More Disturbing Stuff About Trump

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Two new pieces this week from critics of Donald Trump.

Krugman published an editorial, Wrecking The Ship of State. To motivate folks to read the editorial, here are some exerts :

But can we now admit that he really is as bad as — or worse than — his harshest critics predicted he would be? And it’s not just his contempt for the rule of law, which came through so clearly in the James Comey testimony: As the legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin says, if this isn’t obstruction of justice, what is? There’s also the way Trump’s character, his combination of petty vindictiveness with sheer laziness, leaves him clearly not up to doing the job.

Take health care. It’s still unclear whether Republicans will ever be able to pass a replacement for Obamacare (although it is clear that if they do, it will take coverage away from tens of millions). But whatever happens on the legislative front, there are big problems developing in the insurance markets as we speak: companies pulling out, leaving some parts of the country unserved, or asking for large increases in premiums.

…insurance markets were clearly stabilizing last fall. Instead, as insurers themselves have been explaining, the problem is the uncertainty created by Trump and company, especially the failure to make clear whether crucial subsidies will be maintained.

Or take the remarkable decision to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Qatar, a small nation that houses a huge U.S. military base. There are no good guys in this quarrel, but every reason for the U.S. to stay out of the middle.

And consider his refusal to endorse the central principle of NATO, the obligation to come to our allies’ defense — a refusal that came as a shock and surprise to his own foreign policy team. What was that about? Nobody knows, but it’s worth considering that Trump apparently ranted to European Union leaders about the difficulty of setting up golf courses in their nations. So maybe it was sheer petulance.

Another shocking piece is Graydon Carter’s Editor’s Letter in the latest Vanity Fair A Farce To Be Reckoned With. Again some exerts:

The thing is, you cannot rise above Donald Trump, you cannot go under him, and you cannot engage him in a conventional way. Before he became president, you could basically ignore him—he was a local joke, after all. Now that he’s commander in chief, you must resist him, with everything that is in you and in every way you can. As anyone who has followed his jerry-rigged career from the 1980s onward will tell you, Trump just drags you to the bottom of the pond every time. Decades ago, he was a short-fingered vulgarian tooling around town in a mauve stretch limo, reeking of Brut.

With Trump, everything past is prologue. On the day after his inauguration, while millions in the U.S. and around the world protested his improbable election, Trump went to C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. The ostensible purpose of the visit was to patch things up after he had repeatedly trashed the intelligence community in the weeks leading up to his swearing-in. Trump’s speech was short, just 15 minutes, but even here, after paying lip service to the C.I.A. and its heritage, he went off piste, claiming that his beef with the intelligence community was a figment of the media’s imagination—as was the slim size of the crowd at his inaugural. These complete fabrications were made despite all printed, oral, and visual evidence to the contrary. That he spoke these words standing before the marble wall of 117 stars representing the lives of the men and women from the agency who had died in the line of duty was troubling enough. Across the hall from him, however—and in plain sight—was another marble wall, with a clearly visible quote from John 8:32 put there by former C.I.A. director Allen Dulles: AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.

Had Trump heeded those words, his presidency wouldn’t be so trussed up in the Gordian knot of his appalling lies, contradictions, and deceptions. His presidency is effectively doomed—it’s only a question now of how and when it will end. Treason? Impeachment? Incapacity? Until that day, you should be forgiven if you think you are suffering from extreme, full-blown P.T.S.D.—President Trump Stress Disorder. You are not alone. A serial liar in the office or home is one thing—and stressful enough. But a serial liar in the highest office in the land is something else altogether. Couple that with an erratically fragile ego, a severely diminished mental capacity, a lacerating temper, and access to the nuclear codes, and it’s going to get a whole lot hotter in here.

Far and away the most unfit man ever to hold the nation’s highest office, Trump has crammed so much into his first few months that most of us have trouble keeping track of the quotidian acts of executive mayhem. He has no foreign or domestic policy to speak of—he bases most of his decisions on what will play best to his base out there among the Twitterati. He cozies up to dictators and fellow strongmen, flattering them and giving them unwarranted credibility, while running roughshod over traditional allies. He has signed executive orders that attempt to slash decades of advancement in educational, medical, and environmental protections. The torrent of hate that Trump has so cavalierly unleashed has moved attacks against Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans from the margins toward the mainstream. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center report spikes in hate crimes and bias-related incidents since Trump’s election

As an executive, Trump is a shambles. Can you imagine a company in America that would hire Trump as its C.E.O.? (Enron doesn’t count: it’s no longer in business.) He’s not a true leader in any proper sense of the word; he’s a ringmaster of a heaving, leaking White House that is much closer to the Circus Maximus or a traveling carny show than any traditional government operation. When he told NBC News that Comey was “a showboat” and “a grandstander,” what he really meant was that there was room for only one of those in this town.

Trump has spoken of the media’s trying to muddy his message of unifying the country. With his brazen attempts to gut government entities like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the State Department, as well as his plans to roll back financial legislation such as Dodd-Frank, among so many others, about the only people he is uniting are scientists, economists, environmentalists, health-care professionals, diplomats, career civil servants, parents, children, educators, and other afflicted groups. They have come together in historic droves as they resist the rules of engagement and the reign of terror of the petulant man-child in the Oval Office. And in the end, they will win the day.

 

 

Diverting Attention

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Recent TV news has focused on the “He Said He Said” between Comey and Trump and largely ignored what the Russian Investigation is really about. Comey testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again.

The Russians are attaching the bedrock of our democracy, the election process. Yet Trump says nothing about this problem, only that he would like the investigation to go away. I don’t think he understands or cares about a key part of his job description – To Protect The Constitution of The United States.

Also he clearly does not respect the rule of law. On one point I disagree with Comey. The President is obstructing justice, pure and simple.

Here are some quotes from Comey’s testimony:

“It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,”

“They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.”

“There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that.”

For more see:  Trump-Comey Feud Eclipses a Warning on Russia: ‘They Will Be Back

The Lawless Presidency

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David Leonhardt speaks to Trump’s disrespect for The Rule of Law in an editorial in today’s New York Times. Below are exerts:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society. …Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law. President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

Let’s walk through the major themes:

LAW ENFORCEMENT, POLITICIZED. People in federal law enforcement take pride in trying to remain apart from politics. I’ve been talking lately with past Justice Department appointees, from both parties, and they speak in almost identical terms. …Trump has erased this distinction. …He pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Trump’s campaign and fired Comey when he refused. …The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is part of the problem. He is supposed to be the nation’s head law-enforcement official, but acts as a Trump loyalist.

COURTS, UNDERMINED. Past administrations have respected the judiciary as having the final word on the law. Trump has tried to delegitimize almost any judge who disagrees with him.

TEAM TRUMP, ABOVE THE LAW. Foreign governments speed up trademark applications from Trump businesses. Foreign officials curry favor by staying at his hotel. A senior administration official urges people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing. The president violates bipartisan tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, thus shrouding his conflicts. …The behavior has no precedent. “Trump and his administration are flagrantly violating ethics laws,” the former top ethics advisers to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have written. …Their attitude is clear: If we’re doing it, it’s O.K.

CITIZENS, UNEQUAL. Trump and his circle treat themselves as having a privileged status under the law. And not everyone else is equal, either. In a frightening echo of despots, Trump has signaled that he accepts democracy only when it suits him. Remember when he said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win”?

TRUTH, MONOPOLIZED. The consistent application of laws requires a consistent set of facts on which a society can agree. The Trump administration is trying to undermine the very idea of facts. It has harshly criticized one independent source of information after another. The Congressional Budget Office. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. The C.I.A. Scientists. And, of course, the news media.

Healthcare: I Rest My Case

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One of my early posts on healthcare was motivated by Ryan’s Power Point presentation – I took notes, Paul Ryan’s Healthcare Bill. At the time I was shocked. Then the house passed version 2 that was equally bad. This was verified by the Congressional Budget Office Report today and reported on by the Huffington Post.

If passed 23 million Americans will lose their health insurance. In addition the bill discriminates against those who are sick and/or old. An estimate of increased average annual cost for those in their 60’s goes from about $1,700 to about 13,600, and increase of 800 percent!  Justification – take from the poor to give to the rich

I learned tonight, via an interview on public television  (thank you Sen. Dianne Feinstein) that the house bill, version 2, was passed without any hearings. Even worse the Senate has a select committee of republican senators, all male, charged with coming up with an alternative. They also plan no hearings. So much for public input to crafting of a very important piece of legislation.

The Republicans and especially Trump and Ryan are not fit to govern.

Breaking News

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Who Will Save The Republic?

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From my Friend Charles Feinstein in a letter to the New York Times, May 14:

Two questions were raised on Saturday’s op-ed page.  Bret Stephens asks how long Trump’s stupidity will save us.  Timothy Egan asks a far more pertinent question:  who among the Republicans in Congress will step up to save us?  

Trump validates the claim that he is unfit for office every day in many ways.  The number of people who are questioning his mental health seems to be increasing.  The latest outrage, firing Comey who is investigating nothing less than treason, has called forth frightening comparisons with Nixon and Watergate.  And what do we hear from the Republicans in Congress?  At best complicit silence, at worst full-throated support for the excesses of our autocratic president.  We will need a Welch/McCarthy moment if we are to prevent further damage by Trump to our democratic society.  We are told that Cato the Elder ended every speech in the Roman Senate, regardless of topic, by reminding the Senators that “In addition, I recommend that Carthage be destroyed.”  It is perhaps time for the Congressional Democrats to end every speech with a Cato-like question:  “In addition, I ask where are the decent Republicans?”  And if they won’t ask it, we should.

Charles D Feinstein
Redwood City, CA

Unfit To Be President

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By leaking intelligence and the intelligence sources’ location to the Russians, Trump once again demonstrates that he is unfit to be president. He does not care about employment or healthcare or immigration. He does not care about the greater good. He only uses these issues to score points with his base. His sole motivation is self-aggrandizement. He is a 7 year-old parading as an adult

Maybe even worse, by continuing to support Trump in the face of all the evidence that he is unfit to lead, many republicans are demonstrating that they too do not care about the greater good. These republications seem to only care about power and are thus unfit to represent.

David Brooks has a good piece in today’s New York Times, When the World Is Lead by Child. Here are selected exerts:

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth.

Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

[concerning leaked secrets] From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires. …The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

The Comey Firing

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What is behind the Comey firing? There is a uncertainty but my assessment, updated May 11,  is:

  • The handling of the Clinton Emails investigation – When Hell Freezes Over – 0%
  • The investigation into Russia’s role in the election – Highly Likely – 100%
  • Other – Highly Unlikely – 0%

Trump is following in the footsteps of Richard Nixon – Presidential Abuse of Power. We need an independent special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia.

For further reading see Trump is lying again.

Healthcare Again: The Box and Balloon Analogy

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Krugman has a good piece on the struggles that Trump and Paul Ryan are having passing health care: The Balloon, the Box and Health Care. They want to let air out of the balloon of federal money spent on healthcare.

The fact is their objective is to reduce federal spending on healthcare and pass the costs onto the states. This will reduce federal spending and accommodate giving the rich a big tax cut. This has obvious distributional effects, a problem that is already serious in the US.

Passing the costs onto states has another another problem. States with a large tax basis may be able, and willing, to cover the additional costs. Poorer states will likely not and many people in poorer states will lose healthcare! This goes beyond exacerbating income distribution. It is inhumane.

The latest proposal to add $8 billion over five years to cover high-risk pools in states is an attempt to provide cover for Representatives scared to vote for the bill. Further the $8 billion is entirely not adequate to cove the cost of the pools. It is like pissing in the Ocean.

Healthcare is not an insurance issue. It is a problem of making sure that people have health services when they need the services. It is not an issue of your wealth or how old or young you are. Provision of health services should not discriminate.

The Trump / Ryan  approach is a policy of screw the poor and help the rich. It is a discriminatory policy.

Healthcare Revisited

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Sam Rayburn: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule” — Trump and Paul Ryan’s learning disability: Eugene Robinson’s Editorial explains. Here are exerts from Robinson’s April 20 Washington Post editorial:

House Republicans are apparently ready for yet another attempt to snatch health insurance away from constituents who need it.

Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill — the American Health Care Act — Ryan (R-Wis.) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. This is getting silly. What part of “forget it” do Republicans not understand?

… Republicans don’t talk much about the practical reason for moving urgently on health care, which is to set the stage for tax reform: They want to take money now used to subsidize health care for low-income Americans and give it to the wealthy in the form of big tax cuts.

The new proposal [the MacArthur amendment] — is like a parody, as if life-or-death access to health care were fodder for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

Nominally, [the amendment] would retain the Essential Health Benefits standard imposed by the ACA, which requires insurance policies to cover eventualities such as hospitalization, maternity and emergency care — basically, all the things you’d ever need health insurance for.

The amendment would also appear to maintain the ACA’s guarantees that anyone could buy health insurance, including those with preexisting conditions, and that parents could keep adult children on their policies until age 26. That all looks fine — but it’s an illusion.

After specifying that these popular provisions will stay, the amendment then gives states the right to snatch them away. [In addition] There would no longer be a prohibition … against charging “high-risk” individuals more — so much more, in fact, that they would potentially be priced out of the market. We would go back to the pre-ACA situation in which serious illness could mean losing a home or filing for bankruptcy.

This may satisfy GOP ideological imperatives — Ayn Rand would be so proud — but it is atrocious policy, even if you put aside considerations such as compassion and community.

Unchanged from last month’s failed bill are provisions that would strip massive amounts of money out of Medicaid, by far the nation’s biggest source of payment for nursing-home care. So Republicans might not want to show their faces anywhere near retirement communities.

The Affordable Care Act changed the way most people in this country think about health care. It did not, however, change the thinking of many House Republicans, who continue to believe individuals should be held financially liable for a genetic predisposition toward diabetes or a random cellular mutation that leads to cancer.

Another abject failure to repeal the ACA would be a terrible political outcome for Republicans. But far worse, looking ahead to the 2018 midterms, would be for Trump to sign this latest monstrosity into law.