Friday, February 10, 2017
THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK THREE
21 Days of Trump
By Jack Random
In his first fourteen days Donald Trump set a blistering pace with executive orders and began to deal with international crises. The administration’s first military action, a Special Forces operation in Yemen, was by most accounts blundered. Relations with ally Australia were strained by an awkward telephone call, protests continued to rise up, the first signs of easing sanctions on Russia appeared and Iran was placed “on notice.”
This is the third installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY FIFTEEN: IRAN SANCTIONS, ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS
February 3, 2017
The Treasury Department announces new sanctions on Iran in retaliation for testing a ballistic missile. The action is limited to individuals and companies connected to the missile program and is designed not to affect the nuclear weapons treaty signed by the Obama administration along with five international partners: Russia, Germany, France, China and Britain.
The administration gently admonishes Israel for recklessly pursuing expanded settlements in occupied territories. The admonition that expansion beyond existing settlements “may not be helpful” to the peace process suggests that the Trump White House may not be as loyal to the Israeli right as anticipated.
In a busy Friday, Trump initiates the process of dismantling Dodd-Frank, the legislative fix to a runaway Wall Street that collapsed the global economy and put us on the precipice of a great depression.
Federal courts issue conflicting rulings on the legality of Trump’s Muslim ban. District Judge James Robart in Seattle placed a temporary restraining order on the executive action, finding it discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The unfolding Trump foreign policy is as convoluted and indecipherable as a maze in a deep cave. How do you affect closer relations with Russia and its allies Iran and Syria while simultaneously endearing Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu? How do you square UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s condemnation of Russia in Ukraine and Crimea with Trump’s unbelievable defense of Vladimir Putin in his pre Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly: “There are a lot of killers. What? Do you think our country’s so innocent?”
No, Donald, we don’t think our country is so innocent and we do not condone our immoral wars or extrajudicial drone killings; but neither do we hesitate to condemn the assassination of journalists, political rivals and dissidents. Is the president really presenting a profound moral conundrum or is this Trump’s golden rule: Never criticize Vladimir Putin?
The balance becomes even more delicate when you consider Iran’s critical role in fighting back the Islamic State in Iraq.
DAY SIXTEEN: “SO CALLED” PRESIDENT
February 4, 2017
The State Department under its newly confirmed Secretary Rex Tillerson begins the process of reinstating an estimated 60,000 visas cancelled under the president’s ill-conceived executive order. The Department of Homeland Security announces it is suspending enforcement of the ban.
From his estate in Mar-a-Lago the president goes on a twitter rampage against the “so-called” judge who had the audacity to stand up to him. The “so-called” president’s rant runs from 4:59 to 5:12 am. Does this man ever sleep?
Protesters are back on the streets in London, Paris, Berlin, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Salt Lake City, Miami, San Francisco, Boulder, Manila and Jakarta. The “so-called” president threatened to cut federal funding to Berkeley for a protest last Wednesday that erupted in violence. Trump’s threat is empty but it does suggest he is suffering from delusions of grandeur.
DAY SEVENTEEN: BAN ON HOLD
February 5, 2017
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals turns back the Justice Department’s motion to put a stay on Judge Robart’s temporary restraining order, indicating the government failed to prove there would be irreparable harm.
The president takes the day off to watch the Super Bowl and root for the New England Patriots. Watching the Patriots come back from 25 down was like watching the election night coverage: Unbelievable. The impossible catch was like FBI Director James Comey’s surprise announcement and the final results were stunning. No word on whether Putin tried to influence the game.
DAY EIGHTEEN: AWAITING JUSTICE
February 6, 2017
As we await the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals next ruling on lifting the hold on the Muslim travel ban, Trump accuses the media of deliberately propagating fake news. He is particularly incensed that any polls would find that his Muslim ban is less than popular. Maybe Steve Bannon should explain the concept of political courage to his boss: A leader holds his ground on principle even when his decisions go against public opinion.
The New York Times reports that Trump was angry at not being fully informed on the executive order that increased Steve Bannon’s authority and prominence. Trump calls the story “complete fiction” but it has the ring of truth. 
Given the president’s insatiable ego, how long can Bannon last? The more Bannon becomes the story as the brain behind the policies, the shorter his White House tenure.
DAY NINETEEN: WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION
February 7, 2017
The senate confirms Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on a 50-50 vote with vice president Mike Pence casting the tiebreaker. DeVos has one mission and that is to destroy public education by allowing public funds to go to private schools, including religious and for-profit charter schools.
For those who don’t know how it works, it goes something like this: Take under-funded public schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, apply rigorous testing requirements and impossible standards of achievement. When the schools fail to meet standards, pronounce them failures, cut funding and offer parents vouchers to attend charter schools. The vouchers represent money that would have gone to the public school, thus creating a cycle of perpetual failure.
Reminiscent of No Child Left Behind, the approach has never improved education and it certainly hasn’t in Michigan where DeVos was a major charter school advocate for two decades. [2, 3]
Interesting side note: Betsy’s brother is the founder of Blackwater USA, the mercenary army responsible for so much chaos, death and destruction in Iraq.
DAY TWENTY: LAST STAND AT STANDING ROCK
February 8, 2017
In compliance with an executive order, the Army Corps of Engineers approved an easement to clear the way for completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Veterans Stand issues a call for its members to return to North Dakota for a “Last Stand” to block the project. 
Energy Transfer Partners has completed all but the last 1,100 feet of the pipeline that courses under Lake Oahe, a reservoir of the Missouri River only a half-mile upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation. What could possibly go wrong?
The great fear is what happens if and when the cameras are turned off and no one is paying attention. These are very brave people enduring harsh conditions for a cause that belongs to us all.
With the president seated in the Oval Office, CEO Brian Krzanich announces Intel’s intention to invest seven billion dollars in a new factory in the notorious anti-labor “Right to Work” state of Arizona. If there was ever any question, the Trump administration intends a full-scale assault on the rights of labor.
The senate confirms Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as the next Attorney General by a 52 to 47 vote. There was a time when claiming the accomplishments of someone else was a sufficient impunity of character to block a nomination to high office but that is not the case with Sessions. On his questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee he listed four cases involving voting rights and civil rights as among his legal accomplishments during his tenure as Alabama’s Attorney General. It turns out he had little to do with any of them. 
Painting Jeff Sessions as a champion of civil rights is like citing Judy Miller as an example of journalistic integrity. Nevertheless he is our Attorney General.
DAY TWENTY-ONE: JUDICIAL BLOWBACK
February 9, 2017
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a stern rebuke to the imperial presidency of Donald Trump by upholding Judge James Robart’s stay on the Muslim ban.
Civics lesson 101: The United States is governed by three co-equal branches of government. Get used to it. You are not the king.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut reveals that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch labeled the president’s attacks on the judiciary “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” Trump responds by attacking the messenger for misrepresenting his nominee’s comments. The account is supported by multiple sources on both sides of the political aisle. 
If Trump accepts the reality of Gorsuch’s criticism, he may well withdraw the nomination. He seems incapable of accepting any criticism or acknowledgement that his actions or judgments are wrong. This case presents a dilemma: Either his judgment in selecting Gorsuch was wrong or his denunciations of a federal judge are wrong.
Trump signs three more executive actions designed to portray him as a “law and order” president. He believes we are in the midst of a historic crime wave though statistics do not comply with his belief system. 
While some suggest that Gorsuch is just playing the game to win confirmation, he offers a good beginning to the Trump presidential experience through 21 days: Demoralizing, disheartening, disingenuous, despicable, dishonest, demeaning, defiant and delusional.
But we’re still here.
1. “Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles” by Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman. NY Times, February 5, 2017.
2. “DeVos’ Michigan schools experiment gets poor grades” by Caitlen Emma, Benjamin Wermund and Kimberly Hefling. Politico, December 9, 2016.
3. “Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools” by Douglas N. Harris. NY Times Editorials, November 25, 2016.
4. “Veterans return to Standing Rock, ‘not back off’ pipeline protests” by Nikki Wentling. Stars and Stripes, February 8, 2017.
5. “Jeff Sessions says he handled these civil rights cases. He barely touched them.” Editorial by J. Gerald Hebert, Joseph D. Rich and William Yeomans. Washington Post, January 3, 2017.
6. “Supreme Court Nominee Calls Trump’s Attacks on Judiciary ‘Demoralizing’” by Julie Hirschfield Davis. NY Times, February 8, 2017.
7. “Fact-checking Trump’s rhetoric on crime and the ‘American Carnage’” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee. Washington Post, January 30, 2107.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION, PAWNS TO PLAYERS: A MATCH FOR THE WHITE HOUSE, WASICHU: THE KILLING SPIRIT AND RANDOM JACK: TALES FROM JAZZTOWN (CROW DOG PRESS).