Saturday, February 04, 2017
THE TRUMP DIARIES: Days 8-14
By Jack Random
In his first seven days Donald Trump signed thirteen executive orders, setting the tone for his presidency. I begin to wonder if the president realizes that most of these executive orders are symbolic. The emperor hands down his daily decree and his loyal servants inform the multitudes.
This is the second installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY EIGHT: THE BAN ON MUSLIMS
January 27, 2017
The president signs an executive action calling for a four-month freeze on admitting refugees from war torn nations – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. The ban on Syrian refugees is described as indefinite. Once the freeze is lifted the administration will put in place “extreme vetting.” No one knows what that is exactly since the current vetting process is extremely rigorous. The order also cancels visas for individuals from the target countries. Trump suggests he will adjust the ban to give priority to Christians and other religious minorities. The administration denies that the ban is based on religion, a distinction that would clearly make it unconstitutional.
No one is surprised at the bigotry of the ban but the ignorance of its administration is striking. We have military and intelligence personnel on the ground in these nations whose lives may depend on the cooperation of locals. We’ve made promises and now those promises will not be delivered. Individuals with fully vetted visas from Iraq and Syria were denied entry into the United States. Among the detained are an Iranian scientist, an interpreter who worked for the Americans in Iraq and a Syrian family cleared for relocation in Ohio. Protestors have answered the call at New York’s JFK airport. As the protest spreads, the president will have to amend his order or face consequences he could not have imagined.
A second executive order calls for making the most powerful military machine on earth stronger, bigger and better with more ships, planes and weaponry. The action is pointless because it requires the appropriations of congress.
DAY NINE: TELEPHONE DIPLOMACY
January 28, 2017
The president has telephone conversations with the leaders of Japan, Germany, France, Australia and Russia. As leader of the only nation to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will want assurances on trade as well as security. Candidate Trump called for Japan and NATO to pay significantly more for American military protection. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will want to talk trade, refugees and relations with Russia. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a signatory of the TPP, will remind the president of his nation’s loyalty to America’s militarism and ask for trade considerations. French President Francois Hollande will have a short conversation about the logistics of taking back the Statue of Liberty. He steps down in the spring.
That of course leaves President/Emperor Vladimir Putin who may wish to take a bow for Trump’s surprise ascension to the American throne. We can be sure that many ears are tuned to this exchange. How long before the sanctions levied by Barack Obama and fortified by congress are lifted under the pretense of a new era of cooperation? What role if any will America play in Syria? Will Trump sign off on Crimea and Ukraine? It all depends on what Putin has in his little black book. Place your bets.
I’m betting he has something. With Trump, a man of uncertain character and documented sexual proclivities, we cannot rule out an embarrassing sex tape but it might as well be a crooked business deal or an unsavory foreign debt. I’m betting the Central Intelligence Agency knows exactly what it is.
In an effort to gain entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, the president signs three more executive orders: One orders a restructuring of the National Security Council, the second bans lobbying by administration members until five years after their service and the third is a request for a plan to defeat the Islamic State.
DAY TEN: MUSLIM BAN BLOWBACK
January 29, 2017
Protestors answer the call by the hundreds and thousands as story after story of detained women, children and university students are chronicled in the local and national media. Attorneys win early appeals to stay the deportation of detainees but not necessarily to win their release. Mass confusion reigns as the agencies involved do not know what to do with green card holders and do not know what to advise individuals from the target nations trying to return to America. Iran announces reciprocal measures. The Iraqi parliament discusses banning American contractors. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau offers to receive the refugees America refuses.
Was this the law of unintended consequences and the product of an ill-conceived policy or did Trump expect his Muslim ban to trigger a wave of protests at airports across the nation, multiple challenges in court and widespread international backlash? Is he a master of chaos or a president unprepared for the job?
It seems the Trump administration made some attempt to disguise the ban as something other than religion-based. Whether it will survive legal challenges is an open question but it will not survive the international court of public opinion. At this juncture not even Britain’s Theresa May is defending his policy.
DAY ELEVEN: MUSLIM BAN BACKTRACK
January 30, 2017
As the blowback spreads and the resistance rises across the globe, the White House backtracks on the inclusion of green card holders – i.e., legal residents but not citizens of the United States – in what the administration continues to insist is not a Muslim ban.
The Iraqi parliament now recommends a reciprocal ban on Americans – a ban that might pose problems for oil executives and special operations forces involved in the fight against the Islamic State.  Chancelor Angela Merkel reminds Trump that his action violates the Geneva Convention on accepting refugees. 
Former president Barrack Obama breaks with tradition by siding with protestors on the ban, issuing a statement through a spokesman that he is “heartened” by the engagement of citizens around the country.
Trump signs an executive order directing federal agencies to cut two regulations for every one added. How the president came up with a two-for-one ratio is not explained. If it’s good for Subway, it’s good for government. The first target of the anti-regulation campaign will be environmental protection. The second will be Wall Street.
Finally, press secretary Sean Spicer insists with inexplicable passion that the president’s restructuring of the National Security Council is nothing to fret about. The order is a clear promotion of alternative rightwing media mastermind Steve Bannon to prominence in the Trump administration and that is something to fret about.
DAY TWELVE: SUPREME COURT NOMINEE
January 31, 2017
The president announces his nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch is cut from the same cloth as Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito. He is above all a corporate loyalist, believing that corporations deserve all of the rights and privileges of citizenship. His rulings point to a religious bent in jurisprudence, holding that corporations as individuals are not obliged to follow laws that offend their religious beliefs.
The court will not change substantially when the Senate ultimately approves this nominee or someone just like him. It will almost certainly change with the next opening on the court. Liberal lion Ruth Bader Ginsberg is approaching 84 years of age. Liberal ally Stephen Breyer is 78 and traditional swing vote Anthony Kennedy is 80. It is not realistic to expect all three to serve another four years. When the new court is seated the majority will take dead aim at women’s rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, civil liberties and the environment.
The Supreme Court is the greatest single danger the Trump administration poses to civilization on the planet earth. If the party of opposition can muster any courage at all, they should fight every Trump nominee for the high court until he is no longer in office. They should fight him on the grounds that his presidency is illegitimate. There is too much at stake to fall back on politics as usual. Force them to kill the filibuster and good riddance! Unfortunately, if history teaches us anything at all it is not to expect courage from the Democratic Party.
DAY THIRTEEN: THE NUCLEAR OPTION
February 1, 2017
President Trump encourages Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” if needed to secure confirmation of his Supreme Court nominee. The move could lead to the end of the senate filibuster. The distinctly anti-democratic rule was used to block legislation and presidential appointees during the Obama administration until the Democrats voted in 2013 to lift the 60-vote super majority requirement on judicial and cabinet member appointments with the Supreme Court exempted. Who can doubt that this president will demand an end to the filibuster for legislation as well if it stands in his way? 
Threatening the “nuclear option” is designed to send waves of terror through the regal halls of the US Senate. It would reduce the elitist status of that body to a semi-democratic institution. Traditional members of the senate have long considered themselves an American version of the House of Lords. It’s time to come down from the tower and breathe the people’s air. Let the filibuster die. It has long outlived its usefulness.
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn officially places Iran “on notice” after a ballistic missile test. Former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is confirmed as Secretary of State by a 56-43 vote, overcoming concerns regarding his cozy business relationship with Russia.
It could be worse. The president could have threatened the nuclear option with Iran and put the Senate Democrats on notice. Given reports of his phone conversations with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia, anything is possible. 
DAY FOURTEEN: WHITE HOUSE ON NOTICE
February 2, 2017
The press puts the White House on notice that it will not get a pass on “easing sanctions” on Russia. The sanctions were put in place by the Obama administration in retaliation for interference in the presidential election for the purpose of electing Donald J. Trump. 
The Treasury Department issued a statement that it would allow limited transactions between American companies and the Federal Security Service (FSB). The successor to the KGB is one of two Russian intelligence agencies accused of cyber attacks to disrupt and influence the election. White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the action as only a technical fix.
The president remains stunningly silent on the explosion of violence in Ukraine – the fifth day of escalating conflict. Russia’s Putin blames the Ukrainian government. Senator John McCain calls on Trump to stand up against Russian aggression.
The U.S. Central Command is conducting a review of Sunday’s raid on a suspected terrorist collaborator’s home in the mountains of Yemen. The first authorized military operation by President Trump resulted in the killing of Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens, fourteen “militants” and an estimated 16-30 civilians, including ten women and children. According to Reuters News Agency, military officials reported that Trump approved the operation “without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.” [6, 7]
Does anyone remember Benghazi?
At the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump vows to repeal the Johnson Amendment – an IRS rule prohibiting the endorsement of political candidates from the pulpit.
After fourteen days of Trump I am reminded of biblical prophecies of doom: Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that ye not be troubled for all these things must come to pass but the end is not yet. Matthew 24:6.
Given the alt-right’s prominence in the Trump administration, I wonder if this is exactly what they had in mind.
But the end is not yet and we’re still here.
1. “Iraq’s parliament has voted to ‘retaliate’ against Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’” by Bethan McKernan. Independent, January 30, 2017.
2. “Merkel reminds Trump of Geneva Convention’s refugee policy” by Mallory Shelbourne. The Hill, January 29, 2017.
3. “GOP going nuclear over Gorsuch might destroy filibuster forever” by Richard A. Arenberg. The Hill, February 1, 2017.
4. “Report: Trump lashes out at Australian PM on phone call” by Max Greenwood. The Hill, February 1, 2017.
5. “U.S. eases sanctions on Russian intelligence agency” by Joel Schectman and Dustin Volz. Reuters, February 2, 2017.
6. “U.S. military probing more possible civilian deaths in Yemen raid” by Ayesha Rascoe. Reuters, February 2, 2017.
7. “Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Costly in the End” by Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger. New York Times, February 1, 2017.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, D’ARC UNDERGROUND & OTHER PLAYS, NUMBER NINE: THE ADVENTURES OF JAKE JONES & RUBY DAULTON AND PAWNS TO PLAYERS: A MATCH FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.