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Comey takes center stage, as the Republican coverup mounts

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Early morning, June 8: We don’t know at this point what Comey will or will not say at today’s hearing. But we do know what happened yesterday, when The RussiaGate Four—Coats, Rosenstein, Rogers and McCabe—stonewalled their way through and made history with their illegal non-answers before a Senate Committee empowered with their oversight.

The optics of that were a disaster for them. As I posted yesterday, They now find their professional reputations in tatters—like those of almost everyone else associated with this president.”

Flynn? His career is destroyed. Kellyanne Conway? She’s a punchline. Sean Spicer? Two words: Melissa McCarthy. Rex Tillerson? From all-powerful CEO to licking Trump’s boots. Devin Nunes? Trump’s lackey in the Congress. Betsy DeVos? The billionaire who wants to destroy public schools. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell? Grinning baboons carrying Trump’s water. Mike Pence? A servile, conscienceless drone. Jeff Sessions? Lucky if he’s not indicted. And the Republican Party, overall? “Democratic Edge in Party Affiliation Up to Seven Points: Democrats 45%, Republicans 38%,” according to the latest Gallup Poll.

Donald J. Trump is King Midas in reverse: everything he touches turns to dross.

It’s sad for The RussiaGate Four, I suppose. All are said to have given long and honorable service to their country. But look how quickly that can erode. All it took was the obvious coordination of their non-answers, the way they were scripted, their affronts to the Senators and thus to the Constitution, their dodging, their smirking, their frat-boy winking at each other and at friendly Republican Senators, the look in their eyes that telegraphed to the world how guilty they knew they were, the way everyone knew they are not members of the conspiracy to conceal.

In an hour, all four went from “distinguished public servant” to “joined the coverup.”

All eyes now turn to Comey.

No one knows what he’s going to say. His lengthy “Statement for the Record,” released yesterday, is a bombshell. Still, the Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee appear hell-bent on doing everything they can to continue the coverup: we already know that “a furious and frustrated Trump” and his surrogates are prepared to attack Comey with everything they have. The smearing has started, with the right wing “Great America Alliance” creating TV ads calling Comey “just another DC insider only in it for himself.” It’s ridiculous, of course—no sane person believes it–but we’re reached a point where Republicans have divorced themselves from sanity and are left with nothing but emotional appeals to their low-information base.

So, I suspect we’re going to end up with the same Rorschach test we’ve had with Trump all along: the evangelical-tea party will claim he’s been exonerated, while the rest of us will adjudge that, at the very least, Trump tried to obstruct justice. (And let’s not forget that some of Trump’s surrogates may well end up being charged with the crime of colluding with Russia in our election.)

But Trump’s involvement will be he-said, she-said: Comey will say he “felt” pressured to drop the investigation of Flynn. Trump and his surrogates will say that Comey’s “feelings” are irrelevant, that what counts are facts, and that Trump never pressured Comey. And we, the American people, will be no closer to the truth.

There’s supposedly no way to indict a sitting president; the only Constitutional way to hold one to account is through Impeachment. Since Impeachment is a political process, it’s unlikely the House of Representatives will do anything, regardless of how strong the evidence is. The current crop of Republicans in the House is virtually 100% evangelical (which means they do not answer to the Constitution, but to a “higher cause” they think of as a God that has taken sides with the Republican Party) and/or 100% tea party, which means they are fueled by anger and resentment, but not by facts, reason or law. We Americans therefore have to consider the very real possibility that Trump will get off scott free, even though a majority of us believe that he committed serious crimes.

When and if Trump feels he’s home free—that he could “shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his voters wouldn’t care”—he will tell himself he’s invincible and invulnerable and “vindicated,” to use the silly word coined yesterday by his lawyer. Those close to him—Ryan, McConnell and the compromised Republican establishment—will be his echo chamber. “They tried to destroy you, Mr. President, but they couldn’t,” they will tell him. The right wing media will hammer the message home: “The Pelosi-Schumer Democrats threw every smear they could find at the president and failed.” Everybody on the right will become emboldened, and the further on the right they are, the bolder they’ll be. Throw in one big domestic terror attack, and America as we’ve known and loved her may be a thing of the past.

I really hope I’m wrong.

 


The RussiaGate Four circle the wagons, join coverup at Senate Intel hearing

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Back in 1973-74, “The Watergate Four” were the highest-ranking of the President’s men implicated in the crimes: John Mitchell, John Erlichman, Robert Mardian and Bob Haldeman. All four eventually were indicted, with three going to jail.

Yesterday, we saw the unmasking of the RussiaGate Four:

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence

Rod Rosenstein, Acting Attorney-General

Adm. Mike Rogers, Director, National Security Agency

Andrew McCabe, Acting Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

With their stonewalling, all four publicly joined the coverup. They now find their professional reputations in tatters—like those of almost everyone else associated with this president.

One by one, they took the exact same position: Refusing to answer questions. Punting. Evading. Hiding behind Jim Comey’s skirts.

Typical were exchanges between them and the Democratic Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, who wanted to know, simply and as a matter of fact, if the meetings between them and Trump actually occurred, as was widely reported

Heinrich did not ask for the content of the meetings, or what was said, or what wasn’t said. He did not ask if any of them felt pressured, or didn’t feel pressured. He simply wanted to know if the meetings happened.

He got no answers.

Coats: “I do not share that with the general public.”

The others agreed.

Why could they not even say whether or not the meetings occurred? We all know they did. The fact that they wouldn’t answer “speaks volumes,” an angry and frustrated Heinrich said.

Immediately afterwards, the Independent Senator from Maine, Angus King, took up Heinrich’s line of inquiry.

“Why wouldn’t you answer Sen. Heinrich?” he asked.

McCabe: “I don’t want to step into the Special Counsel’s lane.”

Sen. King: “I want a legal definition of why you can’t answer. Why does the Special Counsel take precedence over this Committee?”

McCabe declined to explain. Admiral Rogers did instead: “I feel it would be inappropriate to answer.”

King, visibly upset, grew heated.

“I don’t care about your feelings,” he said. “I want an answer. You took an oath to give this committee the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.”

Admiral Rogers: “I stand by my previous comments.”

I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this since Watergate. Here are the top four intelligence chiefs of America, testifying under oath before a Senate committee, refusing to answer the simplest questions. Their basic excuse was that they didn’t want to interfere with Mueller’s investigation. But, as the Democratic Senators pointed out, Mueller has not asked anyone not to testify; as Sen. Warner said, “Mr. Mueller has not waived you off from answering these questions. So our questions deserve answers and the American public deserves answers.”

But still, the RussiaGate Four stood mute before the bar of history, and of the law, and stonewalled to protect their boss. For me, the most astonishing moment came when Sen. King once again asked the four why they refused to answer questions, or even provide a legal basis for their refusal to do so. Admiral Rogers finally spilled the beans: “Because of Executive Privilege, I have to talk to the general counsel in the White House.”

Wow. There it is, right out in the open. Trump’s people have said he is not going to invoke Executive Privilege, at least in Comey’s case. And he has not yet invoked it in the case of the RussiaGate Four. Yet here is the Director of the National Security Agency stating he has to clear his testimony with the lawyer for the person of interest under investigation, the man who may have broken multiple laws, the man who alone has the power to fire all four of them: the President of the United States.

Ball’s in your court, Mr. Comey.


That Republican anti-regulation push? It’s killing you

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Republicans love to criticize federal regulations, which they blame on Democrats. For decades, it’s been a GOP mantra: cut regulations, and you’ll save Americans billions of dollars, and create millions of new jobs.

The anti-regulatory rhetoric was taken up by Trump early in his campaign, and that’s one promise he’s in the process of keeping. As the National Review reports, “Trump’s [first] 100 days have made a good start of regulation.”

On the surface, Republicans have a case. The U.S. Code of Regulations “is more than 175,000 pages long,” the National Review says. Meanwhile, a new report claims that the U.S. Government also forced Americans to spend an eye-watering $1.9 trillion in 2016 just to comply with federal regulations.” And, according to the same report, “nobody imposed more [new regulations] than Barack Obama.”

To my way of thinking, to understand any attack on President Obama in the proper context, you have to consider the source. In this case, the new report is from a Washington, D.C. outfit called the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). What is the CEI? One way to judge it is to know who its supporters are. On the organization’s website is a list of fans; they include Ron Paul, Steve Forbes (the ultra-conservative billionaire who ran for president a few times), a fellow named William Armstrong who’s president of Colorado Christian University (and a former Republican Senator) and, oddly, Al Gore. I’ll get to him in a moment.

So, except for Gore, this is your standard lineup of rightwing, Christian conservatives, the same group that’s attacked Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton, and other Democrats) for decades.

CEI’s chief regulatory policy wonk is a guy named Clyde Wayne Crews. He’s been on an anti-regulatory crusade for a long time. Forbes Magazine (that citadel of capitalism, owned by the aforementioned Steve Forbes) touted him in a recent, anti-regulatory article that cited the specific example of the FDA denying approval of an anti-arthritis drug, Arcoxia, a decision Forbes called “specious.”

Why did the FDA reject Arcoxia, and what can we Americans understand about regulations by its decision? Well, arthritis is certainly a debilitating ailment that affects millions of Americans (including me). You can buy Arcoxia in at least 63 foreign countries, but the FDA still hasn’t approved it here, claiming that the manufacturer, Merck & Co., had not proven the drug’s benefit-to-risk profile.” According to Public Citizen, whose healthcare director, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, testified on the matter to the FDA, Arcoxia “is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems” and “offers no unique benefits but carries a risk not associated with older pain relievers.”

I’m old enough to remember a time when thalidomide was peddled as a sedative and anti-nausea drug, which made it popular with pregnant women. Bad choice: some 10,000 American babies were impacted, many born without limbs; 40 percent of them died before their first birthday. “The thalidomide tragedy moved Congress to pass legislation to protect patients from medical experimentation without their consent and to require testing of new drugs before their distribution.” You’d think Americans would be glad that we can never have a repeat of a nightmare like thalidomide, and yet Big Pharma to this day wants to decrease regulations. It would seem obvious that the fewer and lighter regulations are, the greater the risk for another thalidomide.

In place of drug regulations we could talk about air, water, food, workplace safety, railroads, hospitals, nail parlors, tattoo shops, dentists, airports, roadways and automobiles, cosmetics, veterinarians, banking, insurance, construction—all kinds of products and services that Americans use every day, and trust are safe. I welcome the government monitoring these things in order to protect us; and I distrust a political party, and a president, that wishes to lower regulatory standards to a point where it’s almost a given that more of us will die or get ripped off.

Oh, that Al Gore “endorsement” on CEI’s website? They quote him as saying, “Over 20 years, I have seen them [CEI] have a tremendous impact.” Hashtag misleading. The problem is, Gore said that in a negative sense, decrying the deleterious effects of CEI’s anti-regulatory ideology. Gore has been a frequent target of CEI over the years; CEI was involved in the formation of a conservative group that sought “to dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific and risk analysis,” and in 2006, following Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” movie, CEI issued a press release announcing “CEI Launches Ad Campaign to Counter Global Warming Alarmism.” And now, we have Trump leaving the Paris accords, just a few weeks after CEI issued this statement: “The President should not listen to Washington’s Swamp, but rather keep his campaign promise to get the United States out of the Paris Climate Treaty…”.

CEI’s funding comes from rightwing sources including the Koch Brothers, the Scaife family (which spent millions digging up dirt on Bill Clinton), and such Big Oil companies as Texaco and Amoco; Big Pharma companies including Pfizer; and Big Tobacco including Philip Morris.

I’m not saying there’s not room to pull back on the regulatory leash. Finding the right balance is tricky. But, to my way of thinking, clearly the Republican Party leans towards no regulation at all, and if they can’t have that, they’ll push for as little as possible. That, to me, is gambling with our health and welfare. These mega-corporations are not on the side of average Americans; their concern is the short-term performance of their stock. We need adequate government supervision of their activities, and anyone who argues to the contrary needs to be considered suspect, including–especially–this current president.


Why are Republicans such snobs?

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Republicans and especially tea party types love to cast aspersions on “liberals” for their snobby “elitist” ways, but you know what? There’s a snobbery among right wingers that’s as parochial and mean as they accuse “liberals” of being, and it’s time they owned up to it.

What I’m talking about are people who scorn the kinds of things they imagine “liberals” like. Here’s an example. It’s from a Wall Street Journal columnist, Lou Weiss, from Pittsburgh, who describes himself as “a carpet salesman,” which I guess is meant to let us know he’s an “ordinary” working stiff, white and straight, as opposed to some coastal elite.

On May 5, in a piece that attempted to satirize the left’s notion of “white privilege,” he wrote, I don’t know what a single malt scotch is, let alone ever tasted one.” This is supposed to mean that “liberals” have fancy-schmancy tastes that good old-boy heartland conservatives would never think of having. (Mr. Weiss perhaps prefers Coca Cola.) For “single malt scotch” you could replace “Chardonnay” or “tofu” or “membership in the Sierra Club” or “eco-tourism” or “supports gay rights” as liberal things Mr. Weiss wouldn’t get caught dead eating, drinking, supporting or doing. In a similar piece, in yesterday’s Journal, called “Yes, Pittsburgh Trumps Paris,” Mr. Weiss was at it again, defending Trump’s ridiculous “Pittsburgh-Paris” conceit, and celebrating “French fries” and the “Big Mac” over duck confit, Heintz ketchup over the “heavy sauce” in which he wrongly imagines French food to be smothered (has he dined there in recent decades?), and praising “cargo shorts” over “Dior and Chanel.” Then Mr. Weiss lands his hardest jab to the jaws of liberals: “Much of my wardrobe is from Costco.”

Well, isn’t that special? This is reverse snobbery, pure and simple. I suppose I could insult southern states for their high rates of obesity, diabetes, infant mortality, school dropouts, out-of-wedlock births, alcoholism, suicide and so on, but I’m not a mean person: southerners make those choices. To paraphrase Pope Francis, who am I to tell them how to live their lives?

As a free American, Mr. Weiss is entitled to his opinions, of course, and so is everyone else who likes high-fat, high-cholesterol fast food. But really, is it necessary for the tea party to be so insulting towards things that tens of millions of Americans enjoy eating, wearing and doing?

I’ve long wondered about this attitude. These rust belt people visit San Francisco every chance they get (especially if their employer is paying for it), enjoying our natural beauty, fabulous weather, world-class dining, sightseeing and so on. Then they go home and trash San Franciscans. Today, on Facebook, some denizen of Trumpism, who objected to a comment I had made, sent me a picture of two very fat ladies whom I assumed to be Lesbians, naked from the waist up except for pasties, with the caption: California, Land of Fruits and Nuts. It was obviously an attempt to insult me and my neighbors. It didn’t work, of course; I simply replied to the woman who sent it and asked which of the two lovely ladies was her mother. This bigotry or prejudice or whatever you want to call it against Democrats is most unseemly in America, and does not speak well of a Republican Party that claims to be for everyone.

Mr. Weiss, I really don’t care if you shop at Costco and grab a Big Mac with fries on the way home. It’s your heart, your weight, but guess what? Liberals shop at Costco too (and conservatives actually wear French fashion, if they can afford it. Just ask Melania Trump). Someday, Mr. Weiss, you might realize that you are the snob, putting down other people you don’t even know (aside from Fox “New”’s portrayal of them) with your nasty, bitchy and—dare I say it?—drag-queeny put-downs. Just like the president whom you admire, which reminds me, once again, to ask the eternally unanswerable question: Why do working-class people like Mr. Weiss–a “carpet salesman”–vote for politicians like Donald Trump who are so inimical to their interests? Trump will cut taxes on himself and his wife (so she can afford more French fashion), and then he will cut the Medicare that many of Mr. Weiss’s neighbors and family members depend on (and which I’m sure Mr. Weiss, who is 60, will sign up for as soon as the law allows). And yet the Mr. Weisses of this country (and their friends, the Lesbian haters) line up to support a horrible person who grabs women’s pussies, cheats vendors, insults Gold Star parents, makes fun of people with disabilities, lies with profligate pathology and appears to be amoral, if not sociopathic. Next time you’re slipping into your cargo pants, Mr. Weiss, think about that. Oh, and while you’re at it, remember: They’re not “French fries,” they’re “Freedom fries.”


Trump, Treason and Misprision of Treason: A Primer

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The American Constitution contains a single reference to “treason,” which Article III says “shall consist only in levying War against them [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Treason was a big concern of the Founders, which is why it is one of only three crimes defined in the Constitution (the others being piracy and counterfeiting). Just seven years prior to the Constitution’s writing, Benedict Arnold had committed treason against the fledgling United States by seriously compromising West Point in favor of the British; Arnold later joined the British Army and waged war against America. The stinging memory of Arnold, who they thought was a trusted general, was fresh in the Founders’ minds when they wrote Article III.

Treason was further defined in the United States Code, which spelled out its penalties: anyone convicted of treason “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

The Code also added a less severe version of treason: “misprision of treason [from an Old French word meaning “to misunderstand”]: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State, is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both.” The difference, then, between “treason” and “misprision of treason” is roughly the difference between an act of commission and an act of omission.

In the centuries since the Constitution’s ratification, in 1789, only 13 Americans have been charged with and convicted of treason. The reason the number is so low is because treason is relatively rare, and hard to prove. Axis Sally’s case was simple enough: her radio broadcasts during World War II certainly gave “aid and comfort” to Nazi Germany. But Tomoya Kawakita’s case was complicated: the last person ever to be convicted of treason (in 1952), Kawakita lost his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by a close 4-3 decision, and, in October, 1963—mere weeks before he was assassinated—President Kennedy commuted his sentence.

There’s plenty of talk today about Donald Trump and/or his associates having committed treason in their relationships with Russia. It’s looking more and more like the deal that went down was:

  1. Russia got to interfere in the election on Trump’s behalf, with the collusion or at least the approval and knowledge of Trump and/or his associates.
  2. Meanwhile, what Russia got from the deal was the Trump administration’s promise to end sanctions imposed by the U.S. after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

The evidence for this is mounting. We already knew that sanctions are hurting Russia badly. Then, there was the report late last week that Trump “was gearing up to lift sanctions on Russia.” There also was the additional news that Trump sought to return those seized Russian diplomatic compounds (in Maryland and New York) back to Russia.

Trump’s lawyers will argue that he committed no treason, because there’s no evidence of direct communication between him and Russian officials, and no evidence of a quid pro quo; Trump simply wanted better relations with Russia. But there’s certainly evidence of misprision of treason: “having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same…”. Did Donald Trump know that his associates (Stone, Flynn, Manafort, Jared, etc.) were doing just that? Was it at his behest, or did they go rogue? Did he disclose such knowledge, even if it was just a suspicion, to any responsible legal or political authority? No. Instead, Donald Trump did his best to cover up, deny, obfuscate, hide, screen, conceal and excuse what was done; indeed, he still is doing so. It seems likely that he also attempted to obstruct justice, and Mueller may well charge him with that. But it would be even more sensational if Mueller finds the president committed misprision of treason, and Trump is sentenced to seven years in jail, probably in one of the “white collar” prisons: the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, in North Carolina, where Bernie Madoff is incarcerated, would be ironic. Two busted billionaires!


The Paris accord, and the challenge for America’s allies

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Between Ivanka’s champagne popsicles, the Paris climate accord, next week’s Comey testimony, and the NBA finals, I’m positively verklempt. So much news!

To tell you the truth, I’m not as upset by Trump breaking the climate agreement as some of my friends are. It’s not that I’m in favor of coal, but the whole issue of climate change is complicated, and I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer take strong positions on stuff I don’t fully understand. There’s enough of that going on in the Oval Office! I do think I understand enough about the future of energy to know that coal is a really bad way to generate energy and the world is going to have to move away from it, and other forms of fossil fuel. But, like I said, it’s not something I’ve studied. I do think that the Democratic Party was a little cavalier in not taking seriously the concerns of people in states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio about coal miners losing their jobs. Trump connected better with them than Hillary did. I think he conned them—coal is a dying industry and there’s nothing Trump or the Republican Party or anybody can do about that. I don’t imagine that canceling the Paris accord is going to save a single coal mining job in America, though, so if I were a coal miner I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’s a very tough situation: what happens to middle-aged workers when progress makes their jobs obsolete? And things are just going to get worse. Self-driving vehicles are going to displace hundreds of thousands of drivers. Robots will displace millions of factory workers. And artificial intelligence might even replace information workers. I have no idea how America, or the world, is going to deal with that massive disruption, but I do believe in science, and in the kind of progressive liberal thinking we see in Silicon Valley, to help us solve the problem. Unfortunately, the current president doesn’t seem to believe in science.

The most horrible thing about him (and there are so many awful traits it’s hard to pick just one) is how thoughtless he seems to be. He told lie after lie after lie in the campaign, thinking he wouldn’t get elected, but when he did get elected, he suddenly realized that all his voters were expecting him to deliver on his promises. Ending “the war on coal” was one of them. That was something he could do through executive order, rather than through Congress, where he appears completely inert. So this trashing of the Paris accord is red meat to a few of his voters.

Germany, France and Italy are upset by what he did to Paris. Of course, they were already fed up with Trump anyway, so this just adds to their disillusionment. I was thinking yesterday, when this news came out, that it would be helpful if those three countries did something to signal their extreme displeasure with this Trump regime. They probably won’t break diplomatic relations, but sooner or later Merkel, Macron and Gentiloni (prime minister of Italy), and probably others such as Trudeau in Canada, Peña Nieto in Mexico, Modi of India, Xi of China and Abbot in Australia are going to have to figure out the right symbolism for repudiating Trump. You can feel them struggling with this. You know they think he’s a dangerous fool, but how to telegraph that to the world is a challenge. It’s important that they do, because Trump is such a liar he will say that his relationships with them are “really great” even though they’re not, and his surrogates will repeat that fantasy, and his credulous followers will believe it. I can’t imagine that Angela Merkel likes it when Sean Spicer says she and Trump have a “fairly unbelievable” relationship.

What exactly these leaders can do to correct this lie and others like it is beyond my capacity to determine, but it is necessary that they do so, clearly, and that they speak with one voice. The bizarre thing is that, even if they did something extreme, Trump’s right wing supporters would celebrate it, since they don’t like foreigners anyway. Fox “News” would tout America’s “liberation” from the wicked, corrupt Old World, the triumph of his MAGA policy. It would just another episode of Trump! the Reality Show.


Welcome to the madhouse: Here’s your N.R.A.

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Ahh, the National Rifle Association. The group liberals love to hate. Ask them to describe the typical NRA member, and you’ll get some combo of:

  • a white, Bible-thumping Christian yahoo
  • probably racist, homophobic and anti-foreigner
  • in love with guns, assault rifles, tanks, rocket-propelled missile launchers, and anything else that shoots to kill
  • a hater of “big gummint”
  • a conservative Republican tea partier
  • an angry and possibly seditious radical who wouldn’t have minded seeing Obama and Hillary assassinated
  • an altogether unpleasant, stupid individual, characterized by what writer William Alexander calls “the three Bs—beards, baseball caps and bellies.”

Mr. Alexander is a retiree who just wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times about his experiences after attending his first NRA convention. A self-described liberal, the 64-year old realized upon retiring that “I wanted to try a new pastime: shooting,” a decision that “surprised” himself. But there it was, and what better group to hang out with, if you’re a new shooter in search of a gun, than the NRA?

It didn’t quite work out. After attending the NRA show, Alexander left thinking, Perhaps golf’s a better hobby, after all.”

What turned him off? When he asked members if they supported tougher gun laws for the mentally ill, they replied, “Who’s to say who’s mentally ill?”

They told him people need guns because “Islamic terrorists are coming to your town. Rioters rule the streets. Unarmed women are rape bait. It is twilight in America and no one is going to defend you. Except you.”

He was told the Sandy Hook massacre “was the fault of the school itself and the lyin’ dirtbag media.”

He was told the San Bernardino school shooting also was the school’s fault because “somebody in the school should’ve been armed and able to protect themselves.”

NRA members warned Alexander “not to expose [his] home address on luggage tags,” to “set up a safe room in [his] house,” to “make sure [his] holstered weapon is so comfortable that [he] never leave[s] home without it,” and to “cover all accessible windows with bulletproof film.”

The NRA used to be about gun training and safety, but over the last 40 years, it’s devolved into an asylum for the most radically conservative wing of the Republican Party—people, like Jeremy Joseph Christian, the white supremacist who just killed two men in Portland, Oregon after they came to the defense of two women; Christian claimed his motive was “patriotism.”

I’m not sure exactly when the NRA fell down the slippery slope from innocence to depravity, but it had certainly occurred by the 1980s, when the NRA began issuing bumper stickers proclaiming, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” By 2000, the cheesy actor, Charleton Heston (who was the NRA’s president), popularized the slogan, while smearing Al Gore at an NRA convention. Claiming that gun control—of any kind, no matter how incremental—“would take my freedom away,” Heston anticipated the lies and paranoia that, a decade later, would characterize the tea party.

Some Republicans lately have accused Democrats of blaming the victim—that liberals lie when they characterize conservatives as dummies when, in reality, Trump’s base are good, decent, patriotic, Christian Americans. The idea, I suppose, is to make liberals feel guilty, and to reassure the Republican base that they’re the good guys in this “fight for freedom.”

I will ‘fess up. When I read Alexander’s essay, it made me embarrassed to think that people as crazy as the NRA members he quoted share the same citizenship as I. For people to allege that Sandy Hook was the school’s fault, aided and abetted by the “lyin’ dirty media,” is nauseating in its twisted sickness. Adam Lanza, a 20-year old fascinated by “battles, destruction and war,” on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and summarily shot to death 20 children between the ages of six and seven. His weapon of choice: a Bushmaster XM15-E2S carbine, a semi-automatic rifle now banned by the State of New York in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.  (The XM15 was the same type of gun used by Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammed in the Washington, D.C. terror killings.) The gun shoots bullets that travel at three times the speed of sound, and can penetrate a steel helmet at 500 yards. During the police investigation of Lanza’s home following the massacre, “police found a certificate from the National Rifle Association bearing the name Adam Lanza” and “an N.R.A. guide to the basics of pistol shooting and training manuals on the use of a variety of firearms, including a Bushmaster.”

Mr. Alexander’s op-ed piece reminds us in a most timely way that ISIS isn’t the only terrorist threat to Americans; the U.S. has homegrown terrorists, too, including elements within the National Rifle Association.  Remember that NRA person who asked Alexander, “Who’s to say who’s mentally ill?” I get to say who: Adam Lanza and Jeremy Joseph Christian were mentally ill, and so is an NRA that denies there’s a gun problem in America.

P.S. The has-been rock musician Ted Nugent once called for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “to be hung.” On another occasion he said, concerning Harry Reid, “[S]hoot him.” And yet, in April, President Donald J. Trump invited Ted Nugent to the White House, and did him the signal honor of posing for a photograph, the two men grinning and shaking hands. Now, Trump claims to have been highly offended by comedian Kathy Griffin’s holding up a fake severed Trump head. Crocodile tears. When Trump apologizes to all the innocent people he and his friends have insulted and maligned, then I might feel bad for him and Melania. But he never will, and I don’t. Trump can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

 


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