Sunday, January 26, 2020

Trump's middle-finger defense

           "Son, this is a Washington, D.C., kind of lie. It's when the other person knows you're lying, and also knows you know he knows."

            This from Allen Drury's novel "Advise and Consent."

            The 1959 account of conniving and blood sport in a high-profile Senate confirmation won the Pulitzer in fiction.

            For a modern-day masterwork about deceit in the Senate, however, turn to Donald Trump's "defense" in his impeachment trial. Call it "Obstruct and Conflate."

            "No evidence to convict," says that defense. Disregard the evidence presented to the House by the most credible raft of witnesses any inquiry could assemble.

            Well, then, "Not impeachable."

            Let's just say that "no evidence" and "not impeachable" are not compatible in any way.

            Either Trump did exactly what testimony and the transcript of a certain phone call clearly demonstrate, or he didn't.

            Which is it, Republicans?

            Apologists less inclined to lie outright say, "OK, he did it. It's not that big a deal." That depends. Is it a big deal that that the Government Accountability Office found the freeze on military aid to Ukraine violated the law?

            Ah, but he freed up the aid eventually, they say. Yes – freed it up the moment a story in Politico revealed the troubling matter and Congress pressed for answers.

            In the light of those two incompatible arguments, the Republicans have nothing.

            The most amusing defense comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who when defending Trump appears to channel Tom Cruise in "Rain Man" defending his socially impaired sibling.

            Addressing the phone call that got this whole thing started Trump, Graham said, "If he thought he was doing something wrong, he would probably shut up about it."

            The Rain Man defense, by the way, is built around another lie the Republicans have trotted out, that this is just about one phone call.

            Such a claim is an insult to the good name and hard work of one Rudolph Giuliani, who at this very moment continues his years-long labors to make rain out of "a favor" his boss requested from Ukraine's president to help Trump cheat on the 2020 election.

            No, no defense whatsoever. As Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said, the case against Trump "hasn't been rebutted at all, except by the president's middle finger."

            We are going to hear from the president that he's been fully exonerated by his Senate partisans. It must be nice to be on trial when you have supped with, campaigned for and in many cases donated campaign funds to jurists.

            We hurt for the Republicans who had to sit, cell phones idle, for three days to hear the hard facts about the corruption of The Chosen One.

            They complained about repetition. So boring.

            "So be it," said a scathing Washington Post editorial. "GOP senators intent on exonerating the president without bothering to fairly consider the case against him should at least be forced to face the reality of his abuses."

            A telling, and unique aspect of "Advise and Consent" is that Drury's novel doesn't identify any character by political party -- that parties bleed and blend across lines depending on what senators believe to be right.

            This is what happened to end Richard Nixon's presidency, when Republicans like Sens. Barry Goldwater, Howard Baker and more acted pursuant to the facts.

            Trump's "acquittal" will be remembered forever as pure partisanship, a "Washington, D.C., kind of lie."

            No matter what Trump apologists say, it will be Rep. Adam Schiff's intonations which are jackhammered into history's eardrums.

            "Sometimes I think how unforgiving history can be of our conduct," he said, "if we do a lifetime's work with the most wonderful legislation and then (are) remembered for none of that."

            Today's Senate Republicans long will be remembered for giving cover to one conniving man at the expense of what the founders constructed with a document written of, by and for people. Donald Trump happens only to be one of those.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


Sunday, January 19, 2020

'Say it ain't so'? GOP leaders say, 'So?'

            They cheated. They got caught. They're gone.

            If only our nation were governed like Major League Baseball.

            If it were, Donald Trump would take the same exit as Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch and Boston Red Sox manager Joey Cora, confirmed cheaters and rule-breakers. They're out, in baseball's biggest scandal since the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series.

            That bygone episode, the Black Sox scandal, immortalized the plaintive call to White Sox star Joe Jackson -- "Say it ain't so, Joe" -- from a young believer in fair play.

            Of course, that's baseball. In the minor matter of heeding our Constitution, even as Republican senators swear to be true to it, they are prepared to give Trump a pass to do whatever he wants. We don't need no stinking rules.

            They are going to let him get away with breaking the law in freezing aid to Ukraine to facilitate a personal political vendetta, and insist as his lawyers are doing, that the American people are on trial. Or that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

            Never mind that our government's own watchdog — the non-partisan Government Accountability Office — says Trump broke the law in trying to wheedle and bully Ukraine's new president to do his bidding with taxpayer money. 

            Republican senators are going to ignore assertions by many, including Rudy Giuliani's pet Ukrainian, Lev Parnas, about Trump's close coordination of the effort.

            They're going to ignore Parnas-supplied evidence that Team Trump had Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovich tailed.

            They're going to ignore credible accounts that Vice President Mike Pence, ex-energy secretary Rick Perry, chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Congressman Devin Nunes were in on this whole illegal gambit – bribing a foreign nation for a political favor.

            Sen. Lindsey Graham has acknowledged all of the above, and so has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in so many words.

            Does anyone remember who was among the first to trot out the phrase "quid pro quo" as being pivotal to this matter? It was none other than Lindsey Graham.

            It was October. Graham was in reflexive dismissive mode about the contents of the July 25 telephone call that has led to Trump's impeachment.

            Graham refused to give much weight to one phone call, but, said, "If you could show me that Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing."

            Yes, it would, Sen. Graham. It would be one corrupt president using the weight of the U.S. government, with life-or-death military aid attached, to cheat his way to re-election.

            I'm still waiting for one other Republican – just one -- to say what GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said about this.

            "If this set of facts were to be in front of me and the president was Hillary Clinton as opposed to President Donald Trump, would I be viewing this a different way? Because if I do, that's wrong."

            We need not speculate what McConnell, Graham and Trump's chief sycophants would say.

            If any hint of these allegations were attached to a Democratic president, they'd come charging with bayonets.

            And this applies to the host of matters identified by Robert Mueller that other prosecutors called clearly indictable.

            Republicans would never cease to probe the role of a Roger Stone, a Paul Manafort, a Michael Flynn, a Rudy Giuliani with his shadow foreign policy if they were on "the other side."

            Add Vladimir Putin and his army of trolls. These are the mobsters of Trump's Black Sox scandal. The players who cheated – the guys on our payroll -- are Trump, Pence, Mulvaney, Perry and more.

            Back to today's baseball scandal: Contemplated the role of the players on the Astros and Red Sox who benefited from the cheating, broadcaster Bob Costas observed that the players were observing the "Code of Omerta" a Sicilian oath of silence to shield rule-breakers.

            They are the cheaters who prosper.

            As are Pence. McConnell. Graham. Nunes. Pompeo. Perry -- the whole bunch: They should be banned from the sport. Of course, this isn't baseball.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Standing around oblivious to flames

            Two views this week stand as a haunting portrait of planetary distress.

            From the ground: Frantic kangaroos bound in silhouetted stampede against advancing hellfire.

            From the sky: Flames and smoke literally ring the Australian continent, its outer reaches charred like unattended toast.

            No wonder right-wing politicians there, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have circled their sedans against the fury of people who know bought-and-owned policies helped create this situation.

            We who worry about tensions in the Middle East think we are focused on the biggest story in the world. We are off by a long shot.

            The human passions of a region can be moderated if leaders will it. Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama demonstrated this.

            It's a lot more daunting to rein in the fury of a planet pushed to the brink.

            Young people know this and are far more alarmed by the really-big picture. That's why Greta Thunberg has become a patron saint to so many (yes, only 17 and the fourth most admired woman: Gallup).

            Donald Trump scores points with his base mocking her and her cause.

            Like much of what he does and says, this is to his party's long-term detriment.

            Young Americans are reacting to him like creatures fleeing the inferno.

            A few million young Americans have come of voting age during the three ghastly years of the Troll President.

            Most of them know and appreciate the science of climate change. They know that doing something about it isn't anti-business. It means a sustainable economy. It isn't anti-jobs. It's about jobs for the future – their future.

            Trump's only concern has been about jobs concerning his political future – rhetoric and policies to placate Big Energy, particularly "beautiful coal."

            By the way, Trump's pandering has done little to elevate coal as an industry. The market is dictating against it.

            So how are Republican policies doing with young voters? If we are to assume that young people are always going to be more liberal than their elders, the Party of Trump is cultivating twice the blowback that conservatives might have expected from young voters.

            In 2018, Democratic congressional candidates outpaced Republicans 2-to-1 among young (18-29) voters – 67 percent voting for the Ds, 32 percent for the Ts (T for Trump, the R's lasting curse).

            This isn't just your garden-variety show of affection and alienation, reports USA Today, but "the largest share of the youth vote won by Democrats in recent political history."

            Ignore those flames, Mr. T.

            Young people observe the Party of Trump do nothing about the gun violence that has stared them in the face.

            They observe the Party of Trump playing a game of chicken with Iran with live ammunition, after obliterating a nuclear agreement that can only make their planet more dangerous.

            Speaking of relations on that planet: Nothing Trump has done as president has enhanced America's global standing.

            In an article titled, "Why Europe hates Trump more than Iran," Politico chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig writes that if Trump expected support there for his cowboy tactics with Iran, he is attempting to lasso his loafers.

            For one, European leaders are furious about Trump's nuking of the Iran deal. For another, they were incredulous about the brazen dispatch of Team Trump in assassinating Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

            Since Europe is far more vulnerable to anti-West retaliation, writes Karnitschnig, "Efforts to convince Europeans of the bright side of Soleimani's killing have been met with dropped jaws."

            There you go: As our planet overheats, our Great Leader sloshes around with jugs of accelerant.

            But look at this the way Republicans do. It's got to be good for the kerosene industry.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Follow the ‘Babe Ruth of lies’ into battle?

            As relates to telling truth, Donald Trump has assumed the status of pin-striped legend.

            The Bambino of BS. The Sultan of Squat.

            Or as historian Douglas Brinkley dubs him, "the Babe Ruth of lies."

            This title, every bit in keeping with the superlatives Trump assigns himself, is his to keep because as Brinkley observes, Trump "lies as if it were a form of breathing."

            Americans, by and large, made that very determination quite some time ago.

            An astounding Quinnipiac poll last March found that by a wide margin Americans assigned more credibility (55 percent) to Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer, than the man Cohen was doing the fixing (35 percent). And Cohen is behind bars, possibly holding a place for his one-time boss.

            So, sell us on this Iran thing, this "imminent threat" for which you have put so many in harm's way today, Mr. President.

            According to the Washington Post's Fact Checker, you average 22 lies per day. Will this be No. 1 or No. 22 today?

            It might be, as Trump asserts, that Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was planning an attack on Americans in Iraq. To what purpose, one can't imagine. But one can certainly imagine Team Trump drumming up lies about it.

            Say what you will about what a villain Soleimani might be. The same was said about Saddam Hussein, and certainly was true.

            That said, "Saddam's a very bad guy" never would have sanctioned the rolling of U.S. tanks and the launching of U.S. missiles into Iraq.

            The war that ensued never would have been supported without the bogus "imminent threat" of weapons of mass destruction never found. WMDs were simply a pretext to a pretextual war that wasn't necessitated by an actual threat to the American people.

            Should today's Iranian matter escalate, it will be exactly the same thing.

            However, Trump will have the type of military build-up he can use to distract the nation from his impeachment.

            What this president has done in the Middle East, from deserting the Kurds, to further emboldening Russia, Turkey and Syria, to inflaming matters with Iran, is irresponsible and dangerous. 

            Trump has never given a reasonable explanation about why it was imperative to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement negotiated by President Obama, except to call it "the worst deal ever."

            To American allies it was doing its job of constraining Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

            Since Trump nixed the pact, Iran has resumed enriching uranium and is back on the path of nuclearization. This is better than the alternative negotiated by Obama? Please explain.

            And now, what possible good could come from armed conflict with Iran? Do we assume that the Iranian people would become more peaceful in such circumstances except when vaporized?

            Thinking back to the crushing of Saddam Hussein's government in that war of convenience: President Bush said "the world is safer." Was it? ISIS, for one, had a few things to say about that.

            Now ISIS rejoices over newfound instability in the region, and Iraq wants American troops to leave.

            Was an attack "imminent"? Regardless of the veracity of the claim or claims, we are at a juncture where a president who tells lies at the rate Babe Ruth launched long balls tells us to trust him with the lives of young men and women in uniform.

            A war? If it comes time for Trump to sell this to the nation, he should consider getting someone with more credibility to make his case – say, Michael Cohen, out on furlough.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: