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What I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving: The Resistance

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In September, 2016, I–like most Americans–was not aware of what would eventually become the Trump-Russia scandal, but I did see the Republicans trying to weaponize Hillary’s stolen emails against her. On Sept. 13, 2016, in my first blog post about it, “Let’s Get Hillary: A modern witch hunt from Republicans,” I wrote how Jason Chaffetz, the Utah arch-conservative Republican, had subpoenaed then-FBI Director Jim Comey, demanding the full [Clinton email] file with no redactions of personal identifiable information,” even though the FBI had already concluded Hillary broke no laws. (In 2017, an embattled, embarrassed Chaffetz was forced to resign his seat.)

That was my first clue that the Republican Party and the Trump campaign were waging a fake war against Hillary using her emails. But back then, I couldn’t imagine what had occurred behind the scenes, in terms of Russian-Trump collusion involving Wikileaks.

That was to change just three weeks later. On Oct. 4, 2016, I wrote my first post that mentioned Wikileaks. “Hey Julian Assange: Instead of gossiping about Hillary’s emails, why don’t you get Trump’s taxes?” We’d learned that it was Wikileaks that had stolen and released the emails. But we still had no idea why, or of the extent of the scandal that reached all the way from Assange to Trump. In that post, I asked questions whose answers I suspected, but didn’t know. “Why is Assange so anti-Hillary anyway? Is he a Trump surrogate?”

Exactly two weeks later, on Oct. 18, 2016, as more details emerged in the media, I blogged again: “Why does Julian Assange want Trump to win? An analysis.” Once again, I asked more questions I couldn’t answer. “Why is Assange so anti-Hillary?” “What is Wikileaks, anyhow?” “Why are they training all their firing power upon Hillary Clinton, instead of hacking into The Apprentice and Access Hollywood tapes to see what other incriminating things Trump has done?” Although I still didn’t have answers, I speculated that “There may be something far more insidious about Assange than merely his professed idealism,” and I wondered if perhaps his motive was his “hatred of Hillary Clinton.” But still, we didn’t know how Assange had gotten the emails, and his relationship to Trump remained a mystery.

Twelve days later, on Oct. 30, 2016, we’d learned a bit more. On that date, my post was “The vast rightwing conspiracy: 2016-style,” and for the first time in my posts, Trump–still a week away from winning the election–begins to star in my commentary. Meanwhile, Comey re-enters it. The Hillary email plot, I wrote, “was hatched in darkness and anonymity…fueled by dark money, only its leaders now are the foursome of Donald Trump, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, Vladimir Putin and James Comey.” The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place with enough clarity for me to make those connections. I also made a prediction: “If Trump wins…fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

The next six weeks were exciting ones for American investigative journalism, as The Washington Post, The New York Times, NBC News, Politico, The Wall Street Journal and a host of other media dug up more facts. On Dec. 12, 2012, more than a month after the election, I had finally connected all the dots. In my post, “ElectionGate: The Putin-Assange-Comey-Trump conspiracy,” I noted many things we now take for granted: that “Comey illegally interfered with the election,” that a “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House,” that “GOP leaders have refused to support efforts by Democrats to investigate any possible Trump-Russia connections,” that “Something horrible has happened that’s far beyond mere dirty politics. This has been an assault on our Constitution.” I concluded, “We, the American people, Republican and Democrat alike, have got to get to the bottom of this Putin-Assange-Comey-Trump conspiracy.”

And now here we are, closer than ever to getting to the bottom of the conspiracy, and inching even closer every day. I always knew the truth would come out. I always trusted in our American institutions, and in the fairness and sound judgment of a majority of the American people–not the tea party, not evangelicals, not the white supremacists at Breitbart, but normal, moral Americans. That majority of the American people united into what became known as The Resistance sometime in early 2017–obviously, no specific date can be assigned to the start of an informal, spontaneous coalition. But on March 20, 2017, I first mentioned it in my post, “Trump’s game plan, and how The Resistance is wrecking it.” I wrote about how The Resistance (of which investigative journalism was now an active part) was “chipping away at [Trump’s] plausibility,” and I hoped that eventually we would reach “Gladwell’s tipping point,” a time by which Trump would be impeached, or quit, or removed via the 25th Amendment. “Perhaps by this summer,” I wrote.

I was premature. It did not happen last summer. But I still have no doubt it will. And I am so proud of The Resistance, of the wonderful patriots and lovers of truth and freedom in the U.S.A. who, once the facts were presented to them in a credible manner, believed, in mounting numbers, and continue to believe, that it is intolerable to allow this anomaly, this bizarre, unstable liar to remain President, and for his kleptomanical family to profit from his power. So, this Thanksgiving, although I have many other things to be grateful for, I lift my glass of Champagne and toast The Resistance. To my fellow Resisters, I say: Some day, your children and grandchildren will bless your name, and be endlessly proud that you were their ancestor; for you helped save our nation.

In Memoriam

Nov. 22, 1963


Two Collapses

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In the late winter and early spring of 1945, as World War II ground to a halt in Europe, Nazi Germany was in the throes of collapse. In the West, Patton’s and Montgomery’s armies were flooding into the North German Plain. In the East, Stalin’s troops were crushing the Wehrmacht and closing in on Berlin. Carefully following all the developments was Germany’s Minister of Enlightenment, Hitler’s old colleague, Josef Goebbels. His diary for this period make for fascinating reading in how an insane ideologue struggles to the last minute, looking for hope against all evidence of hope, refusing to admit the obvious: that the end is near and that he had backed the wrong horse.

Goebbels believed that some miracle would save Germany: wonder super-weapons, or the collapse of Allied unity, or his bizarre Werwolf organization of partisan guerilla fighters that would fight behind enemy lines. But the shining star upon which Goebbels pinned all his hopes was his Führer. “Even in this crisis at the front, invariably and unswervingly [he] believes in his lucky star,” Goebbels wrote on March 27, barely a month before the final collapse. “He [Hitler] is still convinced that [the situation] justifies our having great hopes.”

Hopes, however great, proved fruitless. Hitler committed suicide in his bunker on April 30. The next day, as Russian troops took over Berlin, Goebbels killed himself, either by swallowing cyanide or shooting himself–we’ll probably never know. Shortly before, he had written a farewell letter to his stepson, Harald: “Do not let yourself be disconcerted by the worldwide clamor which will now begin. One day the lies will crumble away of themselves and truth will triumph once more.” Goebbels believed in the nobility of the nazi cause even as Russian shells exploded all around him. “We shall tower over all, clean and spotless…remain loyal to the very end to the Führer and his pure sacred cause.”

As in so many other instances, direct comparisons can be made between the collapse of the nazi regime and the stubborn refusal of its leading adherents to admit reality, and the impending collapse of the Trump regime here in America. No armed troops are closing in on the White House, but Special Counsel Robert Mueller is, flanked by Senate and House investigative committees. Trump and his collaborators–Pence, most of the Republicans in Congress, Steve Bannon and the entire White House communications staff, Fox News–are not hunkered down in a bunker, technically speaking; but they are isolated in a bubble of denial, rationalization, deflection and self-justification. As Goebbels did, they continue to believe that miracles will save the regime: Mueller will miraculously go away, or be discredited; the Congressional probes will turn up nothing; the American people will rally to Trump’s side despite his worsening polls; or, far more menacingly, a foreign crisis–perhaps a nuclear war–will sweep all other events aside, enabling Trump to tower triumphantly over the stage of History.

Alas, just as Goebbels retreated into fantasy in his final weeks, so too are the Trump supporters wallowing in delusion. Nowhere is their desperation more apparent than on Breitbart. That fake news site always has tried to occlude events unfavorable to Trump by stoking up racial, sexual and ethnic hatred and paranoia amongst its white followers, but as the legal and political threats to Trump and his family mount, Bannon’s propagandists are becoming ever more frantic. Their latest miracle weapon is Roy Moore, who everybody knows is toast; yesterday they had the effrontery to roll out Franklin Graham, of all people, to defend the pedophilic judge. The top story was another attack on Islam and the Koran, a meme guaranteed to whip Breitbart white “Christians” into drooling fury. Near the top of the feed was an assault on someone you probably never heard of: a feminist named Lena Dunham. Never mind her obscurity: she’s a “neo-Stalinist,” Breitbart says, lumping together two targets of contempt among those rural white southern bigots: women and Communism. Finally, of course, no Breitbart feed would be complete with its daily dose of racism, in this case Trump’s wacko attack on Marshawn Lynch.

Misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, rabid evangelical extremism: they’re all “miracle weapons” Bannon and his cohorts hope will stem the oncoming onslaught. None of it will work, of course, any more than Goebbels’ Werwolf squadrons, super-jet planes or guided missiles worked in halting the Allied advance. These are the last fevered imaginings of the rogue Trump regime. “People are going to jail,” a top Republican congressman–a member of the House Intelligence Committee–said. We don’t know the precise date the regime will fall. We don’t know if any Republicans will commit suicide. We do know that Bannon and his attack dogs, encouraged by Trump himself, will continue to drift and flail in the hallucination of their “pure, sacred cause.” Do they have a Werwolf organization waiting in the wings? Yes: Bannon believes his neo-nazi divisions, armed and loyal, will be the vanguard leading to victory. He’s insane, of course, but we should be cognizant that they’re out there, with their assault rifles and homemade bombs, ready to avenge their own Führer. Fortunately, the senior leadership of the United States Armed Forces has strongly hinted it will not collude with Trump in any illegal manner. We need not worry, then, about white supremacist insurrection: if they try, they’ll be stopped in the streets and dealt with appropriately.

 


What is the most significant parallel between Hitler and Trump?

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One of the most important books to deal with the origins of World War II is AJP Taylor’s “A Short History of Germany: 1815-1945”  (1969). That war, which killed 60 million people, seems like something out of the dim past, especially to a generation younger than mine; today, the slaughter that had characterized Europe for a millennium has largely passed, and the panorama of History has shifted to a more global stage. Still, the Second World War remains the most catastrophic event in human history, and the rise–and fall–of Adolf Hitler includes eerie, familiar and frightening parallels with the advent of Donald Trump.

Here is what Taylor concludes was “the deepest significance of the National-Socialist [Nazi] movement”:

“[I]t aimed at securing at long last the complete unification of the German people–in outward institutions and in inner spiritual belief. For that very reason it insisted increasingly that it, and it alone, was a great movement of the mind and soul of the German people and not merely a new political party amongst many rival political parties. It sought to transcend all the deep divisions of tribe and class, of religious and political creeds amongst Germans, and to unite them in fanatical trust both in the mission and future of their country and in the God-given infallible personality of their leader, Hitler.”

One parallel between Hitler and Trump, beyond their authoritarian instincts, lies in the nature of the constituency (“base,” we now call it) that voted them into power: disgruntled, resentful white men. In both cases, these men had lost their economic footing, blamed it on others (for Germans of the 1920s and 1930s, it was Communists and Jews; for Americans of the 2000s, it is globalization, Muslims, immigrants and Democrats). In both cases, these men elected someone who seemed to share their many grievances, and who promised to obtain revenge on the enemies.

Hitler actually did succeed in achieving “the complete unification of the German people,” a goal that had proved elusive for the thousand previous years. Of course, even during his reign, there were political opponents in Germany, but not many; and such as there were were efficiently rounded up by the Gestapo and dispatched. We have not yet reached the point yet in America of an internal security service that has thoroughly infiltrated the woof and warp of the nation, and has moreover sworn personal fealty to the maximum leader. But many of us suspect that this is something Trump desires, and we have to remain vigilant to prevent it from happening.

That Trump also desires this unification to occur across “outward institutions and in inner spiritual belief” is obvious. Again, he is experiencing grave difficulties in achieving this–thank God–due to the resilience of American institutions, and the long traditions of freedom and democracy in this country–conditions that were non-existent in Germany. Trump’s desire to unify “inner spiritual belief” is an interesting one. He’s already unified that “inner belief” across large swaths of the Republican Party. This leads to the next goal of both Hitler and Trump: to create “a great movement of the mind and soul of the German people and not merely a new political party amongst many rival political parties.”

This last phrase is worthy of detailed analysis. That Trumpism is “a movement” is clear, if the phrase “movement” can be taken as a widespread and irrational force sweeping up a large portion of a nation’s population. That Trump believes he appeals to the “mind and soul” of the American people also is obvious: not to the rational, logical part of the mind, but the emotional part–the resentment and disgruntlement–which is the same thing as the soul: those inchoate, but deeply felt, feelings that motivate his followers. (These feelings, which in addition to resentment and disgruntlement include anger, paranoia and fear, are easily traced in the “Comments” section of any Breitbart article.) It also is true that Trump desires his movement not to be perceived as  merely “one party amongst many rival political parties,” but as the one, eternal, valid and true party–as the Nazis portrayed themselves. Democrats, of course (as well as all political parties) wish to convince the electorate that they stand in the light of truth more so than their opponents, but we have never seen a movement in America that has sought to utterly discredit its opponents more than Trumpism does with regard to Democrats–except, perhaps, during the Civil War, when communication between North and South irreparably broke down.

But the most interesting phrase in AJP Taylor’s analysis is this: Hitlerism sought “to unite [Germans] in fanatical trust both in the mission and future of their country and in the God-given infallible personality of the leader, Hitler.”

This gets to the nub of the Trump problem. It’s fine to “unite” citizens to trust “the mission and future of their country.” Indeed, every President does this, or tries to. As Americans, we want Americans to trust the values and direction of our country; and for the most part, we have succeeded in that goal. However, Americans have never been particularly “fanatical.” True, when we feel attacked–as we did after Pearl Harbor and, to a lesser extent, after Sept. 11–we are able to muster our vast resources and become a formidable foe to our opponents. But between these rare historical events, Americans shun fanaticism for the everyday pleasures of work, family, friendship and–one of our saving graces–a tendency to regard government with a properly amused cynicism.

We tend, too, to shun a view of our Presidents as “infallible,” possessing “God-given” powers of personality. In my reading of American history, I do not think we ever so treated a President. George Washington came closest to being revered in his lifetime, but he was wise enough to resist the offers of a Kingly throne, and to retire from public life, Cincinattus-like, after two terms of office. Since Washington, no President has ever dared, or would, to ask the American people to regard him as “infallible.”

Until now. We first understood this when Trump uttered his infamous Fifth Avenue remark, which surely was his way of implying that his supporters viewed him as infallible. After all, if you gun down innocent people at random, and your supporters don’t care, it can only be because they see you as some sort of god, who can do no wrong.

And this notion of infallibility–of the absolute leader, above all moral considerations, beyond the restrictions of decency, whose judgment stems from a “God-given” instinct that only he, and he alone, enjoys–is the closest, and most frightening, parallel between Hitler and Trump. Although I expect no one who reads this to pick up and read AJP Taylor’s little book, I hope that they–you–do. I promise that, every few pages, you will come across a quote, a historical fact, a bit of research, concerning Hitler and his rise, in which you could substitute the name of Trump and the social movement he both inspires and is the product of; and the words will make perfect sense. I wonder, in fact, if Trump himself has read this book–if not this book, then others about the rise of Hitler and nazism, especially the Goebbels’ diaries. He seems to have done his homework: his behavior perfectly echoes that of Hitler’s. We have, therefore, clear and horrible parallels between the rise of both of these men. We know about Hitler’s fall. We do not yet know about Donald Trump’s.

 

 


What some Alabamians are saying about the Roy Moore scandals

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AL.com, Alabama’s biggest news website, just published an opinion piece on Moore. The columnist was careful not to take sides, but he did look at the situation Biblically, and he made the gentle suggestion that some people who are standing by Moore might be compromising their values, or might not fully understand just what Jesus said. “For Christians,” he wrote, “the question is not if we follow Jesus, but how.”

Well, that’s a good, healthy conversation for Christians to have. Meanwhile, the column prompted some comments that are a reflection of just how divided Alabamians are over whether Moore is being framed, or is a pedophile. One pro-Moore writer, name of Evangelico, displayed the hysteria and irrationality that mark large swaths of the Christian right when he said, Jesus Christ was the holy, eternal Son of God. The only source of eternal life. How dare someone like this columnist drag the name of Jesus Christ through the mud to justify ungodly government programs such as DACA, and Obamacare.”

This is the sort of blithering nonsense we’ve come to expect from radical religious Republicans over the last thirty or so years. Muckraking televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson got filthy rich accusing Democrats of being ungodly atheists in the 1970s and 1980s; political hacks, ranging from Pat Buchanan to Ralph Reed, Rick Santorum and Mike Pence, carried their water even further, suggesting that liberals were anti-American, thereby stoking fear and resentment amongst their under-educated followers, particularly in rural areas of the Bible Belt. The result is that these Christians now get to define God’s political agenda. We now know, according to Evangelico, that God hates DACA and Obamacare. (Presumably, God approved leaving the Paris climate accords, and is in favor of tax cuts for corporations.) How Evangelico can read the mind of God is a bit of a mystery.

 To be fair, several other commenters rejected Evangelico’s assertion. Apparently God was a little bit of a socialist in the OT. It is very GODLY to give unto the poor – especially healthcare. Jesus healed the sick for free and would approve of the ACA. You should pray about it if you call yourself a Christian,” wrote SECorBust, in words that even a non-Christian can agree with. As one who is uncomfortable with overt expressions of religiosity intruding into the public sphere, I at least welcome sane Christians, as SECorBust seems to be, when they take steps to distance themselves from their more rabid co-religionists.

Another Alabamian columnist at the website provided a handy chart about some of the differences between Moore and the Democratic nominee for Senator, Doug Jones.

One would think that rational Alabama voters would weigh all these factors in deciding whom to support, but, pace Donald Trump, it’s entirely conceivable that the chart could include another distinction:

“Stood in the middle of 20th St., in downtown Birmingham, and randomly shot people.”

Roy Moore: Yup. Doug Jones: Nope.

Would it change Evangelico’s mind if Moore were a mass murderer? Probably not–unless, that is, God told Evangelico to stop supporting Moore. But the God whom Evangelico claims to hear would never do anything against Roy Moore, because that God–the father of Jesus Christ–wants Republicans to be elected all across the U.S. That God doesn’t care about the moral fitness of Republicans. He is willing to suspend every moral edict Jesus uttered, if it means electing Republicans. Lest you think this sounds sacrilegious or even blasphemous, keep in mind that this is what Evangelico believes. God told him so. “You must vote for Roy Moore, Evangelico. He is the man I want to be Senator. Don’t argue with me, Evangelico. Just do as I say. That’s a good boy. Oh, and don’t forget to give money to your pastor. I am the Lord, your God.”

Speaking of pastors, 50 of them came out publicly in favor of Moore. They said he is “an unmovable rock in the culture wars,” using a phrase made infamous by the Catholic provocateur, Pat Buchanan, when he launched his political attacks on the Clintons, in the early 1990s. At the 1992 Republican convention, Buchanan yoked GOP politics to Christianity when he claimed that a Clinton victory “is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.” Buchanan, like Evangelico, knows for certain just how God would vote. Buchanan was an unmovable rock, unpersuadable by any evidence, common sense or legal principle, guided only by his theological biases. So are Evangelico and Roy Moore. Nothing can ever make them change their minds. God has spoken to them.


A memo to Roy Moore

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I don’t much trust evangelical Christians, for any number of reasons: first of all, the “evangelical” part of their religion makes them pushy bullies. I suppose it’s because they feel they have a “mission” to spread the word. Well, lots of people don’t believe in their religion, including me, and we object to them trying to mess with our Constitution.

Secondly, the Bible is so clearly a made-up fairy tale that I have to doubt the intellectual capacity of anyone who takes it literally–which evangelicals supposedly do. These are the same people who believe the world is 5,778 years old (by the Hebrew reckoning), that Noah’s Flood created the Grand Canyon, that evolution is a hoax, and that Adam and Eve played with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

Evangelicals clearly don’t believe in the Constitutional separation of church and state. Why else would they always be trying to shape the laws of the U.S. according to their prejudices? Their war on woman (no abortion, no contraception), their war on the LGBTQ community (no gay marriage, no gay adoption, etc.) and their war on science (global warming is fake) all come from an anti-intellectualism that is deeply troubling–something I’d expect from the Taliban. The worst, most destructive social movement in America, IMHO, is evangelical Christianity and its associated trinity of male dominance, homophobia and white supremacy.

And now, we have this delightful little man, Roy Moore, down in Alabama, who wants to be the next Republican Senator. He’s an evangelical, and one of the worst of the genre. Evangelical Christians are famous for the way they preach “family values” and then, when they’re on the down-low, they frequent prostitutes and men’s rooms, where they practice their perversions under the cloak of anonymity. In fact, after all the scandals of the last thirty years, you can almost bet that the loudest, most moralizing evangelicals are doing something nasty in the dark. We now know that Roy Moore is following in the footsteps of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Mark Sanford and the rest of the adulterers, pedophiles and molesters in the Republican Party.

That Moore is guilty as charged is obvious even to the likes of Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Sean Hannity, Republicans all. It’s not that they care if and when one of their own is a sexual predator–if they did, they’d turn on the current president. But they do care when the scandal is so disgusting, and the evidence so compelling, that they can’t explain it away. Roy Moore is clearly guilty and hypocritical. Even his fellow tea party conservatives are denouncing him.

So where does a disgraced, lying predator, who happens to be evangelical, turn to for help? To his fellow evangelicals, of course. That’s exactly what Moore did, when he spoke at a Baptist church and once again lied about his past sexual battery. Not only that, but he borrowed from the Trump playbook by making statements that were so outrageously untrue and stupid, they make you shake your head in amazement. “I’m the only one that can unite Democrats and Republicans,” he told his cheering fans–an assertion that leaves Democrats wondering what alternative universe Moore lives in.

What these deranged Christians always do is invoke the word “God” to justify their aberrant behavior, and to appeal to the infantile emotionalism of their supporters. America needs to “go back to the recognition of God,” Moore claimed, thereby putting God on notice that worshipping Her and being a Republican are the same thing. And, judging by the latest polls, Moore’s Christian allies may be buying what he’s peddling. In some, he’s up over his Democratic opponent, proving that, for Alabama evangelical Republicans, no behavior, no matter how illegal or repugnant, matters, as long as political power can be seized, and their Christian agenda furthered.

It may not be entirely fair for me, a Jew whose religious outlook is decidedly New Agey, to criticize evangelicals. So be it: I criticize them anyway. These people are fools. They are dangerous. They wouldn’t leave Roy Moore, or Trump for that matter, alone with their daughters. They have sold away their God-given intelligence, preferring instead to believe in superstitious nonsense. They are stubborn as mules; somewhere deep down inside, they know how insidious Moore and his ilk are. They know that, if Moore were a Democrat, they’d demand his lynching. They know that, if Trump were a Democrat, they’d be screaming for his impeachment, trial and imprisonment. They know that their rural communities, whose Christian neighborliness they always brag about, are riven with adultery, drug addiction, furtive homosexuality, sexual molestation, child abuse and wife- beating. They know that some of their preachers do terrible things to children, and they know that the pillars of the Republican establishment, the McConnells, Ryans and Trumps, are about as Christian as Pontius Pilate. They know these things, but they don’t care. Users and cheaters like Roy Moore know they can do anything, say anything, tell any lie, and they will still have that rock-solid base of support.

So, Mister Roy Moore, you opened the door to what’s happening to you when you claimed to be a virtuous man, knowing that your past has been dirty and cruel. And now, it’s caught up to you. I hope you’re enjoying it, Sir, because it’s only going to get worse, until you go away and disappear back into the sordidness you came from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trump’s Asia trip was a fiasco

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After making an ass of himself in Asia, Trump returns to Washington, with his tax bill in shambles, his poll numbers deteriorating, and Special Counsel Mueller probing ever closer to the Oval Office.

The Asia tour was panned around the world and everywhere in this country, except in bastions of Trump World, like Breitbart and Fox “News.” The reaction from countries Trump actually visited was unambiguously harsh. In Japan, the authoritative Asahi Shimbun newspaper, in a lead editorial, called Trump’s visit “unfathomable” and said his decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “called into question” America’s role in “all of Asia.”

In South Korea, Trump might have expected better treatment from the country’s leading newspaper, the Korea Herald. It said he had “failed” because of his “vicious, hostile threats” against North Korea. “Put simply, Trump’s visit to Japan, South Korea and China — all major players in the crisis — has changed little” in the way of the looming confrontation with Pyongyang. He might also have been expected to be flattered by the Filipino press, but the country’s oldest newspaper, The Manila Times, slammed him on multiple fronts, despite the embarrassing love affair between Trump and the murderer, Duterte. “Many people were clearly disappointed” by Trump’s failure to talk about human rights with the Filipino president, the paper editorialized, while Trump’s “offer to mediate in the South China Sea dispute” is meaningless because “Trump himself has no track record as a mediator.” (This is despite Trump’s self-serving claim, “I’m a very good mediator.”)

Even America’s European allies were shocked by the scope of Trump’s disastrous journey. Der Speigel, one of Germany’s top newspapers, slammed Trump’s “arrogant belligerence and said that, because of his “alarming” behavior, “Dismay is widespread.” In India, which is profoundly interested in East Asian issues even though Trump didn’t visit that country, the leading Hindustan Times said Trump’s “zigzag diplomacy” in Asia made his trip “full of contradictions” and left leaders “confused” and “disappointed.”

Rightwing media in the U.S. are aware of the extraordinarily negative reaction overseas to the Asia visit, but they try to paper it over with excuses and distractions. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, a conservative op-ed piece on the trip acknowledged that “Some of the world’s most powerful countries hope that [Trump] fails.” But, instead of asking themselves why England, France, Germany, India and so many other countries and diplomats were freaked out by Trump’s bombast and boasting, the Journal made the assertion that “Americans…should wish [Trump] success overseas.” This is what defenders of failing regimes always do: turn the discussion to patriotism and away from facts.  In fact, patriotic Americans should wish Trump failure, not only overseas but in this country, because the faster we can erode all confidence in him, the quicker we can rid ourselves of him and the danger he poses to us and the world. As for America’s success, it does not depend on Trump, although his apologists would have us believe it does. The real work of diplomacy goes on, quietly and thankfully, despite the vapidity of the American president. At least, so far, he hasn’t been able to do much damage. Foreign leaders know he’s a joke, and most of them expect him to be gone before his term of office is up. In the meanwhile, they play nice with him, roll out the red carpet as they would for any visiting head of state, and flatter him, all the while waiting, with Asiatic patience, for him to go away and leave us alone.

 


Handicapping the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination

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I’m looking forward to voting for President in 2020, and my ballot will certainly be for whoever is the Democratic candidate. I hope and believe that Trump will not be the candidate on the Republican side; he should be an ex-President by then, courtesy of impeachment, the 25th Amendment, or quitting. Of course, we would then have Pence, an unreconstructed religious fanatic. But without even the charm of Trump, he would be easy to beat.

But you can’t beat something with nothing. Who is likely to get the Democratic nomination? Here’s my eclectically personal take on the race, with my own Vegas-style odds.

Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell They’re both California congressmen in the House, both young and moderately-progressive. They’d be lost in a welter of up-and-coming politicians except that, as members of the House Intelligence Committee, they’ve gotten a ton of TV exposure due to the Trump-Russia scandal. If anti-Trump resentment is a leading factor going into the 2020 cycle, either one could be vaulted to the top. But the odds are heavily against. 40-1.

John Delaney As of now, he’s the only declared candidate. The congressman from Maryland is a complete unknown outside his state. He seems to be playing an “early intro” game: setting himself up for the future. But it won’t get him anywhere in 2020. 40-1.

Mark Zuckerberg I’m listing him only because he’s on so many other lists, but there’s a greater possibility of my dog, Gus, running for President than Zuckerberg. His politics are entirely unknown—moderate? liberal? conservative? And the Russian troll scandal at Facebook and his initial denials suddenly makes him look not so smart. 40-1. 

Elizabeth Warren The darling of the Left, with fellow combatant Bernie Sanders. But she’s better as a fertile source of leftie ideals than as a candidate: not warm and fuzzy enough. 20-1.

Hillary Clinton Yes, I’m listing her, because she won the popular vote in 2016 and tens of millions of Americans continue to believe that the best woman lost a rigged election. On the other hand, a wide swath of the Democratic Party loathes her. 20-1.

Martin O’Malley He failed miserably in his 2016 run—completely obscured between Hillary and Bernie. It’s not that anyone had anything against him; he seemed fine. He didn’t expect to win, but likely was just getting his face out there. It’s out there now. A dark horse, but so was Obama. 16-1.

Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillebrand, Kamala Harris I’m lumping them together because they’re all attractive Democratic Senators, they’re all progressive enough to appeal in the primaries, and they all want it. Booker has the race thing going for him; the other three have the gender thing. They all have great futures in the party, but 2020 isn’t their year. 15-1.

Michelle Obama Democrats would be ecstatic to see Michelle run. She’s widely beloved in the party, and no one doubts her intelligence, charisma or progressive cred. But we really know almost nothing about her political skills, and something tells me she’s not ready for prime time. 15-1.

Bernie Sanders A people’s favorite in the Democratic Party. He’s energetic, a hothouse of populist ideas, and almost upset Hillary in 2016. But he’d be 79 years old by the 2020 election, and while his health appears to be good now, even his fans could decide he’s past his sell date. 8-1.

Jerry Brown the guy has been winning elections for nearly 50 years and, as California’s governor, remains at the top of his game. His two big issues, anti-Trump and climate change, resonate strongly throughout the Democratic Party. Still, he’ll be 82 in November, 2020, which probably rules him out. 8-1.

Tom Steyer Another tech billionaire. Californians know him; Americans, not so much. But his multi-million dollar “impeach Trump” TV commercials seem to be resonating across the country. He’s attractive, seems to be moderately liberal, but maybe a little too cerebral. 8-1.

Mark Cuban We know he wants it. He’s ambitious as hell, and has been sending out signals. He was already well-known before Shark Tank made him a reality T.V. superstar. With his billions and firebrand quality, he could self-fund through the early primaries, but he’ll have to define his liberal credentials a lot more thoroughly. 8-1.

Al Franken I haven’t seen Franken on any of the other “contender” lists, but I’m putting him on mine. He’ll be a youngish 68 in 2020. He’s well-known across the party for his Saturday Night Live stint, his books, his impressive if a bit backbench Senate career, and his email fundraising prowess. Plus, he’s increasingly a talking head on TV, where his sly humor makes him likeable. And he’s super-liberal. 5-1.

Julian Castro He was HUD secretary for Obama; his handsome, open face and articulate, if cagey, skills were a regular on T.V. He seems liberal enough for Dems, and as Mayor of blue San Antonio in red-red Texas, he was on the short list for Hillary’s vice president. He has the best smile in politics since Obama. And he’ll be only 46 by election time. Oh, and he’s Latino. 4-1.

Joe Biden The former veep is dropping strong hints he’s running. He has everything going for him: name recognition, respect among Democratic ranks both liberal and centrist, the Beau sympathy factor, a scandal-free career over multiple decades, and the huge bonus of his association with Obama. He’ll be 77 at election time—old, but he looks and vibes younger (the hair plugs worked wonders). His resumé is impeccable, and he’s probably the most trustworthy of all candidates, Democratic or Republican. My sense is that he would crush Trump (if Trump’s on the ticket), as well as Pence. At this time, he’s odd-on for the nomination—if his health holds out, and he really wants it. 2-1.

 

 

 

 

 


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