Behind the Veil

Behind the Veil

Note: This one is pure speculation – but let’s have some fun!!!!!

 For the first time since the Inaugural crowd size flap (to Trump, size matters, ask the crew at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”*); this week the national attention has been drawn away from “Russia” and onto health insurance. But like any good addiction, we are inexorably pulled back into the fray. What’s going on “behind the veil” of the Special Counsel investigation? While unlike the White House, there doesn’t seem to be much leaking from Mr. Mueller’s office, here’s what the rumor mill has.

The first order of business was to establish a nexus between Trump and the Russians. In this case, it is nexuses (Webster’s Dictionary), five in fact: Flynn, Manafort, Stone, Sessions, and Kushner. While Carter Page may also be involved, and clearly has links to the Russian side of the equation, his direct links to the Trump side are more tenuous, and if he was involved (as mentioned in the Steele Dossier) it was more likely a “cut-out” between the five and the Russians as the conspiracy got going. He’s had multiple interviews with the FBI already, supposedly without benefit of counsel (a person who represents himself has a fool for a client).

Here’s the five, and here’s where they stand now.

Flynn – now exposed as an agent for Turkey (he made $530,000 for work before Election Day. [1])  Flynn, whose contacts with Russia and directly with Putin are literally on video, is looking to cut a deal. He has offered to testify for immunity from prosecution [2]. Clearly, as more charges mount against him (income tax evasion, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, lying on his security clearance, acting as an agent for a foreign government while serving as National Security Advisor) the stakes will grow higher and perhaps the depth of his testimony greater. No one wants to go to jail and it seems pretty clear that Flynn won’t be the one to “take the fall” for Trump. If he’s got it, he’ll spill it – for a price.

Manafort – just admitted to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian-backed Ukrainian government. The $12 million payment notation that was found in the abandoned ledger in the exiled Ukrainian President’s house has grown to $17 million. He is facing a myriad of charges, including laundering money and income tax evasion, as well as acting as an unregistered foreign agent. [3] Rumor currently has it that Manafort is NOT cooperating with the investigation. That may be for a couple of reasons. First, he may be so dirty, that it is impossible to offer him a deal for anything. He may also be so near “the top of the pyramid”, that the investigators are making sure he is going to face charges. Second, Manafort may be holding out for a better deal, one that would make a future long jail term vanish. It is likely that whatever there is to know, he knows it.

Stone – is always in the background, always up to something. He was the original campaign operative for Trump, and claims to be the one who put the Presidency in Trump’s head. Stone is already on the record with statements showing he had prior knowledge of the Wikileaks release of John Podesta’s (Hillary’s campaign chairman) emails, and Stone was in a campaign firm with Manafort back in the 1990’s. Stone probably knows less than he would have folks believe, but he definitely wants to get attention. He has offered to testify, but probably has little to add to the conversation.

Sessions: the Attorney General of the United States. Sessions is a man who consistently “forgot” about meetings with Russians in testimony under oath, particularly with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. He was the US Senator who first  supported Donald Trump, and gave the campaign some aura of respectability. From listening to his testimony (“….Ah don’t recaul…”) he either is fumbling around his lies, or is using that persona to cover his omissions.  It is difficult to figure out what he might know.

And finally, there is first son-in-law Jared Kushner. He accepted loans from Deutsche Bank right before election day [4] (Deutsche Bank has been fined for allowing Russian money to laundered through their accounts). Kushner was in charge of the data and social media operation for the Trump Campaign – the methods vastly aided by the Russian operations. [5] He also not only forgot secret meetings he had with Ambassador Kislyak, (and did not mention them in his security clearance)[6] but actually tried to set up a secret communications channel through the Russian Embassy back to Moscow.

It is difficult to see Kushner accepting jail time – but he also is married to the “boss’s” daughter. Clearly Kushner knows whatever there is to know, and also is one at the “top of the pyramid.” Whether he would, or could, cut some kind of deal for immunity is a very open question.

So there’s the probable focus of the investigation, and where that inquiry will go.

*As I wrote this blog – the Twitter controversy broke after Trump’s comments about Mika Brzezinski.  To Trump it’s a “even-steven deal” – Brzezinski made fun of the size of his hands on-air this morning.  Trump missed that she’s a commentator – and he’s the President of the United States. There’s a difference! He also missed that his references about women have been ongoing and disgusting.  

 

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/michael-flynn-registers-foreign-agent-earned-530k-lobbying-article-1.2993217

[2] Flynn seeks immunity from prosecution

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/politics/manafort-registers-foreign-agent/index.html

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/kushner-firms-285-million-deutsche-bank-loan-came-just-before-election-day/2017/06/25/984f3acc-4f88-11e7-b064-828ba60fbb98_story.html?utm_term=.dc080bbebd12

[5] https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevenbertoni/2016/11/22/exclusive-interview-how-jared-kushner-won-trump-the-white-house/#6dc0a9503af6

[6] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/us/politics/jared-kushner-russians-security-clearance.html

View from the Other Side

View from the Other Side

Senator Bernie Sanders says that if the GOP Health Care Plan passes, “…thousands will die.” [1] Congressman Mo Brooks says that “…people who lead good lives…” don’t have to worry about pre-existing conditions.[2] The Congressional Budget Office says that that 15 million people will lose their insurance if the plan becomes law.[3]

Some of these statements are true, some are hyperbolic, but they are all part of the incredibly heated rhetoric that surrounds the Senate vote on the GOP Health Care Plan. As a “liberal” I find it hard to imagine that any Senator would vote for this Plan with the clear impact it will have on their constituents’ lives. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying all of the Republicans are “bought out” by the insurance companies, or the billionaires who look to make vast amounts of money on tax breaks, or really believe that the “virtuous” won’t need insurance.

Part of believing in “civil discourse” means that I believe that folks of good faith can have differing views, reasonably held. So in the interest of being civil, here is what I believe are their reasons to change health care (though I find none of these reasons persuasive!!)

  1. Conservatives believe that the free market will do a better job of providing insurance rather than one controlled by government regulation. Competition will ultimately drive the cost of insurance down, making it more affordable. Then it will then become more attractive to younger, healthier people who are not now inclined to buy expensive insurance, expanding the market and therefore create a broader base paying insurance and lowering costs.
  2. They also believe that medical care is a simple ‘supply and demand’ equation. By putting government money into the market (by the increase in Medicaid payments) it creates more demand for care, and, as the supply of care cannot easily expand, the cost of medical care goes up for all.
  3. They also don’t believe that “people will die” if the GOP Health Care Plan becomes law. There are already laws in the books that require public hospitals to treat everyone who comes in the door, and while that treatment is folded into the overall cost of health care, it doesn’t come out of the government pocket.
  4. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, as Vice President Pence has made clear.[4] Personal responsibility means that folks have to deal with their own issues, whether it’s pregnancy (men shouldn’t pay for pre-natal care) or diabetes. Others shouldn’t have to pay more on their insurance to cover it.
  5. Conservatives don’t believe that Government money should be paid through Medicare to solve “social” problems: most notably drug addiction. Either drug addiction should be treated through “stand alone” programs, or,  echoing the personal responsibility idea, addicts did it to themselves.
  6. And perhaps most importantly, conservatives believe that the current government cost of health care is unsustainable, that it will increase the National Debt to the point where the value of the US Dollar will begin to fall from inflation, and ultimately will require future generations to pay a huge cost.

The ARE multiple problems with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It was based and passed on the concept that ALL states would expand Medicaid, and therefore expand the number of healthy individuals in the insurance pool. The Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the expansion, and  therefore reduced the size of the pool.[5]

The IRS has stopped collecting the “penalty” for not having insurance. This removes the incentive for healthy individuals to enter the insurance pool, and it reduces the amount of tax brought in to back the rest of the ACA. Meanwhile, insurance companies are getting out of the individual state marketplaces, often because they have no faith that the laws of today will be the laws of tomorrow.

The ACA was an attempt to bridge the divide between the free market view of health care and the more liberal “single payer” system, which is most easily thought of as Medicare for everyone. But even for a single payer system to work, the US must also step onto the other side of the equation in health care, price control. Medicare already does this by restricting the amount that can be charged for a given procedure, but drug costs have been specifically EXEMPTED from control. While the argument is made the Pharmaceutical companies won’t do research if they don’t make a big enough profit (the famous “first pill” cost,) it’s hard to imagine that the excessive profits big pharma makes now are just used for research.

In the end, health care support from the government is a choice. It is a spending choice, just like building a wall at the border, putting more bombers in the sky, and improving roads and bridge. It shouldn’t (and doesn’t have to be) a choice that bankrupts the nation, but it does raise the question: what is the role of government to the people’s health? Does the Constitutional admonition to “…promote the general welfare…” include their health, or is that a “personal responsibility?”

[1] http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/339234-sanders-thousands-will-die-under-gop-health-bill

[2] http://www.salon.com/2017/05/02/alabama-congressman-people-who-lead-good-lives-dont-have-preexisting-conditions/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/26/us/politics/senate-health-care-bill-republican.html

[4] https://twitter.com/mike_pence/status/878669323929341952

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/06/28/the-supreme-court-surprise-medicaid-ruling-could-reduce-coverage/?utm_term=.e20eff9e530e

Mom

Mom

My Mom, Phyllis Mary Teresa O’Connor Dahlman, better known as “Babs” would have been 99 years old Sunday. She passed away at 93, and had a hard way to go for the last couple years of her life. But the rest of her 91 years were well lived and exciting. She wasn’t part of Trump World (what she would say about him would make us all blush) but she taught and lived an example that I hope lives on in all who knew her.

Mom was British, and fiercely proud of it. She fought as a spy during World War II, going behind enemy lines to help the Underground Resistance to the Nazis. She met Dad, brought in by the US Army, on a blind date. Mom and Dad fell madly in love as the bombs fell in London, and she returned to the US as a war bride in 1946.

http://www.uc.edu/info-services/spy.htm

She became as fiercely patriotic about the United States as she was about Britain.   While she never gave up her British citizenship, she was always deeply interested and involved with what went on here in the United States. She had strong opinions about everything, and she was perfectly willing to discuss and defend them. At our dining room table we (the kids, friends, Dad’s new employees) were expected to participate in the political debates of the time. (The only out of bounds topic, the Queen!)

I had a Kennedy button (that’s John F Kennedy for President, 1960) when I was four years old. We visited our friends the Shrivers, well known for their Republican views, and I wasn’t allowed to enter their apartment in the Vernon Manor Hotel. Mom let me sit out in the hall rather than take off my JFK button. All was finally made well, as the Shrivers gave me a lead elephant (I don’t think they worried about poisoning back then) to play with. It’s still around here today.

She encouraged us to care – about our neighbors, about the community and about the world. When my sisters went to protest the Vietnam War, when I became involved in local and national political campaigns, Mom was always curious and a great sounding board for new ideas. She wanted us to be a part of the world, as well as a part of our own lives.

She was able to listen to different views. At her dining table there was no problem with having a liberal Federal Judge, a conservative engineer from Proctor and Gamble, a founder of Planned Parenthood, and even a couple in communication with aliens from outer space. Mom and Dad enjoyed the diversity of opinion. When the new political rhetoric of the Rush Limbaugh’s and Glenn Beck’s came out, allowing no discussion without attack; she felt it violated the “rules” of civil discourse. It wasn’t that you couldn’t disagree, it was that you needed to be able to listen as well as speak. She didn’t understand people that she knew were intelligent, attacking that way.

She would have hated the politics of Trump World. She would have been appalled to see the cold heartedness of the Muslim Ban and Trumpcare. She would have argued the case for compassion and love, not self-centered isolationism. I hope, and I think, that her children channel her ideas and love through our work today. We miss you Mom.

 

 

The Critical Issue

The Critical Issue

With all of the concerns about the Trump Administration, from Russian influence to Mob connections to manipulations of social media; the biggest concern to the United States is the least exciting. The Critical Issue: what is the state of our electoral infrastructure, and beyond that, the state of the rest of our energy, industrial and transportation controls.

Over the past couple of weeks, it has become clear through testimony that the Russians were attempting to “hack” our voting system. That’s no easy task: not only is the US electoral system divided into 51 separate entities, both most of those entities are further divided into counties and parishes. In Ohio there are 89 electoral systems, one for each county, and a statewide interface. Multiply that by all of the states and the District of Columbia, and we have some security through diversification.

In addition, the states are highly jealous of their powers when it comes to elections, and as former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said last week, are very concerned that any Federal “help’ would come at the price of loss of control.

            To my disappointment, the reaction to a critical infrastructure designation, at least from those who spoke up, ranged from neutral to negative. Those who expressed negative views stated that running elections in this country was the sovereign and exclusive responsibility of the states, and they did not want federal intrusion, a federal takeover, or federal regulation of that process.

http://kpvu.org/post/security-state-election-systems-focus-dueling-capitol-hill-hearings

Conservatives view this as a serious intrusion of the Federal Government. The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank financed by the Mellon and Coors families among others, outlines the concern:

Given the lack of a credible threat of a cyber-attack, there could be another explanation for what DHS is doing.  But designating election systems as “critical infrastructure” could grant Secretary Jeh Johnson, Department of Homeland Security officials, and officials at the Department of Justice access to any and every election and to any and every voting location they “deem” threatened. The government would be able to police the systems, and could demand changes be made to election and voting systems regardless of the views of local officials.

http://www.heritage.org/election-integrity/commentary/why-does-dhs-want-designate-election-booths-critical-infrastructure

Given all of this, it is known that the Russians attacked in at least twenty-one states (and probably more) and gained access to at least two systems, one in Illinois and one in North Carolina. While it is stated (over and over) that there is no evidence that actual votes were changed, it is certainly not clear that the necessary investigations have been made to find out. The current Department of Homeland Security will not disclose the states where hacks were attempted (other than already known North Carolina and Illinois.) Their argument is they don’t want to “embarrass” those states and perhaps restrict future cooperation.

So, here’s what we have: the biggest possible threat to US infrastructure – a real and credible threat – election hacking. A system so scattered as to be difficult to attack, but even more difficult to defend. Every state (and county) jealously protecting their own power to control voting procedures, and a Federal Government afraid to embarrass those jurisdictions. And, the knowledge that two states and one software producer for multiple states (VR in Florida) were hacked. We know Russians had access to voting registration programming, we don’t know (though it seems very possible in North Carolina) whether that access created damage.

Here’s what we don’t have: we don’t know what the Russians were able to do, and we aren’t going to find out if we are afraid of someone being “embarrassed.” We also don’t know, because there is a lot of power vested in not “disturbing” the current system. If, for example, it was found that Russians hacked voter databases (or worse) in three critical states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan; then it would call into question the Trump “mandate” from the electoral college. It is also true that the majority of state election officials are Republican, and are not excited about finding information which would call the election into question.

In a less partisan sense, we need to know what the Russians did, how they did it, and what effect it had nationwide. The foundation of our democracy is that election results are valid. Even more than that, we need to know that our other infrastructures: power, transportation, communication, stock and commodities markets; are protected from this same kind of attack. We can’t do that by closing our eyes or worrying about the legitimacy of the Trump Presidency; we need to know, and we need to fix what’s broke. That’s the critical issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Georgia

Lessons from Georgia

John Ossoff lost the Georgia 6th Congressional District last night. It was a tough sell: a District that had been Republican since 1979, and included Newt Gingrich and present Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as the past two holders of the seat. It clearly was not a “moderate” seat (Price, Gingrich were never considered “moderates”) but it would seem if you spend $35 MILLION to win one Congressional seat in the first six months of the chaos called the Trump Administration, you ought to be able to pull it off.

It wasn’t money. What are the lessons of Georgia 6th?

First, in an uphill battle, it doesn’t help that the candidate didn’t live in the District. “Carpetbagging” is a very familiar term in the South. The “nice” name for Northerners who came down to the South to take advantage of the Reconstruction Era, it never has been a popular position for any candidate, anywhere. Even Evan Bayh, the veteran Senator from Indiana, failed in a bid to return to the Senate in 2016, when it became clear that he had spent most of the last six years in Washington, D.C rather than Indiana.

For a candidate to run with that near-fatal flaw in a traditionally right leaning and Republican District in the South, just seems to be like starting a car race with four flat tires. His opponent, Karen Handel, never let him, or the District, forget it.

This points to the first dramatic problem for the Democratic Party. From the Presidency on down, where are the candidates? The fact that clearly Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden  are keeping their hands in for the 2020 Presidential race, shows that there isn’t a “bench” to draw from. Ohio is a dramatic example: beyond Senator Sherrod Brown there is NO state known office holder. While some mention Richard Cordray, former Ohio Attorney General and current Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; other statewide “contenders” include “family friendly” show host Jerry Springer, former Governor Ted Strickland, 76 years old, and Mike Coleman, 62 year old former Mayor of Columbus.

Where are the young guns? Where are Ohio’s John Ossoff’s, where are the strong women and men who have ideas that appeal to Ohio’s hard-working voters?

Which leads to the second problem: what is the message of the Democratic Party? Clearly the current message is that Trump is wrong (and Obama was right) and while that certainly appeals to the Democratic base, it requires more than just the base to win elections in Ohio and it will certainly require more to turn the House, Senate and Presidency around.

One lesson the actions of the Republicans from 2008 – 2016 is that obstruction works. And while that may have been true for them, I hope that the Democratic party can do better than that. Clearly the message of the party has been compassion for the poor, minorities, and folks that have been disenfranchised. What is missing: the Democratic Party that also represented the needs of the “worker.” How did the party which was based in “blue collar” workers, allow them to get ripped away by a party committed to defending the wealthy? And more importantly, how can the Democratic Party reach back to those workers, as well as keep the “rainbow coalition” (thanks Jesse Jackson) intact?

And, can the Democratic Party do that and still appeal to the highly educated white collar suburbs that have been gerrymandered into Congressional Districts?

What is required of the Democratic Party now? A message that is bigger than the current one: Obama was right, Trump shouldn’t have won, and he needs to be removed. While I agree with all of those things, it won’t win elections tomorrow.  We need to find new faces and support them (Duval Patrick where are you?) and we need to define a message that appeals to more than just our base.

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Cowboy

Lost Cowboy

Otto Warmbier has become a household name. He was Salutatorian of his high school class at Wyoming High School in Cincinnati, a junior at the University of Virginia, and an exchange student at the London School of Economics. He was a strong student and he was involved in everything. He was “the best and the brightest” that the suburban community of Wyoming, Ohio had to offer; a town and school that prides itself on high academic and professional achievement.

Like a lot of young people, Otto wanted to travel the world. One of the places he chose to visit was North Korea, the “forbidden” country. The advertisement for the trip said; “this is the trip your parents don’t want you to take!” He went, and perhaps he made a mistake. His confession to stealing a propaganda poster can’t be reliable in a country that daily coerces and tortures its own population. The video “evidence” is pretty blurry. But even if he did steal the poster, the sentence of fifteen years hard labor was directed more at the United States then to this particular youth.

Sometime soon after his sentencing, Otto was damaged beyond repair. His brain was deprived of oxygen, and he lapsed into a “vegetative state.” After a year, they bundled his destroyed mind and body onto a plane, and sent him home to die.

As a graduate of Wyoming High School myself, I feel the loss of Otto Warmbier more keenly. I didn’t know him or his parents, but to see them in familiar buildings and streets, to share the experiences and traditions of Wyoming with them, makes his loss more intimate. I mourn for him, and I can’t imagine the pain his parents are in.

To the North Koreans, Otto was a symbol, a pawn in their great game of Russian roulette with the rest of the world. Just like intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs, Otto was another finger in the eye of the United States: you can’t stop our missiles and bombs, and you can’t protect your people either. And they were right, we couldn’t.

So what happens next?

The North Koreans used him and threw him away. His is but one life, and I suspect both he and his parents would not want a nuclear war fought over his fate. But it is up to the United States, even with the dysfunctional government we have now, to find some appropriate means of responding to his death. It is clear that North Korea will continue to challenge the world, to put greater provocations in play, until the United States and the world react.

If there is to be any value in the loss of Otto Warmbier, let it be that we begin a world process to push North Korea back into an acceptable path. Obviously the threat and bluster of Naval Carrier Groups (real or imagined), hidden nuclear submarines and B-1 Bomber over-flights isn’t solving the problem. It will take world action, particularly involving China, and world leadership.

That would be something new and different for the current administration, but something that they must find a way to achieve. That should be the legacy of this one lost Cowboy.

 

 

 

 

A Bill of Impeachment

A Bill of Impeachment

 

NOTE – This is a list of the possible charges against President Trump. Some are known facts already proven, some are becoming more proven, some are rumors. Since the Impeachment process is a political rather than legal process, the definition of what consists of a “high crime and misdemeanor” can be very broad. These are the areas that I believe are being investigated by the Special Counsel and the Intelligence Committees. It would be interested to hear of others – please comment back!!

Red = facts already on the record

Green = items which have more information on the record as the investigation grows

Blue – Rumor and/or educated guesses – unsubstantiated reports

Whereas Donald J Trump, President of the United States, has violated his oath of office, the United States Constitution, the Federal Criminal Code of the United States, and the laws of several of the sovereign states of the United States; the House of Representatives does find sufficient evidence to Impeach him, calling for his removal from the office of President, and hereby forwards to the Senate this Bill of Impeachment for trial. The particulars of the charges are categorized below:

Article 1

Engaging in treasonous activity, having Contact, Cooperation and Collusion with a foreign nation to subvert the electoral process of the United States, to wit:

Giving information, guidance, and accepting aid from the Government of Russia during the Presidential campaign of 2016

Encouraging and guiding attacks by the Government of Russia on American Institutions, including but not limited to the Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and State and Local voting regulators and Boards of Elections

Knowingly receiving financial aid and benefit from foreign nationals known to act on the behalf of Government of Russia

Article 2

Committing criminal malfeasance by Running and Accepting the office of President of the United States while being fully aware that foreign nations, including but not limited to Russia, were in possession of compromising materials which influenced and restricted his ability to act in the interests of the United States, to wit;

Had Financial obligations to known actors of the Russian Government which were not disclosed allowing that Government to leverage his decisions

Previously engaging in illegal money “laundering” practices with known actors of the Russian Government

Using surrogates to contact, cooperate and collude with Russian Intelligence, therefore giving them compromising materials

Engaged in illegal and immoral sexual activities in multiple countries, allowing compromising materials including video recordings to exist

Article 3

Prior to and since taking office as President, engaging in illegal business practices including:

Using real estate and casino transactions to “launder” money for Russian nationals

Engaging in a pattern of corrupt business practices in violations of the Racketeering, Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Profiting from the office of the Presidency by refusing to place his business ownerships outside of his direction, and allowing foreign nations to enrich him in violation of the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution

Claiming charitable contributions and actions while in fact profiting from them in violation of State and Federal Law

Article 4

Committing Espionage by betraying highly secret information to our adversaries

Revealing information publicly that allowed a highly placed informant to be readily identified

Informing the world, and North Korea, of the positioning of our nuclear submarines, whose sole survival skill is stealth

Allowing Russian Nationals and Technicians exclusive access to the White House

Appointing a known and admitted agent of a foreign government to the post of National Security Advisor (after repeated warnings not to do so)

Article 5

Acting to obstruct justice and hindering the investigation of his activities by:

Telling subordinates not to testify truthfully to authorized investigations including Congressional Committees

Illegally claiming “executive privilege” in an effort to prevent the discovery of wrongdoing by himself and members of the administration

Publicly and continually questioning the authority and abilities of the agencies of the Federal Government charged with upholding the Constitution and Federal Law in an effort to undercut the public trust in their work

Firing the Director of the FBI for the admitted reason of slowing or stopping the Russia Investigation

 

 

 

John Wayne Had It

John Wayne Had It

Manhood: one of the major themes of Trump World, and one of the major attack modes when Trump wants to go after someone. “Tired Jeb”, “Little Marco”, and now “Cowardly Leaker Comey”: all allusions to some flaw in the victims manhood and sexuality. Obviously “Tired Jeb” is suffering from low testosterone, unable to “perform” like a man; guess what’s little on “Little Marco” (who’s sweaty too); and not only is Comey a coward, but he’s a leaker (must need Depends).

It’s all about the Trump definition of Manhood, how a Real Man should act, what a Real Man cares about. In Trump world the definition of a Real Man is:

1. A Man has so much money they no longer have to worry about the necessity of life

2. A Man NEVER compromises, backs away from confrontation, or recognizes that someone who thinks differently might have valid points

3. A Man has sex as a primary concern and goal, and women are simply objects to make him look better (and feel powerful)

4. A Man cannot show emotion (other than rage) or compassion (other than a kind of fake concern for the “working man,” something he’s never done)

5. A Man cannot be a woman (Crooked, Sick, Tired, Hillary)

6. A Man should do “Manly” things like Donald Junior’s Big Game Hunting, where they drive you to the animal, you shoot, and then you drive back to camp. Just like the women, it’s the easy way to get the trophy.

When Trump or his surrogates “call out” James Comey for getting emotional, or deride him for “leaking” his own memos instead of putting them out himself, they miss the main point. Whether you agree with Comey or not (and I certainly don’t agree with what he did regarding Hillary Clinton) Comey made a “mans” decision, and stood up for it. He risked and lost his job by standing up to power, and refusing to be illegally influenced. Like it or not Comey demonstrated everything about a “being a man” that Donald Trump couldn’t.

Even in firing Comey, Trump took the cowards way out, announcing it on TV instead of informing him personally, so that Comey found out as he addressed his FBI agents in Los Angeles. In his television show, “The Apprentice”, Trump fired people face to face: in real life he wasn’t “man” enough.

Sally Yates “manned up” to the risks that informing the White House about Michael Flynn obviously entailed. She then did an even more “manly” thing, she spoke truth to power, refusing to endorse the Trump travel ban (which has been confirmed by multiple courts, including the 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeal.) For that she was sacked.

John Wayne played cowboys in Westerns. He established a character: slow to speak, slow to anger, powerful, compassionate, and was considered a “man’s man.” And while politically John Wayne represented a lot of conservative views I disagreed with, as an actor playing his role, John Wayne stood for rugged individualism, and for compassion, and for respect for women, and for being a man. That’s a role that Donald Trump just can’t play.

Trump’s defines manhood as an image, not a reality. His image of the “boss” with all of the trappings of the rich, misses what real men know: that a real man takes care of others and a real man values things greater than themselves. A real man is willing to dedicate his life to more than just himself: to serve others, his nation, his beliefs. A real man doesn’t even have to be a “man”, just a courageous, compassionate human. And certainly a real man is not a whining, bullying, pretender like Donald Trump.

Life in the Post Comey World

Life in the Post Comey World

In a hearing hyped as the biggest thing since the Watergate Senate session with Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean, fired FBI director James Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence committee this week. While it was riveting viewing, in the end, we learned very little new.

Comey was fired by Trump. Trump himself has said it was about the Russia Investigation (interview with Lester Holt). Comey stated under oath that Trump wanted him to close the Michael Flynn investigation. Trump denies it, then says that even if he did say it, there was nothing wrong with it. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on the meaning of the word “hope.”

There is a scene in the movie Clear and Present Danger where Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) stands up to the President of the United States, refusing to be part of a cover-up by corrupt Washington (Clear and Present Danger). It’s a proud moment, the upstanding American against the wrong leader of the free world. It’s the moment we willed James Comey to have, as the President “hoped” that Comey would let Michael Flynn off the hook. Instead, Comey himself portrayed it as a time when the awesome power of the Presidency silenced him, when all he could do was to choose his answer carefully.

Or, for those of us with a more sinister bent, it was the time when the Director of the FBI, a seasoned prosecutor, was allowing a suspect to hang himself. Why would he stop the President from interfering in a Federal investigation, obstructing justice, a felony? If this is what the President was clearly intending to do, then why not let him go on?

Comey painted a picture of Donald Trump as a man that could not be trusted. From the first meeting, January 6, 2017, when Comey revealed the scandalous Steele document to Trump (the Trump “porn” the Russians supposedly have), he documented everything he said to Trump because he felt that Trump would lie. He then showed Trump as a man who manipulated those who worked for him, demanding loyalty while showing little in return. He also made it clear that he thought Trump knew that what he was asking was wrong, that the one-on-one meetings were intentionally to avoid witnesses.

He painted a picture of the President not as the “neophyte” politician that Speaker Ryan would have us believe, but as a scheming autocrat who was willing to circumvent the law.

The question that should be asked, is why would Trump go to such lengths to try to protect General Flynn? To a man with such a one-way concept of loyalty, do we truly believe that he would risk everything just to take care of a friend? Or is it more likely, that Flynn represents the key to the actions of the Trump Organization in league with Russian Intelligence. Getting Mike Flynn off the hook may well have more to do with keeping Flynn from taking a plea deal with Special Prosecutor Mueller than with helping a buddy.

The “John Dean” moment of testimony in this scandal is more likely to be the day that Michael Flynn takes the chair, surrounded by the comfort of Federal immunity, when he reveals the depth of the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian intelligence.

Comey had his “Harrison Ford” moment. He absolutely comes across as an honest public servant, who tried to do his job as he saw it. All attempts to tar him as a “leaker” or “liar” are doomed, he IS a real day Jack Ryan to many Americans. Even we Democrats, who lay the election of Donald Trump at Comey’s doorstep, have to admit that. But he is not the lynch-pin to this investigation. It will take more than just “he said, he said” and obstruction of justice to bring down this Presidency.

The Calculus of Losing

The Calculus of Losing

President Trump is faced with a difficult calculation. If his “base” of support drops below 30% or so, he will lose his hold on Congressional Republicans.

Those Republicans are backing Trump, in part, out of fear of retribution from voters. Simply put: they can’t win re-election without the Trump base. Montana’s Congressional election helped strengthen that hand. Even when the candidate body-slams a reporter, as long as he clings to Trump, he wins.

But, should the President’s base of support begin to slide away, the door will open for Congressional Republicans to slide away as well. Many are highly uncomfortable with the President and his actions, and didn’t much like Trump in the first place. They are looking for an excuse to get out from under him.

Trump has always claimed to be a “winner.” How can losing then be an effective strategy?

Lets start with the immigration “restrictions.” For months, the Trump administration has gone out of its way to avoid the word “ban.” “Ban” echoes the campaign pledge to “…ban the immigration of Muslims until we figure out what the Hell is going on.” That statement has huge 1st Amendment issues, as it calls for government actions against a particular religion. This week however, Trump is tweeting the word “ban” over and over, even though the case has just been put to the US Supreme Court. But Trump continues to highlight the word. The message of his tweets isn’t to the Court, it’s to his base. Muslims attacked London, Muslims will come attack you – stick with me.

Should the immigration ban lose in the Supreme Court, Trump still wins. He can then say that it’s the Court’s fault that he can’t make America safe from Muslim attack. He has tried. The base stays with him, win or lose.

The same is true with Trump’s attack on the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn. Kahn, in talking about increased police presence and visibility in London, wanted to assure Londoners that more police didn’t mean a greater threat. He told them to remain calm. Trump immediately jumped on that, saying after these attacks, people can’t be calm. But the undertone was: a Muslim Mayor of London doesn’t take terrorist attacks seriously.

Again, a win with his base, who have proven to be Islamophobic.

And finally the Paris Climate Accord, where Trump was faced with a huge rift in his own advisors. Tillerson, Cohn, and Jared and Ivanka all reportedly urged to stay in the Accord. It was Bannon and Preibus, the political advisors, who encouraged Trump to use the Paris Accord withdrawal as a platform for his defense of “the American Worker.” “I’m the President of Pittsburgh, not Paris” harkens back to the Nationalist platform that got him elected.

So if you feel like Trump is going back to the campaign of March and April of 2016, you’re right. Trump has made his calculation: it is better to keep his base, than it is to govern. He can lose in the Supreme Court, and in the world court of opinion, as long as he can hold his base over the head of the Republicans in Congress. IF he loses that hammer; if Congressional Republicans feel that Trump is an electoral liability more than a strength, he will really feel what it’s like to be a “loser.”