Carl Bernstein on Trump

Journalist Carl Bernstein thinks Trump is “boxed in” by the Mueller investigation and by the sheer incompetence of Trump taking a wrecking ball to the global economy. The man doesn’t get along with anybody — except for autocrats, mob bosses, and thugs. Trump apparently doesn’t feel boxed in at all, is confident that his voters will believe anything he says no matter the factual evidence, and retains absolute confidence that he can control the national conversation by continuing to bloviate and bluster.

The latter is what we get by electing to the presidency a man who has, all of his life, had fixers to cover up and deflect any consequences of his actions. Trump is used to passing the buck — he’s done it successfully since he was a young man at his father’s side.

Is he now really boxed in? Time will tell. I’m hoping the steady drip-drip-drip of House investigations will finally bring Trump voters to recognize how misplaced their loyalty is. Most of us don’t really, at the end of the day, admire a cheat and a liar. Trump belongs on WE TV, not in the most powerful office in the world.

Nick Ayers Snubs Trump

Anyone who comes highly recommended by Javanka is not likely to be someone I’d admire, so young Republican operative Nick Ayers — who has apparently made his considerable fortune as a political consultant satisfying the ambition of wealthy Republican candidates and donors — is not someone I’d see adding any sort of stability to the Chief of Staff position at the White House. But I think it’s interesting that Ayers turned down the position when offered by Trump.

Trump trusts very few people, and by now it’s evident that placing trust in him is a risky proposition. Everyone around Trump, with the possible exception of Nicki Haley, emerges tarnished and diminished by the rampant corruption coming out of the Oval Office. That means Trump is surrounded by an ever-shrinking group of people, many of whom have difficulty demonstrating competence for the jobs they are offered. Heather Nauert as U.N. ambassador? A joke.

Nick Ayers may have a future in Republican politics, but in his view that future is apparently not enhanced by going to work directly for Trump. So we’re left with the same names: Mulvaney, who now holds two jobs, Mark Meadows, Lighthizer. Chris Christie? He can’t be such a glutton for punishment that he puts himself in Trump’s line of fire for more bad jokes about his weight.

I have this image of Trump, whenever the end of his presidency comes, barricaded in the Oval Office with Janvanka and Melania and Don Junior ready to cast boiling oil at anyone who approaches. Eric will be outside on the lawn yelling about George Conway’s lack of respect. Anyone with half a brain and a perceived future in politics is going to be far, far away — like in Georgia, that bastion of democracy and civil rights where Ayers and his family plan to go.

This is how a presidency ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

HBO Documentary: Ice Box

If you have HBO, try to track down the doc-film currently on offer: Ice Box. This heart-wrenching story follows 12 year old Honduran boy named Oscar, forced into a gang, branded with gang tats against his will, and made to stand by while the gang killed another boy. Oscar tries to leave the gang and return to school, where gang members track him down and pepper his classroom with live gunshots. His desperate parents pay a coyote to take him to the U.S. border to seek asylum, eventually to land with an uncle working outside Phoenix.

The heartbreaking scenes begin with Oscar’s father trying to tell his son how to remain safe on the perilous trip, his mother telling Oscar he isn’t being sent away because he is bad but because his life is in danger and they cannot protect him, and his little sister coming to say good-bye.

Whatever perils Oscar faces during the journey are far outweighed by the cruelty of Immigration and Border Patrol agents who catch Oscar and imprison him in a chilly warehouse filled with cages, each one home to a group of unaccompanied minors. The only kindness here is between the detainees, between Oscar and his new friend Rafael. Even the journalist who eventually helps Oscar connect with his terrified uncle — a  poor farm worker living in a bunk house whose job it is to spray dangerous chemicals on crops — has a motive: she wants details of Oscar’s confinement for a story. The U.S. court system, where Oscar unsuccessfully presents his case, comes in a close second on the cruelty scale.

There is no miracle ending, no happy prospect for Oscar to stay in the United States legally — except that he isn’t dead.

Trump’s tough guy act toward vulnerable children like Oscar is supported by people in his administration like Stephen Miller and John Kelly, all of whom conveniently ignore the role the U.S. has played in destabilizing Latin American countries for decades. During the 20th Century, the U.S. government supported regime change in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. Very active, we were, under the guise of repelling communism.

Here is a more particular account of U.S. involvement in Honduras:

“U.S. military presence in Honduras and the roots of Honduran migration to the United States are closely linked. It began in the late 1890s, when U.S.-based banana companies first became active there. As historian Walter LaFeber writes in “Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America,” American companies “built railroads, established their own banking systems, and bribed government officials at a dizzying pace.” As a result, the Caribbean coast “became a foreign-controlled enclave that systematically swung the whole of Honduras into a one-crop economy whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York, and later Boston.”

By 1914, U.S. banana interests owned almost 1 million acres of Honduras’ best land. These holdings grew through the 1920s to such an extent that, as LaFeber asserts, Honduran peasants “had no hope of access to their nation’s good soil.” Over a few decades, U.S. capital also came to dominate the country’s banking and mining sectors, a process facilitated by the weak state of Honduras’ domestic business sector. This was coupled with direct U.S. political and military interventions to protect U.S. interests in 1907 and 1911.

The people who should see Ice Box, Trump’s core supporters, will no doubt pass the HBO film by. But you should track it down and watch, if for no other reason to bear witness to the cruelty being done in our name.

Did Trump Really Sell Us Out for a Moscow Hotel?

That Trump and his sycophants have been lying up a storm and trying to hide things since the election is without doubt. The question in everyone’s mind is “why”?

Could Trump really have sold out the integrity of an American election just to get another gaudy high rise hotel with his name plastered on it, this one in Moscow?

I’m shaking my head at the smallness and venality of his corruption.

Clan of Grifters

I’m not a fan of any of the Trumps — grifters one and all. This Guardian takedown of Javanka was delightful to read. Here is author Emma Brockes description of the two:

For what seems like long stretches, I forget about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner; and then, in weeks such as this, when both are in the news – Ivanka for her emails and Kushner for irritating the Mexicans by being honoured by their president – I am reminded of what a weird pair they are. The sickly boy king of American politics and Trump’s increasingly diminished daughter.”

Do read the whole piece. If you’re not a fan of Trumplandia, it will make you feel better.

Trump Courts Joe Manchin

Trump has a high level of political cunning; without it he wouldn’t have won the presidency. Like the dog chasing the car, Trump has no real interest in managing the prize once he wins it. Nor does he like to work hard, preferring instead to gab on the phone with his friends and play golf. But winning is still, to him, everything.

Recent news reports have Trump cozying up to Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Interesting. Luring Manchin on to the ticket for 2020 — my thought, not that of the pundits — would be an interesting move for Trump. Despite Pence’s doglike devotion, Trump no longer needs Pence to woo Evangelicals. Evangelicals now love Trump all on their own. Does Pence’s loyalty count? Nah. Loyalty for Trump goes only one way.

A ticket of Trump and red state Democrat Manchin could be a game changer. I hope Manchin doesn’t fall for the offer, if made. Everyone in Trump’s orbit sooner or later is drawn into the corruption and lies at the center of this presidency. Even James Mattis is now a diminished figure. Trump also requires unquestioning sycophancy from his underlings — high prices to pay. But Manchin has no path to the presidency on his own. Who knows if he might be tempted?

Remembering Harvey Milk

There’s a bit of a nostalgia thing going on in our country, particularly among Trump voters. The nostalgia holds that in fairly recent memory everything used to be right with our country, unlike now when people with brown and black skin demand that their lives matter, women think our place is anywhere, transgender people think they know best where to go to the bathroom, and young gay men who are murdered like Matthew Shepherd are honored by being interred in Washington’s National Cathedral.

You have to be a certain age to remember the stunning murder of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. Milk was killed by a former colleague on the Board of Supervisors, Dan White. There are lots of LGBTQ elected politicians now, but not then. Milk was a rare bird, an ebulliently, openly gay man elected to the Board of Supervisors by gay and straight voters alike. Diane Feinstein was a colleague, and there on the day Milk was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone.

Milk was and is a martyr of the gay rights movement; a memorial is being held for him, some 40 years after his death. I have no doubt it will be well-attended. I remember seeing on TV the parade of heartbroken candlelight marchers who took to the streets after Milk’s death.

I have no desire to go back to that earlier, mythic time of the 1950’s, ’60’s, and 70’s. In my mother’s Irish Catholic family, the assaults of her alcoholic, abusive father were sanitized by the phrase “Pop’s spells”. When my father died in 1959, any pension benefits he might have accrued at DuPont were lost when the company moved south and he didn’t go. My mother returned to work as a secretary, and women at her level got no pension at all.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The nostalgic era that Trump voters seek to recover was good for middle class and affluent white straight Christian men. The rest of us would rather move on.

Rest in peace, Harvey Milk.

Getting to Know Seattle: Live Music at the Triple Door

The Triple Door in Seattle is a live music dinner theater. Louise and I went to hear an Iranian singer named Mamak Khadem as part of the Town Hall arts and lecture series. I know nothing about Iranian music, which was reason enough to go. There are two other musicians as part of her band — a drummer/percussionist and a Kurd playing a traditional instrument whose name I didn’t get. But the photo showing all four didn’t turn out well. I picked this one instead.

Khadem sang pieces from Iran, Syria, Kurdistan, and Azerbaijan — and it was clear from the response of the audience that there were many who knew the music and were likely from those areas. The joy on their faces as the clapped and sang along and ultimately line danced to the music of their homeland was as special as the performance itself.

Remembering George Bush

I caught part of a special on George H. W. Bush on Saturday night — not the whole thing, as I’m not particularly a Bush fan. But it was hard not to compare and contrast former President Bush and all of those who spoke in memory of him with the current occupant of the Oval Office. By comparison, what a sad, diminished, venal man we now have in the White House. And that extends to the families of each: the extended Bush family, who spoke with grace and love for their grandfather, compared to the icky Trump clan.

Peter Beinart, writing for the Atlantic, has an interesting perspective on Bush 41:

Since George H. W. Bush’s death, many observers have noted that he embodied a less rancorous, less polarized political era. But underlying that civility was something deeper: Bush was the last person to occupy the Oval Office whose opponents saw him as a fully legitimate president.

That’s because in the contemporary United States, presidential legitimacy stems from three sources. The first source is democracy. Although America’s system of choosing presidents has many undemocratic features, many Americans associate presidential legitimacy with winning a majority of the vote. The second source is background. Throughout American history, America’s presidents have generally looked a certain way. They’ve been white, male, (mostly) Protestant, and often associated with legitimating institutions such as the military, elite universities, or previous high office. Americans are more likely to question the legitimacy of presidents who deviate from those traditions. The third source is behavioral. Presidents can lose legitimacy if they violate established norms of personal or professional conduct.”

Bill Clinton won a plurality of the vote, not a majority, and never served in the military. George W. Bush lost the popular vote and entered the White House via a dubious Supreme Court decision ending the recount in Florida. Barack Obama was a black man with a Kenyan father; many white Americans never accepted the legitimacy of his presidency. And Trump violates the criteria for legitimacy on all counts. That we have to go all the way back to Bush 41 to find a president widely accepted as legitimate does not bode well for our democracy.

Underneath the patrician exterior Bush 41, he of the Willie Horton ad, could be as politically underhanded and race-baiting as any other white Republican of modern times. But as president, Bush 41 did have the capacity to put the country first in important ways, and he respected the institutions of democracy. Sad to say we have none of that emanating from the Oval Office now.

Getting to Know Seattle: Green Lake in Winter

As regular readers of the blog know, I am a frequent visitor to Green Lake in spring, summer and fall. In winter, I tend to exercise inside. But I did go one recent Sunday mid-afternoon when the rain held off and it was simply cloudy. Darkness falls here around 4:30pm at this time of year; during my walk, at about 3pm, it was already feeling like evening was upon us. There were lots of walkers so it felt quite safe, but this early darkness is our payback for having light until 9:30pm at the summer solstice.