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REPUBLICANS: LEGITIMACY IS FOR US, BUT NOT FOR YOU: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 29, 2017 at 12:02 am

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, was furious.

There were three reasons for his outrage.

First, millions of Americans are questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence, supplied by the American Intelligence community, that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.

Second, among those Americans were members of the United States Congress—such as Georgia Democratic Representative John Lewis.

On the January 15 edition of “Meet the Press,” Lewis was asked by host Chuck Todd: “Do you plan on trying to forge a relationship with Donald Trump?”

“No,” said Lewis. “I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

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John Lewis

“You do not consider him a legitimate president. Why is that?”

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

And the third reason Priebus was outraged: He believed—or at least claimed to believe—that President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said January 15 on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya—and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawaiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

Trump responded with a series of tweets on Twitter—all of them attacking the legitimacy of the birth certificate that President Obama had released.

OUR MOST-LOVED–AND MOST-HATED–PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 28, 2017 at 12:06 am

Why are some Presidents remembered with affection, while others are detested—or forgotten altogether?

Generally, Presidents who are warmly remembered are seen as making positive contributions to the lives of their fellow Americans and being “people-oriented.”

Among these:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • John F. Kennedy

Among the reasons they are held in such high regard:

  • Abraham Lincoln ended slavery and restored the Union. Although he ruthlessly prosecuted the Civil War, his humanity remains engraved in stories such as his pardoning a soldier condemned to be shot for cowardice: “If Almighty God gives a man a cowardly pair of legs, how can he help their running away with him?”

An iconic photograph of a bearded Abraham Lincoln showing his head and shoulders.

Abraham Lincoln

  • Theodore Roosevelt championed an era of reform, such as creating the Food and Drug Administration and five National Parks. Popularly known as “Teddy,” he even had a toy bear—the teddy bear—named after him.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully led America through the Great Depression and World War II. He was the first President to insist that government existed to directly better the lives of its citizens: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

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Franklin D. Roosevelt

  • John F. Kennedy supported civil rights and called for an end to the Cold War. He challenged Americans to “ask what you can do for your country” and made government service respectable, even chic. His youth, charisma, intelligence and handsomeness led millions to mourn for “what might have been” had he lived to win a second term.

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John F. Kennedy

Presidents who remain unpopular among Americans are seen as unlikable and responsible (directly or not) for mass suffering.

Among these:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard M. Nixon

Among the reasons they are held in such low regard:

  • Herbert Hoover is still blamed for the 1929 Great Depression. He didn’t create it, but his conservative, “small-government” philosophy led him to refuse to aid its victims. An engineer by profession, he saw the Depression as a machine that needed repair, not as a catastrophe for human beings. This lack of “emotional intelligence” cost him heavily with voters.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson is still blamed as the President “who got us into Vietnam.” John F. Kennedy had laid the groundwork by placing 16,000 American troops there by the time he died in 1963. But it was Johnson who greatly expanded the war in 1965 and kept it going—with hugely expanding casualties—for the next three years. Unlike Kennedy, whom he followed, he looked and sounded terrible on TV. Voters compared LBJ’s Texas drawl and false piety with JFK’s wit and good looks—and found him wanting.

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Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Richard M. Nixon will be remembered foremost as the President who was forced to resign under threat of impeachment and removal from office. Like Herbert Hoover, he was not a “people person” and seemed remote to even his closest associates. Although he took office on a pledge to “bring us together” and end the Vietnam war, he attacked war protesters as traitors and kept the war going another four years. His paranoid fears of losing the 1972 election led to his creating an illegal “Plumbers” unit which bugged the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel. And his attempted cover-up of their illegal actions led to his being forced to resign from office in disgrace.

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Richard M. Nixon

Which brings us to the question: How is Donald J. Trump likely to be remembered?

Historian Joachim C. Fest offers an unintended answer to this question in his 1973 bestselling biography Hitler:

“The phenomenon of the great man is primarily aesthetic, very rarely moral in nature; and even if we were prepared to make allowances in the latter realm, in the former we could not.

“An ancient tenet of aesthetics holds that one who for all his remarkable traits is a repulsive human being, is unfit to be a hero.”

Among the reasons for Hitler’s being “a repulsive human being,” Fest cites the Fuhrer’s

  • “intolerance and vindictiveness”;
  • “lack of generosity”; and
  • “banal and naked materialism–power was the only motive he would recognize.”

Fest then quotes German chancellor Otto von Bismark on what constitutes greatness: “Impressiveness in this world is always akin to the fallen angel who is beautiful but without peace, great in his plans and efforts, but without success, proud but sad.”

And Fest concludes: “If this is true greatness, Hitler’s distance from it is immeasurable.”

What Fest writes about Adolf Hitler applies just as brutally to President Trump.

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Donald Trump

Intolerant and vindictive. Lacking generosity. Nakedly materialistic.  

He has:

  • Boasted about the politicians he’s bought and the women he’s bedded—and forced himself on.
  • Threatened his Democratic opponent—Hillary Clinton—with prosecution if he were elected.
  • Slandered entire segments of Americans—blacks, Hispanics, women, journalists, Asians, the disabled, the Gold Star parents of a fallen soldier.
  • Slandered President Barack Obama for five years as a non-citizen, finally admitting the truth only to win black votes.
  • Attacked the FBI and CIA for accurately reporting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to ensure Trump’s victory. 

At this stage, it’s hard to imagine Trump joining that select number of Presidents Americans remember with awe and reverence.

DONALD TRUMP’S ULTIMATE STRATEGY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 27, 2017 at 12:28 am

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.

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Donald Trump

Among these:

  • American Intelligence and military agencies: A Trump executive order allows the Director of National Intelligence and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attend the Principals’ Committee only when it pertains to their “responsibilities and expertise.”
  • In February, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault resulted in the death of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: ““This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do–the generals–who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • Medicare: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. At his January 10 press conference he charged that pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder.”
  • But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”
  • The press: On February 17, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • And, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
  • The Secret Service: Trump has kept his longtime private security force, and combined its members with those of the elite federal agency. By marginalizing the Secret Service, he has clearly sent the message: You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. He didn’t offer any proof for this. Instead, he appointed an EPA director–Scott Pruitt–who claimed that climate change wasn’t caused by human activity.
     

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Seal of the CBO

  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • On March 23, 2011, Trump said: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. …There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.” 
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate–on April 27, 2011–Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”
  • On November 23, 2014, he tweeted this: “@futureicon@pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump“.
  • Then, in June, 2015, Trump declared himself a candidate for President. By September, 2016, he found his popularity steadily dropping among black voters. Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him. 
  • On September 16, 2016—10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—Trump made his version of a reversal: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. “I finished it.  I finished it. You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”  
  • “Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” 
  • “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” 
  • “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”  

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge.  He knows what he’s doing—and why.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality–of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge  him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

PURGE-TIME IN STALIN’S RUSSIA AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2017 at 12:29 am

One summer night in 1923, during a booze-fueled dinner, Joseph Stalin opened his hear to his two fellow diners.

One of these was Felix Dzerzhinsky, then  the chief of the Cheka, the dreaded Soviet secret police (and precursor to the KGB).  The other was Lev Kamenev, a member of the powerful Central Committee of the Communist party. 

Kamenev asked his companions: “What is your greatest pleasure?” 

And Stalin is reported to have said: “To choose one’s victim, to prepare one’s plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance and then to go to bed.  There is nothing sweeter in the world.”  

Thirteen years later, in August, 1936, Kamenev would be forced to confess to forming a terrorist organization.  Its alleged purpose: To assassinate Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet government. 

On August 25, 1936, Kamenev was executed in the notorious Lubyanka prison.

Donald Trump may not have read Stalin’s notorious quote about finding pleasure in vengeance. But he has given his own variation of it.

While addressing the National Achievers Conference in Sidney, Australia, in 2011, he offered this advice on how to achieve success: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

Throughout his business career, Trump strictly practiced what he preached—becoming a plaintiff or a defendant in no fewer than 3,500 lawsuits. 

Since January 20, he has carried this “get even” philosophy into the Presidency.

The result has been unprecedented White House infighting, turmoil—and departures.  Among the casualties:

  • Steve Bannon – Chief strategist and senior counselor:  On August 17, 2016, Bannon was appointed chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign.  On August 18, 211 days into his tenure, he was fired.  A major reason: Trump was angered by the news media’s—and even many comedians’—depiction of Bannon as the real power in the White House.
  • Anthony Scaramucci – White House communications director: To celebrate his new job, he gave an insult-ridden interview to The New Yorker.  Among his targets: Then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (“a fucking paranoid schizophrenic”) and Steve Bannon (““I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock”).  Scaramucci’s career ended in just six days—on July 31.
  • Reince Priebus – White House Chief of Staff:  After repeatedly being humiliated by Trump—who at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about—Priebus resigned on July 28, 190 days into his tenure.
  • Jeff Sessions – Attorney General: Trump made him the target of a Twitter-laced feud.  Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump publicly said that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself—because of his own past contacts with Russian officials—he would have picked someone else for Attorney General.
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary:  Resigned on July 21, 183 days into his tenure. The reason: Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump.
  • James Comey – FBI Director:  Comey did not work for the Trump Presidential campaign.  But many political analysts believe he played perhaps the decisive role in electing the reality TV mogul. Comey’s announcement—11 days before Election Day—that he was re-opening the Hillary Clinton email server case convinced millions of voters that she had committed a crime. If, as some believed, Comey did so to curry favor with Trump, he proved mistaken.  Trump summoned Comey to the White House and, in a private meeting, demanded a pledge of personal loyalty.  Comey refused to give this—or to drop the FBI’s investigation into collaboration between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign officials. On May 9, Trump sent his longtime private bodyguard and chief henchman, Keith Schiller, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s firing. (FBI directors do not have Civil Service protection and can be fired at any time by the President.)
  • Mike Flynn – National Security Advisor: After resigning from the Defense Intelligence Agency, he vigorously supported Trump at rallies and events—including at the Republican National Convention.  As a reward, he was appointed National Security Advisor.  But he was forced to resign just 25 days into his tenure. The reason: The media revealed that he hadmisled Vice President Mike Pence about his multiple meetings with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States, before Trump’s inauguration.

As if such turmoil wasn’t enough, even worse may be to come. According to PoliticoMany White House staffers are starting to look for the exits, even though the one-year mark of Trump’s first term is still months away.

“There is no joy in Trumpworld right now,” one source told Politico. “Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else.”

A mass exodus would cause even greater difficulties for the Trump administration, which has not filled hundreds of  available positions because many people don’t want to join. 

The Trump administration is hiring at a slower pace than the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—including nominations and confirmations.

Fewer positions filled means less effective enforcement of the Trump agenda. For those who oppose it, this is something to celebrate.

PURGE-TIME IN STALIN’S RUSSIA AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2017 at 2:06 am

Donald Trump—as both Presidential candidate and President—has often been compared to Adolf Hitler.

Yet, in at least one sense, this comparison is inaccurate.  As Germany’s Fuhrer (1933-1945) Hitler kept on the members of his Cabinet for no less than 12 years.

Adolf Hitler

Among these:

  • Hermann Goering had repeatedly shown himself as the incompetent Reichsmarshall of the German air force, the Luftwaffe. Yet Hitler kept him on because Goering had been one of the “Old Fighters” who had supported Hitler long before the Nazis came to power.  Only in April, 1945, when Hitler falsely believed that Goering was trying to supplant him as Fuhrer, did he expel him from the party and order his arrest.
  • Rudolf Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920, and served as Deputy Fuhrer to Hitler from 1933 to 1941. That was when he flew to Scotland on a self-assigned mission to make peace with England. The British, believing him mad, locked him in the Tower of London until 1945.  Afterward, he was convicted at Nuremberg for war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop had been a champagne salesman before Hitler appointed him Foreign Minister in 1938, and held that post until the Reich’s defeat in 1945.  Although his arrogance and incompetence made him universally disliked by other high-ranking Nazi officials, Hitler never considered firing him.
  • Heinrich Himmler, appointed Reichsfuhrer-SS in 1929, held that position throughout the 12 years (1933-1945) the Third Reich lasted. It was to Himmler that Hitler entrusted the most important project of his life: The destruction of European Jewry. Only after learning—in the final days of the Reich—that Himmler had sought to make peace with the Allies did Hitler expel him from the party and order his arrest.

Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union (1928-1953) serves as a far better comparison figure for Trump.

Joseph Stalin

In 1936, Stalin ordered the first of a series of purges—from high-ranking members of the Communist party to impoverished peasants.  Among the most prominent of his victims:

  • Grigory Zimoviev, former member of the Central Committee of the Communist party. He was arrested in 1934 on trumped-up charges of “moral complicity” in the assassination of Leniningrad party boss Sergei Kirov.  He was executed in 1936.
  • Leon Trotsky, onetime second-in-command only to Vladimir Lenin, clashed with Stalin before the November 7, 1917 Russian Revolution. They remained locked in combat until Lenin’s death of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1924. Stalin drove Trotsky out of the Communist party and even out of the Soviet Union. In 1940, on Stalin’s orders, he was assassinated while living under guard in Mexico.
  • Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda served as director of the NKVD secret police (the precursor of the KGB) from 1934 to 1936. He supervised the arrest, show trial and execution of former Central Committee members Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zimoviev. Arrested in 1937, he was falsely charged with treason and conspiracy against the Soviet government. Yagoda was shot soon after the trial. His wife Ida Averbakh was also executed in 1938.
  • Nikolai Yezhov became head of the NKVD secret police  in 1936.  He oversaw what historians have since named the Great Terror until 1939. Arrested in April, he was replaced by Lavrenty Beria. In 1940, Yezhov himself was executed by the executioners he had once commanded.

Like Joseph Stalin, Donald Trump has presided over a series of purges since reaching the White House.

Donald Trump

Like Stalin, Trump demands unconditional loyalty from those who serve in his administration. And, also like Stalin, he does not believe that loyalty is a two-way street.

Moreover, it doesn’t take much to offend Trump’s fragile ego. When “Saturday Night Live” started doing skits showcasing his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a Rasputin-like figure who manipulated Trump, Bannon’s days were clearly numbered.

The same proved true for Anthony Scaramucci, who was to become White House communications director.  All that it took to secure his dismissal was an expletive-ridden phone interview with The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza. It didn’t help Scaramucci that he bragged about purging the entire White House communications staff and even siccing the FBI on leakers.

Others have left the White House owing to its increasingly paranoid atmosphere. Reports have surfaced of staffers being ordered to turn over their cell phones for inspection. The reason: To ensure they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps.

Then there is the very real—and justified—fear of being caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s ever-widening investigation into collusion between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

One of those who has reportedly hired top-notch legal talent is Hope Hicks, interim White House communications director. According to Politico, the 28-year-old has retained the services of veteran criminal defense lawyer Robert Trout, who once worked for the Justice Department.

Even if a White House staffer is not ultimately indicted and convicted, the costs of hiring top-flight legal talent can prove ruinous.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed a $9 billion fortune: “I’m really rich!”  But he has shown no willingness to spend any of it defending those officials he has hired.

And for an administration already plagued with a shortage of desperately-needed talent, even worse may soon be to come.

REPUBLICANS: REWRITING THE PAST TO CONTROL THE PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 22, 2017 at 12:15 am

At At one time, Americans believed that the wholesale rewriting of history happened only in the Soviet Union.

A classic example of this occurred in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.  

Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders, who feared they were targets of a coming purge.  

Lavrenti Beria

But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.  

What to do?  

The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Bering Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, the Republican party furiously sought to rewrite history in a desperate attempt to sway voters. 

Specifically, its members tried to convince Americans that:

  1. Donald Trump, their nominee for President, did not insult the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004; and/or
  2. Barack Obama was responsible for Khan’s death. And so was Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

That was history according to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

On July 28, Trump became embroiled in a no-win war-of-words with Khan’s father, Khizr, and his mother, Ghazala.  

Khizr was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and he used the opportunity to attack Trump:

“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country….You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” 

Trump predictably responded during a July 30 interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. 

“I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices,” said Trump. “I work very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs.”  

And, on Twitter, he posted: “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!”  

Veterans’ organizations brutally attacked Trump for his running feud with the Khan family.  

Republicans were desperate for Trump to end the conflict and return to attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

Presumably, that was the assignment given to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

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Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.  
  • Barack Obama did not become President until 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death.
  • And Hillary Clinton did not become Secretary of State until the same year.

Pierson argued that Trump should be exempt from apologizing to the Khan family because he “never voted for the Iraq War.”  

“Hillary Clinton did,” Pierson added. “And then she didn’t support the troops to have what they need.”

It’s true that Clinton, elected U.S. Senator from New York in 2000, voted in 2002 to support Bush’s attack on Iraq.  

But Obama, elected U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2004, strongly opposed the Iraq war from the onset of his term. In fact, he made it a major issue during his 2008 Presidential race against Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain.

Pierson’s attempt to rewrite history touched off a frenzy on Twitter, leading to the creation of the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory. Its purpose: To mock Pierson’s revisionist take on history.

Among the tweets offered:  

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono, and well, you know.  
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya.  
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen.
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.  
  • Obama decided that too many lifeboats would offend radical Islamic terrorists abord the Titanic.  
  • Barack Obama convinced the serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton organized The Spanish Inquisition.

The ridicule turned Trump’s spokeswoman into a nationwide laughingstock. And her efforts to rewrite history didn’t help Trump.

On August 3, Pierson appeared on CNN’s New Day. She admitted being wrong about the timeline and said she had been trying to say that Donald Trump had no connection to the Khans.

Later on CNN, Anderson Cooper Khizr Khan to comment on Pierson’s allegation. 

“Do I need to say anything?” Khan replied. “Lack of understanding, lack of factual correctness, it’s just nothing but political vote pandering.”  

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors—and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain—and retain—absolute power over 300 million Americans.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2017 at 12:02 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has great clout than one who isn’t. In the United States, a Presidential candidate who wins by a landslide is presumed to have a mandate to pursue his agenda—at least, for the first two years of his administration.

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justifyied the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

But Presidents who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. Which immediately brings to mind Donald Trump.

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump falsely accused Obama of committing an impeachable offense: Tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

As President, Trump has refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who elected him.

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump has reportedly been angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who have unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.
  • After Trump gave sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, denied this had happened. Trump then contradicted McMaster in a tweet: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten this passage:

Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him. 

And this one:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred. 

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy—even his political foes. Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials–most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch deported immediately (to which, as a German citizen, she was subject).

He also ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to deliver a warning to the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate: The Bureau was fully aware of the extramarital trysts of most of its members. And an investigation into the President’s sex life could easily lead into revelations of Senatorial sleaze.

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together. And [this] will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.… My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

And Americans enthusiastically responded to that view, twice electing him President (1980 and 1984).

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this–from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 at 12:07 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak–and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to make his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 18, 2017 at 12:05 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”–not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

Liars Club: Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.

Even more important: Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service–because he saw Al-Qaeda and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • the precise locations where these weapons were stored;
  • the identities of those involved in their production; and
  • the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

Consider the following:

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons–including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

March 30, 2003: On ABC’s “This Week” program, 10 days into the war, Rumsfeld said: “We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard–even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004–one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

Click here: Bush laughs at no WMD in Iraq – YouTube 

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope–no weapons over there!  Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–the elite of America’s media and political classes–laughed heartily during Bush’s performance. It was a scene worthy of the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies.

Ultimately, the war that Bush had deliberately provoked

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran–Iraq’s arch enemy–to eagerly fill it.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis.
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.
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