Monday, August 14, 2017

Trump's foot was on that accelerator

Where was Sebastian Gorka to set us straight?

When a Nazi sympathizer ran down people protesting a "Unite the Right" rally in Virginia, why didn't the Trump administration have Gorka speak for it like he did when a bomb destroyed a mosque in Bloomington, Minn.?

At that time, Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, cautioned us about making assumptions. It might have been a "fake hate crime," one of a "series of hate crimes" that "turned out to actually have been propagated by the left."

You've heard of those fake hate crimes, no doubt. No?

That kind of explanation will be difficult to prosecute in Charlottesville. We know who the killer was.

Driver aside, however. We also know who stomped on the accelerator: President Trump.

He didn't drive the car. He just provided the fuel.

If you consider that an unconscionable claim, his handling of events in Charlottesville say everything.

It was an equal-opportunity abomination, he said, blaming "many sides" for what might emanate when young Nazis, Klan members and white supremacists gather to do – you know – what they do.

Then after two days and a penumbra of surrogates trying to explain away his feckless explanation, he said something that actually sounded condemnatory toward white supremacists and hard-right terrorists.

If he had condemnation in mind, he wasn't just two days late. Why didn't he say something the night before when torch-bearing white supremacists shattered the sanctum of the University of Virginia?

Let's face it. In condemning this flammable hatred, Trump is months in arrears.

Why didn't he send Gorka out to say the events in Charlottesville were concocted by the fake news media?

Then-candidate Trump, who is "very smart" – ask him -- acted dim when asked about being endorsed enthusiastically by former Klan Grand Hoo-Hah David Duke. Trump said he didn't know much about the man.

What's to know except the cone of the man's cap?

Saturday after the incident at Charlottesville, Duke sounded like he wanted Trump to send out the National Guard to protect his fellow salamanders from themselves.

"It was White Americans who put you in office," tweeted Duke to Trump in what sounded like an SOS to a blood brother.

I know that Trump apologists are going to say that "guilt by association" is an unfair slur. But, my goodness, it's not simply a matter of association when an avowed right supremacist like Steve Bannon is one of the president's most trusted advisers.

And then there's Gorka.

At Trump's inaugural ball, Gorka wore something that is stunningly symbolic of the team he was joining.

The Vitezi Rend cross signifies a group to which Gorka's father belonged and which was identified by the State Department as having collaborated with Nazis. Its members have denied or dismissed the dimensions of the Holocaust.

Fake news, you know.

This is the caliber of counsel our president has sought out. The other day when Trump made his reckless and rash statements about "fire and fury" aimed at North Korea, and when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to tamp down matters as a diplomat should, Gorka basically said Tillerson should clam and let the war mongers talk.

"The idea that Secretary Tillerson is going to discuss military matters is simply nonsensical," said Gorka.

When Gorka had to explain himself, he blamed the "fake news industry" for putting Tillerson in a position to have to say something. Actually, we should assume Tillerson is in that position because he is secretary of state.

What a gallery of scoundrels our president has assembled, from Bannon, to Gorka, to Stephen Miller, who presumes now to speak for the Statue of Liberty about immigration. And don't forget the segregationist Trump appointed attorney general.

But when it comes to fanning the flames of race-based hatred, understand that Donald Trump can do it all by himself.

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

 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

When Trump says 'leaks,' you say 'truth'

Historians will note how Donald Trump used social media to say what he wanted -- unfiltered by media gatekeepers.

Let history note, however, that the tables have turned.

With so many insiders so willing to leak what they know, Americans are getting boatloads of damning information -- unfiltered by Trump.

Right now Trump wants us to be alarmed about leaks, as opposed to – you know, everything else about him. Here's another word for leaks: truth.

Truth about meeting with Russians peddling campaign dirt. Truth about Don Sr. covering up why Don Jr. did it.

Truth about how an oaf conducts business, like telling Russians in the Oval Office exactly why he fired James Comey – to stop an investigation.

And consider the oafishness displayed in leaked transcripts of two calls abroad.

First, and most embarrassing, was the Jan. 28 call where Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about a matter of which our president showed no grasp (a 2016 agreement to resettle some boat-arrival refugees, each to be vetted thoroughly by our government. Trump said they were in "prison." No -- a refugee camp).

Or consider the mortifying Jan. 27 call with the president of Mexico. Despite his bluster about it, he called the border wall "the least important thing we are talking about." Politically, though, "This might be the most important," and he wanted Mexico to pay for it.

When Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto refused, Trump told him: "But you can't say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I can't live with that."

It turns out that Trump can't live with the press, period.

After all, the press is in the truth business, and Trump is in the Trump business.

In a gesture clearly meant to regain favor with his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that in addition to ramping up investigations to find leakers, the government might file charges against reporters who share leaked information.

Sessions framed this as a matter of national security. It sounded a lot like what the Nixon administration was saying when it sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, which showed the shady manipulation of truth in prosecuting the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court sided with truth and the First Amendment in 1971 when it ruled the government could not stop publications from printing information it had obtained lawfully.

Before it's over, Trump will have left Nixon in the dust, both for overall corruption and for antipathy for truth.

Fortunately, with The New York Times and The Washington Post more leading the way, the press has behaved in spectacular fashion in nudging along investigations into collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice by Trump.

Trump so wishes he could clamp down on a free press (maybe have critics terminated?)  as happens in Putinland.

He's talked about changing libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue. That would take a constitutional amendment to overrule court precedent, but Trump knows not of what he speaks.

He should be satisfied having his own Putin-style media arm, also known as Fox News.

Unfortunately for him, Fox is losing its mojo amid its own scandals, and MSNBC, with truth-seeking superstars Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, is on the rise.

Oh, and let's not forget Stephen Colbert, whose barbs about Trump are as hilarious as they are informative, and which have boosted him to the top of late-night ratings.

Once upon a time presidents stood for truth. Not this one. Truth is his mortal enemy.

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

Now playing in Washington: ‘The Unconscionables’

           Where does one begin?

Maybe with a sneeringly political speech – that part of it which was remotely coherent -- to captive Boy Scouts.

(Donald Trump gauged crowd size as a personal tribute. No, Sir. Big numbers can be anticipated at a national jamboree.)

Maybe with a cross-eyed game of darts in the Senate hoping something – anything -- would stick that would give Mitch McConnell, Trump, and Mr. Wallpaper, Mike Pence, a "win" on health care.

(Satirist Andy Borowitz pictured Ted Cruz, in tears, pledging, "The dream of keeping poor people from seeing a doctor must never die.")

Maybe with a tweet banning able-bodied, patriotic, dedicated, transgendered volunteers from our military.

(Trump: ". . .after consultation with my generals." Pentagon: sound of crickets.)

Maybe an admonition to a captive audience of police to "rough up" suspects.

(Trump got applause from some cops in attendance. Then police organizations called the suggestion absurd. In no way will they do their business the Trump way.)

At any other time, any of these would have been the most unconscionable, most venal thing someone had done in years in Washington.

(Sure, it was only a week – Hell Week for The Donald, capped by what some commentators dubbed "Failure Friday.")

But, no, it wasn't the most unconscionable thing. Indeed, you most likely have not heard yet.

The most indefensible action of the week comes with two tea party bills to cripple the Congressional Budget Office by eliminating the CBO's Budget Analysis Division.

Hmmm. What might have motivated this? Might it have been the truth-telling by CBO analysts about how many people would lose health coverage under Republican maneuvers intended to do just that?

Yes, that is what motivates the matter: facts. Or at least educated projections that might give some policymakers pause.

Republicans have assailed the CBO for not saying what they want it to hear. They say, for instance, that CBO projections about coverage under the Affordable Care Act were overly rosy, and projections about the Republican plans would be overly glum.

This is fascinating. What did congressional Republicans want but to "get gummint out of health care" and thereby yank peoples' health coverage? Right, Ted? Right, Mitch?

Even if the result of the "mean, mean, mean" House bill (thanks for the kind depiction, President Trump) were, say, 18 million fewer with health care instead of the CBO's 24 million, so what?

So you'd have a disaster in terms of human needs being abandoned.

The effort to drop the CBO off a pier in concrete ankle weights is just the latest effort to "neutralize the messenger" to justify insanity and institutionalize ignorance.

It's happening with the gag imposed on scientists who tell us what the evidence says about climate change.

The same is happening with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Some conservatives (including Trump) want to defund it because it doesn't deliver to them what "Fox and Friends" might in NPR's "Morning Edition."

And, of course, the same is happening with the news media -- you know, the "enemy."

The fact is that the Washington media have done an astounding job of bringing to the public astounding evidence of goings-on involving Team Collusion and the Russians.

Death by a thousand leaks? The way Trump has besmirched his office, undermined the institutions and treated the people under his watch, the precipitation has just begun.

Yes, blame the media. Blame the messengers. Blame them for what you can see with your own eyes.

In broad terms, not at all limited to the Bamboozler in Chief, we are witnessing the most incompetent, vicious – and -- this is important -- ineffective brand of governing ever foisted upon this nation.

At the soonest opportunity, America must pull the plug on "The Unconscionables."

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