Media (365)


 It’s Mother Nature, Folks

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In their magnificent song ‘Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise’ the Avett Brothers sing ‘your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected.’  That line always gets the loudest cheers during their concerts, and although it was written well before 2016 it’s clear that the audiences think it refers to Trump.  Fed by Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ and by the anonymous New York Times Op-Ed it appears that Americans have finally reached a threshold.  Trump’s base was stable as long as the president was only a crook, a liar and potentially a traitor, but now that he’s been exposed by White House insiders as a madman who is endangering the country the numbers are moving.  The president’s approval rating is down to 36%, 50% of Americans support the Mueller investigation while only 30% oppose it, 61% believe Russian collusion is a serious matter, 70% believe Trump should testify and 50% already believe that he should be impeached.  Those numbers are extra significant because the president constantly trumpets his criticism of the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Russia investigation, while Mueller doesn’t defend himself and operates in absolute silence, with no leaks.

The 9/11 remembrance in Shanksville, PA gave Trump a chance to regain some goodwill, but he missed it by arriving with balled up fists in the air as if it concerned a campaign rally and giving a passionless speech in the whiny, moaning voice that he believes expresses empathy.  The anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers also brought back memories of all the times Trump had abused it, like his bizarre statement that he now owned the tallest building in New York City, his false claims that he had lost many friends and had been searching for corpses in the rubble, and his blatant lie that he had seen thousands of Muslims across the river cheer when the towers fell.  And Trump’s assessment of the approaching hurricane Florence only made things worse.  He called it ‘tremendously large and wet,’ and announced that things could go wrong, in spite of the government’s preparedness, because ‘it’s mother nature.’ That preparedness became somewhat doubtful when news broke that $10 million had been moved out of FEMA’s budget to ICE, to build prisons for the 12,800 immigrant children who have now been detained by the US Government, up from 2,400 in May.

NBC’s Chuck Todd observed that Trump ‘sells a hurricane like a condo,’ but the embarrassment didn’t stop there.   Just before the threat of Florence became clear the EPA lifted restrictions on methane gas emissions, which will considerably contribute to the global warming of which ever stronger hurricanes are a symptom.  And the president inflicted the most damage on himself when he defended the government’s complete failure to help Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, and called the effort an ‘unappreciated great job,’ in spite of between 2,975 and 5,000 deaths.

While the Carolinas were preparing for Florence’s landfall, Trump challenged these ‘excess mortality’ numbers of respectively George Washington University and Harvard University studies via Twitter, claiming that they resulted from a Democratic plot and that every elderly person that died in the wake of Maria had been added to the list.  Rather than acknowledging the inadequacy of his administration’s response he chose to blame the victims, for living on an island with a failing infrastructure and power grid.

In the meantime even Trump’s closest associates are beginning to recognize his flaws.  In a speech that leaked out of a closed meeting Mick Mulvaney called Trump ‘divisive,’ and expressed fear that he would have a negative impact on the elections.  And in Virginia Paul Manafort finally decided to throw in the towel and struck a deal with Robert Mueller to start cooperating with his investigation.  In the White House Trump must be fuming.

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(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

This should have been Donald Trump’s week.  After he had an argument over the grave about America’s greatness  with John McCain the president was ready for a big success.  He expected his boy Kavanaugh to sail smoothly through the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice, creating a majority that would protect him from prosecution, overrule Roe v. Wade and end Obamacare.  But then Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear’ came out, describing ‘a White House in a nervous breakdown.’   What must have hurt Trump the most was that John Kelly called him an idiot and said that ‘we are in crazytown,’ and that according to Jim Mattis the president cannot absorb more information than a 5th or 6th grader.   Kelly and Mattis were the first to put out statements that they never said those things, but Woodward has tapes of interviews with his sources and nobody believes their denials.   On one of those tapes Trump said that he had never been told that Woodward wanted to interview him, although he later remembered that Lindsey Graham had mentioned it.  Without an interview with him the president concluded with some chagrin that the book would not mention that ‘nobody has ever done a better job in the White House.’

According to the book Trump’s confidence in the effect of an interview with him was not shared by his previous lawyer, John Dowd, who staged a mock Mueller interview and after Trump miserably failed the test told him that he should never submit himself to an interview with the Special Counsel or expect to end up in an orange jumpsuit.  The next day Dowd quit.   And as if Woodward’s book was not damaging enough, on Wednesday the New York Times published an Op-Ed written by an anonymous senior government official, entitled ‘The Quiet Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.’  The thrust of the article is that because of his amorality and erratic behavior the president is a danger to the country, and that senior officials sabotage his most dangerous initiatives and try to shield their operations from his whims.  Predictably the White House went into a full attack mode against the writer of the Op-Ed, demanding that the New York Times turn him over to the government for ‘national security purposes.’  More balanced and somewhat amusing comments came from Republican senators Corker, Flake and Sasse, who said that the Op-Ed really doesn’t contain anything we didn’t know already.

Kavanaugh in the meantime got himself into trouble during the confirmation hearings, partly by the evasive answers he gave to questions from Democratic senators, but even more by e-mails he wrote when he worked in the Bush White House, which indicate that he would overturn Roe v. Wade, in spite of assurances to the contrary he gave senator Collins, a possible swing vote.  It made the Democrats wonder what the White House is trying to hide by refusing to make 90% of Kavanaugh’s White House records available.

Since Rudy Giuliani has announced that Trump won’t answer Mueller’s questions, not even in writing, Kavanaugh’s confirmation takes on extra importance, because the question whether a sitting president can be supoenaed may very well come before SCOTUS.  Although he has been nominated by a non-indicted co-conspirator in the Michael Cohen case Kavanaugh won’t promise that he’ll recuse himself if this is the case.

In the White House Trump’s staff is still looking for the writer of the Op-Ed, but Trump cannot trust anybody anymore, except maybe Ivanka.  There is an echo of Watergate here, when Mark Felt, the Associate FBI Director, was given the assignment to identify ‘Deep Throat.’ The problem was, Felt wàs Deep Throat, and therefore he never found him.

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(Ontvangen van Theo Uittenbogaard)






The I-word

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Last week Donald Trump mentioned ‘impeachment’ once in a Fox News interview, but in the White House he uses ‘the I-word,’ an indication of how much it’s on his mind.  As the midterms approach the president realizes that he’ll be in deep trouble if the Democrats take control of the House.  His administration will be paralyzed by the investigations that will be initiated, and impeachment procedures will probably start almost immediately.  For now Trump can trust his lackeys in the senate to keep him in the Oval Office, but there is no telling what will happen if the elections result in carnage for the GOP and senators get worried about their own prospects  in 2020.  The president doesn’t make things easier for the Republican Party, because while he is often a kingmaker in the primaries the candidates he endorses and that share his views will be vulnerable against their Democratic opponents.  He doesn’t make things easier for himself either, because on Wednesday he announced with a tweet that Don McGahn, the White House Counsel, will leave his job in the fall, leaving a depleted and inexperienced office behind for what will most likely be a ferocious fight with the congress.

It is unclear if this departure, of which the sudden announcement surprised McGahn, is related to the fact that the president’s main legal advisor spent over 30 hours being interviewed by Robert Mueller, and that Trump’s legal team has no clue what he told the Special Counsel.  McGahn was strongly opposed to the idea of firing Jeff Sessions, but the president’s rhetoric and cave-ins by senators like Graham and Grassley makes that ever more likely, albeit not before the elections.  In the meantime Trump’s legal problems are still growing.  It turns out that Paul Manafort was looking for a plea deal to avoid his second trial, and although nothing was finalized there are signs that negotiations are ongoing.  Of the American public 61% approves of the Mueller probe, while only 31% disapproves, and those numbers are much better than Trump’s own approval ratings.  Because he can see a potential catastrophe coming the president is now predicting that the economy will collapse and most Americans will become miserably poor if he were to be impeached, because the country would lose the benefit of his brain.  Even more ominously, Trump is predicting violence if the Democrats win a House majority.

Meanwhile the president must feel like a stranger in DC.  Senator John McCain planned his own funeral services in such a way that all the media attention will be for him this week.  Trump already showed what a spiteful mental midget he is by initially refusing to put out a statement about the senator’s death and to fly the White House flag half staff, and tomorrow he’ll be exiled to Camp David, because he’s unwelcome at the funeral where George W. Bush and Obama will speak, and someone explained to him that playing golf at one of his courses would really be inappropriate.

More bad news came from a report about the damage Hurricane Maria did on Puerto Rico, with an estimate of 2,975 deaths, 2911 more than the official government estimate Trump has stood by so far.  A staged phone call with the Mexican president about a bilateral agreement replacing NAFTA failed completely, creating the image of the president as a helpless old man who doesn’t understand basic technology, while the actual agreement is surprisingly similar to the old NAFTA.

Yesterday it became clear that the infamous phone call between Trump and Michael Cohen that was recorded by Cohen was not just about buying the Karen McDougal story from the National Enquirer, but about buying the paper’s whole collection of mostly salacious information about Trump that goes thirty years back.  With David Pecker talking to prosecutors it’s unlikely that Trump will ever get his hands on it.

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The Illegitimate Presidency

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

At the end of last week Rudy Giuliani capped off his statements that Trump never talked about Flynn with Comey and that the campaign didn’t  know that they were going to meet with Russians in Trump Tower with the epistemological paradigm shift that ‘truth is not truth,’ sending shockwaves through philosophy departments around the country.  From there on things got only worse.  First Paul Manafort was found guilty on 8 of 18 counts in a Virginia courtroom, with one juror holding out on 10 of the charges, and a couple of minutes later in New York Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and violating campaign finance laws.  As long as Manafort doesn’t flip on Trump, which is still a possibility because he faces another trial in DC in a couple of weeks and will spend the rest of his life in jail if Trump doesn’t pardon him, Cohen, who promised to tell prosecutors the whole truth about Trump’s campaign and businesses, represents the most danger for the president.   The former fixer started making good on his promise by informing the court that he had acted on Trump’s instructions when in 2016 he tried to buy the silence of Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels about their affairs with Trump.

In a Fox News interview Trump declared that no campaign finance laws were violated because he reimbursed Cohen with his own and not with campaign money, but the president clearly doesn’t understand the law.  A contribution to his own campaign should have been reported to the Federal Election Commission and publicly disclosed.  Deliberately omitting such a contribution, as was the case here, makes it a felony.  The payment to Stormy Daniels was made one day after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape came out, providing the context that its immediate purpose was to affect the outcome of the election, which makes it a criminal conspiracy.  In all his ignorance the president incriminated himself by admitting to the hush money payments, but his problems didn’t end there.  According to his lawyer, Lanny Davis, Cohen witnessed Trump’s ‘awareness’ of the hacking of Democrats’ emails before they were released by Wikileaks, and there is even a mysterious reimbursement of $50,000 to Cohen by the Trump Organization for unspecified ‘tech services,’ which according to the Steele dossier may very well have been for a payment to the Russian hackers.

From a Trump golf course in Scotland Hizzoner issued a statement that the president’s problems have not affected his golf game, but that was before the news broke that the civil suit filed by the State of New York against the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump and his three oldest children will probably result in a criminal investigation.  To make the president’s legal jeopardy complete, a lawsuit against Trump and his former bodyguard Keith Schiller for violent behavior outside of Trump Tower in 2015 will also go forward.

A real shocker was the immunity given to David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, and to Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization.  Pecker is a Trump confidant who was instrumental in the ‘catch and kill’ operation to silence Karen McDougal and has a safe full of information about Trump’s dalliances, while Weisselberg was involved in making illegal reimbursements to Cohen and a host of shady business dealings.

Apparently contradicting Giuliani’s assessment of his mental state, in the Fox News interview Trump lashed out at Jeff Sessions and used mob terminology to argue against the practice of turning suspects into cooperating witnesses, so that we could enjoy the spectacle of the US President advocating that law enforcement be denied one of its most important tools.

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