Media (337)

 

Darkest Hour

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

If Donald Trump were to lose the 2020 presidential election he’d probably become suicidal, because his personality doesn’t tolerate losing.  Therefore, for his own protection after having made the midterms all about himself, Trump blamed the Republican losses on Paul Ryan, and even made fun of GOP House members who lost their seats.  But those were only the early signs of the president’s meltdown.  During his short trip to France to commemorate the WWI armistice Trump didn’t show up at a cemetery where 1800 US marines are buried, because he was worried that the rain would mess up his hair, and later separated himself from other world leaders by showing up late for events, followed by Putin, who arrived even later and was greeted warmly only by Trump.  At one of those events French President Macron gave his audience a tutorial on the difference between patriotism and nationalism, clearly meant to criticize Trump.  Continuing his verbal war on Europe that started with his presidency Trump responded in tweets by referring to Macron’s unpopularity at home and perfidiously reminding the Europeans that Germany had started two wars.  In a phone call on his flight back he blasted Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May over Brexit.

Trump’s disrespecting the military didn’t end in France.  Back in the White House he decided to break with tradition and not to go to Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day.  Meanwhile the now over 7,000 troops he sent to the border as political props to stop the ‘caravan’ of asylum seekers – in Trump’s mind future illegal immigrants – that was at the heart of his election strategy were setting up barbed wire for an invasion that will never come, living in tents in the dry desert, eating army grub and not even having power to charge their mobile phones.   Asked by the soldiers what their mission is Defense Secretary Mattis, who unlike Trump was visiting the border, said ‘that is still somewhat to be decided.’  And next to losing the House and the bad press he got in France the Russia probe is on Trump’s mind.  This week his lawyers had him review written answers to Robert Mueller’s questions, which are most likely a prelude to a subpoena, and it’s freaking Trump out to the point where he lashes out at Mueller harder than ever before.  The questions must give away some of what Mueller has in store for him, as well as for Don Jr. and for associates like Roger Stone, and it cannot be pretty.

It is still unclear if acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will be able to protect Trump.  Less than four years ago he was selling hot tub designs for a company that is still under criminal investigation by the FBI, of which, ironically, the director now reports to Whitaker.  The Justice Department put out a statement that Whitaker’s appointment is constitutional, but prominent lawyers, even a group within the conservative Federalist Society headed by Kellyanne Conway’s husband, disagree.  The State of Maryland has filed a lawsuit challenging the appointment so this matter will be resolved in the courts.

With regards to the vote recount in Florida Trump suggested to ‘go with the election day results,’ which would disenfranchise all mail-in voters, many of them in the military, who have until November 16 to cast their vote.  Fantasizing about how voter fraud takes place the president declared that ‘voters go to their car, put on a hat and a different shirt, and go vote again,’ and, more mysteriously, ‘if you buy a box of cereal you have a voter ID.’  So far no voter fraud of any significance has been found in Florida or anywhere else.

In Trump’s messy White House rumors about the upcoming firing of Chief of Staff Kelly are routine, but Melania created a novelty by demanding that John Bolton’s female deputy would be removed from the West Wing, and got her wish.   Someone else who got his wish was Jim Acosta, whose White House credential had to be restored by order of a judge on procedural grounds, after even Fox News supported CNN in the lawsuit it filed for Acosta.


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Running Scared

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The morning after the elections that gave Democrats the biggest gains in the House since Watergate Trump declared at a press conference that the result was ‘a very close to complete victory’ for him, and subsequently did everything he could to distract the attention from his formidable success.  The presser was open, meaning that more reporters than just those belonging to the White House press corps could attend, and the president was ready to pick a fight with every one of them.  For that purpose he selected CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who is famous for getting into arguments with Sarah Sanders, and told him to shut up after a couple of questions.  Subsequently a female Press Office intern failed to take the mike away from Acosta, who was later accused of having been physically abusive towards the young woman and had his credentials revoked.  Although video images immediately showed Acosta’s restraint when he was touched by the intern, the White House later posted a doctored video, produced by InfoWars, that suggested the opposite.  After the incident and now in full WWE mood Trump accused PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, a woman of color, of asking him a ‘racist’ question, when she wanted to know if his embrace of nationalism might embolden white nationalists.

Following his brutal press conference the president distracted the attention even more by firing Jeff Sessions and relieving Rod Rosenstein of his supervision of the Mueller probe, trying to ensure that the Democratic victory in the elections would not even make the front pages.  At that point is was clear that the president was frightened of what Mueller might have in store for him and his oldest children, and that he would somehow try to end the investigation before the Democrats take control of the House.  Under normal circumstances Rosenstein would have become acting Attorney General until a permanent replacement of Sessions had been appointed and confirmed, but in a surprise move Trump appointed Sessions’s Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker in that position.  The appointment is probably illegal, because Whitaker, an extreme Trump loyalist, has not been confirmed by the senate, and since the acting AG has already publicly stated that there was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign in the 2016 elections he is not only unfit to supervise the Mueller probe – and should recuse himself by Department of Justice standards – but also can be expected to obstruct it in any way possible.

Since Mueller is investigating collusion and obstruction of justice, and Whitaker’s appointment qualifies as the latter, a scenario might unfold in which the Special Counsel has to investigate his new boss, and as much as Trump may hope to thwart the probe in the future, he cannot undo what Mueller already has done.  Come January House Democrats can subpoena all of the Special Counsel’s records, and they have already threatened to have a nationally televised hearing with Mueller in case Trump fires him.  By that time Whitaker, confirmed or not, can also be subpoenaed and asked questions about promises he may have made to the president about ending the probe.

Next to his stated opinion about Russian interference, in a CNN Op-Ed from last year Whitaker wrote that Mueller was coming ‘dangerously close to crossing a red line’ if he was looking into Trump’s finances.  In the same vein Trump started the morning after the elections with a conversation with Nancy Pelosi, and announced that they could engage in a ‘beautiful collaboration’ unless the House would investigate him, in which case he would assume a ‘warlike stance.’  Pelosi probably did not shiver when she heard that threat, and the chance that Trump would not be investigated by the House is nil.

The big question is now: what is Mueller going to do?  There are strong rumors that he started writing his final report, and there is an abundance of speculation that sealed indictments, for instance for Don Trump Jr. and Roger Stone, are already in place.  Meanwhile, the prospects for Republicans in the 2020 elections are terrible.  Trump’s electorate of angry white men will shrink and die off, while the Democratic electorate grows.   We might see not Trump but Mike Pence running for president, and losing.

 

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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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