Bob Schwartz

Tag: Trump

Ray of Light: Trump’s Pardoning May Be Like a Slot Machine

The likelihood of any individual being pardoned by Trump will be affected by Trump’s craziness, unreliability and lack of loyalty. It will be like a slot machine. And that may be a good thing for justice and the rule of law.

Even though I have long accepted that Trump would try to pardon almost everyone who is charged or convicted in the course of the investigation, Paul Manafort’s plea agreement to cooperate raises an encouraging insight:

If you were one of the dozens of people who are getting caught in this net, facing possible years in prison, and Trump told you to your face—not just through an intermediary, not just through hints on Twitter—that you could expect a pardon, would you believe him and depend on him to keep his word?

Of course you wouldn’t believe him and depend on him to keep his word. Which means, just like Manafort, you have to hedge your bets. It is possible that if you agree to cooperate, Trump might still pardon you. On the other hand, if you agree to cooperate, Trump might go crazy and refuse to pardon you. And in the worst case, you might stonewall and take your punishment, but because of some crazy voices in Trump’s head, he might still refuse to pardon you. Who knows? With Trump it’s a roll of the dice, a spin of the slots. As a defendant, are you willing to bet ten or twenty years of your life on a Looney Tunes character? I bet not.

 

Ben Franklin: My University of Pennsylvania Should Revoke Trump’s Diploma

“By the way this idiot Woodward who wrote this book which is all fiction said that I said something like that, but he put it in a crude manner…The concept is true, but the way it was said was very…hey, I went, like, to the best college.”
Trump at a North Dakota rally

Trump self-importantly crows about his degree from Wharton (like all the time), the business school of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Trump’s point is that he must be, like, a genius with that Penn degree. Penn, is, like, a very good school that continues to provide its students with an excellent education. Though in some small number of high-profile cases, it appears to be casting pearls before swine.

The bigger point is Ben Franklin, credited as founder of the university. Above is a photo of the Ben Franklin statue at the center of campus, in front of College Hall.

Penn has tried to walk a fine line in its relationship with Trump, and with other members of his family who have attended Penn. Just as the sins of the father should not be visited on children, the sins of the alumnus should not be visited on a college. Penn did the best it could, given what it had to work with.

Ben Franklin is having none of it. Among our American founders, he is the most famous for not suffering fools. That’s why he is asking the University of Pennsylvania—his University of Pennsylvania—to revoke Trump’s diploma. That won’t stop Trump from continuing to say he went, like, to the best college, but it will give the best college a way to say: thanks for the compliment and PR, but no thanks. And it will give Ben Franklin a way to stop spinning in his grave, just a few blocks from Independence Hall. Because this is not what he envisioned for the first-ever Penn grad in the White House. Not, like, at all.

The Difficult Realities of Impeaching Trump

Yesterday was an encouraging day for those who hope to see the uncovering and dismantling of the corrupt and un-American Trump enterprise. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted; Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen pled guilty and directly implicated Trump in his criminality. Even the likelihood that Manafort and others who haven’t turned on Trump will be pardoned doesn’t take away from the day’s significance.

This has raised hopes that Trump will be impeached if the Democrats are successful in the midterm elections. Which means—not wanting to burst the rare bright balloon of yesterday’s news—it is time for a reality check.

Let us say that the Democrats win a majority in both houses of Congress.

The impeachment process begins in the House, with hearings and a simple majority passing articles of impeachment. In a Democratic House, that should be no problem.

The trial for removal of a president then takes place in the Senate. If the Democrats do win a majority in the Senate, it will be a small majority at best. Let us say that they have a 53-47 majority. Conviction for impeachment requires a two-thirds majority, which is 67 votes. So 14 Republicans would have to vote to remove the president.

You may think that what we will have learned by then about Trump’s corrupt presidential conduct and fitness for office will finally move Republican Senators to agree to his removal. (As a matter of fact, if you privately asked Republican Senators today whether they would rather have Mike Pence in the White House immediately, the answer would be a unanimous yes.) But not a single thing we have seen indicates that any sitting Republican Senator—that is, those who are not leaving office—is willing to stand up to Trump. Why would we think that we can find 14 or so Republican Senators with the courage to remove him from office, no matter how egregious the evidence?

Okay, enough reality. I would like to be totally wrong about this. Let’s enjoy this moment of hope for American restoration.

The One and Only Question EVERY Republican Candidate Should Be Asked: The Role Model Thing

Republican candidates are going to be asked lots of questions about their attitudes toward Trump, his character and his policies. The answers will be a combination of party-line loyalty, evasion, gibberish or silence.

All those questions should be avoided, or at least not central. There is only one question these Republican candidates should be asked—one that is not hypothetical, one that demands a yes-or-no answer, one that has been asked in public opinion polls but is not (yet) a part of our political discourse:

Do you believe that Donald Trump is a good role model for your children and grandchildren?

We already know that in public opinion polls, many Republicans still say they believe he is. But those respondents are answering a poll; they are not answering publicly as candidates for office.

Any candidate who says they believe that Trump is a good role model for their children or grandchildren should be automatically disqualified for public office. In fact, if I were interviewing people for any job, I might ask the same question, and might reject the job candidates who say “yes” for the same reason: Without going into any of the other obvious character or moral deficiencies, Trump is demonstrably a chronic (some would say pathological) liar.

You can try to defend or explain away certain character or moral problems. But a lie is a lie (the Washington Post counts 4,229 presidential false or misleading statements so far).

So any Republican candidate who says they want their children or grandchildren to “be like Trump” are wishing on their beloved young ones a life marked by, among other shortcomings, telling a constant stream of lies about virtually everything. Are those candidates really the sort of people you want anywhere near your government?

Why Trump Is a Horror Movie and Not a Reality Show

Reality shows dramatize and exaggerate “real” human behavior and situations. People do and say bad, even horrible, things. We may be repulsed, we may find it endearing and entertaining, but when we watch reality shows, we are never scared.

The most frightening horror movies are based on a powerful premise: Within our seemingly ordinary life in our seemingly ordinary world, there is an inconceivable terror lurking. It may emerge at any time without warning. We must be always on our guard because everything that used to seem benign is now menacing. What is worst, on top of the constant uncertainty, is that we have no defense.

That is why when we watch a horror movie, no matter how prepared we think we are, we jump out of our seats anyway. That is why in America, while we long for the benign ordinary, we prepare each day for what is lurking, and still jump when it arrives. That is why Trump is a horror movie and not a reality show.

Trump Tweets to the Soccer Ball When He Misses Putin

The mystery of the soccer ball that Putin gave to Trump has been solved. The ball does contain a transmitter, but only for nearby phones.

It is now so clear. Trump can access secret videos from Putin broadcast from the ball. And when Trump really misses Putin but can’t get him on the phone, Trump can tweet to the ball as if Putin were right there with him.

Isn’t love grand!

Bloomberg:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s gift of a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump last week set off a chorus of warnings — some of them only half in jest — that the World Cup souvenir could be bugged. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham even tweeted, “I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

It turns out they weren’t entirely wrong. Markings on the ball indicate that it contained a chip with a tiny antenna that transmits to nearby phones.

But rather than a spy device, the chip is an advertised feature of the Adidas AG ball. Photographs from the news conference in Helsinki, where Putin handed the ball to Trump, show it bore a logo for a near-field communication tag. During manufacturing, the NFC chip is placed inside the ball under that logo, which resembles the icon for a WiFi signal, according to the Adidas website.

The chip allows fans to access player videos, competitions and other content by bringing their mobile devices close to the ball.

Trump Turns to a Depression-era Solution to Help the Farmers He Is Hurting

Library of Congress, Farm Foreclosure Sale in Iowa, ca. 1930-1940

Washington Post:

White House readies plan for $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers caught in Trump’s escalating trade war

The U.S. Agriculture Department on Tuesday plans to announce a $12 billion package of emergency aid for farmers caught in the midst of President Trump’s escalating trade war, two people briefed on the plan said, the latest sign that growing tensions between the United States and other countries will not end soon….

The money would be extended just as voters in some of the most heavily impacted states are preparing to cast votes in the midterm elections. There are several key Senate races in farm dependent states like Missouri, North Dakota, and Indiana this November, and the outcome of those races could determine who controls the chamber next year.

The White House has searched for months for a way to provide emergency assistance to farmers without backing down on Trump’s trade agenda, and the new program will extend roughly $12 billion through three mechanisms run by the Department of Agriculture.

The funds will come through direct assistance, a food purchase and distribution program, and a trade promotion program. It will rely in part on a Depression-era program called the Commodity Credit Corporation, a division of the Agriculture Department created in 1933 to offer a financial backstop for farmers.

So the damage Trump is doing to farmers with his unnecessary and universally condemned trade war is potentially so great that he is turning to a solution from the Depression. Whether you call that telling, ironic or simply surreal, it is just one more milestone on a road to American parts strange and unknown—or more likely a road to nowhere.

Logical Proof that Putin is President of the United States (and leader of the Republican Party)

Logic, even playful logic, is not particularly popular with Trump and many of his supporters. It has been tossed on the trash heap, along with truth, selflessness, courage, patriotism and sanity.

Logic can be helpful in critical times like these. Using what might be called the Transitive Property of Dominance, we find:

Trump is President of the United States.
Putin dominates Trump.
Therefore Putin is President of the United States.

and:

Trump is leader of the Republican Party.
Putin dominates Trump.
Therefore Putin is leader of the Republican Party.

This has many uses. Most importantly, when you see a Republican official, or see a Republican candidate on a ballot, unless you are absolutely sure he or she is an active opponent of this dominance (not just rhetorical objection), you can assume that for all practical purposes you are looking at Putin.

The logic may not be formally pure. But the point is essential and inescapable.

Lying Without Consequence: “Trump’s top economic adviser says deficit ‘is coming down rapidly,’ contradicting virtually all available data”

Diogenes Searching for an Honest Man in the Trump Administration

 

Lying is Trump’s practice and the policy of his administration, even about the most significant public questions. But that is the not biggest issue.

The biggest issue is that there is no consequence for the lies. When the nation’s top economist completely misrepresents the state of the economy—in spite of all evidence to the contrary—nothing happens to him. Or to his boss. In fact, it seems that the best qualification for a job in the administration—and for keeping on Trump’s good side—is to be the biggest possible liar.

Washington Post:

President Trump’s top economic adviser said Friday that the federal deficit is “coming down rapidly,” contradicting estimates by nonpartisan analysts, Congress’s official scorekeeper and a branch of the White House.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said on Fox Business that stronger economic growth was creating enough new tax revenue to bring down the deficit.

“The deficit — which was one of the other criticisms [of the GOP tax law] — is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly,” Kudlow said. “It’s throwing up enormous amounts of new tax revenue.”

@larry_kudlow: “The deficit… is coming down, and it’s coming down rapidly. Growth solves a lot of problems.” pic.twitter.com/H375h7rV0a
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) June 29, 2018

It’s hard to know where Kudlow is getting his numbers. The deficit from January through April was $161 billion, according to Treasury, up from $135 billion at the same point last year. And it will deteriorate further from here, since the Treasury collects a large amount of tax revenue during April when taxes are due for most Americans….

Commenting specifically on the 2017 tax law, the CBO said it would increase deficits by $1.27 trillion over the next decade, even when including the positive effects of the law on the economy.  Annual deficits require the government to borrow money to finance its operations, adding debt. The CBO estimates that the amount of debt the United States will have in a decade will equal almost the total size of the economy.

Official White House data suggest deficits are increasing, too. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget says the deficit is rising from $665 billion in 2017 to $832 billion in 2018, and will approach $1 trillion annually in 2019.

“Deficits are not going down. They are going up,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan think tank that advocates for budget discipline.

Trump’s Summit with His Real Boss: “Who’s Your Daddy?”

It would not be surprising if, when Trump meets with Putin in July, the first words out of Putin’s mouth are “Who’s your Daddy?” That’s probably the way they greet each other in their frequent phone calls. They both laugh, but that acknowledges that in reality, Putin’s the boss.

How did that happen? There is plenty of speculation. The best guess is that Trump has been laundering Russian money through his business for decades (the main reason he will never release his tax returns). Putin knows this, down to the dollar, down to each individual oligarch or Mafiya member.

Expectations from the “summit”:

Trump will repeat that Putin assured him that Russia has not and will not meddle in American elections. Who do you believe, Trump will ask, Putin or our lying intelligence agencies?

Trump will announce a new strategic relationship with Russia, something none of his incompetent, weak-willed predecessors could ever accomplish. Together, Trump will say, America and Russia will accomplish great things that nobody but Trump could deliver. MARGA!

Putin will remain more silent. But he—the world’s richest man and one of the world’s most powerful—will still be amazed at the trick he has been able to pull off. Not even Stalin was able to put an American president in his murderous pocket.

Who’s Trump’s Daddy indeed.