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“TREASON”: TRUMP LIKES THE SOUND OF THE WORD: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump routinely makes fun of others.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, he infamously mocked New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, a congenital condition affecting the joints.

In 2018, Trump viciously attacked Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who had come forward to allege that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her when she was 15. 

But he holds himself immune from ridicule. 

On September 26, Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, rose to the occasion.

Adam Schiff

During a hearing of his committee, he gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody. It centered on an extortion call Trump had made on July 25 to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump had wanted a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

Unspoken was the threat of cancelling $400 million in promised American military aid to Ukraine. 

So Schiff—whose committee is investigating that incident—gave a summary of that call during a hearing.

It wasn’t the news summary part that infuriated Trump, but the mockery included within it.

As Schiff explained to CNN: “The fact that that’s not clear is a separate problem in and of itself. Of course, the President never said, ‘If you don’t understand me I’m going to say it seven more times.’ My point is, that’s the message that the Ukraine president was receiving in not so many words.” 

Trump had aimed his own brand of juvenile humor at Schiff in the past, referring to him as “little Adam Schit.”

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Donald Trump

But for Schiff to dare to make fun of him was—for Trump—entirely too much.

“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people,” Trump tweeted. “It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?” 

Trump is the first President to openly equate criticism—especially mockery—of himself with treason. Like the French King, Louis X1V, he believes: L’État, c’est moi—“I am the State.”

And treason is a crime that has traditionally been punished with death.

So Trump more than gave the game away when he tweeted, on October 7: “Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people.

“This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly ‘Colluded’ with them, must all be immediately Impeached!” 

Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House of Representatives, has done nothing that meets the Constitutional definition of treason: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” 

Moreover, members of Congress cannot be impeached. Impeachment is a Congressional tool for investigating judges or executive branch officials they believe may have committed crimes. 

No doubt many people believe that Trump wouldn’t dare ask his hand-picked Attorney General, William Barr, to indict Adam Schiff or Nancy Pelosi for treason. 

Of course, there were many people who believed that Trump wouldn’t dare fire FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Or that he would openly call on a hostile foreign power—China—to intervene in the 2020  Presidential election.

A President who can invite a hostile foreign power to slander his political opponent can just as easily call on a hostile foreign power to assassinate that opponent. 

Trump has claimed: “Let me tell you, I’m only interested in corruption. I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about Biden’s politics….”

But if Trump were concerned about fighting corruption, he wouldn’t have:

  • Focused his anti-corruption campaign entirely on Biden;
  • Defended his former 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who made millions working for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych;
  • Praised others mired in corruption scandals—such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump is counting on Americans’ awe of the Presidency to convince them of his integrity.

But according to Robert A. Prentice, Professor of Government and Society at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin: 

“President Donald Trump’s lying is off the charts. No prominent politician in memory bests Trump for spouting spectacular, egregious, easily disproved lies. The birther claim. The vote fraud claim. The attendance at the inauguration claim. And on and on and on.

“Every fact checker—Kessler, Factcheck.org, Snopes.com, PolitiFact—finds a level of mendacity unequaled by any politician ever scrutinized. For instance, 70 percent of his campaign statements checked by PolitiFact were mostly false, totally false, or “pants on fire” false.”

Donald Trump prides himself on setting Presidential precedents. He may turn out to be the first President who invoked “treason” against his political opponents—and was himself found to be a menace to the nation he claimed to love.

“TREASON”: TRUMP LIKES THE SOUND OF THE WORD: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 10, 2019 at 12:07 am

In 2016, Donald Trump asked Russia to intervene in the upcoming Presidential election.

At a July 22, 2016 press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “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.

And on October 3, 2019, Trump called on another foreign—and enemy—nation to churn out “dirt” on another Democratic Presidential candidate: Former Vice President Joe Biden: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

Head shot of Trump smiling in front of an American flag. He is wearing a dark blue suit jacket, white shirt, light blue necktie, and American flag lapel pin.

Donald Trump

Asked if he had requested China’s “President-for-Life” Xi Jinping to do so, Trump replied: “I haven’t. But it’s certainly something we should start thinking about.”

Trump’s comments came just one week before a Chinese delegation was to arrive in Washington to resume protracted trade negotiations.

And to make certain the Chinese got the message, Trump warned: “I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

Despite Trump’s accusations, there has been no evidence of corruption by Biden or his son, Hunter. 

Having twice called on foreign—and enemy—nations to subvert American Presidential elections, Trump feels himself qualified to define who is guilty of treasonous behavior. 

Enter Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

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Adam Schiff

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Schiff tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

Then, even worse for Trump’s ego, Schiff went further. He dared to parody Trump’s extortion attempt.

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Joe Biden

On September 26, during a session of the Intelligence Committee, Schiff gave a dramatic reading—part news summary, part parody—of the call with Zelensky.

He prefaced the reading by saying, “In not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates.

“President Zelensky, eager to establish himself at home as the friend of the President of the most powerful nation on earth, had at least two objectives: Get a meeting with the President and get more military help. And so what happened on that call?

“Zelensky begins by ingratiating himself, and he tries to enlist the support of the President. He expresses his interest in meeting with the President, and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.

“And what is the President’s response? Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown.

“Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the President communicates. ‘We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here.

“‘I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent. Understand? Lots of it, on this and on that.

“‘I’m going to put you in touch with people, and not just any people. I’m going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general, Bill Barr. He’s got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I’m going to put you in touch with Rudy [Trump’s personal attorney and fixer].

“‘You’re going to love him [Giuliani]. Trust me. You know what I’m asking? And so I’m only going to say this a few more times in a few more ways. And by the way, don’t call me again. I’ll call you when you’ve done what I asked.'”

Schiff later told CNN that he was trying to mock the President’s conduct.

The next day, September 27, Trump demanded in a tweet that Schiff “immediately resign.”

Trump, of course, has no power to force a member of Congress to resign.

And on September 29, Trump tweeted: “….Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..” 

Treason? 

“TREASON”: TRUMP LIKES THE SOUND OF THE WORD: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 9, 2019 at 12:03 am

The American colonists had learned firsthand how capricious and deadly a monarch’s rage could be. Under English law, “treason” could be liberally applied to anyone who offended the Royal Personage.   

For example: During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, John Stubbs, an English pamphleteer and political commentator, opposed her proposed marriage to Francis, Duke of Anjou, a Roman Catholic—and the brother of the King of France. 

Stubbs, a Puritan who hated Catholicism, damned in in a scathing pamphlet—which infuriated Elizabeth’s court. At first, the Queen favored the death penalty. But then she was persuaded to choose a lesser sentence: Amputation of his right hand by driving a cleaver driven through the wrist with a mallet.

After the sentence was carried out, Stubbs cried, “God save the Queen!” before fainting. He was then imprisoned for eighteen months.

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Queen Elizabeth 1

So when the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution of the United States, they specifically restricted the definition of treason.

In Article III, section 3, the framers wrote:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

The Constitution permits the United States Congress to create the offense, and restricts any punishment for treason to only the convicted (the second paragraph). The crime is prohibited by legislation passed by Congress.

The United States Code, in 18 U.S.C. 2381, states:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

For President Donald Trump, treason means any opposition to or criticism of himself. 

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Donald Trump

A tyrant by nature, he envies foreign tyrants who have powers to slaughter anyone they dislike. Among the proofs of this:

  • During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s killing of political opponents. When O’Reilly noted, “But he’s a killer,” Trump replied: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
  • Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father.…If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do) %5D, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Of Philippines dictator Rodrigo Duterte, whose death squads have slaughtered more than 6,000 citizens, Trump said: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
  • After Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracked down on Turkish civil society, the media, and his opponents, Trump congratulated him: “Frankly, he’s getting very high marks. He’s also been working with the United States. We have a great friendship and the countries—I think we’re right now as close as we’ve ever been….a lot of that has to do with a personal relationship.”
  • And at a party fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort in March, 2018, Trump praised China’s dictator Xi Jinping: “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.”

Nor has Trump blanched at calling on foreign dictators to destroy his political opponents.  

On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists with ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The participants included:

  • Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.;
  • His son-in-law, Jared Kushner;
  • His then-campaign manager Paul Manafort; 
  • Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Putin; and 
  • Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected of “having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence.”

The purpose of that meeting: To gain access to any “dirt” Russian Intelligence could supply on Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton. 

And at a July 22, 2016 press conference in Doral, Florida, Trump said: “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.”

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

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

And on October 3, 2019, Trump called on another dictator—China’s “President-for-Life”” Xi Jinping—to churn out “dirt” on Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH BULLYING

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 4, 2017 at 12:05 am

Every year, the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) bestow Golden Globe awards to recognize excellence in television and film, both inside and outside the United States.

And on Sunday, January 8, the presenters honored actress Meryl Streep with the Cecil B Demille lifetime achievement Award.

Since 1979, she’s been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor—15 nominations for Best Actress and four for Best Supporting Actress.

She won Best Supporting Actress in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, Best Actress in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice and again in 2012 for The Iron Lady.

But when Streep appeared to accept her latest award, she had a nomination of her own to present: One for a performance that “broke my heart.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

It had come in real life, not a movie. And the performer she nominated was Donald Trump, for his mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter in 2015.

The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.

Since declaring his Presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, Trump had attacked the patriotism of America’s Islamic population. He claimed that he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

To prove this, Trump cited a September 18, 2001 article written by Kovaleski when he was a reporter for The Washington Post.

In this, Kovaleski wrote that police “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties.”

After Trump mentioned the story, Kovaleski said that the key word in it was “allegedly,” adding that there were no credible reports of such celebrations.

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from his article.

To mock Kovaleski, he flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.’”

Attacked for mocking Kovaleski’s disability, Trump claimed: “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago–if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did.”

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Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

But Kovaleski quickly contradicted Trump: He had covered Trump as a reporter for the New York Daily News and had met him face-to-face on at least a dozen occasions.

So Meryl Streep knew what she was talking about when she said:

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Kelleyanne Conway served as Trump’s mouthpiece during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She continued in that rule as he prepared to take office as President on January 20.

And she was thoroughly upset with Streep’s remarks.

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts.

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”  

What common ground she didn’t say. Agreeing on mocking the disabled?

Not to be outdone in “inciting people’s worst instincts,” President-elect Trump quickly took to Twitter—his preferred mode of communication.

Since Twitter allows only 140 characters, Trump couldn’t say all he wanted in one tweet. So it took three:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

In 2015—before she insulted him—Trump told The Hollywood Reporter: “Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.” 

“AMBUSH AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

After being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Meryl Streep criticized Donald Trump’s mocking of disabled New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.  

Kovaleski suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.  

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from an article he had written four years earlier.

Trump had earlier said the article proved that New Jersey Muslims had celebrated the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Kovaleski had insisted there was no credible proof of such celebrations.  

Angered at being contradicted, Trump mocked Kovaleski: He flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”

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Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

At the Golden Globe Awards on January 8, Streep denounced this behavior that “broke my heart.”

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. 

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

Streep’s words outraged Trump’s supporters–especially his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway. 

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts. 

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”

Conway didn’t say what common ground Streep should find with Trump. Perhaps agreeing on mocking the disabled? 

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Kelleyanne Conway

Then Conway visited CNN’s “New Day,” where she offered a “black-is-white” defense for Trump’s videotaped ridiculing of Kovaleski: It didn’t happen.  

The host, Chris Cuomo, having seen the video, wasn’t buying it.

CUOMO: But is [Streep] wrong? Is she wrong that it was wrong for Trump to make gestures like that about a man with disabilities?  

CONWAY: He didn’t–but that is not what he did and he has said that a thousand times. As he tweeted out today–

CUOMO: He can say it a million. Look at the video.

CONWAY: Why can’t you–wait, excuse me. Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt the way the benefit of the doubt was given to CNN’s polling, all of its analysts?

CUOMO: Because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video talking about Serge.

CONWAY: Not about that reporter and that’s just a fact. That is what he’s said. You should give him–

CUOMO: But how is it not about the reporter?

CONWAY: –the deference and respect if he says that it was–he was not mocking, he was mocking the groveling. He said it again this morning. He has three tweets out about it.

CUOMO: But he’s doing a gesture that goes right to the guy’s vulnerability.

CONWAY: You’re saying you don’t believe him. You’re calling him a liar and you shouldn’t.

CUOMO: Look, Kellyanne, to me that’s like you’re trying to scare me off the point and we both know it’s a waste of time.

CONWAY: I’m not going to scare you off anything.

CUOMO: He’s making a gesture that is so keenly tuned to what Serge’s vulnerability is. 

CONWAY: And now you’re giving oxygen to what Meryl Streep said.

CUOMO: Forget about Meryl Streep. This happened before her. If our kids did that, could you imagine what we would say to them?  

Conway said she would not bring her children into the discussion.

CUOMO: I will. If my kid did something like that, it’d be a really tough day.

CONWAY: You have to listen to what the president has said about that. Why don’t you believe him? 

Conway tried to change the subject to Hillary Clinton: “She was given the benefit of the doubt here constantly.”  

When Cuomo asked for specifics, she refused to give them.  Then she returned to claiming that Trump had never mocked Kovaleski:

CONWAY: You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this, when he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth, rather than look at what’s in his heart.  

* * * * *

Previously, politicians had defended themselves with arguments like: “You can see right here on the tape, I did (or, I didn’t)….”  

Trump has cast aside that logic–and the taped evidence–by demanding: “Believe what I’m telling you, not what you’ve just seen.”

By that rationale, if a security camera shows Trump robbing a bank at gunpoint, we’re supposed to believe him if he says: “No, I didn’t rob that bank. I was simply checking my bank balance.”

Such “logic” holds appeal for paid shills like Kelleyanne Conway. But most people will continue to judge by the evidence.

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2017 at 12:02 am

For five years, Donald Trump, more than anyone else, popularized the slander that Barack Obama was born in Kenya–and was therefore an illegitimate President.

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued doing so. 

As his popularity fell to less than 1% among blacks, the managers of his campaign urged: Put the “birther” issue behind you.

So, on September 16, 2016–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.  

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Donald Trump: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”

He did so in about seven seconds and 40 words–after spending a half hour paying tribute to the military and promoting his new upscale hotel in Washington, D.C.:

“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.”  

His tone made it clear that he felt uneasy making that statement–and wanted to get it over with as fast as possible.

He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. Nor did he apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.  

On the evening of September 16, Hillary Clinton strongly responded to Trump’s comments: 

“For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie. There is no erasing it in history.”  

And First Lady Michelle Obama slammed Trump for his “birther” claims: 

“Then, of course, there were those who questioned, and who continue to question for the past eight years, and up to this very day, whether my husband was even born in this country.

“Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the examples he set, by going high when they go low. And he’s answered these questions with the progress we’ve achieved together.” 

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Michelle Obama

But perhaps the best perspective on this event was provided by syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Each Friday they appear on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

On September 16, Shields (a liberal) and Brooks (a conservative) addressed Trump’s about-face on birtherism.    

MARK SHIELDS: “I think it’s important to establish right at the outset that [Trump] wasn’t only the loudest and the highest-profile and the most persistent and the most well-publicized birther, he, Donald Trump. He lied. He lied consistently and persistently.

“And, today, without explanation or excuse, he just changed his position and tried to absolutely falsely shift the blame onto Hillary Clinton.

“And this was an appeal to–he debased democracy. He debased the national debate. He appealed to that which is most ignoble or least noble in all of us.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Usually, there’s some tangential relationship to the truth, but a corroding relationship to the truth, frankly, as politics has gone on over the years.

“But now we’re in a reverse, Orwellian inversion of the truth with this. And so we have a team of staffers and then the candidate himself who have taken the normal spin and smashed all the rules.

“And so we are really in Orwell land. We are in 1984. And it’s interesting that an authoritarian personality type comes in at the same time with a complete disrespect for even tangential relationship to the truth that words are unmoored.

“And so I do think this statement sort of shocked me with the purification of a lot of terrible trends that have been happening. And so what’s white is black, and what is up is down, what is down is up. And that really is something new in politics.

“And the fact that there is no penalty for it, apparently–he’s doing fantastic in the last two weeks in the polls–is just somehow where we have gotten.”  

Less than two months later, Trump won the Presidency.  

Since then, Trump has continued to inhabit what David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

The most recent example of this occurred on January 9, 2017.  

The night before, Meryl Streep had enraged Trump and his mouthpiece, Kelleyanne Conway, at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

While being presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, she had criticized Trump’s mocking, on November 25, 2015, of disabled New York Times reporter Serve Kovaleski:  

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. 

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.” 

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 12, 2017 at 12:10 am

In 2011, Donald Trump, host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Barack Obama.

Seeking to gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

SEALS attacking bin Laden’s compound in the 2012 movie, “Zero Dark Thirty”

And how did Trump respond?  With the following series of Tweets on Twitter:

May 18, 2012:  “Let’s take a closer look at that birth certificate.@BarackObama was described in 2003 as being “born in Kenya.” http://bit.ly/Klc9Uu

August 6, 2012: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama‘s birth certificate is a fraud.”

August 27, 2012: “Why do the Republicans keep apologizing on the so called “birther” issue? No more apologies–take the offensive!”

September 13, 2012: “Wake Up America! See article: “Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake” 

June 30, 2013: @davidrhythmguit: @realDonaldTrump @Chuffman48 Mark Cuban accepts the fact that the President of the United States was born here. Doubt it”

August 22, 2013: “Why are people upset w/ me over Pres Obama’s birth certificate? I got him to release it, or whatever it was, when nobody else could!”

December 12, 2013:  “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s “birth certificate” died in plane crash today. All others lived”

November 23, 2014: “@futureicon: @pinksugar61 Obama also fabricated his own birth certificate after being pressured to produce one by @realDonaldTrump

Even after declaring his candidacy for President on June 16, 2015, Trump continued to insist that Barack Obama was an illegitimate President.

Meanwhile, Trump’s popularity among blacks had steadily fallen. In June, 2016, a Quinnipiac poll revealed that Trump had 1% of support from black voters. By comparison, 91% of black voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Among the reasons for this:

  • His enthusiastic support by racist white supremacist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
  • His “birther” attacks on President Obama as a non-citizen from Kenya–and thus ineligible to hold the Presidency.
  • His attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement and calling on his supporters at rallies to rough up minority protesters.

Even the managers of Trump’s campaign urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

And so, on September 16–10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton–Trump made his version of a reversal.

In doing so, he entered into what conservative New York Times political columnist David Brooks called “Orwell land.”

“AMBUSHED AT CREDIBILITY GAP”: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 11, 2017 at 12:02 am

“Credibility gap” is a term that came into use during the mid-1960s to describe public and journalistic distrust of President Lyndon B. Johnson. In particular, the term was applied to his administration’s conduct of the Vietnam war.

It was, in short, a euphemism for accusing government officials of outright lying.

An example of the credibility gap in full swing appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 Vietnam war movie, Full Metal Jacket

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Vietnam was a war where military and political officials spewed a gung-ho version of constant American progress against a tough enemy.

And where civilian reporters like David Halberstam and Walter Cronkite saw–and labeled–the war as a brutal, wasteful and ultimately doomed effort. 

Midway through the film, there’s an editorial meeting of The Sea Tiger, the official Marine newspaper.

Lieutenant Lockhart is presiding–and he is determined to give his superiors an endless stream of “all-systems-go” propaganda reports. He reads a series of stories that have been published:

Story #1: DIPLOMATS IN DUNGAREES–MARINE ENGINEERS LEND A HELPING HAND REBUILDING DONG PHUC VILLAGES.

LOCKHART: “Chili, “if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.”

Story #2: N.V.A. SOLDIER DESERTS AFTER READING PAMPHLETS.

LOCKHART: “A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.”

Story #3: NOT WHILE WE’RE EATING: N.V.A. LEARN MARINES ON A SEARCH AND DESTROY MISSION DON’T LIKE TO BE INTERRUPTED WHILE EATING CHOW.

LOCKHART: “‘Search and destroy.’  Uh, we have a new directive on this. In the future, in place of ‘search and destroy,’ substitute the phrase ‘sweep and clear.’ Got it?” 

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Lt. Lockhart, editor of The Sea Tiger 

LOCKHART:  “And, Joker–where’s the weenie?”

JOKER:  “Sir?”

LOCKHART  “The Kill, Joker. I mean, all that fire, the grunts must’ve hit something.”

JOKER:  “Didn’t see ’em.”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, I’ve told you, we run two basic stories here: Grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorants–winning of hearts and Minds–okay? And combat action that results in a kill–Winning the War. Now you must have seen blood trails … drag marks?”

JOKER:  “It was raining, sir.”

LOCKHART:  “Well, that’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending–say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper or an officer. Grunts like reading about dead officers.”

JOKER:  “Okay, an officer. How about a general?”

LOCKHART:  “Joker, maybe you’d like our guys to read the paper and feel bad. I mean, in case you didn’t know it, this is not a particularly popular war. Now, it is our job to report the news that these why-are-we-here civilian newsmen ignore.”

So great became the divide between truth and lies during military “press briefings” that reporters started calling them “The Five O’clock Follies.” And even some soldiers took to wearing buttons that said: “Ambushed at Credibility Gap.”

Reporters who dared to write truthfully about the military’s crimes and failures–like David Halberstam of the New York Times and Peter Arnett of the Associated Press–were regarded as traitors by military and political officials.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy became enraged by Halberstam’s reporting on the corruption of the South Vietnamese government. He pressured New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to transfer Halberstam to another locale. Sulzberger politely refused–and then extended Halberstam’s stay in Vietnam another six months.

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David Halberstam

In 1965, when CBS Correspondent Morley Safer filmed Marines setting fire to the village of Cam Ne with Zippo lighters, President Lyndon B. Johnson was similarly outraged.

He placed an early-morning call to CBS News President Frank Stanton and shouted: “Your boys shat on the American flag!”

The trail of deceit and attempted censorship continued right up to the end of the war–in April, 1975. That was when North Vietnamese forces invaded the South and quickly overwhelmed the incompetent defenses arrayed against them.

And while America was still bogged down in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal erupted on June 17, 1972.

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Watergate Hotel

Members of the Nixon administration’s secret “Plumbers Unit” burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel.

Obsessed with re-electing Richard Nixon, they sought incriminating information to discredit U.S. Senator George McGovern, the Democrats’ nominee for President.

When the burglars were caught, President Richard M. Nixon and his topmost officials lied and stonewalled both reporters and investigators seeking the truth.

Nixon’s press secretary, Ronald Ziegler, repeatedly slandered the integrity of The Washington Post for its coverage of the mushrooming Watergate scandal. He called the Watergate break-in “a third-rate burglary” and attacked the Post for “shabby journalism.”

Finally, on April 17, 1973, Ziegler, announced at a press conference: “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.”

In short: We’ve been lying to you for the last 10 months.  But now we’re telling the truth.

Like Vietnam, the Watergate scandal destroyed the reputations of many of its chief architects. Forty government officials were indicted or jailed.

Vietnam and Watergate were seminal events for Americans coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They taught an entire generation: Don’t trust the government.  Its officials routinely lie, and their lies can be deadly.

FINDING COMMON CAUSE WITH BULLYING

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 10, 2017 at 12:06 am

Every year, the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) bestow Golden Globe awards to recognize excellence in television and film, both inside and outside the United States.

And on Sunday, January 8, the presenters honored actress Meryl Streep with the Cecil B Demille lifetime achievement Award.

Since 1979, she’s been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor–15 nominations for Best Actress and four for Best Supporting Actress.

She won Best Supporting Actress in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, Best Actress in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice and again in 2012 for The Iron Lady.

But when Streep appeared to accept her latest award, she had a nomination of her own to present: One for a performance that “broke my heart.”

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Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes

It had come in real life, not a movie.  And the performer she nominated was Donald Trump, for his mockery of a disabled New York Times reporter in 2015.

The reporter, Serge Kovaleski, suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that restricts the movement of the muscles in his arms.

Since declaring his Presidential candidacy on June 16, Trump had attacked the patriotism of America’s Islamic population. He claimed that he had seen Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.

To prove this, Trump cited a September 18, 2001 article written by Kovaleski when he was a reporter for The Washington Post.

In this, Kovaleski wrote that police “detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties.”

After Trump mentioned the story, Kovaleski said that the key word in it was “allegedly,” adding that there were no credible reports of such celebrations.

At a South Carolina rally on November 24, 2015, Trump claimed that Kovaleski was backing away from his article.

To mock Kovaleski, he flopped his right arm around with his hand held at an odd angle while imitating the reporter: “Now, the poor guy, you’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember. Maybe that’s what I said.'”

Click here: Donald Trump mocks disabled New York Times reporter – Donald Trump mocks reporter with disability – YouTube

Attacked for mocking Kovaleski’s disability, Trump claimed: “Serge Kovaleski must think a lot of himself if he thinks I remember him from decades ago–if I ever met him at all, which I doubt I did.”

Image result for Images of Serge Kovaleski

Trump mocking Kovaleski, left; Kovaleski, right

But Kovaleski quickly contradicted Trump: He had covered Trump as a reporter for the New York Daily News and had met him face-to-face on at least a dozen occasions.

So Meryl Streep knew what she was talking about when she said:

“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

“Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence.  When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Kelleyanne Conway served as Trump’s mouthpiece during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She continues in that rule as he prepares to take office as President on January 20.

And she was thoroughly upset with Streep’s remarks.

Appearing on Right-wing Fox and Friends the next morning, she said: “We have to now form a government, and I’m concerned that somebody with a platform like Meryl Streep is also, I think, inciting people’s worst instincts.

“When she won’t get up there and say, ‘I don’t like it, but let’s try to support him and see where we can find some common ground with him, which [Trump] has actually done from moment one.”  

What common ground she didn’t say. Agreeing on mocking the disabled?

Not to be outdone in “inciting people’s worst instincts,” President-elect Trump quickly took to Twitter–his preferred mode of communication.

Since Twitter allows only 140 characters, Trump couldn’t say all he wanted in one tweet. So it took three:

Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a…..

Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him…….

“groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!

In 2015–before she insulted him–Trump told The Hollywood Reporter: “Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too.” 

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