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.