Monthly Archives: May 2019

Donald Trump and the Measles Epidemic

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States and many Americans were hopeful. We were in the throes of “the great recession” but we trusted Obama to guide us out of it. We’d elected our first biracial President and many of us hoped that racism would soon be gone. By the way, the U.S. was thought to free of measles — there were only 131 cases of circulating measles reported in 2008.

Things have changed.  Donald Trump is the 45th President.  Although the economy is good, two-thirds of Americans are pessimistic about the future.  Racism is back — White Supremacists threaten domestic security.  And there’s a measles epidemic; so far, 764 cases of measles have been reported in 2019 (https://www.cdc.gov/measles/cases-outbreaks.html).

The social and mental attributes that characterize Donald Trump have promoted the measles epidemic.  These same conditions have produced other epidemics, such as opiod addiction, Hepatitis A, and gun violence.

1.Critical Thinking:  Donald Trump is not a deep thinker.  He’s hardly the first President with this characteristic — most of us remember George W. Bush.  But Trump is the first President to flaunt his lack of perspicacity.  He revels in the notion that he shoots from the hit and makes no effort to learn from his mistakes — he doesn’t even acknowledge his mistakes.

I don’t believe that Trump is stupid — although he says and does stupid things — but rather lazy.  He does not read the many reports brought to him but instead relies upon verbal briefings from a small set of advisors and the rantings of sources like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Trump also lacks impulse control.  He’ll see a news item scroll across the bottom of the screen and immediately fire off a Tweet, treating the chyron as legitimate news.

Trump has no depth.  He’s a creature of the moment and, therefore, incapable of the thoughtful analysis that leaders typically display when they encounter complex problems.  Thus, the North Korea situation is reduced to “Kim likes me.”

Many of the parents who refuse to vaccinate their children share Trump’s characteristic lack of critical thinking.

2.Social Media as a news source:  Donald Trump is the first President to treat social media as a legitimate news source.  In this regards, he’s like many Americans who do not get their news reports from conventional newspapers (books or magazines) but instead rely upon television, the Internet, or radio.  (a 2018 Pew Research study (https://deadline.com/2018/12/how-americans-watch-news-study-tv-online-pew-research-center-1202512745/ ) found that 44 percent of respondents got their news from TV, 34 percent got their news from the Internet, 14 percent got their news from radio, and 7 percent read newspapers.)

Trump gets his news from Fox News, his Twitter correspondence, and to a lesser extent from Facebook — he occasionally uses Instagram.  (It appears that he uses the Internet to access certain websites such as Alex Jones’ infowars.)  He gets his news predigested.

As a result, Trump has a strange set of beliefs.  For example, he believes that most Mexican and Central American refugees coming to the southern border are “criminals” or worse.  Trump believes that Arab-Americans cheered the 9/11 attack; for this reason he thinks Muslims hate us and should not be allowed to enter the U.S.  Donald describes Vladimir Putin as a “great leader” and believes that reports of Russian interference of 2016 are a “hoax.”  Trump thinks NATO is “a ripoff.”  Finally, he does not believe that global climate change is a crisis; recently he minimized it as “weather” but not so long ago described it a hoax.

A couple of years ago, Trump tweeted there was a link between childhood vaccination and autism.  (However, on April 26th, in response to the measles epidemic, Trump changed his tune and urged families to vaccinate their children, “they have to get their shots.”)

Many parents, who have not allowed their children to be vaccinated, share the (one time) belief of Donald Trump that childhood inoculations increases the likelihood of autism.  Who knows how many of these have been influenced by Trump and from obtaining their “science” information from social media.

3.Selfishness.  Donald Trump is a profoundly selfish person; he only cares about taking care of himself, and his family.  As President, he seems to have no concern for “the common good” or actions that will serve “the best interests of the country.”  When making a decision, his guiding principle is “what’s in it for me?”  (For example, Trump continues to support the treacherous Saudi regime that murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi because the Trump family has business interests in Saudi Arabia.)

Of course, parents who fail to vaccinate their children are also profoundly selfish; they care only about their “intellectual position” and not the health and safety of their children or other members of the community who might be exposed to measles.

Summary:  Donald Trump didn’t cause the measles epidemic but his profound character defects — lack of critical thinking, addiction to social media, and pathological selfishness — have made it worse.  And Trump’s deficiencies have worsened other epidemics such as opiod addiction, Hepatitis A, and gun violence.  Trump’s a menace to our health and safety.

What About Impeachment?

Here on the Left Coast, most voters I talk to are disgusted with Donald Trump and want him impeached. Nonetheless, our leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urges Dems to be cautious and to hold hearings rather than rush into an impeachment process. That’s sound advice because a majority of Americans don’t want Trump impeached.

The latest Washington Post / ABC News Poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2019/04/26/National-Politics/Polling/question_21366.xml? ) indicates that only 39 percent of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as President.

With regard to Special Counsel Mueller’s report, most poll respondents felt the report was fair (51 percent) and most  felt that “it did not clear Trump of wrongdoing” (53 percent).  (47 percent felt that “Trump tried to interfere with the Russia investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice;” versus 41 percent that did not feel this way.)  Most tellingly, 58 percent believe that Trump “lied to the American public about the matters under investigation by Mueller.”

To summarize, most American believe the Mueller report was fair and Trump has engaged in wrongdoing.  58 percent believe that Trump lied about this.

Nonetheless, a strong majority (56 percent)  of Washington Post / ABC News  poll respondents do not feel that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.

What explains this somewhat contradictory finding?

The Washington Post / ABC News poll indicates that opinions about impeachment are split by Party affiliation: 62 percent of Democrats are in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings versus only 10 percent of Republicans (87 percent oppose impeachment).  Most telling, only 36 percent of Independents are in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings.  (The Washington Post / ABC News poll doesn’t provide much demographic information to help us interpret this polarization on impeachment; however, non-white voters are much more inclined towards impeachment (59 percent) than are white non-Hispanic voters (25 percent).)

However, another Washington Post / ABC News poll item illustrates how unpopular Trump is.  The survey asks: In 2020, if Trump is the Republican candidate would you vote for him?  55 percent of respondents said they would “definitely not vote for him.”  (Only 28 percent would definitely vote for Trump.)  It’s possible that many voters — particularly Independents — decided: “We’re going to vote Trump out of office in 2020 so why go to all the effort to impeach him if he will be gone in 17 months.”

Finally, the final Washington Post / ABC News poll question is: “Do you think the political system in this country mainly works to benefit (all people) or mainly works to benefit (those in power)?”    Interestingly, 72 percent of respondents feel the political system works to benefit those in power.  Once again, response divides by political affiliation, with Democrats and Independents overwhelmingly agreeing that the system is biased towards those in power.  It’s possible that some voters — those who do not like Trump — have lost confidence in the political process and do not think anything would be accomplished by impeaching Trump.

Whatever the reason, most Americans don’t want the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.  That means that House Dems are right to listen to Speaker Pelosi and   pursue a five-part plan.

1.Democrats need to constantly remind Americans that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and is likely to do this again.  This is key because question 11 of the Washington Post / ABC News poll indicates that many Americans aren’t convinced of this.  “Given what you’ve heard or read, do you think interference by Russia undermined the legitimacy of the 2016 presidential election, or did it not rise to that level?”  51 percent of respondents felt “It did not rise to that level.”

On April 26th, the FBI issued a new warning about Russian interference in the 2020 election (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/26/us/politics/fbi-russian-election-interference.html ).

2.Democrats need to lead the effort to protect the integrity of the 2020 elections.  On the first day of the new congress — January 3rd — Democrats introduced HR 1 ( https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1) which, among other subjects, addresses election integrity and security,

3.Democrats need to pursue the investigations they have started.  Four Democratically controlled House committees are pursuing information relevant to the Mueller Report.  The primary committees are the Intelligence Committee, lead by Adam Schiff, and the Judiciary Committee, led by Jerry Nagler. Both want to see the unredacted Mueller report.  Schiff is also interested in the question of whether Trump is is being financially compromised when he makes foreign-policy decisions.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is interested in Trump-related financial documents to see if he committed fraud in recent financial dealings.  (they are also looking into his handling of security clearances.)  The House Ways and Means committee is studying Trump’s tax returns to see if he committed fraud.

4.Democrats need to call out Trump on Obstruction of Justice.  Just as he did during the conduct of the Mueller report, Trump is using various tactics to keep the truth from the American people.  Now he and his minions are blocking release of the undredacted report and refusing to appear before House committees.  Democrats need to call out the attempts to obstruct justice and initiate the appropriate court proceedings.

The sheer amount of White House obstruction may force impeachment to commence but we are several months from that point.

5.In the meantime, Democrats need to demonstrate they can “walk and chew gum at the same time.”  Americans are troubled; they are concerned about issues such as jobs, immigration, gun violence, healthcare, clean air and water, etcetera.  They want Democrats to pursue meaningful legislation on these subjects.  In other words, they don’t want House Democrats to solely focus on impeaching Trump.

Therefore, House Democrats have to work doubly hard: get after Trump and, at the same time, generate meaningful legislation.