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The New Normal Is Still Not Normal

Is it just me or is the political circus breaking for an intermission?

Yes, I know that the president watched FOX News, then tweeted that the British knew who the suspects were in Friday’s terrorist attack. And he also reiterate his position that civil rights agitators are just as bad as Nazis and Klan members.

But somehow, it feels different.

Maybe it’s that the president struck a deal with Democrats about the debt ceiling and agreed with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that we shouldn’t deport 800,000 people who were brought here by their parents, have generally lived fine American lives, and now risk having their worlds upended because, well, why? There was speculation that the president was concerned that his poll numbers were just too low or that throwing hard-working people out of the country was too egregious even for the right-wing media, who generally opposed his proposed policies.

Or it could be that John F. Kelly is actually doing a decent job as White House Chief of Staff and was able to get through the haze and appeal to the president on a level that Trump’s children, spouse, past advisers, conscience, sense of decency and humanity, and presidential behavior have not. Or maybe he was just havin’ fun, and next week he’ll go back to ravaging the truth, reacting and tweeting about news stories he hear, and calling for the wall to be built.

In the end, it won’t matter. Another eruption is always just around the corner. But, again, it just feels different.

And this week, the diplomats come calling for the annual opening of the United Nations. The president is scheduled to give a speech and of course anything goes, and will, when he takes the podium. Then he and his staffers must give some kind of explanation as to what his foreign policy will look like, but when you have no clue or knowledge about that it’s difficult to be…cogent.

The great fear among those who oppose the president’s agenda is that his behavior and utterances will become normalized. Perhaps we are seeing that. That’s why this new feeling can be dangerous. This is no normal Republican administration.

And I don’t think it ever will be.

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Pardon Our Appearance While We Crash and Burn

In the Trump Administration’s best approximation of Friday Night Lights, the president (shudder) treated two of his main constituencies to a Shabbat treat. First by throwing civil rights and equal opportunity to the floor when he banned transgender Americans from serving their country in the armed forces, and then when he pardoned convict Joe Arpaio, a move that sent a solid message to those who believe that medieval treatment of prisoners is not just for the 14th century.

Trump’s defense? That Joe was following the law. We should note that Joe was convicted of contempt for not following the law

The silver lining is that in order to receive a pardon, the person has to admit that they committed a crime. So Arpaio is now an admitted crook. Just the kind of guy that Trump admires.

These actions would be bad in any administration, but for one that is committed to really turning the clock back to 1946, before the armed forces were desegregated, these new twists are simply the method by which this country, ruled by white men, informed by white men, and acculturated by white sensibilities, will be…returned to white men.

Pardon my confusion as we slowly twist in the wind.

While the media focuses on the president’s foibles and twitter follies, he and his minions have done real and present damage to the country. They have sent the message that it’s fine to exclude people from participating in and benefiting from our democracy, opened up public land for economic exploitation, set us back at least 75 years as far as pollution and the environment are concerned, rolled back civil rights protections, and essentially made us a non-player in world affairs. And they’ve shown that they have no shame in perpetrating these policies. In fact, if it’s what the ultra-conservative base of the Republican Party wants, then Trump is eager to give it to them.

I would expect more pardons, more executive orders and more erratic and unpresidential behavior in the weeks and months to come. President Trump’s approval ratings are low enough that he doesn’t have to care about what the opposition thinks. After all, how much worse can things get?

Exactly my point.

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Featured #Racism

Robert De Niro Calls Trump a “Flat-out Blatant Racist!”

An outspoken critic of Donald Trump spoke in a recent interview and called #45 a “flat-out blatant racist!”

Robert De Niro tore into President Trump in an interview published this week, calling him a “flat-out blatant racist.”

“If he was smart, he’d be even more dangerous. He’s dangerous as it is,” the “Wizard of Lies” actor told Deadline.

“He’s terrible, and a flat-out blatant racist and doubling down on that, and it’s good that he does because he’s going to sink himself.”

Trump has become increasingly isolated since he concluded last Tuesday, that decent Americans protesting racism are the same as the KKK, White Supremacists and Nazis. Americans of all political persuasion have correctly denounced the man in the White House, some even saying that he “lacks the moral decency” necessary to lead the country.

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Why Are We Debating Hate?

Finally, the president has united much of the country. Unfortunately for him, most of the country opposes what he stands for.

Yes, there are still many people who support the president and believe that his equating violence on both sides was appropriate, but a larger majority sees the danger in his saying that the Nazis and the counter-protesters in Charlottesville were morally similar. That the opposition to his words came from around the world and across the political spectrum tells you that this was no victory for Trump. And his decision to stay away from the Kennedy Center Honors program this year is not just a tactical retreat; it’s a rout. He’s not the first president to skip the ceremony, but the reason is different from why other presidents didn’t go: because his appearance would be a major distraction.

At this point, the president has been rebuked by corporate leaders, members of his arts council, and even James Murdoch, who is so afraid that American Jews, and even Israel, will see the president’s words as doing major damage, that he threw a million dollars at the Anti-Defamation League to stanch the bleeding. And where is Benjamin Netanyahu? The right-wing protector of Israeli and Jewish values has been remarkably silent on Trump’s atrocious choice of words. The company you keep, you know.

The point is that Charlottesville will likely be one of those turning points in our history. It will lead to major changes across the political spectrum and in the way that ordinary people view and talk about race. They will have to do this without moral leadership from the White House unless Trump decides that he needs to be more magnanimous and makes a prime-time speech calling for a more united country. OK, I’ll wait until you stop laughing. But I do really wish it would happen.

It is clear that we cannot expect President Trump to act presidential or to stand up and defend all of the citizens of this great country. In such a leadership vacuum, we run the risk that other noxious voices will try to fill the silence. And we also run the risk that violence will be seen as the tactic of choice.

Don’t let that happen. Be the moral voice that says the right words, the courageous words, the words that embrace instead of repel. Do not equivocate. And of course, agitate, agitate, agitate.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Our President: The Hate That Keeps on Hating

With all that Charlottesville means now and will mean in the future, this much is clear: Donald Trump is probably the most genuine president we’ve ever had.

  • He is a genuine racist.
  • He is genuinely ignorant of United States History.
  • He genuinely believes that there is a moral equivalency between those who hate and those who want to stop the hate.
  • He is genuinely a terrible businessman.
  • He genuinely thinks that he, and only he, can have a correct opinion on an issue.
  • He has genuinely done damage to the office of the president of the United States.
But we should have known, shouldn’t we? After all, Trump ran on a white nationalist platform that blamed the country’s troubles on President Obama, immigrants, foreign countries, multiculturalism, political correctness and amorphous values that it’s clear Trump does not value. The far right-wing groups that include members of the KKK and Nazis are lauding his remarks from Saturday and Tuesday, remarks that placed equal blame for the violence on civil rights, justice and anti-hate groups. He claims to have seen footage and watched it closer “than anybody else,” (I’m not sure how you do that), then determined that it showed an equivalence that ignored reality.
Because people walking down a street chanting “Jews will not replace us” is that same as…people walking down the street in 1935 saying the same thing. In German.
And that brings up another trope of the Trump catastrophe. He says that he’s not racist or anti-Semitic because his daughter married Jared Kushner, who is Jewish and Orthodox, and then she converted. This is, and please pardon the disconnection, hogwash. I married into a Catholic family and while both parents seem(ed) to like me, they both harbor(ed) terrifically ugly anti-Semitic attitudes. They both deny(ied) their prejudice, but it was there just below the pleasant surface. So when Trump talks about his bona-fides, I don’t believe him for a second. And clearly, he has little regard for Kushner’s feelings as evidenced by his refusal to paint racist hate group violence for what it is.
As for history, the president seems to think that Robert E. Lee, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Stonewall Jackson are morally equal to George Washington because, after all, they all owned slaves. Never mind that the first three allied themselves, as treason, with a government that wanted to break up the United States, enshrine slavery as a constitutional right, and to rip up the laws that George Washington fought to establish and then helped to create. And after the Civil War was over, Forrest and others decided that they could not live in a country where the freed slaves had the same rights as white men. They then created a legal system that ignored the constitution and brutally killed African-Americans for more than a century.
The consequences are already unfolding. CEOs, you know, the people Trump said would help him rebuild the economy, have already left the Manufacturing Council and the Policy Forum as a protest over his remarks. And I’m sure more will follow.
But the real damage he’s done is embolden some frightening sociopaths who want to do damage to me, my relatives, and my friends and acquaintances, who encompass a multitude of races, religions, ethnicities, genders and sexual choices. He’s said that Nazi ideology is equivalent to civil rights activists.
The President of the United States believes all of this. Think about that!

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The Trump Doctrine: Shoot Off Mouth, Then Foot

At this point, the main difference between President Trump’s (shudder) relationship with Kim Jong-un and Mitch McConnell is that Trump has asked only McConnell to resign. Kim just gets the bluster treatment. Of the two, McConnell is in the biggest trouble.

Here in New Jersey, and only about 10 miles from the president’s retreat in Bedminster, there is calm. The area is primarily Republican, so most of the population either supports Trump or would never think of voting Democratic no matter who’s on the ballot. In fact, Bedminster, one of the horsiest places in the state, is fast becoming more Democratic due to the building of a huge condominium development, the Hills, back in the 1980s. Prior to that, the area was solidly GOP when the party was sensible. The Hills included the demon seed of New Jersey politics, affordable housing, which brought in moderate income people like me, and just like that, Democrats began being elected in the land of Malcolm Forbes.

There’s a reason that wealthy towns in New Jersey fight tooth and nail not to have to build affordable housing, or prefer to sell their housing credits to more, ahem, modest towns. Of course, you’ll never hear Trump talk about affordable housing or how the neighborhood surrounding his golf club is changing. That’s for losers. Not winners like him who’ve signed major legislation to…to…so sad!

It is in this context that our chief executive has taken to his Twitter account, threatening fiery death, destruction, ruin and an eternity in hell to…Mitch McConnell, whom the president blames for not getting a terrible, horrible, hellfire health care bill through Congress, a Congress that finally realized the political peril of throwing 22 million people off their healthcare. That’s not good enough for our once and future dear leader. He was absolutely no help in the process, mainly because he knows nothing about health care policy, and focused on threatening Senators who have stouter backbones than he does and who do not fear his empty suit.

Now Trump wants tax reform and infrastructure, but these will fail for the same reasons that repeal and replace failed; because the president does not know enough to lead on these issues and cannot speak in more than 140 character bursts. Tax reform is also looking more and more like reform to make wealthier people even more wealthy, while here in New Jersey we might lose the state tax deduction, which will result in the savaging of the middle class taxpayer.

Infrastructure will also go badly because the plan is for the government to spend $200 billion and private industry to spend $800 billion. But if there’s no profit, why would private concerns pony up that kind of money? It’s pretty obvious that we, the people, will end up paying more in fees and tolls to reimburse the private concerns, who might cut corners if their projects turn out to be too costly. Say what you will about public works projects; most of them last if you maintain them.

All this will be moot if we get into a nuclear war with North Korea, which we won’t. And without a coherent policy, or an actual diplomat in South Korea to carry our messages – which we don’t actually have – this will remain a war of words which we can’t win. And our allies and China should now be convinced that our man in the White House cannot be trusted to confer with them or to behave diplomatically. Trump figures he can yell at them like he did the plumbers and spackle guys in his towers when they didn’t do the job as he expected. Then he stiffed them.

What Trump did with North Korea is the diplomatic equivalent of stiffing a contractor. We, the people, unfortunately, will get stuck paying the invoice with our souls.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest

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Sometimes, America, It Takes a Leak

Thank goodness for government leaks and the leakers who leak them.

From the Pentagon Papers to the transcripts of President Trump’s (shudder) conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia, leaks of government information have overwhelmingly benefited the country. They serve the interests of democracy. They uncover that which the ruling class would like to keep covered. They embarrass those who, on balance, should be embarrassed. And they lay bare the conceit that the public cannot handle certain information.

After all, think of what we’ve learned about Michael Flynn and Russia and Jared Kushner and Mike Pence and James Comey and Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. We’ve learned that each and every one of these people had something to hide. We learned that they lied, sometimes under oath. We learned that they did not follow the letter of the law or treat all examples of wrongdoing equally. And we learned that the president simply is not prepared intellectually or temperamentally for his job.

So now the president has a new Chief of Staff, John Kelly, who is renowned for not smiling much and for being a military guy who will bring order and discipline to the White House. He got rid of Anthony Scaramucci, which was not just a low-hanging-fruit moment, it was Kelly picking up a rotten apple and flinging it into the Potomac. Next up will be investigations, extreme vetting of current and potential executive branch hirings, and firings of those who are adjudged as insufficiently kowtow-ish.

What he, or any other White House employee, will not stop are the leaks. The simple truth is that there are just too many people in government who see the danger that Trump represents. It’s one thing to oppose policy, whether it’s about Vietnam, the Cold War, missile defenses, Israel, bugging, or a military man who sets up a shadow government in the bowels of the White House. It’s quite another to have a president who doesn’t know the limits the constitution puts on his power. We’ve already seen cabinet members express their personal fealty to Donald Trump, not to the constitution or the American people. We’ve heard the president complain that Jeff Sessions did not have his back when Sessions correctly recused himself from the Russia investigation. We’ve also heard him talk about other government officials who don’t support him personally.

Under these circumstances, it is incumbent upon those who can uncover circumspect, illegal and immoral actions to uncover them. To publish them. To post them. To shout them.

So leakers, please keep taking leaks. Especially with this crew in the White House.

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