While many of us were busy with family and friends during the Thanksgiving weekend, spending time appreciating what we have and treasuring the value of those around us, the President of the United States took no time off from his argumentative, derisive, self-centered approach to his office. Whether in the White House or at his gold-plated palace at Mar-a-Lago, he hit on topics wide and far. He raged against the independent judiciary, taking on Chief Justice John Roberts in the process, he stated that no one should worry about the troops on the Mexican border missing Thanksgiving with their families, and many topics in between. His most troubling comments came last Tuesday when he released a statement about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia and the brutal murder and dismemberment of U.S. resident and Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi.
As you remember, Mr. Khassoggi was lured into the Saudi Embassy in Turkey and tortured, murdered and dismembered by a hit squad sent to do the deed by the de facto head of the Saudi government Mohammad Bin Salman, commonly called MBS by those that want him to be a positive factor in the future development of Saudi Arabia. Those that know the truth know that he is a reckless and ruthless autocrat bent on solidifying his own power as the Crown Prince in order to ensure that he has complete domination as the future king of Saudi Arabia.
Released on White House letterhead, this is the complete transcript of the statement, a statement that could only have been written by the president himself given the syntax, grammar and punctuation therein. We would be lucky if it only exhibited poor writing skills, but instead it runs counter to everything the United States stands for during the last seventy years or more.
The world is a very dangerous place!
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.
After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!
The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.
Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!
That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!
I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!
There is so much wrong, facts as well as policy, that it is difficult to know where to start. Let’s start at what should have been the beginning, the death of Jamal Khassoggi. Instead of starting with that fact, he does not address his brutal murder until the fourth paragraph, coming even after he has to congratulate himself on his trip to Saudi Arabia. To add injury to insult, he repeats the canard that Mr. Khassoggi was “an enemy of the state and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Even the Saudi government did not state that he was, after a trial balloon using that as a mitigating factor was vehemently denounced by multiple countries around the world. Mr. Trump brings it in as if it was some acceptable reason for murder. One of the president’s typical tricks. He paints someone negatively and then denies doing so saying that he didn’t say that, they did.
Even more troubling is Mr. Trump’s denouncing the American media as the “enemy of the people” and then using the term “enemy of the state” to describe a murdered journalist. No subtlety there, Mr. Trump just gave every dictator and two-bit autocrat in the world the green light to eliminate any journalist that they designate as an “enemy.”
As I and countless others have pointed out, the president grossly exaggerates the so-called “record amount of money” the Saudis will spend and invest in the United States. So far the Saudis only committed to spending about 14 billion dollars for a missile defense system. The other “hundreds of billions” of purchases and investments are only possibilities, ideas or something for an unspecified future. There is nothing on paper to justify the claims made by the president. Certainly, there is nothing to support the claim that any of it will “create hundreds of thousands of jobs.” The idea that the Saudis would spend that money buying Chinese or Russian goods and military equipment is, in a word, preposterous. Since World War II the Saudis sought out and continue to use U.S. training, equipment, spare parts, ammunition and logistical support for their military. They can not and would not turn to any other country over night to spend money on military items.
Once again for the record, Mr. Trump seems to be influenced by no other world events since the 1973 oil embargo when it comes to assessing the impact of Saudi oil on the market. The U.S. is a larger producer of oil than Saudi Arabia (thanks to fracking and shale oil, but that’s another story). The entire Saudi economy (and all of those claimed purchases and investments in the U.S.) depend on oil. They can impact prices, but not to the extent that Mr. Trump claims. Indeed the crown jewel of ARAMCO refineries, the national Saudi oil company, is in the United States in Port Arthur, Texas. Would they really cut off oil shipments to their own refinery? (The products from the refinery ship to many places in the world, not just the United States.) And oh by the way, the Saudis do not work “closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world.” They do what is best for them. Lower oil prices right now, according to economic analysts, are due primarily because the impact of the embargo on Iran was minimal (its oil is still mostly on the market), the world economy has not expanded as quickly as expected and thus demand is lower, and other economic reasons, not Mr. Trump’s relations with the Saudis.
I could go on and on debunking the myths and out right lies in Mr. Trump’s statement. You get the idea. Here is the worst part in my opinion. The President of the United States clearly states that “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event” but that it doesn’t matter to the president because their money and the price of oil is more important than upholding human rights, American values and freedom of the press. Yet another signal to any dictator or would be autocrat that not only will we allow journalists to be killed if they are an “enemy of the state” but that if you pay us enough money, we’ll look the other way. Unbelievably, the president finishes his statement by saying “maybe he did, and maybe he didn’t!” (are we in the fifth grade?). In other words, it just doesn’t matter.
Anyone that reads the paper and follows this story knows that the preponderance of evidence is that Mr. Khassoggi was murdered and that the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States calculates that there is the highest probability that the Crown Prince was behind the entire sordid affair. (That is about as close as the CIA will come to saying he all but dismembered the guy himself.) Not to worry. Mr. Trump assures us that he personally talked to the Crown Prince and to the King and that they “vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder.” Just as he accepted President Vladimir Putin’s vigorous denial that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, despite the conclusion of the entire intelligence community of the United States.
Once again, as happens in case after case after case with Mr. Trump, he refuses to believe what he does not want to believe and will look for any out available be it an opinion expressed on Fox News, a piece on an alt-right blog, or “the word” of ruthless dictators and autocrats. Merely deny any wrong doing and the best intelligence agency in the world cannot convince him of anything else. If one doubts that words have consequences when spoken by the president, consider that Mr. Trump continually belittled U.S. intelligence agencies because they were wrong about WMD in Iraq in 2002. This weekend the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia used that same argument to say that the CIA’s conclusion that the Crown Prince was involved in murder was wrong.
The real reason Mr. Trump will not come down hard on Saudi Arabia and especially the Crown Prince is because he likes them. More accurately, he liked the way that they played him during his visit to Riyadh and treated him, literally, like visiting royalty. He has a misguided view of the Saudi ability, or desire, to help solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They can act as a counter weight to Iran, but not without U.S. backing which could suck us into a war that we do not want. In particular, Mr. Trump frequently expressed his appreciation to the Saudis for bailing him out of one of his many bankruptcies. Likewise his son-in-law Jared Kushner has particularly close ties with the Crown Prince and his company was also intimately involved with Saudi bail outs in the past.
Make no mistake about it. I am not advocating for breaking diplomatic or military ties with Saudi Arabia. The world is indeed a dangerous place and we should use all assets at our disposal to promote our national security interests. That said, Mr. Trump speaks as if the Saudis hold all of the cards. They do not. We have vastly more leverage over them than the other way around if Mr. Trump had the ability to utilize the advantage. He either chooses not do so (because of his personal financial ties?) or is lost in the 70’s with a misguided view of the world, or he is incompetent.
There are numerous ways to make clear our disgust and dissatisfaction with Mr. Khassoggi’s murder. Here are only a few examples of actions we could take:
- Sanction the Crown Prince or parts of his world-wide investments and hurt him where it counts. The 17 Saudis Mr. Trump says we sanctioned include 15 relatively low-level security (hit?) men. Those assessed by the CIA as primarily responsible for ordering the murder are not sanctioned.
- Stop supplying the Saudi military in Yemen. The U.S. is providing assistance that, should it be with held, would severely limit their ability to continue the war in Yemen. The United Nations assesses the situation in Yemen as the biggest humanitarian crisis taking place in the world. Their calculations indicate that roughly 85,000 young children have died of hunger during the war. About 2 million are homeless. 22 million are in need of assistance, especially food. 1.1 million suffer from diarrhea and cholera. The war is portrayed as a proxy war with Iran to stop Islamic terrorism but in fact, Mohammad Bin Salman intervened in a civil war for his own purposes. Iran supports the opposition but the Saudi involvement is far larger, bloodier and indiscriminate in hitting civilian targets.
- Push Mohammad to actually get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and take concrete steps to help the Palestinians form a functioning government and offer substantive proposals for resolving the situation. Put some of that oil money to use providing for investment in the West Bank and to raise the average Palestinian out of the depths of poverty. (Fun fact: Many mid-level to upper-level bureaucrats in Arab countries are of Palestinian heritage. They make the countries run. The Arabs have no desire to resolve the situation because it is a convenient scapegoat for distracting their own people by providing a cause to rally around and to continue to rant against Israel.)
- Stop the Saudi economic and diplomatic attacks on Qatar. (The headquarters for U.S. forces in the region are in Qatar and it is the location of the largest U.S. air base in the region. Mr. Trump supports the Saudi assault on the integrity of Qatar.)
- Stop Mohammad from meddling in Lebanon. (Last year he kidnapped the Prime Minister of Lebanon while he was in Saudi Arabia, forced him to resign and held him hostage until world diplomatic pressure caused his release. Theoretically this was to put pressure on Iran and to lessen the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon.)
These are but a few ideas off the top of my head. I am sure the regional experts at the State Department and CIA could come up with many more. Instead, the United States capitulated lock, stock and barrel to the murderous whims of a 33-year-old autocrat in the Middle East.
The president’s statement is really “Saudi Arabia First!” Bipartisan efforts in the Senate to make Saudi Arabia feel the pain are talked about, but only time will tell if they can get a bill together during the lame duck session coming up given all the rest of the issues they have to deal with in the interim. Realistically, it could be months before the Congress takes action, if at all. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince goes his merry way having learned the lesson that he can con Mr. Trump out of anything with a little flattery and some money.
The President of the United States betrayed American values. He pretends that the facts are unknowable but asserts that they are irrelevant in any case. He bases his decision on a widely discredited claim that they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in the U.S. and keeping oil prices low, when in fact, the Saudis are espousing a cut in their oil production in order to try to increase prices. He disparages the victim by falsely hinting that he was a member of some terrorist network, a claim originally floated by Mohammad in a phone call to the White House and then denied when the world condemned the allegation as totally false. (Parts of Mr. Trump’s statement were clearly word for word restatements of things the Saudi Crown Prince told him.) He belittles and ignores the best analysis by his own intelligence agencies. He shows the worst of his talents and little disposition to take appropriate actions if it does not meet his personal needs, desires and perceptions. Again, Mr. Trump demonstrates that under his leadership, the United States is weak.
In short, Mr. Trump sold out the United States and our values. Dictators and autocrats around the world now know that they can kill journalists with impunity if they flatter the president and pay enough money.
The United States is fast losing its place in the world as a leader. Congress must act to rectify this situation and to set the standard that we will not forsake our values or place in the world for a few dollars more.
Today is Armistice Day — what we in the United States now call Veteran’s Day. This is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars. Hostilities ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
In some ways this is the “forgotten” war as it set the conditions for, and was eclipsed by, World War II. As such, it is fitting that nearly 100 countries, including roughly 60 heads of state, gathered in France to pay their respects to those that fought in the Great War. Ceremonies throughout the weekend honored those that participated, and in particular those that paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The exact number of killed and wounded is unknown, but it is estimated that there were 37 million military and civilian casualties during the four years of conflict with about 10 million military men and women and 7 million civilians killed. The United States joined the war late, in 1917, and lost about 116,000 military personnel from all causes during the war. Altogether a generation of young men were lost to Europe and the Allies. In the first day of one battle — the Battle of the Somme — the British lost an estimated 25,000 soldiers. In the Meuse-Argonne Forest in 1918 an estimated 26,000 Americans lost their lives during the six-week offensive, the most of any battle in American history.
Ironically the U.S. Civil War is often considered the first “modern” war due to the use of trains for transportation, industrialization and organization. The Civil War was studied closely by most major armies of the world, but by the time World War I came around, those lessons were lost or forgotten. Thus, with the advent of mechanized combat using machine guns, tanks, aircraft, poison gas, and other implements of modern war, combat was even more destructive as tactics, operations and strategies were mired in the 19th century. The result was a tremendous waste of life.
I always wondered how I would do when receiving the order to go “over the top” — out of the semi-safe trenches and into no-man’s-land — advancing in a line into the face of relentless machine gun and artillery fire. It was a meat grinder in the most awful sense of the phrase. Unbelievably, commanders on the front continued sending their men over the top on the morning of the Armistice resulting in needless deaths. Reports indicate that 2700 men died on the Western Front on the last morning of the war. According to the Washington Post via a 1919 report in the Baltimore Sun, the last American killed in the war was Henry N. Gunther from Baltimore. He reportedly died at 10:59 from German machine gun fire. The Germans yelled at him and tried to wave him back from their lines. He continued to charge and to fire on their position and they felt they had no choice but to shoot him to save themselves. According to the report, shortly after 11:00 the German soldiers emerged from their position, put Henry Gunther’s remains on a stretcher, and returned him to the American lines.
Many of those killed were never recovered. To honor their memory, countries erected monuments to those unknowns. In Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated on 11 November 1921 to honor those nameless Americans that were lost forever. In 1958 unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were also interred beside their World War I comrade and the monument became the Tomb of the Unknowns. Since 1937 the tomb is guarded by soldiers from the Army and since 1948 the guards come from the famous Army Third Infantry Regiment, known as the “Old Guard.”
Please take a moment on this Veteran’s Day to remember the real reason that we honor this day.
It has been a busy week. First the good news.
For the third time I was an Election Judge (poll worker, but sworn in as a judge in this state because of the decision-making that may be needed). Once again it was a very long day with no respite, but worth it. At our location, everyone, Republican, Democrat or Unaffiliated, was uniformly cheerful, friendly, and appreciative of their role to play in our democracy. It was refreshing in the current era to see the best parts of our republic.
In my state, Maryland, one of the “bluest” in the country, we re-elected a Republican Governor for the first time in decades. At the same time, the Democrat controlled state legislature gained more seats for the Democrats and voters re-elected our Democrat Senator and Representatives. I consider that a positive sign as well. In the first year of the Governor’s term, he tried to push legislation through that did not have the support of the representatives. At the same time, some of the legislation the Democrats wanted was turned back by the Governor. The same old story? In this case, no. Both the Governor and the legislative leaders realized that nothing would be accomplished if they didn’t — wait for it — compromise on the issues. That does not mean it was all unicorns and rainbows, there were some knock down, drag out battles over certain issues. On the whole, however, both parties recognized that compromise was necessary in order to accomplish meaningful results. Consequently, most of those involved, including an unheard of for this state second term for a Republican Governor, returned to office. (To put it in perspective, he is only the second Republican Governor in Maryland since Spiro Agnew — Richard Nixon’s first Vice president. The last two term Republican Governor was Theodore McKeldin first elected in 1951.)
I was looking forward to writing an entirely positive piece in this space and was feeling better about the state of affairs in our country after the election. After all, the House would now have oversight over the excesses of the Executive Branch for the first time in two years.
It lasted less than twenty-four hours. Then came the bad news. In duplicate.
Wednesday night another mass shooting of innocent victims occurred. This time in Thousand Oaks California, considered the third most safe city in the country, according to FBI statistics. Mostly students out for a break in the routine and a little dancing were gunned down. Another needless tragedy that is becoming increasingly too common. According to the Gun Violence Archive, this was the 307th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2018. (They define a mass shooting as four or more people shot in one incident — not necessarily all deaths.) Another in a long line of sad days for too many families and for all of us as citizens. Perhaps the new Congress will finally address common sense gun laws that are supported by a majority in the country across all party lines.
Earlier that day the president gave what can only be described as a bizarre press conference that was either an attempt at showing that he would not change his habits and methods despite a significant defeat at the polls or a deliberate attempt to be bizarre in an effort to change the news cycle away from the success the Democrats had at the polls.
More significantly, he fired (yes, fired, when the president asks for a resignation it is not a voluntary action to resign) Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday afternoon. It was not so surprising that he did so, as he had been saying he would for well over a year, but it was unsettling that he did so less than twenty-four hours after the polls closed. To some extent, it is what it is. I was no fan of Mr. Sessions, but I did respect that he stood up to the president over the ongoing Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by the president. Mr. Sessions did the right thing to recuse himself in accordance with the ethics of the situation and the rules of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Mr. Trump never got over the fact that someone in his administration did the right thing. He constantly asked where was “his Roy Cohn” — an Attorney General that should defend him personally and shield him from investigations, rather than work for the American people in upholding the principles of the Constitution. (You may remember that Roy Cohn was Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and mentor. Mr. Cohn started his public career as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Chief Counsel during the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. Mr. Cohn is the person responsible for teaching Mr. Trump to always “hit back twice as hard” against any accusations and “deny, deny, deny” — never apologize or admit to a mistake.)
The real bad news was not necessarily in the departure of Mr. Sessions. The shocker was the person Mr. Trump named as his successor. Mr. Trump’s intent to stop the Mueller investigation is reflected in his choice.
In a move that many Republican and Democrat Constitutional scholars consider against the law, Mr. Trump got his Roy Cohn by appointing Matthew Whitaker as the Acting Attorney General. Mr. Whitaker is not a Senate confirmed official, which is the basis for many scholars and experts to consider his appointment to be illegal. The normal sequence of events would be for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to become the Acting Attorney General. Conceivably, Mr. Trump could have appointed another Senate confirmed official as the Acting AG but he did not do that. Why, you ask? I do not know what goes on in Mr. Trump’s mind, but I can guess.
This is a bit down in the weeds, which I think Mr. Trump believes most people don’t care about, but this turn of events is serious and with long-lasting impact. I will attempt to explain why, as succinctly as possible.
Mr. Rosenstein has been the supervisory official for the Mueller investigation. Mr. Trump has been at odds with him for nearly two years about that investigation. He wants to put someone into the DOJ as Acting AG in order to have someone in place to over rule Mr. Rosenstein and to inhibit, if not derail or eliminate, the Mueller probe before it indicts one of his family (the odds are high that Mr. Donald Trump Jr. is in Mr. Mueller’s sights) or comes back with a report saying that the Trump Campaign did conspire with the Russians to influence the election and then Mr. Trump obstructed justice in an attempt to cover it up and/or protect his family and business interests.
Legal scholars not only think Mr. Whitaker is an invalid appointee, but they also mostly agree that should he stay in the position, he must recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation because of his extensive public remarks stating that he does not believe anything happened between the Trump Campaign and the Russians. Oh, and that there was not obstruction of justice. Unfortunately, before being briefed on the investigation or before talking to the ethics attorneys in the DOJ, Mr. Whitaker has expressed that he will not recuse himself. Of course not. Mr. Trump would not have appointed him if he did. Preposterously, today Mr. Trump claimed to reporters that he did not know Mr. Whitaker, even though Mr. Whitaker often accompanied or replaced Mr. Sessions in many meetings with the president. Reportedly, since the president did not like Mr. Sessions, Mr. Whitaker often spoke to the president in his stead. My view is that some kind of quid pro quo was reached between Mr. Trump and Mr. Whitaker. The former would appoint him Acting AG with some kind of follow on appointment in the future and the latter would make sure Mr. Mueller and his investigation was severely inhibited or ended. Such an arrangement of course would be illegal and further the case for obstruction of justice.
They are birds of a feather, however. Mr. Trump is well-known for his scams, such as Trump University that took in millions of our fellow Americans money based on promises never delivered. It was forced to close down and Mr. Trump paid a hefty fine. Mr. Whitaker was on the Board of Directors of a firm that the Federal Trade Commission labeled a “scam,” shut down and fined millions of dollars. Additionally Mr. Whitaker sent threatening emails to some who complained that they were scammed. So, they have that in common.
Mr. Whitaker has been especially clear in his remarks regarding the Mueller investigation and the circumstances surrounding the president. He is right in line with the president that there is nothing there and that it is politically motivated. In fact, he has opined that the “real” investigation should be of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Here is what will happen, in my view.
- Mr. Whitaker will severely limit funding for the Mueller investigation which will curtail further work without having to actually dismiss him and effectively end the investigation.
- Mr. Whitaker further will limit Mr. Mueller’s work by prohibiting a subpoena of the president to force him to answer questions and will limit any other new avenues of investigation. (The Acting AG overseeing the investigation must approve all significant elements of the Mueller probe.)
- Mr. Whitaker will appoint a new Special Counsel to investigate Mrs. Clinton and the DNC in an effort to distract from the Mueller investigation and to give the president a new “caravan” to attack in an effort to distract the American public.
All of this will happen quickly, so that the new Democrat majority in the House has no chance to stop it before taking over in January 2019. Mr. Trump must be feeling trapped between the rock (Mr. Mueller) and a hard place (the incoming Democrats in the House). He will act out in any way possible to protect himself, his family and his business interests. He probably feels that with Mr. Whitaker as the Acting AG, he can dictate which actions the DOJ should take and how Mr. Whitaker can act to protect him. This is dangerous new territory for our country. Firing Mr. Mueller directly will cause a political firestorm that may backfire on Mr. Trump. Instead there will be delays, obfuscation and a slow strangling of the Mueller probe. The real question is how senior officials in the DOJ, starting with Mr. Rosenstein will react to this affront to our Constitution. Do they resign in mass? Do they soldier on doing the best that they can under stifling circumstances?
What about the Republicans in the Senate? Will they find a spine and stand up to the president at last? Are there any Republicans left in the Senate or have they all become Trumpists? I see little hope as Senators such as Lindsay Graham (Trumpist — SC) have gone from saying that firing Mr. Sessions would not be tolerated to supporting Mr. Trump’s action to remove him.
“If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay. Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong.” — Lindsay Graham in July 2017
“What I’ve been saying for months is every president deserves an attorney general they have confidence in and they can work with.” — Lindsay Graham in November 2018
I am not picking on Senator Graham as his remarks reflect the change in almost every Republican in Washington today. They changed from executing their oversight role to a becoming a rubber stamp of all things Trumpian, even as it defies what they say they’ve stood for their entire lives.
So for a few hours Tuesday night, I felt good about the future of our country. I still feel good about it in the long run. A few short hours later I realized that in the short run, we have a crazy ride ahead of us that will threaten the very fiber of our country. I think we will survive based on the goodwill I experienced Tuesday, but it is not going to be easy or pretty.
Hang on for a crazy trip over the next two years. It’s gonna be wild, baby!
As we head into the final days before Election Day, and in the wake of two domestic terrorist attacks including the tragic loss of eleven lives at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the ridiculous claims, lies, fear mongering and fomenting of hate by the President of the United States of America continues unabated. He has no shame. When repeatedly asked about his vile tactics he offers some version of “it works — we won.” Maybe he won, but the “we” — the citizens of this great country — are losing. The president may feel no shame, but I do. I am ashamed that this is the face of the United States that the world sees.
As I have written before, the president uses words that have distinct connotations for people who consider themselves white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others. “Nationalist,” “globalist,” “international bankers,” and other similar words have distinct anti-Jewish meanings to those filled with hate. It stokes the fires raging inside of the haters. Here is one thing to understand. These people don’t just hate Jews as a religion, they see a vast international conspiracy where “Jews” rule the world. Literally. The haters see a hidden web of conspiracies and connections throughout the world that the rest of us know nothing about. They believe that the Jewish conspiracy controls everything that happens politically and especially economically. All the suffering by those that are not part of the cabal can lay their problems at the feet of those that “belong.” The nationalists unfounded hate may take the form of religious intolerance, but it is important to understand that in their minds it goes way, way, deeper. It is a world-wide conspiracy and everything is controlled by “the Jews.”
Thus the murderer that attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue (Etz haChayim in Hebrew in the Book of Genesis) reportedly picked this particular house of worship because of their well-known involvement with the Jewish charity known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) whose motto is “Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.” Founded in 1881, HIAS sought to help Jewish refugees coming to the U.S. In 1975 it expanded its scope to help Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. following the fall of South Vietnam to the communists. It works world-wide to help the poor and misplaced and refugees of all religions, nationalities and ethnicities. Currently they are helping the refugees coming from Central America.
Enter the “caravan.” Enter the George Soros (an internationally known Jewish billionaire) funded caravan. To the haters, it is all connected.
The synagogue murderer was incensed that the congregants were helping these poor migrants. He is said to have posted on social media that these impoverished people were “invaders” that were brought here “to kill our people.” He went on to post that “I can’t just sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.”
Hmmm. Where did I hear that before? Oh, right. From the President of the United States of America.
Among other lies he tells at his campaign rallies, he claims that most of the refugees are members of “MS-13” and “Middle Easterners” coming here to spread illegal drugs, murder people, spread disease, and take away jobs. As he said earlier this week, “We’re being invaded. When you look at that, thousands of people — when you looked at that bridge loaded up with thousands of people, that’s called an invasion of our country.”
Reality check. There are currently less than three thousand people, many women and children, and they are approximately 900 miles away on foot walking across Mexico. This is one of many such “caravans” that have formed in recent years. Mostly the migrants travel together for safety from criminals and others willing to exploit them. The last one to arrive at the U.S. border was last April and resulted in the arrest of 14 people. Under U.S. and international law we have an obligation to at least listen to and decide on the merits whether these individuals and families, who turn themselves in at the border and ask for asylum, in accordance with the law, should in fact be given asylum.
They are not law breakers and they are not illegal aliens. Nearly all of them, turn themselves in. For the April caravan the president sent approximately 2100 National Guard troops to beef up the border. I am no math major, but that amounts to roughly 150 soldiers for every person arrested from the caravan. Now the president has issued an order for about 5200 active duty soldiers to move to the border this week. A few fun facts about that. This will be the greatest number of troops on the Mexican border in over a century. We will have about the same number of soldiers on the border with Mexico as we have now in Iraq and Syria combined fighting ISIS. He promises at his campaign rallies that he will send 15,000 soldiers to the border “soon.” (It is unclear whether this number includes the 5200 already ordered there.) That number is nearly equivalent to the total number we have fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Which is the greater threat? Impoverished families from Central America or the Taliban? ISIS?
Here is a couple of things to consider. He is sending active duty troops because the National Guard now there are under the control of the state governors that supplied them. Not the president. He wants troops he can control. There is a law known as the Posse Comitatus Act signed by President Hayes in 1878 that has come to be interpreted as prohibiting U.S. federal troops from enforcing domestic law. In other words, they have no arrest powers. (Of the military services, only the U.S. Coast Guard has arrest authority. There are some exceptions for the other services under the Insurrection Act and in other specified situations.)
In other words, our active duty forces that are involved in two active wars and numerous other missions around the world, will be sent to the border to satisfy the campaign rhetoric of the president. He has politicized the military and is using it as a personal tool for campaigning. As it is, they can only be used in a support role (non-law enforcement tasks) but so far have been under orders from the Secretary of Defense to have no interaction with the refugees beyond medical or legal aid. To further demonstrate the waste of taxpayer money, the caravan is not expected to arrive at the border for about two more months. That amounts to 15,000 troops sitting on their collective back sides for two months — which may include Thanksgiving and Christmas — rather than being home with their families between combat deployments or training for their next deployment. It impairs readiness.
This is not a matter of enforcing immigration laws. All main stream politicians and candidates, from any party, supports enforcing our laws and protecting the borders. This is not what the president’s rhetoric is about. It is all to stir up fear and anger among people who must be pretty unhappy about their lives.
But it gets better yet.
The President of the United States of America apparently thinks that he can change the Constitution of the United States through an Executive Order. Wow. My prediction is that his plan to do so disappears after the election — most things he promises go out with a whimper — but what if he actually believes it? Here is what he said earlier this week.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t. You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
So everyone has had it wrong for over two hundred years. I wonder who the “they” are that just discovered that all it takes is an Executive Order.
Specifically he wants to change the “policy” (yes — he actually said that) written in the 14th Amendment. There are five sections to the amendment, but it is the first section that he wants to change. That portion of the 14th Amendment reads:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
This is the so called “birthright” amendment and the source of so much hate and misinformation about “anchor babies.” The president claims that:
“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”
Facts take a beating under this president. There are over 30 countries that have the same birthright privilege of citizenship including Canada and Mexico. The baby is not “essentially” a citizen, they are a citizen. “All those benefits” which he claims amount to “billions and billions of dollars” do not take into account that the vast majority of those babies grow up to be productive citizens of the United States that work and pay taxes and contribute to the improvement of our country.
But there is something more sinister about attacking the 14th Amendment. Not only does it continue to vilify those seeking a better life, the 14th Amendment is an anathema to those same self-styled “nationalists” that I have written about before. The 14th Amendment is there to incorporate into law and the Constitution that former slaves and their descendants are full citizens. The amendment overturns counting slaves (and presumably without this change, freed slaves) as three-fifths of a person encapsulated in Article One, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. So picking the 14th Amendment for an Executive Order does two things. It supports the views of white supremacists and further encourages them by, in the view of many African-Americans, going after one of the most historically important amendments in their lives. It also sends a signal to many African-Americans that they are part of the “other.”
Perhaps he would like to also sign an Executive Order doing away with freedom of the press in the Bill of Rights as well. The president, like Joseph Stalin considers the press an “enemy of the people.” Come to think of it, why stop there? Just overturn any other silly amendments that get in the way.
I see a pattern developing. These are not isolated incidents. All are common to a thread of creating the “other” to hate, fear and vilify. A page from the demagogue text-book. Note that the president is not campaigning on his accomplishments. Pay attention to his rants at his rallies and you will not hear him say anything that might not have already been said during his 2016 campaign. He is trying to convince people that without him and his supporters in Congress, the apocalypse will be upon us.
The stakes are high. The soul of our country is under attack. I find it shameful and it is too high of a price to pay for “winning.”