Incivility In Government

What has become of American politics? How could our government and the two major political parties behave in such a dysfunctional manner? Who is responsible for the current state of affairs?

Dirty politics and bad blood between the president and Congress is not a new phenomenon. It’s existed since the time our country was founded nearly 250 years ago.

Even before our nation was formed in 1776, the leaders of the revolution were fighting with each other about states’ right, slavery, commerce, banking, voting rights and how to control the dominance of the more populous states. It finally came together and our forefathers crafted a wonderful document we call our Constitution.

The animus that exists between Republican and Democrats has hit an all-time highpoint. The venom, mudslinging and lies that are prevalent today have made it impossible for the federal government to do its job. The vacuum resulting from the ineffective and conspiratorial Obama years paved the way for a mean-spirited, narcissistic megalomaniac to win the presidency. Our country was so brutalized prior to his introduction that it scorned “the establishment” and the mores that enabled America to thrive with its two-party system. We elected a man who was not part of Washington and now we are paying the price.

Consider the way that Trump governs, bad and good. For one thing the president had no idea how the federal government operated. It’s not a dictatorship. The president is the most powerful man on Earth, but he does not have absolute power. He needs to collaborate with Congress to implement policies, spend money, go to war, make treaties, appoint justices to the Supreme Court, etc. The president is responsible for creating an agenda for the country and convincing lawmakers to approve his ideas, even if the opposition party controls Congress or part of it.

Donald Trump was the undisputed autocrat of his real estate empire. For his whole life he gave orders to his sycophants, and they did his bidding. When he moved into the White House he attempted to govern similarly, and his administration has and continues to fall flat on its face.

Exacerbating the situation has been Trump’s inability to recruit and retain high quality people to advise him. One person cannot operate the federal government. Obama never learned the same lesson. This inability to keep together a strong cadre of insiders to deal with a myriad of problems every day has resulted in probably the most ineffective administration in history.

Similarly Trump convinced himself that, as the leader of the greatest country in the world, he could bully leaders of other nations. His tendency is to strong-arm people he negotiates with, including heads of state and other politicians. This worked well for Trump as he bought and sold buildings and casinos, but it’s been a disaster during his two plus years as president.

Trump resents anyone who resists his will. He has to be right all the time. He never admits missteps. Americans prefer leaders that have the courage to trust and listen to others and are not embarrassed to accept a better way to accomplish shared objectives.

But one of the worst characteristics affecting Trump has been his propensity to belittle anyone who takes a contrary position. This includes firing cabinet members and advisors wantonly. Political opponents are fair game and have been since the 2016 primaries. Assigning childish nicknames to those who disagree with him is just not befitting a president. Trump has not hesitated to use the same tactics on domestic politicians and world leaders.

It feels like we have a spoiled child in the White House. If he doesn’t get his way he has a snit, and watch out. Heads roll.

The president speaks off the cuff too often. Some may find this to be refreshing and entertaining. Unfortunately, going off script results in inconsistencies, and even accusations of lying. Fact checkers have had a field day with his transgressions ever since he miss-estimated the attendees at his inauguration.

And finally there is character. How many times have you heard that Americans don’t want their children to grow up to be like Trump? The president must be a role model. Sadly our president has a long history of bad behavior that includes misogyny, racism, self-importance, aggression, untruthfulness, exaggeration and so on. He is not one that should be emulated in most Americans’ opinion.

But there is another side to this story. Donald Trump has ignored tradition and recrimination. He never apologizes for America, whereas, too many presidents and politicians have spent much time doing mea culpas for the past. American leaders often feel the need to say they are sorry for historical actions taken against people worldwide. They say America is too prosperous, too aggressive and too invasive. It does not support the needy at home or around the world. Everyone in America is rich while millions are starving to death in Africa. Obama spent eight years saying he regretted the actions of America. Trump has not spent one minute doing so.

Donald Trump was elected to change the direction of the US. We were losing ground to our greatest rivals and enemies. We were being abused by immigration policies. All of our trade partners imposed tariffs on us that were higher than what we imposed on them. NATO was underfunded The US used its economic might to make gains diplomatically. Trump is turning all this around and making a lot of enemies in the process. In this day and age of ever-dwindling resources and huge deficits, the country can no longer operate frivolously.

Trump changed it all. It hasn’t been pretty or polite or tactful, but he’s getting the job done. Trump puts America first, and why shouldn’t he?

The blowback from Trump’s adversaries has been relentless and shameful. It’s one thing to criticize policy, it’s another thing to attack the president and divert his attention away from important issues. Democrats wanted to boot Trump from office before the new president-elect moved into the White House. Their tactics have been despicable. And in all fairness, Trump has responded in a similarly inappropriate manner.

So where do we go from here? We are about to experience the dirtiest and most vicious presidential campaign ever. Democrats are swinging far left, socialistic left, and are not pulling any punches with each other or towards Trump. The president thinks Democrats are out to get him and are lying, spinning, spying and pleading with the electorate to approve an effort to impeach him. This is because none of the empty suits vying for the Democratic nomination will be able to defeat Trump in 2020.

 

Trump Versus The World

Donald Trump is making the entire liberal establishment look like a bunch of fools. It’s one man against an entire political party, and he’s winning. Complicating the situation is the sudden and bizarre comments by Robert Mueller editorializing his $40 million witch-hunt that found no grounds for impeachment, but implied wrongdoing nevertheless.

With a little help from the FOX Network, the president is prepared and anxious to go head to head with any politicians, especially the 20 plus pathetic Democrat presidential candidates. It hasn’t even been a fair fight to this point. Somehow Trump finds the time, energy and opportunity to lambast the idiotic proposals coming from this group of old white men, has-beens, political neophytes, uber-feminists, race-baiters and just uninformed and weird characters.

Trump should propose to debate all of these people at the same time. To make matter worse for Democrats the leading candidate, “Sleepy Joe Bide,” is not engaging with his competition for the liberal nomination. Is he really going to stand on the achievements of the Obama administration?

Simultaneously Trump is sparring with all the key leaders in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Wisely, he put his foot down and refused to cooperate any further with investigations of investigations of investigations, enough already. Mueller was the great hope for liberals. And, he really wanted to stick it to Trump, as did his bloodthirsty minions. If there was any shred of evidence that could be used to implicate Trump in an impeachable crime or misdemeanor, don’t you think it would be on the table? Now, Mueller is having seller’s remorse. He’s saying that he couldn’t find any wrongdoing but Congress should take the baton and make a case against the president.

Ironically, Trump relishes his moments on Twitter and at giant rallies when he calls out the leaders of the House for their incompetence and ill-conceived urges to kick him out of the White House. He responds forcefully to the ranting of Pelosi, Nadler, Schiff and the other zealots who think that attacking the president will increase their power. In the meantime Democrats are losing face.

It has been interesting to note that the branches of government have not been unable to moderate each other when there are disagreements. For instance Trump has instructed his people to ignore congressional requests for more information on the heels of the Mueller fiasco. I guess SCOTUS will soon be running the country.

How did an aggressive and unpopular real estate deal operator get to lead the US government and impact other countries on so many issues? It must be that these situations were not properly managed for so long. The US needed a leader like Trump to show us that many countries and groups around the world are abusing America. It took a strong person to challenge our most important allies and to approach some of the most dangerous despots around the world. This was done without fear or hesitation. Only an individual with guile and determination could stop the abuses.

Trump confronted China and exposed its weaknesses. It is not invincible and is not in a position to demand anything from the US. Now, China calls Trump a bully, even as its leaders want to dominate Asia and many developing areas across the globe.

Trump recognized that China is vulnerable economically and dependent upon the US to meet its growth objectives. By attacking our enemy economically with tariffs, China will be hard pressed to keep its billions of workers on the job. In the end Trump will win this standoff and the US will finally be protected from China’s predatory behavior.

Trump has abrogated and/or criticized treaties and pacts that were not beneficial to the US. The most important was the Iran nuclear deal, a transaction that was mischaracterized by the Obama administration. All it did was delay the time when Iran would become a nuclear power. It was, however, advertised as a way to prevent Iran from developing nukes. The president wisely walked away and began to increase economic sanctions on Iran that will ultimately bring down the current regime.

Simultaneously Trump has attempted to deal with North Korea. He sees an opportunity to fix the incredible incompetence of former administrations. How could the US allow a poor and unaffiliated country to build weapons of mass destruction that could possibly reach the US mainland? Trump had the courage to address the problem diplomatically, but with an iron determination. It just may work out peacefully.

Trump shook the world by walking away from the global climate change agreement. He recognizes that important polluters, aside from the US, would not live up to their promises. And world pollution cannot be address through American efforts alone. Other huge countries are experiencing industrial revolutions and will not delay progress for climate change.

Donald Trump has pissed off and exasperated so many groups during his short tenure with his brash behavior. A list includes Congress (which is addled by the president’s efforts to increase the power of the Executive Branch), the Supreme Court (which now has 5 conservative members), abortionists (see previous comment on SCOTUS), feminists (who are mortified that a misogynist is in the White House) and Hollywood (Trump often exposes the shallowness and unimportance of this self-aggrandizing group of morons).

Trump has fought with every liberal outlet in the country. He has baited them into abandoning the tried and true separation of reporting and opinion. All major newspapers have become tabloids, infected with bias outside their opinion pages.

The Trump crisis cannot last into the medium and long-term. He is not a leader. He is not empathetic. He is not a role model for Americans or any one for that matter. His perspectives, however, have enabled the country to break away from its status as a fall guy. No longer are we going to be apologizing for things done years ago.

We need a new leader to take us forward as the greatest country in the world. Unfortunately this is not likely to occur in 2020.

Mattis Publicly Denigrates Trump

The Truman Doctrine was issued by President Harry Truman in 1947. In it the president indicated that the US should be prepared to fight and prevent the spread of communism. Over the years the doctrine was expanded to include other types of conflicts where “free people are subjugated by conquest.”

This longstanding policy of the US may be in jeopardy as President Trump decreases the presence of US forces in certain hotspots around the world. In recent days he said he would immediately bring back 2,000 troops from Syria and soon will decrease the US presence in Afghanistan by 50 percent.

The proposed actions, along with several other offending comments by the president, caused a great divide between Trump and the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. The latter indicated he would resign in February to give the president time to name a replacement. After a careful reading of Mattis’ resignation letter, the president dismissed Mattis immediately. This is the second time a president has dismissed Mattis. Obama fired him after he refused to comply with his Iran policies.

Many have lauded the general for having the courage to stand up to his commander-in-chief. Yet I ‘m disturbed by Mattis’ overly political manifesto that has gone viral. By suggesting Trump is not concerned with ignoble intentions of Russia and China and the importance of our close allies, he disparaged his commander in a manner that weakens the reputation of our country even further.

The general certainly should be guided by his conscience and experience and resign if he disagrees with the president’s strategy in Syria or any other issue. But to criticize the president as he’s walking out the door was not an act of heroism, humility or class in my opinion. Rather he should have exited quietly, with dignity and respect, like so many great generals have done throughout history, think back to General Collin Powell retirement, regardless of his personal feelings towards Trump.

The liberal press, Democratic opponents and even some Republicans were overjoyed to see the president taken down a few notches. This dissatisfaction with Trump is totally understandable, but exposing our dirty laundry to the rest of the world will make it more difficult for the president to address pressing issues beyond the minutia investigated by Robert Mueller. Keep in mind Trump is going to be in the White House for two more years unless he resigns under pressure or is impeached as recommended yesterday by Tom Friedman, a NY Times columnist.

I think the specific decision by Trump to exit Syria is appropriate and reasonable. The blowback from hawkish politicians has been resounding. They say US aversion towards conflict where people are being repressed is bad policy. The naysayers believe that a strong response and continued support in regional conflicts like Syria are critical to American leadership.

But is it really? Trump sees no upside in subjecting our troops to unnecessary peril in Syria. The country is occupied by Russian and Iranian troops. A fledgling resistance supported by Syrian Kurds has fought courageously against the Syrian army led by the tyrant Bashar al Assad. But it’s a hopeless cause.

Assad mercilessly attacks the resistance and innocent bystanders with the assistance of his allies. This assault has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. Certainly the quest for freedom by the Syrian people meets the qualifications laid out in the Truman Doctrine. But the US must know when it is wiser to walk away.

Until now the US has kept the remote possibility of ousting Assad alive. But it is a fruitless endeavor unless the US goes all in. That would mean more US troops will be deployed, and direct confrontation with Russia and Iran will be inevitable.

What would the end game be for continued American involvement in Syria? Ideally it would be the downfall of the Assad regime. Even if the Russians and Iranians allowed this to happen, what group would assume control? It could possibly result in even more violence.

Trump has made the right move in Syria. Middle East countries and their citizens eschew American occupation, even while our soldiers risk their lives to protect the people. There is no upside for American diplomacy in this conflict.

Trump may, in fact, be a threat to the Truman Doctrine as he considers American alternatives overseas. But he should not be judged harshly for walking away from Syria. If Iran uses Syria as a platform to spread violence, the US can always reconsider aggressive military action.

 

Trump Will Not Run For A Second Term

IWe all agree that Donald Trump is a different kind of guy. He’s driven by adulation, ego and the urge to win. The president continuously boasts about his accomplishments using “est” words. “The Trump administration is the greatest in history.” “The tax cut was the biggest ever.” “The wall will make the US the safest country in the world.”

Since his inauguration the president has been talking to himself. Only the most naïve and least informed Americans think the man is the best in any regard.

Another dominant character trait so many Americans find disturbing is that every controversial situation is a fight to the death. There are never problems that he and others can agree upon without resulting in bad feelings.

Even more disconcerting, Trump is a very bad winner. When he gets things done he gloats and celebrates victory by denigrating those who opposed him. Smart politicians mend fences after a tough fight, to position themselves for the next confrontation.

Trump is not a statesman, even though he should appreciate that America wants this quality in its leaders. Every time he goes on a crusade, he begins by threatening his counterpart.

Sometimes Trump uses a strategy that is so obvious that other leaders snicker behind his back. Putin, Xi, Macon, May and others start out being the president’s bffs, and when they push back, they become enemies of America. This radical, inconsistent behavior befuddles other leaders. They can’t trust Trump when he commits to something in negotiations. And Trump’s perspectives about what took place in private talks are always exaggerated.

The president is definitely a phenom. He was a successful businessperson, disliked by most, who managed to become president. He did so by relentlessly attacking the status quo and convincing many voters that politicians were all crooked, lying and incompetent swamp creatures. This ploy worked swimmingly through the election. However, Trump never pivoted and tried to patch up old wounds.

No president can be successful without support of Congress. If the opposition controls the legislature, the president must find common ground, or he won’t be able to accomplish anything.

Obama is a perfect example of this. He alienated congressional Republicans and was stymied for the balance of his tenure. Trump is facing the same dilemma in the wake of Democrats gaining control of the House in 2018. If Trump had built bridges with Democrats, our government would be able to operate in spite of philosophical differences. Trump’s next two years are going to be a living hell for him and all Americans.

This brings me to the point of this essay. If you live by the sword, you’ll die by the sword. Republicans are embarrassed that such a brute is the leader of the party.

His behavior and quirky decisions make Republicans cringe every day. They pretend to support the president, but they don’t. Like many average Americans, Republicans thought Trump would change his spots once he moved into the White House. He didn’t, and now Republican leadership is in jeopardy.

Trump cannot employ experts to help him develop new policies good for the country. Backstabbing, leaks among the members of the administration and Trump’s style of management are making it impossible to govern effectively. As soon as a new person assumes an important position, he or she is planning to leave. It must be very difficult to work with such a mercurial person.

And finally, the Democrats. With control of the House they will waste time and money denigrating, investigating and antagonizing the president. The House majority will make it impossible to develop and pass new legislation. It makes no difference if initiatives are good for America. Obstruction, the Democrats believe, is the path to a Democratic presidency.

Most importantly the opposition will continue to dig into every misstep by Trump and his sycophants. They will look into his business dealings and reopen scabs of the president’s sordid past. It will be very ugly and unproductive.

So why, one would ask, would a self-proclaimed billionaire put up with all this sh–? I believe, even Trump won’t be able to deal with such treatment for the next two years. I predict he will abandon efforts to run for a second term.

 

Trump Has Proven That He Cannot Lead America

New York Times columnists are having a field day bashing Trump. The president deserves to be treated this way, in spite of some positive results. Most notable are the bull market and some promising prospects relating to trade.

Yet I still scratch my head and wonder how a person like Trump could have gotten elected in the first place. Most New Yorkers knew of his reputation beforehand, as he frequently popped up in gossip columns that documented his questionable relationships with women and the sleazy manner in which he conducted business. Frankly I’m ashamed of the president for not changing his ways and for the suffering and gnashing of teeth he has caused. He has not risen to the office that he now holds.

I hoped Trump would tone down his act. This was a naïve expectation on my part. How could anyone expect a publicity hound, a megalomaniac to mellow after being elected to the most powerful position in the world?

I tried to rationalize Trump’s outrageous behavior to others and myself over the past two years by repeating that he promised to do things to improve the country, and he was accomplishing much. But, it’s not working for me anymore.

His vision is still admirable. He rightly has pointed out that too many countries around the world have lost respect for the US even as we protect them and shower them with foreign aid. Regarding trade, I certainly didn’t know that China has tariffs of 10% on US goods, Europe 5%, Canada 5%, even as US tariffs are 3%. Who made these idiotic deals before Trump took office?

And with immigration, Trump has exposed the missteps of the past. How could our leaders allow 15 million illegal aliens into the country over the past few decades? Why weren’t average Americans aware that these people cost our government (and the taxpayers) over $100 billion annually, net of their contributions? They would have objected. This is money that could have been used to correct social injustices in America. Multiply $100 billion times 20 years, and you can see how much has been frittered away.

Who knew the FBI was out of control? Leaking confidential information and unable to dole out justice fairly has been revealed in our most important police force. It’s shameful that so many of the leaders of the agency would be forced to resign or fired for inappropriate and even illegal behavior. Trump, unprofessionally, has exposed the warts of a once pristine government operation. Note: The problems with the FBI are predominately with the leadership not the rank and file agents.

And finally, Trump has recognized that Washington is a great swamp. Congress people and their staffs are among the most detested individuals in the country. Why you ask? Trump has shown us that maintaining their power and their seats and is their only concern. He has exposed corruption and hypocrisy. One regret is that Trump has not encouraged the implementation of term limits in Congress.

Trump had many things going for him as he assumed the presidency, but he is a sore winner. More and more Americans, even those who voted for him have had serious second thoughts. To be fair, the press has been merciless and elicited aggressive responses from the president, and he takes the bait every time. To his credit, Trump has fought back and pointed out the improprieties of the news establishment in the country. America does not need a partisan press corp. It needs fair and balanced reporting. Every major newspaper has morphed into a series of op-ed pieces. Facts enable Americans to vote wisely.

Liberals have really gone off the deep end in their endless criticisms of the president and conservative perspectives. Bastions of free speech like Berkeley do not allow conservative discourse on campus. Liberals are moving further and further left and now support outright socialists. Socialists have a right to exist and speak their minds but why would any American forsake the chance to excel and be prosperous? Exceptionalism and capitalism can be beneficial to both haves and have-nots.

I’m saddened that Americans are no longer able to have and express different opinions. I want to be conservative. You are a liberal. Fine. You won’t be able to change my mind, and I yours. Why can’t we talk intelligently and find productive solutions to our mutual problems?

I can’t wait for 2020, when we will have the opportunity to oust Trump who is so responsible for the chaos in the country. I only can hope that individuals like Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney step up and challenge Trump in the primaries before the partisanship in the country gets any worse.

Scandals Will Impact Trump’s Reelection

Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen’s travails could be the straws that break the camel’s back. Not because they can attest that Donald Trump broke the law, which is speculative at best. Rather, Trump supporters have to be asking themselves why their leader has terrible judgment. How could he possible trust these two sleazy characters?

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been posting some impressive wins and has indicted a whole slew of Trump minions (seven). Unfortunately for Mueller, none of his investigations have proven that Trump colluded with Russia to influence the elections in 2016, the original mandate of the special counsel.

I wrote in an earlier blog that it’s highly improbable that Trump could have orchestrated a comprehensive and massive conspiracy with the US’s mortal enemy. Candidate Trump didn’t have the stature before the election or the brainpower to actually conduct such an operation. Unlike Richard Nixon, neophytes surrounded him. These people were not savvy enough to conspire in such a grand manner.

It’s clear that the Trump team, as in every campaign, was trying to find dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is not an illegal activity. No way Trump would have been able to conduct clandestine meetings with Putin or his spymasters to influence the election and hurt Clinton. Americans should not believe for one second that a real estate developer and his amateur advisors could actually pull this off.

Paul Manafort is a con artist, a thief and a liar. He committed bank fraud, chiseled lenders, stole money from acquaintances and spent it on his lavish lifestyle. He was a lousy crook who was bound to trip over his own feet and be thrown into jail for decades. But none of his crimes had anything to do with the elections and occurred long before Trump’s campaign for the presidency. Yet, Trump said he admired Manafort for defying the special counsel. Really?

Because Manafort is facing a long prison sentence, prosecutors have great leverage over him, if he actually knows of serious crimes committed by Trump. We should all be reassured that Manafort will sing to save his ass, if he knows something.

Cohen is a different story. The feds don’t have any leverage over him because he’s already coped a plea for a few years of prison time. Like all prosecutors, Mueller is ready, willing and able to offer leniency if someone is prepared to give up a larger fish.

Cohen was responsible for making payments to two women who had been with Trump to buy their silence. The principal charge, which seems like a real stretch, is that Trump made the payments to ensure these women would not negatively impact his campaign. And therefore the payments are effectively campaign contributions that should have been disclosed. There are experts on both sides of this controversy. Whether Trump committed a campaign violation may need to be adjudicated in court.

The  indictments (outlined by the New York Times) of people who worked for Trump is going to impact the election even though none of their crimes rise to a high level. Rich Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators. Alex van der Zwan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations with Gates. Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty to identity fraud. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian Ambassador. And George Papadopolous pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Public outrage over these nickel an dime offenses are dwarfed by the most obvious comparisons to Watergate (breaking and entering) and the much more serious offenses of Bill Clinton (lying under oath).

Yet Trump haters, in particular the liberal press, will continue to magnify the crimes of this group of people that over 95% of Americans never heard of before the events of the past few weeks.

And certainly, Democrats will push to impeach Trump if they overtake the Republicans in the House. The odds of attaining a 2/3 vote in the Senate are highly improbable at this point. But the crimes revealed about most of the indicted parties do not rise to the high crimes and misdemeanors standards that would justify impeachment. And, other than paying hush money to an exotic dancer and a Playboy Playmate, Trump has not done anything to warrant such severe action by his adversaries.

But the implications to the 2020 presidential election are growing. The power of the press, especially when it’s so intent on destroying a politician, is very great. Trump is going to be seriously damaged by these sideshows. Ironically, the much more serious accusations about election interference have gone nowhere up to this point.

Trump is vulnerable in his own party and could very likely be challenged by another Republican in the impending primaries. His judgment and leadership is being fairly called into question. He’s a deeply flawed man with character that is not fitting of a US president.

Please see my blog post relating to a possible challenge to Trump by Nikki Haley (https://softballpolitics.com/2018/08/21/nikki-haley-the-alternative-to-trump-in-2020).