White Supremacist Terrorism

Here we go again.  More mass shootings and more “thoughts and prayers.”  As of this writing twenty-two people died in El Paso, Texas and nine in Dayton, Ohio with dozens more wounded and injured.  This comes on the heels of a mass shooting at a Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California that left three dead and sixteen wounded.  There is an epidemic of violence in our country that is aided and abetted by the cowardice of politicians to deal with the issue in any practical way.

No piece of federal legislation concerning guns has reached a president’s desk since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994 — and that law expired in 2004.  More specifically, no law regulating the use of fire arms has passed since then.  Two others, however, have been passed. In 2004 an Act was passed that allows current and former law enforcement officers to carry concealed fire arms in any jurisdiction.  In 2005 an Act passed that prevents fire arm manufacturers and licensed dealers from being held liable when crimes are committed using their products.  That’s it.

There is a more pressing issue to deal with right now, however.

The acts of these despicable individuals, of which more and more are occurring in all segments of our society, including churches and synagogues, are not really the work of lone wolfs as some would like to depict them.  They are the acts of white supremacists that increasingly act in concert.  Instead of being lone wolfs, they are more like wolf packs.

There is little difference between these white supremacists conversing with each other, supporting each other, giving ideas to each other, helping each other in on-line chat rooms and on the internet, especially 8chan, than 80 years ago when a bunch of white guys in sheets would congregate in the back room of a warehouse in a small town.  It is the same, they just don’t have to travel any further than the lap top in their bedrooms to get their hateful ideas.  The FBI and other reputable agencies tracking these trends know the threat and they know that it is increasingly likely that the members of these hate groups will take action.  They are “heroes” to each other.  One may debate as to whether their psychological profile leads certain types of individuals into joining these groups, but they are not “crazy” or clinically mentally ill.  They are purposeful in their actions.  They have plans. They have goals.  They have the means to work towards achieving their ends.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said in Congressional testimony on July 23 this year that “homegrown violent extremists” are the biggest threat to the United States.  He went on to say, “I will say the majority of domestic terrorism cases we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”

I am concerned that we are on the way to another terrorist attack that will be the “new” attack of September 11, 2001, only this time it will be carried out by one or more young white guys.  Think Timothy McVeigh and the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995.  168 men, women and children died that day.  Hundreds more were wounded.  It is possible, and some believe probable, that something similar will happen again.

We need to call it what it is.  These attacks are not the result of video games, or drugs, or not going to church or mental illness or anything else.  Every country in the world deals with these same issues and they do not have the pervasive and never ending attacks on their fellow citizens that we do here in the United States.

These acts are increasingly the work of white nationalists who want to eliminate anyone in our country that they deem “impure” — in other words anyone that is not white and not Christian.  (It would be laughable that they call themselves Christians if it wasn’t such a deadly issue.)

It is staring us right in the face.  Call it what it is.  Call out the president when he says that Hispanics are conducting an “invasion” of our country.  Call out the president when he calls Mexicans “rapists” and “murderers.”  And on, and on, and on he goes with spiteful, hateful rhetoric towards people of color.  In a rally in Florida just this May he talked of the “invasion” from Mexico and then laughed along with the crowd when someone yelled “shoot them.”

Mr. Trump is not the one that pulled the trigger in El Paso or elsewhere.  He didn’t order it.  He does inspire these white nationalists when he uses hateful language that leads them to violence.  His barely disguised racist language is a deliberate campaign strategy to rally his “base.”  Shame on him.  Shame on us all.  We are better than this as a country.

More importantly, we need to take action as a country and tell the government to use the same tactics against domestic threats that we do to protect ourselves against foreign terrorists.  The oath I took as a Navy officer says in part “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”  We have a clear and present danger from domestic terrorists.

The biggest threat to our security and safety walks among us.

 


Fatigue Makes Cowards Of Us All

The title quote above is indelibly etched into my mind as it was emblazoned over the stairway from the crew locker room down to the boat storage area in the USNA boat house at Hubbard Hall. For four years every time I passed by that sign I took it onboard.  As college rowers we knew its meaning.  It takes mental toughness as well as physical fitness to compete at a high level. You can quit or you can fight through it.  The quote is attributed to General George S. Patton or Vince Lombardi — take your pick — but its origin is unclear.  Its meaning is not and it stayed with me through all of the years since then.

Its relevance takes on a new dimension to me in the current political atmosphere.  The President of the United States is so outrageous in his daily Tweets, rallies and pronouncements to the press that it wears me down.  It is truly fatiguing.  It becomes part of the background of daily life.  It becomes too easy to say that it is just Trump being Trump.

But we cannot.  We cannot give in to that fatigue.  He must be called out each and every time that he spouts hateful, racist and misogynistic things.

When E. Jeanne Carroll alleges that Mr. Trump raped her and he responds that it couldn’t have happened because “she’s not my type” we should ask what type of woman would Mr. Trump rape?

When Mr. Trump racially attacks members of Congress that oppose his ideas we must call him out.  The latest episode comes this weekend with an attack on Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and the city of Baltimore.  What does Mr. Trump mean when he says about Baltimore that “no human being would want to live there”?  We should recognize that he knows full well that the city is majority African-American.  Does that mean that they are not human?

The outrageous lies are endless.  Mr. Trump is the most deliberately divisive president in my lifetime.  Probably, he is the most divisive since the U.S. Civil War.  Why do we tolerate it?

The Trump will be Trump argument is weak and cowardly.  It is not okay. He is not what America is about.  He has bullied the Republican Party to the point that good Americans that three years ago decried his abhorrent behavior now go meekly along.  They pretend that they did not hear or are too busy to notice the latest insult.  Or worse, they defend his comments.

Mr. Trump is a master of the playground mantra of “I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”  He projects what he knows about his own character and his tactics onto his critics.  And make no mistake, his critics are to him anyone that does not blindly follow along with total loyalty in every manner of endeavor.

The Republican Party is dead.  The Democrats cannot get their act together.  Mr. Trump is taking advantage of every crack in society and ignoring the law to further his own personal gain.  As long as the citizens of this great country look the other way, either out of fatigue or out of a sense that laying low is the best way not to get into trouble, we will see him amplify his outrageous behavior into dangerous areas.

We are better than this.  Do not let fatigue make you a coward.

 

 


Shameful

The president is at it again and incited a crowd in Greenville, North Carolina to engage in racist chants during one of his campaign rallies last night.

Again attacking specific Congresswomen of color he got the crowd to chant “Send her back.”

Shameful. Horrifying. Dangerous. Un-American.

Most frightening, I invite you to look at rallies in Germany or Italy in the 1930’s and compare them to Mr. Trump’s rallies.  The similarities are ominous.

The president clearly relishes his racist attacks on other Americans.  I hope — perhaps in vain — that the good people of North Carolina woke up this morning embarrassed by their actions.  They should be.

Should the president work in any other job in the United States, he would be fired for his racist rants as explained by a department he oversees, The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I fear the president of the United States will have blood on his hands when one or more of his white nationalist supporters takes the situation into their own hands based on his overt encouragement of outrageous and indecent behavior.

It is clear to me and to his white nationalist supporters, that when he says “Make America Great Again” it is with a wink and a nod.  He really means “Make America White Again.”

All of us are complicit if we condone such actions from anyone, much less from the president.


The Bigot In Chief

As I am sure you know, on Sunday Mr. Donald J. Trump sent out a series of racist tweets about four Congresswomen of color.  Besides putting forth lies about who does or does not love their country, and other blatantly bizarre statements concerning a Congresswoman’s “love” for al-Qaeda, for three days (and counting) he used the most basic of racial and ethnic slurs by telling them to go back to where they came from.

This should not be surprising.  Mr. Trump has a record of racist statements and actions dating to the 1970’s when he and his father were sued by the federal government for discrimination in the renting of apartments in a building in Queens, New York.  The list of other racist statements and actions over the decades is way too long to recount here.  However, since declaring his candidacy for president the number of such incidents have increased.  As president, Mr. Trump seems to have settled on attacking women of color. Such attacks include the mother of a Marine killed in action, the wife of a soldier killed in action, various Congresswomen of color prior to this incident, and numerous others.  For some reason, he thinks that’s a good thing to do.

The president is a racist.

Some may argue that I cannot possibly know what is in his heart.  That is true, I do not.  I do know that his recurring actions and words show that he is a racist.  White nationalists say that he is one of them.  They recognize what they see. To paraphrase an old saw, if he walks like a racist, quacks like a racist and looks like a racist, he’s a racist.

Sadly, however, many of us already knew this and are profoundly disappointed in his actions, but not surprised.  What is surprising is that the entire Republican House and Senate members — save a few countable on one hand — support his racism.  Don’t take my word for it.  Yesterday the House voted to condemn the president’s remarks. Only four Republicans voted for the condemnation and one former Republican did so.  One of the four is the only African-American Republican in the House.   The vast majority of Republicans, in the House and Senate, are white men.  There is one African-American Republican Senator.

The Republicans lack of a back bone makes me sad for our country.

Mr. Trump is fully in control of the Republican Party and good men and women that used to stand up for what was right now meekly submit to his will — and in some instances loudly support his every deed — including the most basic of hurtful phrases.  “Go back.”  Those two words convey hate for the “other.”  Hate for people with “funny” names or who don’t look like northern Europeans.  It means that you do not belong here with “real” Americans, no matter how long you and your family have lived in the United States.  It separates you.  It is meant to demean.  It is hateful.  Words matter.  And only four Republicans put what was right over the fear of a Tweet from Mr. Trump.  In my book, if you stand up for a racist by actively supporting his words and actions, then that makes you a racist.

Shameful.

Mr. Trump took this course on purpose.  There was no attempt to “explain what he really meant” or to clarify, or to otherwise soften his words.  In fact he doubled and tripled down on his remarks by going out of his way to repeat them over and over.  It is entirely possible to disagree on a policy statement or a political agenda as I do with much of what the four Congresswomen under attack are pursuing.  What is not okay is using racial and ethnic smears to personally attack other American citizens duly elected to their office.

Why is he doing this?

Three reasons come to my mind.  First, this is his re-election campaign strategy.  He and his fellow Trumpist politicians want these four freshman Congresswomen to be seen as the face of the Democrats.  He will campaign that they represent the “true” Democrats and that if any Democrat is elected you will have people with funny names and darker skins running the country into the ground.  Remember that he started his run for the presidential nomination with the birther movement that claimed President Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen and followed it up with his first speech from Trump Tower announcing his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers.  It is a cynical and divisive deliberate strategy.  It is a naked manipulation of people’s fears and emotions.  It will get worse, especially since he sees no consequences to his actions.  Republican politicians rolled over and now have no stomach for standing up to him.  Probably, many will emulate him in their own campaigns, further dividing our country and demeaning our values.

Second, he is appealing to his base — and “base” may be the most correct term as he is using the basest of strategies to look for re-election in 2020.  I knew there were racists in our country, I just did not know there were so many.  And no, I don’t think every Trump supporter is a racist, but I fail to see how any policy he espouses or judge he appoints cancels out his obscene behavior that demeans the office he holds and besmirches the values of our entire country.  Our country is an idea, a set of values, the search for “a more perfect union,” and not one based on ethnicity or who our ancestors might have been or the color of our skin.

Third, he is covering something up.  Mr. Trump has a penchant for capturing the news cycle when he does not want us to look too closely at some other action or circumstance.  My guess is that the circle around him and Mr. Jeffrey Epstein — the industrial level child sex trafficker — is getting tighter and smaller.  They were known to hang together in the 1990s and early 2000s.  Indeed, in 2002 Mr. Trump is quoted in New York magazine saying that Mr. Epstein is a “terrific guy” and that “he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”  How young?  Mr. Trump hosted a party at Mar-a-Lago where he and Mr. Epstein were the only two male guests.  All the others were young women flown in for the party.  On Monday a bail hearing for Mr. Epstein was held in New York that included testimony from two of the young girls he abused. Is it possible that Mr. Trump was too personally involved with Mr. Epstein and his evil life style, even has the president says he “is not a fan”?  “When you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything.”

The President.  Of the United States.  Is using the most vile and divisive words and actions to open old wounds and make new ones for his own personal gain.  And 98% of elected Republicans and millions of people think that is okay.

Historians will look back on this period and mark it as the end of the Republican Party.  The Republicans will be right up there in the pantheon of failed political parties with the Whigs and the Know Nothings from the 19th century.  The only question is how much damage to our country will they allow before they collapse.

In the meantime, we are in big trouble as a country.  We lost our soul when this man became president.  Every day we endure a new attack on our values and our Constitution.  I fear that Mr. Trump has lowered every bar of common decency and that his words and actions put people’s lives in danger.

When does it end?


Shameful

“You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic.  If this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds… Impeachment is not about punishment, impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”  — Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“The president of the United States looked 270 million Americans in the eye, and lied, deliberately and methodically. He took an oath to faithfully execute the laws of this nation, and he violated that oath. He pledged to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, and he violated that pledge. He took an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and he willfully and repeatedly violated that oath.”  — Mitch McConnell (R-Ky)

“There is one standard of justice that applies equally to all, and to say or do otherwise will undermine the most sacred of all American ideals. [The] President has committed federal crimes, and there must be a reckoning, or no American shall ever again be prosecuted for those same crimes.”  — John Thune (R-S.D.)

“As of April 27, including the president’s rally in Green Bay, Wis., the tally in our database stands at 10,111 (false or misleading) claims in 828 days.” — Washington Post

Have Republicans finally seen the light and figured out that Donald J. Trump is unfit for office given the clear-cut references to obstruction of justice in the Mueller Report?  Hardly.

The quotes above refer to the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1999 and the fact that our current president has lied over 10,000 times since taking office.  The hypocrisy speaks for itself.

And yet, the talk of impeachment — should Mr. Trump be impeached or not — focuses only on the disagreements within the Democrat Party.  Not a word on the Constitutional duty for oversight and the rule of law from any Republican.  The closest that any Republican now in office came was a statement from Senator Mitt Romney (R-Ut).  Mr. Romney did not speak of impeachment or make a case that Mr. Trump should resign.  He merely said that he was “sickened” and “appalled” by the actions of those in the Trump administration and campaign “including the president.”  No reference as to what the consequences should be, but at least it was something.  He was, of course, immediately attacked for his statement.  After that, crickets.

And it gets worse.

“And you look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads and try to sow dissent and do it, and it’s a terrible thing but I think the investigations and all the speculation that has happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on democracy than a couple Facebook ads….I think they said they spent about $160,000. I spent $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign. So if you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country.”  — Jared Kushner commenting on the Mueller Report

We have come to a place where a (the?) Senior Adviser to the President, downplays the fact that a foreign adversary interferes in our election and that he believes that the investigation of that fact was a bigger threat to our democracy.  Oh, by the way.  He got his facts wrong, and he failed to mention criminal activity hacking into the DNC data base and stealing damaging emails. But I suppose that is to be expected from this administration.

And it gets worse yet.

When the president’s personal lawyer was asked about the Mueller Report’s findings of Russian interference in the election during an interview on CNN he said, “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians.”  When given a chance to clarify his statement he said, “There’s no crime.  We’re going to get into morality?  That isn’t what prosecutors look at, morality.”  So in the course of the Trump campaign we’ve gone from there was no contact with the Russians, to maybe there was contact but it was to talk about orphans, to if there was contact with the Russians there is nothing wrong with it, to we did contact the Russians but everybody would have done the same, to yes, of course we were in cahoots with the Russians, what’s wrong with that?

And it gets even worse.

According to the New York Times then Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen tried to bring up cyber security and Russian (and other foreign adversaries) interference in the 2020 election.  She was thwarted by Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who told her not to bring it up in front of the president.  She was told that Mr. Trump equates any discussion of Russian interference in the 2016 election as questioning the legitimacy of his election.  As a result, there have been no Cabinet level meetings on the subject and no presidential level directives to prepare to defend the country against future attacks.  So much for the president upholding his oath of office.  Additionally, I will take a quick note to remind everyone that the DHS is not primarily focused on immigration.  At least it wasn’t until this administration.  It is involved in counter-intelligence work, cyber security and many other areas vital to our country to protect it from real threats to our security, not manufactured border crises.

Mr. Trump is the biggest threat to our democracy of any president in my lifetime, and possibly ever.  My lifetime includes the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.  He at least had certain standards that even he would not dismiss.  A scoundrel yes, but a scoundrel with at least some understanding of what our country stands for.  There were lines even he would not cross.  Mr. Trump knows no boundaries and now he is aided and abetted by Republicans in the House and Senate that apparently have no boundaries either.  Somehow they have made a pact with the devil that they will support and defend anything Mr. Trump does or says in order to get a tax cut and conservative judges on the federal courts.  It seems nothing else matters.

By their actions and words it is clear that the Republican Party no longer has any intellectual or moral underpinnings.  Their sole reason for being is to defend the president, no matter what.  The Republican Party in Washington ceased to exist.  Trumpism prevails.

To me this is not a matter of policy or a matter of Democrats just not liking the president.  Like has nothing to do with it.  Mr. Trump is destroying the moral fabric of society and deliberately stoking fear and loathing in order to achieve his own ends.

All presidents deserve thoughtful criticism and reasonable people can reasonably disagree on a given policy.  This is more than that.

Please tell me that you would hold Mr. Trump’s actions, words, and demeanor up to your children as an aspirational goal you would be proud to see them achieve.  If you cannot do that, then why do we tolerate it in our president?  What happened to our desire to see a person of great character as the leader of our country?

And please, spare me the “what abouts.”  Not all of our presidents or party leaders have been icons of virtue, but can you truly say that anyone of them in our lifetime was worse than Mr. Trump?  This is not a “it happens on both sides” issue.  It is not.

While the Democrats move to and fro tearing themselves apart contemplating their collective navel as they try to decide whether and how to hold Mr. Trump accountable under their duty as sworn to in an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, Republicans sit smugly on the sidelines appearing systematically to kiss Mr. Trump’s — well, you know.  Not a leader among them.

We get so caught up in the day-to-day travesty known as the Trump Administration that we lose sight of the forest for the trees.  Everyday brings a new outrage.  It is hard to keep up.  Step back sometime and think about the totality of his destructive work.  Taken as a whole, he is a one man wrecking crew with his advisers and apologists in Congress gleefully sifting through the wreckage.

We now know who Mr. Trump is and little about him surprises me any more.  He outrages me, yes, worries me, yes, but not much new in his spiel.  What worries me more is that so many people go merrily along with him hoping that some day it will make their lives better.  Where is the evidence for that?  Apparently, the motivation for Republicans in Congress and those working for him in the White House is power.  Pure unadulterated power.

I wonder how they manage to look at themselves in the mirror each morning.  Shameful.

 

 

 


The Good News and The Bad News

It has been a busy week.  First the good news.

For the third time I was an Election Judge (poll worker, but sworn in as a judge in this state because of the decision-making that may be needed).  Once again it was a very long day with no respite, but worth it.  At our location, everyone, Republican, Democrat or Unaffiliated, was uniformly cheerful, friendly, and appreciative of their role to play in our democracy.  It was refreshing in the current era to see the best parts of our republic.

In my state, Maryland, one of the “bluest” in the country, we re-elected a Republican Governor for the first time in decades.  At the same time, the Democrat controlled state legislature gained more seats for the Democrats and voters re-elected our Democrat Senator and Representatives.  I consider that a positive sign as well.  In the first year of the Governor’s term, he tried to push legislation through that did not have the support of the representatives.  At the same time, some of the legislation the Democrats wanted was turned back by the Governor.  The same old story?  In this case, no.  Both the Governor and the legislative leaders realized that nothing would be accomplished if they didn’t — wait for it — compromise on the issues.  That does not mean it was all unicorns and rainbows, there were some knock down, drag out battles over certain issues.  On the whole, however, both parties recognized that compromise was necessary in order to accomplish meaningful results.  Consequently, most of those involved, including an unheard of for this state second term for a Republican Governor, returned to office.  (To put it in perspective, he is only the second Republican Governor in Maryland since Spiro Agnew — Richard Nixon’s first Vice president.  The last two term Republican Governor was Theodore McKeldin first elected in 1951.)

I was looking forward to writing an entirely positive piece in this space and was feeling better about the state of affairs in our country after the election.  After all, the House would now have oversight over the excesses of the Executive Branch for the first time in two years.

It lasted less than twenty-four hours.  Then came the bad news.  In duplicate.

Wednesday night another mass shooting of innocent victims occurred.  This time in Thousand Oaks California, considered the third most safe city in the country, according to FBI statistics.  Mostly students out for a break in the routine and a little dancing were gunned down.  Another needless tragedy that is becoming increasingly too common.  According to the Gun Violence Archive, this was the 307th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2018.  (They define a mass shooting as four or more people shot in one incident — not necessarily all deaths.)  Another in a long line of sad days for too many families and for all of us as citizens.  Perhaps the new Congress will finally address common sense gun laws that are supported by a majority in the country across all party lines.

Earlier that day the president gave what can only be described as a bizarre press conference that was either an attempt at showing that he would not change his habits and methods despite a significant defeat at the polls or a deliberate attempt to be bizarre in an effort to change the news cycle away from the success the Democrats had at the polls.

More significantly, he fired (yes, fired, when the president asks for a resignation it is not a voluntary action to resign) Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday afternoon.  It was not so surprising that he did so, as he had been saying he would for well over a year, but it was unsettling that he did so less than twenty-four hours after the polls closed.  To some extent, it is what it is.  I was no fan of Mr. Sessions, but I did respect that he stood up to the president over the ongoing Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president.  Mr. Sessions did the right thing to recuse himself in accordance with the ethics of the situation and the rules of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  Mr. Trump never got over the fact that someone in his administration did the right thing.  He constantly asked where was “his Roy Cohn” — an Attorney General that should defend him personally and shield him from investigations, rather than work for the American people in upholding the principles of the Constitution.  (You may remember that Roy Cohn was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and mentor.  Mr. Cohn started his public career as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Chief Counsel during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954.  Mr. Cohn is  the person responsible for teaching Mr. Trump to always “hit back twice as hard” against any accusations and “deny, deny, deny” — never apologize or admit to a mistake.)

The real bad news was not necessarily in the departure of Mr. Sessions.  The shocker was the person Mr. Trump named as his successor.  Mr. Trump’s intent to stop the Mueller investigation is reflected in his choice.

In a move that many Republican and Democrat Constitutional scholars consider against the law, Mr. Trump got his Roy Cohn by appointing Matthew Whitaker as the Acting Attorney General.  Mr. Whitaker is not a Senate confirmed official, which is the basis for many scholars and experts to consider his appointment to be illegal.  The normal sequence of events would be for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become the Acting Attorney General.  Conceivably, Mr. Trump could have appointed another Senate confirmed official as the Acting AG but he did not do that.  Why, you ask?  I do not know what goes on in Mr. Trump’s mind, but I can guess.

This is a bit down in the weeds, which I think Mr. Trump believes most people don’t care about, but this turn of events is serious and with long-lasting impact.  I will attempt to explain why, as succinctly as possible.

Mr. Rosenstein has been the supervisory official for the Mueller investigation.  Mr. Trump has been at odds with him for nearly two years about that investigation.  He wants to put someone into the DOJ as Acting AG in order to have someone in place to over rule Mr. Rosenstein and to inhibit, if not derail or eliminate, the Mueller probe before it indicts one of his family (the odds are high that Mr. Donald Trump Jr. is in Mr. Mueller’s sights) or comes back with a report saying that the Trump Campaign did conspire with the Russians to influence the election and then Mr. Trump obstructed justice in an attempt to cover it up and/or protect his family and business interests.

Legal scholars not only think Mr. Whitaker is an invalid appointee, but they also mostly agree that should he stay in the position, he must recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation because of his extensive public remarks stating that he does not believe anything happened between the Trump Campaign and the Russians.  Oh, and that there was not obstruction of justice. Unfortunately, before being briefed on the investigation or before talking to the ethics attorneys in the DOJ, Mr. Whitaker has expressed that he will not recuse himself.  Of course not. Mr. Trump would not have appointed him if he did.  Preposterously, today Mr. Trump claimed to reporters that he did not know Mr. Whitaker, even though Mr. Whitaker often accompanied or replaced Mr. Sessions in many meetings with the president.  Reportedly, since the president did not like Mr. Sessions, Mr. Whitaker often spoke to the president in his stead.  My view is that some kind of quid pro quo was reached between Mr. Trump and Mr. Whitaker.  The former would appoint him Acting AG with some kind of follow on appointment in the future and the latter would make sure Mr. Mueller and his investigation was severely inhibited or ended.  Such an arrangement of course would be illegal and further the case for obstruction of justice.

They are birds of a feather, however.  Mr. Trump is well-known for his scams, such as Trump University that took in millions of our fellow Americans money based on promises never delivered.  It was forced to close down and Mr. Trump paid a hefty fine.  Mr. Whitaker was on the Board of Directors of a firm that the Federal Trade Commission labeled a “scam,” shut down and fined millions of dollars.  Additionally Mr. Whitaker sent threatening emails to some who complained that they were scammed.  So, they have that in common.

Mr. Whitaker has been especially clear in his remarks regarding the Mueller investigation and the circumstances surrounding the president.  He is right in line with the president that there is nothing there and that it is politically motivated.  In fact, he has opined that the “real” investigation should be of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).  Here is what will happen, in my view.

  • Mr. Whitaker will severely limit funding for the Mueller investigation which will curtail further work without having to actually dismiss him and effectively end the investigation.
  • Mr. Whitaker further will limit Mr. Mueller’s work by prohibiting a subpoena of the president to force him to answer questions and will limit any other new avenues of investigation.  (The Acting AG overseeing the investigation must approve all significant elements of the Mueller probe.)
  • Mr. Whitaker will appoint a new Special Counsel to investigate Mrs. Clinton and the DNC in an effort to distract from the Mueller investigation and to give the president a new “caravan” to attack in an effort to distract the American public.

All of this will happen quickly, so that the new Democrat majority in the House has no chance to stop it before taking over in January 2019.  Mr. Trump must be feeling trapped between the rock (Mr. Mueller) and a hard place (the incoming Democrats in the House).  He will act out in any way possible to protect himself, his family and his business interests.  He probably feels that with Mr. Whitaker as the Acting AG, he can dictate which actions the DOJ should take and how Mr. Whitaker can act to protect him.  This is dangerous new territory for our country.  Firing Mr. Mueller directly will cause a political firestorm that may backfire on Mr. Trump.  Instead there will be delays, obfuscation and a slow strangling of the Mueller probe.  The real question is how senior officials in the DOJ, starting with Mr. Rosenstein will react to this affront to our Constitution.  Do they resign in mass?  Do they soldier on doing the best that they can under stifling circumstances?

What about the Republicans in the Senate?  Will they find a spine and stand up to the president at last? Are there any Republicans left in the Senate or have they all become Trumpists?  I see little hope as Senators such as Lindsay Graham (Trumpist — SC) have gone from saying that firing Mr. Sessions would not be tolerated to supporting Mr. Trump’s action to remove him.

“If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay.  Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.”  — Lindsay Graham in July 2017

“What I’ve been saying for months is every president deserves an attorney general they have confidence in and they can work with.” — Lindsay Graham in November 2018

I am not picking on Senator Graham as his remarks reflect the change in almost every Republican in Washington today.  They changed from executing their oversight role to a becoming a rubber stamp of all things Trumpian, even as it defies what they say they’ve stood for their entire lives.

So for a few hours Tuesday night, I felt good about the future of our country.  I still feel good about it in the long run.  A few short hours later I realized that in the short run, we have a crazy ride ahead of us that will threaten the very fiber of our country.  I think we will survive based on the goodwill I experienced Tuesday, but it is not going to be easy or pretty.

Hang on for a crazy trip over the next two years.  It’s gonna be wild, baby!

 

 


Is There No Shame?

As we head into the final days before Election Day, and in the wake of two domestic terrorist attacks including the tragic loss of eleven lives at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the ridiculous claims, lies, fear mongering and fomenting of hate by the President of the United States of America continues unabated.  He has no shame.  When repeatedly asked about his vile tactics he offers some version of “it works — we won.”  Maybe he won, but the “we” — the citizens of this great country — are losing.  The president may feel no shame, but I do.  I am ashamed that this is the face of the United States that the world sees.

As I have written before, the president uses words that have distinct connotations for people who consider themselves white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others.  “Nationalist,” “globalist,” “international bankers,” and other similar words have distinct anti-Jewish meanings to those filled with hate.  It stokes the fires raging inside of the haters.  Here is one thing to understand.  These people don’t just hate Jews as a religion, they see a vast international conspiracy where “Jews” rule the world.  Literally.  The haters see a hidden web of conspiracies and connections throughout the world that the rest of us know nothing about.  They believe that the Jewish conspiracy controls everything that happens politically and especially economically.  All the suffering by those that are not part of the cabal can lay their problems at the feet of those that “belong.”  The nationalists unfounded hate may take the form of religious intolerance, but it is important to understand that in their minds it goes way, way, deeper.  It is a world-wide conspiracy and everything is controlled by “the Jews.”

Thus the murderer that attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue (Etz haChayim in Hebrew in the Book of Genesis) reportedly picked this particular house of worship because of their well-known involvement with the Jewish charity known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) whose motto is “Welcome the stranger.  Protect the refugee.”  Founded in 1881,  HIAS sought to help Jewish refugees coming to the U.S.  In 1975 it expanded its scope to help Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. following the fall of South Vietnam to the communists.  It works world-wide to help the poor and misplaced and refugees of all religions, nationalities and ethnicities.  Currently they are helping the refugees coming from Central America.

Enter the “caravan.”  Enter the George Soros (an internationally known Jewish billionaire) funded caravan.  To the haters, it is all connected.

The synagogue murderer was incensed that the congregants were helping these poor migrants.  He is said to have posted on social media that these impoverished people were “invaders” that were brought here “to kill our people.”  He went on to post that “I can’t just sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.”

Hmmm.  Where did I hear that before?  Oh, right.  From the President of the United States of America.

Among other lies he tells at his campaign rallies, he claims that most of the refugees are members of “MS-13” and “Middle Easterners” coming here to spread illegal drugs, murder people, spread disease, and take away jobs.  As he said earlier this week, “We’re being invaded.  When you look at that, thousands of people — when you looked at that bridge loaded up with thousands of people, that’s called an invasion of our country.”

Reality check.  There are currently less than three thousand people, many women and children, and they are approximately 900 miles away on foot walking across Mexico.  This is one of many such “caravans” that have formed in recent years.  Mostly the migrants travel together for safety from criminals and others willing to exploit them.  The last one to arrive at the U.S. border was last April and resulted in the arrest of 14 people.  Under U.S. and international law we have an obligation to at least listen to and decide on the merits whether these individuals and families, who turn themselves in at the border and ask for asylum, in accordance with the lawshould in fact be given asylum.

They are not law breakers and they are not illegal aliens.  Nearly all of them, turn themselves in. For the April caravan the president sent approximately 2100 National Guard troops to beef up the border.  I am no math major, but that amounts to roughly 150 soldiers for every person arrested from the caravan.  Now the president has issued an order for about 5200 active duty soldiers to move to the border this week.  A few fun facts about that.  This will be the greatest number of troops on the Mexican border in over a century.  We will have about the same number of soldiers on the border with Mexico as we have now in Iraq and Syria combined fighting ISIS.  He promises at his campaign rallies that he will send 15,000 soldiers to the border “soon.”  (It is unclear whether this number includes the 5200 already ordered there.)  That number is nearly equivalent to the total number we have fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Which is the greater threat?  Impoverished families from Central America or the Taliban?  ISIS?

Here is a couple of things to consider.  He is sending active duty troops because the National Guard now there are under the control of the state governors that supplied them.  Not the president.  He wants troops he can control.  There is a law known as the  Posse Comitatus Act signed by President Hayes in 1878 that has come to be interpreted as prohibiting U.S. federal troops from enforcing domestic law. In other words, they have no arrest powers.  (Of the military services, only the U.S. Coast Guard has arrest authority.  There are some exceptions for the other services under the Insurrection Act and in other specified situations.)

In other words, our active duty forces that are involved in two active wars and numerous other missions around the world, will be sent to the border to satisfy the campaign rhetoric of the president.  He has politicized the military and is using it as a personal tool for campaigning.  As it is, they can only be used in a support role (non-law enforcement tasks) but so far have been under orders from the Secretary of Defense to have no interaction with the refugees beyond medical or legal aid.  To further demonstrate the waste of taxpayer money, the caravan is not expected to arrive at the border for about two more months.  That amounts to 15,000 troops sitting on their collective back sides for two months — which may include Thanksgiving and Christmas — rather than being home with their families between combat deployments or training for their next deployment.  It impairs readiness.

This is not a matter of enforcing immigration laws.  All main stream politicians and candidates, from any party, supports enforcing our laws and protecting the borders.  This is not what the president’s rhetoric is about.  It is all to stir up fear and anger among people who must be pretty unhappy about their lives.

But it gets better yet.

The President of the United States of America apparently thinks that he can change the Constitution of the United States through an Executive Order.  Wow.  My prediction is that his plan to do so disappears after the election — most things he promises go out with a whimper — but what if he actually believes it?  Here is what he said earlier this week.

“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t.  You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”

So everyone has had it wrong for over two hundred years.  I wonder who the “they” are that just discovered that all it takes is an Executive Order.

Specifically he wants to change the “policy” (yes — he actually said that) written in the 14th Amendment.  There are five sections to the amendment, but it is the first section that he wants to change.  That portion of the 14th Amendment reads:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

This is the so called “birthright” amendment and the source of so much hate and misinformation about “anchor babies.”  The president claims that:

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits.  It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

Facts take a beating under this president.  There are over 30 countries that have the same birthright privilege of citizenship including Canada and Mexico.  The baby is not “essentially” a citizen, they are a citizen.  “All those benefits” which he claims amount to “billions and billions of dollars” do not take into account that the vast majority of those babies grow up to be productive citizens of the United States that work and pay taxes and contribute to the improvement of our country.

But there is something more sinister about attacking the 14th Amendment.  Not only does it continue to vilify those seeking a better life, the 14th Amendment is an anathema to those same self-styled “nationalists” that I have written about before.  The 14th Amendment is there to incorporate into law and the Constitution that former slaves and their descendants are full citizens.  The amendment overturns counting slaves (and presumably without this change, freed slaves) as three-fifths of a person encapsulated in Article One, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution.  So picking the 14th Amendment for an Executive Order does two things.  It supports the views of white supremacists and further encourages them by, in the view of many African-Americans, going after one of the most historically important amendments in their lives.  It also sends a signal to many African-Americans that they are part of the “other.”

Perhaps he would like to also sign an Executive Order doing away with freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights as well.  The president, like Joseph Stalin considers the press an “enemy of the people.”  Come to think of it, why stop there?  Just overturn any other silly amendments that get in the way.

I see a pattern developing.  These are not isolated incidents.  All are common to a thread of creating the “other” to hate, fear and vilify.  A page from the demagogue text-book.  Note that the president is not campaigning on his accomplishments.  Pay attention to his rants at his rallies and you will not hear him say anything that might not have already been said during his 2016 campaign. He is trying to convince people that without him and his supporters in Congress, the apocalypse will be upon us.

The stakes are high.  The soul of our country is under attack.  I find it shameful and it is too high of a price to pay for “winning.”