The Trump Chronicles, Volume 148: Black Lives Matter (As Much As Ours Do)

The death of George Floyd continues to bring into focus how people of color face different scrutiny and that makes them more vulnerable to police violence.

I’ll be the first to say that I’m a 60 year old white man who lives with white privilege. I’m a hospice chaplain who (frankly) looks like a doctor and I’m able to take respect for granted.

But when I was about 14 I went on a bike ride with my next door neighbor Andy who is black. It was a hot day and we stopped at a convenience store to buy a soft drink. There was a sign on the door that stated that only one teenager at a time was allowed in the store but we ignored that and went into the store together. The woman behind the counter demanded that we stop immediately and one of us needed to leave and pointed to the sign.

Enraged, we both left. I couldn’t believe that this woman, who knew nothing of us, looked at us as possible thieves. She knew nothing about us. She didn’t know that we were both honor students with strong moral compasses who were guilty of nothing more than thirst. She didn’t know that my friend was a boy scout who, a few years later, would blast classical music when he worked on his car in the driveway.

I’ve thought about this a great deal in the last 46 years. As an adult I know that I can enter a store and not be followed by an employee who wants to make sure I’m not there to shoplift. I know that even if I do something suspicious they will assume I’m OK.

But here’s the thing: my black friend never had the luxury. My bike riding companion who became an Eagle Scout is now a 59 year old black man who now knows that if he tries to spend a $20 bill that turns out to be counterfeit he may die.

This is wrong. I haven’t seen him in nearly 40 years but I think of him whenever I hear about black men who are killed by law enforcement for actions that would have been different if they were white.

I pray he’s OK.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 146: Are There Parallels Between COVID-19 and AIDS? I Think There Are

In the summer of 1981 many of us began to read about and hear of a troubling trend. Gay men in New York and San Francisco began to report cases of Karposi Sarcoma and Pneumoscystis Pneumonia. It was odd because the only people who suffered from these diseases were those with compromised immune systems. At the time this population had no reason to believe they were immune compromised. Eventually we learned that a previously unknown virus called HIV or human immunodeficiency virus caused these diseases. Within a few years we all called it AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

In the next several years AIDS decimated not only the gay male population but also intravenous drug users. We found the presence of the virus in blood, seamen, and saliva. AIDS also devastated children with hemophilia, most famously Ryan White (1971-1990) and people who needed blood transfusions like Arthur Ashe (1943-1993).

Reactions varied. President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) answered with silence and said nothing about AIDS until 1985. Others, like Rev. Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) saw AIDS as a self inflicted wound: God used AIDS to punish homosexual activity.

For years many people lived in fear of AIDS, particularly when we weren’t sure how it was spread, how to test for it, and how to treat it. Nearly everyone knew someone who contracted AIDS, including my godfather, Duane LaDeau (1935-1993). But there was also widespread fear among health care workers, EMT’s who were on the front lines of caring for very sick people.

But eventually we learned more about the virus. We learned how it was spread, how to protect ourselves, and how to best treat the virus. There’s still no cure but people with AIDS can live nearly normal lives and we who care for them know what to do to avoid infection.

As for COVID-19 we’re still in our earliest days. Every day we’re learning more about the virus, how to avoid infection, how to safely care for those infected, and how we can look to slowing and stopping the spread.

But here’s the problem: in the 1980s our President and leading “Christians” found ways to avoid dealing with AIDS (either by ignoring it or blaming the victim). We now have a President who encourages behavior that will increase both the infection rate and the death rate. Scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci caution us to avoid direct contact in the hopes that the virus won’t spread. He advocates that we stay at home and in the last 2 months many have. It’s been hard on the economy as the current unemployment rate stands at 14.7% and may well be higher. Our only way past COVID-19 leads through a quarantine that lasts until it’s safe to return to normal even if it means many can’t return to work for months.

President Trump recognizes that a poor economy will likely ensure his defeat in November. And so he’s applying pressure to bring people back into dangerous contact. His calls to “Free Virgina” and other states show how far he is willing to go.

He’s gambling that people will go back to work, unemployment rates will go down, the economy will bounce back, and the virus will magically disappear. As I tell my hospice patients, you can hope for and pray for a miracle but you can’t plan for a miracle.

But that’s what he’s doing. I’m not sure he’s even aware of this, but if everyone goes back to work and the infection/death rate explodes he won’t win. And thousands of us will die. Of course he won’t as all those around him are masked and tested.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 145: President Trump, You and Your Minions Are Gambling With Our Lives

I’m not a politician. Frankly I lack the ambition, the desire to win above all else. I vividly remember the pressure on members of Congress in 2003 to authorize the Gulf War. I can’t read the hearts of all of them but I remember believing that many of them feared a vote against it would imperil their re-election. They didn’t vote their conscience, they voted their ambition.

I don’t respect that. Had I been a member of Congress I would have voted against this on the grounds that the Bush administration couldn’t convince me of their proof that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. History would have proven me right.

Fast forward to today. Whenever I speak to a Trump supporter (and I had this exact conversation a few months ago) they tell me they don’t care about his lies, or his tweets, or his xenophobia. In my last conversation with a coworker she said: “Have you looked at your 401(k)? How can you not support him?”

The last few months have been nothing but trouble for President Trump’s need to win a second term and crave the approval of the American people. Early on I think he recognized that COVID-19 would hurt the economy and therefore chances for a 2nd term. I’ve written about this before but he spent much of February and early March falsely claiming that the virus was mild and shouldn’t affect our behavior. He blamed the lack of preparedness of COVID-19 on President Obama.

Time and again we’ve seen him disregard science in his need for a positive narrative of his administration. Last month he suggested that we can use light and disinfectant to treat COVID-19.

Even President Trump recognizes that if the economy goes South he will have a hard time winning a second term. His only hope lies in the prayer that he will reopen the economy and the COVID-19 virus will magically go away. As I tell my patients, you can pray for a miracle but you can’t plan for one. If he’s wrong (and I pray he isn’t) the next several months will may well give us a horrific increase in COVIC-19 deaths and a cratering of the economy, making the Great Recession look small.

In fewer than six months Americans will go to the polls and decide if President Trump should serve another four years, or if Vice President Biden should replace him. I believe that President Trump knows that his re-election is in trouble. I believe he is desperate and the next six months will show how much damage he is willing to do to our nation and our world.

His call to roll back quarantines will cost lives and he knows it. And he doesn’t care. On November 3rd we can show how much we care.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 144: President Trump, Karma is Calling

Dear President Trump:

When you began your Presidential campaign in 2015 I feared that you were not up to the job. I argued that your lack of experience in governing and your penchant for bullying would make your presidency a disaster.

On the day of your inauguration I threw down and said I was keeping score.

In the last 3 years you’ve claimed victory for the progress of others and avoided responsibility for your own mistakes. Your tariffs have hurt farmers, your irresponsible promises have given coal minors false hope, and your attacks on honest journalists have given good, honest Americans doubt in those who strive to tell the truth.

All along your supporters have insisted that none of that matters because the stock market has done well. You and your supporters have argued that the bull market (stock market rise) began on January 20, 2017, the day you took office.

It didn’t. It started on March 9, 2009, six weeks into the administration of President Barack Obama. When he handed you the keys to the White House the stock market had grown 148.3% since his inauguration. You can see a fascinating graph here.

Your administration rode that wave well and at its peak grew 43.7% over President Obama.

But here’s the problem: anyone with a brain knew (knew) that it wouldn’t last. Markets go up (bull markets) and markets go down (bear market). A smart President wouldn’t have criticized the Federal Reserve demanding interest rate cuts in a bull market. A smart President would have know that if you cut interest rates during a bull market you worsen a bear market because there’s little or nothing left to cut. A smart President would know that if you claim credit for a good economy people will blame you for a bad one.

And if asked about the current market and skyrocketing unemployment statistics you and your supporters argue that this is entirely the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore you and your supporters will claim there was no way to predict this would happen. In other words, absent COVID-19 the United States would have seen eight years of previously unknown prosperity during your two terms in office.

But here’s the thing: we all knew that a previously unknown virus was always lurking out there somewhere. I know you like to brag about how many times you made the cover of Time Magazine. The cover story on May 15, 2017 warned that we were not ready for the next pandemic.

In addition there was the question about whether or not you eliminated a “pandemic office” in 2017. It’s a complicated question and you can read about it here.

But it doesn’t really matter. You have a history of ignoring facts that don’t fit your world view and you’ve spent the last 3 years ensuring that nobody in your orbit will challenge you. You’ve gone through dozens of cabinet members and staff who proved that they loved either the truth or the American people (or both) more than they craved your support.

Looking forward I have to confess I fear the next seven months. You’ve also spent the last three years not understanding that there are limits on your power. Famously 2018 your xenophobia led you to claim you could repeal the 14th Amendment by executive order.

I predict that you will attempt to call a national emergency and suspend the 2020 election. I predict that you will call on your supporters (and their guns) to report to the White House while you hole up and refuse to leave on January 20, 2021.

I hope I’m wrong but I wish I had more confidence.

The Trump Chronicles, Volume 143: I Give Him Medium Props

Last month I wrote about President Trump’s promise to send out stimulus to all Americans. Today I found out that at least one of my relatives saw a deposit in his account.

The bottom line is this: he actually made a promise he kept. That’s astounding.

But I will say that at the time he promised the checks would go out in two weeks. He made the promise on March 17th and two weeks out was March 31st. That was more than two weeks ago. Also the first wave of checks were made through direct deposit, meaning the federal government had your bank information (mostly because in past years you gave that information to the IRS for your tax refund). Paper checks have not been mailed out but are expected soon.

But today we learned that President Trump insisted that his name be placed on the check and this will delay the payments.

At the end of the day I give him credit to keeping a promise he made.

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 from 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 COVID-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.