“Apres moi le deluge.”
– – Attributed to French King Louis XIV
The expression means “after me, the deluge.” It can be understood in a number of ways, including that after the demise of the king, there would be a disaster, or that he simply did not care what happened after he was gone. In some contexts, it has also come to mean that the king is the state, and without the king, the state ceases to exist.
Whatever one’s translation, it can easily be attributed in current times to our president. In many of his statements, he clearly sees himself as the state. Anything that goes against his wishes is a “disaster” or “an attack on our nation” or “treason.” Numerous examples abound.
“And it’s a disgrace. It’s, frankly, a real disgrace. It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”
— Donald J. Trump on 9 April 2018 following the FBI executing a lawful search warrant on the offices and home of his attorney Mr. Michael Cohen
“Just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
— Donald J. Trump on 24 July 2018
“I tell you what, if I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash, I think everybody would be very poor. Without his kind of thinking (as he pointed to his head) you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse.”
— Donald J. Trump on 23 August 2018 on “Fox and Friends”
There are many many more examples, too many to list here, where Mr. Trump equates his well-being to the state of the nation. He apparently thinks he is the nation. But perhaps the best example is still ongoing, starting with last week’s anonymous New York Times opinion piece on Mr. Trump’s fitness for office written by a “senior official” in the administration. It is worth reviewing the entire impact and implications of the piece, but first it is interesting to consider Mr. Trump’s reaction to it. Among other things, the writer made it clear in his/her opinion that Mr. Trump exhibits “erratic behavior,” exhibits fundamental “amorality,” and his leadership style is “impetuous, adversarial, petty, and ineffective.” Most importantly, the writer states that early on in his administration there was serious talk of invoking the 25th Amendment that provides the process for removing an unfit president from office.
Wow. Are we dealing with Captain Queeg and the Caine Mutiny? Will someone soon be ladling out strawberries to make sure they are all there?
More on all of that momentarily, but here is Mr. Trump’s reaction to it, coming on the heels of early reviews of Bob Woodward’s book on his presidency called “Fear” which will be released to the public tomorrow. He called upon the Department of Justice to initiate an investigation into who wrote it and into the New York Times to find out why they published it. His one word response to the events, over Twitter of course, was “TREASON.” (The all caps are his.) Once again, Mr. Trump loosely throws around very profound and serious accusations whenever anyone criticizes him. He equates himself to the state. Remember his insistence on loyalty to him, as a person, rather than to the Constitution and the rule of law. Once again he is threatening to use the Justice Department and FBI for his own personal purposes.
The New York Times opinion piece met with mixed reactions depending on who responded. His senior political appointees duly swore that it wasn’t them. Of course. The original Deep Throat in the 1970’s swore for roughly thirty years that it wasn’t him. Until it was.
More substantively, what is the import of the piece? I think it naive and unthinking to pass it off as just another political hack job from someone who doesn’t like the president. Just business as usual. Except that it isn’t. The increasing amount of evidence building around the president since his inauguration is that he is temperamentally, intellectually, and psychologically unfit to be the president of these United States. Remember Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn) saying in the summer of 2017 that the White House is being run like “adult day care.” Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb) said when asked about the piece “It’s just so similar to what so many of us hear from senior people around the White House, you know, three times a week. So it’s really troubling, and yet in a way, not surprising.”
Many other politicians, pundits, analysts and journalists relay that have observed the same unsettling behavior on the part of Mr. Trump for two years. They find nothing surprising in the situation as described in the op-ed or as reported to be in Mr. Woodward’s forthcoming book. It’s business as usual.
If everyone in the know understands that the president is not fit for office, why are they not stepping up and doing something about it? Consider this. In the piece the senior administration official says this:
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.”
This is serious business. If they felt that strongly, then why has no one gone to Congress (that we know of, it is always possible they did and the Republican controlled Congress chose not to act) or to the American public and expressed their obvious concerns over his ability to function as president. It is their duty. If it is that bad, that his own political appointees seriously considered it, then we are in big trouble. And no one is doing anything about it.
That isn’t to say that there should be a cavalier attitude about deposing a duly elected president. This is serious business. But that’s the point. I assume that a senior official does not take invoking the 25th Amendment lightly, and if they do they should be removed. To even think about it, much less discuss it, hints at dire circumstances. The writer is failing in his/her duty to the Constitution to not act on it.
One may also question the fidelity to the Constitution of the writer, and if the piece is correct, other members of the administration, by their tactics to keep the president in line. The author writes of “a two-track presidency.” This in and of itself is dangerous. While officials inside and outside the administration may disagree with a decision, their duty is to execute the orders of the President of the United States. We cannot function with a “two-track presidency.” Such action runs counter to the principles of our nation. When confronted with a profoundly troubling order, the officials surrounding the president have three choices. They can talk him out of it, resign and express their disagreement, or carry it out to the best of their ability. Period.
The story told in the op-ed and seemingly in Mr. Woodward’s book, coupled with long-standing journalist and news reports, paints a very scary picture of a president running amok. Personally. These concerns are separate and distinct from political agreements or disagreements on his policy. Think of this, the senior national security cabinet officials and intelligence officials still do not know what Mr. Trump discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That is wrong and extremely troubling.
Equally troubling is that people within the administration take it upon themselves to decide which policies to implement and which ones to ignore. That isn’t how it works.
Finally there is Mr. Trump’s instinct to take everything personally and to invoke his powers to use the government for his own purposes. The list is nearly endless. In this case, it is a challenge to the fundamentals of our nation’s laws to call an op-ed piece “treason” and to imply (a president’s wishes are normally taken as commands) that the Department of Justice and the FBI should investigate an individual exercising their First Amendment rights. Further to imply that they should investigate the New York Times and force them to turn over the name of the author should make us all extremely concerned. No laws were broken in writing and publishing the piece. None. There is no national security or classified information in the piece.
One can argue that the anonymous source should have put their name on it. I agree. That is not against the law, however, and is significantly different from an investigation for treason.
I do not know what it will take for the Republican controlled Congress to exercise their Constitutional duties of oversight of this president. One person opined that only “millions” marching in the street will get them to do their duty. The elections in November will have a huge impact on the nation. If the Republicans win and continue to ignore their duty, Mr. Trump will be emboldened and push the limits of his power even further. If the Democrats win we will have endless hearings and investigations into Mr. Trump’s activities to the extent that it is possible that no other legislative business will get done. For the future of our nation, I will take the latter — or elected Republicans willing to take on the president.
My theory is that the current Republican leadership in the House and Senate have decided to ride Mr. Trump as far as they can — especially in the appointment of federal judges that is taking place at an unprecedented rate, not to mention the Supreme Court. The face of the judiciary has changed for years, perhaps decades to come. The Congress, especially through Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), is going to continue to go full-bore on approving judges, riding Mr. Trump, until he collapses, at which point they will abandon him. His collapse will happen either through a Democrat blue wave in November or through Mr. Trump’s removal by resignation or impeachment.
In all, it is a troubling picture where we all need to pay attention. Risking hyperbole and hoping I do not sound shrill, nothing less than our future is at stake.
As confirmation hearings get underway today for the next nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and as the President of the United States continues to undermine the rule of law through his tweets, it may be time to ponder the impact on United States history made by one man. No not him. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) is the man.
You will remember that when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly in February 2016, President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace him in March 2016. Senator McConnell as the Majority Leader of the Senate refused to even meet with him, much less allow hearings or a vote on the nomination. This was unprecedented. As I wrote at the time, the ability of a president to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, at any time in his term, was a long-established power held by the president. Indeed, the precedent was set early when President John Adams nominated Chief Justice John Marshall after the election of 1800 and he assumed his position on the court at almost the moment President Adams was walking out the door of the White House (Thomas Jefferson won the 1800 election).
For the record, because we hear it still, there is no “Biden Rule” as claimed by the Republicans in the Senate as the reason for not moving Judge Garland’s nomination forward. The truth is that then Senator Joe Biden of Delaware gave a speech in June 1992 where he argued that the president, at the time President George H. W. Bush, should not nominate a new Supreme Court Justice before the election. But here is “the rest of the story.” There was no vacancy on the Supreme Court. There was no nominee to the Supreme Court. The Senate never voted on his proposal and it was never incorporated into the rules. And he did not argue that a president could not nominate someone should a vacancy occur, only that given the proximity of the upcoming election, the president should wait until at least the day after an election to make the nomination. The “Biden Rule” is poppycock. It doesn’t exist. Senator McConnell had to really, really reach deep for a shaky reason for an unprecedented act on his part.
The seat left by Justice Scalia sat vacant for over a year.
But that’s not all.
Senator McConnell had an even bigger impact when, to facilitate what promised to be a hard-fought confirmation vote for then Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he changed the Senate rules on a straight party vote to allow for a simple majority (51 votes) to confirm a Supreme Court nominee rather than stay with the over 200 year tradition of a super majority (now 60 votes) to confirm. This is the long-lasting and perhaps devastating change to our nation’s judiciary and its independence that will haunt us for generations to come.
Why? The reasons are complex but the simplest, and perhaps most important answer, is that for much of our nation’s history requiring a super majority usually meant that a nominee must appeal to a number of members of the opposite party in power. This historically meant that radical judges mostly could not garner the required number of votes for approval. This tended to result in nominees being right or left of center rather than far right or left. There had to be a modicum of moderation in the nominee’s past and probable future rulings on the court. That useful tool is now gone. The party in power can put in the most radical, and dare I say political, Justice that they may find and do it for purely political or ideological reasons. Many argue that the Supreme Court is already too political. Well, we now have the potential for it to become a political tool of whichever party is in control of the White House and Senate.
Since the rules that have guided our nation for so long are now no longer followed, what block is there in the future for a president and his party’s Senate to use a simple majority to put eleven or thirteen or any number of justices on the Court? The incoming party looks at the make up of the Supreme Court, decides that in order to overcome the last ruling party’s political Justices they will just pack the Court with enough Justices to override those that came from the other party.
Yes, I know that President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court and was thwarted. Here’s the rub. The Constitution does not say how many Justices should be on it. It merely says that the Federal Judiciary should consist of “one supreme Court and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” The first Supreme Court nominated by President George Washington had six Justices including the Chief Justice. Through our early history Congress passed a series of Judiciary Acts that designated the number of Justices and it varied from five to ten. The current nine members is the result of an act in 1869. The point is that Congress sets the number of Justices and since precedent has already been over turned, what will stop some future Congress from changing the law regarding the number of Justices?
Senator McConnell changed the future by effectively doing away with natural “checks and balances” that tended to keep our Justices more moderate than they might be and by putting political expediency in front of principle, thus opening the door for others to do so in the future.
The expectation is that Judge Kavanaugh will get at least 51 votes and join the Court. His is a critical addition in an era where the president tweets constantly for law enforcement to punish his political adversaries (“Lock her up!”) and to protect his political supporters. Just yesterday he tweeted out
“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff.” — Tweet from Donald J. Trump on 3 September 2018
“Jeff” is of course Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The “two very popular Republican Congressmen” are Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca) indicted by a federal grand jury of misusing over $250,000 of campaign funds and the other is Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) indicted on charges of insider trading. Both have pleaded not guilty, however Rep. Collins suspended his re-election campaign. For the record, Rep. Collins conducted his insider trading during the Trump Administration and indeed he is caught on film on the White House lawn making one of the calls that set off the chain of events that led to the charges. The larger point is that the president is chiding his Attorney General for enforcing the law because people from his own party, that incidentally were the first two members of the House to endorse Mr. Trump, and that could help him politically, were the perpetrators. So much for the rule of law and the president’s sworn oath to uphold the Constitution.
Further, thanks to Senator McConnell, we may now have two Justices on the Court appointed by a president that is very, very likely to have critical Constitutional issues surrounding the survival of his presidency come before them. One could argue that the current nomination process should be put on hold until the unindicted co-conspirator in the White House has his legal situation resolved.
Long after we move past the current unfolding Constitutional crises, the impact of Senator McConnell’s decision to put political expediency above the good of the nation’s proven processes will have unintended consequences.
From legal developments surrounding Mr. Donald J. Trump to the continued revelations of evil emanating from the Catholic Church it is hard to catch one’s breath. It seems that institutions that one could look to for ethical and moral guidance are themselves the worst kind of example for any of us.
It would take me pages to even quickly recap the events from the last week. I think we will look back on it as some kind of turning point, although I am firmly of the belief that we have only just begun a new “long national nightmare” (as President Gerald Ford said on 9 August 1974 at his inauguration) before we reach an understanding of the totality of the illegal and immoral actions surrounding Mr. Trump, his family, his business and his efforts to skew the 2016 election.
Worse still is that we have a president that lashes out in retaliation for any sort of criticism. He lashes out not just as a cyber bully (Be Best Mr. President!) but in harming the ability of people to earn a living. He takes no responsibility for anything, and in fact is actively trying to shut down investigations into his and his associates activities that are against the law. Duly authorized federal investigations, monitored by Republican political appointees, directed by a former FBI Director under a Republican president, resulting in court cases under duly appointed judges, and verdicts returned by twelve ordinary citizens as provided for in a civilized democracy are branded as “unfair” or “witch hunts”. There is clear evidence of foreign intervention in our democratic processes and the president not only wants to shut it down, he praises the autocrat responsible for the actions. Meanwhile he supports white nationalists, repeats provable lies, shows no respect for minorities, and searches for ways to increase his power without the constraints of Congress or the courts.
Everything is personal with him. Everything. Mr. Trump has absolutely no understanding of the ideals that support our nation. The only things that cause him to act — in between golf rounds, “Executive Time” (ie., watching Fox News), and Tweeting — are to do things that benefit him personally. He sees everything through that light, and it appears to me, assumes that everything anybody else does is similarly guided only by their respective self-interests. There is no greater good.
He does not understand that there are actually people that serve honorably in government without partisan or personal gain. He demands loyalty to himself and himself only, not to country or to what is right, or to the ideals of our nation. His understanding of government, and especially those in the Executive Branch, is that it is merely an extension of the way that he ran Trump Inc. — he gets to be the boss and anyone that has a different idea, or worse tells him he cannot do something, is clearly just trying to screw him over. In this way he is very petty and childish. If he doesn’t get his way he acts out. In Trump Tower as the head of Trump Inc. it is something to read about in the gossip columns and be amused. In the Oval Office it is dangerous and un-American.
There are still over 500 children separated from their parents in “kiddie jails” created by this president’s policies. North Korea makes our president look like a laughing-stock as they have gotten away with everything they wanted from Mr. Trump for nothing in return. The press conference in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin was the most disgusting, vomit inducing performance I have seen from an American president on foreign soil. The “winning” trade wars over tariffs continue to expand with an increasing threat to our economy and has already driven numerous small businesses under because they could not afford raw materials like steel and aluminum. The list is endless. Congress is missing in action (“at least we got Gorsuch” is too high of a price to pay.)
And now we have the Chief Federal Law Enforcement Official in the land acting like the Mafia boss that he really is. To call Mr. Paul Manafort a “brave man” and that he has “respect” for him because he didn’t “break” is disgusting. He also belittles our court system by talking about “Justice.” Mr. Manafort is a convicted felon that took advantage of American tax payers and knowingly broke the law in numerous ways for his own benefit.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!” Mr. Donald J. Trump via Twitter on 22 August 2018
As an aside, one wonders what news Mr. Manafort could “break” (the inference of Mr. Manafort as a POW under torture is further evidence that Mr. Trump has no clue). To me, for the president to congratulate him for not breaking means that Mr. Trump knows that Mr. Manafort has information to “break” about Mr. Trump and his probable illegal activities.
On the other hand Mr. John Dean, who famously testified against President Richard Nixon, thus breaking open that conspiracy, is a “RAT” (in all caps). He had choice words for his personal attorney Mr. Michael Cohen who is now a convicted felon after pleading guilty to seven counts, including two that effectively name the president as an unindicted co-conspirator and said that “flipping” should be illegal. In other words, the primary tool used by law enforcement to solve cases should not be allowed. Nice. Oh yeah, he also said that violations of campaign law were “not a big deal.”
“It almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair. Because if somebody’s going to give—spend five years like Michael Cohen, or 10 years, or 15 years in jail because of a taxi cab industry, because he defrauded some bank—the last two were tiny ones. You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail, but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two or three years, which is the deal he made.”
An excerpt from Mr. Donald J Trump’s interview on “Fox and Friends” aired 23 August 2018
Let’s see. Mr Trump’s personal attorney guilty of numerous crimes including tax evasion. Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman convicted of numerous crimes including tax evasion. What are the odds that Mr. Trump also evaded paying taxes? No wonder he won’t release his tax returns. Besides, he basically already told us about his crimes. Remember that during the first presidential debate in 2016 he was accused of not paying taxes and his reply was “That makes me smart.”
And there is so much more. Instead of draining the swamp he replaced the alligators with crocodiles and turned it into an infinity pool. Only the best people, indeed.
I worry because we have already seen nasty instances of the president lashing out when something doesn’t go his way. We have already seen him search for new and creative ways to use his Executive Powers in ways not imagined by the Founding Fathers. When the heat comes, and it is coming, and we learn the full breath-taking scope of his law breaking over the years, only one’s imagination limits what possible scenarios might play out.
I have written in this space before that any comparisons to Watergate are misguided. As nasty as he may have been, President Nixon recognized the limits to his power and had at least a modicum of pride in the proper functioning of a democracy. He resigned. Mr. Trump has no modicum of decency in any sense. He proves that daily. His mantra is that if he gets hit he hits back ten times harder. There is nothing that we have seen that indicates that he will go quietly into the night when the full scope of his misdeeds are revealed. I have no idea how this will end in the coming months. One thing I would bet on, however, is that It isn’t going to be pretty.
If you are as exhausted by all of this as I am already, rest up. Mr. Trump and his cohorts are counting on us thinking of all of his shenanigans as “normal” and on no one holding him accountable. It will be “we the people” that are going to have to get the job done. Vote in November!
It is a bad day when the television programs are interrupted for “Breaking News” for yet another mass shooting in our country. It is a horrible day when that shooting is in your home town.
The Annapolis Capital Gazette, known locally as The Capital (and to those of us in the crab capital of the world it is just as often called the “crab wrapper”) is a typical local paper that covers news in the state capital and surrounding Anne Arundel County. It fairly covers local politics, provides forums for opinions in letters to the editor (always entertaining), provides local civic information, follows events at the U.S. Naval Academy, and most importantly to some, has great local sports coverage on the high school and college level.
It is also a historic publication. Its roots date to the Maryland Gazette founded in 1727 in Annapolis and is one of the first regular newspapers in the country. Reportedly it was among the very first newspapers to publish the Declaration of Independence, but its heart has always been the local town and county news.
I did not personally know the five people murdered as they worked at their desks in an otherwise ordinary office building, but I felt like I did — especially two of them — because I read their columns and admired their style. As is usual in a small local paper, the staff had multiple assignments covering various elements of community life. Rob Hiaasen — the brother of famed author Carl Hiaasen known for his very funny books about life in Florida — among other things wrote a quirky and funny weekly column about various off the wall occurrences in and around the area. The other was Wendi Winters who wrote about almost anything one can think of but was best known for her coverage of our part of town and for the weekly “home of the week” feature. Her beat was all of the local girl scout fund-raisers, church bazaars, neighborhood parades, civic meetings and such taking place in our little piece of the world.
The other three innocent people murdered on a regular day at work were Gerald Fischman, an editor; John McNamara, a local sports reporter; and Rebecca Smith, a newly hired sales assistant. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, our neighbors, regular people that went to work like any other day and never came home.
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes @CNN @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” — Tweet from the president 17 Feb 2017
Just regular people doing the best they can. These people were not our enemies.
The perpetrator had a long-standing grudge against the paper and was known to the police. Several years ago The Capital reported on a story about a harasser and stalker convicted of those misdemeanors. He felt that the paper libeled him and went on a personal crusade to discredit the paper and to seek revenge. Most of it was via social media but on Thursday, for whatever reason, he decided to take a shotgun into the news room and kill innocent people. A nut case. There is no way, perhaps ever, that we will know why he decided to act in this way on this particular day. He thought that the paper was “unfair” and “biased” and not telling the truth about him.
“I use Social Media not because I like to, but because it is the only way to fight a VERY dishonest and unfair “press,” now often referred to as Fake News Media. Phony and non-existent “sources” are being used more often than ever. Many stories & reports a pure fiction!” — Tweet from the president 30 Dec 2017
Before you set your hair on fire, I am not in any way shape or form holding the president directly accountable for Thursday’s murders. I do wonder, however, what it takes for someone to be pushed over the edge because of the constant bombardment of such statements that reinforce an already sick view of what journalism and reporting is all about. To be fair, in a statement about the attack on The Capital yesterday the president said in a prepared statement he read from a teleprompter,
”Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their jobs. To the families of the victims there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event. Horrible thing happened.”
I have no doubt that the president does not want physical harm to come to journalists. I do have to wonder, however, whether he has any concern that what he considers rhetoric to fire up his base may have actual consequences.
But those are discussions for another day. For now, my community, my home town is in mourning and is still reeling from the shock of what way too many communities have experienced. Active shooter drills are now a regular part of school routines. How can we accept that? No one is safe in school, church, music concerts, movie theaters, news rooms, restaurants or pretty much anywhere. As a society we cannot accept this as normal. The level of discourse and civic involvement needs to move in a positive direction. Gun lover or gun hater we all agree that there is a sickness of some sort pervading our nation that makes it okay to act in a violent and destructive manner just because of a grudge. We are a country full of smart people. We need to figure this out.
For now, may their souls rest in peace.
Do not let Mr. Trump’s signing of an Executive Order on the spur of the moment on Wednesday lead you to believe that the problem of immigrant children being separated from their parents is solved. It is not. The soul of America continues to be at stake.
First, most legal scholars opine that an Executive Order was not necessary. No laws changed and no policy changed except that immigrant families would not automatically be separated. That could have been accomplished merely by a telephone call to the Secretary of Homeland Defense. The Order and signing ceremony was for show.
Second, the Order did not “fix” anything. There is a continuing Trump Administration created crisis on the border. As I stated in this space earlier this week, the crisis was created in order to force Congress to build Mr. Trump’s wall and as a hoped for deterrent to future immigrants. It back fired.
Third, a careful reading of the Order (found here) reveals that mostly all that changed is that now families will be detained together. The ramifications of that are complicated, as I will try to explain in a moment. It also gets the military involved in that it directs the Secretary of Defense “to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law.” One more mission for the military, which should not be in the business of taking care of immigrants, and by law (Posse Comitatus) cannot enforce the law.
(As an aside and a clue to how haphazard this process is in the White House, the title of the Order was “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Seperation.” Apparently no one owns spell checker in this Administration.)
Fourth, Mr. Trump continues to blame “the Democrats” for the state of affairs. Huh? The Republican party controls the White House, both Houses of Congress, and arguably, the Supreme Court. Yesterday, an immigration bill in the House of Representatives, that needed only Republican votes to pass, went down to defeat. A second bill addressing immigration was to be voted on yesterday but it has been deferred to next week — if it comes to a vote at all — because there were not enough Republican votes for it to pass.
The real heart of the matter however is this, roughly 2300 children are in the United States after being removed from their parents’ custody over the last six weeks and no one can confidently say that they know where they all are.
Republican and Democrat politicians, from Senators to Representatives to Governors to Mayors have tried to visit some of the known locations where the children are held in detention and they have not been allowed in. It is no surprise that the media has not been allowed to independently verify the condition of the facilities and the children. Our elected representatives are told by the federal government that they must put in a request to make any visits and that it will take about two weeks to process their applications to visit. A lot of cover up can take place in two weeks. What happened to oversight by our elected officials?
Where are the children?
As I write, they were moved to detention centers in fifteen states, in many cases thousands of miles from where the parents are held, including in my home county. One child in custody in our county is 18 months old. Others are not much older. Not understood by many people is that each of these children, with or without their parents, can be deported or ask for asylum. How does an 18 month old or even a six-year-old go find an attorney and go to court to ask for asylum?
Earlier the Trump Administration tried to use the young people here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA — or more familiarly the “Dreamers”) as a bargaining chip for the wall. The courts short-circuited that attempt. Then he tried using innocent children as a bargaining chip to get the wall. That was stopped — for now — by American citizens expressing their uneasiness with such an inhumane action. The next bargaining chip will be entire immigrant families held in detention camps.
If you have been paying close attention to this issue, you know that Mr. Trump made it very clear that his “zero tolerance” policy remains in effect. This creates a dilemma as most “family friendly” detention centers are full. That is why Mr. Trump included the Secretary of Defense in the Order. News reports indicate that the Defense Department was directed to provide tent cities on military bases in Texas and Arkansas to house 20,000 immigrants as families. This number seems to come from the estimate that should the separation policy have continued, by December of this year there would be about 19,000 children in custody and separated from their families.
The United States already lost its moral authority in the world. When pictures of vast tent cities holding families inside barbed wire fences on military bases, watched by armed guards, looking every bit like the internment camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II, we will be shown to have lost our soul.
A complicating factor is that under a judicial ruling, children can only be held in detention for about twenty days, which is why they are moved to places such as “tender age shelters“. There is no clear path for this administration to deal with that requirement while maintaining their zero tolerance policy. In the Order, the president directs the Attorney General to go to court to modify the judge’s ruling (you may have heard of it called the “Flores Settlement”) “in a manner that would permit the Secretary, under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings.”
Since a “pendency” (settlement of a court case) can go for months and sometimes years when asking for asylum, we will have families being raised in captivity.
It gets worse.
There is a good chance that a fair number of the 2300 children already separated from their parents may never be reunited with them. Government officials, and loudly echoed by aid workers and attorneys trying to help these immigrants, concede that there is no clear process in place for matching parents and children after they are separated. Glaringly absent from the Order was any process to bring the various elements of the government together to try to figure out how to fix this problem. Not a word. Record keeping is a problem, language barriers are a problem, money is a problem. Immigrants arriving with only the clothes on their back don’t have the money to hire an attorney to unravel the bureaucracy or to go get their child who may be thousands of miles away, much less the same requirements for the children themselves to find their parents. The system is very haphazard. In my area alone, 300 of the children have been identified in various locations, and legal aids say that so far they have been able to find the parents of two of them.
The Trump Administration was either grossly unprepared for the practical aspects of their policy, or they just plain did not care. “(If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.)
Immigration is a difficult subject. It is complicated. Sometimes there are no good answers to intractable problems. There may even be more than one right answer to the issue. What we now know is that this Administration seems to pick the wrong answer and then make it worse.
Do not be fooled. This problem was not “fixed” by the president. It is just the beginning.
We are losing our heart and our soul as a nation. I hope that we can recover.
With the Trump Administration policy of “zero tolerance” we are experiencing the full depth of depravity that his leadership instills. And make no mistake about it, it is a policy, not a law.
Repeat after me: There is no law that requires separating children from their parents at the border.
There are so many lies surrounding the implementation of this policy and the explanations for its continuance that is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the rationale for it.
Mr. Trump and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security state that it is simply the enforcement of the law. (All together now: There is no law!). However, the Attorney General and high ranking presidential advisers say that the policy is an attempt to deter further immigrants from coming to the border either illegally or for the purpose of claiming asylum – of which the Attorney General changed the criteria for what we will accept under that claim.
Other presidential advisers, including the president himself, basically argued that it was a political gambit to get the Congress to pass legislation to fund his “big beautiful border wall.” You know, the one he promised that Mexico would pay for.
Taking the second argument first, it is totally despicable and un-American to use children, including babies and toddlers, as political bargaining chips. The mere sight of these internment camps should be enough for Americans — regardless of one’s views on immigration — to say “not in my America!”
The argument that it is a deterrent is short-sighted and won’t work. Here is the fallacy in their reasoning. People that are fleeing unspeakable crimes, persecution and fear will risk whatever lies at the end of a very long road because it cannot be any worse than what they are experiencing and there is a chance that it could be better. Desperate people do desperate things. Think Sophie’s Choice (either the book or the movie with Meryl Streep.)
As many of you know I experienced this first hand in the early 1980’s off the coast of Viet Nam. On several Navy deployments we rescued refugees at sea fleeing the oppressive communist regime of the time. Note this — we were not there for that mission. No US Navy ships were there for that mission. We were merely transiting from one mission to another and happened to be there — far off the coast in regular shipping lanes. Unimaginably rickety wooden boats of 40 or 50 feet loaded with about 50 people of all ages — babies to grandmothers — on board would head to sea hoping that a US Navy ship would see them (not a sure thing — small boat, big ocean), stop, and pick them up to take them to a refugee camp. If they missed the US Navy, perhaps some friendly merchant ship would pick them up (some did, but not all). If they weren’t lucky, they were lost at sea. Unknown numbers were never rescued. I should point out that there was no specific government policy to pick them up. It was our duty as mariners to help those in peril on the sea and our duty as human beings not to let them perish.
Those experiences over about three years have made a lasting impression on me ever since. I could not and can not imagine what it would take to put my entire family at risk of perishing at sea in the hope — the hope — that there might be something better for us. And if there wasn’t, well maybe we would still be better off perishing together than losing family members to evil forces.
That is why those people come to our borders. They won’t stop until the conditions in their home countries change.
Additionally may I add that on numerous occasions over the decades, I have read about a senior military officer, politician, public servant, fireman, successful business person, and others that were among those rescued during that period. I have no idea whether any of them were among those on the boats that we saved. I do know that if we had not exercised our obligations as human beings we would have never known about them because they would never have lived to be the proud and productive Americans that they are today.
Some of those in the child internment camps will have similar stories in a few decades. If we let them.
As I write this, the president just announced that later today he will “sign something” to alleviate the situation at the border regarding the removal of children from their parents. I hope it is meaningful. The damage is already done, however, to our standing as a moral leader in the world and in our communal sense of what it means to be an American.
Mr. Trump is using the most vile, scare mongering rhetoric imaginable to demonize these potential contributors to the USA. It is on purpose. When he tweets that they “pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13” he brings out the very worst in our nature. Pour? Infest? What? Sound familiar?
“From the rostrum of the Reichstag, I prophesied to Jewry that, in the event of war’s proving inevitable, the Jew would disappear from Europe. That race of criminals has on its conscience the two million dead of the First World War, and now already hundreds and thousands more. Let nobody tell me that all the same we can’t park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who’s worrying about our troops? It’s not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumor attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing.” — Adolf Hitler October, 1941
“You see what happens with MS-13, where your sons and daughters are attacked violently. Kids that never even heard of such a thing are being attacked violently, not with guns, but with knives because it’s much more painful. Inconceivable — here we are talking about business — inconceivable that we even have to talk about MS-13 and other gangs. They attack violently, the most painful way possible. And a bullet is too quick. And we’re allowing these people into our country? Not with me. We’re taking them out by the thousands. We’re taking them out by the thousands.” Donald J. Trump, 19 June 2018
There are so many more references from Mr. Trump where he demonized those of color. There is a reason that to date, the only pictures, still or video, from inside the child internment camps are from the US government. What do they show? Only teenage boys of color shuffling along and kept in cages (or as one DHS official claimed that they aren’t cages, they are just walls made of chain link that go from floor to ceiling). As Mr. Trump rails against “MS-13” — is the president really saying that every man woman and child seeking entry from the south is a gang member — the video subtly reinforces his vitriol.
The president is trying to create a vision of a nation at war. That we are under attack from the south and the refugees at our borders are enemy combatants. With that psychology, of course we “capture” them and put them in POW camps. It is an artificial war and a created crisis. Created for political purposes. The president is trying to create an issue that he thinks he and the GOP can win on in November 2018. Truth is trampled in the process.
Look it up. The numbers apprehended at the border have plummeted between 2000 and now. For example in March, 2000 about 220,000 people crossed the border. In March of this year, when the “crisis” resulted in the zero tolerance policy, about 40,000 were apprehended trying to cross illegally. Looking at yearly totals since 1960, apprehensions increased steadily until peaking in the late 1990’s at roughly 1.6 million people. Since then the trend has been downward, hovering around 300,000 to 400,000 during President Obama’s second term and about 300,000 last year. Hardly “unheard of” or “the most in history” or “unprecedented”. By the way, part of the reason was that there were dramatic new hires in Border Patrol officers begun under President George W. Bush and expanded further under President Obama. As a side note, one should be aware that the historic rate of crimes for illegal immigrants is half of that of natural born citizens and the rate for legal immigrants is about a quarter of that for natural born Americans.
The current condition is a cruel manufactured crisis for crass political purposes. We are a nation of immigrants. We are better than this. Or at least I thought so.
Despite Mr. Trump’s fake claims that the Democrats want “open borders” to get more criminals, drug dealers and future voters into the country, the vast majority of Americans understand that immigration must be controlled and that laws must be the rule of the land. That said, it is possible to have and execute immigration laws with compassion.
Let’s hope that when Mr. Trump “signs something” today, he solves this problem. Whatever that something is, however, we have already seen clearly what is in his heart. What is now happening on the border is evil. It does not represent the values of the United States of America that I know.
In truth, I do not believe that Mr. Trump really cares one way or the other about immigration and the welfare of children on the border. It just makes a good wedge issue to enhance his own power. We have seen that Mr. Trump will stop at nothing to exploit fear and to promote his personal gain. Wake up America! This is what the future holds if we do not begin to demand more from our elected officials. Now.
“I thought I would take a little digression here to discuss some concerns raised by our church friends about separation of families… I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”
–Attorney General Jeff Sessions on why our country is adopting a new “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that includes separating all children — no matter their age — from their parents after crossing the border.
“This is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made. Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and 19th century — and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity — it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda.”
–Professor of American History John Fea.
I’m just sayin’….