Secrecy can have its value even in a democracy, but Trump can’t keep a secret anyway…

May 30, 2017

While it is troubling that President Trump and his administration (and his preceding campaign) seem to have or have had so much secret communication with the Russians and that Trump seems to respect dictators more than the leaders of the Western democracies, it would be good if he and his administration could work behind the scenes, perhaps with China and Russia (and anyone else who could help) to deal with threats posed by North Korea. Since it is in the mutual interest of some of even our adversaries to arrest the growing cancer that is Kim Jong-un’s North Korea they would likely be willing to help us under the cover of secrecy.

However, in the Trump administration it seems secrecy does not exist.

I mean most of us who want good government call for transparency. Well in a way we have it with the Trump administration, that is to say it is transparently inept. And it is doubtful its leader, President Donald Trump, could keep a secret if he had to. He bragged to the thug dictator of the Philippines about submarines we have deployed off the coast of North Korea (military commentators said that is supposed to be classified info). He reportedly shared tidbits of intelligence we got from Israel with his Russian buddies, and well, if you keep up on the news you know the rest.

Ok, I’ll go on: his son in-law Jared Kushner, it has been brought out, tried to open a secret back channel with the Russians during the presidential transition.

Now actually, who knows? This could be or could have been a positive thing. If the Russians are willing to work with us in secret for our mutual benefit, it does not have to be a bad thing. Basically for the thirty years of the Cold War we worked with the Russians (to a degree) as the world’s two superpowers of the time under the threat of mutual destruction, not only of each other but the whole world.

Not much has changed, except now there are more players in a way. The U.S. is the only remaining superpower (at least for the moment) but various adversaries have realized that they can wield power or threats over their own size by getting the bomb — Iran (working on it), North Korea (very close to full nuclear attack capability it would seem), and who knows? So-called Islamic terrorists?

It would also be good if the United States could work more closely with the Russians in the Syria situation in which both nations are trying to fight Islamic terrorists there but are at odds over the Assad regime in Syria (Assad is a Russian ally but a ruthless dictator who murders his own people by the thousands as far as the U.S. in concerned). Syria is vital if for no other reason than the instability it creates and the refugees it produces who have swamped Europe.

A more conventional administration with sober and experienced hands could use all this intrigue to all of our benefit (although history shows we did some intrigue that was really not).

But so far I don’t see much real promise in the Trump government by chaos, sprinkled with ignorance (mostly at the top) style of governance.

Another problem is that evidence that keeps coming out indicates the Trump administration has ulterior motives in working with the Russians — it all has to do with private business arrangements to line the pockets of Trump and his family and associates — that is the implication. One wonders if they would be willing to sell out their own country in the name of the all-mighty dollar.

p.s.

And Trump and his tweets: So tweeting is I guess kind of like instantly transmitting random thoughts that zip through your mind to the whole world. If we all just automatically did this we would live in a glorious world of, using that current pet word of the good governance crowd, transparency. True chaos and mayhem would also ensue. Some of those random thoughts are involuntary and some don’t  take into consideration all the evidence and, besides, in civil society there is such a thing as discretion.

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The man who is making U.S. foreign policy (Trump) doesn’t even know what ‘Middle East’ means…

May 23, 2017

The humiliation of at least generally intelligent Americans never ends when Donald Trump is president.

The dunderhead in chief just informed his hosts in Israel that they are not the Middle East.

A slip of the tongue? He was tired? Yada, yada, yada.

No, we know from his public history that he is actually not well informed, not curious, and incapable of holding on to a thought for more than maybe a few seconds.

And this is the man who is making our foreign policy.

Now I realize that in this world of jet travel one can go to far-off places and never see much more than an airport and then maybe the hotel.

I’m a long-haul truck driver but what do I mostly see? The interstate, the truck stop, the industrial area, and then back home again. Sadly it is completely possible to travel and see and learn nothing.

But I do have curiosity. I have done some traveling outside of truck driving. And I have seen and learned things.

If you share my level of curiosity or even mildly so, you and I would be better at making foreign policy than Trump.

Trump was telling his Israeli hosts how he just visited Saudi Arabia, the Middle East. “We just got back from the Middle East”, he said. One official briefly covered his face with a hand in discomfort no doubt.

You might dismiss it as a gaffe.

No it’s called Trump.

The great masses of the uninformed and uninterested got their man in the White House.

I hope they are happy. I’m not.

p.s.

Geographical terms can be tricky because they have changed somewhat through the years. But even with all of that, just look it up and you will see that Israel is, well just about in the middle of the Middle East.

Trump geography:

https://www.popsugar.com/news/Donald-Trump-Middle-East-Comment-Israel-43565034

 


Have to agree with at least one part of Trump speech to Muslim nations: U.S. security is the prime concern…

May 22, 2017

The good news is that President Trump apparently did not say anything stupid or insulting to his Saudi Arabian hosts and to others in a major speech to leaders of Muslim nations in which he urged them to join with the U.S. to fight world terror.

While I have neither listened to all the speech nor read the full transcript (from which he may have deviated a little from time to time) I think I agree with this excerpted paragraph, as provided by The Atlantic site:

—————-

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership—based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all.


Back to my words:

I think our problem in the Middle East and elsewhere is nation building. We work with cultures we do not understand and stir up resentment even among people thought to be friendly to us.

But at the same time, just like Trump said, the safety and security of our citizens is our first priority — and of course how we get there in world hot spots is another question.

Example: we have no right to tell North Korea how to run its internal business. But the hands-off approach to the crazy-man regimes there has now come to a point where we are in peril.

We went into Afghanistan ostensibly in a search for Osama Bin Laden or maybe him and his Taliban but we got bogged down — not learning from the disaster the Russians had years earlier when they invaded that country — and at the time we supported Bin Laden against them. It gets so complicated.

There has already been criticism that Trump ignored the issue of human rights in Muslim nations he wants to work with us in the fight against terrorism.

We can encourage, sure, but it is not our business. Somehow I think the evolution in the Middle East will eventually lead to democracy. Some thought it would have happened rapidly during the so-called Arab Spring like it did for much of Eastern Europe when the old Soviet Union fell apart. It spent so much time using police and military force to repress its people and building up armaments and sowing seeds of socialist revolution around the globe that it caved in of its own weight. It failed to address the needs and aspirations of its people.

And back to the present. And then there was this is Trumps speech:

“Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

And it all comes down to this. An arms deal. We want their oil and they want our armaments.

Nothing ever changes.

But if Trump made no major gaffe that’s good.

And perhaps the realpolitik approach is better than the Obama apology approach. I understand they respect power or at least the attempt to project power and self interest in that part of the world — that is how they operate.

(Obama is a better man. He is a grownup. Despite his age, Trump does not seem to be much of the time. But in this instance the practical approach seems best. He did not write his speech.  But if he can stick to the script and lay off Twitter, we might all weather it for the time being.)

And really isn’t it about time we told the Muslim world to quit fighting among themselves over how to believe in God and drawing the rest of us in? Even Trump could not have said that, but isn’t that how you feel?


The current guy is not only like Nixon but he has a little Carter in him too…

May 20, 2017

Lots of comparisons between Nixon’s Watergate and the current Russia scandal (Russiagate??), and it does seem that although the fact patterns and political and historical background differ in many ways, that things are coming down at the rate of drip, drip, drip, with the drips getting faster and faster, like Watergate.

But it occurs to me that although you could compare Trump with Nixon on the malevolent side, there is a Jimmy Carter similarity there too.

Both Carter and Trump arrived at the presidency with no Washington experience and apparently no willingness to play well with the hometown crowd. Carter at least did have political experience as the governor of Georgia and a state legislator before that. But both came to Washington proclaiming things were not going to be done the old way. And even more importantly, they both depended on and/or took too much advice from people with no idea or interest in how things are done in Washington.

(And about this time anyone reading this might say, well that is the point, those ways needed or still need to be changed. Well certainly corruption needs to be eliminated but you really can’t take the politics out of politics and politics to me basically is the struggle for resources among disparate groups. It’s all about give and take and always will be unless we go to a dictatorship, and I don’t think even an often complacent electorate would put up long with a true dictatorship, not to mention the congress and the Supreme Court.)

But anyway what made me think about this was another thought:

Jimmy Carter has to be the Rodney Dangerfield of presidents. He just gets no respect. I’ve noticed through the years that every time someone wants to refer to a weak or inept or failed presidency they almost if not always single out Jimmy Carter’s.

(I confess, I think I have been guilty of that in this lowly blog.)

I was reminded of this while reading a piece the other day out of the Wall Street Journal. There was this in reference to the ongoing administration:


The historical analogy isn’t Richard Nixon, whose advisers were effective in their abuses until they were finally discovered. This is more like Jimmy Carter —outsiders who arrived to drain the swamp and are swamped by incompetence.

 


 

And then to refresh my memory of the Carter administration I ran across this zinger in Wikipedia:


In polls of historians and political scientists, Carter is usually ranked as a below-average president.


And in a New York Times story still another unfavorable comparison/mention:

In recent days, the radio host Michael Savage has acknowledged “the administration is in trouble.” John Podhoretz in the New York Post and later The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page each compared Trump to Jimmy Carter — the most damning of all conservative indictments.


 

Geez, give the guy a break. Wasn’t he a Sunday School teacher and a U.S. Navy veteran and didn’t he do all that good work for Habitat for Humanity after his presidency (of course that is after), and didn’t he oversee the Camp David Accords that gave a little peace or the promise of it to the Middle East? And today he is noted for working for world peace through his foundation (of course after the fact as far as the presidency is concerned).

And then I watched a biography of Carter on the internet (source of it PBS) and felt I had a better handle on it all, even though I lived through his presidency — gas lines, stagflation where inflation soared even as wages did not, and the humiliating Iran Hostage episode. And really informative and interesting, his wife, Rosalyn, offers for the camera that she urged him to just do something about the hostages — she felt like I did. But then the fact is pointed out that they all came back alive. Under pressure, Carter did order a rescue attempt, but it failed. But had the attempt gone on or maybe some multi-pronged assault been tried one could quite imagine that all the hostages might all have been killed. The story is that the hostages were not released until one minute after Carter handed over his one-term presidency to Ronald Reagan, thus the final humiliation. Carter had negotiated their release, Reagan got the credit.

The unpreparedness and unwillingness is where the Cater/Trump comparison ends.

Well, another damaging characteristic of Carter was that he did not see the big picture often because he was too busy micro-managing every detail every day, down to who was authorized to play on the White House tennis courts.

I guess in some respects Trump in a control freak, not that it has done him much good. His administration seems out of control, and some of his underlings find themselves having to lawyer up and one has even reported to have asked the White House for legal help (anonymous so far).

Shades of Watergate.

P.s.

It would seem that anything good that may come of Trump’s current overseas trip will have to be really, really good, like fabulous, to counter his Watergate at home.

On the other hand, if the economy does well and the nation as a whole feels secure, that will go a long ways in his favor. Even with Trump’s troubles, the Democrats need a savior, and then there is always Vice President Mike Pence ready (and getting readier with a new political action committee) and waiting in the wings.


Trump could be successful overseas if he keeps his yap shut (and he stops tweeting) …

May 19, 2017

Just because something comes to your mind does not mean you should say it out loud. I know all of those people who voted for Donald Trump often were reported to have said things like: I like a person who just says what he thinks.

I myself have been guilty at times of just spouting off what I think, not that there is anything wrong with speaking your mind, but there is such a thing as using discretion and realizing who the audience is and thinking through and not just blurting out a passing thought that might not even turn out to represent your true feelings once you have had time to digest all of the different angles of any issue or situation. And then sometimes you just don’t want to hurt anyone´s feelings — or get punched in the nose or worse.

With that in mind, I think this new (relatively new) phenomenon of important people instantly tweeting their immediate thoughts should go away — of course it will not, I suppose.

Worst of all is having the president of the United States tweet his immediate thoughts. If you have followed the news about him and seen him on TV you know that he can change thoughts in mid sentence. I mean it’s good to be opened minded, have an ability to assess facts and change one’s mind, but in mid sentence or in hours or overnight, constantly?

This is not meant to be a continued diatribe against Donald Trump. In fact, as bad as he is, I think the foreign trip he leaves on today (5-19-17) could be a success even though he is about as ignorant as they come of the world. From reports I have read, he has impressed or perhaps unnerved both the Saudis and the Israelis and others, and the United States is still on top as the super power of the world. Action he took in Syria (the air raid in reaction to continued use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime) and the sending of an armada to off the coast of North Korea (in reaction to its continued missile testing and threats of nuclear attacks) have sent a message of power (even if the actions themselves may not have really done much) to the world — I mean no one knows how far Trump would carry it, but it beats just standing there and taking it (maybe).

But I think for real success it would be best if Trump mainly smiles and listens and just says diplomatic things and lets the old experienced and knowledgeable people (he does have some, doesn’t he?) do the real work behind the scenes. Trump needs to keep his yap shut for the most part: “Hi glad to be here, beautiful country, our relations with you are going to be so good you will beg us to stop being so friendly, by the way, do you have a golf course? If not I can build you one.”

(Sorry, I was trying to be somewhat serious here but could not stop myself from adding the satire.)

But really, if Trump could just learn to keep his yap shut.

It’s like one of my favorite scenes in the movie Patton where George C. Scott portrays Gen. George Patton as the irrepressible showboat (albeit talented professional) who just insists on having his way, sometimes to his own detriment. Karl Malden, playing the part of Gen. Omar Bradley, the somewhat more subdued soldier’s soldier, says:

“George will you just shut up…”.

I say:

“President Trump, will you just shut up”.


Is the press in a feeding frenzy? Well yes, but where there is smoke there is usually fire…

May 17, 2017

UPDATE: After posting this below there was another development today (5-17-17), the Justice Department announced the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel in the Russian investigation.


 

Well there is no doubt the press is a little over-excited in its coverage of the possibly impeachable offenses of President Trump. But President Trump went out of his way to go after the press both in his campaign and into his presidency.

And too, I should note that the important thing in all of this is not the battle between the press and Trump but the survival of democracy in the United States.

But back to the press. I don’t think it is just my perception, I think the rules of journalism or the practice of it has changed. For instance, CNN and the New York Times (just using them as examples) seemed to have moved beyond the rule that straight news reporting depends solely on verifiable facts and of being able to attribute statements and points of view to actual persons — with a balance when practical or appropriate, and that opinion belongs preferably on the opinion pages or clearly-marked articles. This is more so for CNN, which had been or is a target for Trump. It is fighting back.

(There is no point in even mentioning or including FOX News in this for me because (a) I avoid it and (b) it was meant to be a partisan shill for the Rush Limbaugh-style hard right-wing nut crowd from the git go. It plays to a certain demographic for ratings and thus is subservient to it.  I do think it has had its effect, though, on other outlets — they are starting to play the same game.)

Now way back, it is true, newspapers (that is basically all we had then) were often partisan with little attempt at balance. I don’t think we’ve gone back to that yet in the mainstream.

And thanks to the internet we have the phenomenon of just outright fake news. Ironically, Trump, the man who claims he coined the term (pretty sure he did not) seems to go by it nonetheless. He has a habit of citing things out of the fake news (his minions call it “alternative facts”, as if truth is never clearly identifiable). So if he were to charge that he is being brought down by fake news (and it was true), wouldn’t that be poetic justice?

Right now, though, as far as I can see, the mainstream news outlets still have integrity. I just think that they may have loosened the rules a bit. And there is a school of thought I think that believes that the old rules (dating back to maybe mid 20th Century) sometimes forced journalists to write absurd things because they had to give equal treatment to statements that were obviously bogus in the name of fairness.

Back in the early 1950s the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy claimed that he had a list of hundreds or 50 or 80, the number kept changing, of communists in our State Department. Strangely, he never produced the list. And I was but a baby or toddler at the time, but as far as I can tell the mainstream of journalism at the time did not push him for the evidence. In the meantime he made life rough and ruined the careers of many people.

Now there was at least one communist agent (evidence suggests) in a high level in the State Department, just in advance of the McCarthy episode, Alger Hiss. Richard Nixon catapulted from freshmen senator to vice president and eventually president, thanks to his pursuit if Hiss. As we know, Hiss served some prison time and proclaimed his innocence but evidence brought out through the years tends to incriminate him.

You can’t or should not ignore something just because there is no solid evidence but eventually you need to find some (they got Hiss not on proof of espionage or sabotage but on lying to congress about his connection to the Communist Party — and I think he disputed that too).

Okay, and back to the present, one Trump-defending senator lashed out at whoever tattled on Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with the Russians. He claimed that act, I guess because the nature of the information (even though no details were made public), was “treasonous” on the part of the source or sources. The Wall Street Journal in an opinion piece heavily criticized Trump but also took the line that reporting on what Trump did was treasonous, at least that is how I read it.

I’m reaching far afield perhaps, but between 1964 and 1973 the U.S. conducted a secret war in Laos. It seemed to go under the radar of the mainstream news gatherers for the most part. Would journalists have been guilty of divulging classified information and treason had they reported on that? And don’t the American people have a right to know what is going on in their name? And all those innocent civilians killed and villages destroyed by our bombs and bullets (and if you are not aware of it you can look it up). Yes, it was ancillary or an extension to the Vietnam War, but our government denied involvement to its own people plus the world. It was denied because of treaty obligations that would have precluded it. We dropped enormous amounts of explosive ordnance on the country, a third of which failed to explode so remains as a constant danger today that has maimed and killed children and adults and continues to do so.

Right now we have a president under suspicion of colluding with the Russians, of firing the FBI director who was investigating him because he would not close investigations against his administration and who reportedly tried to demand “loyalty” from the FBI director (look the other way, do what I say) and who seems to have had a bout of loose lips with the Russians and who has appointed people to dismantle environmental regulations and who had promised a major improvement to health care for the American people but who obviously never had a plan in the first place with the result being that hard-core right-wing Republicans want to make it even harder for those of modest means to get health care and who has displayed that he has no real knowledge of national and world affairs and no interest to learn. That is my honest opinion. This is a blog. I can say what I want. I have left a lot out.

With all the drama our government has been paralyzed.

Bottom line, Donald Trump was ill-prepared to be president, and he is steadily losing support because, for one thing, he constantly changes stories on his actions and contradicts his staff and then even himself. He has 0 credibility nation and world wide. His only allies are the Russians, and they are only pretending to be.

There will continue to be some or a lot of overblown or inaccurate reporting no doubt but really where there is smoke there is usually fire. I think if one sticks to mainstream media (I don’t usually use the term “media” because in some circles it is pejorative) and uses objective thinking one can sort through it all.

But how long do we all have before it results in disaster? This guy — who has the power to take action at an instant that would destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust — is holding the whole world hostage.

There is talk of using a provision in the 25th Amendment by which his cabinet in conjunction with the congress could remove him from office. In some ways that seems more plausible (and even quicker) than impeachment. I think the more likely outcome is that if things continue to snowball as they have, particularly in the past week, Trump will become disinterested in it all and figure out a way to bow out and claim victory even so (all this to score a conservative on the high court, he might say).

My record of correct political predictions is something like 0 for however many I have made but that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

 


Trump presidency coming undone? It can’t happen too soon…

May 16, 2017

UPDATE Number 2:

So today ,Tuesday, May 16, the story now is that President Trump asked FBI director James Comey to shut down the investigation on now-resigned national security advisor Michael Flynn, under investigation for dealings with the Russians. Yes, there is the standard denial. But it is beginning to pile on. Comey reportedly wrote a memo about the incident and shared it with colleagues and one or more in return have shared it or parts of it with the press. Comey needs to testify before congress under oath. I don’t know how much it takes to prove obstruction of justice, that might be eventually up to the Senate in an impeachment trial and/or public opinion. One would have to judge the credibility of Comey versus Trump (somehow that seems a no-brainer, and I mean Trump has no credibility). Could Comey be lying? I suppose, but once the things start unraveling there will be others who may well testify or supply evidence.

 

UPDATE number one: Since my original post on this, via tweets, the president has seemingly admitted that he shared “information” with the Russians and that he has every right to do so. I don’t think he admitted to actually giving away classified information but I imagine there is a fine line between information and sensitive information and classified information and so on and right now it seems to be a word game on the part of both journalists and the president and his administration. In addition I am speculating that the intelligence community is nervous about Trump and is reasserting itself after outright attacks and much disrespect from Trump early on in his presidency.

ADDENDUM TO THIS UPDATE: At least one story I read claimed that the president on his own can decide what is classified and what is not, so therefore he would not have committed a crime. I think that is interesting (if true) but almost beside the point. What is important is whether it is wise to tell all you know…


 

 

I’m always wary of stories based on an unnamed source or sources but then again that is how we began to get the full story on the Watergate scandal and had not those stories been published President Richard Nixon could have carried on his assault on democracy, his misuse of the power of his office to go after his enemies real and perceived.

This latest revelation that came out Monday (well that is when I saw it) that President Donald Trump may have given away classified information in meetings with the Russians — probably not to betray his country but in some immature behavior to impress the Russians he seems to idolize about how much information he has — could be a signal that finally his world is unraveling. And he made such a big deal about his opponent Hillary Clinton possibly compromising classified information through sloppy email practices, even proclaimed she ought to be locked up.

But again, so far this story seems a bit shaky to me, although quite plausible. And if no proof can be supplied it could discredit those who report it — of course that is always the risk and quandary in professional journalism.

But meantime, from what I am reading, slowly but surly many Republican legislators are beginning to distance themselves from the president — good idea for them I think.

People like me spend so much time wishing there could be some way to kick him out of office and it may well be he will essentially kick himself out of office.

And even if some can’t get themselves to admit or accept it, surely many hard-core Trump supporters must be finally getting the picture:

The emperor has no clothes.

And I should stop there but it frustrates me when people say Trump has to be smart and a good leader because he has done so well in business.

There are just too many things wrong with that, so many that if I tried I might not be able to state all that is wrong with that, but I’ll name a few things:

First of all, government is not business (the two entities do not have the same purpose or goals). And then, the kind of business (primarily real estate development, and I guess you could say show business with his “reality” shows) is not general business per se and runs on different rules. Also he began with money and added some sales ability (in other words he knew how to exaggerate) and had a penchant for using the bankruptcy courts I think to keep his own money and cheat others. But whatever he did, he did not work with people to gain consensus among disparate groups, which leaders in democracies often have to do, no he used sales puffery, bullying, and appealed to other people’s own greed, other people who wanted to be on the winning side of the bully (and may have well found themselves out in the cold).

And we have to remember he won by a fluke, not by vote tallies. So he really needs to please a lot of people to push an agenda through (unless he thinks it can all be done by executive orders and actions, which it cannot). And it is hard to know what his actual agenda is.

The end of the Trump administration cannot come too soon, as far as I am concerned. He is a national embarrassment and a threat to democracy and the stability of the nation and world.