Saturday, March 25, 2017
FOOL ON THE HILL:
THE TRUMP DIARIES: WEEK NINE
63 Days of Trump
By Jack Random
On the ninth week of his presidency, the negotiator-in-chief went to congress to browbeat and cajole members of his own party into supporting his first legislative proposal: A replacement for Obamacare.
We are nearing the point where something has to give. The presidency of Donald Trump has broken every norm, every rule and every standard of what we thought a presidency must be. This is a president who not only reads supermarket tabloids but also believes in them as if they are messengers of the gods. This is a president who throws out accusations of high crimes and misdemeanors in midnight rants and 4 am fits. This is a president who believes that facts are malleable and truths are open to negotiation.
This is a president who has not come to terms with the fundamentals of his responsibility as leader of the most powerful nation on earth.
This is the ninth installment of the Trump Diaries.
DAY 57: INTERNATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT
March 17, 2017
A day after accusing British intelligence of spying on him at Trump Tower while he was a candidate, Trump forces German Chancellor Angela Merkel to endure a public appearance in the Oval Office in which he repeats his charge of wiretapping against the former president. Trump referred to a 2013 incident in which the National Security Agency was exposed in listening in on Ms. Merkel’s phone conversations.
The Chancellor was clearly embarrassed yet the Donald was clueless.
DAY 58: THE KOREAN PROBLEM
March 18, 2017
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson completes his first trip as Trump’s top diplomat, visiting Japan and China primarily to discuss the growing problem in North Korea. Tillerson takes the hard line: There will be no negotiations until Kim Jong Un stops testing missiles and nuclear technology. Tillerson pronounces diplomacy a failure and expects China to do more. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi advises Tillerson to play it cool.
Trump the candidate played hardball with China, threatening to impose a hefty tariff on Chinese goods until they stop manipulating their currency. As president Trump has played relatively nice with Beijing, agreeing after a false start to a one China policy and asking for China’s help on the Korean Peninsula. Trump has also backed down on his early threat to stop China from accessing its artificial islands in the South China Sea. China’s response was to call the new American president naïve – among other things. 
Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. President. You might want to rethink firing all those career diplomats.
DAY 59: DISAPPROVAL RATING
March 19, 2107
The latest Gallup poll records a new low in presidential approval only eight weeks into his term. Thirty seven percent approve of how the president is handling his job; fifty eight percent do not approve and the remaining five percent still don’t believe Trump was elected. 
In deference to the Trump administration, the Group of 20 Summit in Baden-Baden, Germany, concludes without a statement of support for Free Trade or a denunciation of economic isolationism. The world is warned that Trump intends to use tariffs as trade leverage but he has not yet withdrawn from NAFTA or CAFTA.
What are you waiting for, Donald?
DAY 60: COMEY TESTIFIES
March 20, 2017
FBI Director James Comey delivers a lesson in obfuscation before the House Intelligence Committee. He confirms that there is an investigation into the connections between Russia and the Trump campaign regarding the presidential election. He testifies that he has no information to confirm that Trump Tower was wiretapped by anyone.
If you expected new information from the man who made Trump president you may also expect a pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow.
Texas representative Juan Castro reviewed the allegations of Christopher Steele’s Dirty Dossier while Comey portrayed a statue. Castro raised the question of a recent mega deal involving the sale of a 19.5% stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft to unknown entities through the Cayman Islands. The stake was valued at 10.2 billion euros and involved an investment firm in Singapore, a bank in Italy and trading firms in Qatar and Switzerland. The Steele Dossier alleges an offer of a large stake in Rosneft in exchange for lifting sanctions. 
The questions that should have been asked of Director Comey but were not: 1) Did anyone representing Russia or Russian interests contact you prior to your announced reopening of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails? 2) Are you beholden in any way to the Russian government or Russian interests? 3) Why was it appropriate for you to inform the public of the Clinton email investigation but not the ongoing Russian-Trump election connection investigation?
Republicans decry leaks and deny softening their party platform on Ukraine as if they could knock down a mountain by tossing a pebble. Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff of California effectively refutes the claim.
The Trump administration’s connections to Russia begin to resemble the George W. Bush administration’s connections to Enron, the massive Ponzi scheme that defrauded California and the west coast out of billions of dollars. Congress never held the White House accountable for those connections – perhaps because something happened on September 11th 2001 that caused us to forget a great many things.
Neil Gorsuch delivers his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee in what will likely be a waltz to his confirmation as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has two primary purposes: 1) To uphold the corporate bias that defines the Roberts court and 2) to finally reward the religious right by voting to strike down a women’s right to abortion.
We will observe a return to fecklessness by the Democrats as they give lip service to resistance but yield in the end. This is why so few of us have any faith left in the party of opposition. This is why we pleaded with Democrats to go with Bernie. This is why we ended up with Trump in the White House.
The future has no promise as long as it is confined to two choices that answer to the same essential masters: Republican or Democrat.
DAY 61: FOOL ON THE HILL
March 21, 2017
Trump goes to congress to work his negotiating magic on Republicans still opposing the new healthcare replacement bill. The trouble is: If he panders to the Tea Party wing, he loses the moderates. If he panders to the moderates, he loses the Tea Party.
Meantime, Paul Manafort becomes the most likely to go to jail in the Trump-Russia scandal. New information suggests that the former Trump campaign manager is guilty of laundering large amounts of Russian money while operating in Ukraine. Manafort’s name was listed in black book of illicit funds as the beneficiary of $750,000. 
Best-case scenario: this guy is a crook and a Kremlin agent. It begs the question: How does a man like Manafort become Trump’s campaign manager?
DAY 62: THE NUNES CARD
March 22, 2017
Representative Devin Nunes of California, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, provides cover to the president by suggesting to the White House and the press that Trump and his team were under surveillance between the election and the inauguration. Nunes emphasizes that the reports involved legal “incidental surveillance” and have nothing to do with Russia.
The only thing this demonstrates is that Nunes is a White House stooge who will obstruct any investigation that leads to the Oval Office.
Representative Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the committee, calls for an independent commission and states flatly: “There is more than circumstantial evidence” of the Trump team’s collusion with the Russians. 
There had better be, congressman. The republic, the stability of the world and the future of the planet may depend on it.
An apparent lone wolf terrorist attacks Parliament in London, killing at least four and wounding at least fifty before being killed.
DAY 63: SHOWDOWN IN THE HOUSE
March 23, 2017
The great negotiator fails in his first attempt to pass a replacement bill for Obamacare. After promising a showdown this evening, congressional leadership pulled the bill before it could go down to defeat. They are now promising a vote tomorrow morning.
Somewhere in Ohio former Speaker of the House John Boehner is laughing his ass off. The same Republican coalition that stripped him of power and sent him into early retirement has proven incapable of governing. The same smug wonder boy who took his place is facing the same rude reality.
In a sense, the hard liners are absolutely right: Republicans have long proclaimed Obamacare a disaster that has only made things worse. If that is the case, why not proceed with a straightforward repeal? Why replace it at all – especially if you’re not willing to pay for it?
The truth is the GOP has a losing hand and they don’t want to play it. You don’t win elections by stripping people of health insurance.
If Trump wants a winner, I’ve got a suggestion: Medicare for all! Let the Democrats carry the ball.
1. “Tillerson, Trump and the South China Sea” by Amatai Etzioni. The Diplomat, January 28, 2017.
2. “Trump’s Approval Rating Hits New Record Low” by Daniel Politi. Slate, March 19, 2017.
3. “Does Donald Trump Now Hold a Significant Stake in Rosneft?” by Rashaverak. Daily Kos, January 25, 2017.
4. “New payments show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges” by Andrew Roth. Washington Post, March 21, 2017.
5. “Schiff: ‘There Is More Than Circumstantial Evidence Now’” by David A. Graham. The Atlantic, March 22, 2017.
JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES, NUMBER NINE, TALES FROM JAZZTOWN AND THE GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION.