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Posts tagged “Donald Trump

Bye Bye, Steve Bannon


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It’s official: Steve Bannon was fired from his role as the President’s Chief Strategist earlier today.

But before anyone starts thinking this signals that the administration will now pivot to the center, you need to stop and think about something. Bannon wasn’t much of a strategist. Rather, he was the guy who came aboard the Trump Train after last year’s Republican National Convention to help streamline and polish Donald Trump’s existing “America First” positions into something more palatable to the general electorate. In terms of strategy, he proved (at best) to be a man playing checkers on the “swamp” chessboard. Otherwise, the President would have actual legislative victories he could point to as wins – and not be where he is, almost 8 months in. Which is to say, his efforts to remake Obamacare into Trumpcare defeated, with no movement on the other big campaign promises, either: the border wall still without funding (and Mexico thumbing their noses at us), no movement on tax reform or infrastructure legislation, and efforts to renegotiate our trade deals actually going backwards.

However, this is the second major administration official in two weeks to cross the new Chief of Staff, Gen. John Kelly, and find themselves being sacked as a result. If nothing else, I’m certain other acolytes who may have thoughts of taking similar approaches – of operating the way they did for the campaign and the first 6 1/2 months of this Presidency – are having misgivings now. Kelly has made his imprimatur on the administration. Whether or not the President can abide Kelly’s style and handling remains an unresolved issue, but it’s apparent that Kelly is running the White House as he sees fit. For now, anyway.

Trump will, of course, continue to be Trump. He will continue to push his agenda, focusing on the culture wars that originally earned him electoral support. His economic agenda is actually pretty much straight from the Republican playbook (tax reform, job growth, etc) and he will find congressional support for that, regardless of whatever else he does.

As for Bannon, expect him to return to his previous vocation, agitating for a nationalist agenda. Near term, I foresee him excoriating lawmakers over the border wall funding (given the proximity of budgeting and the debt ceiling on the calendar), and making Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan’s lives miserable. Longer term, he’ll look to undermine the forces in the West Wing that undermined him from the outside. Expect to see all kinds of hit pieces on Kelly and National Security Advisor HR McMaster, along with Jared and Ivanka Kushner. I also suspect “normal” conservatives, such as Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson, could find themselves with banner headlines on Breitbart or the National Enquirer. As for the President’s economic team, Gary Cohn, Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin were part of the “establishment” long before the term became fashionable. Only a fool would think Bannon doesn’t have something special up his sleeve for them.

Removing Bannon won’t end the chaos surrounding the administration. If anything, the noise is about to get louder and more ferocious (although it will almost be funny to watch the NY Times and CNN suddenly forced into defending people like Perry and Mnuchin). Strap in, it’s going to be an even bumpier ride.


Korean Konflagration


In case you haven’t noticed, North Korea has been doing a lot of saber rattling over the past few weeks. If you listen to only the talking heads on television, you could easily believe the world stands on the brink of nuclear war. You would believe that Kim Jong Un is certifiably crazy, and is engaged in showing the USA (and President Trump, in particular) that he doesn’t have tiny hands.

Relax, everyone.

Whatever else Kim might be, a crazed megalomaniac looking to annihilate Guam for the sake of a show of force is not it. He was literally bred to lead his country. Like his father and grandfather, he is dictator for life, assuming the reins only after the death of his predecessor. In olden days, we would have called him the third king of the Kim dynasty. Like monarchs of previous centuries, after assuming the throne he engaged in a purge of anyone who might challenge his power: family members, military leaders and others. To the modern mind, those moves seem outdated, bizarre, surreal; the actions of a madman.

Put in the proper context, they are anything but the actions of an insane megalomaniac. They are the actions of a cold, calculating monarch entrusted not only with leading his nation, but ensuring that the dynasty continues unabated. And if you judge Kim by that standard, then the current situation becomes much easier to understand.

North Korea is a small, isolated country of limited resources and not much material wealth. As it’s leader, Kim has certain responsibilities and like the monarchs of ages past, one of the most important is ensuring his subjects are fed. World history is replete with examples of monarchs who failed in that respect and the results have never been particularly good for them or their families. King Louis XVI lost not only his empire, but his head in the French Revolution. Czar Nicholas II was forced to watch his family’s executions before finally losing his life during the Russian Revolution. Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to flee to the Netherlands when even his army turned against him.

Rest assured, Kim is well aware of all those historical precedents and has no intention of joining their ranks.

His current situation is dire. As mentioned above, his nation is isolated and materially poor. Historically, ensuring the North Korean people are fed is difficult enough – and this year, they’ve suffered their worst drought since at least 2001. Kim knows unless he can secure an imported food source, and the means to pay for it, he faces a winter of mass starvation, a discontented populace and internal unrest. Even if the people are unable to overcome generations of indoctrination and rise up against the regime, there still exists the very real possibility of the army deposing him.

So, what stands in Kim’s way of securing enough food to keep his nation fed? As it has been for the past 67 years, the United States and South Korea.

What Kim wants is to enter into direct negotiations with the both countries, with three ultimate objectives: 1, getting the current sanctions against North Korea lifted; 2, getting grain from the US and 3, obtaining a security guarantee. To that end, he has reverted to a standard North Korean negotiating tactic, threatening to tear up the 64 year old armistice and resuming hostilities.

After all, threats of open warfare worked for both his father and grandfather. It works for one reason: nobody wants to see a shooting war on the Korean peninsula again, particularly South Korea. During the 1950-53 war, the US suffered nearly 60,000 deaths – but South Korea lost over a half million people. (Nobody is certain how many North Koreans died, but most estimates put the number just shy of a million). The capital city, Seoul, was conquered and recaptured on 4 separate occasions. Fast forward to today: Seoul is home to over 10 million people (with another 15 million living in its suburbs) and sits only 35 miles from the border. It is within easy striking distance of conventional artillery, to say nothing of aircraft and rockets. Should the Korean War get “hot” again, it’s generally accepted that South Korea would suffer over a million civilian casualties on just the first day.

This is why ratcheting up the rhetoric always worked in the past. Even if the US is reluctant to grant anything to the North, pressure from the South (who desperately wants to avoid reopening hostilities) has led to begrudging acquiescence.

The calculated gamble Kim is making now is based on that history. The reason he’s amped up the rhetoric even more than in the past is he knows that unlike previous administrations, the current US leadership is unlikely to be swayed only by the pleas from what is currently a scandal-plagued South Korean government. By threatening a US territory, he is hoping to force Washington to the negotiating  table.

It’s not that Kim actually wants a war with the US, He knows that in such an event, he wouldn’t last long. During the 1950-53 conflict, it took the combined power of China and the Soviet Union to stave off total defeat for North Korea. Of course, the wild card in all this is President Trump. He is unconventional, for certain. But what Kim has certainly factored into his consideration is that, thus far, the Trump administration has not deviated all that much from the past 25 years of US foreign policy, despite all the bluster.

Of course, the possibility of open conflict remains if Kim thinks he has no way out of the box he’s created – or if Trump decides that enough is enough and preemptively strikes. But I still don’t think that either will happen. I suspect that even as we bustle about our daily lives, backchannels are being opened and the first tentative steps towards negotiation are under way.


Collusion Confusion


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Unless you’re living under a rock (and frankly, I can’t blame you if that’s where you’ve moved), then you’ve probably heard more about collusion than you ever imagined possible. Loretta Lynch colluded with Hillary and Bill. James Comey colluded with Barry, or Trump, or maybe both. And of course, the real biggie: the President of the United States colluded with the Russian government.

People, stop already. You’re throwing around the word “collusion” in place of the words you should be using to describe the things you’re actually trying to describe. Collusion is, by it’s very definition, a secretive quid pro quo arrangement whose aims are so nefarious the very history of the world would be changed. By it’s very definition, it goes beyond corruption as we normally think of it. Bribery, extortion, conspiracy – those all pale in comparison. Yet, in almost every case I keep hearing cited by the MSM, the right- and the left-wing alternatives, nothing actually rises to the level of collusion.

The reason I’m bringing this up is simple. After being unable to win any national election not featuring Barack Obama for a decade, the Democratic Party and their media shills have come to realize that a platform based on sowing division and silly “social justice” issues isn’t working. But lacking an alternative, they have seized on an issue that would be a sure-fire winner, if it were true: the President of the United States is a traitor. Make no mistake about it. That is what they are claiming every time you hear a Democrat politician talk about collusion. Every time Rachel Maddow spins a Glenn Beck-ist conspiracy theory tying the President’s youngest son’s hamster to the FSB, she’s claiming the President is a traitor. Every time Chuck Todd writes (as he did this morning) “The bombshell New York Times report from Sunday afternoon might not be the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia 2016 story, but it sure looks close to one,” he’s claiming the President is a traitor.

This is the worst kind of politics, in which innuendo is claimed as fact in order to hurl the most serious of all charges at a political opponent. Anyone who regularly follows this blog, or my social media feeds, already knows I am not a fan of the President. I think he is a dishonest, self-dealing, narcissistic, unprincipled human being of such poor character he should never be anywhere near public service. But it’s one thing to find a person’s character lacking and quite another to think them a traitor. It’s fine to disagree with someone on policy choices. It is quite another to say those policy choices are treasonous.

None of this is to say that I don’t think the Russians did their level best to interfere in the election on the President’s behalf. Of course they did. Vladimir Putin is as trustworthy as a desert scorpion and has been part of Russian attempts at destabilizing the US government since 1976. But a big part of the reason the FSB and SVR were as successful as they were in 2016 was because the Democrats ran Hillary Clinton, who staffed her campaign team with Clinton loyalists from the 1990’s. Their candidate was the only person in America whose character was even more questionable than that of Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, if the President weren’t such a blatant narcissist, this story would have been put to bed long before he even took the oath of office. All he would have had to say last fall was, “Sure the Russians interfered. But their interference amounted to reminding the American people why they hated the Clintons” and the whole story would have been over. But that deep-seated character defect does not allow him to acknowledge that anyone else might have had a hand in his victory. So be it.

I am certain the rest of the summer will be consumed by this nothingburger of a story, to the detriment of the major policy decisions we need to grapple with before October. That’s a shame. But if you claim to be part of the #resistance, than you are just as guilty. You’ve moved from principled opposition to a flat-out attempt to remove a duly elected President.

Now THAT’S treason.


Stop Using the Clinton Defense


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If there’s one thing the latest political kerfluffle has revealed, it is the lengths which some Trumpkins will go to defend the indefensible.

I’m not talking about the morons who either don’t care about, or don’t understand, the national security implications of divulging allied deep-cover intelligence operations to the Russians. I’m not referring to the people who think a President trying to derail investigations into his associates is just peachy. Those people will never be happy living in anything less than a dictatorship, and there is no hope for them.

The people I am directing these comments to are the ones who know the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is engaging in (at best) immoral and irregular activities or (at worst) about to plunge the nation into a crisis that will make the Watergate era look like the days of wine and roses. Instead of admitting their guy has character flaws that are manifesting themselves daily, they attempt to justify it with statements like:

“When is Hillary getting locked up?”

“What about the tarmac?”

“Seth Rich! Seth Rich!”

Yes, there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome on the left. That is indisputable, unless you suffer from it (in which case, I know a good psychiatrist). But it also shows there is still a Clinton Derangement Syndrome running rampant through the right. Just like those with TDS can’t self-identify their problem, the same seems to be the case with CDS on the right.

If you are one of those people, I have a news flash for you: SHE LOST.

The result of that loss is a fate far worse than jail for someone who’s entire way of life was built on running a political machine. The machine was taken away. The money, the swag, the hobnobbing, the ability to influence others – all gone. The Clinton’s find themselves in political purgatory, which is a fitting place for them.

Now, here’s the thing: trying to excuse Donald Trump’s excesses by complaining about the Clinton’s only does one thing, in the end. It says to rational people that you think what the Clinton’s did would be just fine, if only they had put an elephant on their family crest instead of a donkey. You undercut your own arguments by suggesting that what was fine for one was terrible for the other.

Here’s your reality check. If the Clinton’s actions (attempting to influence investigations into political corruption, stealing public funds, etc, etc) are reprehensible, what makes those same actions by the Trump’s any less reprehensible? There is an old adage: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

You would be well served to remember that.

 


President Trump, Russophile?


The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?

It’s been a nagging question for something like 18 months now: what is the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin? The questions first arose during the campaign, when Trump seemed to be sending public love notes to Putin. The questions reappeared after President Trump, rather than accept that Putin is a diabolical dictator, preferred to argue that the US government operates in the same nefarious manner as the Russian. And they roared into prominence this week, with the revelations about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s tête-à-tête with the Russian ambassador and the leaks about the Trump campaign’s contacts with the Russian SVR.

The President’s conduct towards Russia and Vladimir Putin certainly engender some questions.

1. Why is Trump so reluctant to condemn Russia and Vladimir Putin in particular?
I’ve given this some thought, and I have a sort of good news/bad news idea about the subject. The good news: I do not think President Trump is being blackmailed by, or in any other way criminally beholden to the Russian Federation. Do I think he has business interests there? It would be ludicrous to think a man who once held a beauty pageant in Moscow and has at least minority interests in resort properties around the world doesn’t have some sort of similar arrangements in Russia. Do I think those holdings are substantial enough that the Russian government could leverage them to their advantage? No. Not even someone as vain as Donald Trump would be willingly complicit in treason over a few hotel rooms. If he is, then we’ve plumbed new depths of depravity.

I suspect the reason is simpler, but far more disturbing. Based on public statements going back nearly 30 years, I believe our President wants to be Vladimir Putin. He admires and respects the way Putin handles things, with an autocratic iron fist wrapped in a cement glove. Killing political opponents? Perfectly fine (remember, Trump once praised the Chinese for running down dissenters with tanks). Invading foreign countries and plundering them? It’s cool – just keep the oil. Operating above, below and in conflict with established law? From abusing eminent domain in the 1980’s to his “so-called judges” remarks in the last few weeks, Trump has consistently demonstrated that he thinks laws apply to everyone BUT him. Even Stephen Miller’s outburst last Sunday (“the President’s authority will not be questioned!”) demonstrates a very totalitarian view of government, the kind of government prevented by our Constitution. That he’s constrained by the Constitution and its provisions against executive overreach galls Trump (and, sadly, his supporters) to no end. Putin has no such constraints and when he did, he was able to just ignore them until the Russian constitution was changed.

2. Why was his campaign in “constant” contact with Russian officials?
This is, of course, still unproven. However, the fact is that there is an investigation into the likelihood of contact between the SVR and the Make America Great Again campaign, and that it’s been partially leaked, suggest there’s more than just smoke to this question. As for why it would have occurred, see the above conclusion that Donald J. Trump stars in “Crazy about Vladdy.” The one thing that nobody seems to recall is that Vladimir Putin actually won a democratic election in 2000, on a platform eerily similar to the one Donald Trump ran on in 2016. If the person you venerate over all others might be in a position to offer advice and encouragement, any of us would seek their counsel.

3. Why didn’t Trump tell Vice President Pence that former national security adviser Mike Flynn wasn’t being honest about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador?
3a. Why wasn’t Flynn fired the second Trump learned he was deceiving the vice president? 

Once again, if the President is attempting to model his administration on that of his favorite Russian dictator, neither of these questions is difficult to answer. In fact, they both have the same answer: Flynn was ordered to lie to Pence by Trump. As to why Trump would have Pence lied to, there are two reasons. The first is that Trump was certainly aware that having Flynn reach out to the Russian ambassador regarding the latest Obama sanctions was a clear violation of the Logan Act. He also knows that despite decades in public office, nobody has ever accused Mike Pence of malfeasance or corruption. He knew then that Pence’s reaction would, at best, be another tepid endorsement of the President’s orders and Flynn’s duplicity in carrying them out.

The  other thing  to remember on this point is that part of Vlad’s governing style, and one that has thus far proven true of Trump’s, is a dedication to the idea of equal but rival teams in open competition. Pence is the de facto leader of the ‘establishment’ group. Flynn was very much part of the ‘apocalyptic’  group. In effect, Trump was already pitting those two groups against each other before he even took office. That he waited nearly 72 hours before firing Flynn after the first revelations about that phone call, and Flynn’s duplicity towards Pence, looks for all the world like Trump was waiting to see if there would be any blow-back on Pence. After all, Trump is also aware that of all the people in his administration, the two most admired on Capitol Hill are Mike Pence and James Mattis. Pence, being his Constitutionally appointed successor should he be unable to complete his term, therefore presents a clear and pressing danger. The fact that unlike Obama with Joe Biden, or George HW Bush with Dan Qualyle, his VP is considered one of the few sane members of his inner circle poses the threat, essentially giving cover to Democrats  if they decide to implement clause 4 of the 25th Amendment.

The larger question that needs to be answered is: does the President’s infatuation with Russian style politics and deep admiration of authoritarianism endanger the nation? So far, the answer is not in any lasting way. The Constitution was written by men who were intimately familiar with being ruled by a tyrant and designed to ensure that no one person could unilaterally impose his will on the government. As they intended, the structures they built have soundly defeated Trump’s every move to emulate his idol’s governing style, much to his chagrin. The separation of powers works.

That is not to say Trump cannot inflict serious damage, at least on the United States and the western democracies strategic position. But dealing a fatal blow to the Constitution does appear to be beyond his scope.

There are other questions, but we don’t have enough information to speculate on the answers. For instance, who in the campaign was speaking to the Russians? Are they now in the administration? Were any of those people responsible for the leaks to the Washington Post that started this ball of wax? The President could, of course, put an end to all this by issuing a statement that answers those questions.

But then again, we know Trump isn’t about to do that. He’ll continue his current method of dealing with this crisis, attacking the press for asking the questions and attacking the leaks themselves. Because, after all, that’s what Vladimir would do.


Leaks vs. Whistleblowers


The dominant political news of the week was the dismissal of Lt. Michael Flynn (ret.), President Trump’s first National Security Advisor. His abrupt departure brought back a few issues that should have been answered during the fall campaign, but weren’t. In a multi-part series, I’ll be examining the following:
1. Were the leaks that led to Flynn’s ouster justified? Are leaks ever justified?
2. Is the President’s Russophilia damaging to his Presidency and the nation writ large?
3. Should career civil servants place greater emphasis on conscience or policy?

One of the more interesting results of the Flynn Fiasco is the President’s relentless damning of the news articles that forced his hand and the leaks that made those news articles possible. While part of the attacks are typical hubris that nobody, except the Trumpers, takes seriously (sorry, the stories weren’t “fake news”), as with all good propaganda there is an element of truth to them. We’re all aware that Trump takes criticism about as well as a child. Those stories weren’t the opinion-filled pieces that Trump has been able to dismiss as terrible journalism. They are hard-hitting, factual articles that were made possible by the type of inside information that isn’t ever supposed to see newsprint.

In short, the President is rightly incensed about the leaks which have plagued his administration from Day 1. Regardless of the fact that we know Trump values personal loyalty above all other traits, leaks of this sort can constitute a national security threat.Take away that Trump feels personally slighted by what he perceives as an internal attack from the “deep state,” and we’re still left with the reality that someone (or several someone’s) within the National Security Council staff went and blabbed to the Washington Post about Flynn’s violations of the Logan Act, and to the New York Times and CNN about the Trump presidential campaign’s contacts with the Russian intel services as far back as 2015.

Americans have always had a love/hate relationship with government leaks. We celebrate Mark Felt, the leaker later famously revealed as “Deep Throat,” whose information exposed the corruption and malfeasance of the Nixon administration. We vilify Bradley Manning, whose leaking apparently drove him/her/it to finally lose whatever grasp on reality him/her/it ever had. Then there are figures like Edward Snowden, about whom we are ambivalent: the leaks were damaging and showed illegal government activity, but we can’t quite make up our mind whether he’s a whistleblower, a pawn or a traitor.

Now add in that often, our government will purposely leak information. Whether it’s Scooter Libby giving David Ignatius “deep background” about Iraqi WMD, or James Jones’ leaking Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan plan, the previous two administrations have used strategically timed leaks from the National Security Council to advance their agenda. That’s not inconsequential; the last 16 years have seen increasingly aggressive actions against leakers.

So the question before us is this: when is a leaker a whistleblower? Felt was undoubtedly a whistleblower, Manning a leaker.

The answer seems to be more one of public opinion than anything else. Had the nation simply shrugged off the Constitutional breaches of Richard Nixon as “Nixon being Nixon” and “politics as usual,” Jeffrey Zeifman would have been tasked with hounding Woodward and Bernstein to reveal their source. If we had publicly decided that Wikileak’s publication of Manning’s data dump revealed a pattern of illegal conduct by US forces, he might not be trying to get the taxpayers to pay for having his genitals whacked off. As for Mr. Snowden, he will probably find himself in permanent exile – while the NSA spying certainly violated the 4th Amendment, that Constitutional protection isn’t terribly popular at the moment.

Another factor is whether the government wants to pursue charges against the leaker. An example of such a situation is Scott Davis, the man responsible for exposing the Department of Veteran’s Affairs allowing veterans to die before ever seeing a doctor. He leaked internal documents showing VA was well aware of the problem but not doing anything to address it, a clear violation of 18 USC 793, 794. Yet, even the notoriously anti-leak Obama administration passed on filing charges against Davis. This was despite the  fact that few leaks embarrassed the former President quite as badly as the revelation that even as he was sending American servicemen into  harm’s way, he was turning a blind eye to their care upon their return.

And so, in this way, we’ll be able to eventually determine which of these leaks merit whistleblower status. That Gen. Flynn broke the law is beyond doubt; that he demonstrated woefully poor discretion likewise. (Seriously, a career spook who didn’t know a phone call to the Russian ambassador was being recorded by both the NSA and the Russian FSB? That’s…terrible). The level of demonstrated incompetence alone should have resulted in his dismissal, much less the willful lying to the Vice President.  Similarly, if the ties between the Russian intel service and the Trump campaign are proven, then those leakers will likely rise in American lore to match that of Deep Throat. If it results in nothing more than innuendo, the President will be fully justified in rooting out and charging the people responsible.

 


The Phone Call


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It’s late one evening. Behind the bar at Andy’s Cafe in Cincinnati, a spray tanned older gentleman laughs quietly with his guests when the phone rings.

“Andy’s, where the beer is cold and the music is hot,” he answers.

“Hey, John! It’s Paul – Paul Ryan, remember me? Well, I’m sure glad I caught you. I need some advice.”

“Well, you know I left that life behind, Paul. Breaking up bar fights is easier on a 67 year old body than those squabbles on Capitol Hill.”

“I know, I know. But look, I’m in a real pickle here. Was kind of hoping to bounce some ideas off you and see what you think.”

“Are you recording this? Is this some sort of practical joke? You know, like when y’all ran that celebrity real estate developer for President. Man, that was a doozy!”

“No, no, this is serious. And yeah, glad you liked that one. But there’s something you may not have heard about, yet.”

“Really? Shoot.”

“That guy is now the President of the United States. And I don’t mean the United States of Benetton. And he’s part of the reason I need your help.”

“You mean, you idiots ran the only man in America who uses more spray tan than me and lies more than Nancy? Wasn’t that script for ‘Trading Places 2’ rejected by Hollywood?”

You can hear the pause before Ryan responds, “Maybe it was. But he and that gawd-awful combover are  in charge now.”

“Oh, you are truly and greatly screwed. Like Big Green Weenie screwed. No, better yet…”

“John, this is serious. Everyone thinks he’s a Russian spy or something, and DC is so busy not tripping over one another over they haven’t noticed the Chinese star-and-sickle tattoo he got the other day.”

“Right, serious. Speakering of which, you haven’t introduced that tooth repair kit I invented yet, have you? Give me a couple a days Head Start.”

“How droll.”

“I know, hahahahahahaha! ”

“So, do you have any advice for me?”

“Retire. Buy a bar in Wisconsin. You can get royally drunk and nobody gives a shit.”

“No, look, this is serious. Do you know what he asked me to do this morning? He asked me to draw up legislation selling Alaska back to the Russians!”

“Well, he is a real estate developer. I imagine he got a good price.”

“Mitch is beside himself over this. Jeb Hensarling wants to know if he can get something similar from Spain for California. This whole thing is going off the rails.”

“You guys are  the ones who nominated him. If I remember right, you had a chance to turn him away at the convention. You gotta deal with him now.” The old bartender belches loudly. “Damn, that was a GOOD one! Did you hear that, Paulie boy? Rattled the doors with that one, I did!”

Ryan sighs, loudly. “That’s history. What do I do now?”

“I told you. Retire. Buy a bar. Get drunk.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“Sure I am. I did and look at me now. I’m hanging out with my friends, only using spray tan once or twice a week and I’ve only cried once in the last year. Best move I ever made was coming back to this bar.”

“Thanks, John. You’ve been a real help.”

“Glad I could be, Paul. And next time you’re in Cincinnati, the beer is on me.”


Liberals STILL Don’t Get It


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A little over a week ago, I posted my thoughts on why the election turned out the way it did. As I wrote,

When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose.

Since then, I’ve seen some postings on various blogs (like these, here and here) that show a few liberals have figured this out. But far too many have taken the wrong lessons from the election, or no lesson at all. The recent kerfluffle over the the way the cast of Hamilton has reacted is one example. The Democrat party’s seeming determination to shift even further left is another. And finally, there is the unending grief I and other conservatives are receiving from the on-line liberal tribe, as well my liberal friends. None of them seem capable of recognizing, much less understanding, what happened in this election.

So here’s a quick synopsis for you.

  1. Donald Trump did not win this election, so much as Hillary Clinton lost this election. This is an important point to remember.
  2. This was not an election about issues. Equally important to remember. This was not about emails, Benghazi, immigration, or “identity politics”. In the end, none of that mattered. The great swath of undecideds didn’t break for Trump because they agreed with his plans, or because of Hillary’s probable corruption. They didn’t abandon Hillary because she’s a woman, or out of racism.
  3. This was an election about attitudes and respect. This is the point that liberals are getting especially hung up about. If the election was about respect, how could the least respectful candidate since George Wallace win? It’s because they ignore the first half of that statement: attitudes. For a generation, the great swath of middle America has endured an attitude from the genteel class that says their values and lifestyle are worthless. This was the year when they finally told the genteel class to go to hell.

In short, for 30 years the vast middle of America was told by cultured elite that they need to respect everyone, but no one need respect them. They were called “bitter clingers” and “deplorable” and “trailer park trash.” Their values, which also happen to be the ageless values of hard work, loyalty, family, church and patriotism, were derided as passe.

Now, as I’ve said, I’ve found very few who lean left who seem able to grasp this simple concept. It might be the heavy indoctrination that turns one into a liberal precludes them from recognizing that heaping scorn on half of the country is not going to endear you to the masses. Instead, I see comments like these:

A significant reason Hillary lost this election was because men (mostly white) came out in unprecedented numbers to remind us – violently & vehemently – that a woman is not welcome at the table.

 

If you voted for Trump, you might not be a racist, but you support one

 

The only difference between a Trump voter and a Nasi (sic) is the Nazi has a brain

 

I’m not saying Trump’s people are idiots, but they can’t spell cat if you spot them the C and A.

And those are the mild ones. The left is intent on casting Trump’s voters as racists, woman haters, gay haters, idiots – in other words, as “deplorable.” When I’ve mentioned that no, most of Trump’s voters are telling you eggheads they’re tired of having their values trashed and lives stepped on, I get replies amounting to, “Who cares? They voted for Trump.”

If I were purely partisan, I wouldn’t much care. As long as the left maintains this tone deafness about America, their electoral chances remain concentrated in the cities. They will never regain any strength in the Congress, and they will continue to lose elections at the local and national level. One of the most shocking results of this election is that Democrats only won 57 counties this year. 57 out of nearly 3200. Now THAT’s deplorable!

But I am not a pure partisan. I am an American, and while we on the right understand the left’s POV (we haven’t been given a choice, really – it’s crammed down our throats), if the left doesn’t understand ours, the country will remain hopelessly divided. Regardless of which side of the political divide you find yourself, I think we all agree that would be a horrible, no good, very bad result.

 


2016 Proves the Electoral College Works


Clinton supporters are claiming that since Hllary won the popular vote, it proves the Electoral College is a dysfunctional anachronism that impedes modern democracy. They don’t seem to understand, or care, that statements like those only prove the reasons for the Electoral College in the 1780’s remain with us today.

First and foremost, the Founding Fathers had deep, abiding distrust of unfettered democracy. James Madison wrote in Federalist 10

A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

This understanding that direct democracy is an unwieldy form of government, certain to end in direct violence of neighbor versus neighbor, is what drove the Founders to establish the United States as a representative republic. They strove, at every level of the federal government they were creating, to isolate the democratic forum to the smallest, most localized unit possible. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of American governance is the interplay between the states and the federal government they devised.

A large part of the reason for establishing that interplay between state and federal government was the Founder’s understanding that, even in the earliest days of the nation, there were stark differences between the various states and regions, and competing interests between heavily populated areas and sparsely populated ones. In establishing a federal government that was an equal partner of the states as regards most matters, they allowed local control over local issues, while allowing for an overarching national policy that might be in direct contravention to what a state preferred. Factionalism, which they understood was an unremarkable and inevitable feature of human society, could thus be controlled. No single faction could become so omnipresent as to impose its will on the rest of the nation.

This theory of government extends through to the idea of the Electoral College. Most of us are familiar with the idea of the Electoral College as stated by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68:

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

But very few of us have given much thought to this part of the same essay:

The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

Here we see expressed the idea, once again, of deference to state preference, even when contemplating a federal election. Yes, the election of a President would occur in all the states simultaneously, but it was not a singular electoral event. Rather, it was to be the continuation of state elections. To ensure that each state was not pressured by outside influences, each states electors are to meet in that state and vote. They are not to travel to the seat of national government. The method of their meeting and deliberation is left to the states to decide.

So how does the 2016 general election demonstrate that these ideas are still needed today? Consider this: Mrs. Clinton will assuredly wind up with more raw votes, if tabulated nationally, than Mr. Trump. But, that is due to her extreme support on the Pacific Coast. Her share of the popular vote in California, Oregon and Washington is around 65%. Of the roughly 61 million votes she received, nearly 9.5 million of them came from those three states versus only 4.3 million for Mr. Trump. To look at in reverse, in every other region of the nation, Mr. Trump outpolled Mrs Clinton by some 5 million votes and had the far higher share of the total, with nearly 53% of the votes cast.

If we were to do as Mrs. Clinton’s supporters ask, and amend the Constitution to abolish the Electoral College, we would be saying that only 3 of our states were electing the President. The other 47, despite a preference for the opposing candidate, would be shunned.

But the hidden beauty of the Electoral College is in ensuring that every state and every region receives import upon the selection of the President in proportion to its size and influence in the federal government. So yes, Mrs. Clinton is assured the 74 electoral votes from those states. All she needed was another 196 (or 38% of the remaining) electoral votes to win the Presidency. But Mr. Trump, by virtue of his running a broader campaign that appealed to more voters across a wider swath of the nation, gained more electors in the other states. He outpolled Mrs. Clinton in the deep south, the midwest, the plains states, the mountain west and battled her to a near draw in the northeast.

I understand its a bitter pill for her supporters to admit that Mrs. Clinton’s message did not have the type of broad appeal that resonated across the nation. But one again, the Electoral College is ensuring the candidate with the broadest support will assume the Presidency on January 20.


What Goes Around…


I’m a person with a slightly bent sense of humor. I realize it, most of my friends have learned to live with it, my wife tolerates it and my kids (fortunately) didn’t inherit it. I find Monty Python hilarious, roar with laughter throughout The Rocky Horror Picture Show, still guffaw at Peter Seller’s portrayal of Inspector Clouseau, and laugh for hours with The Three Stooges. I love watching Wile E. Coyote fall off cliffs, Bugs Bunny put one over on Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam always puts a smile on my face.

I mention this, because despite the arduous training in the sublimely ridiculous that the many hours of such entertainment brought about, I’ve never seen anything as nonsensical as the current state of the American left wing. Setting your cities on fire because your candidate lost is like a lost scene from Dr StrangeloveIndeed, the only person on the left I’ve come across in the last 4 days with any sense of why we have President-elect Trump is this guy here:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FJonathanPieReporter%2Fvideos%2F1044777035645189%2F&show_text=0&width=560

But even he only half understands it. Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton was probably the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have stood for President. As awful a candidate as Trump was, Hillary proved to be even more awful. Approximately 6.3 million fewer votes were cast this election versus 2012. The Democrat nominee garnered only 91% of the votes President Obama did just four years ago. So, while Trump was holding on to 98% of the Republican vote won by Mitt Romney, Hillary couldn’t generate anywhere near the enthusiasm from Democrats. And why would they be? Hillary is easily the most corrupt, least trustworthy and most befouled politician of the last quarter-century. And Democrats voted their displeasure, with 5.4 million fewer of them voting for her.

Ok, so Hillary is obnoxious, condescending and reeks of corruption. How is it that her opponent, a man so vile and disgusting that his sanity has been questioned, could hold on to such a large percentage of the vote from 4 years ago? That story begins with TARP and ends with the “basket of deplorables.” In the 8 years in between those events, the non-urban American has been vilified, denigrated, insulted and belittled. We were told  we’re “bitter clingers” for believing in the God of Abraham and Isaac, and owning firearms. We were told we’re homophobes for not wanting our pastors to be forced into performing gay marriages, our bakers forced into baking cakes for gay weddings or our florists and caterers forced into serving those events. We were told we’re misogynists for not wanting nuns to be forced to pay for abortions. We’re denounced as racists for not supporting #BlackLivesMatter, when all we see in that “movement” is a bunch of ill-informed youth intent on hate and destruction. We’ve been told we have to believe in global warming – except when that theory blew up in the face of evidence, we were told that it was just another way of saying “man-made climate change.”

We’ve been told we have no rights, except the ones our benevolent government decides we have, that we’re too stupid to read the words in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. In the meantime, we’re also told those very documents that founded our nation are now irrelevant because they’re old and don’t reflect modern times. At the same time, we’re ordered to buy a government approved product from a government market because somehow, that’s not an abrogation of our rights as a free people? Maybe the left is trying to be funny or something, because usually if something works you don’t try like hell to break it.

We’ve been virtually ordered to send our kids to college, even though the local electrician’s union is hiring apprentices at $25/hour and my kid happens to enjoy working with his hands, so they can be brainwashed into spouting the same nonsense. And how do we know this is vitally important? Well, it must be. After all, we’re also told our sons become rapists and our daughters will be gang raped the moment they step onto campus at Whatsamatta U. If the only hope our kids have of a future is to willingly live and study in that cesspool, then it must be awfully important, right?

(Ah, yes. Whatsamatta U, where if you’re lucky your child will graduate with a degree in French History, $100,000 of debt and no prospects for a job, other than working as a part-time barista at the local coffee bar.)

But nobody dare say anything about how nonsensical all of that is, because then you’re violating some precious snowflake’s safe space. Unless that safe space is the bathroom, where we’re told the plumbing God gave you doesn’t count and so we have to let grown men use the same facilities as our mothers, wives and daughters. It makes sense, really – how else can we ensure the rape culture has a steady supply of victims? Besides, we’ve been told, that’s progress!

Oh, and because of man-made climate change, all you people who made a living mining coal or pumping oil from the ground, or building pipelines or driving trucks to move it around; yeah, well, here’s one final, mighty FUCK YOU, SORRY NOT, your jobs have to go. Grab a mop, sonny boy – the local Chuck E. Cheese needs someone to clean up behind the kiddies.

So after 8 long years of hearing this nonsense, of course people voted for Trump. When you’ve already been painted as a racist misogynist homophobe, a dolt incapable of anything other than collecting welfare and shooting heroin, you’re not going to worry too much about voting for a guy who actually is a racist misogynist – after all, it’s not like you have anything left to lose. Yes, Donald Trump can’t figure out which policies he supports and doesn’t support. In the end, that doesn’t matter. We’ve grown accustomed to politicians making extravagant promises they never intend to keep and position papers that would take an hour to read, and could be summarized as “I have no frigging idea what I’m talking about.” No, what mattered isn’t that Trump is a lout or that he doesn’t even seem to care about policy.

What mattered was that at the end of the day, after being insulted for 8 years, there was finally a candidate willing to insult the Powers That Be back. To give as well as he got, to take it from the gutter to the sewer if need be. Every “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” was music to the ears of the disenfranchised. Every 3am tweet calling someone a lying SOB, every pronouncement at a campaign rally against his enemies only showed he was willing to fight. So what if he’s a New York billionaire? The other billionaires never liked him – and they never liked him because he never stopped being the brash kid from Queens.

So, go ahead and burn down your cities. Enjoy the bonfires in Portland, the smashed windows in LA, the blocked roads in New York. Throw your hissy fits and keep complaining about “whitelash” or whatever idiotic, progressive bullshit name you want to give it. It’s nothing more than the vast middle of America saying, “Enough, already!”.

And if you’re willing to leave your safe space and actually engage in something other than name calling, I’m the guy over here sipping a cold one and laughing at your idiocy. Hell, I might even slip on a Make America Great Again cap so I’m easier to find.