Trump probably was not a Manchurian candidate but just a target of opportunity that paid off…

April 26, 2019

We don’t really know whether Donald Trump was or is the Russian Manchurian candidate but he might as well be.

And this is of course old stuff by now but I was just reviewing in my own mind what the fuss is all about.

I posted something the other day that was indirectly related to the Trump/Russia thing, that is a little and incomplete history of U.S. presidential candidates working with foreign governments. Perhaps I should have mentioned that Hillary Clinton in a way sought foreign assistance when she or her campaign (someone’s campaign to me is generally the same as that someone) contracted with the  private propaganda firm called Fusion GPS. Well actually that firm is headquartered in Washington D.C. But a former British spy named Christopher Steele was working for it. He wrote the famous Steele Dossier which alleged that the Russians were cultivating Donald Trump to be their man to put in the White House. The Wall Street Journal has now published an opinion piece that questions whether the Russians themselves may have been behind the dossier just to sow discord in the American election process. The piece offers no evidence just speculation.

Maybe that does not qualify as working with a foreign government on the part of Mrs. Clinton. But certainly she and her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton have worked with foreign governments through their Clinton Foundation. It is only my opinion, but to me that foundation is more about allowing the Clintons to be jet setters and keep up their political influence than anything else.

One thing that I don’t think has ever been sorted out is what a deal in which a Russian company was allowed to buy a substantial portion of the rights to uranium mining in the U.S. was all about (uranium of course used in nuclear power and weapons). Coincidentally or not this occurred in some seeming conjunction with dealings between Russians and the Clinton Foundation, which involved speaking fees for Bill Clinton — this taking place when wife Hillary was Secretary of State.

The Clintons and their defenders claim all was above board and there was no quid pro quo and that Mrs. Clinton had no direct role. And of course Trump and his gang have tried to use it for all it’s worth, such as chanting “lock her up” during the 2016 presidential campaign and even after. The facts in all of these things are always murky.

But it would be nice to have people in power who had no murky facts of foreign intrigue to explain away.

But back to Trump. While partisans argue over the accuracy and the meaning within the Mueller Report there is something that is not in dispute. Trump’s involvement in Russia goes back years. Like so many business people he was looking for opportunities there afer the fall of the old Soviet Union and Russia’s entry into the capitalist system. The Russians were freed of the yoke of communism and in return are instead under the control of the super-rich oligarchs.

One project Trump had in mind was the building of a Trump tower in Moscow. I just read he first envisioned the project when Russia was still the Soviet Union. But I imagine it became even more plausible when Russia went capitalist. Well, anyway, no project has ever got off the ground. But there is evidence (perhaps not proof) that once the Russians saw that Trump was running for president and at the same time that Mrs. Clinton was they saw a chance to cultivate Trump. They did not like Mrs. Clinton because she had said unfriendly things about Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Probably also because she had actual experience in foreign relations as secretary of state, while Trump had no experience in government or foreign relations per se and no interest in it.

One thing that has been reported is that they dangled the tower project before him and in return got some U.S. sanctions lifted, plus an awful lot of kind words and apparent glowing admiration by the American president for the dictator Putin.

I have to admit having good relations with all nations, as far as possible, is not a bad thing. But Trump seems to have love fests with your average dictator/strong man, i.e., Putin, Kim Jong-un, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (known often as MBS), the latter of which just had 37 people executed in one day this week and who earlier ordered the killing of a journalist for one would suppose unflattering coverage. In that Arab kingdom people are not given access to legal council and the court proceedings are secret (I mean some people might be legitimately guilty of crimes, but how would you know? And of what?)

Well anyway, shady dealings seem to be something people in public life have in common with each other.

But here is a big problem. Unlike other presidents in recent history, Trump has failed to give up direct control of his business assets while serving in the White House. He made a sham presentation of essentially doing so right after his inauguration but all it was was a photo-op with a bunch on binders on the table. In reality he still has control. So he can use his power of the presidency to influence things and profit from being the president. In addition he has appointed members of his own family to government posts and they are all joined together in Trump business enterprises. If it is not illegal it certainly is unethical and immoral to use their position in government to enhance their private business or fortunes. And it would seem they might be calculating just as much or more on how policy decisions might line their own pockets rather than help the nation at large.

And Trump, unlike other modern presidents, refuses to publicly release his tax returns.

I suspect that Trump is not the Manchurian candidate. He was just a  convenient target of opportunity seen as malleable to Russian interests. Also it was a sure bet that if he got into the White House he would stir up discord within our government and make us vulnerable in the face of threats from without.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Is ‘normal’ Joe really the best Democrats can do?

April 25, 2019

While Joe Biden’s official entry today (4-25-19) into the presidential race might offer a return to normalcy, and while most anyone would sound good to many after Trump, I have to wonder why do we have to go to the inelegant c student? I mean here is a man who is a gaffe a minute, steals the lines of a speech from an English politician, and has a bad habit of pawing women in public (just being overly friendly). But that aside (or maybe not aside) he is basically normal when compared to Trump. He is more the classic American politician.

Depending on your point of view, Biden is either a centrist (which I usually prefer) or just puts his finger up to the wind or is wishy-washy.

Biden did support our entry into a war with Iraq, but that was then and this is now and so did a lot of people (Hillary) who later realized the disastrous decision it was.

(Former candidate John Kerry famously said he was for the war in Iraq before he was against it. Always nice to have it both ways I guess and certainly one can, and should be able to, change his mind.)

Biden’s penchant for being touchy-feely with women in public gatherings and his history of badgering Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas hearings is out of step with the current movement of women’s rights, although on the pawing, his defenders would just call his approach “tactile” (and innocent). And as to the Thomas hearings I imagine Biden didn’t want to be on the side that would prevent a black man from becoming a Supreme Court justice. And all that is such ancient history now.

Biden has great name recognition which is a plus and went to the top of the polls way before even announcing and that is in a field of at least 20 Democratic contenders as of now. He is a conventional, career politician. Trump voters wanted something different and they got it. But different is not always better.


UPDATE: CNN claims that as of today (4-25-19) that its own rankings now put Bernie Sanders ahead of Biden. I have no idea of the methodology or validity of their polling or information on this.


I see Biden’s pluses as his being able to project a more normal and friendly image of our nation to the world, a return to a more sensible or at least coherent foreign policy, and a return to civility and cross-aisle cooperation in our politics. He is supportive on environmental issues (is not a climate change denier). Also he has the flexibility of being able to bring diverging elements of his own political party together in order to beat Trump. And maybe most importantly as far as I know he is not corrupt and believes in the rule of law. Our current president is corrupt and definitely does not believe in the rule of law (at least not for himself).

His minuses: he’s Joe Biden. Less scary than Trump but kind of depressing that we have to settle for those at the bottom of the class. And I’m not at all sure he could beat Trump.

p.s.

This was just first impressions. I have read that the best politicians or leaders are not necessarily the brightest or most well read people — they just have that certain something that when used right is a success.


Strange a man would think he needed Russian help to become our president or that he would accept it

April 24, 2019

Read the rest of this entry »


Ignoring Trump still might be the best option…

April 20, 2019

Way back, I think when Donald Trump was just beginning his presidency and it already seemed outrageous, I wrote that the best thing Republicans and Democrats could do is essentially ignore him (as much as possible) and go about their business.

I almost think that might apply today.

Surely, behind their mask of acceptance, most or at least a strong number of Republicans do not like a lot of things he is doing or the way he approaches matters — his uncivil behavior and breaking of all norms of democracy and decency and tradition. On the other hand they like some of the policies such as a more laissez-fair approach on business and a weakening of health and safety and environmental regulations and enforcement and a tax structure that seems to favor business over working people. So they put up with his despicable behavior. I did not say “deplorable” since that word got Hillary into trouble, but really it would fit in this case. I mean Trump is deplorable but all who support him are not necessarily so.

Sometimes I think they just revel in the fact that he is (deplorable). He socks it to all those high-minded progressives who live in their protected compounds, safe from the mob, and blurts out bigoted rants that they feel might get them into trouble in this new “politically correct” environment — I mean you can even get busted for saying the N-word, imagine, yet in the bizarre reasoning of those high-minded folks it is ok for minorities to use the word (I began this paragraph as satire and ended it basically in reality — is that like real life imitating art? I don’t know).

But here is something the Democrats (and Republicans) could do in the wake of the revelations or maybe I should say confirmations in the Mueller Report on Trump’s weird and questionable dealings with a foreign adversary and his efforts to impede investigations by the Justice Department, they could hold hearings, yes, by all means do so. But at the same time they could actually go about the business of governing or legislating. They could deal with the refugee problem at the Mexican border that has flared up as the result of the strife and violence and ongoing gang and drug warfare, primarily in Central and South America. They could continue to fine-tune Obamacare.

(I realize that the Republicans still control the senate but politics is often called the art of compromise.)

Lately I have read reports that there is even a crack in that façade of acceptance of Trump in the Republican-controlled senate. Yes don’t be afraid Republican senators. Do what you think is right. When you agree with Trump go along with him, but when you do not just don’t. You don’t need to make a big deal out of it or confront the bully head-on in a war of words you can’t win. No one can win an argument with Trump because he is like a little kid who lashes back: “I know you are but what am I”? or, “well, you’re ugly and stupid” (stick out the tongue and say “neener, neener”). Or he insults your wife.

I think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had the right idea at the beginning of Trump’s presidential term when Trump began or continued from the campaign his absurd contention that Mexico would pay for a wall at the border. Asked if that were true, McConnell answered: “Uh, no”. Enough said.

In short, Trump should be treated like the crazy uncle who lives upstairs.

(I also realize that those Republican legislators who disagree with Trump are afraid to speak up for fear of getting primaried out in their own districts — hey if you are scared of that senator or congressman maybe you have not done your homework with the people you were put in there to represent.)

The only danger here is what happens if the nation faces a real emergency. Checking my memory, I don’t think Trump has been really tested on such as most presidents wind up being. And I did not say they all have handled it well.

Early on Trump ordered an air strike on a Syrian air base aimed at retaliation for and as an impediment to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. It was thought initially that was his bold move. But it had like zero effect and was not followed up. And that is not necessarily a criticism of Trump, just an observation that it was not the test it was thought to be.

Maybe defusing tensions with North Korea, whose crazy murderous tyrant was conducting nuclear missile tests to demonstrate the capability to hit the U.S. within minutes, was Trump’s crisis. He first tried threatening back with words and then he flew half way around the world to praise the young man. We have not been blown up yet so one for Trump maybe. I had thought it better to say little but keep our defenses up and explore all options behind the scenes as to what to do to eliminate the threat. But what do I know? Now we have elevated the tyrant of one of the world’s poorest countries — where the leader lives in luxury while his countrymen starve — to international status.

We hope a real or another test never comes. But if it does, one wonders. Trump does not even have the support or control within his own White House, as evidenced by Mueller, and he has poisoned relations with our allies.

But it appears as of now that he is in the White House to stay the term and quite possibly another if the Democrats cannot get their act together.

Impeachment is an option but only if congress sees a call for it among the people at large, and that is as it should be.

Elections have consequences, and we are dealing with them.


To me, working with a foreign government to get elected president of the U.S. is treason…

April 19, 2019

Someone pointed out or maybe I should say reminded me that then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign’s dealings with the Russians to get elected president of the United States is the issue irrespective of whether a crime or crimes were committed.

And that is not to say that laws were not broken.

But the very idea that the Russians would work to plant their own favorite candidate in the White House and that knowing what the Russians were up to that the candidate and his campaign would work with them smacks of treason to me.

Remember Barack Obama’s first election? He was castigated by Republicans for suggesting that he would sit down with the leader of our arch-enemy Iran. And here we have the Republican candidate and now president working hand in hand with the Russians.

I realize that the actual extent of the collusion (which by the way is a tricky word I’ll try to get back to) is in question. But even Attorney General William Barr who sought to play down the Mueller report before releasing it to the pubic acknowledged that the Russians did indeed run a full court press aimed at getting Trump elected president. The Mueller report indicates the Trump campaign and Trump himself were more than glad to accept the help.

In the interests of fairness I will interject here that as I understand it Trump’s 2016 challenger Hillary Clinton or her campaign tried to get dirt on Trump via some shadowy organization who claimed to have a damaging tape of him with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. This is pretty convoluted but somehow talk of all this eventually led federal investigators (then in the Obama administration) to look into the ties between candidate Trump and the Russians. So you have federal investigators in a Democratic administration investigating a Republican presidential candidate. Sounds like the way they would do things in Russia. But to be fair again, Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate, was also investigated for improper use of email in handling sensitive to secret government information or documents. And she may have lost the election due to comments by an overzealous and indiscreet FBI director (investigators have no business doubling as prosecutors and jurists). Trump eventually fired him, albeit for the wrong reason, but he should have been canned by Obama I think.

And that “collusion” word. It became the word almost everyone used to describe the cooperation between Trump and the Russians. But it is something like a red herring or straw man. Trump defenders love to point out that there is no such federal crime as “collusion”. No, but there are crimes associated with working with foreign agents to subvert our elections. And as I have already stated, what Trump and his campaign did is wrong regardless of whether they can be charged with a crime. And I think it is treason.

The Mueller report makes it clear that Trump took many steps to hinder the Russia investigation. It seems clear he obstructed justice, many times. But lawyers like to put things in little boxes and they apparently disagreed on whether all the little boxes had been filled, so there was no recommendation on charging Trump with obstruction of justice — even though he did — go figure.

I’m way under the weather today but that just means I am not working at my regular job (and I was taking time off and got sick, my luck), so I will have time to pore over the Mueller report and probably more the analyses of it and will post something later.

But as I stated in my previous post, it is up to the American people to decide what they think of all of this. I think up till now polling has shown the nation fairly well evenly divided on their support of Trump — I’m not much of a poll follower, though. Whether this will deeply erode his following I am curious to see. I would think it does not bode well for his re-election.

He already has a primary challenge by former Massachusetts governor William Weld. History shows that when an incumbent president has a primary challenge, even when the challenge is unsuccessful, the incumbent goes on to lose in the general election.

On the other hand, the Democrats have a penchant for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory (as the mixed-up metaphor goes).

p.s.

I recall that during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, during our presidential elections they sometimes announced their preference for one of our candidates. The hapless candidate had no say in the matter and it was likely just a trick by the Soviets to confuse things. But the Trump campaign and the subsequent administration, especially the president, seems awed by and ever so trusting of the current Russian leader.

And then one has to consider that the U.S. has run covert operations in other nations to subvert elections (but since they are covert, we just pretend it never happened). But our defense would be, if we were forced to admit the sin, that it was all in the interests of promoting democracy — Jeez, why is nothing ever just black and white?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mueller Report release result: it’s up to the public as it should be…

April 18, 2019

Note: before I could complete this post juicy tidbits on the just-publicly released Mueller report have come out and I have not had a chance to read them in full — I’m just noting.


By the time the 400-plus page Mueller report is analyzed — it was just released to the congress and public this morning (4-18-19) with some redactions — and reported on, thanks to the continued denials by the president of any wrong doing and the continued claim that the report, which up until today was secret, exonerates him (not true I think but I have not read it), what will change?

Those who think that he did something wrong will continue to think so and those who do not, or support him for political reasons despite anything else, will continue to think or act the way they do (maybe) and the rest will have all been too tired of the convoluted course of events to pay much attention.

Congressional committees are supposed to also get a un-redacted version some time in the near future, I think it was said.

The redactions supposedly are required by law but one has to also suppose that they are meant to avoid political embarrassment.

No we don’t want to give away secrets that would threaten our defense or hinder investigating tactics and we don’t want to unnecessarily malign the reputations of people investigated and interviewed who are innocent, but other than that certainly the public needs to have access to the whole thing.

The report was compiled by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was supposedly independent of the normal chain of command so as to avoid having someone with ties to the White House deciding on evidence of guilt of the president and his associates.

But all this summarizing by the Attorney General of what the report says before the actual report was actually released seems just a tactic to misdirect and mislead and get out ahead of possible bad news.

And the big theme of news commentators and legal experts this morning is how Attorney General William Barr often described as a respected straight shooter had become nothing but a defender of Trump rather than an attorney general representing the nation’s justice system in the interests of the public.

(Since the attorney general is a member of the presidential cabinet that must be a tricky thing to pull off. Jeff Sessions tried it but was essentially kicked out for doing the right thing by recusing himself from the Russia investigation over a conflict of interest. Some of his own actions were part of the Russia investigation.)

While there may have been inaccurate reports or overly-done pieces concerning the Trump election campaign’s work with the Russians, any reasonable person has to conclude that the Trump campaign did in some way work with and take advantage of the eagerness of the Russians to get him elected.

And even Barr today said that the Mueller Report shows an active effort by the Russians to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

It is also well known that Trump fired former FBI director James Comey because he would not shut down the Russian investigation (Trump admitted it, denied it, admitted it, not necessarily in that order) and did so many other things to stifle the investigation, such as continually calling it illegal and a witch hunt. A reasonable observation, if not a strictly legally-based one, would lead one to say the president tried to obstruct justice.

But Barr before the release of the report has maintained there was not enough evidence to charge obstruction and said the Mueller report did not make a recommendation on that.

It has been brought out that the Trump campaign did indeed meet with the Russians many times. Exactly what all took place is not so clear. But the Trump associates must have something to hide because so many of them lied to the FBI and many are now serving prison time for doing so.

I have to admit this tactic or use by the FBI of a law that makes it a crime to lie to federal investigators rather than going after the actual underlying crime is somewhat troublesome to me.

Lesson: questioned by the feds: keep your mouth shut. Even if you are innocent you might somehow describe things inaccurately and then be charged with lying.

But why did the Trump associates lie?

One commentator who said she has spent her whole career in politics said that when your case is weak you just repeat a claim over and over again. In this case, Trump’s never-ending refrain: “there was no collusion”. Why does he have to say it so often? Shakespeare might say: he doth protest too much.

After the end of a press conference by Attorney General Barr on the release of the Mueller report this morning, Trump at a disabled veterans function proclaimed that “no collusion and no obstruction of justice” was “good news” to him. And this is still before anyone in the congress or wider public had a chance to read the report.

(Again, just saturate the air with that claim of nothing here folks, move on.)

So, today and in the succeeding days finally we have a chance to see what is in there. Few of us will read it. I might try to read some (I’m a little under the weather right now, I have to make my bed, I have other excuses, the dog ate it, except I don’t have a dog). Most of the public will depend upon the analyses or description or summary of news reports or just ignore the whole thing.

And the one bright spot in our democracy is that the public will have the last say. If enough people are convinced that there was wrongdoing it could result in impeachment of the president or his not being re-elected. If a strong enough case is not made of malfeasance in office he survives.

Also what we have here is a mixture of a political struggle and an attempt at law enforcement. There is no way around this except the check by informed citizens — those who want to be informed.

Happy reading (if you do).

p.s.

Trump and associates have tried to degrade the investigation into their activities by claiming it was an illegal action by the FBI and others who did not want him to be elected. What does need more attention is what actually sparked the Russia investigation. There is documented and publicly reported information that at least a couple of investigators traded emails indicating that they did not want Trump elected. I don’t know if that ruins the whole thing, but it is worrisome. But history shows the FBI does not have a history of being impartial or neutral. If you are too young or unaware, read up on former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.


Bernie Sanders appeals to Trump voters and more…

April 17, 2019

Could Bernie Sanders be the Donald Trump of 2020?

He might be a curmudgeon or grumpy old man but he is not as mean-spirited as Trump and not a bully, as far as I have ever seen.

But he just got rave reviews on a town hall in Pennsylvania on Fox News, heretofore essentially Trump’s personal network. And Trump is reportedly not happy at what he sees as a betrayal by Fox.

And before I go further I have to say that is the problem with the state of much of our journalism today. It has been taken over by partisans. A legitimate news organization should not be for one candidate or the other, although they of course could present commentators who outside the normal news reporting do analyses and opinion. But the way news is presented today on cable and on text on the internet (which has taken over traditional paper newspapers with straight news columns) opinion is so mixed with news that it is hard to decipher facts from opinion.

But back to Bernie:

He is in the lead among the plethora of Democratic candidates, announced and not yet announced in the various measures pollsters take, such as campaign contributions and internet hits. And he leads in small contributions too, supposedly suggesting he has wider appeal among the masses.

The great paradox back in 2016 and now leading up to the 2020 presidential primary and then election is that both Trump and Bernie (I just like writing Bernie in place of Sanders) despite appearing as political opposites often appear to appeal to the same base: generally referred to as “working class disenchanted whites”. I mean Trump appeals to conservatives and reactionaries and folks generally classified as being right wing in politics (political terms can be confusing and wholly inaccurate) and Bernie is seen far out on the left with “liberals” (another confusing term I won’t go into now). Bernie is not even a true Democratic Party member — he is an avowed socialist who just works with the Democrats (and never mind those on the right or all Republicans always call all Democrats socialists, even though that is certainly not so).

Back in the 2016 campaign I think even Trump gave a nod to Bernie, hoping I am sure to scoop up his voters.

Now Bernie may be old and cranky and a socialist to boot — seemingly out of step with our traditions of government — but he has long experience in Washington and one would expect as president would more follow conventional norms and protocols as president. And despite being on the left, he does not embrace all the causes of the far left that is seen as threatening to take over the Democratic Party from more traditional centrists or left of center folks. In short, he would seem not to be as erratic and scary as Trump.

Apparently both Trump and Bernie put themselves up as representing the people not the establishment in power who they would tell you care more about helping each other than the people that they are supposed to represent.

But I am not singing the praises of Bernie. I see him as impractical, if not as wild, as Trump.

Given the choice I imagine I would have to vote for Bernie over Trump, or sit it out.

Trump governs, if you can call it that, by chaos and bigoted methods and in a dictatorial manner. He uses naked threats as his method of political pressure.

Bernie I think is too tied to the notion of socialism as a cure for all that ails our society. He looks I think to the European democratic socialist model (as opposed to authoritarian regimes such as the old Soviet Union or Communist China of today).

But at least Bernie sees change effected in a democratic (small d) way, not by armed revolution or sweeping overnight overhauls of policy. At least I think he has indicated that.

What Bernie, or Mr. Sanders if you will, may not appreciate is that this is not Europe or Scandinavia. We have developed a unique culture and economy of our own, influenced by the blending of a diverse immigrant culture and the promise (more of a goal than fact) of unlimited upward mobility. And while socialism has worked well in Europe, all is not well. Look at the yellow vest unrest in France.

But the intriguing question now is if that mysterious base that put Trump in the White House will turn its support to Bernie.

It’s easy to promise, not nearly as easy to deliver, even when you are Donald Trump.

And yes I know the economic indicators are favorable to Trump. But like I have stated here previously in different ways voters tend to look at their own personal economics.

One scenario I could see is that traditional Republican voters turned off by Trump either sit the election out or even vote for Bernie.

And Bernie, despite being an old guy, at 78, had and I presume has wide appeal among younger voters. The wise and/or feisty old man with a new message rather than the same old same old.

Yeah, Bernie could do it I suppose.