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UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2018 at 12:23 am

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, outlined the career and demagogic tactics of Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

He did so on his CBS news show, “See It Now,” at the height of the “Red Scare” hysteria that McCarthy had whipped up four years earlier.

Virtually any American could find himself accused of being a Communist, or a “Comsymp,” or a “fellow traveler.” Such an act could rob him of friends, family, his job, even his liberty on the flimsiest of evidence.

Meanwhile, Republicans cowered before McCarthy’s attacks on the press, the military, the judiciary and law enforcement—or joined his chorus. Protecting the nation’s social and political institutions took a distant second place to attacking Democrats as Communist traitors.

Today, 64 years later, another demagogue—Donald Trump—casts an even darker shadow across the land. As the President of the United States, he commands far more power than McCarthy ever did. 

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Donald Trump

  • He freely slanders anyone—famous or anonymous, athlete or disabled, politician or philosopher—who dares contradict him. Or for whom he simply takes a disliking to.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty—the way Joseph Stalin expected his secret police chiefs to operate.
  • He hounded Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe into resigning, and then fired him 24 hours before he was to receive his pension after 21 years of sterling service.
  • He fired his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson—by tweet—while Tillerson was still on an official visit to Africa.
  • He has, in short, forced most Americans to re-think their longtime assumption that a dictatorship can’t happen here.

Today, only those Republicans who have decided to retire from Congress dare to criticize Trump. The rest fear he will aim a nasty tweet at them—and cost them Fascistic voters,  perhaps even their offices.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller—a career prosecutor with the highest reputation for integrity—struggles to discover the truth about Russian electoral subversion and the Trump campaign’s collusion in it.

Every day he faces the danger of being fired by the very man whose criminal associates he’s investigating. And yet Republicans refuse to enact a law that would protect him against such abuse of power.

At this time, Murrow’s warnings about Joseph McCarthy need to be seriously reconsidered. Just substitute “President” for “Junior Senator” and “Trump” for “McCarthy,” and Murrow’s text could have been written yesterday.

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 Edward R. Murrow

On one thing the [President] has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, [defamed] many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to [terrorism], [slamdered] and substantially demoralized the present State Department….

He has [slandered] a varied assortment of what he calls [“the enemy of the American people.”]

Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont said of [Trump] today: “He dons war paint; he goes into his war dance; he emits his war whoops; he goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink army dentist.”

It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the [President of the United States] has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of [terrorism].

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another.

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose [President Trump’s] methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.

There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the [President of the United States] have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his.

He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph 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.”

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 style 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.

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

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

On March 9, 1954, at the height of the McCarthy hysteria, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, delivered a powerful blow against the Senator’s dictatorial tactics and agenda. He did so on his high-rated CBS program, “See It Now.”

Edward R. Murrow

Today, 64 years later, Murrow’s eloquent appeal for moral courage in the face of tyranny still stands, and is still worth remembering.

This is especially true since the United States finds itself once again endangered by a fearful demagogue. But this one is even more dangerous than McCarthy.

For, unlike McCarthy, he commands the Justice Department to bludgeon his “enemies” at home and the Defense Department to literally destroy any country he dislikes abroad.

He is the President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump

Even before taking office on January 20, 2017, he was dogged by charges that Russian Intelligence agents had aided his 2016 Presidential campaign. And that members of his campaign had actively colluded with them.

The FBI, headed by James Comey, was then investigating that alleged collusion. Then, on May 8, 2017, Trump abruptly fired Comey from his position as FBI director.

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice.

Mueller had dedicated almost his entire adult life to serving the Justice Department:

  • United States Attorney for Massachusetts (1986–1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990–1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998–2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001 – May 10, 2001) and
  • Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2001-2013);

Mueller had amassed a solid reputation for integrity and efficiency. So highly respected was he that when he planned to retire after serving out the mandatory 10-year term as FBI director, both Democrats and Republicans prevailed on him to stay on until President Barack Obama could find a suitable replacement for him.

That replacement turned out to be James Comey, Mueller’s former deputy director at the FBI.

Rosenstein now charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community.

But he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

From the outset of that investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire Mueller, just as he did Comey.

Those fears increased over the weekend of Marcy 17-18, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter:

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

DONALD TRUMP’S GOAL: “PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2018 at 12:06 am

And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.   

—Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”

In a closed-door speech to Republican donors on March 3, President Donald Trump proved the accuracy of Plutarch’s observation. 

He praised China’s President, Xi Jinping, for recently assuming full dictatorial powers: “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.” 

The statement was greeted with cheers and laughter by Republican donors.

And, in making that unguarded statement, Trump perhaps has revealed his ultimate intention: To overthrow America’s constitutional government.  

Since taking office as the Nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has attacked or undermined one public or private institution after another.

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Donald Trump

Among these:

  • American Intelligence: Even before taking office, Trump refused to accept the findings of the FBI, CIA and NSA that Russian Intelligence agents had intervened in the 2016 election to ensure his victory.
  • “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   
  • And when FBI Director James Comey dared to pursue a probe into “the Russia thing,” Trump fired him without warning. 
  • American law enforcement agencies: Trump has repeatedly attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from agents pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • He repeatedly attacked the integrity of Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe until the latter resigned.
  • He has threatened to fire Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election. 
  • He intended to fire Mueller during the summer of 2017, but was talked out of it by aides fearful that it would set off calls for his impeachment.
  • American military agencies: In February, 2017, Trump approved and ordered a Special Forces raid in Yemen on an Al Qaeda stronghold. The assault cost the life of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
  • Disavowing any responsibility for the failure, Trump said: ““This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do. They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do–the generals–who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we’ve had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan.”
  • The press: On February 17, 2017, Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes@NBCNews@ABC@CBS@CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
  • Seven days later, appearing before the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, Trump said: “I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake….I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be put out there.”
  • The judiciary: Trump has repeatedly attacked Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • In one tweet, Trump claimed: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”  
  • At Trump’s bidding, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government.”
  • President Barack Obama: For five years, Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya—and was therefore not an American citizen.
  • Even after Obama released the long-form version of his birth certificate—on April 27, 2011—Trump tweeted, on August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

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Barack Obama

  • On March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President 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!”    

Trump was later forced to admit he had no evidence to back up his slanderous claims.

* * * * *

Donald Trump isn’t crazy, as many of his critics charge.  He knows what he’s doing—and why.

He intends to strip every potential challenger to his authority—or his version of reality—of legitimacy with the public.  If he succeeds, there will be:

  • 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 hurtles toward a nuclear disaster.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge  him for re-election in 2020.
  • No candidate—Democrat or Republican—to challenge his remaining in office as “President-for-Life.”

THE RUSSIANS AREN’T COMING–THEY’RE HERE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 30, 2017 at 12:10 am

On March 28, a White House press conference turned into a battlefield.  

The contestants: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer vs. April D. Ryan, the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network.  

Ryan noted that President Donald J. Trump would soon receive a visit from Condoleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. She also noted that, in 2006, Trump had “called her a negative name.”  

Although she didn’t utter the word, it was “bitch.”

Spicer: But at some point, the reality is that this president continues to reach out to individuals who’ve supported him, who didn’t support him, Republicans, Democrats, to try to bring the country together and move forward on an agenda that’s gonna help every American. That’s it. Plain and simple. 

Donald Trump

[Actually, it isn’t “plain and simple.”  Since taking office, Trump has made no effort to “reach out to individuals…who didn’t support him.” Nor has he tried “to bring the country together.”  

[On March 4, he libeled Barack Obama in a series of tweets, accusing the former President of illegally wiretapping his phones at Trump Tower. Since making that accusation, Trump has offered absolutely no proof to back it up.

[Nor has the Justice Department or FBI come forward with such evidence.] 

So, if you’re asking what we’re doing, I think we continue to do it. Which is to bring groups together that have been supportive of him, that haven’t been supportive of him, but that to share a goal which is finding common ground on areas of national security, of personal security, of economic security, of job creation, of safer communities, of education, of healthcare, that can unite us as a country and make the country stronger.

[It’s ironic that Spicer would say the administration’s goal is “finding common ground on areas” such as “healthcare.” Trump’s version of “repeal and replace” for “Obamacare” totally ignored any input by Democrats. On March 23, the House failed to pass Trumpcare because Republicans couldn’t agree to support it.

[Following her face-off with Spicer, Ryan had a message of her own for The Washington Post: “This is just par for the course, unfortunately. But I’ll be back. I’ll be back.”]  

* * * * *

Trump’s admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin has been well-established–by himself.  

On the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said:  “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

The program’s host, Joe Scarborough, noted: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?” 

TRUMP: “I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.”

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Vladimir Putin

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.

At a press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump declared: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing–I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election. 

As President, Trump has defended the leader of the Communist world against hostile journalists and American Intelligence agencies.

On February 5, he gave an interview to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. As startled viewers watched, there occurred this exchange: 

O’REILLY: “Do you respect Putin?”

TRUMP: “I do respect him but—” 

O’REILLY: “Do you? Why?” 

TRUMP: “Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him. He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not.

“And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world —that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”

O’REILLY: “But he’s a killer though. Putin’s a killer.” 

TRUMP: “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think—our country’s so innocent? You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Trump launched his Presidential campaign on June 16, 2015.

According to The New York Times, by late October, 2016, he had aimed nearly 4,000 insulting tweets at 281 targets. 

Among those insulted:

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

Considering his hair-trigger temper and willingness to insult virtually anyone, Trump’s careful, even fawning attitude toward Vladimir Putin stands out. 

Following Trump’s February 5 remarks on Putin, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it best:

“I want to know what the Russians have on Donald Trump. I think we have to have an investigation by the FBI into his financial, personal and political connections to Russia, and we want to see his tax returns, so we can have truth in the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.”

THE RUSSIANS AREN’T COMING–THEY’RE HERE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2017 at 12:05 am

It was the verbal equivalent of a prizefight.  

In one corner was April D. Ryan, the longtime White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Network.

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April D. Ryan

In the other corner was Sean Spicer, White House press secretary for President Donald J. Trump.  

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

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

Trump has repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post

On March 28, disgusted with the administration’s stonewalling and outright lying, reporter April Ryan directly confronted Sean Spicer at a White House press conference.  

The result was explosive.

April Ryan: With all of these investigations, questions of what is, is? How does this administration try to revamp its image two and a half months in? You’ve got this Yates story today, you’ve got other things going on. You’ve got Russia. You’ve got, you’ve got wiretapping. You’ve got —

Sean Spicer: No, we don’t have that. You’ve …

Ryan: There are investigations on Capitol Hill– 

Spicer: No, no, no. I get it. But you keep — I’ve said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You’ve got Russia. If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection.

Sean Spicer

But every single person. No. Well, no, that’s … I appreciate your agenda here. But the reality is … oh no, no. Hold on, no, at some point, report the facts. The facts are that every single person who has been briefed on this subject has come away with the same conclusion. Republican, Democrat.

[This is a lie. In fact, the more digging that goes on, the more embarrassing revelations turn up of collusion between high-ranking administration officials and Russian agents or monies.]

So, I’m sorry that that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head. I appreciate it. But, but …

Ryan: … I’m trying to understand …

Spicer: But understand this. At some point, the facts are what they are. And every single person who has been briefed on this situation with respect to the situation with Russia, Republican, Democrat, Obama-appointee, career, have all come to the same conclusion.

[Another lie.  The FBI is now investigating contacts between Russian Intelligence agents and members of the Trump Presidential campaign.]

At some point, April, you’re gonna have to take no for an answer with respect to whether or not there was collusion.

Ryan: How do you change the perception of, of…

Spicer: We’re going to keep doing everything we’re doing to make sure that the president’s — that what the president told the American people he was going to do, to fulfill those pledges and promises that he made, to bring back jobs, to grow the economy, to keep our nation safe.

That’s what he’s been focused on since day one. We’re going to keep focusing on that every single day.

[In short: We’re going to continue to lie and deny.]

Ryan: Condi Rice [Secretary of State under President George W. Bush] comes Friday. Condi Rice did not support this president. She did not go to the convention. She comes, what is on the agenda?

And how is their relationship? Has it healed since 2006 when he used a very negative word to describe her?  

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Condoleeza Rice

[The word was “bitch.” In 2006, Trump told an audience at a Learning Annex convention speech: “Condoleezza Rice, she’s a lovely woman, but I think she’s a bitch. She goes around to other countries and other nations, negotiates with their leaders, comes back and nothing ever happens.”] 

Spicer: So here’s what I’ll tell you. It’s interesting that you ask those two questions back to back. On the one hand you’re saying what’re we doing to improve our image? And then here he is, once again, meeting somebody that hasn’t been a big supporter of his. Hold on ...

Ryan: He called her a negative name in 2006.

Spicer: But, April, hold on. It seems like you’re hellbent on trying to make sure that whatever image that you want to tell about this White House stays, because at the end of the day.  Let me answ ….

Ryan: … call her that name. I am just reporting what —

Spicer: Okay, but, you know what, you’re asking me a question and I’m going to answer it. Which is, the president, I’m sorry, please stop shaking your head again.

But at some point, the reality is that this president continues to reach out to individuals who’ve supported him, who didn’t support him, Republicans, Democrats, to try to bring the country together and move forward on an agenda that’s gonna help every American. That’s it. Plain and simple.

[Actually, it isn’t “plain and simple.” And additional proof of this will be offered in Part Two of this series.]

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