Here’s One Monument Tr-mp Didn’t Mind Dishonoring

A few days ago, Tr-mp, morally confused, equated Nazis with those fighting Nazis. He equated racist haters with those fighting racism and hate. He conflated imperfect nation-building revolutionaries in 1776 with slavery-defending traitors in 1861. But that wasn’t enough. Today he tweeted:

Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.

He was, of course, referring to the treacherous heroes of haters, people like Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. And Tr-mp finished with this:

…the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

It’s not odd that Tr-mp sides with the haters. And it’s not odd that he does so rather robustly and openly. What is odd is that he expresses such profound regard for “our beautiful statues and monuments,” considering he launched his political career by dumping his orange doo-doo—birtherism—on one of the most important monuments to the greatness of America: President Barack Obama.

Ten Augusts ago, during the crowded Democratic primary season of 2007, not many people thought a black man with a strange name would win the nomination of the Democratic Party—once the home of segregationists and other racists—not to mention win the presidency of a nation whose economic power was initially built on the backs of slaves. But win he did. And his win was truly monumental. And Donald Tr-mp, like a diarrhea-plagued pigeon, pooped all over our first African-American president, the living monument to the most prominent promise of America, the radical idea that some of us are still trying to perfect: that no matter who you are or where you came from, you are free to craft your own future.

Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in 2008 featured these words:

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story—of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart – that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That’s why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty-two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women – students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors — found the courage to keep it alive.

From Tr-mp’s embrace of racist birtherism to his labeling the free press his “enemy” and “the enemy of the people” to his advocacy of political and police violence to this week’s purposeful equivocation regarding the moral status of white supremacists and Nazis, he has been crapping on many of America’s greatest monuments, while defending its bad ones.

And he has never apologized—and never will—for desecrating that national monument named Barack Hussein Obama.

“Just Because They Claim They’re Christians”

Perhaps you’ve seen him on CNN. Or maybe on NBC’s Meet the Press. Or maybe at a rare Tr-mp press conference, when he was doing his job of Chief Political Correspondent for wacky televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, the Tr-mp-friendly place where slanted and misleading and fake conservative “news” was first invented.

Image result for david brody and cbn newsWell, today I saw him, David Brody, on MSNBC, defending Donald Tr-mp’s obvious reluctance to call out his friends on the right who happen to be Nazis, white supremacists, and some who express sympathy for the terrorist who killed Heather Heyer with his car on Saturday in Charlottesville. Brody’s appearance today was shameful in many ways, considering Brody proudly calls himself an evangelical Christian and may be the most well-known “journalist” who does. But it was not surprising for me to hear him defending Tr-mp.

Way back in 2016, Brody wrote a piece for USA Today (“Donald Tr-mp’s appeal to evangelicals is real: David Brody”) that essentially predicted how well Tr-mp would do with conservative evangelicals. He wrote:

Explaining this attraction is not as hard as it seems. On the surface, you see the potential warts: three marriagesa pro-choice past, salty language delivered by a New Yorker, and the list goes on. To be sure, Tr-mp would not be Central Casting’s prototype evangelical candidate. Name-calling along with the hefty ego aren’t sought after character traits.

But something is resonating. You see, Tr-mp operates in a world of absolutes where there are winners and losers; there is the right way and the wrong way. In short, it’s a world painted in black and white. Evangelicals see the world in much the same way, in that accepting Jesus is the only way to heaven and the Bible is the inerrant word of God. They are publicly ridiculed for their unbending, non-negotiable approach, just as Tr-mp is widely mocked for his adamant positions. It’s called a common psychological bond.

Now, it is hard for some of us to understand how anyone, much less people who profess to follow a craftsman from Palestine who went around telling people to turn the other cheek, can have a “psychological bond” to a sick bully like Tr-mp, but Brody turned out to be right. Without right-wing evangelical support, Tr-mp would be guest-hosting for Sean Hannity right now and still whining about a “rigged” election.

But Brody wrote something else I find interesting:

The Tr-mp brand also includes a lack of political correctness. Combine that with his tough talk on fighting terrorism, temporarily banning Muslims coming into the USA and taking the fight to the Islamic State terrorist group (seize the oil!), and what you get is an attentive congregation. Why? Because the persecution of Christians overseas and fighting radical Islam are top-tier issues for evangelicals. The fact that terrorism is the top concern of Americans this election cycle only helps Tr-mp’s cause. After all, ISIL is brash and in-your-face, and Tr-mp is just as brash.

Well, well, well. What have we here? Forget the fact that Tr-mp’s in-your-face brashness was on vacation this weekend, when he could have used it to confront racist- and hate-fueled violence that was essentially done in his name, done, in many cases, in the name of the white Christian nationalism that Tr-mp and Steve Bannon promoted and rode into the White’s House. Forget that. Notice the phrase “fighting radical Islam”? You notice how Brody tells us that conservative evangelicals fell in love with Tr-mp partly because he was for “temporarily banning Muslims coming into the USA”?

What Brody was doing, and what he correctly noted was important on the Religious Right, was branding all of Islam by the actions of a few. In fact, Tr-mp figured out early on that this is what made him so popular with what he often calls “the evangelicals.” He constantly harped on President Obama’s refusal to say “radical Islamic terrorism,” Obama not wanting to brand the sociopathy behind ISIS and other violent groups as a true expression of Islam. But Tr-mp said the phrase so often and so loudly that it was clear he had no qualms—Tr-mp is pathologically qualm-proof—about painting an entire religion with an extremist brush. Remember, Brody told us part of his appeal was his black-and-white brashness.

Well, the shoe is now on the other hypocritical hoof.

Today on MSNBC, I heard Brody say the following, while he was defending Tr-mp’s indefensible behavior:

Evangelical Christian leaders all have a responsibility to denounce all of this by name, KKK, neo-Nazis.  They have nothing, nothing—AND LET ME SAY THAT IN ALL CAPS—nothing to do with true biblical Christianity at all. Because, remember, just because they claim they’re Christians doesn’t mean it’s so.

Remember, y’all. Remember. Whenever you hear Mr. Two Corinthians broad-brushing Islam with the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”—when you hear about yet another one of his shady business deals or how he cheated or groped someone—when you hear about another Tr-mp connection to Russian oligarchs—when you hear him avoid criticizing Vladimir Putin and David Duke—that just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean it is so.

But given what Mr. Two Corinthians and the Religious Right have done to Christianity, in Tr-mp’s case maybe it does.

Two Kinds Of Madmen

The precipitous and dangerous drama still unfolding between the United States and North Korea, essentially between Dim and Kim, was entirely predictable, for those of us who know how mentally unstable and sadly insecure Tr-mp is. And now that we are fairly confident that the North Koreans are farther along the path to being a nuclear power with ICBMs than most experts had previously estimated (funny how intelligence reports are not questioned by Tr-mp these days), the situation comes down to the decisions of two alleged madmen and whether one or the other or both will be restrained by reason.

For the purpose of this post, I want to define two kinds of madness that I believe is infecting the minds of the men who fate, or a nasty God, has put in charge of weapons of mass destruction. First there is Tr-mp. No need to go on at length about what ails him. His mental challenges have been discussed endlessly here and everywhere (see this 9-minute segment, “Real Doctors Diagnose Tr-mp”). One prominent psychologist, John Gartner, has pronounced him a “paranoid psychopathic narcissist,” for instance. But even if you are inclined to think that such a professional diagnosis is too wild in this case, you have to admit that you really don’t need a PhD to see that Tr-mp’s day-to-day behavior reveals some kind of severely disordered mind. That’s clear to even many of his followers, who seem to like that aspect of his personality, even if they call it something like “unpredictability.”

Then there is Kim Jong-un. If you have followed the news the last several days, you have seen or heard many people try to assess the mental state of Kim. Is he sane? Is he a madman? Is he a rational actor? The fact that no one seems to know for sure is what makes this drama so dumb and dangerous. Tr-mp himself told Philippine President Duterte that Kim “could be crazy.” If so, why tempt him to act on his craziness? Why talk like a middle-school bully and put the lives of millions at risk? What if Ivanka or Tr-mp’s two creepy older sons were living in Seoul? Would he tempt Kim with stupid bluster?

Back in April, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked chief of staff John Kelly (he was Secretary of Homeland Security at the time), “Do you think Kim Jong-un is mentally unbalanced?” Kelly said:

Oh, heck, I don’t know. He seems like someone who knows what he’s doing. I mean, clearly, the number one thing in his mind is to remain in power. I think in the dynamic of a dictatorship like that, he’s got to do that by convincing everyone around him—first of all holding them all in stark terror—and convincing everyone around him that he’s a strong man and is willing to stand up, and all the rest of the rhetoric. I think the only way to decide whether he’s insane or not is to lay him down on the couch and have a battalion’s worth of psychiatrists talk to him and figure it out.

So, Kelly says Kim “knows what he’s doing” but isn’t sure if he’s sane or insane. Okay, then. That clears that up.

Our relatively weak Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has his opinion, which, also in April, he offered to Fox “News”:

All indications…by intelligence agencies, and there have been a number of independent psychologists who have done analysis as best they can, all indications are that he is not crazy. He may be ruthless. He may be a murderer. He may be someone who in many respects we would say by our standards is irrational. But he is not insane.

That observation made me think of something G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book, Orthodoxy:

Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

That’s Kim Jung-un. Clearly, if you examine his behavioral history, you see a madman who has demonstrated no “sane affections.” He seems to only use reason in service to his maniacal pursuit of perpetual power and existence as an unchallengable cult figure to “his” people. Because there does seem to be potential for a transactional understanding with such a madman, there is some hope that diplomacy can somehow de-escalate the present situation until a more solid diplomatic effort (including help from the Chinese and other world players) can find a possible solution to the long-term problem of a nuclear North Korea with world-threatening ICBMs.

Image result for kim jong un and trump face swapThe problem is that Tr-mp, displaying the kind of madness not conducive to the patience of diplomacy, can’t keep his undisciplined mouth out of this situation. I reject the idea, advanced by some silly pundits, that there is a method to Tr-mp’s magniloquent madness, that he and his advisers have a “strategy” behind all the sophomoric bluster. No. To Tr-mp this is a reality TV test of wills—a game of chicken. Except it’s not Tr-mp sitting in the car, but millions of Koreans, North and South, who will pay the bloody price if Kim overreacts and takes the dare or if Tr-mp orders a foolish pre-emptive strike after a minor act of provocation. And that fact, that innocents will die unnecessarily, is what should be the focus of all the news coverage of this crisis.

What we have here is a sick man, acting foolishly as our commander-in-chief, playing a dangerous game with a North Korean madman devoid of natural human emotions. And if this ends without bloodshed this time, this drama will unfortunately have a sequel—unless we can rid ourselves of the madman on our side and then begin to exhaust all diplomatic and non-military solutions before we think the unthinkable.

The Dopey Leading The Dope

For years now, I have accused Fox & Friends, the morning show Tr-mp loves, of being an IQ-murdering, brain-baking embarrassment to American life. Yesterday, Vox pubished a piece (“We analyzed 17 months of Fox & Friends transcripts. It’s far weirder than state-run media.“) with the sub-header: “How the Fox morning show evolved into Donald Tr-mp’s posse.” Yes, the unprosecuted p-ssy prodder has a posse:

What we found is that Fox & Friends has a symbiotic relationship with Trump that is far weirder and more interesting than state media. Instead of talking for Trump, they are talking to him.

Naturally, the juvenility that defines Fox & Friends appeals to the lazy, uninformed teenager in the White’s House. And the hosts take advantage of his interest in the anti-intelligence programming they offer—and his pathologically abbreviated attention span—in order to give him advice. And, sadly for the country, the man who has to essentially have coloring book intelligence briefings frequently listens.

If you’ve ever spent 30 minutes with Fox & Friends (may a couple of your IQ points Rest in Peace, by the way), then the idea that these simpletons are giving advice to Agent Orange and that Agent Orange heeds some of it, should make you very restless at night. Every night. Because the next morning—seven days a week—brings another episode of Fox & Friends.

The good news is that when Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt get on the air and publicly tell Tr-mp how to handle North Korea, at least we’ll have a few minutes lag time to get in our bomb shelters. Or if, like me, you don’t have one of those, to pick up a 30-pack or your medication of choice.

News You Probably Haven’t Heard Yet.

Anyone reading this blog doesn’t need a detailed recap of the news lately. More apologies for Russia; yet another unreported meeting with a stadium full of Russians accompanied by an still-evolving set of lies about the meeting; Tr-mp publicly dope-slapping Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian thing; rumors are rampant that Tr-mp is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller because Mueller is getting in his bidness; we know Tr-mp is thinking about pardoning everyone around him including himself, which I suppose we should call “masturpardonation”; an unpolished liar for Tr-mp named Spicer is gone and a slicker liar for Tr-mp named Scaramucci is on the scene—Scaramucci is a much better kisser; Tr-mp commissions a new Navy ship and essentially orders the sailors and naval officers to do his political bidding for him.

Just another bizarre week in a declining America.

And if you think all of that stuff is bad, here’s the latest:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Democrats are furious over what they are saying is the latest outrage involving Donald Tr-mp. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer are both demanding Republicans in Congress take quick action after Tr-mp fired Robert Moeller, had him arrested, ordered him to be pilloried on a site near the Lincoln Memorial early Sunday morning, then hours later allegedly had him decapitated with a dull steak knife from Mar-A-Lago. CNN cameras on the scene seem to have captured a golf-suited Tr-mp tee up Mr. Moeller’s bloody head and drive it an estimated 250 yards into the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Tr-mp then held what the administration said was a record-setting rally at the same site Sunday afternoon with derisive chants of “Fore! Fore! Fore!” echoing throughout the National Mall.

Witnesses initially arriving at the grisly scene earlier in the day say they overheard Tr-mp tell Vice President Mike Pence, “Off with his head!” just before Moeller was taken out of the stocks and placed on a large cutting board that, according to two White House sources, was supplied by one of Tr-mp’s hotel kitchens. Those same sources told the Associated Press that Tr-mp gave Pence a gold-plated steak knife believed to have come from Mar-A-Lago and that Mike Pence immediately agreed to the beheading, allegedly saying it was “an honor to serve the broad-shouldered” Tr-mp. 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself and the entire Justice Department from the matter, saying, “We all serve at the pleasure of the president.” Speaker Paul Ryan was asked for a comment and he attributed the “mishap” to Tr-mp’s relative inexperience as a Washington politician. “If true, it’s just another rookie mistake,” he told a gathering of reporters at the Capitol. “You guys just don’t get it. This guy is new to all this. And he doesn’t play by Washington rules.” When asked if the incident would slow down legislative business in the House, Ryan said, “The American people sent us here to do a job on them and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not comment on the apparent murder and subsequent events, saying only that he and his Senate colleagues are continuing to work hard on “passing a healthcare bill that can get signed into law” and then “moving on to other parts of our aggressive agenda.” When asked if he thought the administration’s alleged beheading of Moeller might constitute obstruction of justice, if not murder, McConnell replied he had “no comment on pending investigations.” 

There was one critical voice coming from Capitol Hill. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that if Tr-mp was involved in the firing, pilloring, and beheading of Special Counsel Moeller that his actions would be “inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, reporters from all the over the area flocked to Washington in order to interview Tr-mp supporters before they could leave the rally and return home to their economically-challenged rural communities. Many Tr-mp supporters openly doubted the reports of the beheading, one older man, wearing a Rush Limbaugh tee shirt, calling it, “another phony story planted by the drive-by media.” Still another rally attendee said he doubted the media reports because “everybody knows you can’t hit a human head 250 yards with a normal driver.” Then, after hesitating, said, “But if anyone could, Tr-mp could.”

Another woman attending the rally told a Washington Post reporter that the whole thing was a “Chinese hoax.” A man who left the rally early to get to his job at a fast-food restaurant he said is secretly frequented by Tr-mp, told the New York Times, “You know, it may have been Tr-mp. But it really could have been anybody. It could have been a 400-pound man who got tired of hearing all of the fake Russia-Tr-mp news coverage and just couldn’t take it anymore,” the man said, adding, “Whoever it was, though, it probably wasn’t Putin.”

White House spokesmen have issued no on- or off-camera comment, but Tr-mp tweeted just after his rally: So many people were asking why didn’t the Special Council [sic] look into the Hillary Clinton and Comey crimes? Well, maybe he WAS and THEY had him killed! Sad!”

 

Will Pat Robertson Pray Away Tr-mp’s Hurricane? Tune In Tomorrow!

“God is using the president to do great things.”

—Televangelist Pat Robertson, March 23, 2017

What is the last refuge of a scoundrel? Why, it’s the 700 Club! Naturally.

As Tr-mp apparently contemplates (okay, that’s too strong a word for him) how to get his family right with God, if not the law, he has turned to Pat Robertson, the faith healer who has grown wealthy off the trade. If there is anyone who knows how to heal a grifter, it is a fellow grifter. Tr-mp sat down for an “interview” today with Robertson, because, well, God and stuff. No, not really. When he’s in trouble, Tr-mp always goes to “the evangelicals” because, as a con man, he knows how gullible is the conservative variety of Bible-toters. Robertson himself, now 87 years old, proves that fact—Beliefnet pegs his net worth at $100 million, but it could be much, much more due to his complicated relationship with his businesses and his “non-profit” “ministry.”

Full (embarrassing) disclosure: When I was an evangelical zealot in the 1980s, I gave money, often monthly, to Robertson’s “ministry.” I faithfully watched the 700 Club. Believe it or not, I teared up reading Pat’s autobiography, Shout It From the Housetops! By the time his conspiracy book, The New World Order, came out in 1991, I was getting very suspicious of either his intellect or his motives or both. Like a lot of grifting “prophets” in the evangelical world, Pat foretold how life as we knew it would end (spoiler: the Satan-directed Illuminati would establish a one-world government in order “to destroy the family, to destroy the state, to destroy capitalism and to destroy the church”).

You can go on Amazon.com and read a relatively recent review of The New World Order written by an unfortunate soul named Melinda, from Santa Cruz. On March 8, 2016, she wrote:

Amazing that it was published in 1991 and so pertinent to what is happening today. Anyone reading this book will vote for Tr-mp because he or she will see that everyone else is connected to the NWO through Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street entities.

I know, I know. It is sad. These folks vote. They vote! But it is kind of a funny thing that Pat Robertson is a Tr-mp supporter and it is a funnier thing that Tr-mp is a Goldman Sachs-Wall Street dream-come-true and, thus, by definition is part of Pat’s faith-destroying New World Order! Don’t ya think that’s hilarious?

In any case, before or after the “interview,” Pat will no doubt lay his miracle-working (and fabulously wealthy) hands on Tr-mp, either on camera or off, and try to impart a little more of God’s anointing on this obviously God-touched “leader.” A snippet released today of what the Christian Broadcasting Network will air tomorrow features Robertson asking Tr-mp if we can “trust” Putin. Now, first, if you don’t know by now that Putin is unworthy of anyone’s trust, your ignorance is unhealable, even by God. And, second, if you don’t know by now that exactly the wrong guy to ask about “trust” is a pathological liar, then your cultish affection for Tr-mp is, to use a biblical term, idolatrous.

But Robertson, an evangelical con artist, is precisely the guy who Tr-mp wanted to see for his first “interview” in a couple of months. Why? I bet you think it’s because Tr-mp thought he would find it friendly territory, right? Well, yes, that’s right. Robertson pretty much invented Bullshit News, which spawned today’s right-wing media complex that is seriously dumbing down the country. But there’s really more to it than that. You see, the Washington Post published a story this morning with this headline:

‘Category 5 hurricane’: White House under siege by Trump Jr.’s Russia revelations

The lede:

The White House has been thrust into chaos after days of ever-worsening revelations about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a lawyer characterized as representing the Russian government, as the president fumes against his enemies and senior aides circle one another with suspicion, according to top White House officials and outside advisers.

The “Category 5 hurricane” reference in the headline was provided by an “outside ally” of Tr-mp. And I am purely speculating here, but I think that same ally suggested to Tr-mp that he go to Robertson to fix his hurricane problem. In case you don’t know or forgot what an expert Robertson is on fixing hurricanes, here ya go—and, you’re welcome:

The Decline Of American Leadership Explained In Two Stunning Minutes

The words of Chris Uhlmann, commenting for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, speak for themselves. There’s nothing I can think of right now that I could say to improve upon his analysis of our current decline:

 

The G20 became the G19 as it ended. On the Paris climate accords the United States was left isolated and friendless.

It is, apparently, where this US President wants to be as he seeks to turn his nation inward.

Donald Tr-mp has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.

He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.

Given the US was always going to be one out on climate change, a deft American President would have found an issue around which he could rally most of the leaders.

He had the perfect vehicle — North Korea’s missile tests.

So, where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea? That would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it and they were prepared to back it but it never came.

There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Tr-mp with the thoughts of the man himself.

He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West.

And Mr Tr-mp is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it.

But it is the unscripted Mr Tr-mp that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.

He was an uneasy, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.

Mr Tr-mp is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.

So, what did we learn this week?

We learned Mr Tr-mp has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.

He will cede that power to China and Russia — two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.

Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we’ll miss it when it is gone.

And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear.

Our Sybil War

Published on July 4, 2017

Malcolm Gladwell, the popular Canadian writer, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday. He was on the program, as Chuck Todd noted, as an outsider who could offer “some insight into who we are as Americans and how we approach our problems.”

Gladwell did offer some insight, take it or leave it:

As the outsider, the thing about American society that has always baffled me is that Americans love nothing more than accentuating their differences. Whereas I come from a culture, Canada, where all we do is celebrate what we have in common, even when we don’t have anything in common, you know? We love talking about how we’re Canadians, we’re in this together, we’re all the same in the end. You know, Americans are all the same in the end, but you guys like to pretend that you’re not. And you know, I don’t think it’s that hard to get back to that position of understanding how similar you all are.

Well, there is some truth to what Gladwell says. We do have many similarities as Americans. And we all may be “in this together.” But he’s wrong to claim that “Americans are all the same in the end.” I’m going to attempt to explain why he’s wrong by using two examples.

The first one comes from a scientist named Riccardo Sabatini, who seemed to prove what Malcolm Gladwell was saying, that basically we human beings are all the same. Sabatini, famously, printed out the genome of a famous friend of his. In case you don’t know what a genome is, here is a handy definition:

A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

It turns out, as Sabatini proved, that if you print out a human genome, it fills some 175 books, comprising 262,000 densely printed pages, about a thousand pounds of instructions that, essentially, make you who you are, or aren’t. The amazing thing, the human genomething Sabatini highlighted, is that 174 1/2 of those 175 books contain genetic instructions that are identical to your neighbor’s. Yes, that’s right. Genetically speaking, the tall guy living behind my house, my neighbor, is almost identical to me. Only about 500 pages of the 262,000 pages of instructions make us different. We are 99.998% the same. And one would think that such a sober, Gladwellian truth would tend to make us all, Canadians or Americans—or even the Russians!—believe that, heck, we really are “the same in the end.”

Except, obviously, we’re not.

The neighbor I mentioned, the one who is nearly identical to me—remember that our genetic code is only .002 different—not only put up a TR-MP-PENCE sign in his front yard, he put one up in his back yard. He did that for me—and only me—to see (because I park in the back). Why did he do that? Well, since his sign appeared a day or two after I put up my HILLARY sign (in my front yard only), I guess he did it because he wanted to send me a message: he was a Tr-mp guy.

Now, is there something in that .002 genetic difference that made my neighbor a Tr-mp guy? Beats me. I suppose it’s possible that in those 175 volumes of genetic code—which, according to Riccardo Sabatini, “we just know probably two percent: four books of more than 175”—there is an “I prefer buffoons for president” gene. But I doubt it. More likely, something in my neighbor’s background has made him a Tr-mper. Some experience or experiences affected his brain chemistry enough that Tr-mp’s vulgarity and ignorance, toxically mixed with his insecurity-masking machismo, seems not only attractive, but subversively attractive. And something in my background has made me a fierce anti-Tr-mper, a counter-subversive. And no amount of Gladwellian talk about our similarities, no perfectly rational presentation of our genetic sameness, will bridge the enormous gulf between me and my neighbor. The differences between someone who thinks Tr-mp is the answer and someone who thinks he is dangerously unfit for the presidency are unbridgeable. We’re not “all the same in the end.”

In fact, it’s very much the opposite. In the end, for whatever reason, we are very, very different. Northerners and southerners were unbridgeably different in 1861—and even after four years of a bloody civil war, after hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, the differences remained. And in some important ways, many of those differences are still with us today, along with many others.

That brings me to my second example of why Gladwell was wrong and to the baffling title of this essay.

Shirley Ardell Mason was a mentally troubled artist who was born in 1923. If you are like me, you know who she was because of the two-part TV film, Sybil, broadcast in 1976. That film, based on a 1973 book written by journalist Flora Schreiber, starred Sally Field and Joanne Woodward (another Sybil movie came out in 2007). Field played Sybil Dorsett, which was the pseudonym chosen for Shirley Mason. Sybil, allegedly, suffered from what was then called “multiple personality disorder”—now called “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). She supposedly had 16 distinct personalities or “selves.”

I will tell you now there has been a lot of controversy surrounding “Sybil,” her psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, and the diagnostic legitimacy of multiple personality disorder. Some have claimed the whole thing was a fraud, perpetrated for notoriety and money. Others have claimed that Dr. Wilbur induced Sybil’s alleged multiple personalities through her therapeutic suggestions. There’s no need for me to go into all the details of that controversy. Suffice it to know that in 1994, according to Psychology Today, “multiple personality disorder” was changed to “dissociative identity disorder.” The reason:

to reflect a better understanding of the condition—namely, that it is characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity rather than by a proliferation, or growth, of separate identities.

My point of bringing this up is that I would attribute America’s obviously severe political and cultural divide to something like a national dissociative identity disorder, “characterized by a fragmentation, or splintering, of identity.” I think this problem with national identity has been with us from our beginning as a nation, largely because of the sin of slavery, which was first coded in our collective DNA in 1619, when the first African “servants” arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.

When Thomas Jefferson gave us “All men are created equal” in 1776, it served at the time as a cry for revolution and seemed like a unifying declaration. Eleven years later, our Constitution promised to “establish Justice” for “We the People.” America appeared to be a nation with one identity—E pluribus unum. But, of course, most of the pluribus were not part of the unum. There was a civil war to come to partially settle that for African-Americans, and it would still be another 55 years after the shooting part of that war ended before women were allowed to vote, in 1920. And to this day we live with the anti-democratic Electoral College, which “amplifies the votes of white people and reduces the voice of minorities.” (And, thus, gave us George W. Bush and Donald Tr-mp.)

Psychology Today points out that dissociative identity disorder “reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness into a single multidimensional self.” If that doesn’t describe our history, and our contemporary situation, then I don’t know what does. Think about some of our differences:

♦ People who believe in the fact of evolution versus people who believe in a six-day creation by God.

♦ People who believe in the fact of climate change versus those who think it is a hoax.

♦ People who believe in sensible gun control versus those who reject almost all restrictions on guns, and who think guns belong in schools and bars and even churches.

♦ People who believe women should be able to control their own reproductive health versus those who think aborting a zygote is tantamount to murder.

♦ People who believe access to affordable health care is a right versus those who don’t think so, or who think a more important right is that fabulously wealthy people have lower tax rates.

♦ People who live in more culturally diverse urban areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, versus people who live in less culturally diverse rural areas, who overwhelmingly vote for Republicans.

♦ People who think thugs like Vladimir Putin should be condemned versus those who openly admire him because he “is a God-and-country Russian patriot” who “stands against the Western progressive vision of what mankind’s future ought to be.”

♦ People who believe the press is essential to the health of our democracy versus those who think it is “the enemy of the people.”

♦ People who believe Tr-mp is a sick and vulgar grifter who dirties the presidency versus those who embrace and celebrate his behavior.

I ask: How do you make a nation whole—the alleged therapeutic result in the Sybil story—when there are differences as stark and as wide as these? How do you integrate the “various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness” into a single multidimensional national self? I don’t know. It looks impossible to me. But let’s go on.

Psychology Today lists the essential criteria that must be met to make a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. I will slightly modify these criteria to reflect how they might apply to our ailing nation:

  • The [nation] experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self). Some cultures describe this as an experience of possession.
  • The disruption in [national] identity involves a change in sense of self, sense of agency, and changes in behavior, consciousness, memory, perception, cognition, and motor function.
  • Frequent gaps are found in memories of [national] history, including people, places, and events, for both the distant and recent past. These recurrent gaps are not consistent with ordinary forgetting.
  • These symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

You, of course, can be the judge of whether I’m way off or have at least suggested something that requires further thought. I would add, however, that there is treatment available for individuals with this disorder that perhaps can be applied to a nation:

The primary treatment for DID is long-term psychotherapy with the goal of deconstructing the different personalities and uniting them into one. Other treatments include cognitive and creative therapies.

In other words, there is no magic pill, no full-proof cure. As a nation, we can try to deconstruct our differences and make an attempt to unite them into one, making E pluribus unum a reality rather than a mythical motto. I have my doubts about that long-term social psychotherapy. Someone will have to come up with a form of cognitive or creative therapy that I cannot now possibly imagine. Or—perhaps we do have something of a cure available: the idea of America.

On this, our first Tr-mp-plagued July 4, perhaps we can take a fresh look at how we might learn to live with our pluribus selves in something resembling unum. I will draw (at length) upon the words of Minnesota Senator Al Franken, from his latest book, a book full of humor and optimism.

Franken noted that just before the end of the 2016 election, Tr-mp made “his first public appearance in our state just in time to spread his trademark blend of hate, fear, and ignorance—this time targeting our Somali-Minnesotan community.” These Somalis were mostly refugees who had escaped a horrific civil war in their country. Some fifty thousand of them settled in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Franken noted, “but not all. Many smaller cities and communities around the state have signficant Somali populations.”

Earlier in 2016, Franken attended a high school graduation in a town in Kandiyohi County, “the largest turkey-producing county in the largest turkey-producing state in the nation.” He was at Willmar Senior High to introduce the student speaker elected by the graduating class, a Muslim girl named Muna Abdulahi.

Now, as Franken estimated, that high school in Willmar comprised 60 percent “garden-variety Scandinavian/German white Minnesotans, about 25 percent were Hispanic, and about 15 percent were Somali, with a few Asian Americans tossed in.”  Franken wrote:

When it came time to hand out diplomas, the crowd was told to hold their applause until the end. But they couldn’t help themselves. The moment Muna’s name was called, everyone erupted. Clapping, shouting, stomping on the bleachers—and it continued like that through each one of the 236 graduates. These kids loved each other.

The two hours I spent at that high school commencement were a tonic for the year of trash I’d been hearing about our country.

The previous year, I’d been in Willmar to help respond to an avian flu crisis that threatened the turkey industry that employs so many in Kandiyohi County. A number of producers were worried that they might lose their entire operations. But we were able to get some emergency funding to help keep them on their feet.

Were these turkey producers Democrats? Were they Republicans? No idea. Didn’t care. Don’t care. Will never care. Do they care that they have Somali refugees in their community? Yes, they do care. They want them. They need them. They need people like Muna’s dad, who works in IT at the Jennie-O Turkey store.

Perhaps Donald Tr-mp confused Minnesota with somewhere else. About a week after the election, I spoke to Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States. He told me that in France, a Frenchman is someone who can tell you what village his family is from going back centuries. Immigrants never really get to become Frenchmen. It made me think back to the hideous massacre in Paris the year before.

Here in America, of course, we’re all immigrants. Except, of course, for Native Americans against whom we committed genocide. I’m a Jew, but I’m also an American. Muna is Somali, but she’s also an American. On election day, I ran into her on campus at the University of Minnesota, where I was getting out the vote for Hillary. She told me that her sister, Anisa, had been voted homecoming queen.

That’s who we are. In places like France, they isolate their refugees and immigrants. In America, we elect them homecoming queen.

Yes, that echoes what Ronald Reagan famously said in 1988, “Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.” Yes, it is a romantic and perhaps overoptimistic view of our country. But it is essential that we hold fast to it. It is vital that we defend it even in the face of an ugly Tr-mpism. Otherwise, we fail as a democracy, at least as a democracy of decency. It simply has to be the case that Tr-mp does not represent who we are as Americans.

It is true our differences divide us in dangerous ways. But it is also true that if we can figure out how to live with those differences—by defending and strengthening those institutions that “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”—we can turn the present gloom into at least a glimmer of progress.

Oh. I almost forgot. Whenever my Tr-mp-supporting neighbor sees me, he offers a genuinely friendly wave. He really does. And on my good days, on my better days as an American, I actually wave back.

 

Deep In The Woods On Whether Any POTUS Should Be Subject To Criminal Indictment

“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.”

—The Constitution, Article 1, Section 3

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If you’re like me, you probably don’t really know why it is that, effectively, nothing can be done to Tr-mp, in terms of trying him in court, for committing any type of federal crime like obstructing justice, should the Special Counsel point in that direction some sweet day. Well, we’re in luck. Bob Bauer, courtesy of the Lawfare blog, has come to help dissipate our ignorance and offer us the faintest bit of hope that something can be done. I warn you, though, it is a very faint hope and this is not a short exercise.

But before I get to Bauer’s post, allow me to quote something, something that perhaps we’ve all grown too comfortable with, that should absolutely stun us. The quote is from an article by Jonathan Rauch (“Impeaching Tr-mp is a Heavy Lift“), a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who argues that so long as Tr-mp remains popular among Republicans, there isn’t much hope of an impeachment:

Might some decisive event—Tr-mp’s own version of the smoking-gun tape—kick the Republican props out from under Tr-mp? Maybe. But Tr-mp’s strategy is antithetical to Nixon’s. Nixon maintained a façade of probity and normalcy. Trump doesn’t bother. He has publicly asked the Russians to tamper with U.S. elections, publicly helped cover for their having done so, and then publicly acknowledged firing the FBI director for investigating the matter. His weaponization of flagrance, as I have argued elsewhere, draws his supporters into complicity. Given that his Republican approval has stayed in the eighties, the GOP base appears to have priced in, so to speak, his deviant and erratic behavior.

We all need to take time to let that sink in. Especially what Rauch said about Tr-mp not bothering to maintain even a facade of honesty or normalcy:

He has publicly asked the Russians to tamper with U.S. elections, publicly helped cover for their having done so, and then publicly acknowledged firing the FBI director for investigating the matter.

That triad of wrongdoing in and of itself ought to be enough to rid us of Tr-mp. But politics makes that almost impossible, so long as Democrats a) don’t have a majority in the House (necessary for initiating an impeachment proceeding) and b) don’t control two-thirds of the Senate (necessary for a conviction). So, with impeachment a distant possibility at this point in time, we turn back to the law and to Bob Bauer’s post on Lawfare.

Bauer, who was the White House Counsel when we had a real president named Obama, titled his piece, “A Disabled Executive: The Special Counsel Investigation and Presidential Immunities.” He discussed the famous United States v. Nixon, the case from 1974 in which the Supreme Court, in an 8-0 shellacking, told Nixon to fork over his secretly recorded tapes and other material. That decision effectively put some serious restrictions on any president’s power to claim “executive privilege” and withhold subpoenaed evidence relevant to a judicial proceeding. In other words, the Court found that the president can’t hide behind a claim of privilege to shield himself or others from their accountability to the law. This is the idea, we all have heard, that “the president is not above the law.”

Well, he is. Sort of. But Bob Bauer has a fix in mind.

Bauer sets the contemporary scene regarding the Special Counsel’s investigation and its obvious negative effects on the current Executive Branch, and asks a couple of questions that demand answers:

The investigation is beginning to consume the Trump Administration. Most notably, the president seems to have little capacity for managing these pressures. As suggested by his inability to stay off Twitter, he is evidently not one to “compartmentalize” sufficiently to push the inquiry to one side while carrying on regular business. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is barely into his task and so one might ask: what happens when the investigation begins to accelerate and, worse, if indictment becomes a possibility?

It is at this point that the long-standing constitutional question, so far unaddressed by any court, is again raised: do the strains on a presidency under investigation require the conclusion that the president cannot be indicted while in office?

It’s important to emphasize the fact Bauer pointed out: the idea that POTUS cannot be indicted while he’s still in office has never been tested in the courts. Never. In the Nixon case, the Watergate grand jury, while indicting other White House officials for their part in the burglary that began it all, did not indict Nixon himself. He was, famously, labeled an “unindicted co-conspirator,” so as to avoid that “long-standing constitutional question” Bauer referenced. And, as we all know, Nixon boot-scooted out of the White House soon after the Supreme Court took his executive privilege away. So, the can-POTUS-be-indicted question is still open.

And Bauer helpfully points us to two crucially influential opinions on the matter issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The first opinion, issued in 1973, took the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted. And the other, issued in 2000, affirmed that original OLC conclusion. It is important to keep in mind that these opinions, as influential as they are, were written by Justice Department lawyers, not judges in a court case. Bauer summarized the reasoning supporting the OLC conclusion:

OLC has taken the position that while the Constitution does not explicitly provide for immunity from indictment or prosecution, and the record on the Founders’ views of the question is inconclusive, the constitutional role of the president requires that he or she be afforded temporary immunity. Indictment and prosecution would have a “dramatically destabilizing effect” on the president’s capacity to discharge his or her duties. The executive’s energies would be diverted into the “substantial preparation” needed for his legal defense. The mere stigma and opprobrium of indictment, and possibly conviction, would result in “undermining the president’s leadership and efficacy both home and abroad.”

The 2000 opinion landed hard on conclusion that “given the potentially momentous political consequences for the Nation at stake, there is a fundamental, structural incompatibility between the ordinary application of the criminal process and the Office of the President.” Of course, delay in either indictment or trial until a term ended would be costly to the administration of justice: but “while significant, [they] are not controlling. In the case of clear and serious criminal wrongdoing, Congress can act to impeach, and this outcome is more consistent with democratic values than “shifting an awesome power to unelected persons lacking an explicit constitutional role vis-à-vis the President.”

Bauer attacks the “weakness” of this position by pointing out how little difference, in terms of disruption, there is—in Tr-mp’s case—between what may be the late stages of the process and the current investigatory stage:

From the beginning it was unclear how the OLC’s reasoning distinguished between indictments and prosecutions, on the one hand, and investigations, on the other. The institution of a serious investigation into presidential wrongdoing has been sufficient to lead to” mass hysteria” in the West Wing. It has clearly and heavily burdened the president—one need only read his tweets—and disrupted normal business and the recruitment of personnel for key positions. So, while few doubt that the president is subject to investigation, it is hard to see how these disruptions can be easily distinguished from those associated with indictment. The difference is one of degree, not of kind, and as the Nixon experience established, those differences are indeed fine.

The “distractions will worsen,” Bauer says, as the “current investigation continues.” There will be interviews, document requests, lawyers upon lawyers hired by witnesses, and inevitable “leaks.” Bauer argues:

The more serious and far-reaching the investigation becomes, the greater will be disruption. By the time of his resignation, President Nixon had not been indicted, but his capacity for governance had been all but extinguished.

Here Bauer, for the sake of argument, entertains a dubious idea related to the claim that there is a meaningful distinction, in terms of disruption in the Executive Branch, between indictments and investigations:

It is possible, of course, to believe that for just these reasons OLC did not go far enough, and that it should have clearly extended temporary immunity to the investigative stage.

Now, think about that. The OLC could have extended “temporary immunity” to a president that covered an investigation of wrongdoing. Merely investigating whether a crime was committed would then have to wait until POTUS was out of office. And the logic of the OLC reasoning, as Bauer points out, leads in that direction. Fortunately, the authors of those two OLC opinions were not imprisoned by their own logic:

The drafters in 1973 and 2000 declined to take this next step. Doubtless they were constrained by a powerful democratic norm, reflected in the Supreme Court’s pointed rejection in United States v. Nixon of any suggestion that the president, as the head of a unitary executive branch, is somehow “above the law.”

Image result for justice scalesThat “democratic norm,” that POTUS is, like the rest of us, subject to the law, has “only gained force” since the 1973 OLC opinion and that famous and suddenly relevant 1974 Court decision, Bauer says. Even though there is still a judicially unanswered constitutional question lingering around about whether a sitting president can be indicted, tried, and possibly convicted, we still have in force the minimalist norm that a president can at least be investigated. But Bauer is not content to leave it there. He still has serious problems with the OLC logic that indictments and trials and prosecutions—but not investigations—would have a “’dramatically destabilizing effect’ on the president’s capacity to discharge his or her duties.” Bauer focused on that 2000 OLC opinion:

It tried gamely, but more or less in passing, to show that investigations can be managed without undue disruption. In a footnote, it noted that a grand jury could still “collect” and “preserve” evidence, available for use once the president has left office. The picture it presented is that of the grand jury working quietly in the background. More realistic is what we had in the Nixon era and may be seeing develop today: a full-fledged investigation from within the executive branch, by special counsel dedicated to this purpose. It is not a question of a grand jury collecting and preserving but of the Special Counsel investigating. The process is active, not passive….

A major inquiry at full boil is most often an indication of the seriousness of the potential charges, and yet it is here—where the public interest in a presidency accountable to law is keenest—that the OLC’s concern with disruption is most obviously triggered. By a strange twist of constitutional logic, the president under investigation for the most serious wrongdoing would then have the most compelling claim to immunity.

Bauer then criticizes the OLC for not seriously engaging “the question of how temporary immunity from indictment or prosecution can be reconciled with the due administration of justice.” He writes:

For example, it included the president’s exposure to the stigma of a criminal charge among the “dramatically destabilizing effects” of an indictment. Of course, unresolved questions of criminal misconduct also cast shadows on a presidency, as the Nixon saga showed. The opinion did not explain how the president’s credibility is enhanced by charges left hanging and defended only by a claim of immunity. It might be just as persuasively argued that the president who engages with the criminal justice process does more honor to the office and invites closer consideration of the merits of his self-defense. “I did no wrong, and here is why” has a more presidential ring and better serves the rule of law than “You can’t get me.”

We can all see, by his behavior, that Tr-mp isn’t interested in any high-minded notion like “honor to the office.” And we can all imagine, at some future time, him shamelessly utilizing the “You can’t get me” defense. Tr-mp isn’t concerned with anything fundamentally essential to a stable democracy like the concept of “the due administration of justice.” But Bauer is. He criticized the OLC opinion for falling back,

on a comforting image of a grand jury operating silently and (somehow) mostly out of sight and out of the way.

But that is not how it goes with high-profile, high-stakes investigations. We have them or we don’t: there is no quiet, non-disruptive version. And if we have them, accepting the disruptions they entail, then it is difficult to argue that they cannot be brought to one possible conclusion, if justified by the evidence: indictment. If a president can be investigated, then, it seems, a president can be indicted; if not in the second case, then not in either case, because it cannot be said that the government in the throes of a major investigation is measurably or reliably safer from severe “disruption” and massive loss of presidential credibility. The better, more internally consistent view in line with democratic “rule of law” norms is that the president is subject to investigation and, if the evidence supports it, indictment.

Bauer discusses the truth that “the president could use his executive authority to thwart an investigation,” through dismissing successive prosecutors until he finds an individual with Marco Rubio’s or Ted Cruz’s compromised blood running through his or her veins. But Bauer has faith, too much in my opinion, that in such a case “Congress would intervene via the impeachment process to restoring the ‘rule of law.'” He says, with way too much confidence given what we have seen from Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders:

It is in constitutional theory only that a president may order an end to an investigation directed against him. In practice, he will fail.

I have a feeling we will find out if Bauer is right. In the mean time, Bauer offers us a novel solution (at least it was to me) to the problem of what to do, should his theory prevail some day that there is no difference, in terms of disruption, between indictments and investigations:

If a president is not, then, immune from investigation or indictment, the “dramatically destabilizing effects” on government may be addressed in one of three ways. The president could resign. Congress could move to impeachment. Also available  is the 25th Amendment, which permits a president to temporarily vacate the office while fighting the indictment and standing trial—perhaps, in the thick of an investigation, while fending off indictment.

The 2000 opinion was equivocal in its treatment of the 25th Amendment, particularly as an answer to the possible incarceration of a president following conviction. But it also conceded that “the amendment’s terms ‘unable’ and ‘inability’ were not . . . narrowly defined, apparently out of a recognition that situations of inability might take various forms not neatly falling into categories of physical or mental illness.”

I find that a rather stunning argument. The president should be subject to investigation, indictment, and possible prosecution, and if the process proves so disruptive that he can’t adequately perform his duties, there is a 25th Amendment remedy. Bauer’s conclusion:

In a case where, as of now, neither impeachment nor resignation is probable, the 25thAmendment supplies more of an answer than OLC would credit to the problem of an incapacitated presidency. It is also more convincing than temporary immunity from indictment or prosecution that is grounded in dubious reasoning about the implications of the “constitutional structure” and that, if taken to its logical conclusion, would also insulate a president from investigation into serious criminal wrongdoing.

In other words, as it stands right now, using only the reasoning of Justice Department lawyers from long ago, Tr-mp is essentially beyond the reach of the law and we have little hope of a House impeachment and little hope of a Senate conviction. And the truth is, although Bauer’s idea is solid and soundly reasoned, we also have little hope that anyone who matters will pay the slightest bit of attention to it.

Remarks On The Shooting In Virginia

Published on June 15, 2017

Okay. This shouldn’t have to be said. But here we go again.

♦ Mentally ill people, people with histories of violence and lawbreaking, whether they be right-wing nutjobs or left-wing nutjobs, shouldn’t have an easy, lawful pathway toward the purchase and possession of guns. Period. Will that stop all the shootings? Hell no. But it might stop some of them.

♦ There are major differences between the two big political parties on the issue above. One party wants to make it harder to obtain weapons, the other wants to make it much, much easier. Therefore, one party is much, much more to blame for the ridiculous amount of gun violence we see in the United States. That is indisputable. Don’t even bother trying.

♦ It’s not okay for Americans to settle political differences with violence. It should be obvious that even right-wing reactionaries like Steve Scalise deserve to live their lives without the slightest fear of getting murdered because of their political views. (Here’s to his full recovery, by the way, as well as all those who were shot.)

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, said he would “pay the legal fees” of people who took his advice “to knock the crap” out of potential tomato-tossers at his rallies. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, embraced and praised thuggish autocrats around the world (he even begged one of them for help during the election) who use violence to control their noisy citizens or, as in the case of the Turkish Thug, use violence to silence protesters—on American soil, for God’s sake. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ It is true that we ought to be able to fight—metaphorically—over policies, priorities for the country, and what our future should look like without demonizing each other. It’s also true we ought to respect each other as we engage in these fights. But until Republicans stop supporting Tr-mp they will not, speaking only for myself, get my respect. Nope. No respect until they throw out of office the guy who enthusiastically supports thuggish behavior. No respect until they reject the guy who begged a thuggish Russian for election assistance. No respect until they turn away from the guy who patted the Turkish Thug on the back—after he fraudulently manipulated a referendum that essentially massacred democracy in Turkey. No respect until they impeach the guy who is using his office for financial gain and who, just this morning, said the following about those public servants who are, apparently, investigating him for obstruction of justice regarding the Russia probe:

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

To Tr-mp, all who oppose him, or have a job to do to make sure he’s not breaking any laws or violating the Constitution, are “bad” people. Bad. And that tweet came a day after the shooting of a congressman and others in Virginia, a day after Tr-mp said the following regarding that shooting:

We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.

Tr-mp, of course, didn’t mean that. He read what someone wrote for him. He stuck to the script. The next day, likely the next hour, he was back in “some very bad” people mode, referring to those people serving “in our nation’s capital.”

I will say this again: Tr-mp didn’t start all this stuff. He merely represents what years of Republican tolerance (and some amount of encouragement) of lies and distortions by Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News” and the Drudge Report—and now including Breitbart and Infowars, explicitly embraced by Tr-mp himself—has produced. Such dishonorable tolerance has almost destroyed our democratic immune system. And until Republican Party leaders—now wholly responsible for Tr-mp and Tr-mpism—call out the standard-lowering, truth-killing demagogues in its tent, they will get no respect from me, even if, as an American, they will always have my pledge of peaceful resistance.

♦ Finally, there is a rather noble idea going around today regarding the annual Congressional Baseball Game between D’s and R’s, for which Scalise and other R’s were practicing when the shooting began. Huffpo’s Ed Mazza put it this way:

Instead of having the two parties play each other, as tradition holds, many people would like to see the teams mix rosters to show they’re all really on the same side: America.

Now, I confess I also thought of that idea when news of the tragic shooting first started unfolding yesterday. But something about the notion, as well-meaning as it sounds and is meant to be, didn’t quite sit right with me. I wasn’t quite sure why until I read one of the suggestions, posted by Noah Gittell on Twitter, in Mazza’s piece:

If Congress really wanted to make a meaningful gesture, they’d get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap and mix the two teams.

I understand the emotion behind that suggestion. I really do. But the suggestion itself doesn’t make sense. The annual baseball game between political rivals is suppose to be a metaphor for the idea that people with very important political differences can still come together—as who they are—and compete under the rules of an old, old game. They can, as partisans, fight like hell to win and not, when it’s all over, take a bat to the heads of Image result for congressional baseball gametheir opponents. Mixing the two teams would send exactly the wrong message. We can’t “get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap” any more than we can get rid of any important differences between us. What we can do is—and, again, this is what the game tonight is suppose to celebrate—learn to live with those differences, learn to fight with each other over those differences, but do so under certain rules of engagement, rules that both parties respect and follow, rules that insure a peaceful future for an always-divided America.

Political parties, as messy and unsatisfying as they often are, do represent something important in our democracy. They are consolidations of ideas about what America should look like, what it should be. Thus, they are institutions with often conflicting visions for our national future. And one of our parties, one of those institutions, has gone completely off the rails, forgetting all the old rules and conventions of the game that both sides accepted and honored, and making new ones up to advance their—and only their—agenda.

They support a democracy-disabling man named Tr-mp. They intentionally sabotaged Obamacare and now pass important life-and-death bills without hearings (the House) and in secret (the Senate). They purposely blocked judicial nominees President Obama was entitled to have confirmed, and are now attempting to fill those same positions with Tr-mp people, complete with all the bigotry that goes with him. Republicans have done all this and much, much more. And we, as Democrats or as independents, can’t help them get back to playing the game the right way until we are willing to hold them—peacefully—accountable for their politically deviant behavior.

And no disturbed man with a gun—a gun he shouldn’t have had—should stop us from doing that.

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