The Trump Chronicles, Volume 114: Thoughts On the Saturday Night Massacre

Only true history nerds will recognize that on this day in 1973 President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) set in place the events we now call the Saturday Night Massacre.

In 1972, during President Nixon’s reelection campaign, five men were arrested for breaking into Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington DC. They were attempting to bug the phones and gain intelligence on the campaign of the President’s opponent, Senator George McGovern (1922-2010).

And while President Nixon was reelected in 1972, the investigation of the break in grew in the minds of many Americans. By May of 1973 Congress began holding hearings and President Nixon (under pressure) appointed Archibald Cox (1912-2004) to investigate what we all began to call “Watergate.”

But Mr. Cox soon began to investigate whether or not President Nixon drove a coverup by bribing the original defendants to quietly plead guilty in return for cash and not implicating anyone else. President Nixon spent the summer of 1973 growing angrier and angrier over the investigation. On Saturday, October 20, 1973 he directed his Attorney General Elliot Richardson (1920-1999) to fire Mr. Cox. General Richardson refused to do so and resigned. President Nixon then ordered General Richardson’s deputy, William Ruckelshaus (b.1932) to fire Mr. Cox. Mr. Ruckelshaus also resigned. Finally Solicitor General Robert Bork (1927-2012) fired Mr. Cox.

Instead of ending the scandal it intensified it. Pressure grew on President Nixon, and on August 8, 1974 he resigned.

I write this not out of nostalgia for events 45 years ago, but because we’re seeing frightening parallels today. President Nixon ordered a coverup of events intended to ensure his reelection. Many of us believe that in 2016 then candidate Donald Trump conspired with Russia to provide false information to convince American voters to vote for him.

President Nixon spent the rest of his life convinced that he did nothing wrong and his enemies were out to get him.

As I said, the parallels are frightening.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 113: Thoughts On the Swamp and the Value of Public Service

Since the formation of our nation we’ve depended on good men and women who worked to make certain our government functioned and provided the service we depend on.  From the earliest days of the Post Office to the modern protection offered by the Department of Homeland Security we the people have been served well.  They’ve protected us from danger here at home and abroad.  They’ve insured that we have what we need in retirement. They’ve provided health care for the poor and food for hungry students.

But alongside this it’s been fashionable to see government employees as stupid and lazy. Full disclosure: my father worked for the government from 1950 to 1988 and my sister has worked for the government since 1984. These irresponsible charges have always annoyed me, but the administration of President Trump has dramatically increased this nonsense. I’ve spoken about his promise to drain the swamp and his belief that career government employees make up a deep state intent on frustrating his agenda. He doesn’t recognize the damage he is causing.

I was thinking about his I was listening to an interview of Michael Lewis. He is publicizing his new book The Fifth Risk. He argues that the Trump administration has no idea how to govern.

In the course of the interview he was asked this question: “So has your understanding of our bureaucracy changed through writing these stories? You can read the transcript of the entire interview here.

The transcript is verbatim and I’ve cleaned it up for this, but here is what he says:

Oh, my God. I didn’t know what I was going to find when I started knocking on the door of the Energy Department or the Agriculture Department or the Commerce Department. And I turned out having exactly the same experience that political people have when they’re appointed to these jobs running these places and have these – some preconception but vague preconception of what the bureaucrats are like.

This happens over and over again. A new administration comes in. They have kind of a vague contempt for the people who are there. And four years later, they walk out and say those are the most amazing people I’ve ever worked with. I expected to be briefed and informed by these people. I did not expect to be inspired by them. The kind of person who is still working in our government despite all the abuse the government takes is a mission-driven person. They’re not paid well. They’re there because they’re interested in the task. The people in the National Weather Service are people who have had a passion for the weather since they were little kids.

The people in the Department of Energy are scientists who’ve had a passion for their particular science since they were little kids. Essentially they are firefighters in spirit. And there’s something really moving about groups of people who are doing what they’re doing not for money but for mission. They have a purpose in life. And it just jumps off the page. I mean it jumped into my mind dealing with them. And so I came away from it thinking, wow, I can’t believe we as a society have treated this slice of our society – these kinds of people, who are really the best among us, as badly as we have.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 112: Thoughts on Justice Brett Kavanaugh

The resignation of US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy paved the way for President Trump to nominate someone who would advance his agenda. He did.

At first blush the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh appears to fit the bill. He’s young (53) and conservative and many on the right held out hope that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that banned state laws that prohibited abortion.

Since the Senate needs to confirm any Supreme Court nomination by a simple majority and the Republicans have a majority over the Democrats, it appeared that Judge Kavanaugh should walk through the nomination and take his place on the bench.

But wait: It’s never that simple. Judge Kavanaugh attended high school and college in the 1980s, long before the #metoo movement. A few women accused him of sexual impropriety and he has denied these charges.

Unfortunately we’ve been this way before. In 1991, during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas, we heard from Anita Hill who accused Mr. Thomas of sexual harassment when they worked together at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Many of us looked on the treatment of Ms. Hill with horror. At the time she was described as “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty” and her courage was in vain. Mr. Thomas won confirmation and has served on the Court for the last 27 years.

Shortly after Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination we heard from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist who now lives in California. When she was 15 years old and in high school she claims she was at a party with 17 year old Brett Kavanaugh where he sexually attacked her. She testified that he drew her into an upstairs bedroom where he assaulted her. When she attempted to cry for help he covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming and she feared he would accidentally suffocate her. At the time she did not tell anyone for a well reasoned fear that her behavior would be called into question (“What where you wearing?” “Did you do anything that gave him the impression that you wanted it?” “Did you find him attractive?”).

Defenders of Mr. Kavanaugh claim that she remained silent until now as a conspiracy to prevent his nomination. This isn’t true. Dr. Ford’s testimony describes her speaking with her husband in 2012. When she and her husband renovated their home she demanded a second front door. This didn’t make any sense to her husband until she confessed to him and a marriage counselor that she wouldn’t feel safe without an alternative opportunity to flee the house and this traced back to her assault by Brett Kavanaugh. Yes, she identified him by name.

Dr. Ford hoped this incident would remain private but this summer she learned, to her horror, that Mr. Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court. She could have easily hid and pretended nothing happened, but she chose courage over comfort, patriotism over safety.

She had information about Mr. Kavanaugh that we didn’t and she felt she needed to share her story because it matters who sits on the highest court in the land. Like Anita Hill she had nothing to gain and everything to lose and yet she chose to describe her encounter with Mr. Kavanaugh.

And so she stepped forward. Along with many Americans, I found her credible.

Justice Kavanaugh responded as nearly everyone expected. He denied the assault and also denied he he has ever drank to the point where he doesn’t remember his behavior.

Others have testified that his consumption of alcohol during this time made his testimony false.

If Judge Kavanaugh had testified that his alcohol consumption in high school and college caused him to make poor decisions and sometimes not remember what happened that he now regrets, I could have supported him. If he had said that he doesn’t remember the incident but that he sometimes drank to the point of blacking out and he deeply regrets any pain he may have caused, I could have supported him. Had he said that he doesn’t remember assaulting someone but can’t claim it didn’t happen, I could have supported him.

But he didn’t. Instead chose the path of claiming to be a victim. He accused the Clintons of conspiring block his nomination.

Nominees for government office sometimes need to defend themselves and we all can remember times when we’ve all needed to fight for our reputation. But Judge Kavanaugh chose a low, low road. He didn’t just claim the charges were false, he claimed that those who believed Dr. Ford wished him evil. Clearly he was pandering to President Trump.

This should scare all of us. He may well serve on the Supreme Court for 30 or 40 years and he has shown us that his ambition outstretches his desire to serve the American people.

I’m Catholic. Now What Do I Do?

It’s been 16 years since the Boston Globe wrote about pedophilia in the Catholic Church. I think many of us Catholics hoped this event, painful as it was, would force us to confront this horrible reality and allow us to move forward. Unfortunately even today we continue to uncover this terrible cancer and recognize that we haven’t fully exposed the extent of the sin and the pain of the victims.

I’m Catholic and call it survivor’s guilt but the priests I knew as a child were good priests. I was an altar boy and that allowed me a “peek behind the curtain” to learn about the lives of these celibate men. Most Catholics looked at priests and nuns with a reverence that elevated them above the rest of us, and much of this rested on the belief that priests, brothers, and nuns were celibate. The idea that this group chose celibacy over marriage made them more pure and gave us the belief that they were “above sexuality.” Virtually all Catholics mistakenly believed that priests and nuns didn’t have sexual feelings.

As a former seminarian and a former priest I can tell you that how this belief isn’t true. I’m an ex priest who left active ministry to get married.

When the Boston Globe and other outlets began to publish the now famous Spotlight articles I wasn’t surprised but I was deeply saddened. Much has been written about pedophile priests and the bishops who protected them and I have no need to rehash all of it here. Suffice it to say that on those occasions when someone reported a priest to the bishop, they were mostly ignored. When confronted the bishops would claim ignorance of the problem.

So what went wrong? Well, almost everything went wrong, but I’m going to write about these specific things:

  • Bishops Saw Pedophilia As a Sin, Not a Crime: When confronted by a priest who was abusing children they saw these as problems to be solved, not crimes to be reported. I knew of one priest who, after several parish transfers, was finally sent for treatment. When he told the psychologist about the abuse, the psychologist told him he was required to report this to the police. Baffled, the priest said that he came seeking help, not arrest. But the psychologist told him that he broke the law and someone had to protect the children he abused.
  • Pedophile Priests Saw Themselves As Above the Law: When asked why they didn’t come forward, many of the abused children told authorities the pedophile priest warned them against speaking out and even threatened them. These children were told that nobody would believe them and some were even told that speaking out would be a sin. Those priests who were confronted claimed to be offended and outraged. Partly they denied the charges, but there was also an undercurrent of “how dare you accuse me. Don’t you know who I am?”
  • The Church Dramatically Underestimated the Long Term Damage the Priests Caused to Children: I remember hearing that the way forward was to pay off the families and keep this secret “for the protection of the child.” They refused to believe that the abuse led directly to years of depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. While the Church was able to pretend this didn’t happen, the children didn’t.
  • The Process Where Priests Were Selected and Trained Was Flawed: When a man contacts a diocese or religious order to inquire about becoming a priest, it’s a long process. Until the 1970s it was not uncommon for a boy to enter the seminary in high school. Many of those who sought the priesthood were good men, but some never appeared to socialize well with their peer group. They were often aloof, quiet, and detached. Today many of us would see them as creepy but at the time they were thought to be pious. Once ordained, they often gravitated toward activities that allowed them access to children. Time and again we’ve heard stories of a priest who showered attention on a boy whose father was absent. Today we look to men who are mature, transparent, and serious about the work of ministry.

So where do we go from here? Because of the bravery of journalists and (more importantly) the bravery of those who were abused by priests, we have reason to hope. Important changes have been made.

We no longer allow priests unfettered access to our children. We would never imagine allowing a child to spend time alone in the home of a bachelor neighbor but in generations past we thought nothing of a child being alone with a priest. In large part this results from what we’ve learned.

The formation of priests has changed dramatically. When someone applies to seminary he undergoes a battery of psychological tests and I hope these tests can weed out potential pedophiles. In addition to that, those who were previously thought to be “pious” because of their inability to relate to other adults are now seen as red flags. I had a conversation with a vocation director who refused to recommend someone who wanted to be a priest. This candidate felt he was called by God to be a priest but showed virtually no proof of this. He had no spiritual director, the priests in his church didn’t know him, he participated in no ministries (e.g. he wasn’t a lector or a CCD teacher; he wasn’t a Eucharistic Minister or belonged to any organization in the church. In other words, nobody could vouch for him). His only response was that he felt God called him to be a priest. I think this vocation director served us well by not allowing him to apply to seminary. I’m not claiming this man was a pedophile but we can all agree that he would not have made a good priest.

I began this essay by talking about being Catholic and asking the question, “Now what do I do?” Let’s face it: it’s not easy being Catholic. And it’s even harder when we learn about institutional evil. But at the end of the day the Catholic Church that gave us pedophile priests also gave us St. Paul, St. Francis, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and my grandparents.

We are living in a dark chapter in the Church’s history, but not its last. At the end of the day I’m still Catholic because, despite all that’s happened, we are stronger than pedophile priests and the bishops who covered for them. I’m still Catholic because I believe that God’s love and God’s willingness to forgive dwarfs our ability to sin.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 111: At the Pleasure of the President, But For the People

Ever since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Trump has hammered him.

If you google the phrase “trump criticism of sessions” you will get 34,800,000 hits. Basically Mr. Trump’s anger comes from the belief that the Attorney General works for him and should show more loyalty to him.

But here’s the problem: while Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Sessions, and while he serves at the pleasure of the President, he works for the American people. When he recused himself from the investigation he did the right thing. Mr. Sessions was involved in the Trump campaign and this would present a potential conflict of interest.

Mr. Trump’s lack of understanding of this difference is problematic. I’ve spoken about this before but Mr. Trump sees all government employees as working for him, not for the United States. Yesterday the New York Times ran an article that was written anonymously by a senior official that was critical of the President. Mr. Trump responded by calling this action treason.

And however we may feel about writing an anonymous opinion piece, this writer clearly writes from a place of serving the nation. I just hope he or she is not found out.

Farewell Senator McCain, and Thank You

Five days ago we received the news we knew was coming but didn’t want to hear: Senator John S. McCain III died of brain cancer. By any account Senator McCain stood for the best of what our nation stood for.

He was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 because his father, John S. McCain Jr, served there in his career in the Navy.

Because both is father and grandfather graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland it was assumed he would attend there also. He graduated in 1958, placing nearly at the bottom of his class.

Nobody would expect Lt. McCain to have much of a military career but he did. In 1967 he flew a mission during the War in Vietnam and was shot down and taken prisoner. His captors soon learned he was the son of a 4 Star Naval General and offered to send him home as a tactic to appear humane. Lt. McCain, in a phenomenal act of courage, refused their offer unless all the POW’s were released. In the 5 1/2 years between that offer and the end of the war he was tortured beyond what most of us can imagine. Because of this torture he spent the rest of his life not being able to raise his arms above his shoulders. He couldn’t even comb his hair.

He came home in 1973. After all he had been through we all could have understood if he had spent the rest of his life seeing this torture as an excuse for avoiding responsibility and blaming others.

But John McCain chose a different path. He didn’t blame his government for sending him to Vietnam, he didn’t blame his captors for their torture, he didn’t blame his country for the horrible treatment Vietnam veterans endured when they returned.

Instead he ran for Congress. In 1982 the good people of the 1st District of Arizona sent him to the House of Representatives and in 1986 the state of Arizona chose him to replace Senator Barry Goldwater as a Senator. He ran for President in 2000 and 2008, losing to George W. Bush and Barach Obama.

Senator McCain was a Republican and held different views on many issues. But those of us who found a different path to American greatness nevertheless respected him even if we didn’t agree with him. Patriotism does not depend on agreement as it much as it depends on love for our nation.

Fair winds and following seas.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 110: Real and Lasting Damage

Almost since the beginning of President Trump’s administration I’ve argued that he has shown a lack of respect for the office of president. Beginning with George Washington, our 1st President, all occupants of the Oval Office have recognized the power of the the office and their responsibility to act in the best interest of our nation. Simply put, the first 44 Presidents have known that they work for the American people, the American people do not work for him.

Until now. I’ve spoken before about how President Trump is a fascist who believes that we are his servants and (to quote French King Louis XIV (1638-1715), I am the state (or in French, “L’etat, c’est moi”).

His lack of respect for his office, or for that matter, the American people isn’t simply an inconvenience: he is causing real and lasting damage to our nation that will take a long time to fix.

In fairness, he’s done some things that won’t need to be fixed or will be easy to fix. The president has broad powers to pardon those convicted of federal crimes. As of today you can see a list of those he has already pardoned. I don’t agree with all of them, but these pardons don’t do any real damage to our nation.

Many of us worry about Mr. Trump’s eagerness to impose tariffs to protect American jobs and his false belief that we can win a trade war. In reality nobody wins a trade war and as I write this we are looking down the barrel of a nasty recession that will be caused by his protectionism. But the next President will have broad authority to repeal these tariffs and get us back on track.

But other of his moves will be harder to fix:

  • He Moved Our Embassy From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: When the state of Israel was founded on May 14, 1948 they declared their capital as Jerusalem. At the time it was a partitioned city. Israel occupied the western half of the city and Jordon occupied the eastern half. When Israel occupied the whole city after the Six Day War in 1967 Israel began to pressure us to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And while American politicians have made promises to move our embassy, common sense has prevailed. Until now. Make no mistake: we are strong allies with Israel. But their occupation of East Jerusalem (and the whole of Israel) displaced Palestinians and enraged several Arabian countries. In the last several decades the United States (and much of the world) has encouraged Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians to develop a two state solution that would go a long way toward ending the conflict. Many of us imagined that when this happened we could move our embassies to both East Jerusalem (serving Israel) and West Jerusalem (serving Palestine). Because Mr. Trump has moved our embassy to Jerusalem he has removed a major incentive for Israel to work for this two state solution. Simply put, he has made peace in the Middle East dramatically harder. The next president will not easily be able to move our embassy back to Tel Aviv and it weakens our ability to broker long term peace.
  • His Opposition to Diplomacy is Crippling Our State Department: Mr. Trump does not like diplomacy and has shown his contempt for the State Department. He famously quotes Roy Cohn (1927-1986): “When the hit you, hit them back harder.” His first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was chosen because of his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Tillerson didn’t last long because, much to Mr. Trump’s horror, Mr. Tillerson actually tried to do his job. Mr. Tillerson’s fate was sealed when it became clear that he called his boss a moron. But during his time at State, Mr. Tillerson made it clear that anyone hoping to make a career in the State Department needed to look elsewhere. This led to resignations of long term employees and the refusal of good candidates to even apply for jobs. It’s often said in the military that we hire 2nd Lieutenants now because in 25 years we’ll need Generals. In other words we need to hire today for tomorrow’s leaders. But Mr. Trump’s war on diplomacy today will create a vacuum in the State Department long after he is out of office and likely dead. Second Lieutenants need 25 years experience to learn how to be Generals and entry level State Department employees need 25 years to learn to be ambassadors. The damage done to the state department will be felt for a generation.
  • Likewise He is Damaging Our Intelligence Service: We are protected by several agencies, among them are the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Intelligence Council and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (my apologies to anyone I missed). We have a tradition in this country that law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies investigate wrongdoing whatever, whoever, and wherever and are free from partisanship. Again, they work for the American people and not the president. And again, this president doesn’t understand this. Because of the committed men and women in the agencies, we’ve known even before the 2016 election that Russia attempted to interfere with our democratic process. And they succeeded: they wanted to discredit Hillary Clinton because they wanted Mr. Trump to win the election. Every agency who has looked into this has concluded that they at least attempted to interfere. But Mr. Trump, seeing that this interference, continues to deny that it even happened. That’s right: last month he chose to believe Vladimir Putin’s denial over the evidence of the intelligence community. I guess there’s honor among liars.
  • He Has Made Xenophobia, Racism, and Mysogyny Great Again: This section could last for volumes. I first called him out on his racism at the beginning of his campaign where he called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers. His call to build a wall between Mexico and the United States (and not between Canada and the United States) shows this isn’t about immigration but skin color. During the campaign Candidate Trump was called out by Megyn Kelly for calling women fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.; he responded by attacking Ms. Kelly. All this has given a green light for others to do the same. The respected journal Scientific American (hardly a journal with an agenda) showed a correlation between Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and anti Muslim behavior. Prejudice once stirred is not easy to tamp down, and we can expect this behavior for a lone time to come.
  • Finally, He Wants Us To Ignore Truths That Place Him In a Bad Light: Much like the man who is caught cheating by his wife and says: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Mr. Trump wants us to believe him over what we know to be true. This past weekend his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani famously claimed that truth isn’t truth when asked why, if the President has nothing to hide, doesn’t he appear before Robert Mueller’s commission. But there’s more: Last month Mr. Trump spoke to the VFW and said this: “But remember, they have the biggest, best, strongest lobbyists, and they’re doing a number. Just stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people — the fake news.” By the way, I got this quotation from the White House web page. But here’s the thing: he’s trying to tell us that only he and his people are trustworthy and everyone else is “fake news.” And when he does this he is attempting to discredit our justice system. Trust in our government took hits 35 years ago after we learned that we had been lied to about Vietnam and Watergate and in some ways we’re still dealing with this. But Mr. Trump’s attempts to leverage this mistrust to save his own skin not only discredits hardworking, honest members of our government, it creates suspicion going forward. It makes their job more difficult the next time they need to investigate wrongdoing.

Our role here is clear: We the People need to gather, not in support of one man or one party, but to the truth. The men and women who devote their lives to ensuring justice, from the local sheriff to the Attorney General, need and deserve our respect. Starting now.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 109: When Our Grandchildren Ask Us What We Did In the Face of Evil, What Will We Say?

In a previous post I wrote about the outrage many of us feel over the Trump administration’s draconian decision to tear families apart in his attempt to preserve the myth of racial purity in the United States. As an American it’s been hard to watch this happen.

I love America and I love our history, but learning about American history hasn’t always been easy. I’ve celebrated events like President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that freed Southern slaves and mourned President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that interred Japanese Americans during World War II.

I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in Northern Virginia. It was an odd place as Virginia joined the Confederacy in 1861 but I lived in an area where most of the adults I knew worked for the federal government and were from somewhere else. I mistakenly believed that this insulated me from the sin of racism.

I was aware that Virginia had a long history of racial discrimination but I assumed it happened before I was born. But when I was in high school I learned that racial discrimination happened around me and I didn’t even notice. I saw the 2000 movie Remember the Titans with horror: it described the difficult nature of integrating a high school football team. It’s a true story that happened 20 miles from me when I was in middle school. The movie has a happy ending but there’s no way around the fact that some students like me and teachers like my teachers fought long and hard to keep racism in place. It was reprehensible and showed their cowardice.

Earlier this month I rejoiced to meet my 21 month old great nephew for the first time. As I look to his future I am filled with hope. But I’m also aware that some day he’s going to learn in history class that during his lifetime we were a nation that so vilified (admittedly undocumented) immigrants that tearing children from the arms of their parents was justified. He will learn that many of our leaders weaponized xenophobia for their own political gain and others went along for fear of losing their jobs.

I hope he asks us what we did when we saw these events happen and I hope we have a good answer. I hope we can tell him that we expressed our outrage, that we were willing to lose friendships, influence, and social standing to stand up for those who weren’t able to stand up for themselves. I hope we can tell him that we recognized that our ancestors came to this country for the same reasons and with the same hopes as these immigrants: to work hard, to make a better life for our children, and to find pride in calling us (and them) Americans.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 108: Scott Pruitt, Swampmaster

President Trump famously ran on a belief that he would drain the swamp. And while I’ve written that draining swamps is a bad idea, it’s become a popular anthem.

There’s no standard definition of what “draining the swamp” means, I think we can all agree that the administration is going after those they believe aren’t serving us well. They come to Washington under the guise of serving us, but instead enrich themselves at our expense. They serve themselves instead of serving us.

Enter Scott Pruitt. President Trump nominated him to run the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency founded by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. He came to Washington with the intent of undoing many of the regulations put in place by President Obama but that’s not what I choose to write about.

Instead, he clearly used his position to enrich himself. The EPA director makes $210,654 per year and there are a few perks. Previous EPA directors have had little or no protection, but Mr. Pruitt demanded a large detail. There’s an excellent article here. It describes how he pulled EPA employees away from their jobs to protect him even though they had no training in this.

But it goes further:

  • He attempted to leverage his position to give his wife a Chick Fil A franchise
  • He ordered the construction of a soundproof phone booth in his office and charged taxpayers $43,000 for it.
  • He insisted on flying first class in clear violation of government policy. He argued that this was done for security reasons and claimed it wasn’t his idea. It appears that some of his seatmates were mean to him.
  • While we expect our representatives in Congress to spend time in their districts, members of the executive branch are expected to live here. Instead of finding an apartment in Washington, he paid $50 per night for a room at the home of the wife of an energy lobbyist. By the way, he fell behind on those payments
  • Mr. Pruitt’s primary residence is in Oklahoma and everyone understands that he might want to go home from time to time. But instead of paying his own way back he found way to make taxpayers pay for it. He told his aide Kevin Chmielewski to “find me something to do” that would make these trips official business. When Mr. Chmeilewski objected, Mr. Pruitt fired him.
  • His travel at taxpayer expense took him to places other than Oklahoma. Last year he traveled to Morocco. The article shows that the trip was set up by a lobbyist for Morocco, and this lobbyist was later offered a job at EPA. He also went to Italy where he spent most of his time as a tourist

Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Trump, and much of the Republican Party argue that he was hounded from his job because he was too good at what he did. He lost his job because he used his position to enrich himself. This is one part of the swamp I don’t mind draining.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 107: That Pesky 14th Amemndment

A few days ago President Trump tweeted that those who enter the United States without documentation should be immediately deported without appearing before a judge. There’s only one problem with that: the Fourteenth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Here’s what it says:

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.

Two years ago next month then candidate Trump was asked if he has read the Constitution by the father of slain soldier Captain Humayun Khan. Clearly he has not. So Mr. Trump, let me school you.

This first section of the amendment is often called the “Due Process Clause.” This amendment became part of the Constitution on July 28, 1868 in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery but that didn’t go far enough. The Fourteenth insured that the newly freed slaves were granted citizenship by virtue of being born in the United States, but the amendment went further. It states that “any person” in the United States is protected from having life, liberty or property taken without due process. Not just citizens. Not just those here with documentation. Not just people we like. Not just people who look like us. Any person means just that: any person.

The president wants us to believe that those who come to our country without documentation want to hurt or destroy us. He’s a liar. Those who show up at our border are fleeing violence in their home countries. They are fleeing abusive relationships, drug violence, or worse. They want nothing more than a chance to live in a nation that protects everyone, that allows them to work hard to give their children better than they have. They seek the very things we take for granted. You can read an excellent article here about those seeking asylum.

We are a generous nation who has welcomed the ancestors of nearly everyone who reads this blog. This nation accepted all my ancestors who came here from Canada and Ireland. I live the American dream because of them. I pray they are proud of what I’ve been able to do.

And I suspect the president’s ancestors are horrified by him.