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Will he resign?

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There’s a narrative out there that Trump might resign before the election—for instance, here and here.

As some have speculated, Trump “may decide that it’s more dignified to retire undefeated.” According to this analysis, “Trump may conclude that he has more leverage to cut the best possible deal with all players while the bargain includes a widely wished-for resignation, rather than after he loses.” The “deal” he would cut presumably would be some kind of protection against post-presidency lawsuits and Congressional investigations, which Trump rightfully fears could expose long-hidden personal secrets, cost him hundreds of millions of dollars, and possibly threaten his physical freedom and that of his family.

I want to argue in the strongest terms against such a deal. I don’t think one is in the works; Democrats wouldn’t even consider it, to be honest. And Republicans are showing few if any signs of wanting to dump their Dear Leader. But who knows? If discussions are underway, then I say Democrats—of which I am one–should say Hell no. No deal. If you want to resign, Mr. Trump, fine. But you’re in no position to negotiate anything.

When World War II was ending and it was clear that Germany was going down to total defeat, some of Hitler’s top henchmen tried to negotiate deals with the Allies. Himmler, Goering and Admiral Dönitz all put out feelers that would have protected them in exchange for throwing Hitler under the bus. The Allies—Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin—correctly refused a deal. In the end, facing hanging, both Himmler and Goering committed suicide, and Dönitz ended up serving a ten-year sentence in Spandau Prison. Should we expect anything less for the likes of Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Esper, McConnell, McCarthy or to be honest Trump’s children and son-in-law?

Well, I don’t expect any of them to crush cyanide capsules between their teeth. But all of them should be brought before a court of justice that will hear the evidence against them, which amounts to treason, and then their fate should be left to a jury of their peers to decide.

Democrats are in a mood for revenge after what Republicans have done, not only during the Trump years but even earlier; McConnell’s refusal to allow a vote on Garland was the most spectacularly partisan and shocking thing any Senate Majority Leader, of either party, has pulled off in my political memory. To my reading of history, Democrats have tried mightily to work with Republicans to achieve bipartisan consensus on most issues. Barack Obama came under intense criticism from progressives for reaching out to Republicans. So did Bill Clinton before him. But every time a Democratic President reached out to Republicans, they slapped his hand away and spat on it. After a while, even a dog will lash out at a person who constantly beats it.

This situation with Russians paying cash bonuses to Taliban fighters to kill Americans in Afghanistan is only the latest scandal to embroil Trump and call into question, not only his fitness for the office he holds, but even his allegiance to the United States of America and its Constitution. The evidence against him—factual and anecdotal—is enormous. One of these days, we’re going to have to get to the bottom of his infatuation with Russia and, in particular, his indebtedness to Putin. My opinion, unaltered for years, is that Putin has the infamous “pee tape” of Russian prostitutes urinating on, or for, Trump, in that Moscow hotel room. That is sufficient unto itself to explain Trump’s otherwise inexplicable servitude toward Putin. It’s fun to speculate on what might have been said between them during their secret meetings:

Putin: Yes, Donald, the tape is safe. It is locked in a safe in my personal office.

Trump: That’s good to know, Vladimir.

Putin: It does make interesting viewing, I must say. Not my particular cup of tea, but…

Trump: Well, we have a saying: To each his own.

Putin: Now, here are a few more things you might do, in order to reassure me that my decision to keep the tape locked up is correct…

Perhaps one of the “things” Putin requested, or demanded, is that Trump desist on any kind of response to the Afghan Bonusgate situation. Trump knew that a non-response would annoy many Congressional Republicans, who would have to publicly complain about it. But he knew also that his base wouldn’t care (except for a few whiny Gold Star parents, and he doesn’t give a damn about them), and that as long as his base remained solid, those few Republican Senators and representatives would remain loyal, in the end. So yielding to Putin, once again, was easy for him.

Trump: Whatever you want, Vladimir. I’m there for you.

Putin: I’m so glad, Donald. And I’ll do what I can to ensure your re-election.

Back to the resignation question: Will he or won’t he? I can’t see it. His most scathing insult of others is to call them “losers.” Were he to resign before the election, he would be a loser—in fact, the biggest loser in the world. It would be the ultimate humiliation for an egotistical man. So I’m not holding my breath. No, the only way to get rid of him is to trounce him, and all the Republicans, in the upcoming election; and then, to go after each and every one of them in courtrooms and hearing rooms. What we need is a little bit of a Reign of Terror: not a bloody, murderous one, but a legal one. It’s a hard, harsh task, but that’s what it will take to wash out the stain, the infection, the pestilence of what Trump and his party have inflicted upon us.


History: Jan. 21, 2021

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Donald J. Trump’s presidency ended at precisely 12:32 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Jan. 21, when Joseph Robinette Biden was sworn in on the western steps of the Capitol by Chief Justice John Roberts as the 46th President of the United States.

A crowd of some 250,000 people, nearly all of them wearing face masks, heard the new President deliver his Inaugural Address. As Roberts looked on, Biden placed his right hand on his family Bible and formally took the oath of office: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”

In his 14-minute address, brief by historical standards, Biden echoed past Presidents. He declared that “Our national nightmare of the last four years is over.” He spoke directly to the American people. “You have endured much that was nearly unendurable. You have been put to the test by disgrace, lies, obstruction and treason coming from the highest office in the land. You have proven, by the results of the last election, that you never lost sight of decency, of American values. You have risen above the divisiveness of the last four years to restore civility and the norms of a moral culture to our country.”

The crowd cheered him on. In its front ranks were the members of the new Congress. Fifty-nine Democrats now fill the Senate; swept from office in the Blue Wave were such Republican stalwarts as Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and, in the election’s biggest surprise after capturing the presidency itself, the former Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats increased their majority by 36 seats, to 269, an absolute majority compared to the Republican’s 165. (There is one Libertarian congressman.) In State and local elections, Democrats won 38 of the nation’s 50 Governorships, and took back numerous State legislatures. The size of the Blue Wave was described by Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin as “breathtaking and unprecedented.” Referring to the vanishing role of the Republican Party in American politics, Kearns added, “What we’re seeing is the disappearance of the Whigs, in the 21st century.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, following the inauguration, told the Associated Press that Democrats “plan immediately to begin a long-prepared series of investigations into the criminal, illegal and immoral behaviors of the former President, and of many of his associates and enablers.” Beyond Congressional inquiries, former President Trump faces a barrage of civil and criminal lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions, for such alleged crimes as bribery, tax dodging, campaign finance violations, paying hush money to his mistresses, colluding with foreign powers, and lying on his tax forms. Trump was forced to release his taxes last month, after the U.S. Supreme Court mandated it.

The former President, who did not attend Biden’s inauguration due to an undisclosed illness, is said to be despondent at his loss and the size of the GOP debacle. Sources close to the Trump family said he is “resting” at his Mar-a-Lago estate and planning his next moves, which are said to be related to the entertainment business. Speculation has long been that he might start a radio or television talk show, possibly on the Sinclair Network or possibly on a new network of his own.

President Biden immediately got to work, arriving in the Oval Office within two hours after his swearing in and issuing a series of Executive Orders. One of them expands the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, to transgendered Americans. A second censures the Russian federation for “Repeated attempts to interfere with American elections, and to murder American military personnel overseas.” A third order calls for Deutsche Bank to turn over all records of transactions by members of the Trump family: his daughter, Ivanka, his sons Eric and Donald, Jr. and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

A fourth executive order declares Jan. 21 of every year a new national holiday as a celebration of the end of the Trump era.

Many of the overflow crowd witnessing the inauguration wept openly. “I thank God the American people threw out the rubbish,” said Minnie Albertson, who had driven 300 miles with her family from Indianapolis. Arthur Beaufort, who lives in Washington, had tears streaming down his cheeks. “This begins the long, slow process of healing,” he declared, adding, “We won’t ever have to see his [Trump’s] face or hear his voice again.” Many in the audience expressed a desire to see the former President behind bars. “Send him to Gitmo [Guantanamo Bay],” said William Hamilton, who identified himself as a retired Colonel in the Army. “For this rest of his unnatural life.”

Across the country, crowds gathered in public squares to celebrate the nation’s new President and the end of the old President. From New York to Seattle, Boston to Phoenix, Miami to San Francisco, an estimated fifteen million people took to the streets, singing the National Anthem, setting off fireworks and proudly waving American flags. Smaller minorities in primarily Republican districts were notably upset. “Trump will be back,” said Horace “Red” McMahon, a self-described “warrior-patriot” and leader of a militia group in Dearborn, Michigan. He was dressed in camouflage fatigues, open-carrying an AK-47 assault rifle in front of City Hall. In an ominous prediction, McMahon said there are “tens of millions of us, and we’re not going to let the Demon-crats and Muslims steal our precious liberties.” When he spoke those words, an egg flung by someone in the crowd struck McMahon in the face. The Biden presidency had begun.



A Trump T.V. talk show, post-presidency?

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Trump is now more unpopular with the American public than he’s been at any point in his presidency since January, 2019. Some 55.4% of the people disapprove of his job performance, while only 41% approve. That’s the average of five respected polls taken in the third week of June, a month that’s been horrendous for Trump: the walk down the ramp, the shaky hands, the disaster in Tulsa, his rank incompetence in handling the pandemic, the firing of the SDNY head, the Bolton book, the ongoing snarling and crazy tweets. No President in the last 75 years has had a lower approval figure at this point in his term of office, with the exceptions of George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, both of whom, of course, were defeated in their bids for re-election.

Americans finally are catching on. They’re exhausted by Trump’s failures and antics, angered by his obvious unfitness for the high office he holds, frightened by his threats, sickened (mentally and physically) by his complete mishandling of the pandemic. It is very, very difficult to imagine him getting re-elected in a mere 4-1/2 months from now. George H.W. couldn’t do it; neither could Jimmy Carter. The first Bush was up against an economic recession, not a horrible one by historic standards, but the public worried that a president who didn’t even know what a grocery store checkout scanner was, wasn’t qualified to lead them. Carter, too, faced a mild recession in 1980, but his doomed campaign foundered more on the failed rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages and a feeling in the country that, while he was a nice enough man, he was in over his head.

No one would call Trump a nice man, or a decent one, or an honest one. No responsible parent would leave her young daughter alone with him. Few would claim that Trump does not place personal interests over the national interest. The screamers and cultists who worship him at his rallies can be under no such illusions. No, they like him for other reasons—because he sticks it to people whom they hate: liberals, gays, minorities, Mexicans, Moslems, college grads, in other words, a majority of Americans.

Why do they hate so promiscuously? I can’t get inside anyone else’s head, but we humans infer things all the time about each other. I look at the faces of Trump lovers at his rallies–ugly countenances, twisted by rage, their gawping mouths chanting their Trump oath—the kind of faces we see in faded newsreels of Hitler rallies. Anger is only human, of course, but the way we handle our anger shows what we’re made of. Decent people recognize that their anger is usually the outgrowth of unresolved issues from childhood, and work on correcting them. Not so, these rightwing, white supremacist Trumpers. Used to being on top, they perceive their authority eroding on a daily business, as people they always thought were inferior to them acquire power. A person who was mentally and ethically balanced would recognize this psychological phenomenon and figure out ways to combat it, but not these Republicans. They give in to every resentment. They don’t have the capacity to see dangerous and unmoored tendencies within themselves—a basic requirement of a functioning democracy. Instead, they yield to their resentments. This is why they’re so dangerous. America is a patchwork quilt of races, religions, ethnicities, sexual practices, family backgrounds. Normal people realize that if America is to go forward, we have to learn to live with each other. That’s what “democracy” means: Let’s work out our differences.

Republicans, on the other hand, don’t want to work anything out. They want everybody to be like them: Christian (and I mean rightwing, theocratic Christian). Straight and homophobic. Anti-choice. White. Not too educated. They want to wall America off from the rest of the world, and systematically get rid of their internal enemies. How does one work with such extremists? You can’t, any more than the democracies could work with Hitler. The free world had a simple choice: defeat Hitler, or let him take over. There was no inbetween. Neither is there an inbetween now: there is no way to work with these radical, extremist Republicans and their leader, Trump, because they’re not interested in compromise. It’s their way or the highway. Americans know that’s wrong; and that’s exactly why Trump’s approval-disapproval numbers are what they are, and aren’t going to get any better.

I’ve worried incessantly about a civil war, stoked by Trump, who believes that if push comes to shove, his side would win. But with Biden’s lead, even in swing states, continuing to widen, I’m starting to think that, if Election 2020 is a Democratic blowout, not even Trump will be in a position to question it. He might just have to go peacefully into that good night. Post-presidency, maybe he’ll start a talk show on Sinclair, where he can have all sorts of fun guests: Tucker Carlson, Franklin Graham, Alex Jones, Jon Voight, Ted Nugent, Alan Dershowitz. He’ll also be contending with a tsunami of well-publicized lawsuits coming at him and his children. One thing’s for sure, the Trump saga as T.V. entertainment is far from over.


The world’s most dangerous gangster

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Lord Moran, Churchill’s physician, in his Diary tells of the time he accompanied the Prime Minister to Washington, D.C., for Churchill’s first wartime meeting with President Roosevelt. It was the night of Dec. 23, 1941; they were alone, in Churchill’s room at the White House. The conversation turned to Pearl Harbor, which had occurred less than three weeks before—the event that brought America into World War II at Britain’s side.

“Well,” Churchill sighed, musing, “when heads of states become gangsters, something has got to be done.”

The heads-of-state Churchill referred to were, of course, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito, of Japan. Today, the world’s leading gangster head-of-state is Donald Trump.

We’re headlong into the race for the White House, and it has to be more apparent than ever that Trump must be defeated. Being the gangster that he is, he’s trying everything in his power to avoid losing. He knows that a large majority of Americans hates him and will vote against him, which is why his top priority is to prevent people from voting in the first place. And he’s getting away with it; long lines at the polling places, disenfranchisement of individual voters, challenges to vote-by-mail—these are the only ways he can steal the election.

The man is deranged. It’s an open secret in Washington. Everybody knows it, including the members of his Cabinet and West Wing staff. Isn’t it horrible that no Republican speaks out until after they’ve been fired? What Bolton is doing is the worst example of criticizing the cow after it’s already left the barn. Why didn’t he respond to Democratic requests to testify during the impeachment hearings? If he was so upset at the time—and he says that he was—he had his chance to let the country know. Instead, he sat idly by, dithering, working on his book deal. Now it’s too late. Nothing he says in his book will make the slightest difference.

What we see unfolding in front of us—in broad daylight—is a plot to seize control of the government by a fanatical, nationalist, racist, homophobic, religious extremist rightwing cult. Little by little, inch by inch, this plot is succeeding. Enemies are summarily disposed of; laws are routinely broken, subpoenas simply ignored. Facts are denied, replaced by lies so stunning in their fakeness that it takes your breath away. Trump is a danger, not only to the United States and our values of diversity and tolerance, but to the entire world. It is stunning how “Bolton-esque” world leaders are with respect to Trump. Where are Macron, Merkel, Trudeau? Why is not all of Europe screaming bloody murder about what’s happening in America? Why do those countries remain in NATO? Can you imagine if a majority of the NATO members held a press conference and announced they’re leaving the organization until Trump is out of office?

The crunch is coming, my friends. With every tick of the clock towards election day, the crisis increasingly bears down upon us. The most hideous part of the plot is the plan, by the Trump family, to have the little monsters Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, with her nasty-faced husband Jared Kushner, poised to inherit the power when Trump’s bloated, drugged body fails. America is fast becoming a banana republic, the kind of authoritarian dictatorship we had previously deplored. He still stop at nothing—nothing, not even full-blown Civil War, which he is convinced he will win, because he has, in his own words, “the police, gun owners and Army.”

Something has got to be done.


What is Trumpism?

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I love Brian Klaas’s column in the Washington Post. Its headline explains the premise: “November is our chance to wipe out Trumpism, not just Trump.”  It argues that “Trump losing is not enough.” What is required to get rid of Trumpism is an historic landslide that will sweep Republicans from power in the presidency, Congress, and state houses and legislatures for a generation.

Of course, we all hope for a Democratic landslide, a Blue Wave. Klaas’s point is that a narrow Biden victory—say, 279 electoral votes—while it would get rid of Trump would still allow for the survival of Trumpism. But what exactly is Trumpism? We need to define it, outline its parameters and recognize it, so we can crush it whenever and wherever it arises in the future.

The BBC accurately, but not particularly helpfully, quotes a Republican operative as calling Trumpism “what the president believes on any particular moment on any particular day about any particular subject.” We could, by that definition, talk about Bushism or Clintonism or Carterism. Along these generic lines is this definition from dictionary.com: “an outrageous or idiosyncratic statement made by Donald Trump.”

But Trumpism is something more fundamentally evil in its specifics. Klaas outlines some of those particulars in his WashPo column: “A deranged, racist conspiracy…racial dog whistles…authoritarian agenda…bogus claims.” But we need to go further. One of the earliest analyses of Trumpism came in The Hill, and actually predates the 2016 election; by January, 2016, enough was known about Trump for The Hill to define the “four characteristics of Trumpism” as celebrity, nativism, the outsider and populism. But we know so much more now than we knew then. Other traits that should be added are pathological lying, racism, xenophobia (these last two may be part of nativism), homophobia, anti-science bias, rage tweeting, encouraging foreign interference in U.S. elections, megalomania and an absolute ignorance when it comes to foreign affairs.

A more psychological analysis of Trumpism was on the website, Vox. It defined Trumpism in terms of Trump’s ardent followers, correctly describing it as “a cult,” similar to The Moonies of yesteryear. Among the elements of the Trump cult are (1) an “authoritarian pyramid structure,” (2) “a leader…who has access to the truth,” (3) “brainwashing,” (4) the “malignant narcissism” of the cult leader, (5) a “lack of empathy,” (6) the tendency to “lie without hesitation,” and (7) “sociopathic tendencies.” We see, in Trump, these malevolent and horrifying  characteristics clearly.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of Trumpism was described in a scholarly article in the European Journal of American Studies, published after Trump had been in office for only six months, but long enough for European analysts to appreciate Trump’s danger. The author of that study found “meta-violence” to be the essence of Trumpism. European political analysts view American politics, quite rightly, through the lens of their own history: centuries of war, death, revolution, social advancement and retrenchment, with fascism always sticking its nose into the tent. Examining Trumpism, the author found “extreme emotions, social antagonisms, and international tensions” marking the Trump movement. The “violence” she referred to includes, not just the physical violence Trumpism sparked in, say, Charlottesville, but “cultural violence” where “religion and ideology, language and art…can be used to justify or legitimize direct or structural violence.” This is, of course, reminiscent of the desire of rightwing anarchists, like Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon, to “let the whole thing [i.e. America] burn down.”

No words can better describe this violent aspect of Trumpism than Trump’s own. This is from a Fox News interview he gave in 2014: “You know what solves it [i.e. America’s problems]? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.”

Let that sink in. It’s already happening: Trump and Trumpism have indeed allowed America to begin to crash and burn to cinders, and have brought us to the brink of civil war. I don’t think it’s too late to reverse course, though, starting on Jan. 21, 2021, when Joe Biden is sworn in, the Senate and the House of Representatives both are controlled by the Democrats, and we begin the process Speaker Pelosi described last year: putting Trump “in prison.”


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