The Trump Watch – February 13

Before we begin: The Curmudgeon found it touching that they started the Super Bowl last week with a moment of silence for the victims of the Bowling Green Massacre. Had it not been for the heroic actions of Frederick Douglass, it would have been much, much worse – and it’s equally heartening that President Trump has acknowledged Mr. Douglass as an up-and-comer.

The For-Profit Presidency

The Trump Organization, as distinguishes from the Trump administration, recently announced that it’s doubling the initiation fee for new members of its Mar-a-Lago Club: from $100,000 to $200,000.

Which is what happens when the president of the United States talks and tweets about a place incessantly.

But can we really distinguish between the Trump Organization and the Trump administration? What about when son Eric goes on a business trip to South America and it costs the Secret Service a reported $97,000 just to put up its people in a hotel during the trip? The Curmudgeon isn’t questioning the decision to protect the son of the president, but if Junior Trump is going to travel for his company, to make money, shouldn’t he bear some of the costs of his protection? If so, how much of that cost? There’s no easy, obvious answer, but it’s a question that needs to be asked and needs to be explored.

And while the cost quoted for the trip is $97,000+, that includes only hotel rooms for the delegation. What about airfare, the salaries of agents, meals, ground transportation, and other expenses? Also, the State Department sent some of its staff to “support” junior’s visit, so that’s an additional cost. Is this the usual practice when representatives of relatively small American businesses that create relatively few jobs for American workers on American soil visit South America or was it a special accommodation for the son of the president?

By the way, how many people does it take to run up a hotel bill of nearly $100,000?

For that matter, are taxpayers paying Mar-a-Lago rates for the president’s security team when he takes one of those vacations he insisted he would never take to his South Florida home? Isn’t there, say, a Motel 6 in the area? They’ll even leave the light on for you.

Draining the Swamp

As a child, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and his mother, one of the swamp things.

As a child, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and his mother, one of the swamp people.

Did you know that Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s mother, Anne Burford Gorsuch, was director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration? And that in that role she slashed enforcement of environmental standards, dismissed cases against alleged polluters, and hired lobbyists to work at the agency? When Congress suspected that the EPA had mishandled $1.6 billion in toxic site clean-up funds and subpoenaed documents so it could investigate, Burford refused, Congress cited her for contempt of Congress, and she resigned under pressure.

So now it looks as if instead of draining the swamp, Trump is inviting the spawn of swamp-things to return to it.

Calling a Spade a Spade

The new Trump administration isn’t going to pussy-foot around the issue: “radical Islam” is now a synonym for “terrorist.”

According to the Reuters news agency, the Trump administration intends to change the name of the Department of Homeland Security’s “Countering Violent Extremism” program to the “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” program, and in the process, it would no longer watch American groups, such as white supremacists, that have bombed and shot people on American soil.

Because it’s apparently okay for Americans to commit acts of terrorism against their follow Americans.

It Was More Than the Rollout That Was Flawed

What's the difference between this and the president's Muslim ban?

What’s the difference between this and the president’s Muslim ban?

Republicans who were appalled by the President’s premature ejaculation of the right of some foreigners with approved visas to step onto American soil inevitably blamed “the rollout” through which that action was undertaken, ignoring the simple reality that the courts rejected it not because it was done clumsily but because it was done illegally – no different, really, than taking a brick, tossing it through the window of a Best Buy, and helping yourself to a 72-inch HDTV.

Okay, if they’re referring to the flawed rollout for failing to run the idea past people who could’ve told them it was illegal they’re theoretically onto something, but it seems reasonably clear that they already knew that and decided to go ahead anyway because President Trump, like his apparent role model, Richard Nixon, believes that if the president does something it’s automatically not against the law.

Many members of Congress complained bitterly that they weren’t informed of the ill-fated executive order beforehand, but that’s only half-true: some of their staff members knew. How? They helped write the executive order and signed confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from telling their bosses.

How profoundly wrong is this?

A Quicky Quiz

Other than being the subjects of the late, unlamented, judicially rejected Trump immigration order, what do Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya have in common? The answer: unlike many other countries in the middle east, the Trump organization has no business interests in these places. Excluded from the list: Turkey, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia, where it does have business interests.

Those Saudis, all they did was fund Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and provide the pilots who drove jetliners into buildings on 9/11, so we certainly don’t need to worry about Saudis as potential terrorists.

Also excluded from the ban is Indonesia, which is only the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. The Trump Organization has not one but two resort projects under way there and we can’t get in the way of the president’s business partners coming over to consult, can we?

Speaking of Immigration

barneyThe president has revived an older program to deputize local police departments to help in the hunt for bad-guy immigrants. We all know how well that worked in the hands of homegrown bad guys like Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But the real question: do you want this guy chasing down illegal immigrants on your behalf?

Words Matter

A 1954 law commonly referred to as “the Johnson amendment” restricts political speech by tax-exempt churches. Some people like the law and others don’t, but it’s an issue on which reasonable people may differ.

Our president, alas, is not one of those reasonable people. It’s fine when he says he wants to overturn the law but over the top when he declares that he’s going to “totally destroy” the Johnson amendment. In a climate that’s too often filled with violence, that kind of language can only fan the flames. (And he also overlooked that the law was an act of Congress and can only be overturned by Congress, not the president.)

But we have no business expecting nuanced language or respect for the impact of words from a man who refers to people serving on the bench as “so-called judges” and just reprised his campaign practice of referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.”

Paying for the Wall

This analogy is not original; The Curmudgeon read it recently and doesn’t remember where but is repeating it (although cleaning it up and expanding it a bit).

  • Jorge sells avocados for $5 apiece. John buys avocados from Jorge.
  • The U.S. imposes a 20% import tax on Jorge’s avocados so John pays Jorge $6 for an avocado.
  • Jorge still gets $5 for his avocado but John pays $6 for that avocado.

So tell us again, who’s paying for the wall?

Another scenario: Jorge charges $6 for an avocado and John buys a non-Mexican avocado elsewhere for $5.

And yet another scenario: Jorge and his family can’t earn a living with Jorge now selling hopelessly overpriced avocados so Jorge sneaks into the U.S. before the wall is built to earn money for his family.

The Financial Crisis (Revisited)

Remember the financial crisis? The stock market crash, banks failing, brokerages going under, IRAs and 401(k)s losing nearly half their value?

Sure you remember; it was in all the papers.

"Hey, we deserve government help, too."

“Hey, we deserve government help, too.”

Our new president remembers it and thinks the people who caused it got a bum rap when it came to shouldering the blame. Now, the man who said he was going to represent the people and not the Wall Street people has apparently decided that Wall Street people are people too and is proposing to overturn some of the regulations that were introduced as part of the Dodd-Frank law that were designed to prevent a similar financial disaster.

To do this, he ordered the Treasury Department to begin rewriting the rules to make them easier on banks because banks are good guys. Surely this has nothing to do with the approximately $700 million Trump currently owes banks and another $2 billion owed to banks by real estate partnerships in which he’s involved.

So no, there’s no reason for him to do favors for banks, is there?

He also wants the Department of Labor to eliminate the so-called “fiduciary rule” that says that the people who advise you on your retirement investments need to advise you with your best interests in mind and not their own. That means not selling you stocks and mutual funds and annuities and other such things you don’t need just so they can pick up the commissions.

Yes, this is EXACTLY what all those working people had in mind when they voted for Trump.

This Just In

The president declared that all bad news is automatically fake. Welcome to the alternative-facts universe.

fake-news-tweet

A Conservative Radio Talk Show Takes the Blame

Why does the president get away with all his blatant lying? Because the people who believe him have been conditioned to accept his insistence that it’s the media, not him, that’s lying. Writing in the New York Times, conservative talk show host Charles Sykes offered the following mea culpa:

For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.

Build That…Fence?

fenceThe Secret Service is planning to replace the seven-foot fence surrounding the White House with a new fence that’s eleven feet seven inches tall and sports “anti-climb and intrusion detection technology.”

Any chance it might help keep the president OUT?

One Final Thought

Do you still find yourself gritting your teeth or shaking your head in disbelief every time you hear the phrase “President Donald Trump”? Do you think it will ever go away?

 

 

 

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