TRUMP’s Secret Weapon? Anti-Trump Excesses

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWe haven’t seen this much “movement politics” for a long time in America.  And the dominant movement in America today seems to be some variation of “Stop Trump” or “Dump Trump” or even “Impeach Trump.”  It’s no wonder. After all, President Trump is one of the most divisive public figures ever to occupy the White House.  We won’t reiterate all of President Trump’s perplexing qualities.  We’ve already done that in essay after essay.  Suffice it to say, we’re not Trump fans, and so far, we’ve seen little evidence that he’s about to make America Great Again. We haven’t seen this much dissension and resentment directed at an American president for a long time—but we have seen it before.

Enter Richard Milhous Nixon.

The Trump/Nixon comparison is quite instructive. Many readers of our essays certainly remember the anti-Nixon protests during the ill-fated president’s first term, when the national mood was in a state of extremis over Viet Nam.  Both presidents are (were) incredibly polarizing and both are (were) the target of massive, sometimes violent protests. Nixon came to power during the so-called Summer of Rage. If anything, the anti-Nixon protests were far more substantive than the anti-Trump protests. Most of the anti-Trump resentment stems from the fact that so many people consider him to be spectacularly unpresidential and unqualified for the job, and a bully, a chauvinist, a demagogue, and, well, a boor. And, yes, many people think he’s down-right dangerous, and there’s the well-deserved furor over his bungling of an ill-advised immigration executive order.

But Nixon hatred was different. After all, nearly 21,000 young Americans had died in Vietnam during Nixon’s first term in office. There was the bombing of Cambodia and the horror at Kent State right in the middle of his first term.

The Watergate caper also unfolded (although not completely) during Nixon’s first term, and senior members of his Administration were implicated in the break in. Think for a moment of the news during the months leading right up to the presidential election in 1972.  There was a series of events that would have cratered anyone’s hope of being elected to anything. On June 17, 1972, four months before the election, five men, one of whom said he used to work for the CIA, were arrested at 2:30 a.m. trying to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel and office complex in Washington. On June 19th, a GOP security aide was found to be among the Watergate burglars.  On August 1st a $25,000 cashier’s check, apparently earmarked for the Nixon campaign, wound up in the bank account of a Watergate burglar. On September 29th, John Mitchell, while serving as attorney general, was found to have controlled a secret Republican fund used to finance widespread intelligence-gathering operations against the Democrats, and on October 10th FBI agents established that the Watergate break-in stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of the Nixon reelection campaign. In the same month, a federal jury indicted the five Watergate burglars along with G. Gordon Liddy, General Counsel to the Committee to Re-elect the President, and former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt for conspiracy, burglary, and a violation of federal wiretapping laws.

What skullduggery emanating from the Nixon White House!

And then, a month later, on November 7th, Richard M. Nixon was reelected in one of the largest landslides in American political history taking more than 60 percent of the vote.  Huh?

Remember the so-called silent majority. On the heels of a major nationwide protest against the Vietnam War in October 1969, Nixon delivered a speech on November 3, laying out his plans for ending the war through diplomatic negotiations and asking for the support of the “great silent majority” of Americans.

There is, of course, a great silent majority. They certainly don’t seem to talk to pollsters, anyway. Ordinarily, we would bet the great silent majority would be getting very antsy about President Trump even though they voted for him in the States that mattered. But that silent majority doesn’t seem to like the roar of an angry crowd…any roar…any crowd. That’s why they’re the silent majority, and the roar and the hyperbole and the talk of impeachment (in the absence of any discernible impeachable offense) is apt to backfire on those who want Trump out. Remember, we’re not in the circus atmosphere of a presidential campaign anymore. We’re in the reality of a presidency.

Many of the anti-Trump proponents seem to think that a Trump impeachment is already a conclusion merely awaiting the right presidential misstep. Probably not likely.  There have been many very unpopular presidents. James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin D. Pierce, Warren G. Harding and Millard Fillmore come immediately to mind, but none were turned out of office. Johnson, however, did come pretty close.

Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution, the impeachment clause, says a President can only be impeached for “Treason, Bribery and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” So being a jerk, or just being nasty, or insulting the press doesn’t seem to be impeachable. In fact, neither is incompetence.  James Madison successfully argued against making “maladministration” a cause for impeachment. One could argue that section 4 of the 25th Amendment which provides for the removal of the President in the case of  death, removal, resignation or incapacitation, is relevant. It isn’t!

We also do not think the much touted “Emoluments Clause” is going to undo President Trump. That’s the clause that states that “No Title  of Nobility shall be granted by the Unite States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”

So let’s get back to reality. People are going to watch protests and the selective TV and newspaper shots of isolated violence, and they will see and hear the rhetorical excesses.  Statements by talking heads and some editorial writers that the Flynn-Russian conversations are the biggest scandal since Watergate (quite possibly not scandalous at all other than Flynn’s lack of candor with the Vice President), or that the Flynn-Russian conversations are the political equivalent of 9/11 (ridiculous) are, quite possibly, assuring a Republican romp in 2018 and the re-election of President Trump in 2020. Many of the people who hate Trump revel in this type of hyperbole. Many more, we would bet, recoil at it.

There is one other thing we think the anti-Trump people should keep in mind. Americans have, traditionally, maintained a rather curious, but admirable, sense of fair play. That’s why the birther movement never resonated with the American mainstream. Similarly, a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last summer demonstrated that two-thirds of Americans believed the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson should have been allowed to participate in the Republican Primary debates even though the same two-thirds said they would never vote for him.

We Americans seem to like our politics to be rough and tumble.  We also, from time to time, seem to be quite capable of drawing a line in the sand. That’s why President Obama had no problem winning in 2012. The birther issue probably won him more votes than it cost him.  So, we would bet, did accusations that he was a closet Muslim or some kind of Manchurian candidate. This suggests to us that over-reaching and engaging in hyper-caffeinated rhetoric can, and probably will, backfire. We’ve seen it happen before.  It is likely to happen again.

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Trump’s justification for failed Ban: I’ve Got a Secret

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsThat’s the message the President relayed to the American people when he stated, “I’ve learned a lot in the last two weeks, and terrorism is a far greater threat than the people of our country understand, but we’re gonna take care of it.”

When all was said and done, that was the heart of the President’s argument before the Federal 9th Circuit Court justifying the ban. President Trump’s attorneys could have filed a sealed brief with the court specifying the specific evidence of a threat to our national security that necessitated the ban on travel from the seven Muslim-majority countries, but they didn’t. They didn’t think they had to, and maybe we’ll ultimately find that they may be right.

Few people would argue with the broad powers the President is given in the case of a national emergency, or a substantial threat to our national security. Giving the President the unfettered authority to do whatever he wants to do in the name of national security, however, is another matter. The President should be prepared to demonstrate, albeit in confidence if necessary, some evidence that there is a relationship between the threat and the action with which he seeks to mitigate that threat. Otherwise, the president—any president, can, on a whim, transform our government into an autocracy simply by declaring that a national emergency exists without offering any evidence that such an emergency necessitates the action he or she seeks to take.

Having listened to the arguments from both sides before the 9th Circuit Court, and having read opinions that support the Government’s position and those that support the Court’s decision, we recognize that this is one of those constitutional issues that could, ultimately, be decided either way.

We have, in the recent past, taken particular issue with the position of the Trump Administration that the United States does not adequately screen prospective refugees. That simply is not true. Refugees from these seven countries, and all other countries, are arduously screened. It generally takes years to enter this country as a refugee. Refugees from Muslim countries are, invariably, fleeing from the very regimes that threaten us.

The real issue, beyond the constitutional question, is whether a threat exists from immigrants or refugees from the seven countries subject to the ban that justifies the President’s Executive Order. That, to us, is more relevant than the fine points of constitutional law.

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration specialist at the libertarian CATO institute, has compiled a list of every country from which foreign nationals have killed Americans on American soil. It’s quite revealing—2369 Americans have been killed on American soil by terrorists from Saudi Arabia, 314 killed by terrorists from the United Arab Emirates, 162 killed by Egyptian terrorists, 159 by terrorists from Lebanon, 6 by terrorists from Kuwait, 3 by terrorists from Cuba, 3 by terrorists from Kyrgyzstan, 3 by terrorists from Pakistan, 2 by terrorists from Palestine, 1 from Armenia, 1 from Croatia, 1 from Taiwan and 1 from Trinadad and Tobago, but NONE from the countries subject to the ban.

Furthermore, only three Americans have ever been killed by refugees—THREE, and those three refugees were from Cuba and that was in the 1970’s.

One particular aspect of the 9th circuit court hearing was, to us, particularly fascinating. The Justice Department’s lawyer, August Flentje, seemed to argue that a national emergency or threat necessitated the Executive Order, even though no evidence was offered to demonstrate such an emergency or threat. He then stated that the President’s decision that an emergency justified the seven-nation ban and the suspension of the settlement of refugees into the United States was not reviewable by the court. The court, he argued, could only review the correctness of the form of the brief—that it was “facially” in order. In other words, when President Trump (or any president) determines that there is a national emergency or a threat to the nation’s security, his judgment and his action, thereafter, is not subject to judicial review.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyala Law School professor and a critic of the executive order, argued that the court needed to send the message that the president should not be “un-reviewable” — especially for an order considered by many to be a “Muslim ban.”

University of California law professor and former Bush attorney John C. Yoo concurred, stating, “they should have lost. The order was done badly, The government badly defended it in court by claiming the 9th Circuit couldn’t even review the executive order.” Yoo said the ruling was a well warranted rebuke.

Here President Trump’s habit of speaking hyperbolically and, not infrequently, inaccurately if not untruthfully, has put him in a difficult position to argue for unfettered power simply by declaring the existence of a national emergency or a threat to our security. While President Trump may ultimately be found to have the legal authority to take such action without review by the courts, he doesn’t have the credibility to take such action given his record of wild and fanciful tweets and allegations.

American Presidents do have, and do need, the power to take drastic action in the face of a national emergency. It is an awesome power we give to our presidents. And it is a power that has been abused in the past. It did not take an Act of Congress for the Roosevelt Administration to, essentially, incarcerate over 100,000 loyal American citizens following Japan’s attack on Peril Harbor simply because they were of Japanese ancestry. This was done with the wave of a pen by President Roosevelt when he signed Executive Order 9066. He simply signed an order and tens of thousands of Americans were rounded up and locked away for years. Today, we recognize that Roosevelt’s executive order was wrongheaded and based on little more than war hysteria, with a healthy dose of racism thrown in.

It isn’t asking too much for President Trump to offer to the court, under seal if necessary, some evidence that a draconian executive order is justified. Hinting in a speech that he’s learned a lot in the past two weeks about the threats facing the nation isn’t sufficient. President Trump, in particular, has to offer the courts more than “I’ve got a secret.”

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Embrace Immigrants As Though America Needs Them

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsBecause we really do.

No, we’re not talking about the work no one wants to do. We’re talking about the creation of work everyone wants to do.

I had the privilege once again this year of working with Bret Stephens at the superb Rancho Mirage Writer’s Festival. Stephens is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the Wall Street Journal foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial pages.

Bret shared a bit of his family’s history with the audience. His mother was an immigrant who arrived in America in 1950, as an impoverished, ten-year-old child, a displaced person who had survived the ravages of World War Two. His grandparents had fled the Bolsheviks in Russia and the Nazis in Germany. His mother was born in Fascist Italy in 1940. Sixty-three years later she accompanied her son, Bret, when he received his Pulitzer Prize at a ceremony at Columbia University.

Stephens delivered the keynote address on the first night of the Writers Festival. President Trump had just signed the Executive Order, essentially, banning Muslims from seven countries from immigrating as refugees to the United States, an order that has just been stayed by a federal Judge as we go to press.

Those who had been barred from entering the United States were all refugees who had been previously vetted and approved by our government. Stephens tore up his prepared remarks and, instead, addressed the role immigrants have played in the great American success story.  Rarely, have I ever witnessed an audience as spellbound as was this gathering listening to this son of an immigrant.

Stephens reminded his audience that the United States has won approximately 40% of all the Nobel Prizes ever awarded, and 30% of America’s Nobel prizes were won by first generation immigrants—foreign born scientists, statesman and writers, including refugees like Henry Kissinger or chemistry Nobelist Martin Karplus, after whom the Karptlus equation is named which describes the chemical basis of proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Of the Fortune 500 companies, 90 were founded by immigrants and another 114 by the children of immigrants. Stephens named as examples Sergei Brin of Google, Andy Grove of Intel, Daniel Aaron of Comcast. These immigrants or sons of immigrants created enterprises with accumulated combined revenues of trillions, which is more than the GDP of most countries in the world, and, of course, they employ tens of thousands, and the industries that their ingenuity has made possible employ millions.

Stephens, of course, was just scratching the surface.

In fact, Fortune 500 companies, founded by immigrants employed 3.6 million workers worldwide in 2011, and produced $1.7 trillion in revenues the year before, according to the Partnership for A New American Economy.

A report published in 2010 found that immigrants are more than twice as likely start a business as someone born in America. In fact, one in ten American workers were employed by immigrant-run businesses

According to a recent report by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion dollars or more and are key members of management or product development teams in over 70 percent (62 of 87) of these start-up companies. According to the report, immigrant-founded start-up companies in America worth more than a billion dollars today have created an average of 760 jobs per company. The collective value of the 44 immigrant-founded start-up companies studied is $168 billion, which approximates about half the value of the stock markets of Russia or Mexico.

Stephens concluded his address by asking a series of questions that every civics teacher (we presume schools still teach civics) should ponder. These are the questions, the answers to which will define whether America’s future will be defined by growth, prosperity and equality or the fading embers of a once great nation.

1) What is our attitude toward foreigners? Are we a country that seeks and attracts immigrants, or do we see them as threats to our culture, economy and security?

2) What is our attitude toward failure? When we fail, do we tend to first blame ourselves and ask, ‘How can we make this right’? Or do we blame others, and adopt the attitude of ‘who did this to us’?

3) What is our attitude toward global leadership? Do we put our values first, as we did when we saved West Berlin, and then define our interests accordingly? Or do we put our “interests” first, in the sense of what’s materially good for us irrespective of values? In other words, do we believe in leading the world so that all may benefit from that leadership, or do we think, “America First”?

4) What is our attitude toward change? Do we believe in and foster innovation? Or do we strangle it through regulation? Do we believe in the value of free trade, acknowledging that the inevitable costs are outpaced by the larger benefits?

5) What is our attitude toward each other? Do we have a healthy civic culture in which we can respect each other’s different opinions, and do we respect bedrock institutions like a free press, that are so essential to the well-being of democracy? Or do we tear ourselves apart by an increasingly cynical and combative attitude toward these institutions?

6) What is our attitude toward the future? Do we see America’s prospects as fundamentally bright? Or will we be a pessimistic nation, fearful about the world and doubtful of our abilities to master the challenges before us?

Stephens concluded his keynote with a prediction. He predicted in the year 2037—20 years from now, that the child of one of the people in the hotel clean-up crew would be speaking at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival, and that we would all be proud to call him or her our fellow American.

The audience cheered.

Hal Gershowitz’s novels about immigrants available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kindle, Apple iTunes and Audible.

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Trump: Making America Afraid Again.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsNo, no, we’re not talking afraid like – shaking in our boots, afraid (although many refugees and asylum seekers are, no doubt, probably shaking in their boots). No, we’re talking afraid like – we’re afraid this is not going well, afraid.

There is much about which to be concerned. President Trump has banned, for the next 90 days, Muslims from seven nations from entering the United States.  At the same time, he has indefinitely blocked all Syrians from coming here, even though there has never been an attack on American soil by anyone from Syria. In other words, he has closed America to millions of Muslims who are fleeing Islamic terrorism. The President’s Executive Order also requires that people from the seven countries who were in transit seeking asylum and those with valid visas also be detained or turned away.

While President Trump claims this measure is meant to protect the homeland, the White House offered no evidence that existing screening programs are not working. There have been no attacks in the United States perpetrated by nationals from the seven nations listed in Friday’s order, although at one point or another, each of these nations has been included on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Ironically, there have been attacks on American soil by terrorists from Muslim-majority countries that are not on the President’s list.

Blocking the entry into our country of refugees who have already been processed, vetted and approved is a farce. And a cruel one at that. Candidate Trump enjoyed a lot of campaign mileage exclaiming that “we’re letting in thousands of refugees and we don’t know anything about them.”  That’s much more than an alternate fact. That’s simply a lie.

Men, women and children fleeing for their lives, and who have completed a long and arduous screening process (often taking years), and who finally received approval to enter the United States, and who booked flights, and obtained tickets, had the door to America slammed in their collective faces.  All this so that President Trump could keep a campaign promise that was campaign blather to begin with. We do not allow refugees into our country willy nilly. Obtaining refugee status for entry into the United States is a tough, grueling process.

Aside from the stress caused to an already horribly stressed swath of humanity, slamming the door shut on these hapless refugees represents a boon to the Islamists who are at war with us. They are, right now, busily promoting the ban as proof of the contempt America has for Muslims. This alone will probably cause more attacks against Americans than the President’s Executive Order will stop.

The suspension of entry was sloppily communicated to those who had to enforce the ill-advised suspension, causing confusion at every entry point. The facile excuse isn’t credible that previously cleared refugees with valid visas could not be warned of the impending Executive Order in advance because once word got out they (we presume ISIS) would immediately send us their bad ones before we could stop them. This lame explanation of the sloppiness of the suspension demonstrates mind-blowing ignorance. The bad guys can’t just load up flights with their henchmen and claim they are refugees. The system just doesn’t work that way.  No one could have boarded those flights as refugees, without having gone through the long process that confirms they are, in fact, legitimate refugees.  It was all theater, and theater of the absurd at that.  Citizens of many countries can legally fly into the United States any time they want, regardless of where they were born or, regardless of course, of their religion.

While it is true that the seven listed nations have, at one point or another, been included on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, discriminating against men, women and children who are fleeing from those very nations makes little sense.

Then there is the matter of the Trump Administration’s war with the press. Kellyanne Conway, appearing on Fox’s Chris Mathews show last Sunday continued the Trump rant about our dishonest press, which she is certainly entitled to do.  But we find it troubling to have a senior White House official demanding to know why no “dishonest” editorial writers or bloggers have not been let go, or who will be the first “dishonest” writer to be fired, and then punctuating her displeasure by declaring “we know their names.”  This, to us, is chilling language and we suspect it was meant to be chilling.

On more than one occasion in our history various forms of anti-sedition legislation have been introduced and enacted to suppress the press during times of national distress.  We doubt anti-sedition legislation such as that which was enacted in 1798, 1918 or as recently as 1940 would be found constitutional today. American writers, editors and publishers have, however, been imprisoned in the past for criticizing the government or the President, and we find complaints from White House officials that reporters and editorial writers haven’t been fired to be a troubling reminder of a darker time.  Yes, for sure, journalists have an obligation to be truthful to the American public.  Then again, so does the President.

And then there was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day contretemps. President Trump failed to mention in his message that the Holocaust (capital H) is the name given to the systematic murder of all Jews who fell into Nazi hands anywhere in Europe.  At best it was a forgivable oversight at the hands of neophyte White House personnel who didn’t know any better—in which case a simple “we regret the oversight” would have been sufficient.  At worst, it was a deliberate Bannonite decision to alter the vital historical lessons of the Holocaust.

Frankly we were, initially, inclined to assume that the omission of Jewish victimization at the hands of the Nazis was a sad, but a feasible and a forgivable oversight. But, sadly, the White House doubled down on its decision to omit any reference to Jews as victims.

Winston Churchill once described the fate of the Jews of Europe as a crime without a name.  Today, that crime has a name.  It is The Holocaust. The Holocaust, that crime that has now had a name for over seventy years, refers to the systematic, exquisitely planned, doggedly implemented and nearly successful annihilation of European Jewry by Germany’s Nazi regime. Our country, to its everlasting credit, considers the lessons to be learned from this genocide to be so important it enshrined that mission at the national mall in Washington DC with the establishment of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  We suggest President Trump and his key staff make it a point to visit the Museum as every President has done since its opening nearly a quarter century ago.

The miscue could have been merely an unfortunate, but correctable, blunder.  Instead the White House continued (as it has proven prone to do) with its vacuous explanations. It said Jews had been omitted from the statement on purpose because other victims also suffered and died in The Holocaust. No, they didn’t. Non-Jews died, just as tragically, because they were also victims of mankind’s greatest brutality. But the Nazi effort to gas or shoot every Jew in Europe (an effort that came horribly close to succeeding) is precisely what The Holocaust is, and it is nothing else. Holocaust deniers always admit Jews died at the hands of the Nazis, but they add so did a lot of other people. So, the deniers say,  there never was a Holocaust aimed at Jews in particular. White House stubbornness transformed what may have simply been staff ineptitude into soft-core Holocaust denial.

Finally, President Trump last night nominated Neil Gorsuch of Colorado to the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Gorsuch is a well-respected Judge who is known for writing eloquent Court decisions.  He has never decided an abortion case, nor has he had much to say about a woman’s right to choose. He is, however, a strong originalist, believing that voters and not the courtroom should decide “social policy,” and many believe he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the decision that has, for nearly fifty years entrusted pregnant woman with the decision to continue or terminate a pregnancy during the first trimester. We hasten to repeat that judge Gorsuch has no actual record on this issue, but President Trump has vowed to appoint supreme court justices who are opposed to Roe v. Wade.

Many are afraid this isn’t going to turn out well for those who believe that a woman’s right to choose, is consistent with any American’s right to privacy—a right that the courts have held was secured by the ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. While the Constitution contains no express right to privacy, the Bill of Rights reflects the concerns of James Madison and the other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), the privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), the privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment) and the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information.  Most importantly, the ninth Amendment specifically states that the enumeration of certain rights in the Bill of Rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.

So, is a woman’s right to make her own decision about pregnancy as assured by Roe v Wade consistent with every American’s right to privacy under the ninth Amendment? We’re afraid we’ll have to wait to see.

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Today’s Inaugural Ceremony: As Important as The First Inaugural 228 Years Ago.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsNo, we’re not comparing President-Elect Donald Trump to President George Washington.  Readers of these essays know we were not supporters of Donald Trump’s candidacy, nor have we had great confidence that President-Elect Trump will go on to become one of America’s great presidents. We do, however, fervently hope we are wrong, and that his presidency does, indeed, achieve a stronger, fairer America—an America largely at peace with itself and a world less antagonized by vicious conflict and sectarian warfare.  As of tomorrow, at noon, Donald Trump will become the legally and legitimately elected President of the United States.

The brief inaugural ceremony that will take tomorrow is of enormous historical significance. It is akin to that proverbial gear shifting somewhere in the universe after which some things are never the same; the hyphenated President-Elect instantly transforms simply into President, and the responsibilities of executive leadership in America rest with a new leader. The brief, but almost magical ceremony represents the most consistent peaceful transfer of power the world has ever known. It, the inaugural process, is to be celebrated.

Many in America are not happy that Donald Trump is about to become their President.  Many profess that he will never be their President. But he is and he will be.

We have no particular problem with anyone, including members of congress, skipping the inauguration. It is wrongheaded but it is their right. This is, after all, America. We do not parade, like dancing bears, anyone into public view to pay homage to our elected leaders. The absence of members of congress and others will demonstrate their utter disregard for the new president. It will also demonstrate their utter disregard for a grand, historic and consequential American tradition, but dissent is certainly their right, and there will be plenty of dissention.

Disruption, however, is not anyone’s right. The twentieth amendment to the Constitution fixes the date and time of the beginning of a new president’s term and the end of a sitting presidents term as January 20th at noon, following the national election the previous November. Intentionally engaging in activity to disrupt the administering of the oath of office is, in our judgment, a protest gone too far.

There is nothing new about members of Congress or other government officials refusing to attend the inauguration of a President. Indeed, President John Quincy Adams refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, in 1829.

Actually, there are interesting similarities between the two elections. Andrew Jackson was the first populist elected president. Jackson was also the first non-Virginian with the exception of John Adams and his son John Quincy to be elected President, and Jackson was the first President with no connection to the founders or, for that matter, to the original thirteen colonies. Jackson, like Trump, garnered  immense support outside of any sort of political establishment. He, like Trump, was the ultimate outsider.

The animosity directed at Jackson from his opponent, John Quincy Adams and from his opponent’s supporters was immense. As is true of Trump a large swath of Congress also refused to attend the new president’s inauguration.

As stated earlier, we don’t believe the “no-shows” are of much significance. Following the inauguration, they may even be of less significance. They place a higher value on giving the new president a cold shoulder that they place on honoring the American inaugural tradition, and that is absolutely their right and their choice to make.

Similarly, we take no particular issue with those who wish to protest or show their displeasure with the choice our nation has made.  There will be protests of dissent in Washington and cities throughout the country and that’s okay.  That’s as American as apple pie.

We take a different view, however,  of those who are planning to come to Washington, not determined to dissent, but, instead, determined to disrupt the Inauguration of our 45h President. The internet is rife with calls for absolute disruption, and if the organizers can’t stop the inauguration they are determined to drive the inauguration behind closed doors.  More ominously, they seem determined to foment violence to assure that domestic and international viewership sees disorder, if not violence, on the streets of Washington, D.C., and in other American cities. They want television screens across America and across the world to show split screens with images of the cherished American inaugural ceremony concurrently sullied and shared with violent protest.

The National Park Service has granted dozens of permits to demonstrate in Washington today, and is expecting more than 350,000 protesters. Of those, about 200,000 will be participating in the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow. And make no mistake about it, their right to protest is as hallowed as the inaugural itself.

But those who travel to Washington to disrupt the inauguration of the President are not the patriots they pretend to be. Far from it. They are vandals at best, and anarchists at worst.

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The Death of Truth

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsTruth is dead…long live the narrative.

We have a very serious and destructive problem in America. Yes, we know, we have many.  But this one is different because it is widely tolerated and, sadly, carefully nurtured by our nation’s leadership regardless of party. Truth has become one of the lowest coins in the realm.  The narrative, carefully conceived, studiously nurtured, and determinedly communicated has, it seems, become the highest coin of the realm.

The concocted narrative takes on meme-like strength as it is transmitted throughout society, gaining momentum, confusing our national comprehension, sullying debate and devaluing the stuff of good judgment and good citizenship. It is the harbinger of divisiveness and it threatens much of what made America great. The lie, skillfully repackaged as the established narrative has become acceptable, even when few are fooled by it.

Early in the Obama Administration, the White House staff warned President Obama not to tell the nation that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would allow the people to keep their doctor if they liked him or her, and that they could keep their health insurance plan if they liked it. They urged him not to tell Americans that insurance premiums would fall by $2400 during his first term in office. They told him that wouldn’t be true. But the truth didn’t fit the well concocted narrative so the narrative trumped the truth.

Then consider President-Elect Trump’s pronouncement that, “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Both claims are preposterous.  In fact, in terms of electoral college wins, Trump’s election ranks 46th out of 58 electoral college contests. Nonetheless, a landslide, it seems, comports with his perception of his own popularity, so a landslide it is. Also, there is of course not a scintilla of evidence of any measurable vote fraud, let alone “the millions of people who voted illegally.”

A carefully crafted narrative, repeated ad nausiam by democrats for the past six years is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced at the beginning of the Obama presidency that his goal (and that of the Republicans) would be to assure that Obama would fail and that he would become a one-term president. President Obama himself stated, “When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans said, ‘my number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president.”

Democrat Senator Richard Durbin intoned in September of 2012,  “…The senator from Kentucky announced at the beginning, four years ago, exactly what his strategy would be. He said, his number one goal was to make sure that Barack Obama was a one-term president.”

The allegation that McConnell’s stated “from day one” that his goal was to make sure President Obama would be a one-term president has been a democratic drum beat for years.

McConnell’s alleged declaration of war against President Obama has been repeated over and over again.  This past Sunday on CBS’s  Face The Nation, New Jersey Senator Corey Booker was the latest to echo the McConnell narrative saying, “When he, (Obama) came into position when America was in a financial freefall, there was a crisis all over this country, he (McConnell) announced to America that the number one priority he had was keeping President Obama from getting a second term.  That is irresponsible. And that is dangerous.”

Well, McConnell didn’t make that statement when President Obama was first elected to office in 2008.  In fact, it was two years later following the mid-term elections ending the Democrats control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the US Senate.  That was a two-year period when President Obama pretty much stiff-armed the Republicans, intoning that elections have consequences.  We won. You lost. He had used his control of both houses to successfully push through Obamacare without a single Republican vote.

McConnell’s remarks were actually made in an interview with the National Journal on Oct. 23, 2010 — nearly two years after Obama was elected president. The interview took place on the eve the of the midterm elections. McConnell said,The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

When asked if that meant constant confrontation with the President, MConnell responded, “ If he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him. McConnell went on to say in that same interview that he does “not want the president to fail” and cooperation was possible “if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues.” McConnell in fact cited an extension of the Bush tax cuts as an example of where the Republicans and the White House could cooperate — and, in fact, Obama did strike such a deal with Republicans shortly after the midterm elections.

Here is what the liberal Washington Post had to say about the endlessly repeated accusation that McConnell had stated from day one that his goal was to make sure Obama was a one-term President.

There is no doubt that McConnell said he wanted to make Obama a one-term president. But he did not say it at the start of Obama’s term; instead, he made his comments at the midpoint, after Obama had enacted many of his preferred policies. Perhaps, in Obama’s memory, McConnell was always uncooperative. But that does not give him and other Democrats the license to rearrange the chronology to suit the party’s talking points.”

During the presidential election campaign President-Elect Trump stated, repeatedly, that he had opposed the war in Iraq. Yet the only public statement on record was that he, in fact, supported the war in Iraq.  His first public statement expressing his opposition to the war was more than a year after the invasion, when opposition to a war gone badly was rather widespread.

We could go on.  There was President Obama’s assurance that many people had been fired at the Department of Veterans Affairs following 2014 scandal over manipulated wait-time data that contributed to the deaths of veterans. But, in fact at the time the President assured the public that heads had rolled, only one senior executive had been removed.

Hillary Clinton responded to questions about whether she had told the truth to the American people about her use of a private server by stating “Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.  That, of course, was simply not true.  What Director Comey said was that she had not lied to the FBI. He did not say she had not lied to the American people.

Now we, of course, understand that politicians are not generally known for their candor. But the extent of unrelenting falsehoods uttered by our highest public officials seems, to us, to be unprecedented and, more worrisome, remarkably tolerated by the public. This does not auger well for the future of constructive discourse in America.

As Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Half a truth is often a great lie.”

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Obama, Kerry, the UN and Our Post-Factual World

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt seems everyone is doing it—even President Barack Obama and our Secretary of State, John Kerry. It’s almost Orwellian.  Truth is devalued like so much roadside flotsam.  Say something often enough and stridently enough and the words become truth, no matter how ridiculous the utterance. Where have we heard that theory before?

So, according to the US-supported UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Israeli settlements are the paramount obstacle to peace in that part of the Middle East between the West Bank of the Jordan River and the line where the infant Israeli nation stopped the invasion of four Arab nations nearly seven decades ago—the so called pre-67 border (the land Israelis and biblical scholars call Judea and Samaria).

One needn’t be a proponent of settlements on the West Bank (we’re not) to be offended by such an assertion. Reality contradicts the assertion.

Reality was the original League of Nations Mandate (Mandate Palestine) later subsumed by the United Nations recognizing the so-called West Bank as inclusive of a new Jewish Homeland that would exist among other religious identities.

Reality was the acceptance by Israel of the 1947 UN partition plan, which replaced the Mandate and the simultaneous rejection of the partition plan by the Arab nations.

Reality was a vicious war of annihilation in 1948 launched by four Arab nations, terminating the UN partition designed to create a Jewish and an Arab state in what had been Mandate Palestine.

Reality was the expulsion of all Jewish residents of Jerusalem’s ancient Jewish quarter by Jordanian troops in 1948 and the subsequent recapture of the entire city by Israel in 1967.

Reality was the pillaging and destruction by Jordanian troops of historic Jewish religious sites in the old Jewish quarter (the quarter the UN resolution calls “occupied territory”).

Reality was the destruction of ancient Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives.

Reality is the world’s misapplication of Article Forty-nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention, rendering Jewish settlements illegal for the first time. There has, in fact, been no forced transfer of populations into or out of the West Bank.

Reality was the Palestinian Authority secretly forging a unity government with Hamas, which controls 40% of the Palestinian population, while simultaneously “negotiating” a peace deal with Israel.

Reality is the Hamas Charter which demands the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews

Reality was PA Chairman Yasser Arafat scuttling peace talks in 2000, and admitting to President Bill Clinton that agreeing to peace with Israel would cost him his life. This was after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak surprised Arafat by, essentially, agreeing to two states on either side of the ’67 lines with land swaps to adjust the border to compensate for Israeli settlements along the border. Prime Minister Barak also agreed that Jerusalem would serve as the capital of both nations.

Reality was the unilateral withdrawal of Israeli settlements from Gaza over a decade ago, which resulted in the launching of tens of thousands of Hamas rockets from Gaza aimed at Israeli towns and villages.

Reality was Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas declaring that no Jewish communities would be allowed in a West Bank Palestinian State.

Reality was the Jewish communities that had once thrived on the West Bank throughout history.

We are not suggesting that we endorse Jewish settlements on the West Bank, or that we oppose a two-state resolution of this intractable dispute. We have strong reservations regarding the incorporation of a large, antagonistic, Palestinian population into territory perpetually controlled by Israel.  But the list of obstacles is long to an eventual two-state resolution of the conflict. Rejectionist voices are strong on both sides of this dispute.

Given that this disputed land has never belonged to any nation state other than, arguably, the Ottoman Turks (who, incidentally, welcomed Jewish settlement) referring to it as occupied land is ludicrous. The West Bank has been controlled by Jordan, Egypt, England and, today, Israel. Article Forty-Nine of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not comport with the circumstances on the ground on the West Bank. This has been disputed land since the end of the British Mandate, and, if anything, the British Mandate encouraged and anticipated Jewish presence on this land.  While the UN effectively replaced Mandate formulation with partition, the Arab nations clearly and resolutely rejected partition.  Only Israel accepted the UN partition plan. Israel controls the West Bank, because Israel was unsuccessfully attacked from the West Bank. Israel has always agreed that the West Bank is, indeed, disputed territory. To label it Occupied Territory as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention is ludicrous, even if the rest of the world considers it convenient to so label this land.

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when proclaiming a lie often enough was considered sufficient to render it true. Much of the world seems to still succumb to such a formulation—to such larceny of language. Israel, however, is the wrong country and Israelis are the wrong people to target with such calumny.  They’ve been there before and they recognize it for what it is.

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UN Security Council Vote– Yet Another Obama Foreign-Policy Debacle

Of Thee I Sing Heading Authors“So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” (President Barack Obama, Washington, D.C., 3/4/12)

Well, that seems rather questionable.  Certainly, when the chips were down this past Friday, President Obama certainly didn’t have Israel’s back. Indeed, the long-rumored December surprise, turned out not to be rumor after all. Obama would have his petulant parting shot at Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with barely three weeks left in his Presidency. And while the UN vote condemning Israel’s settlement policy will have no practical effect on the ground, it is a major blow to the mid-section of America’s strongest and only reliable ally in the Middle East, and it gives enormous cover, even a degree of sanction, to the growing wave of anti-Semitism across Europe and the odious, equally, anti-Semitic campaign known as BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement roiling college campuses, public forums, churches and even some corporate boardrooms.

Equally troubling—it was a flat-out wrong and poorly conceived exercise in foreign policy. But then again, flat-out wrong and poorly conceived public policy has been rather endemic to the Obama Administration. We’ll discuss why we believe the UN vote was flat-out wrong a little further down in this essay. But first we’ll focus on the poorly conceived foreign policy decisions that have been endemic to this Administration.  First, there was the Arab Spring that offered a brief moment of hope for the Middle East that was squandered by feckless policy in Washington. Our hasty departure from Iraq, the mind-boggling, red-line bluff in Syria and the lead-from-behind, air-power, meddling in Libya with absolutely no ground game to deal with the aftermath led to one disaster after another and a leadership vacuum that the Obama anointed JV team, ISIS, has been only too happy to fill. Even in Afghanistan, where the Obama Administration committed 30,000 troops, President Obama simultaneously announced the date by which the troops would be withdrawn.

Then there was the Russian grab of Crimea, perhaps the greatest take-over of another sovereign’s territory since the Nazi’s marched into the Sudetenland in October 1938.  We did absolutely nothing meaningful about that, which probably signaled to Vladimir Putin that Russia could move back into the Middle East with impunity, which they wasted no time in doing…with impunity.

We won’t belabor the Iran Nuclear pact, other than to say the Obama Administration deep-sixed every positon we and the international community had previously taken forbidding Iran to develop Nuclear weapon capability. Iran now has a legal, ten-year glide path to joining the Nuclear Club, and they make no bones about their right and determination to do just that.  We even released the previously sequestered funds to help them do just that.

The Obama Administration’s publicly acknowledged policy has been to pivot away from the Middle East and to refocus America’s priorities on Asia. How’s that working out? China has been rapidly building military outposts including missile launch sites on disputed islands in the South China Sea, significantly boosting its presence in the already tense region, according to a Pentagon report released six months ago. Since announcing our “pivot,” China has invested in military programs and weapons designed to project power, and has begun shipping missiles to the recently constructed island military bases.

Now, let’s examine a bit more closely the Obama Administration’s decision to cast an abstaining vote at the Security Council last Friday which, of course, was the same as voting in favor of the resolution to condemn Israel.  The primary justification is that Israeli settlement construction (largely increasing housing units in existing settlements) hinders an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Hog Wash!

Keep in mind, Israel did agree to a moratorium on any new construction while peace negotiations were on-going back in 2014, but those talks ended when the Palestinian Authority announced that it had concluded a secret agreement to form a unity government with Hamas, which has vowed never to agree to peace with Israel. The Palestinian Authority was pursuing its deal with Hamas unbeknownst to the Israeli negotiating team.

So, it is the existence of Israeli settlements, that cover about one percent of the West Bank, and which would require an equivalent transfer of Israeli land to a new Palestinian State if a peace agreement was ever concluded that the Obama Administration considers a hindrance to an eventual two-state solution.  One wonders what has really changed since Yasser Arafat walked out of the Clinton-sponsored Camp David talks in 2000 when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, essentially, agreed to all of the Palestinian Authority’s demands.  His reason? “I would be returning to my own funeral if I agreed to end the dispute with Israel.”

Israel faces Hamas to the South, Hezbollah to the North, and ISIS just across the Golan Heights and President Obama chooses this as the time to toss an ill-advised and unwarranted political grenade at the Israelis.

“Occupied” or “Disputed” territory?

There are two narratives about the so-called occupied territory, or, essentially, the land that has been in Israel’s hands since the 1967 six-day war. One narrative holds that the West Bank, the biblical Judea and Samaria, is occupied territory. The other narrative holds that the land is not “occupied territory”, but rather, “disputed territory” and, therefore, not subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The first narrative is widely embraced, and accepted by nearly all the world community. It is the convenient narrative. It shoehorns the territory into a legal definition that serves the interests of the current international milieu even if it doesn’t serve the interests of truth or justice.

The inconvenient reality is that the second narrative, the one that states the West Bank is “disputed territory” rather than “occupied territory” is, by any reasonable and emotionally detached reading, the far more applicable definition.

The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. A reading of the history of this Convention makes clear that the thinking and the writing was informed by Nazi aggression during World War Two and the Nazi practice of forcibly transferring populations into and out of territory it controlled because of its conquests.  The Forth Geneva Convention is also directed at what the treaty refers to as “High Contracting Authorities” or, more plainly the representatives of states who have signed the treaty.

Here, in our opinion, the embrace of the Fourth Geneva Convention utterly fails. There simply is no “High Contracting Authority” that is a party to this dispute other than Israel.  There is not now, nor has there ever been a state called Palestine. This is territory that has been administered by the Crusaders, the Ottoman Empire, the British, the Jordanians, the Israelis, and the Israelis in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority. West Bank cities most sacred to Jews, such as Hebron and Jerusalem have been home to Jews throughout history and into the twenty-first century. In fact, Jews lived continuously in Hebron for thousands of years until they were banished, temporarily, by the Crusaders and massacred by local Arabs in 1929.  History is strongly on the side of the Israelis.

Arab opposition to Jewish settlements is based on the last paragraph of Article 49 of the Forth Geneva Convention. The “Occupying Power” may not “Deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  It beggars the imagination to suggest that Israel, the only free and democratic country in the Middle East, used “deportation” and “forced transfer” of its own population into any territories, and no local Arabs have been forced from their communities since the six-day war.

The term “occupied territory,” which appears in the Fourth Geneva Convention, originated because of the Nazi occupation of Europe. Though it has become common parlance to describe the West Bank and Gaza as “occupied territories,” there is no legal basis for using this term in connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Professor Julius Stone, a leading authority on the Law of Nations, categorically rejected the use of the term “occupied territory” to describe the territories controlled by Israel on the following counts:

(1) Article 49 relates to the invasion of sovereign states and is inapplicable because the West Bank did not and does not belong to any other state.

(2) The drafting history of Article 49 [Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War] – that is, preventing “genocidal objectives” must be taken into account. Those conditions do not exist in Israel’s case.

(3) Settlement of Jews in the West Bank is voluntary and does not displace local inhabitants. Moreover, Professor Stone asserted: that “no serious dilution (much less extinction) of native populations” [exists]; rather “a dramatic improvement in the economic situation of the [local Palestinian] inhabitants since 1967 [has occurred].”

Professor Eugene Rostow, past Dean of Yale Law School, and US under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and a key draftee of UN Security Council Resolution 242, concluded that the Fourth Geneva Convention is not applicable to Israel’s legal position and notes:

“The opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank also relied on a legal argument – that such settlements violated the Fourth Geneva Convention forbidding the occupying power from transferring its own citizens into the occupied territories. How that Convention could apply to Jews who already had a legal right, protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, to live in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was never explained.” It seems that the International Court of Justice never explained it either.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 recognized that Israel would not be expected to withdraw from all territory it controlled after Israel successfully defended itself in 1967. The entire concept of land for peace was at the heart of resolution 242. President Obama successfully killed the concept of land for peace with his abstention at the UN last Friday. Now, according to the Security Council resolution Israel, legally, has no land with which to bargain.

It seems this Obama raspberry may be one of the last and one of the most memorable things we’ll hear from this White House.

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DNC-WikiLeaks Imbroglio and the Grand Pivot.

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsRedirecting or deflecting the audience’s attention is an old slight-of-hand magician’s ploy as well as a political ploy to refocus an audience’s attention away from reality. This tactic to redirect or deflect is called a pivot.

Readers of our weekly essays know that we did not support Donald Trump, we did not vote for Donald Trump, and that we have been very critical of his campaign and various positions he has embraced. Nonetheless, he is the President-elect of the United States.  His Electoral College victory was impressive, and consistent with the method by which every president of the United States has been elected since George Washington.

Protestations that he lost the popular vote are meaningless.  Neither he nor Hillary Clinton campaigned to win the popular vote.  They campaigned to win the electoral vote. Otherwise Donald Trump would have campaigned in California, Oregon and Washington and the northeast, and would have certainly sliced into the Clinton vote in those states too. Donald Trump, more or less, won everywhere he campaigned.  Our concerns about Trump have not changed, but we accept the outcome of the election. Many others, it seems, do not.

The Democrats are working overtime to pivot attention away from DNC emails that demonstrated pro-Hillary hijinks leading up to the election by focusing attention instead on intelligence allegations that the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC in order to interfere in our election.  While we are certainly not qualified to judge who hacked or leaked information, the real scandal, of course, is that the DNC under both Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile (former CNN contributor) were working sub-rosa to elect Hillary Clinton, when it was their responsibility to be neutral with respect to Democratic candidates. Donna Brazile appears to have passed along to the Clinton campaign questions that were going to be asked to Hillary by a member of the audience at a CNN town hall telecast (while she was on the CNN payroll as a commentator/contributor). That’s a huge no-no.

In a well-coordinated effort, everyone connected with the Clinton campaign has been hammering away that the sources of the disclosures of the apparent skullduggery within the DNC were Russians; then that the hackers were acting on behalf of the Kremlin, and then this past week that Vladimir Putin himself was directing the entire WikiLeaks caper.

We, of course, play second fiddle to no one in condemning the widespread computer hacking that has become so commonplace throughout the world today.  We don’t think anyone or any government should, without extraordinary justification, hack into computers that don’t belong to them, and that goes for the United States as well. Yes, America hacks too. But we digress.

Much of the American intelligence community, it appears, has concluded that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC.  So far they have offered little evidence, other than that their conclusion represents the consensus of the intelligence community. So, that’s serious. The CIA says the DNC was hacked by the Russians. But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the Russians were definitely not the source of the material he published. In fact, he says the source of the DNC leaks wasn’t from any government at all.  Which means, almost certainly, if one is to believe Assange, that someone within the DNC leaked to Assange emails pertaining to the DNC’s internal campaign to sandbag Bernie Sanders. Assange says WikiLeaks obtained emails from both the DNC and the RNC, but that the RNC material was of less interest because it had previously found its way into the public domain.  It was, of course, no secret that leading Republicans were in full panic mode over Trump’s political ascendancy.

Given that the DNC’s mission is supposed to be non-partisan within the Democratic party, Pro-Clinton DNC skullduggery was big news. Few people, however, can recall with any specificity what, exactly, the DNC scandal was. Instead, everyone’s attention has been successfully redirected to the inner chambers of the Kremlin, where Vladimir Putin was apparently combing through DNC staff emails to see which ones he could forward on to Julian Assange. Really?

Actually, the leaked or hacked emails, while devious, were fairly benign.  They really don’t seem to constitute the type of skinny that would have Putin rubbing his hands together in anticipation of tipping the American election. Over-caffeinated, left leaning commentators are already referring to the alleged Russian hacking as the political equivalent of bringing down the World Trade Center.

Former CIA and NSA agents affiliated with the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes that “harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking – by Russians or anyone else.”

A hack, the group explains, is when someone remotely enters a computer system and extracts data. They conclude that servers allegedly hacked “were, in fact, not hacked” and that the emails disclosed by WikiLeaks and other sites were, instead, leaked. VIPS is a non-partisan group originally formed back in 2003 to protest the Bush Administration’s decision to go to war against Iraq, stating that there was no evidence that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

With the CIA depending on NSA for communications intelligence, “it remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact,” the veteran intelligence officials wrote. The letter was signed by retired NSA technical director and whistleblower William Binney, former Senator and counterintelligence agent Mike Gravel, former CIA intelligence officer Larry Johnson, former CIA and military intelligence analyst Ray McGovern, retired CIA intelligence officer Elizabeth Murray, and former NSA SIGINT analyst Kirk Wiebe.  SIGINT analysts, according to NSA, specialize in gathering signal information involving international terrorists and foreign powers, organizations, or persons.

Whistleblower and former NSA Technical Director Binney went on to criticize statements by anonymous intelligence officials for their equivocating phrases such as “our best guess” or “our opinion” or “our estimate.”  The veteran CIA personnel argued that the NSA has not produced evidence of hacking. Such evidence can be easily produced “without any danger to sources or methods,” he added.

 “In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a US election by hacking,” the group wrote. Their conclusion is that servers allegedly hacked “were, in fact, not hacked” and that the emails disclosed by WikiLeaks and other sites were leaked from within the DNC.

Neither we nor the rest of the American public really know whether the DNC’s dirty laundry was hacked or leaked, but the effort to deflect attention from the real scandal, that is, the dirty laundry itself is well orchestrated and it is intended to wound Trump, if not to nullify his election altogether. It is, indeed, a grand pivot.

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The Bully Pulpit…and the Bully

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsWell, now we’re about to have a first—an actual bully at the Bully Pulpit. No disrespect intended. Really, we’re not making a judgment, just an observation. The Bully Pulpit is the 100-year-old name given to the power of the White House to influence and persuade. It was first used by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Bully Pulpit was the place (the White House) where good presidents proposed and fought for good things. Bully had a different conotation back in TR’s day. “Bully for you,” one might say to someone who had performed a good deed.

Various Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have endeavored to use the prestige of the White House or the Oval Office to inform (or sell) the American public on their progams or visions for America. Barack Obama recently tried to do that by conducting a town hall tweet session on the White House Twitter account, which attracts more than two million followers.

So the bully pulpit had been used for most of the 20th century to win public support. Teddy Roosevelt regularly courted the press, and delivered major speeches, which were invariably covered by most of the press. He would focus on key legislation such as railroad regulation and food inspection. The Bully Pulpit was used to promote the public good, at least as Teddy Roosevelt defined the public good.

President Franklin Roosevelt, during the horrible thirties, used the Bully Pulpit very effectively. He tackled the Great Depression or went to the Bully Pulpit to sell a certain policy or assuage the fear of Americans about particular threats facing the nation.

President Harry Truman used the Bully Pulpit to sell his anti-communist policies, and he effectively used the Bully Pulpit to persuade Congress to provide assistance to Greece and Turkey, and to sell the Truman Doctrine, which committed America to support anti-communist forces wherever we confronted the threat of Communism or Russian expansionism. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg convinced President Truman to “scare the hell out of the American people,” which Truman effectively did when on March 12, 1947, he effectively used the Bully Pulpit in marshaling support for his sweeping policies designed to contain the Soviet Union.

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, President John F. Kennedy stepped up to the Bully Pulpit with more than 50 million Americans watching as he explained the quarantine the United States was imposing around Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from bringing weaponry onto the island. Even the very conservative New York Herald Tribune proclaimed, “the people of the United States must and will unite behind the president in the course which Soviet aggression has made inevitable.” President Kennedy certainly understood the power of the Bully Pulpit.

And who can forget the way President Lyndon Johnson used the Bully Pulpit to appeal to Congress and the nation to pass voting- rights legislation following the physical attack on black Americans in Alabama back in March 1965. He used the Bully Pulpit to tell the world, “we shall overcome,” using the words of the civil rights anthem. The Civil Rights Act soon followed.

Perhaps President Ronald Reagan was the last president to effectively use the Bully Pulpit when he went to the public to sell his 1981 tax cut. Armed with charts and statistics, he explained why tax cuts could lower deficits and boost the economy. Unfortunately, he failed to understand that lowering taxes and increasing spending do not go hand in hand very well. Nonetheless, when President Reagan wanted to build support for his increased military budget, he returned to the Bully Pulpit, and in a number of well-publicized speeches he effectively warned of the danger of communism. And when he thought it was time to make peace with the Soviet Union, he returned, once again, to the Bully Pulpit to persuade the county that a new day had arrived.

Today, the Bully Pulpit, as we knew it, has changed. Social media has largely replaced traditional print and broadcast-based mass media. Reflective thought has given way to thought informed by tweets and Facebook posts. The age of thoughtful eloquence has given way to the age of Trump. Some have christened the new age as a new post-factual era.

The current structure of the media quite possibly has emasculated the Bully Pulpit as we knew it. When the current President-elect steps up to the symbolic Bully Pulpit to persuade, he does not think in well thought out expositive language, but rather in staccato thrusts confined to 140 characters.

On Mexico — “not our friend” “they’re killing us” “unbelievable corruption” “we get the killers, drugs & crime, they get the money!” “Totally corrupt gov’t” “totally corrupt.” Well, we suppose that’s one way of discussing our issues with our southern neighbor, which, incidentally, also happens to be the second largest export market for US manufactured goods.

The Bully Pulpit has changed hands many times since Teddy Roosevelt resided at 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, it is President-elect Trump’s to use. The whole world is listening.

 

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Ideas and commentary with allegiance to neither the left nor the right, but only to this sweet land of liberty.