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Posts Tagged ‘PBS NEWSHOUR’

WHY REPUBLICANS REALLY SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2018 at 12:05 am

As President Donald Trump lurches daily from one crisis to another—most of them of his own making—many Americans ask: “Why do Republicans continue to support him?” 

The answer lies in what happened 73 years ago in Berlin—when the “Thousand-Year” Third Reich collapsed after little more than 12 years.

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front.

Countless Germans claimed to have hidden Jews in their attics. If so, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

And almost universally, they blamed the conflict on the man they had embraced as their Fuhrer.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

If they are conflicted—whether to continue supporting Trump or desert him—the reason is the same: How can I hold onto my power and all the privileges that go with it?  

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump was fiercely attacked by Democrats and his fellow Republicans. But one of his sharpest critics lived more than 500 years ago

He was Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesmen and father of modern politics. 

For openers: Trump had drawn heavy criticism for his angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities who have nothing to do with politics.

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Donald Trump

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:  

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

Trump, in turn, casually dismissed the criticism he had received:

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have–about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin.

Trump admitted that his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, had urged him to be more Presidential.  And he promised that he would. 

“But I gotta knock off the final two [Republican candidates—Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz] first, if you don’t mind.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli offered a stern warning:

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

This totally contrasted with the advice given by Machiavelli:

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

And Machiavelli gave a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question:

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad.

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?”

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.]

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing.  That is so powerful and so important.”

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear.

“Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.  The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon.

“I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.”
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which led Niccolo Machiavelli to warn: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

POWER CORRUPTS: IN GERMANY AND AMERICA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 23, 2018 at 12:22 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about Donald Trump. 

Eerily, their conclusions echo those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler.  

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

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Heinz Guderian

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941.

He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.

Moderator Judy Woodruff noted that “polls show Trump’s standing with women voters has worsened in recent months.”

A Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that 64% of women said they had a strongly unfavorable reaction to Trump. That was 18 points higher than it was in August, 2015.

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Judy Woddruff

This led David Brooks to declare that Trump has shown “a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat. It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent.”  

Judy Woodruff noted that Fox News Correspondent Megyn Kelly “has asked him tough questions” in a recent debate.

MARK SHIELDS: “She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.

“But there is something really creepy about this that’s beyond locker room. It’s almost like a stalker, and I just—I thought this was—it actually did the impossible. It made Ted Cruz look like an honorable, tough guy on the right side of an issue.”  

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Donald Trump

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Once in power, Hitler quickly—and violently—eliminated his opposition. 

He make no attempt to disguise this aspect of his character, because the opposition was weak and divided and soon collapsed after the first violent attack. 

This allowed Hitler to pass laws which destroyed the safeguards enacted by the Weimar Republic against the the dangers of dictatorship. 

MARK SHIELDS: And I don’t know at what point it becomes…politically, he’s still leading. And I would have to say he’s the overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler promised to “make Germany great again” both domestically and internationally. And this won him many followers. In time he controlled the largest party in the land and this allowed him, by democratic procedure, to assume power.  

DAVID BROOKS: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love, so his relationship with women, it has no love in it. It’s trophy.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: [Hitler] was isolated as a human being. He had no real friend. There was nobody who was really close to him.

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Adolf Hitler

There was nobody he could talk to freely and openly. And just as he never found a true friend, he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman. 

DAVID BROOKS: “And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Everything on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals—friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children—all this was and forever remained unknown to him. 

DAVID BROOKS: “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 aurhoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude toward women.” 

HEINZ GUDERIAN: He lived alone, cherishing his loneliness, with only his gigantic plans for company.  His relationship with Eva Braun may seem to contradict what I have written. But it is obvious that she could not have had any influence over him. And this is unfortunate, for it could only have been a softening one.

* * * * *

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.”  

On November 8, 2016, 62,979,879 ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency.

And thus this man—“who received no love, can give no love”—assumed all the awesome power that goes with that office.  

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly condemn those Americans who stood by like “good Germans” and allowed their country to fall into the hands of a ruthless tyrant.

POWER CORRUPTS–IN GERMANY AND AMERICA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2018 at 12:30 am

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” 

—Lord Acton

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events. 

On March 25, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.  

As the business magnate moved ever closer to winning the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed.  

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

Eerily, their conclusions about Trump’s character echoed those reached by former Panzer General Heinz Guderian about German dictator Adolf Hitler. 

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, whereby masses of tanks and planes moved in coordination to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader 

Heinz Guderian

Moderator Judy Woodruff opened the discussion by alluding to the blood feud then raging between Trump and his fellow Republican, Texas U.S. Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz.

Both were seeking their party’s Presidential nomination—and both were ruthlessly determined to attain it.  

Cruz accused Trump of being behind a recent National Enquirer story charging him with having a series of extramarital affairs.  

An anti-Trump Super PAC posted on Facebook a photo of a scantily-clad Melania Trump—his wife. The photo had been taken 16 years ago when, as a model, she posed for British GQ. Its publication came just ahead of the primary caucuses in sexually conservative Utah, which Cruz won.  

Trump quickly responded on Twitter, accusing the Cruz campaign of leaking the photo, warning Cruz: “Be careful or I will spill the beans on your wife.”

Cruz struck back, defending his wife, Heidi, and calling Trump a coward. The next day, Trump retweeted an unflattering image of Mrs. Cruz. 

This “war of the wives” had cost Trump dearly in his standing with American women. In March, a Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that 64% of women felt highly unfavorably disposed toward him. 

DAVID BROOKS: “The Trump comparison of the looks of the wives, he does have, over the course of his life, a consistent misogynistic view of women as arm candy, as pieces of meat.

Donald Trump

“It’s a consistent attitude toward women which is the stuff of a diseased adolescent. And so we have seen a bit of that show up again. 

“But if you go back over his past, calling into radio shows bragging about his affairs, talking about his sex life in public, he is childish in his immaturity. And his–even his misogyny is a childish misogyny…. 

“He’s of a different order than your normal candidate. And this whole week is just another reminder of that.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN: As Hitler’s self-confidence grew, and as his power became more firmly established both inside and outside Germany, he became overbearing and arrogant. Everyone appeared to him unimportant compared to himself.  

Previously, Hitler had been open to practical considerations, and willing to discuss matters with others. But now he became increasingly autocratic. 

Judy Woodruff asked Mark Shields if the uproar over Donald Trump’s disdain for women could really hurt his candidacy. 

MARK SHIELDS: The ad featuring a scantily-clad Melania Trump “elicited from Donald Trump the worst of his personality, the bullying, the misogyny, as David has said, brought it out.  

“But I think it’s more than childish and juvenile and adolescent. There is something creepy about this, his attitude toward women. 

“Take Megyn Kelly of FOX News, who he just has an absolute obsession about, and he’s constantly writing about, you know, how awful she is and no talent and this and that. 

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Megyn Kelly

“And I don’t know if he’s just never had women—strong, independent women in his life who have spoken to him. It doesn’t seem that way….”  

Judy Woodruff noted that Kelly “has asked him tough questions” in a recent debate. 

MARK SHIELDS: “She just asked him tough questions and was totally fair, by everybody else’s standards.” 

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler’s most outstanding quality was his will power. It was by this that he compelled men to follow him. When Hitler spoke to a small group he closely observed each person to determine how his words were affecting each man present.   

If he noticed that some member of the group was not being swayed by his speech, he spoke directly to that person until he believed he had won him over. But if the target of his persuasive effort still remained obstinate, Hitler would exclaim: “I haven’t convinced that man!”

His immediate reaction was to get rid of such people. As he grew increasingly successful, he grew increasingly intolerant. 

HOW TRUMP CAN BE IMPEACHED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2018 at 1:18 am

While Adolf Hitler ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, “the persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany.”

So reads the paperback cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.”

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

As for who was responsible for losing the war itself: As far as most Germans were concerned, that blame fell entirely on the man they had once worshiped as Der Fuhrer. If he had just let his brilliant generals run operations, Germany would have triumphed.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.”

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8, 2017, after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

And despite Trump’s repeated threats to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Republicans have refused to enact any safeguards to prevent this. In fact, if Trump did so, it’s doubtful that most Republicans would vote to impeach and convict him.

The reason: They fear losing the support of his fanatical base—even if it constitutes only 36% of all registered voters.

At the same time, Republicans fear that Trump will finally cross one line too many. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon.

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House.

Thus, Americans who are fed up with the chaos and cruelties of the Trump administration must find a way to separate Trump from his knee-jerk supporters in Congress. 

And here it is: 

American voters need not wait until the fall elections to “send a message” to Republicans in the House and Senate. Instead, they can immediately launch recall campaigns against all Republicans in both houses of Congress. 

That would have a far greater impact on Republicans than sending mere letters of outrage. Or even rejecting individual Republican candidates, such as Roy Moore in Alabama and Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania.

And this is where the Democratic party must finally show some backbone.

Democrats must launch an unceasing advertising campaign to persuade voters to force a nationwide recall of all Republicans. 

Republicans must be forced to realize they will lose their privileged positions for supporting a vicious, unstable President who sells out the Nation to a hostile foreign power—Russia. 

Only then will they sweep him out of the White House like a dead rat on the kitchen floor.

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2018 at 12:03 am

When German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, not all Germans rejoiced.

Millions of them, in fact, hoped that the radical Fascist would be “boxed in” by “the establishment.”

President Hindenburg was known to despise Hitler. And a Hindenburg ally, Franz von Papen, was Vice Chancellor.

Yet it was Von Papen who was largely responsible for Hitler’s coming to power.

He believed that the longtime agitator could be controlled once he was in the government. The cabinet, after all, was not under Nazi domination. And so he convinced Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor.

Almost immediately, Hitler began to outmaneuver those who sought to restrain him.

Adolf Hitler

As part of his deal with Papan, Hitler appointed his longtime supporter, Herman Goring, interior minister of Prussia—thus arming the Nazis with the largest police force in Germany.

On February 1, 1933, Hitler presented Article 48 to the cabinet. This allowed the police to take people into “protective custody” without charges. Hindenburg signed it into law on February 4 as the “Decree for the Protection of the German People.”

In March, the Reichstag (parliament) passed the Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler to rule by decree without interference from legislators. Germany, it was claimed, needed “an iron hand” because it was supposedly threatened by a Communist revolution.

The Enabling Act was authorized to last only four years. But it was renewed in 1937 and, in 1941, extended for the rest of Hitler’s lifetime.

On August 2, the aged Hindenburg died. Hitler immediately consolidated the positions of President and Chancellor—and ordered the German Armed Forces to swear an oath of personal loyalty to him.

Hitler’s mastery of Germany was now complete.

Fast forward 84 years from Adolf Hitler’s gaining total power in Germany to January 30, 2018.

President Donald Trump can say—as truthfully as Adolf Hitler: I am the destiny of America.

Donald Trump

Among his tumultuous actions during his first year as President, Trump:

  • Fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after she notified him that National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI.
  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating the Trump Presidential campaign’s links to the Kremlin.
  • Attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community—while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Falsely claimed that former President Barack Obama had illegally wiretapped him during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, but was talked out of it.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On January 26, Brooks—a conservative, and Shields, a liberal—reached similar conclusions about the recent news that President Trump had tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller during the summer of 2017.

After Comey’s firing, Mueller had been assigned to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

DAVID BROOKS: “First, it should be pointed out that White House staff has repeatedly said there was no effort to fire Mueller, when they clearly have been lying for months about that….

“I was in Dayton, Ohio, this morning. And a friend said, in this presidency, I’m just stunned every day. I’m stunned every hour. And at some point, you get out of stunned. There’s no more stun.

“And I found this when I saw our story. If I had seen that story seven or eight months ago, I would have been, ‘Oh, I can’t believe this is happening.’ Now I’m inured. I’m used to it. I have been numbed.

“And I came to think, even if he fired Mueller, maybe we’re all just—we’re like, we have been numbed to the things that happen and nobody gets upset anymore. I think people would get upset if he actually did try to fire Mueller, but we have defined deviancy down and gotten used to a set of behavior that would have been shocking to us a year ago.”

MARK SHIELDS: “I think there would be a firestorm at this point [if Trump fired Mueller]….

“How long and how intense, I don’t know, because I remain just perplexed at the limit of the finite limits of our outrage, or our sense of outrage….

“But I think it really comes down to, who’s going to stand with [Mueller]? And I look at the Republicans on the Hill and, you know, the lack, the tower of Jell-O that is the speaker of the House….”

JUDY WOODRUFF: “…Could this campaign…by some Republicans in the House and with support from the White House to undermine the FBI…have a long-lasting effect on the Justice Department in the end?”

DAVID BROOKS:  “Yes, I think so.

“And the FBI is filled with honest brokers….There are a lot of agencies that are filled with honest brokers, and the idea that everybody in this city is a politician is just not true.

“It’s always amazing to me that a lot of people in government, they are not actually that political. They believe in the public service and they try to do their jobs, but they’re not sort of super political people.”

BELLICOSE EVIL TRUMPS TIMID MORALITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 31, 2018 at 12:06 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANCELLERY:

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

ZOSSEN: 

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

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

Von Roon: That they were talking high treason.

CHANCELLERY:

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

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

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

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

Hitler: Why not?

Von Brauchitsch: Because of the military fundamentals as stated.

Hitler: Such as?

Von Brauchitsch: The meteorologists predict continuous soaking rains for weeks.

Hitler: It rains on the enemy, too.

ZOSSEN: 

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

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

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

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

Halder: But we really cannot proceed with Case Yellow.

Von Roon:  Brauchitsch will get a postponement.

Halder: And if he does not?

CHANCELLERY: 

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

Image result for wolfgang preiss as Walther von Brauchitsch

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

Hitler: Who says so? 

Von Brauchitsch: General Thomas, my chief of economics and armament.

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

Von Brauchitsch: No.

Hitler: How many we have in the reserve dumps in the West?

Von Brauchitsch: No, it’s up to my staff—

Hitler:  What the monthly annual production of shells is? What the projected rise in production of the next six months is, month by month?

Von Brauchitsch: Who keeps such figures in his head?

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

Von Brauchitsch: If we march unprepared as we are, defeatism will run rampant. It will destroy the Wehrmacht and the Fatherland. The morale of the army was low, even in the Polish campaign.

Hitler: You question to me—to me—the courage of the German soldier?

Von Brauchitsch: I’m talking facts!

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

Von Brauchitsch: It was common knowledge—

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

Von Brauchitsch: Mein Fuhrer

Hitler:  Tell everyone who signed this insubordinate Zossen rubbish to beware! I will ruthlessly crush everybody up to the rank of a Field Marshal who dares to oppose me. You don’t have to understand. You only have to obey. The German people understand me.  I am Germany.

Fast forward 79 years from Adolf Hitler’s stormy confrontation with Walter von Brauchitsch to January 26, 2018. 

President Donald Trump—having fired FBI Director James Comey, attacked the integrity of the American Intelligence community and tried to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller—can equally say: I am the destiny of America.

WHY REPUBLICANS SUPPORT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2017 at 2:10 am

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“The persuasive influence of the Nazi regime reached into every corner of everyday life in Germany,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents.

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

Image result for Images of "The 12-Year Reich"

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no one in Germany admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

American and British soldiers couldn’t find any German veterans willing to admit they had ever fought against Western, democratic nations. All the once-proud legionaries of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS swore they had been fighting “the real enemy”—the Russians—on the Eastern front. 

And then there were all the stories of Germans who, at great risk to themselves, had hidden Jews in their attics. Which left unanswered the question: If so many “good Germans” had saved so many Jews, how had six million Jews died horrifically before the Reich fell? 

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

A typical example of this occurred on June 8 after former FBI director James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Comey revealed that, on February 14, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

“I want to talk about Mike Flynn,” said Trump.

Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist, offered a more accurate explanation of Trump’s motives. Speaking on The PBS Newshour, Brooks said:

“We are a nation of laws. Donald Trump lives in an entirely different cultural universe. He is more clannist, believing in clan, believing in family, believing in loyalty, not recognizing objective law, not recognizing the procedures that is really how modern government operates….

“It’s not only that he doesn’t know the rules, but at all along and throughout his presidency, he has sort of trampled on the rules almost as a matter of policy, as a matter of character, because he doesn’t believe in that kind of relationships. It’s all personal loyalty, not about laws and norms and standards.”

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will trash the institutions that Americans have cherished for more than 200 years. Institutions like an independent judiciary, a free press, and an incorruptible Justice Department.

He has already attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

What Republicans truly fear about Donald Trump is that he will finally cross one line too many—like firing Special Counsel Robert Meuller. And that the national outrage following this will force them to launch impeachment proceedings against him.

But it isn’t even Trump they fear will be destroyed.

What they most fear losing is their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House.

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler. Like Richard Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

What Ronald Reagan once said about the leadership of the Soviet Union now literally applies to that of the Republican Party:

“They…have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that.”

LIES ATTACK ONE PRESIDENT, TRUTH DAMNS ANOTHER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 5, 2017 at 12:11 am

For five years, Donald Trump falsely claimed that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore ineligible to be President.

Now Trump finds himself haunted by something far worse than a slander: The truth.

Since taking office on January 20, Trump has been ensnared in a series of revelations about collaboration between members of his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have unequivocally stated that Russian Intelligence played a major role in trying to sway the election for Trump. 

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TRUMP’S DENIALS:

October 24, 2016: “I have nothing to do with Russia, folks, I’ll give you a written statement.”   

December 11, 2016 “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea.” 

August 3, 2017: “Most people know there were no Russians in our campaign; there never were. We didn’t win because of Russia; we won because of you,”

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

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Donald Trump

January 11, 2017: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

February 7, 2017: “I don’t know [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy – yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!”

February 16, 2017: “The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!”

May 8, 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

TRUMP’S BEHAVIOR:

May 9, 2017:  Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Comey had been leading an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials when he was fired.

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James Comey

At first, Trump claimed that he fired Comey for mishandling the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. 

May 10, 2017: But, in a meeting at the White House, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

May 11, 2017:  In an interview with NBC reporter Lester Holt, Trump admitted:

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” 

May 17, 2017: Following the uproar over Comey’s firing, the Justice Department appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate any links the between Russian government and Trump campaign members.

July 8, 2017:  The New York Times reported that Donald Trump Junior met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer who promised to offer damaging information about Clinton.

Trump Junior released a statement: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

July 12 and July 16, 2017: Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the President was involved in drafting his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting.

July 20, 2017: The Washington Post reported that Trump was consulting with advisers “about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself” in connection to the probe led by Mueller.

July 31, 2017: The Washington Post reported that, to conceal the purpose of the Trump Tower  meeting, President Trump dictated a misleading statement for his son. In this, the reason for the meeting was given as a discussion about the adoption of Russian children—and not to obtain damaging information on Clinton from Russian Intelligence agents.

August 1, 2017: White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Trump was involved in drafting the false statement that Trump Junior released about the Trump Tower meeting. Sanders called the matter “of no consequence.”

August 3, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reported that Mueller had convened a grand jury in Washington, D.C. to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. 

October 5, 2017: George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government in 2016 concerning U.S.–Russia relations. He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s probe. Papadopoulos had been a member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel during the campaign. Prior to pleading guilty, he may have been wearing a hidden recorder while speaking with with various Trump officials.

December 1, 2017: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador. He added that he was cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. A fervent Trump supporter throughout the campaign, his immediate superior had been Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

For years, Trump claimed it was only a matter of time before “the truth” revealed that Barack Obama was ineligible to be President.  That never happened.

Now it seems only a matter of time before truth reveals Trump’s own unfitness to govern.

BULLIES AND COWARDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2017 at 12:03 am

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—believe: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.”

Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics.

In the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.”

Joseph McCarthy

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet, just as Democrats proved unwilling to use this powerful weapon against McCarthy, they have failed to do so against Donald Trump.

For example: Trump has often expressed admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

But not a single Democrat has dared nickname him “TrumPutin,”  “Red Donald,” “Putin’s Poodle” or “Wannabe Czar.”  Similarly, his vice president, Mike Pence, could be labeled “Vice Putin.”

Trump has repeatedly assaulted the press, judiciary and Intelligence agencies. Yet no Democrat has damned him as having a Fascistic agenda.  

Nor, as a whole, has the press dared to respond in kind to his increasingly vicious attacks on the First Amendment.

Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.”  He has tweeted images of a “Trump train” running over a CNN reporter and of himself beating up someone covered by a CNN logo.

His target of choice is CNN, which has been particularly effective in uncovering the truth behind his almost daily lies.  On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.” 

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.”   

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.” 

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Many Americans fail to grasp the subtleties of symbolic imagery. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, complete with swastika, and the following message: 

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“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a democrat. They might scream democrat, democrat, democrat over and over and over again. They might put DEMOCRAT in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a democrat.  But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”   

Nor, in this YouTube-obsessed age, have Democrats assailed Trump with a ridiculing music video. In the hands of a creative writer, for example, the classic rock-and-roll song, “Rockin’ Robin,” could become a Democratic party anthem:

TRUMPY TRAITOR
(To be sung to the tune, “Rockin’ Robin”)

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
All the Special Agents in the FBI
Hope he goes to prison to the day he’ll die.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Every act of treason, every act of crime—
America has never seen a bigger slime.
Bob Mueller’s ready, the cops are closin’ in
To put a grand finale to your reign of sin.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Democrats and the media are fighting an openly Fascistic administration with tactics of a Shirley Temple. So long as they do so, they will continue to decline in influence.

Their only hope lies in combating the Heinz Guderians of the Republican Party with the all-out tactics of a George S. Patton.

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