Media (287)

 

It’s Miller Time

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Mr. Trump came back to town and addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations.  His speech had all the gloomy hallmarks of a Stephen Miller production, although apparently Steve Bannon also contributed a few sentences from a distance.  Miller, who is existentially hostile to everything good and respectable, is the White House favorite of the Alt Right, and he could be the reincarnation of Roy Cohn, one of Trump’s mentors, were it not for the fact that he was born a year before Cohn died.  Highlight of the speech was the threat to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea, which caused a significant amount of gasping in the assembly, not in the least because it was a deeply offensive insult to a body that was created to keep the peace among nations.  And after her husband embarrassed himself for the whole world to see and hear Melania almost did him one better in a smaller and less public setting, by talking about her campaign against bullying and pleading for better protecting children against violence on the Internet, three days after the president re-tweeted a video that showed him knocking down Hillary Clinton with a golf shot.

In the meantime Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation is picking up speed.  He requested all documents from the White House that are related to FBI Director Comey’s firing, an indication that he’s looking for proof of obstruction of justice by Trump, while simultaneously increasing the pressure on Paul Manafort, who has already been informed by Mueller’s agents that he will be indicted.  In the context of collusion by the Trump campaign with the Kremlin the question is becoming more prominent why Manafort, who is well connected with Russian oligarchs close to Putin, temporarily assumed the leadership of the campaign at a crucial point in time.  Apparently Manafort, who was not getting paid by Trump but is always trying to make a buck, tried to peddle information about the campaign to at least one oligarch, but that cannot have been the only motive for the role he played, and Mueller might want to know if maybe other sponsors rewarded him for his efforts to guide Trump to victory.  The investigation appears to already have uncovered sufficient fraudulent behavior by Manafort to put pressure on him to start ‘singing.’

While Kim Jong-un and Mueller keep Trump awake at night, in Washington the GOP is making one last effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.  The Graham/Cassidy bill is meaner than all previous attempts, and prominent Republicans as well as Donald Trump are lying about it more blatantly than ever before, in particular when they deny the fact that coverage for pre-existing conditions would no longer be guaranteed.  The bill, however, was already on life support, and it is now on its deathbed.

Senate Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two votes, and Rand Paul and Susan Collins were all but guaranteed to vote against the bill, but this afternoon John McCain, who torpedoed the previous attempt, also declared that he cannot vote for the bill, in spite of his friendship with Graham.  It makes ongoing attempts to bribe Lisa Murkowski with a special arrangement for Alaska futile.

If it wasn’t for the suffering and pain it would cause you would almost want the bill to pass, because Republicans would pay a very high price for its implementation, but eventually this is a desk-murderer’s design that didn’t deserve to see the light of day, let alone become the law of the land.

 

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Screwballs

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

As Major League Baseball is gearing up for the post-season, Donald Trump is throwing screwballs both at Republicans and at Democrats, so that nobody knows which team he’s on anymore.  Initially Trump benefitted from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which gave him a chance to temporarily almost normalize his presidency by doing the usual compassionate things, such as touring the disaster areas, meeting with victims and handing out food supplies.  Unfortunately for him his vocal cords don’t have a register for empathy, so that every speech sounds like a political attack on someone, and on one occasion Trump – in the company of Senator Rubio – took off the plastic gloves he was wearing because they were ‘too small for his hands,’ but all in all he looked more or less presidential in his windbreaker, with Melania on his side and Pence always one step behind him.  Then, apparently inspired by his new role as national healer and aware that a large majority of the electorate wants Washington to find a solution that would keep the ‘Dreamers’ in the US, Trump took the next step and invited ‘Chuck and Nancy’ for dinner.

Over Peking Duck the president made the deal that he would push for a solution for the DACA population, in exchange for increased border security but without demanding that the Democrats support funding for ‘The Wall.’  When Chuck and Nancy made the agreement public Trump initially got scared from critical reactions on the ultra-right side of US politics, where it was seen as a fundamental betrayal of his campaign promises, and denied that he had agreed to anything, but eventually he conceded that the Dreamers would be allowed to stay in the US and that ‘the wall would come later.’ It earned him the nickname ‘Amnesty Don’ on Breitbart and Ann Coulter’s call for his impeachment, while his ‘wing man,’ Steve Bannon, remained remarkably silent. Trump’s erratic moves of the last two weeks suggest that nothing drives him more than the need for public acclaim, and as New York Times reporter Nick Confessore observed, raise the question whether ‘Trumpism’ is a political program or a personality cult.  NBC’s Katy Tur disclosed in a new book that most Trump supporters ‘trust his judgment,’ even when he betrays them, which would suggest the latter, even though some of them now burn their MAGA hats.

But while Trump basks in the glow of bi-partisanship the Mueller investigation keeps feeding his dark side.  A slew of campaign documents have been requested from the White House, while six staffers are lawyering up because Mueller wants to interview them.  The never ending stream of leaks contained the information that Trump’s personal lawyers had advised him to remove Jared Kushner from his staff because he made him too vulnerable, an advice he obviously ignored.

From the same sources came the news that in May Trump had publicly called Jeff Sessions an ‘idiot,’ because he had recused himself from the Mueller investigation, and demanded his resignation, which ultimately he only didn’t accept because Bannon and Reince Priebus feared that it would be seen as yet another attempt at obstruction of justice, after the firing of James Comey.

In his ’60 Minutes’ interview Bannon called Comey’s firing the biggest mistake in modern political history, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders is doubling down on it by demanding that Comey be investigated for leaking, which can easily be seen as witness intimidation by the White House.

 
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Trump’s Third Divorce

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This week Donald Trump performed the mother of all flip-flops.  On Monday he was still operating on the right wing of the GOP, and today nobody knows exactly where his political point of gravity is, but he definitely seems to be chummier with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ than with Mitch and Paul.  The week started with the usual illogical rhetoric and empty threats.  At a time when South Korea is the prime target of North Korea’s nuclear adventurism Trump threatened the country with a trade war, and subsequently he declared that the US would stop trading with all countries that also do business with North Korea.  The latter message appeared to be primarily targeted at China, where Trump produces his oversized neckties and Ivanka her plagiarized shoes, so for that reason alone it was not to be believed and childish, even apart from the fact that the US economy would suffer immensely if Trump would try to follow through.  Having thus created enough confusion for a whole week in one day Trump had a photo-op in Texas, where he put a box in a pickup truck to show solidarity with Harvey’s victims.

DACA was up next.  Trump sent out Jeff Sessions to announce the end of the program, with a six months window for Congress to find a solution for the undocumented young Americans who would be deported to countries where they have never lived.  Apparently alarmed by the almost universal disapproval of his decision Trump tweeted that if Congress could not come up with a solution he would revisit the issue, thus signaling that he had produced another empty threat, albeit one that threw 800,000 lives in disarray.  By that time Trump probably already had some doubts about the GOP agenda, so when he met with Chuck, Nancy, Mitch and Paul to discuss the debt ceiling, funding the government and hurricane relief money the self-proclaimed master deal-maker immediately accepted a proposal from the Democrats for a temporary, three months solution, setting up a brutal year-end fiscal cliff.  The president not only shocked Mitch and Paul, but also his Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who was in the middle of a sentence criticizing Chuck and Nancy’s proposal when Trump overruled him.

Many explanations for Trump’s unexpected ‘deal’ with Chuck and Nancy are circulating.  One is that he wanted to spite Mitch and Paul, who haven’t given him any ‘wins’ yet, another that he didn’t want a fight over budget issues that could derail his plan to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and a third that he realizes closing down the government in the context of such a fight is not an option at a time when hurricane relief is an absolute priority.  It’s also possible that he’s just lazy.

Certain is that Trump was delighted with the positive coverage the deal received, but his happiness was short lived.  Interrogated by staffers of the Senate Judiciary Committee Don Trump Jr. yesterday tried to lie his way out of the accusation of collusion with the Russians, as he came up with a fifth explanation for the meeting that took place in Trump Tower on June 9th, 2016.

Incriminating himself, Jr. said that he took the meeting, after a promise that he would receive ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton that he should summarily have reported to the FBI, to assess her ‘fitness’ for the presidency.  Unless his father pardons him he’s looking at five years in a federal penitentiary.

 

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There is no escaping Trump

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

If I had hoped that spending a week in the old country would give me a chance to get away from Trump I was wrong.  The only two more or less interesting TV channels available in my hotel were CNN and RT, where it was all Trump all the time, and friends and family members wanted to know how crazy and dangerous Trump really is.  Trump himself answered that question with his pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a genuine American fascist if ever there was one.  Already during the campaign Trump took a liking to the man he affectionately calls ‘Sheriff Joe,’ and the pardon goes beyond throwing red meat at his base but is basically a retroactive endorsement of the cruel and racist practices Arpaio championed in Maricopa County.  The fact that another fascist, Sebastian Gorka, one of Steve Bannon’s protégés, almost simultaneously left the White House doesn’t balance out the pardon, even though Trump may have thought it would.  Contrarily, it illustrates how many nut-jobs Trump kept in his entourage until Chief of Staff John Kelly started cleaning house.

Hurricane Harvey gave Trump a chance to flaunt his megalomaniacal side.  Mirroring everything else in Trump’s world, it was the ‘greatest’ challenge ever faced by a president, the storm was ‘historic’ and the rescue efforts were ‘epic.’  In spite of his bombastic rhetoric, however, Trump failed miserably in showing the leadership and empathy that is expected from a president in a national crisis.  During his first visit to Texas he did not meet with victims and didn’t even get close to the flood zone, so that today he had to go back for a do-over.  To make things worse, an official press release about Harvey from the White House contained a link to the website where ‘USA’ hats like the one Trump was wearing in Texas can be purchased.  There was no mention of the proceeds going to victims, so it has to be assumed that they’ll go straight into Trump’s pockets.  Probably inspired by Sheriff Joe’s cruelty Trump also put his decision that transgenders can no longer serve in the armed forces in writing, only to hear from Defense Secretary Mattis that he’d consider its implementation.

In the meantime Robert Mueller’s web is closing around Trump.  The Special Counsel has involved the criminal investigations unit of the IRS in his review of Trump’s finances and possible money laundering by the Trump organization.  Mueller is also working with the Attorney General of New York State to potentially indict Paul Manafort on state charges, for which he cannot be pardoned and which might turn him into a cooperating witness.

And while Trump’s lawyers, now fully engaged in cloaking the truth, are telling Mueller that the president can fire whomever he wants, and are smearing James Comey as an unreliable witness, a letter has surfaced that Trump had wanted to send to Comey explaining his firing.  It puts in writing what Trump has already told Lester Holt on NBC News: that he fired Comey to stop the Russia probe.

Collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice, fraud and money laundering are still the potential reasons why Trump’s presidency might be short-lived, with the latter two becoming more prominent. The fact that Trump recently cursed out Kelly shows that he’s getting very nervous.


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A Narcissistic Racist

(Door Hugo kijne te Hoboken USA)

At a Ku Klux Klan rally in May 1927 in Queens Fred Trump, then 21 years old, was arrested.  Although he was not charged and it is not clear if he was a clan member, he was definitely a sympathizer.  By all accounts Fred Trump had major influence on his son Donald, who has often called his father his role model.  In 1973 father and son Trump had to settle a lawsuit because they refused to rent apartments to black tenants, whose applications were marked with a C for ‘colored’ and summarily denied.  In 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park.  Donald Trump led the charge against them and took out a full-page advertisement demanding that they be given the death penalty.  After the miscarriage of justice had been exposed and the ‘Central Park Five’ were exonerated and received repairs, Trump was overheard saying: “Now they are rich rapists.” The ‘birtherism’ movement Trump started was a shameful attempt to delegitimize the first black US President, and Trump’s only real agenda is to erase each of Barack Obama’s accomplishments.

There can be no doubt that by upbringing and shown public behavior, which includes calling Mexicans ‘rapists,’ attacking an American judge for his Mexican heritage, and urging his followers to ‘rough up’ Black Lives Matter activists, Trump is a racist.  It explains his first comments about the events in Charlottesville, when he refused to blame the fascists who initiated the riot and stated that there were many culprits, left and right.  Two days later he was forced to change his position and condemn the ‘alt-right,’ but he did that with the spontaneity and conviction of a hostage video.  For a pathological narcissist like Trump even the appearance of having made a mistake and corrected himself was unbearable, so the next day he reversed course again, doubling down on his first statement and declaring that there were also ‘fine people’ among the Nazis, maybe thinking of his father.  And although racism and narcissism are the primary sources of Trump’s behavior, his Chief Strategist Steve Bannon added a strategic component:  It’s what a large part of the Republican base wants to see and hear.

In the total chaos that followed his first and third statements Trump went farther off the rails by comparing Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, conveniently disregarding that the latter built a nation and the former betrayed it.  Steve Bannon in the meantime undermined the president’s rhetoric towards North Korea by saying in a spontaneous interview with a left leaning journal that the US has no military options.

Although this was one of the few occasions when Bannon spoke the truth, today he lost his job as Chief Strategist.  So far Trump has been fearful of what Bannon can do to him from outside of the White House, but the conflicts and confusion the former Breitbart CEO so enjoyed caused paralysis in the executive branch, and Chief of Staff John Kelly apparently decided that enough was enough.

Taking one rat off the ship doesn’t make it stop sinking.  Business leaders have turned their backs on Trump and Senator Corker has questioned Trump’s ‘stability and competence,’ which comes close to 25th Amendment language.  On top of that, without Steve Bannon Trump may lose his base.

 
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