Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sir, you don't run the country; we do

            Jim Acosta did his job.

            It's clear, even after two years, that Donald Trump does not understand his own.

            The CNN reporter asked the president about his "invasion" terminology of a bedraggled caravan hundreds of miles from our borders – justification for an election-eve rousting of enlisted men and women -- ordered from their homes to stare at an empty southern horizon.

            Acosta asked about the possibility of further indictments in Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian collusion and more.

            Instead of answering like a president, this one answered like a schoolyard blowhard by grabbing Acosta's press credentials on a wholly bogus charge that he manhandled an aide.

            You've seen the type in your own schoolyard. He gets caught doing something wrong and threatens to pound anyone employing his or her two good eyes.

            We saw Trump play politics with American troops, sending them to the border for no other reason than to ramp up the froth of his supporters pre-election. An "invasion" – oh, yeah. It's only costing $220 million. We've got that, um, somewhere.

            Supporters cheered at the rallies he held for Republican candidates. And for himself.

            Reportedly we are on the verge of hearing from Mueller, just as Trump continues his 24/7 effort to undermine the investigation by getting rid of the man overseeing it and putting in charge someone who has loudly criticized Mueller.

            Collusion? Mueller may not be able to prove it. Remember, though: It was obstruction of justice that brought Nixon down. With our very own corneas, we have witnessed obstruction from this president every day in every way.

            It extended from his pressuring of James Comey to back off the probe, to his firing him because he wouldn't back off, to the pressuring of other key investigatory figures, to the firing of Jeff Sessions and the demotion of Rod Rosenstein.

            Now we have an acting attorney general who literally auditioned on TV – CNN, no less – with suggestions on how to stop Mueller.

            Donald Trump, like Nixon, but even more zealously, is out to operate above and beyond the law.

            Not so fast, said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week in telling Trump he could not yank the rug from under DACA recipients seeking renewals under the program.

            Not so fast, said U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in ruling that Trump cannot authorize the Keystone XL pipeline without an environmental review as our laws dictate.

            Not so fast, said voters across the nation Nov. 6, yanking the House of Representatives away from the Party of Trump. Accompanying that was a raft of Democratic victories in statehouses across the nation.

            Of particular interest was that the Democrats not only picked up seven governorships but also now have the majority of attorney general offices in the nation. These are positions from which the loyal opposition repeatedly and tenaciously will challenge Trump's presumptive moves in court.

            I can appreciate Trump's mindset in telling Acosta, "I think you should let me run the country. You run CNN."

            Once again, Trump doesn't get it. The country is not his to run. He's an executive hired by the people of this country that is a republic with separation of powers. CNN is a private company that can do what it wants. Trump cannot.

            I realize that some Republicans think of government as just another enterprise that can be awarded by a bid system. In it, the winner of that bid does whatever he wants until bids go out again. Yeah. Government is an even bigger Halliburton.

            For those of you who believe that, think of it this way: The voters just decided to provide a check on the chief contractor awarded that bid in 2016. This check comes with awesome investigatory powers.

             Just as Trump's acting A.G. assumes that as Trump's surrogate he can stop Mueller by denying him the funds to do his duty, so can the House of Representative wield the power of the purse to dictate what Trump can do with his power.

            Of course, the ultimate check on Donald Trump comes in two years. Millions of Americans will count the days.

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

 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The tourists in the White House

            Gnats. That's what experts at crime scenes call gawkers who suddenly appear to leer at the event.

            Timothy McVeigh, later to commit his own horrible crime in Oklahoma City, was a gnat at the scene of the Branch Davidian tragedy outside of Waco. So was budding conspiracy monger Alex Jones,  joining many in tin-foil headgear there. They were gnats drawn to a flame, plying a tragedy for pernicious ends.

            In effect, that's what Donald and Melania Trump were in Pittsburgh the other day – gnats -- at the scene of the Tree of Life mass killings.

            Just about anyone truly connected to the events suggested that if they came it should be later.

            But "later" didn't fit into the president's schedule. Discretion also didn't fit into a campaign narrative he wove like a spider on meth.

            Only a leader with a massive blind spot would tweet, amid the suffering, a gratuitous plug that Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Keith Rothfus' "sincere level of compassion, grief and sorrow" was "very inspiring. Vote for Keith!"

            Good grief.

            Yes, we are supposed to give him credit for coming. In Trump's world, general human traits like empathy, sympathy and general kindness are remarkable. Such sensitivity was a matter of fact in his predecessor's world.

            Barack Obama came into the White House with the thought that not only was he going to get things done but that he was going to make people feel part of a greater whole.

            The real tears Obama shed after the Sandy Hook massacre, after the death of John McCain and that of Aretha Franklin, those were the signs of the actual human feelings we should expect of our leaders.

            From Trump, it's, "Dab those eyes with these paper towels."

            Trump continually tells his rallies that it's not his nature to be presidential. We know.

            Trump is more like a tourist, a bigwig who got access to the Oval Office, settled into that big chair without the consent of the majority of Americans, and didn't leave.

            He saw buttons he could push and levers he could pull. "Hey, what if I pushed this?"

            "Ooh, look at this phone. I can get the Joint Chiefs in a second. Wait; I'll send thousands of troops to the border. Watch."

            That's the kind of deep thought Trump employed when he said he could order an end to birthright citizenship. No, Sir. You can't.

            All of you on the right who regularly pledge your love to the Constitution – yes, you, Ted Cruz – should call this man a hack.

            Melania is a tourist, too, though a stylish one. She did so much for our great land when she flew to Africa. Correct that statement: Our great land spent so much.

            Reportedly you and I are on the hook for $95,000 at the Semiramis Intercontinental hotel in Cairo. That's a significant tab, particularly because Melania didn't even spend the night.

            Well, it was all worth a fine shot of the first lady in her stylish pant suit in front of the Pyramids.

            The previous first lady stirred hearts and minds everywhere she went, and she continues to do it. She remains intent on making the most of every moment in her role in the spotlight.

            The current occupants of the White House comport themselves as if they're just passing through, as stylishly as possible.

             MSNBC host Joe Scarborough has a prediction: What we see are the harbingers of a president who will call it quits after a single term.

            I don't see it, although Mike Pence has a PAC that's already humming.

            Until Trump leaves or voters remove him, we are but gnats outside the yellow crime-scene tape marking his presidency.

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

 

Monday, October 29, 2018

What's a fear-based demagogue to do?

            It was a bad day for President Fear and the folks at Fox News.

            They had planned jointly to set pheromones aflame with high-decibel sounds about a caravan of people headed to our borders from Honduras.

            Oh, my: people in brown skin coming to do terrible things -- clean toilet stalls, change hotel bed sheets, replace shingles on blistering roofs, and otherwise breathe free. The horror.

            Then what should happen but a succession of events to pre-empt all that airwave froth that Fox and the president wanted viewers to hear and fear.

            It came in the mail -- bombs sent to select critics of the president, including two former presidents.

            Trump acolytes like Fox News' Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh trotted out a "false flag" theory (1) these weren't bombs; (2) a liberal or liberals had mailed them to discredit Donald Trump and his flock.

            This theory hinged on the notion that the law enforcement agencies, from federal to local, were all in on the ruse. Now, that's one massive ruse. It takes that whole "deep state" claim from quaint and comical all the way to Rocky and Bullwinkle.

            Then came an arrest: mid-day -- a news-cycle disaster. And with it came the most searchable term imaginable: the MAGA Bomber.

            So sad. Without exacting so much as a pound of actual liberal flesh, red-capped Cesar Sayoc had blown up a whole, fertile weekday news cycle, or seven.

            Fox News, in full pout, reported these facts. It did, however, blur out the fawning portrait of Trump and the targets drawn on the images of Hillary Clinton and Michael Moore on the suspect's van.

            Then a shooter took three handguns and an assault rifle and methodically killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. He'd spewed his venom all over social media first, introducing non-extremists to Gab, which prides itself on providing a megaphone to anyone to say anything freely.

            What had fueled Robert Bowers' hatred? For one, those Trumpian warnings about refugees from Central America and Bowers' belief that a Jewish advocacy group was promoting it.

            Like our president, Bowers used the word "invaders" to describe the dark-skinned travelers.

            Who wouldn't be alarmed by the Trump-beat about that caravan? After all, our president warned that there might be "Middle-Easterners" in the bedraggled throng. Then it was violent gang members.

            Let's face it. If the package comes in certain pastels, the official policy of this administration is to send the military.

            Submerged in all this was the tragedy in Jeffersontown, Ky., in which a white gunman who couldn't get inside a predominantly black church to kill people went to a nearby grocery store and killed two black people.

            So, tell us what pastel to fear, Mr. President.

            This president is biologically adverse to anything that doesn't fit his prejudices, with a supporting throng that bolsters what he hates.

            In light of the mailing of bombs, Trump robotically called "terrorizing acts despicable." He called for civility, then, refusing to cancel an appearance on a stage provided by the enemy of the people, skipped out onto the campaign trail to return to his divisive self, his raving supporters denouncing his opponents as mobs.

            Trump knows how he won the presidency: by appealing to a constituency just narrow enough to get the electors he needed. He apparently has realized that he cannot attract a broader base, so he has sought, with every word and gesture, to harden the base he has.

            He said, "No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion or control."

            Yet just days earlier he applauded Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for "body-slamming" a reporter.

            In light of these horrifying events, being the con man he has shown himself to be, Trump's call for unity was every bit as sincere as flipping paper towels to Puerto Rico.

            The headline on Michael Tomasky's column in The Daily Beast said it all. In fact, it may be the most succinct summation of the Trump presidency:

            "A president who hates half the country doesn't get to call for unity."

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