A fool’s errand

In my experience, people do not like to appear foolish. Yet, Mark Twain is quoted as saying it is easier to fool someone than convince him (or her) he (or she) has been fooled. With this in mind, believing the recounting of history by a man known for his untruthfulness and his disinterest in details is a fool’s errand.

In yet another attempt to point the spotlight elsewhere, the US President is denigrating a recently deceased American hero. During this head-scratching diatribe, he incorrectly said Senator John McCain obtained the fake-news Steele Dossier to sway the election.

There are two false statements in this Trump inane rant. First, McCain received the document and handed it to the FBI about a month after the election. Second, Christopher Steele is a well-respected intelligence gatherer, which increased McCain’s interest. The credible dossier has more than a few verified findings. The President is a cornered animal, so he has and will continue to attack anyone or anything to distract people.

But, inaccurately telling history is not new to Trump, as it is his modus operandi. When the US President says “I never said…” what follows is usually a lie. When he says something someone else did is “disaster,” it is not. More often than not it is some form of compromise or multi-lateral agreement where every partner gives up a little. When he says he is the smartest or best at something, I would suggest more proof.

So, when he says we achieved in 2018 an expected GDP growth rate of 3.1%, he fails to tell people that he said the tax law change would push it to 4% and pay for itself. The 3% is what economists expected, so when this was pointed out, he blamed the negative differential on Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Folks, to believe this untruthful man on pretty much anything is unwise. But, to believe him on historical matters is truly a fool’s errand, even when it applies to himself. He tells people he grew his fortune off a small loan from his father – the truth as reported last fall is his father transferred over $400 million to his son before he died.

There is a baseball analogy for this. Trump was born on third base and likes to tell everyond he hit a triple. Please remember what Twain said.

Talking tough does not make you tough

One of the key lessons about bullies concerns false bravado. Talking tough does not make someone tough. Many would describe the US President as a bully, be it toward the press, Democrats, or people he perceives as enemies. But, what is interesting is he does not like confrontation, per several books about the man or the white house.

I mention this today as he spent the weekend picking on a dead hero by the name of Senator John McCain. Not only is Trump in the wrong and lied about various events and timing, but it reveals an incredible lack of judgment. He is likely regretting this lack of judgment, in that McCain’s daughter Meghan has used the term “pathetic” to define Trump’s action. It should be noted at least two Senators (Chris Coons and Lindsey Graham) have defended their deceased colleague. Picking on a dead hero is pathetic, especially when it is done by a man who can’t seem to get his facts straight.

Yet, we should not forget this man fired James Comey and Rex Tillerson while they were away. In Comey’s situation, he learned he was fired from breaking news. If that was not poor enough, Trump fired Andrew McCabe as he was cleaning out his desk to retire, to deny him his pension. What kind of man does that?

Finally, we should not lose sight of his acquiescece to Putin, Kim and MbS. He accepted their words over that of his own intelligence people. No less than our dead hero, Senator McCain was alarmed by what he saw in Helsinki with Trump’s kowtowing to Putin.

These examples speak volumes. Picking on a dead man is not tough. Firing someone without telling him is not tough. Not standing up to someone who had an American reporter killed and chopped up in little pieces is not tough. It is the word Meghan used – pathetic. It is also weak.

More candid observations

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, the following are some diplomatic candid observations:

– Help me understand why the people in the White House seem surprised that North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons? I applaud their and the the South Korean’s effort and energy, but we seemed to be a little naive that Kim would cave.

– Saying something under oath in front of a judge who will sentence you carries a lot more gravitas than tweeting or saying something to a favorable interviewer. Under oath, Michael Cohen said he committed illicit acts at the direction of the candidate. I realize Cohen is not a Boy Scout, but his words under oath should carry some weight.

– A man of character died Saturday on what would have been my parents’ 67th anniversary. Senator John McCain was an imperfect man with whom I did not always agree, but he was very honorable public servant. Character and honor are two words that are not top of mind when I look to define a certain man in a US leadership position. I think it speaks volumes that McCain asked such a man to be excluded from attendance at his funeral.

– It is nigh impossible to stop bigoted thoughts or the teaching of children about bigotry. But, we must shine spotlights on behaviors that strip away at other people’s rights or promote one group’s rights over that of another. We must share our disagreement with hate speech. The easiest thing to do is vote with your feet and avoid people and places that enable bigoted thoughts. Confrontation is difficult, but listening, questioning and commenting can be done civilly with some. Or, it can take the form of openly applauding the efforts and successes of people who seem to be targeted with hate speech more than others.

– Finally, one’s reputation is the dearest thing we own. Rob Roy said your honor is a gift you give to yourself. This is why it is puzzling so many Republican legislators are spending their dear reputation supporting a man who daily brings dishonor to the Presidency and would throw them under the bus if needed. Please note my intentional avoidance of the use of “leader” in my descriptions.

We Americans and others around the world are craving an honorable leader. And, as said in the movie “The American President,” being President is entirely about character.

McCain offers words of caution on Putin

I was sharing with Roger how some US Republicans have said they hold Vladimir Putin in higher regard than Nancy Pelosi and other US Democrats. In short, these folks are taking their eye off the ball. If they really feel this way, I have serious concerns around their judgment. Why would I say this?

In addition to his bent for invading or infiltrating former Soviet satellites, Putin has a history of ordering the elimination of his opposition. Either by murder, arrest or both, people who criticize the Russian leader have a habit of disappearing. In John McCain’s biography called “The Restless Wave,” he gives the example of Sergei Magnistky, among others, for whom the Magnitsky Act was passed to sanction Russia.

In short, Magnitsky, an auditor, went to bat for a US businessman who did business in Russia. When the businessman tried to extricate himself, his Russian business and its assets were seized by Putin under false pretenses. For his efforts, Magnitsky was jailed, where he was not treated for illnesses and was severely beaten, eventually dying in prison.

As is his nature, Putin took great offense at  the sanctions and made an executive order to cease US adoptions of Russian children.  Why is this important now? When Donald Trump, Junior and Senior, say the meeting at Trump Tower with the Russians was about adoptions, it is really about the existence of the Magnitsky Act and other sanctions that precipitated Putin’s cessation of adoptions.

Per McCain and other sources he cites, Putin, as a self-possessed strong man, reacts to strength, not weakness. He will keep doing what he is doing until the pain exceeds the gain. The sanctions hurt like hell, which is why he takes great offense when they are used, as he did today. So, unless the US punishes Putin for his cyber attack on America to sway public opinion, it will keep occurring with impunity.

The primary reason we know Putin is involved in the cyber attack is he controls everything in Russia. He pays attention to content of the US version of Russian Television so says former US anchors who left as a result. He pays attention to TV sitcoms to make sure they favor Putin on big items, while allowing some small criticism to avoid being too overt per a former producer of TV sitcoms. So, on the most impactful and cost effective tactic in modern warfare, where he can gain a great deal without ever firing a shot, of course, he is intimately involved in puppeteering the ongoing operation.

Putin is a shrewd man. He knows his stances against LGBT people in Russia, as well as repurposing the church as a center of influence, play well to US evangelicals. So, as he does his part to help break up western alliances and diminish democracies, as he is doing in the US, he is positioning himself as a global statesman.

Finally, there are two cautions from McCain we should heed. First, the source of the Steele Dossier about the Russians potential compromising information on the US President, Christopher Steele is a well-regarded professional, so says Sir Andrew Wood, former UK Ambassador to Russia. Issue has been made that the dossier was paid for as opposition research by first Republican opponents of Trump, but then by Clinton. But, McCain and Wood felt the dossier has enough veracity to get in the hands of the FBI.

Second, Putin views acquiescence as weakness. So, the US President’s fawning over Putin in Helsinki revealed Trump’s weakness. It was so weak, Putin actually walked away with too much (think about the sitcom story above), as it caused a backlash from the US Congress. He would have been better served if Trump appeared tougher towards Putin.

Trump contends there is pushback on his meeting with Putin. Of course, we should talk with other leaders who are at odds with is. I have not heard criticism of two parties talking. The criticism has been over being prepared and not being fooled. Putin, and Kim before him, have studied and prepared for such a meeting. The US President brags on winging it. That is not a good bargaining strategy.

Straight talk on immigration from a Republican statesman

In Senator John McCain’s book “The Restless Wave,” he devotes some time to the subject of immigration. Rather than use my words, I will borrow from his straight talk.

“There are politicians today who would have Americans believe that illegal immigration is one of the worst scourges afflicting the country. Some who espouse that nonsense believe it to be true. Their opinions were formed in restricted information loops as they communicate mostly or exclusively with people who believe the same….Decent, hardworking people who mean no harm are blamed for crime, unemployment, failing schools, and various other ills, and become in the eyes of many the objects of hate and  fear.”

McCain goes on to debunk four claims, from a vantage point of a state that has a significant level of immigrant population. Per McCain, “Here’s is a little straight talk:”

“First, there are eleven to twelve million immigrants, give or take, residing in this country without permission. Most of them are never going to leave, and there really isn’t much we can do about it or should we want to do about it….Two-thirds of the adult unauthorized immigrants have been here for at least a decade. They’re integrated into the fabric of our communities…

Second, the great majority of unauthorized immigrants came here to find work and raise their families, like most immigrants have throughout our history. They are not rapists, killers, and drug dealers of fevered imaginations on the Right….They’re decent people working hard to make better lives….

Third, since 2007 most immigrants who come here without permission simply outstay their visas. They don’t cross the border illegally. And since the Great Recession, net illegal immigration has been flat or negative as more immigrants voluntarily returned to their native countries as jobs were scarce. A wall along the southern border isn’t going to solve the problem….

Fourth, unauthorized immigrants aren’t depriving millions of native-born Americans of employment. Most jobs taken by immigrants are low-paying, and have the hardest conditions. Their employers have trouble filling payrolls. Many jobs are seasonal or otherwise irregular employment. Unauthorized immigrants are not sucking up all the blue-collar jobs in the country as their most hyperbolic antagonists insist.”

I wanted to share with you McCain’s words as they directly contradict those espoused by the President and those who have gone along with that argument. This argument is based on fear and one of the talents of the President is he knows what sells. Yet, that does not make it right.

We need thoughtful discussion around our immigration issues. We need to remember our ideals. We also need to use data and analysis. One data point is immigration is accretive (additive) to our economy. Another data point is our nation is one of immigrants. Yet, another data point is our country has off and on turned the spigot slower on immigration and then opened it up again. Often the nozzle was closed with fear as a selling tool.

McCain cited a speech from President Ronald Reagan. Paraphrasing it, when people immigrate to another country, they do not become nationalists of that country, although they become citizens. Yet, when they come to America, they become Americans. We are the melting pot of the world. These words are found on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Fear may sell, but it does not solve problems very well. Why? Because fear is often based in large part on a lie. In my view, we should heed the words of a statesman like Senator John McCain, who is a hero in my book. Whether one agrees with McCain or not, I find he speaks plainly and from his heart.

Help me understand a few things

Happy Friday everyone. In a week of good and bad news as well as sort of good and bad news, help me understand a few things.

Help me understand how a person can start a fight with our friends and then convince his fans that it is one of our friends fault? That takes some gall.

Help me understand how someone brags on what a great negotiator he is and then routinely makes concessions to adversaries without getting much in return? It is great conversation is occurring with one adversary as we avoid who has the bigger button fight.

Help me understand how completely destroying large swaths of countries like Yemen and Syria without concern for the people makes anyone involved a good leader? Death and taxes used to be the only two sure things, but I would add people in need will always be pawns – this gives rise to terrorism, not avoid such.

Help me understand how the simple, but time consuming process of notifying stakeholders of decisions to gain their buy-in and input before the decisions are announced is lost on the person referenced in the first two questions above? Surprising people with decisions that impact them is not a good idea – the atrocious first travel ban or firing people without telling them are examples of such.

Help me understand how leaders who know the damage being done  to a country and its dear reputation by its front man, but choose not to act can still claim to be leaders? People need to watch Senator Bob Corker’s recent speech on the floor of the US Senate and then watch Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of last summer. Their words are dead on accurate.

Help me understand how the lead attorney for a country can quote biblical passages to separate immigrant children from their parents at the same time numerous churches are using Jesus’ teachings from the same book to help immigrant children? The former is the epitome of what a friend calls “Cafeteria Christians.”

Help me understand how a country about to head off a cliff can continue to do so after recognizing a vote to drive off the cliff was aided by Russian influence and outright misinformation? Like in the country I live in, we tend to throw the baby out with the bath water rather than clean the water.

Continuing the water analogy, I think we the people should have an “out of the pool” loudspeaker. It should be used when  leaders do not work together and are not addressing obvious problems or oversimplifying their cause coming to wrong headed solutions,

I have spent almost twenty years helping people who have lost their home, even though they are working several jobs. I see what happens when problems are ignored or lied about. We the people need to tell our leaders to stop the BS and do their jobs. What I have discovered when I chat with them, the people who work for these so-called leaders also know their bosses are dropping the ball.

Saturday in the park – a few random musings

Using a popular song by the band Chicago, here are a few musings as you walk in the park this Sarurday.

Why does Vice President Mike Pence have a deer-in-the-headlights look when asked questions? We all know he has to think more about his choice of words so as not to anger his unforgiving boss. Yet, I keep thinking this guy may be President soon and he does not say many things of substance. If he were a sports radio announcer, he would be known as a “homer” meaning he is biased toward the home team.

Senator John McCain appeared as a frightened, beaten and broken man in The Vietnam documentary series. His plane was shot down over Hanoi and after breaking arms and a leg in the crash, he was beaten routinely and mentally and physically tortured. His captors filmed him and then beat him later when he did not show gratitude. Seeing him in this horrible condition reminds me of the now-President who said McCain was not a hero because he was captured. When the emcee gave the now-President a chance to correct his mistake, he doubled down on his criticism of McCain, a true war hero. Why we elected this man as President is beyond me.

I am hoping Angela Merkel carries the day in the German election. She is good for Germany, good for the EU and good for the world. She is the leader of the free world, since the US President has abdicated this role. Actually, I don’t view him as much of a leader at all even in his own country.

Finally, why can’t people like Bill and Melinda Gates run our country. They understand global and US problems recognizing the symbiotic nature we have with the world. They do their homework and take action based on their analysis working on things like global health, education, women’s issues to name a few.  This is in contrast to a White House incumbent who governs off rhetoric and chooses not to learn what he does not know. It is a wish I have..,

Have a great weekend. We all need one.