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]


Friday, January 3, 2020

Random New Year's Thoughts

My next column in The Everett Herald:

Some random thoughts to begin the year. As of this writing, I’m cavorting with the grandkids, so my usual high-quality, suitable-for-syndication, deep-dive commentary will be lacking.

·      Most people missed the fact that last week’s poem was an acrostic. Perhaps just as well. It does, however, change things.
·      The more we learn about Edward Gallagher, the Navy Seal whose criminality Trump pardoned and extolled, the more we understand what a craven move it was and what an insult to honorable service-people. How long before Trump brings him to his rallies? How loud will be the cheers?
·      The more we learn about what went on behind the scenes with the Ukraine travesty (thanks, failing New York Times, enemy of the people), particularly the shock and machinations among Trump’s people as they realized what he was planning to do, the more we understand what a craven move it was. And the more we realize how smart Speaker Pelosi is to be delaying sending impeachment over to Moscow Mitch. Important players should be required to testify. In fact, if any of them had concern for the rule of law and the survival of the republic, they’d DEMAND to testify. If any do, Trumpists will dismiss them as “deep state” liars.
·      Speaking of which, the election of Trump will be remembered as the end of truth as a universally-valued commodity in American politics; when a formerly-respectable party decided they preferred lies and liars over truth and truth-tellers; and when we learned the Constitution doesn’t hold if legislators ignore it en masse.
·      There sure is a lot of Stage Four pancreatic cancer going around, and it seems to be choosing the best of humanity as hosts.
·      The Republican campaign to purge and inhibit voters and spread disinformation is into full swing. They fear fair elections.
·      That proposed law in Ohio that’d require doctors to re-implant into the uterus an embryo from an ectopic pregnancy “when possible,” or face prison. (It’s never possible.)
·      That proposed law in Pennsylvania requiring death certificates for all fertilized eggs that don’t survive. (It’s impossible.)
·      The preceding two tell us that, at its extremes, the “pro-life” movement is mostly pro-punishment. And as in other things, they’re irrational science-deniers.
·      When did “conservatives” stop caring about budget deficits?
·      Trump’s response to the spate of anti-Semitic attacks: thanking a Jewish “leader” for saying nice things about him. What a self-involved, deplorable, narcissistic child. Defend it, Trumpists. Tell us why it’s okay.
·      It’s not happenstance that the increase in such events follows Trump claiming that neo-Nazi marchers included some “very fine people,” and hiring white supremacists. Looking like a hostage video, he reads words he doesn’t believe (neither do his writers) when such things happen; and not just to Jews. Nor is it unrelated to his unrelenting spewing of division and hatred of “others” at his rallies and in his corrosive tweets. That his self-described “Christian” supporters haven’t had enough tells us everything about which Christians accept Jesus’ teachings and which don’t. Starting with the fake one at the top.
·      One of Trump’s people blamed the rise of anti-Semitism on immigrants. Another (a former mayor) blamed it on Mayor de Blasio. It’s obvious what they’re trying to do.
·      I’m glad there was an armed firearms instructor in that Texas church.
·      If school shootings happen because “God was banned” from schools, what explains church shootings?
·      If you share Trump’s view of climate change, consider Australia. If you care for your children’s future, vote him out. He’s deliberately making it worse. That alone calls for impeachment. It’s dereliction of his oath to protect Americans. Except oil producers.
·      Kim is building nukes, firing off missiles, and laughing at Trump. (Trump’s not worried: “He likes me.”) Putin is building unstoppable missiles and praising Trump, snickering, with his fingers crossed. Assad is gaining more power in Syria. Iraqis are attacking our embassy, Trump is wagging the dog while China, Russia, and Iran plan joint military exercises (remember that treaty Trump abandoned while Iran was honoring it?) South Korea and Japan are on the outs. The only consistency in Trump’s foreign “policy” is being played by leaders who recognize his weaknesses (did I mention the “He likes me” thing?) That, and fulfilling Putin’s dreams by taking down NATO, helping to destroy the EU, and turning the Middle East over to him.
·      But, hey, Happy New Year. November, if we survive to see it, presents an opportunity to make America great again.

[Image source]

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