Et Tu, O?

Taking time away from unpresidenting Tr-mp on this blog is not something I want to do. But in this case, I think I need to address something unpleasant that I did not see coming.

By now you have read the headline:

Obama to be paid $400,000 for Cantor Fitzgerald speech

Cantor Fitzgerald is an investment bank and brokerage firm. You may remember that its corporate headquarters was located inside of One World Trade Center on 9/11. And you may remember that it lost more than two-thirds of its employees—658 people—including the brother of the CEO, Howard Lutnick. According to Wikipedia,

the company was able to bring its trading markets back online within a week. On September 19, Cantor Fitzgerald made a pledge to distribute 25 percent of the firm’s profits for the next five years, and committed to paying for ten years of health care, for the benefit of the families of its 658 former Cantor Fitzgerald, eSpeed, and TradeSpark employees (profits which would otherwise have been distributed to the Cantor Fitzgerald partners). In 2006, the company completed its promise, having paid a total of $180 million (and an additional $17 million from a relief fund run by Lutnick’s sister, Edie).

New York magazine published an article in 2011 that credited the “willful determination of Lutnick and the other survivors” for the firm’s subsequent success and noted:

…it’s been suggested their crisis-preparedness helped them avoid some of the worst of the crash of 2008: While Cantor trafficked heavily in the mortgage bonds that would prove to be the downfall of many, it wisely did not hang on to any for itself. Its financial success has allowed the firm to extend its philanthropy: According to Edie Lutnick, funds earmarked for memorializing family members lost on 9/11 have given life to 500 new charities, including a Manhattan-based bereavement center for children, and the company recently donated money from its annual charity day to the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. Which distinguishes it in the disaster of this decade, too: It may be the only company that bought and sold lousy mortgage bonds that can plausibly lay claim to a greater social purpose.

Okay. Perhaps this particular Wall Street investment bank is better than most. Perhaps it is worthy of President Obama’s time and prestige. I don’t know. I do know that its CEO, Howard Lutnick, backed John McCain in 2008. And I know he backed Jeb Bush last year. And I know the event at which Obama will speak, a “healthcare conference,” was described by the company “as an opportunity to introduce investors to executives at dozens of the biggest healthcare companies,” according to CNBC. And there is something else I know: our ex-president, the guy many of us thought was just a little bit different from other politicians, is wrong to take such a large fee for speaking, unless he plans to donate the money to some kind of charity (we don’t know whether he plans to or not).

At any time, but particularly at this Tr-mpian time, it is unseemly and off-putting for Mr. Obama to feed the cynicism that has infected our country, our electorate, our politics. He has often talked about that cynicism, which helped bring us Tr-mp and Tr-mpism. In fact, he talked about it the other day at the University of Chicago, during an event designed to get young people involved in “changing the world.” Wait. Let me quote him in full (emphasis mine):

I’m spending a lot of time thinking, “What is the most important thing I can do for my next job?” And what I’m convinced of is that, although there are all kinds of issues I care about and all kinds of issues I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help, in any way I can, prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world.

Because the one thing that I’m absolutely convinced of is that, yes, we confront a whole range of challenges from economic inequality and lack of opportunity to a criminal justice system that too often is skewed in ways that are unproductive to climate change to, you know, issues related to violence. All those problems are serious. They’re daunting. But they’re not insolvable.

What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life. It has to do with the fact that because of things like political gerrymandering our parties have moved further and further apart and it’s harder and harder to find common ground. Because of money and politics.

Special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel.

The next day we learned about that $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street bank.

To put it bluntly, it is hard not to be cynical in the face of the news that Obama seems to be, like so many before him, cashing in. Again, we don’t know what he plans on doing with the money, but assuming the worst, assuming he merely adds it to the $65 million he and Michelle got from Penguin Random House for two books they are writing, it is all very depressing.

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias put this stunning development in a larger context:

The election in France earlier this week shows that the triumph of populist demagogues is far from inevitable. But to beat it, mainstream politicians and institutions need to shape up — not just with better policies, but with the kind of self-sacrificing spirit and moral leadership that successful movements require.

That means some people are going to have to start making less money and raising the ethical bar for conduct, rather than leveling down to the worst acts of their predecessors.

That is exactly right. And I would have been the first to argue that President Obama was someone who would not cash in and would in fact raise the ethical bar for out-of-office conduct. Now, though, unless all that Wall Street money he will get goes to charity, I will have no real argument. Obama, despite his soaring words over the years, despite his inspirational, civic-minded talk to young folks in Chicago the other day, will have become part of the problem of a creeping, crippling cynicism torturing liberal democracies everywhere. Yglesias writes (again, my emphasis):

a crucial vulnerability of center-left politics around the world is that their sincere conviction — a faith in the positive-sum nature of cosmopolitan values and appropriately regulated forms of global capitalism, tempered by a welfare state — is easily mistaken for corruption. The political right is supposed to be pro-business as a matter of ideological commitment. The progressive center is supposed to be empirically minded, challenging business interests where appropriate but granting them free rein at other times.

This approach has a lot of political and substantive merits. But it is invariably subject to the objection: really?

Did you really avoid breaking up the big banks because you thought it would undermine financial stability, or were you on the take? Did you really think a fracking ban would be bad for the environment, or were you on the take? One man’s sophisticated and pragmatic approach to public policy can be the other man’s grab bag of corrupt opportunism.

Image result for obama appears in chicagoMr. Obama needs to think about something the next time—and there will be plenty of next times—some “fat cats” come to him with a basketful of money asking for a few minutes of his time. He needs to think about how a lowly blogger here in Missouri, one who spent eight years believing in his vision for the country and defending his personal integrity, might feel if, as our former president, he enriches himself by speaking to people who aren’t interested in furthering the causes that so many of us who supported Obama believe in. No, actually, he needs to think about how his conduct out of office, his conduct as someone whose integrity so many people genuinely thought transcended the corruption surrounding the money-based system in Washington, will turn so many people away from a hope of transforming the system.

He needs to think about how many cynics $400,000 can buy.

How 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Saved The World—And Made Tr-mp A Hero

I listened to thousands and thousands of words from hosts and guests on MSNBC this morning. There was Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Bob Woodward, George Will, John McCain, Marco Rubio, David Ignatius and numerous other voices. Here is what I learned after all the talk from politicians and “experts”:

1. Tr-mp is now a hero among our Sunni “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

2. Tr-mp’s domestic poll numbers will certainly go up now—but that had absolutely nothing at all to do with his decision to bomb Syria and possibly start yet another U.S. war in the Middle East. Oh, no. Tr-mp had a genuine change of heart after seeing those pictures of poisoned kids. This had nothing to do with his historically low approval numbers. And Tr-mp has a new-found strength. He can “reset” his administration. He now has a chance to win the hearts of the American people. Those 59 cruise missiles not only blew up an airfield, they apparently destroyed our memories of just how deranged Tr-mp is and how the Russians helped put him in power. Can’t wait for the next poll to come out and see how much damage those missiles did to our collective brain.

3. By bombing one airfield in Syria, Tr-mp fixed all the problems Obama created with his failure to bomb Syria after all that “red line” talk in 2013 and all of his reluctance to get us caught up in another war. By God, the world will change now that Tr-mp has fired off 59 cruise missiles. China will respect us. North Korea will take notice. Russia’s Putin, who we were told by John McCain, respects “power” and is a “pragmatist,” will begin to look at the United States differently now. Barack Obama, who apparently is responsible for every bad thing that has happened in the world since Moses was a baby, is gone and “there’s a new sheriff in town.” And this new sheriff has cruise missiles and he ain’t afraid to use ’em.

4. Speaking of McCain, apparently Tr-mp’s national security team is McCain’s dream team because he gets to talk with them all the time and they listen. Which means, of course, that John McCain may get to be POTUS after all and he may get his war with Syria that both he and Lindsey Graham have wanted for some time now. McCain characterized last night’s bombing as “the end of the beginning.” More tough action must follow. He never told us, though, just how many Americans should die in the war he’s been aching to fight for years. Or how long we would be there fighting that war. Or how much it might cost. Or whether Congress should, uh, authorize such a war.

5. Bob Woodward, whose mind has deteriorated with age I suppose, used the opportunity this morning to tell us how engaged Tr-mp has been (!) with states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and so on. It is part of Tr-mp’s broad strategy (!), Woodward suggested, to change the dynamics of the Middle East mess (again, that Obama created with his fecklessness). Woodward and others on the panel this morning believe this Tr-mpian strategy (!) and the bombing last night will give new confidence to the Sunni players that the U.S. can be a “reliable partner” and they may now be willing to “step up” and get involved in the mess.

6. Meanwhile, there’s “the mess” in the Middle East. I heard thousands and thousands and thousands of words this morning—praise of Tr-mp, speculation, more praise of Tr-mp, analysis, more praise of Tr-mp—all based, as I said, on the unchallenged premise that Barack Obama’s weakness did much damage to the world and that Tr-mp’s bombing Image result for tomahawk missilesof Syria, his willingness to show that when he says someone has crossed a line, by God, they will pay a price for it. All those words I heard in some form or another, but, amazingly, I did not hear one word, not one single word, about the one action that helped, more than any other thing, get us into this mess in the first place. In all the talk about a “destabilized” Middle East, in all the talk about an emboldened and powerful Iran, there was not one mention of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney starting, on false pretenses, a war with Iraq, a war which did much of the destabilizing and caused many of the problems we see today. Not a word. Nothing. Again, it is as if those 59 cruise missiles destroyed significant parts of our collective memory. “The mess” is all Obama’s fault and Tr-mp is now the man who has gone a long way in fixing it by lobbing a few missiles at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

7. Finally, just to clear things up, let’s talk about that 2013 decision by Obama—mentioned countless times last night and this morning on all the cable news shows—not to bomb Syria, not to do what Tr-mp did last night without congressional approval. First, things are a lot different today than they were then. A lot has happened in those four years, including hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees (which Tr-mp still doesn’t want to bring to the U.S.). Second, there is Congress. As Sebastian Murdock reminded us this morning, all the giddy congressman and Senators praising Tr-mp’s actions last night had their chance to weigh in when it mattered in 2013, after President Obama decided not to take unilateral action himself and instead wanted Congress to also own what might have happened if he had bombed Syria. Murdock wrote:

In 2013, when a sarin nerve gas attack left more than 1,400 dead outside Damascus, President Barack Obama went to Congress to get approval to strike.

In a whip count from ThinkProgress, 183 Republicans were against bombing the country. Only 12 Republicans, including then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), sided with the president to launch a strike. Ultimately, Congress did not appear to approve the strike, with 243 Congressional members swaying towards voting “No.” Obama ultimately decided to postpone the vote.

Murdock also reminded us of how Tr-mp, the Woodwardian strategic genius he is, felt about the matter in 2013. In August, Tr-mp tweeted:

What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.

Well, there obviously was no prior approval from Congress to bomb Syria last night. But there is plenty of praise today, especially from those who didn’t want any part of the decision four years ago. Murdock included this gem:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was one of the members of Congress who was against Obama’s plan. But he didn’t seem to have much to say in response to the news of Trump’s strike:

chaffeetz tweet on bombing

It’s amazing how the world works. Or how it doesn’t.

We Need An 11/8 Commission Before Obama Leaves Office—But Don’t Hold Your Breath

Late in November of 2002, George W. Bush signed into existence what was officially called The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. We, of course, know it as the 9/11 Commission. Created by Congress, the commission was officially “chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding Image result for 9/11 commission reportthe September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks.” It was “also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.” 

Last week, Democrats introduced a bill in both the House and Senate that would establish a 9/11-like commission, bipartisan and with subpoena power, to examine the 2016 election and Russia’s role in it. So far, though, no Republicans have signed on. It is imperative they do so before next Friday—January 20—and it is imperative that President Obama sign such a commission into existence. We need an 11/8 commission. But I wouldn’t bet any money on getting one.

News related to the 2016 election is coming out fast and furious. On Friday, FBI Director James Comey and other intelligence officials gave Congress a classified briefing on Russian cyberattacks and election interference. But the issue quickly became, for Democrats at least, Comey’s own strange election interference, especially his inexplicable and unprecedented eagerness to publicly discuss and criticize Hillary Clinton’s email-server missteps, while refusing to say whether the FBI was, simultaneously or subsequently, also looking into allegations that members of Trump’s election team were in contact with and colluding with the Russians to sabotage Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. Democrats were, after the briefing, visibly upset.

Evidence is piling up that the FBI director and his agency did not properly handle either of the election-sensitive issues involving Clinton and Trump. As far as the former, the Justice Department’s inspector general has opened up aRelated imagen investigation into Comey and his handling of the Clinton email issue, which caused The Wall Street Journal and others to call for his resignation.  As for the latter, just this morning, the left-leaning British online newspaper, The Independent, published a depressing story: “Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months.” The story tells us that Mr. Steele, who is considered a reliable source by intelligence officials and who put together the now famous dossier that suggests Donald Trump has been compromised by the Russians,

became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Steele and a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, who both worked for a firm hired by Republican opponents of Mr. Trump to do opposition research, were so concerned that no action was being taken that they “continued with the Trump case without being paid.” According to The Independent, the concern was that in July of 2016,

Mr Steele produced a memo, which went to the  FBI, stating that Mr Trump’s campaign team had agreed to a Russian request to dilute attention on Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine. Four days later Mr Trump stated that he would recognise Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. A month later officials involved in his campaign asked the Republican party’s election platform to remove a pledge for military assistance to the Ukrainian government against separatist rebels in the east of the country.

Mr Steele claimed that the Trump campaign was taking this path because it was aware that the Russians were hacking Democratic Party emails. No evidence of this has been made public, but the same day that Mr Trump spoke about Crimea he called on the Kremlin to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

By late July and early August MI6 was also receiving information about Mr Trump. By September, information to the FBI began to grow in volume: Mr Steele compiled a set of his memos into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. But there seemed to be little progress in a proper inquiry into Mr Trump. The Bureau, instead, seemed to be devoting their resources in the pursuit of Hillary Clinton’s email transgressions.

It’s important to note that it was on July 5 that Director Comey announced the results of his Clinton email investigation and offered rather scathing commentary along with his recommendation not to prosecute her. It was around this time, The Independent story says, that Christopher Steele’s memo—a collection of which at some point turned into that dossier published by BuzzFeed—was in the hands of the FBI. If this is true, it is more than a little disturbing.

The Independent story goes on in detail about the New York field office of the FBI, which “appeared to be on a crusade against Ms Clinton.” Rudy Giuliani, a close friend of Trump’s and a member of his campaign, “had a long working relationship” with the New York office, and Giuliani seemed to have insider information that, he bragged, “should turn things around.” At that time—late October—Trump’s campaign was trending rather poorly in the polls. Two days after Giuliani’s curious cheeriness about Trump’s future electoral prospects, Comey sent his now infamous letter to Congress saying he was reopening his probe into Clinton because of some potential new evidence found, as we now know, on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. And, as we now know, and as many predicted at the time, there was no new evidence. Again, it is disturbing that not only did Giuliani appear to know what the FBI director was doing, but the director was doing it while pretty obviously knowing what people like Christopher Steele were saying about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russians.

Although the Obama administration, on October 7, formally and publicly accused Russia of interfering in our election, the story never caught fire. Many people now blame President Obama for not responding to the story more forcefully. Obviously, looking back now, he should have. But that wasn’t an easy call at the time. Clinton was leading in the polls and most of the experts and pundits expected her to win. A strong and loud reaction by Obama would have been greeted with charges that he was attempting to hack the election, especially if he publicly suggested a Russian-Trump alliance. Obama would likely have become the story, whether Clinton went on to win or lose.

In any case, according to The Independent, Steele became “frustrated and demoralised” at the lack of FBI action. While in New York in October, he reluctantly spilled the beans to David Corn, of Mother Jones. Corn published a story on Monday, October 31, eight days before the election. According to Corn’s subsequent account of his meeting with Steele, the former British spy said the FBI’s response to the information he provided them on Trump and the Russians was “shock and horror.” Despite that, there wasn’t any public comments by Comey at any time, which, you may remember, triggered a response from now-former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. On October 30, Reid wrote to Comey, accusing him of “a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information” and suggesting through his “partisan actions” that Comey “may have broken the law.” Reid continued:

In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it  has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.

Like the October 7 story announcing the Obama administration’s accusations against Russia, Reid’s written outburst on October 30 and Corn’s October 31 story didn’t receive a sufficiently serious reaction from the wider press. Why? The biggest reason was because Comey’s reopening of the Clinton email probe, which was revealed on Friday, October 28, was dominating all the headlines. The press had always seen Clinton’s email-server story as the biggest of the campaign and would not let it go, even for much more serious allegations that the Russians were openly trying to get Trump elected, and Trump, on July 27, had openly asked them for help. Thus it is that the national press, especially cable news—which enjoyed record ratings and profits by promoting Trump almost endlessly—must share in the blame for what happened on November 8 and for what happens after January 20. And perhaps that is why, now that it is much too late, the national press is aggressively pursuing the Putin-Trump story. Maybe there is some collective guilt at work.

But despite an aggressive, if tardy, press, the only way this whole disgusting issue—Russian influence, Trump’s and his campaign’s level of collusion with the Russians, and the FBI’s handling of all of it—can be resolved for all time is via an independent, bipartisan commission. But, I hate to admit, it is fairly clear that this almost certainly will not happen before the inauguration next Friday, and it is even more certain it won’t happen after Trump is in control. He obviously has a lot to hide since he is not shy about hiding it.

We know, through stories featuring revelations from Christopher Steele, as well as through some earlier reporting, that the FBI has actually been investigating the Russian-Trump election issue for some time. And we know, by reading between the lines of Comey’s appearance before Congress last week and through other revelations, that the FBI has some classified information that would help Americans understand more of what happened during our election. Atop-secrett the very least, as Democrats have formally requested, President Obama should declassify some of this information. Short of a bipartisan commission, it would be our best chance to see for ourselves just what the Russians, with or without Trump’s collusion, did to us and what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

#NeverRespect

Here’s just one reason why I will be spending much of my future writing time unpresidenting Trump and his new right-wing friends:

Why Republicans Still Defend Him

Donald Trump’s indefensible appeal to would-be assassins in his audience has its defenders. Those defenders are called Republicans. You can see them on TV today if you want, or you can find them all over the Internet. Doesn’t matter where you look. You will find Republicans defending the indefensible. You will find Republicans talking about Clinton’s emails, about how much she hates cops, about how much she loves the father of the Orlando killer, about Benghazi.

And that was just this morning. Just think what they will come up with when they have more time to rationalize away the fact that their candidate for president of the United States just confirmed how much of a fascist he really is.

Trump’s remarks began with an utter lie—“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the second amendment”—went on to express future despair—“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks”—then suggested a bloody remedy to the despair—“Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Which is worse? Trump’s desperate suggestion of “Second Amendment remedies” or Republican leaders’ desperate defense of Trump? The truth is the former couldn’t happen without the latter. So, is it worse that the Republican candidate is, in his Trumpy way, suggesting the murder of a future President Hillary Clinton, or is it worse that the Republican Party hierarchy is standing by him when he does? You tell me.

Imagine, if you can, what would have happened back during the 2008 campaign if a very different Barack Obama—an aggrieved and angry Barack Obama—had suggested that his aggrieved and angry black voters—who suffered mightily because of the economic meltdown—might avail themselves of their own Second Amendment remedies if John McCain became president.

Imagine if, in 2007-2008, Obama had spent a lot of time talking about how people, especially black people, had an unfettered right to buy guns under the Second Amendment. Imagine if he suggested that folks walk down the streets with guns hanging on their shoulders or stuffed in their pockets, saying there shouldn’t be “gun-free zones.” Then, imagine if he said the following at a rally in North Carolina filled with African-American voters:

John McCain wants to essentially abolish the Thirteenth Amendment. He wants to bring back slavery. If he gets to pick his judges, nothing you can do, my brothers and sisters—although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.

What would have happened? After some people expressed outrage at Obama’s remarks, would Breitbart have published a story titled, “Media Launches a Full Frontal on Obama, Gun Owners“? Would the kooky conservative media focus on protecting the rights of angry black people to keep and bear arms? Would the NRA spend three million bucks defending Obama?

Or would the focus suddenly be on those angry black people with millions and millions and millions of guns? And on an angry black candidate encouraging those angry black people?

Come on, we all know how that would have played out.

The truth is that, as nutty as he is, Donald Trump represents angry white people. Let’s face it. He is speaking for pissed-off palefaces who think their country is being stolen from them by less worthy folks.

And that is what Republican leaders are essentially defending when they defend a disturbed Donald Trump and his crazy and increasingly dangerous remarks. Because those Republican leaders need those pissed-off palefaces in order to stay in power.

Baton Rouge, Body Language, And Black Lives Matter

President Obama, addressing the nation after yet another shooting, said on Sunday:

Regardless of motive, the death of these three brave officers underscores the danger that police across the country confront every single day.  And we as a nation have to be loud and clear that nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.  Attacks on police are an attack on all of us and the rule of law that makes society possible.

Regarding the killer’s motive, we know the African-American shooter from Kansas City wasn’t at all interested in black lives. Clearly black lives didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t part of any movement to make black lives better. Among the dead on Sunday was montrell jacksonan African-American officer who had movingly expressed his concerns about both being an officer who was not appreciated and, out of uniform, being a black man who had to live with some cultural anxiety. So, the killer, despite his rhetoric in days leading up to his cowardly act, wasn’t interested in affirming the value of black lives.

What the killer was interested in doing was the same thing that other anti-government sociopaths want to do: destroy the fabric of civilized society. As President Obama said, violent attacks on police officers are attacks on every single one of us, those of us who want to live in something called “society,” defined as a group of people committed to living together under rules and laws that respect the rights and dignity of all. The cop killer in Baton Rouge was, apparently, involved to some degree in the anti-social “sovereign citizen movement,” a group of creepy people who hate government and claim laws don’t apply to them or other Americans who declare themselves independent of those laws.

I must confess that up until the last few weeks, I mostly associated such lawless movements with small pockets of angry white people, like those who started the horrific Posse Comitatus movement in the 1960s, which featured members who would later kill law enforcement officers who dared enforce the law against them. Now, though, we all know that the sovereign citizen virus has infected a tiny, but increasing, minority of black people, too.

Way back in 2011, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted an article (“‘Sovereigns’ in Black”) describing how the sovereign citizens movement was starting to gain some adherents of color. The article described,

a growing number of black Americans who, as members of outlandishly named “nations” or as individuals, subscribe to an antigovernment philosophy so extreme that some of its techniques, though nonviolent, have earned the moniker “paper terrorism.” Communicating through social media and learning from an ever-expanding network of websites and online forums, they perplex and often harass law enforcement officials, courts, and local governments across the country.

With the killing of officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, we can see how quickly paper terrorism can turn into the real thing. Ideology has its consequences. And nasty hate-filled ideology has its nasty consequences. When you expose a disturbed mind to such disturbing and dangerous ideas, and when you make firearms easily available to those with disturbed minds, you will eventually have a Baton Rouge.

We need to remind ourselves, and our family, friends, and neighbors, that the African-American killers who targeted police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were not representatives of any movement created to help secure promised civil rights and equal treatment for black people. Those killers were not interested in furthering the interests of any society, black or white.

Nevertheless, there will be people, some in positions of responsibility, who will use the latest murders of police officers to attack groups like Black Lives Matter, a movement that focuses on systemic racial discrimination in America, including but not limited to in our criminal justice system. The attacks have been ongoing, but they ramped up last night with the appearance, on CNN, of Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke—an African-American—who had a heated exchange with Don Lemon, saying,

This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.

sheriff clarkeI watched as he called Black Lives Matter “purveyors of hate.” Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks police officers are above criticism and their behavior should not be subject to scrutiny. Apparently, to him you are “anti-police” if you dare question some officer for seemingly shooting in haste an unarmed black man. Apparently, Sheriff Clarke thinks, oddly, that law enforcement is above any attempt to hold it accountable.

Sheriff Clarke also suggested President Obama was part of the problem. Of course. Everything, essentially, is Obama’s fault to these folks. Steve Loomis, head of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, went so far as saying that Obama “has blood on his hands” because in addition to condemning the killing of the police officers in Dallas, the president also noted that police departments aren’t “entirely immune” from bias. How dare the president tell such an obvious truth.

Loomis went on:

The president of the United States validated a false narrative and the nonsense that Black Lives Matter and the media are pressing out there to the public. He validated with his very divisive statements and now we see an escalation.

It appears to me that, like the comments of Sheriff Clarke, such criticism contains within it the idea that officers of the law are somehow in a separate class, a class that always gets the benefit of every doubt and who, if they are criticized for questionable behavior, aggressively pronounce the critics guilty.

But such people like Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis should think before they speak. They have offered us ample criticism of President Obama, who essentially is our chief enforcer of the law. If, God forbid, someone in law enforcement plotted to kill the president, based on rhetoric coming from leaders in the law enforcement community, would Sheriff Clarke and Steve Loomis take responsibility for it?

Or will Donald Trump? Will he take responsibility for his racially-charged nonsense about President Obama’s birthplace? For the hate-filled demagoguery and racism that has characterized his nasty and dark campaign? Just this morning, responding to Steve Loomis’ ridiculous comments about Obama, Trump once again attempted to appeal to those who think our president is not one of us. Talking Points Memo reported:

In an interview on “Fox and Friends” addressing the fatal shootings of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, Trump even suggested that Obama was using his body language to implicitly signal support for Black Lives Matter protesters over police.

“I watched the president and sometimes the words are okay,” Trump said, a day after Obamacondemned the “cowardly and reprehensible” attacks on law enforcement. “But you just look at the body language and there’s something going on. Look, there’s something going on.”

“What does that mean, there’s something going on?” host Brian Kilmeade asked.

“There’s just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him. I see it too. There’s a lot of bad feeling about him,” Trump replied.

Trump repeated the phrase “there’s something going on” five times during the interview, referring at different moments to the Baton Rouge shooter’s unconfirmed links to the Nation of Islam, Obama’s sympathy towards Black Lives Matter and the racial profiling endured by black Americans.

Clearly, by using such devious language, Trump is sending a message to his mostly white audience. Obama is not only not “one of us,” he is working against the interests of “law and order” whites. Obama remains a foreigner. Outside the dominant tribe. His “body language” gives him away, and Trump is suggesting that Obama is somehow conspiring to get cops killed in the streets.

But President Obama, fortunately, will not be distracted by such divisive and destructive talk. Speaking yesterday, he said this:

Five days ago, I traveled to Dallas for the memorial service of the officers who were slain there.  I said that that killer would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other.  Nor will today’s killer.  It remains up to us to make sure that they fail.  That decision is all of ours.  The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst — that’s up to us.

We have our divisions, and they are not new.  Around-the-clock news cycles and social media sometimes amplify these divisions, and I know we’re about to enter a couple of weeks of conventions where our political rhetoric tends to be more overheated than usual.

And that is why it is so important that everyone — regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of — everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.  We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric.  We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.  We need to temper our words and open our hearts — all of us.  We need what we saw in Dallas this week, as a community came together to restore order and deepen unity and understanding.  We need the kind of efforts we saw this week in meetings between community leaders and police — some of which I participated in — where I saw people of good will pledge to work together to reduce violence throughout all of our communities.  That’s what’s needed right now.  And it is up to all of us to make sure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Someone once wrote, “A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.”

My fellow Americans, only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided.  And we’re going to have to keep on doing it “again and again and again.”  That’s how this country gets united.  That’s how we bring people of good will together.  Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children.

That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be.  And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning.

It remains to be seen whether we are who the president says we are. November will either help validate his optimism or prove him wrong.

Why There Is A Trump

Other than white fear and anxiety—which I have written about many times—there are two other reasons we have a Trump.

One I found in an L. A. Times article (“News coverage of campaign greatly aided Trump and hurt Clinton, study finds“), which confirmed what anyone who has consumed the news since last June already knew. But it’s nice to have an objective study confirm what may only be personal bias. The lede:

News coverage of the early months of the presidential campaign strongly boosted Donald Trump’s bid and put Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage, according to a new study from Harvard that is likely to add to the heavy volume of complaints that the media aided Trump’s rise.

There’s that.

Then there’s this, which I found on The Hill:

Carl Bernstein: Trump speech ‘abhorrent’ but ‘effective’

Bernstein, unfortunately, is a CNN commentator. The old Watergate-breaking journalist was critiquing the godawful speech Trump gave today on banning Muslims and protecting those newly-lovable gay people that Republicans didn’t use to love until it became politically expedient to love them. Those same newly-lovable gay people that Democrats like Obama and Clinton are failing to protect because those two America-haters allow every gay-hating terrorist in the world to walk into the United States without so much as a howdy. The speech was, as Bernstein said, quite “abhorrent.” But here’s what else Bernstein said about it:

His speech will appeal to independents, even some Democrats and certainly Republicans because Hillary Clinton, Obama and the Democrats are very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world and they have been very reluctant to use the word Islamic terror and it’s coming back to haunt them. The impression Trump gave today, with some effectiveness, despite his almost neo-fascist rhetoric, is that the Democrats have not done that.

That is so dumb, on so many levels, I can hardly draw a breath.

First, I don’t know one single Democrat who would find that speech appealing. If there are Democrats out there who do find neo-fascism appealing, guess what? They ain’t really Democrats.

bernsteinSecond, Clinton, Obama, and the Democrats are not “very late to acknowledge by name that there is a real threat of Islamic terrorism in this country and all over the world.” There are plenty of dead terrorists out there to refute that very ignorant claim. Just ask Osama bin Laden, the next time you’re snorkeling for seashells.

Third, what about the reluctance “to use the word [sic] Islamic terror”? Bernstein knows, or should know, why there is reluctance to use the word in the way that right-wingers want Democrats to use it. Responsible elected officials, as opposed to Republican elected officials, have to be careful not to alienate the very people who can help stop terrorists from terrorizing. Bernstein said it’s “coming back to haunt” Democrats. Oh, yeah? Where’s the proof of that? Obama was reelected, even though the right made the same attacks on him back in 2012. He’s also fairly popular right now. Does Bernstein think non-Republican people are so dumb that they think just by uttering “Islamic terrorism” all the terrorists out there will turn into Mr. Rogers?  I can pretty much guarantee anyone that ISIS thugs don’t really give a damn whether Hillary Clinton decided to use the term “Islamic terrorism” today. All they care about, besides killing other Muslims, is not having an American drone as a breakfast guest.

Fourth, Bernstein said Trump’s speech used “almost neo-fascist rhetoric.” No. It wasn’t almost neo-fascist. It was the real deal. At least as real as fascism gets in American politics. Bernstein also said that despite the close-to-fascist rhetoric, Trump’s speech was effective. Again, what evidence is there for that? Trump is a known liar and everyone not already hypnotized by authoritarian bombast has ten thousand good reasons not to believe anything he says about Obama, Clinton, or the size of his bratwurst. The only way anyone outside the Trump cult would give any credence to such a neo-fascist speech, which was full of non-facts, is if people like Carl Bernstein gave them reason to.

And that is exactly what he did. Bernstein should have called the speech what it was and not given anyone the impression that Trump is anything other than a dangerous authoritarian, who at times today acted like a lunatic. He should have said that Trump is quite openly telling us how he will change the country for the worse and how he will dramatically expand the powers of the executive branch beyond anything conservatives have imagined Obama doing. Instead, Bernstein practiced the kind of journalism we are too used to seeing since Trump slinked into our politics. The kind of journalism that has placed America dangerously close to electing a neo-fascist.

A Mostly Untold Story

As Drumpf spends his face time on TV racially attacking a federal judge appointed by Barack Obama, we get almost no information about the larger problem with the judicial nomination process. From Democratic Underground:

Header and subheader of the Daily Beast article on which the above graphic is based:

It’s Not Just Merrick Garland: Republicans Are Blocking So Many Nominees It’s Caused a Judicial Emergency

The judicial confirmation rate under the Republican-controlled Senate is less than half of what it was when Democrats held power under George W. Bush. There are so few judges that it’s hurting the country.

Finally, an important paragraph from the article showing how conservatives in the Senate still think our first African-American president is only three-fifths of a man:

And it’s not just judges. The Congressional Research Service found that President Obama has had the fewest presidential nominees confirmed in decades: 198, compared with 345 for George W. Bush, and 268 for Bill Clinton.

These days you rarely hear a word about Republican obstructionism, which is not just limited to the confirmation process of presidential nominees. Our economic progress has also been retarded by Republicans in Congress. All of which has done great damage to people’s perception of their governmental institutions. But what we often get from journalists is documentation of the dangerous cynicism sweeping the country without a proper exploration of its cause. And what we get from that journalistic failure is a Drumpf.

The Sanders Campaign Goes Drumpf

“Remember, one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counter-puncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first.” —Donald Drumpf

Let’s get something straight about what has been happening. Bernie Sanders, in a Drumpfed-up way, went after Hillary Clinton in a speech in Philadelphia—suggesting she wasn’t qualified to be president—for two reasons (which he stated in a press conference
tbernie in philadelphiahe next day in Philadelphia and which you can see on YouTube starting at around 9:45).

The first reason he gave was because he was pissed off after The Washington Post published a story with the headline, “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president,” a headline that the Post’s own fact-checker (“Sanders’s incorrect claim that Clinton called him ‘not qualified’ for the presidency”) called into question, while giving Bernie three Pinocchios for his false claim that Hillary actually said, in quotes, that he was “not qualified.”

The second reason Bernie got all Drumpfed up was because of a report by CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, who began his article (“Clinton plan: Defeat Sanders, then unify Democratic party“) this way:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders in the eyes of Democratic voters, hoping to extinguish the argument that he is an electable alternative for the party’s presidential nomination.

Zeleny  also wrote this in the article:

A Clinton campaign fundraising appeal after the Wisconsin primary offered a glimpse into the new approach. The campaign’s deputy communications director, Christina Reynolds, argued that Sanders is unqualified, sending a full transcript of a New York Daily News editorial board interview of Sanders.

You should note that Zeleny’s lede—“Hillary Clinton’s campaign is taking new steps to try and disqualify Bernie Sanders”—wasn’t something the reporter directly attributed to anyone in Clinton’s campaign, except Christina Reynolds. And you should note that he did not quote Reynolds as saying “Sanders is unqualified.” Much like The Washington Post’s story, this appears to be the case of a reporter interpreting, or misinterpreting, something that was said or distributed by the campaign.

The point, therefore, is that without any hard facts, with only a headline in a newspaper and a report by CNN that did not directly quote anyone in Clinton’s campaign or Hillary herself, Bernie did what Donald Drumpf has done when he has seen something in the news that he thought slighted him: attack without thinking.

In fact, like Drumpf, Bernie didn’t back away, even after it was clear he was wrong. The next day in that press conference in Philadelphia, he continued pushing the notion that the Clinton campaign had actually said it was trying to disqualify him. Then he dropped this Drumpf on us:

If Secretary Clinton thinks that just because I’m from a small state in Vermont and we’re gonna come here to New York and go to Pennsylvania and they’re gonna beat us up and they’re gonna go after us in some kind of really uncalled for way, that we’re not gonna fight back, well we got another — you know, they can guess again because that’s not the case. This campaign will fight back. So, when you have headlines in The Washington Post, quote, Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president, my response is, well, if you want to question my qualifications, let me suggest this: that maybe the American people might wonder about your qualifications, Madame Secretary…

Again, all that was based not on something that was directly attributed to anyone in the Clinton campaign, but only on press reports. If that doesn’t remind you of Drumpf, what does? Oh, I know, this:

weaver on cnn and isisI think if you look at her record and campaign, her campaign is funded by millions and millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She’s made a deal with the devil, and we all know the devil wants his money in the end. So that’s the kind of campaign she’s running. She supported the terrible trade deals which have devastated American manufacturing in the country. She supported the war in Iraq. She continues to have a very, very hawkish foreign policy that has led to the rise and expansion of ISIS in the Middle East.

That Republican tripe wasn’t uttered by a Republican. It wasn’t uttered by Rudy Giuliani who said, “She helped create ISIS. I mean, Hillary Clinton could be considered a founding member of ISIS.” No, all that “deal with the devil” stuff was uttered by Jeff Weaver, Bernie’s campaign manager. This morning Weaver doubled down on those disgusting remarks. After having that ridiculous ISIS claim read back to him, he was asked, “Is this a bridge too far?” He responded:

WEAVER: No, I don’t think so. I think a number of experts have pointed out that the vacuum that was created in Iraq after the Iraq War, with the deposing of Saddam Hussein, and the deposing of Qaddafi in Libya, you know, allowed ISIS to rise in Iraq and Syria and then allowed for its expansion into Libya. So, no I don’t think that’s the case. It’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of many people who have studied this issue.

CNN: But Hillary Clinton is responsible for the vacuum that arose in Iraq?

WEAVER: Well, look, Hillary Clinton supported the war in Iraq, there’s no doubt about that. And it’s clear from a lot of reporting that she was a key voice in the administration pushing for the war in Libya. I think at one point there was talking about being a 50-50 split almost in the administration and her sort of tipping it over, so, yes, I do think you have to bear responsibility for things like that.

Is it fair to criticize Hillary for her Iraq vote? Absolutely. She has admitted it was a big mistake. Is it fair to blame her, and by extension President Obama, for the rise of ISIS? Absolutely not. And it should be scandalous that Weaver, like so many Republicans have done, did so. But not a peep from the “positive” campaigner, Bernie Sanders, who has every right to brag about his anti-war vote and his predictions about the consequences, but who is wrong to allow his top guy to say such outrageous things about Hillary Clinton.

Jeff Weaver kept mentioning Libya. Why? Because by now people have forgotten just why it was that a reluctant Obama, with Clinton’s urging, intervened there as part of an international coalition, initially led by France and Britain with our vital support. It was a tough decision at the time. Qaddafi had slaughtered many and was about to slaughter more anti-government protesters and rebels, who were asking for the West’s help. So were other Arab countries. Western nations were accused of moving too slowly to stop the bloodshed and violence. Eventually, the West did act. Qaddafi is gone. Conflict still remains. ISIS has a presence there and we are taking action against them. The new head of a UN-backed government is trying to bring enough stability to the country so that other nations can come in and help attack ISIS bases there. It’s all very messy.

But what would have happened if we would have allowed Qaddafi to slaughter so many of his own people? We have no idea. Nobody does. But we do know that people would be criticizing Obama and Clinton for inaction, just like in Syria, where we didn’t get involved in that civil war. This stuff ain’t easy, even if it is easy to criticize after the fact. But I want to note that in all those words he uttered, given all those chances, Jeff Weaver—again, Bernie’s campaign manager—couldn’t bring himself to mention George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or the warmongering neoconservatives who actually made the phony case for the Iraq war and who actually managed its aftermath so poorly that we find ourselves where we are today. All Weaver could do was blame Hillary Clinton, which was mighty Drumpf of him, since Drumpf said sometime back“Hillary Clinton created ISIS with Obama.” 

My, oh, my.

 

Why John Kasich Shouldn’t Be President Either

It is fairly obvious why Donald Drumpf shouldn’t be president. If you don’t yet know why, just go read the transcript of an interview he did with the editorial board of The Washington Post. A more dangerously uninformed, pathetically sophomoric view of everything from libel laws to NATO you will not find.

And we all know what a dangerous Christian demagogue Ted Cruz is. This morning on Fox “News,” Cruz essentially blamed Obama for the terrorist attacks in Brussels. “This administration refuses to protect us,” he said.

But fewer of us know how temperamentally unqualified for high office is John Kasich. Not only is he nearly as politically reactionary as most of the right-wing zealots in his party, but his emotions seem to be out of control. I know some folks have said he is “arrogant” and “condescending” and “manipulative.” That’s bad enough. But he has a reputation of responding with anger to things he doesn’t like. A conservative activist from Ohio said of Kasich:

When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.

Even his friends say strange things about his behavior. Take Newt Gingrich, who said:

I never knew Kasich to have anger issues. He has intensity, urgency and passion issues.

No doubt he does. I’ve seen it on the campaign trail this primary season. But what Kasich said today, in response to the massacre of civilians in Belgium, is why he shouldn’t be in the White’s House. Here is the way the AP reported it at 1:30pm:

Speaking to reporters in Minneapolis Tuesday, Kasich says Obama should return to the United States to call European heads of state and assemble intelligence experts at home. He’s suggesting the president is being “too lax” in facing the growing threat of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism.

Now, think about what that means. Exactly what is it that President Obama is supposed to do about terrorists in Belgium? Does Kasich think it is within our power to not only police the Middle East, but to police individual countries in Europe, too? And doesn’t Kasich know that Mr. Obama has access to a phone with which he can “call European heads of state”? Huh?

Kasich thinks that yet another terrorist attack on the other side of the world is enough to completely wash out President Obama’s trip to Cuba and Latin America. Really? There is no imminent threat to Americans on American soil that didn’t exist before the president left on his trip. Terrorists don’t want to kill us more today than they did yesterday.

What terrorists want is an overreaction. That is the point of terrorism. It is to get us to abandon our values, to do what Drumpf and Cruz and most Republicans have done. Terrorists want us to change our lives. They want us to fear them. They want to control us. And John Kasich, who wants to be commander-in-chief, is playing right into their hands.

Kasich told reporters:

If I were in Cuba right now, the last thing I would be doing is going to a baseball game.

Oh, yeah? Why not? What better way to demonstrate that a few terrorists in Belgium are not in charge of the world’s most powerful leader?

If John Kasich had his way, there would be no presidential trips. If his way of dealing with every act of terrorism in the world was to hunker down in the Situation Room and “assemble intelligence experts,” that’s all a president would ever get done. Terrorism would paralyze us.

If there were an attack on American soil or against an American target abroad, that would be one thing. That would require a different response. But, unfortunately, terrorist attacks are happening rather regularly these days all over the world. And President Obama and the administration are dealing with them through intelligence gathering and policing—and through unmistakable acts of war. They can do that and still tend to other business.

What they shouldn’t do is what John Kasich apparently would do when terrorists strike somewhere in the world: drop everything and frantically run back to Washington.

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