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STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

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

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

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

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Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

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

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

Officials now have two choices:

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

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

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

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for images of no cell phones

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

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

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be twofold:

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

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2018 at 12:08 am

It’s perhaps the most famous—and most widely quoted—part of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on gaining political power:

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

“And 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.”

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

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred: for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

Not that he would have heeded it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

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

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

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

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

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

And how has the Trump White House responded to this bipartisan fury?

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

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

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEROES, JOKERS AND LIARS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

Arizona United States Senator John McCain knows firsthand about torture.

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

So he had strong feelings when he learned about President Donald Trump’s pick for director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

This was Gina Haspel, who, in 2002, had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk.  

After the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., no one knew if other attacks were about to occur. Or where. The FBI, CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other Intelligence agencies were under huge pressure to discover—and foil—any future plots.

The administration of President George W. Bush ruled that waterboarding was not a form of torture, and thus did not violate the Geneva Convention.

Gina Haspel official CIA portrait.jpg

Gina Haspel

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

As a result, when Haspel’s name was put up for nomination, McCain quickly made clear his opposition.

Enter White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler, who handles surrogate communications.

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

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Not to be outdone by Sadler, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney went on the Right-wing Fox News Network to personally attack McCain.

Torture, he said, was effective: “The fact is, is John McCain—it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John.'”

“The fact is those methods can work, and they are effective, as former Vice President Cheney said. And if we have to use them to save a million American lives, we will do whatever we have to,” said McInerney.

There’s no evidence that McCain ever betrayed the United States during his captivity.

CNN correspondent Jake Tapper angrily replied to McInerney’s slander: “First of all, no one calls him ‘Songbird John’ except for crazy people and jerks—and I’m using my language carefully here.”

Meghan McCain responded to McInerney’s attack: “My father’s legacy is going to be talked about hundreds and hundreds of years. These people: Nothingburgers. Nobody is going to remember you.”

Her comment echoed a remark by former President Harry S. Truman about Indiana United States Senator William Jenner. Jenner, a Right-wing Republican, had attacked the patriotism of George C. Marshall, who, as chief of staff of the United States Army, was rightly called “the architect of Allied victory” in World War II.

Asked by biographer Merle Miller for his opinion on Jenner, Truman responded: “In my opinion, General Marshall will go down as one of the great men of his time. And, of course, people like Jenner, they aren’t even a footnote in history.”

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

And Meghan McCain added during her appearance on “The View”: “I don’t understand what kind of environment you’re working in when that would be acceptable and then you can come to work the next day and still have a job.”

Of course, for anyone familiar with Donald Trump and his vicious reactions to even the smallest opposition, Sadler’s jibe at McCain should come as no surprise.

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Donald Trump

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump infamously said of McCain: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

This from a man who sought—and got—five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. And who has compared his reckless sex-life during the 1970s to risking his life in service to his country.

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

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

For Sanders—and her boss—it’s disgusting that Trump’s White House can’t enforce the censorship that reigns in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

A LIE TOLD BY BULLIES

In History, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2013 at 12:05 am

Ernest Hemingway said it best: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

And right-wing pundit Ann Coulter best illustrates the truth of this.

Let’s start at the beginning: On April 7, Martin Bashir, host of MSNBC’s Martin Bashir program, wondered if a personal experience were the only way to get Republicans to drop their threat to block a vote on the gun control legislation that Newtown families were begging them to vote on.

Martin Bashir

After all, United States Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) recently announced his two-year conversion to accepting same-sex marriage after his own son “came out’ as homosexual.

“Nobody is suggesting that the law should only be defined and developed by the victims of crime,” said Bashir.  But also pointed out the overwhelming public support for universal background checks.

“Are these senators simply too frightened of the NRA to do the people’s bidding?” Bashir asked.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) responded: “Martin, I never thought it would happen to me, but on a Friday at 12:00, it was 2 years ago, I got a call my nephew had been killed.  Shot to death at 5:00 in the morning, and he’s dead at 21 years old.”

Cummings’ nephew, Christopher Cummings, was shot and killed in 2011 at his off-campus apartment in Norfolk, Virginia.  His murder has not been solved.

“But Congressman,” Bashir said, “is that what needs to happen to move these senators to stop threatening a filibuster? Is that really what needs to happen? That you need to have a member of your family killed in order for you to do what the American people want you to do?”

“I hope not,” Cummings replied. “I don’t wish this pain on anybody.”

Of course, that was not how the exchange went down in Ann Coulter’s version.

Ann Coulter

In an April 10 column entitled “Liberals Go Crazy for the Mentally Ill,” Coulter offered this tem of a proposal:

“MSNBC’s Martin Bashir suggested that Republican senators need to have a member of their families killed for them to support the Democrats’ gun proposals. (Let’s start with Meghan McCain!)”

Needless to say, Meghan McCain–the daughter of Arizona United States Senator John McCain–was not amused.

“Apparently Ann Coulter made a joke about me being killed in a recent column,” McCain tweeted on April 11. “I should expect nothing less but disgusted regardless.”

And, in another Twitter posting, she wrote: “My father is a very famous politician. My family gets a lot of threats. Joking about me being killed really isn’t funny or appropriate.”

Meghan McCain

She and Coulter have been at odds ever since McCain dared to pen a column entitled, “My Beef With Ann Coulter” in 2009.

In that column–published in The Daily Beast–McCain wrote:

“It is no secret that being a Republican isn’t the most hip political stance a person can take right now….

“To make matters worse, certain individuals continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Republicans. Especially Republican women. Who do I feel is the biggest culprit? Ann Coulter.

“I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time….

“Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party…. Is she for real or not? Are some of her statements just gimmicks to gain publicity for her books or does she actually believe the things she says?

“Does she really believe all Jewish people should be ‘perfected’ and become Christians? And what was she thinking when she said Hillary Clinton was more conservative than my father during the [2008] election?”

The most effective way to hurt an enemy is to tell the truth about him.  Or, as in this case, her.

It’s a “crime” that aggressive venom-spewers like Coulter can never forgive.  And, like most bullies, she refused to accept any responsibility for her action.

“I was making a joke,” Coulter told Sean Hannity on his right-wing The Sean Hannity Show.

“For one thing … that heinous thing Martin Bashir said, nobody knew about that until I added a joke, which is known as hyperbole.”

Of course, Bashir had not called on anyone to kill the members of Republicans’ families–as Coulter had “jokingly” called upon others to kill McCain.

(It was Adolf Hitler who, in Mein Kampf, laid down guidelines for the successful use of propaganda–rules such as “The Big Lie”:

Adolf Hitler

And thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds [people] more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”)

“You were being sarcastic,” said Hannity.

“I think the exclamation point made it clear,” Coulter said with a smile. “And the fact that everyone laughed when they read it.”

Thus, Fascists like Ann Coulter use the same tactics in the 21st century as Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler used in in the 20th century: Believe what we say or prepare to die.

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