The company you keep

Even parents who are not helicopter parents have concerns over the friends their children make. These friends can be positive or negative influences. My wife and I opened our house to our kids’ friends – we loved the chaos, but also got to meet them.

Speaking of the company you keep, on yet another Friday night cleansing, the president announced he would commute the sentence of his confidant Roger Stone. Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and more and is a self-professed dirty trickster, which still puzzles me why anyone would brag about that?

Stone is a contemporary of Paul Manafort, who also went to jail for more than a few malfeasances related to unreported foreign dealings and income. Manafort served as Trump’s campaign manager for over four months.

Michael Flynn pleased guilty to lying to the FBI twice, but that does not seem to matter now to some. What is also not reported enough, is the FBI did not pursue other legitimate charges of not reporting relationships with foreign governments and conducting government business before being sworn in. The FBI wanted his help, so they made a plea deal.

And, it still puzzles me why the president commuted the sentence of disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich marketed for money the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became president. That is both illegal and highly unethical.

These are the kind of people the president values. Maybe this is part of the reason he fawns over autocratic-type and brutal leaders from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Philippines, North Korea, Brazil, etc.

It also interests me how he demeans, denigrates and eventually forces out people who are more loyal to the Constitution than to him. People who testified under oath at great risk over concerns, Inspector Generals who wrote reports or raised concerns inconsistent to whatever tactic the president was employing and, of course, whistleblowers who raised concerns with the hope of some protection have come under fire. Names like Alex Vindman, Fiona Hill, Michael Atkinson, Mitch Behm, Glenn Fine, Christi Grimm, Steve Linick, et al are American heroes run out of Dodge by the corrupt sheriff. It also is frustrating to watch Senators and Congresspeople throw these folks under the bus.

I have been a broken record with Republican Senators and my two Republican Congressman (the first had to resign over unreported conflicts of interest) sharing my concerns about the most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon. I would ask them what will you have to defend next week, the week after, next month…?

I recall Republicans making a big deal out of Obama not wearing s flag pin. How unpatriotic! But, now it is OK that a president prefers the company of criminals, he takes the side of Putin over his own intelligence people, he does not bother to study key briefings endangering Americans, he is far more untruthful than he is not beating up on those who try to tell the truth, so badly botching a COVID-19 response using misinformation and finally promoting racial injustice dividing America.

These are questions that stymie me, and the sycophants who look the other way are abetting this corruption. But, don’t take my word for it, Google all those names above and determine for yourself. Ask why are the various groups treated so differently by this president?

Really, Tucker Carlson?

I am not a fan of labels or name-calling. I find them to be lazy shortcuts used by the labeler to make people avoid actually looking at the argument of the labeled person. Sometimes, they are used to generalize a demographic group or time period. Often, they are used to denigrate someone or some group.

Fox News opinion host, Tucker Carlson, already being criticized for insensitive Black Lives Matter remarks last month, has made more offensive remarks. This time he is targeting Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth calling her a “moron,” a “fraud,” and a “coward” adding “she hates the country.” Per Carlson, she had the audacity to say we should have discussions around the continued veracity of various monuments.

Let’s focus on the last two labels – the coward one and hating our country, although the first two labels are inappropriate, as well. He called a wheel chair bound Purple Heart veteran a “coward” and said she “hates the country.” So, how did Duckworth earn that Purple Heart?

Per Wikipedia, Duckworth “lost her right leg near the hip and the left leg below the knee from injuries sustained on November 12, 2004 when the UH 60 Blackhawk helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. She was the first American female double amputee from the Iraqi War.”

Some coward. A helicopter pilot is often in harm’s way flying close to the ground to transport troops. From Carlson’s Wikipedia summary, I did not find any military service, although it notes his application was turned down by the CIA.

Carlson is entitled to disagree with Duckworth’s position. That is what America is all about, civil discourse over differences of opinion. Those are some of the freedoms our veterans fought for. Yet, calling Senator Duckworth a moron and fraud is bad enough and does not paint Carlson in a good light. It does nothing for his argument and makes me want to consider her argument more.

But, to call a double amputee helicopter pilot who won the Purple Heart a “coward” or question her love of country is beyond the pale. It is highly offensive to Duckworth or any veteran who served, regardless of whether they were injured. It is akin to the president’s horrible insult of Senator John McCain not being a war hero because he was captured.

In my view, Carlson owes Duckworth and other veterans a sincere apology. He was already losing advertisers over his insensitive Black Lives Matter remarks, but this may cause a few more to leave, as well. To be frank, Carlson brought this on himself.

Propaganda then and now

In 1861, let’s suppose you were a small plot farmer in South Carolina trying to grow enough to feed your family and maybe trade with a local merchant. The plantation and slave owner nearby seeks your help.

The owner asks you and your teen boys to fight for the right for him to own slaves. You would likely tell him that is not your fight. Instead, if he said we don’t want those northerners telling us how to run things. We want you to fight for our state’s right to govern itself, then you would be more inclined to risk your and your boys’ lives.

That is precisely what happened. It is called propaganda. Ironically, this propaganda version was taught in southern schools even when I attended. Some even called it “the war of Northern Aggression.” Yet, the states’ rights arguments continue even today, as people try to remember a more favorable history.

From the American Battlefields website (see link below), here is excerpted language from early on in the secession documents from Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia:

Georgia: “The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

Mississippi: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

Texas: “She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.”

Virginia: “…and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.”

Note the particular racist references in the Mississippi document, saying “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun.”

I raise these issues as these states seceded from the United States of America, primarily because their assets were threatened – the slaves. The states’ rights touted as the issue was so that slave owners could keep owning slaves. Note the references to commerce in the Mississippi document, as well. The commerce was heightened by not having to pay for labor.

As a result, divided Americans died. How did they die? “Approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease during the Civil War. This number comes from an 1889 study of the war performed by William F. Fox and Thomas Leonard Livermore.” Yet, I have also seen numbers as high as 750,000.

So, Confederate monuments that honor Civil War commanders need to be questioned and likely removed, as they honor people who rebelled against America. Many were erected long after the Civil War. Some were raised during the heyday of the KKK and their heinous racist movie “A Birth of a Nation.” The same goes for the Confederate battle flag which was used by the KKK during the Jim Crow era. To African-Americans, that flag means hanging, beating, denigration, and disrespect.

When I see a Confederate flag flying, I hate to tell the owner, but I am biased toward thinking the owner is a racist. I am hard pressed to see it any other way. When I see a Confederate flag being flown or displayed next to an American flag, my reaction is “you know that flag represent folks who betrayed the folks flying the other flag.”

But, the monuments, flag and whitewashing of history, all are an affront to our great country and our African-American citizens. From his final book, “A Restless Wave,” Senator John McCain went back to South Carolina after his first failed presidential attempt in 2000 and apologized. Why? He said when he was asked during the campaign about whether the Confederate flag should be flown on state capitol grounds, he answered politically, not what was in his heart. He said with his apology, if a flag is so highly offensive to a portion of your citizens, then you should not fly it.

Senator McCain, who is a war hero, said it well. Finally, others are starting to feel the same.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states

When you hear the president claim hoax, dig deeper

Five biographers have noted long ago, the president has a problem with the truth. I often use the quote of Thomas Wells, an attorney that worked for Trump, who wrote in 2016, “Donald Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” So, when Donald Trump claims something is hoax, dig deeper.

The Russian bounty story has now been called a hoax by the president, created by the media and Democrats. These words eerily track the words he uttered repeatedly about COVID-19 as late as February 28. Ironically, that was the night of the first official American death from COVID-19. This hoax has now killed over 127,000 Americans and the misinformation continues.

The Russian investigation was a called a hoax, but The Mueller Report, did not exonerate Trump noting he likely obstructed justice, had a campaign with too many unusual contacts with Russians and he was untruthful on more than a few occasions. And, this so-called hoax sent several folks to jail.

The Ukraine arm-twisting for personal gain was called a hoax, but we saw a parade of duty-bound and honorable public servants testify under oath at great risk over their concerns. These folks knew they would likely be fired by a well-known vindictive person. This led to his impeachment by the House. It should be noted former National Security Advisor John Bolton, in his book “The room where it happened,” corroborated the testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill, who was one of the more impactful testifiers.

The hoax term has been pulled out of the holster on several occasions on other mistakes or misstatements made by this president both here and abroad. Often, he adds a heavy dose of ridicule to those who dare ask him a tough question. Sadly, what his ardent followers fail to realize is the problem is the person crying “hoax.”

One of the dilemmas is the problem goes beyond the lying. Per two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” which is based on 750 recorded interview hours, the president does not invest the time to read briefings. This is not new, as his short attention span matches his short fuse, also prevalent in this and other books about the Trump White House. He does not read and his staff is scared of his volatile temper. On the Russian bounty issue, he said he was not briefed, because he didn’t do his work.

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Trump is unfit for the role he is in, saying “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.” A GOP legislator named Shawn Lemmonds (former local mayor and state house representative) who is helping organize an alternative Republican convention of anti-Trumpers said today in The Charlotte Observer, “he considers the ‘Trump cult’ the biggest threat to the country since World War II and the biggest threat to the party since Nixon.”

In essence, the US president has a job he is unsuited for and does not care to learn. If he would tweet less, he may have more time to read what we need him to know. As Former Secretary of Labor (and advisor to two Democrat and one Republican president), Robert Reich noted “Trump is a clear and present danger to America and the world.” Sadly, that is not is hoax.

Official Secrets – a true story about government lying

A few Americans may know the name Valerie Plame. It is highly unlikely Americans know the name Katharine Gun. But, a few Brits might. They are both heroes for calling their respective governments on the carpet for the same event – the illegal invasion by the US, UK and its allies into Iraq.

More on Plame later. There is an excellent movie released in 2019 (directed by Gavin Hood) called “Official Secrets” starring Keira Knightley as Gun. But, who is she and why is she a hero? Katharine Gun was an analyst for the UK’s GCHQ, the UK counterpart to the US’ NSA. She read a memo from a NSA department head that asked the UK to join the US to spy on other members of the UN Security Council to pressure them into voting in favor of invading Iraq. In other words, the US wanted the UK to help them lie to support a war where innocent people would die and British (and American) soldiers would be at risk.

Now, Americans likely do not know a seven-year British inquiry investigated the Iraq invasion beginnings and found that Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush misled the British people about the rationale to invade Iraq. But, let’s scroll back to right before the invasion when Bush was seeking support from the UN Security Council.

At that time, Peter Goldsmith, the UK attorney general, held the position that unless authorized by the UN Security Council, the invasion would be illegal. But, after meeting with the Americans in Washington, he changed his opinion to rely on the fringe position of using the 1991 UN Security Council OK for the Gulf War. In other words, if the UN Security Council did not agree this time, the US would invade under this pretense and that is what occurred.

Before Goldsmith’s change of mind, Gun released the memo to someone who shared it with a news reporter played by Matt Bright. Then, she turned herself in. Gun violated the Official Secrets act, but she said our spying is supposed to make our citizens safer, not used to lie to them for an unjust war. She took a great risk and was charged with a crime after about a year of anguished waiting. *

Ben Emmerson, her attorney, played ably by Ralph Fiennes, built a case on her breaking that law out of “necessity” to save British lives which was a permissible defense. Knowing the Deputy AG, Elizabeth Wilmshurst (played by Tansin Greig), resigned over the AG’s change in posture and that documents of her resignation and Goldsmith’s council to Blair codified their concerns, Emmerson requested the files and Gun pled innocent.

Gun could have pled guilty and received a shorter sentence, but she risked it all to make the Blair government defend itself. Then, the surprise came in court. The government dropped the charges rather than have to release any incriminating documents. The Blair government did not want to reveal its decision-making process.

Gun’s actions were applauded as were Valerie Plame’s. Plame was a CIA operative whose husband, Joseph Wilson, was a former ambassador. Her story is told in the movie “Fair Game,” with Naomi Watts playing Plame and Sean Penn playing Wilson.

Plame asked her husband to use his connections to trace a lead on a supplier to Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). Wilson found the supplier to be unrelated to any WMD supplies, so he was unable to confirm this hypothesis. Yet, his report was misused and said he did find a connection. Wilson was angered at the betrayal of his work and wrote an op-ed in The New York Times saying so.

In an half-handed attempt to save face and denigrate Wilson, VP Dick Cheney’s staff member, Scooter Libby, outed Plame as a CIA agent in the press. This is a crime, of which Libby was found guilty and served jail time. To date, Libby is the only person to serve jail time for the invasion of Iraq. Plame testified to Congress about the secretive WMD research led by the Cheney folks and the efforts to discredit her and her husband.

Gun and Plame are heroes. 4,600 American and British soldiers died in Iraq with over 32,000 injured. The estimates of Iraqi deaths are between 150,000 and 1 million. And, we still have a presence in Iraq sixteen years later. Hussein may be gone, but the Middle East remains an unsolvable and unstable problem and the US reputation is viewed very unfavorably by more than Iraqis.

Gun said it best. I work for my country and its people. When a government lies to its people for unjust causes, she felt she had to speak up. She said she would do it again. Let me add one more thought – leaders must exhaust all options before they send its citizens into harms way. They owe it to them. Lying to enable war is beyond poor stewardship. In this case, it was illegal.

* London’s The Observer published the memo in a headline article after confirming its authenticity through several channels, which are portrayed in the movie. Yet, it made a simple, but huge mistake. An editor ran the article through spell-check and the system corrected American spellings of words like “favorable” and “recognize” with the British spellings of “favourable” and “recognise.” This change was seized upon by the Drudge Report who published the memo was fake, discrediting the article. All interviews with the reporter were canceled at that point. Per the movie, this was a contributing cause for Gun’s admission of leaking the document. She wanted people to know and recognized she was putting herself in jeopardy.

Monday, Monday Musings

The Mamas and the Papas sang the popular lament “Monday, Monday.” It was one of their biggest hits, and it allows me to use the title to offer some miscellaneous musings on this Monday afternoon. As we near the halfway point of the 2020 year, it has been a quite troublesome one. And, it is likely to get worse.

– Pandemics are equally opportunity offenders. Your race, country, ethnicity, political leanings, etc. matter not.

– Most people are smarter than our elected officials. Many years ago, I used to think the opposite. And, it may have been true with folks like Jack Kemp, Bill Bradley, Tip O’Neill representative of a more learned lot of legislators.

– Yes, many voters can be fooled, but for the most part, they will make better decisions than our leaders will, especially, when such leaders are well funded by donors to think a certain way. And, that may be their stumbling block, the elected officials are paid to do what they are told by large donors.

– To this point, if we took a collection of reasonable folks as a cross section, told them about the various problems armed with cost/ benefit summaries of various actions, they could do a better job than funded elected officials of addressing the issues.

– Intolerance is not a healthy attribute and is harmful to many. Our friend Roger notes, the only allowable intolerance is of intolerant actors and actions.

– Speaking of intolerance, it would be a nice change for our country if its president did not walk around with a can of gasoline fueling racist fires. A leader would condemn racism, not tweet about how the racist is maltreated.

– Finally, it disappoints me that too many are so wrapped up in themselves, they refuse to help others and wear masks and/ or socially distance. If a store does not ward off non-mask wearers and take precautions, then we should find other venues that do.

COVID-19 could care less if your feelings are hurt. As my brother-in-law, who served in the USAF said, it is not like your being asked to storm a beach at Normandy, so wearing a mask is not too great a burden.

Four conservative quotes worth noting

Three Republicans and one long time Republican who left the party have made very sober statements, with the last one being more of a stance. Let’s begin with General James Mattis, who served as Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump and resigned in December, 2018, with many Republicans pleading with him not to go. Note, former Chief of Staff, General John Kelly reinforced that Mattis was not asked to leave as mentioned in rebuttal by the president.

In an op-ed in The Atlantic, Mattis wrote “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

Next, we have the words of Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who reinforces Mattis’ comments in an article in The Hill.

“I thought General Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue… When I saw Gen. Mattis’s comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns we might hold internally and have the courage of our convictions and speak up,” she told The Washington Post’s Paul Kane, who pooled the remarks and sent them to other Senate reporters. Asked if she could vote for Trump in the 2020 election, Murkowski admitted, “I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time.”

Next, from an editorial by venerable conservative columnist George Will, reported in a CNN article called “One of America’s most prominent conservative columnists wants Republicans to lose in 2020,” Will’s comments are very indicting, as well as colorful. Here are two select comments written by Will who left the Republican party.

“In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for … what?…

The measures necessary for restoration of national equilibrium are many and will be protracted far beyond his (Trump’s) removal. One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his (Trump’s) ankles with a canine hunger for petting.”

Finally, Senator Charles Grassley, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has officially raised concern over the president’s firing of a couple of Inspectors Generals releasing a statement.

“Though the Constitution gives the president the authority to manage executive branch personnel, Congress has made it clear that should the president find reason to remove an inspector general, there ought to be a good reason for it. The White House’s response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports.”

Grassley announced he is blocking Trump’s nominations of Christopher Miller to head the National Counterterrorism Center and Marshall Billingslea to be the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, pending explanations by Trump for the firing of a number of Inspectors General. He said he will not allow consideration of Miller’s nomination to proceed until the White House provides answers on Trump’s firing in April of intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson. In addition, he said Billingslea’s nomination cannot proceed until Trump explains why he terminated State Department inspector general Steve Linick last month.

Political courage is too rare these days. I applaud these folks for speaking out. As an independent and former Republican voter, I am in agreement with their comments. I have been especially concerned by the firing of Inspectors Generals. If we were a publicly traded company, firing the auditors (or Inspectors General) would be flagged by the independent Audit Committee of the Board of Directors. It matters not who is in the White House. This should be a concern to all of us and I am grateful Grassley is raising the issue.

Please do not dismiss these four conservative voices as lone wolves. Groups like Republican Voters against Trump, Republicans for the Rule of Law and The Lincoln Project have all organized to advocate the defeat of the president and/ or hold him accountable. These are all Republican groups, not Democrats or Independents. The question to ponder is why would they do that? This is not fake news nor is it from people who some supporters would dismiss as Trump haters. These are sober voices who are saying what is needed to be said.

Words from three Republican Senators in support of General James Mattis’ comments

In an article in The Hill called “GOP Sen. Murkowski ‘struggling’ with whether to vote for Trump” by Alexander Bolton, some strong words in support General James Mattis by Senator Lisa Murkowski added more to those of Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins. Yesterday, Mattis wrote among other things:

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.”

This is the man Republicans felt could be the final buffer between a Trump rash decision and execution. When he left in December, 2018, people were worried. They should have been. Please see the link below to Jill Dennison’s blog post called “A Wiser man speaks” for Mattis’ words.

From The Hill article, “Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Thursday praised former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s scathing rebuke of President Trump as ‘true and honest and necessary’ and admitted she is ‘struggling’ with whether to vote for the president.

‘I thought General Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue,’ Murkowski, the chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said on her way to a vote in the Capitol Thursday.

‘When I saw Gen. Mattis’s comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns we might hold internally and have the courage of our convictions and speak up,’ she told The Washington Post’s Paul Kane, who pooled the remarks and sent them to other Senate reporters. Asked if she could vote for Trump in the 2020 election, Murkowski admitted, ‘I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time.'”

Later in The Hill article were the following comments from Romney and Collins, also Republicans. “‘General Mattis is a person of extraordinary integrity and sacrifice. He’s a patriot who has sound judgment and capacity. I admire him a great deal,’ Romney said.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who criticized Trump bluntly earlier in the week for allowing peaceful protesters in front of the White House to be forcibly removed so he could appear before St. John’s church for a photo op, also praised Mattis. ‘I have great respect for former Secretary Mattis and his previous military service,’ she said.’

No doubt, Trump will be critical and denigrating of Mattis’ remarks. He will likely get his sycophants to also denigrate or dismiss the comments as opinion, as some already have. But, make no mistake. Mattis’ words have gravitas and are compelling and dead-on accurate. This is what a patriot looks like.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/gop-sen-murkowski-struggling-with-whether-to-vote-for-trump/ar-BB152coA?ocid=spartandhp

A Wiser Man Speaks …

Let’s honor the deceased war heroes, but do our best to keep them safe

On this Memorial Day holiday, we should rightfully and respectfully honor and remember our loved ones, friends, acquaintances and even strangers who fought in the many battles and wars. It is day of reflection of their sacrifices, whether they died in the conflicts or after they returned home. Too many, struggled with what they called “shell shock” after World War I (The Great War) and now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A good friend just buried her twenty-seven year-old former Marine son, who was killed in a motorcycle crash. So, after worrying for several years while in Afghanistan, she has to grieve him for a bad accident. Loved ones bear a lot of angst worrying about their fighting children, fathers, mothers and loved ones. To die so young is a tragedy.

Yet, our leaders must go beyond the call to avoid sending our people into harm’s way. As said in the movie “Troy,” about the Trojan War, “War is old men talking and young men fighting.” Both men and women leaders must understand what war or conflict means. They must know that it is far more than winning battles. It is rebuilding countries and maintaining the peace through better relations. As an example, the following is a voice that was not heeded about these challenges.

In 2002, Jim Webb penned an op-ed in The Washington Post cautioning the US about going into Iraq. Who is Jim Webb? He is a former Marine, Secretary of the Navy and US Senator from Virginia. He has a law degree from Georgetown and has been a member of both political parties serving under multiple Presidents.

Two paragraphs from his pre-invasion op-ed piece are telling:

“The first reality is that wars often have unintended consequences — ask the Germans, who in World War I were convinced that they would defeat the French in exactly 42 days. The second is that a long-term occupation of Iraq would beyond doubt require an adjustment of force levels elsewhere, and could eventually diminish American influence in other parts of the world….

Other than the flippant criticisms of our ‘failure’ to take Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War, one sees little discussion of an occupation of Iraq, but it is the key element of the current debate. The issue before us is not simply whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to physically occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years.”

It should be noted we have been in Iraq for over seventeen years, even longer in Afghanistan. Maybe, the chest beaters should listen to those who have fought and have experience rather than people who understand less what fighting and occupying a country mean. This was a crossroad moment in our history and we have not been the same since. Many thousands of American and allied troops died, even more Iraqi and Afghani troops and civilians died, our reputation has suffered and our debt is much higher. Plus, he was right on the money about American influence being impacted around the globe. Lying to allies and others about weapons of mass destruction has that kind of effect, not to mention misunderstanding the landscape.

I use this example as the words come from someone who knows, not someone who has a false bravado. One of the reasons so many Americans died in the Civil War, besides fighting on both sides, is some of the Union’s generals were chaotic and incompetent. People died unnecessarily because the union generals kept them in harm’s way. Per the Pentagon Papers, our leaders carried on a war in Vietnam long after they knew they could not win, so many Americans and huge amounts of Vietnamese died unnecessarily.

We must honor these men and women who risk their lives by getting this first part right. The best battle is one that is not fought, if it need not be. These people are brave people and deserve our respect and admiration, but leaders who pick or continue a fight that need not be fought or is sorely underestimated, is doing America and our allies a disservice. Both Democrats and Republican leaders have failed in this regard. It is too important to not fail, regardless of what party one serves.

Help me define the best (or worst in this case) metaphor of the Trump presidency

After the most recent incredulous statement by the US president about ingesting disinfectant as a possible cure for COVID-19, I felt this Marie Antoinette moment might be a metaphor for his presidency. Yet, there are truly many contenders for such a distinction.

Below are twelve top of mind statements or actions that could be considered. Sadly, there are more to choose from. So, readers please let me know your top three, including others I may have overlooked.

1. Ingesting disinfectant – he has to tried to explain this away as sarcasm, but to see Dr. Birx trying to avoid eye contact when he asked her what she thought is telling.

2. Sharpie gate – this is when the president played meterologist and scared the state of Alabama by drawing on the map the hurricane may hit them. This was an unforced error thst aides spent a week trying to diffuse.

3. Firing Comey without telling him – for a person who liked to say “You’re fired” on TV, the president cannot bring himself to fire soneone in person. James Comey found out he was fired via TV news. But, Trump failed to tell his Communication team, so Sean Spicer was hiding in the White House bushes with staff to plan what to say.

4. First travel ban – Trump likes to use the word disaster to define anything he did not do. The first travel ban was so disastrous, it waa pulled after two days. The president failed to vet the change with various stakeholders including the people who would need to conduct the ban. So, people did not know what to do and the lines were long.

5. India/ Pakistan brokering peace deal – this faux pas did not get much air time, but the president announced in front of the Pakistani leader the India prime minister asked him to broker a peace deal between the two countries over the Kashmir conflict. Within the hour, India put out a press release saying no such request was made.

6. Tariffs paid by China – the president has said this at least a dozen times, so it may be a good candidate because of its staying power. Trump likes to say China is paying the tariffs. Economists correct him each time saying US importers pay the tariffs which are passed onto the consumers. So, we pay the tariffs.

7. Extorting Ukraine – after watching a parade of reputable public servants testify under oath at a great risk with such a vindictive president, Trump was impeached over extorting Ukraine for personal gain. He likes to focus on one phone call, but if that call was so “perfect,” why did his staff try to bury it?

8. Siding with Putin over CIA – in Helsinki, standing side by side with a man who is KGB trained on disinformation, Trump sided with Putin over the advice of his intelligence people. Senator John McCain wrote an op-ed piece to blast the president’s words as “traiterous.”

9. Pulling out of Paris Climate Change Accord – the president’s stance on climate change was my worst fear going in. So, he announced pulling out of the Paris accord on June 1, 2017, the day following Exxon shareholders voting for management to tell them what Exxon is doing to address climate change. When we exit, the US will stand alone in the world.

10. Transgender in military – the announcement to ban new transgender people in the military got the press, but the decision process is the metaphor. Per the book “Fear” by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward, the president announced his decision by two tweets around 10:05 one morning saying the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he had decided to do this. Problem is they had not. The time is important as the Joint Chiefs waited downstairs to meet with the president to go over four options and the pros/ cons of each. The president was told of this and asked when would be a good time to meet. This is a key reason DOD James Mattis abruptly said that a tweet is not an order.

11. Wandering alone at G20 – this was a sad to watch as the president wandered the tables looking for someone to talk with after dinner at a G20 meeting. He finally wandered over to meet with Vladimir Putin alone, a very scary situation with a very informed leader and Trump, who does not study history or issues. Plus, it is a metaphor that he would gravitate to Putin’s table rather than an ally of our country.

12. Bragging on fixing the economy – this is the most relentless of topics and, until the virus hit, was his claim to fame. The problem is he did not fix the economy. Yes, economic growth continued under his watch, but when he was sworn in on January 20, 2017, the US GDP was in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth (that is seven plus years), the stock market had more than doubled under Obama, and unemployment was under 5%. Presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, but for Trump to say he fixed the economy is untrue – it was not broken He has added both short term tailwinds and long term headwinds.

So, that is a dirty dozen, so to speak. I wanted to limit them twelve, so leaving off Charlottesville, his rallies, his ignoring the early warnings on COVID-19, or just his litany of routine, daily untruthfulness or beating up on the press, etc. proved difficult. Let me know your top three choices. Please feel free to add any others. It is funny, depending on how I want to focus my attention, I could pick a different three – is impact, continuity, or inanity the best measure?