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MAKING ENEMIES INSTEAD OF FRIENDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 12, 2017 at 12:09 am

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

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

Donald Trump

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

Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

As President, he has continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets have included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders (most notably North Korea’s “Little Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un) and even members of his Cabinet.  For example:

  • His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit on July 21. The reason: He believed—correctly—hat his loyalty to Trump had become a one-way street. 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.
  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. 
  • Trump has publicly said that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself—because of his past contacts with Russian officials—he would have picked someone else for Attorney General.
  • Trump fired FBI Director James Comey without warning on May 9. Comey’s “crimes”: Refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump, thus turning the FBI into Trump’s secret police; and refusing to drop the Bureau’s investigation into Russia’s efforts during the 2016 election to elect Trump.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated his then-chief of staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.  
  • In October, 2016, as a Presidential candidate, Trump attacked Colin Kaepernick, then quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, who had gained notoriety by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.  
  • As President, he told a rally of his faithful in Alabama in September that players should be fired if they knelt during the anthem. He also encouraged people to leave the stadium if players knelt.
  • On October 9, at Trump’s instigation, Vice President Mike Pence staged a walk-out during a match between the San Francisco 49ers and the Indianapolis Colts. 
  • The Trump/Pence stunt cost taxpayers about $242,500 in air fare for Air Force Two, advance personnel and Secret Service protection.
  • After NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” Tillerson publicly refused to deny it. Trump then told Forbes magazine: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”  
  • Asked by reporters if he was undercutting Tillerson with the remark, Trump replied: “I didn’t undercut anybody. I don’t believe in undercutting people.”  

As Americans have watched Trump’s behavior with morbid fascination, many of them have asked:  “What makes him do the things he does?”

It’s a question asked—and answered—in the 1993 Western, Tombstone. And the answer given in that movie may be just hold the answer to the question so many Americans are now asking about Trump.

Tombstone recounts the legendary blood feud between the Ike Clanton outlaw gang and the Earp brothers—Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil—in  the famous gold-mining town in 1880s Arizona. 

 

Wyatt Earp has been challenged to a gunfight by quick-trigger gunman Johnny Ringo. Although he impulsively accepted the challenge, Wyatt now realizes he’s certain to be killed. Thus follows this exchange with his longtime friend, the pistol-packing dentist, John H. “Doc” Holliday: 

WYATT EARP:  What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?

JOHN H. “DOC” HOLLIDAY: A man like Ringo….got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough….or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

Donald Trump was born into a world of wealth and privilege.  He has claimed to be worth a billion dollars.

He has been linked to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He has literally stamped his name on hundreds of buildings. And now he holds the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the Western world. 

Yet he remains filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone.

Since taking office, he has offered nothing positive in his agenda. Instead, he has focused on what rights he can take from others. At the top of his list: The Affordable Care Act, providing access to medical care for millions who previously could not obtain it. 

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

MAKING ENEMIES INSTEAD OF FRIENDS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2017 at 1:08 am

“He appeared to need enemies the way other men need friends, and his conduct assured that he would always have plenty of them.” 

So wrote William Manchester about General Douglas MacArthur in his monumental 1978 biography, American Caesar. But he could have written just as accurately about Donald Trump, both as Presidential candidate and President.  

Donald Trump

What some pundits have called “the worst week in Presidential campaigning history” started–or Trump—on September 26. That was when he finally squared off against Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the first of three debates.

Through a series of bare-knuckled debates, Trump had bullied his way to the Republican nomination. He had mocked his opponents (“Little Marco” Rubio, “Lyin Ted” Cruz) and attacked former Texas Governor Jeb Bush as the brother of the President he blamed for 9/11.

So it was widely expected that he would run over Clinton like a tank going over a rabbit.  

Events proved otherwise.

Moderator Lester Holt—who anchors the weekday edition of NBC Nightly News—gave Trump more airtime than Clinton. But Clinton showed a greater command of foreign and domestic issues.  

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Hillary Clinton

Trump repeatedly sniffled throughout the debate, causing some viewers to wonder if he had a cocaine problem.  And he often reached for his water glass, causing other viewers to mock him on Twitter (“Does anyone remember how badly Trump made fun of Marco Rubio for drinking water? Hmm..”).  

For Trump—who had attacked Clinton’s health after she fainted on September 11 at a New York 9/11 commemoration ceremony—it was a disaster. Clinton seemed to be in better shape than he was.  

When Clinton charged that he paid “nothing in Federal taxes,” Trump in effect admitted it: “That makes me smart.”  

Clinton then cornered him on his claim that he had opposed the 2003 Iraq war. Trump replied that he had told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he opposed it. He asked the media to contact Hannity.

Clinton then attacked Trump as “a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers.”  

From there she segued into his attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado: “And he called this woman Miss Piggy. Then he called her Miss Housekeeping because she was Latina.”  

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Alicia Machado as Miss Universe

This may have proved the worst part of the debate for Trump, because he later felt he had to respond to it—on TV and Twitter.  

By the end of the debate, 62% of CNN viewers voted Clinton as the winner, with only 27% voting it was Trump.  

The next day—September 27—Trump felt the need to renew his attack on Machado, courtesy of a telephone interview he gave to Fox News: “She was the worst [Miss Universe contestant] we ever had. The absolute worst.  She was impossible….  

“She was the winner and she gained a massive amount of weight, and we had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her.”  

On September 28, Trump appeared on Fox News‘ “The O’Reilly Factor.” There he continued his attack on Machado: “It is a beauty contest. They know what they are getting into.”  

He claimed that “I saved her job” because the pageant wanted “to fire her” for gaining so much weight.   

On September 29, Trump added one more enemy to the list: The FBI.  

Addressing a crowd in Bedford, New Hampshire, Trump falsely accused the agency of giving “immunity” to Hillary Clinton:  

“They [the FBI] gave so much immunity there was nobody left to talk to. There was nobody left–except Hillary. They probably gave her immunity, too. Do you think Hillary got immunity? Yeah, she had the immunity.”  

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FBI headquarters

Also on September 29, Trump once again attacked a longtime target: President Barack Obama.

Thirteen days earlier, Trump had renounced “birtherism”—the slander that Obama was not an American citizen. It was a slander that Trump himself had created and vigorously promoted since 2011.  

The reason for his renouncing it: His dismal standing among blacks in political polls.

At a press conference on September 16 to promote his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C., Trump said: “Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.  

“I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean. 

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  

After falsely blaming Clinton for starting the birther lie, Trump seemed content to finally drop the slander campaign.

But on September 29—a mere 13 days later—Trump told a New Hampshire reporter that he was “very proud” of his “birther” campaign:

“I’m the one who got him to put up his birth certificate”—which clearly proved that Obama had been born in Hawaii, not Kenya, as Trump had claimed.  

“[Hillary Clinton] tried [to get Obama to release his birth certificate] and she was unable to do it and I tried and I was able to do it so I’m very proud of that.”  

Thus, the goodwill of black voters he sought on September 16 he cast aside on the 29th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rand Paul

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

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

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

Anwar al-Awlaki

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

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this one:

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

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

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

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

Is it better to be loved or feared?

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

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

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

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

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

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

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

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

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

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

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ronald Reagan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

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

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

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Bill Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

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

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

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

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

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

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

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

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

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

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

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

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

FILLING A HOLE WITH HATE

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 31, 2017 at 12:56 am

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

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

Donald Trump

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

Among his targets:

  • Hillary Clinton
  • President Barack Obama
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • Singer Neil Young
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • News organizations
  • The State of New Jersey
  • Beauty pageant contestants

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

  • Women
  • Blacks
  • Hispanics
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • The disabled
  • Prisoners-of-war

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

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Barack Obama

Only on the eve of the first Presidential debate with Hillary Clinton—in September, 2016—did he finally admit that Obama had been born in the United States.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

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

Both the FBI and Justice Department have vigorously refuted this slander. 

Trump’s all-out effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act—nicknamed “Obamacare”—has been driven by his mania to erase every vestige of the Obama Presidency. 

Even attending a Boy Scout Jamboree became, for Trump, a way to attack the former President.

“By the way, just a question. Did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?” Trump asked the crowd of 40,000, encouraging them to boo Obama.  And many of them did.

As President, he has bullied and insulted even his own handpicked Cabinet officers and White House officials.

  • His press secretary, Sean Spicer, quit on July 21. The reason: He believed—correctly—hat his loyalty to Trump had become a one-way street. 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. 
  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump has publicly said that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself—because of his past contacts with Russian officials—he would have picked someone else for Attorney General.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated his chief of staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.

As Americans have watched Trump’s behavior with morbid fascination, many of them have asked:  “What makes him do the things he does?”

It’s a question asked–and answered—in the 1993 Western, Tombstone. And the answer given in that movie may be just hold the answer to the question so many Americans are now asking about Trump.

Tombstone recounts the legendary blood feud between the Ike Clanton outlaw gang and the Earp brothers—Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil—in  the famous gold-mining town in 1880s Arizona.

Wyatt Earp has been challenged to a gunfight by quick-trigger gunman Johnny Ringo. Although he impulsively accepted the challenge, Wyatt now realizes he’s certain to be killed. Thus follows this exchange with his longtime friend, the pistol-packing dentist, John H. “Doc” Holliday: 

WYATT EARP:  What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?

JOHN H. “DOC” HOLLIDAY: A man like Ringo….got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough….or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

Donald Trump was born into a world of wealth and privilege. His father gave him $200 million, which he channeled into a real estate empire. He has claimed to be worth a billion dollars.

He has been linked—often by his own boasts—to some of the most beautiful women in the world. He has been a major force on TV through his “reality show,” The Apprentice. He has literally stamped his name on hundreds of buildings. 

And now he holds the Presidency of the United States, the most powerful office in the Western world. 

Yet he remains filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone. Since taking office, he has offered nothing positive in his agenda. 

Instead, he has focused his efforts on what he can take from others. At the top of his list: The Affordable Health Act, which provides access to medical care for millions who previously could not obtain it. 

As first-mate Starbuck says of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

GLORY TO GREAT STALIN–I MEAN, TRUMP!

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2017 at 12:02 am

On December 21, 1949, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises. 

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love–but fear.

For the man being so honored was internationally known by a far different name: Stalin, which in Russian means: “Man of Steel.”

He had lived up to it: For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million people.

Joseph Stalin

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“The guns blazed in salute, the processions marched across the Red Square, and huge balloons bearing the features of a younger Stalin climbed into the wintry sky. 

“The official buildings were draped in red, the color of happiness.  From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features.

“Ornamental swords, cutlasses, tankards, cups, everything that might conceivably please him, were sent to the Kremlin, and then displayed in the State Museum of the Revolution….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation. 

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief, oozed: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Lavrenti P. Beria

“With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin,” gushed Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov, “the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind, see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

“The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe,” enthused Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov. 

“Without Comrade Stalin’s special care,” extolled Trade and Supply Minister Anastas Mikoyan, “we would have never have had a network of meat combines equipped with the latest machinery, canneries and sugar refineries, a fishing industry….” 

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.” 

So those Americans with a sense of history were alarmed and disgusted upon watching President Donald J. Trump–also 70–convene his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20. 

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

“Start with Mike,” ordered Trump, referring to Vice President Mike Pence.

“It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people,” Pence dutifully said.

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Mike Pence

Then it was the turn of Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you.”

“My hat’s off to you,” oozed Energy Secretary Rick Perry, referring to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

“What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership,” gushed Tom Price. “I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta raved: “I’m deeply honored and I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers.”

“Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation,” eulogized Elaine Chao, its secretary. “I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President,” said Reince Prebus, Trump’s chief of staff, “we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people, and we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.” 

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget: “At your direction, we were able to also focus on the forgotten men and women who are paying taxes, so I appreciate your support on pulling that budget together.”

On June 8, former FBI Director James Comey had testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Among the charges he aimed at Trump: The President had demanded a pledge of personal loyalty in return for Comey’s keeping his job.

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James Comey

This would have made Comey his secret police chief.

Comey had refused to give this.  And Trump had fired him.

Trump publicly denied this. 

Then came the Cabinet meeting–and all the proof anyone needed.

THREE HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 7, 2017 at 12:15 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Among his friends–to his ultimate misfortune–was Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

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Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person.

“If the enemy of the people wrote books, they threw away his books. If they had letters from him, they burned the letters. The mind can’t grasp the number of letters and papers burned in that period…

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero–James Brien Comey (December 14, 1960)

Comey served as United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Southern District of New York (2002-2003).

As United States Deputy Attorney General (2003-2005), he opposed the warrantless wiretapping program of the George W. Bush administration. He also argued against the use of water boarding as an interrogation method.

In 2005, he entered the private sector as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest contractor for the Department of Defense. 

On July 29, 2013, the United States Senate voted 93 -1 to confirm Comey as director of the FBI, the seventh in its history.

He directed the FBI from his appointment in 2013 by President Barack Obama until his firing on May 9 by President Donald Trump.

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions. Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has:

  • Steadfastly denied those revelations;
  • Repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post; and
  • Attacked the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security. 

On May 10–the day after firing Comey–Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

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

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

But shortly afterward, it appeared Trump was the one who should worry: Reports surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. 

He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into close ties between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign staffers. 

The firing led directly to a result Trump did not anticipate: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Meuller III as a special prosecutor to investigate those ties.

And, on June 8, James Comey was scheduled to give his much-anticipated version of events before the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.

THREE HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2017 at 12:02 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.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); one American.

First up–in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning–and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin–the son of a Georgian cobbler–resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family.  A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do–frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

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.

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.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again considered a Russian hero and military genius.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends–to his ultimate misfortune–was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

WHAT AMERICA KNEW ABOUT TRUMP–BEFORE ELECTING HIM: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2017 at 12:39 am

“What did the President know and when did he know it?”

It was the famous question asked by Tennessee U.S. Senator Howard Baker during the 1973 Watergate hearings.

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Howard Baker

The question cut to the core of President Richard Nixon’s litany of crimes.  And the fact that it was posed by a Republican gave it added power.

More than a year later, Americans learned its answers:

  • Nixon had learned that his own White House “Plumbers” had carried out a burglary of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel; and
  • Only days afterward, he ordered a cover-up.

With those revelations, his Presidency was finished.

America has endured four months of the Donald J. Trump Presidency. And his poll ratings have steadily fallen since he took office. As of May 22-28, it stands at 41%.

And, once again, Howard Baker’s slightly altered question resonates with force: “What did the American people know, and when did they know it?”

And the subject of that question is not Richard Nixon but Donald Trump.

Since taking office, Trump has been besieged by reports that members of his 2016 campaign staff collaborated with Russian Intelligence agents to secure his election.

One of these was retired general Mike Flynn–Trump’s choice for National Security Adviser. He was forced to resign after only 23 days in office when news broke of his collusion.

And numerous members of his Cabinet–such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and even Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner–have close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin or those who act in his name.

Trump has attacked these charges as “fake news”–while supplying no evidence to refute them.

But long before the election, Americans had more than enough knowledge about Trump to judge him unfit for the Oval Office.

  • He unknowingly admitted to being a sexual predator of women: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Donald Trump

  • He refused to release his tax returns–unlike every other Presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
  • He said he was prepared to withdraw from NATO, the American-European alliance that held the Soviet Union at bay for a half-century. 
  • He often and publicly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, the absolute dictator of a foreign power hostile to the United States.
  • He publicly invited “Russia”–i.e., Putin–to interfere directly in an American Presidential election: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

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Vladimir Putin

  • He surrounded himself with men who have close ties to Putin. One of these was Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager. His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead directly to Putin.  
  • Another was Roger Stone, self-confessed political dirty trickster and former business partner of Paul Manafort. Stone had extensive contacts with hacker Guccifer 2.0, whom the CIA, NSA and FBI believe was actually a front for GRU, Russian military intelligence.  
  • Yet another Trump advisor, Roger Ailes, was a known sexual predator.  Hired to prepare Trump for the fall debates with Clinton, he was fired in July as CEO of Fox News on multiple charges of sexual harassment.
  • During the 2016 campaign, Trump received the enthusiastic support of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. 

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Ku Klux Klan emblem

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • On November 18, Trump–rather than face trial–settled the case out of court for $25 million. “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.
  • Throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly used threats of violence to intimidate his Republican and Democratic opponents
  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.
  • On August 9,  Trump issued a veiled solicitation for the assassination of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” 
  • After slandering President Barack Obama for five years as “the President from Kenya,” he blatantly lied: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”
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