The summit that crashed and burned

So much for high expectations.

Donald Trump flew all the way from Washington to Hanoi to meet with his new BFF, Kim Jong Un, the tyrant who rules North Korea.

Then the leaders met, shook hands, exchanged pleasantries — and then called the whole thing off! No deal was done.

Kim went back to Pyongyang; Trump flew back to Washington.

Oh, and then we have the episode in which Kim told Trump he didn’t know anything about the incarceration of Otto Warmbier, the young American who was released from North Korean custody, only to die shortly after returning to the United States.

Just as Trump took the word of Vladimir Putin, who denied interfering in our election in 2016 — despite the analysis of our intelligence community that he did interfere — the president believed Kim Jong Un’s denial that he knew anything about Warmbier’s incarceration.

The president said he takes Kim “at his word.” As if that’s worth anything? Get real, shall we?

Why in the world does Donald Trump accept the word of these tyrants? Inquiring minds want to know.

Donald Trump, of course, isn’t the first U.S. president to get rolled at high level summits. President Kennedy got his head handed to him by Nikita Khrushchev in 1961, emboldening the Soviet strongman to put missiles in Cuba; we remember how that turned out.

I cannot get past the feeling, though, that in Trump’s case this failed summit is a product of a lack of pre-meeting preparation by the White House.

The president, it must be said, took a long plane ride for nothing.

Now he gets to deal with some serious problems back home.

Rep. Meadows says he’s no racist, however . . .

There goes that dadgum social media again, producing evidence that people in public life say things they ought to regret.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, bristled badly Wednesday when fellow House Oversight and Reform Committee member Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, criticized him for bringing out an African-American staffer to prove he is “not a racist.” She thought that was a “racist” thing to do.

Meadows, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus wing of the GOP conference in the House, demanded that Tlaib’s comments be “stricken from the record.” Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who is African-American, defended Meadows, calling him his “best friend.” Tlaib apologized for any incorrect inference that might have been drawn from her comments.

But then . . .

A video showed up. It is of Meadows campaigning for Congress in 2012. He talks about the “wrong direction” the country is headed under President Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.

Then he said it is time to send Obama “home, to Kenya or wherever it is . . . ”

Birtherism, anyone? Hmm?

Well, take a look at the link I am attaching to this post. The video is in there. Yep, it’s Rep. Meadows making the Kenya reference.

Check it out

I’m not going to call Meadows a racist. Just listen. You can make your own decision.

Do elections have consquences? Yep, they sure do!

You’ve heard it said that “elections have consequences.”

Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States demonstrates it; he has appointed two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, swinging the court balance to the right. Yes, the 2016 election has consequences.

So does the 2018 midterm congressional election. We saw the consequence of that election today. Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm election.

And today, the Democrats convened a hearing of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and received the testimony of Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, who then proceeded to tell the world that the president might have broken the law. How? By writing a reimbursement check for what might have constituted an illegal campaign expenditure relating to the payment to an adult film actress who allegedly had a fling with the future president.

We would have heard none of this today had Republicans maintained control of the House in the midterm election. They didn’t. The Democrats took control. They have the chairman’s gavels now.

Let there be no doubt that elections have consequences.

At times those consequences can be profound. I believe we witnessed one of those profound events today.

‘Do you think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam’

Donald John Trump might have insulted the intelligence of millions of Americans of a certain age, according to his former lawyer/confidant Michael Cohen.

Cohen testified today before the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee. He covered a lot of territory during the seven or so hours of testimony he gave.

One of the things he disclosed was the medical deferment that young Donald Trump received from a doctor who managed to keep him out of military service, which might have sent the young man to Vietnam to fight in the war many of us remember.

Cohen attributed a statement to Trump who reportedly said, “Do you think I’m stupid. I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”

Darn. I thought I was a smart guy, even though I went to Vietnam in the spring of 1969.

You see, the U.S. Army brought me into its fold in August 1968. It taught me basic soldiering at Fort Lewis, Wash., then sent me to Fort Eustis, Va., to learn how to maintain OV-1 Mohawk aircraft. My advanced individual training company got orders for Korea, but I had my orders canceled so I could deal with an injury I suffered during training.

What did I do then? I asked for duty in Vietnam. Wouldn’t you know it? The Army granted my request and sent me to Marble Mountain, Da Nang, South Vietnam.

Trump? He stayed home, getting deferments for bone spurs the doc supposedly said he had. Cohen told committee members that he needed the medical records to show to reporters who would ask about the deferments. Cohen was a spokesman for Trump when he was campaigning for president.

The two men exchanged some conversation about those records, which reportedly — according to Cohen — was when Trump asked whether Cohen thought he was “stupid.”

A lot of us who did go to war a half-century ago might think of another pejorative term to hang on the president.

The word “coward” comes to mind.

Cohen lays it out there for all to see and hear

Michael Cohen, the most listened-to congressional witness in recent memory, offered a compelling statement today at the end of his day of interrogation by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.

His remarks included this passage:  “I did things and I acted improperly, at times at (Donald) Trump’s behest. I blindly followed his demands. My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything: my family’s happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and soon my freedom. And I will not sit back, say nothing and allow him to the same to the country.”

That sounds like a man who has lost damn near everything. Therefore, had nothing to lose today by testifying before the committee. He also had little, if anything, to gain.

Cohen is heading to the slammer in a few weeks. He’ll have to spend three years in federal prison for admitting to lying to Congress.

He admitted to lying, but then added — rather ridiculously, in my view — that “I am not a liar.” Actually, he is a liar. That, however, is not the point of the man’s testimony today. I believe he is capable of telling the truth and I also believe he did so today.

Michael Cohen is about to surrender a great deal. His reputation and his honor have been shattered by what he has admitted to doing.

That all makes me believe that what he said today about the president of the United States was the truth as he understands it. I do believe he and I understand the truth in the same manner.

Cohen saw ‘no evidence’ of collusion

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee today called Michael Cohen everything but the spawn of Satan himself.

Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for the president of the United States, spent a full day talking to the committee about Donald Trump.

Republicans weren’t in the mood to listen intently to what Cohen had to say. They called him a liar repeatedly during the day. Cohen has acknowledged as much already.

But Cohen did say something that should have given the GOP committee members some pause in their attack on Trump’s former confidant. Cohen said today that he has seen “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and the Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016 and who had dirt to deliver on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that there is no evidence. Cohen’s statement merely acknowledges that he hasn’t seen it. He has no personal knowledge of collusion. Cohen doesn’t speak for special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly is wrapping his lengthy investigation into alleged collusion.

Cohen’s lack of personal knowledge of collusion, though, does buttress his credibility as a witness before the House panel. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings did warn Cohen at the start of the hearing that lying to the committee is a crime and asked Cohen if he is aware of that fact. Cohen said “yes,” he is aware.

So, he spoke the truth quite clearly about his lack of personal knowledge of collusion. I also believe that his acknowledgment of such gives the rest of his testimony today more credibility than committee Republicans were willing to give.

However, I am not going to accept Cohen’s lack of personal knowledge of collusion as a declarative statement that collusion did not exist. I’m waiting for Robert Mueller to provide that testimony.

If that is what he has learned.

Do we have a POTUS with no commitment to the country?

I’ve been trying to digest the daylong testimony given by Donald Trump’s former lawyer, his former “fixer,” his former confidant.

I’m not sure where to start. I guess anywhere is as good a place as any to begin pondering.

I’ll start with this: Michael Cohen said during his lengthy opening statement that the man for whom he worked for a decade never — in Cohen’s presence — uttered a single word or sentence that wondered about how he could do good for the country.

That was among the most instructive and edifying assessments of the president that I’ve ever heard. It also rings so very true to my ears.

I have said ever since Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency that his entire professional life has been geared toward one goal: self-enrichment. Cohen’s assertion that Trump has never spoken out loud about how he could make the country a better place seems to affirm the view that Trump’s sole focus is on his brand, his reputation, his own self-worth.

That’s how he has ran his business. It is how he has rolled ever since his father staked him all those millions to start building his empire. In my view, it is how he has governed.

Of course I cannot speak to what the president says in private. I certainly have heard what he has said publicly. He speaks about the trade deals he intends to broker to help preserve Americans jobs. He talks about treaties he denigrates as being cobbled together by fools who ran the government before him.

The view that Cohen expressed today, though, about Trump’s overarching motivation for doing anything is aimed at helping his brand sounds so, shall I say, Trump-like.

How do these politicians get away with this?

Get a load of this picture, taken today at the House Government Oversight Committee grilling of Michael Cohen, the former friend/fixer/lawyer for Donald J. Trump.

Committee Republicans are attacking Cohen as a liar, a convicted liar at that, a guy who’s headed for the slammer in the very near future. They don’t believe him when he says he’s telling ’em the truth about what he knows about Trump.

What astounds me to the max is how these individuals can take themselves seriously, given that their party’s chieftain, the president of the United States, is arguably the most egregious liar ever to take up residence in the White House.

Donald Trump lies to our faces. He lies when he doesn’t have to lie. He says things he must know are false, but he says them anyway.

My amazement stems from Republicans’ inability or unwillingness to recognize what the president has done while seeking the nation’s highest office and while has served in it.

He has lied repeatedly, gratuitously and without regard for the consequences of what his lying has done.

And so now they are attacking Michael Cohen, who has acknowledged his guilt as a convicted felon, an admitted perjurer, as a liar? Give . . . me . . . a . . . break!

Three quick takeaways from Cohen hearing

I am posting this brief item while former Donald Trump lawyer and friend Michael Cohen is talking to the House Government Oversight Committee.

What I’ve heard today gives me three items to take away. So far . . .

  • Cohen told committee members that he has “lied, but I am not a liar.” Actually, by definition Cohen is a liar. He lied to Congress, he pleaded guilty to the felony and will serve some time in prison beginning in May. Liars lie. You cannot assert that you are not a liar after you have lied.
  • Committee member Carolyn Maloney’s questioning of Cohen included continual references from her to the witness as “Michael.” The Democratic lawmaker kept referring to him by his first name, which I consider to be highly unusual and unbecoming. It speaks of a certain disrespect for the proceeding, which is delivering a blistering account by Cohen of his relationship with the president of the United States. The “Michael” reference needs to end.
  • Cohen’s 30-minute opening statement contained at least three direct apologies to the House and Senate for his lying to both bodies. He has atoned for his indiscretion. He has admitted to wrongdoing. Still, committee Republicans keep repeating what Cohen himself has said. They are trying to restate the obvious, which is something that Cohen has already stated. Get off it, GOP members!

It will continue for the rest of the week as Cohen reveals to the world what he believes to be the truth about the president of the United States.

This is what I call gripping public affairs programming.

I’ll have more to say as this saga continues.

Reps. Price, Smithee turn their backs on ‘local control’

I know these two men well and have developed a lot of professional respect for them, but Texas state Reps. Four Price and John Smithee of Amarillo have disappointed me.

The two Republican lawmakers have put their names on a bill that would allow the Legislature to disallow the deployment of red-light cameras. Cities that deem there is a need to use the equipment to stop motorists from breaking the law no longer would be allowed to use the cameras.

Amarillo — which Price and Smithee represent — is one of those Texas cities that has used the cameras to assist in the enforcement of traffic laws.

Gov. Greg Abbott has gone on record saying he wants the cameras pulled down. His statement suggests he will sign legislation that forbids cities from using the cameras.

Why does this bother me? Well, I support the city’s effort to crack down on red-light violations at signaled intersections. I say that as someone who has been caught running through an intersection, seeking to sneak through when the light had turned yellow; I wasn’t quick enough to avoid getting caught.

Moreover, Republicans have traditionally been the political party that espouses local control. They have been champions of cities operating under their charter, rather than allowing “big brother” state government to impose policies that determine issues that are best left to the cities’ discretion.

I guess that’s no longer the case.

Indeed, the Legislature’s decision just a few years ago to allow cities to use the cameras came after extensive discussion and debate. I believe the cameras have helped deter motorists from acting in a manner that endangers other motorists and pedestrians.

I wish Reps. Price and Smithee had held true to their view that local control is the preferred method of delivering good government.