[He lies when it’s hot, and also lies when it’s cold. He lies to the young, and likewise lies to the old. He’s illegit. He’s unfit. (— apologies to Dr. Seuss)]
— RECENT HEADLINES —
“Gen. Kelly’s Integrity Mortally Damaged by False Charges Against Dem. House Rep.” (10/21/2017)
“Trump Admin. Blocks EPA Climate Change Scientists From Presenting Data” (10/22/2017)
“Green Berets in Niger Were Probably Set Up for Terrorist Ambush, Says Village Mayor” (10/23/2017)
“Trump Enters 8th Day of Escalating Attacks on Sgt. La David Johnson’s Grieving Family” (10/23/2017)
“GOP Senate Placates Wall Street, Rolls Back Law Allowing Consumers to Sue Banks” (10/24/2017)
“President Still Refusing to Implement Mandated Russia Sanctions, 24 Days Past Deadline” (10/24/2017)
“Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) Amplifies Criticism of Trump’s Character Across TV Media” (10/24/2017)
“Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) Declines 2018 Run With Strongest Condemnation of Trump’s Character to Date; He ‘Will not Be Complicit,’ Has ‘Grandchildren to Answer To’” (10/24/2017)
“House GOP Launches 2 New Hillary Investigations — Really” (10/24/2017)
We must never forget that our current president tweets — he tweets — daily insults like a 15-year-old valley girl lying about her BFF who just stole her boyfriend:
“Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts…. … People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter posts; 10/24/2017.)
This is not a Donald aberration. It is solidly characteristic of President Trump’s colossal lack of intellect, veracity, and morality. We must never forget this, nor take it for granted, nor make it normal in any way.
In other news, First Lady Melania Trump visited a Detroit middle school this week for a stop on her anti-cyber bullying tour. She told students, “I always believe that you need to treat each other with respect and kindness and compassion, but also stay true to yourself.”
After spewing some of the most vacuous pabulum this side of “Just say no,” it’s not immediately clear if the First Lady knows to whom she is married.
Let me offer some presidential fact-checking. First, Bob Corker opposed the Iran nuclear deal (— true). Second, Sen. Corker could be elected dogcatcher easily in Tennessee, or Georgia or Alabama. He is renowned across the tri-state area for his animal control credentials (— writer’s embellishment).
George Will: “Trump’s Poodle” and Other Cool Analogies
“With eyes wide open, Mike Pence eagerly auditioned for the role as Donald Trump’s poodle. Now comfortably leashed, he deserves the degradations that he seems too sycophantic to recognize as such. … Pence is a reminder that no one can have sustained transactions with Trump without becoming too soiled for subsequent scrubbing.”
(Will, George, conservative opinion writer; “Sinister Figures Lurk Around Our Careless President”; The Washington Post; 10/13/2017.)
George Will is prescient.
Chief of Staff General John Kelly is the person placed in Trump’s daily orbit whose unquestioned integrity was supposed to offset the president’s galactic lack thereof. A week after the Post published Will’s article, Kelly trotted out — or was trotted out — to the White House press podium to defend Donald’s botched condolence call to a fallen Green Beret’s widow and Trump’s subsequent lies about that call.
The widow, Myeisha Johnson, other family members, and longtime family friend Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) were in a limo en route to receive Sgt. La David Johnson’s body when the president called. (Reporters had asked him about the Niger casualties the day before, so he subsequently rushed to make the condolence calls.) Ms. Johnson chose to put the president on speakerphone so all could hear. Trump said something to the effect of, “He knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” The family was offended and hurt by his words and tone. Rep. Wilson related the call to the press. Trump repeatedly denied he said those words and initiated an eight-day Twitter-putdown offensive on “wacky” congresswoman Frederica Wilson.
Note that no one accused the president of intentionally offending the family; he simply bungled the call. Nevertheless, the family was offended — that’s what they felt. After Donald denied saying those words, Kelly implicitly conceded Trump did say those words, though unartfully (Kelly and others also had listened in on the call). If General Kelly had left it there, he would have been OK. But then he slandered Rep. Wilson for “secretly” listening in on the call, and accused her of statements she never made at a 2015 FBI building dedication.
The refutatious proof came out immediately: 1) the widow chose to put the call on speakerphone (as was her absolute right); and 2) a forgotten video of the congresswoman’s 2015 speech surfaced, in which she never took credit for obtaining funding for the building (as Kelly had accused) and effusively praised — not herself but — fallen FBI agents, the FBI in general, first responders, and GOP legislators who helped her get the facility officially named in time for the ceremony. Uh-oh.
Trump’s entire premise for his weeklong assault on Rep. Frederica Wilson was that she secretly listened in on the call, she lied about his words to Myeisha Johnson, she was self-serving, and she wore cowboy hats. Then Sgt. Johnson’s mother confirmed the call’s speakerphone status and that Trump said those words. Then Sgt. Johnson’s widow confirmed Trump said those words. Then the video of Rep. Wilson’s dedication speech materialized. Then General Kelly never apologized for slandering Wilson, nor did he correct the record.
Rep. Wilson does occasionally wear cowboy hats. One out of four ain’t bad.
John Kelly’s days in the White House are numbered. He is officially a “Trump poodle,” a la Mike Pence and Sean Spicer, and has become “too soiled for subsequent scrubbing.” He will leave due to terminal humiliation. But there is one way for Kelly to redeem himself: He could follow in the footsteps of Sen. Bob Corker who said this week that his early support of Donald Trump was a mistake and that the president is hurting our democracy and literally endangering our country. C’mon, General Kelly, you can do it.
To Be (Ethical), or not to Be (Ethical)
Many people across the political spectrum like to say you can’t legislate morality. A better way to put this might be that you can’t legislate all morality. Certain things are understood universally to be right or wrong. Trying to legislate all common sense moral issues would clog up legislatures and law books beyond functionality.
How about presidential ethics and ethical norms? Can you legislate those?
Specific ethics-promotion laws were passed after the Watergate imbroglio. With the Freedom of Information Act, it became much harder to hide government documents that might show wrongdoing. The Presidential Records Act made Oval Office records the official public property of the U.S. government, not the principals, and established laws for the management of those materials. Campaign finance reform was passed to minimize the influence of money on presidential candidates after they were elected.
In looking back on the prosecution of the Vietnam War, Congress passed the War Powers Act, intended to prevent presidents from continuing indefinite American military combat campaigns without Congress’ approval.
Other guidelines — such as releasing tax returns, placing assets in a blind trust, and lying less than, say, 50 percent of the time, to name a few — have continued to hold by honorable tradition. Until now: the Trump era.
Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns as a candidate or as president. If a presidential candidate hides his (or her) income tax returns, he likely is hiding information we need to know about his ability to govern ethically. After President Trump resigns, this will have to be legislated.
Donald Trump continues to accept payments to his businesses from foreign governments and companies. The Constitution has an Emoluments Clause, which is supposed to address this, but the GOP-controlled Congress has not been interested in enforcement. After President Trump resigns, this will have to be legislated.
The Department of Justice is supposed to be fiercely independent of the White House. But President Trump has tried persistently to bully DOJ into submission. He has conducted outrageous, though technically not illegal, personal interviews with three (and only those three, out of over 90) U.S. Attorneys who, if confirmed, would have jurisdiction over him and his businesses. And all three of those candidates have ties to The Donald. After President Trump resigns, this will have to be legislated.
Donald Trump continues to profit by overlapping his business entities with the presidency. The Secret Service, for example, has paid millions of dollars (reportedly at sometimes inflated rates) to his Mar-a-Lago Florida resort, Trump Tower in New York, and Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to house their agents while the president visits. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Blind trusts normally preclude presidents from knowing what their assets are and how they are profiting from them. This prevents making presidential decisions for self-enrichment. After President Trump resigns, this will have to be legislated.
Witness Legal Fees
Because of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation by three congressional committees and special counsel Robert Muller, most of Donald’s close White House associates need legal representation. The president has made plans to pay $430,000 for some of their legal fees. Obviously, this could influence Trump associates’ testimony. Moreover, the Trump re-election campaign has reportedly paid over $1 million for Donald’s and Donald Jr.’s Russia-related legal fees. After President Trump resigns, this will have to be legislated.
George Will Concedes: This Author Was Right
He lies when it’s hot, and also lies when it’s cold. He lies to the young, and likewise lies to the old. He’s illegit. He’s unfit.
(— apologies to Dr. Seuss)
Additionally, the president lies. This one will be harder to legislate.
On NBC’s Meet the Press last Sunday, Helene Cooper of The New York Times said, “There used to be a time where as president, you knew … you cannot come out and make demonstrably false statements.”
Danielle Pletka of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (and abrasive Trump apologist) interrupted, “You mean like, ‘I did not sleep with that woman’? That kind of demonstrably false statement?”
First, Danielle, Bill Clinton’s words were, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Get your holier-than-thou, snippy retorts straight. Second, Ms. Cooper acknowledged that Clinton’s lie was also unacceptable and he suffered huge consequences for it. Third, it was not known — demonstrably — at the time that Clinton was lying. But Trump has said a hundred things that everyone knows are “demonstrably false” as he says them.
And “huge consequences” is an understatement: For that lie, President Bill Clinton was impeached. So yes, Ms. Pletka, we simply want commensurate consequences for Mr. Trump. If Bill was impeached once, Donald should be impeached about a hundred times. That’s silly, I know. But Danielle got my blood boiling. Danielle Pletka is one of the many conservatives who still seem to believe the (Trumpian) ends justify the (Trumpian) means.
“Until recently, [Sen. Bob] Corker, an admirable man and talented legislator, has been, like many other people, prevented by his normality from fathoming Trump’s abnormality. Now Corker says what could have been said two years ago about Trump’s unfitness.
“The axiom that ‘Hell is truth seen too late’ is mistaken; damnation deservedly comes to those who tardily speak truth that has long been patent. Perhaps there shall be a bedraggled parade of repentant Republicans resembling those supine American communists who, after Stalin imposed totalitarianism, spawned the gulag, engineered the Ukraine famine, launched the Great Terror, and orchestrated the show trials, were theatrically disillusioned by his collaboration with Hitler: You, sir, have gone too far.”
(Ibid.; Will; 10/13/2017.)
We don’t agree on many things, but George Will has backed me up on this from the beginning of Donald’s candidacy: We both predicted a President Trump would be a debacle “like the world has never seen” (to quote The Donald himself). We both knew he was dangerously unfit for office.
On the Senate floor this week, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) made a dramatic, full-bore condemnation of Donald Trump’s “colossal lack of intellect, veracity, and morality” (to quote myself). Sadly, it was combined with his announcement that he will not seek re-election in 2018 because there is currently no room in today’s Republican Congress for a conservative with integrity.
Mr. Will, Mr. Flake, and other vertebrate Republicans will need to be the ones to save American democracy from a 70-year setback. Those two saw it coming from the beginning. Senators Bob Corker and John McCain have finally come around, better late than never.
The Trump presidential yacht has sprung its initial leaks. The next big milestone will be when the first GOP senator calls for the president’s resignation. Flake and Corker are so close. For obvious reasons, the calls to resign must originate within the president’s own party to be effective.
On November 4, 1973, Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts was the first Republican senator to call for GOP President Richard Nixon’s resignation. Nixon resigned August 8, 1974. Who will be the Edward Brooke of the Trump era?
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
(Geisel, Theodor Seuss, [Dr.]; The Lorax; 1971.)
Quotes of the Week
“Most average Republicans are throwing up over the fact the knuckleheads are running the show.”
(Boehner, John, R-Ohio, former U.S. House speaker; interview conducted by Heath, Ryan; Frankfurt, Germany; Politico Brussels Playbook; 10/26/2017.)
“If we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start [taking opioids], it’s really, really easy not to take ’em.”
(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; speech; White House; 10/26/2017.)
“After Aug. Declaration, Trump Finally Does Paperwork, Declares Opioid Crisis a ‘Public Health Emergency’; Stops Short of ‘National Emergency’ and Additional Funding’” (10/26/2017)