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Posts Tagged ‘BOB WOODWARD’

TOO MANY WORMS, NOT ENOUGH JOURNALISTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that he is a victim of “fake news.”

But future historians will note how often the media ignored the foremost reality of their time: That the United States was led by a psychopathic dictator. 

This is true even for CNN, the network that Trump clearly hates the most.

On May 22, 2018, David Gergen penned a CNN essay on Trump vs. the press.

“Instead of raging on about ‘fake news,'” wrote Gergen, “the President would do well to read Peggy Noonan [a Ronald Reagan speechwriter turned author] on Reagan and focus on building his character.”

So what’s wrong with this? 

Trump is 72 years old. George Orwell wrote that, by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. By age 72, every man has the character he has spent his life being. And Trump’s life has been dedicated to inflating his wallet and his ego.

He isn’t going to radically change at this point—especially if he believes himself “a very stable genius.”

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Donald Trump

Then there’s this July 30, 2018 CNN story: “Trump Opens Window Into His Rage With Mueller Attack.”

Two days before Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller prosecuted Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, Trump launched a tweetstorm against Mueller.

Among those tweets: 

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship, I turned him down to head the FBI (one day before appointment as S.C.) & Comey is his close friend.”

And: 

“…Also, why is Mueller only appointing Angry Dems, some of whom have worked for Crooked Hillary, others, including himself, have worked for Obama….And why isn’t Mueller looking at all of the criminal activity & real Russian Collusion on the Democrats side—Podesta, Dossier?”

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Robert Mueller

CNN characterized this cascade of libel as a “trio of tweets…packed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.” 

An accurate description would have been: “Lies.” 

After a meeting with Trump, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, publicly stated: 

“I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people.’ I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence. 

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger

So what is wrong with these comments? 

Like the saccharine that floods the airways at Christmastime, they reek of a deliberate suspension of reality.   

Appealing to Trump’s “better angels” on behalf of the news media is an exercise in futility—and insanity. 

This is a man who has said—proudly: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

A 2016 analysis by USA Today found that for 30 years, Trump and his businesses had been involved in 3,500 legal cases in U.S. federal courts and state court. This is not a man who, at heart, is a peacemaker. 

Nor does he have any respect for truth. The Washington Post has reported that during his first 298 days in the White House, Trump said or tweeted 1,628 lies or misleading statements. This makes for an average of 5.5 lies a day. 

To expect—as Sulzberger apparently did—that Trump has any regard for such Constitutional niceties as freedom of the press is beyond rationality. 

Trump has furiously attacked the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as: 

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion
  • An incorruptible Justice Department.

Donald Trump isn’t crazy. Nor does he abuse power by well-meaning accident.

He knows exactly 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.”

Yet the media—including CNN and New York Times—has refused to brand Trump as the liar and dictator he clearly is.

There can be only two motives for this:  

  1. Naivety, or 
  2. Cowardice. 

Either is totally unworthy of those claiming to defend the First Amendment.

Such reporters, editors and publishers should decide—now–to:

  1. Live up to the standards set by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Benjamin Bradlee during the Watergate crisis; or
  2. Go into a profession better-suited to their character—such as worm-farming.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2018 at 1:16 am

The first year of Donald Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years. 

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The White House

With the administration rapidly approaching its halfway pint—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties. 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. Among those who resigned from the Trump administration—and the real reasons why:

  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Resigned as director of the Center of Disease Control after Politico reported that she had bought stock in Japan Tobacco while serving as CDC director.
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Met Trump as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” where he fired her on three different shows. She moved into the White House with him as Director of Communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. She became disillusioned with him during 2017 and began taping her conversations with him and other government officials. When she learned she had been fired she reportedly had to be literally dragged from the White House.
  • Tom Price – The Secretary of Health and Human Services ran up a $1 million cost to taxpayers for private planes and military jets for travel within the United States and trips to Asia, Africa and Europe. 
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.” 
  • Sean Spicer – Resigned in anger after Trump chose Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director. 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.
  • Walter Shaub – Resigned as the director of the Office of Government Ethics in July after clashing with Trump over the President’s conflicts-of-interest vis-a-vis his financial holdings.
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director, resigned one day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. She claimed she had told “white lies” for Trump but hadn’t lied about anything important relating to the investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly – Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and thus bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

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John Kelly

On December 8, 2018, Trump announced that: “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year, we will be announcing who will be taking John’s place, it may be on an interim basis, in the next day or two.” 

This had been expected for months. Reportedly, Kelly and Trump were no longer on speaking terms.

Trump’s apparent first choice for Kelly’s replacement: Nick Ayers, who had served as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff for more than a year.  

Trump pushed Ayers to commit to two years, but he declined.

Ayers told Trump he had young children, and wanted to return to his home state of Georgia. He offered to temporarily serve as chief of staff, but Trump demanded a two-year commitment, and talks fell apart.

Finally, Trump found a replacement for Kelly: Mick Mulvaney, who has served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He intends to keep his position at OMB while serving as Trump’s chief of staff.

As 2018 rapidly comes to an end, the Trump administration will come under increased pressure on two fronts:

  1. The Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: Robert Mueller is slowly closing the net on the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration—such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. These will almost certainly lead to Trump himself.
  2. On January 3, the House of Representatives will become a Democratically-controlled body. Trump will face unprecedented opposition—and major investigations of his past and current actions. It’s likely that the House Intelligence Committee will go after his long-hidden tax returns—which may well prove his longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs.

The White House is one of the most stressful places to work. Constant deadlines keep staffers working days on end. Travel is frequent. And anyone can be dismissed in an instant, since all employees work “at the pleasure of the President.”

These events will bring increased fear and stress to those who still remain in the White House. This, in turn, will ensure increased mass firings and/or resignations from the White House.  

As aging stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) warns in All About Eve:  “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 17, 2018 at 12:26 am

The first year of Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

Among these: 

FIRED: 

  • Preet Bharara – U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 

RESIGNED:

  • Katie Walsh – Deputy White House Chief of Staff
  • Michael T. Flynn – National Security Adviser
  • Walter Shaub – Office of Government Ethics Director
  • Michael Dubke – Communications Director
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary
  • Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Communications Director
  • Steve Bannon – Chief Strategist
  • Sebastian Gorka – Deputy Assistant to the President
  • Tom Price – Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Director of Communications for White House Office of Public Liaison
  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 
  • Rob Porter – White House Staff Secretary
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director
  • Gary Cohn – Director of the National Economic Council
  • H.R. McMaster – National Security Adviser 
  • Tom Bossert – Homeland Security Adviser
  • Scott Pruitt – Director, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Don McGahn – White House Counsel
  • Nikki Haley – United States Ambassador to the United Nations
  • David Shulkin – Secretary of the Veterans Administration 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. 

Among those who were fired—and the real reasons why:

  • Jeff Sessions – Fired as Attorney General because he refused to quash Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe into proven connections between Russian Intelligence agents and high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. 
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him. 
  • James Comey – Fired as FBI Director because he refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump also hoped to end the FBI’s investigation of links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Trump later admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I just fired the head of the FBI….I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 
  • Don McGahn – Resigned as White House Counsel after repeatedly clashing with Trump about the best strategy for dealing with Mueller’s investigation. 
  • Tom Bossert – Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser, was fired by John Bolton, the new National Security Adviser.  
  • Sally Yates – Fired by Trump as Acting Attorney General for her aggressive pursuit of Michael Flynn’s treasonous contacts with Russian Intelligence officials during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She had also refused to uphold Trump’s executive order on immigration and denounced it as unlawful.
  • Preet Bharara – Fired by Trump as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Although an Obama appointee, Trump had initially asked him to stay on—and then abruptly fired him. The possible reason: He was known as one of Wall Street’s fiercest watchdogs and a widely respected prosecutor. Trump believes that corporations should be immune from their crimes—and, as President, has worked to confer such immunity upon them.
  • Rex Tillerson – Trump’s Secretary of State, was fired without warning while on a trip to Africa. The reason: In 2017, word leaked to the press that Tillerson had called Trump “a moron.”   
  • Steve Bannon – Although he officially resigned, Trump fired his Fascistic chief strategist after Bannon heatedly clashed with other members of the White House. 
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired by Trump at the urging of John Kelly. The reason: An obscenity-laced interview with The New Yorker, where he attacked members of the Trump administration—most notably Bannon.

Among those who resigned—and the real reasons why:

  • Scott Pruitt – Although he technically resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he was in effect fired. He was under several federal ethics investigation for lavish spending, conflicts of interests with corporate lobbyists, and enlisting his official government staffers to run personal errands.
  • Rob Porter – The White House Staff Secretary resigned after after two of his ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse. 
  • Michael Flynn – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired as National Security Adviser. The reason: He had discussed, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, ending the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia. Then he lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence. When these facts became public, Flynn was sent packing. 

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2018 at 12:06 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roam the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued. “Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods may not end White House leaks.

White House officials still speak with reporters throughout the day and often air their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stay.

Trump became famous on “The Apprentice” for telling contestants: “You’re fired.”

Since taking office as President, he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This has resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first year of Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

The list is impressive—but only in a negative sense.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2018 at 12:36 am

In his infamous treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli warns that it is safer to be feared than loved. And he lays out his reason thusly: 

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….

“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.”

But Machiavelli immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of fear:

“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….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. 

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

In January, 2018, the White House had banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To stop staffers from leaking to reporters.

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2018 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler. But his reign bears far more resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin.

Germany’s Fuhrer, for all his brutality, maintained a relatively stable government by keeping the same men in office—from the day he took power on January 30, 1933, to the day he blew out his brains on April 30, 1945.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

Heinrich Himmler, a former chicken farmer, remained head of the dreaded, black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, known as the SS, from 1929 until his suicide in 1945. 

In April, 1934, Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich.

Hermann Goering, an ace fighter pilot in World War 1, served as Reich commissioner for aviation and head of the newly developed Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1935 to 1945.

And Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, held that position from 1933 until 1942, when Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. He held that position until the Third Reich collapsed in April, 1945.

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, by contrast, purged his ministers constantly.  For example: From 1934 to 1953, Stalin had no fewer than three chiefs of his secret police, then named the NKVD:

  • Genrikh Yagoda – (July 10, 1934 – September 26, 1936)
  • Nikolai Yezhov (September 26, 1936 – November 25, 1938) and
  • Lavrenty Beria (November, 1938 – March, 1953).

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after being arrested.

Joseph Stalin

He reportedly wanted to purge Beria, too, but the latter may have acted first. There has been speculation that Beria slipped warfarin, a blood-thinner often used to kill rats, into Stalin’s drink, causing him to die of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Nor were these the only casualties of Stalin’s reign.

For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, Stalin slaughtered 20 to 60 million people. 

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Since taking office as the nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has sought to rule by fear. 

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Donald Trump

In fact, he candidly shared his belief in this as a motivator to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

It is unknown if Trump ever read The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous treatise on attaining political power. If so, he doubtless is familiar with its most famous passage:

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.”

“BOXING IN” HITLER AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 12, 2018 at 12:10 am

After Donald Trump won the 2016 election, many people feared he would embark on a radical Right-wing agenda. But others hoped that the Washington bureaucracy would “box him in.”

The same sentiments echoed throughout Germany after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The 1983 TV  mini-series, The Winds of War, offered a dramatic example of how honorable men can be overwhelmed by a ruthless dictator. 

Based on the bestselling 1971 historical novel by Herman Wouk, the mini-series factually re-created the major historical events of World War II.

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One of those events took place on November 5, 1939.

General Walther von Brauchitsch is summoned to the Chancellery in Berlin to meet with Adolf Hitler. He carries a memorandum signed by all the leaders of the German Wehrmacht asserting that Case Yellow—Hitler’s planned attack against France—is impossible.

Meanwhile, at the German army headquarters at Zossen, in Berlin, the Wehrmacht’s top command wait for word from von Brauchitsch. 

ZOSSEN: 

Brigadier General Armin von Roon: I must confide in you on a very serious matter. I have been approached by certain army personages of the loftiest rank and prestige with a frightening proposal.

Chief of the General Staff Franz Halder:  What did you reply?

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason. 

Image result for Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in The Winds of War

Gunter Meisner as Adolf Hitler in “The Winds of War”

THE WHITE HOUSE:

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to September 5, 2018.

On September 5, 2018, The New York Times publishes an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”  This spotlights massiver dysfunction within the White House—and put the blame squarely on the President. 

Among the revelations:

  • “Many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
  • “We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”
  • “On Russia…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain….But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”
  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.” 

ZOSSEN: 

Von Roon: The conspiracy has been going on that long—since Czechoslovakia [1938)?

Halder: If the British had not caved in at Munich [where France and Britain sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia]—perhaps. But they did. And ever then, ever since his big triumph, it has been hopeless. Hopeless.

Von Roon: Empty talk, talk, talk. I am staggered.

Halder: A hundred times I myself could have shot the man. I can still at any time. But what would be the result? Chaos. The people are for him. He has unified the country. We must stick to our posts and save him from making military mistakes. 

THE WHITE HOUSE:

On September 11, 2018, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward publishes a devastating take on the Trump administration: Fear: Trump in the White House. The text features explosive revelations about the President’s ignorance and mistreatment of staffers:

  • Trump was about to sign a letter canceling a free-trade agreement with South Korea. To prevent this, Eric Cohn, his national economic council director, swiped it from Trump’s desk. Trump didn’t notice it missing.
  • Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, failed to convince the President that he shouldn’t testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The reason: He would commit perjury—and end up in “an orange jumpsuit.” 
  • Trump referred to Alabaman Jeff Sessions, his attorney general, as “a dumb southerner” and “mentally retarded.”

General Walther von Brauchitsch fails to convince Hitler to postpone “Case Yellow”—the invasion of France. Hitler insists that it commence in seven days—on November 12.

And he issues a warning to the entire German General staff: “I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me. I am Germany.”

Due to foul weather, Hitler is forced to postpone the invasion of France until June, 1940. But the German General staff can’t ultimately put off the war that will destroy them—and Germany.

President Donald Trump has:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Branded America’s longtime ally, Canada, as “a national security threat.” 
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

Like Hitler, he can equally say: I am the destiny of America.  

History has yet to record if Trump’s subordinates will prove more successful than Hitler’s at preserving “our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

LOVE CAN BUILD A BOND; FEAR CREATES ENEMIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 6, 2018 at 12:25 am

President John F. Kennedy was securely fastened in his grave before he became the subject of a flood of bestselling biographies.

Among these:

  • With Kennedy, by Pierre Salinger;
  • A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.;
  • Kennedy, by Theodore C. Sorensen;
  • The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul B. Fay;
  • My Twelve Years With John F. Kennedy, by Elvelyn Lincoln;
  • Conversations With Kennedy, by Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Many of these appeared shortly after his death. Some—such as A Thousand Days and Kennedy—were massive—totaling 1,087 pages for the first and 758 pages for the second.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png

John F. Kennedy

Most were embarrassingly admiring, almost worshipful. Many of these books were written by those who had worked closely with Kennedy and knew his most intimate secrets. Yet the worst of those secrets did not emerge until the early 1970s.

Among those:

  • Kennedy’s compulsive womanizing.
  • His poor health and reckless use of drugs (licit and illicit) to control it.
  • His waging a no-quarter war on Fidel Castro (including using the Mafia to try to assassinate the Cuban dictator).

Kennedy inspired loyalty by somehow making those around him feel they were valued—and partners in a great historical moment.

Donald Trump, by contrast, has held office less than two years—and two books highly critical of him have already emerged, with a third to appear on September 11th.

The first, Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, appeared in January. The second, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault-Newman, came out in August.

Among the reviews of Fire and Fury

“What makes the book significant is its sly, hilarious portrait of a hollow man, into the black hole of whose needy, greedy ego the whole world has virtually vanished.”―The Guardian

“An undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises….” ―The San Francisco Chronicle

Wollf is an author, essayist, journalist, and columnist. He was never a member of Trump’s inner circle—yet he was given extraordinary access to those who worked in the West Wing of the White House.

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Donald Trump

Manigault-Newman, on the other hand, had known Trump intimately since 2003, when she first appeared on his NBC “reality” series, The Apprentice. She campaigned for him in 2016 and followed him into the White House as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison—until she was fired in December, 2017. 

After her firing, she abruptly underwent a conversion from worshiper to heretic. As a reviewer on Amazon.com put it:

“It’s a story that starts with a starry eyed younger Omarosa, and ends with her freedom from the ‘TrumpWorld cult’. Along the way she becomes increasingly aware that her former mentor, friend, and idol, has no empathy for others, is narcissistic to an extreme, does not read or intake new information unless it’s on a favored cable TV channel, and she also sees signs of dementia-like behavior leaving her wondering what, if anything, she can do as an insider.” 

And on September 11th, the most devastating book yet to appear on Trump will make its debut: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Its author is Bob Woodward, legendary investigative reporter and Washington Post associate editor.

Woodward “made his bones” as a journalist with Carl Bernstein from 1972 to 1974. Their reporting made “Watergate” a household word—and helped bring down President Richard M. Nixon.

Perhaps the most startling secret to be found within Woodward’s book: Nearly every member of Trump’s handpicked staff considers him an idiot. 

  • His former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson: “He’s a fucking idiot.” 
  • John Kelly, his chief of staff: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” 
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis: Trump acted like—and had the understanding of—“a fifth- or sixth-grader. ”
  • Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd warned the President not to testify before Special Counsel Robert Mueller: “It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit” for perjury. 

Niccolo Machiavelli raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “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.”  

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “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.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

By repeatedly showing himself ignorant of—and even indifferent to—the realities of Presidential statecraft, Trump quickly forfeited the respect of his top staffers and Cabinet officials. 

As a result, Trump has produced a dysfunctional administration constantly teetering on the edge of meltdown.

And by regularly humiliating those staffers and Cabinet officials, he destroyed their ties of loyalty to him as a man and President.

This has produced legions of angry, disillusioned members seeking revenge—and they will eagerly leak Trump’s latest embarrassing secrets to the first reporter who comes asking.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2014 at 12:06 am

President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads. They logged thousands of miles, crisscrossing the nation, speaking to millions of Americans.

And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ended on November 6, 2012, history recorded the contest was settled with a single video.

It was the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:

“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him.

“Who are dependent upon government. Who believe that–that they are victims. Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.

“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.

“…These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.”

A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?

And in April, 2013, history repeated itself–with another Republican caught telling the ugly truth behind closed doors.

In this case, it was Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell.  A microphone (probably stationed outside his Senate office) caught him discussing how to attack Ashley Judd’s mental health if the actress decided to challenge him in 2014.

“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said. “I mean, it’s been documented….She’s suffered some suicidal tendencies.  She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”

“I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole,” said McConnell.  “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”

McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether an opponent’s mental health or religious beliefs are fair game in a political campaign.

Instead, he accused “the political left” of mounting “quite a Nixonian move.”  An ironic charge, considering that Nixon and McConnell rose to power within the same political party.

As in the case of the Mitt Romney videotape, the focus of the press quickly turned to: Who recorded it?

But this totally missed the point.

It doesn’t matter who provides vital information. What does matter is: Is that information accurate?

In Romney’s case, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.

In McConnell’s case, it cast light on the how entrenched politicians ruthlessly defend their turf.

It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.

Rich and greed-obsessed donors (unlike poor and ignorant voters) are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices. They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:

  • Lower (preferably no) taxes
  • Freedom to pollute
  • Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
  • Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
  • Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods

So what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors–or his campaign strategists–reflects what he really means and intends to do.

A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal. For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate

In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.

Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately ended the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.

And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.

Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.

W. Mark Felt

Thus, the question making the rounds about the McConnell discussion shouldn’t have been: Who taped it?

It should have been: How can more private fundraisers and political strategy sessions be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?

Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.

Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.

And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.

With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.

Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.

Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.

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