Thursdays’s big lie, at Trump’s insane press conference, was, “The leaks are real, the news is fake.”
I can practically overhear those water cooler conversations in Red States. “’Course, it’s a shame that guy, what’s-his-name, Flynn, was so dishonest, and so disloyal to the President,” says Mrs. Bingham, who organized “Farm Wives For Trump” in Olawatchie County. “He shouldna done what he done, whatever that was, I guess. But those dishonest medias, they lie all the time, so the news about the leaks is fake, fake, fake.”
Her co-worker, Mr. Needham, who contributed $50 to the Trump campaign in ten small donations, shakes his head. “Well, if that’s what President Trump says, I guess it’s true. ‘Cause he don’t lie.”
Never mind how the leaks can be real, but the reporting about the leaks is fake. Never mind that the content of the leaks is so damaging to Trump and his people. Trump voters don’t bother themselves with such fine intellectual distinctions. “If he says it’s true, then I guess it is.”
But there was so much more news yesterday than merely Trump’s lie of the day. Flynngate! It took the Wall Street Journal a couple days to wrap their heads around this biggest scandal yet to hit their man. You could almost imagine the meetings of senior management. “How’re we gonna report on this?” “Mr. Murdoch says to soft-pedal it.” So they give the beta response to good old Henninger, as conscienceless a columnist as I’ve ever read. Here’s his defense of his President. (1) Everybody does stuff like Flynn did, so fageddaboudit. (2) Besides, things may be chaotic, but it’s all part of draining the swamp. (3) And anyhow, comparisons with Nixon and Watergate are incorrect, because “Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven…but only after he…lost the support of his own party in Congress.”
Read that again. Yes, you got it right: “Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven.” Well, if Ford had let him be tried, it would have been proven–but there was a deal…Anyhow, tto this outfit—the Trumpsters, Wall Street Journal hacks like Henninger—since there’s no such thing as a “real fact,” then it follows that nothing can be “proven.” Was it “proven” that Nixon ordered the break-in and then lied about it for two years? Well, yes, despite the avoidance of a trial. The smoking gun tapes prove it; History has reached that conclusion. If you believe in little things like truth, facts and evidence, then it’s been conclusively proven that Nixon broke many laws.
But the Trump crowd operates on the assumption that “History” doesn’t matter. “Conclusions” are soft, “truth” relative, reality something plastic to be shaped by the best performer. “Evidence” can be manufactured. One man’s “fact” is another’s “fake news.” Obfuscate enough–and the bigger the lie, the better–and the voter will become hopelessly confused, as Mrs. Bingham and Mr. Needham are, around that Red State water cooler.
Along other lines, my fellow Americans, these boycotts of Trump-friendly corporations are taking their toll. We all know about Uber and how Kalanick quit from that little business roundtable because his Millennials were #DeletingUber by the hundreds of thousands. But Uber’s hardly alone. Under Armour’s CEO just announced he’ll fight Trump’s Muslim ban, but he said so only after a slew of athletes, including Steph Curry, criticized him for earlier backing the President.
That’s a form of boycott. There are also widespread consumer boycotts in progress against Trump’s own businesses (including Ivanka’s barely-alive clothing brand). We all know how Nordstrom’s dropped her line after social media took her on. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Amazon are on the target list because they sell Trump stuff; See’s Candy and Trident gum are, too, because they advertise on “Celebrity Apprentice.” LendingTree and New Balance sneakers find themselves boycotted, too, because their CEOs raised money for the Trump campaign.
This is good stuff, citizens. We may have lost the last election, but we can vote with our wallets. The woman behind many of these boycotts, Shannon Coulter, really deserves kudos for doing this. Check out her website, Grab Your Wallet (the name is a pun on Trump’s “grab their pussies”). It lists all the companies Shannon could find that support Trump and his nepotistic family. I don’t expect you to avoid all of them. I’ll still shop at Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond, and I’ll still watch Ultimate Fighting even though their president is a rightwinger who strongly endorsed Trump. But I’ll try to limit my involvement with them. This boycott movement is all part of #TheResistance, so I hope you’ll look at Shannon’s list and figure out which companies you can boycott.
Have a great weekend!
It’s been one of the great experiences and privileges of my life to be part of #TheResistance. That’s the generally accepted Twitter hashtag for this growing movement of Americans against the reactionary, imbecilic and dangerous regime of Donald Trump.
I don’t know if there’s been anything like it since the Sixties and the anti-war movement. I was on the fringe of that resistance. Not a big part of it, but sympathetic. Back then, the issue was, of course, Vietnam. I had watched the war build up, from the early days in ’63-’64 to LBJ’s massive increase in troops, which led to the historic street demonstrations that continued long after Nixon swept into office. I was against the war, more or less—couldn’t see any good reason for it, and I certainly didn’t buy into the (now completely discredited) domino theory. But I wasn’t a huge anti-war person, because by ’65 or so, I’d become part of what would later be called the hippie movement, and our slogan—“turn on, tune in, drop out”—precluded major involvement in political causes in favor of a more introspective lifestyle. Still, I went on a couple protests against the war, including the 1966 one led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that marched from Central Park to the United Nations.
The anti-war movement, when you think about it, didn’t really amount to much, beyond lots of headlines. The war didn’t end in ‘67’, or ’68, or ’69, or ’70, or ’71, or ’72, or ’73, or ’74. It took until April, 1975, for it to be over. Nixon had famously declared, six years earlier (Dec. 1969), that the war would shortly be over due to his “secret plan” to end it.
Nixon had no such secret plan. He simply lied. But still, enough Americans believed he would end the war that they elected him over Hubert Humphrey.
Nixon was the most infamous liar of his day, and the most mendacious U.S. President ever, until—well, you know. Now we have another person who was elected President by telling lies that gullible people believed. His latest was yesterday, when he promised he would achieve “a great peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
He won’t. He’ll do his best to kill a two-state solution, which means that the right wing Netanyahu regime will continue, and the two sides will be further apart than ever—and the dangers to Americans will exponentially increase. But let’s give Trump the benefit of a doubt: we won’t be able to say he lied about “a great peace deal” for a couple more years. Then we can say it—and when that happens, assuming he’s still alive, he’ll find someone—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the New York Times, ISIS, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Democrats, the crooked media, Planned Parenthood—to blame.
Which brings me back to #TheResistance. It may be (and I hope it is) that, someday, our children and grandchildren will ask us what we did to oppose the imposition of fascism upon our democracy. For me, it began on August 22, 2016, the day I announced my retirement and told readers that this blog would transition from one about wine “to demolish[ing] the Republican Party, which deserves it.”
A week later (Sept. 1), I mentioned Trump for the first time, in a piece I headlined “Dr. Donald’s Trumpsparilla: Selling quack nostrums to gullible Americans.” I can’t say I saw through Trump’s lies earlier than anyone else; I think all Democrats did. He’s still at it, lying left and right, and his supporters are still buying it—so far—because (near as I can tell), although they know he’s an asshole, he’s their asshole.
So I’ve been a member of #TheResistance for going on six months. We’re winning: the Puzder fiasco is an early sign of our gathering strength. If anything, I’m more fired up than ever, because the dangers posed by this #IllegitimatePresident (another good hashtag) are more apparent every day. As many of you know, I don’t have kids—hence, no grandkids—but if I did, someday I would have loved to sit down with them and tell them about these glorious days, when Americans of every stripe united to end the tyranny of Donald Trump. How will this resistance end? Remember, Nixon—in his hubris and anger—managed to get himself impeached and had to quit. Even his fellow Republicans eventually decided that he was too much. That’s what I think is going to happen to Trump. Another hashtag: #GoneBySummer. If you’re not part of #TheResistance, doing whatever you can to fight, “I hope someday you’ll join us.”
At this point in the brief but increasingly troubling tenure of this current administration, we’re so used to scandals, conflicts of interest and foreign policy blunders that Trouble—with a capital “T,” as The Music Man might sing—has been normalized. This, of course, may well be the aim of Donald Trump, Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and other Trump minions. If there’s so much bad stuff happening almost every day, the media can hardly be expected to follow up on any of it. Too much happening! Short attention span! And, in the interim, Trump & Team get away with the most remarkable breaches of conduct, if not actual crimes.
The latest scandal, of course, is this business with ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. That he deliberately lied to everyone is now proven. That he may have broken numerous Federal laws is likely. That he might have been subject to blackmail by Putin is eerily similar to the suggestions that Trump himself was beholden to Putin in the matter of the Dossier. And so—as Democrats are rightly pointing out—we are faced with the latest iteration of the most famous jurisprudential question ever posed concerning a U.S. President: What did Trump know and when did he know it?
Paul Ryan doesn’t seem to care, although you can see how squeamish he is every time he has to drag his buffed body in front of the cameras to respond to get another Trump disaster. “I’ll let the President speak for himself” is his dodge—embarrassing for him, painful for us to have to watch the Speaker of the House pretend that something we all know is awful doesn’t exist. Over in the Senate, McCain and Graham—as usual—are trying to have it both ways: burnishing their indie cred with skeptical-sounding words, but refusing to put their money where their mouths are by, for instance, demanding hearings. Kellyanne Conway, too, is in deer-in-the-headlights mode. She is so out of the loop, so distrusted by everyone at this point (and she looks so awful, the poor thing) that all she can say at her briefings is something along the lines of, “That’s what the President says.” And Trump himself? In one of his greatest lies to date, he claims the problem is—not Flynn’s motives, not his (Trump’s) own ties to Russia—but the “illegal leaks” by which we found out what Flynn did.
How about everyone’s favorite press secretary? The hapless Sean Spicer, who everyday looks and sounds more and more like Melissa McCarthy, faced the press yesterday—“the fun,” he now calls his daily briefings. What did he say? It hardly matters, because it’s what he didn’t say, and can’t say, that counts. He offered the standard excuse that Flynn had lost the President’s trust. Blah blah. What he dodged—either because he, too, is out of the loop and doesn’t know, or because he would lose his job if he told the truth—was what Trump knew about Flynn’s misdeeds and when he knew it. “The President has been incredibly tough on Russia,” Spicer lied—I swear I heard reporters laughing. He bragged about the “incredibly productive meeting” Trump had with Trudeau, even as reports have surfaced that the young, handsome, progressive Canadian Prime Minister’s body language suggested otherwise.
The Spiceman got in the requisite insults of Barack Obama, and claimed Trump’s historic backing of “civil rights.” (More laughter.) He promised that Trump will end “the Arab-Israeli conflict.” (Odds of that?) But back to Flynngate. When Spicer finished his P.R. spin, reporters jumped on the Russian connection. Again, no answers. Not even the pretense of an answer. What did the President know? No answer. When did he know it? Since Spicer won’t acknowledge that the President knew anything, the timing of what he didn’t know is meaningless. Still, the reporters wouldn’t let it go; and all a sputtering, struggling Spicer could fall back on was “Flynn lost the President’s trust.” How about Kellyanne’s remark, made on Monday, that Trump still has “full confidence” in Flynn—only to have Flynn resign under pressure that night? “I’m not going to get into details.”
The poor reporters, they hardly know how to handle such mendacity, such stubbornness, such clichés. Reporters face severe constraints in this sort of media briefing. They depend on facts to ask hard-hitting questions, but when they are denied the facts, they’re stymied. A press briefing is not a good format to get to the bottom of anything. A solid investigation by a reputable newspaper, like the New York Times, is the way to dig up the truth—and we have to hope and pray that the Times and other great news organizations are doing just that. At the same time, Congressional and FBI investigations have the force of law and the subpoena—and these, too, are underway. We’ll find out, soon enough, what Trump knew and when he knew it. And then it’s game on.
And finally, how is that bastion of the right, the Wall Street Journal, handling this latest Trumpian fiasco? Not well. On page 4 is the propagandist, Gerald Seib, arguing that—despite the self-inflicted wounds our new President is inflicting on himself and his party every day—Trump still has a “chance for a reboot.” As if. I suppose Germans were arguing, right up to the end, that Hitler, holed up in his bombed-out bunker, could still win the war…miracle weapons and all that. We know how that turned out.
Of more substance—just a bit—is the paper’s second editorial yesterday. The Journal doesn’t like dealing with things, like Flynngate, that are so damaging to their cause, but they have to, in order to preserve whatever shred of journalistic integrity they still have (or believe themselves to still have). And so, there it is: What is the problem with Flynn? In the Journal’s opinion, spies—not Russian ones, but “U.S. spies,” who leaked Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador. The Journal–echoing the new party line–demands, not that this country get to the bottom of the ties between Trump and Russia, but that we find out who the leakers were!
This is classic bait and switch. Distract attention from the crime by pointing to something else. But wait, wasn’t it Donald Trump who urged Vladimir Putin to hack into Hillary’s emails and leak them?
Why, yes, it was.
The price one pays for not having empathy is the impossibility of imagining how someone else thinks and feels. This is why those Republicans in North Carolina and other states object to transgendered people using the rest room they’re comfortable with. It’s because they—the Republicans—can’t imagine the possibility of a transgendered person simply using a bathroom for the obvious reason of relieving himself or herself. No, these Republicans think there has to be something sexual about it. I always wonder why prudes–which is what Republicans tend to be, especially religious ones—are so hung up on sex.
Well, for starters, they need some group to hate on, to prove their moral superiority. They can’t hate on blacks anymore—they lost that one. They can’t hate on gays anymore—lost that one, too. Who’s left? Muslims, obviously, and Mexicans, and—well, actually, if you’re a Republican, there are still a lot of groups to hate on, including blacks and gays. But if you’re on the witch hunt for a shiny, brand new sexual group to hate on—and what Republican isn’t?—there’s always transgenders.
And so we have Trump declaring war on the transgendered community by making it easier for mean states, like North Carolina, to discriminate against them. Trump’s new Attorney-General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, wasn’t in office for 24 hours before his Justice Department announced it is undoing an Obama decision to challenge bans, like the one North Carolina seeks to impose; the Tarheel State would force transgendered people to use the rest room associated with their birth gender, not their gender identity.
I’ve known lots of transgendered people and, believe me, they use the rest room for the same reason you and I do. Why do Republicans think there has to be some sinister, nasty sexual thing going on? That’s in their heads; it doesn’t correspond to reality, which, come to think about it, puts it in the realm of “alternative facts,” right up there with the Bowling Green Massacre and “Five million illegals voted in 2016” and “I saw thousands of Muslims celebrating after Sept. 11” and “Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen.” Now, those four lies are motivated simply for political reasons—to prey upon the ignorance and prejudices of a majority of Republican voters. But to appreciate the really twisted, neurotic aspect of being a Republican these days, you have to think along the following lines:
“I’m a male with normal male (i.e. heterosexual) desires. I’d love to be able to go into women’s rest rooms to peek at them and maybe do bad stuff. But if I did, I’d get arrested. So I think I’ll cut off my penis, have sex reassignment surgery, and act and dress like a woman. Then I can legally go into women’s rest rooms without fear of being arrested.”
Now, if these Republicans had empathy, they might realize on their own that imputing such motives to transgenders is insane; nobody would go to such extremes just to sneak into a rest room. If they can’t realize it naturally, they might do some research into the phenomenon of feeling like you were born into the wrong gender. There’s lots of research out there. If they’re too lazy to read studies, they might try talking to transgendered people and ask them if they really do go into bathrooms with nasty thoughts in mind. But talking to people you hate—trying to understand them—requires empathy, doesn’t it? So we’ve come full circle.
Ever since I’ve followed politics, the Republican Party has been the anti-sex party. I don’t know what it is about them; I suspect Republicans like sex as much as Democrats do (those Protestant preachers who get caught in sex scandals and those Roman Catholic clergymen who molest little girls and boys certainly seem like they enjoy sex!). Democrats tend to have a live-and-let-live philosophy. That’s the way I feel. I don’t care what you do or who you do it with as long as it’s consensual. And I couldn’t care less if a transgendered man used the men’s locker room at my gym. In fact, I’m sure they do; there are a couple “guys” who I think weren’t born that way. But, hey, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. It shouldn’t bother Republicans in the slightest. The funny thing is, we now have a Republican President whose own sexual history is truly repugnant—not only an adulterer but a serial sexual assaulter as well (and possibly, if the Russian dossier ever turns up, a devotee of prostitutes and kink*). This is the guy leading the war against law-abiding transgendered Americans? Wow. (By the way, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who’s now in charge of defending the law, told the Weekly Standard that non-consensually grabbing a woman “by the pussy…would not amount to sexual assault.”)
*Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against prostitutes or kink. Just saying…
Here’s what we know: Republican constituents are showing up at town hall meetings across the country, warning their congressmen that if they lose their health insurance coverage, they’re gonna be mad as hell and throw them out of office.
Here’s what we don’t know: Whether these are the same people who, a few years ago, showed up at town meetings demanding that Obamacare be repealed.
There are several possibilities. One: We know from polls that lots of Republicans don’t comprehend that “Obamacare” is the same thing as the “Affordable Care Act.” In fact, it looks like about one out of every three Americans suffers from this delusional “alternative fact.” That’s about 30%. Now, that’s about the same percentage that would vote for a Republican if they ran, say, Peewee Herman. Frankly, it’s hard for me to believe that any Democrat doesn’t understand that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing, and I bet you feel that way, too. Dems are smart! So we’re really looking at one-third of the country that’s solidly tea party-evangelical-Republican being completely wrong about something so important and so simple.
But that makes sense. These Republicans have hated on Obama and everything he stood for. They were vindictive, and wanted to hurt him (and his wife). So “Obamacare,” which bore the tyrant’s name, must be a good thing to get rid of. Right?
But there’s a second possibility that’s far more troubling, and that concerns the intelligence level of these people. Perhaps they never figured out that the insurance program they signed up for would disappear with the repeal of Obamacare. I mean, you’d think that’s obvious: after all, you can’t have the water turned off at your house and still expect H2O to flow when you open the faucet. But then, you—my readers—are intelligent enough to realize such simple mechanics of cause and effect. If you like “A” and you destroy “A,” you can no longer have “A.” This is why I have a theory that many, many people who voted for Trump don’t have the sense God gave grasshoppers.
I called the anti-Obamacare Republicans “vindictive” for a reason: the word means “revengeful in spirit.” Can you tell me a single actual, real thing about Obamacare that they didn’t like, beyond the fact that it bore his name? Seriously, what did Republicans have against it? Maybe it was the mandate. We can argue about that, but everybody knows that, from an actuarial standpoint, you can’t have a workable insurance system unless everybody, or nearly everybody, is covered. So I supported the mandate, but I know people who resented it, and they’re not necessarily bad.
What else? Did Republicans not like the “keep your kids under your policy until they’re 26”? Did Republicans not like the “pre-existing conditions” part? Did they not like the fact that States were free to comply with the law either through the Federal government or by setting up their own exchanges? Did they not like that private insurance companies were still allowed to run the show? (After all, Republicans love private enterprise.) But then, if 30% of Republicans think Obamacare is different from the Affordable Care Act, they’re not likely to have any comprehension of things like exchanges.
So, hence “vindictive.” Sheer, blind fury at President Obama. Unthinking, ignorant, pugnacious hatred. And it was stoked and taken advantage of by the most cynical, unscrupulous, mendacious person ever to run for President, much less win. Now, it’s funny to watch Repubs scramble. They can “repeal” but they can’t “replace.” They got what they asked for—unintended consequences!–and a whole lot more is coming their way.