Sometimes I write elsewhere. h/t Andrew Sullivan and Rachel Maddow for this one.
Earlier this month, Mueller filed a charge against George Papadopoulos, foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. Papadopoulos pled guilty. Read it here:
Today, the indictment against Manafort and his associate Gates was unveiled. Read it here:
This is trending on Twitter even this morning. It took the two lead stories on NewYorkTime.com. Why would the so-called Leader of the Free World spend 90 minutes giving the kind of performance he gave yesterday? Why would whoever is pulling his strings, if any of the rumors on that are true, let him?
My theory is: Don’t watch Trump when he does something like this. Watch what he’s trying to distract us from. Yesterday, any of these other stories merited top news coverage:
Trump’s Pick to Replace Flynn Turns Down the Job. Robert S. Harward, retired Vice-Admiral and former Navy Seal, turned down the job to replace Michael Flynn, who resigned in disgrace as National Security Advisor less than one month into the job. While the official story was “personal and family commitments,” the back story is that this man steered away from working with Trump and his cronies, fearing that he wouldn’t be allowed to do the job effectively. This is another, and very serious, example of the fact that qualified people do not want to be drawn into the hot mess that’s going on in the White House.
House G.O.P. Leaders Outline Plan to Replace Obama Health Care Act. “Outline” is the operative word here since Ryan’s press conference failed to tell us how the changes would be paid for or who would lose coverage. What is clear is that state budgets will be stressed and the plan intends to rip apart the 1960’s Great Society Medicaid program. Furthermore, the Affordable Care Act’s formula for subsidizing the purchase of health insurance will be tossed out in favor of tax credits to those who purchase health insurance. And the tax credits will be based on age rather than income. So, rather than provide funds at the point of purchase, people will need to wait months to get their tax credits, and if their income is low enough, they won’t get the tax benefit at all. Big story? Not when overshadowed by a 90-minute show in the White House Press Room.
Also yesterday, Trump finally conceded his Travel Ban loss in the courts, with Justice Department lawyers withdrawing their prior plan to seek a rehearing before the full Ninth Circuit. Instead, the Administration will issue a new Executive Order next week. They are probably hoping to get more sympathetic judges in the next round.
The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order. The order establishing the EPA was ratified by committee hearings in the House and Senate. In 1970, Congress also enacted legislation substantially strengthening federal powers in the face of what was then a national emergency caused by air and water pollution. Many people today are too young to remember the condition of the Great Lakes, many rivers, and the air in our cities — and they would not tolerate it today. But Trump intends to remove the controls that prevent those conditions from returning. Scientists, environmental lawyers, and policy experts are taking the unprecedented step of calling their members of Congress to oppose Trump’s nominee for Administrator of the EPA – even if they are employees of the EPA. This didn’t come up in the Trump Press Conference yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Congress, a constitutionally co-equal branch of our government, Trump’s new head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement dictated to Members of Congress who would be allowed to attend a meeting those Members had requested from the Agency.
“Later today there is a bipartisan meeting with the acting Director of ICE, Thomas Homan. ICE has told the Speaker that they will designate – you may remember, yesterday we had Members of the Judiciary Committee, the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a representative of the [Congressional] Asian Pacific American Caucus addressing some of the issues on the raids and the ban and the rest, and they were supposed to have a meeting yesterday with the acting ICE Director. They canceled the meeting and said, “We are not having any meetings just with Democrats. We are only having bipartisan meetings.” So that meeting is scheduled for today, but ICE said they would designate which Democrats could attend the meeting.
It’s a stunning thing. I mean, we’ve never seen anything like that, nor have we ever seen other issues that relate to nondisclosure agreements between people who work on the Hill and work with the Administration. But in any event, not good.” Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House.
So, that’s what #TrumpPressConference covered up yesterday. What will his rally in Melbourne distract us from today?
The Republican-controlled Congress, in conjunction with Mike Pence and Donald Trump, plan to execute Blitzkrieg next week. Blitzkrieg means “lightning war,” a term from German military tactics in World War II. The object was to disorient and disorganize the enemy with overpowering multiple and simultaneous attacks. The Republicans are about to execute Blitzkrieg politics. To help sports fans understand, the Washington Post has described the plan as the “no-huddle offense.”
As a prelude to the Blitzkrieg coming next week, this week we have a mini-Blitzkrieg going on:
- Revival of the “Holman Rule,” which allows Congress and the President to reduce the pay of any federal worker to $1.00. Thus, if any federal employee attempts to abide by a law that Trump disagrees with, his pay gets slashed. (Perhaps we now understand the Transition Team’s request for specific names of employees involved in enforcing certain policies.)
- Congress made it easier to sell off federal lands, a boon to anti-environmentalists.
- These were part of a package of Standing Rules for the upcoming Congress that can’t be changed for the next two years. Initially, they included eliminating the independent House Ethics panel — and that drew all the fire and press attention so other ugly things slipped through.
- Trump’s battle with Lindsey Graham and John McCain over credibility of the U.S. Intelligence Service. In what world does a President-Elect side with Julian Assange over the combined opinion of the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, and FBI? In Trump World, that’s where. “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation. There is no national security interest more vital to the United States of America than the ability to hold free and fair elections without foreign interference,” McCain said in his opening statement at Thursday’s hearing.
- Speaker Ryan announced the Republicans will defund Planned Parenthood as part of the budget process they are using to dismantle Obamacare.
Next week will be this week on steroids, as the Washington Post laid out in Thursday’s “202” column. Wednesday will be Blitzkrieg Day:
- Trump gives his first press conference since last summer. This is distraction, period.
- Mitch McConnell has scheduled a “vote-a-rama” on budget bills, including bills related to the repeal of Obamacare (it’s a complicated law, they can’t repeal it in one vote).
- The Senate Hearing to confirm Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (racist, homophobe, misogynist, liar) is set to start. Here’s a handy, more diplomatic summary of his history: https://www.aclu.org/report/report-confirmation-sessions This is the guy who said in November that he wouldn’t characterize grabbing women “by the pussy” as sexual assault; “I think that’s a stretch,” he said.
- The same day, Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, with his ties to Vladimir Putin and long tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil, will appear before the Foreign Relations Committee to begin his hearing for confirmation as Secretary of State.
- Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee to begin the confirmation process. How much media scrutiny can this confirmation hearing get, with important questions about slashing CIA staff numbers and, perhaps, reducing the pay of analysts who criticize Putin (see Holmes Rule, above) on the table?
- The Senate Education Committee will kick off hearings on the confirmation of Elizabeth DeVos, even though she hasn’t yet returned the committee’s written questionnaire or submitted financial disclosures — usually grounds for delaying a confirmation hearing.
- John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the Department of Homeland Security, which will have jurisdiction over Trump’s proposed deportation force and crackdown on illegal immigration, begins before the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee.
- Wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, will appear before the Senate Transportation Committee to begin her hearing as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Transportation.
In the face of all this activity in one day, it’s hard to imagine that Sessions, Tillerson, and DeVos will get the scrutiny the country deserves based upon their shabby (should I say despicable?) records. Much less will Senators have the opportunity to pin down Pompeo’s plans for disarming the CIA in the face of Putin’s threat. Or John Kelly’s plans for building walls and private prisons.
It’s likely that the process of dismantling Obamacare will begin unnoticed. Once people start getting notices that their insurance is canceled or premiums skyrocket, Trump, Ryan, and McConnell will have free-rein to blame the Democrats for creating the system in the first place.
The night before the Blitzkrieg begins, President Obama will deliver his Farewell Address to the Nation at McCormick Place in Chicago. We can hope he’ll have something useful to say. Perhaps something along the lines of Ike’s warning against the coming “military-industrial complex,” though that hasn’t done us much good. Perhaps he will issue a call to arms that will inspire protests on Blitzkrieg Day. I’m not betting on it. The danger of Obama’s timing is that news coverage of his address will further clog the airwaves and headlines the next morning, distracting the nation from the takeover that is going on.
What can we do? Remain vigilant, remain focused. Read and quote credible news sources rather than inflammatory, discreditable ones. Organize, protest. Demand that your Senators and Congresspeople represent YOU, not the oligarchs. Note that this week that when Congress was flooded with calls and emails about their action to get rid of the House Ethics Office, they reversed course.
Now would be a good time to start composing your phone and email messages to be part of the flood that, I hope, will overwhelm Mitch McConnell’s Leader Office and Kentucky home state offices next Wednesday, Blitzkrieg Day.
In World War II, Blitzkrieg caused shock and disorganization among the Germans’ enemies, enabling the Germans to defeat the opposing forces with minimal resources. Let’s not become shocked or disorganized.
“When the levers of power are seized by the small hands of hateful men, you work hard, you stand with those who are most vulnerable, and you don’t give up until it’s morning again. The rest is commentary.” — Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine
Donald Trump will be our next President. Let’s not give him a chance. Because we already know he’s up to no good. If I’ve lost you already, that’s fine because you are of little use to the future of America right now. Perhaps you’ll save this for future reference.
What we face is not normal. (Here’s a handy list of the radical, abnormal things DT had already done by November 15 if you need convincing. The list grows exponentially every day.) The most dangerous aspect of the dangerous abnormality is the plunge into no agreed-on version of reality. Perhaps naively, I am grasping at this familiar thought from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
Most living Americans have never lived in extraordinary times. The elderly may remember the gathering storms in Europe before World War II and the internment camps in this country when war was declared. The somewhat less elderly will remember the turmoil of the civil rights era and the Vietnam War, but there were checks and balances in place, effective court systems and a free press with credibility. How long we will have such checks and balances now is seriously in doubt. The decay of these institutions which protect us will not happen overnight, but they will slip away quickly enough if we normalize the transfer of power that is currently underway. I speak not of armed rebellion, but of the full exercise of Free Speech and Due Process.
Rather than sit in despair and let the United States of America turn into an authoritarian oligarchy, I think it’s useful to do two things:
First, REMEMBER that Trump is a Minority President. He’s a Loser — he lost the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes (larger than the winning margins of ten Presidents who served). It’s only the unfortunate distribution of 80,000 votes across three states that place him in the White House. Perhaps he had an illegal assist from the Russians. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, the People’s House, while still in Republican hands thanks to corrupt gerrymandering, gained more Democrats. Trump does NOT have a mandate from the American people. The Trump transition team and its affiliated media are touting a mandate they do not have. Remembering the facts is important. The mind is a pliable thing, and repetition of lies will make the best of us forget.
Second, RESIST. Let’s not go quietly into darkness. Let’s not give up the progress made in the 20th Century and over the last eight years. Because that is what is at stake; don’t doubt it. We’re talking not only about losing Obamacare and gay marriage (although losing those will be wildly important). At stake are Medicare (enacted 1965), Social Security (enacted 1935), the rights to equal access to housing, to employment, to lunch counters and other public accommodations (enacted 1964), food stamps, WIC, Head Start, school lunches, and the national minimum wage. Respect for women as equal human beings is at stake, and with it, access to contraception, much less to abortion. Our institution of Free Press is at stake. Climate change deserves its own blog post but just a note in passing: I remember the rivers and lakes and the air before the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts — they were not pretty.
“Rising diversity isn’t going away. Income inequality isn’t going away. Support for redistribution isn’t going away.” Those cats are out of the bag and no chanting of “Make America Great Again” is going to put them back. The only issue is how we choose to manage them. Trump’s version of management will be authoritarian with a PR overcoat that could effectively disguise the corruption and profiteering at the core of his plan. He can’t make America white again, but he can appeal to white supremacists as cover for his profiteering. He can tweet bizarre ideas about flag-burning to distract from his plan to transfer public administration of social security and Medicare to Wall Street profiteers. He has and he will keep doing these things. Our job is to resist; to call him out; to expose the truth.
We should analyze what went wrong in the Democrats’ election strategy. More importantly, we should look for examples of what went right, as in Governor-Elect McCrory’s victory in North Carolina. But these are relatively long-term projects. We have an urgent need for leadership and strategies to resist as the Trump Administration takes over our government. This is my attempt to provide a stab at leadership and offer a few tactics and resources.
Michelle Obama admonished us, “When they go low, we go high.” Indeed, but working with Trump or failing to refute his propaganda is not “going high.” There are two fine pieces already written about this, so I won’t elaborate here. See Robin Alperstein, Resistance Is Not Futile; Jamelle Bouie, The Democrats Are Screwing Up the Resistance to Donald Trump. Some brave members of Congress, including our own Arizona Representative, Congressman Ruben Gallego, have stood up to Trump. We must, too.
As James Fallows recently explicated in The Atlantic, society is suffering from both a chronic and an acute version of a public information crisis. The chronic version, which has been building for nearly thirty years, has given rise to “separate fact-universes” into which “segments of society silo themselves.” We need a long-term strategy for dealing with this. But we will not have the freedom to implement a long-term strategy if we do not deal with the acute version of the public information crisis.
The acute version is personified by our President-Elect and his trumpeters: Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, and Kellyanne Conway. As Fallows writes, “Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an outright lie.” Trump and his crew are not fazed. As one rather benign example, Fallows reminds us that on a single day during the campaign, “Trump claimed that the National Football League had sent him a letter complaining that the presidential-debate schedule conflicted with NFL games (which the NFL immediately denied), and then he said the Koch brothers had begged him to accept their donations (which they also flat-out denied).” (Of course, the Koch Brothers themselves are not above lying so who knows about that one.) As Fallows points out, our news media, until now, has not been built to deal with something like this. We’ve seen some examples of adjustments, but they are minor. The New York Times, apparently, cannot bring itself to use the word “lie” or “liar” in the same headline with reference to the President-Elect. It should, and it must.
What can we, mere citizens, do? Many suggestions for resistance have been made. I’ll put a list of citations at the end of this article. Here are some thoughts for immediate action:
- Don’t let a lie go unchallenged. You don’t have to be mean about it, but when someone states an untruth about Trump or one of his minions, correct them. If you’re accused of attacking them or Trump, simply say, “I was just pointing out a fact,” and move on.
- We have an obligation to be active on social media. “Trump is a social media politician. It is the heart and soul of how he campaigned, how he floats his racist and tyrannical ideas, and how he communicates with his constituents.” Meet the enemy where he and his audience are.
- Write letters to your local paper, too. Some people still read it.
- Trump is going to be on a continuous campaign for the next four years. His rallies may not be as large as they were during the campaign, but they will garner the same high-level of media coverage. If there is a rally in your town, turn-out and protest. Put yourself in front of the cameras with a sign that says “#Resistance, #NotNormal,” or something else of your own
- Object to every crazy cabinet appointment Trump is making. Write and call (both) your Senators. They keep count of the calls and letters and pay more attention to those communications than they do to online petition numbers (but I sign those, too). Send notes to the Democratic Leadership as well. Bookmark this site: http://whoismyrepresentative.com/
- Demand that Congress investigate Russian interference in our election as much as they investigated Benghazi.
- Make monthly, recurring donations to the ACLU or one of the other fine resistance organizations named in this article.
- Get paid subscriptions to credible news sources like the Washington Post, New York Times, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and your local and statewide papers. They need your support; buy subscriptions — as many as you can afford.
- Attend the Day to Defend Democracy, December 19 demonstration in your state capital.
- Attend the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. If you can’t go to D.C., satellite demonstrations are being organized around the country, including in my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ.
- Organize or join a supportive group of friends (old or new) who want to be part of the Resistance. The purpose is to organize and support each other. What happens will develop.
- Encourage and harass Democrats to oppose Trump at every turn. The Trump Administration is #NotNormal; therefore, cooperating with it is a bad thing to do. This is not sour grapes, it’s protecting our country.
- Support Senator Gillibrand’s call to filibuster the repeal of the law blocking retired military from being Secretaries of Defense until they have been out of the military for seven years. We need to block this move, or try with everything we’ve got to block it, not only because separating the military from civilian government is a bedrock of our democracy, but also because it is one of the first moves of the Trump Administration to yank us away from normal government.
- Don’t give up on the two-party system. This institution is nearly as old as the Republic and while parties have risen and fallen and morphed, their power works when the people are involved. Trump didn’t win because of Citizen’s United; he won because the people did not vote in sufficient numbers to defeat him in three Midwestern states.
- Connect with your fellow citizens, and protect them. If you see someone being harassed, call the police but also take the hand of the victim and speak to him or her. Ignore the attacker. In the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation. Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success. This is an outrage; we must stop it. Thank Delta Airlines for joining this fight.
Look for more action items. Resolve to take an action every day: Make a phone call, click a link, register a voter, talk with a stranger, march in a protest, write a letter. Our goal is to blockade as much of the Trump agenda as possible, to protect our fellow citizens, and to win elections in 2018 and 2020. In sum, the goal is to preserve our Republic.
Resources and Reading:
What Justice Scalia said about flag-burning (Trump should watch this)
Masha Gessen, Autocracy: Rules of Survival
Wall-Of-Us — Weekly Acts of Resistance delivered to your email
Barbara Kingsolver, Trump Changed Everything. Now Everything Counts
Frank Bruni, Paul Ryan’s Dangerous Silence on Donald Trump
Roger Cohen, The Rage of 2016
New Pro-Trump Group Takes Form — Washington Post
Jennifer Finney Boylan, Really, You’re Blaming Transgender People for Trump?
Robin Alperstein, Resistance Is Not Futile
Patrick Thornton, I’m a Coastal Elite from the Midwest: The Real Bubble Is Rural America
Heather C. McGhee, I’m Prejudiced, he said. Then We Kept Talking.
Welcome to Donald Trump’s Post-Fact America — Rolling Stone
Charles M. Blow, Agents of Idiocracy
Michael Arnovitz, Faking a Mandate
An Alt-Right Makeover Shrouds the Swastikas — NY Times
Donald Trump Lost Most of the American Economy in This Election — Washington Post
The Increasingly Diverse United States of America — Washington Post
Gersh Kuntzman, We Liberals Need to Win, Not Whine
Andy Borowitz, Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans (sarcasm)
Donald Trump’s Plan to Purge the Nation — NY Times Editorial Board
Protecting Reproductive Rights Under Donald Trump — NY Times Editorial Board
Jonathan Chait, Collaborating with Donald Trump Is Doomed To Fail
Luigi Zingales, The Right Way to Resist Trump
Arizona Democrat: ‘We have a duty to treat Trump like the threat he is’ (That’s a summary, the full CSpan video is worth a watch.)
Paul Krugman, Trump Slump Coming? — Be prepared that good things will happen to bad people, at least for a while.
Tegu Cole, A Time for Refusal
Kurt Eichenwald, The Myths Democrats Swallowed That Cost Them the Election
Dan Rather, Forget Talking About The Trump Administration
Paul Krugman, The Tainted Election