The Trump Chronicles, Volume 106: Going After Children? Really?

From the first day of his campaign President Trump has found traction in claiming that immigrants are ruining our country. From chanting the need to “build the wall” to claiming that Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers he’s said these things not because they are remotely true, but because people cheer at his rallies. It’s become wearying for those of us who care about the truth.

But now we’re seeing this ratcheted up to a whole new level. People who are fleeing violence in their own countries risk life and limb to come to the United States in the hopes of applying for asylum. Historically we’ve mostly been a safe haven for people fleeing violence and oppression. Overwhelmingly these asylum seekers have become Americans and have enriched our nation (take the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s).

But nothing matters to this president more than the adulation of his base and in recent days he has demanded that families who arrive without documentation be separated from each other and children be removed from their parents’ arms.

To his credit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions admitted that this policy intends to discourage families from coming here. In other words he wants our government to be a greater terrorist threat than Central American gangs.

But not President Trump. His ongoing insistence to claim credit for things he didn’t do and duck responsibility for things he did is back. When asked about his zero tolerance policy he attempted to blame the Democrats.

In other words, “Don’t blame me. I’m only enforcing the laws.” That’s nonsense. Law enforcement always allows discretion. A murderer pleas guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter. A police officer lets a speeder go with a warning.

Let me quote this from the New York Times on June 16, 2018:

In fact, there is no law that requires families to be separated at the border. There is a law against “improper entry” at the border, as well as a consent decree known as the Flores settlement that limits to 20 days the amount of time that migrant children may be held in immigration detention, which a federal judge ruled in 2016 also applies to families. A 2008 anti-trafficking statute — signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush — also requires that certain unaccompanied alien minors be transferred out of immigration detention in 72 hours. None of those laws or precedents mean that children must be taken away from their parents.

The first rule of the bully’s playbook is this: only bully those who can’t fight back. It’s hard to imagine a group less likely to fight back than families and fleeing violence. Mr. President, I hope you’re proud of yourself.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 105: This Is Chamberlain and Hitler All Over Again

This past week we saw something most of us never expected: United States President Donald Trump met with Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore. By any measure this meeting was important as North Korea (and its allies China and Russia) has been at war with South Korea (and its allies, including the United States) since 1950. In 1953 a cease fire was declared but there was never a peace treaty. US Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to Barack Obama have wanted to declare peace but it’s never happened. This conflict found new urgency when North Korea announced in 2003 that it had developed nuclear weapons. Since then American Presidents Bush and Obama have struggled to find a way to deal with a dictatorship that willingly starves its own people in its quest to bully the rest of the world.

In the transition between administrations President Obama told President elect Trump that North Korea’s nuclear threat would be the most urgent problem he’d face. President Trump looked on this as his biggest opportunity for greatness. And to be fair, even those of us who have never supported President Trump would celebrate if he could end this conflict and bring North Korea into the 21st Century. We don’t want his people to continue to starve and we don’t want them to be led by a leader who craves a place at the adult table more than anything else.

These two leaders met and both came away from the meeting declaring victory. But here’s the problem: President Trump announced that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. But their signed agreement falls much shorter than the rhetoric. Both parties agreed to a remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula but it gives no timetable or ability to verify. Many of us find this problematic because North Korea has broken this promise before. Meanwhile, President Trump promised to cancel annual joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea in the event of North Korea aggression (even using the North Korean term “war games”).

So here’s the takeaway: Kim made a promise he’s broken several times while Trump made a promise that makes the rest of us less safe if North Korea follows its normal pattern.

As I’ve said, we’ve seen this before. In the 1930s much of the world looked to the rise of Adolf Hitler and recognized the possibility that Germany sought European domination. In 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolf Hitler in the hopes of averting the war Hitler was clearly planning.

Hitler was effusive in promising Chamberlain that after taking parts of Austria and Czechoslovakia (with high German populations) he would leave the rest of Europe alone. Chamberlain returned to England promising “peace in our time.” Chamberlain and Hitler famously signed a non aggression pact.

Hitler played Chamberlain. On his return to England, Chamberlain, said this: “Now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds.” Less than a year later Germany invaded Poland and that caught nobody off guard except Chamberlain.

I can’t help but think that Kim is playing Trump the same way.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 104: America, We’re Being Gaslighted

The phrase “being gaslighted” comes from the movie Gaslight. In the movie a man manipulates his new wife by changing things and denying he was changing them, thereby making her think she was going crazy and her perceptions couldn’t be trusted. For example, he would change the intensity of a gaslight; when she noticed he denied it had been changed. Eventually she began to doubt her perceptions of reality and thought she was crazy, or at least that her beliefs cannot be trusted. She began to trust him, not because he was right, but because she doubted her reality.

I’m not sure that President Trump understands what “gaslighting” means, but I believe he’s using it to boost his popularity at the expense of the rest of us.

From the very beginning of his administration he’s denied that he or his campaign participated in Russia’s attempt to interfere with our democracy. He’s denied that, during the 2016 campaign, the Russians reached out to his people with the offer to gaslight the American people to vote for him, or at least against Secretary Hillary Clinton.

The facts prove otherwise and for the past year the administration has been under investigation by former FBI director (and Republican) Robert Mueller. President Trump and his minions spend phenomenal amounts of time claiming his investigation is a witch hunt and a waste of time.

But we’ve seen this thing before. In his 1974 State of the Union speech President Richard Nixon famously stated that “one year of Watergate is enough” to rousing applause from his party.

At the time President Nixon was being investigated for obstructing justice. He was accused of offering bribes to the men who were arrested on June 17, 1972 for breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters to plant listening devices that would allow them to listen in on telephone conversations. Nobody thought President Nixon ordered the break in but it was thought that he wanted to make sure that those who did order it wouldn’t be caught. Simply put he obstructed justice by offering to buy their silence.

It didn’t work. Neither did his call that “one year of Watergate is enough.” Seven months later, on August 7, 1974, he resigned when he recognized that he was likely to be impeached and removed from office.

President Trump, 38 years later, is attempting the same tactic. President Nixon attempted to divert attention from his actions by saying that there is nothing to see and the investigation should end. Like President Nixon’s actions, there is something to see.

I believe that President Trump and his campaign broke the law by asking a foreign country (Russia) to work together to create false accusations against Secretary Clinton and gaslight American voters to either vote for President Trump or not vote for Secretary Clinton. When the President insists that there is no collusion. I agree. It’s not collusion, it’s conspiracy.

If the Mueller investigation, 13 months after its inception, had found nothing he would have a point. But the investigation has led to these guilty pleas:

In addition 13 Russian nationals and Paul Manafort have been indicted. As a matter of fact, we’ve learned in the last few days that the Mueller investigation wants Mr. Manafort’s bail revoked because they have evidence that he asked others to lie to the Mueller investigation.

Criminal investigations don’t end because they went on for a fixed period of time. They end when it’s clear that all the guilty parties have been investigation.

The End of An Era

A little over 12 years ago I bought a Toyota Prius. Since I drive for my job I needed a car with good gas mileage. By any measure I got that: it took me 270,000 miles (for a perspective it’s only 238,900 miles from the earth to the moon). A few weeks ago I learned that repairs on my car would cost $3,300 and it was only valued at $3,000. It’s time had come. Yesterday I picked up my new car: a Honda Clarity plug in hybrid. I hope I get as much satisfaction with this car as I did with my Prius.