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The Republican-Trump trials: Nuremburg or South Africa?

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At the Nuremburg war trials, German leaders were held to the harshest account; many were hanged and many more served long prison sentences for their crimes. On the other hand, in South Africa, after Nelson Mandela toppled the apartheid regime, the nation held “Truth and Reconciliation” hearings “to heal the deep wounds among people” by enabling victims and aggressors to “speak to one another as fellow human beings.”

These are two different ways of dealing with political criminals: vengeance versus forgiveness. So when this Trump regime is toppled–rest assured, it will be– and if the trials happen (and I hope they will), which path will we follow? Will we hold Trump’s enablers to account to the fullest extent of the law, a la Nuremburg? Or shall we “speak to one another as human beings” and hope to open Republican hearts to the truth?

Here are the defendants or, if you prefer, co-conspirators. I have divided them into three categories. This is not a full list, but it’s a decent start.

The Politicians

These are the direct enablers; they make or enforce the law, and in the case of Trump, they consciously allow him to break the law, time after time, and serious laws, at that. They consciously allow him to violate the Office of the President of the United States and stain the good name of the Oval Office. They stand by and allow Trump and his henchmen to lie. They allow this president to enrich himself in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. They stand by and allow him to attack the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and the Courts—among America’s greatest institutions–in order to prevent them from investigating his crimes and the crimes of his family. They allow him to undermine a Free Press in violation of the First Amendment. They take dark money from anonymous billionaires and deceive the American public about their true intentions. For these and other crimes, misdemeanors and derelictions of duty, they must and will be held to account:

Devin Nunes

Paul Ryan

Lindsay Graham

Mitch McConnell

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions

Orrin Hatch

Rex Tillerson

Mike Pompeo

The Official Surrogates

They do not make the law. But they represent the President of the United States in an official capacity to the American people. They repeatedly lie, abet lies, make false and misleading statements, deny proven facts, twist words, and aide this president in the commission of his crimes. For this, they must and will be held to account.

KellyAnne Conway

Sean Spicer

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Stephen Miller

The Private Surrogates

These people are not employees of the government. They do not work for the White House. It is true that they aid and abet this regime relentlessly, but have they broken the law? Are they culpable in such a way that merits a trial? Perhaps. After World War II, the U.S. prosecuted a woman, Mildred Gillars, known as “Axis Sally,” and charged her with multiple counts of treason for broadcasting pro-nazi, anti-American programs on her radio show. Gillars was convicted and served a dozen years in jail for her crimes. This juridical history suggests that even private citizens can be indicted for the high crime of disseminating damaging and false propaganda.

Rupert Murdoch

Stephen Bannon

Alex Jones

Rush Limbaugh

Sean Hannity

Lou Dobbs

The Koch Brothers

You’ll notice I left one group out: Trump’s military advisors: The Joint Chiefs and their Chairman, Secretary Mattis, and so on down the line. They’re not exactly politicians or official surrogates, but they are Executive Branch employees with a great deal of power. They could have turned on this president by now; they still can, should they choose to do the right thing. How we deal with them is going to necessitate the closest scrutiny.

So, which style will the trials be, Nuremburg or South Africa?

I fear there’s no way to open these defendants’ hearts and get them to admit the terrible things they’ve done. Can you honestly see any of them appearing before a court and saying, “I don’t know what came over me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” That’s not going to happen.

It’s too early to make the Nuremburg-South Africa decision at this time. It all depends on what these individuals do between now and the trials. Each of them still has a little time left to repent and confess. But with every passing day, and with each outrage committed by Trump and his family and associates, their time is growing shorter. The longer the politicians and surrogates aid and abet the regime’s crimes, the more the pendulum swings toward Nuremburg-style justice, with its severer outcomes.

The Nuremburg defendants in the dock

 

 

 


More on the Trump-Bannon smackdown

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Wednesday may well have been the craziest day yet for the current regime, which has had more than its share of crazy days. It was the “bomb cyclone” of Trumpian politics: a superstorm of right-wing bloodletting. We saw, not only Manafort suing Mueller, and Bannon’s amazing revelations from that new book—none of which he has repudiated–but Trump’s almost immediate response, which was to send him a cease-and-desist letter and say Bannon’s lost his mind.

What’s the relationship now between Trump and Bannon? Hard to say. Objective reporting, such as this story from Politico, says the friendship has “collapsed,” a casualty of ‘the most vicious falling out between a president and a former aide in modern history.”

Yet Bannon is singing a different tune. “Nothing will ever come between us and President Trump and his agenda,” he said yesterday, using the Papal first person plural. Then, just to make sure no one misunderstands, Bannon reiterated on the Breitbart radio show, “The President of the United States is a great man.”

So which is it? Did Trump commit “treason,” as Bannon alleged earlier? Or is he a “great man” who is the victim of the whole swamp up there, the D.C. apparatus, the nullification project”?

Bannon understands he’s caught between his conflicting statements. He knows, too, that the hapless white people whom Breitbart “News” succors with fake information are suffering in this tug-of-war between him and their president. Not knowing what to believe, they flail and writhe, seeking comfort any way they can find it, which usually means self-delusion and ever more righteous indignation. How does Bannon wriggle out of the hole he’s dug himself into?

For the answer, let’s take a closer look at his remarks on his radio show. First of all, he can’t take back his words—they’re engraved in the stone of History. So he has to hedge them. “Maybe things get off track, or stuff gets said, and all this heated stuff…”. What sort of things got “off track” and “got said”? Minor peccadillos, such as a misplaced memo? No: far more serious “stuff.” Bannon’s charge that the Jared-Donald Junior meeting was “treasonous,” that the White House is “trying to stop a Category 5” hurricane, that “money laundering” will be the crime that brings Trump down, is the “heated stuff” that got “said.”

Do you see the disconnect there? “Treason” isn’t just “things getting off track.” “Money laundering” isn’t just “stuff getting said.” They’re huge, federal crimes, punishable by long prison sentences, not simple misstatements or minor accidents that anyone can make. So that part of Bannon’s mea culpa just doesn’t wash.

But that won’t stop the credulous right-wingers who love Bannon and Trump from accepting this nonsense. Listen to “Gayle,” a caller-in on the radio show: “I never thought we were delorables. I thought they [i.e. Democrats] all were criminals, because I know who they are. We are fighting the people, the Clintons and the Bushes. We are not the delorables. We are subdued by the criminals in Washington. I happen to know this country is greater because of a Stephen K. Bannon.”

Is “Gayle” perhaps Steve Bannon’s mother? In her words, you can discern every neurosis, every delusion and sociopathic instinct of Bannonism-Trumpism. Where Hitler had “the November criminals” to blame for Germany losing the Great War, “Gayle,” prompted by Rush Limbaugh, Bannon and other neo-nazi propagandists, knows who the criminals are in modern America: Democrats and, of course, the Clintons, who for the Right are the devil incarnate. It’s interesting that “Gayle” also throws the Republican Bush family under her bus. But that’s very Bannon-esque: he declared “total war” on the Republican Party and his gullible fans, such as “Gayle,” believed him when he implied that her unhappiness, her frustration with her life and herself, her personal problems have all been caused by “the Clintons and the Bushes, the criminals in Washington.”

Ah, well. Gayle, poor thing, doesn’t know any better. Bannon does know better, but, like all totalitarian figures (including his former boss, Trump), once he’s told a Big Lie, he has to keep on telling Bigger Lies to cover them up. Of course, the problem with telling lie after lie after lie is that, eventually, they catch up to you, which is why telling the truth from the get-go is always the best policy. Sadly, telling the truth has never been the Bannon way. Or the Trump way. Or the Republican way.

I’ll end today’s post with the funniest headline of the week: “Alex Jones Defends Trump’s Penis.” Yes, the rabid right-wing agitator of InfoWars assures us it’s a media lie that the president has small genitals.” Alex doesn’t tell us how he knows this for a fact. Did he see the Presidential junk? Pictures?

Have a lovely weekend! If you’re east of the Rockies, stay warm. With climate change, the extremes of weather are getting more common.

 


The Bannon-Trump smackdown: Let’s have some fun!

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I am loving it! The Bannon-Trump fight, I mean. This is what happens to illegitimate movements once their internal inconsistencies tear them apart: the wheels fall off, and everybody is at everyone else’s throat, blaming each other for the disaster.

The illegitimate movement I refer to, of course, is Trumpism, a temporary derangement of American politics. It was never destined to last for long: a few years, at most, until the People returned to their senses and repudiated it, because it’s unnatural to our system and values.

The internal inconsistency is the same as the one that runs through the Republican Party. On one hand, they want to be perceived as a centrist party that’s responsible and can govern. On the other hand, they wink at the white supremacists, neo-nazis and uneducated slugs that fill their ranks. A read-through of the comments at Breitbart amply demonstrates the various mental illnesses (paranoia, delusions of grandeur, sociopathy) that afflict most of its readers.

For a movement to last, much less coalesce into a political party, it needs an internal consistency. The Democratic Party’s consistency, I would argue, is the concept of fairness. At least since Woodrow Wilson’s time, it has fought to include all Americans in America’s benefits. Yes, Democrats have wandered off the path, at times, but the value of internal consistency is precisely that centripetal force that brings extremes back to the center.

Republicans used to have an internal consistency, although it was not in everyone’s interests; for the GOP always has been the party of the rich. That’s a nasty, class-based consistency to have, but, in fairness, the Republican Party has been true to its one-percent funders for a century and more. But with the rise of the tea party and the election of Trump, even that consistency has gone amok. It’s impossible to say what the Republican Party stands for now. It’s become a lunatic asylum, where every face you look at is tripping on its own fantasy, each pair of eyes reflecting a different maniacal inner maelstrom.

Inside this mélange of craziness, the internecine war now being waged between Trump and Bannon is fun to watch. It’s the Mixed Martial Arts of politics, where you can enjoy whacked-out cartoon characters do battle in the Octagon of Republicanism. Trump vs. Bannon! Watch them sock and pow each other! Watch the blood flow! Even more entertainingly, watch the Right melt down as their two greatest heroes train their guns on each other. Breitbart’s readers are literally blowing their minds: they don’t know whom to believe, what to think, whom to side with. Mostly, they’ve decided not to believe that Bannon said what he said in that book. It’s fake news, they’re saying. The book was published by Democrats, by Hillary, by radical Islamic terrorists. Bannon would never, ever say those kinds of things about his BFF, Trump, and Trump would never call his BFF, Bannon, “out of his mind.”

Well, cognitive dissonance is a hard thing for anyone to deal with, particularly low-information, intellectually-challenged Trump voters. Just when they thought they had everything figured out, here comes Bannon messing it up. Being a Breitbart fan these days is like being a little kid when your parents are having a huge fight. You want to run to your room, shut the door, turn off the lights, hide under the covers and dream—anything to get away from the mayhem in the next room. Only, in this case, there’s nowhere for Breitbart people to go. The elaborate fantasy they so carefully constructed is falling down around their heads—and then, there’s Mueller, lurking just outside the scene, like Freddy Krueger, adding yet another element of terror.

I could almost feel sorry for Trump fans—almost. But I don’t. They made their own bed: now, they have to sleep in it.


Why are senior Democrats so afraid of Impeachment?

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I have to admit I don’t understand the reluctance of a good part of Democratic Party leadership to be in favor of Impeachment. Here in the Bay Area, the former San Francisco Mayor, Willie Brown, who is still a force to be reckoned with, on numerous occasions has cautioned Democrats against pursuing it. “You are not going to get another ‘All the President’s Men’ out of this story.” Another Democrat, House Minority Leader (and future Speaker?) Nancy Pelosi, recently told CNN that impeaching Trump “is not someplace I think we should go.” Her House colleague, Jerry Nadler, the powerful and veteran New York pol who is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee (which would handle impeachment), similarly commented, Impeachment, it’s not something you ought to welcome. It’s not something you ought to be ready to — it’s not something you want.” Another House Democrat, the backbencher, Rep. Cheri Bustos, also opposes impeachment. In her case, it’s not hard to figure out why: her district, Illinois’s 17th, is a swing district, having been in Republican hands as recently as 2011. Bustos doesn’t want to offend her more conservative-leaning constituents.

But Pelosi? Nadler? She represents San Francisco, for Chrissake; he’s the congressman from New York’s 10th: TriBeCa, Greenwich Village, SoHo. These two representatives have no conservative-leaning constituents. So what’s their excuse for being so vocally anti-impeachment?

You have to assume their reasons start and end with politics. Whether or not Pelosi et al. believe Trump has done impeachable things, they’ve arrived at the conclusion that, for the time being, coming out in favor of impeachment would hurt the party’s chances of retaking the House and Senate in the November elections. They’re reading the same voter opinion surveys I am: the most recent polling I could find (Dec. 5) finds only 40% of Americans believe Trump should be impeached. Women and minorities favor impeachment by more sizable numbers, but the great white whale of political demographics—the white male—remains supportive of Trump.

This no doubt is what Pelosi has in mind when her fertile mind explores the possibility of reclaiming her Speakership. But here’s what I don’t understand. Those white men aren’t going to abandon Trump no matter what, so why would any politician waste time sucking up to them? Haven’t we seen that it’s a fruitless task to try and win over Trump supporters? They don’t like Democrats or liberals; in fact, they despise us. When you’ve been utterly repudiated and rejected by someone, it’s silly to turn the other cheek and try to win them back with smiles. That’s for religion, and politics is emphatically not religion.

The truth is, Pelosi hasn’t truthfully come out and stated publicly why she’s so down on impeachment. When she speaks for the record, it’s with meaningless platitudes: impeaching Trump is “not what it’s about” because “it’s about the well-being of American families.” Such rhetorical pablum serves no purpose whatever, and only demeans the tens of millions of loyal Democrats who do want to see Trump impeached. Does this suggest that Pelosi, who is almost 78, is too old and out-of-touch? Each of us has to answer that for ourselves.

Maybe Pelosi et al. know more than we do about what Mueller is really finding, and about what he is going to reveal. Maybe they fear that the most Mueller will say about the president is that he displayed poor judgment and came close to violating U.S. laws, but never actually did. A Democratic Party that put all its chips on Mueller finding impeachable or indictable offenses by Trump might indeed be devastated by having Trump get off scott-free. Imagine how he would crow! Maybe Pelosi simply wishes to avoid that embarrassment. Whatever her reasons, when and if she becomes Madame Speaker, starting in January, 2019, Pelosi is going to have to realize that the American people elected Democrats in large part to impeach Donald Trump. If she even believes her “not someplace we should go” nonsense, she’s going to have to disabuse herself of that notion when and if Dems take back the House. The law, not campaigning, must guide her.

Look, you can’t predicate your behavior on what may or may not happen. In politics, as in life, people who firmly believe themselves to be in the right ought not to be afraid to stand up for their beliefs, without fear of the consequences. The best way for the Democratic Party to stand up is to come out strongly, now, in favor of impeachment, and then, if the House turns to them, to hold far-reaching, public hearings. It’s the right thing to do, and would resonate across broad swaths of America, and reassure the world that America really is a Constitutional republic, and not a banana republic. Those of us who do want to see this regime toppled need to keep sending our Senators and representatives a clear message: We expect you to impeach Trump. We will remember, and we vote.

 


Breitbart: The GOP’s canary in the coal mine

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The proverbial “canary in the coal mine” refers to caged canaries that miners would carry down into the mine shafts and tunnels, in the theory that the canaries would drop dead from unseen poisonous gasses before the miners, giving the latter time to escape. Until comparatively recently, this was standard practice in Great Britain, dating back to at least 1911.

But the phrase also is used in a larger sense: as a metaphor indicating Something or someone who, due to sensitivity to his, her, or its surroundings, acts as an indicator and early warning of possible adverse conditions or danger.” If you think of the Republican Party as the coal miner, and the dangers posed to it by the Mueller probe as the “adverse conditions” it wishes to be warned about before they turn fatal, there’s no better place to look than Breitbart “News,” which, of course, isn’t “news” at all, but  propaganda.

On any given day, by going to Breitbart, you can take the temperature of the GOP’s fear level and see what distractions they’re stirring up to keep their white readers’ fury stoked. Yesterday was a good example. Here, in order, were Breitbart’s top stories, with my analysis of why the website’s editors were pushing them.

  1. The Iranian nuclear deal. We all know that nearly every country in the world, including the entire Security Council and our allies in Europe as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency that oversees it, stands by the deal as the best way to persuade Teheran to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons. We also know that Trump doesn’t like it, and whatever Trump doesn’t like, his under-educated followers also don’t like. I’m sure that not one out of a hundred could tell you anything about the deal, but that doesn’t stop Steven Bannon from bashing it whenever the news about the Mueller investigation starts getting bad for Trump. Iran-bashing (which is really a form of Muslim-bashing, which is another form of Trumpian xenophobia) is guaranteed to get the white supremacists all in a tizzy of outrage, which is the sole reason for Breitbart’s existence.
  2. Mexico bashing. Every day, Breitbart’s researchers scour the Internet looking for reports of people of color committing crimes. Often, they find their scapegoats in Mexico, which they did yesterday, in their story about “111 mayors” being murdered in that country. In Bannon’s estimation, this is proof that Mexicans are all the “drug dealers, criminals and rapists” and “bad hombres” Trump called them in the campaign.
  3. Comey bashing. Yes, the slurs and insults of the Special Counsel that Trump, Fox “News” and Breitbart started last year continue in 2018. Now, they’re making fun of his tweet in which he expressed hope for “more ethical leadership.” Who could be against that? Breitbart, naturally, because if they were in favor of “ethical leadership” they would have to denounce the most unethical person ever to occupy the White House, Donald J. Trump.
  4. NFL bashing. You thought the Kaepernick controversy has died down? Think again. It won’t go away because it works for the right: Their working-class, Red State neo-nazis are glad to hate on “NFL millionaire” football players who take a knee. Why? It’s not because they’re rich; Trump is rich too, and they love him. No, it’s because most of the players are black.
  5. The Wall. It will never be built. You know that, I know that, Congress knows that, Trump knows that, Bannon knows that, the Republic of Mexico knows that. The only group that doesn’t know that—because they don’t think straight—are the extreme rightwing haters that read Breitbart. Trump promised them a wall; he said their lives would get better as soon as it goes up. Breitbart’s hold on power is their ability to stoke resentment in their base, and the wall—and “Democratic-media” resistance to it—is a good way to keep their legions pissed off.
  6. “Trump gets 2018 off to an amazing start.” Yes, you read that right: It’s Breitbart’s #6 headline from yesterday. It’s important, you see, for them to constantly convince themselves that the Trump presidency is the greatest ever. True, 2018 is only 24 hours old, but the “start” of it for Trump was the news that Papadopolous bragged to that Australian diplomat about the Russian proffer on Hillary’s emails, a very serious setback for Trump defenders because it proves this was no rogue F.B.I. setting out to bring Trump down, but the nation’s leading law-enforcement agency doing its sworn job.

Anyway, you get the idea: the canary in the Republican coal mine is Breitbart “News.” Anytime you’re curious about what Fox “News” is going to be pushing tomorrow, look at Breitbart today. Bannon, a neo-nazi white supremacist, anti-semitic gay basher, is in charge of scripting the daily Republican playbook. We’re told that he and Trump talk on the phone “every two to three days.”

 Wouldn’t it be fun to have a recording of those conversations? Maybe we will.

 


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