Trumpster Diving

* The tax bill that the Senate finally sneaked through the legislative transom has led to  predictable takeaways. It’s an end zone-celebrating “win” for the Trump Administration and the do-something-anything Senate. A big tax cut for the wealthy. Hardly the case for the lower-priority middle -and lower-classes. Much more added to an obscene deficit.

And how do you square all of this? The economy will be supply-sided and energized and corporate tax breaks will trickle down to the masses.

Somewhere Arthur Laffer is rearranging his napkins.

* We know–for obvious reasons–that Trump doesn’t exactly surround himself with the best and the brightest. And obviously that has carried over to personal attorney John Dowd. We now know that it was Dowd who drafted the president’s tweet acknowledging that he had fired Michael Flynn because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence–but also to the FBI. Oops. Dowd has since apologized for not being more careful with his language and, presumably, the truth.

Say what? You are the personal attorney to a president who is temperamentally unhinged, ham-handed linguistically and a serial tweeter and you can’t be more precise with your language?

But this is beyond mere embarrassment and chaos, which would normally be just another day at the Oval Office. This edges Trump ever closer to the Robert Mueller inquiry. When you include the FBI, you pave the way for obstruction of justice scenarios–let alone the big collusion piñata.

* Call it Karma. There was Michael Flynn leaving court, having pled guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts. He was swiftly escorted to a black perp SUV–but not before awaiting activists could break out into a “Lock him up” chorus.

* At some point soon, we’ll likely be hearing that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is, uh, “stepping down.” A White House statement will say the president accepted the resignation with regret and gratitude for T Rex’s patriotic service. It will note that Tillerson was great in a demanding job, and that the American people and American interests were well served. Whatever. And that CIA Director Mike Pompeo–remember his Hillary-hammering prosecution at the House Select Committee Benghazi Hearings?–will take over.

The following day, White House spokes-harlot Sarah Huckabee-Sanders will deny that Tillerson was fired, but that he really, really wanted to spend more time with his family as well as all those folks at ExxonMobil who used to treat him like a really, really, important, smart person. And Steve Bannon will weigh in with hard-line approval of Pompeo’s appointment.

However it’s couched–including how Tillerson and Trump differed on North Korea, Iran and the Saudi Arabia-Qatar feud–the real reason will be obvious. The Narcissist-in-chief never got over the “moron” remark attributed to–and not denied by–Tillerson. Rather than stop behaving as a moron, Trump effectively fired the guy who pointed it out.

* Here’s a disingenuous quote, more revealing than intended, from a new book, “Let Trump Be Trump,” by Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, and David Bossie, former top Trump aide. “Sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of him that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place,” they wrote. Mainly they were referring to his wrathful temperament. As in loud, insulting, expletive-filled tirades. What a guy.

They wanted to convey insider gravitas and a provide an attention-getting, publicist’s pull quote. It obviously worked. They also wanted to exploit the insider experience. We get all that. But Trump traits that make you “wonder why” you came on board? As if.

Lewandowski and Bossie were hardly A-listers among the political-operative community. They were marginal characters sniffing around the political gravy train hoping for a career break. Had this not been such a deplorably flawed candidate, they would not have been considered. But this was Trump; better people weren’t interested. In the case of  Lewandowski, he whored out until he was ultimately fired. And CNN brought him on for panel opining.

That’s how it works. If it requires the enabling of the candidacy of someone who will be an existential threat, it doesn’t matter. You’re a player. You can even write about it later.

Trumpster Diving

* Donald Trump is supporting Alabama’s embattled Roy Moore for the Senate. “We don’t need a liberal” in there, explains the president. Plus, Moore denies being a creepy, serial stalker and molester. So there.

In other words, it’s better for Alabama voters to elect an accused child molester than a Democrat. That’s where we are. It gives obscenely partisan politics a bad name. It gives fundamentalist Christian/Moore voter an oxymoronic definition. It keeps the Alabama stereotype alive and, well, unfair to those who deserve better.

To date, the approach of Moore’s campaign has basically been three-fold. First, keep playing up his anti-gay bias, Second Amendment reverence and high-profile history of support for at least nine of the 10 commandments. Second, a strategy where Moore says, “I didn’t do stuff like that, any other questions?” And third, it’s all “fake news” anyhow.

Now add this ploy, as noted by Moore adviser Brett Doster. “We’re going to make it clear to the voters of Alabama that Roy Moore is the candidate to help President Trump get a conservative Supreme Court and cut taxes. That will be included in our ads, definitely.”

* This just in. “Women are very special,” says Donald Trump. “I think it’s a very special time, a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society, and I think it’s very, very good for women, and I’m very happy these things are coming out.” No, Billy Bush was not standing next to him.

* Beyond blunt: “I have children and grandchildren to answer to.”–Retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, in underscoring his opposition to Trump.

* Beyond biblical: “No, I don’t understand it. I really, genuinely do not understand where that is coming from.”–The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to a question about why American fundamentalist Christians are so supportive of Trump.

Trump/Clinton Context

Notice how Bill Clinton’s name is increasingly being inserted into the political byplay that is part of the Trump-presidency dynamic. It was inevitable. You can’t have a misogynist president, an era of outed, prominent male sexual predators and bypass Clintonian licentiousness. You can’t be a former Democratic president, the husband of Hillary Rodham Clinton and have Monica Lewinsky, Jennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick and Paula Jones in your wake and not become rhetorically useful to today’s political partisans.

Talk about a deplorable perfect storm.

But here’s what was missed then–and now–about Clinton, and there could be an ironic parallel with the moral reprobate that is President Donald Trump.

The operative President Clinton issue was really not morals, per se, despite the headlines. It was about a character and temperament flawed in ways that could have jeopardized national security. Fortunately, Lewinsky was no Mata Hari or blackmail operative. Along with perjury, that should have always been the underlying rationale for even considering impeachment and what could conceivably qualify as a “high” enough crime or misdemeanor.

As for Trump, let’s see how the Mueller investigation plays out.

If Russian collusion and accompanying campaign lying and Trump complicity are proven, the wagons of impeachment will circle. Hell, five articles of impeachment have already been proposed by members of Congress. Yes, it’s a Republican Congress–for now–but, no, these mostly establishment sorts will not go to the mattresses for Trump, who is not one of them and likely is still channeling Steve Bannon.

Collusion would necessarily prompt a presumption of national security concern and potential quid pro quos with Russia. And a viable “dossier” may still be in play. And for the “clear and present danger” rationale, look no farther than ratcheting concern over the reality of Trump’s nuclear trigger finger disturbingly complementing his hair-trigger temperament.

This ultimately will come down to a national and global security threat, not to just a morally challenged, embarrassingly sleazy person in the White House.

U.S. Reality Check: In The Mail?

Pat Buchanan, former GOP presidential candidate and ongoing rhetorical right-wing sniper who still pines away for Ronald Reagan–and likely Richard Nixon–made a point recently that even those of us on the other side of the partisan chasm can agree on. We ain’t what we used to be.

But context, of course, is everything. He also misses Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick.”

“We no longer speak to the world with the assured authority with which America did from Eisenhower to Reagan and Bush 1,” lamented Buchanan in the American Conservative. He waxed nostalgic for America, “the indispensible nation.” He also romanticized our “benevolent global hegemony.” Have to wonder what he thinks of Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” series.

But he’s right in that we need to recognize “the new realities we face” and the need for “a rhetoric that conforms to those realities. Since Y2K our world has changed.”

Has it ever. From geopolitics and economics to technology and the environment. From name-calling nuclear brinksmanship to climate-change politics.

While it’s easy to overlook with North Korea, Russia, Iran and ISIS dominating our national-security geopolitics, we can’t ignore two key pivot points in how we fast-forwarded to now.

                                                 Islam And Russia

After the Gulf War, the U.S. left a sizable residual force in Saudi Arabia. “Residual” was also seen as “occupying”–an Islamic outrage to some Muslims. Among the outraged: Osama bin Laden. In effect, you don’t “occupy” the land that is home to Mecca. “Infidel” branding, all too easy for those who cherrypick the Koran, became even easier. There is a 9/11 nexus.

After the Cold War’s end, opportunity beckoned–notably with the erstwhile Soviet Union. Under President George H.W. Bush, U.S.-led NATO promised not to take advantage of a humiliated, amputated Russia by pushing for NATO expansion. European allies and the next American administration reneged.

Russia, under the leadership of a former KGB colonel, has not forgotten nor forgiven as it has prioritized regaining international stature, especially in the Middle East. In retrospect, American-election hacking and dossier scenarios were as foreseeable as a Crimea annexation.

Starting with the outrageously ill-advised, WMD-rationalized invasion and regime change in Iraq, the U.S. has continued to conflate patriotism with chauvinism. Who’s a hero? Who’s a pawn? Who would dare distinguish? Who’s vulnerable to pandering and scapegoating? Imagine Sarah Palin on a presidential ticket? Obviously Donald Trump could.

What else is different? The short list: globalization, a revolution in information technology, chronic deficits and excessive energy consumption. The implications range from the economically competitive to the environmentally existential.

The paralysis of our bitterly divisive, zero-sum political system and the erosion of key American values, including how we treat each other, have made it beyond problematic to carry out policies the country needs.


Talk about change we can believe in.

We’ve been under-investing in our future–from education to infrastructure to climate–since the end of the Cold War, just as the world was reconfiguring. Timing is always critical. Now factor in Trump.

Here’s a President Barack Obama quote from 2010 that should have been a wake-up call to national pride and enlightened self-interest. “It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us, and Singapore having better airports than us,” said Obama. “And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth. That used to be us.”

Instead, we hit the societal snooze alarm and witnessed what havoc Tea Partiers could wreak and what the implications ultimately would be for Obama backlash. Trump is still an embarrassing, dangerous anomaly, but, yeah, we should have seen it coming.

Societal Sleaze

Predatory sleaziness–across the political and entertainment spectrums–now seems, unconscionably, like the new news normal. In retrospect, Roman Polanski was ahead of his predator, power-male time. Bill Cosby, we now assume, was no anomaly.

Among the upshots of all the salacious creepiness are the seemingly candid admissions and “qualified” denials about improper sexual advances or outright assaults. No surprise that people in the public eye–and politician and celebrity now morph–would be employing disingenuous euphemisms in their self-defense. Among them, thanks to Richard Dreyfuss: “consensual seduction ritual.” Mr. Holland’s Opus, anyone?

Trumpster Diving: From Far East To Netflix

*Back in the day, President Ronald Reagan relied on an old school preparation device for his foreign negotiations, especially his summit sit-downs with Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev. He brought along index cards that he would keep nearby among his official papers and documents. It was a reminder of key points. Sort of shorthand for presidential cheat sheet.

Well, that was then–and that was Reagan, not exactly known as a detail wonk. We get it. Nothing left to chance. We also know that the ultimate failsafe backup was Secretary of State George Shultz, who once had to provide cover when the president’s index cards fell on the floor–across from the Soviet delegation. Shultz seamlessly stepped in and advanced the U.S. talking points until the cards were recovered and rearranged.

So what does a President Donald Trump prep include? Maybe he’s wired to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson or to Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser–or Henry Kissinger. And what might a Trump cheat sheet look like? Some possibilities:

<“It’s Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (ah-bay). No ‘Honest Abe’ references. Just call him ‘Mr. Prime Minister.’ Also, remember that only once in history has a country used a nuclear weapon on another country. It was us–and it was against Japan. Twice. They’re aware of Pearl Harbor, but it still remains a touchy issue.

<“Don’t forget, it’s SOUTH Korea you’re in. Don’t ask President Moon Jae-in what his preferred first name is. Just address him as ‘Mr. President.’ No ‘M*A*S*H’ references, please.

<“Do not go off script. Remember, it’s Beijing. It hasn’t been called ‘Peking’ for years. They still want Taiwan, but the Brits did give Hong Kong back. Nothing off the cuff with Chinese President Xi Jinping, even though you hosted him at Mar-a-Lago. But if he calls you ‘Donald,’ you should respond with ‘Xi’ (Zee). If he makes an attempt at pop culture small talk, don’t indicate that you loved the Mickey Rooney character in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s.’

<“When in Vietnam, don’t even think of comparing a Trump Tower with the ‘Hanoi Hilton.’ And don’t bring up Ken Burns’ “Vietnam” series. It could lead to an ‘Agent Orange hair’ comment that you will regret. But if the war does come up, it’s not the “Tit Offensive.”

<“When in the Philippines, don’t put your budding bromance with the thug-like President Rodrigo Duterte on display. The optics would be awful. He’s more despised than you are.”

* As has been well noted, Netflix’s “House of Cards” had been increasingly looking analogous to Trump’s “House of Shards.” Now, due to Kevin Spacey’s suspension over allegations of sexual misconduct, the sixth and final season is in production limbo.

Two points:

First, if the series wants to maintain its eerie, ironic conflation with real world, presidential politics, it will find a truly appropriate way to “kill off” Frank Underwood, the diabolical Spacey character. What a time to further educate the electorate and remind principal players about ways to remove a sitting president. But it is still taste-be-damned show business, and anything is possible, including a coup–or worse.

Second, how ironic that by summarily suspending Spacey, Netflix has manifested standards for a TV president that are more exacting than those for an actual president.

* While it’s dismissed as more “fake news” by the White House, this month’s piece in Vanity Fair has to be troubling for certain West Wingers who are likely in self-serving, CYA mode. “For the first time since the (Mueller) investigation began,” notes writer Gabriel Sherman, “the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream.” Ouch.

* Have to wonder if Trump had been tempted to send a “thank you” tweet to Donna Brazile for her tell-all, sell-all book that further trashed the Clinton campaign. Basically, thanks for piling on and thanks for yet another welcome diversion and yet another “Crooked Hillary” and “Crazy Bernie” pander opportunity to the base.

And, BTW, what of former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz? She’s been conspicuously out of the loop. Whatever happened was mostly on her collusion watch. Chances are, she’d rather be asked about her compromised, non-liberal, Cuban positions.

* If Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush could be “primaried,” then why not Donald Trump? Why the hell not?

* Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Cruella De Vil, only not as personable.

Play The “Florker” Card

Here’s a scenario we won’t be seeing, but it really needs to be seen.

In addition to retiring Republican Senators Jeff  Flake and Bob Corker leveling unprecedented criticism at their party’s incumbent president, it’s time for some prominent Republicans who are not retiring to do the same. Then it would be impossible for the White House and Sean Hannity to undermine their credibility by saying they’re out-of-touch losers who couldn’t be re-elected anyhow.

Imagine if, say, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan were to go all country-first and play the “Florker” card on behalf of their ultimate constituency: the people of the United States. Something like this:

“Thank you all for being here today. The Speaker and I, as you well know, do not call joint press conferences. But neither do we intend to continue to stand by and merely say and do just enough to go along as if this were politics and partisanship as usual. It’s not. Would that it were. We’re staring at an unprecedented, parallel universe with ever-ratcheting, existential implications for this country, this democracy and, frankly, this planet.

“First, we apologize for our actions over the last year and a half. We enabled Donald Trump because he was, well, the nominee of our party. Not the party of Lincoln but of George Lincoln Rockwell, you would think. And we’ve been running scared from tax-blinder, Tea Party ideologues, hypocritical evangelicals and generically angry whites. Not a constituency anyone should want to court, let alone show allegiance to.

“And we apologize for voting for all of Trump’s cabinet nominees. Without exception.

“And that obviously includes the Energy secretary who wanted to abolish the department. Yes, Rick Perry is a fool. Our bad. But worse yet is the fossil-fuel advocating, climate-change denying EPA Director Scott Pruitt, Dow Chemical’s guardian angel. Our regulatory apparatus is there for a reason: It’s not anti-business bureaucracy. It’s common-sense, public-health proactivity. Some things are not for sale or lobby. Take that American Chemistry Council.

“We also apologize for countenancing a president so blatantly unprepared, so morally bereft, so temperamentally unhinged, so pathologically narcissistic and so flat-out dangerous that we’ve withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, opted out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, mandated critical infrastructure priorities include an obscenely obsolete border wall, insulted friends and allies from Germany to Australia and engaged in school-yard name calling with the other half of the world’s nuclear-hair trigger tandem. We’re all imperiled.

“Trump’s not making America great again. He’s making America grating to the rest of the world, including those who share our democratic ideals. How dare he.

“To quote a Congressional colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake, ‘The longer we wait, the greater the damage, the harsher the judge of history. … There is a sickness in our system and it’s contagious.’ Well, the contagion stops here.

“To quote another Congressional colleague, Sen. Bob Corker, this president ‘debases our nation’ and raises the unconscionable specter of ‘World War III.’ The senator also urged us to be ‘unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it, because it does.’ Does it ever.

“This can no longer be about party. This can no longer be about political careers. This is about service to country–not disingenuous, gutless self-service. We’re embarrassed to have to actually articulate that, but that’s where we are.

“We don’t think we can wait three years and pretend to back this unqualified, Oval Office oaf and then crank out the usual partisan stuff about Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker or whomever the Democrats put up. This has to be about enlightened foreign policy that doesn’t incite a nuclear exchange, about security that doesn’t conflate national defense with immigrant animus, about pragmatic, real-world free trade, about affordable, necessary health care, about a country, including its military, that accepts all Americans regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation, about a nation that is respected–not ridiculed or reviled.

“We want our country back, and we hold this president accountable. If he doesn’t change–and if past is prologue, he can’t–we’ll need to go to our constitutional tool box for something other than gun rights rationales. We also need to remember what warrants impeachment and what prompts the 25th Amendment. It’s that dire.

“Thank you. God bless America. More than ever.”

Trumpster Diving

* No surprise that even after a national, 25-year countdown and nearly a year on the job, Donald Trump’s call on the JFK-files release came down to a last-minute decision. He has called for more reviews.

* For eight years the “White House” seemed a symbolically progressive, if naive, and ironic icon. In nine months the “White House” has devolved into an aptly-named bunker.

* The presidency has always been fair game for pop culture and its comedic harbingers. Only now it’s much more than cartoonists and Improv stand-ups. There’s “SNL,” of course, and no lack of late-night comedians. “Will & Grace” is hardly subtle and “Comedy Central” iterations such as “The President’s Show” and “Broad City” are de facto oppo ammo.

And how much longer can “Blondie,” “Dennis the Menace” and “Beetle Bailey” remain Sunday Comics staples?  Last Sunday’s “funny pages,” for example, featured more Trump-goring by “Doonesbury,” “Non Sequitur” weighing in bigly and relative newbie “Candorville” brutally sending up Rex Tillerson’s rationales on a moron theme.

No, nothing is business as usual any more, and that includes the comedically challenging task of satirizing a parody.

Those JFK Docs

As of this writing, it looks like President Donald Trump will be releasing thousands of never-before-seen documents–held by the National Archives and Records Administration–related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” piqued such public interest–and the possibility of undermined confidence in the Warren Commission’s findings–that the Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act was passed in 1992. It required that the remaining documents be published in 25 years–by October 2017. Only the president has the authority to extend the remaining secrecy–for “national security” concerns.

Two points.

First, this won’t settle the issue, and not just because I’m a serious, lone-Commie-gunman-out-to-make-hateful-history-who’s-murdered-before-a-trial cynic. Remember the main source of additional background on Lee Harvey Oswald, including the Mexican connection, is the CIA, an unconscionably rogue outfit back in the day. Some redactions are more CIA self-service than legitimate national security matters.

Current CIA director Mike Pompeo knows that. There’s a reason he’s been lobbying Trump to hold back on the document release.

Also, try putting Kennedy and Trump in the same sentence without conjuring up the Cuban Missile Crisis. You know where this is going. Imagine if that Cold War Oval Office occupant had been a president with the unhinged, in-your-face temperament of Trump dealing with Fidel Castro and his Soviet suppliers.

How do you think he would have handled Gen. Curtis “Bombs Away” Lemay & Co. on the matter of a Cuban invasion and aerial attack? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question. We already see how he’s handling “Little Rocket Man.”

Neither Kennedy nor Nikita Khrushchev wanted to back the other guy into a corner with no face-saving way out. Khrushchev honored the blockade (oops, “embargo”) and then pulled the missiles from Cuba. And the U.S. agreed to withdraw missiles from Soviet-bordering Turkey and promised not to invade Cuba. Nuclear Armageddon averted.

That was then.

Trumpster Diving

* As we’ve been witnessing these last nine months, there’s no topic that Donald Trump can’t insinuate himself into. He’s that vain, that off-the-cuff, that disturbingly unpresidential. To wit:

When it comes to the JFK assassination, let’s not forget that during the 2016 campaign Trump actually accused Ted Cruz’s father of hanging out with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Kennedy was killed.

And as we recently saw, he became the tasteless focal point in a matter concerning a grieving Army widow.

Speaking of, should Gen. John Kelly, the chief of staff who prepped Trump with some background insight, have stood in front of him with cue cards during that telephone call to Myeshia Johnson? With, among other things, her full name and her late husband’s as well as the correct pronunciation of “Niger,” just in case–because there will always be a just in case with President Impromptu.

Kelly, who then got into an ugly, disingenuous spat with Johnson-family friend and Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, should know better than to let Trump handle anything with even a hint of contextual nuance or feeling.

“He knew what he was getting into,” for example, isn’t an inappropriate line–embedded in the proper context. But that’s a foreign language to one who is empathy challenged. Trump can’t deliver feelings, only TelePrompTered lines, even then haltingly. If it isn’t “Apprentice” repartee or branding small talk with hotel partners, it’s likely a Cluster tRump.

* It’s now been nine months. Crisis Management 101, anyone? Apologies for anything, anyone?