Media (421)

 

Trump Interrupted

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

It was too early for an October surprise, but a surprise it was.  Yesterday the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report about its investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.  The conclusions of the report go beyond what Robert Mueller found earlier:  there was intensive collusion between the campaign and Russians, of which at least one was connected to his country’s security services; Trump had welcomed the Russian interference in the election; his campaign manager had regularly provided the Russians with campaign data, and on at least one occasion the president had committed perjury answering Mueller’s written questions.  The committee characterized the collusion as ‘a grave counter-intelligence threat.’  The report came as a blow to Trump, who had been planning a further roll-out of the ‘Obamagate’ narrative by Bill Barr, arguing that Obama and Biden had illegally spied on his campaign while there was no reason to suspect that anything fishy was going on.  The president even said that he should get a third term because of what had happened to his first campaign.

Potentially an even bigger blow was the reversal of changes at the postal service that would have made voting by mail difficult or even impossible.  On Fox News Trump spoke the quiet part out loud, stating that if the Democrats don’t make a deal on his very limited corona relief package they won’t get money for the USPS, and without that money they cannot have universal mail-in voting.  Without evidence the president keeps claiming that mail-in voting will lead to massive fraud, even saying that in California ‘they send ballots to everybody and their dogs, even dead people.’ But his Postmaster General, who milked the postal service for millions via one of his companies before he started destroying it, was forced – by threatening legal action by state AGs and congressional Democrats – to issue a statement that all changes would be delayed until after the elections.  Even Trump suddenly tweeted ‘SAFE THE POST OFFICE,’ probably after he was told that the USPS is twice as popular as he is, but it is still unclear if the changes that have already been made, the removal of mailboxes and high-speed sorting machines, will be undone.

Even if the postal service is restored to full capacity in time for the elections there may be major damage, because by constantly sowing doubt about voting by mail Trump could have made numerous voters decide that to even try to vote isn’t worth it, while it also gives him an ‘argument’ to challenge the result of the election if he loses, and possibly even to demand that all votes that have not been counted on election day be discarded.  It goes to show that the president knows that at this point he’s losing and will do everything to stay in power, just like the autocrats he admires.

After launching a new racist ‘birther’ campaign, this time against Kamala Harris, Trump issued some strong opinions on cities with Democratic majorities.  About New York City, which has strict gun laws, he said ‘if you take their guns away they’ll sue you,’ earning him the endorsement of Pat Lynch, the head of the largest police union.  More in general the president said ‘let Democrat cities die,’ but about Wisconsin, where he badly trails Biden, he said ‘every lawn has a Trump sign.’

Trump visited his brother, Robert, in the hospital for less than an hour on the day before Robert died, and then went golfing.  Speaking about his brother the president as usually made it all about himself, saying that Robert had been ‘very happy’ with his presidency and was very angry with China.  Trump expected to meet his brother again, but it is of course possible that Robert doesn’t end up in hell.


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Trump’s Worst Nightmare

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Donald Trump doesn’t sleep a lot, and it won’t get any better soon.  The president is a racist and a misogynist, so Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris, a black woman, as his VP candidate is about the worst thing that could have happened to him.  Harris’s race and gender are sufficient to launch Trump into the curtains of the Oval Office, let alone her political and legal skills and electrifying laugh.  In the Vice Presidential debate she’ll send Mike Pence crying to the wife he calls ‘mother,’ and on the campaign trail she’ll be a formidable asset.  Trump undoubtedly considers it ‘unfair’ that Biden did this to him, after he had just shown such gracious generosity to the American people.  First he signed an executive order that pre-existing conditions have to be covered by health insurance plans.  Nasty slanderers call that an empty gesture, because those conditions are already covered by Obamacare, which Trump is trying to get invalidated by the courts, but the president argues that even if the ACA is overturned pre-existing conditions  will still be covered, just not for the 25 million Americans who will lose their coverage altogether.

Next, the president signed four executive orders at his country club in New Jersey, surrounded by members who mostly didn’t wear masks and didn’t care about social distancing, violating the directives of NJ’s governor but just how Trump likes it.   The orders, some of which are really just suggestions, pertain to halting evictions and deferring student loan payments, and extending unemployment benefits by $400/week as well as deferring payroll taxes.  The latter two are the most controversial because the president expects the states to contribute $100 of the $400, money the states simply don’t have, and taxation is a responsibility of Congress, not of the executive branch.  Moreover, payroll taxes fund Social Security, so any cuts in these taxes threaten a program most Americans rely on, now and in the future.  On the corona front Trump has given up on protecting the American people.  He would rather not talk about the pandemic, but when asked he says that the US is doing great, much better than the world, and that it will all go away, while Americans are still getting sick in record numbers and testing becomes a bigger mess every day.

It’s fairly obvious that Trump sees a vaccine as his only way out of this predicament, and therefore he keeps announcing that a safe and effective vaccine might be available on or just before Election Day, no matter how unlikely that is.  And nobody would be surprised if the president would take a shortcut and start touting his BFF Putin’s vaccine, of which the safety and effectiveness has not been demonstrated in any way.  Peter Navarro may already be negotiating the purchase of millions of doses that will probably end up next to his hydroxychloroquine collection.

In his attempt to sabotage the upcoming elections Trump’s Postmaster General, after creating a mess by ‘re-aligning’ USPS management and changing delivery procedures, is now trying to inflate costs by raising the postage on mail-in votes by 300%, something the states cannot afford.  With a pandemic raging in the country Trump will force people to either risk their life or lose their vote, and even pro-Trump Republicans realize that it affects his voters as well as Biden’s.

As always the president was good for a few laughs this week.  First it came out that he inquired with the governor of South Dakota if and how he could get his countenance added to Mount Rushmore, and then he stated that the Spanish Flu pandemic, which lasted from 1918 to 1920, ended WW II in 1945.  Only when it comes to gaffes can Trump compete successfully with Joe Biden and come out a winner.


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The Empty Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Some pundits speculate that Trump is issuing ever more absurd statements to distract the US population from his abysmal failure in handling the corona crisis, but the president doesn’t think tactically, let alone strategically, and the simple truth is that he has nothing but dangerous nonsense to offer.  In one interview he touted his ability to remember the words ‘person, woman, man, camera, TV’ for more than twenty minutes as proof of his acuity, and in an interview with Axios’s Jonathan Swan he argued that the COVID-19 mortality rate should be calculated as a percentage of known cases, not as a percentage of the population.  As Swan’s eyebrows reached Olympic heights Trump tried to illustrate his bizarre point that the US is doing much better than ‘the world’ with colored pages prepared by his staffers, and at a press conference on Wednesday he said that COVID would just ‘go away,’ as in ‘everything at some point goes away.’  In the context of the debate on whether schools should be opened the president posted the falsehood on Facebook and Twitter that kids are ‘almost immune for COVID,’ and both platforms took his message down.

Regarding the upcoming election Trump keeps griping about voting-by-mail, which according to him will lead to massive fraud and rigged elections, which has never been shown to be the case.  The Postmaster General, a Trump-appointee, has already made delivery procedures harder, so that completed ballots may not arrive in time to be counted, but the president is now getting pushback from Republicans whose constituents also vote by mail and who fear that they’ll lose their election if that is no longer an option.  It is particularly galling that Trump keeps trying to disrupt the elections right after the funeral of John Lewis, who literally bled for voting rights.  Asked about Lewis the president said he didn’t have a high opinion of a Congressman who didn’t attend his inauguration and his State of the Union speeches, calling that “a big mistake” and thus making it all about himself again.  Some reporters see an acknowledgement that he’s in deep trouble in Trump’s actions, and an open invitation for Russia and China to interfere in his favor, without him realizing that they would only do that because they want America as weak as possible.

Sunday August 2nd, the day the White House was supposed to unveil a national health care plan to replace Obamacare, came and went without Trump announcing the policy that was going to knock our socks off.  In the ongoing negotiations in DC about corona relief the president limits himself to sniping at ‘Chuck and Nancy’ from the sideline without making any contribution, and when asked about his plans for a possible four-year extension of his presidency the only thing he can offer is a complaint that he’s been treated ‘very unfairly’ during the first four years.

It turns out that already in 2019 the Manhattan DA has asked Deutsche Bank for information about ‘extensive and protracted criminal activity at the Trump Organization’ and has received what he (now she) asked for, which doesn’t bode well for Trump and his eldest sons once the president leaves office.  Meanwhile Trump allies are trying to get Kanye West, a bipolar black man in serious need of professional help, on the ballot in battleground states, in hopes that he’ll take votes away from Joe Biden.

An important part of the president’s campaign is making it look like Biden is not playing with a full deck anymore, by showing video clips, sometimes doctored, of Biden speaking incoherently or mispronouncing certain words.  Unfortunately for Trump though Project Lincoln has produced a video with the occupant of the Oval Office misspeaking and misreading words at a level that Biden can only aspire to approach, so that’s not working too well.

 
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Panic in the Oval

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

From the polls, national and local, it is clear that Trump is in deep trouble, but the clearest sign is his statement that the Presidential Election needs to be postponed because it promises to become the most unreliable election in the history of the country. The president’s hypocrisy would be amusing if it wasn’t so serious, because in many states that until now were Republican-dominated administrations have made voter suppression a local past-time, reducing the opportunity to vote for low income voters by locating the few polls far from their residences, disenfranchising felons who have paid their dues to society and insisting on in-person voting, only to mention some of the shenanigans. If there is one way to reduce voter turnout it is the latter in a time of a deadly pandemic, and in that context Trump’s ranting about voting by mail because he claims it is a very fraudulent process, which has never been shown to be the case, is no less than criminal. The good news is that the president has nothing to say about the election, because the date is fixed by the US Constitution and can only be changed by an amendment.

In the meantime Trump’s campaign is still on multiple tracks. He tries to show that he’s taking charge of controlling the COVID pandemic by sending Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci to what he calls ‘embers’ in the country that could flare up, although it’s unclear what they can do there while their services are much more needed in DC, which makes this a typical part of Trump’s permanent reality show. Meanwhile the testing is still a mess, with in some parts of the country a wait time of ten days or longer before results come back, so that tracing of those who have been in contact with someone who is infected is impossible. Knowing that the pandemic won’t be over and the economy won’t be recovered by election time the president’s second track is running a ‘law and order’ campaign like Nixon ran in 1986, but Nixon had plenty of demonstrators in the streets and Trump knows that he needs that too. His first step was sending federal agents to Portland, allegedly to protect federal property but in reality to provoke violence from BLM demonstrators, some of whom were illegally arrested by Trump’s goons.

Federal agents are only allowed to operate in cities at the request of the authorities or to protect federal property, but in Portland they have not shown much respect for the rules. If and when they show up in other cities they’ll have to stay close to federal buildings, otherwise their agency will be sued. Meanwhile the president is sowing fear for ‘anarchist terror’ by trying to panic ‘suburban housewives,’ a part of the electorate he is about to lose of which the majority definitely doesn’t want to be addressed that way.

So far Trump has only threatened to send his Feds to cities like Chicago and New York, but as the COVID pandemic keeps raging he’ll be more and more tempted to do so, in spite of legal repercussions. Tim Snyder identifies in his book ‘On Tyranny’ the mingling of federal and local police forces as a clear sign of totalitarianism, and we’re almost there. The fact that Trump won’t say that he’ll step down if he loses the election completes the picture.

Typical Trump was his brusk refusal to pay his respect to John Lewis, who was laying in state in the Capitol, and maybe even more his announcement that he would throw out the first pitch at the Yankees home opener. He was clearly jealous of Dr. Fauci, who threw out the first pitch at the Nationals game, but unfortunately he had to cancel because he was not invited.


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Trump’s Balloon is Empty

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Six months after the beginning of the COVID pandemic and 144,000 deaths later, on Tuesday Donald Trump said at a press conference: ‘We are in the process of developing a strategy.’  It was news of the worst possible kind, because it confirmed that in spite of all his bluster about ‘doing a great job,’ his predictions that the virus would ‘just go away,’ his suggestions about various ‘medications‘ and his constant lies about the seriousness of the corona crisis the president had nothing but failure to show for.   His handlers did a relatively good job in keeping the crazy stuff off the teleprompter, although some blatant lies still remained, for instance that the US has the lowest COVID mortality rate in the world, something Trump also said in a Fox News interview on Sunday, while in reality it’s the 16th lowest and the 6th highest compared with other industrialized countries.  The president still maintained that he had done a great job at the beginning of the pandemic but acknowledged that ‘it will get worse before it gets better’ and urged Americans to wear masks.  Looking back on his presidency at Fox News he said he had been treated ‘very unfairly.’

Both the rambling Fox News interview, where Trump repeated that he may not accept the result of the November election, and the press conference, were attempts to give him an audience while his poll numbers are tanking.  Recent attempts to have the kind of mass rallies Trump thrives on failed, and it’s unlikely that any rallies will be held in the near future.  Even the Republican Party’s convention in Jacksonville is in doubt, now that the local sheriff has said that he cannot provide security.  The president chose to resume the daily pressers because 5 pm is ‘a good slot’ and they had ‘great ratings,’ but his staff remembers that his poll numbers sank with every insanity he produced, such as injecting detergents or disparaging Dr. Fauci – something Trump still did on Fox, calling Fauci ‘a bit of an alarmist’ – so it’s unclear what he can say from now on, other than reading depressing numbers or lying about them.   It is possible that Trump will use the press conferences to provide the promised details about the ‘very powerful great things’ that ‘nobody has ever thought of’ he announced a week ago, but he has probably already forgotten about that.

And while the president tries to present a more sensible version of himself, if only for one day, he continues to push policies that go straight against what the US needs and a large majority of Americans want.  In negotiations about the next corona relief bill the administration tries to reduce spending for testing and tracing, and Trump has promised to veto a military spending bill that includes the removal of the names of Confederate generals from military installations.  He also claimed as a major achievement having undermined the National Environmental Policy Act.

Trump’s racism is on full display in ads predicting that Joe Biden will desegregate white suburbs and bring blacks into the neighborhood, and he threatens to expand his ‘stormtrooper’ operation that started in Portland into large cities with Democratic mayors, first Chicago, which has a black female mayor.  The president thinks that he’ll benefit electorally from chaos in the streets and he knows that federal bullies in unmarked camouflage gear acting illegally will generate a response.

Asked about the upcoming trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, who recruited young, vulnerable girls and groomed them for sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, Trump said ‘I wish her well,’ which sent a shock through DC and the media, and the New York Times revealed that in 2018 the president instructed his UK ambassador to ask the British Government for help in getting the Open to his Turnberry golf resort.


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