Trump Presidency (1)

Like the Obama Presidency thread, I’m starting this as a repository for articles and comments about the Trump presidency. I know this is probably too early for Mitchell, as he wants to distance himself from politics (which I totally understand), but some things have occurred that I want to mark down.

Before I do I want to share a few thoughts:

  • I definitely have a mix of emotions right now. On one hand, anger and frustration. On the other hand, I’m trying to be fair and open to Trump (which isn’t easy). I also want to turn my energies to positive ideas to move our country in the right direction.
  • While I want to be fair–and I will do my best–given what I’ve seen and read over the last year, my realistic view isn’t so optimistic. If we go by the theory that past behavior is a reliable predictor of future behavior, then Trump presidency looks like a disaster. The question is, to what extent?
  • Having said that, I agree with President Obama that if Trump succeeds, we, as Americans, will all succeed as well. So, a part of me is really rooting for him, too–because I don’t want the country to suffer.

OK, let’s start with Trump’s concession speech. I was truly grateful for the following words he said:

I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton.

She congratulated us — it’s about us — on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign. I mean, she — she fought very hard.Not off to an auspicious start–one that belies the notion that who the president is won’t make much of a difference. And he hasn’t been sworn in, yet.

Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.

(APPLAUSE)

I mean that very sincerely.

(APPLAUSE)

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.

(APPLAUSE)

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people. . .

(LAUGHTER)

. . . I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

(APPLAUSE)

As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their families.

(APPLAUSE)

It’s a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.

(APPLAUSE)

Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life and business looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world. That is now what I want to do for our country.

These words are important, and it’s one of the few indications I can recall of Trump displaying good leadership in a democratic republic. I hope this continues.

He also seemed gracious and somber at his meeting with the President today in the White House.

(Comment: My sense of Trump is that if you say nice things about him, he’ll think the world of you, and try you accordingly. However, if you criticize him–no matter how justified–he’ll treat you like an enemy, and will attempt to get back at you. This is a huge weakness, and it just hope the problems that will likely arise because of this will be mitigated.)

Some bad signs early on

Team Trump Struggling to Fill National Security Jobs

“Everybody who has signed a never-Trump letter or indicated an anti-Trump attitude is not going to get a job. And that’s most of the Republican foreign policy, national security, intelligence, homeland security, and Department of Justice experience,” Paul Rosenzweig, who held a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration, told The Daily Beast. (Bush told reporters on Tuesday that neither he nor his wife, Laura, cast a vote for president.)
Rosenzweig predicted that Trump would be able to fill positions at the Cabinet level, the secretaries and administrators who lead agencies and departments. But the people below them, from the deputy level on down, are the ones who actually run the government day-to-day, and there are few takers for those jobs, he said.
“The problem is going to be finding the deputy secretary, and the head of customs, and the general counsel, which are the jobs that fundamentally matter,” Rosenzweig said.

For those who believe climate change is a serious man-made problem, the following is not good news:Trump Picks Top Climate Skeptic to Lead EPA Transition

104 Responses to “Trump Presidency (1)”


  1. Reid

    Two days since Trump won, here’s one of his tweets:

    Sorry, I have to rant about this. Open and fair? The guy who has been calling this a “rigged” election for I don’t know how long now. And then he has to complain about protests? He’s behaving like a baby, not the POTUS. And he’s supposed to be tough? Is it me, or is this pathetic and embarrassing? He’s going to get far more–and probably far worse–criticism than this. I don’t know how he’s going to last.

  2. Reid

    Of course they would. They must know that Trump is almost sure to overreact and make a mess of the situation–like sending troops to the ME or demonizing and persecuting Muslims. I almost feel like it’d take a minor miracle for Trump not to overract in this sort of way. Thinking about this underscores how vulnerable we will be with a Trump presidency.

  3. Reid

    Moscow Had Contacts With Trump Team During Campaign Russian Diplomat Says. The Russians are claiming that this is normal and that they offered a similar invitation the Clinton team. The Clinton team said this was “false.”

    Whether this is true or not, there are other disturbing connections with Trump and Russia/Putin (some included in the article), and it’s really surprising that this seems to have mattered so little in this election. I would also be surprised if the Obama administration is really passive about all this–especially with Russian interference in our election.

  4. Reid

    Autocracy: Rules for Surviving The points made from the author (who lived in an autocratic society) about Trump’s presidency are worth considering in my view. I’m reluctant to believe some of her points, but it shouldn’t be dismissed, either.

  5. Reid

    Denounce the Hate, Mr. Trump (emphasis added)

    In his victory speech early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump pledged that he “will be president for all Americans,” and he asked those who did not support him “for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

    Here’s some guidance right off the bat, Mr. President-elect: Those sentiments will have more force if you immediately and unequivocally repudiate the outpouring of racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic insults, threats and attacks being associated with your name. Do this in a personal plea to people who supported your candidacy. Tell them this is not what you stand for, nor is it what your new administration will tolerate.

    Explicit expressions of bigotry and hatred by Trump supporters were common throughout the campaign, and they have become even more intense since his election. On a department-store window in Philadelphia, vandals spray-painted “Sieg Heil 2016” and Mr. Trump’s name written with a swastika. In a Minnesota high-school bathroom, vandals scrawled the Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and next to it, “Go back to Africa.” There are many more reports pouring in of verbal and physical harassment of Muslims, Latinos and other members of minorities. Though not all are verifiable, the atmosphere of intimidation and fear is unquestionably real and will keep growing. Mr. Trump may not be able to stop it by himself, but he must do everything he can.

    As far as I know he has not heeded the advise of in this NYT editorial. I don’t get it. There’s no excuse not to say this, unless he really does support racism, bigotry, xenophobia and sexism. And the GOP leadership is also culpable as they are also silent about this. If he doesn’t say something like this soon, is it unreasonable to think that he’s OK with these things? I don’t think that’s the case.

  6. Reid

    The Russia connection is starting to creep me out. It’s not just what Maddow talks about in this video clip, but other details–like the fact that Trump’s bs-ing and attack on facts seems to follow the playbook of other authoritarians.

  7. Reid
  8. Reid

    Trump’s Pledge to Separate His Business Lasted Two Days

    On Friday, Reuters reported that management of the Trump Organization is about to be transferred to Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, as he claimed. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen claimed Thursday that this would be a “blind trust,” however, there would be nothing actually blind about it.

    More problematic was another announcement made Friday: In addition to taking over the Trump Organization, the trio will also be helping to setup the Trump administration. Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump were named members of the Trump transition team executive committee, giving them a key role in shaping policy for both his corporation and his government.
    Government watchdogs were quick to criticize these moves, telling Politico that the conflicts of interest are “unprecedented” and the notion “that he’s going to have his family run the businesses and that will address his conflict-of-interest problems is a joke.” Even the Russian government-funded RT called the arrangement a “quagmire of conflict of interest.”

    This is really, really worrisome. I’m still marveling at how the GOP can be OK with this and how little coverage this story got during the campaign.

    (On a sidenote, RT pointing out how this is a problem is a bit weird…then again, if Putin preferred Trump, one reason, among many, is that Trump would be corrupt [among other bad things] and thereby embarrass and discredit the U.S. and democracy as a system of government in general.)

  9. Reid

    The Rise of American Authoritarianism is a really insightful, and, I think, important article that helped me understand Trump supporters. If you’re interested in that topic, I highly recommend this. (Note: It is a long article.)

  10. Reid

    Trump Poised to Violate Constitution His First Day in Office

    Thinkprogress article on the same topic.

    Glenn Beck, of all people, voicing concerns about Steve Bannon’s connections to white nationalism.

  11. Reid
  12. Reid

    In interview with NYT today, here is another of other bits of evidence that Trump could be a kleptocrat:

    This is not OK.

  13. Reid

    If you read only one article about the massive conflict of interest caused by Trump’s business and the presidential office, I think I would recommend this article. It’s relatively short, and easy to understand.

  14. Reid

  15. Reid

    Conflict of interest also involves debts Trump owes

    This Mother Jones story.

    The US government has charged that the German banking giant misled investors into buying bad mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, and it is demanding that Deutsche Bank pay $14 billion to settle legal claims. The bank is reported to have planned for a settlement of $2 billion to $3 billion, and negotiations between it and the Department of Justice are likely to be contentious and last for months—possibly well into the next administration. Should Trump take the White House, what Deutsche Bank ends up paying for its alleged misdeeds might depend on how tough Trump’s Justice Department will be with the bank to which he owes so much money.

    The conflict of interest in this possible scenario is obvious. His administration would have to render a decision greatly affecting a foreign commercial interest holding substantial leverage over Trump. A President Trump would have a strong disincentive to apply pressure on Deutsche Bank and risk souring his relationship with the institution on which he is so dependent. And would he want to tick off this lender? If Trump and his company ever were to have trouble repaying his Deutsche Bank loans, he would be at the bank’s mercy.

    This is a massive problem.

  16. Reid

    Simple Graphics To Show Conflicts of Interests with Trump

  17. Reid

    How Conflicts of Interest Can Be Really Bad for the Country

    Why this isn’t good

    (Note: Keep in mind, Trump has only attended a few intel briefings, and he hasn’t spoken to foreign leaders without consulting the State Department–i.e., It seems like he’s winging it.)

    How This Ties in with Conflict of Interests

    Trump Wants to Expand Business in Taiwan

  18. Reid
  19. Reid
  20. Reid

    Interesting point about Trump’s Taiwan Call

  21. Reid

    My understanding is that Haenle is the former National Security Council (NSC) China director for Bush and Obama administrations. It’s crazy that he has to say this! Here’s my thing: If everything goes well, no big deal. But if foreign policy disasters occur, it will be hard not to blame and condemn Trump for them. Taking intelligence briefings and consulting the State Department–what’s the justification for not doing those things? It’s crazy.

  22. Reid

    From The Economist blog: How to Read Donald Trump’s Call to Taiwan President

    Not even Ronald Reagan, an instinctive friend of Taiwan, spoke in person to that island’s leaders once he won a presidential election. Since America broke diplomatic relations with the authorities on the island of Taiwan in 1979, every president has accepted the diplomatic fiction that there is but “One China”, and that the respective governments on the mainland and in Taiwan are rival claimants to the glory of ruling over that unified nation. Even Tsai Ing-wen does not use the formal title of “President of Taiwan”, but calls herself the President of the Republic of China, making her the legal successor of the Nationalist leaders who fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong and the Communist-run People’s Republic of China. It may be a face-saving fiction, but it has also been a life-saving one. The likeliest cause of a war between China and America has always been a crisis involving Taiwan. In 1995 and 1996 mainland rulers carried out threatening missile tests after America granted a visa to Taiwan’s then-president so he could speak at Cornell University, obliging Bill Clinton to send warships to the region in a show of force.

    (emphasis added)

    Another section in the post stood out for me (in bold, my emphasis):

    Is it true that Mr Trump has been taking advice from Mr Yates and some other advocates of confrontation with China (John Bolton, the former ambassador to the UN, has also been named in press reports). Nobody knows, because his transition is a black box. Unlike all modern presidents-elect he has largely shunned the structures of government. He has made phone calls to foreign leaders from his office in Manhattan and some cases via mobile telephone, relying on foreign government interpreters and note-takers, rather than on the well-oiled machinery of the State Department. It is hard to know who his foreign policy advisers are—many are named as offering him counsel, but in interviews some of those sages admit that they have barely met him.

    Again, this seems reckless. Also, is using a mobile phone in line with best practices for discussions like this? If it’s not, shouldn’t this be made into a bigger deal given the criticism Clinton received over the way she handled classified documents and setting up a private server?

    Edit The conservative publication, The Weekly Standard weighs in: The Hysterical Overreaction to Trump’s Taiwan Call. In my view, the best case the article offers is that people are jumping the gun–we don’t know if Trump has really thought-through this or not. People can decide if this is persuasive and comforting.

  23. Reid

    Letter from Ralph Nader and Mark Green to President-elect Trump

    The letter, addressing conflict of interest issues, is long, but good.

    ***
    Dear President-elect Trump:
    We urge you to announce on December 15 that you’ll divest yourself of all interests in the Trump Organization in order to avoid a) daily violations of the Constitution barring foreign “emoluments” and b) the risk of later impeachment. A For-Profit-Presidency would be blatantly unethical, unprecedented and unconstitutional.
    Neither the president nor public should tolerate the built-in-bribery of foreign governments quietly lining the pockets of a person they are seeking to influence on policy. That’s why we have an Emoluments Clause in Article One, Section 9 of the U. S. Constitution. It says that “no person holding any office…shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept any present, emolument [profit, gain], office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”
    This prohibition became a part of the Articles of Confederation for its entire eight year existence, then was included intact by the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 22 worried that Republics “have too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”
    An article in ProPublica.org summarizes its subsequent development:
    “In 1902, an attorney general’s opinion said it is ‘directed against every kind of influence by foreign governments upon officers of the United States.’ In 1970, a comptroller general opinion declared that the clause’s ‘drafters intended the prohibition to have the broadest possible scope and applicability.’ A 1994 Justice Department opinion said ‘the language of Emoluments Clause is both sweeping and unqualified.’” (https://www.propublica.org/…/trump-would-be-violating-const…)
    You appear to have ambivalent views of this provision and problem. On the one hand, you repeatedly attacked Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton for what you regarded as clashing interests between her public role as Secretary of State and her husband’s Clinton Foundation. Last month you said that “I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country…[because] it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses”; you later tweeted that “legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations” [emphases added].
    On the other hand, there have been numerous reports how you have put yourself in just such conflicting situations. Presumably, old habits die hard and you’ve spent your entire adult life in the pursuit of profit and the “art of the deal.” But what’s customary in business can be corrupt once in public office.
    For example:
    -Of the first 29 foreign leaders you spoke with, you had properties in eight of their countries.
    -In a post-election call with Nigel Farage, then the leader of the British UK Independent Party, you two apparently discussed your opposition to windmills near a golf course that you own in Scotland…Your company reportedly researched a string of hotels in Taoyan, Taiwan before you had a controversial phone call with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen…In your first meeting with a foreign leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, your daughter attended even though she has no formal portfolio or experience in international diplomacy and was then negotiating a licensing deal with a giant Japanese retailer backed by the government-owned development bank….
    -You praised Turkey President Erdogan’s crackdown this year following a failed coup attempt at the same time that you were managing the massive Trump Towers in Istanbul…Your partner in a 57 story building in Manila recently visited you, as an official Philippine envoy, before you spoke with and lauded President Duterte, who has killed several thousand people who he suspected of selling drugs (see generally, Paddock, et. al., “Potential Conflicts Around the World for Trump, the Businessman President”, New York Times, Nov. 26, 2016).
    “Oligarchs” are rich dictators and the super-wealthy in countries such as Russia who exploit public office for private gain at the expense of their citizenry. This is neither an American nor a Constitutional value in our democracy, as our founding document makes clear. Yet you and some supporters appear disdainful or dismissive of the principles behind conflicts laws and the Emoluments Clause:
    -You have tweeted that “only the corrupt media makes this a big deal.” (Actually, a recent CNN/ORC poll found that 59 percent thought that turning over management to your children was insufficient to protect against conflicts.)
    -Kellyanne Conway said on Meet the Press that divestment would be unfair to your adult children who are entitled to work. Obviously, however, when you chose to seek the Presidency, you understood that you might put your family firm in precisely this predicament. You created this situation and now only you can cure it.
    -Homer Jenkins Jr., writing in the Wall Street Journal and repeating your view, argued that this issue “was simply part of the bargain when voters elected Mr. Trump, in full view of his business interests.” Really in ”full view”? As everyone knows, you refused to disclose either your tax returns or portfolio of loans and partnerships that could have shed light on possible entanglements with your world-wide holdings.
    Nor can it be persuasively contended that the minority of voters who chose you as President-Elect should now simply trust your voluntary adherence to your own rules. It’s a basic premise of the Rule of Law that “no man can judge his own case.” In any event, even voters cannot overrule the Constitution except through a process of amendment specified in that document.
    ^Putting your assets in your suggested “blind trust” to be run by your adult children ignores the reality that a) you talk to your children and b) you’d know about the possible impact on your family holdings whenever you made presidential decisions, especially since your name of course is emblazoned on so many of your physical assets. (When you groused that some critics prefer that you “never ever see my daughter Ivanka again,” we assume that you didn’t intend this reductio ad absurdum to be taken literally.) http://www.nytimes.com/…/trump-family-ivanka-donald-jr.html…
    -Political commentators understandably discount any mention of impeachment pre-Inauguration because, among other reasons, there will be a GOP majority on the House Judiciary Committee and Chamber for at least two years. While we may anticipate that Congress will now be your “shut-eyed sentry”, in Kipling’s phrase, we are here discussing morality and constitutionality, not political probabilities. Indeed, within two years of an actual presidential landslide, Richard Nixon was impeached in 1974 after Republican senator Barry Goldwater supported his removal from office.
    -Supporters such as Rudy Giuliani contend that your holdings are so large that divestment is just unrealistic. But size does not erase principle. Self-enrichment is wrong whether an office holder is of modest or great wealth — indeed, if anything, the greater the amount, the worse the problem. We should not apply the much criticized banking ethic of “too big to fail” in this circumstance.
    -Other supporters like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dismiss the problem as merely hypothetical, adding that should problems arise, they can be dealt with later. But of course “later” such political enthusiasts may argue that it’s really too late once you’re president…which is precisely why all your modern predecessors resolved this problem early before bad practices were set in concrete.
    But the reality of #DivestOrImpeach cannot be discounted or dismissed. There’s nothing strange about warning someone about to hit the gas that if they drive 80 mph into a crowded intersection, there is likely to be deadly results. Actions have consequences.
    Indeed, calls for divestment are bipartisan. Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote a Wall Street Journal column titled “No More Business as Usual, Mr. Trump” (Nov. 26). It concluded that “…he can’t, however offhandedly, both do business and be president. Future and credible reports that he had engaged in such a conflict of interest would doom his presidency.” President George W. Bush’s ethics counsel, Richard W. Painter, recently argued that “no president should allow his name to be put on commercial properties in return for payment. The presidency is not a branding opportunity.”
    In effect, this letter takes the form of a citizen demand to avoid a situation that would be untenable for you and the country. It cannot be in either your legal or political interest to be regularly probed by investigative journalists and prosecutors or accused of self-enrichment whenever a White House decision, intentionally or not, affects your family’s fortune. And it certainly is not in the national interest for Americans to regularly wonder if their president is engaged in public service or self-service.
    Nor can mere disclosure rule suffice, not when a foreign power knows it can favor your family’s bottom line somewhat effortlessly — such as sending their delegations abroad to Trump Hotels — hoping that you’ll get the message. You would become, in Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe’s phrase, “an emoluments magnet.” This bias toward bribery was explained in a petition from 13 public interest groups and experts sent to you on November 17th: “Every time any foreign government or company controlled by a foreign government does business with a Trump entity, you could be accused of accepting a payment in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.”
    All of us are accountable to others, including presidents. In such situations, it is not enough to say or imply, as you have done and Richard Nixon explicitly did, that “if the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
    True, your conflict cannot be solved by the easy sale of stock on a public open market. But compliance with the Constitution and our country’s laws do not depend on degree-of-difficulty. The only convincing cure to a situation that you knowingly entered is to have an independent trustee sell off all your holdings — your corporations, partnerships, any remaining stocks and bonds (but of course not homestead properties such as residences, yachts, planes…) — and place the proceeds in a true blind trust or treasury note that presents no ongoing conflicts since you will be unaware of the investment.
    Already, White House ethics counsel insist that no company put the name “Barack Obama” on products for fear that gullible people would think that he was in fact associated with the enterprise. That should be doubly true when your name indeed has been associated with the properties involved
    You ran for president with the Constitution we have, not the Constitution you may want. Given the importance of this public matter, may we respectfully request that you respond not with a diversionary or denunciatory tweet or a hair-splitting memorandum that distinguishes between operations and ownership. Each alone only continues the problem of self-dealing. The cliche that ‘you can’t be half pregnant’ comes to mind.
    The only appropriate response is to completely divest on December 15 and therefore avoid potentially becoming a walking Article of Impeachment beginning on January 20. So: will it be America First or Trump First? The choice is yours, at least for now.

    Sincerely yours,
    Ralph Nader
    Mark Green

  24. Reid

    Putting this here to read late: Understanding Trump by George Lakoff.

  25. Reid

    Background on the relationship between the U.S., China, and Taiwan for those interested.

  26. Reid

    David Frum explores whether Trump knows what he’s doing with regard to foreign policy. In this short piece, Frum covers what Putin/Russia would want (e.g., dividing the EU). It looks bad for Trump, the U.S. and the world (unless you’re an authoritarian). Where are all Trump’s great advisors? Or is he just blowing them off? Either way, the picture isn’t pretty.

  27. Reid

    Conservatism in the Trump Era is a National Review article that examines the way Congressional Republicans, particularly the Freedom Caucus member, are and have been responding to Trump. The signs aren’t good that they will oppose Trump if he gets out of line. I’ll list some examples below.

    Mick Mulvaney, from what I understand is a outspoken Freedom caucus member here’s what he said about keeping Trump in check as well as where he’s at now:

    In June, he conceded there had been surprisingly little conservative opposition to Trump but promised that Freedom Caucus members would hold the Republican nominee to the same standard as they did to Obama — particularly on the issue of executive power. “I’m not concerned about Donald Trump shredding the Constitution, because I know the people who stand in the House between him and the Constitution,” Mulvaney told me at the time. “We’ve been fighting against an imperial presidency for five and a half years. Every time we go to the floor and push back against an overreaching president, we get accused of being partisan at best and racist at worst. When we do it against a Republican president, maybe people will see that it was a principled objection in the first place. So we actually welcome that opportunity. It might actually be fun, being a strict-constitutionalist congressman doing battle with a non-strict-constitutionalist Republican president.” Instead, he’s joining Trump’s administration. Mulvaney was recently named director of the Office of Management and Budget, the powerful agency that supervises and coordinates the government’s financial planning. The week before he was chosen, I asked Mulvaney whether he stood by his promises about congressional Republicans’ holding Trump accountable. He declined to comment, because he was waiting to hear back from New York about the OMB post.

    Or remember when the Tea Party was against an infrastructure stimulus package:

    Consider Trump’s stated intention to seek a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package soon after taking office. At a conservative forum one week after the election, Labrador told reporters that any such bill “has to be paid for” with spending cuts or revenues from elsewhere, “and if Trump doesn’t find a way to pay for it, the majority of us, if not all of us, are going to vote against it.” Otherwise, conservatives reasoned, it would be no different than the Obama stimulus package they once railed against. But their thinking has shifted in the weeks since. According to several members, there has been informal talk of accepting a bill that’s only 50 percent paid for, with the rest of the borrowing being offset down the road by “economic growth.” It’s an arrangement Republicans would never have endorsed under a President Hillary Clinton, and a slippery slope to go down with Trump.

    (emphasis added)

    The impression I got is that Trump is already intimidating and bullying them:

    In the six weeks since Trump’s triumph, many conservatives have shooed away these questions, arguing that nobody knows how he will govern until he actually takes office on January 20. They are understandably reluctant to preemptively criticize an incoming president who’s popular with their constituents back home — and who could jeopardize their political careers and livelihoods with a single retaliatory tweet. Indeed, some normally talkative lawmakers agreed to discuss the upcoming Congress only if they were not quoted.

    Nobody knows? There’s a lot of evidence one could point to that would give you a good idea. “Nobody knows” is tantamount to sticking your head in the sand, and based on the above reporting, it sounds like they’re doing it because they’re afraid. This doesn’t inspire confidence that the Congressional Republicans will stand out to Trump is he abuses power or violates the Constitution.

  28. Reid

    Chart that shows links between Russia/Putin and Trump.

  29. Reid

    Why Electing Presidents Matter–The Can Re-Start a Nuclear Arms Race

    Re-starting a nuclear arms race? From a Guardian article:

    “Let it be an arms race,” the president in waiting was reported to have told Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, in an early phone call on Friday.

    According to Brzezinski he went on to say: “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

    Trump actually explained his ideas about nuclear weapons and an arms race in 1987 interview, where he explains his plan for keeping the world safe from nuclear weapons:

    It’s a deal with the Soviets. We approach them on this basis: We both recognize the nonproliferation treaty’s not working, that half a dozen countries are on the brink of getting a bomb. Which can only cause trouble for the two of us. The deterrence of mutual assured destruction that prevents the United States and the USSR from nuking each other won’t work on the level of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange. Or a madman dictator with a briefcase-bomb team. The only answer is for the Big Two to make a deal now to step in and prevent the next generation of nations about to go nuclear from doing so. By whatever means necessary.

    Russia also just announced a desire to increase Russian nuclear capability. It’s not clear what’s going on here–is Trump and Putin going to try and work together to take away nuclear weapons from other countries? I have no idea, but none of this is reassuring.

    More from Sarah Kenzior on Trump thoughts on nuclear weapons.

    In an interview with Chris Matthews in April, Trump said the use of nuclear weapons may be necessary under certain circumstances. When pressed to elaborate by a startled Matthews, Trump continued: “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?” He went on to say he would consider using nuclear weapons on Europe and the Middle East.
    On Aug. 3, after a week marked by a series of scandals including Trump asking Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails during what would be his final press conference, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough expressed his own belief that that Trump was obsessed with using nuclear weapons in an exchange with Mike Barnacle:
    Scarborough: I’ll be careful here. Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, “If we have them, why can’t we use them?”
    Barnicle: Wow.
    Scarborough: That’s one of the reasons why he has—he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.
    Barnicle: Trump? Trump asked three times whether we can use nuclear weapons?
    Scarborough: Three times in an hour briefing, “Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?”

    Thoughts on how this relates to Putin:

    But given Trump’s affection for and connection to the Kremlin—one the Kremlin itself has confirmed—and the fact that the US and Russia have now promoted nearly identical foreign policies (and also appear to be pursuing a series of financial arrangements in the gas and oil industry that benefit billionaires of both states), it is unlikely that the US is preparing to engage in a nuclear arms race against Russia.
    Trump may have found the nuclear partner in Putin he has been seeking for decades. In Trump, Putin may have found a willing accomplice who will back Russian imperialistic ambitions and drop sanctions, among other benefits.
    This is the new mutually assured destruction: the two states with the most nuclear weapons in the world, both backed by authoritarian leaders, may be partnering against as-yet unknown shared enemies. Their rhetoric alone is dangerous, and an actual increase in nuclear arsenals more so. In a worst case scenario, the end target of Trump and Putin’s destructive ambitions could ultimately be the entire world.

  30. Reid

    Authoritarian and Klepocrat Watch

    From The Hill: Five Ways Trump Could Address His Business Conflicts

    From Sarah Kenzior, journalist (who has studied authoritarian regimes): Trumpenbashi: What Central Asia’s Spectacular States Can Tell Us About Authoritarianism in America. I’m not sure how much stock to put into what Kenzior says. She sounds utterly convinced that Trump is an authoritarian/kleptocrat and that our democracy is in very grave danger. In my opinion, she can sound a bit hyperbolic at times. On the other hand, she’s studied authoritarian rulers, and I have not. I definitely take what she says seriously, but I also try to be cautious as well.

    Here’s a 22 minute interview with Sarah Kenzior about these topics.

    https://soundcloud.com/the_remix-1/authoritarianism-kleptocracy-and-russian-interference-feared-in-trump-presidency

  31. Reid

    The Normalization Playbook. This was an essay about the way authoritarian behavior was normalized in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The explanation isn’t entirely clear to me, but I’m going to post it here.

  32. Reid

    Omninous

  33. Reid

    More on the ominous theme

    Trump Continues to Use Private Security Force

    GOP’s Christmas message:

    “Merry Christmas to all! Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.

    “Even as we celebrate, we must also remember those among us who are less fortunate. Many on this day are without hope, and need the kindness and compassion of those around them. It is our prayer we will rise to meet the material, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals all around us, and what better day is there to love our fellow man than today?

    “As we open presents, enjoy Christmas dinner, and celebrate our own family traditions, we are mindful of our men and women in uniform. Many are stationed around the world today protecting our freedoms, and cannot be with their own spouses, children, parents, and siblings. We express the deepest gratitude for service that takes them away from celebrating with loved ones, and we ought to remember them in our thoughts and prayers not just on Christmas Day, but the whole year round.”

    (emphasis added)

    “New King”–comparing Trump to Jesus and/or describing him as a King seems really troubling–the type of statement that one would expect from a tyrannical, autocratic regime.

  34. Reid

    This does worry me.

    There seems to be a group of people (many? the press?) that are taking a wait-and-see approach with Trump–with a sense that he will change, that he will govern more responsibly. I don’t that they suspect he’ll get worse–as Kendzior’s tweet asserts. I tend to think she’s correct, but even if she’s not, the idea that he’ll get better seems to be coming out of not wanting to admit that Trump is as bad as he seems. If you look at his actions and tweets after he won, he hasn’t changed at all–and there are strong signs he’s a tyrant, dictator, kleptocrat.

  35. Reid
  36. Reid

    Never can be too careful–so keep these in mind as we watch the Trump presidency:

  37. Reid

  38. Reid

    Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy? (I wasn’t able to read this yet.)

  39. Reid

  40. Reid

    Authoritarian Kleptocratic watch

    $500 tickets for New Year’s Party with Trump

    A person who travels in Palm Beach society circles said that tickets to the party were being sold for $525 each for members and $575 each for guests.

    Trump’s transition team declined to comment on the ticket prices.

    Incoming White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks rejected criticisms that Mar-a-Lago was selling access to the president-elect.

    “The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict,” she said. “This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.

    “Cannot?” That’s a big red flag. The article doesn’t say this, but I read somewhere else that the monies aren’t going to charity or campaign.

  41. Reid

    The American Prospect’s The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections is a labyrinthian article, fitting like a Russian novel where following all the names of the different characters is very difficult.

    Here’s the conclusion:

    So what have we learned from this deep dive into the network of Donald Trump’s Russian/FSU connections?
    First, the President-elect really is very “well-connected,” with an extensive network of unsavory global underground connections that may well be unprecedented in White House history. In choosing his associates, evidently Donald Trump only pays cursory attention to questions of background, character, and integrity.
    Second, Donald Trump has also literally spent decades cultivating senior relationships of all kinds with Russia and the FSU. And public and private senior Russian figures of all kinds have likewise spent decades cultivating him, not only as a business partner, but as a “useful idiot.”
    After all, on September 1, 1987 (!), Trump was already willing to spend a $94,801 on full-page ads in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the New York Times calling for the United States to stop spending money to defend Japan, Europe, and the Persian Gulf, “an area of only marginal significance to the U.S. for its oil supplies, but one upon which Japan and others are almost totally dependent.”79
    This is one key reason why just this week, Robert Gates—a registered Republican who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Bush and Obama, as well as former Director and Deputy Director of the CIA—criticized the response of Congress and the White House to the alleged Putin-backed hacking as far too “laid back.”80
    Third, even beyond questions of illegality, the public clearly has a right to know much more than it already does about the nature of such global connections. As the opening quote from Cervantes suggests, these relationships are probably a pretty good leading indicator of how Presidents will behave once in office.
    Unfortunately, for many reasons, this year American voters never really got the chance to decide whether such low connections and entanglements belong at the world’s high peak of official power. In the waning days of the Obama Administration, with the Electoral College about to ratify Trump’s election and Congress in recess, it is too late to establish the kind of bipartisan, 9/11-type commission that would be needed to explore these connections in detail.
    Finally, the long-run consequence of careless interventions in other countries is that they often come back to haunt us. In Russia’s case, it just has.

  42. Reid

    Looking at the following tweet through an autocratic lens, here’s my takeaway

    Trump’s itching for more consolidation of power. Read: “See, if your cities are out of control, just give the federal government (me) more power, and I’ll take care of it.” This is also in line with hiring Steve Bannon. That is, racial tensions and riots will give Trump an excuse to consolidate more power.

  43. Reid

    Bi-partisan Letter Asking Trump to Divest

    The letter can be read here.

    An excerpt:

    The problems you face cannot be solved by turning management of The Trump Organization over to your family members. The same conflicts and appearance of conflicts problems would exist in these circumstances. Domestic and foreign interests would see providing financial benefits to your family as a means to curry favor and obtain influence with you.
    Respectfully, you cannot serve the country as president and also own a world-wide business enterprise, without seriously damaging the presidency

    Here are some of the people who signed:

    The 29 signers to the letter included Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative groups.

    The letter signers include Norm Eisen, President Obama’s chief ethics lawyer, and Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer. They also include two former Republican governors and five former Republican House members.

    Signers range from Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and author of Clinton Cash to scholars Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann, authors of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, from Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, from John Pudner, Executive Director of Take Back our Republic to Public Citizen (see below for a full list of the signers of the letter.)

  44. Reid

    An academic paper on democratic backsliding that I want to read later–Unwelcome Change: Understanding, Evaluating, and Extending Theories on Democratic Backsliding

  45. Reid

    House Republicans Vote to Take Away Independence of Ethics Office

    There might be legitimate reasons to do this, but on the surface, this looks really bad, especially given Trump’s violation of norms (regarding corruption, among others) and the way the GOP seems OK with this.

    The following is a tweetstorm that seemed fairly compelling to me about why this is move is a problem:

  46. Reid

    A good thing that Trump has done?

    Almost everything I’ve recorded so far about Trump has been negative. Here’s something potentially positive, with regard to Trump’s pressuring and threatening U.S. businesses to not move their businesses to other countries:

    The gist of this is that decision to leave or stay is often a close call. However, when a groupthink among CEOs develops and they all start to move their businesses, but Trump’s approach may tip the scales the other way.

  47. Reid

    If Trump really was supposed to get briefed on Friday and he just blatantly lied about it–what the heck?! And the fact that he’s so skeptical and almost openly contemptuous of the intelligence community’s findings is crazy, right?

    He’s fighting so hard against this notion that Russia was attempted to influence the election, and there’s still on these other connections with Russia that he has. At this point, I think Congress should do something. I don’t know how Congress can work with Trump in good faith, when there’s all these questions (including conflicts of interest) hanging in the air. It’s crazy.

    Edit: Here’s the most charitable and benign explanation I have for Trump’s behavior: He is loathe to concede any suggestion whatsoever that his victory was illegitimate. If he recognizes that Russia did try to influence the election, this suggests that his win was not legitimate–that he didn’t win because the Americans chose him. That makes some sense, I guess.

    But I get this is driven mainly be his ego. If he accepts the intelligence community’s (IC) judgment that Russian did try to interfere, then he might see that as tacit acknowledgement that he needed help to win the presidency.

    Also, what’s been clear to me is that Trump loathes saying anything negative about Putin or Russia–so to acknowledge the report’s findings, would require him to admit something bad about them. Which leaves us with the question: why is he so resistant to saying anything bad about Putin or Russia, particularly from a person who has no qualms about saying bad things about others?

  48. Reid

    Authoritarian Watch

  49. Mitchell

    I haven’t read any of this and I’m not going to now, so apologies if you’ve already covered this. But you might find this a useful resource. https://factba.se

    Or you might find it just more data without context. Take a look at the explanation under “mission,” and see if you find it worth bookmarking. If you have questions or comments for me, don’t put them here because I won’t see them for some time.

  50. Reid

    I’ll check out the site, thanks.

    ***
    Pay to Play Watch

  51. Reid

    Trump on Assange and Intelligence Community

    Today:

    My mind is made up–Trump’s not being honest. Today, various intelligence chiefs gave testimony in a Senate hearing and basically repudiated much of Trump’s claims. This is his, juvenile, reaction. From what I understand those in the intelligence community (IC) won’t be fooled by Trump’s tweet–they’re not happy.

    In my opinion, those who expect Trump to pivot and grow into the office should now think seriously about that possibility.

  52. Reid

    Trump’s Ideology of Me

    People speculate about Trump’s policy positions. Personally, I don’t think he really has any strong convictions about specific policies (except for his attitude with Russia perhaps), and I suspect that’s mainly due to his lack of conviction and depth of thought when it comes to political ideology.

    If he has an ideology, I’d call it the ideology of me. Here’s how we can see this ideology manifest itself. Anyone who supports and praises Trump is equal to a friend, someone who can almost do no wrong. Anyone who criticizes or says something negative about Trump is the enemy. When the media says reports a story that is favorable to Trump, then the media is fine, maybe even terrific. If they report a story that is critical, the media is “dishonest” or “rigged.” If he wins the election, the election is fine. If he were to lose, the election is “rigged.” The IC gives a report that Trump doesn’t like–so he tries to discredit them and possibly threatens to reduce the agency. Every action, outcome, institution, individual, or policy is evaluated based on whether it supports/praises or opposes/criticizes him. That’s the core of his ideology. The interests of the Republican party or even the nation is secondary don’t matter relative to Trump. He doesn’t seem capable of putting the country or anything else above himself. The word narcissist really seems to fit to a “T.”

    Another aspect of this ideology of Me is the desire for power–the type of desire for power we see in a tyrant. I think he will make a variety of attempts to consolidate power for himself. I think he hopes for race riots and violence*, for another terrorist attack, as these will give him an opportunity to gain more power. He tries to cause confusion and attack democratic institutions, eroding public trust and the wearing out the peoples’ ability to make sense of things, so that he won’t be held accountable.

    Finally, my sense is that Trump favors the law of the jungle principle–versus the rule of law. With the way he’s handling his conflicts of interest, his attitude suggests that he believes the law doesn’t apply to him. He talks about using torture and other “unspeakable” means to combat terrorism. He praises Philippine President Duterte for fighting drugs in the “right way.”

    Maybe I’m wrong about all this, but so far, this description seems far more helpful in explaining his behavior, especially if you compare it to the expectations and framework one uses to evaluate and understand a normal political leader in a Western democracy.

    (*I think it’s important that the Left and Democrats, especially minorities, be aware of this and begin emphasizing, maybe even training, for non-violent protests–e.g., how to handle physical attacks during protests, etc. However, if whites behave violently, it may not matter if minorities behave in a non-violent way. Outbreak of violence will give Trump the excuse to consolidate power.)

  53. Reid

    WaPo article

    House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service.

    Later,

    The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

    Here’s how the rule change would work:

    The rule changes the process of passing spending bills by allowing any rank-and-file House member to propose an amendment that would cut a specific federal program or the jobs of specific federal employees, by slashing their salaries or eliminating their positions altogether.

    Before the change, an agency’s budget could be cut broadly, but a specific program, employee or groups of employees could not be targeted because of civil service protections.

    In theory, there is an appealing aspect of the rule change. This would be allow Congress to eliminate programs or employees that are no longer needed. It makes some sense. However, I assume Congress can do that now, but is the process too difficult? More importantly, I think the concern that these decisions will be politicized is legitimate–especially from a Trump administration that has been asking for names of employees working on programs that the Trump would not favor (e.g., climate change). Using the rule change to threaten or punish civil servants for political reasons is scary. There’s other problems, but I’ll leave it that.

  54. Reid

    “All of Them, Obviously”

    “All of them, obviously.” Think about that. If that’s true, all the Congressional Republicans know something is wrong with Trump–and I take this to mean that something serious is wrong–maybe mentally, emotionally–something that would make Trump truly unfit, dangerous, or something close to it. (Or maybe the Senator meant: “We know he’s a little off–but not in a dangerous sort of way?”) If this is correct, this is nuts. If the Congressional Republicans know something is wrong with Trump, they owe it the American people–to the country–to say so. Not saying so is one the biggest reasons Trump has gotten to where he is–and will continue to stay there.

  55. Reid

    Trump’s Dangerous Anti-CIA Crusade written by Mike Morell, former CIA chief. How? First, Morell predicts a “wave of resignations,” which is bad because their expertise will be really hard to replace, and we really need this expertise now more than ever. Second,

    Why would a foreign intelligence service take the C.I.A. seriously (and share important information with it) when the American president doesn’t? A strong relationship between the C.I.A. and the president is a key incentive for other intelligence services to work with Langley. Take that away, and our foreign relationships — which are absolutely critical in the global fight against terror, proliferation, you name it — will suffer.

    And why would a foreign agent take extraordinary risks to spy for the United States if his or her information is not valued? Knowing their information is making its way to the president is an important motivator for spies.

    By the way, Trump’s undermining of the CIA and the likely consequences of that helps Putin.

  56. Reid

    NYT profile on Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. This stood out for me:

    Indeed, despite a lack of foreign policy experience, Mr. Kushner is emerging as an important figure at a crucial moment for some of America’s most complicated diplomatic relationships. Such is his influence in the geopolitical realm that transition officials have told the Obama White House that foreign policy matters that need to be brought to Mr. Trump’s attention should be relayed through his son-in-law, according to a person close to the transition and a government official with direct knowledge of the arrangement.

    So when the Chinese ambassador to the United States called the White House in early December to express what one official called China’s “deep displeasure” at Mr. Trump’s break with longstanding diplomatic tradition by speaking by phone with the president of Taiwan, the White House did not call the president-elect’s national security team. Instead, it relayed that information through Mr. Kushner, whose company was not only in the midst of discussions with Anbang but also has Chinese investors.

    (emphasis added)

  57. Reid

    This MSNBC story is based on emails between the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to the Trump team in the November. The gist is that the OGE was trying to work with the Trump team to help them avoid any ethical problems, but the OGE had a hard time reaching them. The impression is that the Trump team hasn’t been doing their part to address these matters.

    Talking Points Memo also reports that OGE is also now accusing the Trump team for rushing the cabinet hearings–that the potential cabinet members aren’t being properly vetted by OGE.

  58. Reid

    Thoughts on Today’s Press Conference

    1. Trump didn’t answer reporter’s question about whether Trump team met with Russians during the election. From what I understand, there are allegations that members of his team met with Russians during campaign to defeat Clinton.

    2. According to Norm Eisen, former Obama White House lawyer on ethics, Trump failed to demonstrate the five indications that would adequately address conflict of interest issues. These indications have bipartisan support.

    3. In addition to failing to address conflict of interests problems, the American public should realize that Trump is trying to pull a fast one over them (e.g., my sons will run the company). It suggest that he has little respect for our constitutional system of government and his behavior matches not only a scam artist, but a kleptocrat/autocrat.

    4. The GOP bears most of the responsibility for this situation. They know better, and they are the primary group that could have and can stop Trump. Why? Because in this hyper-partisan, post-truth world, their voices are crucial to stopping someone like Trump. Democrats and Liberals can be easily dismissed by Republicans and Trump supporters.

  59. Reid

    Remarks from Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) today. Shaub strikes me as a reasonable person, and I encourage worth reading his remarks for yourself, especially if you have questions about conflicts of interest. It’s four pages, but if you don’t know anything and you had to read only one thing, this seems like a good choice.

    Some things that stand out to me:

    On the goal of OGE

    …it’s important to recognize that OGE is not the enforcement mechanism but the prevention mechanism. OGE is nonpartisan and does its work independently. Our goal—our reason for existing—is to guard the executive branch
    against conflicts of interest

    Not all bad news…

    …I’m happy to report that it’s not all bad news. OGE has been able to do good work during this Presidential transition. I’m especially proud of the ethics agreement we developed for the intended nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

    Mr. Tillerson is making a clean break from Exxon. He’s also forfeiting bonus payments worth millions. As a result of OGE’s work, he’s now free of financial conflicts of interest. His ethics agreement serves as a sterling model for what we’d like to see with other nominees.

    Shaub mentions that while the other ethics agreements haven’t been reached for the other nominees, there’s still that this can be done.

    On how nominees and appointees have had to make painful decisions

    The job hasn’t always been easy, though, especially when I’ve had to ask nominees and appointees to
    take painful steps to avoid conflicts of interest. I can’t count the number of times I’ve delivered the bad news
    that they needed to divest assets, break open trusts, and dissolve businesses. Most of these individuals have
    worked with us in good faith. Their basic patriotism usually prevails, as they agree to set aside their personal interests to serve their country’s interests. Sometimes these individuals have required more persuasion, but every OGE Director has been buoyed by the unwavering example of Presidents who resolved their own
    conflicts of interest.

    On the Trump’s plan to remove conflict of interests

    For these reasons, the plan does not comport with the tradition of our Presidents over the past 40 years. This isn’t the way the Presidency has worked since Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978 in
    the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Since then, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all either established blind trusts or limited their investments to non-conflicting assets like diversified mutual funds, which are exempt under the conflict of interest law.

    Shaub explains in detail why the President-elect’s plan to address conflict of interests fails. He also responds to claims that Presidents can’t have a conflict of interest. It might be the most important part of the speech, but it’s too long to quote or explain here. So I recommend reading it. I will leave one quote on the subject:

    Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion
    declaring that a President should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government’s ethics regulations,
    even if they don’t apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a President ever failed to
    adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia’s words becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a President hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?

    (emphasis added)

    Last thing:

    As we all know, one of the things that make America truly great is its system for preventing public
    corruption. For a long time now, OGE has helped developing countries set up their own systems for detecting and preventing conflicts of interest. Our executive branch ethics program is considered the gold standard
    internationally and has served as a model for the world. But that program starts with the Office of the President.
    The President-elect must show those in government—and those coming into government after his inauguration—that ethics matters.

    All of this is to say there are reasons why experts and others are expressing concern. These calls for divestiture have been bipartisan. You have the examples of President Obama’s ethics counsel, Norm Eisen, and President Bush’s ethics counsel, Richard Painter. The conservative Wall Street Journal recommended divestiture. So did conservative columnist Peggy Noonan.

    It’s plain to see that none of this reflects any partisan motivation. All you have to do is imagine what will happen if the President-elect takes this advice and divests. He’ll be stronger. He’ll have a better chance of succeeding. So will the ethics program and the government as a whole. And, in turn, America will have a better
    chance of succeeding. We should all want that. I know I want that.

  60. Reid

    Politico: Trump Has Paid Staffers at His Press Conference Cheering Him on, Jeering Reporters

    And they cheered again when Trump jeered sarcastically at a reporter who asked if he planned to release his tax returns. “Oh gee,” the president-elect said, employing a verbal eye roll, “I’ve never heard that before. The only ones who care about my tax returns are the reporters. I became president.”

    I heard Trump say sometime during the campaign that he would release his tax forms, after his unverified IRS audit. Now, he’s pulling this line.

  61. Reid

    Deapspin’s Concourse article about importance of norms and ethics. The article is short, and doesn’t go into great detail, but I like the way it expresses certain insights. For example, why do we have norms and ethics?

    The reason is not “Jerks who think they’re smarter than us trying to control our lives from on high.” The reason is that human history is long, and all of the mistakes that could possibly be made have been made, and at a certain point people figured out that following some common sense rules could prevent us from making the same dire mistakes over and over again. Mistakes that come from human nature. Mistakes like: allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to make money for themselves, or allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to squelch legitimate dissent, or allowing powerful people to use their powerful positions to flout the very ethical guidelines and norms that prior people in powerful positions established to keep people in powerful positions in check.

    Or

    Our society and our institutions are simply not set up to deal with someone who is fully prepared to flout all of our norms of good behavior. Our system, to a large degree, relies on social sanction rather than laws to prevent powerful people from getting too far out of line. When our most powerful person is willing to ignore all of that, there is not much in place to stop him.

    I’ve heard knowledgeable people say this–and therefore I’m concerned. But to be honest, I don’t think I fully understand this–I don’t fully understand the significance of these norms, why the independent branches of government or democratic institutions, by themselves, couldn’t keep a leader who violates norms in check. But just because I don’t fully understand it, or could explain it, doesn’t mean I don’t think this is a serious problem. Intuitively, I know something is really wrong. What’s also worrisome is that the people who could really keep him in check, specifically the GOP leadership, seems to be enabling Trump. The press seems feeble and lagging as well. Finally, I’m not sure the general public is fully aware of the danger, either. If Congress, the press, and the general public expressing more outrage at Trump’s violation of norms, I’d feel more reassured.

  62. Reid

    Speaking of violating norms…

    Donald Trump Just Used His Presidential Power to Advertise LL Bean

    According to the article, Linda Bean expressed opposition to anti-Trump group this morning. Later Trump tweeted the following:

    According to the article, federal employees are prohibited from doing this, but not the POTUS. However, the long-standing practice for presidents has been to follow adhere to this practice. It makes sense. Businesses will gain a competitive advantage simply by getting at the president’s good side–nevermind if they’re winning the competition through quality and pricing. It feels like a monarch/dictator interfering in the free-market.

  63. Reid

    What Could Save Our Republic

    My sense is that there is a large group of Americans who view Trump as an Archie Bunker-type businessman, whose faults are overlooked because they believe a) his outrageous behavior is just an act, and he will change once he becomes president; b) loves America and will work hard to serve it; c) he has the skills and intelligence to be an effective political leader.

    The fate of our Republic may depend on the number and speed by which these individuals realize that none of these things are true–that everything Trump says and does is essentially accurate reflection of who he is; that he’s not saying this just to be outrageous; that he only cares about himself–his power and wealth–not the country or governing well; that the skills, knowledge, and temperament he possesses make him a catastrophically bad president. I’m hoping more and more Americans will realize this–that they will allow themselves to realize this.

  64. Reid

    Medium piece by a Russian jouranlist, Message to My Doomed Colleagues in American Media.

    What I find interesting is that the author explains the way Putin runs his press conferences, specifically the way he orchestrates the whole affair to create a favorable appearance for him. It’s a theatrical farce–but the Russian media is virtually helpless. What’s valuable is that if Trump starts using these tactics we can be better prepared to understand what he’s doing.

  65. Don

    that everything Trump says and does is essentially accurate reflection of who he is; that he’s not saying this just to be outrageous; that he only cares about himself–his power and wealth–not the country or governing well

    At this point and that could change, I don’t really agree with this. My take on Trump in pidgin terms, “he like do whatever he like”. So not following certain protocols is because of that, not so much because of greed. I agree he cares only about himself, but I think he thinks he can make a difference. I think he thinks his policies will be effective, not only for himself, but for America. My best guess is that he is or will be concerned about his legacy, not just as a businessman but as a President. I feel like if he knows something will only benefit him and will destroy America, he wouldn’t do it because even though his wealth is important to him, I think being someone important in history is more important. I could be proven wrong, but that’s how I feel at this point.

  66. Reid

    Don,

    Hey, it’s good to hear your thoughts on this.

    I feel like if he knows something will only benefit him and will destroy America, he wouldn’t do it because even though his wealth is important to him, I think being someone important in history is more important.

    If I understand your logic correctly, what you’re saying is that Trump wants to remembered well in history–therefore, he will work hard to serve the country well? Therefore, he wouldn’t really undermine the American system of government and attempt to consolidate wealth and power like a dictator would?

    Or are you saying that even if he did that–it would be OK because then he would use this power to do good things for the country (because he’ll wants history to judge him favorably)?

  67. Don

    If I understand your logic correctly, what you’re saying is that Trump wants to remembered well in history–therefore, he will work hard to serve the country well?

    This is pretty much what I think, but the part that you said “will work hard”, I’m not as confident about. He seems almost flippant at times, and that whatever idea pops in his head will automatically work. If that’s how one thinks, then it may not lead to “hard work”. But yes the general idea is how I view Trump at this point.

  68. Reid

    Well, if you have doubts that he might work hard, this erodes your point that he’ll do right by the country because he cares about his place in history. That is, if he really cares, then he’s going to work hard. And if he’s not really working hard, then how much does he really care about his place in history?

    What’s you take on my other questions? Or are you undecided/unsure?

  69. Reid

    The idea that Trump’s concern about his place in history will supersede his desire for power and wealth raises some questions. For example, what evidence is there that supports such a view. Has he done anything in his life to suggest that he wants to be remembered for making a difference in the world? Or does most of his life seem to be about enriching himself, building up his own ego? What evidence is there now that suggests that he cares about his place in history? Does his words and actions support this claim? Or does it seem to fit more with the behavior and actions of other autocratic/kleptocratic dictators?

  70. Reid

    Sorry, this might be overkill, but there’s a passage in your initial post that I want to comment on.

    My take on Trump in pidgin terms, “he like do whatever he like”. So not following certain protocols is because of that, not so much because of greed

    What you mean is that he thinks he can do “any kind”–that the rules don’t apply, almost. In some contexts this might be OK, but when it comes to trampling over norms and rules designed to provide important limits on executive power, and a thus protect the nation from a tyrant, that’s another story. Adhering to these norms is also a way to show Americans that the President respects the system, acknowledges that s/he is bound by important rules, including rules that will limit his power. And when s/he follows these norms, it’s way s/he earns our trust and respect. To violate norms like this raises serious red flags–and should cause us to question whether he’s trustworthy.

    To say (using pidgin): “Ah, no need–I no need do that”–is a big problem to me. Such a person doesn’t understand the way power corrupts, or, equally bad, thinks s/he is immune to this corrupting influence. Or worse than both: the person is actually a tyrant wanting more power. Why does Trump feel he’s above these norms and rules that presidents before him have followed and respected? Having some personal quirk is not a good enough reason in my view. If he can’t understand the importance of these rules/norms or just dismisses them, he’s unfit to be the POTUS in my opinion.

    I recommend reading the remarks by Walter Shaub above, regarding Trump’s conflict of interest and ethics problems, and then reading/listening to the remarks Trump has made about how he’ll handle these issues. If you don’t come away thinking he’s just trying to pull a fast one over us, I’ll be very surprised.

    What that suggests is that Trump isn’t just a blunt, rough-around-the-edges, but well-meaning political leader. It suggests he can’t really be trusted, that he’s not capable of putting the country’s interests ahead of his own.

  71. Don

    First let me just say that’s I’m extremely skeptical (but not close to your skepticism) that Trump will succeed. I say that to say that my somewhat defense of Trump is not a vote in his Presidential success. But in my opinion there is a huge difference between him being just an evil money-grab and him not working hard. Both might lead to failure, but with the later at least there’s a chance of success. Let me expound on the not working hard comment, which might not have been clear. I think he may not work hard to find answers, if he thinks he knows it all. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think he won’t work hard to succeed, though.

    I’m not sure what other questions you are talking about. The part about undermine the American system for his own wealth? Yeah I don’t think he would do that. I think if his success is not entire contradictory to what’s best for America, he may choose that over something else, but not just intentionally abandon America so he can be richer.

    You are right there is probably nothing in Trump’s history that says he cares about anything but making money. However, in Trump’s previous life accumulating wealth was probably all that matters, because wealth equal status and thus legacy. It’s a way to keep score. But I think (and maybe hope) Trump is smart enough to realize that Gates and Buffet’s legacies will not be measured by how much money they had/made, but what they did with that wealth. Trump has a chance to “trump” Gates and Buffet’s legacy without even coming close to their accumulated wealth by being a good President. As narcissistic a person as his is, you would think that his energies would be poured into just that.

  72. Reid

    Don,

    I want to be clear about something: I’m not saying he’s simply greedy, like a Gordon Gecko type of figure or authoritarian like a samurai-style businessman. I’m saying he’s behaving like a literal dictator/autocrat/authoritarian, who (from what I’m learning) often behave like kleptocrats, too. Now, if this were true, you would agree that this is a big problem–that almost nothing else matters at that point, right?

    Let me expound on the not working hard comment, which might not have been clear. I think he may not work hard to find answers, if he thinks he knows it all. That doesn’t necessarily mean I think he won’t work hard to succeed, though.

    OK, that is clearer. Thanks. By the way, is it not a huge concern that he thinks he knows it all–e.g., he knows more than the generals or the intelligence community?

    I’m not sure what other questions you are talking about. The part about undermine the American system for his own wealth? Yeah I don’t think he would do that.

    But you don’t think he’s already doing that? He’s undermining democratic institutions like the election, the press, and the intelligence community. (This, by the way, is in alignment with Putin’s objectives.) He’s not going to be in violation of the Constitution (emolument’s clause) when he’s sworn in; he’s placed family members in his transition team, including having them sit in with meetings with foreign leaders; he’s instructed the white house that foreign heads of state has to contact his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. From what I understand these are unprecedented behaviors–the type of thing done by kleptocratic dictators.

    However, in Trump’s previous life accumulating wealth was probably all that matters, because wealth equal status and thus legacy

    But if he cared about leaving his mark on history, he could have easily tried to do this earlier. This is what both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama chose to do (both have expressed a desire to make a difference and leave a mark, which is why I mention both). He’s a wealthy 70 year man. There were plenty of opportunities to make a difference to the country or others. He could have, like Gates, set up a foundation that tries to solve serious problems (versus set up a highly dubious foundation). There should have been signs. What has he done that warrants our trust? And, what has he done that should cause us to doubt that trust? The skills tip so far toward the latter in my view.

  73. Reid

    Possible Scenario on How Trump’s Conflict of Interests Can be a Bid Deal

    Imagine a Hyatt hotel in another country is bombed. Thankfully, no one’s hurt. At its most base, it’s just an attack on a building. Now imagine a Trump hotel in another country is bombed. Is that just an attack on a building? The Trump business? Or on the USA? Knowing what you know about Trump, do you think he’d hesitate to equate an attack on a Trump property with an attack on the US? Do you think he’d hesitate to use US resources — including the military — to retaliate for an attack on a Trump property? Do you think a country itching to go to war with the US doesn’t know that, too? Do you think they won’t try to bait him into conflict? So now American service members are risking their lives because of a fucking Trump hotel. And American taxpayers are picking up the tab….And that’s just one scenario that illustrates why sitting US presidents shouldn’t own businesses.

  74. Reid

    Trump’s Threat to Democracy is Much Larger When Congress Does Stuff Like…

    …send a letter to the ethics chief that sure seems like an attempt at intimidation. Jason Chaffetz Defends Warning Letter to Ethics Chief (WaPo; written by Jennifer Rubin, their conservative columnist). (Chaffetz seems to be a good example of hyper-partisan politician.) Also, look at this quote:

    On the subject of Trump continuing to own his business, Chaffetz denied his committee is concerned with the invitation to corruption or the potential for self-dealing. His only concern is enforcement of the law. “The president and vice president are exempt,” he says. “The voters understood this was a wealthy individual.” When I reminded him of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” Chaffetz reiterated that his only interest was enforcing the law.

    (WaPo called Chaffetz and got this comment.)

    Congressional Republicans also tried to weaken (disband?) a independent ethics oversight entity for Congress (not sure if I mentioned this yet) and changed rules to make it a lot easier to cut government employee salaries or positions. This doesn’t sound like a Congress that will protect us from a tyrannical president.

  75. Reid

    From the Independent, a publication in the UK: Former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s frustration as FBI sat on Donald Trump Russia file for months

    From what I understand Steele is credible and well-respected. I knew some of the details about this, but the article reveals even more startling information. I’m not sure if Steele’s claims are accurate, but if he’s well-respected and credible, at the very, least this warrants a thorough investigation of Trump and his interactions with Russia during the campaign. (According to the article, Steele was so alarmed by what he learned, that he continued investigations, even when he wasn’t paid.) There is a lot of smoke here, including Trump’s own words and behavior now and during the campaign. (His campaign is also filled with people with Russian ties.) The cloud hanging over him is incredibly dark right now.

    Edit: I forgot one very important deal: The dark cloud isn’t only hanging over Trump–the contents of the article create a huge dark cloud over the FBI!

  76. Reid

    This Foreign Policy article about the transition for national security positions in the Trump administration is very worrying. It suggests massive incompetence on the part of the Trump team. Trump bragged about hiring the best people to help him, right now that seems far from the case. It should be no surprise if the Trump administration mishandles a national security crisis.

  77. Reid

    Professor Nyhan explains why he’s worried. In his explanation (and Charles Krauthammer, a conservative), he lists norms that Trump has violated. I don’t think I could adequately articulate why violating these norms are bad, but I definitely do thing violating these norms is very worrisome.

  78. Reid

    Adam Gopnik piece in the New YorkerThe Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear. I really like Gopnik’s writing. It’s the type of New Yorker writing that leaves me in awe; what stands out for me, when reading Gopnik, is the chasm between his writing and my own.

    Mollie Hemingway, of The Federalist (I believe a conservative website), provides a pro-Trump slant on the intelligence on Trump and Russia. I agree with her that the IC going after Trump is troubling, especially if it’s primarily because Trump said disparaging things about them. Now, if they have legitimate information tying Trump or his campaign to Russia, then that definitely should be made known. If they’re going after him for political reasons, that’s not a good thing.

    The problem I have with the article is that Hemingway seems to ignore other connections between Trump and Russia, including with of his advisors–Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Michael Flynn. She doesn’t bring up Flynn’s connections when she attempts to explain Flynn’s calls to the Russian ambassador. Also, she seems way too trusting of Trump. For example, she seems to think that Trump has legitimate complaints about the IC being politicized. Now, I’m not ruling out this possibility, but Trump has very little credibility with regard to this, as he’s shown a pattern of criticizing and attacking those that criticize him, while praising those that praise him.

  79. Reid

    Thoughts on Inauguration Day

    • I’ve never had bouts of sadness and fear on other inauguration days. Well, I was pretty down on 2004, but I haven’t had moments of fear like I’ve recently experienced, a sense that I was actually about to live in nightmare scenario from a dystopian sci-fi story. Near the end of these moments, I have that wistful fleeting hope that I’ll wake up, that it’s all a bad dream. (One thing that I read that fed this feeling big time: one writer that I follow, someone who has studied authoritarian regimes in Central Asia, said she believed Trump would use nuclear weapons, maybe within a year. She wrote an article about Trump’s comments about nuclear weapons, recently and in the past. The view seems over-the-top, but the problem is it’s not easy to dismiss>)
    • Everything seems OK for our democracy now, and if there is no major crisis–economic or military–it could be. But there are either or both, I think we could quickly see things change. Think if there is another 9-11 attack. What could easily happen is that large numbers of citizens and even politicians will want to give more power to the Trump–to keep them safe–and he will want that power–I think he’ll actively try to get it. That is, checks and balances and civil liberties will be eroded in the interests of security. How trustworthy is Trump with more power? I have no trust if he has this power. I think our democracy is in big trouble at that point–maybe it’ll be over, in that some type of coup or violent revolution would have to occur to get Trump out of office. I don’t know, maybe I’m losing it, but I tend to think where a crisis or two away from this sort of scenario.
    • I read about a protest against Muslims from Christians at the Trump inauguration. A thought occurred to me: what should we do as Christians if Muslims are persecuted in this country? If the government requires all Muslims to register, if mosques are bugged, if we see more violence towards Muslims, Americans or foreigners–what should we do as Christians? What should we do as Americans? The obvious answer is that we should stand up with Muslims and do what we can to stop this–or at least I think that’s the right answer, off the top of my head. Will we–I–have the courage to do this?
    • I’ve been reading David Frum’s remarks (Frum, Bush 43’s speech writer), and I’m basically on the same page as him. He believes confidence in our system to protect us is dangerous. He believes what will protect us is if we take the threat to our democracy seriously. I totally agree with him.
    • I think it’s important for average Americans to think about the safeguards against tyranny, about the importance about being governed by laws, not men–about whether it’s a good or bad thing if one person gets almost all the power in government. To me, giving one person almost all the power is really, really dangerous. Humanity has not changed in this regard, in my view, but I think Americans should really be clear about this. And if some people waver, I think we should examine this again closely–ask what has changed to make this less of a threat, look at examples in history, both recent and in the distant past.
    • One positive is that I’ve been praying a bit more fervently.
  80. Reid

    Thoughts on the Inauguration Speech

    First impression: Trump’s trying to create the impression that everything is going to hell in America. The reason I think he’s trying to sell this image is to set up a situation for a power grab–i.e., “Things are rotten and unsafe, so give me more power, and I will fix it for you.” Someone else mentioned that creating this impression lays the groundwork for cracking down on protests against him.

    Second point: I believe the expression “America First” has anti-semitic roots, as it was an expression used before WWII. I didn’t know about this–and I need to do more reading about it. But if it’s true, that’s an ominous sign. Steve Bannon’s site, Breitbart, has been known to feature white nationalist/anti-semitic views as well. The Trump administration should be aware of this connotation–and they should stop using the phrase, if it does have this baggage.

  81. Reid

    Pictures from the Inauguration and Parade

  82. Reid

    More on the Campaign Speech

    Here’s a passage I wanted to comment on:

    For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital have reaped the rewards of government while people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth.

    Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs, and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

    That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America.
    This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.

    This just sounds like more of a con job by Trump. James Fallows refers to Trump’s “magic” at being able to run as a billionaire and choose the wealthiest cabinet ever, including world finance appointees, and yet deliver a populist attack on the establishment. As we say in Hawai’i, “how you figure?” The rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. To me, this suggests the support for Trump isn’t linked to economic populism, but the loss of white status in American society. For non-whites, the support may stem from a frustration with Washington–and not relating to policies affecting economic inequality. And if I’m wrong, then I would think his supporters would find the rhetoric and reality problematic.

  83. Reid

    Positive Take on the Inauguration Speech

    From Matt Continetti at the Free BeaconDonald Trump and the New American. I wanted to post this to present a different take. Continetti wants to portray Trump as this reformer, as if he were a Ralph Nader type of figure. The problem is that Nader made a career of fighting against corporations in the interests of “the people,” and because of that I would trust Nader in fighting for the people (whether he would be an effective or even good president is an entirely different matter).

    What’s the evidence that Trump is this well-intentioned reformer who wants to improve the way government functions and actually help the country?

    Another pro-Trump piece from WaPo by Hugh Hewitt.

    Those alarmed by Trump should recognize that those personality characteristics do not define the entire man or his agenda for the next four years — and that, in fact, there are good reasons to welcome the brashness. The vast, suffocating bureaucratic state has grown so powerful and utterly muffling of genuine ideological diversity that we need to break the ice forming over the national conversation. Trump is Thor’s hammer in that regard. It could get loud, but we could also end up hashing some hard things out.

    I wished he’d give specific reasons why he believes these things. It sounds close Trump supporters who just wanted to tear the system down–while not really thinking about what would replace the system; and simply trusting that Trump would be doing this primarily to make the system work better. It’s possible that this descries Trump, but I don’t see any evidence for it. Instead, the evidence suggests Trump lacks self-control, maturity, and seems unable to see beyond his own interests. I think there’s many examples of that.

  84. Reid

    Putin-like Attempts to Control Reality–i.e., They’re Lying

    I believe they will keep doing this–and keep attacking the press–trying to get people to believe that the truth can’t be known. This is really dangerous–and I’m worried that the various news agencies made not have enough credibility and trust to effectively combat this. Maybe if Fox, MSNBC, CNN–all stood together in an agreement, that would help. Credibility of the press really needs to be strengthened–it’s vital to our nation and national security.

    Also, see Sean Spicer a few weeks earlier:

    Finally,


    Good Question:

    Who Supports the Following?

    On Trump via White House Spokesperson, Sean Spicer today:

    Anne Applebaum on Sean Spicer’s Press Conference Today

    As someone who lives part of the time in an illiberalizing democracy, let me explain the purpose of a press spokesman’s blatant lies. He is not speaking to the country. He is speaking to his constituents. They will hear only him, and not “msm” outrage. Watch how Breitbart, Fox cover this story. We will know if they are going to be journalists or propagandists speaking to the echo chamber. Also watch members of Congress whose votes come from inside the Trump bubble. They now respond to an alternate reality too.

    Along similar lines as Applebaum

  85. Reid

    Pay Attention to Which Media Outlets Get (the Most?) Access to Trump White House

    Here’s the threaded tweet:

    >It’s very important for anyone involved in the media to watch this statement from the White House Press Secretary. Anyone who reports reality will not stay in the good graces of this White House. If you are seeking to preserve access to this White House, you will have to become a vehicle for propaganda. So there is a choice for everyone in the media: You can tell the truth or you can have access. You can’t have both. For news consumers, pay attention to who gets access because it will be telling. Trump will give interviews to Hannity. Who else? Depends who is willing to stroke his ego.

    (emphasis added)

    I agree with this.

    Also, something similar to keep in mind:

    Now, something more uplifting:

  86. Reid

    Trump’s speech to CIA today; probably not worth watching–unless you want to see if you agree with my takeaway: I’m really beginning to feel he’s not right psychologically.

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?422418-1/president-trump-tells-cia-get-rid-isis

    (Applause is puzzling, giving Trump’s disparaging comments towards IC. I’ve read some reports that say these were Trump’s people [or unknown persons] clapping on the side. However, the C-Span video makes it seems like people in the center part of the audience are clapping and cheering–you can see them standing and clapping. I wanted to add another possible reason for their applause: they’re humoring him, but in a serious way. They know that Trump is a narcissist [and his speech to them proves it, with Trump oddly boasting about his appearances on Time magazine covers, among other boasts–they know he will go after people who say bad things about him–so the applause might be a way to put up a good front, as a way to protect themselves.)

  87. Reid

    Ezra Klein of vox.com: Trump’s Real War Isn’t with the Media, It’s With Facts

    This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.

    Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.

    It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.

    This makes a lot of sense in my view.

    The press has problems–the reporting can be shallow and sometimes biased, but that doesn’t mean the good journalists don’t get things right a lot of times; it doesn’t mean we should dismiss everything they say. In my view they are more trustworthy them Trump. Trump has a pattern of making outrageous claims and lies–including about the crowd size at the inauguration.

    I believe Trump is following Putin’s playbook–attacking the press, lie and try to cause confusion until people get tired and give up. It’s important for Americans to at least be aware and open to this possibility.

  88. Reid

    Some Things to Watch for in the Future

    From an interview with Edward Lucas, a British journalist known for coverage in Eastern and Central Europe:

    I think that there are two big dangers from a Trump administration: one is a crisis, either the collapse of NATO or starting a nuclear war with another state, and the other is that he does a “grand bargain” – particularly because things probably won’t go very well for him at home and he will need a foreign policy success. He has an early summit with Putin and comes out with some kind of showy deal, which is very bad for the security of frontline states. So yes, I am worried about that. Putin can offer Trump cooperation on terrorism; he can offer cooperation on Syria. I think both of those are essentially nugatory, and if there was any real willingness to cooperate, they would be cooperating already, so you don’t need a grand bargain to have cooperation on that. But he can offer it; he can also offer some kind of deal on the front line: for example, taking missiles out of Kaliningrad in exchange for America cancelling its missile defence programmes, and possibly also going even further: Russia pulling troops back from its western military district and America pulling its forces out of the frontline. I think that would be absolutely catastrophic. So there are different levels of importance in this grand bargain, any of them bad.

  89. Reid

    Yet, Another Way Trump Could Do Harm

    From this threaded tweet:

    We are about to learn how much we rely on the government for reliable information about everything. The government has, until now, been the gold standard for basic information — jobs, public health, crime, science. On the health of the economy alone, the government is the keeper of most of the major statistics. Will they continue to be reliable? The government keeps statistics on national crime trends and, particularly important in this environment, on hate crimes. Will hate crime data continue to be reliable? Will it even be collected, analyzed and released? While we rightfully been fret about climate policy, we also rely on government data for climate research. It needs to be unimpeachable. I could go on all night, but you get the idea. We’re an information-driven society that depends the USG’s data objectivity and reliability. If we’re entering a brave new world of government assault on consensus reality, that will have far-reaching consequences not yet obvious.

  90. Reid

    Another Example of the Orwell Quote: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.”

    Chris Wallace interviewing Reince Priebus, WH Chief of Staff today. Priebus doubling-down on claims that large Inauguration crowd size–trying to get Americans to doubt what they see. This is crazy, guys. The Trump administration is totally untrustworthy. How can the GOP be OK with this?

    I believe I’ve heard most of Priebus’s claims/arguments rebutted, but he raises the question about the time the 2009 and 2017 photos were taken–implying that the Trump Inauguration photos occurred before Trump gave his speech.

    I found a Reuter’s article that addresses this:

    One image was Trump’s inauguration on Friday, taken by Jackson just as Trump took the oath of office, Jackson said.

    The other picture was taken by Reuters photographer Stelios Varias from the same spot during former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, at 1:27 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2009, around the time Obama finished his inaugural address.

    Reuters published a combination of the two pictures at 2:02 p.m. (1902 GMT). The caption read: “A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in U.S. President Donald Trump at 12:01 p.m. (L) on January 20, 2017 and President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, in Washington, DC.”

    So Trump’s photo occurred when he was being sworn in, and I’m pretty sure this was before his speech, but only by a few minutes. It’s highly unlikely the crowd picture would change dramatically, if at all, from the swearing in, to Trump’s actual speech.

    In other words, Priebus is gaslighting the American public.

  91. Reid

    WaPo Op-Ed about Trump’s tax forms:

    It’s critical to understand that there has never in American history been a president for whom it was more important that the public see his tax returns. No president has had the kind of complex web of financial interests that Trump does, a network of companies and arrangements and partnerships that provide extraordinary opportunities to essentially sell the presidency. Yet he declined to divest from his company, maintains ongoing business enterprises that allow money to be funneled to him by both domestic and foreign sources, and refuses to tell the public exactly what those enterprises are or how much money he takes in from them.

    One other important point Paul Waldman, the writer makes: namely, that not releasing his tax forms is a sign of contempt for the public’s right to know. It’s also dismissive of conflict of issues problems. To make matters worse, Trump has used the bogus excuse of being under audit (without ever showing a letter confirming he’s under audit)–making his contempt for the public even starker, in my view. Even if you don’t care if a politician uses his political office to enrich himself to some degree, this kind of expression of contempt towards the public’s right to know and conflict of interests suggests he’s not even attempting to try to earn our trust, and this makes him untrustworthy in my view.

  92. Reid

    I thought this New York Magazine article was really interesting: Lessons from Putin’s America for Living in Trump’s America. It’s about life in Russia, an autocracy with covered by a fascade of democracy. One thing that was interesting is that the life the author describes isn’t one of constant fear of the state. Instead, the sense I got was that Russians (especially liberals and the intelligentsia) were cynical and defeated–and part of this stemmed from a complete lack of trust in any public institution.

    On a side note, the article hit home the idea that when we talk about concepts like corruption, fairness, freedom in the context of government and society, these concepts exist on a continuum. That is, societies are neither free or completely unfree. The way these concepts manifest themselves in society and government is a matter of degrees.

    In my view, this has two important implications for our politics now:

    1. People (usually those on the far Left) that are highly critical of our government, both domestically and internationally, should really consider the point I’m making above. The U.S. doesn’t always live out it’s ideals, and much more can be done to improve this. However, this doesn’t mean that the U.S. system–based on liberal values and capitalism–is a bad thing. Largely, it’s a good thing, despite it’s flaws. The question critics must ask: what’s the alternative?

    2. The objective should be to find ways to make the system better. Work to make the justice systems more fair and effective; work to increase economic opportunities and limit the extent to which the wealthy and powerful exploit everyone else. This is a never-ending battle. Even when progress is made, over time, the progress can be lost. Then it’s time to fight again.

  93. Reid

    From Reuters: House Republicans pass sweeping to reform ‘abusive’ U.S. Regulation This doesn’t sound good–it creates the impression of a reverse-Progressive Era type of move. On the other hand, the article doesn’t really have much analysis at all, so I would need more information to know what to think about this move. It sure doesn’t sound good.

  94. Reid

    Is Trump Endangering Our National Security?

    This article by John Schindler at The Observer, is disturbing. Schindler basically says that our allies are now concerned about sharing intelligence with us, because they’re not sure they can trust Trump and people in his administration. This is crazy, if true, and really makes a strong case for an independent investigation in my view.

    After 9/11, intelligence-sharing became more important than ever and it’s no exaggeration to term the American-led spy alliance the secret shield that keeps the West safe from jihadists. In a high percentage of cases, operations to take down terrorists before they kill innocents begin with a tip, usually from SIGINT, that’s shared among intelligence partners rapidly, leading to successful disruption “left of boom” as the spies say.

    Unfortunately, newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump is threatening the whole Western intelligence system with his brusque comments about our spies and worrisome ties to Moscow. For the first time, an American president is causing our allies and partners to wonder if Washington can still be trusted.

    And later,

    After 9/11, intelligence-sharing became more important than ever and it’s no exaggeration to term the American-led spy alliance the secret shield that keeps the West safe from jihadists. In a high percentage of cases, operations to take down terrorists before they kill innocents begin with a tip, usually from SIGINT, that’s shared among intelligence partners rapidly, leading to successful disruption “left of boom” as the spies say….

    …The cost of breakdowns in the Western spy alliance won’t be theoretical. If intelligence sharing wanes, the world gets more dangerous and jihadist attacks will increase, perhaps quite quickly. When spy-partners aren’t confident their shared secrets can be protected, they will become reticent to talk to us.

    Also, see this NPR interview. Steve Inskeep is interviewing reporter Mary Louise Kelly, who was covering Trumps’s CIA speech. Here’s a disturbing exchange between them (emphasis added):

    INSKEEP: So how awkward is it that the new president has taken office – the new administration has come in – and there is still, so far as we know, an investigation of the president’s ties to Russia?

    KELLY: It is awkward. And the latest twist is The Wall Street Journal reporting this morning that Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn, is under a counter intelligence investigation because of suspected ties to Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also investigating that very question.

    So here – here is the question that another CIA veteran put to me after watching Trump’s speech this weekend. This is Steve Hall. He was CIA chief of Russia operations. And he asked, what happens when the CIA collects a stellar piece of intelligence that maybe puts Vladimir Putin in a bad light? Steve Hall said, what happens when the CIA briefs Trump, and he wants to know the source?And Hall’s quote directly to me was, how can you say, no, we don’t trust you with the sourcing of that information? That is a live question today at Langley.

    Whether Trump is connected to Russia or not, if many CIA operatives are actually questioning if they can trust the President, there is a huge, huge problem.

    1/25/2017:

  95. Reid

    Spicer pushing this unsubstantiated claim. Is the President mentally OK?

  96. Reid

    I’m not sure how much stock to put into this analysis, explaining the way Trump speaks, but it is very fascinating.

  97. Reid

    ON January 2, 2017, Trump tweeted the following:

    Chicago murder rate is record setting – 4,331 shooting victims with 762 murders in 2016. If Mayor can’t do it he must ask for Federal help!

    At the time, I said it felt like he was itching to find a way to consolidate power; and it just adds to my sense that he’s waiting for some kind of outbreak of violence or terrorist act to give him an excuse to do that.

    Here’s what he tweeted today:

    From “you must ask” to “I will send” if you don’t fix things.

  98. Reid

    Updating My Comments About What Could Save the Republic

    In addition to everything I said,

    My sense is that there is a large group of Americans who view Trump as an Archie Bunker-type businessman, whose faults are overlooked because they believe a) his outrageous behavior is just an act, and he will change once he becomes president; b) loves America and will work hard to serve it; c) he has the skills and intelligence to be an effective political leader.

    The fate of our Republic may depend on the number and speed by which these individuals realize that none of these things are true–that everything Trump says and does is essentially accurate reflection of who he is; that he’s not saying this just to be outrageous; that he only cares about himself–his power and wealth–not the country or governing well; that the skills, knowledge, and temperament he possesses make him a catastrophically bad president. I’m hoping more and more Americans will realize this–that they will allow themselves to realize this….

    …and I’m going to add the realization that Trump is not right mentally. I’ve heard other journalists say this in the past, but I never could bring myself to go that far. I’m pretty much at the point where I think this is now likely. My feeling is that if you follow Trump closely via the news–especially what he says and does–there’s a point where I think a lot of people would conclude that he’s not well–i.e., that he is actually mentally ill.

    My sense is that some (many?) journalists are feeling this way. A journalist reported that a member of Congress said that, as far as s/he could tell, most members of Congress knew the president wasn’t well–it was just a matter of when a Republican would say something. When will a member of Congress or journalist begin to raise this issue? I’m hoping they’ll do this before something really bad happens.

    Speaking of which, here’s Keith Obermann…Now, this doesn’t come across so well…I admit it sounds like Obermann, himself, has lost it. (And to some degree it sounds almost like a comedy sketch.) But I don’t think he’s wrong. Take a look for yourself:

  99. Reid

    Here’s How Republicans Should Be Behaving

    Evan McMullin, the independent presidential candidate, is saying the things I wish more Republicans, especially in Congress, were saying. He’s started a group as a way to defend the Republic. I think it’s a good idea, and I agree with Norm Ornstein below:

  100. Reid

    Statement from Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect Regarding President Trump’s Executive Orders Banning Immigrants From Some Middle Eastern and African Countries

    From their Facebook page:

    As President Trump prepares orders to wall out Mexicans and shut out refugees from America, today marks one of the most hateful days in our nation’s history. Donald Trump is retracting the promise of American freedom to an extent we have not seen from a President since Franklin Roosevelt forced Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. Today the Statue of Liberty weeps over President Trump’s discrimination.
    President Trump is beyond the wrong side of history. He is driving our nation off a moral cliff.
    When President Trump uses national security as a guise for racism, he doesn’t strengthen our national security. He compromises our national security by engendering disrespect for America by people around the world.
    Make no mistake, suspending visas for citizens of Middle Eastern and African countries is not called national security. It’s called prejudice.
    President Trump is now exacerbating the largest global refugee crisis in history. His slamming America’s doors on the starving, the wounded and the abused is a grotesque blot on our nation’s history of freedom. The President’s actions are an embarrassment to the timeless vision of America as inscribed by Emma Lazarus to “give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
    Demonizing refugees and immigrants, and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to keep them out of our nation, will go down in American history as one of the most tragic deviations from our national conscience.

  101. Reid

    Interesting tidbit

  102. Mitchell

    My dad actually said last December that martial law was not out of the question. I pshawed him. I’m learning not to pshaw anyone about anything now.

  103. Reid

    I really think that’s a cool attitude. And for what it’s worth, your reaction (pshaw) is reasonable. The possibilities that I’m willing to consider now seem really crazy to me. One of the people I follow on twitter, Sarah Kendzior, a journalist with a background in an authoritarian regimes, initially sounded hysterical and over-the-top. In some ways, I still feel that, but that feeling is gradually diminishing as the days go on. The thing is, authoritarian rule is super foreign to us, as Americans, so it seems like impossible. I really, really hope this feeling turns out to be wrong.

  104. Reid

    Before I post the next tweet, I just want to say that I think an incoming President should have latitude and control over the communication of the various agencies s/he oversees–and the administrators, in general, should not defy the orders of the incoming administration.

    Having said that, I admit that I like the gumption of the National Park Service people, who have set up their own private twitter account to express their views. Here’s the description on their page, followed by a pinned tweet:

    The Unofficial “Resistance” team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised! Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape

You can add images to your comment by clicking here.