right way’” by Ivan Watson, Kathy Quiano and Bijan Hosseini. CNN, December 3, 2016.
7. “Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil Venture” by Jay Soloman and Bradley Olson. Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2017.