Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump's Terrible Week of Defeat on Four Fronts

This week was payback time!

Two women GOP Senators and John McCain killed the Trump/GOP repeal of Obamacare last night and thereby repaid Trump's nastiness to women and his denigration of McCain's having been a prisoner in Vietnam.

Of course, payback was not the main reason they voted against Trump's last hope for a repeal of Obamacare. But undoubtedly revenge lent a nice personal flavor to their voting down a bill that would have taken away health insurance from 16 million Americans. It was also the nail in the coffin of all efforts to repeal OBabmacare.

Trump once said, "Who could have imagined health insurance was so complicated". Well, Mr. Trump, obviously you also couldn't imagine that a bully would not always get his way and not be able turn the presidency into a dictatorship.

But it wasn't just Trump's enemies who poked Trump in the eye this week. The entire Congressional GOP smacked him down. The GOP Senate and the GOP House passed a law imposing increased sanctions on Trump's beloved Putin-Russia. This law also killed Trump's power to lift the new and existing sanctions against Russia. It was a smart way to signal Russia that messing in our elections will not get them a president who can give them what they want. Au contraire, honey lamb! On his own, the U.S. president can't do much, especially if the Congress won't let him. He ain't lifting those sanctions now or ever!  He can't! Congress has forbidden it.

That was the whole point of our Revolution and our Constitution. No kings here! No dictators here! A federal government of limited powers, with those limited powers controlled even further by being divided among the three branches of government.

Trump has therefore achieved virtually nothing of his grand plans. He never could because they were either grossly inappropriate goals or he and his cohorts were clueless as to how government and politics work.


No lifting of sanctions on Russia.

No repeal of Obamacare.

No wall.

No massive tax break for the rich. (It died when the GOP in Congress failed to kill Obamacare and its Medicaid component, which was to be the source of the funding for the $700 billion tax break for the rich.)

No massive "round-up of illegal aliens".  (The actual "round-up" has been a thin and spotty thing. Most of the deported will be right back. They always are. I knew them in California. For centuries before the United States existed, their families have been going back and forth across what we declare to be our border. This land was their land for a long, long time.)

No leaving NAFTA nor the Iran deal.

No pulling out of NATO.

No massive influx of jobs.

No revival of the coal industry beyond a seasonal uptick.

No blocking of Muslims entering our country. (The lower courts blocked Trump's ban entirely; the Supreme Court then virtually gutted it and gave what was left some effect only for another 6 weeks.)

So what has Trump got? Nothing. Zip, zilch, goose egg, zero.

What will he get? Not much once the fall arrives because then the Congress will be pre-occupied with housekeeping stuff like the budget. And their budget will ignore Trump's proposed severe cuts because these GOP members of Congress don't want to upset more of their constituents by cutting PBS funding, parks, and other beloved federal programs that Trump has targeted.  Of course you know why Congress will be less Draconian in budget-cutting than Trump wants. Next year is an election year!  And the Congressional GOP is scared of losing the House and maybe the Senate. By an amazing factor of four the number of Democratic would-be-candidates currently beats the all-time record of either party for candidate sign-ups. These Democrats smell blood.

And it is red blood. Not blue blood.

Just to be fair, let's look for a moment at what Trump has lost these past six months. Namely the status of not being in jail.

Trump's bumbling allowed the Russian's meddling in our election to turn into a broad and formidable criminal investigation of Trump, his entourage, his family and all their financial dealings that may or may not involve the Russians. Looking into Trump's past, I find plenty of what looks like criminal liability and very suspicious dealings with the Russian government and other hoodlum governments. Because Trump's egomania led him to fire FBI Director James Comey, he brought on this investigation. Now, in trying to hound Jeff Sessions out of the AG's office so Trump can appoint someone to fire chief investigator Robert Mueller, Trump has so deeply offended Session's chums in the Senate that the GOP Senators made it clear this week that there will be no help from them in getting rid of Sessions or Mueller. Indeed, they plan to block any firing of Sessions or Mueller even if it takes legislation to do it.

In other words, the U.S. Senate Republicans have finally stood up on their hind legs and defied the would be dictator and bully boy.

Our government is still working as it was designed to. For a while we all wondered, didn't we? But it looks like we'll be okay.

Like the old saying goes, "God takes care of dogs, drunks, and the American people."

We sure keep Him busy these days.

Big P.S. I should have included a fifthTrump failure this week, namely his attempt to bar transgender people from the military by announcing such in a tweet. It was given short shrift by the military leadership. They sent him a letter telling him to resubmit the new policy in a formal manner and to have the Secretary of Defense send along the appropriate guidlines. (Guidelines are always a two-year job.) Meantime, the letter said, the military will continue to treat "all our personnel with respect." In effect, Trump was slapped across the face.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Down and Down Trump Goes!

🎼 "Down and down Trump goes ......." Look at that plunging approval rate! And, appropriately in red, the soaring disapproval line. (Graphics from RealClearPolitics at Presidential Job Approval.)

To further paraphrase the old song: "I'm loving the spin he's in." 

It's the spin of a downward spiral. And it's crashing the GOP hopes to hold the House next year. Plus his sinking popularity has destroyed his power to govern or even, thus far, to rope the Senators of his party into supporting his health care bill. They can't even figure out what his bill is!

So here's for your summer delight — a bouquet of articles charting the old black magic as Trump proceeds to cut himself in two! (I'll be back with my own writing in about a month/6 weeks, depending how soon the new hip-to come will let me sit and type.)

Enjoy! Leonhardt: G.O.P. Support for Trump Is Starting to Crack — New York Times

Analysis | No matter what he does, history says Trump will never be popular — Washington Post

Americans generally view Trump’s presidency as below average — Washington Post

      Bad News For House Republicans: Clinton Won’t Be On The Ballot In 2018   —  Nate Silver's 538

Poll finds Trump’s standing weakened since springtime — Washington Post

Have fun!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trump Pardon Himself for Russian Crimes? His Question, Not Mine

A brief look at a wonderful turn of events. I can't do more than a few paragraphs because of hip pain when sitting at the computer. (New hip in 39 days!)

Trump apparently wants to know about his pardoning powers in connection with his crimes in the Russian matters, including his power to pardon himself  (And we thought he was incapable of thinking ahead!)

"Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the [Russian] probe, according to one of the sources. A second person said Trump’s lawyers have been discussing the president’s pardoning powers among themselves."  Trump’s lawyers explore pardoning powers and ways to undercut Russia investigation

This seems to indicate Trump has given up hope of getting rid of the Russian investigation. It also helps explain his belated rage at the head of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, who Trump seemingly thought would take control of the Russian investigation and subvert it to Trump's will. Instead Sessions ducked the play and recused himself, thus opening the door to the Justice Department appointing a special counsel, Robert Mueller. 

Now Trump has to give thought to what reading material he would like to take with him for all the long years in prison that some of his crimes make him eligible for. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act alone offers him a 2o-year stay, free of charge, at a federal prison.  

And — no — his free-of-charge accomodations won't be wearing the Trump Hotel brand.

* For a reminder of some of Trump's pre-presidency crimes, check out this year's best piece of reporting on Trump to date: Donald Trump's Worst Deal | The New Yorker

 What if Trump now pardons family members, etc., in order to thwart the Russia investigation? That could be obstruction of justice.  Op-Ed Contributors If Trump Pardons, It Could Be a Crime

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Russians Are Taking Trump Down, Plus "Putin on the Ritz"

Shortly after the election, I said that the Russians would be Trump's undoing, causing either his impeachment or imprisonment. And it's happening. Here's a summary of the latest "Made in Russia" Trump troubles. The irony is, of course, that the Russians really want him to stay on as president and do their bidding. Ain't going to happen, Putin! The snowball is rolling!

Here's an excellent summary of the legal issues raised by the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer that included Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, plus a growing list of other Russians who are being revealed on a daily basis as meeting attendees. The Criminal Implications of the E-mails How Trump, Jr.,’s correspondence raises questions of possible campaign-finance violations. By Jeffrey Toobin.

As a super bonus the above article includes a link to what will likely put Trump et al in the hoosegow for about 20 years each. It's about a Trump family building project that seems to have broken a half dozen serious federal laws, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which just by itself carries a penalty of 20 years. Here's the link in case you miss it in reading the article: Adam Davidson’s story. Outstanding piece of reporting.

With this for your summer reading I leave you for several weeks on a summer break to get a hip replacement. At 81 some parts are wearing out. Any prayers, good wishes, good vibes or candles will be appreciated. 

And here's a video to make you smile a while. Enjoy!
Putin on the Ritz

Take care of everything while I'm gone, and remember that this is the 100th anniversary of the Radio Flyer. Kids still pull the little red wagon. So life is good!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Trump Has Lost the Presidency

Maybe it looks like Trump can get away with anything. 

He lies. 
He knows nothing about government and doesn't even care about it.
He is cruel and rude.
He flip-flops on issues.
He boasts and brags and twitters irresponsibly.
He admires Putin, America's enemy.

Yet he is still in the White House, and his popular support, though dwindling, is only doing so rather slowly.

Don't be fooled. Trump has already paid a huge price for his nutsy narcissism and determined ignorance.

The price? He has lost the presidency. 

The presidency is more than a title. It is power. But Trump has lost all the power of the presidency. He is now only a figurehead. A cardboard cutout in the Oval Office. 

Further, he has squandered the GOP's chance to run the government with both the Congress and presidency in their control, something that hasn't been available to the GOP for a long, long time. But what's the point of the GOP having "control" of the White House? There is no power in the White House. A wheel has come off the tricycle. It ain't going anywhere. They are in control of a non-operable government.

Trump has smashed the GOP hopes and wiped himself off the presidential map just by being Trump. For six months he has been a disgusting near-psycho clown act. We all know all about him now and what to expect. We can all see him clearly now. He's a nothing. In these six months he has squandered all his credibility. In the world of politics, he is now toast.

Politics is generally despised, mostly because neither the media nor the public understands it very well. And also because it's essentially a hard-fought battle of different groups to get what they want. It's definitely a contact sport. But it has its rules, and he who doesn't follow them is out. 

Rule number one: You have to be reliable. If you say something to another politician or officeholder, it has to be true. Gerald Ford was picked by the Congress to replace Nixon because everyone in Congress knew they could trust him. As a key member of the House Armed Services Committee, he always told other representatives the accurate truth about everything to do with weapons, etc. 

Being reliable also means knowing your policy position and staying with it until something identifiable and credible changes it. I have to be able to count on your vote. That's what politics is all about. Getting votes for what each of us wants. If I can't count on you to stay with me or stay against me, then I won't ever bother with you. You're nothing.

Being reliable also means making sense. If no one can understand what you're saying or thinking, why bother with you? You're a pennyweight.

Being reliable also means being informed. Really informed. Not being fed fiction by Fox or fairy tales by the Net. It's why you have to have good staff. They make sure you know what's what.

Trump has none of these characteristics of reliability. He's a sink hole of unreliabiity. Further he lacks another of the key traits of reliability: being cool. For example, reliable people don't undercut their buddies. Trump has repeatedly made the health care reform effort harder for his GOP buddies by shooting off his mouth, messing in, even allowing one of his PACS to run an ad campaign against the imperiled GOP senator from Nevada, thus not only endangering this man's re-election but threatening Mitch McConnell's woefully thin margin in the Senate.

And a reliable person knows when to keep his mouth shut. Trump instead tells our security secrets to the Russians. 

As a politician Trump is a disaster. Yes, as a showman he won all those primaries, but he can't function in the real business of politics: getting things done. 

As a president, Trump has ceased to exist. For example, he has no leadership power in his own party. He is so toothless a tiger that no GOP senators are afraid of him and therefore — at least this far — he can't commandeer their votes for the GOP health care plan. If this legislation fails, other major parts of the GOP agenda crumble. Goodby, huge tax cuts for the rich because the cutting of Medicaid won't provide the offset for the cuts. And without a president to be cowboy, who will herd the votes on infrastructure when Rand Paul and other never-spend-a nickel senators refuse to go along?

Internationally, Trump as an American president has also ceased to exist. He did this entirely by himself. By pulling out of, or bad mouthing, the big trade deals, the mutual protection pacts, and the climate agreements, he announced loud and clear that he was picking up his marbles and going home, taking America off the stage for now. I imagine most of the world leaders were delighted to see him go. He is not a pleasant person — even literally pushing them out of his way to get to the front of a photo – and now they will have a chance at running things without the USA. In fact, America's absence for a while might have some good effects, especially re North Korea, oddly enough. But that's for another time.

Trump just doesn't matter any more politically. He's an empty suit and a big tie. That's all. He doesn't have to be impeached. He has impeached himself in a manner of speaking, i.e. removed himself from office.

He also lost power in another way. He and his advisor Steve Bannon are supposedly set on destroying the executive branch. At least they say so. Trump's failure to fill hundreds of executive positions has indeed crippled the executive branch they hate. But this is like cutting off one of your own hands. He has actually diminished the power of the presidency. He has diminshed his own power. He can't get his orders carried out. 

His flurry of ill-conceived and badly written executive orders has also reduced his power. Because they led to NOTHING! Most ended in court. Others made little sense and sit now in a file somewhere. No one up and down the chain of government will ever take this man seriously again.

I could go on. How his committee to investigate voter registration all across the nation has become a laughing stock, with most of the states saying "Go to hell" when asked for their records. And it being so transparent that he is still trying to prove he won the popular vote!  
George W was fine with his status of being president even though having lost the popular vote. Who would have ever thought there could be a president who would make George W look wise? 

Well, there isn't. Because Trump is not really a president. The other players have benched him. He's out of the game. 

In fact, he just might as well go to the showers and then head for home. 

His presidency is over. 

P.S. And he is stupid. Too stupid to be president. Too stupid to breathe. Get this, just published this evening: Trump minimizes hacking allegations, seeks to ‘move forward’ with Russia.  

Lawmakers bewildered by Trump’s suggestion of forming a ‘Cyber Security unit’ with Russia  This is like asking John Wilkes Boothe to be sure to stop by Lincoln's box at the theater.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Trump Is Going Down

Trump's disapproval numbers are going up, while his approval ratings are going down, as a New York Times columnist points out in the following short article. Even Trump's base is  eroding. 

I offer the following short article because it is clearly written on the topic of numbers, a factor which is vital in politics but often made obtuse or boring. Here all is clear and compelling. 

The writer is David Leonhardt in the NY Times of June 30. This short piece is actually an introduction to a group of articles he collected under the "Browser" section of the Times. His opener is, however, better than anything in his roundup. Unfortunately the Times provides no links for his excellent introductory pieces, so I offer it here in full. Read and cheer!
These numbers possible foreshadow the future of your country and your own future. Now let's get busy and translate these numbers into defeat of the GOP in next year's elections. With a push from us at the local level, Trump's bad numbers can sink all Republican boats, and by taking back the Senate the Democrats can block Trump's appointment of a Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Kennedy, thus preventing an arch-conservative court for your lifetime and that of your children.

 "President Trump’s latest explosion of meanness has, yet again, left many people disconsolate about the state of the country. Many are especially demoralized that Trump doesn’t seem to lose any popular support despite his erratic behavior.
His supporters, as Ric Steinberger of Incline Village, Nev., writes in a letter in today’s Times, “still tell pollsters that Mr. Trump is their voice.”
Is that accurate? Yes and no.
It’s true that Trump continues to draw the support of about 40 percent of American adults. But his approval ratings have fallen since he became president.
His current approval rating of 39.9 percent is down from 42 percent two months ago (on his 100th day in office) and from about 45 percent on Inauguration Day, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll average. And his disapproval rating has risen even more than his approval rating has dropped: by 13 points, to 54 percent.
Not only that, but the intensity of support for Trump — among those who continue to back him — has waned. Fewer say they “strongly approve,” and more say they “somewhat approve.” Trump’s base seems to be shrinking, as Nate Silver has written. Fewer Americans also find Trump believable than when he took office.
The polls aren’t the only place you can see this dynamic. One of the reasons the Senate health care bill has collapsed — for now, at least — is that Republican senators feel no need to do what their president wants. He isn’t popular enough to fear.
I too despair at watching my president stoop to schoolyard nastiness. And I too wish that more of my fellow citizens, from both parties, would reject this sort of behavior. But you shouldn’t worry that Trump is beyond all of the normal rules of politics.
He isn’t. His lack of results and his behavior as president matter. Despite our highly polarized country, he is ever so slowly losing the faith of people who once supported him."
Remember, there are more of us than there are of Trump and his troops! Now let's go do it! Start organizing now for next year. Hurrah for 2018!