Musings during the Ides of May

I don’t know about you, but the routine chaos surrounding our fearless leader is wearing me out. A week has not passed by without some chaos, almost all of it self-inflicted. And, sometimes it is daily, if not hourly wounds.

We should remember that Julius Caesar was killed during the ides of March. Yet, while Julius was knifed in the back by Brutus, our leader needs to look in the mirror at his worst enemy who is doing him in. Our President’s greatest enemy is Donald Trump and it is not even close.

The Guardian has a story today about the worst leaker in the White House. His name is Donald Trump. Who is the source of the most lying – Donald Trump? Who is the source of changing the story which discredits his people who are lying for him – Donald Trump?

It goes on. Whose actions and inane statements, unsupported by fact, routinely get himself in trouble – Donald Trump? Whose unfamiliarity and disdain for knowing what his job entails and necessary history causes unforced errors? You guessed it, Donald Trump.

We will likely look back on the Ides of May as the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency. Firing James Comey for the reasons he finally fessed up to and doing it in such a terrible fashion reveals a man trying to save himself, but he does not know how. He looks like a guilty man because he is acting likely a guilty man.

Trump said he is the most mistreated President ever. If he believes that, he needs to look in the mirror and tell the image to treat himself better.

Just a man with words

My favorite editorial offering each week is when conservative columnist David Brooks joins with liberal columnist Mark Shields on PBS Newsour. Each Friday, they say grace over the news events of the week.

Usually facilitated by Judy Woodruff, these two pundits offer context and civil discourse. It is obvious each has profound respect for the other, as even when they disagree, the rationale is supported by good observations.

It should not be a surprise that both are somewhat alarmed and bemused by our President. In fact, Brooks (along with fellow conservatives Michael Gerson, George Will and Charles Krauthammer) has been a recurring critic of the man who became our President.

Earlier in the year, Brooks described the White House under our new President as “equal parts incompetence and chaos.” This was just following the horribly crafted, vetted, communicated and executed travel ban that caused so much negative reaction.

Recently, after yet another week of bizarre statement and actions that the President’s people had to scurry to defend, he made another insulting reference to the President as being “just a man with words.” Taken in the context of the piece, the President is not a man of conviction and will say just about anything, often not with a lot of thought.

And, that is a sad state of affairs. George Will spoke of the unforced errors when the President just says or tweets things. Will said he has made the world more dangerous and hopes that when the 3 am calm comes with a real problem, they just let the President sleep and wake up Genetal Mattis.

Just a man with words. Unfortunately, many of them are not truthful or well thought out.

 

Looking like a leader versus being one

There is a saying about leadership. The better leaders tend to deflect credit to others, the worse leaders tend to assume credit even when it is not due. Think about this as you consider various leaders.

One leader in the news is known as a narcissist. He is on record as saying he alone can solve our problems. He has said  that no one knows taxes better than he does maybe in the history of taxes. He has said no one knows ISIS better not even the generals.

He has beaten on his chest saying how great a job he is doing when most observers see chaos and incompetence. Yet, he controls the message to his followers and says he is being treated unfairly.

He would not be the first leader to take advantage of photo ops, but this man lives a life without substance. He is all about smoke and mirrors. He is all about appearing to be a leader. He is not about being one.

Leaders have to deal with the truth and not bend it to fit their view. How can someone solve problems when they don’t know what they are or what caused them? How can someone lead when their history is one of self-service and not helping people? How can one lead people who he has taken advantage of his entire life?

This leader looks the part. He is successful  and wants people to know it. He stands in front of airplanes as successful people have airplanes. He has his name on everything as his name represents success. The dilemma is it is all for show. His business career is spotty. His mentor taught him to never admit mistakes and to sue everyone. He has had over 4,000 lawsuits in his career.  And, he has trouble admitting his mistakes. It is always someone else’s fault.

A leader does not do these things. There is another leader who did not look the part. He took over after a great, popular leader had died. He almost lost his reelection. He is known for two things. He said “the buck stops here” meaning he owned the problems. He is also viewed as one of the best presidents. His name is Harry Truman. We all know the name of the other guy.

 

 

 

Zero Credibility

If you were a foreign leader, let me ask you a simple question. Would you trust the current President of the United States? Unfortunately, the answer is an obvious no. The sad part is the leaders have less trust in America.

With the continuation of his lying and insufficient knowledge of the issues, he has offended several leaders in so little time. His mistakes are unforced, so he has brought them on himself.

His worst mistake which weighs him down as investigations continue are his continuing insistence that his predecessor had his offices wire tapped. He greatly complicated this false accusation by indicting the British in the wire tapping. He damaged a relationship with our best ally, so that he would not be caught in a lie. So, his solution was to lie again.

Adding to these lies are the Russian conspiracy investigation, the incompetently handled travel bans and various insults to Germany, China, Australia, Mexico, Sweden and NATO. He has shown he is something of a loose cannon which unnerves folks. He says he likes to be unpredictable and he is. But, so is a toddler.

Right now, our President has zero credibility. Unfortunately, he is our leader, so we are guilty by association.

Mama told me not to come

Three Dog Night had so many great songs, but when they sang Randy Newman’s song “Mama told me not to come,” they struck a nerve with many. As teens, we wanted to listen less to our parents and more to our friends.

Even when our friends may be leading us down a perilous path, we will continue onward. Even when Mama told us that the path may be fraught with perils, we knew better and we ventured onward. The Three Dog Night song speaks to the realization by our teen selves that walking down that path or, in this case, going to an ill-advised party may have been a mistake. Not wanting to listen to Mama did not make her opinion less valid.

Why am I thinking of this song? I am trying  to put myself in the heads of people who voted for our President as they begin to realize who they voted for. I read a statistic last week from The Los Angeles Times that 11% of Trump voters have regrets. Going beyond the inane tweets, the consistent lying and puzzling incoherence and incompetence, he has submitted a budget and supports the repeal and replacement plan for the ACA which kick his voters in the teeth. This is already after he signed a bill in his first two hours to take away a mortgage premium reduction that would have helped a million Americans and his intention to cease or hamstring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that helps multiple millions of Americans from aggressive and fraudulent financial practices.

“Mama told me not to come,” will be that song which echoes over the cognitive dissonance that will be dished out in spades to Trump voters.

 

The circus is not going away

While Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey will be ceasing their circus tours ending an era, we have an even bigger circus going on in the White House. It is the new greatest show on earth, but unfortunately that is not a good thing.

Former Republican Congressman, Senator and Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen was being interviewed by the BBC earlier this week. A question was asked regarding the President’s lack of veracity with the truth. The correspondent said the world is noticing and leaders are coming to the conclusion that they cannot trust Donald Trump.

Cohen said it is more than that, as not only is it the lack of trust in Trump, he represents America, so it is our trust that is at risk. He added “the world is watching our circus.” He added when President Kennedy approached French President De Gaulle for his support in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy offered to show him pictures of the missiles. De Gaulle said he did not need to as he trusted America. Cohen did not sense Trump and America would get that level of trust.

Even Trump’s hand-picked people (Messrs. Mattis, McMaster, Kelly, Tillerson and Pence) are having to apologize for his remarks, assuage our allies and openly disagree with the President. One NATO leader asked “who speaks for America?” When our leader lies about the smallest of things to nurture his large ego and has problems with the truth on larger issues, it requires others to fill in the gaps.

Yet, this should not be a surprise as Trump has always had trouble with the truth per six authors who wrote his biographies and his best seller. It was no different during the campaign when fact checking organizations said he lied 70% of the time, by far more than any other presidential candidate since 2007 when their measuring started. This same percentage is holding steady in his Presidency per these same fact checkers.

While I am in the camp of giving him a chance, he has not been able to achieve even my low bar of expectations. A key reason is he cannot stop lying. Even during his lone speech that got accolades, he lied at least eight times. And, when caught in a lie, he doubles and triples down on the lies enlisting his staff to get the coarsest sand paper to smooth out his stories. They say he is not lying, you misunderstood him, he was speaking jokingly or did not mean to use that specific term, e.g.

Yet, when something major happens, both Americans and our allies have to be able to trust the President. Right now, the answer is they will be less inclined to do so. I have shared before I don’t believe a word the man says. If he says it, the odds are in my favor it is not true. As just one example, he said he has never met a Russian businessman who bought his house and had his plane on the same tarmac as Trump’s on two separate occasions – I don’t believe him. Now, I a may be wrong to think that, but his track record would say I’m right.

And, that is sad. We do not need a circus in the White House. We need a leader. We need someone to tell us the truth.

Trump has screwed the pooch and has yet to realize it

During the movie and book “The Right Stuff” about astronauts and test pilots, when a pilot made a fatal error, it was often said “he screwed the pooch.” Unfortunately, the key word in the sentence is fatal. Although he won’t die from this, our President has just screwed the pooch with respect to his presidency. It will take several to many months for this to play out, but his presidency is toast. He will be impeached or resign.

Why do I say such a thing? Actually, I am borrowing from E.J.Dionne’s column noting the President has painted himself into a corner. After his furious internal  response to Jeff Sessions’ recusing himself from a Russian involvement investigation and after his childish attempts to show Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer meeting with Putin years ago on the record, he took it upon himself to send a series of tweets accusing the former President of something he could not and would not do.

Trump ham-handedly said Obama had his office wiretapped before the election, without citing proof. Not only has Obama denied this, but so has James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and James Comey, the Director of the FBI. Comey was said to be indignant over Trump’s claiming his people broke the law. These two would know if wiretapping went on and they denied it. Now, why would both of them deny something that could be easily proven in an investigation?

But, here is the corner Trump is now in. Senator Lindsey Graham will investigate this. If there, in fact, was a wiretap, a judge would have ordered it and would have had probable cause. That is not good for Mr. President. If it was not, then the President just showed horrible judgment and has accused the former President of something he did not do, plus he alienated further his intelligence community.

Yet, now Graham can open the can worms as he said he would and also investigate the Russian links. I hope that would include a subpoena of his tax records, because per conservative columnist David Brooks, Trump is likely beholden to someone for loans after his bankruptcies dried up normal channels of funding. And, unlike most other Republicans in Congress, Graham remembers he pledged an oath to uphold the constitution of the United States, not the Republican Party.

I have seen a lot of things in my time, but what I witness about the Russian involvement story, is this White House and people who supported Trump’s candidacy are doing a lot of lying, denial, apology for denial, and media bashing. I have felt for many months the American people deserve to get to the bottom of this dating back to late July when I first heard about Russian hacking. We are owed an explanation.

As a related aside, my wife and I watched Carter Page, one of Trump’s folks interviewed by PBS Newshour two weeks ago. He denied meeting with the Russians and was quite adamant about it. We looked at each other and said “he is lying.” Guess what? He admitted to lying last week. So, did Flynn and Sessions, no matter how much perfume he places on his explanation.

Trump has screwed the pooch because he cannot stay out of his own way. What is ironic is his fascination with pseudo news sites Fox News and Breitbart will be his undoing, as they are the source of his likely erroneous claim. I would be hard pressed to see Comey and Clapper lying over such an issue. I am not hard pressed to envision Trump lying about anything.