Monthly Archives: September 2018

A Tipping Point: Kavanaugh and Trump

20 percent of U.S. women have been raped and another 40 percent have experienced some other form of sexual violence.  I mention this because as the Kavanaugh confirmation has veered from his conservative beliefs to his veracity and then to his sexual behavior, the contentious hearing entered territory that was traumatic for many women.  For this reason, September 27th represents a tipping point in American politics.  A point where U.S. women declared they have had enough abuse.

In retrospect, it’s not surprising that Donald Trump, an unrepentant sexual predator, would nominate a Supreme Court Justice from the same mold.  At first we thought that Kavanaugh was a clone of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a deeply conservative jurist hand-picked by White House Counsel Don McGahn and a few other archconservatives.  (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh knew each other in high school, Georgetown Prep, and both clerked for Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.)  It was not until Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward that we realized that Kavanaugh suffered from a sinister pathology — as an (alleged) sexual predator.

Trump and Kavanaugh’s decision to dispute Blasey’s accusations — and the accusation of other women — and push forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination, led to the September 27th Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.  That all-day hearing triggered traumatic memories for many women who have been the victims of sexual abuse.  ( ) If this weren’t bad enough, Kavanaugh and Republican (all male) members of the Senate Judiciary Committee insulted female Democratic Senators Feinstein and Klobuchar.

As a result, the women I know are incensed.  They feel that continued Republican support for Kavanaugh’s nomination is a another attempt by Republican men to minimize and dismiss the trauma of sexual assault.  These women have been reminded that Donald Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  American women are mad and want to even the score.

Whatever happens to the Kavanaugh nomination — at this writing it’s been postponed pending an FBI inquiry — it’s likely that Republicans will suffer at the ballot box.

Before the Kavanaugh debacle, we knew that a record number of women are running for office in the 2018 mid-term elections ( ) — overwhelmingly as Democrats.  Furthermore, a June CNN poll found that 58 percent of likely female voters planned to vote for a Democratic candidate in November — versus 33 percent of women that planned to vote for a Republican candidate and 9 percent who were undecided.  (The 25 point gender gap is unprecedented — and this was before Kavanaugh’s hearing.)

Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony is a turning point in American politics.  It’s a moment where American women collectively re-experienced their trauma and decided: “This has gone on long enough.  It’s time to put an end to sexual violence… It’s time for women to take power.”

Donald Trump is too dense to understand this.  And, for whatever reason, most male Republicans don’t get it, either.

There’s a blue wave coming.  A blue tsunami.  Many elements have contributed to this — one of which is Trump’s feckless behavior.  But Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was the tipping point.


Rape and Redemption: Trump and Kavanaugh

Presidential elections reflect voter concerns, as well as candidate personalities.  In addition, national election results often reflect changing American norms. While the 2018 mid-term election has been touted as the year of the woman, it also mirrors our collective concern about violence against women — the rape culture. This heightened awareness has impacted the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.

It’s useful to consider how we got to this moment.  The 2016 presidential campaign pitted two unpopular candidates: Hillary Clinton with a reputation for lying and calculated ambition; and Donald Trump with a reputation for sexual abuse and bullying.  Crooked Hillary versus “pussy grabber” Trump.

In retrospect it would have been better if voters had pushed the “none of the above” button and left the US without a president until two more acceptable candidates were presented.  Sadly, that wasn’t an option and Donald Trump narrowly won the election.  One way to interpret this outcome is that voters disliked crooked Hillary more than “pussy grabber” Trump.  Whatever the reason, Trump, in effect, got a pass on his sexist behavior.

608 days of a Trump presidency indicate that Donald hasn’t changed his ways.  He hasn’t grown into the job as many voters hoped.  He’s still the same bully, liar, racist and sexist he was during the presidential campaign.  He still has the same poor judgment and problems with impulse control.

Since moving into the White House, Trump has coarsened the public discourse and normalized what most of us believed — before the election — was outrageous conduct.  He’s brought a whole range of deviant behaviors out of the closet and into primetime.  Among these behaviors are varieties of sexual abuse — Trump’s interpretation of the rape culture.

Many of Trump’s defenders, when asked about a sordid Trump incident — such as his “grab them by the pussy” comments or his affair with Stormy Daniels — reply that because the events happened before the election they do not count.  The GOP position seems to be that since Trump is now President his episodes of sexual abuse no longer matter.  Republicans claim that Trump was redeemed by the 2016 election.

This is the same logic used by the GOP to defend Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh from accusations that, as a teenager, he assaulted a young woman.  Republicans argue: whatever happened, it was a long time ago and Kavanaugh has been redeemed by his work as a lawyer and judge.

As a liberal Christian, I believe in redemption.  But not redemption by magic.  Not the blanket type of redemption that says, “Jesus died for your sins and therefore, whatever you do, you are forgiven.” (Redemption without repentance.)  And certainly not the form of redemption that says, “The GOP forgives you and, therefore, all your sins are washed away.”

I believe in redemption through good works.  First an individual acknowledges their sin or transgression or offense.  Next they seek to make amends by, among other things, apologizing to the person they offended.

This is the same process described in the AA twelve steps: 4.) Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 8.) Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. 9.) Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I do not believe that Donald Trump has been redeemed. (This shouldn’t be open for debate.)  Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  (Among other things.)

When confronted with evidence of a transgression, Trump’s modus operandi has not been to accept responsibility, but instead to aggressively deny the charges and attack the complainants.  Trump has not made amends, unless one considers monetary payoffs — such as those negotiated by Trump attorney Michael Cohen — as amends.  (They’re not.)

Donald Trump is an unrepentant sexual predator.  (I know I’m repeating myself but I believe we should all be shouting this from the rooftops.)  Rather than seek redemption, Trump has continued his deviant behavior, augmented by lying and bullying.  He has not been redeemed and he doesn’t deserve “a get out of jail free” card.

Neither does his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

It’s time to declaim the rape culture that normalizes sexual assaults on women.  It’s time for American men to call out sexual predators such as Trump and Kavanaugh.  It’s time to treat women with respect.  And it’s time for real Christians to stand up for the morality of Jesus of Nazareth.

Suspicions Confirmed,Woodward on Trump

It’s no solace, but the recent revelations about Donald Trump, and his Republican enablers, confirm our worst suspicions: Trump is a clear and present danger.

Of the new sources, Bob Woodward’s Fear ( is the most illuminating.

1.Trump is incompetent: Woodward’s book, coupled with the anonymous New York Times op-ed, “I am part of the resistance…” ( ), and Omarosa Manigault’s tell all Unhinged ( ) paint a chilling picture of Trump’s mental state.

It’s fashionable to declaim Trump’s demeanor: the lies, bluster, and unrelenting narcissism.  As a result, it’s often difficult to separate Trump, the media figure, from Trump, the erstwhile chief executive of the United States of America.  Nonetheless, it’s possible for Trump to be totally obnoxious, as an individual, and still competent as a CEO.

But Trump’s far from competent.  Woodward’s book paints a detailed portrait of Trump as unable to function as President.  The anonymous New York Times oped notes, “there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”  (The 25th amendment permits removal when the President  “suffers from an impairment that prevents him from fulfilling his duty.”)

It’s unclear whether Trump has a neurological or psychological impairment — Omarosa believes Trump suffers from senile dementia.  What is clear is that Trump is not an effective leader.  When there is an important decision to be made, he doesn’t read his briefing material, so he doesn’t come to the decision meeting prepared.  At the meeting, Trump doesn’t focus; he doesn’t lead meetings, in the normal sense, he (metaphorically) wanders in and out of them.  As a result, meetings often conclude without a clear decision or, worse yet, with a decision that Trump promptly forgets.  Woodward notes, “Trump seemed not to remember his own decision because he did not ask about it.  He had no list — in his mind or anywhere else — of tasks to complete.”

Most damming is evidence of Trump’s inflexibility; his inability to process new information and and adapt to novel situations.

2. The Republican Leadership uses Trump:  The relationship between Trump and top Republican leaders is mysterious.  Some say McConnell and Ryan and other GOP leaders go along with Trump’s whims because they are afraid of alienating his base — despite Trump’s impairment, his base continues to support him .

When we look at Trump’s record in office, it’s clear that he’s become a puppet.  Most of the time, the GOP leadership uses Trump to accomplish their objectives.  Trump kept his campaign promise of cutting taxes because the GOP leadership supported this.  In the 600 days since the inauguration, there’s been a tug-of-war between Trump and the Republican leaders.  On the major issues, McConnell and Ryan won.  For example, they supported strong sanctions against Russia and Trump didn’t; these sanction passed Congress with a veto-proof majority.

If you’re familiar with the family dynamics involved in living with an abuser, the Trump-GOP leadership interactions seem familiar.  McConnell and Ryan, and the other Republican leaders, placate Trump so he won’t come unhinged, and then manipulate him to keep the “family” semi-functional.

3. There’s no governing ideology:  Beyond cutting taxes and regulations, there’s no discernible ideology of the Trump Administration.  “Make America Great Again” hasn’t translated into coherent policy.

This is most apparent in the Trump Administration’s foreign policy.  Trump isn’t governed by an overarching philosophy such as “make the world safe for Democracy” or “Isolate America from the barbarian hordes.”  Instead the Trump Administration is driven by Trump’s fears and grudges.

Woodward’s book indicates that Trump’s foreign policy derives from his sense that Obama, and previous presidents, cut lousy deals with the country in question: lousy trade and security deals, where the US ends up footing too much of the bill.  According to Woodward, Gary Cohn (at the time, Trump’s economic adviser) quietly saved the South Korea-U.S. trade agreement, known as Korus, when in 2017 he removed a “letter off Trump’s desk” that the president planned to sign that would have ordered a U.S. withdrawal.  Despite the national security implications, and against the advice of his top advisers, Trump planned to scuttle Korus because he was convinced the South Koreans were screwing the US.

4. Trade policy divides the GOP.  Woodward makes it clear that while Trump and the GOP leaders agree on many issues — tax cuts, repeal of Obamacare, restrictive immigration — they don’t agree on trade.  From the onset of his presidency, Trump has wanted to abrogate trade agreements.  After an extended meeting, where Trump’s advisers tried to keep him from cancelling NAFTA and other trade agreements, Woodward reports that (former Secretary of State) Rex Tillerson muttered, ” [Trump]’s a fucking moron.”

After the meeting, a senior aide noted: “It seems clear that many of the president’s senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views.”

5. Trump is deteriorating,  Omarosa writes, “I seriously began to suspect that the president was delusional or had a mental condition, that made him forget from one day to the next. Was Donald like Ronald Reagan, impaired while everyone around him ran the show and covered up for him?”  She recalls Trump speaking “gibberish” and careening from subject to subject.

Woodward reports a disturbing pattern: “[Trump] won’t face what’s real…[when confronted with a disturbing fact, Trump replies] I don’t want to hear it…he will say, ‘I’ve had [these ideas] for 30 years, they’re right and if you disagree, you’re wrong.'”

The Woodward book makes clear that Trump is running from demons.  He’s fearful of the Mueller investigation and grouses about it every day.  As a result of the recent tell-all books he’s become less trusting of his staff.  He has few friends in the White House.  He’s tormented.

Woodward quotes one of Trump’s ex-aides: “This was no longer a presidency.  This is no longer a White House.  This is a man being who he is.”

Everything Trump Touches Dies

Recently, I read the best-seller, “Everything Trump Touches Dies” ( ) by Rick Wilson — a noted Republican consultant and strategist, and #nevertrump stalwart. It’s alternately terrifying and hilarious.  At the conclusion Wilson offers suggestions for the “recovery” of the Republican Party. They are worth considering for what they suggest for the Democratic Party.

A Party of Hope, not Hate: Wilson says, “Republicans need to become a party of militant optimism about the future.  Right now we are a party of doom and gloom…”

Of course, this is a knock on Trump’s perspective:  “Make America great again” and “We’re losing everywhere…”  But it’s also a reminder that Democrats have to offer a positive agenda.  It’s not enough to run against Trump and Republican corruption, in general.  Democrats must offer a hopeful message that says, in essence, the United States is a prosperous country and it’s possible for everyone to share this prosperity.

Reform from within:  Wilson warns about political corruption and advises the GOP to adopt: “strict ethics rules for elected Republicans…” and forbidding “members of Congress from lobbying after they leave.  We need to tighten up financial disclosure rules so members voting on legislation that benefits their own bottom line face sanctions.”  These are prudent suggestions and Democrats would be well advised to adopt them.

The Constitutional Operating System:  Wilson notes, “Republicans need to restore the divisions between the three branches of government.  Under Trump, Congress has abandoned its role as a coequal branch and acted like a Trump houseboy.”

Talk Main Street — And mean it: Wilson wrote, “The vast and increasing disparity in wealth in this nation has been shrugged off by Republicans… We’ve been parties to bleeding dry the middle class in this country, confusing “good for business” with “good for people.”  Amen.

If the GOP is the Party that’s “good for business,” then Democrats have to be clearly identified as the Party that’s “good for people.”

The Rule of Law:  Wilson observes, “[Trump’s] constant attempts to obstruct justice in the Mueller investigation with only the slightest pushback from Republicans are so dangerous that we haven’t even seen the possible scope of the damage yet… a commitment to restoring respect for the law is fundamental.”  Another amen.

Democrats have to be clearly identified as the Party that carries forward the vision of the Founders.

Build a diverse Party:  Wilson spoke to the GOP, “By increasing our ideological diversity we’ll expand the places we can compete, offer Americans more choices in more communities, and enrich the scope of candidates who enter politics.  With that in mind, it’s time to make real efforts to recruit African American, Hispanic, and female candidates…”

Republicans would be well advised to listen to what Rick Wilson has to say.  At the moment, Democrats are more welcoming to women and racial/ethnic minorities.  But, we also have to be accepting of ideological differences.

Purge racists, conspiracy nuts, and lunatics from our ranks: Wilson writes, “the Republican Party has a race problem and pretending it doesn’t exist has become impossible… the single greatest risk to conservatism, the Republican party, and the nation is if the alt-right virus spreads deeper into the political system.”  Wilson adds, “Conservative authors, news outlets, and broadcasters need to outgrow the fever swamp of conspiracy and madness.”  Wow.  Rick Wilson calls out Republican crazy.

Decency, humanity, and tolerance:  Wilson observes, “The fashionable cruelty of the Trump era… aren’t the character of a president or of a party deserving of respect and support… The increasingly hideous tone of the GOP is a long-term brand killer.”  Yeah.

Respect and honor American institutions:  Wilson writes, “Donald Trump is wrecking our institutions in ways more corrosive, insidious, and permanent than the wildest visions of our worst enemies…  Trump has corrupted and broken the entire idea of the American presidency.”

Wilson continues, “Restoring faith in institutions rests on accountability.”  Democrats must become the accountability Party, politicians with the highest ethical standards.

Govern like grown-ups:  Wilson notes, “Trump’s raging, vulgarian insult-comic shtick wore thin for most Americans during the campaign… [nonetheless] for far too many Republicans the desire to emulate Trump as a play to the base was all too tempting.”

Wilson prescribes: “The House and Senate leadership must… discipline their members in areas ranging from ethics to affect.”

Kill crony capitalism:  Rick Wilson writes, “Americans know and feel that the deck is stacked against them when it comes to Washington offering the biggest, wealthiest, and most irresponsible players the power to define markets, protect themselves from risk, and leave taxpayers with the bill.  It’s time to stop it.”  Amen.

If Democrats are truly the Party that’s “good for people,” they must stop all aspects of crony capitalism.

Stop fighting the last wars: With regards to issues such as gay marriage and marijuana use, Wilson observes: “It’s time to tell the evangelical cohort in the GOP that that since they’ve shown their true colors by giving Donald Trump a series of mulligans on his port-star-screwing, pussy-grabbing, serially adulterous life, they’ve lost their moral authority to scream at the rest of us.”  We can only hope that the adults within the GOP evangelicals will read Wilson’s book and change their behavior.

While this is an impressive list, there are (at least) two more suggestions that all Democrats would do well to consider.  We can’t continue to spend so much on “defense.”  In 2018 the U.S. spent more than $600 billion on defense spending; more than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined.  That’s ridiculous.

We must take action to head off the impact of climate change.  This seems so obvious that it amazing that it has to be mentioned.  But it does.  Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and the GOP has followed his lead.

By the way, everything Trump touches dies.

It’s the Corruption, Stupid

As we head for the November 6th midterm elections, it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump was elected President because he promised to “drain the swamp.” Instead of doing that, Trump has unleashed a tidal wave of corruption. Over the next two months, Republican corruption is the key topic Democrats must talk about.

A 2016 Washington Post/ABC News poll ( ), released a few days before the presidential election, found that Hillary Clinton had a narrow lead over Trump on all issues except corruption — where voters trusted Donald to address “corruption in government.”  In the presidential election exit polls ( ), 39 percent of respondents said the candidate quality that mattered the most was the ability to “bring change;” 82 percent believed Trump was more likely to do this.  It can be argued that ending corruption was Trump’s key issue.

Over the course of Trump’s presidency, he has lost ground as a perceived agent of change.  Now, most voters see Trump as part of the swamp; someone incapable of bringing the required change to Washington. The most recent USA Today/ Suffolk University poll ( ) asked: “During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ — to reduce corruption in Washington. Which comes closer to your view?”  57 percent of poll respondents said, “The swamp has gotten worse during the Trump Administration.”

A recent Pew Research poll ( ) found, “about half of Americans (54%) say they trust what Trump says less than they trusted what previous presidents said while in office.” (In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of respondents disapproved of Trump’s job performance.)

As a consequence of Trump’s diminished credibility, voters have begun to label Republicans as the Party of corruption.  In July, the Center for American Progress ( ) commissioned a significant poll in 48 “battleground” congressional districts.  “By an 8-point margin, most voters say that Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats, 54 – 46 percent. This gap (larger than the Democratic lead on the generic congressional ballot) is driven in major part by the 60 percent of Independents who find more fault with the Republican Party, and the 27 percent of moderate Republican voters who agree with them.”

How the issue of corruption will factor in the midterm elections will vary from state to state and from congressional district to congressional district.  For example, in California there are (at least) three contested congressional races where incumbent corruption will be an issue: CA 22, where Representative Devin Nunes spends his Washington time trying to scuttle the Trump-Russia investigation.  Recently his home time newspaper, The Fresno Bee, featured the headline, “Nunes used to care about Valley. Now he’s a D.C. fat cat living large on donors’ dime.” CA 48, where Dana Rohrabacher is Russia’s man in Congress.  Recently the New York Times ran a front-page article about Rohrabacher, “He’s a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name.” And CA 50, where Duncan Hunter was recently indicted for misuse of $250,000 in campaign funds.

Corruption infests Trump’s cabinet.  We’ve already seen several cabinet members leave because of corruption charges (Tom Price and Scott Pruitt).  Several others are being investigated.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has been accused of stealing $120 million at his investment company ( ) — Ross is also accused of violating conflict-of-interest laws and filing false information.

For Trump, his family, and his close associates, corruption is tied to self dealing.  The most noteworthy case involves emoluments.  Article I of the Constitution says, “No Person holding any Office… shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”   On March 28th, a Federal Judge in Maryland let an emolument lawsuit go forward. ( )  This action, brought by the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, focuses on the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC:  “The District of Columbia and Maryland said their local residents who compete with Trump’s businesses, such as Trump International Hotel… , are harmed by decreased patronage, wages and tips…”

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner is said to be under investigation for self dealing.  ( )  So is Trump’s son, Donald Junior.  ( )

Close Trump associates have either been indicted (Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort) or are under investigation (Elliott Broidy) ( ).

It’s an open secret in Washington that if you want to get Trump’s attention you should stay in his Washington hotel or better yet, buy a membership in one of his golf clubs. ( ) It’s clear that Trump’s economic policies are dictated by his friends.  For example, the New York Times   ( ) reported that the implementation of the steel tariffs has guided by Trump supporters at two large US steel companies, Nucor and US Steel.  As another example, Trump plans a coal company bailout that will help some of his biggest donors.  ( )  And, of course, it’s well established that the 2017 Trump-sponsored tax cuts primarily favored big GOP donors ( ).  Finally, early in the month, ProPublica reported that Trump has ceded control of the VA to three members of his Mar-A-Lago resort ( ).

Donald Trump was elected President because he promised to “drain the swamp.” Instead of doing that, he’s enabled “the swamp.”  And he’s give Democrats the key issue to talk about heading for the midterm elections.