Monday, January 22, 2018

Like having no president at all

As Senate deliberations and the federal government ground to a halt, Donald Trump was doing what he does best: watching TV.

That's what the White House reported. Thanks for the advisory.

Trump was watching Fox News, most certainly. Or maybe something better was on Netflix.

Nah, he watched cable as he always does. Watched and did nothing to avert that which he had the power to do – keep the government operating.

If Trump had been watching MSNBC, he would have heard historian Jon Meacham, author of "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power," say that the scene looked like this nation had no president at all.

Remarked Meacham, what he was witnessing was more like a parliamentary system where two factions were at an impasse with no deal-maker to resolve it.

Indeed, when the matter was settled two days later, Trump was more of a spectator than the deal-maker he advertised himself to be.

Trump gave of consistently conflicting signals to both Democrats and Republicans on the budget and immigration. The result was a debacle and costly spectacle that would have been resolved if he only knew what he wanted.

In this case, the Republicans, believing they had complete control of the process, strapped the Children's Health Insurance Program and the unsettled fate of DACA to the grill of their limo, and told the Democrats to stand by and watch.

It turns out that this is still a two-party system. It turns out that an arrogant president and arrogant party leaders who have a razor-slim majority still have to negotiate in good faith with the opposition to get something done.

They had better enjoy that majority, because as a second Women's March demonstrated Saturday, people are coming for their jobs.

Oh, my goodness, how Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell mourned the interruption of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Were those real tears? Mitch, this is as convincing as the president's claims to be the least racist person, well, on the planet.

With the unnecessary tax cuts they engineered, McConnell and Trump have set in motion a whole bunch of budget dramas with the $1.5 trillion in debt those cuts will cause.

The result will be the perceived necessity to toss things like CHIP out the window, along with perceived necessity for dramatic cuts in Medicaid and Social Security.

Then the tears will be real, but they won't be shed by Republican power-brokers. They'll be shed by mothers and fathers, and actual children.

Speaking of actual children. The Dreamers arrived as children, but most aren't children any more. They have graduated from our high schools, from our colleges. Many have served in our military. They are among the best of the best. They are our investment in a better world. For Republicans to leave them out to dry until – what, March? -- is a disgrace, a slap in the face.

That's what happens when a president is more fixated on the TV screen, or on his smart phone, than on doing his job of leading.

In the 1979 film "Being There," a simple gardener who knows nothing about governing gets all of his wisdom from TV. His favorite phrase is, "I like to watch." Ultimately he is seen as a political savior and savant – presidential material.

We have that impostor in the White House now.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

For that red ball cap: 'Make America White Again'

Wherever he resides in the afterlife, George Carlin is having a bleeping good time.

One of the comedian's "seven words you can't say on TV" is being said on TV over and over again – starts with "sh" and features "it" -- and getting bleeped, or someone is attempting a weak euphemism.

The thing is, the censors aren't bleeping some off-color comic, gangsta rapper or street person debating a fire hydrant. They are having to censor what has come from the lips of the president of the United States.

Use that "it" word, and add "hole" to describe certain countries inhabited by people not like Donald Trump.

The Huffington Post ran a cavalcade of "stupidly tinged" print euphemisms for what Trump said of those places.

Associated Press reported on how media in other tongues were treating Trump's coinage. In Spanish, what he said is translated as "paises de mierda." In Chinese, it's "fenking."

Japan's Kyodo News wire service tried out "kusottare." It literally means "dripping with excrement."

Donald Trump, the most divisive person on the planet, has drawn us all together at our collective thesaurus, and in many languages.

Leave it to Fox News to explain to its people that what Trump said was just what normal people do.

"If it's true," said Jesse Watters, host of "The Five" show, "This is how forgotten men and women in America talk at the bar."

Continued Mr. Fox talking head, "This is how Trump relates to people. If you're at a bar, and you're from Wisconsin, and you're thinking, 'They're bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorans, or people from Niger.' This is how some people talk."

So very true. Whether in Wisconsin, or in Michigan, or wherever, that's exactly how racists talk.

That's how a racist connects with fellow racists.

Trump, he assures us, is not one of those. Disregard what he might say about Mexicans, or Muslims, Haitians, or misunderstood white supremacists.

You know, it's awfully hard to misunderstand white supremacists. Their every effort is to make themselves crystal clear. So, too, with Donald Trump. Crystal clear.

This matter isn't about vulgarity, that "locker room" stuff of the "Access Hollywood" tape and giggles with Billy Bush. It's about a racist leader, abetted by racist leaders, who, like the Dixiecrats of old, strum a tune that appeals to modern-day segregationists and xenophobes.

In the Oval Office today, The New York Times describes "color-coded maps" highlighting the counties Trump won in 2016. Of course, we are to assume that "his" counties are red. Then again, red means mostly white.

Republican leaders, after getting beat twice by Barack Obama, said their party needed to become more inclusive. Trump showed them all how wrong that was. Though he lost the popular vote by 3 million, he guilefully mapped out a successful mining of pale-skinned affection.

White grievance was Trump's ace in the hole in 2016. Consider Trump's precious wall. Why so precious. Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman calls it "a representation of everything he could offer his supporters: a way to keep out . . . immigrants diluting the country's whiteness."

I'm reminded at this point of a 2016 survey of people most inclined to denounce immigrants. It found that those people are least likely to have ever encountered immigrants or people of other races.

These are people who fear the world of difference, who – mapped out with care on White House walls -- live in Neverlands of racial homogeneity, and who see people of different nationalities as threats against everything they hold dear.

Except maybe those from Norway.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, January 8, 2018

A 'very stable genius' would be a more able liar

As lightning bolts go, the juice within the 336 pages of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" is sufficient to melt a man's wingtips.

However:

Did we really need Wolff's reportage of it to know that Donald Trump is infantile, intemperate and spectacularly unfit to be president?

No, we didn't. We have read the man's tweets. (His claim to be "like a very stable genius" already having been bookmarked by historians beside Nixon's "I'm, like, not a crook.")

Similarly, do we need Steve Bannon's reportage, via Wolff, that the Trump campaign's entanglements with Russians look like treason?

No, we don't. The crumbs Trump has left on the collusion trail are enough to bread a wagon train of cutlets.

How thin must one's credulity membrane be to think that when Donald Jr. hosted a Russian contingent in Trump Tower, Junior didn't "walk these jumos up to his father's office" as Bannon says in Wolff's book?

If Trump didn't glad-hand these Russians presumed to be bearing campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, how high is one's NQ -- naiveté quotient -- to assume Trump didn't know exactly what was happening in his very own high-rise involving his son, his inner-circle of campaign advisers, and a mess of Russian emissaries?

My goodness, who could possibly believe that Trump was in the dark when, as U.S. intelligence asserts, Michael Flynn made promises to the Russians about lifting sanctions while still a private citizen -- in direct violation of the Logan Act, which makes it a crime for an "unauthorized person" to negotiate disputes between the United States and foreign governments?

Then there's the back channel that U.S. intelligence asserts Jared Kushner sought to establish with the Russians before -- yes, before -- he was employed by you and me because he married the president's daughter?

The thing is, this isn't about Don Jr. It's not about Jared Kushner. It's not about Mike Flynn. It's not about Paul Manafort. It's not about George Papadopoulos.

It's about the man who, in impeachment terms, has made every day in office a death wish: the "very stable genius" himself, Donald Trump.

This is about a man who, if he didn't collude outright with the Russians, is at minimum guilty of telling the least believable lie in political history: that he had no involvement with them whatsoever.

On this extremely alarming matter, let's refine our terms. We've heard references to the fact that the Russians "meddled" in the 2016 campaign. So indiscreet. Sort of like a 3-second violation in basketball.

            "Meddled"? Get serious. Russia attacked the American political system -- in the same way an enemy might attack our submarines or our electrical grid.

We've heard about "hacked" emails from the Democratic National Committee. Such an urbane, techie term, like getting whistled for double-dribble. Try "stolen," though, and it sounds like a crime. If you'll recall, the attempt to steal campaign material in the days before email is what made President Nixon a civilian.

Aside from all of the lies, possibly the most incriminating thing we know for certain about Trump is how little interest he's shown in the clear evidence of Russia's attack on our elections system.

The bogus specter of voter fraud, raised by Trump with absolutely no evidence, was deemed sufficient for him to appoint a commission to demand voter information from every state. (He dissolved that panel last week, and blamed its failure to get anything done on uncooperative states.)

By contrast, consider another meeting in Trump Tower that happened a year ago. Last January, a few days before Trump's swearing-in, the directors of the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency met with him there to express their concerns about Vladimir Putin's efforts in 2016 to undermine our elections system and elect Trump.

 According to the Washington Post, that briefing included "an extraordinary CIA stream of intelligence that had captured Putin's specific instructions on the operation."

Advisers urged Trump "that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win." It would also be a good way to put charges of collusion behind him.

Trump ignored the advice. Unlike the matter of bogus voter fraud, he never launched his own investigation. He blew it off. Why? Because he's a genius, and very stable.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.