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Posts Tagged ‘JOE BIDEN’

OBAMA VS. TRUMP—IN FICTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2020 at 12:04 am

Presidential legacies live on in unexpected ways.  

Right now, the legacies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump are vying for the attention of—fiction readers.

In Hope Never Dies: An Obama-Biden Mystery, author Andrew Shaffer has fashioned a novel that is half-mystery, half-bromance.   

Vice President Joe Biden has just left the Obama White House and doesn’t know what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Then Finn Donnelly, his favorite railroad conductor, dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues.

To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” calls on the skills of his former boss: The 44th President of the United States. Together they scour biker bars, cheap motels and other memorable haunts throughout Delaware.

Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery (Obama Biden Mysteries)

Then Biden unearths a disturbing truth about his longtime—and now dead—friend. This, in turn, leads Biden and Obama to uncover the sinister forces behind America’s opioid epidemic.

The book is pure fantasy fun, as evidenced from this review by Alexandra Alter in The New York Times

“[Hope Never Dies is] a roughly 300-page work of political fanfiction, an escapist fantasy that will likely appeal to liberals pining for the previous administration, longing for the Obama-Biden team to emerge from political retirement as action heroes. But it’s also at times a surprisingly earnest story about estranged friends who are reunited under strange circumstances.”

A reader named Casey, reviewing the novel for Goodreads, writes: “While Shaffer could have leaned into nostalgia alone, he’s written a solid mystery with the characters fleshed out as more than just cliches.

“The reader really feels Biden’s longing to be helpful and his anguish over seeing 44’s legacy undone so quickly by an individual who shall remain nameless. (The presidential zings in this book are incredible, truly.)

“The tension between the two rings as true as it did when they were in office….By all means, this book shouldn’t work as well as it does. For a few hours, I got to enjoy the company of politicians who behaved like adults (mostly). It sure was nice.”

Contrasting with the relatively lighthearted fictional image of Barack Obama is the immensely darker one of Donald Trump.

Don Winslow offers Trump an extended cameo appearance in The Border, his massive, 736-page novel about America’s war on drugs—and the horrific violence it has spawned in Mexico. It’s the third of a trilogy of novels vividly portraying the violent costs of an unwinnable conflict. 

The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog Book 3)

Art Keller is a dedicated agent of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For over 40 years, he has waged all-out war on Adán Barrera, the godfather of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

Appointed director of the DEA, Keller now faces a series of deadly enemies:

  • A heroin epidemic surging across America; 
  • Hitmen who want to kill him;
  • Politicians who want to sabotage his agenda; and
  • An incoming administration that’s allied with the very drug traffickers he’s trying to destroy.

And heading this administration is John Dennison—Donald Trump in all but name—who:

  • Gratuitously insults people on Twitter;
  • Fires a Special Counsel;
  • Gets blackmailed by a woman he once bedded; and
  • Colludes with drug traffickers for a multi-million dollar loan to finance his Presidential campaign.

Whereas the reviews for Hope Never Dies were as upbeat as the book itself, those of The Border reflect the novel’s mercilessly grim take on a war that can’t be won. 

Los Angeles Times:The Border is intricate, mean and swift, a sprawling canvass of characters including narco kingpins, a Guatemalan stowaway, a Staten Island heroin addict, a kinky hit woman, a barely veiled Donald Trump and DEA agent Art Keller, who….has been noble and merciless, a conflicted wanderer who makes America face the transgressions committed in its name.”

Rolling Stone: “Clocking in at over 700 pages, it is his most overtly political installment yet. He takes on the Trump administration directly, creating a fictional candidate, then president, who stokes racist fears of Mexicans, campaigns on ‘building the wall’ and, along with his venal son-in-law, gets caught up in a shady real estate deal involving Cartel money.”

NPR: The Border becomes a book for our times. Like Shakespeare, it makes a three-act drama of our modern moment. Like Shakespeare’s plays, it shows us a world that is our own, a history that is our own, a burden that is our own, rendered out into the rhythm of scenes and arcs, chapters and parts.”

The signature slogan of Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign was: “Yes, We Can!” The slogan of Trump’s 2016 effort could have been: “No, You Can’t.” 

Obama concentrated the full force of his attention on reforming American healthcare—by making it available to millions whose insurance refused to provide coverage.

Trump’s top priority is to separate the United States from Mexico with an impenetrable wall—and he has even diverted $3.6 billion from Pentagon funding to pay for it. 

Like John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama will likely be positively remembered as much for what he tried to do as what he succeeded at doing.

Like Richard M. Nixon, Donald Trump will likely be remembered as a menacing stain on American history. 

DONALD BEVIN’S REVENGE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 8, 2020 at 12:35 am

For Donald Trump, becoming America’s “President-for-Life” is no joke—although he has often “joked” about doing just that. For example:

  • In March 2018, he told Republican donors during a closed-door speech at Mar-a-Lago:[Chinese President Xi Jinping] is now President for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”
  • In May, 2019, Trump retweeted Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s suggestion that he’s owed “2 yrs added to his 1st term” due to distractions caused by the Robert Mueller investigation.

The ancient historian, Plutarch, warned in his biography of Alexander the Great:

“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.” 

Modern portrait at Chaeronea, based on a bust from Delphi tentatively identified as Plutarch.

Plutarch

Odysses [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

And, in making these repeated statements, Trump has revealed his ultimate intention: To overthrow America’s constitutional government.  

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks offered a disturbing analysis of Trump’s character on the March 25, 2016 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude toward women.” 

Brooks’ analysis has been proven brilliantly accurate during the two years of Trump’s Presidency. He has attacked one person or institution after another—including officials within his own administration. 

For example:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.” 
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018—because Democrats refused to fund his “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. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

* * * * *

Since childhood, Trump has had an overwhelming sense of entitlement and his own importance. 

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Donald Trump

As a businessman, he demanded that his employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to prevent the outside world from learning of his crimes and follies. He has tried to continue that practice in the White House, even though it is flagrantly illegal.

More ominously, he identifies himself with the State—and thus deems anyone who disagrees with or opposes him as guilty of treason. And the penalty for treason has traditionally been death.

Furious that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked him during a session of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted:

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..” 

He judged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason.”  

But now Trump faces a far greater threat than mere disagreement or criticism.

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives voted for two Articles of Impeachment to remove Trump from office: Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The case has not yet been sent to the Senate, but that there will be a trial is a certainty.

Whenever Trump has been unable to buy or intimidate his way out of trouble, he has lashed out. And in Nancy Pelosi he faces an implacable foe and a master legislative tactician.

Desperate to avoid impeachment and the cascade of damning news as more of his crimes are revealed almost daily, he has hit upon the most powerful “remedy” of all: War. 

What can be even more attention-grabbing than an expected trial of the President of the United States? A fullscale war between the United States and Iran, a country America has been at odds with since 1979.

Moreover, by going this route, he can take revenge, Matt Bevin-style, on those Americans who dared elect Democratic members of Congress to oppose him.

An all-out war between nuclear-armed America and an Iran now coming into its own as a nuclear power will last for years and leave untold numbers of hated “liberals” as incinerated or blasted corpses. 

And just as he dodged the draft during the Vietnam war, Trump expects to dodge the calamity he is trying to unleash.

Surrounded by Secret Service agents, able to be whisked into heavily-fortified bunkers or onto a high-tech Air Force One, he stands an excellent chance of doing so.

With enough national carnage and confusion, he might live out his dream to become “President-for-Life”—simply because there won’t be any opposition capable of challenging him.

DONALD BEVIN’S REVENGE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2020 at 12:04 am

On November 5, Kentucky voters refused to re-elect Republican Governor Matt Bevin. To get revenge, he issued more than 650 pardons to hardened criminals before he left office on December 9.

He claimed these were people he would not hesitate to welcome as neighbors, co-workers or members of his church.

Among those pardoned:

  • Convicted killer Patrick Baker, who had served two years of a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide and robbery in the slaying of a Knox County man in front of his family. Baker’s brother held a campaign fundraiser for Bevin in July 2018 that raised $21,500. 
  • Micah Schoettle, a convicted child rapist. In 2018, a judge sentenced Schoettle to 23 years in prison. But Bevin said he made his decision partly because the hymen of the nine-year-old victim was still intact.

“This is perhaps more specific than people would want,” Bevin said in a radio interview. “But trust me. If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”

Studies show that most child victims do not show evidence of physical damage and that examination of the tissue is not a reliable test of sexual activity.   

Matt Bevin.jpg

Matt Bevin

  • Leif Halvorsen, who confessed to a triple murder in 1983.  Bevin removed Halvorson from death row and commuted his sentence to life in prison.
  • Dayton Jones was serving a 15-year sentence after he and three other men pleaded guilty to sodomizing an unconscious teenage boy at a party and videotaping the incident. Then they posted the video on social media.

Bevin said there was “no evidence” showing that Jones was present at the assault because he did not appear in the video.

Under Kentucky state law, people can directly apply to the govern’s office for clemency. While most states require a board review to decide who gets their sentences reduced or pardoned, Kentucky does not.

“You have police, FBI, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, hours and hours of work undone on the whim of one person,” Leland Hulbert, who prosecuted a case for an individual pardoned by the governor, told The New York Times. “It’s almost like a godlike power.”

Defending his pardons, Bevin told The Washington Post: “I’m a big believer in second chances. I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances and new pages in life.”

These hardened criminals whom Bevin has given “a second chance” will be preying on Kentuckians for decades to come.

Apparently, President Donald Trump has learned something from Bevin’s departing act.

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Donald Trump

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

The ensuing Congressional investigation triggered nonstop Trump abuse of Democrats generally and especially of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.

Nancy Pelosi 2012.jpg

Nancy Pelosi

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump along party lines.

On December 24—a day when most Americans were celebrating the alleged birthday of Jesus Christ—Trump threw a tantrum at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.:

“She [Pelosi] hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party and she’s desperate. She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country, and she’s not doing a great job. And some people think she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” 

And on Christmas Day, Trump tweeted: “Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States? Got ZERO Republican votes, there was no crime, the call with Ukraine was perfect, with ‘“no pressure.’ She said it must be ‘bipartisan… 

“‘…& overwhelming,’ but this Scam Impeachment was neither. Also, very unfair with no Due Process, proper representation, or witnesses. Now Pelosi is demanding everything the Republicans weren’t allowed to have in the House. Dems want to run majority Republican Senate. Hypocrites!” 

Even before the Democratic House took its first steps toward impeaching him, Trump was enraged that they might even want to do so.

On May 30, 2019, he raged at reporters: “I don’t see how they can because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it. I’ve never gone into it. I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it’s a dirty word—the word impeach. It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.” 

Seven months later—on December 18—“impeachment” would become more than a word. It would become reality.

THREE REASONS TO GO TO WAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 6, 2020 at 1:10 am

Major General Qassem Soleimani commanded Iran’s elite Quds Force, which oversees and carries out intelligence operations, terrorist plots and unconventional warfare outside of Iran.

On January 3, he was killed by an American Predator drone near Baghdad International Airport. Another casualty of the attack was Jafar Ibrahimi, a leader of Hezbollah (“Party of God”).

A 2013 profile of Soleimani in The New Yorker referred to him as “the shadow commander” who was “reshaping the Middle East.” The Washington Post called him Iran’s “most revered military leader.” 

Qasem Soleimani with Zolfaghar Order.jpg

Qassem Soleimani

 http://farsi.khamenei.ir/photo-album?id=41944#i [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

There are at least three reasons for this targeted killing.

Reason #1: According to President Donald Trump, the strike was ordered because Soleimani was “actively developing plans” to attack American troops and officials within the Middle East.

A statement released by the Pentagon claimed: 

“General Soleimani was developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more….

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” 

There are just two problems with this claim:

First, from the day he took office—January 20, 2017—to October 14, 2019, Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Washington Post. To foreign leaders as well as Americans who aren’t his fanatical followers, his word means nothing.

Second, Trump has repeatedly insulted America’s top Intelligence agencies and rejected their unanimous findings when he didn’t like the news.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.” 

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Reason #2: Killing Soleimani served to distract Americans from the fact that, on December 18, the House of Representatives had impeached Donald Trump along party lines.

In July, 2019, Trump had tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

Since then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become enraged at Republicans’ bragging that their majority in the Senate would acquit Trump no matter how much evidence of his criminality was submitted. So she had refused to submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, in hopes of pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a more objective trial procedure.

Thus, the Soleimani killing served, for Trump, as the ultimate “wag the dog” event. 

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Donald Trump

Reason #3: Trump is taking his revenge on the United States for his impeachment. 

On November 5, Kentucky voters refused to re-elect Republican Governor Matt Bevin. To get revenge, he issued hundreds of pardons before he left office on December 9.

Among those pardoned: Convicted killer Patrick Baker, whose family held a fundraiser for Bevin in 2018, and a convicted sex offender whose mother was married to a millionaire road contractor.

These hardened criminals will be preying on Kentuckians for decades to come.

Donald Trump is furious at being impeached. Taking his cue from Bevin, he has decided to punish the country because a handful of Democrats dared to oppose his criminality.

So he has provoked a war with Iran to ensure that thousands of Americans—soldiers and civilians—die in decades to come.

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

Americans have long smugly condemned those Germans who fanatically supported Hitler or stood by impassively while he ordered horrendous crimes and unleashed a world war that claimed 50 million lives.

One American who has learned from the lessons of history is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

On November 25, Schiff warned what would happen if Republicans opposed any articles of impeachment against Trump:

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up. And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.”   

The harm that Trump has so far done to the United States is nothing compared to the devastation coming from a needless war with a country fast gaining a nuclear arsenal.

SUBVERTING OTHER GOVERNMENTS? IT’S THE AMERICAN WAY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 3, 2020 at 12:03 am

“I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.”

The speaker was White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. And in an October 17 press conference, he was trying to put the best possible spin on President Donald Trump’s latest outrage: An attempt to extort a “favor” from the president of Ukraine.

In July, 2019, Trump told Mulvaney to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Donald Trump

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

As far as known, this marked a first in American foreign policy: Trying to extort a patently illegal favor from an ally.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t hesitate to leverage the great economic and military power of the United States to gain concessions from Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Great Britain.

At Roosevelt’s insistence, for example, it was an American—General Dwight D. Eisenhower—who was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Had the British gotten their way, the post would have almost certainly gone to British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.

Roosevelt’s insistence, however, had nothing to do with personally benefiting himself. 

But the unpleasant truth remains that subverting the governments of other countries is a right that Americans have long reserved for themselves. For example:

  • Between 1898 and 1934, the United States repeatedly intervened with military force in Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Americans staged invasions of Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 and 1925 to defend U.S. interests. These were defined as Standard Oil and the United Fruit Company.
  • The United States occupied Nicaragua almost continuously from 1912 to 1933. Its legacy was the imposition of the tyrannical Somoza family, which ruled from 1936 to 1979.
  • The United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. American banks had lent money to Haiti and requested American government intervention.
  • In 1918, 13,000 American soldiers joined armies from Europe and Japan to overthrow the new Soviet government and restore the previous Tsarist regime. By 1920, the invading forces proved unsuccessful and withdrew.

Wladiwostok Parade 1918.jpg

Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918  

  • In 1953, the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA to overthrew the democratically-elected government of of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. His crime: Nationalizing the Iranian oil industry, which had been under British control since 1913.
  • He was succeeded by Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi. Whereas Mossadeddgh had ruled as a constitutional monarch, Phlavi was a dictator who depended on United States government support to retain power until he was overthrown in 1979 by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
  • In 1954, the CIA overthrew the democratically-elected government of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. His crime: Installing a series of reforms that expanded the right to vote, allowed workers to organize, legitimized political parties and allowed public debate. Most infuriating to American Right-wingers: His agrarian reform law, which expropriated parts of large land-holdings and redistributed them to agricultural laborers.
  • From 1959 until 1963, the United States government was obsessed with overthrowing the revolutionary Cuban government of Fidel Castro. Although not democratically elected, Castro was wildly popular in Cuba for overthrowing the dictatorial Fulgencio Batista.
  • On April 17, 1961, over 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Cuban military forces crushed the invasion in three days.
  • Infuriated with the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy authorized “Operation Mongoose” to remove Castro through sabotage and assassination. The CIA, wanting to please Kennedy, teamed up with the Mafia, which wanted to resurrect its casinos on the island.

Ernesto “Che” Guevera and Fidel Castro

  • In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon ordered the CIA to prevent Marxist Salvador Allende from being democratically elected as president of Chile. When that failed, he ordered the CIA to overthrow Allende.
  • Allende’s crime: A series of liberal reforms, including nationalizing large-scale industries (notably copper mining and banking). In 1973, he was overthrown by Chilean army units and national police. He was followed by Right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet, who slaughtered 3,200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 and forced another 200,000 Chileans into exile.

Americans reacted to all these attempts—successful and unsuccessful—with indifference or outright support.

The popular 1960s TV series, “Mission: Impossible,” regularly depicted a CIA-type agency supporting regimes “we” liked or toppling those “we” didn’t.

Americans generally assume their Presidents and Congress know best who is a “friend” and who is an “enemy.”  America’s friends often turn out, for the most part, to be Right-wing dictators like  Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet and Mohammad-Reza Shah Phlavi.

And its enemies often turn out to be liberal reformers like Augusto Sandino, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh and Salvador Allende. 

A COWARD’S VERSION OF COURAGE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 2, 2020 at 12:23 am

“One man with courage,” said frontier general Andrew Jackson, “makes a majority.”

Yet many “heroes” come out of the woodwork only after the danger is safely past.

On September 25, 2019, GOP consultant Mike Murphy said that a Republican senator had told him the majority of Republican senators “would vote to impeach” President Donald Trump if they could do so anonymously. 

In short: If they didn’t have to face backlash from constituents or the media or Trump, they would gladly stand up for the Constitution. Which is like a fireman saying: “If i didn’t have to worry about getting burned to death, I’d gladly rush into a burning building and save whoever was in it.” 

“One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” he claimed during an interview on MSNBC.

Murphy—who has advised Republican politicians such as Mitt Romney, John McCain and Jeb Bush—implied that the GOP lawmakers fear that voting against Trump could harm them politically. 

Yes, a shining example of true moral courage at its finest—and just when it’s most needed: “If we just didn’t have to risk our skins, we’d be glad to do the right thing.” 

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Donald Trump

Throughout Trump’s nearly three years in office, Republicans have remained silent or vigorously supported him as he:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacked the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election,
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.  
  • Allowing predatory corporations to subvert Federal regulatory protections for consumers and the environment.
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for more than a month on December 22, 2018, because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.  
  • Attempting to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Threatening to withhold military aid unless Zelensky agreed to slander Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic Presidential candidate Joseph Biden.

“I was never courageous,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko, wrote in his famous poem, “Conversation With an American Writer.” “I simply felt it unbecoming to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.”

For Republicans “stooping to the cowardice” of their colleagues has long been a recipe for political survival.

Yet another Republican—Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy—terrorized the nation from 1950 to 1954, accusing anyone who disagreed with him of being a Communist, and leaving only ruined lives in his wake.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:

  • President Harry S. Truman
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall
  • Columnist Drew Pearson

Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credibility in a now-famous retort:

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy, and he rapidly declined in power and health.

Senatorial colleagues who had courted his support now left the Senate when he rose to speak. Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.

But cowardice isn’t confined to politicians.

Fast-forward to July 12, 2012—and the release of former FBI Director Louie Freeh’s report on serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University (PSU), he had used the football facilities to sexually attack numerous young boys.

Jerry Sandusky

But Sandusky was regarded as more than a second-banana. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999, and authored several books about his coaching experiences.

In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving underprivileged, at-risk youth.

“Our most saddening and sobering finding is the total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims by the most senior leaders at Penn State,” Freeh stated.

College football is a $2.6 billion-a-year business. And Penn State is one of its premiere brands, with revenue of $70 million in 2010.

PSU’s seven-month internal investigation, headed by Freeh, revealed:

  • Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky.
  • So were president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
  • In 2001, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the shower.
  • Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz then conspired to cover up for Sandusky.
  • The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building—where Paterno had his office.
  • A janitor who had witnessed a rape in 2000 said he had feared losing his job if he told anyone about it. “It would be like going against the President of the United States,” Freeh said at a press conference.

In 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period.  On June 22, 2012, he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

On the day the Freeh report was released, Nike—a longtime sponsor for Penn State—announced that it would remove Paterno’s name from the child care center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

ILLEGAL ALIENS ARE IN, KAMALA HARRIS IS OUT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 11, 2019 at 12:05 am

Kamala Harris spent seven years (2004 – 2011) as District Attorney of San Francisco and another six years (2011 – 2017) as California Attorney General. Then, in 2016, she won election to the United States Senate.

In 2018, she decided to become the first black woman President of the United States.

But after 11 months of trying to prove herself the most Politically Correct candidate among Democrats, she withdrew from the race on December 3.

“I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Harris said in a statement. “My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”

To tout her candidacy, she had published her memoirs: The Truths We HoldIn these, she described herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”  

Harris knew that law enforcement issues are a lightning rod for both liberal and conservative voters. So she tried to portray herself as appealing to both.

But there’s one aspect of her law enforcement record she didn’t mention in her book.

Among the truths she holds secret: When she served as District Attorney for San Francisco, she set up a secret unit to keep even convicted illegal alien felons out of prison—and in the United States.

Today, with millions of illegal aliens from Central and Latin America flooding into the United States, the spotlight has shifted from the incarceration of blacks to that of Hispanics.

Illegal immigration—and what to do about it—is now the hottest political issue in the country. 

For liberals of the Democratic party, “open borders” appears to be the solution to illegal immigration.

Yet the vast majority of Americans reject this. They support legal immigration—but oppose illegal immigration.

Moreover, Donald Trump has ignited a white-hot fury against illegal aliens from Central and Latin America.

And Kamala Harris’ record as San Francisco District Attorney was hardly reassuring on this issue.  

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

Secretly, she created a program, called Back on Track, to train convicted illegal aliens for jobs they could not legally hold. This was a flagrant violation of Federal immigration law.

Completion led to the expunging of a felony conviction, making it highly popular among convicted criminals.

One such alumnus was Alexander Izaguirre, an illegal alien who had been arrested twice within eight months—for purse-snatching and selling cocaine.

In July, 2008, four months after pleading guilty to selling cocaine, Izaguirre assaulted Amanda Kiefer, a legal San Francisco resident.

Snatching her purse, he jumped into an SUV, then tried to run Kiefer down. Terrified, she leaped onto the hood and saw Izaguirre and a driver laughing.

The driver slammed on the brakes, sending Kiefer flying onto the pavement and fracturing her skull.

Back on Track became a centerpiece of Harris’ campaign for state Attorney General.

Until she was questioned by the Los Angeles Times about the Izaguirre case, Harris had never publicly admitted that the program included illegal aliens.

Harris claimed she first learned that illegal aliens were training for jobs only after Izaguirre was arrested for the Kiefer assault. Apparently not one of her fellow prosecutors ever mentioned this to her.

Harris said it was a “flaw in the design” of the program to let illegal aliens into the program. “I believe we fixed it,” she told the Times.

Harris never released statistics on how many illegal aliens were included since the program started in 2005.

She said that after Izaguirre’s arrest she never asked—or learned—how many illegal aliens were in Back on Track. A strange lapse in curiosity for a prosecutor charged with enforcing the law.

When Harris learned that illegal aliens were enrolled, she allowed those who were following the rules to finish the program and have their criminal records expunged.

 

It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

So much for her oath to faithfully defend the Constitution of the United States and that of the state of California “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

From 2005 to 2009, 113 admitted drug dealers graduated from Back on Track. Another 99 were kicked off the program for failing to meet the requirements. They were sentenced under their guilty plea, the D.A.’s office claimed.

Harris told the Times that graduates of Back on Track were less likely than other offenders to commit crimes again.  But her spokeswoman refused to offer detailed statistics to back this up.

When Harris became San Francisco District Attorney, she vowed she would “never charge the death penalty.” 

Her opposition to capital punishment would be better-suited to a public defender.

Meanwhile, Amanda Kiefer left California. Interviewed by the Times, she said she could not understand why San Francisco police and prosecutors would allow convicted illegal aliens back onto the streets.

“If they’re committing crimes,” she said, “I think there’s something wrong that they’re not being deported.”

It’s a sentiment that law-abiding Americans agree with. And it should go double for those who are charged with enforcing the law.

ANCIENT ROME COMES TO AMERICAN POLITICS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2019 at 12:08 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, has proven to be more than great entertainment. It has turned out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba (Woody Strode), slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus (Jon Dall).

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome. Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus (Charles Laughton), the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and vigorously opposes his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is beyond the means of the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Adelson denied any selfish motives for giving millions to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Four years later, in May, 2016, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This falsehood proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

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Donald Trump

Fast forward another three years—and a December 4, 2019 story in Fortune: “2020 Presidential Campaign Fundraising (and Spending) Are on Track to Smash Records.”

Trump, as President, has so far raised $165.3 million.

But Democrats altogether have far outstripped him with $475.6 million raised.

Among the largest Democratic money-raisers (in millions):

  • Bernie Sanders: $74.5
  • Elizabeth Warren: $60.3
  • Pete Buttigieg: $51.5
  • Tom Steyer: $49.6
  • Joe Biden: $37.8 

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg entered the race on November 24. Within a week he paid $57 million for TV ads.

His fellow billionaire Tom Steyer has spent over $60 million since July,

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs—outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid—or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2019 at 12:16 am

On July 25, 2019, President Donald J Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

Biden 2013.jpg

Joseph Biden

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

On November 22, 2019, Mark Shields—a liberal syndicated columnist—and David Brooks—a conservative one for The New York Timesreached disturbingly similar conclusions about the corruption reveled by hearings of the House Intelligence Committee.

DAVID BROOKS: “I think Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that this was unethical. What strikes me [is] that everyone was in the loop, that this was not something they tried to hide.

“This was just something they thought was the way politics gets done or foreign policy gets done, that there’s no division between personal gain and public service.”

MARK SHIELDS: “What I have underestimated….is the fear that Donald Trump exercises over Republicans.I mean, people talked about Lyndon Johnson being a fearsome political leader. They don’t even approach. I mean, he strikes fear into the hearts of Republicans up and down the line. And I think that….has been eye-opening in its dimensions.”

Nor is there any reason to hope that the GOP will reign Trump in.

In a November 14 column, “Republicans Can’t Abandon Trump Now Because They’re All Guilty,” freelance journalist Joel Mathis warns: “Trump’s abuses of power mirror those of the GOP as a whole. Republicans can’t turn on him, because doing so would be to indict their party’s entire approach to politics.”

For example:

  • At the state level, GOP legislatures have passed numerous voter ID laws over the last decade. Officially, the reason has been to prevent non-citizens from voting. In reality, the motive is to depress turnout among Democratic constituencies.
  • When Democrats have won elections, Republicans have tried to make it impossible for them to carry out their policies. In Utah, voters approved Medicaid expansion at the ballot box—but Republicans nullified this.
  • In North Carolina, Republican legislators prevented voters from choosing their representatives. Instead, Republican representatives chose voters through partisan sorting. In September, the state’s Supreme Court ruled the legislative gerrymandered district map unconstitutional.

The upshot of all this: “The president and his party are united in the belief that their entitlement to power allows them to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes….

Republican Disc.svg

GOP logo.svg

“In the meantime, it is probably best to give up waiting for that impeachment-induced moment—a  Watergate—when Republicans realize their duty to country and come around to opposing him. The president and today’s GOP share the same sins. It will be difficult for them to abandon each other.”

That appears to be the judgment of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Concluding the proceedings for November 21, Schiff attacked Republicans’ total rejection of the overwhelming evidence linking Trump with extortion:

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

“But apparently, it’s all hearsay. Even when you actually hear the president….that’s hearsay. We can’t rely on people saying what the president said. Apparently, we can only rely on what the president says, and there, we shouldn’t even rely on that either….

“We should imagine he said something about actually fighting corruption, instead of what he actually said, which was, ‘I want you to do us a favor, though. I want you to look into this 2016 CrowdStrike conspiracy theory, and I want you to look into the Bidens.’

“I guess we’re not even supposed to rely on that because that’s hearsay….That would be like saying you can’t rely on the testimony of the burglars during Watergate because it’s only hearsay, or you can’t consider the fact that they tried to break in because they got caught. They actually didn’t get what they came for, so, you know, kind of no harm, no foul. That’s absurd.

“The difference between [Watergate and Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine] is not the difference between [Richard] Nixon and [Donald] Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one. And so, we are asking, where is Howard Baker? Where are the people who are willing to go beyond their party to look to their duty? 

“But the other defense besides ‘It failed, the scheme failed, they got caught,’ the other defense is ‘The president denies it.’ Well, I guess that’s case closed, right?

“….This president believes he is above the law, beyond accountability. And in my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law.”

* * * * *

Those who lament that the United States has become a polarized nation must realize there is only one choice: Either Americans will remain free—or they will be enslaved by a ruthless political party convinced it is entitled to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes;

There is no middle ground.

IF AMERICA UNITES, IT WILL BE ALL-SLAVE OR ALL-FREE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2019 at 12:26 am

On November 14, the CNN website showcased an opinion piece by Jane Carr and Laura Juncadella entitled: “Fractured States of America.” 

And it opened:

“Some worry that it’s already too late, that we’ve crossed a threshold of polarization from which there is no return. Others look toward a future where more moderate voices are heeded and heard, and Americans can find better ways to relate to each other. Still others look back to history for a guide—perhaps for what not to do, or at the very least for proof that while it’s been bad before, progress is still possible.”

Then followed a series of anecdotes. The sub-headlines summed up many of the comments reported.

  • “I was starting to hate people that I have loved for years.”
  • “Voting for Trump cost me my friends.”
  • “I feel like I’m living in hostile territory.”
  • “Our children are watching this bloodsport.”
  • “A student’s Nazi-style salute reflects the mate.”
  • “Our leaders reflect the worst of us.”
  • “I truly believe I will be assaulted over a bumper sticker.”
  • “It already feels like a cold war.”

Abraham Lincoln warned: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

America now faces such a choice:

  1. To submit to the tyrannical aggression of a ruthless political party convinced that they are entitled to power to manipulate and undermine the country’s democratic processes; or
  2. To fiercely resist that aggression and the destruction of those democratic processes.

Consider the face-off between President Donald J. Trump and Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman.

Vindman is is a United States Army officer who serves as the Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. He is also a witness to Trump’s efforts to extort “a favor” from the president of Ukraine.

Alexander Vindman on May 20, 2019.jpg

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman

Адміністрація Президента України [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

“I was concerned by the call,” Vindman, having overheard Trump’s phone call, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. “I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. Government’s support of Ukraine.

“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Trump denounced Vindman as a “Never Trumper”—as if opposing his extortion attempt constituted a blasphemy. Republicans and their shills on the Fox News Network attacked him as well. As a result, he sought protection by the Army for himself and his family. 

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Donald Trump

On November 15, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks and liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields summed up the different reactions by Republicans and Democrats to Trump’s extortion attempt.

Their forum: The PBS Newshour.  While they often reach different conclusions on the same matter, on this occasion they found themselves in virtual agreement.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

DAVID BROOKS: “The case is very solid and airtight that there was the quid pro quo. All the testimony points to that. And, mostly, you see a contrast. The first two gentlemen that testified on the first day, they were just upstanding, solid public servants.

“I felt like I was looking back in time, because I was looking at two people who are not self-centered. They cared about the country. They were serving. They had not partisan axe to grind. They were just honest men of integrity.

“And I thought we saw that again today with [former Ambassador to Ukraine] Marie Yovanovitch. And in her case, the day was more emotional, because you got to see a case of bullying against a strong, upstanding woman.

“And so I thought she expressed—like, the heavy moments of today where when she expressed her reaction to how badly she was treated. And so that introduces an element of emotion and pathos into what shouldn’t be just a legal proceeding. It should be something where people see the contrast between good people and bad people.” 

MARK SHIELDS: “There’s a sense of outrage building. This is a story of corruption, corruption not in Ukraine, corruption in the United States. 

“I mean, why? Why did they go to such lengths to denigrate, to attack, to try and destroy and sabotage the career of a dedicated public servant [United States Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich], a person who had put her life on the line? Why did they do it? What was it, money? Was it power?”

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