A few Mueller takeaways and one question

Let me be brief. I have three key takeaways from the Mueller report news’ summaries. My sources are PBS Newshour and ABC News, since I have not read the report.

– the Russians successfully influenced the election and Trump officials were unwitting participants in the process and guilty of horrible judgment.

– the President did and tried to obstruct justice; he would have been even more guilty if colleagues acted on many illegal or unethical acts he asked them to do. They protected him from himself (note this is important as all of those folks are gone).

– there is a very interesting addenda item – there are 14 more cases that have been recommended for prosecution by Mueller and his team. That should scare many.

The key question that must be asked is a simple one. Why did the President obstruct and try to obstruct justice even more if he were not guilty of something? An innocent person would not have done so. Why questions need to be asked more often in Washington, especially with this President.

 

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With six you get eggroll

Six. A half dozen. According to the old movie with Brian Keith and Doris Day, it is the family size needed to get free egg rolls at a favorite restaurant. Six is also the number of Directors of Communication this White House has had in going on 26 months. That is an average tenure of 4 1/2 months.

Here is scorecard of the short-term six directors:

Sean Spicer (45 days)

Mike Dubke (88 days)

Sean Spicer (49 days)

Anthony Scaramucci (10 days)

Hope Hicks (225 days)

Bill Shine (240 days)

Setting aside “The Mooch,” who may have been the most unlikely choice of a Director of Communications, lasting only ten days filled with colorful language, the four people occupying the position five times at least had communicaion experience. They were just asked to do an impossible job. Managing communications for a twittering,   babbling man with a large ego and small filter between his brain, fingers and mouth is nigh impossible.

Apparently, Trump referred to his latest departure as Bill “No” Shine due to his inability to make him look good. Putting lipstick on a pig does not change the fact the animal still rolls around in a pig sty. Ron Christie, who served in the second Bush white house, said a director ideally works with the President to set long term communications strategy, short term tactics and daily talking points. This President consistently surprises his staff with off-script and abrupt announcements. The best metaphor is Sean Spicer and team strategizing in the white house bushes after Trump fired James Comey without telling anyone, even Comey.

It is nigh impossible to manage communications for a bombastic man who has a hard time with the truth and common decency. There are three givens going forward. Trump desperately needs someone to keep him between the white lines. Trump will be very challenged the remainder of his term as his lies and criminal actions catch up to him. And, the next director won’t last long.

Oh, what a week after many before

It seems to be a consistent pattern. Pundits reflect on the week that was for the President saying it was a horrible week for him. They have said these same words week after week.

More than a few people are simply fatigued by this man and his actions. I know I am. The relentless lying, bullying, cheating and even criminal activity wear me out. Other than a few timing issues, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen did not offer up anything surprising. Americans need to heed his words that defined his former boss as a racist, con man and cheat.

Just last night a report that said Trump ordered that Jared Kushner be given a security clearance over the written objections of the intelligence community and Chief of Staff. Unsurprisingly, the President denies this. It should be noted after getting this clearance, months later, money came from a Saudi source to pay off a $1.2 billion loan balloon payment that was of concern to Kushner. Why?

The President is in a death spiral and it is starting to get faster. The spiral slowly started when he fired James Comey. But, the resignation of James Mattis and Trump’s reneging on a deal with the Senate which led to the shutdown sped it up some more. More farmers going bankrupt due to tariffs and the economy showing signs of age will hasten it further.

Plus, the President’s inability to pay attention to detail, listen to experts, or be more patient has cost him and our country yet again. He should not have gone to Vietnam without all the ducks in a row. This follows numerous other examples – the disastrous initial travel ban, the transgender military ban, the ill-devised tariffs, announcing pulling out of Syria etc. – that were done against the advice of experts, without proper vetting and without communicating with interested parties.

As I type this I am watching a rerun of “The American President,” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening, that I caught by channel-surfing. Everything this movie highlights as an ideal President, seems at odds with our current real one.

It is time for our Republican legislators to find their backbone. The ones who attended the Cohen testimony did exactly what Cohen had done for ten years, defend a man who is not worth defending. As he added, it will not end well for them. The GOP will deserve every bit of criticism they get, as none of this is news. They can help the country and party if they change their ways.

A good sign is Senator Lamar Alexander pushing back on Trump’s emergency declaration. He has the backing of others. This is a trend that has started. What I don’t understand is many GOP legislators know Trump is everything Cohen said he was, yet they don’t fear more that the past lies will come out and future ones will cause problems.

Folks, it is not going to get better. This President is a cornered animal and he will bite anyone to save himself. And, I mean anyone.

 

Hate speech must be spotlighted and condemned

Our blogging friend Jill has written two excellent, but very troubling posts about the existence and danger of hate speech (see links below). Our leaders are too silent on calling out this extreme bigotry and hate. But, more rational heads must put a spotlight on this hate speech and condemn it in the strongest terms. It matters not what your political, religious or demographic group might be. This represents the ugly side of America.

Let me start with the immature and poor judgment of actor Jessie Smollett, who took advantage of the racism that has been associated with a small, but extremely strident group who are tolerated by those who wear MAGA caps. More on this below. The police feel he staged an assault to garner a higher level of income on his TV show. Not only is the idea without merit, it is shameful that he has made a mockery of real racism that is occurring in our country. He has been asked to leave his show and may go to jail.

Unfortunately, this story overshadows two very concerning stories. First, an Alabama newspaper editor named Goodloe Sutton wrote an article calling on the KKK to ride again and take care of what he called liberal socialist Democrats. Here is an excerpt of his hate speech.

“Time for the Ku Klux Klan to night ride again. Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama… This socialist-communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simple-minded people. Seems like the Klan would be welcome to raid the gated communities up there.”

When asked to explain, he said far worse things. This akin to calling fire in a crowded theater. It need only inflame one person to act, which makes the next story even more troubling. The same day I learned of the above article, a Coast Guard Lieutenant named Christopher Paul Hasson, was uncovered as a skin head who was plotting attacks on a list of Democrat leaders and media people. He had an arsenal to conduct such an attack. Here is some of his hate speech:

“Liberalist/globalist ideology is destroying traditional peoples esp white. No way to counteract without violence. It should push for more crack down bringing more people to our side. Much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch. Looking to Russia with hopeful eyes or any land that despises the west’s liberalism. Excluding of course the muslim scum. Who rightfully despise the west’s liberal degeneracy.”

We should not lose sight of the bombs sent to over a dozen Democrat leaders last fall from a man in Florida. These people are already wound too tight. They don’t need much to instigate hateful action. And, it should be noted those who feel they must fight hate speech with violence are not doing their argument any favors. The Antifa crowd needs to cease any violence. I recognize there is a difference between those who say your rights don’t matter and those who are defending that their rights do, but the latter must not resort to violence.

It is also unfair to paint the Trump base of supporters with a broad brush. Setting aside that all of us are prejudiced to a small extent, Trump supporters should not be labeled racist. With that said, people who are classified as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, skin heads are empowered by the President’s rhetoric and support his efforts. So, to ignore their existence as such is unfair as well.

Right now, there are over 1,000 hate groups in America, the significant majority of which are white supremacists groups. A report on PBS Newshour last night noted that hate crimes have increased over 500% the last two years. By not condemning these groups, they are emboldened to act.

We live in a country where we have freedom of speech. Yet, hate speech is a bridge too far. We cannot condone violence, nor can we can condone inflammatory writing or speech that promotes such. This is well beyond name-calling and labeling.

We must demand our leaders to be our better angels. This is one of my key frustrations with the US President, as his base instinct is to do the opposite of what a real leader would do. But, he is not alone. We need people in leadership roles to spotlight and condemn hate speech and actions. They need to do this loudly and consistently. The President needs to tell some of his extremely strident base to cool their jets. In so doing, he can ask others to do the same.

We must do our part as well. Do not be afraid to call out such hateful behavior. You need not name call or even raise your voice. Just say that kind of verbiage or action is inappropriate, not welcome or does not serve their argument. Civil discourse over issues is our goal and is essential. As an independent voter, I can say without question both political sides have some good ideas and both have bad ideas. Hate speech is mob discourse as it takes those labels and puts violence behind it.

A Renewed Call For Hate???

Dodging Bullets …

This, that and another thing

Now that the state of the union and Democrat rebuttal are behind us, it would be nice if an independent voter had a turn. On the talk (and some shouting) shows, the independent views do not get heard enough and that is disappointing. For once, it would be illuminating for a member of neither party to share their thoughts.

For example, we might learn:

  • Global warming really is a concern and we should be doing something about it. On Bill Maher’s Friday show,  he noted that Senator Marco Rubio used the argument against the President for declaring a national emergency to build the wall, as what would stop President Kamala Harris from doing so to address climate change? Maher correctly pointed out the latter is becoming a national emergency, while the wall is not even a top ten issue and is overblown as a solution. He also noted, with the very real concerns over Miami, Rubio may become the Senator of Atlantis.
  •  A growing debt which is around $22 trillion with an annual deficit about to hit $1 trillion is a problem, especially with the deficit in a good economy. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget models the debt to be around $34 trillion at the end of the 2027 fiscal year. We must have spending cuts and revenue increases both. The math will not otherwise work. If a politician tells you differently, he or she is lying to you. Don’t let them.
  • The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. So is KyNect in Kentucky. Too many people still don’t realize this in the GOP. But, don’t look to politicians to solve this, as they really do not understand how our complex healthcare system works. We need to stabilize the ACA and stop sabotaging it, as the GOP has done.  My recommendation as a retired benefits consultant, actuary and manager is to fund money promised to insurance companies to pay for adverse selection and committed to deductibles, copays for people beneath 2 1/2 times the poverty limit. I would also expand Medicare as a pilot, measured effort to retirees below age 65, such as 60 or 62. This will reduce the cost rate in the exchanges and Medicare. The remaining states need to get off the dime and expand Medicaid – it is a no brainer per GOP Governor John Kasich.
  •  Addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure would help rebuild assets and provide good jobs. We also need to build on the community college system with some added funding to retrain people to do the jobs of the future, as technology claims even more (this is the major threat, not immigration or trade). Also, building on the bipartisan idea pitched to the President last year by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman from Ohio, we should co-invest with car manufacturers to retool plants to make the cars in demand and keep the factories open. This idea was ignored and the President was offended when GM announced some plant closings.
  •  There are so many more ideas around rethinking ill-conceived tariffs and trade fights, poverty issues, and gun governance, but let me make a general statement that is important. Start treating our allies and citizens with fairness and dignity. Stop the adversarial BS. A country and business makes more money long term by having a productive long term relationship. We need to stop measuring success on short-term transactions. Listen to your advisors as they actually study our problems. And, stop beating up on a free press. From where I sit, they are not perfect, but the true journalists try to get it right. The main source of fake news in the country sits in the oval office and he only cares about looking good.

Well, that is enough for now. I would love to hear your thoughts.

When your friends begin to leave

It is amusing to me that the Republican National Committee is doing its darnedest to prevent another candidate running in a primary against the current US President. This is very premature in my view and is not reading the tea leaves very well. This will be a year when the you-know-what hits the fan, which has already started to build.

There are many dregs in the tea leaves that the RNC should pay attention to, but here are a few they may want to consider.

First, as of today, two separate polls – The Washington Post/ ABC poll and the Marist College poll have very similar figures that might be worth considering about the President. When asked whether you would vote for Donald Trump, the two polls said the following:

  • No – 56% and 57%
  • Yes – 28% and 30%
  • Undecided – 14% and 13%

Granted, he won with 46% of the vote and it depends on where these folks are located, but this should give the RNC pause. It should be noted the Texas Republican leaders told the RNC they are worried about Trump carrying their state. If someone is going to run against him, they need to start fundraising now.

Second, he has been yet again berating journalists, but this time he picked on two reporters on the news side of Fox News. An anchor named Julie Banderas at Fox took issue with Trump’s condemnation as she tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump This is NOT right. I stand by my colleagues @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner They don’t deserve this. No reporter does. They are doing their jobs and reporting the facts. They are not opinion journalists and deserve the respect from the @WhiteHouse they cover.” 

Third, he has unfriended Ann Coulter returning her attacks with her disillusionment over his backing down calling him “weak.”  Personally, I am not a fan of Coulter’s as she tends to be mean-spirited, flippant and loose with facts. She and Trump are very similar in how they treat others. Yet, no one is safe from criticism in Trump’s world. As an attorney who worked with him for years said, if you are on Trump’s good side, you won’t be there for long.

To be brutally frank, shutting down the government is not a very good business decision by the boss. Usually, the boss wants his employees at work serving customers. In this case, the boss called the strike not others. People are harmed by his decision. Plus, he further harmed his reputation by once again reneging on a deal, the second time around immigration and the wall. If you deal with Trump, get it in writing. A contractor who has worked with Trump said it plainly, when you deal with the Trump organization, get your money upfront.

With Roger Stone being indicted with strong evidence, with Rudy Guiliani saying people on the Trump campaign had interactions with Russia, with The New York Times reporting over 100 contacts with the campaign and Russian officials and surrogates, and with the concern by Politifacts, five biographers and staff members with his difficulty with the truth, this should give the RNC concerns. This is without even mentioning the economy may have headwinds due to the tariffs, trade challenges and slowing global economy, nor does it recognize the House will be doing more investigations into Trump.

So, when your friends start to leave, that does not help with your popularity. At this point, the President needs all the friends he can get. Yet, there is the rub. He tends to value loyalty through a one way lens.

 

 

And now, a word from George Will

I have noted before the significant number of respected conservative pundits and editorialists who have shared concerns over the President. George Will, a long time conservative, is among those who see the damage being done by the man in the White House. Like other conservative critics, his voice should be one that is heeded by those conservatives who are not totally in lock-step with the President.

In his most recent column called “Trump’s misery is also country’s,” Will is hypercritical of both the policies and behavior of the current President. He is also not too keen on the current Senate leadership for not doing their job to govern, being too interested in acquiescing to the President’s commands.

As for policy, he cited several examples, but two jump out. He is critical of the Trump and the GOP leadership as he notes, “Except that after two years of unified government under the party that formerly claimed to care about fiscal facts and rectitude, the nation faces a $1 trillion deficit during brisk growth and full employment.”

Will also notes concern over the US getting out of a trade deal designed to compete with China. He said, “The President’s most consequential exercise of power has been the abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening the way for China to fill the void of US involvement.” It should be noted the agreement went forward without the US and has become effective for six countries at the beginning of this year, with five others coming online later this year.

But, Will leaves his harshest criticism for the President’s behavior which has been destabilizing. He writes “Still the ubiquity of his (Trump’s) outpourings in the media’s outpourings gives American life its current claustrophobic feel.”  Will goes on to note that “He (Trump) is an inexpressibly sad specimen…He seems to have as many friends as his self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life.”

As a result of Trump, Will notes the “GOP needs an entirely new vocabulary. Pending that, the party is resorting to crybaby conservatism: We are being victimized by ‘elites, markets, Wall Street, foreigners, etc.'”  This is what unfolds when fear is used as the key selling point. Principles are thrown aside, as exaggerations, over-simplifications, misinformation and lies paint others as bogeymen and the reason for any problems you might have.

As noted earlier, Will does not stand alone among conservative writers. My friends in the GOP and who have more conservative leanings need to pay more attention to people like him, Erik Erickson, Steve Schmidt, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat and others, and less to those who the President seems to hold in high cotton. These are not Democrats who are raising concerns. These are people whose opinion used to matter more to Republicans and conservatives. They still should.