After an entire year of Trump in the Oval Office, it might just be the right time to set some of the record straight as we enter his second year in office. Let's begin with the oft-heard phrase “see something, say something” as an essential element of the war on terrorism. In his very own words during the presidential campaign: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
In essence, Trump is identifying an entire religious group as a threat to the security of the United States. The reality, of course, is that most, if not almost all, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are conducted by homegrown terrorists who either entered the country legally or were actually born in the U.S. but became “radicalized” years after entering the United States. This reality necessitates the need to have those familiar with the activities of terrorists prior to the attack say something when they see something.
Problem: Is ostracizing an entire religious community conducive to encouraging the members of that religious community to “say something when they see something?” Certainly not conducive; more likely counterproductive, but that is the Trump way!
Next up: the concept of “low-level unpaid volunteer.” With regard to the characterization of one George Papadopoulos as a “low-level unpaid volunteer,” there is quite of bit of difference between a low-level campaign volunteer and an unpaid adviser sitting on a security advisory committee. That difference is access. To conflate the two is dishonest to say the least.
As someone who knocked on doors and participated in phone banks, I know firsthand what a low-level volunteer is. Unpaid status does not equate the two. I think it safe to assume that neither George Papadopoulos nor Carter Page, for that matter, ever knocked on many American doors on behalf of Trump during the Trump campaign.
Likewise, having Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as unpaid advisers does not mean they are not in violation of our nepotism laws enacted AFTER Bobby Kennedy served as Attorney General in his brother's administration.
Now let's turn to the White House press briefings and the art of the spin. In the midst of the sexual harassment controversies sweeping the country and possibly reaching a watershed moment in our history, Trump attacked sitting New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on Twitter calling her a “flunky who once begged me for campaign donations” and “would do 'anything' for them.”
This, of course, is Trump at his low-level best. It is an obvious attempt to belittle and degrade a female adversary by insinuating that the senator was willing to do something unseemly to curry his favor and associated campaign contribution. The skill is that the wording is vague enough to enable his press secretary, one Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to claim Trump didn't mean anything sexist at all and his words are only interpreted that way by those whose minds are “in the gutter.”
AND she said that with a straight face. That does require a great deal of skill.
She went on to say that it was “obvious” what he meant. I have to agree with her on that point. It was obvious. It was equally obvious that what he didn't mean was that which she gave as the true meaning claiming it dealt with the need for campaign finance reform. As needed as campaign finance reform is, what he said about Senator Gillibrand was not a cry for campaign finance reform. Far from it.
On the topic of the White House press briefings, Sarah Huckabee Sanders is not the only administration official with the skill to twist reality into an unrecognizable pretzel. Senior Domestic Policy Adviser Stephen Miller several months back added a heap of pomposity to the skill of answer avoidance when he was responding to a question posed by CNN's Jim Acosta.
The obnoxious Miller had just spoken about Trump's immigration plan and mentioned the English-speaking requirement. Acosta pointed out that this requirement gives an obvious advantage to English-speaking nations, which it clearly does.
That is when Miller went into an absolute rage lambasting Acosta as being “elitist” for not recognizing that many, if not most, nations speak English. Nice distraction to sidestep the actual issue raised by the CNN reporter. Certainly many, if not most, nations speak English, but not as a first language. Clearly countries for which English is a first language would have a significant advantage in meeting Trump's proposed requirements for entering the country.
In a contest involving the processing of information, I'll take CNN's Acosta over Trump's Stephen Miller in a heartbeat.
And now for the Republican tax plan and the exploding deficit. The record is quite clear: Whenever Republicans take control of the government as they did in 2016, controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress, they blow up the deficit. That is what the Trump tax plan does. Republicans are concerned about the exploding deficit only when Democrats retake control of the government.
In 1928 Republicans took control of the presidency and both the House and Senate and it was left to the Democrats led by FDR to rescue the nation from the stock market crash and the ensuing massive unemployment during the Great Depression. In 1992 it was left to the Democrats and Bill Clinton to reverse the damage of Reagan's failed trickle-down economics. During the George W. Bush administration, Republicans took control of the presidency and the Congress and the unfunded tax break for the wealthy and two unfunded wars led to the Great Recession of 2008 which caused massive unemployment. To the rescue were the Democrats once again, this time led by Barack Obama and his stimulus package designed to stimulate the economy and stem the tide of the recession.
The main question now is which Democrat will rise to the occasion to undo the damage of a tax plan that sees some 80 percent of benefits going to the top one percent of the wealthiest Americans. When Democrats do retake control of the government, the Republican cry will be to cut spending going to earned benefits and the social safety net – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid – to close the deficit which they blew out of control with their tax cuts to their campaign donors.
It will be up to the Democrats to protect earned benefits. As usual, history seems to always repeat itself with regard to deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility. It should also be remembered that history only repeats itself if the voters pay little attention to the lessons of history.
Let me end by setting one more record straight with a few words on the resignation of Minnesota Senator Al Franken due to sexual misconduct. Although the Republicans set him up by dredging up that USO tour photo, how, one must ask, did Roger Stone know Franken was doomed days prior to the appearance of the photo? It was the Democrats who served him up as a sacrificial lamb to gain the moral high ground in light of the sexual misconduct of the likes of Roy Moore, Donald Trump and so on.
My hope is that the loss of an effective progressive voice who spent his time in the Senate standing up for women's rights will prove to be worth the sacrifice.