Thursday’s little bit of this and that

Having been away at the funeral for my friend’s mother, I have been a little out of sorts as well as out-of-pocket. The elections and next two days of affairs have my mind spinning, so please forgive me as I comment on a little bit of this and that.

The election results are encouraging from a number of fronts, but most of all from the number of diverse candidates that led to the Democrats retaking the House of Representatives. I am proud to see more newcomers and many women getting elected. These folks felt the need to get involved to focus on issues and decorum, which has been kicked to the curb. I wish for them to have the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the collaborative bipartisan bent of former Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan.

I was also pleased to see a number of ballot initiatives pass in various states. Several so-called red states voted on the expansion of Medicaid, which is telling. Florida passed an initiative that would overturn the highly restrictive limitations on former felons regaining the right to vote after they get out. And, in North Carolina, every former governor advocated for the successful defeat of a power grabbing measures by the GOP led legislature to limit the powers of appointment of the governor.

While the Senate result was a little displeasing given the election of a couple of folks who should not hold public office (Former Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz), the GOP maintaining the majority was not news. My greatest disappointment is two races benefitted racist efforts to likely win, although one is still not certain. The fact Brian Kemp may win the Georgia governor’s race after his blatant unethical and untruthful efforts to channel Jim Crow-like voter restriction is disheartening. Should he win, the state of Georgia deserves much better than him, as if he cheated to win, he will cheat while serving. The other is in Florida, where the new governor Ron DeSantis has a racist past and benefitted from racists robo calls and dog whistle statements, one he made. Florida deserves better, especially following Scott.

What has not changed is the US President continuing to channel his inner child heightening his lack of truthfulness, bullying and denigration of the media. At his tempestuous news conference yesterday, I kept thinking that a leader needed to step up and put him in time-out. I am still amazed at how he can sell his followers that he is the one telling the truth and that everyone who is against him is lying. But, per his five biographers, that has been his schtick over time. His firing of AG Jeff Sessions was expected, but at the heart of this, is the US President thinks the AG represents him, not the country. It is not a puzzle that Trump cannot fathom that the recusal was the ethical thing to do. He asked, “what kind of man would do that?” An ethical one.

Finally, we have one more mass shooting in America. How can we stop them? It is simply quite difficult to stop a motivated lone gunman (and it is almost always a man). Our police and FBI are terrific, but with our freedoms of less-inhibited gun ownership and the focus more on the lesser problem of foreign terrorists taking money from preventing the far worse domestic terrorists and hate groups, we are making it easier not harder to kill many at one time. Our leaders have lacked the courage to do more and too many are paid to avoid doing so. So, I just pray that my family, friends and others are just not in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, I pray that those leaders find that conscience they misplaced.

 

 

 

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The US President “annihilates the truth”

With the taped conversation between Michael Cohen and then candidate Donald Trump, it confirms that Trump lied to the American people about his awareness of the settlement. But, that is not abnormal. In a recent PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist poll, 58% of Americans believe the President tells the truth sometimes or hardly ever, with 3% saying he never tells the truth. 36% of folks think he tells the truth almost always or most of the time.

Before the summer, The Washington Post counted 3,200 lies communicated by Trump as President and in a recent speech in Montana, measured 76% of the comments were false, misleading or unsupported. This percent is similar to the 69% untruthful rate that Politifacts has measured during his Presidency as of earlier this year. Using the latter percent, it means for every three comments, two of them are untruthful. These numbers do not surprise me at all. But, we should not rely only on statistics.

Earlier this week, PBS Newshour had a panel discussion on President Trump and his relationship with the truth. Judy Woodruff interviewed Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington who served in the last three Republican administrations, Lara Brown, the director of the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University and author of several books on presidents, including “Jockeying For the American Presidency,” and Domenico Montanaro, the lead political editor for NPR.

Wehner started out echoing what some have said publicly that Trump is a “pathological liar.” He also uttered the comment in the title above that Trump has set out to “annihilate the truth.” Brown concurred and noted the sheer “volume of lies” makes it hard to categorize. She noted that he “exhausts” Americans with the continual stream of lies. Montanaro echoed their comments, but also pointed out if two numbers from the PBS Newshour/ NPR/ Marist survey are added together, 61% of Americans believe the President tells the truth either sometime, hardly ever or never.

It should be noted that 56% of Americans believes he lies more than other Presidents, with only 32% saying the opposite. Wehner and Brown noted that all Presidents tell lies (LBJ in the Pentagon Papers, Clinton about sexual relations, Reagan about the Iran-Contra affair and Nixon about Watergate, e.g.), but the number and volume dwarf that of his predecessors. Montanaro noted that we expect truth from our President and it is unnerving when we don’t get it. Brown’s comment about the lies being exhausting is true in our house. The man wears my wife and me out. We should not be expecting our President to be untruthful.

Each cited examples of lies, but Wehner said one that is not that big of an issue is an exemplar that set the stage for this President. It related to the size of his inaugural crowd. With visual evidence to contradict him, Trump lied and then made his spokesperson repeat the lie. He said it showed out of the gate, the President was ready to lie even when the facts demonstrated otherwise. That is also in keeping with Brown’s comments that he lies big and small and a comment I have cited from Thomas Wells, an attorney who worked with Trump for years. Wells said “Trump lies every day even about things of no consequence.”

Nothing in this post is news to readers. What is newsworthy is to hear someone use the term “annihilate the truth.” That is an astounding revelation and one I truly do not find fault with. As I shared with a Senator on his website earlier in the week, one way to tell the President may be guilty of more than obstruction of justice is the number of times he has changed his story just since Helsinki. We must let Robert Mueller get at the truth. We certainly are not hearing it from this President, at least not very often.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/whats-happened-to-the-truth-under-president-trump

Hard to drain the swamp by hiring swamp creatures

The 45th US President won the election, in part, because of his commitment to drain the swamp in Washington. It should have given us pause when he hired more wealthy people than ever before to be members of his cabinet. As we continue to witness, it is hard to drain the swamp when you hire swamp creatures.

A few weeks ago, Scott Pruitt, the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, resigned. Pruiit was under significant scrutiny over a series of unehtical and extremely poor leadership decisions around spending, travel, favoritism, and influence. Staff who tried to cry foul were let go or reassigned.

Last year, we saw Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services leave. A report came out last week that detailed his significant use of charter flights at taxpayer expense. A similar criticism over questionable trips and sporting tickets led to the resignation of David Shulkin, the Director of Veteran Affairs.

Now, Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, is under fire for not divesting himself from several investments in companies. This astute business owner and investor claims these were oversights. But, documented reporting reveals he has numerous meetings on his calendar with CEOs of companies with whom he remained invested. That does not sound like an oversight to me.

Then, there is Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law who has no real title and only recently was fully vetted by the FBI for security clearance. It has been reported other global leaders speak openly about how they could use Kushner since he was soliciting money to pay off a $1.2 billion debt payment next year. He did get his funding, but my guess is that this is being investigated.

This should not be a total surprise as organizations take on the personality of its leader. With a leader who did not adequately divest or shelter his businesses from his ability to benefit, who does benefit from investment, hotel stays, etc. as patrons try to court influence, who significantly travels at taxpayer expense, it is not a stretch to witness his cabinet’s desire for perquisites and questionable practices in their favor.

To be frank, President Obama was vilified by conservative news outlet for his vacations to golf. Yet, these same news outlets condone with their silence the current incumbent’s conflicts of interests and sojourns. His travels far exceed that of other Presidents at this point.

It seems pretty swampy to me. Maybe more swamp creatures need to leave the lagoon.

A few quotes tell a consistent narrative

The following are a few quotes that have a consistent theme in defining the current incumbent US President. I had many to choose from, but I felt these frame the sentiment from a variety of perspectives within and outside of the US.

Former FBI DIrector James Comey as quoted in The Guardian article entitled “Comey book likens Trump to a mafia boss ” – “This president is unethical  and untethered to the truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Japanese Finance Director Taro Aso as quoted in Reuters article “US will only rejoin Pacific Trade pact if terms improved”“Trump is a person who could change temperamentally, so he may say something different the next day.”

Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Ralph Peters  in his resignation email to Fox News “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.”

Chief Executive Gustavo Grobocupatel of an Argentine Agricultural Group quoted in a Reuters article entitled “US seeks to outshine China at Latam summit without Trump”“Trump’s plan seems to be to ensure the US is no longer the world’s leader.”

Four Star General (Ret.) Barry McCaffrey as quoted in an article in The Daily Mail – “Donald Trump is a ‘serious threat to U.S. national security’ due to Russian inaction.”

Conservative columnist, author and pundit David Brooks during a speech made in Charlotte in April, 2018“Donald Trump is the wrong answer to the right question.”

Editor-in-chief of Red State, a conservative webcast, Erick Erickson quoting on his show an anonymous Republican Congressman he bumped into at a grocery store“Here’s what the US Congressman said: ‘It’s like Forrest Gump won the presidency, but an evil, really f*cking stupid Forrest Gump.’ He went on to explain that if the president tries to fire the Special Counsel Mr. Mueller, he and his fellow Republicans were ready to impeach him over it, for the sake of trying to save the GOP from going down with him.”

Thomas Wells who penned the article in The Huffington Post in July, 2016 entitled “Donald Trump Hired Me As An Attorney. Please Don’t Support Him For President” – “It is a special and unique form of arrogance to think you could even consider being literally the leader of the free world without doing the work to deeply understand the job.” He also noted Donald Trump “lies all of the time.”

I will leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions. With the exception of the two foreign leaders, these people swore an oath to the Constitution and/ or are Conservatives.