Friday, February 21, 2020

Barr The Door

My next column in The Everett Herald:
When President Barack Obama addressed his US Attorneys, he told them, I appointed you but you don’t serve me. You serve the American people. And I expect you to act with independence and integrity.” When Trump took office, he fired them all. “Independence and integrity” are anathema to the presidency he envisioned and which he’s so easily spawned. 
He misjudged his first Attorney General. There was reason to believe Jeff Sessions would kow to his tow; and, mostly, he did. But he retained enough of something approximating integrity to recuse himself from overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation. Naturally, this angered Trump. 
Enter William Barr, who hung what had passed for integrity on the White House pegboard as he entered, where it dangles still, alongside many others’. A career-long advocate for the unbound “unitary executive,” he’s been an eager doer of Trump’s bidding ever since.  
History won’t forget Barr’s opening gambit: distortion and outright lying about the Mueller Report, pleasing the “president” and his media, rightly figuring his dissembling would Velcro to Trumpists’ prickly minds. It has. Subsequently, Mr. Barr has made clear his full-time, exclusive commitment to carrying water for Trump. 
Under Trump and Barr, independence of our Department of Justice, indispensable to a functioning democratic republic, suffered a painful but quick death. Barr’s interventions in cases about which Trump has expressed displeasure is exactly what Attorneys General should not be doing, for reasons so obvious they require no mention. 
Seeing nothing wrong with a “president” interfering, even when prosecutors followed DOJ sentencing guidelines, Trump’s defenders were quick to approve. Claiming it’s his right to do whatever he wants, they ardently defend using the DOJ as his personal vendetta and self-serving machinery, expecting “his” A.G. to follow orders in all matters. Nothing wrong with that, they argued, to Fox viewers. Take directions from Trump to investigate the investigators. Let the “president” decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t. 
Attacking judges and jurors is his prerogative, too; totally harmless to our system of justice.  
In fact, this is unrestrained autarchy, which shouldn’t be hard, even for Trumpists, to understand. Why don’t they care, and why have they renounced American jurisprudence?  
In response to Trump’s despotism by tweet, Barr spoke out: “It’s time to stop tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” he said. Trump’s tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job ...” Oh, look, enthused the media: Barr is calling out Trump in public! It’s a new beginning!! 
Bullwaste. The “job” to which he referred is defending Trump no matter the cost to our nation. What he meant was, “Cool it, Donald. You’re making it hard to hide the cahooting.” Playing along, rightwing media feigned outrage at Barr’s pushback, helpfully pretending there was space between the two. Lou Dobbs, who cheerleads when Trump claims a constitutional right to absolute power, called it “A damn shame." Unfazed and uncaring, Trump escalated his “impossible” tweets. If Barr meant what he said, he’d have resigned.  
It’s not only Trump’s vendettas against “enemies” and helping friends that Barr is facilitating. At Trump’s behest, he tried to help Recep Erdogan stop American prosecution of a Turkish bank. Yet another abuse to benefit Trump, whose business failures have left him in hock to foreign banks. 
We’ve come to expect unqualified defense, by today’s Republicans, of whatever dictatorial move Trump makes. But to defend presidential manipulations of the Department of Justice is monumental hypocrisy. Those defenders would be shattering eardrums with their screams for impeachment if a Democrat did what Trump is demanding and what Barr is doing. 
If defending and obeying our laws and prosecuting those who break them is subject to presidential whim, especially this vindictive, prevaricating, uninformed, strongman-emulating one, laws are meaningless. Yet Congressional Republicans applaud it. Which illustrates the obvious: if it benefits the right people, corruption is fine with them. 
King Donald’s pardons of corrupt Mar-al-Lago pals, and current and future big-dollar donors should outrage everyone. That it doesn’t confirms Trump’s normalization of lawlessness and fraud, and the moral collapse of today’s Republican leaders. 
Speaking of which, the steel contract for Trump’s saw-soft, easily-climbable, wind-blown-over wall went to a group whose ownership gave $1.75 million to a Trump super-PAC. And Trump just waived federal contracting rules, so there’ll be more. It’s the story of Trump: the con and the conned.  
Trump hasn’t yet killed President Obama’s economic recovery. For Republicans, evidently, that’s all it takes to justify abandoning integrity. 
[Image source]

Friday, February 14, 2020

Paving The Road

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Bosses fire employees. Therefore, Trump removing Alex Vindman and million-dollar-donating Ambassador Sundland for complying with legal subpoenas and responding truthfully is no big deal. Same with firing Elaine McCusker at DOD who warned withholding military aid from Ukraine was illegal. Fox “news,” rightwing radio, and Trumpists demand the head of Mitt Romney, who finally manifested integrity born of faith and respect for his oath. His “physical safety” would be at risk, says CPAC, were he to attend. It’s all good. 
When William Barr took control of all future investigations of political candidates, Trumpists smelled no rats. Same with his announcement of an “intake process” for Rudy Giuliani to send him dirt on the Bidens. With the mass resignations of attorneys prosecuting Roger Stone, after Barr’s takeover of the case, there’s no reason for concern that the DOJ is now, officially and solely, an instrument of presidential power. As in Putin’s Russia. When Trump attacked the federal judge in charge, Republicans remained silent, comfy in their reconstituting Reichstag. No worries.  
No klaxons were sounded when Trump’s Treasury Department handed private-citizen Hunter Biden’s financial information to Senate Republicans, having refused when House Democrats requested Trump’s. Unconcerned about current costs of Tribe Trump’s protected travels, they’ll investigate how much Biden cost taxpayers for security on business trips. 
Outrage over young Biden’s income from Burisma dissipates with JaVanka making over eighty-three-million while in the White House; and with Trump’s who-knows-how-much from foreign and domestic swamp-dwellers renting his properties. The hundred-million-plus his “I’ll-be-too-busy-to-play-golf” golf trips have cost us? It’s fine: he’s ours.  
Those who don’t find this frightening are those who don’t recognize America’s accelerating descent into authoritarianism; or who do, and welcome it. Those unfazed when information critical to Congressional oversight is withheld by a “president” and by agencies whose mission is to protect the nation, not Trump. Those unconcerned when Secretary of State Pompeo bans reporters who ask hard questions. It’s fine. He’s Trump’s. 
If Trump has the right to fire those who revealed his intended extortion, what of his and his adulators’ demand to expose the whistleblower, whose claims proved accurate? Rand Paul, libertarian, did it. Illegally. Why would a distruster of government do so, other than to silence other potential revealers of government criminality? And why do no Constitution-loving, government-distrusting Republicans seem to care? 
It’s not hard to understand. Purely out of selfishness, and personally safe, or so they imagine, from the depredations of the more powerful, such people ignore intimidation and muzzling of people willing to speak out against crimes committed by their protectors. 
We’ve seen it before: they’re sure it won’t happen to them, and don’t care when it happens to others. It’s Trumpism unchained. It’s the “lesson” Trump learned, dear Susan, from people like you. And your party.  
Laws created to guard against Trump’s authoritarian abuses aren’t enough, especially when our chief law-enforcer is a sycophantic tool. Free societies depend on the willingness of citizens to respect the law, the absence of which among his followers Trump has always exploited; and on others feeling safe in speaking up when they see leaders who aren’t. It’s why, until Trump, whistleblowers were shielded. 
Following the totalitarian playbook, Trump is purging those who have or might yet sound alarms, across all departments, including Justice, State, and Treasury, Secretaries of which are bending abjectly to Trump’s will, abdicating independence and their duty to us. Now he wants “his” military to punish Vindman. So it’s DOD, too.  
This is precisely the unrestrained despotism against which our founders created checks on executive power. Abetted by cowed Congressional Republicans and supporters who rationalize his worst, Trump is destroying those checks. His message to future truth-tellers: DON’T. 
Recalled by Trump for her incorruptibility, Ambassador Yovanovich knows of what she speaks: "I have seen dictatorships, where blind obedience is the norm and truth-tellers are threatened with punishment or death. We must not allow the United States to become a country where standing up to our government is a dangerous act." 
We’re there. Even in America, whose democratic institutions are more deeply embedded than, say, Turkey or Poland, where they’re collapsing rapidly, or Russia, where Trump’s role model Putin was able to end its march toward democracy in a couple of years, institutions are only as strong as people’s willingness to defend them. Trump won’t. Barr and Pompeo won’t. Trumpists sure as hell won’t. Are there no actual conservatives left who will? Time is running out.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Acquitting Themselves Poorly

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Trump’s impeachment will be remembered for establishing that two-hundred-fifty years of Constitutional governance can be erased in three. That the party which elected Abraham Lincoln can choose and excuse a despot wannabe. And that when he behaves predictably -- raging, lying, ignoring the law, encouraging anger and fear and victimization like every successful dictator in history -- that party, when it still had a chance, will look away, cowering.  
Impeachment and Trump have shown that the world’s longest-standing democracy is capable of capitulating to an authoritarian bully. If there’s still time for responsible, forward-looking citizens to take America back from the mob-king, they won’t come from today’s Republican Party. 
Several Republican senators agreed what Trump did was bad. Rubio even admitted it was impeachable. Yet, except for Mitt Romney, they abdicated their responsibility to our nation. Why? Reflected power. Cash. But, mostly, fear. For their careers, of course; and, because Trump is Trump, Trumpists are Trumpists, and Fox is Fox, fearing threats to themselves and their families.  
That’s how dictators gain and maintain power. We saw it, bright as gunfire, dark as blood, during the Senate puppet show, as, out of cameras’ view, Republicans absented themselves from the chamber, leaving their integrity behind.  
Congressional Republicans fear Trump more than the seventy-five-percent of Americans who wanted witnesses and documents brought forth. That’s the power of tyrants to bend people to their will, and it’s how democracies end. Sherrod Brown wrote that many of his Republican colleagues privately admit their fear. As RFK said, “Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle.” 
History teaches that, facing autocratic amorality like Trump’s, even democracies may lack the means to stem the tide. Always, though, there are plenty who march to a despot’s rage and vindictiveness; who think they’ll never be its victims, but relish picturing those who will. 
With Mitchly reptilian grins, those recreant Republicans say we should leave it to voters, as if the founders hadn’t created impeachment precisely because they rejected that specious argument. Behind those smirks lie their aces in the hole: voter suppression, voter-roll purges, gerrymandering. Denying funds to protect against helpful foreign interference. Rejecting measures to safeguard voting machines, hacking of which we know Russians have done, and which has been shown to be child’s-play. Literally 
The case was made beyond denial: Trump tried to extort a vulnerable foreign government into helping him with his reelection. Caught in flagrante delicto, he stonewalled and lied to cover it up. Shutting down further testimony and documents, Senate Republicans made it clear: Trump’s demagoguery works. 
Meanwhile, as his feared “enemies of the people” do their job, more of Trump’s illegality is seeping out. It’s certain there’s plenty more, for it’s always been who Trump is. Republicans still won’t care.  
“Trumpism is a cult,” people say. It’s worse. When cultists drink their leaders’ Kool-Aid, they destroy only themselves. Trumpism is destroying America. If we’re not a nation of laws; if we’ve stopped believing in limited executive power, we’re no longer America. If we accept a “president” who lies wantonly, uses division as a weapon, who convinces his minions they’re the abused ones, whose thirst for vengeance will now be unchecked, we’re approaching the end. 
If enough Americans continue to countenance a man who systematically tears down institutions designed by the framers to preserve freedom from monarchy, whose followers flash weapons as threats, even claim a constitutional right to “kill socialists,” it’s over.  
Senatorial capitulator-in-chief, Susan Collins said he’d “learned from this.” “It was a perfect call,” Trump responded. Proving the point, his State of the Union speech, the opposite of inclusive, was replete with the expected exaggerations, calculated divisiveness, slandering the opposition, claiming undue credit, omissions (Deficits? Climate change? Who cares?), and unregenerate lies. Lindsey Graham’s promise to investigate the Bidens post-acquittal was even more craven. And Rush “Barack the Magic Negro” Limbaugh? Wow.  
To recapture our democratic republic, massive voter turnout -- enough to overwhelm Republican-created obstacles and cowardice -- is the last hope. Liberals must vote for the Democratic nominee even if it’s not their favorite. Remaining conservatives, if any there be, must recognize they can survive Democrats in charge for a while, a more equitable and capitalism-enabling economy, better healthcare, less pollution, lower deficits; even background checks. 
But not the end of Constitutional democracy. They’ll need to outvote those rejoicing in it, to reclaim a fearful, Constitution-abandoning political party. The odds aren’t good. 
[Image source]

Friday, January 31, 2020

Impeachment, Foxified

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Nothing better explains America’s unbridgeable political divide and why Trump’s supporters are convinced they’re right and disinterested in learning otherwise, than Fox “news” coverage of the impeachment “trial,” compared to that of MSNBC, CNN, and C-Span. The ones showing the proceedings stem to stern. The ones who recognize the seriousness of what’s happening and the importance of viewers seeing it for themselves. 
Only Trump State Television cut away from the initial presentations, frequently showed video with no audio while dissembling dismissively. Knowing what their viewers want, they spooned it out: misleadingly edited and censored information, slanderous commentary, validation of their toxic beliefs. Any appetite among the enFoxed for disenthralling themselves has been systematically and effectively extinguished. By Fox.  
Certain detoxification won’t happen, Fox “news” mainlines its half-truths and no-truths like heroin. Has their audience seen that video of Trump, sounding like the mob boss he is, telling his goons to “get rid” of Ambassador Yovanovich? Do they care that he’d previously claimed he hadn’t? Or wonder why he wanted a smear-job when he could have just removed her? 
How about the news of Bolton’s book? Republican Congress-creatures, who once complained there were no “first-hand” witnesses, said, “This changes nothing.” Fox’s talking heads immediately dismissed him, their former hero, as a “tool for the left.” See how it works? 
Even during impeachment, when all citizens should demand the full story, Fox omits and distracts. Clearly, Foxolytes prefer the ignorance Foxing heads provide. If they didn’t welcome it, their sainted source wouldn’t have done this. 
It doesn’t get more blatant. Yet the beFoxed believe theirs is the truthful network, giving Congressional Republicans cover in spinning away Trump’s unfitness, mocking those who call upon their patriotism and remind them of their oath. Fox “news” is camo pants. 
Knowing the Foxagandized won’t understand its irrelevance to Trump’s shakedown or ask if it was about corruption, why he eschewed a US-based investigation, Flimsy Lindsey (thanks, PM) promises to call the Bidens if Bolton is subpoenaed. Aimed at the same audience, Trump’s “trial” team argued that Trump can do anything – ANYTHING! -- as long as he “believes” it’s in the national interest. That’s as insane as it is un-American.  
Whether or not Republican senators believe their own twaddle, it’s obvious they care more about their careers than their country, confident of inFoxicated absolution. Assuming Foxotees didn’t see Adam Schiff’s late-night speech last week, here it is
That sound is Trumpists laughing him off as “pencil-neck,” because that’s what their Jesus-approved role model calls him. It’s the sound of shovels, as Republican Senators bury their consciences; the sound of burning parchment, of millions of “patriots” dismissing words that deserve conscientious consideration, no matter one’s political views. Words that echo what once made America great.  
It’s unlikely the prevariFoxed watched Mr. Schiff’s next-day elucidation of the importance of US support for Ukraine and the damage done by Trump’s withholding military assistance for his, and only his, benefit. Except, as always, Putin’s, too. Fake news, penciled out.  
“We have the material and they don’t,” crowed Trump at Davos, exulting in Republicans’ refusal to issue subpoenas. How demeaning of his excusers; what confidence in their and their voters’ disinterest in facts. But if any took offense, they swallowed it, as they have all of Trump’s attacks on truth and democracy. 
As Mr. Schiff noted, many patriotic State Department officials risked careers in defense of America. Republican senators? None. Ah, but if the preceding didn’t bother them, they took grandiose offense when Mr. Schiff mentioned a news report about threatened piked heads. At last! A Foxerrific excuse for ignoring a “president’s” malfeasance. Trump, meanwhile, kept it classy (it’s why they love him).  
Schiff also laid out what a propaganda coup it was when Putin pegged Trump (no pun) as a tool who, he concluded, by dint of flattery and who-knows-what-else, would defend and repeat their lies about Ukraine, not Russia, interfering in our election. And about non-existent servers. It’s there for the hearing, but words can’t penetrate reinforced concrete. 
Fox didn’t invent rightwing preference for fake news and lazy thinking. Like Trump, it liberated, magnified and cashed in on it. 
After Trump is acquitted, he’ll act as if given carte blanche to do whatever he wants, to whomever he wants, whenever he wants. The Constitution will have become a useless relic. As short-sighted Republican congress-dwellers look away, uncaring, Trumpists will kneel before their newborn king, bearing gifts.
[Image source]

Friday, January 24, 2020

Past Tense

My next column in The Everett Herald:
I’m old enough to remember when Patrick Henry, during the Constitutional Convention, expressed concern about a too-powerful executive:
“If your American chief be a man of ambition…, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute! … and, sir, will the American spirit solely relieve you when this happens?”  
And I’ll never forget James Madison’s answer: 
“There is one security in this case…; if the President be connected, in any suspicious manner … the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty… This is a great security.”  
Or maybe I’m remembering a time when Americans considered those concepts to be of vital importance, and so did their proxies in Congress. The questions are at the heart of what became the United States: in what institutions should power reside, and in what proportions; in what way can that power be held in check; and, when necessary, how should its abuse be redressed?  
What I definitely remember is that during the Clinton impeachment, Senators Tom Daschle and Trent Lott, leaders of their respective parties, negotiated rules for the trial that were approved by all one-hundred senators. The proceedings included witnesses and some ninety-thousand documents Clinton had delivered, as asked. Because of course it did.  
Midnight-in-Moscow Mitch involved no Democrats. Rather than honoring the trust our founders placed in Congress, Mitch’s oath-breaking trial, rigged to ensure exoneration, looks to be about renouncing that trust and ignoring the abuses that worried Mr. Henry, in the face of which, if they occurred, Mr. Madison assured the assembly that his remedy would preserve the Republic.  
Barring an outbreak of integrity to which Republican Congress-people have so far shown remarkable immunity, the conclusion is foregone. Fittingly, Trump’s most Foxworthy lawyers joined Republicans who were involved last time around, manufacturing breathtaking reversals: back then, Starr argued that obstruction of Congress in an impeachment inquiry was itself an impeachable act. Dershowitz of yore insisted that the committing of specific crimes was not required for impeachment. What happened? Trump. Like an oil spill, Trump happened.  
On day one, Team Trump declared the Constitution unconstitutional. That’s what it means when impeachment is characterized as an attempt to undo an election, and, even more audaciously, to abolish our right to vote. Likewise, claiming it’s Democrats who rigged the process, and, as Trump has whined, that he wasn’t treated fairly in the House impeachment. Bullwash. Trump was offered all the time he wanted, and all the documents and witnesses he wished to produce. He stonehenged. 
Aiming past the chamber and into the heads of the Foxified, Trump’s lawyers lied repeatedly; asserting Republicans were excluded from depositions; that Trump wasn’t invited to examine witnesses; and, invoking the orphan/chutzpah circularity, because Trump blocked witnesses and documents, demanding them now means Democrats have no case. Also: “Trump is a man of his word.”  
Beyond declaring the Constitution null and void, all they had was to claim Trump did nothing wrong. Not arguing that he didn’t seek to extort President Zelensky for his own political purposes: he did. But it was perfectly fine, they said. He hates corruption, they said. While holding a “For Sale” sign picturing the Brooklyn Bridge.  
Do Republicans prefer unlimited presidential power, or not? Do they believe Americans should hear all relevant evidence in something as momentous as impeachment, or not? No matter their answers, their current cover-up proves they know Trump is guilty and don’t care. Trump’s proves he knows, too. 
Not one Republican Senator voted to allow important new evidence. None of Trump’s lawyers offered a compelling reason why. Their refusal proves their contempt for all Americans, including Trump’s supporters. Not to mention the Constitution.  
Unconcerned, Trump’s lawyers defended executive privilege to justify refusing Congressional subpoenas. There will always be disagreements about limits on such privilege. But to claim there are none, especially regarding impeachment, arguably the most consequential action Congress can undertake other than declaring war, is to remove all constraints on presidential power. Given Republicans’ behavior to date, this is unsurprising; but it couldn’t be more at odds with their favorite shibboleths: “original intent” and “the rule of law.” 
Why are no true conservatives demanding that Republicans show spine? Because none remain. Didn’t they exist, once, or am I misremembering that, too? 
Grave as it is, impeachment demands abandoning cynical arguments. If a “president” can block all evidence of malfeasance, “how easy is it for him to render himself absolute!”
[Image source]

Friday, January 17, 2020

American Idol

My next column in The Everett Herald:
A while back, optimistic and brave people left a country in which they’d been abused by monarchical power. Later, after years of exploitation from afar, having sacrificed lives and fortune in a successful war of revolution, they set about establishing a new nation, the likes of which the world had never seen, including a constitution designed, among other things, to prevent autocracy from ever gaining foothold. To which end they included specific means to redress executive excess. 
This bold country survives, in large part, because its citizens once comprehended the importance of their governing documents, implicitly accepted the demands of citizenship, recognized that laws are only as good as their willingness to follow them, even when some might prefer not to. “Consent of the governed,” some have called it. 
Then, unforeseen by the founders, who intended exactly the opposite, a quirk in their mostly brilliant creation leads to the selection of a classic demagogue, an amoral, serial adulterer and abuser, whose prior career is one of lies, baseless braggadocio, shirking responsibility, being punished for breaking laws, failed and scam businesses, propped up by money from his daddy and other disreputable sources. A man who, proudly unread and uninformed in matters of governance, nevertheless recognizes a path to power can be found by exploiting human weakness, by nonstop lying and instilling fear and hatred of “the other.”  
What’s horrifying isn’t that such a man exists, or even that the system allowed his “election.” It’s that millions of citizens, laying exclusive claim to love of their exceptional country, cheer like Brazilian soccer fans when that man announces those founding documents are, in fact, crap. Mocks them. Belittles the very idea of constraints on his power; shouts that what had been, till now, a co-equal branch of government charged with keeping the executive in check, has no business fulfilling that obligation. Refuses to comply. Insults those holding him to account. Calls them stupidly childish names. 
And his idolatrous believers, excusing this history-echoing demagoguery, ignorant of how democracy depends on principled opposition parties, laugh and cheer adoringly, convinced that anyone who disagrees with their unprincipled hero or demands he follow the law, who believes in separation of powers, must be thoroughly vanquished. Barred from voting. Deported. Locked up, even.  
Do any of them stop to think this isn’t what made and kept our country great? Realize this would-be despot is demanding absolute power? Understand this is exactly what our Constitution is about preventing? Recognize how un-American this is?  
Not a one. 
Hard to say which is worse: a “president” who openly ridicules the Constitution, or his crazed followers’ delirious joy in hearing it. Citizens who cheer a man who flouts the law and claims unlimited power, consider themselves the ones making America great, while dismissing as their enemy those taking issue with unchecked presidential power. 
And now our mythomane-in-chief is raising his lying to stupefying levels. Claiming what is the inverse of reality, he crowed that he, and only he, has protected and will protect pre-existing conditions. The truth, of course, is that such protection is a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act, which his government is doing everything it can, including lawsuits, to wipe off the books, with no replacement in the works. Do those same patriotic supporters find such blatant dishonesty disturbing? Personally insulting? Or just plain nuts?  
Not a one.  
There’s more. Because of data showing a recent decline in cancer deaths, resulting from years of research leading to better treatments, he’s taking credit, having done nothing except cutting funding for such research, to help offset tax cuts for his wealthy friends and polluting paymasters. In fact, he’ll make cancer rates worse, by reversing rules keeping carcinogens out of our food and water supplies.  
Also, because his Suleimani assassination justifications change daily, we KNOW he’s lying about it. And this is simply unspeakably grotesque mendacity.
In the United States of America, created with faith in the rule of law, predicated on a thoughtful citizenry that values truth, one deplorable man and millions of dis-educated, lie-preferring followers, are bringing it all down. 
As more evidence of Trump’s and his associates’ all-encompassing corruption mounts daily (thanks, Lev) Trumpists yawn. It’s clear why Republicans want to speed through the impeachment trial without new witnesses or documents.  
Because Moscow Mitch, disposing his oath like last week’s trash, chose his own reelection over America’s future, November’s vote has become our now-or-never hope. 
[Image source]

Friday, January 10, 2020

Wagging Iran

My next column in The Everett Herald:

“Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to be elected – be careful, Republicans.” Trump tweet, 10/22/12  
Ever since he became president of the Electoral College of America, Trump has been itching for confrontation with Iran, if for no other reason than that his more universally-admired, darker-skinned predecessor negotiated a nuclear agreement that made the world safer and by which Iran was repeatedly confirmed to be abiding. Said Trump, it was a horrible deal. President Obama gave them $150 billion. 
False. It was Iran’s money, impounded by President Barack Obama as part of sanctions meant to force negotiation. Which it did. After compliance was certified, the money was released. Iran discontinued pursuit of nuclear weapons, but Trump, pig-headed, irrational, lying, broke it anyway. What has followed is on him. His odious Wednesday lie that Obama “paid for” Iran’s missiles is a new low of repulsive sleaze. 
Along with provocations in the Middle East, Trump began tearing down alliances with our geopolitical partners, weakening our authority and respect in the world. “Go it alone” and “America first” appeal to Trumpists, but don’t work well when dangling war. 
Knowing more than anyone about everything, Trump also undertook ridding federal agencies of experienced personnel, hiring inexperienced yes-people, while calling our intelligence agencies deep-state scum and traitors. Add his thousands of documented lies, and disbelief becomes the wisest response whenever he says anything.  
Yet this “president” asks us to believe his choice to assassinate Qassim Suleimani came after thoughtful consideration of all possible consequences. And to accept his word, based on what he says was undisputed intelligence from his former deep-state scum, that an attack on Americans was “imminent.” Pompeo, who later said “imminent” didn’t really mean “imminent,” expressed disappointment that our allies, after enduring Trump’s insults and threats for years, haven’t been “more helpful” regarding his kill order. Funny how that works.  
Except it’s not funny. Trumpists admire his screw-‘em approach. The more clear-eyed see an egotistical ignorer of knowledgeable advice, who believes his capacious gut contains more wisdom than that accumulated throughout history; history of which he’s repeatedly made clear he’s studiously unaware. 
Thanks to a capitulated Republican Party, decisions to send Americans into yet another destabilizing battle in the perpetually-unstable Middle East are left entirely to an impulsive, amoral, dishonest, vindictive, ill-informed “president.” Once, there was a process, now wholly ignored.  
A genuinely bad guy is gone, but there’s scant evidence of strategic thinking behind it. Even some Republicans found their classified ex-post-facto briefing “insulting and demeaning,” “the worst briefing ever,” “absolutely insane.”  
Maybe it’ll solve everything, including getting Trump reelected (“Our missiles are big, powerful…” he Freuded). But already there are ominous developments: Iran announced its full withdrawal from the remaining nuclear agreement, to resume working on nuclear weapons. And the Pentagon, needing to plan for and defend against Iranian responses to killing Suleimani, is suspending efforts to combat ISIS. (Remember them? The terrorists Trump promised to eliminate within thirty days?) 
On the other hand, oil and defense stocks are up, so the troops will have at least one tangible reason to be there. Maybe not for long, though, as Iraq just voted to expel all US military personnel, which would give Iran exactly what it’s wanted all along. Had Trump contemplated that possibility? What other consequences are in the offing? We’ll find out. 
The killing occurred, we’re told, without consulting the National Security Council or Congressional leaders; likewise, it’s said Trump’s choice came as a surprise to military leaders (who later promised to ignore Trump’s threat to commit war crimes by destroying historical sites). Which raises the question: is this happening because Trump, the insecure narcissist, needs to appear tough, or is it a thoughtful leader acting in our national interest? Three years of observation tell us the latter is unlikely. 
As one who, unlike Trump, has been to war, witnessed its indiscriminate carnage, has a Purple Heart to show for it, I hope I’m wrong. Inciting war shouldn’t be about one man’s pathology, or an impeached “president” wagging Iran at the expense of others’ lives. But there’ll be lives enough to spend, won’t there, as Trumpists and Trump’s sons grab their ARs and head to military recruiters, eager help God’s Chosen One protect our freedoms.
“Remember what I previously said – Obama will someday attack Iran to show how tough he is.” Trump tweet, 9/25/13  
Sometimes history doesn’t rhyme at all.
[Image source]


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