Yesterday’s ‘fib’ becomes a full-blown ‘lie’

It’s hard to remember at times how the media used to treat Donald J. Trump’s penchant for prevarication.

They called his truth-twisting mere “fibs.” Or “misstatements.” Or they used similarly tepid terminology.

Then he got elected president. His telling of fiction continued.

It finally dawned on media members. The president was lying, as in knowingly disseminating false information.

I will admit to being among those who initially were reluctant to use the “L-word” in describing Trump’s unwillingness to tell the truth. I won’t say he is “unable” to speak truthfully; I believe he is fully capable of telling the truth but he merely chooses to lie.

I am not going to equate Trump’s lying to what many conservatives accused former President Obama of saying as he sought to defend the Affordable Care Act. Obama had said Americans could “choose their own doctor” under the ACA; it turned out to be untrue. Did the president lie, as in knowingly say something he knew to be false? I do not believe that’s the case; I happen to believe the president made that statement believing it to be true.

Trump’s lying comes from a different source. His lying is pathological, as former Republican Party presidential primary opponents such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz have described it. That doesn’t excuse him from speaking falsely.

He stands before the nation and makes false statements about:

The size of his electoral victory, the nation’s economic growth, the state of the nation when he took office, his toughness with Russia, wiretapping of his campaign office in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin coming from illegal immigrants voting for president … and, oh yes, Barack Obama’s place of birth.

And on it goes. The lying never stops.

The lies have piled up from the moment he entered the world of politics in June 2015, at the moment he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower.

The media were slow on the uptake at first. They have wised up, awakened and are now calling these falsehoods what they are.

They are lies. The president is a liar.

Facebook steps into election interference maelstrom

The social media platform known as Facebook has taken its share of hits regarding whether it has done enough to protect subscribers’ privacy.

So now we hear from Facebook that it has uncovered a widespread attack on our nation’s electoral process in advance of the 2018 midterm election.

The Hill reports: Facebook said in its post on Tuesday that “whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

The IRA has gotten involved in this year’s election and Facebook is seeking to act as an Internet whistleblower.

The Hill continued: The social media company did say that while it lacked the “technical evidence” to attribute blame directly, it found that misinformation strategies carried the hallmarks of the IRA’s previous efforts.

“Some of the activity is consistent with what we saw from the IRA before and after the 2016 elections. And we’ve found evidence of some connections between these accounts and IRA accounts we disabled last year,” Facebook said explaining one case in which one of the inauthentic pages briefly had an admin who was also an admin in IRA page from 2016.

On a conference call with reporters, Facebook said that it used a “range of leads” similar to this to detect inauthentic accounts.

I understand fully that we are talking about a tremendously complicated process that requires equally tremendous sophistication to prevent. How does the world’s most sophisticated nation remain so vulnerable to this kind of cyber assault?

I fear we are heading for a new kind of war against forces and interests that are intent on disrupting our democratic process. As elusive as the enemy has been in our “international war on terror,” the cyber foes that have declared war on us are going to take this fight into an entirely new realm.

Collusion not a crime … but how about conspiracy?

Donald Trump’s defense is morphing into something rather strange.

The president who keeps insisting he didn’t “collude” with Russian hackers who attacked our electoral system now says “collusion” isn’t a crime.

Weird, yes? I think so.

The president and his lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, say there are no statutes on the books that cover collusion. Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining whether there was collusion associated with the attack on our system by Russians who reportedly presented some “dirt” on Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign in 2016.

Rather than notify the FBI and rat out the hostile power with this information, the Trump team allegedly went forward with receiving the “dirt.” Did they then conspire with the Russians in their effort to interfere in our electoral system?

This investigation is slogging through difficult territory. There might be land mines aplenty through which Mueller’s team must navigate. Indeed, the Trump team appears to be planting them in some form of tactical retreat as Mueller proceeds methodically with his probe of the president and his campaign.

We now are left to ponder how, if collusion is not a crime, the president appears to be in so much trouble. We also now must consider why the president is working so hard to discredit the special counsel and his team of lawyers who have been given the task of finding the truth.

‘Not a crime,’ but yes, it does matter, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump’s got a million of ’em, idiotic tweets and assorted proclamations, that is.

He said this via Twitter early today, for example: Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn’t matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!

Whoa! Mr. President, it damn sure does matter.

Robert Mueller’s team of legal eagles is examining whether the president’s campaign “colluded” with the Russians who hacked into our electoral system and launched an attack on our democratic process. I get that there isn’t a statute that covers such activity; absent a statute, there can be no crime.

Is it right? Is it normal? Does this kind of activity keep faith with the notion that our system should be immune from this kind of interference?

Collusion not a crime

And what about the very idea that a hostile foreign power would seek to influence a presidential outcome?

The notion that a major-party political campaign could have accepted, if not solicited, this kind of foreign intervention in a presidential election should send chills up the spines of those of us who want our electoral system protected from such activity.

Does it matter, then, that the Russians attacked us? Absolutely.

Does it also matter that there might be evidence that the Trump campaign cooperated with the attackers? Without question … yes!

Now he’ll meet with Iranians … after issuing dire threat

This is how Donald J. Trump rolls.

He threatens a world leader with annihilation, then tosses out a suggestion that he might be willing to meet with him.

Trump threatened North Korean dictator Kim “Little Rocket Man” Jong Un with “total destruction,” then met with him in Singapore ostensibly to persuade the North Koreans to get rid of their nukes.

They didn’t agree to it. The meeting hasn’t been nearly as fruitful as Trump describes it.

Now it’s Iran’s turn. Trump fired off an all-cap tweet threatening to blow Iran to bits. Now he wants to talk to them.

Hey, let’s talk.

I happen to support any discussion that pre-empts military conflict with Iran. The president wants to talk about a new nuclear deal that Trump tossed aside, calling it a terrible deal.

Trump’s track record on negotiating anything at any level is quite suspect. Still, if he’s willing to talk directly to the Iranians, then he ought to proceed.

I believe it was Winston Churchill who once said it is better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

Keep jawing, Mr. President.

Alienation of affection? For real?

Some states have archaic laws on the books, such as one that has produced an eye-popping court settlement that has my head spinning.

North Carolina is one of a few states that has a law called “alienation of affection” on the books. This story was reported this morning.

It goes like this: A married began having an affair with a man. Her estranged husband was so outraged that he filed a lawsuit under the alienation of affection statute.

Then the married man, the guy his wife jilted, won a settlement totaling nearly $9 million.

North Carolina is one of just six states that have such a law. I believe the law needs to go. It needs to be scuttled along with other statutes, such as, say, states’ anti-sodomy laws that essentially prohibit gay men from having intimate relations in the privacy of their own bedroom.

What the alienation of affection law implies is that wives are the “property” of their husbands, that they are unable to make decisions on their own. I wasn’t aware, for example, that marital infidelity was against the law. Men and women commit these acts damn near every hour of every day.

Am I condoning it? Of course not.

However, I do not condone the state intruding in the private business of married couples who grappling with life-changing decisions and actions.

When I heard that only six U.S. states have such a law on the books, I feared Texas was one of them. It isn’t.

Perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court might eventually get to decide this matter on appeal, which the wife’s paramour in the North Carolina case has vowed to pursue.

Why stay mum on shooters’ names?

I declared my intention recently to no longer identify mass shooters by name when referring to these tragic events in this blog.

A reader of High Plains Blogger than wondered: Why refer to people such as Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray and Lee Harvey Oswald by name?

Fair question. I’ll take a stab at answering it.

First of all, these men all killed notable public figures and officials. Sirhan murdered Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Ray gunned down the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Of the three of these shooters, only Sirhan is alive; he is serving a life term in a California prison.

Their names were thrust into the public domain the way, say, John Wilkes Booth’s name has been in that domain since he murdered President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

All these men changed the course of history. Thus, I have felt justified in referencing them by name whenever I felt like commenting on the incidents to which they all are linked forever.

These latest string of murderers don’t ascend to that level. They have sought publicity. Thus, I have taken a vow to keep their names off this blog for as long as I am writing it.

I even have acted retroactively, back to 1966, when the madman opened fire from atop the University of Texas Tower. I used to refer to him by name; no longer. He now joins the lengthy — and tragically growing — list of lunatics who have sought to make names for themselves through hideous acts of violence.

One more point: Even the loons who die, either by their own hand or by law enforcement, in the commission of their heinous deeds will not be ID’d in this blog with their name.

That’s my story. I am sticking to it.

First Amendment: Why protect the ‘free press’?

Jonathan Capehart writes a column for the Washington Post, which means he’s a dedicated journalist. He also makes a compelling point: It is that the U.S. Constitution protects only one profession from government oppression, intimidation or coercion. It’s a “free press,” Capehart noted today.

Why is that?

Well, it’s because the founders knew something that has been lost on one of their political descendants, the 45th president of the United States. They knew that a free press was an essential element of ensuring that those who run a democratic republic must be held accountable for their actions.

Yet the current president refers to the press as purveyors of “fake news,” and calls them the “enemy of the people.”

How utterly and categorically disgraceful. Donald J. Trump’s abject ignorance of government and the role that a “free press” plays in ensuring that government does the right thing is breathtaking in its scope.

Yet he continues his rampage. He continues to spread lies about the media. He bellows his demagogic rhetoric to the cheers, hoots and hollering in front of crowds that comprise those who make up his political base.

The president needs to understand — even though I know that he won’t — that the founders had it right when they guaranteed a “free press” in the very First Amendment to our Constitution.

Yes, the amendment also covers the right to worship as we please and to protest government policies, to assemble peaceably and to speak freely without fear of retribution.

I need to re-state it once again: the media are the only private industry covered in any of the 27 amendments to the Constitution. Why do you suppose that’s the case? Because the founders knew at the very beginning that the press must remain free of government interference or intimidation.

Listen up, Mr. President.

Did they arrest the wrong guy? Oh, probably not

The man accused of five counts of capital murder and an assortment of other felonies today pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Let’s see: The Annapolis Capital Gazette became a killing ground when a gunman opened fire in the newsroom. Four of the victims were journalists, the fifth was a sales assistant.

The shooter was captured by Maryland police within about an hour of the tragic incident. He refused to cooperate with law enforcement.

I get that the U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to a legal defense. I get that citizenship protects criminal defendants from kangaroo courts, or from prejudgments.

However, I feel compelled to ask: Did the cops nab the wrong guy immediately after the shooting? I doubt it. Strongly!

As The Hill reported: Emily Morse, a spokeswoman for the prosecution, told Reuters that Ramos was identified through facial recognition technology. However, she disputed previous news reports that said Ramos had damaged his fingers to avoid identification through fingerprinting.

This guy’s defense will be an interesting spectacle to watch.

‘Our Constitution works …’

No one can predict how the current tumult involving Donald Trump, the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign and the insult onslaught that is being hurled at the special counsel conducting the investigation.

However it ends, I take heart in a statement that came from the newly sworn-in 38th president of the United States.

“Our Constitution works,” declared President Gerald R. Ford moments after taking office on Aug. 9, 1974. “Our great republic is a government of laws, not of men,” the president said.

The 45th president is up to his armpits, his eyeballs, perhaps even his comb-over in a probe that is seeking to determine whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russians who attacked our electoral process. Special counsel Robert Mueller is no fool. He’s not a hack. He is a dedicated professional who once led the FBI. However, the president has launched a full frontal assault on Mueller, seeking to discredit an honorable man and a dedicated public servant.

I don’t know what he’ll conclude when this process ends. Whether he recommends criminal prosecution of senior White House advisers or even the president himself, or decides there’s nothing there, then I will accept whatever he determines.

He is doing this all under the guidance of the U.S. Constitution, which as President Ford told us when he took office functions as it should.

Gerald Ford’s ascent to the presidency was unique. His predecessor, President Nixon, was forced to resign after seeking to cover up a “third rate burglary” at the Watergate office complex on June 17, 1972. One thing led to another and a pair of intrepid Washington Post reporters — Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward — peeled the layers of deception away for the nation to see for itself.

The constitutional crisis that evolved from this investigation was unprecedented in its scope. Yet the government held together.

Nixon quit the presidency. Ford — who became vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in another scandal involving bribery — calmly took office and assumed control of the executive branch of government.

No matter how this latest controversy ends, I am taking considerable comfort in the words of wisdom offered by a president whose straightforward eloquence spoke volumes about the inherent strength of our governing document.

It held together then … and will do so now.