How does the world view the U.S. now?

I have some friends around the world who I simply know are laughing their backsides off at my country.

They live in Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, Israel and Greece. Yes, even my Greek friends — who live in a country that has embodied political dysfunction in recent years — must be chuckling over their ouzo.

My German and Australian friends are journalists; they have spent many years watching the United States. My Dutch friend is a lawyer who also possesses a keen interest in policy and history. My Israeli friends are a more eclectic bunch, as are my Greek friends; but they are well-educated and sophisticated.

Our government is shut down. Senators and House members are haggling with each other. Meanwhile, the president — who campaigned loudly and boastfully about his ability to make “the best deals” — is remarkably disengaged from the nuts and bolts of this charade.

Donald J. Trump boasted about how he would “put America first.” The implication was that he doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks of the country he was elected to lead. I believe he should care.

This is a small and shrinking world. Nations are increasingly dependent on each other. Trump also said he wanted to “make America great again,” but I feel compelled to say — yet again — that this already is a great nation. We are the most powerful militarily and we possess a seriously strong economy.

It matters that our inability to fund our government beyond these ridiculous stop-gap “continuing resolutions.” The rest of the world is watching — and laughing.

I know this because I am utterly certain my own friends abroad are howling as they watch our government “leaders” writhe and squirm while they hurl insults at each other.

This is no way to achieve American greatness.

Recalling the last time we were truly ‘united’

I heard a cable news talking head make an interesting point the other day. He spoke of the issues that drive wedges between the political parties — and between Americans. He was speaking of the intense divisions existing today.

The United States has been “truly united” just twice in the past century or so, he said. The first time was after the Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese aviators, the act that pulled us into World War II. The second time? It was 9/11, when those terrorists flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Oh, how those of us old enough to remember that day can recall the rage we all felt at the monsters who committed that dastardly act.

Today I saw through a two-hour film that transported me back to that time of unity. It’s called “12 Strong.” It tells the true story of a dozen U.S. Army Green Berets who were sent into Afghanistan a month after the terrorist attacks. Their mission was to destroy a Taliban military operation. They rode into battle … on horseback!

The film speaks of their loyalty to each other and of the commitment the unit’s commanding officer made, that all of them would survive their mission of extreme danger.

The mission only was recently declassified. Indeed, after these Special Forces returned home from their mission, they weren’t given anything like the heroes’ welcome they deserved. Their mission was kept super-secret. No one outside those who were involved directly knew what they did.

The film is intense to the max.

But I sat through it, cheering the bravery of our soldiers — and the bravery of the Northern Alliance Afghan fighters with whom they were teamed to fight the Taliban.

The film does remind us that this country is able to unite. Americans are able to coalesce behind a common cause. The 9/11 horror produced our nation’s most recent sense of unity.

I pray, however, that we can join together without having to endure the tragedy and misery through which we have suffered. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were unique events in our nation’s history.

I am left to wonder whether the unity those events produced must be attached uniquely to such heartache. I hope that’s not the case. I fear, though, that it is.

Is this the work of a ‘fraud’?

I wasn’t looking for proof of a political accusation, but one has presented itself anyway.

In 2016, former Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney peeled the bark off the party’s primary frontrunner when he called Donald John Trump Sr. a “fraud” and a “phony.”

I thought at the time that the 2012 GOP nominee was talking exclusively about Trump’s penchant for bellicosity and insults. However, in the past few days, some things have come into sharper focus.

The president campaigned for office proclaiming his immense skill as a deal maker. He promised time and time again on the stump that he’d make the “best deals” in the history of humankind … or words to that effect. He vowed that the nation no longer would be snookered into falling for “bad deals.”

Well, here we are. One year into Trump’s time in office, the nation’s government is shut down. The president has been unable to deliver on one of those fundamental promises of his winning presidential campaign. He hasn’t cut any deal at all, let alone any bad deals.

I guess I can presume that’s what Mitt meant when he called Trump a “fraud.”

The late, great heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali used to say about his predictions about when he’d knock his foes out that “It ain’t braggin’ if you do it.”

Donald Trump needs to quit braggin’ if he can’t deliver the goods.

It’s all about compromise, stupid!

Good government requires compromise.

Past presidents have known it. So have members of Congress — from both political parties. The rigid ideologues — either on the left or the right — might sleep well at night knowing that they hold firm to their principles. But the rest of us pay the price.

So it is with the current government shutdown that commenced at midnight Friday.

As I understand it, Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to give Donald Trump money to build that wall he wants to erect on our southern border. They have demanded something in return: a commitment to avoiding the deportation of thousands of U.S. residents who came to this country as children when their parents brought them here illegally.

OK, then. Republicans get the wall; Democrats get to keep the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals rule.

Both sides give a little to the other.

Isn’t that how it works? Sure it is!

Meanwhile, the president who touts himself as a supreme deal-maker keeps changing his mind. He wants a deal to protect DACA recipients because he loves them. Then he feels the heat from the ideologues within his Republican Party who want to toss them out.

As for Democratic leaders, they, too are feeling the heat from their ideologues who want nothing to do with a wall.

I tend to favor the lefties on this one. However, I want the government to reopen fully. I also want compromise to rule the day. I want our elected leaders to do the job we sent them to Washington to do: I want them to govern effectively.

I do not believe in rigid ideology. I am now 68 years of age. The older I get the more room I seek to maneuver for the cause of good government.

Give a little. Declare victory. Open the doors to our government — for which we are paying good money!

 

By all means, it’s the ‘Trump Shutdown’

A headline on Politico.com sought to say how media outlets are “struggling” to assign blame for the current shutdown of the federal government.

Are you kidding me? I know who’s to blame. Someone just needed to ask me.

It’s Donald John “Deal Maker in Chief” Trump Sr.! He’s the man. He’s the one. He’s the guy who’s got to shoulder the blame.

How do I know that? Because the president of the United States laid the previous shutdown, which occurred in 2013, at the feet of Barack H. Obama, his presidential predecessor.

He said the president has to lead. He’s the one elected by the entire country. The president has to step up, take charge, bring members of Congress to the White House, clunk their heads together and tell ’em shape up, settle their differences and get the government running again.

Trump said all that. He was right.

But now that Trump is the man in charge, he has retreated into the background. Trump is pointing fingers at Democrats. He says they are to blame solely for the shutdown.

Give me a break!

A president is supposed to lead. We elect presidents to run the government. They stand head and shoulders above the 100 senators and 435 House members. When the government shudders and then closes its doors, we turn to the president to show us the way back to normal government functionality.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet shown up to lead the government out of its darkness.

Who’s to blame? It’s the guy who called it in 2013.

This is Trump’s Shutdown. Pure and simple.

If only he’d kept his trap shut when he was a mere commercial real estate mogul and reality TV host …

Hoping that Sarah remains MIA

Not quite five years ago, I posted a blog item that discussed the departure of former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin from the Fox News Channel.

That was in 2013. She is still missing in action.

Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t wish her to be found. I prefer the national discussion to be void of Sarah Palin’s voice.

Fox says, “So long, Sarah”

The government is shut down. Donald J. Trump — whom Palin endorsed early in his presidential run — is making a mess of the presidency.

The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee has been silent. It’s not that I miss hearing her. It’s just that after Fox cut her loose I feared she wouldn’t go away quietly.

Silly me. I believe she has.

Yeah, some of her adult children continue to get mixed up in entanglements with the law on occasion. Her son, Track, recently got into a big-time beef with his father — Sarah’s husband — that allegedly involved a firearm.

Palin does hold a kind of special place in our recent political history. She made huge headlines when she joined Sen. John McCain on the GOP ticket in 2008. She became an immediate star. Her stardom lasted for just a little while and began to fade when it became apparent to millions of Americans that Sen. McCain’s desire to shake up his race for the presidency turned out to be, um, a big mistake.

The past is past. The present day has produced a different type of political climate dominated by another highly unconventional politician. I refer to the president of the United States.

My hunch is that Donald Trump wouldn’t dare tolerate another politician hogging the limelight. Just maybe, Sarah Palin has gotten the message.

Just how ugly can it get? Pretty darn ugly!

The federal government is shut down, sort of.

There’s no telling when Congress and the president will find a solution. Let’s just say, though, that both sides have staked out intractable positions, dealing mostly with immigration.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said negotiating with Donald J. Trump is like “negotiating with Jello-O.” Hmm. Maybe he meant to compare the president to someone with a spine made of Jell-O.

Not to be outdone, the president responded with a tweet or three that blamed congressional Democrats for causing the shutdown because they believe in “illegal immigration.”

OK, let’s examine that one briefly.

I do not believe congressional Democrats are sanctioning illegal immigration. They are standing behind a principle that allows those who came to this country illegally — because they were brought here by their parents — to find a pathway to legal status.

That is not sanctioning illegal immigration. That policy seeks to allow “Dreamers,” individuals who are part of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals rule, a chance to seek citizenship or at the very least obtain legal immigrant status. Barack Obama established DACA as a way to remove the fear of deportation from those who grew up as Americans, even though their parents sneaked into this country illegally.

The harsh tone being flung about by Democrats and Republicans reminds me of classic labor disputes. I covered a number of them as a young reporter in the 1970s. Both sides end up calling each other nasty names and accuse the other side of negotiating in bad faith. Eventually they find common ground; they settle their disagreement and they return to work.

The president and the White House, though, are ratcheting up the argument with language that is, um, untruthful. Congressional supporters of DACA — and that includes some Republicans as well — aren’t saying they favor unfettered immigration with no stipulation on legal entry.

They are seeking to treat U.S. residents who were brought here as children with a semblance of humanity and compassion. Hey, didn’t the president say he wanted an immigration proposal that was filled with “love”?

Something changed. The result is that many agencies of the federal government — that’s our government, the one you and I pay for with our tax money — have slammed their doors shut.

This is bad governance, folks.

Shameful.

Changed forever? Oh, please, no!

One year into the presidency of Donald John Trump Sr. and the question is being asked: Has he changed the presidency forever?

He’s changed it. He has transformed the presidency into a sort of cult of personality. He demands loyalty from those he appoints to high office; he demanded it from an FBI director and then fired him when he didn’t get it.

By my reckoning, Trump has been a truly “consequential” president — for better or worse.

Has he delivered a permanent change to the high office? I doubt it. Strongly, I doubt it.

It’s often said that the office is bigger than the person who occupies it. That’s so very true even if that person possesses the ego and narcissistic qualities of one Donald Trump.

We cannot know, of course, what Year No. 2 will bring to this man’s time in office. Year No. 1 took us on one rocky ride after another. I suppose one could surmise that the constant chaos and confusion has brought considerable change to the nation’s highest office.

That’s how this guy rolls. He loves the chaos. He loves being the center of attention, no matter its cause or consequence.

But so help me this need not be a permanent fixture of the exalted office occupied at this time by someone who had never run for any public office of any kind prior to the 2016 presidential election.

Yes, he’s brought significant change to the presidency.

I guess all we need do at this moment is consider that on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, he is presiding over a government shutdown.

By golly, that’s what I call “change.”

I also would bet real money none of us alive today is going to see this kind of first-year presidential commemoration ever again.

I now will hope that the next president will return the office to what we’ve long thought of as “normal.”

Trump victimized by his own big mouth

Donald John “Deal Maker in Chief” Trump Sr. reportedly has acknowledged the obvious.

The president is blaming congressional Democrats for the federal government shutdown that occurred at midnight, but has told White House aides that he is going to take the heat for it.

Imagine my absolute non-surprise!

Trump said in 2013 that the president should take the fall for a government shutdown. One occurred that year. A Democrat, Barack Obama, was in office at the time. Trump said the buck stopped at the president’s desk. The president is the nation’s head of state and government. Thus, he deserves all the blame.

That was then.

While campaigning for president in 2016, Trump then declared time and again from the campaign stump that he is the “greatest deal maker” in history. He made a “yuuuge” fortune cutting “the best deals.” No longer would there be “bad deals” struck inside the Oval Office “if I’m elected president,” Trump told us.

Well, Mr. President, what in the name of deal making has happened? Why didn’t you negotiate “the best deal ever” to avert a government shutdown?

Yes, the president likely will take most of the heat for this shutdown. Trump doesn’t deserve all of it, but he has managed — through his big mouth and thoughtless commentary — to deliver it directly to himself.

Our memories are long, Mr. President.

Now that Donald Trump is in charge, it’s time for him to step up — and lead!

Congress forfeits its pay

I trust there’s still room on this particular bandwagon, so I’ll climb aboard

Congress doesn’t deserve to be paid a nickel for as long as the federal government is shuttered.

For that matter, neither does the president, although with Donald J. Trump, he is so fabulously wealthy — according to himself — that he isn’t being paid a presidential salary. So in his case, we can make special arrangements for the money he should forfeit.

Congress earns $174,000 annually. Broken down to the daily rate, that’s about $476 each day. They do not deserve a nickel. Nothing, man! Trump’s salary is $400,000 annually, or about $1,095 daily. The charities to which he is donating his salary — allegedly — would be denied the money they’re supposed to receive.

Members of the GOP-controlled Congress along with the president have failed in arguably their most fundamental duty: funding the government, keeping it open and serving their bosses — that would be you and me — with all the services for which we pay.

They have haggled, argued, quibbled and quarreled over immigration. The result has been a shutting down of a good portion of the government. I get that our military is still on the job, along with other essential services.

Who do I blame for this budgetary quagmire? I’ll hang it on the Republican members of Congress. I believe our nation’s Dreamers deserve to be treated humanely and I detest the notion of building a wall along our border with Mexico.

There. I’ve revealed my bias for you to see.

On this notion of whether any member of Congress — and the president — deserve to be paid while the government they administer for us on our behalf … I say categorically: Hell no!

They have failed to do their job.

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