Monthly Archives: August 2017

We Interrupt This Fishing Trip…

…to ask a few fundamental questions.

Where is the decency?

Where is the introspection?

Where is the sense of right and wrong when there is a clear right and wrong, the sense of good and bad when there is clear good and bad, the sense of good and evil when there is clear good and evil?

Where is the capacity to experience, let alone express, feeling, empathy, and compassion?

Watch Saturday’s statement:  it was read mechanically, coldly, and without emotion or expression by a man who lives to speak off the cuff.  The words were awful and empty and without emotion, any feelings hidden by the words of others, and when he tried to extemporize because he can never resist the desire to extemporize he revealed a hollowness that surpassed even what so many of us have suspected for so long.  Tuesday’s words were even worse – worse because given the luxury of time and the opportunity for introspection and consideration and contemplation and consultation they not only were no better but they were worse:  arrogant, unapologetic, unrepentant, even hostile.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  It doesn’t require a Hollywood script writer.

It requires… heart.

But you have to have heart to show heart, and the absence of heart in a person holding a position of such power is disheartening and appalling and frightening and just plain awful.

 

 

Gone Fishing

As he has in the past, The Curmudgeon is taking off the rest of August for some R&R.  He plans to return the Tuesday after Labor Day.

He hopes you will, too.

Let the Amateur Psychoanalysis Begin

This is president’s signature.  What, if anything, do you think it says about him?

 

The Trump Watch – Early August

Leaks and Anonymous Sources

Agent Orange complains endlessly about leaks and anonymous sources, conveniently overlooking that those leaks all come from people who work for him and who are appalled by the things he’s doing.

This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black because Trump himself is the master of using anonymous, uncited, or unknown sources in his own proclamations.  In fact, he makes so many unsubstantiated assertions that The Curmudgeon long ago stopped believing him – and he suspects many others feel the same way.  We’ve concluded that he simply makes up things to suit his needs.

The New York Times certainly has noticed this.

Trump complains endlessly about the media using anonymous sources, but Trump himself is addicted to anonymous sourcing, as demonstrated during the press conference. Trump discussed the Russian lawyer who met with his son:

“Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now, maybe that’s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But a little surprised to hear that. So she was here because of Lynch.”

Who is “somebody”? Why are you repeating something at an official press conference with another head of state in another country that you freely admit may be wrong? And if you admit that it may be wrong, how can you state declaratively that “she was here because of Lynch”?

Would I lie to you?

Lies

We all know Trump lies like a rug.  But how much?

The New York Times is keeping track, and on the six-month anniversary of his inauguration it published a list of his lies – complete with links to the facts that prove they’re lies.  Explore it for yourself here.

More Lies

Let us put aside for a moment that the president of the United States made a purely political speech to the Boy Scouts of America during which, among other things, he belittled his political opponents.

Let us look instead, just briefly, at the reaction to that speech.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal that

…I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.

But did he?

No, he did not.

As reported by the Washington Post, the CEO of the Boy Scouts wrote that

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree.  That was never our intent.

When faced with this pretty stark contradiction, what did the White House do?

It admitted that the call about which Trump boasted never actually happened.

The guy knows no shame.

Isolation

One of the many problems that arises when your chief advisors are your daughter and your son in-law is isolation:  you’re surrounded by people who don’t really know what’s what and only tell you what you want to hear or what they think you want to hear.  They confirm all of your thinking and never challenge it and there’s no one willing to speak truth to power.

The New Yorker magazine explains.

Unlike previous Republican Administrations, Fortress Trump contains no party elder with the stature to check the President’s decisions. “There is no one around him who has the ability to restrain any of his impulses, on any issue ever, for any reason,” Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican consultant, said, adding, “Where is the ‘What the fuck’ chorus?”

 Trump’s insulation from unwelcome information appears to be growing as his challenges mount. His longtime friend Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax Media, talked with him recently at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. “He tends to not like a lot of negative feedback,” Ruddy told me. Ruddy has noticed that some of Trump’s associates are unwilling to give him news that will upset him. “I don’t think he realizes how fully intimidating he is to many people, because he’s such a large guy and he’s so powerful,” Ruddy went on. “I already sense that a lot of people don’t want to give him bad news about things. I’ve already been approached by several people that’ll say, ‘He’s got to hear this. Could you tell him?’ ”

 Job Creation?  Think Again

The president has boasted about how some of his actions have created jobs.  As is so often the case with this compulsive prevaricator, the facts suggest otherwise, as the Washington Post reported.

 The problem for Trump is many of his populist promises are starting to look fraudulent. Remember that Carrier plant in Indiana that Trump claimed to have saved? It’s reportedly beginning to lay off 600 people. The Boeing plant in South Carolina that Trump visited in February to showcase his fight for manufacturing jobs? Layoffs there, too. Trump denounced plans by Ford to move production of the Focus from Michigan to Mexico. Now Ford is moving the work to China instead.

“My doctor says that at this rate, I’m going to get carpal tunnel syndrome from signing all these bills.”

 More Unsubstantiated Boasting

 We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever.  For a while, Harry Truman had us. And now, I think, we have everybody.

Well,  not quite.

As of the date Agent Orange made this assertion, he had signed 42 bills into law.

The New York Times crunched the numbers for some other presidents and found that

President Jimmy Carter signed 70 bills in the first six months, according to an analysis of bills signed by previous White House occupants. Bill Clinton signed 50… Mr. Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both had signed more bills into law by their 100-day mark than Mr. Trump did in almost twice that time. Truman had signed 55 bills and Roosevelt had signed 76 during their first 100 days.

Trump also exaggerates the importance of the bills he has signed.  Fourteen are considered ceremonial or routine; five were bureaucratic tweaks; four were science and technology bills.

Missing:  the wall, health care, immigration reform, and tax reform.  Not missing:  a bill to rename a federal courthouse after an actor, the appointment of three people to the Smithsonian Board of Regents, a bill to seek research into better weather reports, and a bill calling for the Department of Homeland Security to manage its fleet of vehicles more efficiently.

Because these are the very things that will make America great again.

Stealing American Jobs

On the campaign trail, candidate Trump complained about foreign workers stealing American jobs.  As president, he said, he would do something about.

Well, he’s doing something about it:  he’s now helping those foreign workers steal American jobs.

And in the process he’s helping himself, too.

Aside from those who cross the borders illegally and take jobs that Americans don’t want and won’t do, like picking crops, cleaning hotel rooms, and busing restaurant tables, the primary means through which foreign workers “steal” American jobs is via what are known as H-2B visas.  These visas are for jobs for which there aren’t enough Americans who are able, willing, qualified, or available to do the work.  A lot of them are seasonal jobs at hotels, ski resorts, and landscaping companies.

So the Trump administration just raised the annual limit of H-2B visas from 66,000 visas a year to 81,000.

And guess who wants a piece of this action (as reported by the very good Vox web site):

On Thursday, the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, said it wanted to hire 15 housekeepers for $10.33 an hour; 20 cooks for $13.34 an hour; and 35 servers for $11.88 an hour. The Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was asking for six cooks to hire for $13.34 per hour.

Because apparently there are NO Americans available who can cook, wait tables, and make beds.

So is it “make America great again” or “make the Trump Organization more profitable than ever”?

He’s Gonna Make Him an Offer He Can’t Refuse

During the run-up to the failed Republican health care bill, the president invited Republican senators to the White House to talk about what they needed to do to win that vote.  Strategically seated next to him was Dean Heller, a senator from Nevada who had resisted the first Republican health care bill in the Senate and was on the fence about the revised version.

This was the one we were worried about. You weren’t there. But you’re gonna be. You’re gonna be. Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he? And I think the people of your state, which I know very well, I think they’re gonna appreciate what you hopefully will do. Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America that you’re fine with Obamacare. But being fine with Obamacare isn’t enough for another reason. Because it’s gone. It’s failed. It’s not gonna be around.

Yes, he was threatening Heller at the same time he was not even trying to hide talks with Republicans in Nevada who might be interested in challenging Heller if he runs for re-election next year.

The People Be Damned

After the Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare fell apart for the very simple reason that those Republicans invested all of their energy in opposing the health care reform law and damn near no time on what to do if they could make it go away.  Agent Orange was furious – and in a threatening mood.

And you know what that means.

Time to tweet.

 If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!

He’s referring, of course, to the subsidies that help some people purchase health insurance if they meet the income requirements for such assistance.  In his zeal to punish Congress and punish insurers, Agent Orange seems perfectly happy with the idea of punishing millions of working people, too.

Again With Hillary

A few days after throwing his attorney general under the bus, Agent Orange referred to Jeff Sessions as “beleaguered” even though Trump was doing all of the beleaguering himself.  He also tweeted that

 So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

Well, The Curmudgeon can’t speak for the congressional committees, but if the FBI and attorney general aren’t looking into Hillary Clinton’s alleged crimes it’s probably because their boss, the president of the United States, hasn’t directed them to.

That’s one of the differences between running for president and being president that Trump still hasn’t grasped:  that when you’re on the outside and looking in you can complain about what government is or isn’t doing but when you’re the guy calling the shots, if you’re not happy about what government is or isn’t doing it’s your own damn fault.

Speaking of Campaign Trail Behavior…

“I’m telling you, hombres, there’s a new sheriff in town.”

You will recall that candidate Trump liked to encourage his supporters to get rough with those who didn’t share their political views.  It was tough talk coming from a guy who’s probably never been in a fight in his life and probably hasn’t stepped out on his own without having some kind of security guards around him for what, maybe 20 or 30 years?

As president, Trump is no better.  The Washington Post reported on his speech to a gathering of law enforcement officers in New York.

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.

 “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”

In other words, he was telling cops not to hesitate to rough up suspects.

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine the president of the United States setting aside that silly old “innocent until proven guilty” nonsense and encouraging police offers to rough up suspects?

And despite the well-earned reputation of many police departments across the country for pretty much subscribing to that philosophy, the law enforcement community was not at all amused by Agent Orange’s suggestion.  Officials of the Suffolk County police department, to whose officers Trump made the remarks, made it clear that they did not agree with the sentiment he expressed, as did spokespeople for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and police departments in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, and New York, among others.  Even the organization Blue Lives Matters objected to the president’s words.

Don’t expect their disapproval to stop him – or even slow him down.

Okay, What are YOU Hiding?

When last we addressed the Trump vote fraud commission it was demanding from states a level of information on voters and voting records that is illegal in some states and just obnoxious to others and more than half of the states told the commission to go pound sand.  The commission invited the public to comment on its activities and then, showing its disrespect for the people who took the time to do so, published the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of those who submitted comments.

Nice.

This commission held its first public meeting recently and while introducing it, Agent Orange addressed the unwillingness of many states to provide the information the commission requested.

If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission: What are they worried about?

Couldn’t one ask the same question about the president’s unwillingness to share his tax returns?

Who Knew?

Finally we return to “who knew?”  In this feature we reveal things that our president doesn’t know, or doesn’t know about, that anyone holding that kind of position really, really ought to know.

In his interview with the New York Times, for example, Agent Orange explained that

Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

The Curmudgeon wants some of that $12 a month health insurance!

Seriously, is he so sheltered from the real world that this is what he thinks health insurance costs?  This wasn’t, moreover, a slip of the tongue:  he’s used this same explanation in the past.

Agent Orange told the Times his tax reform proposal would be a “windfall” for the middle class, but Vox explains that

According to the Tax Policy Center, the average American family would see its after-tax income rise by about $760, while families in the top 1 percent of the income distribution would see their incomes rise by about $175,000 — more than triple the total household income of the median American. Trump’s plan also features a big corporate tax cut.

That’s some windfall for the middle class, eh?

In fairness, Vox allowed for the possibility that Trump wasn’t misinterpreting his own tax reform plan but that he might simply be lying about it.

Who Knew, Part 2

More from the New Yorker on what the president doesn’t know.

 Trump has been meeting with congressional Republicans in small groups. By and large, they have found him more approachable than they expected, but much less informed. “Several have been a little bit amazed by the lack of policy knowledge,” Kristol said. “God knows Presidents don’t need to know the details of health-care bills and tax bills, and I certainly don’t, either—that’s what you have aides for. But not even having a basic level of understanding? I think that has rattled people a little bit.” He added, “Reagan may not have had a subtle grasp of everything, but he read the briefing books and he knew the arguments, basically. And Trump is not even at that level.”

A Viewing Recommendation

One of the by-products of marriage is that The Curmudgeon has been brought into the world of paying to watch television through products like HBO, Showtime, and Netflix.  For the most part he has not been overly impressed:  Veep is awful, Homeland overrated, Bill Maher execrable, and Orange is the New Black beyond unappealing, as is the cartoonish House of Cards.  The first season of The Man in the High Castle was interesting but the second season was unwatchable.  The first season of The Wire was good but every season after it was worse than its predecessor.  We won’t even address Stranger Things:  suffice to say that when the sixteen-year-old says he’s willing to watch television with you, you hand him the remote and let him have his way.  On the other hand, The Curmudgeon gets a kick out of John Oliver and watching the geriatric stars of Grace and Frankie.

Without question, the best thing he’s seen so far is The Comeback, starring Lisa Kudrow.  Kudrow plays a former sitcom star who’s no longer a star and is willing to suffer any and all indignities to return to her former stature.  The show appeared on HBO in 2005 but was canceled after one season – and then was brought back for another season in 2014.

The show is very good but the attraction here is Kudrow:  she is simply amazing.  As far as The Curmudgeon is concerned, her performance is the best he’s seen since Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice half a lifetime ago.  He always knew Kudrow was good but had no idea she was this good.  Kudrow’s performance is breathtaking, and as the creative force behind the program as well, she appears to take pains to resist doing anything that might soften her character or make it more sympathetic or appealing.  The strain of watching the manner in which her character conducts herself, and endures all those indignities, is so great that The Curmudgeon finds that his face hurts after watching a single episode.  Sitting down and watching more than one episode at a time is impossible.

The Curmudgeon doesn’t generally make a practice of recommending books, movies, or television viewing because he understands that tastes in such things is so very personal, but if you have access to HBO, he encourages you to give The Comeback a try.

A Scaramucci Bonus

Surely by now you’ve heard enough from The Curmudgeon on the subject of Anthony Scaramucci.

But the king is gone, he’s not forgotten…

This is the story of Anthony Rotten…

But seriously, The Curmudgeon is going to give what he hopes (but doesn’t promise) will be the final words on this outbreak of herpes on the body politic to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who wrote a fun and funny piece about The Mooch earlier this week.  Read it here.

The Scaramucci Files (Part 4 of 4)

(You know the expression:  “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well, they went awry on The Curmudgeon on Monday.  As you know by now, tough guy-legend-in-his-own-mind Anthony Scaramucci is now the former White House communications director, failing to last even ten days on the job.  But what a ten days they were!  The Curmudgeon, alas, had sat down last weekend and churned out four pieces about Scaramucci for this space – a veritable Anthony Scaramucci festival.   The first of those pieces appeared Monday the second Tuesday, and the third yesteday, and The Curmudgeon’s not going to let perfectly good (and snarky) material go to waste, so there’s a fourth and final item today, below.  Think of them not as irrelevant and outdated (or as a sign of The Curmudgeon’s laziness) but as a tribute to an exceeding unusual development in the very troubled Trump administration:  a rare exercise of sound judgment.  Enjoy)    

*     *     *

The Oxford online dictionary defines “hyperbole” as “exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.”

Hyperbole, meet Anthony Scaramucci.

When Scaramucci called The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza and Lizza had the audacity to write about that conversation, what got most people’s attention was the profanity, the accusations about now-banished White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and the suggestion that Steve Bannon possesses, well, a higher degree of physical flexibility than most of us would expect of a man his age.

That’s what caught most people’s attention, but The Curmudgeon isn’t “most people.”

No, what caught The Curmudgeon’s eye was the genesis of this tirade.  What inspired this ferocious yet puerile outburst?  And why call a guy from The New Yorker, of all publications?

As it turns out, Scaramucci’s call to Lizza was prompted by a Lizza tweet that Scaramucci was dining at the White House that night with the president, uber-hater Sean Hannity, and Bill Shine, a former Fox News executive.

As reported by the Boston Globe,

Scaramucci called Lizza shortly after, demanding to know who leaked the dinner’s guest list.

“You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it,” Scaramucci reportedly said to Lizza.

So here’s where the hyperbole comes in:  leaking to the press, and to the public, the guest list at a casual White House dinner is – Scaramucci’s words here – “a major catastrophe for the American country”?

A major catastrophe?

A MAJOR CATASTROPHE?

Is this guy a wackadoodle or what?  At the very least he is the personification of hyperbole:  a walking, talking, cartoonish exaggeration of a human being who cannot and should not be taken seriously.

 (P.S.  Apparently, even the president, himself a monument to hyperbole, concluded that Scaramucci couldn’t be taken seriously.)

 

The Scaramucci Files (Part 3 of 4)

(You know the expression:  “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well, they went awry on The Curmudgeon on Monday.  As you know by now, tough guy-legend-in-his-own-mind Anthony Scaramucci is now the former White House communications director, failing to last even ten days on the job.  But what a ten days they were!  The Curmudgeon, alas, had sat down last weekend and churned out four pieces about Scaramucci for this space – a veritable Anthony Scaramucci festival.   The first of those pieces appeared Monday and the second yesterday, and The Curmudgeon’s not going to let perfectly good (and snarky) material go to waste, so there’s a new item today, below, and there will be one more piece on Thursday.  Think of them not as irrelevant and outdated (or as a sign of The Curmudgeon’s laziness) but as a tribute to an exceeding unusual development in the very troubled Trump administration:  a rare exercise of sound judgment.  Enjoy)    

*     *     *

Last week, late night talk show host Seth Meyers described new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci as “a human pinky ring.”  That left The Curmudgeon and Mrs. Curmudgeon laughing out loud.

But when you listen to Scaramucci talk, when you take in the absolute and fawning worship he expresses for Donald Trump, when you hear him describe the ferocity of his misguided effort to root out all the leakers in his own communications shop when you know that the real problem is the leakers in the defense and intelligence communities and not the gossip-mongers and hairdressers in the White House communications office, and when you come to appreciate his absolute lack of readiness and fitness to serve in the position to which he has been appointed, you realize that Scaramucci really isn’t there to serve as Donald Trump’s White House communications director.

He’s there to serve as Donald Trump’s Luca Brasi.

(P.S.  And we all know what happened to Luca Brasi.)

The Scaramucci Files (Part 2 of 4)

(You know the expression:  “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  Well, they went awry on The Curmudgeon yesterday.  As you know by now, tough guy-legend-in-his-own-mind Anthony Scaramucci is now the former White House communications director, failing to last even ten days on the job.  But what a ten days they were!  The Curmudgeon, alas, had sat down last weekend and churned out four pieces about Scaramucci for this space – a veritable Anthony Scaramucci festival.   The first of those pieces appeared yesterday, and The Curmudgeon’s not going to let perfectly good (and snarky) material go to waste, so there’s a new item today, below, and there will be additional pieces on Wednesday and Thursday.  Think of them not as irrelevant and outdated (or as a sign of The Curmudgeon’s laziness) but as a tribute to an exceeding unusual development in the very troubled Trump administration:  a rare exercise of sound judgment.  Enjoy)

*     *     *

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that he was hired by a guy who told a television reporter, with a camera rolling, that as a celebrity he can get away with grabbing women by the…well, you know…

…but new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci really stepped into it last week when, during his first weekend on the job, he said to CNN about his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that

She’s thinking “Sweet Jesus, I’m going to need one seriously looooooonggg shower tonight.”

The only thing I ask Sarah — Sarah, if you’re watching, I love the hair and makeup person that we had on Friday, so I’d like to continue to use the hair and makeup person.

Because THAT’S what’s going to fix the incredible disconnect between the White House and the people whose job is to report on that White House and the people who want to know what their president is or isn’t doing.  (See it here.)