Tag Archives: Politico

What’s with the GOP war against the FBI?

Up is down, black is white and Republicans who used to revere the FBI have declared war on the agency.

What in the world has become of us, of our political dynamic and of the natural order of things?

The conservative media are sounding the battle cry against the FBI, referring to something called a “secret society,” not to mention the “deep state.”

Here’s the genesis, as I understand it.

Conservative media personalities are so enamored of Donald J. Trump that they simply cannot tolerate the idea that the FBI and other agencies would be examining such things as “collusion with Russians,” or “money laundering” or any conduct that might be construed as “treasonous.”

So, to protect the president’s flank, these media types are attacking the FBI, a once-sacred agency in the eyes of the Republican Party.

The command and control of this attack appears to be inside the Fox News Channel, with its bevy of conservative media personalities. The New York Times reported this week that Trump actually ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, but backed off when White House counsel Donald McGahn threatened to quit; other media outlets have corroborated the Times’ account.

Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity is dismissing the report out of hand. He just won’t accept what reputable professional journalists are reporting.

Politico reports that there’s something even wider going on: But Hannity’s coverage was just part of a wider trend, observers say. For the past week, Fox News opinion hosts have seized on claims by some Republican lawmakers about a “secret society” at the FBI and “deep state actors” to fashion unproven narratives designed to protect Trump and delegitimize Mueller.

Secret society and deep state actors? What in the world is that all about?

I am afraid to admit that even some of my very own Republican friends have bought into that “deep state” crap. One of them told me this week that the FBI has been “crooked” for far longer than anyone has known.

I am happy to tell you that not all GOP operatives have swallowed the Fox News swill. Again, according to Politico: “The network is increasingly engaged in a misinformation campaign aimed directly at the American people for the purposes of sowing confusing and spinning a web of protective armor around the president, who is being investigated,” said Steve Schmidt, the Republican political strategist who ran John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

What is normal has become abnormal in just about any context imaginable.

I’ll just posit the notion that this is a consequence of electing Donald Trump as president of the United States. A man who thrives on chaos and who revels in being the center of controversy — if not outright scandal — is fomenting this hysteria among his most fervent supporters.

He isn’t “telling it like it is.” He is stoking, in the words of conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, a “whole new level of crazy.”

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 …

Sexual harassment accusation takes weird turn

I never thought sexual harassment could become such a, um, creative endeavor.

I am not making light of it, but the case of former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., has taken this saga down a strange, dark and bizarre path. He quit the House of Representatives effective immediately after reports surfaced about how he reportedly wanted to impregnate a congressional staffer so she could become a surrogate mother.

Reports surfaced a few days ago about Franks “discussing” surrogate pregnancy with female staffers. He announced his decision to quit in January. Then he changed his mind and walked away now. He’s gone.

Politico reported the new developments, citing “sources” close to the situation. According to Politico: The sources said Franks approached two female staffers about acting as a potential surrogate for him and his wife, who has struggled with infertility … but the aides were concerned that Franks was asking to have sex with them. It was not clear to the women whether he was asking about impregnating the women through sexual intercourse or in vitro fertilization. Franks opposes abortion rights as well as procedures that discard embryos.

Aides fretted over Franks’ intentions

Franks has run for the House while proclaiming his deep religious faith. To be candid, I kind of smell a rat here. If he was referring to IVF, that would something he could clear up with a simple, declarative statement. Yes?

If he meant something else, well, is that why he decided to vacate his office much sooner rather than later?

Yep. This sexual harassment matter is likely to claim a good many more powerful men.

Public shouldn’t foot the bill for these settlements

This one not only doesn’t pass the smell test, it is downright putrid in the extreme.

A Texas congressman reportedly paid an $84,000 settlement to a former staffer who sued him for sexual harassment. Where did Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, get the dough to pay the settlement? From your pocket. And from mine.

That’s right. Rep. Farenthold reportedly dipped into a taxpayer funded cash drawer to settle a dispute brought against a member of Congress who allegedly mistreated a female staff member.

Does it stink? Like a dirty dog!

According to Politico: House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Friday morning meeting that only one House office in the past five years had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Harper said in that one instance, the settlement totaled $84,000.

In a statement for this story, Farenthold would neither confirm or deny that his office was responsible for that $84,000 payout.

Let me venture a guess. Farenthold paid the settlement with the public’s money.

If I were King of the World, I would strip Congress of that Office of Compliance fund and force any member of Congress to pay any such settlement out of his or her pocket.

I am aware that Farenthold denies sexually harassing his former press aide. The Office of Congressional Ethics sided with Farenthold. See the Politico story here.

Still, if there’s going to be a settlement in a complaint filed against a member of Congress, I happen to dislike intensely the notion of dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to pay the bill.

That POTUS, what a card!

I can’t stop laughing out loud over the “joke” that Donald J. Trump told about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Maybe you’ve heard it.

Trump was being interviewed by Forbes magazine and he suggested that he and Tillerson take IQ tests. The president, as you might imagine, was suggesting he possessed more intellectual firepower than the secretary of state.

The statement came in response to Tillerson reportedly calling Trump a “moron” earlier this summer. The president will have none of that, as you might imagine. Thus, he told Forbes about the IQ test.

Now we hear from the White House that Trump was joking. He didn’t really mean it. He didn’t really question Tillerson’s intelligence. He didn’t really mean that he’s smarter than the average bear.

As Politico reports: Trump told Forbes in his interview that he did not believe Tillerson had called him a “moron,” which NBC News reported he had, but that if he did, “we’ll have to compare IQ tests.”

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said.

There’s also this, also from Politico: President Donald Trump was making “a joke” when he challenged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to an IQ test in an interview with Forbes, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon.

“The president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent. He made a joke, nothing more than that,” Sanders said. “He has full confidence in the secretary of state. They had a great visit earlier today. And they are working hand in hand to move the president’s agenda forward.”

The “full confidence” and the “great visit earlier today” would seem to belie what has been reported widely throughout Washington since the “moron” comment became known. Which is that Trump and Tillerson don’t trust each other as far either of them can throw the other guy.

Perhaps that’s why I don’t believe that the president was joking. If he was, he needs to work on his comedic timing.

More bombs did not produce ‘victory’ in Vietnam

“The Vietnam War” is coming to a close this week. I refer, of course, to the landmark public television series, not the actual war.

What are the takeaways from this epic production directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and broadcast on PBS? I have so many of them, but I think I’ll focus briefly here on just one of them.

It is that the Vietnam War required us to redefine victory.

We fought the communists in Vietnam for more than a decade. We killed many more of the enemy than we lost so very tragically. We emerged victorious from many more battlefield encounters than the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese. As we have learned in the Burns-Novick epic, U.S. commanding Gen. William Westmoreland was obsessed with “body count”; he insisted that the media report that the enemy suffered far worse than our side did.

Merrill McPeak, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War who later became Air Force chief of staff, noted correctly in the documentary that the United States dropped more ordnance on the enemy than we did in all the combat theaters of World War II. Think of that for a moment. American air power dropped more explosive tonnage on the Vietnam communists than we did against the Nazis, the Italians and the Japanese.

What we didn’t do and the reason we “lost” the war was because we lost our political will. The Vietnamese were fighting on their turf, defending their homeland, battling an enemy they considered to be “invaders.” They had more to lose — and to gain — than we ever did. Thus, it was their fight to win.

Are there lessons to carry forward as we continue to fight an even more elusive enemy, those terrorist organizations that have declared “death to America!”? Yes, certainly.

One profound lesson should be for U.S. politicians — or one in particular — to cease implying that defeating an enemy is “easy.”

We cannot just keep dropping bombs and sending young Americans into cities, killing enemy fighters and then expect the enemy simply to give up. We tried that in Vietnam. It didn’t work out well for us.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have provided a masterful piece of documentary television. Just as Vietnam was the first war to be fought “in our living rooms,” my hope is that the educational benefit that’s being delivered to us via PBS will assuage some of the pain we felt as the fighting raged.

***

Politico has provided a fascinating look at a conversation involving President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Sen. Richard Russell. The Burns-Novick documentary doesn’t report on it.

Take a look at the story here.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.

Ricks on McMaster: Quit and save your reputation

Thomas E. Ricks has written one of the more astonishing political columns I’ve seen in a good while.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, writing in Politico, says that national security adviser H.R. McMaster should resign his post to salvage his stellar reputation as a military thinker and strategist.
McMaster is on active duty in the U.S. Army. He’s a lieutenant general known for his intellect, integrity and courage. He wrote a book, “Dereliction of Duty,” that provides a scathing critique of how the chain of command prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Here is a snippet from Ricks’ essay in Politico: “McMaster probably thinks that by staying at his post, rather than resigning in disgust, he is doing his duty. Specifically, he may think that if stepped down, he might well be succeeded by an alt-right ally of White House adviser Steve Bannon. As I said, I used to believe that too.

“But I have watched and waited, and I don’t see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster. In fact, nothing seems to change Trump. He continues to stumble through his foreign policy—embracing autocrats, alienating allies and embarrassing Americans who understand that NATO has helped keep peace in Europe for more than 65 years.”

Ricks’ concern about an Army officer he has known for 20 years is that he now works for someone who knows nothing about government and seems to have no interest in learning the ins and outs of governing the greatest nation on Earth.

Yet the general has to provide political cover for a president who, in Ricks’ view, doesn’t deserve to hold the office he now occupies.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/28/general-mcmaster-step-downand-let-trump-be-trump-215199

As Ricks writes: “The saving grace of Donald Trump as president is his incompetence. He knows almost nothing of how the federal government works. He seems to have been repeatedly surprised by the checks and balances written into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers. And he seems uninterested in learning.”

Ricks’ essay is a beaut. I am quite sure that Gen. McMaster has read it. Whether he takes it to heart — and acts on it — of course only he can answer.

What about our allies, Mr. Secretary?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put Iran “on notice” yet again.

He also put several of our nation’s key allies on notice, too, by suggesting that the United States’ commitment to negotiated agreements isn’t as rock-solid as it must be.

Tillerson put the world on notice this week that the United States no longer thinks much of a deal meant to deny Iran the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. It’s part of Donald John Trump’s vow to renegotiate agreements that he says are worst in the history of humankind.

The Iran nuke deal falls into that category, according to the president.

The deal was brokered by former Secretary of State John Kerry in conjunction with foreign ministers from Great Britain, China, France, Germany and, oh yes, Russia. What would a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement mean to our partners?

This is just me, but perhaps it would mean that the United States isn’t a trustworthy partner. It well could fracture our international alliances, particularly as it regards the Brits, French and the Germans, who are critical players in our nation’s ongoing geopolitical struggle with forces that seek to undermine us at every turn.

I’m not going to assert that the Iran nuke deal is perfect in every single way. But it does allow for careful monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s intentions and it gives the United States plenty of room to re-impose economic sanctions if it’s determined that Iran isn’t complying with the terms of the agreement.

Tillerson’s comments centered on Iran’s continued support of international terrorism. OK, then. Deal with that separately, Mr. Secretary.

Although the secretary didn’t say directly that the Trump administration would back out of the nuke deal, he did sound a dire warning. According to Politico: “Apparently referencing a failed 1994 nuclear deal with North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, Tillerson said Wednesday that the Iran agreement is ‘another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions. We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.’”

Our partners are watching with great interest. I believe it would foolish to renege on a deal that took a long time to craft. After all, the United States isn’t the only actor in this drama.

Waiting for an apology that’ll never arrive

I am going to give tons of credit to an Oklahoma congressman.

Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican, wants Donald J. Trump to say he’s sorry for defaming President Barack H. Obama. He says the current president should apologize to his immediate predecessor for leveling a charge that he hasn’t proved — and will never be able to prove.

Wait for it, Rep. Cole. Wait a long, long time. It won’t arrive.

The president doesn’t apologize for anything.

Not even when he’s dead wrong. Or when he defames someone, as he has done with President Obama. Or when — in the minds of some constitutional scholars — he could face a potentially impeachable offense.

Not this guy. Not Trump.

The president has yet to say anything resembling contrition for suggesting the former president ordered a wiretap of the Trump campaign’s offices in Trump Tower. Never mind the laughable and ludicrous assertion from White House spokesmen that the president didn’t mean actual wiretapping, even though he said it in a series of tweets. Trump put the words  in quote marks, the argument goes, suggesting that he didn’t mean it, um, literally.

Of course he did!

What the president hasn’t done is tap into the vast intelligence network at his disposal to back up what he has alleged.

Why is that? Because he made it up. All of it. Every single word of it.

As Politico reports: “Obama and his former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, both publicly denied the claim quickly after Trump raised it, while FBI Director James Comey, also saying it was not true, privately urged Trump’s Justice Department to refute it.

“This week, the leaders of both the House and Senate intelligence committees have also come out and said they have found no evidence to suggest that the allegation is true.”

Should the president apologize, as Rep. Cole has suggested? Yes. Will he do so? I am not going to keep the light on waiting for it.