Category Archives: Trump

The Only one who Matters

 

I think there is a lot we can learn about Donald Trump from those who worked most closely with him. They got to see the real Trump.  What was that like?

His Attorney General Bill Barr who served to very near the end of the first Presidency  got to know Trump very well. Bill Barr summed up his views of the president he served so faithfully for so long this way: “He will always put his own interests, and gratifying his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest.” In itself this is astonishing. But even more astonishing is the fact that millions of Americans continue to believe in this man’s ability to lead the country. Because really that was obvious to all of us.  How is that possible?

As Mark Epson one of his Secretaries of Defense, said, “He puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country.” Again this not surprise.

Mike Pence his ultra loyal Vice-President who also served him faithfully until Trump demanded that Pence ignore the constitution and the will of the electorate put it this way: “Anyone who puts himself over the constitution should never be president of the United States…President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the constitution.I chose the constitution.”

When it comes to Trump, everyone knows him. He does not often hide his true self. He has been in the news more than any other many alive. He has bared his soul and his true character over and over again. There is nothing more anyone needs to know. Trump cares only about one person—himself. No one should ever expect anything different. This is part of his DNA.

They described a narcissist who cared about no one other than himself. Even the members of his family were of little concern. He did not care about his party. The country was of no concern.

Should such a man be elected president of the United States?

What do Trump’s People think about Trump?

 

 

It is beginning to look more and more likely that the American people with their arcane election system are about to re-elect Donald Trump as their next president. To many of us that seems insane, but nonetheless it almost seems inevitable. (I hope I am wrong about this).

 We know that Trump supporters support him with religious devotion. Therefore, they dismiss out of hand insults from “libs” “woke’ or the “enemy.” Such critics are easy to dismiss. But what about people—good Republicans all—who worked with Trump. What do they say about Trump?  When you look it is amazing.  No president has left such a train of naysayers behind him.

Bob Woodward wrote a book called “Fear: Trump in the White House,” in which he detailed the astonishing chaos in the president’s immediate orbit. But even that is a drop in a bucket of slime flung at Trump by those who gave up on Trump after working with him.  These are people who really know Trump. The numbers of former Trump workers who have nothing good to say about him is literally staggering.

As Josh Dawsey in the Washington Post,

“No president has ever attracted more public detractors who were formerly in his inner circle…. Additionally, more than a dozen people once in his employ could end up taking the stand and providing testimony as part of multiple criminal trials, according to people with knowledge of the cases and court documents.

At the same time, even some who have publicly declared Trump unfit for office have said they would still support him over Biden in 2024.

So far, Trump has surged toward the GOP nomination even as former aides critical of him have blanketed the airwaves, giving scathing speeches, testifying on camera in front of congressional committees and penning books — shaking off the kinds of condemnations that could mortally wound another politician.”

 

That of course is the amazing thing about Trump—his loyal followers continue to follow him no matter what. I have characterized this as religious devotion and I think that is correct. Correct and scary. I shudder whenever political leaders, no matter who they are, attract theological reverence. I consider that deeply dangerous. But for now I want to consider the words of those who worked with him, knew him, and gave up on him. Later we must look at the devoted.

 

The Weak President versus the Lying President

 

Edward Luce of the  Wall Street Journal and David Frum of The Atlantic were interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on his show the Global Public Square.  After the recent debate between Trump and Biden, only about 25% of Americans, including about half the Democrats believe Joseph Biden is competent to be president compared to about 44 % who believe Trump is competent. Both bad numbers, but Biden is now in a much worse position. Trump is 19 points ahead on this important issue.

 

Many believe Biden performed very badly in the debate. From what little I saw I agree he performed badly. But in my view Trump performed even worse, but in a different way.  Trump released an avalanche of lies and absurd hyperbolic remarks which clearly demonstrate that Trump is entirely separated from the truth. He has been called unhinged for good reason.

 

Who is less worthy of being president of the United States?  The liar or the incompetent?  According to David Frum,

 

“What we have here is a debate between the fire brigade and the arsonists. We are in this jam because the Republican Party is rallying around somebody who tried to overthrow an election thus the constitution…Who is a proven fraudster. Who has half a billion dollars of claims against him for civil frauds and who is a convicted criminal in New York with many more trials to come.

 

Zakaria pointed out that “even by Donald Trump’s standards it was really extraordinary how much he lied. He was totally unconstrained by even pretending to doff his cap to the truth. In the good old days, there had to be at least a kernel in there somewhere of the truth. ” CNN counted 30 major lies he made during the debate. Trump even claimed to negotiate insulin prices down for seniors when that was something Biden did, not him.

 

Luce agreed entirely. He said, “There was an unhinged unending Orwellian stream of lies from Trump, even by his standards…We have watched Mitch McConnell call Trump ‘a despicable human being there on stage.”

 

Luce said you could basically pick any one of his statements to look at if you wanted to challenge the truth. He lied from start to finish.

 

What really surprises me is how Republican supporters at least fail to take this into consideration. They know he lies, but they don’t care.

 

When 2 political candidates are considered, we must always remember such comparisons are not made in a vacuum. We must compare who is worse or who is better. This is because, as one political pundit said, “Mother Theresa is never on the ballot.”

 

No matter how competent he is, I would rather have Biden as the American president than Donald Trump.

 

 

What’s Sauce for the Goose is not Sauce for the Gander

 

I am very grateful for the Winnipeg Free Press reminding me what Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.  If you recall, she was being investigated for using a private email server instead of the presumably more secure State Department server when she was the Secretary of State. This is what Trump said at the time:

 “She shouldn’t be allowed to run … If she wins, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and, ultimately, a criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt.”

And please remember at the time Clinton was being investigated, no chargers were ever laid so obviously there was no conviction. This is unlike Trump who has now been convicted on 34 counts of filing false business records in relation to his payments to Stormy Daniels pursuant to a non-disclosure agreement in order to keep the truth of the payments from the American electors. So, according to Trump, Clinton should not have been allowed to run even though she was not charged at the time he said that, and never was charged, while Donald Trump who was convicted of a felony should be allowed to run even though potentially he might be imprisoned during or after the election.

Clearly, Trump does not believe that what is sauce for the goose is sauce fro the gander.

Trump is a strong believer in a double standard. One for himself and one for everybody else.

Felon

 

I admit it. I am shocked. Earlier today, I predicted to friends that I believed Donald Trump would be acquitted of all 34 charges against him. The verdict is in. Donald Trump, the president of the United States,  is a convicted felon. I was dead wrong!  I freely admit it. The jury found him guilty on all charges.  I admit I could not be happier and believed he richly deserved this defeat. The American jury system stepped up and did its job. I underestimated it.

 

We must remember that this is Trump’s second jury trial. The first jury ruled that he was responsible for sexually abusing a woman, even though he had vigorously denied it outside of court. Though of course, he chose not to testify under oath and subject to cross examination even after promising he would testify. Effectively the jury in a civil case said he was guilty of sexual abuse! That is a very serious conclusion. That jury reached that verdict by a majority decision of jurors after hearing all of the evidence, listening and considering the cross examination of the witnesses by expert expensive lawyers, and listening to arguments from lawyers for both sides.

This second trial was different. It was a criminal trial. The first trial was decided on the basis of a preponderance of the evidence. The second trial had to be decided by a unanimous jury on each of the 34 charges. And the second jury had to believe Trump was guilty on a higher standard of proof, namely, proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Basically, they had to decide he was undoubtedly guilty based on the evidence.  Again, the jury had to carefully listen to all of the evidence, not just statements from Trump or statements from the prosecutors or liberal commentators. The jurors listened to all the evidence and all of which was subject to cross examination by the best lawyers money can buy. That of course is the money of the Trumpsters that was donated to Trump. Reputedly that was in the millions of dollars paid by campaign contributions. Again, the jury had to listen to arguments from both lawyers for the prosecution and defence. The jury listened to instructions about the law from a judge who is trained and experienced to be impartial and fair.

This is not fake news. This is fact.  Donald J. Trump the ex-president of the United States is a convicted felon. The second jury decided that Donald Trump knowingly paid hush money to a porn star to silence her in order to keep that information from the American electors and then falsified the business records to accomplish this goal. They had to believe he intended to cover up a crime for each of the charges.

Once again Trump decided not to testify under oath subject to cross examination, contrary to his promises. Each day (or many days) at the end of the day during the trial, he chose instead to speak not under oath and not subject to rules of law about what could be said, and not subject to cross examination, but outside the courtroom to reporters. He did not present any evidence to support his claims that the trial was rigged and the judge was corrupt. None. He just made the statements. The witnesses for the prosecution on the other hand, were each cross examined, in some cases brutally and at great length, by experienced lawyers.

Again, none of this is fake news.  CNN did not make this up. It is real.

America is a badly divided country. Millions of people believed Trump’s lies and as a result the country is deeply polarized about this man, but it is time for the division to stop. It is time for Trumpsters who have supported him through thick and thin to concede defeat and admit they were wrong. We all make mistakes.  I just admitted to making a big one in this post. They should give up and support President Biden even if they sincerely believed Trump was the better option. We all make mistakes. His supporters all made a big one. They supported Trump. It is time for his supporters to end the division in America for the good of the country and admit they were mistaken and that everyone should now support Biden.

 

Trump and Miller are wrong-headed about Immigration

 

During my last week in Arizona, I was at a small party where the Americans were complaining that there were a lot of jobs that just weren’t getting done. I spoke up loudly (OK too loudly) that the problem with the United States was that it needed more immigrants.  Everyone was quiet. I think I was right. 

The position of Trump and Miller on immigration was wrong-headed, because it was motivated by resentment against immigrants rather than an honest evaluation of the role they have played in the American economy. As Paul Krugman explained,

 

…negative views of the economics of immigration are all wrong. Far from taking jobs away, foreign-born workers have played a key role in America’s recent success at combining fast growth with a rapid decline in inflation. And foreign-born workers will also be crucial to the effort to deal with our country’s longer-term problems.

 

Many Americans don’t realize how well the United States has done at recovering from the pandemic. The Republicans in particular blame Biden, when really they should be acknowledging that in many respects he was right about how to deal with the consequences of the pandemic. Even though they spent an enormous amount of money trying to recover from the pandemic, the US has managed to stand-out compared to other western countries because it has combined disinflation with remarkably vigorous economic growth. According to Krugman, a stellar economist, the problem is that there has been an extraordinary growth in the American labor force. And where did that growth come from? It came from Immigrants!

This is what Paul Krugman said,

How much of that growth was due to foreign-born workers? All of it. The native-born labor force declined slightly over the past four years, reflecting an aging population, while we added three million foreign-born workers.

Did those foreign-born workers take jobs away from Americans — in particular, native-born Americans? No. America in early 2024 has full employment, with consumers who say that jobs are “plentiful,” outnumbering those saying jobs are “hard to get,” by almost five to one. The unemployment rate among native-born workers averaged just under 3.7 percent in 2023, as low as it’s been since the government began collecting the data.

In fact, I’d argue that the influx of foreign-born workers has helped the native born. There’s a large research literature on the economic impact of immigration, which consistently fails to find the often predicted negative effects on employment and wages. Instead, immigrant workers often turn out to be complementary to the native-born work force, bringing different skills that, in effect, help avoid supply bottlenecks and allow faster job creation. Silicon Valley, for instance, hires a lot of foreign-born engineers because they bring something additional to the table; the same is true for workers in many less-glamorous occupations.”

There is no doubt that the pandemic produced enormous stresses on the economy and immigrant workers have helped to resolve those disruptions. This is how

Krugman put it this way:

 Foreign-born workers are crucial to America’s fiscal future. To a first approximation, the federal government is a system that collects taxes from working-age adults and spends much of the proceeds on programs that help seniors, such as Medicare and Social Security. Cut off the flow of immigrants, who are largely working-age adults, our system would become much less sustainable.

So while the mess at the border needs to be fixed — and could be fixed if Republicans would help solve the problem instead of exploiting it for political advantage — don’t let that mess obscure the larger reality that immigration is one of America’s great sources of power and prosperity.”

 

Americans should stop scapegoating immigrants for their imaginary problems and should instead be embracing them for helping Americans get through the pandemic and the economic problems it created. As Krugman said in another Times article:

“There is “growing evidence that immigration is helping the U.S. economy — indeed, that it may be a major reason for our surprising economic success.

America needs immigrants and benefits tremendously from them. Republicans don’t like that message, but it is true.

 

Hostility to Immigrants is exactly counter-productive

 

The fact is that Donald Trump and those he surrounds himself with, like Steven Miller, who drafts most of his immigration policies, such as the “Muslim ban,”  actually don’t like any kind of immigration at all. Or at least any immigration other than immigrants with extraordinary qualification. As economist Paul Krugman said,

“Trump and those around him are profoundly hostile to immigration in general. Partly this is xenophobia, if not outright racism. If you repeatedly declare, as Trump has, that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” you don’t really care if they came here legally, you’re all but saying that what matters is whether they’re white.”

 

But there is more to it than that. Trump and his minions don’t understand how immigration affects employment and the economy. Neither did I until I read Krugman.  This is what he said, “People close to Trump have a zero-sum view of the economy, in which every job taken by someone born outside the United States is a job taken away from someone born here.” They don’t realize that the work of one immigrant worker can add to the work needed of other Americans.

But Trump and his fellows believe that work done by one immigrant always take away jobs from other Americans. The architect of Trump’s policies, Here is how Trump and Miller screwed things up:

“Back in 2020, Stephen Miller, one of the architects of Trump’s immigration policies, told Trump supporters that one of the goals was to “turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor.” Remarkably, Trump issued an executive order meant to deny visas to highly skilled foreigners, many working in the tech sector. Miller and his boss apparently believed that this would mean more plum jobs for Americans, when what it would actually do was undermine American competitiveness in advanced technology.

 

America needs a lot of those workers it is trying to keep out of the country.By relentlessly attacking immigrants, Trump was making things worse for American workers!

Myths and Realities about Immigrants

 

Immigration issues are top and center in the current America election cycle. Talk to anyone here and they have opinions about immigration or the crisis at the border.

A Recent PBS poll showed immigration was the number one issue in the current political races for the US Senate, House of Representatives, and Presidency. This is particularly true in a border state like Arizona where we have been living. Everyone is willing to opine about immigration even people like me who know little about it. I have been trying to learn more while I have been here.

Many of the people I have talked to here in Arizona think refugees get all kinds of lavish benefits far beyond anything American citizens get. For example, I was told by a good friend here that they are entitled to a car!  My research indicates that is not true. Added to that, many Americans think refugee claimants are taking jobs away from Americans so they harm the poor in America.

Moreover,  many of Americans are convinced that the immigrants are responsible for a “crime wave’ in the country. Remember Trump called Immigrants rapists and murderers on the first day of his campaign in 2015! That continues to be Trump’s view and we must also remember that to many people—I call them Trumpsters—whatever Trump says on the issue is “gospel” truth whether there is any evidence to support them or not.  I choose that word advisedly because they treat him like a religious leader. Many of them nearly worship Trump. Trump himself has likened himself to God.

I want to consider some of these claims. I may make mistakes in this quest. If so, I urge my readers to correct me.

One of the economists I like to read is Paul Krugman who is Princeton professor of Economics as well as a New York Times columnist and winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2008. I confess he has a definite left-wing slant. I like him because he writes clearly on economics so a peasant like me can understand much of what he says.

First, he begins with the fairly obvious proposition that almost all modern nations will not tolerate open borders, and contrary to what Republicans in the US say, Democrats don’t advocate for open borders.

Very few people argue in favor of allowing anyone to choose to live in whatever country he or she wants to live. I have never met anyone who says that. As Krugman said, “The good news is that America doesn’t have open borders, and there is no significant faction in our politics saying we should. In fact, immigrating to the United States legally is fairly difficult.”

 Yet, Krugman admits that there is also bad news. That is that America has a very hard time enforcing its current rules.  The main problem though is that the authorities have inadequate resources to deal with the problem. Republicans in particular love to complain, and campaign on the “disaster at the border,” but they don’t want to pay the money to fix the problem however.

 

The most recent example of this reluctance was where the American House of Representatives rejected without even voting on it, the recent bill proposed by a group of non-partisans in the Senate. This group of non-partisans got the Democrats to agree to surprising compromises because they realized the American public was blaming them for the “disaster” at the southern border. That was why Trump instructed his sycophants in the House to reject the proposal which offered the toughest immigration laws in a generation! It also would provide sufficient funds to deal with the problem. At least more than has been allocated in the past. As Krugman said,

The reason they don’t have those resources is that many Republicans in Congress, while fulminating about a border crisis, appear determined to deny the needed funding. Their position is rooted in extraordinary political cynicism, and they aren’t even trying to hide it: Donald Trump has intervened with Republicans to block any immigration deal because he believes that chaos at the border will help his election prospects.

 

That is one of the problems, the Republicans want to rail against the catastrophe at the border but make no proposal to deal with it, reject advancing more money as the non-partisans agree. Instead, they want to rail against the problems because they know their supporters will jump to scapegoating the Democrats for everything that is wrong at the border.

I intend to examine in particular the economic realities at the border, which are very different from the economic myths.

Unite the Right with Hate

 

A transformational event for the far-right occurred on August 11 and August 12 2017 in the US.  This was during the presidency of Donald J. Trump and  It happened in a  college town called Charlottesville Virginia. As Professor Jacob Ware described this event to his listeners at Arizona State University, this was “where a group of outspoken, explicit, proud, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis, and anti-government extremists gathered in what they called a ‘Unite the Right Rally.’

Before the event, one of the main organizers, Jason Kessler, had been publicizing the event for months by his protests against the proposed removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This helped to fire up white supremacists and other right-wing extremists around the country. Even right-wing Canadians wanted to attend this event.

The trigger for the event was a threat to dismantle a Confederate statute in that community. A young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed during a domestic terrorist attack led by white supremacists. The attack was led by James Alex Fields Jr. who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people who were peacefully protesting the right-wing rally that was being held in Charlottesville. Only one person, Heather Heyer, was killed but 35 others were injured. As Wikipedia reported,

“Fields 20, had previously espoused neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs, and drove from Ohio to attend the rally. Fields’ attack was called an act of domestic terrorism by the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia’s public safety secretary, the U.S. attorney general, and the director of the FBI.”

 

Some witnesses reported that Fields’ vehicle sent protesters “flying through the air.” After the initial impact, Fields changed the car into reverse to target more people. He backed up at high speeds for several blocks with protesters chasing him.

Fields was subsequently convicted in a state court of the first-degree murder of Heyer, as well as 8 counts of malicious wounding and hit and run. He also pled guilty to 29  hate crime charges  presumably in order to avoid the death penalty. In typical America hyperbolic legal “justice,” Fields was sentenced to life in prison as well as 419 years for the state charges, with an additional life sentence for the federal charges.

As egregious an event as it was, it soon became an international sensation when President Trump entered the aftermath with his infamous tweets and statements. At first president Trump wavered about whether or not he should condemn the terrorists. Trump just could not bring himself to condemn outright the terrorism since the right-wing attackers did not look like terrorists to him. They looked like supporters, which many of them, of course were. How could be publicly criticize his base? That is not like him.

The marchers had been chanting repeatedly, “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.” as they carried their patio torches. This of course is a direct allusion to the common white supremacist trope that members of the American left are trying to replace whites with more compliant people from other races.  It was also clearly antisemitic. The closest he could come to criticism of his adoring fans was to say “I think there’s blame on both sides. You also had people, on both sides, who were very fine people.”  What was so fine about whites who mowed down protesters while chanting those racist memes? Recall, he did exactly the same thing on January 6, 2021when his staff insisted he tell the rioters to leave he did ask them to leave but first told them he loved them.

Trump has demonstrated a pattern of praising violent people who support his causes. He is always willing to do his best to unite the right with hate.

The reason this was such a pivotal event in the history of the rise of right-wing violent extremism is that those extremists realized they had a powerful friend and ally in very high places. In fact, they had an ally in the highest place in the land and this filled them with exuberance and confidence.

 

George Santos: The Fabulist

 

George Santos has become the subject of a tsunami of attention. People really are attracted to bullshitters. There is nothing wrong with that, unless they start to believe the bullshit.

Every one, it seems, wants a piece of George Santos now. Apparently, HBO wants to make an adaption of a new book about Santos perfectly named The Fabulist. In the book the point is made that we get the scammer we deserve. Like cheap politicians selling cheap beer.

According to Naomi Fry “the Trump era has opened the floodgates to politics as an out-and-out scam for those who wish to take advantage. I want to make it clear I do not think all politicians are scammers. That is not the case. I don’t want to be a part in shredding trust in politics. That is one of the things that is wrong with our current society. More and more people are losing that trust and that trust is vital for the survival of democracy.

America has had scammers in its history from day one. That is the point Kurt Anderson made in his book FantasyLand. Political scammers. Religious Scammers. Commercial scammers—you name it, they’re there.

The New Yorker podcast panel discussed a few famous American scammers in literature and real life. One of the panelists mentioned the Simpsons version of The Music Man, called “Marge vs. Zeller” (2020) where a travelling salesman Lyle Lanley and calls it a Shelbyville Idea. One of the townsfolk does not want to hear that. He says we are twice as smart as the people of Shelbyville. “Just tell us your idea and we’ll vote for it.” And what does he sell? He says Springfield needs a monorail. Even though Springfield doesn’t need a monorail. But Lanley seduces everyone. They beg for a monorail. That is what conmen do.

As Fry said, “The idea is that people will buy anything if you sell it to them in an attractive enough way. They want to believe. Whether it’s in religion or whether it’s in politics, or whether it’s in commerce, people just want to believe.”  That is exactly what the conmen do, and none has done it better than Donald Trump. He has sold his lie to millions and millions of people! That is what the 1980s televangelists did. As Fry said, “They said if you want your soul saved just send us money.” The key is usually the hyper desire of the scammed to believe the scam. When that is present anything is possible.