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MAKING ENEMIES INSTEAD OF FRIENDS: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

Among his targets:

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

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

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

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

Events proved otherwise.

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

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Hillary Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alicia Machado as Miss Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FBI headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PURGE-TIME IN STALIN’S RUSSIA AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2017 at 12:29 am

One summer night in 1923, during a booze-fueled dinner, Joseph Stalin opened his hear to his two fellow diners.

One of these was Felix Dzerzhinsky, then  the chief of the Cheka, the dreaded Soviet secret police (and precursor to the KGB).  The other was Lev Kamenev, a member of the powerful Central Committee of the Communist party. 

Kamenev asked his companions: “What is your greatest pleasure?” 

And Stalin is reported to have said: “To choose one’s victim, to prepare one’s plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance and then to go to bed.  There is nothing sweeter in the world.”  

Thirteen years later, in August, 1936, Kamenev would be forced to confess to forming a terrorist organization.  Its alleged purpose: To assassinate Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet government. 

On August 25, 1936, Kamenev was executed in the notorious Lubyanka prison.

Donald Trump may not have read Stalin’s notorious quote about finding pleasure in vengeance. But he has given his own variation of it.

While addressing the National Achievers Conference in Sidney, Australia, in 2011, he offered this advice on how to achieve success: “Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it.”

Throughout his business career, Trump strictly practiced what he preached—becoming a plaintiff or a defendant in no fewer than 3,500 lawsuits. 

Since January 20, he has carried this “get even” philosophy into the Presidency.

The result has been unprecedented White House infighting, turmoil—and departures.  Among the casualties:

  • Steve Bannon – Chief strategist and senior counselor:  On August 17, 2016, Bannon was appointed chief executive of Trump’s presidential campaign.  On August 18, 211 days into his tenure, he was fired.  A major reason: Trump was angered by the news media’s—and even many comedians’—depiction of Bannon as the real power in the White House.
  • Anthony Scaramucci – White House communications director: To celebrate his new job, he gave an insult-ridden interview to The New Yorker.  Among his targets: Then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (“a fucking paranoid schizophrenic”) and Steve Bannon (““I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock”).  Scaramucci’s career ended in just six days—on July 31.
  • Reince Priebus – White House Chief of Staff:  After repeatedly being humiliated by Trump—who at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about—Priebus resigned on July 28, 190 days into his tenure.
  • Jeff Sessions – Attorney General: Trump made him the target of a Twitter-laced feud.  Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from any decisions involving investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump publicly said that if he had known Sessions would recuse himself—because of his own past contacts with Russian officials—he would have picked someone else for Attorney General.
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary:  Resigned on July 21, 183 days into his tenure. The reason: Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump.
  • James Comey – FBI Director:  Comey did not work for the Trump Presidential campaign.  But many political analysts believe he played perhaps the decisive role in electing the reality TV mogul. Comey’s announcement—11 days before Election Day—that he was re-opening the Hillary Clinton email server case convinced millions of voters that she had committed a crime. If, as some believed, Comey did so to curry favor with Trump, he proved mistaken.  Trump summoned Comey to the White House and, in a private meeting, demanded a pledge of personal loyalty.  Comey refused to give this—or to drop the FBI’s investigation into collaboration between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign officials. On May 9, Trump sent his longtime private bodyguard and chief henchman, Keith Schiller, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s firing. (FBI directors do not have Civil Service protection and can be fired at any time by the President.)
  • Mike Flynn – National Security Advisor: After resigning from the Defense Intelligence Agency, he vigorously supported Trump at rallies and events—including at the Republican National Convention.  As a reward, he was appointed National Security Advisor.  But he was forced to resign just 25 days into his tenure. The reason: The media revealed that he hadmisled Vice President Mike Pence about his multiple meetings with Sergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States, before Trump’s inauguration.

As if such turmoil wasn’t enough, even worse may be to come. According to PoliticoMany White House staffers are starting to look for the exits, even though the one-year mark of Trump’s first term is still months away.

“There is no joy in Trumpworld right now,” one source told Politico. “Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else.”

A mass exodus would cause even greater difficulties for the Trump administration, which has not filled hundreds of  available positions because many people don’t want to join. 

The Trump administration is hiring at a slower pace than the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama—including nominations and confirmations.

Fewer positions filled means less effective enforcement of the Trump agenda. For those who oppose it, this is something to celebrate.

PURGE-TIME IN STALIN’S RUSSIA AND TRUMP’S AMERICA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 25, 2017 at 2:06 am

Donald Trump—as both Presidential candidate and President—has often been compared to Adolf Hitler.

Yet, in at least one sense, this comparison is inaccurate.  As Germany’s Fuhrer (1933-1945) Hitler kept on the members of his Cabinet for no less than 12 years.

Adolf Hitler

Among these:

  • Hermann Goering had repeatedly shown himself as the incompetent Reichsmarshall of the German air force, the Luftwaffe. Yet Hitler kept him on because Goering had been one of the “Old Fighters” who had supported Hitler long before the Nazis came to power.  Only in April, 1945, when Hitler falsely believed that Goering was trying to supplant him as Fuhrer, did he expel him from the party and order his arrest.
  • Rudolf Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920, and served as Deputy Fuhrer to Hitler from 1933 to 1941. That was when he flew to Scotland on a self-assigned mission to make peace with England. The British, believing him mad, locked him in the Tower of London until 1945.  Afterward, he was convicted at Nuremberg for war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop had been a champagne salesman before Hitler appointed him Foreign Minister in 1938, and held that post until the Reich’s defeat in 1945.  Although his arrogance and incompetence made him universally disliked by other high-ranking Nazi officials, Hitler never considered firing him.
  • Heinrich Himmler, appointed Reichsfuhrer-SS in 1929, held that position throughout the 12 years (1933-1945) the Third Reich lasted. It was to Himmler that Hitler entrusted the most important project of his life: The destruction of European Jewry. Only after learning—in the final days of the Reich—that Himmler had sought to make peace with the Allies did Hitler expel him from the party and order his arrest.

Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union (1928-1953) serves as a far better comparison figure for Trump.

Joseph Stalin

In 1936, Stalin ordered the first of a series of purges—from high-ranking members of the Communist party to impoverished peasants.  Among the most prominent of his victims:

  • Grigory Zimoviev, former member of the Central Committee of the Communist party. He was arrested in 1934 on trumped-up charges of “moral complicity” in the assassination of Leniningrad party boss Sergei Kirov.  He was executed in 1936.
  • Leon Trotsky, onetime second-in-command only to Vladimir Lenin, clashed with Stalin before the November 7, 1917 Russian Revolution. They remained locked in combat until Lenin’s death of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1924. Stalin drove Trotsky out of the Communist party and even out of the Soviet Union. In 1940, on Stalin’s orders, he was assassinated while living under guard in Mexico.
  • Genrikh Grigoryevich Yagoda served as director of the NKVD secret police (the precursor of the KGB) from 1934 to 1936. He supervised the arrest, show trial and execution of former Central Committee members Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zimoviev. Arrested in 1937, he was falsely charged with treason and conspiracy against the Soviet government. Yagoda was shot soon after the trial. His wife Ida Averbakh was also executed in 1938.
  • Nikolai Yezhov became head of the NKVD secret police  in 1936.  He oversaw what historians have since named the Great Terror until 1939. Arrested in April, he was replaced by Lavrenty Beria. In 1940, Yezhov himself was executed by the executioners he had once commanded.

Like Joseph Stalin, Donald Trump has presided over a series of purges since reaching the White House.

Donald Trump

Like Stalin, Trump demands unconditional loyalty from those who serve in his administration. And, also like Stalin, he does not believe that loyalty is a two-way street.

Moreover, it doesn’t take much to offend Trump’s fragile ego. When “Saturday Night Live” started doing skits showcasing his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, as a Rasputin-like figure who manipulated Trump, Bannon’s days were clearly numbered.

The same proved true for Anthony Scaramucci, who was to become White House communications director.  All that it took to secure his dismissal was an expletive-ridden phone interview with The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza. It didn’t help Scaramucci that he bragged about purging the entire White House communications staff and even siccing the FBI on leakers.

Others have left the White House owing to its increasingly paranoid atmosphere. Reports have surfaced of staffers being ordered to turn over their cell phones for inspection. The reason: To ensure they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps.

Then there is the very real—and justified—fear of being caught up in Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s ever-widening investigation into collusion between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

One of those who has reportedly hired top-notch legal talent is Hope Hicks, interim White House communications director. According to Politico, the 28-year-old has retained the services of veteran criminal defense lawyer Robert Trout, who once worked for the Justice Department.

Even if a White House staffer is not ultimately indicted and convicted, the costs of hiring top-flight legal talent can prove ruinous.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump claimed a $9 billion fortune: “I’m really rich!”  But he has shown no willingness to spend any of it defending those officials he has hired.

And for an administration already plagued with a shortage of desperately-needed talent, even worse may soon be to come.

THE PRICE OF FANATICISM–IN FILM AND REAL LIFE

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Military, Social commentary, Uncategorized on August 2, 2017 at 1:51 am

Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci desperately sought a high-stakes position with the Donald Trump White House.

He would have done better to have studied the truths offered in the 1940 movie, The Man I Married.

Carol Cabbott (Joan Bennett) is the editor of The Smart World,  married to Eric Hoffman (Francis Lederer) a German. They have a seven-year-old son, Ricky (Johnny Russell).

Sometime in the 1930s they decide to vacation in Nazi Germany. Eric is quickly enamored of the Third Reich. His ardor is shared by Frieda (Anna Sten) a former schoolmate who reunites with him.

Frieda and Eric attend Nazi gatherings, and he decides to stay in Germany. Carol, however, is appalled at the cruelty and barbarism of the Reich and can’t wait to return to the United States.

The Man I Married.jpg

As time  passes, Eric becomes more strident in his worship of Adolf Hitler. Carol and he grow increasingly estranged.

Eventually, Eric tells Carol he is in love with Frieda and wants a divorce. Even worse, he wants to keep his son in Germany, to become a loyal follower of the Nazis. 

For Carol, the situation is desperate: Under German law, Eric’s rights will trump hers.

But then fate takes a hand. While visiting his elderly father, Eric learns something truly shocking: His mother was a Jewess—the absolute worst calamity that could befall an ardent Nazi.

“If you won’t let your son return to America with his mother,” says his father, “I will go to the authorities and show them the marriage certificate.”

Eric is stunned. So is Frieda, who is standing by when the news breaks. Disgusted that she was about to “racially defile” herself, she angrily stalks out.

Suddenly, Eric now says he doesn’t know what came over him, and he wants to return to the United States. Even more startling, he expects to go on with his marriage to Carol, as if nothing has happened.

But, for Carol, the damage is too great and the marriage is over.

She and Ricky return to the United States without Eric—who has lost everything: His wife, his son and his future with the Third Reich.

Now, fast forward to the 21st century of Donald Trump’s America—and the fate of Anthony Scaramucci.

Anthony Scaramucci

In 2005, Scaramucci founded SkyBridge Capital, a global alternative investment firm.

But, in 2017, hoping to attain a position with the Trump administration, he resigned from his co-management role and ended his affiliation with SkyBridge.

On January 12, he was named Assistant to President Trump and director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Then disaster struck. On January 31, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, called Scaramucci “to tell him he should pull out of consideration.”

Priebus opposed Scaramucci’s appointment because of Scaramucci’s stake in Skybridge Capital. The reason: Skybridge held a majority stake sale to RON Transatlantic EG and HNA Capital (U.S.) Holding, a Chinese conglomerate with close ties to China’s Communist Party.

But then Scaramucci’s future with the Trump administration suddenly appeared a reality.

On July 21, 2017, he was named as White House Communications Director, to take office on July 25. Even more importantly, he would report directly to the President—and not to Priebus, as had White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Spicer, who had opposed Scarmucci’s hiring, resigned on the day of the appointment. Priebus had also strongly argued against the hiring, to no avail. 

Then Scaramucci’s own hubris intervened.

On July 26, in a call to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker, Scaramucci said he would rid the White House of “leakers.” He threatened to fire the entire White House Communications staff if Lizza didn’t reveal the source who had leaked the story of a dinner he had had with Trump.

He blasted Priebus as a “leaker” and “a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” and predicted that Priebus “would resign soon.”

Scaramucci also had harsh words for Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.”

On July 27, Priebus resigned as chief of staff.

The next day, Trump announced that he had named retired general John F. Kelley as Priebus’ replacement. 

Then, on July 31, Scaramucci joined Spicer and Priebus as an ex-White House employee—dismissed by Trump at Kelly’s request, according to The New York Times

And, like Eric Hoffman in The Man I Married, Scaramucci found himself without a marriage. 

His wife, Deidre Ball—like Carol Hoffman—despised the man he yearned to work for: Donald Trump.

Married to Scaramucci in 2014, Ball filed for divorce in early July 2017 when she was eight months pregnant with their second child. 

On July 24, Deidre gave birth to the couple’s son, James—while Anthony was in West Virginia attending the Boy Scouts Jamboree with Trump. He reportedly sent her a note: “Congratulations, I’ll pray for our child.” 

Like Icarus, the mythical character who flew too close to the sun, he rose to the heights—and plunged to his doom.

FILLING A HOLE WITH HATE

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

Among his targets:

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

Others he clearly delighted in insulting during the campaign included:

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

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

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Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EARP:  What does he need?

HOLLIDAY:  Revenge.

EARP:  For what?

HOLLIDAY: Bein’ born. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLORY TO GREAT STALIN–I MEAN, TRUMP!

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lavrenti P. Beria

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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Mike Pence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comey-FBI-Portrait.jpg

James Comey

This would have made Comey his secret police chief.

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

Trump publicly denied this. 

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

CALIGULA’S APPRENTICE: PART TWO (END)

In Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 11, 2016 at 12:21 am

Gaius Caligula lived twenty-nine years and ruled Rome three years, ten months and eight days. When he died, his reign of depravity and terror died with him.  

Today, millions of Americans fear a similar fate will sweep their country if Donald Trump becomes President.  

Caligula’s life spanned August 31, 12 A.D. to January 24, 41 A.D.

Gaius Caligula

Trump was born on June 14, 1946.  

Caligula became Emperor in 37 A.D. after succeeding the Emperor Tiberius, his uncle who had adopted him as a son after his father died. 

Trump began his real estate career at his father’s real estate and construction company. His rose to wealth and fame after his father, Fred, gave him control of the business in 1971.  

Caligula’s reign began well–and popularly. He gave Tiberius a magnificent funeral–then recalled to Rome all those whom Tiberius had banished.

He gave bonuses to the military and destroyed lists of those Tiberius had declared traitors. He allowed the magistrates unrestricted jurisdiction, without appeal to himself.

Similarly, soon after acquiring the family business, Trump set out to build his own empire–hotels, golf courses, casinos, skyscrapers across North and South America, Europe and Asia. He named many of them after himself.

Donald Trump

He appeared at the Miss USA pageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, an NBC reality television series from 2004 to 2015.

The ancient historians describe Caligula as a noble and enlightened ruler during the first six months of his reign. But in October 37 A.D. he fell seriously ill or perhaps was poisoned.

Caligula soon recovered but emerged a changed man. He began killing or exiling those who were close to him and anyone he saw as a threat.

Trump has never been charged with murder. But during his second Presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, he previewed the dangers of a Trump Justice Department: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”  

Caligula’s egomania soon reached psychotic heights.

  • He  gave himself several surnames: “Pious,” “Child of the Camp,” “Father of the Armies,” and “Greatest and Best of Caesars.”
  • Flattered that he had risen higher than princes and kings, he began to believe himself a god.
  • He appeared at the temple of Castor and Pollux to be worshiped as Jupiter Latiaris. 
  • He also set up a special temple to his own godhead.

Trump’s egomania is literally stamped on his properties. Of the 515 entities he owns, 268 of them–52%–bear his last name. He often refers to his properties as “the swankiest,” “the most beautiful.”  

Among the references he’s made to himself: 

  • “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” 
  • “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
  • “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”
  • “My IQ is one of the highest–and you all know it.”

When Caligula wasn’t ordering wholesale Stalin-like purges–ranging from Roman aristocrats to slaves–he was setting new records for debauchery.

According to the Roman historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus: “He lived in habitual incest with all his [three] sisters, and at a large banquet he placed each of them in turn below him, while his wife reclined above. Of these he is believed to have violated Drusilla when he was still a minor.” 

Trump has never been charged with incest, but he’s repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments about his daughter, Ivanka:  

  • “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father …”
  • When Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, he was joined on stage by Ivanka. After they kissed, Dr. Oz said: “It’s nice to see a dad kiss his daughter.” Trump: “I kiss her every chance I get.”  The remark was edited before the show aired.
  • When asked how he would react if Ivanka, a former teen model, posed for Playboy, Trump replied: “I don’t think Ivanka would do that, although she does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”  
  • “You know who’s one of the great beauties of the world, according to everybody? And I helped create her. Ivanka. My daughter, Ivanka. She’s 6 feet tall, she’s got the best body.” 

Ivanka Trump

One final trait that Caligula shared with Trump: Both relished humiliating others.  

Caligula’s fatal mistake was to taunt Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate because of a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”  

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death before other guards could save him.  

The number of people, places and things Trump has insulted is so extensive The New York Times compiled a list of all 273 of them.

On October 7, Trump’s speaking insultingly about women (“I just start kissing them. I don’t even wait. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy”) threatened to derail his Presidential candidacy.  

It remains to be seen if Trump suffers the final fate of Caligula.

CALIGULA’S APPRENTICE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2016 at 12:26 am

Donald Trump is the official Republican nominee for President of the United States.

But even many Republicans have come to believe he’s better-suited for the role of apprentice to Gaius Caligula. It was Caligula who, as the mad emperor of Rome, once said: “Bear in mind that I can treat anyone exactly as I please.”

Gaius Caligula

On October 7, The Washington Post leaked a video of Donald Trump making sexually predatory comments about women.

The remarks came during a 2005 exchange with Billy Bush, then the host of Access Hollywood (and now host of Today).    

The two were traveling in an Access Hollywood bus to the set of the soap opera Days of Our Lives, where Trump was to make a cameo appearance.

Neither Trump nor Bush could be seen during the exchange–the video focuses entirely on the bus. But the audio came in clearly–and, for Trump, damningly:

Donald Trump: You know and I moved on her actually. You know she was down on Palm Beach.

Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.

Trump: I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it. 

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No this was–and I moved on her very heavily, in fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.

I took her out furniture. I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there, and she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

[At that point, they spot Adrianne Zucker, the starring actress in Days in Our Lives.]

Trump, Zucker and Bush

Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.

Various: Whoa! Yes! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

Trump: Look at you. You are a pussy.

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s her. It’s–

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

When the Washington Post broke the story on October 7, the reaction was immediate–and explosive.

From across the nation, prominent Republicans erupted in shock and anger–whether feigned or genuine: 

Gov. Mike Pence, Republican Vice Presidential nominee: “As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump the eleven-year-old video released yesterday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan:  “I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified.” 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “These comments are repugnant, and unacceptable in any circumstance.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus: “No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever.”  

Trump tried to stop the uproar by issuing a non-apology that attacked his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton: “I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am.  I said it, I was wrong and I apologize…Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”

Some Republicans excused Trump’s misogynist comments as mere “frat boy” talk. Among these:

Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager and now CNN commentator: “We are electing a leader to the free world. We’re not electing a Sunday school teacher.”  

Michele Bachmann, former Minnesota Congresswoman: Trump was guilty of “bad boy talk.”  

And Carl Paladino, the co-chairman of Trump’s campaign in New York: Trump’s comments were something “all men do, at least all normal men.”

But Washington Post Columnist Micheal Gerson has taken a darker–and more accurate–view of Trump’s comments.  

Appearing on the PBS Newshour on October 7, Gerson said: “Well, I think the problem here is not just bad language, but predatory language, abusive language…demeaning language. 

“That indicates something about someone’s character that is disturbing, frankly, disturbing in a case like this.”  

* * * * *

This was not a testosterone-fueled teenager fantasizing about making love with a girl he adored.

This was a 59-year-old man bragging about having used deceit to try to lure a married woman into bed. 

And about having used his celebrity status to force himself on women: I moved on her very heavily. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.  

Gaius Caligula himself couldn’t have said it better.

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