Media (241)

 

Illegitimate


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Unless a miracle happens Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the 45thPresident of the United States this coming Friday.  Currently two issues are at the center of public attention: how did he get elected, and what kind of president will he be?  As to the former, it is now obvious that FBI Director Comey helped Trump win by violating Justice Department rules and writing to Congress about Hillary Clinton’s emails eleven and two days before the election, but the role of the FBI has become a lot murkier since then. 
      It appears that the agency has been sitting on information about ways in which the Russians may have co-opted Trump by collecting salacious material about him, and failed to investigate possible communications between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to coordinate the release of damaging emails about Clinton.  Comey’s actions with regards to the Clinton emails will now be investigated by the Inspector General of the Justice Department – someone who could be fired by president Trump as soon as Friday afternoon – and it is expected that Congress will investigate the FBI’s overall performance.

      As to the latter, it is obvious that Trump will be violating the emoluments clause of the US Constitution the moment he takes the oath of office.  The courageous Director of the Office of Government Ethics has made this clear in public comments on Trump’s refusal to divest himself from his business interests, and as a result this public servant will now be investigated by the same members of the House of Representatives who tried to get rid of the Office of Congressional Ethics on the first day of the new term.  And next to the corrupt kleptocracy Trump will bring to the White House his administration promises to do irreparable harm to the environment, health care and education, while social and economic justice will become even more of a illusion than they are now in the US, due to economic and taxation policies.  As for homeland security and foreign policy, it is telling that the only intended cabinet secretaries who made some sense during the congressional hearings were two retired four-star generals, while the candidate for Secretary of State blew a smokescreen that left everybody guessing about his positions.
      Last Friday US Representative John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights era, called Trump’s presidency illegitimate, because of the way the Russians affected the outcome of the election by leaking stolen emails via Wikileaks.  True to form, Trump shamelessly attacked Lewis the next day.  The president-elect drags everything down to his own level, including congressional Republicans who won’t be inclined to start impeachment procedures even when the Constitution is violated.
      As for how to deal with President Trump, next to organizing a wide resistance we have to hope for a complete failure of everything he tries to achieve and stands for.  The Germans call this ‘Verelendung,’ and some people will say that it will cause pain to innocent people and damage to US interests, but if Trump succeeds there will be significant pain and damage anyway.
      Trump and the Republicans will own every failure and pay the price in the next elections.  For self-protection, we also have to see the humor in every screw-up and insane tweet, and laugh in their faces.  It is a stress management technique we will badly need the next four years.

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The Asterisk President


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)


One of the mythologies of US politics is that the first duty of the president is to keep Americans safe.  This fiction was kept alive by Barack Obama, who never hesitated to declare that America’s security was the last thought he went to bed with and the first he woke up with every morning.  But as in so many endeavors, Obama was different from his predecessors, and he will most certainly be from his successor.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney gave the order to invade Iraq, the former to avenge an assassination attempt on his father and the latter to create business opportunities for Halliburton.  They didn’t make America safer, but instead created ISIS and veterans like Esteban Santiago, who came home mentally ill after a tour in Iraq and in the end believed that something was telling him to start shooting at travelers in the luggage area of Fort Lauderdale’s airport.  His victims ultimately are victims of the Iraq war and should be seen as such, just like Sam Siatta should have been treated like a victim of the senseless war in Afghanistan, where the US has no other option but to fail.

      This week president-elect Donald J. Trump was confronted with the fact that Russian intelligence operatives, directed by Putin personally, hacked into US information systems and used the emails they gathered to weaken Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and boost the Republican candidate.  As a pathological narcissist, the only thing Trump could be concerned about was whether the information he received from the CIA, FBI and NSA would discredit his victory, while it would have been more appropriate for him to be concerned about the state of the US democracy, if foreign powers had such an easy time playing with the outcome of elections.  The intelligence report stated that it was the goal of the Russian hackers to denigrate Hillary Clinton and harm her electability and future presidency, but they got a lot more than they gambled for.  Not only did Donald Trump get elected, which put their puppet in the White House, but by insulting and alienating the US intelligence services he all but guaranteed that as president he’ll be flying deaf and blind, giving America’s enemies a free hand.
      Even after he had received a confidential briefing about the hacking, its perpetrators and its objectives, Trump continued to question and distort the information he had received.  He tweeted that the report showed that the outcome of the election had not been affected by the hacking and subsequent release of emails by Wikileaks, which the report explicitly stated had not been investigated, and he continued to express his affection for ‘V. Putin.’
     
It is a crucial question how much Trump knew about the hacking before the election.  Malcolm Nance, one of the best informed intelligence experts in the US, suggests that there is more here than the eye can see.  Trump’s tax returns have not yet been released, and probably never will, so we have no idea how much Russian money is circulating in the Trump organization.
     
It’s obvious that Trump is moving towards a complete re-set of US-Russia relations.  We don’t know why, and we don’t know how many US allies he is willing to throw under the bus.  We can only hope that relatively sane majorities in the House and the Senate will stop him.

 

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Trump and Putin


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

After last week’s events the question how close Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin really are almost forces itself upon us.  There are two extreme possibilities.  The first is that there is no existing relationship, but that Putin knows how to play Trump like a fiddle.  As a pathological narcissist, Trump is extremely receptive to flattery, because although he thinks of himself as a perfect human being, deep inside is a burning sense of uncertainty and self-doubt that can only be suppressed by screaming louder than everybody else, for instance that ‘he knows something other people don’t know’ about computer hacking, an issue he clearly knows nothing about.  Putin fills that bottomless pit of mental and emotional need with compliments meant to reinforce Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, automatically driving the president-elect into his corral, because other than family and people in his immediate environment who mostly are on his payroll nobody of importance in the US has anything nice to say about him.  Trump’s admiration is the price Putin extracts in return.

The second extreme possibility is that there are deep ideological and business ties that connect the two men and their respective entourages.  Trump’s first campaign manager worked for one of Putin’s puppets, his National Security Advisor freelanced for a Russian propaganda TV station, and his intended Secretary of State received the Russian Order of Friendship from Putin personally.  And although Trump has never released his tax returns there is evidence that a significant amount of Russian money circulates in the Trump organization, if only from real estate transactions with oligarchs.  Maybe even more importantly, this is a case of kleptocracies of the world uniting.  Putin and his cronies have already divvied up Mother Russia’s resources and deposited the fruits of their thievery in foreign investments, while the Trump family is all set to start using American foreign policy to bolster its interests around the world.  Trump’s inability to divest himself, in spite of repeated promises that usually resulted in cancelled press conferences, speaks volumes.

The truth is most likely a combination of these two possibilities, and the effect on Russia and the US of the Putin and Trump regimes will be similar but not identical.  In both cases the already existing social dichotomy between a small layer of ultra-rich and a large majority of have-nots will be amplified, with the caveat that in Russia the have-nots never had much, if anything, while in the US the middle- and working classes stand to lose hard-earned entitlements in social security, health care and education.

Trump’s friendliness towards Putin, immediately after US intelligence agencies established that Russia tried to affect the outcome of the election and Obama imposed punishment, puts him on a collision course with members of the GOP like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who made their lack of admiration for Putin clear on the Ukrainian-Russian border and will continue to do so at home.

Treason, the first constitutional ground for impeachment, is defined as ‘the crime of betraying one’s country.’ A president can probably not be impeached for his behavior as president-elect, but all the signs suggest that Trump will not only keep it up but double down after January 20th.

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Mr. Trump Goes to Town


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

As soon as Donald J. Trump has been inaugurated as Pussygrabber-in-Chief of the United States on January 20tha number of serious disagreements will emerge in Washington, DC.  The main conflicts will not be between Trump and the Democrats, who are temporarily too weak to challenge the President, but between Trump and Republicans.  In the relationship with the House of Representatives, Trump has veto power and the House  has the power to impeach him.  It is not hard to see that Speaker Ryan would rather deal with a President Pence than with the alternative.  Pence would be a good GOP trooper and follow the leader, which would allow Ryan to realize his life’s calling and dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while Trump has promised to not let these programs be touched, for what it’s worth.  But trying to impeach Trump while he’s still popular with the base would be political suicide, so Ryan has to wait until Trump starts losing support, even from the staunchest deplorables.  It is, however, not hard to see how that could happen in a relatively short period of time.
      Trump may be able to keep one of his promises, building a wall on the Mexican border, but there is no way he can keep his main promise, to bring back jobs to the ailing rust belt and other economically depressed areas.  Most of the jobs that have disappeared in the last 35 years have disappeared because of automation, not trade agreements, and won’t come back even if the latter are cancelled.  Additionally, jobs in fossil fuel industries won’t come back because energy from clean sources is rapidly becoming much cheaper.  And when Trump’s team of supply-siders starts picking up speed the US will look more and more like Kansas, with budget shortfalls, rollbacks to social services and a serious threat to public education.  The proposed combination of substantial tax cuts for the super-rich and investments in infrastructure will significantly raise the deficit, which will make neither the President nor the Speaker look very good.  And when Obamacare has been repealed without an acceptable alternative, as is the Republican intent at this point, the tar and feathers might come out.
      Most of the blame will go to Trump, but there has to be a ground for impeachment.  As per the US Constitution grounds for impeachment are treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.  That gives the House, the first theater of the impeachment process, a lot of leeway.  Treason may be out of reach, but because of the way Trump is structuring his business interests there will be plenty attempts to corrupt him and his family members.
      All of his life Trump has only cared about making money, and he has instilled the same attitude in his children.  It will be hard, if not impossible, for them to forgo easy profits, even when they realize that customers are doing them favors disproportionate to market conditions.  Only a miracle would prevent a kleptocracy from developing in the White House.
     
Meanwhile the Democrats will lean back and try to get their own crumbling house in order.  They may decide not to join GOP senators in an impeachment trial, but instead with a few Republican dissidents keep Trump in his job and the divisions in place, depending on how much danger the Trump presidency by that time represents.


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Can Trump Still Be Dumped?


(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, assuming that he’ll get at least 270 votes in the Electoral College this coming Monday.  Originally the Electoral College, established by the 12th Amendment of the US Constitution, was created because the Framers didn’t really trust the voters’ ability to choose a competent president, so instead of allowing a direct vote with a simple majority they built a buffer between the electorate and the presidency, a college of informed and responsible citizens who would ultimately select its next incumbent. Bluntly stated, the Electoral College was created to keep idiots, crooks and hucksters out of the White House, and as such it could perfectly serve its purpose on Monday, but that is not very likely to happen.  With the emergence of national political parties in the late 18th century, who developed more or less transparent processes to select candidates for the presidency and the vice-presidency, the college became obsolete, but it didn’t disappear.

The reason for its persistence was, as is so often the case with dysfunctional phenomena, America’s original sin, slavery.  The southern states, more than 60 years before the Civil War, feared that in a direct national election by free men they would be vastly outnumbered by the North, which at some point might very well result in a government intent on abolishing slavery.  So they struck a deal, of the kind that president-elect Trump might very well appreciate: the Electoral College was maintained, and southern states were allowed to add three fifths of their number of slaves to the electorate that determined their representation in the college.  As a result, Virginia became the strongest state, and for 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years a white slaveholder from Virginia occupied the presidency.  Without the Electoral College votes generated by the slaves this would never have been the case, and the obvious perversity of this arrangement was that slaves were not allowed to vote, or have any other civil rights for that matter.

Although the option of putting a lying huckster like Trump in the White House would be an appropriate reason to revive the original intention with which the Electoral College was created, the overwhelming odds are that Trump’s presidency will be confirmed.  So far only one elector from Texas, who is supposed to vote for Trump because Trump won his state, has indicated that his conscience prohibits him from doing so, and one is not enough.

Since both the CIA and the FBI have concluded that Russian hackers, with direct support from Putin, have tried to skew the election in Trump’s favor by only releasing emails from Democrats, an argument has been made that the Electoral College should take those facts into account, but even that last minute information won’t stop Trump’s election.

So Trump will have to be deposed of by traditional means, impeachment, and there will be plenty of reasons.  A brief selection: violations of the Constitution, corruption, nepotism, brownnosing Putin, encouraging an Israel-Iran war, starting dumb trade wars and letting the planet die.

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