Washington Post political columnist Kathleen Parker — one of the keenest observers of the American political scene — brought a tear of nostalgia to my eyes this morning with this comment in a well-reasoned piece on Trump’s future:
A single episode of “The West Wing” would have taught Trump more about his new job than he seems to know — or care.
Ah, Jed, we hardly knew ye!
Read the entire column here. And if you’re not watching her regularly, and you’re a political kin to me, you should be.
The assault on the environment has begun in earnest. The effort to debunk and de-emphasize the global warming catastrophe looming just over the horizon is already moving into high gear.
A litany of all the steps Trump has already taken to reverse the minimal progress the U.S. has made on global warming during the eight years of the Obama administration would take up too much space. But here are some of the most disturbing highlights. In one week in office, he has:
- named several cabinet nominees — including the centrally positioned Environmental Protection Agency — who are ostriches on the climate if not outright deniers;
- overseen the removal from several government Web sites, including that of the White House, of any mention of global warming and climate change;
- issued gag orders for the National Park Service and its employees to prevent them from talking about global warming’s impact;
- signed executive orders resurrecting the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline projects, two of the largest environmental-disaster-in-waiting monuments to our ability to ignore truth at the expense of exorbitant corporate profits; and,
- decreed that EPA studies will now be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by Trump’s team, some of whom are known climate deniers.
Trump, in short, is proving to be — as promised — his own climate disaster.
But it’s important for those of us who are focused on the global warming problem to keep one thing in mind: the rest of the world is, broadly speaking, more concerned about the immediate impact of global warming than is the United States. This is true both at the level of the population and at the level of government. Just because the United States has a brief memory lapse and forgets the importance of the issue, doesn’t mean the problem just runs amok. Other nations — notably China, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK (if May doesn’t screw it up) and in fact most of the EU as well as Australia and New Zealand — will step into the leadership vacuum created by our temporary amnesia. Then, when we finally rid ourselves of this aberration and right the ship, we’ll see how it feels to be a second-rate nation playing catch-up with a world that has moved beyond us. And perhaps that loss of innocence, of that belief in America as the great power and leader in the world, of the claim of American Exceptionalism which has never been more than a patriotic slogan, is just what is needed to further the cause of world peace.
And, as a bit of an aside, it’s not going to be all that easy for Trump to reverse the progress we’ve made on global warming. Many, many American businesses have already recognized the significance of the issue and have made major investments in clean energy technologies, weaning themselves off fossil fuels, and building new infrastructure for a green future. They are going to push back against a man who appears at least to listen to other successful businessmen more than any other audience other than Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. He’s going to get an earful on global warming on his own golf courses.
More and more pundits are pointing it out. In his first week in office, Trump has given us pretty much exactly what he warned us he would.
Why do we keep assuming the best from this guy? Maybe it’s the incurable optimism that is such an essential part of being American. Maybe it’s the old “any port in a storm” thinking. Or maybe it’s our blindness.
Whatever is at work here, it doesn’t. Work, that is.
When Trump announced his candidacy, we all said, “What a joke. He won’t last a month in real campaigning.”
Then when it became obvious he would be one of the last candidates standing, we made excuses for him. “He’s got to be a vicious attack dog to get the nomination. He’ll temper himself once he’s the nominee.”
He got the nomination and things, if anything, got worse. So we said, “Even if he wins (which clearly ain’t gonna happen), he’ll have to temper himself. After all, the office makes the man, not vice versa.”
Now he’s the “leader” of the free world and “president” of the United States. Has he shown the first glimmer of tempering? Nope.
Brace yourself, my friends. Trumplethinskin (I love that word!) is going to be giving us the same petty behaviors, ill-considered policies and narrow-mindedness he’s shown us from the start. For however long this reign of error lasts, we’re stuck with it.
On his third day in office, Donald Trump has managed to make me and lot of other progressives happy by cancelling America’s signature to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This trade agreement took all eight years of the Obama presidency to get finalized. But ultimately, it was a bad deal on a number of levels.
Traditionally, Republicans favor such trade agreements while Democrats resist them. But the last two international trade agreements we’ve entered into were both negotiated and signed into law by Democrats — Bill Clinton on the infamous North American Free Trade Agreement and Obama on the TPP.
I had been publicly opposed to TPP almost from the beginning. While the vast majority of the agreement’s contents were not disclosed to the public, what we did know of it rankled me. The provisions on intellectual property — a subject that is near and dear to my heart — were egregious and threatened the sovereignty of the United States at a fairly fundamental level. The fact that it was negotiated completely in secret with only a few top business execs in the room made the whole thing reek of crony capitalism.
So I’m glad Trump pulled us out of TPP. He’s done a number of other things I disagreed with — some of them vehemently — but on this one, I think he got it right.
David Brooks in his NYT column for today entitled,”Trump, Taxes and Citizenship,” offers this insight:
”You can say that a billionaire paying no taxes is fine and legal. But you have to adopt an overall mentality that shuts down a piece of your heart, and most of your moral sentiments.
“That mentality is entirely divorced from the mentality of commonality and citizenship. That mentality has side effects. They may lead toward riches, but they lead away from happiness.”
This is the higher ground of which conservatives and progressives alike speak. This is the level of living and civilization which asks not, “What can I get away with here?” But rather, “How much can I give to this situation?” To the level which seeks the beauty and elegance of cooperation in selflessness rather than the personal reward of material gain, however richly deserved, legally attainable and even justifiable.
Just because you CAN lose $1 billion in a single year and then treat that loss as a long-term investment bucket, SHOULD you? Citizen or taxpayer? Giver or taker?
It’s too bad we won’t take time to reflect seriously on this and related critical questions of State as we follow the frenzied run-up to next month’s potentially world-changing elections.
Check out my spiritual site for a reference to an excellent personal essay about how A Course in Miracles can help us deal more spiritually with the rise of Donald Trump in American politics.
Hill & Jill
As a committed supporter of the Green Party and its presumptive Presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein, I’ve been talking her up among my progressive friends of late. Most if not all of them are impressed with the Green Party’s platform and positions on key issues, particularly on foreign policy and climate change where the progressive community clearly and correctly sees Hillary Clinton for the hawkish corporatist that she is.
But most of the people I’ve been talking to Have expressed concern that they may be casting a “protest vote” that could tip the 2016 presidential election to the Republican party and its presumptive nominee, the utterly detestable Donald Trump. Generally, I counter that concern by pointing to Jill’s observation that voting for the lesser of two evils still produces an evil. She urges her followers to characterize a vote for her as a vote for the not-evil, the positive, the true progressive position all of us say we want.
It occurred to me yesterday that there might be a stronger and more convincing argument on this point. If you stop and think about it, popular vote never elects the President. That takes place in the antiquated and inexplicable Electoral College. In all but two states, Nebraska and Maine, the candidate who receives the most popular votes is awarded all of the state’s Electoral College votes. This means, among other things, that a third-party protest vote only has potentially disruptive results in a state where the outcome is within a few percentage points. In states where the outcome is certain or close to it, it’s not rational to consider that a third-party protest vote could alter the outcome in the final analysis.
So I want to say to my friends here and in the so-called real-world that unless you’re in a battleground state with a close outcome in November, you should vote your conscience, not what the duopoly tells you to do. If, on the other hand, there is solid objective evidence to suggest that voting for the Greens or any other third party could realistically result in the victory going to the worse of the two major party candidates, then and only then would you be justified in holding your nose and voting for Hillary Clinton.
Sorry, but there’s no justification at all for voting for Trump.
Almost from the moment he entered the Republican Party nominating process, Donald Trump has been the target of accusations from the Right and Left that he is a fascist. Everyone from his primary opponents to the Democratic candidates, from rabid Facebook posters to such esteemed writers as Noam Chomsky, has leveled that loaded charge against him.
It’s understandable. In many ways, his “policies” reflect fascist thinking. But on closer examination, he is less a fascist than he is a right-wing nativist with populist overtones. But that’s a pretty big mouthful for a TV commentator, and far too complex and nuanced to fit on a bumper sticker or in a soundbite.
Peter Baker, in a New York Times op-Ed piece dated May 28, puts these charges into the broader context of the growing debate over global fascism taking place in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. He points out that if we begin by defining fascism as, “a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism,” Trump falls short on the very first part of the definition. He is more a neoliberal favoring small, unintrusive government than a big-government fascist.
Read Baker’s article. I think you’ll find it enlightening, not only with respect to the 2016 Presidential election in the United States, but with respect to worldwide geopolitics.
Elizabeth Warren: HRC’s Attack Dog?
Traditional political strategy suggests that each major party’s ticket must include in the number two spot a real “attack dog” capable of going after the other party’s presidential candidate. If that wisdom continues to hold, the Democrats have found their vice-presidential nominee: Elizabeth Warren.
In a series of Twitter exchanges with Republican nominee-to-be-for-sure Donald Trump over the weekend, Elizabeth decimated the dullard billionaire. You can read a particularly cogent account of the dialogue here to get some idea of why I am enthusiastic about this subject.
According to Ashley Parker’s report, at one point Trump tried to attach the label of “Goofy” to Ms. Warren. Demonstrating her understanding that the best way to go after Trump is to question his success and intelligence, Elizabeth countered with something like:
“Seriously? The man with “all the best words”? The best you can come up with is “Goofy”? Weak.”
She had me on the floor! Brilliant comeback. And exactly the formula for keeping Trump as far as possible from our nation’s corridors of power.
As you know if you follow this space, I’m a committed Green Party person. My support and my vote in 2016 go to Jill Stein. But if the Democrats were to nominate Hillary Clinton, and if she were to pick Elizabeth Warren has her VP candidate, it would be very tempting to realign with the my life-long party.
Somebody has got to keep Donald Trump out of Washington!
The Republican Party’s presidential nominating circus is about at its midway point and so far the only clear things are that a plurality (30-40%) of the “base” who vote in primaries and caucuses prefer Donald Trump and that everyone else can’t stand the guy. The GOP Establishment — whoever that is these days — is stumbling into line behind Ted Cruz, who’s such a terrible person that even his fellow Congress Critters hate him.
I personally believe Cruz is more dangerous than Trump could ever be. Trump is an opportunist with no political chops or interest who changes positions — to the extent that he even has any — at the drop of a PR advisor’s hat. Cruz is a dangerous fanatical idealogue who truly believes the racist, ignorant crap he spews forth as his stump[ed] speech. Trump’s ignorance is, at least theoretically, fixable. Cruz’ demagoguery isn’t. He actually believes that stuff! And he’s annoyingly smug and self-righteous about those indefensible beliefs.
As a progressive and long-time political kibitzer, I’m convinced it doesn’t ultimately matter who gets the GOP nod this year, he (or she?) is going to get creamed. But I’m also a firm believer in a multi-party system and I don’t want to see the Republican Party fall into ignominy and irrelevance. One-party rule, even if it’s a party I can agree with much of the time, isn’t a good plan for running a democracy’s political side.
So I’m rooting for a contested convention which nominates someone who isn’t sullied by the current filth the GOP has put on as a presidential selection process. I have no idea who that might be but I’m sure it will be someone with conservative cred, which is enough to sink them in the General without destroying the party in its entirety.