Monthly Archives: May 2019

Trump’s Road to Armageddon

Just when we think that Donald Trump’s behavior cannot become more bizarre, it does. On May 22, congressional leaders went to the White House, ostensibly to discuss a plan to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure; Trump walked out of the meeting, after throwing a temper tantrum — saying he would not work with Congressional Democrats until they called off all investigations into his (alleged) high crimes and misdemeanors. Democrats aren’t going to call off these investigations and Trump isn’t going to work with Congress.  So where does this leave us? On the road to armageddon.

The Federal Debt Limit expired on March 1st and, at the moment, the Treasury Department is using accounting gimmicks to pay the nation’s bills.  Experts say that this will only work until sometime in September-October.  What will happen then?

Forbes Magazine ( ) explains: “When the [debt] limit is reached, the U.S. Treasury can’t borrow any more… severely impacting the real economy for fear the government would default on our debt…. Interest rates, already one of the fastest rising costs in the federal budget, will rise as the political crisis builds, because foreign borrowers will demand an additional risk premium. And rising interest rates will impact U.S. Treasuries, mortgages, credit cards, car loans, student debt, and corporate debt. If workers, households, students, and corporations can’t pay their bills because of the interest rate shocks, the economy could go into recession.”

Judging by his increasingly erratic behavior, it’s likely that Trump will hold the nation hostage over the Federal Debt Limit — and the appropriations bill to keep government running (which comes due October 1st).  Trump will issue an ultimatum, “Call off the investigations or I won’t sign these bills.”  Even though his intransigence will be opposed by all congressional Democrats and most Republicans, Trump will refuse to compromise.  In the process he will drag the United States over a financial cliff.

Of course, the House Democrats could head off this turmoil by dropping all Trump-related investigations.  But they are not going to do that because the Mueller Report concludes: (a) Trump committed crimes by obstructing justice and (b) the Russian government continues to meddle in our political affairs.  Writing in the New York Review of Books ( ) David Cole (ACLU National Legal Director) observes: “The [Mueller] report dispassionately lays out the facts, which are an indictment in all but name.”

On May 29th, Robert Mueller made a brief public statement where he again noted: ” If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so [in our report].”  Mueller repeated that he and his associates did not indict Trump because such an action was against Department of Justice policy.

Over the next three months, the Democrats will continue their Trump investigations.  Given the unprecedented Trump Administration obstruction, the House is likely to instigate a formal impeachment inquiry — which would strengthen its legal case to obtain key documents and testimony.

Over the summer, the White House will likely initiate no new policy proposals or legislative action.  Instead the Administration will continually rail against the investigations, call them “witch hunts.”   And, Trump will take trips: Next week Trump will go to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France for D-day memorial ceremonies.  At the end of June, Trump will travel to Japan for the G20 Summit — which will give him a chance to confer with his buddy, Vladimir Putin.  In August, Trump will go to France for the G7 Summit.  (In between, Trump will go to campaign rallies and play golf.)

During this same period the House of Representatives will be hard at work. (Except, possibly, for the month of August, when it is scheduled to be in recess.  Given the current circumstances, plus the desire of Democrats to prove that they can walk and chew gum at the same time — investigate Trump (and the Russians) and also generate meaningful legislation — it’s likely that the House will stay in session during August.)

In the past, faced with an extreme conflict, Trump has usually backed down.  However, last December 22nd Trump didn’t back down on his request for border-wall funding, he initiated a 35-day (partial) government shutdown — the longest shutdown in U.S. history.  Given this recent history, and Trump’s desperation-fueled erratic behavior, there’s no reason to believe that he will back down in September if faced with a combination debt-limit and appropriations conflict.

We’re headed for armageddon and Donald Trump doesn’t care.  Trump is focussed on protecting himself, not the United States.

Joe Biden’s Presidential Strategy

On April 25th, former Vice-President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign. On May 18th, Biden gave his first campaign address in Philadelphia (, making clear what his strategy will be.  His campaign is not policy based, it is personality based.  Joe has taken the role of the anti-Trump.

Where other Democratic presidential candidates are focussing on policies — improved healthcare, student-loan forgiveness, confronting global climate change, etcetera — and mention Trump in passing, Biden focuses on Trump and mentions policy in passing.  In Philadelphia, Biden said that one of the three reason he’s running for President is “to unite this nation;” adding: “If American people want a president to add to our division, lead with a clenched fist, a closed hand, a hard heart, to demonize your opponent, to spew hatred, they don’t need me. They have got President Donald Trump.”

Biden laid out his three reasons for running:  “The first is to restore the soul of the nation, the essence of who we are… And the second is to rebuild the backbone of this nation. And the third, to unite this nation, one America.”

Biden used this triumvirate to reinforce his credentials:  “I know how to make government work.  Not because I’ve talked or tweeted about it, but because I’ve done it. I’ve worked across the aisle to reach consensus, to help make government work in the past. I can do that again with your help… I’m going to do whatever it takes to make progress on the matters that matter most — civil liberties, civil rights, voting rights, women’s right to choose, national security, personal security, health care, an economy that rewards work, not just wealth, a climate change policy that will save our children and grandchildren and this planet… We need to set the most aggressive goals possible. But folks, we have to work together to get it done.”

It’s not obvious that Biden’s personality-based strategy will garner the Democratic nomination.  An April 22nd, ABC News/Washington Post poll asked registered Democrats (and leaners) this question:  “What’s more important to you — that Democrats nominate the presidential candidate whose positions on the issues come closest to yours, or the candidate who seems most likely to defeat Donald Trump in November 2020?” 47 percent responded that being “closest on the issues” was most important, while 39 percent opted for “most likely to win.”

Here on the left coast, some Democratic activists have dismissed Joe Biden as a lightweight, citing his kickoff as evidence that he lacks policy “cred.”  Nonetheless, at this stage of the presidential campaign, Biden’s likability numbers are daunting.  The most recent Quinnipiac Poll ( ) indicates that, among the major candidates, only Biden has a positive likability score.

Quinnipiac found: “President Trump begins his reelection campaign in a deep hole as 54 percent of American voters say they ‘definitely’ will not vote for him… Today, 31 percent say they ‘definitely’ will vote for Trump and 12 percent say they will ‘consider voting for him’… American voters give Trump a negative 38 – 57 percent favorability rating.”

With regards to Democratic Presidential contenders, Quinnipiac found: “With a 49 – 39 percent favorability rating, former Vice President Joseph Biden is the only presidential contender, Democrat or Republican, with a clear positive score. Favorability ratings for other Democrats are negative or mixed:

  • 41 – 48 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont;
  • 32 – 41 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts;
  • 27 percent favorable for Sen. Kamala Harris of California, with 30 percent unfavorable;
  • 20 – 32 percent for former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas;
  • 23 – 31 percent for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey;
  • 23 percent favorable for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, to 19 percent unfavorable.”

Towards the end of his Philadelphia speech, Joe Biden talked about climate change: “[Working together] is the only way we’re going to deal with the existential crisis posed by climate change. There’s not much time left. We need a clean energy revolution. We need it now. We have to start now… But folks, we have to work together to get it done. Look, we’re never going to convince the climate deniers or those special interests. But even now, some of those special interests, the traditional polluters, are realizing, gas and oil industry, automobile manufacturing, guess what, they’re saying on television the other day, Mr. President, you have got to do something about global warming… Folks, we need a president who is willing to lead, who insists on dramatic change for the sake of our children… Folks, as long as Donald Trump is in the White House… none of these things… are going to get done. So if you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is — beat Trump.” [Emphasis added]

An April 29, Morning Consult poll ( found that Biden led Senator Bernie Sanders — second in most polls — in all Democratic demographic categories except voters between 18 and 29.  Interestingly, Biden has a strong lead over Sanders among women voters (38 percent to 20 percent) — and carries black women by a margin of 47 percent to 18 percent.   A May 2nd Philip Bump column in The Washington Post ( )  noted that female Democratic voters are 10 points more likely to support a male candidate than is a male Democratic voter.  Bump speculated that some “middle-aged women” are convinced that the 2016 presidential election proved voters aren’t ready to elect a female President and, therefore, in 2020 are being “strategic.”

Whatever his logic, Joe Biden is running as the anti-Trump.   He’s basing his campaign on his likability.  So far, this strategy is working.

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 (

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 ( ) 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 ( ) 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 ( ).

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 ( 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.