The Trump Chronicles, Volume 142: Mr. President, the Buck Stops With You

On the day that the United States recorded its 1,000th death from COVID-19 we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis.

The President’s response? Today he announced guidelines that will relax “social distancing” (ie, keeping a space of six feet between you and another person) in areas that are not (currently) suffering high numbers of COVID-19.

Harry Truman, who was President from 1945 to 1953, famously had a sign on his desk that said: The Buck Stops Here. In other words, when people pass the buck (deny blame) and it ends up on his desk, he cannot pass the buck to anyone.

Contrast that with our current President who famously takes no responsibility for his actions on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to relaxing social distancing he also announced that America should return to normal by Easter Sunday.

Two things are clear: he’s delusional about the the spread of the Pandemic. He can’t stop COVID-19. Nobody can. We can go back to normal only when the infection rate dramatically slows.

Second, he puts his re-election ahead of public safety. If we stop self isolating while the infection rate continues to rise, it will lead to a dramatic spike in new illnesses. But he recognizes that he won’t be re-elected if the economy is bad, if the stock market continues to tank, and unemployment continues to rise.

In other words he is willing to put American lives at risk so he can manipulate his numbers and give him another four years.

Let us pray the American people are smarter than that.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 141: Let’s Keep Track of This Promise

Yesterday, March 17, at a White House Press Conference Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke about ways to improve the economy. Today’s Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) closed at 19,898.92; when President Trump took office on January 20, 2017 the DJIA was 19,847.25 and it’s understandable that the White House is nervous.

But if there is one thing we’ve learned with this administration it’s this: they are long on making promises and short on keeping them. And Secretary Mnuchin said that he is “looking at sending checks to Americans immediately” and said that he is looking at doing this in two weeks. He didn’t say how much they would be, though many are looking at $1,000 or who would be eligible except that he doesn’t support paying millionaires.

So here’s the deal: two weeks from yesterday is March 31st. I’ll be checking my mailbox that day and I encourage all of you to do the same. And if we don’t see a check, we’ll know that this is yet one more time the White House promised something they didn’t deliver.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 140: The President is Getting More Irrational

President Trump’s troubles appear to be continuing. In a previous post I spoke about how he’s bragged for three years about the healthy economy but has no plan for a downturn. This past week we’ve seen the economy go from a market correction to a bear market.

But on this post I want to concentrate on his mishandling of the Coronavirus. There’s an excellent article timeline on the spread of the disease.

As we learned more about this virus President Trump continued to attempt to wish it away. You can read the background here. On March 9th he tweeted this: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant. Surgeon General, “The risk is low to the average American.”

This past Wednesday he appeared in the oval office hoping to assure us that he knew what he was doing and had a path forward. He failed on all fronts. Without notifying any of our European allies he instituted a travel ban for much of Europe. Well those countries where he doesn’t have a golf course or hotel.

He also made serious errors that the White House had to walk back. He proclaimed a travel ban to everyone except Americans. The actually edict blocked foreigners who had been to European Union countries. He also claimed that health insurers would waive all copayments for people suffering from the Coronavirus. The White House later clarified that they would only waive copayments for testing for the virus. Finally he claimed the embargo would cover cargo coming from Europe. That wasn’t true.

Finally, he continues to blame everyone else. He recently blamed President Obama for his handling of the H1N1 virus in 2009.

The speech he was supposed to give? For a contrast (and yes, I know it was a movie) was a speech given by President Beck in the movie Deep Impact.

Mr. President, you need to step up or start packing.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 139: The Money Chronicles, Volume 19: This is Exactly What I Feared

I’ve been warning since the 2016 election that the presidency of Donald Trump would be bad for our nation, and even our world. My primary concern centered on the probability that President Trump would be faced with a disaster he just couldn’t solve, due to a combination of ignorance and a complete inability to lead.

Frankly I thought it would be a geopolitical problem and so far he appears to have dodged that.

But this week, I believe, was his reckoning.

Almost from his first day in office he bragged about success in the Dow Jones average. Necessary spoilers: the Dow Jones average isn’t the economy and there is reason to believe that the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index is a better gauge. But everyone looks at the DJIA so here we are.

And for the past 3 years I’ve heard Trump supporters that they are willing to overlook his lack of a moral compass, his history of sexual assaults, and, well you get the message. The one thing they tell me is that he has been good for the economy. They tell me that Trump will make them rich and nothing else matters.

Until last week. You can read about this here: in five days the index lost 3,583 points or 12.4%

It’s the consensus that this downturn is a direct result of the recent Corona virus also know as CONVID-19. These things happen when you’re president. The virus began in China but has now spread globally. The need to limit travel of people and goods badly impacts the world’s economies and global stock markets’ downturn results directly from this.

So what do you do if you’re President Trump? Well, that’s the problem. In 2018 he fired the Pandemic Team from the Center for Disease and Prevention. They were the scientists who would have been the front line of battling the Corona virus. But they’re gone.

Instead he went to his playbook: claim credit for everything that goes well and blame others for everything that goes wrong.

And that’s what he’s done. He’s blamed the Democrats and the media for the downturn. He’s also tried to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic.

Speaking as both a Democrat and blogger let me say this: despite what you’ve heard, we don’t want this to happen. An economic downturn not only hurts our retirement savings it also hurts the most vulnerable among us. Our taxes depend on three things: income (income tax), purchases (sales tax), and property values (property tax). A recession hurts all of these: rising unemployment lowers income tax. People who are out of work (or fear becoming out of work) don’t buy things. People who fear an economic downturn put off moving and this lowers property values and therefore taxes.

Simply put, our history tells us that when government has to cut or eliminate programs it doesn’t hurt the wealthy, it hurts the poor and vulnerable.

It looks like it’s going to be a tough ride.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 138; The Justice Chronicles, Volume 36; The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 7: Impeachment and Acquittal In the Rear View Mirror

I write this post in three categories and suspect that for the next nine months that several of my posts will also join these three.

This past week we learned, to nobody’s surprise, that President Trump was acquitted by the Senate. It didn’t come as a surprise and it’s worth asking why we even bothered.

President Trump and his allies argue that the American people will decide whether or not he remains in office and they have a point. Like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi I opposed impeaching the President after the Mueller report because there was not bipartisan support for it.

But while the Mueller report reviewed interference the 2016 election, we learned in July that President Trump attempted to use his Presidential power to throw the 2020 election in his favor. At that point both Nancy and I recognized that even though he wouldn’t be removed from office, he needed to be impeached.

Make no mistake: President Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the their President announced he would begin an investigation of a charge against Hunter Biden that no adult believed was true. President Trump had no concern for the truth, he simply wanted to create suspicion on one of his opponents.

He won in 2016, in large part, by falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton’s emails were somehow subversive. She was cleared of wrongdoing and all (all) investigations showed she did nothing wrong. But President Trump successfully suggested that “there must be something there” and it was enough for voters in key states to either vote for him or stay home.

Fast forward to 2019: President Trump wants to be reelected, and it’s no surprise as most Presidents want to serve 8 years. But on some level he recognized that he can’t win without foreign interference. And in Ukraine he found his path.

In an impeachment proceeding the Senate are jurors and they voted to acquit the President. But in a larger sense the real jurors in 2020 are the American voters and I pray we show more courage than the 47 Republican senators who voted for their job security over patriotism.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 137; The Justice Chronicles, Volume 36, The Election 2020 Chronicles, Volume 6: Thoughts on Impeachment, Removal From Office, and Where We Go From Here

I began this blog and called it “my thoughts and musings” knowing that I’m interested in politics. Blessed by growing up twenty five miles south of Washington D.C. my school field trips took me to the Smithsonian, the Capitol, and Arlington National Cemetery.

But most importantly I grew up reading the The Washington Post. A month after my 12th birthday we read about a burglary at the Watergate Hotel.

It’s a long story but let me edit it here: In 1972 President Nixon ran for reelection against North Dakota Senator George McGovern. While President Nixon’s reelection campaign appeared to be a lock, he demanded that his campaign dig up dirt on his opponent.

President Nixon named his reelection campaign the Committee to Reelect the President. They called it CRP but it quickly took on the acronym CREEP. The committee tried several things to upset the McGovern campaign and most of them either didn’t happen or didn’t work. On the night of June 17th several people working for CRP were arrested in the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel

Nobody believed President Nixon either planned or knew about the break-in but within a few days it became clear that he used his office to ensure nobody would connect the break-in to his campaign. He directed several people to bribe those under arrest to plead guilty and shut up. By 1974 his actions became public and he resigned because he knew he would be impeached and removed from office.

It was different time. President Nixon resigned after Senators from his own party told him that they couldn’t, in good conscience, vote to acquit him. They recognized that their obligation to their country mattered more than their obligation to their party.

Fast forward to 2020. Like President Nixon, our current President Trump used his office to illegally advance his reelection. Both believed that his reelection would benefit our nation and anything they did in advance of their reelection would benefit our nation.

The fact with President Trump are clear: he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless its President announced they were investigating Presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Only this time Republicans aren’t recognizing that they have an obligation to their country. They aren’t recognizing they have an obligation to their constituents or the Constitution.

Clearly their only obligation lies in their job security. The Trump administration has made it clear that any Republican who doesn’t support him is disloyal and will pay the price. And he will be acquitted because Republican senators are afraid to cross him.

I pray we can survive this President

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 136: We Have Betrayed the Kurds Again

From the middle of the 20th Century we’ve seen conflict in the Middle East. As Americans we’ve often looked through the lens of Israel and their Arab neighbors. But the Middle East is more complex.

Eight years ago, in 2011, a civil war broke out in Syria. Any conflict in this part of the world complicates easy answers and I wrote about this conflict here.

I described the war as having three sides: President Assad, revolutionary Syrians, and Isis. The United States supported Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad and we allied ourselves with the Kurds. The Kurds are an ethnic group in the Middle East.

The end of World War I redrew the map of Eastern Europe and the Middle East and the Kurds hoped they would be recognized as the nation of Kurdistan. Unfortunately that didn’t happen (and if you want to read an excellent book on this I recommend Paris 1919). The Kurds found themselves living in parts of Eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, and Western Iran, and Western Iraq.

In 1991 the United States invaded Iraq to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Then President George H.W. Bush encouraged Iraq’s population to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein. The Kurds in northern Iraq did just that. But once the United States forces liberated Kuwait we pulled out, and Saddam Huessin turned his guns on those who followed President Bush’s encouragement. Saddam Hussein used poison gas to slaughter the Kurds.

Fast forward to Syria. When the United States decided to support Syrians who wanted to overthrow Assad we also decided to support the Kurds who populated Northern Syria and opposed Assad. This troubled Turkey because the Kurdish population in Eastern Turkey have wanted independence since 1919. Some of the Kurds formed a terrorist group called the PKK in the 1970s. Since then Turkey has viewed all Kurds as possible members of the PKK.

So here’s the question: Is there overlap between the PKK and the Kurds in Syria who wish to overthrow Assad? Turkey is clear: these aren’t two groups, but one. Allow the Syrian Kurds any encouragement and they will use their power to fight against Turkey. Frankly, I haven’t found proof of this, and not for lack of trying.

And now enter President Trump. On October 7th he tweeted that we are pulling our troops out of Syria. I imagine he thought this would be seen as a good thing as he has often promised to keep out people safe.

It didn’t happen like he thought. The Kurds have (once again) been good allies. In addition to fighting against Assad’s troops they have also successfully rounded up and imprisoned members of Isis. But now the Kurds need to pull out of guarding the members of Isis and fight the Turks.

The freeing of Isis fighters makes us less secure, but it also reminds the Kurds that the United States is not trustworthy.

Going forward the Middle East will continue to be a volatile place. I don’t think it’s in our best interest to become an isolationist nation and pretend that what happens in other parts of the world don’t matter (and I hope that 9/11 makes my point). Our retreat from Syria does nothing more than make us less safe and tell the Kurds that only idiots believe promises made by the United States.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 135: Words Matter Mr. President. Your Words Matter

In a previous post I lamented the fact that President Trump shows little or no respect for his office, and does not see himself as a public servant but instead as the undisputed head of the United States

Time and again he has shown recklessness and a lack of sensitivity, but in the last few weeks he has reached a new level. We recently learned that in July the President spoke with the President of Ukraine and many of us heard that our President held up aid that Ukraine needs until they investigate charges of corruption by Joe and Hunter Biden.

As I said a last week this renewed calls for the President to be impeached and removed from office (you can read this here.

We’ve come to expect irresponsible rhetoric from him, as when he referred to the free press as the “Enemy of the People.”

But he called those who gave information to the whistleblower “almost a spy.” He demands to know the identity of this person for a confrontation. He has accused California Representative Adam Schiff of treason.

But a few days later the President ratcheted up to an even more dangerous level. Last weekend he read that evangelical pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress suggested that if the President were impeached and removed from office it would lead to “a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” It was irresponsible for the pastor, but much worse when the President retweeted it.

It’s well known that the President isn’t a student of history, but those of us who are find this chilling. At the end of the Civil War when the Confederates surrendered at Appomattox Court House there was talk that instead of laying down their guns, the Confederate Army should “head for the hills” and begin a guerilla war that would make Union occupation impossible. Confederate General Robert E. Lee stopped it. You can read an excellent article here.

Simply put, our President feels that anyone who opposes him is a traitor and those who support him should take up arms. Already this is being taken up by armed militias.

We are a nation that cares deeply for our future, being led by a man who cares only for himself.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 134: Props to the Whistleblower

It’s been quite a week and there’s lots to unpack. In my last post I suggested that we need to reconsider impeachment, even if probably won’t lead to the Senate removing the President from office.

None of this would have happened had not a civil servant (the whistleblower) read the transcript of a phone call. Our President, never one to care about anyone other than himself, has called this civil servant almost a spy and suggested he (or she) committed treason.

The Republican response is no more responsible. They claim that since the whistleblower was not on the call, anything he says is hersay and this needs some unpacking.

When someone testifies in a court of law, he (or she) can only testify to what he saw or heard. For example, if I witness a robbery I can testify to that. But I can’t testify that I overheard someone tell another person that he committed the robbery. That’s hearsay.

But here’s the problem: the whistleblower isn’t testifying: he’s reporting. His report doesn’t claim there was a crime or an impeachable offense, only that there might be something that bears a look.

Let me draw a parallel from my own life: because of my job as a hospice chaplain I’m known as a “mandated reporter” for elder abuse. If I see or suspect abuse I’m required by law to report it to the authorities. Nobody gets in trouble for what I report and all it means is that someone will investigate.

That’s what the whistleblower did. He reported his concerns to the Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General.

Stay tuned. More later.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 133: Reconsidering Impeachment

Six months ago I wrote that impeaching President Trump probably wasn’t a good idea. At the time (a month before the release of the Mueller Report) we suspected much but knew little.

The report’s release stopped short of accusing the President of a crime, but also didn’t exonerate him. The President, of course falsely claimed it did exonerate him and most Republicans sided with him. I still believed impeachment wasn’t a good idea.

But the events of this week have cause me (and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi) to reconsider. In the last week we learned that someone in the intelligence community read a transcript of a phone conversation between the President and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, 2019. This person became so alarmed by what he read that he wrote a report to the Intelligence Community Inspector General raising the possibility that the President implied that he would sell anti tank missals to Ukraine in return for Ukraine investigating Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

These reports are often called “whistleblower” reports and this public servant has become known as the “whistleblower.” We don’t know who this person is.

The “transcript” he read isn’t a verbatim transcript but a report written by someone was listening to the call. You can find a link to the transcript from the White House page.

This is pretty common and most of these transcripts are classified. They aren’t normally shared with the public, but they are shared with members of Congress. But here the administration attempted to block it from Congress. It didn’t work and the White House eventually released it.

So where does this leave the question of impeachment? Good question. Democrats, and even a few Republicans, have reacted with alarm. Not surprisingly, the President insists this is just another witch hunt and most Republicans are ducking for cover or supporting the President. The idea that, if impeached, the Senate would vote to remove him is pretty remote. While the House can impeach with a simple majority, the Senate needs a 2/3 majority to remove him from office.

When President Bill Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office, in 1998 there was a backlash and his popularity increased. The President’s opponents have a well founded fear that this will aid his re-election next year.

But on the other hand, if we allow him to continue with this behavior, I believe we are tacitly complicit. The Republicans in Congress have shown a breathtaking amount of cowardice in the face of wrongdoing. If nothing else, impeachment and removal will force them out of the shadows and explain to their constituents and the American people why they support this President.