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Posts Tagged ‘DONALD TRUMP’

DICTATORS: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2023 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have rightly gotten a lot of publicity—for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor. When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging. He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.

Of course, the man who actually called the shots in Russia was not Medvedev but Putin.

In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess. He has been an investor, real estate mogul, television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” and alleged author.

The Trump Organization sponsored the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

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Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, 2015, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he was consistently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, 2015, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” and “an outstanding and talented personality.”

He summed up Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The conservative host, Joe Scarborough, took exception to Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, he’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

SCARBOROUGH: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

TRUMP: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

Adolf Hitler

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at its arch-enemy, the Soviet Union.

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany. 

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R).

Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.

But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany. Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was—privately—equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union. Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country—with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that dictators like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

CRY ME A RIOT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on January 19, 2023 at 12:10 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men. Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.
—Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”

On January 6, 2021, Hope Hicks had a problem: She feared she might never work again.

She had served in President Donald Trump’s administration as White House Director of Strategic Communication from January to September, 2017. 

From 2017 to 2018 she served as White House Communications Director. After leaving the White House, she returned to serve as Counselor to the President from 2020 to 2021.

Hope Hicks November 2017.jpg

Hope Hicks

And then came the Trump-inspired attack on Congress on January 6.

Among the infamies and crimes Trump committed—and Hicks witnessed—during his four years as President:

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press as “the enemy of the American people” for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters.
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Giving highly classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. 
  • Using his position as President to further enrich himself, in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
  • Attacking and alienating America’s oldest allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.

9 times Donald Trump was compared to Hitler | The Times of Israel

Two Fuhrers: Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

  • Shutting down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his useless “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay for 35 days.
  • Allowing the deadly COVID-19 virus to ravage the country, killing 400,000 Americans by the time he left office.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves against the deadly COVID-19 virus.
  • Urging his followers to illegally vote twice for him in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly lying—while still in office and afterward—that the 2020 election had been “stolen” from him by massive voter fraud.
  • Illegally trying to pressure state legislatures and governors to stop the certification of the vote that had made Joe Biden the president-elect.
  • Inciting his followers to attack the Capitol Building where Senators and Representatives were meeting to count the Electoral Votes won by himself and Joe Biden. His objective: Stop the count, which he knew would prove him the loser.

So Hope had plenty to feel tormented about.  

Yet it wasn’t any of these offenses that upset her.

It was something far more personal: She feared that the public’s association of her with Trump’s attack on Congress would doom her, at age 32, to permanent unemployment.

On January 6, 2021, she exchanged a series of texts with Julie Radford, First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff. 

HICKS: “In one day he [Trump] ended every future opportunity that doesn’t include speaking engagements at the local proud boys [sic] chapter

“And all of us that didn’t have jobs lined up will be perpetually unemployed

“I’m so mad and upset

“We all look like domestic terrorists now”

RADFORD: “Oh yes I’ve been crying for an hour”

HICKS: “This made us all unemployable

“Like untouchable

“God I’m so fucking mad”

RADFORD: “I know there isn’t a chance of finding a job 

“Visa also sent me a blow off email today

“Already”

HICKS: “Nope. Not being dramatic, but we are all fucked.

[Referring to Trump]: “Attacking the VP [Vice President Mike Pence]?

“Wtf is wrong with him” 

Albert Speer, former architect and Minister of Armaments for his late Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, would have fully empathized. 

Monochrome photograph of the upper body of Albert Speer, signed at the bottom

Albert Speer

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146II-277 / Binder / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

With the collapse of the Third Reich, he found himself hurled from power and facing trial as a war criminal at Nuremberg.

His prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, said: “Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation.”

Yet Speer falsely claimed he had simply been an apolitical architect who had been drafted into serving as Minister of Armaments—and hadn’t known about the Holocaust. 

The prosecution couldn’t prove he had. So he escaped a death sentence—and was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Emerging from prison in 1966, Speer lamented that no architectural firm in postwar Germany would hire “Hitler’s architect.” 

So he spent the rest of his life writing—at great profit—about his 12 years as a high-ranking official in the Third Reich. As “The Good Nazi,” he portrayed himself as a political innocent deceived into hell by a Mephistopheles-like Hitler.

Like Speer, Hope Hicks has repudiated her own former Fuhrer—after serving him during his worst infamies.

And, like Speer, she isn’t facing the dangers of poverty. Her net worth is estimated at $1 million, owing to her past work as a model and public relations agent.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 18, 2023 at 12:13 am

….A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary, for a prince who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.
—Niccolo Machiavelli’s advice to President Joseph Biden in “The Prince”

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Republicans, having won control of the House of Representatives, are eagerly seeking to destroy whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

Intending to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost, their topmost goals include:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

Yet their dictatorial ambitions—lavishly funded by Russian “campaign contributions” (i.e., bribes)—can be thwarted. 

Two methods for achieving this have already been discussed in Part one of this series: 

  1. Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin, and
  2. Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Here are two more: 

Counterattack Strategy #3: One Biden for Two Trumps

House Republicans will undoubtedly attack Joseph Biden’s son, Hunter, to damage the President’s  credibility.

“What’s on Hunter’s laptop?” will become their latest version of “Who promoted Peress?” Irving Peress was a New York City dentist who became a primary target for Red-baiting Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings.

Democrats cannot prevent this attack. Republicans are too dedicated to the politics of “smear and fear” to be persuaded otherwise.

But Democrats can at least effectively blunt it: Senatorial Democrats can hold similar investigative hearings on the actions of Donald Trump, Jr., and Eric Trump during their father’s White House tenure.

Both were highly involved with President Trump’s finances during his four years in office. And Trump never hesitated to violate the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. 

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United States Constitution

Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8 prohibits federal office holders from receiving gifts, payments, or anything of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives.

The Founders wanted to ensure that the country’s leaders would not be corrupted, even unconsciously, through bribes. At that time, bribery was a common practice among European rulers and diplomats. 

Trump encouraged diplomats, lobbyists and insiders to stay at his Washington, D.C. hotel—which lay only a short walk from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.

And the prices charged there weren’t cheap:

  • Cocktails ran from $23 for a gin and tonic to $100 for a vodka concoction with raw oysters and caviar.
  • A seafood pyramid called “the Trump Tower” cost $120.
  • A salt-aged Kansas City strip steak cost $59.  

It’s a certainty that Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., oversaw the profits sheet for this hotel—and other Trump properties across the country visited by members of foreign governments.

Thus, there are legitimate avenues for investigation open to Senatorial subcommittees—just as Robert F. Kennedy once probed financial ties between the Mafia and the International Brother of Teamsters Union. 

The Justice Department might even be persuaded to launch its own investigation—not only into possible financial corruption during the Trump administration but into widespread reports of cocaine use by Donald, Jr. 

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Donald Trump, Jr.

Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The House cannot bring criminal penalties against anyone. But the Justice Department can.

Counterattack Strategy #4: One Biden for Two Houses of Congress

After Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 Presidential election, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members from both houses of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

This was nothing less than a Right-wing coup attempt to overturn the results of a legitimate election. As a result, every one of these men and women can be legitimately indicted for treason—provided the Biden Justice Department has has the courage to do so.

Had the Justice Department brought such indictments in 2021 or 2022, the Republican party would now be facing legal and financial ruin. 

Even if some of its members escaped conviction, they would have been forced to pony up tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses. 

And those who were convicted and sent to prison would serve as a long-remembered lesson to the Right of the dangers of treason and abuse of power. 

For decades, Republicans have turned Carl von Clausewitz’ famous dictum—“War is the continuation of politics by other means”—on its head: “Politics is a continuation of war by other means.” 

By contrast, Democrats have too often adhered to the Michelle Obama mantra: “When they go low, we go high.”

That strategy has given the United States Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George W. Bush, Donald Trump—and a Republican Congress willing to destroy the country it claims to love.

HOW DEMOCRATS CAN DEFEAT EXTORTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 17, 2023 at 12:10 am

It took 15 votes—and a series of humiliating concessions—for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

All of the concessions he made were to the most Right-wing members of the House. And all of those members are fanatically dedicated to destroying whatever legacy President Joseph R. Biden hopes to leave.

At the top of their list: Impeaching Biden. 

Republicans refused to impeach and convict Donald Trump after he incited a deadly riot against the United States Capitol Building. But they’re eager to remove Biden for what they consider the most impeachable offense of all.

He defeated a Republican candidate for President.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

And not just any Republican candidate: The candidate who had made no secret of his desire to be “President-for-Life.”

During the mid-term elections, Republicans had expected to sweep both the House and Senate. This would have given them virtual control of the government.

For the House is the body that initiates revenue bills and impeaches federal officials. And the Senate holds the power to confirm Presidential appointments that require consent, and to provide advice and consent to ratify treaties.

But Democrats went on a rare offensive and rightly attacked Republicans as intending to gain absolute control over the lives of their fellow Americans. And voters rejected the candidates favored by Trump for local and federal offices.

Thus, Republicans had to settle for controlling the House. 

Even so, they intend to abuse their new-found powers to the utmost. Among their topmost goals:

  • Bringing false impeachment charges against President Biden;
  • Investigating FBI officials who rightly investigated evidence of Donald Trump’s collaboration with Russia;
  • Investigating the President’s son, Hunter, for unspecified offenses, to damage his father’s credibility; and
  • Holding America’s economy hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden makes cuts in taxes and aid programs for the poor and middle class.

R. Hunter Biden at Center for Strategic & International Studies (1).jpg

Hunter Biden

Center for Strategic & International Studies, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

If Democrats follow their usual mantra of “When they go low, we go high,” they will cower before Republican aggression and sacrifice their legislative agenda.

Yet they can snatch victory from the jaws of impending defeat—providing they are willing to follow the advice Robert F. Kennedy offered for combating the Mafia: “If we do not attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.” 

Counterattack Strategy #1: Attack Republicans as traitors selling out the country to Vladimir Putin

Numerous Republicans have taken “campaign contributions”—i.e., bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Putin. 

One Russian oligarch—Len Blavatnik—has given millions of dollars to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). 

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In just 2017, Blavatnik contributed the following to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs):

  • $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich.
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

The Biden administration need not ask the CIA or FBI to unearth these contributions. They can be easily found within the files of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Putin’s monies have been well-spent: About 90 House Republicansout of a total of 213—attended Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress on December 21, according to CQ Roll Call. Some who did spent much of the speech on their phones.

Many Republicans—such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who in 2021 received about $255,000 from Blavatnik—have openly threatened to end all funding for Ukraine’s heroic struggle against Russian aggression.

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Kevin McCarthy

This would prove an effective technique. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Republicans successfully attacked Democrats as at least potential sellouts, if not actual traitors.

The advantage of attacking Russian-bribed Republicans today is that even some “Reagan Republicans”—such as James Kirchick, a conservative reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—have openly denounced this treason.

Thus, the White House could ignite an internal conflict within the Right by pitting Republicans against each other.

Counterattack Strategy #2: Concede NOTHING to Republicans

Donald Trump shut down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to finance his useless border wall against Mexico.

So Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi shut down his State of the Union appearance.

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza noted: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.”

His ego strung, Trump reopened the government.

And with Republicans threatening to not raise the debt ceiling unless their extortionate demands are met, the White House can effectively counter this danger:

Deduct from the budget every dollar directed toward Republican states. This would vastly reduce the size of the Federal budget, since subsidizing these failed economies accounts for a substantial portion of the budget. 

MACHIAVELLI’S VERDICT ON TRUMP: HE’S NO PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2023 at 12:10 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump—first as a Presidential candidate, then as the nation’s 45th President, and now as a potential Presidential candidate in 2024.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Here’s Machiavelli’s advice on issuing threats and insults:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights once he became President, Machiavelli warned:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

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.”

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Donald Trump

Machiavelli advised:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

On selecting good advisers, Machiavelli taught:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Among the advisers Trump relied on in his 2016 Presidential campaign: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

No Labels - One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. | Facebook

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

Comments like this were a big turn-off among the 70% of women who had an unfavorable opinion of him—and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan—who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

Finally, Machiavelli offered a warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

“WE CAN CONTROL HIM”—FIRST HITLER, THEN TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2023 at 12:15 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.

CHANCELLERY:

Von Brauchitsch hands the memorandum to Hitler, who reads it.

Adolf Hitler (slamming down the memorandum): So—what is new in all this?

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

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

Walther Von Brauchitsch: Fuhrer, it is the army’s final position that Case Yellow cannot proceed.

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated. The meteorologists predict continuous soaking rains for weeks.

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

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

Chief of the General Staff Franz 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.

CHANCELLERY: 

Von Brauchitsch:  Fuhrer, even the supply of artillery shells is totally inadequate.

Preiss, Wolfgang - WW2 Gravestone

Wolfgang Preiss as Walter von Brauchitsch in “The Winds of War”

Hitler: Do you know how many artillery shells of all calibers we have in the staging areas—right this minute?

Von Brauchitsch: No.

Hitler: How many we have in the reserve dumps in the West? What the monthly annual production of shells is? What the projected rise in production of the next six months is, month by month?

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

Hitler: I do! The supply is adequate. I tell you so. And I’m a field soldier who depended on artillery for four years to protect his life. [He hands von Brauchitsch a sheaf of armaments figures.] Check with your staff. if one of those figures is wrong, you can postpone Case Yellow. Otherwise—you march!  And next time you come to see me, know what you’re talking about!

Von Brauchitsch: The morale of the army was low, even in the Polish campaign.

Hitler: Back up this monstrous assertion! In what units was morale low? What action was taken? How many death sentences were handed out for cowardice? Speak up! I’ll fly to the front and pass the death sentences myself. One specific instance.

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

Hitler: Common knowledge? What is common knowledge is that army headquarters at Zossen crawls with cowards. You opposed me in rearming the Rhineland. You opposed me on the [union] with Austria. You opposed me on Czechoslovakia, until the British came crawling to me. You dirtied in your trousers, you heroes at Zossen, at the idea of marching into Poland. Well, have I once been wrong? Have you once been right? Answer me!

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

Hitler: Tell everyone who signed this insubordinate Zossen rubbish to beware! 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.

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to January 6, 2021. 

President Donald Trump:

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  
  • Gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community.
  • Attacked the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Praised brutal Communist dictators Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.
  • Tried to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, his presumed Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly lied about the dangers posed by the COVID-19 virus, thus enabling it to ravage the country and kill 400,000 by the time Trump left office.
  • Incited his followers to violently attack the United States Capitol Building to overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election and prevent Joe Biden, the winner, from taking office. 

Like Hitler, Trump could equally say: I am America.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2023 at 12:17 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and now President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.

When he was confronted by men and women who couldn’t be bribed or intimidated, he reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. It’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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In the novel—as in history—Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Aware of Fiero’s sinister reputation, Berlanga calmly accepts the fate that awaits him.

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: Our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death.

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT: DISTRUST THE RICH

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 6, 2023 at 12:14 am

For President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the single greatest achievement of their time in office was to drastically cut taxes on the wealthy (including themselves).

It’s a view that Niccolo Machiavelli would dispute.        

In 1513, Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the issues he confronted was how to preserve liberty within a republic. And key to this was mediating the eternal struggle between the wealthy and the poor and middle class.

Machiavelli deeply distrusted the nobility because they stood above the law. He saw them as a major source of corruption because they could buy influence through patronage, favors or nepotism.

Successful political leaders must attain the support of the nobility or general populace. But since these groups have conflicting interests, the safest course is to choose the latter.  

Writes Machiavelli:

….He who becomes prince by help of the [wealthy] has greater difficulty in maintaining his power than he who is raised by the populace. He is surrounded by those who think themselves his equals, and is thus unable to direct or command as he pleases. 

But one who is raised to leadership by popular favor finds himself alone, and has no one, or very few, who   are not  ready  to  obey him. [And] it is impossible to satisfy the [wealthy] by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way. 

Machiavelli warns that the general populace is more honest than the nobility—i.e., wealthy. The wealthy seek to oppress, while the populace wants to simply avoid oppression.

A political leader cannot protect himself against a hostile population, owing to their numbers, but he can against the hostility of the great, as they are but few.

The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned, but from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition. And as they are more far seeing and more cunning, they are always in time to save themselves and take sides with the one who they expect will conquer. 

The prince is, moreover, obliged to live always with the same people, but he can easily do without the same nobility, being able to make and unmake them at any time, and improve their position or deprive them of it as he pleases.

Unfortunately, political leaders throughout the world—including the United States–have ignored this sage advice.

In 2012, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for ‘Missing’ Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality and Lost Taxes.”

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings:

  • By 2010, at least $21 to $32 trillion of the world’s private financial wealth had been invested virtually tax-­free through more than 80 offshore secrecy jurisdictions.
  • Since the 1970s, with eager (and often aggressive and illegal) assistance from the international private banking industry, private elites in 139 countries had accumulated $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth by 2010.
  • This happened while many of those countries’ public sectors were borrowing themselves into bankruptcy, suffering painful adjustment and low growth, and holding fire sales of public assets.
  • The assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.
  • The offshore industry is protected by pivate bankers, lawyers and accountants, who get paid handsomely to hide their clients’ assets and identities.
  • Bank regulators and central banks of most countries allow the world’s top tax havens and banks to hide the origins and ownership of assets under their supervision.
  • Although multilateral institutions like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and the World Bank are supposedly insulated from politics, they have been highly compromised by the collective interests of Wall Street.
  • These regulatory bodies have never required financial institutions to fully report their cross-­border customer liabilities, deposits, customer assets under management or under custody.
  • Less than 100,000 people, .001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.
  • Assuming that global offshore financial wealth of $21 trillion earns a total return of just 3% a year, and would have been taxed an average of 30% in the home country, this unrecorded wealth might have generated tax revenues of $189 billion per year.

Summing up this situation, the report noted: “We are up against one of society’s most well-­entrenched interest groups. After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.”

Fortunately, Machiavelli has supplied timeless remedies to this increasingly dangerous situation:

  • Assume evil among men—and most especially among those who possess the greatest concentration of wealth and power.
  • Carefully monitor their activities—the way the FBI now regularly monitors those of the Mafia and major terrorist groups.
  • Ruthlessly prosecute the treasonous crimes of the rich and powerful—and, upon their conviction, impose severe punishment.

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 5, 2023 at 12:12 am

Russian President Vladimir Putin has won acclaim within American conservatives by attacking those they detest—such as gays. And he has extolled Russia’s “traditional values” and assailed the West’s “genderless and infertile” liberalism.

In 2015, Russia-–a secret police state utterly opposed to private ownership of firearms—hosted a delegation from the National Rifle Association

Both the American Right and Putin reap huge benefits from the propagandistic efforts of the Fox Network. Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson are big hits in Russia, routinely getting huge airtime as they attack liberalism generally and President Joe Biden in particular.

James Kirchick—a conservative American reporter, foreign correspondent, author, and columnist—has analyzed the turn-about of the Republican party from staunchly anti-Communist to rabidly pro-Putin.

James Kirchick (cropped).jpg

James Kirchick

In a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP became the Party of Putin,” he wrote: 

“How did the party of Ronald Reagan’s moral clarity morph into that of Donald Trump’s moral vacuity?

Russia’s intelligence operatives are among the world’s best. I believe they made a keen study of the American political scene and realized that, during the Obama years, the conservative movement had become ripe for manipulation. Long gone was its principled opposition to the ‘evil empire.’

“What was left was an intellectually and morally desiccated carcass populated by con artists, opportunists, entertainers and grifters operating massively profitable book publishers, radio empires, websites, and a TV network whose stock-in-trade are not ideas but resentments….

Viral Trump T-shirt wearers stay defiant despite firestorm of criticism - cleveland.com

Stormtrumpers displaying their first loyalty

Surveying this lamentable scene, why wouldn’t Russia try to ‘turn’ the American right, whose ethical rot necessarily precedes its rank unscrupulousness? 

“Why wouldn’t a ‘religious right’ that embraced a boastfully immoral charlatan like Donald Trump not turn a blind eye toward—or, in the case of [evangelical pastor] Franklin Graham, embrace—an oppressive regime like that ruling Russia?

Republicans have become a party fueled by hatred and lusting for absolute control—not just of their own members but Americans who totally disagree with their methods and goals.

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leaders of the Soviet Union applies just as accurately to the leaders of his own party: “The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

The ultimate proof of this came in the Right’s attempt to violently overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election—and to install Donald Trump as a dictatorial “President-for-Life.”

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Donald Trump

On November 3, Joe Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for President Donald Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump tried to overthrow that verdict. He ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. 

From November 3 to December 14, 2020, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases for lack of evidence or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

Even so, 17 Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported a Texas lawsuit to overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States. They feared being turned out of office by Trump’s fanatical base. 

By January 6, 2021, Trump had run out of options for illegally staying in power for the next four years. So that day he incited a fanatical mob of his supporters to intimidate Congressional members counting Electoral College votes to reject the election’s results. 

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol Building—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police. More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol.

IndieWire on Twitter: "Pro-Trump Rioters Breach US Capitol Building in Unprecedented Attack on Rule of Law https://t.co/QA27RZTEWd… "

Capitol Police facing off with Stormtrumpers

Although House Democrats moved to impeach Trump for his treasonous attack on democracy, Senate Republicans refused to convict him.

Almost two years later, Trump remains free and living a privileged life at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. He has even declared his candidacy for President in 2024.

And millions of Right-wing voters remain convinced by his lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him. During the 2022 midterms, many Republican candidates for state and federal offices campaigned on that “Stop the Steal” premise.

Republicans won the House, but their failure to win the Senate has led to a civil war within the party. Trump remains the favorite of many. But others blame him for the defeat of many candidates.

They don’t want a candidate who displays moral clarity and compassion. They want a Fuhrer who appeals to their hatreds and craving for a Fascistic dictatorship—and who can make that a reality.

They will remain a constant threat to democracy—and to those Americans who don’t want to live under a Right-wing tyranny.

DEMOCRACY’S THREATS: RUSSIANS AND REPUBLICANS – PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2023 at 12:19 am

Many Republicans have accepted “campaign contributions”—bribes—from Russian oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the Russians have clearly gotten their money’s worth.

One of these, Len Blavatnik, has already been described in Part One of this series. 

Among those Republicans he has funded: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to become House Majority Leader in January, 2023. McCarthy has publicly demanded an end to aid for Ukraine’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Donald Trump’s Inaugural Committee

A third oligarch, Andrew Intrater, contributed $250,000 to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

And a fourth, Simon Kukes, contributed a total of $283,000, much of it to the Trump Victory Fund.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchsBlavatnik, Shustorovich, Intrater and Kukes––contributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

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In 2022, Republican political operative Jesse Benton was convicted in federal court of funneling $25,000 from a Russian businessman to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, a longtime conservative political commentator and author, was indicted by the Justice Department for conspiring to illegally funnel Russian money to the Trump campaign in 2016. He died of a heart attack before he could be brought to trial.

In 2022, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian oligarch, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for funneling contributions to other Republican politicians. Among these: Adam Laxalt, who was running for governor of Nevada in 2018.

On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned President Trump in late January that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had lied about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence.

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Michael Flynn

Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  

Flynn had been an Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office. 

In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.” At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

There was a time—from the end of World War II in 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—when Republicans posed as America’s stalwart defenders against Communism.

But then many Republicans discovered they could more easily raise campaign contributions by cozying up to Vladimir Putin-–or to oligarchs linked to Putin

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The Kremlin

Of these, Donald Trump stands out predominantly as the first American President known to have colluded with a Russian dictator.

This was an open secret—most explicitly advertised by both Trump and Putin on June 28, 2019. 

That advertisement came when the two met in Osaka, Japan—their first since the March 22 release of the Mueller Report, which documented Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

An NBC News reporter asked: Would you tell Putin not to meddle in the 2020 Presidential election?

“Yes, of course I will,” replied Trump, grinning. “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”

And he jokingly wagged his finger at Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.” 

Putin grinned back.

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

On numerous occasions, Donald Trump has fiercely denied any Russian connections.

For example: July 27, 2016: “I mean I have nothing to do with Russia. I don’t have any jobs in Russia. I’m all over the world but we’re not involved in Russia.” 

Actually, Trump had a highly profitable relationship with Russia—as his son, Eric, unintentionally revealed in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.” 

Conservative authority James Kirchick has indicted Republicans generally for their fervent embrace of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. As he wrote in a July 27, 2017 essay, “How the GOP Became the Party of Putin“: 

“For the past four years, I worked at a think tank, the Foreign Policy Initiative, that was bankrolled by Republican donors and regularly criticized the Obama administration….

“What I never expected was that the Republican Party—which once stood for a muscular, moralistic approach to the world, and which helped bring down the Soviet Union—would become a willing accomplice of what the previous Republican presidential nominee rightly called our No. 1 geopolitical foe: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”

“…Four years ago, I began writing a series of articles about the growing sympathy for Russia among some American conservatives. Back then, the Putin fan club was limited to seemingly fringe figures like Pat Buchanan (‘Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?’ he asked, answering in the affirmative)….

“Today, these figures are no longer on the fringe of GOP politics. According to a Morning Consult-Politico poll from May [2017], an astonishing 49 percent of Republicans consider Russia an ally. Favorable views of Putin-a career KGB officer who hates America—have nearly tripled among Republicans in the past two years, with 32 percent expressing a positive opinion.” 

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