Archive for the ‘2020 Presidential Election’ category

Impeachment Blues

January 20, 2020

Tomorrow the Senate impeachment trial of Donald J Trump begins.  Las Vegas odds must be in the President’s favor given what Senate Republicans have said so far.  President Trump’s supporters, however, are all over the place on why the President should not be convicted.  (Remember the Impeachment boat has already sailed, President Trump is now the third President in US history to have been impeached.  All that is left is whether 2/3rds of the Senate will vote to remove the President from office.  Hmmm.)

The impeachment and the trial never needed to happen.  Had the President expressed regret over his extortion attempts towards the Ukrainian President (like, I was only interested in stemming corruption in the Ukraine and in my excitement I mentioned the Bidens.  I should not have said that.)  With a mea culpa, Democrats would have lost the indignation which the President’s “perfect phone call” claim elicited.  But mea culpa was never the path the President would pursue.

So, there will be a trial and Republicans will defend and Democrats will prosecute.  Listening to sound bites, Republican attempts to exonerate the President seem far fetched.  What planet are they living on?

Abuse of Power” is not a crime, Republicans say.  In other words, there is no statute that defines what is an abuse of power, so the President violated no law.  Hmmm.  Further, Republicans add, “the military aide was delivered, no harm, no foul”.  

Obstruction of Congress” is also not a crime.  President Trump considered the House investigation as a political act and he directed his executive branch to ignore the House and get on with business.  Hmmm.

Democrats see the impeachment quite differently.  In Democrat’s view, the President stepped far over the line by concocting a scheme where the Ukrainian Government would be extorted by holding up Congressionally approve aide and to add insult to injury, President and other Administration top players would snub the Ukrainian leaders… unless the Ukrainian Government announced publicly an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden.  Seeking a foreign government to, in essence, provide Trump aide in the 2020 election is clearly out of bounds (I think).

The Impeachment Blues will begin as Republicans attempt to deny there are grounds for impeachment, and therefore there is no onus to convict.  Think about that.  Republicans are saying that “anything goes with future Presidents seeking help from foreign countries like China, Russia, or whomever.”

Republicans have already sullied their brand with a defective tax cut, immoral border and immigration policies, and deficits topping $1 trillion which our grandchildren will inherit.  One might argue that not convicting the President is par for the course.

Voters must listen carefully to the Senate proceedings.  President Trump has a much different view of the Presidency than past Presidents had.  Looking around the world, it does not take much effort to see so many countries tilting towards authoritarian leaders since open and free societies can be “so messy” to govern. 

Trump’s impeachment will stand as a clear line in the sand that repeat behavior will earn the next President another impeachment too.  

Communicating Through Speech

January 17, 2020

Most Americans are used to a direct communication method with whomever they are in contact. Being diplomatic, however, is also recommended so as to not offend the other person.  But, when diplomacy leads to the point of “what did he/she just say”, communications can be frustrating as well as confusing.  Auxiliary techniques such as eye contact, body posture, or hand positioning can aide or detract from the message.  Never the less, so many of us, at one time or another, say, “if only i had understood what you were trying to say, I would have……”

Contrast this to a proper Japanese who might say to a neighbor, “oh my husband so admires how beautiful your tree is”.  After a few days the Japanese lady might follow with, “my husband so admires your tree with its beautiful branches.”  And, if necessary, the Japanese lady might say a few days later, “my husband wonders how you take care of such a beautiful tree”.  The point of this exchange was to prompt the neighbor to inspect the tree and realize that its branches had grown over the property line and were dropping leaves upon the neighbors yard.  Hmmm.

This exchange may seem bazaar to Americans.  What’s wrong with just saying “your tree is dropping its leaves on my property, could you please pick them up?” 

This direct communication style can also over step the rights of others.  For example:

  • “I believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman, why do you two (man-man, woman-woman) think you can marry?” 
  • Or, “you may be a loving couple and may be able to provide a safe home, but same sex couples are inconsistent with our religious beliefs and therefore, we will not allow you to adopt someone our organization is trying to find a home for.” 
  • Or, my personal views are that fetuses represent a human being beginning at conception, and therefore ending a pregnancy is akin to murder. Accordingly, I believe the fetus has priority over rights (and life) of the woman carrying the fetus, period.”

What is common about these positions is that the person’s beliefs are imposed upon someone else even though the other person’s has done nothing to the first person.  Said differently, why is it ok for someone to impose their views upon another when the other person is doing nothing to hurt the first person?

The Japanese lady was prompting the neighbor to recognize the imposition the tree’s falling leaves were making (the neighbor must go and pick up the fallen leaves).  When Catholic Charities refuse to allow adoption of a child in its custody even though the potential adopter is otherwise fully qualified, Catholic Charities is hurting someone else when that other person has not hurt Catholic Charities.

Governments, even Presidents routinely tell citizens that policy X should be adopted for this reason or that reason.  When, however, the proposed policy is blatantly prejudicial to a minority group but not to the larger group, injustice can be seen.  Why should individual African Americans, Muslims, Latinos, or Asians who may be suspected of undesirable tendencies poison the thinking about the group as a whole? 

Prejudice is normally tied to complex social behavior.  Politics, however, can take something complex and make it toxic.  Detecting prejudicial behavior is easy when one asks the question, does the policy apply to everyone?  Does the policy penalize some and not others? Is the politician pandering to religious groups allowing these groups to impose their “deeply held beliefs” on others?

Communicating through speech sometimes is more difficult than it looks.

 

 

 

 

Toxic Thinking

January 11, 2020

Section I – The Birth of an Idea

During the George W Bush Administration, America was introduced to “Neoconservative” thinking.  This oxymoron was intended to reflect an updated version of good old Republican values most Americans recognized if not loved.  Neoconservatives argued that the United States represented the zenith of civilization offering a vibrant economy, military strength, and wholesome values which others would do well to emulate.  A “think tank” named “Project for the New American Century” boasted a foreign policy designed to ensure the 21st century was made in America’s image.  Hmmm.

“W” was not much of a thinker although IMO he eventually realized there was something fishy about his hubris filled, swaggering staff when they preached how America was right and others were not.  “W” was more comfortable wearing nice suits and getting his picture taken then squaring up what his Vice President, Defense Secretary and others were saying with laws and the Constitution.  So “W” side tracked his “compassionate conservative” label and read the scripts subordinates like Dick Cheney gave him.

And then there was 9/11.

The neoconservatives threw open doors and windows, and shouted from roof tops about the exceptionalism of America (google PNAC -Project For A New American Century) and how it was their duty to spread this thinking throughout the world but especially in the Muslim world. 

No sooner had US forces ousted the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan than the neoconservatives set their sights on “nation building”.  “We can’t allow terrorists to highjack Afghanistan again”, the neoconservatives said thumping their chests.

But that wasn’t enough.  Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, Wolfowitz, etc pointed at Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and falsely connected him to 9/11.  The Cheney cabal beat and beat war drums until the US invaded and occupied a sovereign country on trumped (pun) charges. 

Black sites, enhanced interrogation (think Nazi Gestapo techniques), and Guantanamo Bay Detention center (created to be outside the jurisdiction of US courts!!!) were products of neoconservative thinking.  Hmmm.

Section II – Rebirth

Fast forward.  Following 8 years under President Barack Obama where logic and reason prevailed, the country elected Donald Trump.  President Trump has turned out to govern in ways lacking logic or reason.  The stage has been set for neoconservatism to return.

The decision to assassinate the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani smacks of Dick Cheney-esq foreign policy.  (If you got the bigger stick, use it.) President Trump breathlessly raced to center stage in order to proclaim the assassination was on his order.  Trump thinks he is a tough guy despite having had bone spurs when he had the chance to go to Vietnam.

One must be careful, however, in assigning credit or blame to President Trump with respect to the assassination.  The President is an opportunist’s opportunist.  One should instead look to those advising the President, who would gladly hand the President a loaded gun in a crowded room.

Neoconservatives are paternalistic ideologues who exemplify “father knows best”.  Issues are reduced to black or white decisions which of course the neoconservative knows the best path forward.  Regrettably, the world is not a dichotomy of choices where one path is clearly superior to the other.  But authoritarian, paternalistic thinkers do not handle this possibility very well.

Iran is from an American’s perspective an opaque place where theocracy rules, women are subjugated, and free speech does not exist.  Iran, however, is not illogical, and like Russia, has adopted a foreign policy which buffers the homeland with client organizations operating in neighboring countries.  Iran does not want another Saddam Hussein ruling a neighboring country and subsequently invading Iran.  Hence General Soleimani’s work as a Middle East “trouble maker” is not likely to end with his death.

Assassinating the General will not change Iran’s foreign policy, it will simply change who is pursuing that policy.  Neoconservatives do not seem to recognize this subtlety and when confronted with more “bad behavior”, neocons will most likely reach for the hammer over using their words.

Section III – Teaching Points

There are ample reasons why President Trump ought be a one term President which have nothing to do with this recent assassination.  With respect to Iran, however, the President has willingly become a tool of neocons.  Judgement?  While the buck stops with the President, voters would do well to realize there are neoconservatives behind many bushes and trees, poised to jump out and take control of a putty-like President.  

In a strange way, the combination of President Trump and Neoconservative backers combines the worst of two dangerous forces.  One must assume that neocon motivation is at least in part founded upon energy sector driven economics.  The President has demonstrated a fondness for energy companies already and his America First motto fits Neoconservative rhetoric like a glove.  

President Trump has tried anti-globalism, embraced trade wars, and championed xenophobia.  Is neoconservatism next?

    

Next Stop Iowa

January 8, 2020

Today, Elizabeth Warren scored a lot of minutes on MSNBC.  Warren was gratuitously tossed some softball questions which allowed the Senator to share her ideas on major campaign issues.  She did well, IMO, and provided believable scenarios, but missed the point with healthcare.

Healthcare should be a slam dunk for Warren or any Democrat.  Today American healthcare is the most expensive in the world and still does not cover all Americans.  US healthcare cost twice as much (per capita) as two dozen other industrial countries and delivers mediocre results when compared to these countries.  Most galling is that medications produced by US companies are available in other countries at lower prices than in the US.  Hmmm.

Warren, however, emphasized how she would provide universal coverage (Medicare For All) with out raising taxes on the middle class.  Taxing wealth Americans and Corporations was her prescription.  In otters words, Warren offered the same high priced healthcare with no new taxes.  Hmmm.  IMO, Warren is missing the point on healthcare.

All Americans find the cost of healthcare too expensive.  Many Americans find they can not afford prescription drugs.  And too many Americans find healthcare is not available due to pre-existing conditions.  Focusing on solving those defects will garner votes.  How to pay for it is a detail.

The “One Off” President

January 5, 2020

As the New Year begins, President Trump enters his fourth year as President.  Hopefully 2020 will be his last year in office, but certainly not all Americans hold those views. 

For the most part, Trump supporters have seen “one off” acts by the President which in their value system, represents positive events.

  • Barring Muslims from entering the US,
  • Building a wall between the US and Mexico,
  • Withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Accord,
  • Ending the US participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership,
  • Championing religious freedom (at the expense of LGBTQ members),
  • Abrogating the Iran Nuclear Deal,
  • Unilaterally imposing punitive tariffs on long term trading partners, and
  • Pandering in all ways possible to the pro-life community. 

Each of these actions appealed to at least some of his supporters.  Hmmm.

Along the way, the President who subscribes fully to the absolute authority view some see imbedded in the Constitution’s Article 2, managed to get himself impeached. 

What a surprise.

The evidence, however, is clear that the President tried to us the power of his office to tilt the 2020 election his way.   The Republican controlled Senate is likely to acquit the President, even as more documents see the light of day and the case against the President gets firmer.   President Trump see the risk that everyday Americans have an opportunity to see through the smoke.

So what can the President do to shade the evidence more in his favor?

The answer is “not much”.  What the President can do is help take America’s eye off impeachment.

This past weekend, US assets assassinated a senior Iranian General under the claim that the forces this general controlled were targeting American assets in the Middle East region. Although details have not been released, most news authorities agree that Qasem Soleimani was “guilty as charged”, and had been engaged his similar activities for years.

There are two big questions, (1) why now, and (2) why ever (short of during a declared war)?

One is left with few explanations for “why now”.  The President has ordered US withdrawal from Syria on several occasions and most recently, pulled US troops back from the Turkish border allowing Syrian, Russian, Turkish and Iranian forces greater strategic territorial control.  Hardly a strategy if one was seeking to stabilizing the region with US interests in mind.

But what if the President is now more interested in distracting Americans from his impeachment and even better, getting Americans to adopt a war mentality (don’t change horses in the middle of the stream)?

The larger and more significant question, however, is how could the President ever justify assassinating anyone, particularly a member of a foreign government?  While ethics and commonsense should drive a US decision towards alternative counter measures, the President has shown no regard for ethical or moral thinking in his three years as President.

The President’s hard core supporters are unlikely to be swayed by any type of ethical or moral argument. But the 10% or so independent voters are looking and listening too. For the sake of our country, their November vote can ensure President Trump is a one term bad dream.  Lets hope independents are paying close attention.

  

Good Things Move In Mysterious Ways

December 18, 2019

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

The Chinese have a way with words.  Those written above seem apropos at this moment of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.  Sadly, all signs indicate Trump’s reckoning will only include “impeachment” and turning out of office will have to wait until November 2020.

Ironically, Trump’s own hand (or mouth) will have done him in.  Trump’s attitude that the President (or at least Donald Trump) is above the law, which is a variant of his personal life “me first” or “it’s all about me”, has enabled President Trump to run roughshod over long established norms and precedents.  The impeachment process, regardless of how partisan it may have been, has shed a sanitizing light upon the President’s true intentions.

The President’s modus operandi is simple enough.  “Do whatever he wants, then if called out, tell his base supporters either (1) the President didn’t do it, or (2) “there’s nothing wrong if the President did do it”.

The longer the President whines about his impeachment, the longer everyday Americans are drenched in the evidence that the President did abused the power of his office.  In other words, the President did not play fair.

Providing Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans will see the election cast in terms of 4 more years of a cad who is also dangerous, or selection of a moderate who is a traditionalist.  The moderate will win, IMO.

Whoa, Afghanistan, Really

December 12, 2019

The Washington Post has broken a tragic story, which is bound to elicit from those who were involved, “of course, everyone knew that”.  The story traces the US involvement in Afghanistan from the days shortly after 9/11 when the mission morphed from eliminating al Qaeda into nation building.  The story of how American policy tried to build a modern democracy, is not pretty and hardly heroic.  Rather, it is the tale of how national purpose drifted away from core values.

According to the Post, American Afghan policy has created a hugely corrupt culture, did not achieve stated goals including pacification.  The debacle began with George W Bush, continued with Barack Obama, and operates well with Donald Trump.  And even worse, there are officials who know about the corrupt practices and have been unable to do anything about the outcome,  As this unfolds, the Afghan scandal has the potential to ruin a great number of careers.

There is, however, another way to look at this government failure.  There is irony in that Bush and Obama were personally squeaky clean.  But both presided over organizations highly motivate to achieve goals.  Pacification of Afghanistan and the adoption of certain western values were key deliverables in the mind of American negotiators. What could go wrong?

How about trying to take a short cut, “money for results”, for example, money in exchange for human rights (as seen by the west), simple.  In theory the money was to buy arms, train militias, and build civil works projects, but in a wink, the local Afghans were also suppose to agree to certain human rights requests.

The Post reports that in addition Afghans learned that without the “grease” of money, nothing was needed to be done regardless whether the payer was the American Government or one Afghan doing business with another.

Does this learned behavior sound like the “art of the deal”?  “You do this for me, I’ll do that for you.”  Imagine, this dysfunctional behavior being witnessed in Afghanistan resulted from well intend US foreign policies under two different US Presidents, ostensibly for good intentions.  What might happen with a one-off, narcissistic President?