Archive for the ‘2016 Presidential election’ category

The Russian Connection

July 12, 2017

The news media has had a field day this week with the leak and publication of a Donald Trump, Junior meeting with a Russian lawyer immediately following his father’s Republican Presidential nomination. Ah ha, have they finally found the smoking gun?

What smoking gun? And what exactly was so wrong with Trump Junior meeting with a Russian lawyer? And why is the media making such a big deal of this?

The most recent news bulletin revealed, with respect to this revelation, the meeting was premised upon the lawyer sharing some unfavorable information about Hillary Clinton which might be useful in Junior’s father’s campaign. Does this constitute meddling by a foreign country?

Three implications seem reasonable to speculate. The meeting could indicate

  • A larger, coordinated Russian Government effort to help Trump and hurt Clinton
  • Or, a Trump family interest and intention to cozy up to Russian businesses and financial sources,
  • Or, both.

The possibilities seem like “no brainers”.

  • Of course the Russian Government was interested in weakening America by fooling American voters into electing a weakened Hillary Clinton, or even stranger than fiction, an unqualified, narcissist like Donald Trump.
  • Donald Trump and his staff were resigned to a likely election loss, but could see potentially a boat load of lucrative connections where the Trump brand might thrive. Hmmm.

One must be careful about showing to much disdain for Russian meddling. While unacceptable, what does one think the CIA does for a living. America has a long history of interfering with the internal affairs of other nations and courtesy of the NSA, electronically listening to all sorts of foreign leaders private conversations. Our leaders ought remember that when we interfere with others, these other countries try their best to uncover our sources and disable our listening and propaganda networks. The same behavior might do the US well too.

The far greater teaching value the “the Russian Connection” could have is to underscore the wanton disregard President Trump (and his associates) have for speaking truthfully, and to what lengths they would be willing to employ to be victorious over an opponent.

Boorish may be too polite a word to describe the President.

Ironically, the media reminds us often that previous public officials have been toppled, not due to the “crime”, but due to the cover up. The longer this investigation festers, the more frequent will be the leaks, and the more chance there will be for obstruction of justice.

With Democracy, You Often Get What You Asked For

January 20, 2017

Donald J Trump is the 45th President of the United States. The transfer of power from former President Obama to President Trump has gone smoothly as it has 44 times before. What lies ahead, however, has not been scripted.

Giddy Republicans on Capital Hill can’t wait to begin passing conservative legislation rolling back much of what President Obama prevented during the past 8 years. And, President Trump tells American to “fasten your seat belts” because he plans to make America great again… fast. Hmmm.

A question; was Trump’s election the voice of America’s democracy speaking? Hmmm.

Donald Trump was elected with less votes than Hillary Clinton received. His electoral college victory was the 48th largest, meaning almost all other winning Presidents received more electoral college votes. So any talk of a landslide victory or a national mandate is simply misinformation, and a dangerously wrong interpretation of the election results.

Congressional Republican leaders are fond of the term “Americans have spoken”. The implication, of course, is that the GOP is free to make huge changes in policy in response to an alleged ground swell of American opinion. It is true “some” Americans favor Republican policies. It is also true that almost half of voters have swallowed the red meat baited hooks cast out by GOP operatives. Repeal and replace, renegotiate NAFTA, renegotiate the Paris climate agreement, renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, put tariffs on all imported cars, enact a huge tax cut, and eliminate the threat of ISIS to name a few.

American democracy does grant the right to the winning party to enact legislation of its choice. American Democracy grants broad latitude to the chief executive and executive orders can impact all Americans in both predictable and unpredictable ways. So, keeping the campaign pledges voters heard is possible if not likely.

What American Democracy can’t change or escape is that actions have consequences.

What may seem a marvelous gift to some may be to others a hurtful event. What may benefit certain parts of the economy may be an unwanted or damaging force for other parts. Changes in America’s foreign policies or trade practices may appear to benefit some parts of the American economy but can produce pain in other parts. And, who can be against economic growth? Consider what may happen if the growth is unevenly distributed (rich get richer) or the cost of living sky rockets and the social safety net has already been removed (as promised)?

There are no crystal balls to my knowledge that can tell us how the next four years will play out. There seem to be a large number of highly predictable consequences to proposed Republican and Trump policies. On top of that, what consequences may emerge changing so many policies at the same time are unknown.

What is not a mystery is that comedians, song writers, and journalist should have a field day with the hypocrisy, threats, and outright mistakes the GOP and the Trump Administration may bring upon itself.

Tyrannos To Tyrant?

January 13, 2017

Greece is usually given the credit for introducing the world to “democracy” as a method of governing. Of course, early Greek democracy does not resemble what we know to be Democracy in the 21st century, but in comparison to kings and pharaohs lead organizations, Greek Democracy was a radical departure. Hmmm.

President-elect Trump is poised to become President Trump and a fair question to ask is will the Trump Presidency begin with Tyrannos Trump and proceed to Tyrant Trump, or is the US democracy strong enough to overcome partisan attacks?

Democracies are difficult forms of government to maintain. Citizens are required to participate in law making as well as seeing that laws are followed. Citizens normally perform these tasks by thoughtfully choosing representatives who in turn propose, debate and create the laws upon which the greater population will be governed.  Citizens also select a chief executive who commands military resources  which will protect the country as a whole.  The Chief Executive, through various agencies ensures the laws are observed.

What happens when citizens do not take the task of picking representatives and the chief executive seriously enough.  What happens when citizens think disproportionately about themselves and their own perceived needs and place little or no importance on the country as a whole?

Long ago the Greeks encountered just such a situation. Their answer was to willingly ceed ever greater amounts of power to their selected ruler.  In time that ruler held ultimate power. The Greeks called these persons Tyrannos, or in modern English, Tyrants. Is the US on a similar path with the election of Donald Trump?

Tyrannos is a priori neither good nor evil, wise or misguided, nor effective or tragically ineffective. A “Tyrannos” is someone a democratic society has given more and more authority, without appropriate limits, normally to solve some great problem facing the country.

History has shown, however, that Tyrannos are never satisfied until they have achieved absolute power, and usually attempt to discard inconveniences of democratic governance in favor of authoritarian measures.  Today we liken dictators to Tyrants.

I wonder whether we are seeing the early signs of this phenomena with President-elect Trump?

One can argue that Republicans won by combining two large groups. Conservative Republicans looked the other way with respect to decency, experience, and integrity, voting for someone who they thought could solve societal problems.  Another group was composed of middle of the road citizens who had been hurt by globalization and lower wage immigrant labor. This group were willing to cast aside “the traditional American way” if there was a chance to regain their vision of the “American Dream”.

Candidate Donald Trump promised these voters (both groups) what they wanted.

In return, Trump asserted new powers by ignoring past practices, speaking mistruths and spreading misinformation, and marginalizing the press. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, his refusal to insulate himself ethically from his business holdings, and his vindictive, crude, personal attacks on individuals are clearly designed to intimidate.  These are also all signs of a Tyrant’s MO.

America’s democracy is still robust given world standards. Trump’s victory in November appears by all current information to have been fare and square. Donald J Trump will become the 45th US President. But it doesn’t stop there.

All Americans, supporters of Trump or not, still need to stay involved with our democracy. Congress, even one under Republican control, and the Supreme Court, even one soon to be Conservative in majority have important roles to play in ensuring the Trump Administration respects the Constitutions and the Rule of Law.

Should Congress members trade balance of power responsibilities for Trump’s support of their favorite legislation, in essence allowing Congress to look the other way, voters must take note.

As citizens, if we care about democracy, we must not look the other way and remember in two years which legislators did not show up for duty. The 2016 election was very close. The 115th Congress has been selected and will do what it deems best. The 116th, however, is just months away.

If President Trump fails to deliver on his promises, attempts to continue flaunting laws and precedents, or openly tries to claim more power, the ballot box can assist voters in taking back their democracy.

Beware Of Hubris

November 30, 2016

Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election “fair and square” as much as we know today. While he did not win the popular vote, Trump won a significant majority in the electoral college. Do these outcomes represent a mandate?

If you couple the Trump victory with Republican control of both Houses of Congress, whether Trump’s victory counts as a mandate or not may seem to Republicans as immaterial. The next two years belong to the GOP and barring upsets in 2018, the Trump team should have its way for 4 years. This reflects American democracy in action.

When George W Bush won the 2000 Presidential election, only with activist help from the Supreme Court, one would have thought a President who lost the popular vote and squeaked by with the electoral college vote would have approached his office with a moderate perspective. Instead, the Bush team felt empowered and tried to impose the views of each of the GOP’s separate factions.

The neocons got an unjust war and one of the greatest foreign policy failures in history, the small government faction got the shameful “hurricane Katrina” response, the deficit hawks blinked over tax cuts and were rewarded with 6 years of unbalanced budgets, and the anti-regulatory advocates got a run away Wall Street which lead to a near global depression.

None of this needs to happen to President Trump. But all these events and more could happen.

The new Trump government’s enemy is as much “hubris” as it might be any particular policy. Team Trump may just think that since they won, anything and everything goes. President Trump needs to keep a short lease on Congress and direct his Cabinet to operate right of center but closer to the center than the Congress.

While Trump has walked back most of his campaign promises, danger lies ahead since nothing has changed about the Republican Party’s composition, ambitions, and dangerous policies.

The Republican Party still favors suppressing voter participation, discrimination under the guise of religious freedom, less regulations which act against the interest of gays, Hispanics, and women’s rights, and don’t forget the flat earth faction which continues to deny global warming.

Oh, and income inequality is not a concern of the Republican Party unless one is talking about how the rich can become richer.

So, President-elect Trump, beware of hubris.

Remember, your margin of victory was actually quite narrow and 2020 is not that far away. Steady economic progress will serve you well while steroid-like induced stimulus could easily put all the increased wealth generation into the already wealthy’s pockets and reward the average American with another deep recession.

The white working class voter liked you this time but they can turn on you just as easily. Run the economy so all boats rise and a second term is there if you want it.

Letter To A Friend

November 11, 2016

The following is an email I sent to a German friend who had sent me a worried email on Wednesday following Donald Trump’s upset victory. Germany and many other parliamentary system countries have great trouble in understanding how someone with ruthless, mean spirited, and fact-free claims could suddenly be selected. In these countries, the heads of State come from the majority party and are not unknown, inexperienced new comers. Germany as well as many other European and Asian countries also worry about their security should the US under Trump tilt to a more isolationist foreign policy. Bluntly, would a President Trump cut deals with Russia and China ceding chunks of Eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia to the influence of Russia and China?

Here is my reply to his question on my assessment

Dear Friend,

Beginning late Tuesday night as the election results began to show up on TV, the realization that the “unthinkable” was about to happen became clear.  Philadelphia residents are mostly “center to center left” and therefore strong supporters of Hillary Clinton.  Clinton’s defeat left many (including me) feeling somewhat like one does when a close friend dies.

As for the question about what I see for the future… it is complicated.  There is little known about Trump except as related to his business dealings.  His real estate developments were all constructed around contracts where Trump got a large commission upfront.  This payment insulated Trump from whether the project succeeded or failed.  Reports also indicate that Trump would attempt to renegotiate sub-contracts trying to get his suppliers to accept 70 cents instead of the one dollar agreed to.

Most political observers think that Trump said anything he thought, without regard to whether his words were truthful, informed, or not, if he thought it would help his candidacy.  He was trying to gain “free” television time, and cleverly trying to find which issues appealed to enough voters to win the election.

Complications (of my answer) continue when one considers that he will be a Republican President with a Congress controlled by the Republican Party.  The Republican Party, however, is not of one mind, and unlike the parliamentary system, are free to vote against Trump’s proposals if they want to.  Many of Trump’s campaign proposals will increase government spending which much of the elected Republican Congress are against.  Trump’s stated views on trade run against long stranding Republican Party views.  Trump’s statements about Putin, NATO, and Japan/Korean nuclear policy are strongly opposed by Congress.  How these differences will translate into policy is unclear.

•   Most commentators are predicting Trump will move quickly on repealing our healthcare law (called the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare).  His and Congress’ problem is what to replace it with.  Will Trump agree to a different type of national program or push the problem by to individual States?
•   Environmental regulations is another area where Trump could use “executive orders” to change existing Obama orders.  Clean energy and in particular emissions from coal fired power plants could take steps back.
•   On business matters, Trump’s policies are just as unclear.  He has talked about cutting corporate taxes but if he does so, how does he replace this tax revenue?
•   One of my greatest concerns is who (advisors) will he surround himself with.  Many of the faces that were seen with him during his campaign are seen as narrowly focused and of questionable national stature.

For me personally, most of his proposals for domestic policy would not affect me directly.  Lower taxes would of course be advantageous, healthcare changes would adversely impact the poor not me, changes like abortions or contraceptives are not relevant, and in my lifetime, burning more coal does not directly affect me.  I am against all these changes (including lower taxes), however, on the basis that they are unfair and have dangerous long term consequences.

Lastly, there are many reports that the US is deeply divided, red versus blue, Republican versus Democrat, Conservative versus Progressive.  I think this is an incorrect conclusion.  Rather, there are many special interest groups who seek certain objectives. (Each special interest group feels zealously about their issue but are not exercised about another special interest’s hot issue.

Those who cry out for smaller government are in fact in favor of more power at the State level so that they can gain some advantage in farming, manufacturing, or real estate. (These small government advocates are really about seeking advantages on their playing field.)  Other groups want lower taxes but still want the big government services.  Some groups claim they want more religious freedom but in fact wish really to impose their religious views on others or selectively discriminate against others (like blacks or gays/lesbians).  While these views might predominate the Republican Party, not all Republicans share these views and most Republicans who share one or two, don’t share them all.

The same can be said for Democrats.  Some democrats favor more welfare or healthcare type programs but don’t want to see higher taxes (tax the rich is ok for them).  Most Democrats favor less discrimination (more opportunity for minorities) but don’t want it to impact their job.  Similarly, many progressives support tougher environmental regulations but resist higher prices or loss of employment.  And union workers who have traditionally been Democrats, simply want good paying jobs and don’t want to hear they may have to retrain because those jobs no longer exist in the US.

My point in this is that Donald Trump cleverly built an alliance of voters by saying what each subgroup wanted to hear or believe.  If he delivers on his economic promises, all will be forgiven and he should easily enjoy his two terms (8 years).  If forces beyond his control or forces resulting from his misjudgments on policy push the US economy into recession (or even do not improve our current 1.5% GDP growth) he could be a 1 term President since his current supporters are united on bread and butter, not philosophic reasons.

Enough for now.  As Trump begins to select his advisors more clues will emerge.  There is still a good chance of major conflicts with his own Party in Congress.  Some are saying this will not happen because Trump will want his legacy to be not just positive, but almost heroic.  We shall see.

Keep safe and healthy.

I have not heard back from my friend. When I do I will report more.

President Elect Donald J Trump

November 9, 2016

For many (but not enough), the unthinkable has happened. Donald Trump has won the 2016 Presidential election with a narrow but clear cut electoral college victory. Americans have spoken and their choice of Trump over Hillary Clinton was wide and broad based.

Along with President-elect Trump, the GOP kept control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The keys to the White House and the governance of Congress (and soon the Supreme Court) have passed to the Republican Party.

Pundits will spin this outcome for days, weeks and maybe months pinning the Democrat loss on this reason or that one. For many the dislike of Hillary Clinton was enough to vote for Trump. For others, the election was about the economy, it was simply not good enough for these voters, anything would be better. Another group saw Trump as anti-establishment and a change agent from the current status quo. Political pundits will fault the basic campaign strategy and criticize the decisions to under estimate the importance of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. And so on.

For centrists, especial those on both coast, their worst fears has been realized. The GOP which has specialized in gridlock and just saying “no” now possesses the reigns of government. The George W Bush years set a poor standard where a narrow victory lead him and his Administration to unbounded hubris, ultimately into a unnecessary failed Iraq War, and concluding with a near death of the world economy. President elect Trump deserves a chance to lead the country in more measured steps. Whether he does, remains to be seen.

President elect Trump’s victory has left an indelible mark in the ground. He has promised to make America Great Again. For the rust belt States that provided Trump the margin of victory, nothing short of a resurgence of good paying jobs will be enough. Were Trump and the GOP to somehow deliver on this promise, the Country and most citizens will be better for it. If, however, global realities on trade and foreign policies actually show that the past 7 years have been actually as good as global realities allow, then President elect Trump could be a one term President.

We must also not forget that a Clinton victory would not have been a bed of roses. Most all her pledges would have elicited strong opposition from the Republican controlled Congress. And, no one should be delusional and think Clinton would suddenly become open and transparent in her communications. Personally I was willing to accept these tradeoffs in exchange for a centrist to moderately left of center Supreme Court Justice.

Life sometimes seems unfair and President elect Trumps victory could be seem in that light. But Americans voted freely and the results elected Donald Trump. The future will take care of itself.

Hillary’s Last Message

November 7, 2016

In the 2016 Presidential Campaign’s final days, what more can be said? Hillary Clinton must be thinking “how many more times must I say Donald Trump is unfit to be President”? Donald Trump must be thinking “If I keep calling Hillary Clinton a criminal, her supporters will become even more disenchanted”. The public is exhausted and might wish for the campaign to end immediately if that could be possible. Well, tomorrow is the day, voting day. Hmmm.

Regrettably Clinton has become synonymous with the “establishment” and “status quo”. For many voters this experience does not inspire. Add to this the negatives on emails and the hill to an election victory gets steeper. What could Hillary do?

How about a positive closing statement? How about a call for unity and a pledge about what she would do to provide common ground if fortunate to win the Presidency. This type of statement would certainly look and sound “Presidential”. But it might do even more.

Her words could remind Americans, without specifically saying it that since 2008, the Republican Party has been the party of “no”. The GOP’s first goal of making President Obama a one term President and even though the GOP failed, it was not for lack of effort. In 2012, Mitt Romney lead the charge to displace President Obama and failed. Republican leaders had the gall to say the Country had not given the President a mandate and offered as proof the number of Congressional Republican members. Lost in this argument, of course, is Congress is elected on the basis of “gerrymandered” districts and Presidents are elected on the basis of national votes, one person, one vote.

And just this year, Mitch McConnell refused to consider Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland on the basis that “the next President needed to decide”. McConnell’s words did not fool anyone. The GOP was not about to cooperate at all with Democrats. And why should we expect 2017 to be different?

Hillary would do well in her closing remarks to remind Americans of what is missing in Washington, DC these days, without whining. Do the opposite and say she is optimistic and will take the first steps to bring about bi-partisan cooperation.

According to pundits, the election will be close, and unbelievably could tilt to Donald Trump. While Donald Trump is running as a “Republican”, his proposals contain many actions which elements of the GOP are dead against. He, too, will face an obstinate Congress and bi-partisanship will be one challenge too far.

So, in the end, voters will need to choose between someone who acts “Presidential” and promise to work with the opposition party, and someone else who promises to “fix” everything himself because he knows better. Anyone who takes the time to think about this choice must see that Clinton is President material and Trump is not.

Hillary needs to make her last message about willingness to work with everyone for everyone.