Well, Trump has accomplished one thing, anyway: Congressional Republicans and Democrats have achieved a rare degree of bipartisan agreement—on the need to investigate Trump!
It is almost unprecedented for Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes to appear side-by-side, and in complete unanimity. The occasion was yesterday’s press conference concerning the House Select Intelligence Committee’s progress in investigating the various Trump scandals, including his fake tweets that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
The Committee’s conservative Republican chair, Nunes: “There is no evidence that President Obama tapped Trump Tower. If you take the [Trump] tweets literally, the President is wrong.”
The Committee’s ranking Democrat, Schiff: “It deeply concerns me that the President would make such a statement with no basis. You can’t level an accusation of this type without retracting it or explaining just why it was done.”
Meanwhile, across Capitol Hill, comes this vapid statement from the White House: “We remain confident the President will be vindicated in this claim.” As he was with “Obama was born in Kenya” and “Five million illegals voted for Hillary.”
The man just can’t help himself.
We are down the rabbit hole, friends. The question concerning this President always has been, When will his supporters turn against him? He currently has two main pillars of support: Congressional Republicans, in both the Senate and the House, and the ordinary people who voted for him. These two groups don’t necessarily march in lockstep; I always felt that Trump’s voters would be the last to turn on him, for several reasons: (a) they’re low-information voters anyway, who don’t know what’s happening, and (b) they have so much invested in Trump’s success, emotionally-speaking, that it will be very difficult for them to admit they made a terrible mistake.
So it will have to be Congressional Republicans that take him on, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing, with this dramatic team effort in which Nunes was aware of the powerful symbolism of standing next to Schiff. Nunes is from a solidly red district in California’s Central Valley; unlike his Republican colleague, Darrell Issa, Nunes won re-election last Fall by a huge majority, nearly 64% of the vote against the Democrat. Politically, Issa has to pretend to be cozying up to independents; Nunes doesn’t, which is why what he did, in fundamentally coming out and calling Trump a liar, is so breathtaking.
For conservative Republicans, the election of Trump, and his aberrant behavior, presents them with a Hobson’s Choice: they can accept his lies, his immorality, his fundamental indecency as a human being, in exchange for getting some tea party things done; OR they can uphold the “Christian” values they, themselves, profess to believe in, every one of which is negated by this flawed President. It’s either-or, not both: They cannot stand by their man and at the same time look their children in the eye, or themselves in the mirror, and pretend to be proud of their leader. Conservative, tea party Republicans are the most partisan group of extremists I’ve seen in my lifetime; but even they are starting to realize they’re going to have to do something courageous that extends far beyond partisan politics: Be a patriot and start thinking about America before party.
The old question of “what is a right” has become current again with the Republican insistence on repealing the Affordable Care Act and the (predictable) finding by the Congressional Budget Office that, if they do, 24 million Americans will lose their healthcare coverage.
The Constitution brought the concept of “rights” into our ongoing national discussion. Some rights are both explicitly spelled out—“the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” “the right of the people to be secure in their persons,” ”the right to a speedy and public trial”—while others are implicitly suggested: for example, there is no “right” to be protected from the government seizing private property, but if it does, “due process of law” and “just compensation” must be regarded.
But what “originalists” always miss, when it comes to their interpretation of the Constitution, is that it was ratified in 1789, nearly 230 years ago, before a lot of realities of modern life were even conceived; and thus, to insist on interpreting it exactly as the Founders would have thought is crazy. Does a gay couple have the right to marry? The Constitution is silent; there was no such thing in 1789. Does a sperm donor have the right to be involved in the rearing of his biological child? The question would have made no sense to the Founders—but it does today. In these instances, as in so many others, we grapple with the answers—through the courts, and through the political process. But to insist that the only rights—explicit or implicit—that Americans have are those spelled out in the Constitution is really very stupid.
Clear-thinking Supreme Court justices understand this. One of the best was William O. Douglas, who wrote the majority opinion in one of the most famous Supreme Court decisions in history, Griswold v. Connecticut. In this case, the Court found that Americans do have an inherent “right to privacy,” even though this right is not spelled out in the Constitution. The specifics of the case were prompted by Connecticut trying to outlaw birth control; by a 7-2 decision the Court held otherwise, declaring that, even though there was no explicit right in the Constitution to birth control (interpreted as “privacy”), that such a “right by implication” exists in the form of a “penumbra,” an “emanation” from the Constitution, which seems to foster human freedom, autonomy and liberty. This decision was widely ridiculed by conservative elements—“originalists”—who argued, and continue to argue to this day, that such “penumbras” are fantastical imaginations on the part of liberal judges. (Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia are the most recent examples of such illogical “originalists.”)
So we now come to the conversation over whether healthcare is a “right,” a “penumbra,” or something else. I ask: What the hell difference does it make? The hard fact is that every American needs it. The Founders could not possible have envisioned our system of healthcare, with insurance, premiums, actuarial tables, high-tech machines and pharmaceuticals, not to mention the fabulous sums of money healthcare costs, particularly when people are old. They made no provision for it, so we have to decide for ourselves.
Meanwhile, lost in the arcane subtleties of “what is a right and what isn’t?” are 24 million Americans, mostly elderly, who will lose all healthcare insurance. Lost, too, are the millions more whose premiums will go up significantly. Lost are the hospitals and related healthcare services that will close, lost is the research that will not be funded and the drugs that will not be developed. Lost, politically, will be the trust that the people who voted for this catastrophe, Trump, invested in him, and in his Republican Party. That laid-off 52-year old white man who voted for Trump now will lose his and his family’s health insurance. When Trump was stumping through the Rust Belt, invoking the name of “Obama” as a curse word to thousands of similar angry working-class white men, they wore their little “Make America Great” hats and cheered him on, even as they screamed “Mexico” when he asked them who would pay for the wall and “Jail her!” when he invoked Hilary’s name. Now, you will permit me an indulgence when I say I’m glad these white men are going to have their comeuppance. “I told you so” is not a pretty thing to have to say to someone. But they were told; they were warned; and they refused to heed. Now, their worlds are going to be thrown upside down. This healthcare fiasco, is it goes through, is going to cost them and their families a lot more money than many of them can afford; and many of them are going to die. Whose fault will that be? Obama’s? Certainly not, although Trump will lie and say it is. Will it be Trump’s fault? No, not really. He is only the manifestation of their stupidity. It will be their own fault, the credulous, low information, angry white people who voted for him. They will have met the enemy—and it is themselves.
Short post today, because the family and I went up to Sonoma County for a few days of wine tasting. Yes, even a Trump basher is allowed to take time off for rest and recovery! We went to Matanzas Creek, where we had a fabulous wine-and-cheese pairing, to Longboard, the winery of my old buddy Oded Shakked, and to Verité, which makes red, Bordeaux-style wines that are among the best in the world. For the frosting on the cake, the weather finally changed: After three months of the coldest, rainiest weather in many years, it was around 80 degrees in wine country.
Even traveling, however, you can’t help but hear bits and snippets of the news. I heard that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million Americans will lose their healthcare insurance if Trumpcare passes.
Well, it’s nice that the experts now have weighed in on something many of us predicted months ago, but really, does anyone believe the Repuiblican Party gives a damn about healthcare insurance? They fought it for decades: fought Nixon and Carter, fought Hillary and Bill, fought Obama. They only discovered they cared about it when their enemy, Obama, actually did something about it.
In reply to the CBO analysis, Republicans will bluster their usual falsehoods. CBO is “fake news,” which is ridiculous, of course. The second is a lie that Trump has repeatedly told: that more Americans than ever will have healthcare, at lower cost, under the Republican plan. As lies go, this is even worse that “Obama tapped my phone” or “Hillary had millions of illegal votes” or “Obama was born in Kenya” or “I never groped anyone’s pussy” because the Republican plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act will cause the suffering and death of millions of people.
How the Republican Party gets away with this merde is unbelievable. I imagine some angry, white, laid-off assembly line worker in Indiana—let’s call him “Ned”–who voted for Trump. How is he feeling these days? He probably went to a rally where, when Trump yelled “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?”,” the crowd, including Ned, screamed “Mexico!” I could have told him a long time ago Mexico will never pay for the wall. Now it’s official, and we know that we, the taxpayers, are going to have to pay $2 billion, or $12 billion, or $20 billion, or whatever the hell the damned thing will cost. So what does Ned say? “Well, it’ll be worth it to keep all those rapists out.”
But now Ned’s mother-in-law, Sarah, is going to be thrown off her insurance. How does Ned feel about that? “Well, I didn’t think she would, but…but…” Actually, Ned isn’t sure what to think. He didn’t anticipate this: he just knows that he hated Obama, hence he hated Obamacare, and since he was rational enough—just barely—to realize he needed to justify his hatred on objective facts rather than racism, he believed Trump when he lied that Obamacare was “a disaster.” Now, Ned is faced with having to take care of Sarah. Ned isn’t made out of money; he barely is able to pay the bills; and he tithes ten percent of whatever income he has to the Liberty Baptist Church, where he was born again on August 17, 2005, the day he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That was easy to do: now, paying for Sarah’s healthcare—she has heart disease and diabetes and painful varicose veins—is going to be awfully expensive. Ned: Was it worth getting rid of the Affordable Care Act in light of the fact that Sarah now is your problem? Ned: “Well, we’ll just do what we did before: take her to the emergency room.”
Sigh. There are so many Neds out there…so conflicted…so confused. It’s easy to vote to cut somebody else’s “free money” but when the gravy train extends to you, your family, your Social Security, your Medicare and Medicaid, your clean water, your clean air, your daughter who gets herself knocked up and can’t get a safe, legal abortion, your queer cousin Al who gets fired because his boss hates gay people and now Al has no recourse in the courts, things are somehow different.
Here’s what I hope and think the outcome will be. In the 2018 elections, the disastrous nature of this Trump regime will be apparent to all but the most benighted of tea party crazies. Americans turn out to vote in droves. Democrats regain the House and Senate. We won’t have the White House until 2020, but at least we’ll be able to properly investigate Trump’s probably treasonous ties to Russia. Until then, my message to Democratic Senators and congressmen is: Hold tight. Resist. We have your back. And do not, under any circumstances, vote for any Supreme Court nominee nominated by this illegitimate president. They wouldn’t let Obama’s man even have a vote: don’t let Trump’s. Tit for tat. The Resistance is succeeding. Do not tire. Do not doubt. We have to purge this current fever blister, Trump, from our collective body, in order to heal and rise to ever greater heights.
I’ve written before how even the Wall Street Journal news section, as opposed to its hideously biased op-ed pages, slants and spins the news in a favorable way towards Republicans and Trump, at the expense of giving its readers the truth. Several of my readers have asked me for proof of this, so here we go.
Headline, weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal: “Trump Didn’t Know of Flynn’s Work for Turkey.”
As soon as I read it, I thought, How does the headline writer know that Trump didn’t know? Can he read his mind? Then I read the first sentence: “President Donald Trump was unaware Michael Flynn had recently been consulting on behalf of the Turkish government when the president picked him to be his national security advisor, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.”
You see how it works? If you’re a typical reader, you first read the headline, then the first sentence, and you take in the sentence’s information in the order it’s given. In other words, you’ve had it drummed into your head, not once but twice, that “Trump didn’t know.” Only after this dual reinforcement do you come across that spectacular qualifier, “White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Friday.”
This is a teaching moment in how to package propaganda in the guise of “news.” Let me ask you a question: Do you believe everything Sean Spicer says? Most of it? Some of it? None of it? The Huffington Post (which publishes this blog), recently compiled a list of 100 lies Trump and his team, including Spicer, have dumped on the American people. Spicer has lied on behalf of Trump so many times, it’s become a joke—even to him. At Friday’s presser with the White House media, someone asked him about Trump’s celebration of the most recent jobs report, when Trump had previously complained that previous job reports were “totally fiction.” Spicer’s reply: “Yeah, I talked to the President prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly – ‘They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.’” (Laughter.)
Spicer is Trump’s water carrier, repeating his lies; when he knows that everybody in the room knows he’s lying, he grins and lets it be known that all he’s doing is saying what the President told him to say. (The fact that there was so much laughter in the room following his “joke” is a sad commentary on the White House Press Corps, which is increasingly right wing and hand-picked by Spicer.)
But back to how the Wall Street Journal manipulates even the regular news to get into peoples’ heads and influence how they interpret events. Any objective, truthful, honest paper, in reporting the Flynn-Turkey scandal, would have had a headline that reads something like, “Aide Says Trump Didn’t Know of Flynn’s Foreign Work.” But the Wall Street Journal is not an objective, truthful, honest paper, it’s a shill for the Republican Party. This is also a good time to point out once again, as I did last week, that “Wall Street Journal staffers are increasingly concerned that the paper’s coverage of President Donald Trump is not critical enough and too willing to defend his actions rather than serve a watchdog role.” If I had written the Flynn-Turkey story (which was by Ted Mann, James V. Grimaldi and Gordon Lubold), I would have placed the Spicer connection in the headline; or, of those guys didn’t write the headline (headers usually are written by editors), I would have included something in the article to indicate that I, the writer, am well aware of Spicer’s sketchy reputation of playing fast and loose with the truth, and covering up for his boss. And if I were the actual headline writer—whose name we don’t know–I certainly would have included the “Aide Says” qualifier.
But then, Wall Street Journal headline writers and reporters report to senior editors who report to the Murdoch family. Look, it’s intentionally misleading what the Wall Street Journal does on a daily basis. But that’s precisely why they’re just about the only major national paper that Trump doesn’t routinely criticize as publishing “fake news.” Because, folks, that’s what they do.
Once upon a time, a long time ago—before most people alive today were born—there was a thing called the Nuremberg Trials. This was an international Court of Justice held to try the major figures of Nazi Germany, after Germany lost World War Two. The German city of Nuremberg was chosen, partly because it had one of the few structures that remained intact to house the Court, after most German cities had been destroyed by American and British bombs; but the choice also was symbolic. Nuremberg was a center of Hitler’s rise to power. It was in Bavaria, his stronghold—sort of like a modern Republican red state. Nuremberg was where Hitler held his greatest rallies—it was where Leni Reifenstahl filmed “Triumph of the Will.” And, in the end, Nuremberg was where a major portion of Nazi Germany’s leadership, civilian and military, were hanged.
A good part of the Hitler narrative concerns how such a madman rose to power, or was allowed to rise to power. Looking back in retrospect, it’s easy to say that Germany should have gone a different route. Most people, including Germans, knew that he was bonkers. Most of his Generals and Admirals thought he was a blithering idiot. The media—and Germany had one of the healthiest newspapers industries in the world—did what they could, at first, to report on him and his associates and their awful predilections for disinformation and violence. It didn’t matter. One by one, Hitler disassembled them. He bamboozled the people by playing to their fears and hatreds. He went right past his Generals and Admirals by threatening their jobs and appealing to their patriotism, even though they knew he was bad news; and if they continued to resist him, he fired them. As for the legitimate media, they were beaten up by his storm troopers, rounded up by his S.S., and brought to concentration camps if they dared to write anything that might offend Der Fuehrer. In the end, there was nobody to stand up to Hitler. The result: 60 million deaths, the destruction of Germany and its allies, and a major victory for Hitler’s avowed arch-enemy, Soviet Russia.
America stands now at a crossroads and needs to look to history to figure out where to go. I do not think a lot of people read history anymore. I think Republicans know even less history than Democrats. So allow me to explain. The Nazis appealed to their base through an ideology of resentment, race and nationalism. This current President appeals to his base through an ideology of Christian resentment and nationalism that also includes racial, xenophobic and homophobic elements. But the end result is similar. We are witnessing the coming of an authoritarian regime of paranoia and untrammeled lust for power, fueled by untruths that the Republican Party seems unconcerned with. The major charge leveled against those Nazi defendants in Nuremberg—beyond the specific charges, which varied by individual—was that they aided and abetted a criminal regime. They could have done something, but did nothing, to prevent it; hence, they were complicit. And their complicity caused them to swing by the neck from a rope in the courtyard of the Nuremberg Prison.
This is a cautionary tale: to Pence, to Priebus, to Spicer, to Kellyanne, to Ryan, to McConnell, to Trump’s Generals and Admirals, to his CIA director and to the entirety of his cabal, and, perhaps most interestingly, to James Comey. Your time is running out. You still have opportunity to warn us, particularly you, Mr. Comey, who are so afraid to stand up to your boss. Frick, Ribbentrop, Jodl, Keitel, Streicher, Seyss-Inquart, Sauckel—their names are well known to historians—were hanged at Nuremberg. Himmler, Goring, Goebbels and Hitler himself, not to mention his wife, in addition to scores of other Nazi leaders, killed themselves before they could be arrested.
I have no doubt that, someday, America will have its own version of the Nuremberg Trials, to bring before a Court of Justice this rogue regime. Where will it be held? Symbolism is important. My suggestion is to have it at Mar-a-Lago. At 110,000 square feet, it’s commodious enough to house the Justices, the witnesses, the defendants, and the media who will cover it. Perhaps in the future, the Mar-a-Lago Trials will stand beside the Nuremberg Trials as shining examples of how decent world citizens, sickened by criminal regimes, held evil-doers to justice.
Look, I do realize that Republicans hate these comparisons between their Leader and Hitler. So I’ll make this a little easier to swallow. There is a huuuge, major difference between the two men. Hitler worked on behalf Germany, or at least his understanding of what was in Germany’s interests. Trump is working for–whom? We don’t know. Let’s get an independent Special Prosecutor and find out.