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Posts Tagged ‘ROBERT MUELLER’

REPUBLICANS: LOVING AMERICA LESS–AND THEIR JOBS MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2019 at 12:04 am

“Just another week in Caligula’s Rome.”

That was how conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C. for the week of February 24 to March 1, 2019.

It could serve as the epitaph for the history of the Trump administration.

Every Friday Books faces off with liberal syndicated columnist Mark Shields on The PBS Newshour. And on the program for March 1, the two men found common cause in sizing up the appearance of Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee two days earlier.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields on “The PBS Newshour”

During that hearing, Cohen, Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer:

  • Condemned his former boss as “a racist, a conman [and] a cheat.”
  • Confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn “star” Stormy Daniels, to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Provided the committee with a copy of a check Trump wrote from his personal bank account—after he became President—“to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made.”
  • Produced “copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump’s direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.”

But for Brooks, far more was at stake than the individual accusations:

“To me, it was more of a moral occasion, more than anything else. What it illustrates is a President and, frankly, Michael Cohen who long ago decided that celebrity and wealth is more important than being a good person. And they have dragged us all down there with us.

“And the people they have dragged most effectively are the House Republicans, a lot of them on that committee, who decided that they were completely incurious about whether Donald Trump was a good guy or a bad guy or a really awful guy, that—their own leader, they didn’t seem to care about that, but they were going to rip the skin off Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen testifying before Congress

“And so they attacked him. And what struck me is how moral corrosion happens, that you decide you’re going to defend or ignore Trump. And then to do that, you have to morally distance yourself from him. And then you have to morally distance yourself from him every day.

“And, eventually, you just get numb to everything. And so [Ohio Republican Representative] Jim Jordan and other people on the committee were saying, oh, we all knew this, like, it’s all unremarkable. And so that’s—that’s how moral corrosion happens.”  

During the hearing, California Representative Jackie Speier asked Cohen: How many times did Trump ask you to intimidate creditors?

Cohen estimated the number at 500. 

For Shields, this counted as especially despicable behavior: “And—but the thing about it is, when he stiffed those small business—the plumbers and the electricians who did the work in the Trump projects, and he came back, and Donald Trump loved to hear about it, I mean, reveled in it.

“Now, I mean, at what point do you say that there’s no honor here? I mean, there’s nothing to admire.” 

Shields was equally appalled by the refusal of Trump’s Republican committee defenders to condemn his moral depravity—as a businessman or President.

“If you can’t deal with the message, you shoot the messenger. And that’s what their whole strategy was.

“The very fact that not a single member of the Republican committee defended Donald Trump or what he was charged or alleged to have done, to me, was revealing. They just decided to go after Michael Cohen.”

So why have Republicans aligned themselves with such a man? 

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. 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. And the riches that go with it.

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 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. 

House and Senate Republicans can imagine a future without Trump—but not one where they disappear.

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?  

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2019 at 12:25 am

Upon taking office as President in 1981, Ronald Reagan decided to end the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intended to “roll it back.”

American proxies fought Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escaped nuclear holocaust.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans continued to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Republicans found that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” didn’t carry the same weight.

So they turned to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 2015, it was unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, ran for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invited him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance: Each had something to offer the other.

Putin wanted the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which had preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump had often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wanted to be President. For this, Putin could supply Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news—and even the hacking of key voting centers.

And monies. These Russian monies were officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers.

On July 27, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina).

Specifically, he contributed:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with the late Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process. 

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik.

This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

REPUBLICANS: “BETTER RED THAN UN-ELECTED”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2019 at 12:17 am

On July 24, former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III finally addressed Congress on Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Mueller had spent almost two years uncovering links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller declared to members of the House Judiciary Committee. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.

“Many more countries are developing the capability to replicate what the Russians have done.

“It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

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Robert Mueller

In his report, Mueller documented years of meddling in American politics by the Internet Research Agency, which runs the Kremlin’s online disinformation efforts from its headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

The Agency reached 126 million Americans through fake accounts on Facebook. Its messages communicated with unaware members of the Trump campaign, and even prompted real-life rallies that mobilized crowds of unwitting voters.

Hours later that same day, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) blocked the passage of three bills designed to tighten election security at the federal level. She claimed that Congress had already responded to election security needs for the 2020 Presidential election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) came to the Senate floor the next day to personally object to House-passed legislation backed by Democrats.

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed—themselves as America’s foremost defenders against Communism. 

This was particularly true during the early 1950s. Case in point: Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek was driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. 

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the language of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
  • President Harry S. Truman.
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller.
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield.
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein.
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb.
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball.
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany.
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger.
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

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Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these: President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemned his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans held the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. And Republicans held the White House until 1992.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 19, 2019 at 12:08 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
—N
iccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

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Niccolo Machiavelli

When Donald Trump—as a businessman and President—has been confronted by men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, he has reacted with rage and frustration.

  • Trump boasted that he “never” settled cases out of court. But New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pressed fraud claims against the real estate mogul’s counterfeit Trump University—and Trump settled the case out of court rather than take the stand.
  • “Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump,” said Schneiderman on November 18, 2016, “and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.”
  • On May 17, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign. 
  • Upon learning of his appointment, Trump wailed: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” 
  • “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” Trump demanded of Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. “You were supposed to protect me. Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
  • Throughout Mueller’s probe, Trump hurled repeated insults at him via Twitter and press conferences. He also called on his shills within Fox News and the Republican party to attack Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.
  • But aides convinced him that firing Mueller would be rightly seen as obstruction of justice—and thus grounds for impeachment. So he never dared go that far.

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Robert Mueller

Perhaps the key to Trump’s innermost fear can be found in a work of fiction—in this case, the 1996 historical novel, The Friends of Pancho Villa, by James Carlos Blake. 

The book depicts the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920) and its most famous revolutionary, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. it’s told from the viewpoint of Rodolfo Fierro, Villa’s most feared executioner. In one day, for example, Fierro—using two revolvers—executed 300 captured Federale soldiers.

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As in history, Blake’s Fierro presides over the execution of David Berlanga, a journalist who had dared criticize the often loutish behavior of Villa’s men.

On Villa’s command, Fierro approaches Berlanga in a Mexico City restaurant and orders: “Come with me.”

Standing against a barracks wall, Berlanga lights a cigar and requests permission to finish it. He then proceeds to smoke it with such a steady hand that its unbroken ash extends almost four inches.

The cigar finished, the ash still unbroken, Berlanga drops the butt to the ground and says calmly: “I’m ready.” 

Then the assembled firing squad does its work.

Later, Fierro is so shaken by Berlanga’s sheer fearlessness that he seeks an explanation for it. Sitting in a cantina, he lights a cigar and tries to duplicate Berlanga’s four-inch length.

But the best he can do is less than three inches. He concludes that Berlanga used a trick—but he can’t figure it out. 

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Rodolfo Fierro

It had to be a trick, Fierro insists, because, if it wasn’t, there were only two other explanations for such a calm demeanor in the face of impending death. 

The first was insanity. But Fierro rules this out: He had studied Berlanga’s eyes and found no madness there.

That leaves only one other explanation (other than a trick): Sheer courage. 

And Fierro can’t accept this, either—because it’s disturbing.  

“The power of men like me does not come solely from our ability to kill….No, the true source of our power is so obvious it sometimes goes unnoticed for what it is: our power comes from other men’s lack of courage.

“There is even less courage in this world than there is talent for killing. Men like me rule because most men are faint of heart in the shadow of death.

“But a man brave enough to control his fear of being killed, control it so well that no tremor reaches his fingers and no sign shows in his eyes…well. Such a man cannot be ruled, he can only be killed.”

Throughout his life, Trump has relied on bribery and intimidation. He well understands the power of greed and fear over most people.

What he doesn’t understand—and truly fears—is that some people cannot be bought or frightened. 

People like Elliot Ness. Like Robert Mueller. And like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

WHAT TYRANTS MOST FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 18, 2019 at 12:06 am

On July 14, President Donald Trump unleashed a brutal Twitter attack on four Democratic members of the House of Representatives who had harshly criticized his anti-immigration policies:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

“….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

“….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”  

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Donald Trump

The Democrats—all female, and all non-white—were:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York;
  • Rashida Tlaib of Michigan;
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the Congresswomen that Trump singled out:

  • Cortez was born in New York City.
  • Tlaib was born in Detroit, Michigan. 
  • Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Only Omar was born outside the United States—in Somalia. And she became an American citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old. 

Critics have assailed Trump as racist for implying that these women were not United States citizens. 

Moreover, as members of Congress, they had a legal right to declare “how our government is to be run.”  Republicans in the House and Senate vigorously—and often viciously—asserted that right during the Presidency of Barack Obama.

Ocasio-Cortez quickly struck back on Twitter on the same day: “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected , where fights for Michigan families, where champions little girls in Boston.

“You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.

“You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

But then followed the most significant part of Cortez’ reply:

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President? On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.

“You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

“You cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either.”

For all his adult life, Donald Trump—as a businessman, Presidential candidate and now President—has trafficked in bribery and coercion.  First bribery: 

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
  • After Bondi dropped the Trump University case, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. The money came from the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
  • Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to muzzle a former state regulator who says he was ordered in 2010 to drop a fraud investigation into Trump University for political reasons.
  • Paxton’s office issued a cease and desist letter to former Deputy Chief of Consumer Protection John Owens after he made public copies of a 14-page internal summary of the state’s case against Donald Trump for scamming millions from students of his now-defunct real estate seminar.
  • After the Texas case was dropped, Trump cut a $35,000 check to the gubernatorial campaign of then-attorney general and now Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
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Now coercion:
  • Throughout his career as a businessman, Trump forced his employees to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements, threatening them with lawsuits if they revealed secrets of his greed and/or criminality.
  • In 2016. USA Today found that Trump was involved in over 3,500 lawsuits during the previous 30 years: “At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings” were from contractors claiming they got stiffed.
  • On March 16, 2016, as a Republican Presidential candidate, Trump warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen, I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • An NBC reporter summed it up as: “The message to Republicans was clear: ‘Nice convention you got there. Shame if something happened to it.'”
  • Speaking with Bob Woodward, the legendary Washington Post investigative reporter, Trump confessed: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”
  • During his Presidential campaign he encouraged Right-wing thugs to attack dissenters at his rallies, even claiming he would pay their legal expenses. 

But when he has confronted men and women who can’t be bribed or intimidated, Trump has reacted with rage and desperation.

TRUMP’S INSULTS COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2019 at 12:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, diplomat and writer. Two of his books continue to profoundly influence modern politics: The Prince and The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

The Prince has often been damned as a dictator’s guide on how to gain and hold power. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and John Gotti have effusively praised its teachings.

But The Discourses outlines how citizens in a republic can maintain their liberty.

Machiavelli’s writings on republicanism greatly influenced the political thinking of America’s own Founding Fathers. For example: Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson feared that Alexander Hamilton was creating an American aristocracy through the Federalist Party. And they moved vigorously to oppose him.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 26 of The Discourses, Machiavelli advises:

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.

If Donald Trump has read Machiavelli, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine statesman’s advice. Or he decided long ago that it simply didn’t apply to him.

On November 18, 2018, Trump hurled a scatological insult at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of his frequent critics.

Trump’s was furious that Schiff had said on ABC’s “This Week” that the President’s appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was “unconstitutional” because he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate.

So, true to form, Trump responded with a tweet: “So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May, 2017, after Trump suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller didn’t require Senate confirmation for the position.

Schiff was quick to respond on Twitter: “Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?”

What made Trump’s insult not only infantile but self-destructive was that, on November 6, the Democrats had retaken the House of Representatives. 

For Trump, this spelled real danger. Even before taking office in 2017, he had been haunted by charges of conspiring with Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

And in six weeks, Schiff would become Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats returned in January. This would arm him with investigative powers even greater than those possessed by Mueller.

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Adam Schiff

Trump similarly relishes tossing insults at another longtime critic—Rep. Maxime Waters (D-CA). On June 25, 2018, he tweeted: “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party.” 

This also proved a mistake. After voters returned Democrats to running the House, Waters was slated to become Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

For Trump, this had to be a nightmare come true. Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, Trump had refused to release his tax returns—which every Presidential candidate has done since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Trump’s longstanding ties to Russian oligarchs and subservience to Vladimir Putin have fueled speculation that his returns could reveal some truly unscrupulous financial dealings.

Waters would now have the power to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and delve into the long-standing mystery of what he’s hiding.

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Maxine Waters

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly attacked 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.  The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

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

  • Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump fired him on November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats retook the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections.
  • Trump humiliated his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, six months after taking the job, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and wouldn’t tolerate it again.

With Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters now heading powerful House investigative committees, Trump will undoubtedly come to regret the fury his ill-advised insults have raised up against him.

Which leads to a final warning by Machiavelli: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

D-DAY BECOMES T- (TRUMP) DAY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 13, 2019 at 12:27 am

For most Americans, June 6th marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. A time to remember and celebrate the more than 160,000 troops—73,000 of them Americans—who liberated France from Nazi slavery. 

But for President Donald Trump, D-Day was simply another opportunity to slander men and women he considered “enemies of the people.”

On that day, President Donald Trump was to join European leaders—such as England’s Queen Elizabeth II and France’s President Emmanuel Macron—in celebratory observance.

But for Trump, honoring the dead—and a handful of D-Day survivors present at the ceremony—was a distant priority. 

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Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

First must come a soft-ball “interview” with Right-wing Fox News Network—even if it meant postponing the opening of D-Day ceremonies until he deigned to show up.

And conducting that interview was Right-wing Fox News host Laura Ingraham—who gave a stiff-armed Nazi salute at the 2016 Republican National Convention that nominated Trump for President.

Laura Ingraham: What could you do to unite the country at a time of great polarization, what else could you do? 

Donald Trump:  So, I think success should unite the country but I will tell you the more successful we’ve come the more angry people like Nancy Pelosi, who don’t have what it takes, if they don’t know what’s going on they get angry. They should — an example is Mexico, I said we’re going to put tariffs on because we want you to help us because they won’t pass any legislation in Congress and I have Senators and others and Pelosi coming out saying how horrible. 

What they’re doing is they’re hurting a deal, they should be saying we’re with the President, we’ll do whatever he wants to do and Mexico would fold like an umbrella. Now, I have these people and I’m saying there’s some republicans too,

[NOTE: Since becoming President, Trump has repeatedly tried—and failed—to curb illegal immigration from Central and South America. In May, he threatened to slap tariffs on goods from Mexico unless its government imposed strict controls over would-be immigrants traveling through its borders.]

On June 7, 2019, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist Peter Wehners appeared on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

Shields—a liberal, and Wehner, a conservative—reached disturbingly similar conclusions about the behavior of President Donald Trump on the 75th anniversary celebration of the D-Day landings.

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Peter Wehner and Mark Shields

Peter Wehner:  in terms of watching it, it reminded me of why it was the Greatest Generation. It’s been called the Greatest Generation.The more you find out about what happened 75 years ago on Normandy Beach, the more extraordinary is, the courage and the valor and selflessness…

But, for me, what was, well, frankly, sickening was this interview that Donald Trump did with Laura Ingraham on Fox News, not just what he said, but where he said it. He had thousands and thousands of gravestones behind him, these people who had been cut down in the prime of their life. And he was attacking Nancy Pelosi and Robert Mueller, who himself was a—was a war hero, in petty terms.

And to have done it then was, in my mind, a desecration at a sacred place. And it was another window into the bonfire of anger and resentments and grievances that is Donald Trump.

Mark Shields: I would just add this….that the 9,388 Americans, husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, sweethearts are buried there who either died at Normandy or in the liberation of France. And it was a time in this country, it was a we generation, not a me generation.

I mean, we had 20 million victory gardens that civilians built that provided 40 percent of the vegetables for the whole country. We rationed everything from gasoline, to liquor, to cigarettes, to butter, to meat….

And all Americans were part of the collective effort, the collective sacrifice, and it was led by those at the top….The president of the United States had four sons. Every one of them served in combat. Every one of them was awarded in combat. You take the…sickly son of a multimillionaire, who asked his father to use his contacts to get him into combat, John Kennedy, rather than stay out….

One out of four American males served in World War II. And now we have one-third—one-percent of Americans serving. And they are serving over and over and over again.

Judy Woodruff (moderator): It’s been 75 years, Peter Wehner. What remains in the American psyche from that?

Wehner:  Well, we’re an angry country, a more divided country, and a more tribalistic country than we were then. It’s important to say that, in many ways, we’re a better country too, if you’re a minority or a woman, all sorts of things where we have made progress….

The thing is that the American capacity for self-renewal can be great. And sometimes, when virtues are taken from the life of the nation and an individual, you remember why they matter to begin with. And, hopefully, commemorations like this can—can remind us that there are things that are worth fighting for and worth living for.

D-DAY BECOMES T- (TRUMP) DAY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

June 6, 2019, marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied invasion to liberate France from Nazi Germany, which proved one of the pivotal actions of World War II.

Shortly after midnight, on June 6, 1944, 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops launched an airborne assault on German positions. This was followed at 6:30 a.m. by an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the French coast.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in history. More than 160,000 troops landed—73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel—the legendary “Desert Fox”—commanded the German forces. For him—and the Germans—the first 24 hours of the battle would be decisive.

Initially, the Allied assault seemed likely to be stopped at the water’s edge—where Rommel had insisted it must be. 

German machine-gunners and mortarmen wreaked a fearful toll on Allied soldiers. But commanders like United States Army General Norman Cota led their men to victory through a storm of bullets and shells.

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Omaha Beach – June 6, 1944

The allied casualty figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 4,414 dead. By nationality, the D-Day casualty figures were about

  • 2,700 British
  • 946 Canadians
  • and 6,603 Americans.

The total number of German casualties on D-Day isn’t known, but is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.

One of those who traveled to Normandy, France, to commemorate that Allied sacrifice was President Donald J. Trump. Others included England’s Queen Elizabeth II and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

On June 6, 2019,  Trump granted an interview with Right-wing Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

With the crosses of fallen World War II heroes visible over his shoulder and aging veterans waiting for  the  D-Day commemoration ceremony to begin, Trump kept everyone waiting for him to show up.

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Donald Trump’s D-Day love-fest

In fact, he bragged about it on camera:  “Listen to those incredible people back there,” Trump said, motioning towards the ceremony stage. “These people are so amazing, and what they don’t realize is that, I’m holding them up because of this interview. But that’s because it’s you.” 

Although Trump had admitted—on air—that he was holding up the D-Day ceremony for this interview, Ingraham later told Fox viewers: “By the way, some of you may have heard or read that President Trump supposedly held up the entire D-Day ceremony in order to do this interview with me. That is patently false. Fake news.”

Ingraham opened by asking about D-Day—whose honoring ceremonies her interview was preempting. Then she moved on to topics guaranteed to arouse Trump’s bile.

Laura Ingraham: We passed Nancy Pelosi as we were walking up to the stage earlier, she said some pretty harsh things over the last 24 hours, leaked out from her caucus, she said I don’t want to impeachment, I want him in prison, meaning you. How do you work with someone like that?

Donald Trump: I think she’s a disgrace. I actually don’t think she’s a talented person, I’ve tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She’s incapable of doing deals, she’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person, the Mueller report came out, it was a disaster for them.

They thought their good friend Bobby Mueller was going to give them a great report and he came out with a report with 13 horrible, angry Democrats who are totally biased against me. A couple of them worked for Hillary Clinton, they then added five more, also Democrats, with all of that two and a half years think of it, from before I even got elected they’ve been going after me and they have nothing.

[NOTE: On a day for honoring the sacrifices of America’s soldiers. Trump savaged Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who had served as a Marine Corps infantry platoon commander during the Vietnam War.

Among the military awards he received were:

  • The Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” for heroism (for saving a wounded Marine while under enemy fire).
  • The Purple Heart Medal (awarded for wounds in combat).
  • Two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat “V”.

Trump, on the other hand, is a five-time Vietnam war draft-dodger who falsely claimed he suffered from “bone spurs” in his heels.]

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Robert Mueller

Ingraham: Do you mind if he testifies still, before you said you didn’t care if Mueller testified.

Trump: Let me tell you, he made such a fool out of himself the last time she—because what people don’t report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony because his testimony was wrong but Nancy Pelosi, I call her nervous Nancy, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t talk about it. Nancy Pelosi’s a disaster, OK, she’s a disaster and let her do what she wants, you know what?

[NOTE: There is a longtime tradition in American politics that no criticism is aimed at a President when he’s traveling overseas.

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, held to that tradition while she attended the D-Day ceremonies. Asked to respond to Trump’s attacks on her, she said: “I don’t talk about the president while I’m out of the country. That’s my principle.” 

Trump, however, did not adhere to the same principle.]

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 11, 2019 at 12:02 am

Nazi Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler wasn’t crazy, as many of his critics charged. He knew what he wanted to achieve—and why.

He intended to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public. After he succeeded, Germany became a nation where there was:

  • No independent press to reveal his failures and crimes.
  • No independent law enforcement agencies to investigate his abuses of office.
  • No independent judiciary to hold him accountable.
  • No independent military to dissent as he recklessly hurtled toward a disastrous war that would leave Germany in ruins.

Those are exactly the priorities of President Donald J. Trump. 

He has already assaulted the integrity of:

  • American Intelligence agencies: By publicly blaming the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Russian President Vladimir Putin—for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential elections.
  • American law enforcement agencies: By firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The press: By tweeting, on February 17, 2017: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • The Judiciary: By repeatedly attacking Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first anti-Muslim travel ban. 

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Donald Trump

Now he’s turning his attention to the American military.

  • Trump appointed former Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense. But when Trump announced his intention to withdraw American military forces from Syria, Mattis resigned in December, 2018.
  • Mattis offered to stay in office until February, 2019, to ensure a smooth transition for his successor. But Trump, his ego outraged, forced Mattis to leave by the end of December.
  • The military sees foreign commitments as essential to American security—whether against ISIS or the former Soviet Union.
  • But Trump believes that alliances like NATO are “ripping off” the United States. And he believes he was elected to end foreign entanglements.
  • Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser. But after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 Presidential election, McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” of Russia cyber-meddling. 
  • This publicly contradicted Trump’s claim that reports of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election were “a hoax.”
  • Six weeks later, McMaster was forced out of the administration. 

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H.R. McMaster

  • In November, 2018, Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace, during an interview with Trump, noted that retired Adm. William McRaven had said: “The President’s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime.”
  • Trump then dismissed McRaven—who had spearheaded the operation that killed Al-Qaedar leader Osama bin Laden—as a “Hillary fan.” 
  • “He was a Navy SEAL 37 years,” said Wallace. Trump, refusing to give McRaven—one of the most highly respected men in the United States military—any credit, said: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?”

Some members of the military are responding favorably to Trump.

During his 2019 trip to Japan, Trump gave a Memorial Day address aboard the USS Wasp in Yokosuka. Many of the American service attending were photographed wearing patches inspired by his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” 

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The matching patches showed the face of a man that’s presumably Trump (though notably more handsome) along with the text, “Make Aircrew Great Again.”

This may have violated the Pentagon’s strict rules barring soldiers from showing political preferences.

“All military personnel will avoid the inference that their political activities imply or appear to imply DoD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of a political candidate, campaign or cause,” the policy states.

Retired Army General Stanley McChrystal, during a December 30, 2018 interview on “This Week,” warned: “If the U.S. military becomes politicized, it will be something we’re not happy with.”

The incident on Memorial Day was not the first time active-duty service members displayed Trump-affiliated apparel.

In December, 2018, Trump engaged in campaign activities by by signing “Make America Great Again” caps for during an unannounced visit to Iraq. Dozens of troops were photographed bringing MAGA hats to the event for the president to sign. 

Other members of the military are responding—carefully—to Trump’s savage attacks on its members and his erratic style of government. 

According to a December 24, 2018 edition of the Palmer Report, military leaders are now going out of their way to avoid “interacting directly” with Trump. They fear that he might issue an impulsive and destructive order—which they would be legally obligated to follow.

More startling: Departing Secretary of Defense Mattis ordered them to, for the safety of the nation.

Mattis believed that Trump was dishonorable—and deranged enough to give destructive or incoherent military orders at any moment.

Columnist Bill Palmer warned that this amounted to a “soft coup.” 

But then he asked: “Then again, when the ‘President’ of the United States is merely a guy who treasonously conspired with a foreign enemy to rig the election in his favor, and was not legitimately elected to anything, can you even have a coup against him?”

TRUMP: CREATING HIS OWN WEHRMACHT—PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2019 at 12:05 am

President Donald Trump is notorious as a non-reader. Nevertheless, he seems poised to re-enact one of the most fateful events in 20th century history.

First, that event: On August 2, 1934, the aged German President Paul von Hindenburg died.

Adolf Hitler had been serving as Reich Chancellor—the equivalent of attorney general—since January 30, 1933. Within hours, the Nazi Reichstag [parliament] announced the following law, back-dated to August 1st:

“The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.”

Immediately following the announcement of the new Führer law, the German Officer Corps and every individual soldier in the German Army was made to swear a brand new oath of allegiance:

“I swear by God this holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Führer of the German Reich and People, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unconditional obedience, and that I am ready, as a brave soldier, to risk my life at any time for this oath.” 

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Soldiers swearing the Fuhrer Oath

In the past, German soldiers had sworn loyalty to Germany. Now they had sworn it to a single man.

For men of honor in uniform, conspiracy against the Führer now meant betrayal of the Fatherland itself. They considered this oath sacred, overriding all others. And the vast majority would fanatically obey it right to the end of the disastrous war Hitler was leading them into.

Yet even that didn’t give Hitler the absolute control over the Armed Forces that he sought. 

Since taking command of Germany in the summer of 1934, Hitler wanted to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. Both were convinced that Hitler’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy was putting Germany on a collision course with war—a war the Fatherland could not win.

Hitler, in fact, meant to go to war—and despised Fritsch’s and Blomberg’s hesitation to do so. He decided to rid himself of both men. But how? 

Accident played a part in the case of Blomberg.

On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of German officers. Hitler was infuriated at having served as a witness to the ceremony.

But he also saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg—who was forced to resign.

Shortly after Blomberg was forced out in disgrace, the SS—Hitler’s private police force—presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938. 

From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.

Adolf Hitler

Hitler had a timetable of conquest:

  • On March 7, 1936, he seized the Rhineland, the demilitarized zone between Germany and its arch-enemy, France.
  • On March 12, 1838, he “unified” Austria with Germany by annexing it.
  • In September, 1938, he seized a large portion of western Czechoslovakia after that nation’s British and French “allies” sold it out at the infamous Munich Conference.
  • On March 15, 1939, he ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia.
  • On September 1, 1939, he ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II and the eventual destruction of Nazi Germany.

No one yet knows if Donald Trump has a plan of conquest outside the United States. But he seems intent on attacking the top command of its armed services—and its sacred traditions.

Donald Trump

On January 1, 2019, Trump—in a tweet—declared war on retired Army General Stanley McCrystal: “‘General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!”

The reason for Trump’s ire: McCrystal had given a December 30, 2018 interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Asked if he thought Trump was “a liar,” he replied: “I don’t think he tells the truth.”  Asked: “Is Trump immoral, in your view?” McCrystal replied: “I think he is.”

McChrystal had become a legend among Special Warfare soldiers during the 2003 Iraq War. He had turned Joint Special Operations Command into one of the most efficient killing machines in history.  

In 2010, McChrystal resigned as the commander of the Afghan War. Some officers on his staff made disparaging remarks about top officials working for President Barack Obama. Even worse, they made them to a Rolling Stone reporter.  

Trump took office with strong support by military brass. Among his appointees:

  • Retired four-star Marine General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.
  • Retired four-star Marine General John Kelly as, first, Secretary of Homeland Security and then Chief of Staff.
  • Retired three-star Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn for National Security Adviser.
  • Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster succeeded Flynn as National Security Adviser after Flynn was forced out of the White House for lying about his ties to Russian oligarchs.

But now Trump is eager to tear down the generals.

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