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Will Trump’s base tolerate firing Mueller?

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So now Trump is threatening Mueller with some sort of undefined consequences if Mueller, as special prosecutor, dares to investigate the Trump family’s finances.

I doubt if even the president’s most fervid supporters think that Donald J. Trump has been honest and above-board in his business affairs. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. We may not know the details—the specific transactions, the quid pro quos, who got what in exchange for what, which banks were involved, if laws were broken or shortcuts taken, if bribes were paid, if lines were crossed, if America’s interests were sold out—but it’s pretty obvious that Trump, the businessman, and/or his underlings has probably been in more secret meetings with shady characters than any mafia boss ever was. If not, why is he so paranoid about Mueller?

One of my favorite games—an obsession, really, albeit a frustrating one—is to try and put myself into the head of the typical Trump supporter and see what makes them tick. It’s hard, because these people are almost like a different species. I can put myself into my dog, Gus’s, head. I can look a cow in the eye and sense its humanity; I’ve watched spiders on my balcony spinning their webs, and I swear I get a sense of what it’s like to be a spider. But those red state, nationalistic, Christian “patriots”? Like I said, it’s awfully hard.

I don’t doubt that, in their own minds, they’re good people. Hard-working, patriotic, family-oriented, God-fearing, charitable. Of course, all those descriptors could just as easily apply to Democrats, or Independents, or atheists (well, maybe not the “God-fearing” part), or Communists, or Wiccans, or anybody else; they’re not the exclusive province of Republicans, although too many Republicans believe they are. Where I get stuck is in trying to square the circle of how these Republicans can stomach Donald J. Trump when he contradicts, in the most vulgar way, everything they claim to believe in.

Like his business practices. The same typical Republican I envision has probably had many bad run-ins with greedy bastards, like mean landlords, heartless bosses, bureaucratic despots and others who seem to go out of their way to make life miserable for everybody else. Indeed, this is a large part of the tea party’s appeal: it is a stick in the eye of all those petty dictators who, given a little power, abuse it. Chief among these dictators are businessmen who stomp on little people. Everybody hates them, Republicans and Democrats alike. Everybody knows that the rich don’t care about anyone but themselves. Everybody knows that the laws are stacked against regular people and heavily in favor of the rich, who own congressmen and Senators and can buy judges. And those poor, disenfranchised white folks in the Rust Belt know this more than most; they see the corruption, the influence-peddling, the way the rich get away with murder while the working stiff is crushed into the dust.

If there’s a poster child for this kind of rich bastard, it’s Donald J. Trump. That laid-off, middle-aged, white Rust Belt guy knows it. I don’t care if he’ll admit it or not, he knows that Donald J. Trump is a really bad character, an awful role model for his kids, the worst example of how America creates and protects this class of robber barons. Donald J. Trump is the kind of guy the ex-steelworker has loathed all his adult life—the kind of guy he’s dreamed about throwing a beer into his face. Trump with his bimbos and mistresses, his jets, his mansions, who doesn’t pay his bills to lowly vendors, who bullies women, who intimidates anyone brazen enough to question his bullying with the threat of lawsuits, a guy who as far as anyone knows never had a religious thought in his life until he realized he needed the evangelicals politically. Nature never created a more loathed antagonist for the ex-steelworker than Donald J. Trump.

And yet—I return again and again to the paradox. The ex-steelworker wears his MAGA cap every day, reads Breitbart, learns about the day’s events from Limbaugh and Alex Jones, and tells everyone who will listen that Donald J. Trump is the greatest thing that ever happened to Christian working class people. I keep thinking, He knows that’s nonsense. He has to. Nobody could be that stupid. But the solid 80% of Republicans who still support Trump is proof that, Yes, people can be that stupid. Or stubborn. Or misinformed. Or drunk. Or blinded by fury, and superstition, and hopelessness. Or a combination of all the above. Watching those poll numbers that show Trump’s support continuing strong among the GOP, I feel more and more like I’m living in a Loony Tunes cartoon. Or a madhouse. Surely, I tell myself, this can’t go on much longer. Surely, there has to be an end-game, and sooner rather than later. Surely the U.S.A. cannot continue along this insane path. Surely these Republicans will awaken from their coma and see the world afresh, with clear eyes. Surely it must happen.

And yet it doesn’t…


The Wall Street Journal as a non-recovering addict

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Did you ever know a drug addict or alcoholic who hit bottom and swore they’d seen the light and would never do it again? Then you see them a day or two later, and they’re drunk or stoned and out of their minds, as if their previous promise had been a dream. It makes you realize: Addiction is a disease. You can never believe what an addict says, because they’re not in control.

That’s how I felt this week reading two lead editorials in the Wall Street Journal. Monday’s was called The Trumps and the Truth.” Tuesday’s was “The ObamaCare Republicans.” When I read Monday’s column, I thought, “At last Rupert Murdoch has grown a pair. He’s brave enough to admit he’s been wrong, wrong, wrong in failing to rebuke an insane president.” The extra-long editorial was scathing in its denunciation, not only of Trump but of his family and especially his “dunce” of a son, Donald Jr., for their fast-and-easy approach to truth. I’ve been wondering for a long time when rightwing Republicans would finally ditch the disaster of Trump. This editorial gave me heart.

Alas, 24 hours later my optimism was crushed, as I realized that addicts can’t change their stripes overnight. In “The ObamaCare Republicans,” the same editorial space that only a day before slammed Trump reverted to full-on Democrat bashing, in the form of an unprovoked, nasty attack on the Senate Republicans who handed Mitch McConnell the defeat of his political career. While most of us applaud the efforts of Collins, Capito, Portman, Moran, etc. to derail a bill so senseless and stupid that even Trump called the House version “mean,” the Wall Street Journal just couldn’t help itself from reverting to its old addiction of hating on Obama and Democrats, and resisting any bipartisan cooperation at all in Washington. The editorial contained the usual attacks on “liberals” and “the entitlement state,” more dire warnings about “single-payer health care,” and, for good measure, it even managed to get in a snide reference to “Bill Clinton’s impeachment,” as if that has anything to do with the current situation.

How is it possible to explain such a schizophrenic shift in a mere 24 hours? On Monday the paper seemed to have finally discovered sanity and patriotism, in realizing the bizarre, destructive and dangerous behavior of the President of the United States and his enablers. That was the Wall Street Journal’s sober day—a time of clear-eyed understanding and coming to grips with reality.

And yet a mere day later, here’s the Wall Street Journal rolling in the gutter, vomiting all over itself, stumbling glassy-eyed and reeking of booze, ranting with the delirium tremens of the tea party. Repeal ObamaCare! The Clintons! Liberals! Death panels! Nancy Pelosi! The only thing missing was Benghazi.

Rupert Murdoch, you see, just can’t help himself. A day after swearing off the bottle, he remembered he’d hidden a quart of cheap booze in the floorboards, and poured it down his, and his staff’s, throat. That’s an alcoholic for you: incorrigible. And it’s why you can’t trust a diehard Republican to come to his senses. The addiction to hatred has robbed them of those senses.

In the case of actual drug and alcohol addicts, there’s always treatment. They can go someplace and dry out, surrounded by helpful souls and a loving family to walk them through their recovery. In the case of recalcitrant Republicans, what is the treatment? Sadly, there is none. Nobody can help Rupert Murdoch and the hardliners at the Wall Street Journal, who can’t seem to go two days in a row without falling off the wagon and stumbling back into their comfort zone of fanatical embrace of a failing political ideology. Tea party-style conservatism was the temporary result of a bizarre cult the Wall Street Journal and its misshapen sibling, Fox “News,” helped create. We see it now dying, the victim of Donald J. Trump, whose specter it conjured well before he existed as a political force, and that it now has to own. There may be time for Murdoch to take the plunge and commit to sobriety, but he’s 86 years old, so that’s unlikely. He’ll probably have to die before we see his media outlets even begin to shift from sycophantic GOP codependency to real journalism.


Democrats must NOT allow Republicans to repeal Obamacare

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It looks like TrumpCare is dead, thank goodness, although judging from its resurrection in the House a few months ago, you never know if it will rise from the grave, Dracula-like, to haunt us again. Still, I welcome this latest blow to Trump’s agenda. Anything that slows him down and frustrates him is good for the country and the world.

Actually, calling it an “agenda” is a stretch. I don’t think anyone truly believes Trump has an agenda, beyond empowering and enriching himself and his family. Even if he has the vague outlines of one—say, repealing and replacing Obamacare (which seems based more on his personal resentment of Obama than any true concern about healthcare), tax overhaul (which means tax breaks for billionaires), infrastructure spending (remember his $1 trillion promise), ending the Iranian nuclear deal (which he just recertified), making America respected overseas (ha ha on that one), the Mexican wall (as if…), slowing down the fight against global warming (Yay, Gov. Jerry Brown!)—he’s batting zero so far. He seems more content to reign as a ceremonial King rather than a Chief Executive Officer, allowing his parliamentary minions to determine actual policies, and blaming everyone but himself when there are no accomplishments.

The Republican Party’s internal split is the same as it’s always been—ultra-conservatives versus “moderates” (although in a super-right political party the word “moderate” has to be taken with a grain of salt). We saw this in 1964; again in 1976 and 1980, and, after it took a hiatus, in 2012, when Romney beat Santorum. Now, nowhere is this split more evident than in the reasons why the first two GOP Senators to come out against the Senate version of TrumpCare, Rand Paul and Susan Collins, gave for opposing it.

Paul, as we all know, was for complete, total repeal, without replacement. I don’t know much about Kentucky, but my guess is that this deep red state is run by anti-government Breitbart types and evangelicals, who are going to be in favor of the Republican Party no matter what, unless the GOP tries to demolish Christianity, which it’s not about to do, since the two entities—Republican Party and evangelical Christianity—have pretty much morphed into the same. Up in Maine, a more pragmatic and moderate state, Collins was for “fixing” Obamacare, and in particular preserving the Medicaid provisions that are so important to her rural districts. I know for a fact that she received a ton of calls from constituents telling her to oppose TrumpCare, because I have a lot of friends in Maine, which is not a very populous state, and they tell me they worked really hard on her.

It’s difficult to fathom how Paul and Collins are in the same political party, with such utterly different world views. Paul, who calls himself a libertarian but acts more like an old-fashioned, unreconstructed southern, state’s rights, Strom Thurmond-type conservative, doesn’t want the government involved in healthcare (or anything else besides the military), while Collins seems to allow for some government role in people’s lives. To be fair, both of America’s major political parties always have allowed for wide divisions within themselves to accommodate these splits, which in the Democratic Party occur between Clinton-style moderates and leftward-leaning folks like Barbara Lee (my congresswoman) and Bernie Sanders.

I think most Democrats are moderates. I can only judge from my own experiences, but my cohort—Baby Boomers—are part of the Democratic Party’s base, a core constituency that’s voted Democrat since LBJ’s time. These are not far-left radicals, believe me. We may believe in universal healthcare, and raising taxes on the superrich, and reining in the power of corporations and ending the “dark money” horror of Citizens United, and taking steps to control global warming and protect the environment, and being helpful towards unions and immigrants and public schools. But we’re not wild-eyed radicals who want Washington involved in all of our decisions. We’re tough on crime (although there are divisions about that in the party). We’re pretty evenly split on going to war (I think most of us agree it’s necessary when America’s security is at stake; the problem is deciding if it really is or not). We don’t like discrimination against anyone based on their ethnicity, race, religion, sexual preference or ability status, because we’re fair-minded. But we wonder about things like welfare, and if it’s being abused by people who game the system. (I think it is.) And we, like Republicans, are rightfully concerned about WFA—waste, fraud and abuse in the system. We want to get our money’s worth for our tax dollars, but we certainly don’t believe in squeezing the lifeblood out of the federal government, because we’ve seen how valuable it is in the lives of countless U.S. citizens. And we will not tolerate an end to, or diminution of, Social Security or Medicare.

I think a good many Republicans would agree with what I just wrote, although some might not publicly admit it because their constituents are so right-wing. The policy of the Democratic Party ought to be (and is) to target Republican congressmen and senators in purple districts, so that Dems regain control of both houses of Congress next year. Then, starting in January, 2019, even if Trump or Pence or some other Republican is president, we can effectively neuter them. They seem pretty neutered now due to their own incompetence and extremism, but we want to make sure that Dracula is really, really dead, not just pretending to be so he can arise again and kill.

Finally, Democrats: When and if there is bipartisan negotiation between Democrats and Republicans regarding healthcare, insist on this: THERE CAN BE NO REPEAL OF OBAMACARE, just improvement. The name “Affordable Care Act” must be preserved no matter what. When you hear a Republican, from Trump on down, talking about “Repeal Obamacare” what they’re really saying is “Repeal Obama”: they want to render invisible his administration and presidency, his accomplishments, the man himself. They want to expunge him from history. Anyone who thinks Republicans suddenly care about healthcare–when they’ve never shown the slightest inclination to do so–is living in LaLaLand. So call your congressional representatives and demand they keep the Affordable Care Act. Change it where it needs to be changed, but don’t dare to change the name. Republicans used the word “Obamacare” as a curse. Democrats will use it as a blessing.


A tale of two scandals: Why Trump is different from Clinton

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It was exactly 30 years ago that a gossip named Linda Tripp, who had worked in the George H.W. Bush White House, began secretly taping conversations she had with her young friend, Monica Lewinsky. That quickly led to a situation in which Democrats were caught in much the same bind as Republicans today.

Back then, Democrats were standing by their man, Bill Clinton. Caught red-handed in adulterous affairs, including the notorious Oval Office incident involving Lewinsky’s little blue dress, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives and widely ridiculed across the country for what the political columnist Walter Shapiro called “his…unforgivable…solipsistic sins” and “ethical bankruptcy.”

Shapiro, in a New Republic article (Feb. 1, 1999) headlined “Why liberals stick with Clinton,” pointed out the dilemma Democrats faced: A “confusion of personal fealty with political principle.” On the one hand, Clinton clearly engaged in questionable personal behavior. On the other hand, he was fortunate in his enemies: Richard Mellon Scaife (the “Dark Money” conservative billionaire who financed the early investigations into Clinton’s personal life), the Christian Coalition, Newt Gingrich (brought down in part by his own adultery), and the loathsome Republican congressman Bob Barr (whose adultery and numerous divorces were conveniently forgotten and forgiven by the GOP, even as he denounced Clinton on moral grounds). Democrats could well flock to Clinton’s side in the face of such deranged, right-wing oppressors. Although he might not have been a real liberal—Shapiro called him “an old-style, moderate Republican”—at least Clinton was a Democratic president, the most successful in modern American times. The result, as Shapiro writes, was that “Liberals, enthralled by Clinton’s popularity, never criticized the president…”.

Sound familiar? We now have a president, similarly mired in scandal, whom liberals believe the Republican Party should be abandoning in droves for his amoral, mendacious behavior. And yet, except for a few outliers, the GOP refuses to even timidly criticize Trump, because he is at least giving them (or trying to give them) the reactionary policies they crave.

So is there moral equivalence between the timorous Democrats of the 1990s and the craven Republicans of today? I would argue that the answer is no. However much somebody like Walter Shapiro wanted to rail against Clinton’s “mendacity,” the fact is that what Clinton lied about was sex. No one was hurt by his actions (not even the hapless Lewinsky ever claimed to be a victim). It’s true that some of the earlier women accusers, notably Paula Jones, later wore the mantle of “the woman wronged,” but there was no evidence they did not willingly enter into their relationships with Clinton, and the public (not just Democrats, but everyone) largely dismissed them. Clinton did lie, and probably committed perjury, but he was entrapped by the blue-nosed Ken Starr, as vengeful and biased a prosecutor as ever investigated a president, and, once again, the public concluded that the real victim in the whole affair was Bill Clinton. The Senate never dared to convict him.

And what of Donald J. Trump’s lies? These are not the evasions of an embarrassed man, anxious to keep his peccadillos from public scrutiny. These are lies of a colossal nature, threatening our country’s institutions, international reputation, domestic tranquillity and national security. Nobody ever was afraid that Bill Clinton was out to subvert the Constitution, or become an authoritarian president; Republicans may have hated him (and his wife) but they did not fear for America’s future under his leadership. So while it is true that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump both lied, and both showed errors in judgment, Clinton’s didn’t amount to a hill of beans. Trump is shredding the Constitution before our very eyes, leading America into dark, dangerous and frankly un-American corners. He will, I believe, be impeached by the end of this year, because eventually the weight of evidence against him (and his family and enablers) will become so oppressive that not even the most diehard tea party evangelical will be able to continue to carry his water.

A list of Republican Speakers of the House who were caught in sex scandals and resigned

Newt Gingrich (resigned 1998, an early Trump supporter)

Bob Livingston (resigned 1999, now a Washington lobbyist)

Denny Hastert (resigned 2007, currently in prison)


Which yellow-dog Republicans should be indicted in Trump-RussiaGate?

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If you’re a Republican these days, your job is to stand by your man. You know that Trump is bad news: repugnant, morally irredeemable, pugnacious and personally repulsive—an old man you wouldn’t let get near your daughter. But none of that matters if you’re a Republican. You have a grim job to do, and that is to protect him.

There used to be a term, “Yellow Dog Democrat,’ meaning someone who would vote for anyone, or anything, as long as the candidate was a Democrat. Nobody knows the phrase’s origin, but no less a personage than Abraham Lincoln used it. It was 1848; Lincoln, in his second term in the U.S. Congress, was campaigning for the Whig presidential candidate, Zachary Taylor, whose opponent was the Democrat, Lewis Cass. Lincoln used his customary wit to chide Cass:

“A fellow once advertised that he had made a discovery by which he could make a new man out of an old one, and have enough of the stuff left to make a little yellow dog. Just such a discovery has Gen. [Andrew] Jackson’s popularity been to you [Democrats]. You not only twice made President of him out of it, but you have had enough of the stuff left to make Presidents of several comparatively small men since; and it is your chief reliance now to make still another.”

Lincoln’s implication was that Democratic voters would support “small men” simply because they were Democrats. (Taylor ended up winning, largely because he’d been a hero in the Mexican Wars, but his presidency was a failure, one of a string of do-nothing, one-term presidencies leading up to the Civil War.)

Well, maybe Democrats used to prefer yellow dogs to human Republicans, but nowadays it’s Republicans who are supporting the yellow dog, whose name is Donald J. Trump. Much wonderment has been expressed by observers as to why so-called Christians are lining up behind a bad man, and what it will take for them to come to their senses and break with him. Trump is playing them like a fiddle: in all his 71 years nobody ever accused him of having a religious bone in his body. But his embrace of evangelicals (the 700 Club interview, the laying on of hands)—patently phony as both were—apparently were enough to bamboozle these credulous people into thinking he’s one of them.

Here are the groups and individuals that are complicit in Donald J. Trump’s crimes of election fraud, collusion with enemies, perjury, obstruction of justice, misprision of treason and, possibly, treason itself:

-The Trump family and members of his inner circle, including the communications people

-Conservative Christians

-The Republican Party, which has become a Mafia of organized crime

-Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the House and Senate leadership, whose support for Trump is exactly analogous to the support of the Nuremberg defendants for Hitler

If there is justice left in America—and I think there is—Robert Mueller will slam these criminals and criminal enterprises, bringing indictments as needed. The Republican Party will, I expect, be hurt for its sufferance of Trump’s ill-doings. As for conservative Christians, we mere mortals are in no position to judge them. We will leave that to their deity. But we can shame them, and isolate them until they have shrunk to small cultish enclaves, scattered among the churches and trailer parks of Deep Red states. Like those fanatical Japanese soldiers on Pacific atolls who fought World War II for decades after the war actually ended, these yellow dog Republicans—dead-enders—will never give up, but will froth and snarl as long as they have breath. As life drains from their bodies, they will wheeze out a final “Benghazi!” Eventually, they will die out, becoming only a pathetic, dark stain on American history.


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