Trump-Washed

I caught a little piece of an Oliver Stone interview last night. He was saying that after thirteen years of watching Trump be decisive and commanding on The Apprentice, very few except the politically sophisticated would be able to perceive the empty vacuum at the heart of his persona. Of course, about the time of the Access Hollywood recording, producers at The Apprentice let it be known that they had to work really hard to maintain that image. Trump was abusive during scenes, and arbitrary in his decisions. One of the challenges was building a back-story that justified his actions.

Coupled with this is the dominance of Fox News in Republican circles. Joy Reid was on with Chris Hayes last night, observing that the reason the Republican base still remains loyal to Trump is because Fox continues to tell them that the Russian interference scandal is nothing worth paying attention to.

Contrast this with Joseph McCarthy, leader of the Red Scare scandals of the 1950s. McCarthy would roll into town, make a bunch of baseless accusations against local politicians, and then leave. The press would publish front-page denouncements of McCarthy’s targets, followed by back-page retractions when the accusations were debunked. Lives were ruined by the asymmetrical publicity.

What undid McCarthy were the televised Congressional hearings. Before the cameras, he was revealed as a manipulative little weasel.

Of course, some among us see Trump in the same way, but his electorate has been conditioned to associate those traits with carefully-scripted moments of glory.

But what about his sons?

It was cathartic to see Donald, Jr. on Fox News last night. He came across as a whiny brat.

Trump, Sr. characterizes the meeting with Russian representatives as “opposition research” that “almost anyone” would pursue. If so, that’s an indictment of our political culture. Trump has long been cozy with organized crime figures, and draws his legal talent from a community of ugly intimidators – men that will not even bother to apply for security clearances that would never be granted. Is this where we have come as a nation? A political culture in which winning by any means possible includes crawling through the gutter with people whose livelihood requires corrupting virtue?

In the early hours this morning, I found myself musing that maybe Comey took the line he did against Clinton in part to create conditions under which that culture would be exposed. I know that it had invaded the FBI itself, where anti-Clinton zealots used Breitbart publications to motivate a criminal investigation of her family. This is a visible case of misuse of agency resources by political operatives, but what if elected officials all across the country are interceding in investigations to protect criminals that have contributed to the destruction of other candidates?

I personally don’t find that inconceivable.

J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI as long as he did because he had files full of the dirty secrets that elected officials wished to keep hidden. Could it be that organized crime has its own database at this point, and is securing its influence by blackmailing the political class? The Russian government – now the most powerful organized crime ring in the world – may not be motivated only by its foreign policy goals to attack our political system. It may also be extending its power through organized crime, and collaborating with U.S. criminals to corrupt not just our political class, but our entire culture.

Smoking Dope

Matthew Walther at The Week argues that no smoking gun has been found to support the claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Walther (isn’t that the name of a gun manufacturer?) wanders a little, asserting that when the Clintons fly first-class for their global charity, they reveal their corruption, and so justify ongoing support for the President. I find that argument weakened, however, in that Trump flies in a private jet purchased with funds gained laundering money stolen by Russian kleptocrats.

And as for the central assertion: it’s going to be awfully hard to find a smoking gun in the radioactive crater left by the hydrogen bomb Trump has set off in American foreign policy. As Rachel Maddow has been laying out, Russia has been given everything that it could have asked for. Trump’s craven catering to a murderous tyrant is all the evidence required to prove his unfitness to be our head of state.

Or should that have been “cave-in cratering?”

My Fair Islam

Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana has posted a threat to “radicalized Islamists” (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Higgins claims that his words are being twisted by the left for political gain.

And what, my dear Mr. Higgins, do you think the ISIL propagandists are doing right now? Telling the impoverished Muslim world that they will find security if they recite the Pledge of Allegiance with marbles in their mouth?

After all, from their point of view, America sends special forces and fighter jets around the world to murder women and children.

There’s no tracing back to the origin of fault. Your job as a political leader is thus not only to fund security, but to build coalitions that reach across sectarian lines. That includes running incendiary words past Islamic leaders. They’re the ones that bear the brunt of hatred, and you damn well better ask permission before you claim the privilege of “free speech.”

You’re the POTUS

The most disturbing statement I’ve heard Trump utter came in his conversation with Lester Holt. After admitting that Putin asked Trump to meet in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister, Trump said “and, you know, who am I to say “No”? Nothing speaks more to me of the fact that Trump lacks the confidence to lead our great nation than his failure to understand that he CAN stand up to the leader of the greatest criminal enterprise in the world – they being Vladimir Putin and the Russian state.

Either that, or it was Trump’s folksy way of saying that he really admires the guy.

Oh – That Carrier Group

Apparently there was some confusion that the US sent a Navy carrier group to intimidate North Korea’s leader. This blogger has learned that rather the Trump Administration was drawing on its real estate expertise to cool off tensions by innovative means. Vice President Mike Pence, close collaborator in salvaging manufacturing jobs in Indiana, delivered the equipment personally:

PenceCarrier

The gift was received enthusiastically by the North Korean leader:

KinJongUn

Cruise Out-Of-Control

Genesis 2 introduces the seventh day of Creation with a brief lull in the relationship between God and the world.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

[NIV Gen. 2:2-3]

Having rested, God – who is Unconditional Love – then picks up his work in the Garden of Eden, demonstrating to Adam and Eve the virtues of love. In that context, there is peace between the animals. That peace is shattered when Adam and Eve choose to eat of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They chose no longer to submit to the guidance of love. They chose to figure out how to do it on their own.

Jesus is the hope of the world because he had the strength to demonstrate the power that stands behind those that chose to love unconditionally. In the years both before and after that demonstration, however, we see that the Darwinian practices of brutal confrontation are often strong in the human relationships and politics. Many people still live like animals.

This is the context for my reaction to the decision by the Trump Administration to launch missile strikes against the regime of Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad. The immediate response of Russia has been to claim the diplomatic high ground, asserting that the US action was illegal.

Assad has survived in Syria for one reason, and one reason only: Putin’s support. Russia has used its veto power in the UN security council to prevent coordinated global action against the Syrian tyrant. When the rebels were poised to oust Assad, Russia then intervened militarily, and along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, have now put the rebels on the defensive.

In a series of votes in the UN Security Council, the Obama Administration had established Russian complicity in the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Our NATO ally, Turkey, has suffered greatly as the destination of opportunity for 3 million Syrians fleeing the war. Both of those institutions – the United Nations and NATO – were therefore poised to demand Russia’s removal from the UN security council, allowing unified international action to suppress Russian and Chinese military adventurism around the globe.

Russia was the guarantor the Syria had no chemical weapons. By resorting to force before the international community had established that indeed a chemical weapons attack had occurred using sarin gas, Trump has made the conflict one of brute force between two parties. By acting without consultation with our allies, Trump has undermined the institutions that could have acted to discipline Putin across the globe.

It’s all very satisfying to punch a bully in the nose, but it just adds confusion to a situation that should be managed by institutions of law enforcement. Trump has undermined US authority in those institutions – NATO and the United Nations. His action will have long-term consequences that will be to the advantage of those that seek to sow chaos across the globe – principally for the purpose of preventing humanity from grasping the enormous power that arises when we adopt peace and love as the guides to our conduct in all spheres of life.

A far better course would have been to mount a campaign to expel Russia from the UN security council.