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Posts Tagged ‘THE PBS NEWSHOUR’

TRUMP: IGNORING MACHIAVELLI AT HIS PERIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 20, 2020 at 12:05 am

For all his ruthlessness and duplicity, it’s almost a certainty that Donald Trump has never read the works of Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) is widely thought of as the personification of Satan.

In fact, Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Cesare Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Contrary to popular belief, Machiavelli did not advocate evil for its own sake. 

Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect solution to a problem. He realized that men—and nations—are not always masters of their fates. And he warned that there is no course of action that is guaranteed safe or successful.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a man of simplistic “solutions” for simplistic audiences.

By early April, he opposed the issuing of a national “stay-at-home” order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. But, one by one, states began issuing shutdown orders of their own. Since then, he has railed against those orders and demanded that “we need to reopen the country.” 

Donald Trump

What lies behind this demand are two hidden agendas:

First, throughout his Presidency, Trump has claimed sole credit for a booming economy—even though this was largely the result of the administration of President Barack Obama.

Second, Trump wants to return to his Nuremberg-style rallies, where he can slander anyone he wants while basking in the worship of thousands of his fanatical followers.

His White House “Coronavirus briefings” have been his pale substitute for dispensing propaganda under the guise of sharing reliable medical information.

Which is why he has clearly missed this warning, offered in Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses:  

…I shall speak here only of those dangers to which those expose themselves who counsel a republic or a prince to undertake some grave and important enterprise in such a manner as to take upon themselves all the responsibility of the same. 

“For as men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations.  But the reward never equals the punishment….

“Certainly those who counsel princes and republics are placed between two dangers. If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail of their duty….

“I see no other course than to take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly. 

“If either then the republic or the prince decides to follow it, they may do so, as it were, of their own will, and not as though they were drawn into it by your importunity.

“In adopting this course it is not reasonable to suppose that either the prince or republic will manifest any ill will towards you on account of a resolution not taken contrary to the wishes of the many.”

Right now, more Americans are wary of “reopening the country” than they are rushing to do so. 

On the May 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, New York Times columnist David Brooks noted:

“If you look at actual behavior, people locked themselves down before any politician took a move. And even in those states where the politicians are opening up, people are still locking down….

“You look at the movement based on cell phone tracking. Red and blue states have the same amount of movement. The same number of people basically in state after state are staying home. And red and blue states, there’s no correlation between whether it’s a red and blue state and whether people are doing better or worse.

“And so I think the key decisions right now are not being made in statehouses and certainly not the White House. They’re being made in living rooms, as people decide, is it safe? Can I go out?”

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

By pushing his mantra—“America needs to reopen NOW!”—Trump is risking the lives of millions of Americans. But he is also risking the future of his Presidency.

Several states—such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—that have re-opened have seen swarms of people flooding into bars and restaurants. They weren’t wearing masks or practicing “social distancing.” Packed together like sardines, they offered themselves like a sacrifice to Coronavirus.

If a new wave of COVID-19 breaks out after America “reopens,” Trump will be seen—as Machiavelli warns—as the primary instigator of that “reopening.” He will also be seen as the primary cause of that re-infection. 

Herbert Hoover did not create the Great Depression. But he presided over the first three years of it. And that was enough to elect Franklin D. Roosevelt for 12 years and give Harry S. Truman another eight.

Trump—unintentionally—is offering Democrats another chance to own the Presidency for a generation.

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.

Related image

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.

Related image

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?  

“JUST ANOTHER WEEK IN CALIGULA’S ROME”—AND TRUMP’S WASHINGTON

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2019 at 12:16 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.

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.

Related image

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.

Related image

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—like firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. 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?  

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