What, Do You Think Our Country’s So Innocent? (v2)

Leftists since at least the bad old days of the Viet Nam war have decried American misdeeds in other countries as well as or own.  In a Bill O’Reilley interview with Donald Trump, O’Reilly comments that Putin is a killer.  Trump’s reply is “What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” This exchange is in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that aired on 2/5/2017 on Fox.

Does that make Trump a leftist Democrat?  I don’t think so.  When American Democrats make such claims, it is because they are embarrassed for their country and pushing for the transparency that is required to maintain democracy.  It is because they want the US to live up to its principles and values, not because they admire a corrupted form of those values.  Nor because they admire those without such values.

The only country I know of that was founded on principles of liberty and justice for the individual is the United States of America.  Our president just lumped the United States in with the Soviet Union, modern Russia, Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China and many others as states where anything goes to maintain the interests of the state.  Whether he did that as a matter or style or personal style is irrelevant.  He just told the world that the USA no longer has a moral standard.  While we have often had difficulty living up to our values and have only occasionally been able to admit that, we have always tried to recover and to get better.

This also brings into question what it means to “Make America Great Again”.  Is the new, great America to be one with no moral compass?  How will the religious community  react to that?  What about our allies and nations struggling to reach some level of democracy?  What about conservatives who despair of our declining moral values?  Not to mention liberals.

Is a “great America” one where there are no values beyond the immediate transaction?  Did he really mean to accept extrajudicial killing in such a casual way?   Did he mean to imply that improving relations with Russia requires accepting their methods of dealing with dissidents?

If the USA is no longer attempting to uphold the principles of our founding documents, then American Exceptionalism is over and we are just another big country.  No nation struggling to achieve democracy has any reason to look up to our principles.  They are dead.

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What, Do You Think Our Country’s So Innocent?

Leftists since at least the bad old days of the Viet Nam war have decried American misdeeds in other countries as well as or own.  In a Bill O’Reilley interview with Donald Trump, O’Reilly comments that Putin is a killer.  Trump’s reply is “What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” This exchange is in an interview with Bill O’Reilly that will air on 2/5/2017 on Fox at 4 pm ET.

Does that make Trump a leftist Democrat?  I don’t think so.  When Democrats and leftists in and out of the US make such claims, it is because they are embarrassed for their country and pushing for the transparency that is required to maintain democracy.  It is because they want the US to live up to its principles and values, not because they admire a corrupted form of those values.  Nor because they admire those without such values.

The only country I know of that was founded on principles of liberty and justice for the individual is the United States of America.  Our president just lumped the United States in with the Soviet Union, modern Russia, Castro’s Cuba, Mao’s China and many others as states where anything goes to maintain the interestes of the state.  Whether he did that as a matter or style or personality disorder is irrelevant.  He just told the world that the USA no longer has a moral standard.  While we have often had difficulty living up to our values and have only occasionally been able to admit that, we have always tried to recover and to get better.

If the USA is no longer attempting to uphold the principles of our founding documents, then American Exceptionalism is over and we are just another big country.  No nation struggling to achieve democracy has any reason to look up to our principles.  They are dead.

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Lucky Dog

I have a lucky dog.  He survived a vicious dog attack that almost killed him at four months old.  He is a melanoma survivor. And he doesn’t know what happened last night.

He was sleeping during the simultaneous destruction of both current US political parties.  He did not hear Susan B. Anthony’s sigh emanating from her grave.   The anguish of many current and potential US immigrants fell on his sleeping ears.  He didn’t know why my daughters and wife were so sad.  He isn’t aware of the pending changes in how people treat each other in “civil” conversation.  He did not realize that his country was electing a president whose idea of political argument is to embrace innuendo, conspiracy theory and character attacks.  He didn’t care why we were all up until 2:30 AM and back up before 7:00.  He did care that we had comfort foods that involved cheese for dinner last night!  He always cares about cheese.

But Obie is also an optimistic dog!  He thinks that both parties needed a shaking up because they were too busy working on reelections and fund-raising to be aware of people’s real concerns.  They might get it now!  He thinks the president-elect is not a stupid man, in spite of his arguments, but only an opportunistic charlatan who will now adopt policies that are more practical.  If the newly elected president thinks he will get more accolades from governing effectively than from bombast, he might do that.  (Like I said, he’s an optimistic dog.)He is encouraged by the fact the transition seems to be starting on the right foot with a magnanimous speech and a gracious concession.  Some of the members of Congress are actually interested in governing and they may form a coalition with the president-elect who has no real political philosophy to solve some real problems.  Just as it t took Nixon to go to China, it might take a (nominal) Republican to fix some structural tax problems and repair governance items that need repairing.

We are both encouraged by fact that the US has withstood 240 years of messy elections and continued ticking and will get through this one too.  We believe it won’t be as bad as the election campaigns made it seem.  And we look forward, with hope, to reconciliation and change.

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Why Not Trump?

Why not Trump for president?  He has expressed some good ideas.  For example, he has indicated the value of his being “self funded” to avoid being beholden to special interests. He is for improving the US infrastructure, repairing our tax structure, fixing the VA, fixing immigration, updating or replacing the ACA, expanding the economy, reviewing our trade policies and fixing Social Security while reducing the national debt.  Those are all goals I can support.  Those are also all goals that Hillary supports.

They differ mostly on how they would review trade policy and on tax cuts and how they would implement some of the goals above.  Trump says he’ll rip up our current trade agreements and start over; HRC says she’ll work to make sure they are fair.  Donald will cut taxes across the board; Hillary will raise taxes on the rich.  Hillary’s resulting budget deficits will be about the same as projected under current law resulting in a debt of 86% of GDP in 10 years.  Trump’s will be higher resulting in 106% of GDP in ten years.  Trump says he’ll generate so much growth that we will cut the deficits and start bringing down the debt.  Non-partisan economists say that won’t happen.  Actually, pretty much all economists that are not part of his advisory council say the same thing.

Overall, his policies are somewhat different from mainline Republican ideas but if you remove the rhetoric, most are not extreme.  So why are some people so against him?  I’ll get back to that.

Hilary’s policies are not outrageous either.  She is a politician and an insider.  As a result, people don’t like her.  She has added to the normal dislike and distrust of politicians by her own actions.  Her political instincts were sharpened in Washington and she has been under attack for a long time.  I don’t understand the deep-seated antipathy some politicians have toward her but I would guess it comes from the ill-fated “Hillarycare” she managed under her husband’s presidency.  Hillary has been under intense scrutiny for 30 or more years.  The Donald has not.  Hillary’s every flaw is well known.  Donald’s are not.  He has not only been fined by the Justice Department for violating a consent decree regarding housing discrimination but investigated for bribery, corruption in a construction project, sale of two housing units to members of the mob, stock dealings, illegal loans from his father to his casinos, improper lobbying, misleading earnings reports and Trump University .  Hillary is far from perfect but she is  very well known.  The Donald is known mostly to followers of the Apprentice.  Running the United States is not a reality TV show.

Why not Trump?  If his policies, absent the exaggeration and hyperbole, are not totally despicable and in many ways not that different from Clinton’s, and their record of federal investigations are not dissimilar, why not take a chance on the outsider?  Here’s why.

  1. He is making bullying an acceptable behavior.  If a presidential candidate can make his arguments almost entirely through innuendo and ad hominem attacks, then that must be ok.  When said candidate uses social media extensively for the sole purpose of name calling, it must be normal.  Schools no longer need to teach the elements of logic nor critical thinking because all you need to win an argument is a bag of clever insults.  The idea of punching back regardless of the issue and punching harder means it is ok to beat up the little kid who gets in your way or to take his lunch if he insults you.  Sixth grade bullies have a how-to guide from the Republican candidate.  Way cool!  Ironically, Melania Trump spoke out against cyber-bullying and related her own wonderful story of coming to America.  However, the largest group of cyber bullies I know of are from Breitbart, InfoWars, 4Chan and of course, @theRealDonaldTrump.  Some of their most frequent targets are immigrants and immigration.  In other words, her husband and some of his most energetic backers.  Bullying is not ok; it is not an acceptable model for the president; and it coarsens the country and reduces its intellectual capability.
  2. Impetuosity is a liability in foreign affairs.  Combined with his bullying instincts, I can imagine him going off-script and upsetting multiple foreign heads of state.  Why do we care?  We need information and intelligence sharing with as many countries as possible in the fight against terrorism.  We need economic cooperation to improve or even maintain our trade deals.  We need our allies to believe we have their backs.  There are enough countries that don’t like us already.  We don’t need to add to the list by insulting a European head of state, for example, for being behind on NATO payments.
  3. The country needs to be united; he is a divider.  What ever you feel about Clinton or the press, inciting crowds with “Lock her up” chants and inviting insulting and abusive behavior to the press should not be acceptable.  We have due process laws.  They even apply to Democrats.  Hillary has not been charged  with any crime in the 30 years she has been in Washington.  We do not lock up people who have not been indicted.  The First Amendment is just as important as the Second (and all the rest) but it was first for a reason.  The writers of the Constitution knew the importance of the press and right to assemble.  Whether Donald does or not is less important than how his followers perceive the message and who they choose in the years to come at state and local levels.  Will press freedom begin to diminish?  Attacks on due process increase?  Where will that lead?  I don’t know but it won’t be a country governed by our Constitution.
  4. But the biggest problem is cynicism.  A campaign that panders to and reinforces the legitimate fears and concerns of a large part of the nation but has no credible plan to fix those problems is just cynical. I said earlier that fixing our immigration system is a good idea.  Trump has taken he good idea though and turned it into an element of divisiveness, not over how to fix the policy but over the immigrants and refugees themselves.  Even though Trump’s policies are not tremendously out of line with many candidates, his rhetoric is.  Listening to him makes it sound like the barbarians are not only at the gate but have broken the hinges and only he can now save us.  I find this appeal to the worst and most fearful elements of natures to be the best explanation of “why not Trump”.

Why HRC?  See above.  If the Democrats ran a normal candidate or even Bernie Sanders, there would be no contest.  Hillary has many flaws but she should not be further tainted by the sins of her husband.  The one thing that sets her apart (for this election) is that she worked effectively across the aisle when she was a Senator and developed good working relationships with a number of Senators who are still there.  She has some small chance of unifying the country.  Mr. Trump does not appear to me as though he wants to unify it.

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Trump’s Needed Apologies – 4 in an unending series

Donald Trump is redefining America as a third world country in which the press is a tool of the government, political opponents are threatened with jail, truth is an unnecessary luxury, elections are stolen by the elites and only the fervor of your supporters matters.

It is these last two items that are of most concern.  The campaign has insinuated for some time that the election is “rigged”.  It seems that the only way Mr. Trump loses is if the fight is unfair.  Otherwise, he is so smart, talented and charismatic that such a result is inconceivable.  Regardless of the laughability of that statement, if enough of his followers are rabid enough to believe the election process is unfair or is somehow controlled by some outside agency like the “elites”, we could see the beginning of a long, slow, tortuous trip to third world status for the several countries that used to be the USA.

There is no discussion of how this “rigging” happens.  Maybe through voter fraud from illegal immigrants recruited by the Clintons.  Maybe just outright cheating in the vote count by election officials.  Or the Russians could be hacking the voting systems to make sure the Trumpanistas don’t win.  Perhaps it is through the “crooked media”.  Interestingly, it is the media that made him in the first place by reporting on all the outrageous things he says.  That attracted many people.  As the election grows nearer, more people are paying attention.  The press still reports on everything he says but to a larger audience with more uncommitted voters. The expanded audience is more likely to be skeptical of Trump’s claims.  He doesn’t like that.  Therefore, rigged.

However, it would be a mistake to blame everything on the Donald.  He has a 30 year or more platform of growing distrust in the government sparked primarily but not exclusively by the right.  There are multiple possible starting points from Barry Goldwater to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich.  All of them and their successors in Republican politics have railed against government being the problem, being in the way, being too big, too slow, too impersonal and more recently just inept and incapable.   Bernie Sanders and his band made similar points about the failure of governmentto execute its responsibilities.  Oddly enough, those two threads are closely related.  And they are not wrong.  Broadly speaking, they are about Congress not doing its job for a very long time.  Congress has focused not on solving problems but on serving conflicting philosophies.  Their approaches to politics has created more polarized  constituencies and allowed them to hold up any legislation that either creates a political risk for them or fails to meet their philosophy completely.  ACA is a good case.  Democrats can’t admit it has any flaws and Republicans can’t admit it has any benefits.  So it can’t get any better and no progress can be made on afordable healthcare.  The same logic applies to immigration, jobs, economy, inequality and security.  No progress, no agreement.  It leads to a lot of bubbling in the political and social cauldrons.

So what do I want him to apologize for this time?  For using the wretched situation our Congress has created to inflame passions instead of offering solutions.  I know that he has put forward some immigration, tax, education and other plans.  But he prefers, it seems, to incite the crowds to jeer the press corps and cast outrage at those who oppose him.  And he continually takes the spotlight off his plans anytime there is anything that dims the light on him! This leaves him behind in the polls (which irritates him to no end) and causes him to cast about for excuses.

On November 9th, I hope to have heard a concession and a plea to Congress to stop fighting begin working on solutions regardless of who wins.  America can’t afford more division.

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Trumps Needed Apologies, Number – I’ve lost count!

The Donald’s most recent foray into the dark recesses of his self-indulgent mind involves a locker room discussion that betrays his ego’s never-ending assumption that he is above everything.  Many men indulge in pretty grotesque discussions at some points in their lives.  Most don’t move on to assume that they can do or say anything they want if they are rich and famous.  Well, Bill Cosby may have; and a few presidents and actors.  But as a country we expect better behavior in our leaders and generally are pretty offended when it appears.  Most learn to keep a lid on it – at least where there might be hot mics and in public.  Most learn the discipline of focusing on their jobs, their families, their communities.

This event exposes Mr. Trump’s egocentricity and narcissism better than most earlier ones.  It is a specific statement that “I can have what I want when I want it because I am who I am.”  Henry the 8th thought the same way along with all the other divine right kings.  The fact that it applied to women is not limiting.  That is, I’m sure he has expected to get a good grope of politicians because he donated to their campaigns.  He has said as much.

The fact that it did apply to women is consistent with his entire history.  It seems to indicate that Mr. Trump’s appreciation of women is skin deep.  While he has several woman on his campaign team, it could be argued they were chosen first for their looks and then for their ability to defend his positions and speak articulately.

He issued an apology to “anyone who was offended”.  I’m curious about the people he thinks might not be offended.  Many of them will be men with daughters and wives and mothers and aunts and woman friends.   The rest will be women.   It is hard to find anyone who has no relationship to a woman.

His apology should be something along the following lines.
“I apologize for being a boorish and misogynistic dick-head.  There is nothing I can do about it at my age.”  I think he might add “So screw you and send in the girls, but only the tens.”

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Trump’s (Needed) Apologies – part 2 of ?

A while ago I thought it would be fun to keep track of the apologies Donald Trump owes the country.  I wrote one on his assertion that Judge Curiel could not rule on his Trump University case since the judge is of Mexican heritage and could not possibly be unbiased.  It was fun.  But I could not keep up.  What with the Khan family, fire marshals, beating up protesters, lying about his changed positions on Syria and Libya, on the number of immigrants in the country illegally, the unemployment rate, crime rates, Obama as founder of ISIS and at least 70 other stories tallied by PolitiFact, I was beaten.

Then I realized those are just chump change!

The biggest and most abject apology owed to America is for accelerating the decline of our most important institutions.  He and his fellow Republicans have for years been doing their best to create darkness where there should be light.  They have turned the perception of science from an instrument of discovery and verification to an instrument for promotion or vilification of political positions.    They have changed reverence for education into distrust of expertise.  Support for common infrastructure has become classified as “tax and spend” programs to wreck the budget.  For these, the Donald gets credit for advancing the ball but not for all the recent progress.  The Republicans, after all, have worked on knocking down government for years.

Mr. Trump’s singular contribution is his unique ability to stare into the mouth of a bear and deny that he sees teeth or even that there may be a bear.  For example, we have his continuing claim that what he said in 2004 about favoring the invasion of Iraq, on film, did not happen.   Also, his claim that president Obama is not a native-born American is now being denied on his behalf by his campaign but he would not admit it in person until 9/16/2016.  And speaking of bears, he still denies Russia has troops in the Ukraine.

Most of all, though, we have his skill in debasing political debate.  I know, I thought that art had already been perfected by Congress, but I was wrong on that too.  Trump has skills in innuendo, ad hominem attacks, misdirection and blatant lying that make the most ambitious sixth grade bully weep from jealousy.  With his recent claim that Secretary Clinton has run a “hate filled” campaign, he has taken the school yard taunt “I know you are but what am I?” to impressive new levels.  Similarly with his continuing attacks on the Clinton campaign regarding Benghazi, the email server, her health and the Clinton Foundation, he has created exactly the sort of distraction that his son now says is the real reason he won’t release his tax returns – that it would create a distraction and keep Mr. Trump from delivering his message.  I wonder what the distraction would be?

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