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.

 

Stories floating in the air

Between the US President and his three prominent spokes people, Sean Hannity, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, there are numerous stories about what happened, what was said, what was tweeted, etc. floating around in the air. The mercurial President lives news cycle to news cycle, having the attention span of a child. So, he is prone to say or tweet something that changes a bad news paradigm. The truth is less relevant. Which is germane, as he tells stories like a child. “But, mom what about Joey or Susie. They did it too.”

Trump changes his stories so much, to me the stories are floating around in the air like comic strip bubbles. So, it is truly hard to keep track of his lies. He simply wears people out that they get numb to his prolific lying. He denied it then and denies it now, but of course he was aware about payoffs to women to keep them quiet about his many indiscretions. He, of course, knows about those indiscretions which he also denies. We just need to believe he was giving them money to keep them quiet about something that he said did not happen.

And, he of course, knew everything about Junior’s meeting with the Russians in a building that Trump owns about getting dirt on someone. Throwing dirt is Trump’s modus operandi. I was tickled to see how Sanders defended Trump who has been accused of using animal terms or lack of intellectual prowess to denigrate his African-American critics as racist tactics. Her defense is Trump is an equal opportunity attacker of critics, not using those precise words. In other words, he is jerk to people of all races.

Guiliani says now Trump never talked to James Comey about Michael Flynn. Really? I guess next he will say Flynn never talked to the Russians about a back channel or eliminating the sanctions. Or, Flynn never lied to Mike Pence about so doing, which was the stated reason he was fired. I am still trying to figure out what this doppelganger did with the old Rudy. Rudy used to be well thought of, now he is a barking dog that has a hard time keeping track of the floating stories.

At that might be the best analogy. Trump lies and changes stories so much, it is hard for him and his spokespeople to keep track of the floating stories. To me, that is sad to say about the President of our country. He lies so much, he cannot remember when he has lied and what he said earlier.

To be frank, I do not mind people being more conservative than I am on certain issues (I am actually fiscally conservative, but socially progressive). What I do mind is that conservative people try to rationalize this President, when it is quite apparent that he lies more than he tells the truth. I do mind when they accept as facts whatever Trump says, when he admits to not liking to do homework to know the facts. But, this belief in less than accurate news is precedes Trump, which is a key reason he was able to win them over.

So, my advice is to stick with good news sources. They are the ones that print retractions when they get it wrong and admit to it. Also, start from the following basis point. Do not believe a word the President says and take with a large grain of salt anything anyone on his team says. You will be more right than wrong if you do. As Omarosa said, “in Trump world, everyone lies.” That may be the truest thing she ever said, and she would know.

 

The week that was

Looking back at the week ending April 27, 2018, a few things jump out at me as examples of larger problems.

The US Congress heard a speech from a President that spoke of staying the course on America’s global role in security, free trade and environmental issues. He also warned of the unhealthy focus on narrow nationalism and promoted the ideals of the American experiment. Unfortunately, the speech was given by Emmanuel Macron of France and not the US President.

Yet, the US President did make news when he nominated another poorly vetted candidate this time for the VA director role. He was already a curious choice, but he and the White House were obviously not prepared for the discovery of potential peccadillos in his past. This is a recurring problem for the White House where too many candidates withdraw, should not have been nominated or are approved with some later being fired or resigning as past or new problems surface. It should be noted there are too many articles and biographies that do not define “due diligence” as a strength of the President.

Between two tragedies in Canada and the US, it shows that terrorism need not be imported. Four people died at a Waffle House in the Nashville area, while  ten people died on the streets of Toronto. The larger problem that is revealed time and again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone assailant. The only thing that has a chance is an invested community who cares about what happens there. Neither of these people were from an actively tracked hate group, which number over a thousand. Nor were they part of an extreme religious terror group.

On Thursday, a boyhood and even adult idol of mine, Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual impropriety. While the trial involved only one of his victims, the number totals over 60. This is very sad  that someone so present in the public eye for fifty years could harm so many people.

Finally, an unconfirmed report out of China notes that one reason North Korea may be eager to give up nuclear testing is they blew up their testing site. The report said an underground blast may have punctured a hole in a mountain and released some radioactive material. From what others have noted is Kim Jong Un likely does not want to give up the nuclear weapons they created and their conventional forces could do great damage by themselves to South Korea. But, this unconfirmed report is interesting nonetheless and offers a potential explanation for a willingness to talk. Setting this aside, Kim Jong Un wins by getting on the world stage in a meeting room. Yet, talking is far better than the alternatives for keeping a lid on things.

Many other interesting things have happened. Our friend Jill has an excellent summary on Ben Carson’s housing plan which will triple the rents for people in need. Maybe he should have remained a surgeon where he could help people.

That’s all folks. Have a great weekend.

 

The available talent pool is shallow

A leader can choose to hire people that are competent, experienced and even loyal. When a new President comes on board, they usually draw from a deep talent pool of folks who served the incumbent’s party in the past.

From the outset of the current incumbent’s election as President, the rules have not fully applied. The first clue was his surprise that he won. He had done little preparation for hiring a staff and is still behind in filling positions.

The second clue is the focus on loyalty more than the first two criteria. While there are a few capable folks on the staff, many capable and experienced folks took their names off the list or were not considered as they dared be critical of this imperfect man. They were not loyal enough.

The third clue is the continual lack of due diligence on the people announced and even hired. Many people told the President not to hire Michael Flynn. He was the first to go. Others were not approved by Congress and still more should not have been approved due to poor qualifications for the position.

A final clue is the talent pool has tightened. More candidates have taken their name out of the pool given the tempestuous White House. This a reason the President is hiring people he sees on TV which is where he spends much of his attention. By itself, that is not necessarily bad, but coupled with the lack of due diligence, several people have been offered jobs who should not have been due to conflict. As recent evidence, his legal team announced four new additions, only to withdraw their names after finding out about conflicts of interest. A Supreme Court experienced attorney named Ted Olson declined to be considered citing this chaos as one example of a well oiled machine.

One year ago, the President said he had formed the finest cabinet and staff ever. With the significant amount of turnover, it is obvious that statement was hyperbole. Yet, the people he has added of late are not being described as universally great choices. Even the more competent ones are defined as having similar character flaws to the President.

The key question I ask folks is would you want to to work for such a tempestuous and deceitful person? And, if you did, how long do you think it would take before you wore out your welcome or left because of the environment?

We need more competent, experienced and cooler heads. This is even more true when the boss colors so much outside the lines. The problem is that pool has been purposefully drained.

What this independent voter believes

As an Independent voter who has been a member of both parties, I have been frustrated by the lack of civility, lack of truth and lack of due diligence shown by the President. I am also frustrated by the ongoing rationalization by his party for his behavior. When he was elected, I said let’s give him a chance as his success will be ours and that is how this works. I did have low expectations which he has failed to achieve. After I made the above statement of hope, within days he appointed Steve Bannon as a Senior Advisor. That made a huge statement to me meaning white supremacy and nationalism had a chair at the table.

The President consistently is more untruthful than he is not. His lying has been measured at 69% of the time, which is kind as it gives him credit for partial truths in the 31%. This is not news as Politifacts said he lied 70% of the time during the campaign and his five biographers and ghost writer for his biggest selling book all said Trump has a problem with the truth. Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump, wrote last June, 2016, that “Trump lies every day, even about things of no consequence.” Other leaders in the US and abroad do not trust this man and why would they? So, I keep it simple and do not believe a word he says as the odds are in my favor.

Then there is the demonization of everyone who dares criticize him or did things he did not do. Everything Obama or Bush did is “horrible” and every thing he will do will be “beautiful” or “make you happy.” But, it is the transactional, zero-sum game he plays with critics that is so childish. He must crush critics to make it alright in his mind. He rarely criticizes on issues or policies as he is not steeped in details. He prefers a mud fight. This lack of civility to people who have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, civil rights, etc, is downright un-Presidential and un-Christian. It would not be confused with the right thing to do and to me is very telling.

If this were not bad enough, almost every decision is made off rhetoric, not data. Our problems are too complex to solve them without knowing what caused them. Or, trying to solve a problem that has been over-simplified or does not exist is more commonplace. Right now, the Department of Defense says not reacting to climate change is a threat to national security. If you take this one step further, then a President who ignores climate change, must also be a threat to national security. Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent piece this week about the holistic problems in Niger, which include the impact climate change has had on desertification. This has caused farmers to lose crops and to invite in ISIS to garner some level of income.This is what a President should consider in his decisions. (Gronda has written an excellent piece on this whose link is below.)

The sad part about the last issue is the President does not show any desire to learn things. We have woeful staff shortages and he has a limited attention span. This is severely crimping our diplomacy abroad, which is much needed. Without such, the President has already elevated the risk with North Korea. Michael Lewis has written about how Obama’s people made transition books and invited the Trump people in to meet. Department by department, very few took them up on this, so this learning curve baton was never passed.

We now need more Republican leaders to remember to whom they swore their oath – it is to the Constitution, not their party or this President. He needs to be censured and he may eventually need to be impeached, if what appears to be true about Russia, in fact is. That is what I believe.

Thomas L. Friedman Connects The Dots Between President Trump And Niger