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).