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The anti-anti-Trump movement gathers steam

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Two reports from yesterday suggest things are actually worse in this country than I’d thought. One traced the “anti-anti-Trump” movement. The other showed a group of (mostly white male) protesters at a rally chanting “Russia is our friend.”

The “anti-anti-Trump” movement consists of individuals who feel that Trump must be doing something right every time he gets liberals mad at him.” They display a combination of “the tribal instinct to circle the wagons around President Trump and the sheer glee that comes from seeing how angry he makes liberals.”

Perfectly understandable, I suppose, from the point of view of:

  1. Right wingers who hate “coastal elites” and everything they stand for
  2. Religious extremists who don’t care about the character of their leader as long as the content of his policies comports with their views
  3. White males whose anger at seeing the country become increasingly diversified is inclining them to violence.

The term “sheer glee” points to the game-like quality that motivates these extreme Trump supporters. They see this as some sort of Hunger Games, a dystopian combat in which they get to dress up in military gear, open-carry their assault guns, and in general borrow from the congenial street spirit of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung (S.A.), the brown-shirted paramilitary fighters of the early Nazi regime. These were men who fought for their Nazi ideas (to the extent they had any) but also for the joy of fighting: drawing and shedding blood, and sometimes murdering, gave their otherwise meaningless lives meaning.

The anti-anti Trump movement’s base continues to be talk radio. Their ideological fathers are Pat Buchanan, Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace; their guiding ideology is that “America’s cosmopolitan, deracinated ruling elite ha[s] betrayed the white Christians to whom the country truly belonged.”

Who are the anti-anti-Trumpists, in particular? They are the “self-described supporters of white culture” who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Here’s a map of red and blue counties in the 2016 election; we must assume that all that red stuff is populated by anti-anti-Trumpists.

The Charlottesville demonstrators were the alt.right; they lit torches, Nuremberg-style, for their nighttime parade and repeatedly chanted “Russia is our friend.” What is shocking about this, of course, is that if anyone else was president now—Democrat or Republican—this mob of America Firsters would be denouncing communist Russia, as the right has for the last 70 years. But part of being anti-anti-Trump is that anything his opponents dislike must, by definition, be something they like. This suggests, naturally, that their mental processes are warped: reality has turned upside-down in their minds, something George Orwell anticipated at the end of Animal Farm, when the animals realize “they can no longer distinguish which of the cardplayers are pigs and which are human beings.” The anti-anti-Trumpists similarly no longer care what is good for America and what is bad; all they care about is the “sheer glee” of being perverse.

Things have come to a pretty pass with these related developments. I must assume that the 35%-40% of Trump’s support that continues to remain steady consists of these anti-anti-Trumpists. That’s an awful lot of Americans who may be suffering from some form of mental illness. Given their immunity to reality, there’s probably nothing Trump could do that would cause them to turn against him. Knowing that emboldens Trump; he already shows authoritarian, if not dictatorial, instincts. A more assured Trump may make moves towards dissolving the free press, and indeed he is likely to move against any person or institution he sees as his enemy—which is a lot of people and institutions. And given the willful impotence of Republicans in Congress, there may be nothing to stand between the continued existence of our liberal democracy and a Trump triumph that could destroy it.

So take another look at the county map I posted above. Trump is said to keep a copy of it on his Oval Office desk, to remind him that no matter how much the “media elites” attack him, he’s still beloved by “the people.” All that red represents a lot of pissed off white Americans; they have guns, and they should scare the hell out of you.

 


The appalling blindness of evangelicals: “In the lake that burns”

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Trump spoke at Liberty “University” over the weekend. I put the word “university” in quotes because this Jerry Falwell-founded project isn’t a real institution of higher learning so much as a Christian madrasa, designed to brainwash students in religious hogwash.

“Evangelism and Christian Life” and “The Person and Work of Christ” are some of the more popular courses. Yes, you can study “IT Structure” and “Nursing Management” but Liberty’s real purpose, according to their mission statement, is to graduate “Christ-centered men and women…to impact the world.” And by “impact,” of course, they mean “convert” the heathens. Naturally, Trump was received with rapturous (you’ll forgive the pun) applause from these people, who seem to conveniently forget (if they ever knew) that he is an unChristian, amoral man who sexually assaults women without their permission, doesn’t pay his bills (and probably not his taxes), lies repeatedly, insults everybody, probably has sold out America’s interests to the Russians, trashes the Constitution, and in general gives the middle finger to everything that Christians profess to believe in.

Very Christ-like!

But Republicans continue to stand by their man. As John Dean, on MSNBC Saturday, noted, “As long as [Trump]’s got support from his base, Republicans aren’t going to touch him.”

What the heck do they teach those students at Liberty anyway? I wonder if the faculty laughs up their sleeves in the Master of Theology in Homiletics class when they instruct budding preachers how to deliver sermons on such Jesus sayings as “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” If there were honest conversations at Liberty “University,” they’d go like this:

Student: “Do you think Donald Trump, who has gained the world, possesses a soul?”

Teacher: “No. I think he sold his soul to the devil. I wouldn’t let my daughter near him.  But as long as he’s in favor of lowering taxes, increasing military spending, charter schools, building that Mexican wall, ending gay marriage, shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency, mining coal, sticking it to the Hollywood elite, and stopping abortion, I’m for him.”

As we know from the New Testament, Jesus often preached about deporting illegal immigrants, lowering taxes, and the advantages of coal. But seriously, what Jesus did say about politics can be summed up in “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” Unfortunately, at Liberty, and indeed throughout the evangelical community, the true meaning of Jesus’s words is twisted into advancing the political goals of the far right wing of the Republican Party. They have mutated Jesus’s homily to “Render unto Trump everything, and as for God, may he forgive us for enabling The Beast.”

I’ve been around for a long time and have studied the demographic groups within America, including my own, trying to fathom what makes them tick. What are their ideals, their dreams? What do they hope to accomplish? Upon what assumptions do they base their beliefs? What groups advance our American ideals, and what groups threaten them? And time and time again, I conclude that the most dangerous group in America is evangelicals. I despair of their inability to think critically. I wince at their smugness. I cringe at the abandon with which they throw away their God-given reasoning skills and substitute an evidence-free belief in superstition and myth. I take grave offense at the ease with which they consign whole swaths of humankind to the fires of hell, while they believe themselves—with their many sins—guaranteed entry into heaven. I denounce their intrusion into politics, and their wanton lust to turn America into a Christian theocracy, if necessary, by force. Most of all, I hate their sucking up to this sick, morally unfit, crass, vulgar and mendacious president. Liberty “University” students and faculty and administrators, look in the mirror and see what you have become: useful idiots to the Republican Party, conservative stooges who conceal your distemper behind a fake veneer of love. Your President Trump is Christian in name only. He is the opposite of Christian: in your embrace of him, you have brought paganism into your inner sanctum and elevated idols unto godlike status. From the Book of Revelations: But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”


Two questions for Comey

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What are we to make of Trump’s statement (unconfirmed by Comey) that Comey told him “three times” that he (Trump) was not a target of the investigation? He made that claim to Lester Holt yesterday.

Trump’s assertion raises two serious questions.

First question: How many times have we heard law enforcement officials say they can’t reveal who may or may not be under investigation? It’s routine for them to say that. So, if a law enforcement official can’t publicly reveal if someone is under investigation, why is it okay for them to reveal it in a private conversation, and to the very person who may or may not be the target of the investigation? Curious and troubling. So, Mr. Comey, did you actually say that to Trump not once, not twice, but three times?

Second question: Even assuming that Comey did tell Trump he’s not under investigation, how would Comey have reached that conclusion before the investigation has been completed? How would Comey have known that, for instance, Trump didn’t collaborate on some level with the Russians, or that Trump did not order his subordinates (Page, Manafort, Flynn, etc.) to collaborate with the Russians? Those questions are fundamental to this investigation; we are led to believe that the House and Senate Committees, and the FBI, are getting into the details, but all three are far from reaching conclusions. So, Mr. Comey, how could you reassure Trump he’s investigation-free before the investigation is finished?

You know, all we have for this assertion, without Comey’s input, is Trump’s word for it—and a pathological liar’s “word” isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

One would hope that these questions will be answered next Wednesday, when Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That hearing, unfortunately, will not be open to the public, which raises another troubling issue: far too much information that the public is entitled to know is kept secret in closed hearings. I can understand why some hearings need to be closed; after all, you don’t want to reveal the names of American agents, or the particulars of, say, how we combat cyberwarfare. But why can’t the public hear Comey answer my two questions? He wouldn’t be revealing national secrets, or endangering anybody except, obviously, Trump.

Right after the Lester Holt interview aired, I checked out Trump’s @realDonaldTrump twitter feed, and he was attacking Richard Blumenthal, Roger Stone, Democrats in general, Comey, Chris Murphy, Chuck Schumer, Sally Yates and Jim Clapper with his usual combination of anger and hysteria. With all the problems piling up (North Korea, Syria, Iran, the economy, jobs, tax reform, healthcare, just to mention a few), how is it that Trump spends so much time ranting on Twitter? It really makes you think that Comey was right when he said Trump is “outside the realm of normal” and “crazy.”

Speaking of Trump’s mental state, I’m noticing a lot more reference lately, from posts on social media, to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution—specifically Section 4: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to…the Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Notice that no hearings are required, no congressional votes, no judicial ruling. The process is automatic and “immediate.” Pence couldn’t do it alone; he would need “the principal officers” of the administration (presumably, senior Cabinet members) to go along, but he could do it without executive branch members if he got senior leaders of the legislative body (presumably, the Speaker and the Majority Leader, and perhaps certain committee chairs). All it would take would be two letters (to the Speaker and to the President pro tempore of the Senate) and that would be it. No more Trump. What could he do, surround the White House with federal troops and refuse to step down? Wacky, science-fictiony stuff, but we have a POTUS straight out of a Hollywood horror movie about a madman in the Oval Office, lending further credence to the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.


From the fog of the Comey firing, a few things are clear

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In my post yesterday, after news of the Comey firing broke, I declined to take a position, because I didn’t have enough information to make an informed judgment. Too many people react to situations like this in a kneejerk way, before they have the facts. I’m trying to give Trump the benefit of the doubt.

After paying close attention since then, and listening to a variety of sources, left and right, here’s my take, although I will admit that I still find the thing pretty obscure. Anyhow:

Trump and his compliant Republicans are arguing that it’s hypocritical for Democrats to be upset by the firing, since Dems were angry at Comey for handing the election to Trump, and many of them (including me) had called for him to be fired, or quit. According to Republicans, Dems hated Comey then, but now they’ve become crybabies and his biggest defenders.

Let me explain this to the GOP.

Yes, we Democrats hated Comey. He did something awful: writing that stupid letter to Congress less than three weeks before the election. That most certainly caused enough voters to switch at the last minute from Hillary to Trump.

And yes, Democrats now are enormously upset at Comey’s abrupt firing by the subject of his investigation, Trump. So how do Democrats get around the hypocrisy charge? Easy. Comey appeared to be leading a fair, impartial, independent investigation into Trump/Russia—which is all that Democrats ever wanted. I may have questioned his motives and independence prior to the election. But I was prepared to let History be the judge, and to let Comey, using the FBI’s vast resources, do his job now.

And then came the firing. The White House is said to have been “surprised” at the reaction of Democrats, whom they apparently thought would celebrate the firing. That just shows how politically inept and tone-deaf Trump and his enablers are. Why should it be so hard for them to understand that, while, Democrats were royally pissed off at Comey, at the same time they were gladdened by the way the FBI investigation was going? Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time.

There are also new reports that Trump has been “screaming at the TV” whenever reports about RussiaGate come on, which is most of the time on the cable news networks. I’m sure he’s frustrated. All I can say is that he brought this upon himself, and has no one to blame except the man in the mirror.

The battle is now on for the hearts and minds of the American public. I think this represents a turning point in their assessment of Trump. Obviously, hardcore Trumpistas won’t care. As Trump himself once said, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and they’d still support him.

But the loosy-goosy percentage in the middle who voted for Trump and whose minds are actually open to reality are starting to rethink their assessment. It is becoming increasingly evident that Trump has something to hide concerning his Russia ties, and the revelation that Trump fired Comey just days after Comey asked for more “resources” for the investigation strongly suggests a determined effort by a frightened, angry Trump to stop it or at least postpone it until he figures out how to regroup. I’m guessing there’s plenty of bewilderment among Republicans, and that it will show up in the next polling cycle.


Five issues, besides RussiaGate, to attack Trump

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[I wrote this post yesterday, shortly before the news broke about Trump firing Comey. I’m not going to comment on that bombshell, yet. It doesn’t look good for Trump; maybe this is the beginning of the end. But I don’t pretend to understand it at this point. So here’s my original post.]

Here are five issues Democrats can use to chip away at Trump’s support. It’s not that RussiaGate isn’t a good one, for now. It distracts him—keeps him off-balance and on the defensive. It could actually lead to downfalls, if not of him personally then of some of those around him. But Democrats should not put all their chips on RussiaGate, which may, ultimately, be a big yawn. Here are five other issues Trump is vulnerable on.

  1. His taxes. By a wide majority, Americans are concerned about Trump not releasing his taxes. They are unconvinced by his repeated lie that “no one cares.” They do care. Americans instinctively understand that Trump is getting away with something they could not. Because he’s rich, and can hire the best lawyers, he can thwart laws that would ensnare them. It’s fundamentally unfair. So #ReleaseYourTaxes has traction.
  2. The family’s financial conflicts of interest. Even the most diehard free marketer and tea party stalwart has got to be concerned by seeing Jared, Ivanka and various Trump relatives and in-laws running around the world, trading on their name, opening new hotels and golf courses, and getting even richer. Everybody knows that the family’s businesses are helped immeasurably by the fact that “Trump” is not only a brand, he’s President of the United States. This rubs Americans the wrong way; they believe that success should be due to hard work, not family connections. And Trump devolving power on his family smacks of something Americans hate: nepotism.
  3. TrumpCare. We’ll have to see what the Senate does, but right now, Americans are concerned with what the House has done. Their healthcare rights are about to be stripped away, their out-of-pocket costs increased. Whether you’re a Republican or not, it’s hard to watch Grannie’s diabetes coverage taken away by a gigantic insurance company that doesn’t give a damn about her. Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. Keep your eye on those town halls.
  4. Trump’s moral fitness and character deficiencies. Everybody knows he’s a bad person: a liar, a boaster, an insulter, an adulterer, a pussy groper, unhumble, a bully. Christians ought to be especially concerned at how Trump trashes every moral and ethical scripture in their Bible. Most of them, I think, also know that his claim of being a believing Christian is bogus. So far, they’re standing by their man. But the message needs to be hammered home: You would not let your daughter near this predator. He’s the opposite of Christian. Pagan, is more like it.
  5. Trump’s connections to white supremacists, survivalists, xenophobes and other domestic menaces. We Democrats understand this. Too many in the Rust Belt do not. We have to assume, however, that those angry white men have a conscience–a sense of decency, if not patriotism, that can be appealed to. As some level, they understand the danger of thousands upon thousands of Timothy McVeighs, David Dukes and Dylann Roofs, encouraged by Trump’s and Bannon’s white nationalism, joining forces and readying themselves for warfare with “liberals.” Even Republicans who hate Hollywood liberals don’t want to see another Civil War.

(You’ll notice I didn’t include Trump’s war on science and the environment. This is because, while these things infuriate Democrats, I don’t think Republicans, even moderate ones, care very much about them. “By their fruits you will know them.”)

These are five lines of attack Democrats ought not to forget, in the giddiness of RussiaGate. That each of them has the power to inflict damage on Trump is proved by the fact that Trump consistently rails against them—if he wasn’t afraid, he wouldn’t care–and that the various branches of Rupert Murdoch’s empire—especially Fox “News” and the Wall Street Journal—barely mention them; and, when they have to write about them, they downplay their significance. Heimoff’s Law: Whatever Murdoch is afraid of is exactly what Democrats should pursue.


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