Media (328)

 

Toxicity

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

After eleven mostly elderly Jews were massacred in a synagogue in Pittsburg Trump almost canceled a political rally because he had a ‘bad hair day,’ due to standing too close to Airforce One while answering questions from reporters.  Earlier the president had already blamed the victims for not having an armed guard in their temple, who would undoubtedly have prevented the shooting, ignoring the fact that four policemen were shot before the gunman, who was inspired by Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, could be taken down.  In the aftermath of the shooting Pittsburg’s authorities asked Trump politely not to come to their town before all the victims were buried, so that no resources would have to be taken away from providing security at the funerals.  Trump ignored the request and came anyway, with Melania, Ivanka and Jared in tow, but without Mitch McConnell, Chuck Shumer, Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, who were invited to join him but all had more urgent things to do.  After his unwanted visit Trump tweeted that Pittsburg had shown ‘his office’ a lot of respect, something the president had denied the city.

Now that he had properly taken care of healing the nation Trump could go back to dividing it, by announcing that he had sent 5,200 military personnel to the southern border to protect America against a ‘caravan’ of refugees from Honduras and Guatemala that is still at least four weeks away.  Trump called the caravan an ‘attack on our country,’ which was illustrated by Fox News contributors who informed the public that the refugees would bring smallpox and leprosy to the US.  Specialists pointed out, however, that smallpox has been eradicated in the 1980s, and noted that leprosy is the disease most mentioned in the bible, undoubtedly chosen to keep the Evangelicals in Trump’s corner.  With the 2,000 troops already on the border the military would have a stronger presence there than in Iraq and Syria combined, but because according to Trump – who touted himself as a good estimator of the size of masses – the caravan was bigger than reported and contained a lot of ‘very rough’ people, the Commander in Chief announced that in all 15,000 troops would be deployed at the border, more than the US forces in Afghanistan.

Trump’s fear mongering against immigrants – his final bid in the 2018 elections – is not working out very well for him, but he has nothing else.  He withdrew his announcement that there would be a 10% tax cut for the middle class, and replaced it with the statement that he would eliminate birthright citizenship by repealing the 14th Amendment per executive order, something even Paul Ryan understands the president cannot do.  Attempting to shut the Speaker up Trump tweeted that Ryan should focus on keeping a Republican majority in the House, making clear where future blame for a loss would go.

While Robert Mueller is working in even more silence than usual in the run-up to the elections, an infantile attempt was made by a right wing operative to smear the Special Counsel with sexual misconduct allegations.  Out of character Trump did not take the bait, not even once tweeting that ‘a lot of people’ believe this to be true, and that might have to do with a mysterious, sealed subpoena in the Mueller probe that may very well be for the president himself, and that his lawyers are possibly already challenging.

Abusing the White House for a campaign event Trump yesterday raised the toxicity level of his rhetoric by stating that if any stones would be thrown at US soldiers it would be considered gunfire, and the troops would have to shoot back.  In the reality the president is trying to distort US military personnel is not allowed to perform law enforcement duties by law,  let alone shoot at unarmed asylum seekers, which would be considered attempted murder.

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Resentment and Hatred

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In the final two weeks before the elections Trump is on a tear, with apparently two rallies per day scheduled until November 6th.  At those rallies his followers are treated to a buffet of red meat: A caravan of future illegal immigrants from Honduras is being sponsored by the Democrats and George Soros.  Hiding in the caravan are Middle Eastern terrorists, most likely allied with ISIS, as well as members of the MS13 gang.  The Democrats want to establish socialism in the US and raise taxes to give all illegal immigrants a car, preferably a Rolls Royce.  Californians are rioting against sanctuary cities.  Throw in some personal attacks on Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Maxine Waters and tirades against the fake news media, and you have a typical Trump speech.  But it’s not all doom and gloom in Trumpworld, the president also has very good news.  He announced a 10% tax cut for the middle class that could be enacted just before or just after the elections.  It’s unclear how that would work with Congress on recess and so far unable to even make the temporary tax cuts for the middle class in Trump’s 2017 tax bill permanent, but clearly only the most dishonest media would point that out.

Trump’s whirlwind of campaign events is motivated by fear.  If the Democrats win a majority in the House they can subpoena Trump’s tax returns, and although the president will probably tell the IRS to ignore the subpoena and force Democrats to file a lawsuit, as has always been his habit in business conflicts, this is a case he cannot win, not even with Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.  The tax returns will show the correlation between Trump’s financial interests and his political positions, and their release would be the most devastating thing that could happen to him short of impeachment.  The objective of the rallies is to fire up the base and distract voters from the issues they care the most about, like health care, about which not only Trump but every GOP candidate is lying.  Expressing as much resentment and creating as much hatred as possible is essential for Trump’s approach to succeed, en that’s why the explosive devices that were mailed to Democratic politicians, CNN, Brennan, Clapper, De Niro, Soros and Steyer came at such an inconvenient time for him.  The president’s supporters remain silent, but moderates call for civility and toning down the rhetoric.

And that is what Trump is not only unwilling, but also unable to do.  At his first rally after the bomb scare became known he spoke of ‘despicable acts’ and urged Americans to come together, but subsequently he blamed the climate in which domestic terrorism can flourish on Democrats and the media.  That time he did not mention names, but soon he started joking about his ‘nice’ presentation, making clear that he was following advice from staffers he did not agree with.  Any hope that the president will show restraint in future appearances will start fleeting as soon as he opens his mouth.

Just as two-faced as Trump is about his campaign rhetoric he is about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  He speaks of a gruesome act and the worst cover-up ever, but simultaneously he indicates that there will be no serious repercussions for the Saudi regime, because they will spend $110 billion on US weaponry, which by the way is also a lie.  Jared Kushner was more honest, when he said in an interview that the US would first get all the facts and then ‘decide what we want to believe.’

On one occasion Trump spoke the truth, when he called himself a nationalist in a campaign speech, although he forgot to add ‘white.’  The president is probably not aware of the difference between patriotism and nationalism, namely that a patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and a nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does.  In a juxtaposition of responsibility and arrogance Trump chooses the latter.

 

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A Thorough Investigation

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In the run-up to the November elections Trump is all over the media.  It started Sunday night with a 60 Minutes interview where the president mixed his most absurd opinions, for instance on climate change, with his most pompous attitudes, for instance towards Defense Secretary Mattis.  About climate change Trump said ‘we know something is happening but we don’t know what it is,’ sounding like a Bob Dylan song and ignoring the opinion of 99% of all scientists researching the issue.  When reminded of the fact that General Mattis once explained to him that NATO was created to prevent World War III Trump responded that he understands NATO better than the four star ex-marine, who served 44 years in the military, but that he gets along well with Mattis, in spite of the fact that the general is ‘kind of a Democrat.’  This sounded like the kiss of death, but when asked if Mattis would soon leave the administration Trump said Mattis had not told him that, but that ‘everybody leaves sooner or later.’  The general issued a statement that he has no plans to leave his post and that since the military is apolitical he has never had a party affiliation.  Rumor has it that Tom Cotton is next in line to succeed Mattis, and since he is probaby the most hawkish senator that would make the world a lot more unsafe.

Throughout the week Trump had to answer questions about the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.  His first reaction was the observation that Khashoggi was not a US citizen, and that both the Saudi King and the Crown Prince ‘very strongly’ denied any involvement, echoing his statement in Helsinki that Putin was very strong in denying Russian interference in the 2016 elections.  As more details about the murder were released by the Turkish authorities the president sent Secretary of State Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to meet with the King and the Crown Prince and find what’s called a ‘mutually agreeable solution,’ meanwhile piloting the theory that ‘rogue killers’ had committed the murder, which would absolve the Saudi Royals.  Even the Saudis realized that Trump’s balloon would not fly, and floated the alternative theory that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation gone wrong.  Since the interrogation was apparently conducted with a bone saw this theory has some validity, and to have ‘plausible deniability’ the Saudis appear to have found a patsy, a general who is close to the Crown Prince and now probably already in jail waiting to be beheaded, because royal loyalty only goes so far.

While Pompeo was yakking it up with the Crown Prince and was all smiles in photos of their meetings, Trump compared the situation with Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, because Kavanaugh also had been considered ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ just like the Crown Prince, and was ‘proven innocent’ by the fake FBI investigation.  Following the same pattern Pompeo gave the Saudis a few more days to conduct a ‘thorough investigation’ and didn’t want to talk about the known facts in the case.  Meanwhile Trump emphasized that the Saudis buy a lot of stuff in the US, mentioning the arms industry but not his own significant business dealings with the kingdom.

When the news broke that Michael Cohen is meeting frequently with Robert Mueller and with the Southern District Trump showed that he is terrified of what his former fixer can tell the prosecutors.  In spite of the fact that there is an audio recording the president stated that Cohen lied when he said that Trump had instructed him to break the law, and called Cohen a ‘low level PR person’ who barely did any legal work for him.  Fortunately there is a video tape of Trump’s reaction to the FBI search of Cohen’s office and residences, showing the president very angry and calling the search ‘an attack on our country, frankly.’

Campaigning in red and tossup states Trump makes the elections all about him, with the caveat that if Republican candidates win it is to his credit, but if Republicans lose the House it is not his fault.  The president thinks that illegal immigration is his winning topic.  Continuing his long tradition of insulting women because of their looks he called Stormy Daniels a ‘horseface,’ not realizing that the joke is on him because apparently he didn’t notice how ugly she was when he fucked her.  In a response she called him ‘tiny,’ so that game is on.


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Mob Rule

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The week started with a shamelessly partisan White House ceremony where for the second time Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as Supreme Court Justice and Trump declared that the judge had been ‘proven innocent’ by the scam investigation that had been micro-managed by Don McGahn, Kavanaugh’s biggest fan.  To give the event an air of neutrality the whole Supreme Court had been summoned to appear, which meant that Ruth Bader-Ginsberg had to be woken up from her power nap and that Clarence Thomas had to be pulled out of his porn collection.  At a rally the next day Trump tried to fire up the troops with faked indignation about the actions of Democratic senators and protesters at the Capitol, claiming that the Democrats would bring ‘mob rule’ to Washington if they win one or both chambers of Congress.   Encouraged by a closing motivation gap and a boost in the polls the Republican strategy is to keep their base disgruntled about the Kavanaugh confirmation process until the elections, which may be hard to do because Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed, and even in the Trump-era it’s difficult if not impossible to keep the side that won upset about its victory.

In the middle of the week DC was surprised by the announcement that Nikki Haley had submitted her resignation as US Ambassador to the United Nations and would leave her office by the end of the year.  At a joint press event Trump was all smiles, saying that he had known about the ambassador’s plans for a while, and Haley promised not to primary Trump in 2020, but there was ample speculation about a rift between her, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo that might have brought about her decision to resign.  Timing is everything, and if the GOP gets clobbered in the upcoming elections Haley can point at the date of her resignation letter, absolve herself from any culpability, and still be a formidable candidate for any office in 2024.  Trump displayed his reality show superficiality by praising Haley for making her job ‘glamorous,’ and she did him one better by heaping praise on Jared Kushner, even calling him a ‘hidden genius,’ which could have been tongue in cheek because Kushner’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is still in hiding.  Apparently Kushner is waiting for his friend, Crown Prince Muhamed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, to endorse the plan before he releases it.

Since Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where the president was a sucker for the cunning adoration bestowed upon him, Kushner and the Crown Prince have been thick as thieves, but their relationship will be tested by the disappearance and probable murder of Washington Post columnist and Saudi regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, apparently at Muhamed’s orders.  Of course one more murdered journalist doesn’t count if you’re friends with Putin and in love with Kim Jong-un, so Trump’s declaration that the US wants to get to the bottom of it deserves a grain of salt.  Since the Saudis are among the best customers of Trump properties and US weapons manufacturers sanctions are unlikely.

Trump’s total disregard for his presidential duties was on display when hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle on Wednesday.  Instead of being on the phone all day with governors, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the FEMA Director, as previous presidents have done in similar situations, Trump attended a campaign rally, ‘because he didn’t want to disappoint the people who showed up.’  Catering to the same audience he had USA Today publish an Op-Ed of which every sentence contained at least one lie, most notably the statement that ‘Medicare for All’ would destroy Medicare for seniors.

The president could have gotten into a celebrity pissing contest with Taylor Swift, who urged her Instagram followers to register to vote and support the Democratic candidate for the US Senate in Tennessee.   But Taylor Swift has twice as many Instagram followers as Trump has followers on Twitter, so he only declared that he now likes her 25% less.  Trump could gripe about it with Swift’s old nemesis, Superman Kanye West, who was clearly off his medication when he came to the White House to discuss prison reform.


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Here Comes the Judge

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The week started with in retrospect almost routine issues.  In the days after Trump fired James Comey at his recommendation Rod Rosenstein apparently had seller’s remorse and discussed secretly taping the president and the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment with some of his colleagues.  Last week the New York Times reported on those conversations, and the expectation was that the Deputy AG would resign or that Trump would fire him, in spite of Rosenstein’s statement that it had just been his wry sense of humor in action.  Trump could not immediately discuss the matter with Rosenstein because he was in New York to address the General Assembly of the United Nations on Tuesday morning.  With one of the most bizarre speeches ever delivered by an American president from that podium Trump got the whole world laughing when he boasted about the accomplishments of his administration.  Slightly surprised the president eventually started laughing too, as if deep down inside he realizes what a bullshit artist he is.  It gave him the opportunity to declare at a press conference later in the day that the UN delegates had not been laughing at him but with him, and that the whole incident had been a sign that America is respected by the rest of the world again. 

A meeting of Trump with Rosenstein was scheduled for Thursday, but it had to wait because that day the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh about Dr. Ford’s accusation that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her as a teenager, and Trump wanted to watch.  First Dr. Ford shared that painful experience and the damage it had done to her with the committee in an emotional, dignified and compelling way, and then it was Kavanaugh’s turn.  The judge came out of the gate swinging.  Screaming and crying he declared his innocence and accused the Democrats of being on a ‘search and destroy’ mission, in an attempt to avenge Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election.  It soon became clear that Kavanaugh was performing for an audience of one, the president who had nominated him for the Supreme Court, but even Fox News estimated that Trump would not be pleased, because although he likes denials and fighting back the president is not a big fan of crybabies.   Eventually though the solidarity between two sexual assaulters was stronger than Trump’s disdain for weakness, and he expressed his appreciation for Kavanaugh’s failed attempt to present himself as a mini-Trump, promising him his continued support. 

In spite of many unanswered questions and Kavanaugh’s stubborn rejection of invitations to ask the White House for a further investigation of the allegations against him - as an innocent man would have done - Republicans were planning to plow ahead.  Chairman Grassley scheduled a committee vote on Friday morning and Mitch McConnell wanted to have a floor vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation in the senate next Tuesday.   And then Jeff Flake threw a wrench into the Majority Leader’s machine.  Before the committee vote he asked for a one week delay of a floor vote to allow the FBI to re-open its background investigation into Kavanaugh, suggesting that otherwise the judge would not get his vote.

Because it soon became clear that without granting Flake’s request there would not be enough votes to get Kavanaugh confirmed McConnell caved, and the Republicans asked the White House to direct the FBI accordingly.  A continued investigation could sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, because the judge has refused to answer many critical questions, which will now be asked by FBI agents who won’t accept his refusals.  Most importantly, the FBI will question Mark Judge, per Dr. Ford’s testimony the only witness of the assault on her but possibly also Kavanaugh’s partner in other debaucheries.

Worried about the possible outcomes of a complete investigation the White House has restricted the FBI probe to only two accusations of sexual misconduct, and allows only a limited number of witnesses to be questioned.  This way the investigation will be a cover up rather than a search for the truth, and it’s up to Flake and other senators to make sure they’re not being bamboozled. Meanwhile Rod Rosenstein has to wait until next week, or maybe Trump has forgotten about him altogether, because the hearings made for fascinating television and that’s what the president lives for.

 

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