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EVIL TRIUMPHS WHEN GOOD MEN DO NOTHING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 25, 2017 at 12:06 am

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” 

So wrote Edmund Burke (1729-1797) the Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher. And history has repeatedly proved him right. 

One such example was the rise of Adolf Hitler as Germany’s Fuhrer.

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental new biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889–1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.” 

But that didn’t happen.

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Tried for and convicted of treason, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

At Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Nine months later, he was released on parole–by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party–and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Disdaining armed force, he would win office by election–or intrigue. 

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues bore fruit: Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

A second example: The ascent of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.

Future historians may one day write that what didn’t happen played at least as great a role in electing Donald Trump President as what actually did.

There were at least four instances where intervention by Federal law enforcement authorities could have utterly changed the outcome of the 2016 election. Yet, for reasons still unknown, they chose to do nothing.

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Donald Trump

Case #1: The Justice Department did not indict Trump and/or the Attorney Generals of Texas and/or Florida for their roles in the Trump University scandal.

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a check $25,000 for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

One attorney general who refused to accept money from Trump was New York’s Eric Schneiderman. His decision to press fraud claims against Trump forced the real estate mogul to settle the case out of court for $25 million.

“Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”

There have been no press reports that the Justice Department investigated these cases to determine if Trump violated the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act statutes.

If the Justice Department did not investigate these cases, it should have. And if he did violate the RICO statutes, he should have been indicted, even as a Presidential candidate or President-elect.

Even if an indictment had not produced a conviction, the mere bringing of one would have cast an unprecedented cloud over his candidacy–let alone his being sworn in as President.

Case #2: The Justice Department did not indict Trump for his series of threats he made–directly or indirectly–against his Republican and Democratic opponents throughout the 2016 campaign.

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear on [March 16]: ‘Nice convention you got there, shame if something happened to it.’”
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.”
  • And Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich chinned in. “Leaders don’t imply violence,” Kasich told “Face the Nation” on March 20. “When he says that there could be riots, that’s inappropriate. I think you understand that, okay? Secondly, while we have our differences and disagreements, we’re Americans. Americans don’t say, ‘Let’s take to the streets and have violence.’”

THE MOSQUE OF THINGS TO COME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2017 at 12:02 am

On April 16, 2015, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that more than 310,000 people had been killed in Syria’s uprising-turned-civil war.

The Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, triggered by protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

And who did the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights–safely based in England–blame for this Islamic self-slaughter? Why, the West, of course.

According to its website:

“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1500000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties.”

Got that?  

“They have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes”–as if it’s the duty of non-Muslims to bring civilized behavior to Islamics.

And why are all these murderers “continuing their crimes”?  Because of an inner-religious dispute within Islam that traces back to the fourth century.

Yes, it’s Sunni Muslims, who make up a majority of Islamics, versus Shiite Muslims, who comprise a minority.

Each group considers the other takfirs–that is, “apostates.” And, in Islam, being labeled an apostate can easily get you murdered.

The Muslims are comin’ in now
To rape and kill.
Religion mixed with blood—what a thrill!

There’s superstition
Crowdin’ out life’s realities.
There is old hate
Spreading like a polluted breeze.

But, according to the Syrian Observatory, it’s the duty of the West to convince these murderers to stop slaughtering one another.

There is, however, another perspective to consider–that of the late political scientist Samuel Huntington. In his bestselling 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, he warned: 

The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.”

This is starkly outlined in the 2009 book, Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat, by Dr. Peter Hammond.

Hammond explores the impact of an increasing Muslim population on non-Muslim society–and the changes that can be expected to occur within that society.

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Dr. Peter Hammond

According to Hammond:

Islam is not a religion nor a cult. It’s a complete system of religious, legal, political, economic and military components.  The religious component encompasses all the others.

“Islamization” occurs when there are enough Muslims in a country to agitate for their “religious rights.”

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

In December, 2015, almost 150 Muslims in Fort Morgan, Colorado, gave a demonstration of what happens when the number of Islamics rises within a non-Islamic society.

Cargill Meat Solutions, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, is a division of Cargill Inc., which employees 155,000 people in 68 countries.

On December 18, 2015, 11 workers at Cargill’s beef processing plant in Fort Morgan wanted to go pray at the same time in a room in the plant that is set aside for prayer and reflection. A supervisor told the employees they could go pray, but only three at a time, so production would not be affected.

The workers complied with the supervisor’s request and went in smaller groups to pray. But after their shift ended, 10 of the 11 workers resigned, turning in their badges and hard hats.

The following Monday, about 150 employees from the Somali Muslim community didn’t show up to work for three consecutive days. The company fired them all.  

Cargill is now hiring to replace those who walked out.

Areas have been set up at Cargill since 2009 to accommodate anyone who requested time to pray.

“There are times when accommodation is not possible,” Michael Martin, a Cargill spokesman, told CBS News. “But in an overwhelming majority of instances, we do everything we can to ensure that we do accommodate employees.”  

Tony Aden, one of the fired employees, explained the situation thus: “It don’t matter if I don’t have a job, my religion is more important.”

Negotiating on behalf of the striking–and then fired–employees was the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

In 2007, CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Hamas-support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLFRD). The defendants were charged with giving more than $12 million to support Hamas. 

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Egypt, Japan, Canada, Israel and the United States.

On November 24, 2008, the government obtained guilty verdicts on all counts against HLFRD and the five individual defendants in the retrial.

As the Islamic population rises within the United States, non-Islamics can expect increasing demands for “Islamic rights.” According to Dr. Hammond:  

At five percent of the population, Islamics try to get the ruling government to let them rule themselves under Sharia (Islamic) law.  

At 10%, they use lawlessness to complain about their conditions.  

At 20%, Islamics riot, form jihad militias and burn Christian churches and Jewish synagogues.  

At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and ongoing militia warfare.

Their ultimate goal: To extend Sharia throughout the world–enforcing it on Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Let the whole world
Wake today–
Jihad has just begun.

Nothing can change the shape of mosques
Nothing can change the shape of mosques
Nothing can change the shape of mosques
Nothing can change the shape of mosques to come.

THE MOSQUE OF THINGS TO COME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2017 at 12:02 am

[Editor’s Note: As this goes to press, at least 19 people are reported dead and almost 60 injured at Manchester Arena, Manchester, England where pop singer Ariana Grande was performing. Authorities suspect an Islamic suicide bomber to be responsible.] 

There’s a Muslim
Blowin’ up airplanes in the sky.
There’s a Muslim
Braggin’ he’s not afraid to die.

Let the whole world
Fear today–
The time for death has come.
And nothing can change the shape of mosques to come.

The headline in the December 7, 2015 issue of the British newspaper, The Guardian, read: 

GERMANY ON COURSE TO ACCEPT ONE MILLION REFUGEES IN 2015

It may turn out to be Germany’s epitaph.

Germany registered 964,574 Islamic asylum-seekers in the first 11 months of 2015.

The Islamic world is at war with itself–in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. And while Islamics generally slander the West as Satan’s lair, that’s where Islamic refugees are heading.

The vast majority of these come from Syria, which is locked in a brutal civil war. This began on March 15, 2011, when protesters demanded political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

By April 16, 2015, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that more than 310,000 people had been killed in Syria’s ongoing conflict. 

European countries soon began opening their doors to asylum-seeking Islamics. 

  • United Kingdom: Pledged to accept 20,000 Syrians by 2020.
  • Greece: By September, 2015, nearly a quarter of a million Syrians had illegally landed on Greek shores.
  • Sweden: 64,685 Islamics admitted. 
  • France: Agreed, by the fall of 2015, to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years.
  • Italy: By the fall of 2015, more than 110 refugees had arrived there. 

Germany has been–and remains–the main destination for many Islamic immigrants, legal and illegal.

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Flag of Germany

According to Germany’s interior ministry, 206,101 Islamics entered the country in November, 2015, setting a new monthly record.  The previous high had been 181,166 in October.

Each immigrant has an estimated four to eight family members who could be legally allowed to enter. That could bring the number of Islamics resettled in Germany to more than seven million.

And the cost to Germany?

Germany has an aging population and one of the lowest birthrates in the world.  Of the refugees it has absorbed, only one in 10 is immediately employable.  The rest will have to be carried on welfare for months, and possibly years.

Behind this unchecked flood stands Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insisted that Germany admit tens of thousands of men, women and children of an alien faith and culture.

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Angela Merkel

And, so far, Germans have responded to Merkel’s call with money, food, clothes and even making spare rooms available for immigrants.

And how have many of these refugees thanked their German benefactors for their well-meaning goodwill?

On January 1, 2016, the The New York Times  published a story under this headline:

MUNICH ON HIGH ALERT AFTER NEW YEAR’S EVE TERRORISM THREAT

Hundreds of police officers were posted throughout Munich after the Islamic State threatened a suicide bombing attack.  Two train stations were evacuated.

Police believed that five to seven people were involved in the threat.

And, in Cologne, Germany, about 1,000 men congregated at Cologne’s central train station, then broke off into small groups to sexually molest and rob women. Asylum-seekers and illegal migrants from North Africa comprise the majority of suspects.

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Cologne, Germany

Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg and Stuttgart on New Year’s Eve.

There are victims
Spreading as far as you can see.
While Western countries
Are takin’ in hate-filled refugees.

Yes, the Mullahs scream today:
“Jihad has just begun!”
And nothing can change the shape of mosques to come.

Earlier, in May, 2015, German authorities had called off the popular Eschborn-to-Frankfurt bike race after receiving a tip about a possible attack. Police arrested a German-Turkish couple who had been storing weapons in their home.

In November, a game in Hanover between Germany and the Netherlands was called off hours before kickoff when a suspicious package was found.

Meanwhile, uber-liberals such as those who staff Mother Jones  magazine whine that the United States hasn’t followed Germany’s example.

On September 3, 2015, the publication ran a story on the plight of Syrian refugees, under the headline:

GERMANY HAS TAKEN IN 800,000 REFUGEES.  GUESS HOW MANY THE US HAS TAKEN IN?

Quoting The Guardian, the Mother Jones writer gives the answer: “The US has admitted approximately 1,500 Syrian refugees since the beginning of the civil war there in 2011, mostly within the last fiscal year.”

Seven days after this article appeared, on September 10, the Obama administration announced that it would take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.

That is on top of the 2,000 Islamic refugees the United States has already accepted.

According to U.S. Census data, America welcomes about 100,000 Muslim immigrants legally each year. This represents the fastest growing segment of immigrants coming to the United States.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are 2.5 million Islamics in the United States. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts the figure at seven million.

The Troubling Math of Muslim Migration | National Review Online

And while all this is happening, the FBI is being overwhelmed by the demands of countering Islamic terrorism against the United States.

On July 8, 2015, FBI director James Comey testified before Congress about the increasing burdens his agency faces in combating terrorism.

“We are stopping these things [Islamic terror plots] so far through tremendous hard work, the use of sources, the use of online undercovers.

“But it is incredibly difficult.  I cannot see my stopping these indefinitely.”

Consider the math: The FBI has only 35,000 agents and analysts–against seven million potential suspects.

And only a portion of those agents and analysts are charged with investigating terrorism.

How did all of this begin?  And where is it ultimately leading?

Those questions will be answered in Part Two of this series.

OF SELF-PITY AND PRESIDENTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 22, 2017 at 12:10 am

On May 17, President Donald J. Trump appeared at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. 

He was there go give the commencement remarks to a graduating class of Coast Guard cadets. 

The Coast Guard Academy website explains what it seeks in candidates: “The Coast Guard needs officers who are intellectually curious, who seek continuous improvement, and who are committed to service above self. At the Academy, our academic programs provide the intellectual foundation for developing officers with these qualities.” 

It also spells out what the Academy offers: “The Coast Guard Academy is ranked among the nation’s top undergraduate colleges. Our academic program, which awards a Bachelor of Science and a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard, must be completed in four years.

“It is designed to provide a superb academic foundation in a military environment. The result: future leaders of America.”

The Academy’s core requirements could not be more at odds with the realities of Donald Trump’s life:

  • “Intellectually curious”–Trump’s attention span is notoriously short, limited to about four minutes on a topic.  And he regularly confines his “writings” to the 140-character count on Twitter.
  • “Who seek continuous improvement”–asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
  • “Committed to service above self”–Trump dodged the draft during the Vietnam war by getting five deferments. As a Presidential candidate, he said of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, who spent seven years as a Vietnam POW: “He’s not a war hero.  He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Trump’s official reason for appearing at the Academy was to pay tribute to the 195 cadets graduating that day.

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Coast Guard Academy graduating students celebrate

And, momentarily, he did: “These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America.

“Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations, but the gratitude of each and every American. And we all salute you, a proud nation.” 

But, being Trump, he couldn’t praise others without also praising himself: “I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet. I won’t even talk about it. Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier….

“I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as president….”

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Donald Trump 

Then he went on to pay further tribute to himself: “Jobs are pouring back into our country; a brand-new Supreme Court justice, who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years; a historic investment in our military; border crossings….”

Finally, he reached the climax of his address: “Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice. Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair.

“You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted. But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight. Never, ever, ever give up. Things will work out just fine.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history–and I say this with great surety–has been treated worse or more unfairly. You can’t let them get you down. You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.”

Trump was referring to the avalanche of criticism he had received for:

  • His May 9 firing of FBI Director James Comey. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. And he had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents; 
  • His meeting, the very next day in the Oval Office, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel; and
  • On May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”

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James Comey

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn. A third Kislyak contact: Carter Page.

All three served as members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.

“I guess that’s why I won–thank you. I guess that’s why we won,” continued Trump.

“Adversity makes you stronger. Don’t give in, don’t back down, and never stop doing what you know is right. Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy, and the more righteous your fight, the more opposition that you will face.” 

Trump, who has never shown a sense of irony, unintentionally displayed one now. 

His self-tribute could have served as an epitaph for James Comey–a former United States Attorney, Deputy Attorney General and seventh director of the FBI.   

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

When the Senate Watergate Committee learned that President Richard M. Nixon had installed a secret taping system in the White House, they immediately subpoenaed all of his tapes.

So did Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Nixon fired Cox in the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973.  But Cox was succeeded by another Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski–who also pursued the tapes.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court–which ruled, 8-0, that Nixon must give up the tapes.

One of the tapes revealed that Nixon had ordered the FBI to abandon its investigation of the Watergate break-in. When news leaked of this, Nixon resigned to avoid the disgrace of impeachment in the House and certain conviction in the Senate.

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Richard M. Nixon

Now it appears that history is about to repeat itself–in the case of President Donald J. Trump.

And it has been touched off by his repeated use of Twitter as both a Presidential candidate and President.

When it was launched on July 16, 2006, Twitter was intended to be, according to Wikipedia, “an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, ‘tweets,’ restricted to 140 characters.”

It was never intended as a weapon of slander and intimidation. Yet, 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.

Even before taking office as President, Trump was haunted by charges that members of his 2016 Presidential campaign colluded with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election. 

Trump has furiously and repeatedly denied this.

Yet, on May 11, no fewer than six top American intelligence officials testified before Congress that Russia acted to influence last year’s election.

These officials were:

  • Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence;
  • Michael Pompeo, CIA director;
  • Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency;
  • Lieutenant-General Vincent Stewart (USMC), director of the Defense Intelligence Agency;
  • Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; and
  • Andrew McCabe, acting FBI director, installed after Trump fired the agency’s appointed director, James Comey.

Comey had been spearheading the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s “Russian connection.” In early May, 2017, he had asked the Justice Department to provide increased resources for the FBI’s investigation.

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FBI Headquarters

During a private White House dinner in January, Trump asked Comey to pledge his personal loyalty to him. Comey refused to do so.  

On May 9, Trump fired him.

Instead of doing so quietly and with dignity, Trump dispatched his longtime personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, to FBI headquarters with the message: “You’re fired.” Comey was in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office speaking with agents when he learned of his dismissal in a TV news broadcast.

Not content with humiliating and dismissing Comey, Trump then threatened him in a May 12 tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

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Having implied that he had secretly taped his conversation with Comey, Trump found himself besieged with the question: “Did you install a White House taping system similar to the one installed by President Richard Nixon?”

Trump has refused to answer–and so have his spokesmen and women.

Ironically, his latest use of a weaponized Twitter account may have doomed his Presidency. His threat to Comey has boxed him in with a series of dead-end scenarios.

Dead-end #1: If Trump taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, he broke the law.  (This has been explored in Part One of this series.)

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

The House and Senate have competing investigative committees probing “the Russian connection.” And no doubt they will soon issue subpoenas for any secret tapes Trump may have made.

And so will newly-appointed Special Counsel Robert Meuller, III, who served for 12 years as FBI director under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the appointment on May 17, citing “the unique circumstances [of] the public interest.” 

(Attorney General Jeff Sessions has supposedly recused himself from involvement in the Russian investigation–because he lied to Congress about his past contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during 2016.)

If he refuses to release them, Trump will touch off another Watergate-style conflict between the White House and Congress.

Dead-end #3: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he’s lying.

Dead-end #4: If he claims that he didn’t tape Comey, many people will believe he is a punk–for trying to intimidate the former FBI director with a baseless threat.

Dead-end #5: It’s impossible to prove a negative. So if Trump doesn’t have secret tapes to turn over, it will be impossible for him to prove he isn’t stonewalling in defiance of the law.

Dead-end #6: Trump’s brutal and unwarranted firing of James Comey on May 9 has infuriated the FBI’s 35,664 employees, of which 13,778 are Special Agents.

By earning the hatred of the most powerful investigative agency in the Federal Government, Trump has all-but-guaranteed his removal from office.

What began for the Bureau as a professional investigation into Russian sabotage has become a personal vendetta.

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack 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.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.

After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him.

But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.

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James B. Comey

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

This last tweet may have proved fatal to the man who has weaponized Twitter.

Trump’s implication that he taped his conversation with Comey immediately led White House reporters to ask if he, in fact, taped conversations in the Executive Mansion.

Trump’s response: No comment.

At a White House press conference, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, was asked three times: Was tape recording occurring in the White House?

Spicer replied: “I’ve talked to the President. The President had nothing further to add on that.”

Asked on Right-wing Fox News–the only major network Trump willingly appears on–if he taped the Comey conversation, the President said: “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. And I’m sure he will be – I hope.”

By implying on Twitter that he had illegally taped his conversation with Comey–and then refusing to say if this was true–Trump has boxed himself into a no-win situation.

Dead-end #1: If he taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, Trump broke the law.

According to a 2003 Congressional report, “Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping”:

“It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent.

“It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than 5 years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence.”

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

In the summer of 1973, the Senate was investigating the bugging of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the 1972 Presidential campaign.

In June, 1973, John W. Dean III testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. He had served as White House Counsel for Nixon from 1970 to 1973. And now he outlined a litany of crimes ordered by President Richard Nixon.

The White House adamantly denied these charges by attacking Dean as a malcontent. (He had been fired by Nixon in April.)

So–who was telling the truth: Dean or Nixon?  It was a classic case of He said/he said.

Then–unexpectedly–a way appeared to answer the question: “Who is telling the truth?”

Alexander Butterfield, who had served as the Deputy Assistant to Nixon from 1969 to 1973, was called as a witness before the Committee.

In a private meeting with Senate investigators, he unintentionally blurted out that Nixon had installed a secret taping system to record all conversations between him and Oval Office visitors.

Suddenly, the Watergate investigation took an entirely new direction–one that would prove fatal to Nixon’s Presidency.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART TEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2017 at 12:22 am

Fifty-three years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that he left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing–and poisoning–by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon–in 1969–Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011,  the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality. 

Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

Many Americans believe that decline arrived with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In fact, they believe it was Trump who announced it after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART NINE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2017 at 12:05 am

Elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, John F. Kennedy served six undistinguished years before being elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 1952.

In 1956, his eloquence and political skill almost won him the Vice Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. But the nominee, Adlai Stevenson, chose Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver as his running mate–fortunately for Kennedy.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, running for re-election, easily beat Stevenson.

Had Kennedy been on the ticket, his Catholicism would have been blamed for the loss. And this would have likely prevented his getting the Presidential nomination in 1960.

In 1957, his book, Profiles in Courage, won the Pulitzer Prize for history.

From 1957 to 1960, Kennedy laid plans for a successful Presidential race.

Many voters thought him too young and inexperienced for such high office. But he used his TV debates with then-Vice President Richard Nixon to calm such fears, transforming himself overnight into a serious contender.

Many Americans identified with Kennedy as they had with film stars. Compared with normally drab politicians, he seemed exciting and glamorous.

Since 1960, for millions of Americans, mere competence in a President isn’t enough; he should be charming and movie-star handsome as well.

Related image

John F. Kennedy after taking a swim at Santa Monica Beach, 1960

But charismatic politicians face the danger of waning enthusiasm.

Many people were growing disillusioned with Kennedy before he died. He had raised hopes that couldn’t be met–especially among blacks.

And many whites bitterly opposed his support of integration, believing that Kennedy was “moving too fast” in changing race relations.

Still, for millions of Americans, Kennedy represented a time of change.

“Let’s get this country moving again” had been his campaign slogan in 1960. He had demanded an end to the non-existent “missile gap” between the United States and Soviet Union.

And he had said that America should create full employment and re-evaluate its policies toward Africa, Latin America and Asia.

His youth, the grace and beauty of his wife and the often-reported antics of his two young children–Caroline and John–added to the atmosphere that change was under way.

But Kennedy was not so committed to reform as many believed:

  • As a Senator he had strongly opposed abolishing the Electoral College.
  • He never protested the Red-baiting tactics of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, a frequent dinner guest at the home of his father.
  • As President, Kennedy never forgot that he had been elected by a margin of 112,881 votes. He often rationalized his refusal to tackle controversial issues by saying: “We’ll do it after I’m re-elected. So we’d better make damn sure I am re-elected.”
  • He thought the United States should recognize “Red” China, but didn’t try to change American foreign policy toward that nation.

Nevertheless, many historians believe that. by vocally supporting civil rights and healthcare for the elderly, Kennedy laid the groundwork for Lyndon Johnson’s legislative victories.

Perhaps no aspect of Kennedy’s Presidency has received closer study than his assassination.

Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have hotly debated whether he was murdered by a lone “nut” or a deadly conspiracy of powerful men.

JFK’s assassination: The moment of impact

The murder has been the subject of two government investigations. The first, by the Warren Commission in 1964, concluded that an embittered ex-Marine and Marxist, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone in killing Kennedy.

Similarly, the Commission determined that nightclub owner Jack Ruby had killed Oswald on impulse, and not as the result of a conspiracy.

Millions of disbelieving Americans rejected the Warren Report–and named their own villains:

  • The KGB;
  • The Mob;
  • Anti-Castro Cubans;
  • Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson;
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders;
  • Fidel Castro.

Each of these groups or persons had reason to hate Kennedy:

  • The KGB–for Kennedy’s humiliating the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • The Mob–in retaliation for the administration’s crackdown on organized crime.
  • Anti-Castro Cubans–for JFK’s refusal to commit American military forces to overthrowing Castro at the Bay of Pigs invasion.
  • Lyndon Johnson–lusting for power, he stood to gain the most from Kennedy’s elimination.
  • Right-wing businessmen and/or military leaders–for believing that Kennedy had “sold out” the country to the Soviet Union.
  • Fidel Castro–knowing the CIA was trying to assassinate or overthrow him, he had reason to respond in kind.

The second investigation, conducted in 1977-79 by the House Assassinations Committee, determined that Oswald and a second, unknown sniper had fired at Kennedy. (Oswald was deemed the assassin; the other man’s shot had missed.)

The Chief Counsel for the Committee, G. Robert Blakey, believed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello organized the assassination, owing to his hatred of Robert Kennedy for his war on the crime syndicates.

Still, 53 years after JFK’s assassination, no court-admissible evidence has appeared to convict anyone other than Oswald for the murder.

The impact of Kennedy’s death on popular culture remains great. Millions saw him as a brilliant, courageous hero who had worked his way to the top.

But his sudden and violent end shocked those who believed there was always a happy ending.

If so gifted–and protected–a man as John F. Kennedy could be so suddenly and brutally destroyed, no one else could depend on a secure future.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART EIGHT (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2017 at 12:26 am

Throughout his life, John F. Kennedy was lucky–both personally and politically.

Part of the secret lay in his physical presence. He was young and handsome, charming and articulate.

He appeared zestful and athletic despite a series of ailments, including Addison’s disease (a malfunction of the adrenal glands) and an injured back that required the use of a brace.

His wit was sophisticated and often self-deprecating. Addressing an assembly of Nobel Prize winners at the White House, he said: “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House–with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

JFK making a joke at a press conference

And his sense of humor often defused otherwise ticklish problems. During the 1960 Presidential race, he was sharply criticized for relying on his millionaire father for much of his funding. At a campaign rally, he deflected the charge with humor:

“I just received a telegram from my generous Daddy. It says: ‘Dear Jack: Don’t buy one more vote than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.’”

Another controversy emerged when he named his brother, Robert, Attorney General. Critics charged that the appointment smacked of nepotism–and that Robert didn’t have enough legal gravitas to be the nation’s chief law enforcement offer.

“I see nothing wrong in giving Robert a little experience before he goes out to practice law,” he said at a press conference.

His highly-polished rhetoric–produced by wordsmiths such as Theodore Sorensen–dazzled audiences. His Inaugural Address was acclaimed by Democrats and even most Republicans.

Its signature line, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” has become as famous as Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

His speeches often urged Americans to seek a higher cause than mere self-interest. Speaking of the role of the arts in a nation’s life, he said:

“It may be different elsewhere, but [in] democratic society…the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.”

Memorial at the Arlington gravesite for John F. Kennedy

But he could be blunt and profane in private.

“My father always told me all businessmen were sonsofbitches, but I never believed it till now,” he said in private when the steel companies made an inflationary price increase in 1962.

Like Richard Nixon, Kennedy installed a secret taping system in the White House. And, as with Nixon, this picked up many of his profanities. Unlike Nixon, however, Kennedy died before his secret taping system was discovered.

Kennedy impressed many journalists with his capacity for detail.

“He swallows and digests whole books in minutes.  His eye seizes instantly on the crucial point of a long memorandum. He confounds experts with superior knowledge of their field,” wrote Games McGregor Burns in 1961.

Having briefly worked as a journalist (covering the opening of the United Nations Assembly in 1945) JFK understood and catered to the sensitivities of the Washington press corps.

Using charm, wit, candor and selective accessibility, he cultivated his own favored group of reporters. Critics charged that he was manipulating the media–and they were right.

Sometimes the manipulation was heavy-handed. He pressured The New York Times to censor its coverage of actions he intended to take–such as during the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But he failed to coerce the Times to remove David Halberstam, its Vietnam correspondent, whose highly critical articles cast doubt on the effectiveness of the American military commitment to Vietnam.

A major part of Kennedy’s appeal lay in his glamorous background. He was born–on May 29, 1917–into a large, robust family headed by wealthy and powerful financier Joseph P. Kennedy.

He attended Princeton and Harvard, graduating from the latter with top honors.

During World War II he became a Naval hero in 1943 after a Japanese destroyer sliced his PT boat in half–by towing an injured shipmate to safety on a South Pacific island. From there, Kennedy persuaded a native to summon rescue help from the U.S. Navy.

Kennedy had no plans for a postwar political career. That had been assigned to his elder brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., by their ambitious father, who was determined to seat the first Irish Catholic President.

After learning of his younger brother’s heroism, Joseph volunteered for a dangerous Naval bombing mission. On August 12, 1944, he and a co-pilot flew an explosives-laden plane from England toward France.

While over the English Channel, they were supposed to parachute from the aircraft–after activating a remote control system to send the plane crashing into a German command center.

But the plane mysteriously exploded before the pilots could eject–and before the plane reached its target.

The death of his elder brother ended John F. Kennedy’s plans for a career as a writer. Joseph Kennedy, Sr., insisted that “Jack” assume the political career that the Kennedy patriarch had assigned for his dead brother.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART SEVEN (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 12, 2017 at 12:07 am

John F. Kennedy fired the imaginations and captured the hearts of Americans and foreign citizens as no President since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Millions who voted for him–or against him or didn’t vote at all–still believe that, if only he had lived to be re-elected, America would have entered a truly Golden Age.

Kennedy certainly encouraged such belief.  Asked for his definition of happiness, he quoted the ancient Greeks: “The full use of your powers along lines of excellence.”

Almost 50 years after his death on November 22, 1963, he remains frozen in time. Assassinated at age 46, he remains forever young, vigorous and charming.

But even if he had not been assassinated, his Presidency could have ended in disaster.

After his 1953 marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier, he continued to pursue both a married and a bachelor life. Rumors of Kennedy’s extramarital affairs swirled throughout his Senatorial career and followed him into the White House.

His conquests included secretaries, wives of friends, strippers, movie stars (such as Marilyn Monroe and Marlene Dietrich) prostitutes and even a mobster’s mistress.

Various theories have been advanced for his taking such dangerous risks with his political career:

  • As a victim of Addison’s Disease (insufficiency of the adrenal glands) he had been told by doctors he might not live beyond 35.
  • As a result of the cortisone he took to control his Addison’s, his libido was greatly enhanced.
  • After escaping death with the sinking of PT-109, he decided to cram as much excitement into his life as possible.
  • His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., a notorious womanizer, had encouraged him and his three other sons to sleep with as many women as possible.

During the 1960 Presidential campaign, Frank Sinatra–who had become smitten with Kennedy and was determined to see him elected–introduced him to a “good time girl” named Judith Campbell.

Judith Campbell

Whether Kennedy knew it or not, Campbell was also sleeping with Sam Giancana–the most-feared Mafia boss in Chicago. And it wasn’t long before Giancana learned about her trysts with Kennedy.

As a favor to Sinatra, Giancana and his fellow mobsters used their powerful influence to ensure that JFK carried Illinois in 1960.

Sam Giancana

In turn, JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy had promised Giancana that the Mob would get a free ride under a Kennedy Presidency.

When JFK appointed his brother, Robert, Attorney General, the latter declared war on organized crime. Giancana and his fellow hoods felt betrayed.

Giancana often raged to Campbell: “If it wasn’t for me, your boyfriend wouldn’t be President.” And having knowledge of her scandalous relationship with JFK, Giancana could have exposed Kennedy to a shocked public.

And if Giancana hadn’t done it, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover might have.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Hoover, under relentless pressure from Robert Kennedy to crack down on the Mob, had, through illegal electronic surveillance, discovered the Giancana-Campbell-Kennedy connection.

Always fearful that he might be replaced as FBI director, Hoover had quickly alerted the Attorney General to his latest discovery in February, 1962. Neither RFK nor JFK could dare fire Hoover now.

White House telephone logs reveal that, from January, 1961 until February, 1962, Campbell phoned the White House 70 times.

After Hoover informed Robert Kennedy of Campbell’s status with the President, she made only one more call to Kennedy. It was then that the President said the affair was over.

Similarly, the President’s on-and-off affair with Marilyn Monroe put him in an equally dangerous position. Monroe’s behavior, fueled by emotional instability, alcohol and pills, became increasingly erratic. And she grew convinced that Kennedy should divorce Jackie and make her the new First Lady.

Rumors still circulate that the President sent Robert Kennedy–who was by now an old hand at cleaning up JFK’s messes–to tell Monroe their relationship was over.

Whatever secrets Monroe may have been able to reveal about her relationship with Kennedy, she took them to the grave in an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills on August 5, 1962.

In his 1995 bestseller, The Dark Side of Camelot, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh got several former members of Kennedy’s Secret Service detail to speak about JFK’s extramarital sex life.

They revealed that they had not been allowed to search any of the women Kennedy cavorted with.

Any of these women could have injected the President with a poisonous hypodermic. Or secretly tape recorded their trysts with Kennedy for blackmail purposes.

Kennedy believed he would be re-elected in 1964–especially if his opponent was Barry Goldwater, the Republican Senator from Arizona.

And he almost certainly would have been re-elected; Lyndon Johnson scored a smashing victory over Goldwater that year.

But it’s also possible that Kennedy could have been forced to resign in disgrace over his affairs with Campbell, Monroe or any number of other women.

Such a fate overtook British Secretary of State for War John Profumo in 1962. In 1961, he had begun an affair with Christine Keeler, an attractive model. But Keeler was also bedding Yevgeney Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in Britain.

When the press learned about the threesome, Profumo was forced to resign, his 22-year political career destroyed.

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