When Leaders Hide the Truth

I have been watching the excellent documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick called “The Vietnam War.” After just two episodes, a key conclusion can be made. When leaders hide the truth, people suffer.

American leaders, both military and in the White House, did not shoot straight with Americans and people died. There were numerous opportunities to realize what we should have known going in, that we were abetting a war effort that could not be won.

We backed a leader that was corrupt and who hired corrupt leaders all down the line. We were battling an enemy who was winning the hearts and minds of the rural people, who detested the corruption and Americans who supported it. We told Americans at home, things were going better than they were and tried to cover up the bad news.

As evidence, there was one battle after which the leaders in Saigon declared victory, but the leader in the field said it was a debacle. It was so bad, the Viet Cong was galvanized around their victory and no longer feared the Americans.

Leaders must not hide the truth. An American soldier said we were the first troops to realize we could not trust our leadership to tell us the truth.This battle was early in the Kennedy Presidency, so we could have saved many American lives had we been more honest with ourselves and the American people. What became apparent, we remained and expanded our efforts only to prevent the spread of communism as this was in the middle of the Cold War.

The sad truth is we do not learn lessons from history and are destined to repeat mistakes. Everything we needed to know, we could have gleaned from the French failure in Vietnam. Later, we went into Iraq and Afghanistan without full understanding of the issues and people involved. We should have known about Afghanistan as we aided the tribes to drive out the Soviets in the 1980s. We sided with the less than scrutable leadership in Iraq.

What frustrates me is people die when we don’t think things through and are not truthful. And, as John Fogerty sang, it is not the senators’ sons who are dying. This is what bothers me most about our current President who has a very hard time with the truth. Coupling that weakness with his lack of desire to learn what he does not know exacerbates his ineffectiveness. I just hope people won’t die due his limitations and behaviors.

Advertisements

Vehement and attacking denials

I watched the first of two episodes on the PBS news series “Frontline” regarding the NFL’s cover up of concussions being caused by the money-making game of professional football. Having seen Will Smith star as Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian born and well schooled forensic-pathologist, who broke the story in the movie “Concussion,” this show caught my eye.

In short, autopsies performed on several deceased players, who had died before age fifty, revealed recurring concussive brain injuries that led to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which caused dementia in these players. Yet, the NFL went out of its way to deny, denigrate and demonize this man and his findings. The NFL conducted its own studies and were able to get them published even when they did not measure up to scientific peer review standards. As a result more players got hurt. Eventually, the NFL settled a lawsuit for $1 Billion payable to the players. This settlement was upheld by the Supreme Court last December.

I mention this story as other entities have followed the vehement and attacking denial approach. You may recall the tobacco industry denied for years that nicotine was addictive, when they had studies in their files dating back to 1964 that told them it was. After years of denying other studies, often denigrating and demonizing the group doing the study, eight CEOs of tobacco companies testified under oath to a Congressional Committee that nicotine was not addictive. That bald face lie was too much for some and insiders began to tell the real story. In 1998, the big four tobacco companies agreed to a settlement with 46 state attorney generals for $206 Billion, payable over 25 years.

President Richard Nixon used a similar approach to attack The Washington Post, in particular Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, for their investigative reporting which linked the Watergate break-in to the White House and the detailed cover-up of various crimes. Nixon threatened them, the publisher and editor attacking their credibility. And, when Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox was getting too close, he had Cox fired, but only after the Saturday Night Massacre, when two of Cox’s superiors refused to fire him – Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus – and resigned. While Nixon was pardoned after resigning, over twenty of Nixon’s staff went to jail.

Today, we have two entities that are following suit. Exxon Mobil has attacked critics and scientists for years on climate change using the same PR strategy and firm that the tobacco Industry used. Apparently, they did not read the ending. They dared scientists to look at their data. A Harvard group of scientists did and found that 83% of the scientific papers done by Exxon Mobil’s scientists confirmed that climate change is an existential threat and is man-influenced.

Not ironically, management’s public positions said the climate change science is unclear 81% of the time, the exact opposite conclusion. Exxon Mobil denigrated the Harvard scientists who just completed their work, but are failing to remember a current class action suit by employees and another by shareholders alleging the company is undervalued due to management’s misrepresentation of climate change impact. Right now, two state attorney generals and the SEC are investigating this very issue. If the AGs and SEC find Exxon Mobil did mislead shareholders, Exxon Mobil will be guilty of the crime of securities fraud.

The other entity is one Donald J. Trump, the current occupant of the White House. He has attacked everyone who dares criticize him or suggests that the Russians not only hacked the election, that he may have culpability in colluding with them. Trump says routinely and often the media is lying and consists of bad people. Senators, Congress members, and others, even from his own party, are met with some negative attack, if they dare be critical of him. Like Archibald Cox, there is a very capable Special Prosecutor named Robert Mueller who is investigating further into all the President’s men and women. Like these other entities, the attacks are vehement and brutal. Like these other entities, the stories seem to change as more details come out. And, like others, I believe the President is guilty of collusion. Why? His history, first and foremost, but if he was not guilty, why is acting so guilty?

So, the story line has yet to be written, but the more vehement, relentless and negative the attacks are and the more the denial stories change, the more likely the party doing the attacking is guilty.

Do complete that survey

Since I live in the suburbs and am an Independent voter, I receive all kinds of surveys, usually quite biased in nature. This afternoon I received one on the Trump Agenda from the Republican National Conmmittee.

I did what I have done previously, filling it out and making comments in the margins. For example, the top priorities are listed and I was asked to rank them, with only one place for an “other.” Frankly, several things are included which should not be done at all or greatly over-simplify a complex issue. And, other needs are not even mentioned, a problem I remedied with several “other issues.”

But, what I also did was what I would encourage others to do, if given the chance. I wrote that Congress needs to censure this President for his recent remarks on white supremacists and neo-Nazis and actions unbecoming the office. I also mentioned that Congress may need to consider impeachment if the Russian investigation reveals what I fear.

Use these vehicles to communicate. My guess is I am not the only one who did this. Right now, the incumbent in the White House has diminished and defamed to office. We need to share our voice to say we demand honor, morality and leadership from our President, none of which we are getting from this man.

A Beleaguered President

In his public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the incumbent has given us the perfect word to define his Presidency. Beleaguered.

The beleaguered President has done more to undermine his own veracity than anyone else could possibly muster. His worst enemy is the man-child that looks back at him from the mirror when he shaves. And, man-child is the appropriate description.

The beleaguered President spoke to a large gathering of Boy Scouts. Yet, the key messaging of the key-note speaker was not one of honor, trustworthiness and service, it was one of lying, cheating, name-calling. It also included a healthy dose of braggadocio. The far more honorable part of the equation was in the audience, not behind the dais.

This man-child has a multitude of reasons why he should have never been elected. Those reasons continue as President. This is even before we see what he has done as President to make the US a less trustworthy country and what he is likely to have done with Russian influences to get elected.

Yet, two items should stick out which are examples of his character. He fired James Comey and announced to news sources before telling Comey was fired. That is extremely poor form.

The second is how he is bad mouthing Sessions in public. Mind you, Sessions is no day at the beach in my view, but he is being bullied into resigning. The adage of praise in public and criticize in private is lost on this man-child. The President asks for loyalty, but offers known in return. Per an attorney who worked for him, this is modus operandi. And, make no mistake, if his son or son-in-law become a liability, he will jettison them.

My hope is Robert Mueller will complete his work and find the trail of money, which makes the beleaguered President nervous. And, it should not be lost on anyone that the Senate and House have passed bills with only single digit dissent to sanction Russia and restrict the President’s ability to change them. That says loudly and clearly, “we do not trust you.” Neither should we.

Around the world in one hundred eighty days

The US President has just completed his first six months in office and his 180 days have been a lengthy and chaotic affair. Each week has seen bizarre story after another and, just when it looks like we can go no lower, the President can slip under an even lower limbo bar.

The sad part is he not only affects the US, he has created an untrustworthy relationship with pretty much every leader around the globe. Even leaders who are on his side likely do not trust the man as far as they could throw him. Conservative writer Ross Douthat wrote recently, “as soon as you give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, he will disappoint you.”

A recent Pew Research Poll of 37 countries said trust in the President has fallen from 64% with Obama to 22% with Trump, a fall of 42 points. Think about that. Pulling out of agreements like the Paris Climate Change Accord and having to be shamed into fully supporting NATO reveal a man whose words do not mean that much. As a result, neither does our word as a country.

This is a key reason we try to honor earlier commitments. But, with Trump saying everything done before is a “disaster,” he feels he has to prove it by destroying it. As a result, other leaders may choose to work with more dependable countries.

Finally, when he layers in his destructive tweets, he seems to forget or not care that his tweets maybe contradictory to earlier statements made in person with another leader. The sophomoric tweeting is not enabling good governance.

So, until he is removed from office, we will have to suffer with the world. God only knows what the next 180 days will bring.

The Great Russian Rationalization

As the retreating lines in the sand continue to be drawn with the lying, denial and story changing, there is an interesting process underway. As the Russian meddling story gets closer to the White House, more than a few so-called news sources and supporters of the President are doing the “Great Russian Rationlization.” Fortunately, there is growing number of conservatives who are realizing the President has been less than truthful to counterbalance the rationalization effort.

Yet, these rationalizing discussions are increasing because of the growing credibility of the Russian meddling story. With the Donald Trump, Jr. emails and meeting with a Russian attorney and investigation into Jared Kushner’s digital data mining role, the story should no longer be downplayed as a witchhunt, the favorite dismissal line of the President. So, these so-called news outlets are openly discussing that collusion may not be a crime, this meeting is just bad judgment, this is not conspiracy, treason and so on.

Attorneys, news agencies and supporters can talk all they want, but if Ronald Reagan were alive, he would rake these folks over the coals. A Watergate prosecutor said on NPR earlier this week, this could be construed as a conspiracy with a foreign entity to accept value in violation of the Federal Elections Campaign Act. The contention by Junior that no services were proffered is moot in the mind of the prosecutor as he went to learn about such.

It should also be noted that Senior’s FBI Director nominee, Christipher Wray said yesterday under oath to a Senate committee that the investigation of Russian meddling is not a “witchhunt” directly refuting the President’s assertion that it is. He supports the effort of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller who he holds in  high regard and calls a “straight shooter.”

Setting aside the Great Russian Rationalization, here is what we know.

– the President is on public record for firing the FBI Director over the “Russian thing.”

– the testimony under oath by former FBI Director James Comey spoke of the President’s coercion to drop looking into the issues related to Michael Flynn.

– the President and several of his team have been confirmed to have lied about Russian meetings during the campaign and transition leading to the firing of Michael Flynn, the recusal of Jeff Sessions from the “Russian thing,” and Junior confirming with his own words that he lied several times about the meeting. Further, the President lied about no one having contact with the Russians.

– the changing stories as information filters out. I refer to this earlier as drawing retreating lines in the sand. Call me crazy, but this gives me the impression of people with something to hide. I would add do not assume Senior or Junior are telling the truth now.

Yet, four things convince me Trump was more than an unwitting pawn in the Russian meddling. He has been embarassingly nonchalant about a major crime against the US by Russia. He has been overtly friendly with the Russian leaders in meetings believing them over the advice of his intelligence community. He has numerous business and financial ties to Russian investors and lenders. And, per six authors who wrote about Trump’s history, the President has a very difficult time with the truth.

My strong advice to legislators who support this President “no matter what” is to remember they swore an oath to the United States of America. And, do they really want to be remembered for blindly supporting a man whose word means so little? To be brutally frank, people can perfume this pig all they want, but to me it looks and smells like conspiratorial acts may been committed. One thing is for certain, this story will not be going away.

 

 

A few obvious statements

There are lot of important things we should be talking about, but let me make a few obvious statements about what is.

– While it remains to be proven whether the President of the United States colluded with Russia to get elected it is painfully clear he has lied about no involvement from any of his campaign team with Russians.
– While Junior says nothing was gleaned from the meeting with the Russian attorney, there are two truths using his own words in emails. He expected and relished in getting Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton. And, he lied about the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, that Kushner and Manafort did not know and then released emails after being advised the NY Times was going to. Now, he says his father did not know, but frankly, why should we believe him now?
– if the GOP led Senate passes a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare using only GOP votes and the bill gets reconciled with the House bill and signed into law, it will harm two groups – a great many Americans and the Republican Party.
– The US has begun its official demise as the global leader. With the pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord and poor performance on the world stage at the G20 meeting, coupled with the retrenchment on trade and proclivity for untrustworthy behavior, this President has done huge damage to our reputation. If you have not seen it, check out the scathing review of Trump by an Australian political reporter who is saddened by this.

These stories are critical. We need Americans to pay attention to legitimate news sources. You could start with everyone being condemned by the President as fake news. Based on his lying and denials that are eventually disproven, people should not take this man at his word. He has not earned that right.