Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Chairman Nunes: Recuse Thyself

As a former member of the Donald Trump transition team's executive committee, Rep. Devin Nunes briefed Trump and his team on intelligence matters, as he had done during the campaign.  He worked closely in that role with General Michael Flynn, who resigned in February because he lied about having conversations with the Russian ambassador.  Yet, despite the appearance of a conflict of interest, Chairman Nunes has been serving as Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating links between key Russians and the Trump campaign and transition.   

Questions about Chairman Nunes' ability to lead an objective investigation have increased because of his strange behavior since F.B.I. Director James Comey and the director of the N.S.A., Admiral Michael Rogers, appeared before his committee last week. Comey's sworn testimony was devastating for President Trump.  

Comey was asked to respond to a tweets Trump had sent to his followers accusing President Barack Obama of having him wiretapped.   Comey responded, "I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI. The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets."  Comey did confirm that the F.B.I. is investigating the Russian government's interference with the November election, and "that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."   

Two days following Comey's testimony, Chairman Nunes announced that communications by members of President Trump's transition team were included in the "incidental collection" of foreign surveillance. At a Capitol Hill press conference he said he had learned this through a source, which he did not identify, and then headed to the White House to inform the president.  Subsequently, Chairman Nunes' spokesperson revealed, "Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source."  The spokesperson added, "The chairman is extremely concerned about the improper masking of names of U.S. citizens."

Chairman Nunes has still not shared the information or the identity of its source with any other members of his committee.  Nor has he sufficiently explained why he couldn't have used a secure area on Capitol Hill.   But President Trump said last Wednesday he felt somewhat "vindicated" by the announcement.   It all appears to be a perfect Trump tactic; change the subject from his unhinged tweets, thanks to the cover provided him by his former transition team member, Chairman Nunes.  

Chairman Nunes then cancelled all House Intelligence hearings scheduled for this week.  He explained, "There are just questions that we have for Director Comey and Admiral Rogers probably that they just couldn't answer in a public setting but it's necessary to get both of them back down here before we can move on to other interviews."  He said that the cancellation had nothing to do with the documents he had viewed in the secure location at the White House.   But Chairman Nunes did announce that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had agreed to testify before the committee.  Manafort has come under new scrutiny because of his alleged ties to the Russian backed former president of Ukraine.  

Chairman Nunes is reported to believe that the documents he was shown suggest that the Obama administration may have been using its foreign intelligence powers to shadow the Trump campaign.  He has said he is concerned that the identities of Trump officials were "unmasked" and widely transmitted to people who had no need to see them, and had "little or no foreign intelligence value."

In January the Director of National Intelligence released a report that found that Russian President Vladimir Putin had tried to influence the outcome of the November election.  The report said, “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”  

The Comey revelation last week that the F.B.I. is investigating whether there was any coordination between the Russians and members of the Trump campaign has shaken Washington.  How did Trump advisor Roger Stone know in advance that Wikileaks would release damaging emails from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta?   The torrent of embarrassing emails was devastating for the Clinton campaign.  

Chairman Nunes is clearly slow-walking his committee's investigation, he has cancelled important public hearings with key witnesses, and he has failed to share information with his committee members while keeping President Donald Trump fully informed.   Many in Washington, especially Democrats, have called on Chairman Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation.  Chairman Nunes refuses to do so, responding, "I'm not sure the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I am quite effective at getting to the bottom."  But from all appearances, so far his leadership has been quite ineffective.  

Chairman Nunes, remember you are no longer serving Donald Trump, you are serving the American people.  You must recuse yourself.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Is Trump Losing It?

"The best defense is a strong offense" is a centuries old military tactic that can lead to a strategic advantage.   But it is hard to understand how President Donald Trump will benefit from tweeting as a fact Saturday that President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped shortly before the November election.   The tweet left surprised White House aides scrambling for details, put the Democrats on attack mode, and led the head of the FBI to request the Justice Department publicly reject the claim.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended her boss but did not provide any supporting evidence on ABC's This Week Sunday.   "Look, I think he's going off of information that he has seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential," she said.  "And if it is, this would be the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself."   In a statement Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, "President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016."   He added that the president would not comment any further until such oversight is conducted.

A spokesperson for President Obama called Trump's accusation false.  He also noted that the president cannot order such a wiretap.   President Obama's Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, denied Sunday that Trump Tower was tapped.  Speaking on NBC's Meet The Press, Clapper said, "There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign."  Any such wiretap would have to have been authorized by the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court Act (FISA) based upon some evidence.   Clapper was asked if such a FISA order existed.  He responded, "I can deny it."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attacked President Trump for using wild accusations to deflect attention away from the growing investigations into his administration's ties to the Russians.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday on Meet The Press, "It's beneath the dignity of the presidency.  It is something that really hurts people's view of government."

Meanwhile, Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton said Sunday they had seen no evidence to support Trump's claims.  Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said Saturday, "If the former president of the United States was able to obtain a warrant lawfully to monitor Trump's campaign for violating the law, that would be the biggest scandal since Watergate."  Republican Senator Ben Sasse said Saturday, "The president should ask that this full (FISA) application regarding surveillance of foreign operatives of operations be made available, ideally to the full public, and a bare minimum to the U.S. Senate."  And House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Trump loyalist, said Sunday his committee will include Trump's allegations in its current investigation into Russian meddling.  

Late Sunday the New York Times reported that FBI Director James Comey asked the Justice Department to "publicly reject President Trump's unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama ordered his phones to be tapped."  This report was later confirmed by several news organizations, and is a remarkable action by an FBI chief .  Comey reportedly thinks the Trump claim suggests the FBI broke the law.  The Justice Department has so far not commented.  

President Trump has been dealing with a growing scandal involving past and present members of his administration and Russia.  U.S. intelligence agencies have already determined that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections to tilt the race toward Trump.  Despite repeated denials from Trump and his spokespersons, members of Trump's team had repeated contacts with Russian officials, even before the election.   In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. was quoted by a travel industry news website making comments about Russian investment in Trump businesses.   "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York."  He concluded, "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."   No wonder President Trump has never said anything bad about Russian President Vladimir Putin.  No wonder Trump wants the whole Russia issue to go away.  Da!

Of course, Americans could get a better understanding of Trump's complex business ties with the Russians if he released his tax returns.  During the campaign Trump said he could not release the returns because he is under audit, but promised he would do so when the audit is complete.  However, an audit does not preclude someone from releasing their tax returns to the public.   And Trump has refused to release a copy of the IRS audit letter.  The whole IRS audit claim may be a lie.  However, now his campaign says that Trump will never release his taxes because the American people elected him and they don't care.

The many investigations into Trump's Russian ties appear to be making progress, which may explain why he is tweeting unsubstantiated and outrageous charges about President Obama.  The man who once said "I alone can fix it!" is in a fix, and he is not going to be able to tweet his way out of it.   It appears that he may be losing it.  

There is now an urgent need to get to the truth about President Trump's latest allegations accusing a former U.S. president of illegal wiretapping.  And about the true nature of his ties to Russia.  It is also time for all members of Congress to demand Trump publicly release his taxes so that all potential conflicts of interest are disclosed.  

This is about putting America first--not Donald J. Trump!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump's First Month

"I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done," declared President Donald Trump in his news conference last week. It is hard to dispute that statement given the unprecedented confusion that has plagued the Trump administration during its first month.  

So far, the Trump transition has been ineptly problematic.  The incompetent rolling out of Trump's travel ban, which appeared to target Muslims, caused enormous chaos at the nation's airports.  The intensified rounding up of immigrants illegally in the U.S. has been heartless and perplexing.  The shaky efforts to "repeal and immediately replace" the Affordable Care Act have mobilized thousands of Obamacare supporters to protest at town halls throughout the country.

Perhaps no president has generated as many widespread global protests against his administration in so little time.   Thousands of protesters took to the streets across America Monday for "Not My President's Day" rallies against Trump's policies.  The opposition covered a wide range of issues, including immigration, women's reproductive rights and climate change.  History was made on the day following Trump's inauguration when an estimated 2.6 million people protested Trump in 673 marches in all 50 states and 32 different countries.

Protests overseas against the president have attracted huge crowds.  President Trump's intention to visit England has activated large protests.  More than 1.85 million people have signed a petition entitled "Prevent Donald Trump from making a State Visit to the United Kingdom."  The petition claimed that the president's vulgar comments about women would "cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen."  As the British Parliament debated whether to withdraw an invitation to the president extended by their prime minister during her recent visit, thousands of protesters rallied outside. 

Trump caused confusion and hard feelings in Sweden when at a Florida rally he called attention to "what is happening last night in Sweden."  The reference was at best oblique, but Trump later tweeted it was the result of a Fox News report linking that country's increase in crime to its acceptance of asylum seekers.  The Swedish embassy responded on Twitter, "We look forward to informing the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies."

Trump's praise of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his frequent criticism of NATO, both running counter to long-standing U.S. policy, have unsettled European allies.  There have been persistent reports that the Trump administration will ease sanctions on Russia relating to its illegal annexation of Crimea and military actions in Ukraine.  This weekend, Vice President Mike Pence attempted to reassure allies.  Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Pence said, "Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground which as you know President Trump believes can be found." 

During a January appearance at CIA headquarters, Trump suggested that the U.S. should have seized the oil during its 2003 invasion of Iraq. "We should have kept the oil," he said, "But okay.  Maybe we'll have another chance."   This played right into the propaganda claims of Mideast opponent's who have always charged that the U.S. only wants the oil.  On his way to Iraq, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters, "We're not going to seize anybody's oil."   He added, "All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future." 

Trump has tried to divert attention away from his rocky presidency by blaming the press--a stunt he utilized regularly during his campaign.  Last week Trump tweeted, "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!"   Defense Secretary Mattis disagreed with his boss, saying, "The press, as far as I'm concerned, are a constituency that we deal with, and I don't have any issues with the press myself."   Vice President Pence said he supports a free and independent press while in Brussels.  He added, "But you can anticipate that the president and all of us will continue to call out the media when they play fast and loose with the facts."  Calling out the media is one thing, but declaring it to be the enemy is outrageous.  In Thomas Jefferson's words, "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press."

In his news conference last week, Trump said, "This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine." But Trump lives in an alternate reality filled with alternative facts.  His popularity ratings are at an historic low for an incoming president since such polls have been taken.  

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If this were a television show, the title would be, "The Apprentice goes to Washington."  
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trump: The Art of the Deal?

The resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is just the beginning.  Flynn resigned following a Washington Post report that he privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with its ambassador to the United States in the weeks prior to President Donald Trump taking office.  The sanctions had been imposed by the Obama administration because Russia had meddled with the 2016 election.  Flynn had reportedly urged that Russia not overreact to the sanctions indicating they would be revisited at a later time.  

Flynn has been one of Trump's closest advisers for more than a year.  It is hard to believe that Trump had no knowledge of Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador.  Democrats are asking for answers.  "We in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing the risks," Representatives John Conyers Jr. and Elijah E. Cummings said in a joint statement.  "We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to out national security." 

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the Trump White House last month that she believed Flynn had mislead administration officials about the content of his conversation with the Russian ambassador and was vulnerable to blackmail.  Yates was subsequently fired when she announced she would not enforce Trump's travel ban.  Flynn continued his role atop Trump's national security team, and told Vice President Mike Pence that he did not discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador.  Pence subsequently defended Flynn in a series of appearances on public affairs programs.   

In his resignation letter Monday Flynn wrote, "Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador.  I have sincerely apologized to the President and Vice President, and they have accepted my apology."

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed Flynn's firing at his press briefing Tuesday.  "This is not an illegal issue, but a trust issue," he said.   Spicer explained that the president had been immediately informed of the situation, and that Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador was subjected to a legal review and "there was no issue with that."  He added, "It came down to a matter of trust...misleading the vice president and others...once that occurred it was over."  The president asked for Flynn's resignation.  Spicer also noted that the president had been "tough on Russia...and had called for Russia to deescalate the violence in Ukraine and to return Crimea."   

To date President Trump has been reluctant to publicly criticize Russia and President Vladimir Putin.  There have been reports that U.S. intelligence agencies have recently been withholding information from Oval Office briefings, "amid fears the Kremlin has ears inside the White House situation room."

For his part, President Trump Tweeted Tuesday morning, "The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?  Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N. Korea etc?"   In his briefing, Spicer amplified the president's concern, stating, "The president is clearly upset about this and views it as a threat to national security."   We will never know what would have happened with Flynn had the issue not been leaked to the press.  

Republican Senator John McCain said Tuesday, "I think there is significant dysfunction in the national security apparatus of the Trump administration."  Republican Senator Roy Blunt on Tuesday called for an exhaustive investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump administration.  "The Senate Intelligence Committee...should look into it exhaustively so that at the end of the process, nobody wonders whether there was a stone left unturned," he said.   Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called for an "independent and transparent investigation," noting that the White House counsel cannot lead an investigation, nor can Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a political appointee.   In a statement, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "The American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia's financial, personal and political grip on President Trump and what it means for our national security."   

In late 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence completed a report detailing Russian interference in November's election.   The report concluded, "Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered and influence campaign aimed at the US presidential election.  Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Hillary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency."   President-elect Trump rejected the report saying Democrats were over reacting to their loss.  On December 29, President Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats expelled from the U.S. and broadened existing Russian sanctions.  Rather than the usual tit-for-tat response, President Putin inexplicably said he would not immediately react to the U.S. actions.  President-elect Trump praised Putin's response.  

Flynn's resignation is just the latest chapter in this evolving story. Would Flynn discuss easing Russian sanctions without the president's advance knowledge?  Was Flynn directed to have the discussion?   Is Flynn just the scapegoat for an inappropriate Trump initiative to return a favor to Putin?   Is this what Trump would call "The Art of the Deal"?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

President Trump's Chaotic Start

After two weeks in office it has become clear that President Donald Trump is not going to change his impulsive and narcissistic ways. As a result, political leaders from both parties in Washington, as well as American allies around the world, are unsettled with the abnormal and unpredictable behavior coming from the president and they are beginning to speak out.

Powerful Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admonished the president in an interview on CNN Sunday for his Twitter attack on the federal judge who temporarily stopped Trump's travel ban.  "It is best not to single out judges," McConnell said. "We all get disappointed from time to time.  I think it is best to avoid criticizing them individually."  The Kentucky Republican said he would not consider legislation to institute the travel ban, adding, "I think proper vetting is important, but there is a fine line here between proper vetting and interfering with the kind of travel or suggesting a religious test."

McConnell also contradicted Trump's allegation that there was massive voter fraud in last November's election, a charge the president has repeated even though he was elected.  "There is no evidence it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election," McConnell said.  "And I don't think we ought to spend any federal money investigating that."  

McConnell also responded to comments Trump made in an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly in which Trump said he respected Russian President Vladimir Putin.  O'Reilly followed up, noting, "Putin is a killer."  Trump replied, "There are a lot of killers.  We have a lot of killers.  Well, you think our country is so innocent?"  McConnell told CNN, "(Putin's) a former KGB agent, a thug, not elected in a way most people consider to be a credible election."  Republican Senator Marco Rubio also responded to Trump, Tweeting, "When has a Democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP, or vice versa?  We are not the same as Putin." 

Trump's comments about Putin seem particularly jarring when compared to his treatment of American allies.  Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto found himself sparring with Trump over the border wall that the president promised to build and have Mexico pay for.  The result was the cancellation of a face-to-face White House meeting and a long phone conversation in which both leaders agreed to stop quarreling over the subject.  Trumps border wall tirades have rallied the Mexican people behind their unpopular president.  

Australia has been a fervent and loyal American ally for decades. In an interview over the weekend with 60 Minutes Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described his phone conversation with Trump as "the worst call ever."  Turnbull had informed the president of a deal brokered with President Barack Obama to take 1250 refugees, largely Iranians and Iraqis, that Australia had been criticized for holding off shore.  "It's a deal obviously that President Trump has said he wouldn't have entered into, but he is committed to honor it."   Following the call Trump Tweeted, "Do you believe it?  The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia.  Why?  I will study this dumb deal."  Of course they are not "illegal" and it wasn't "thousands."  A senior administration official later explained that Trump was concerned that the deal was going to hurt him politically.  

Trump's erratic behavior has even left many people in senior positions within the administration confused.   As a result, they are selectively leaking stories to the press.  Trump gets a lot of his information from television, so some leakers may be trying to get their views across to the president.  

There has never been a presidential transition like this in American history.  Amidst the flurry of executive orders, cabinet deliberations and early morning Tweets since Trump took office there is a sense of chaos and a palpable mood of uncertainty about what will come next.   On Sunday afternoon Trump renewed his attack on the judge who blocked the travel ban.  "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such in such peril" he said on Twitter.  "If something happens blame him and the court system.  People pouring in. Bad!" 

Is this all the way you will make America great again Mr. President?  Really?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Thank You President Barack Obama

"This is your victory," President Barack Obama said in his 2008 victory speech given at a time when the country was in the worst economic recession in decades, with unemployment soaring, the financial markets near total collapse, and the country immersed with two costly foreign wars.  

He inherited a dispirited and scared nation consumed with uncertainty and fear.  But his message to the quarter million people gathered in Chicago's Grant Park, and tens of millions Americans watching on television, was one of hope.  "The road ahead will be long.  Our climb will be steep," he said.  "We may not get there in one year or even one term.  But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there."

Many of those who voted for President Obama, the nation's first African American president, were seeking change.  The government in Washington was failing, the political system was broken, and big money had too much influence.  Manufacturing jobs were fleeing the country, millions of Americans had no health care, and the middle class was shrinking.  America's place in the world was diminishing, terrorists cast a shadow over daily life, and U.S. soldiers were dying in two distant wars that seemed interminable.  

President Obama's message of hope, his intelligence, his thoughtfulness, his incredibly positive demeanor, his decency, his integrity, his fine character, his grace under pressure, his equanimity and good temperament are traits that he lived by every day.  

Many challenges faced this president.  At the moment he was sworn in for his first term, the Republican leadership agreed to block every initiative, law, or action the president proposed.  They proclaimed they wanted to make him a one-term president. Members of Congress, right wing radio talk show hosts and a New York real estate mogul constantly questioned President Obama's religion, citizenship and character.  The attempts to delegitimize the president were disgusting and demeaning, and they added fuel to a very combustible situation created by those motivated by their own self-interests.  

No president has been perfect.  Every president makes mistakes, some more than others.  History will ultimately be the judge of Obama's presidency.  But, despite the challenges, he leaves office with many accomplishments.  He was a truly consequential president.  

President Obama saved the country from the Great Recession.  He saved the auto industry.  Unemployment fell from nearly 10% to 4.7% during his presidency, and the stock market has nearly tripled (almost all of it before his successor was elected).   He extended health insurance to 20 million Americans, dramatically slowed the growth of health care costs, and made it possible for those with pre-existing health conditions to get insurance.  President Obama supported marriage equality, repealed the military's "don't ask-don't tell" policy, signed legislation to combat pay discrimination against women, and signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.  He signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act, and he signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act.  The president improved school nutrition programs, boosted fuel efficiency in cars, invested more in Veteran's Affairs, and reduced the homeless rate among veterans by 50%.  He appointed the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

President Obama's administration helped negotiate the historic Paris Climate Treaty.  The president helped negotiate the Iran Nuclear Deal, which includes Russia and our allies.   He ended the war in Iraq, reduced American military presence in Afghanistan, and ordered the capture and killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden.  He reversed Bush-era torture policies, began normalizing relations with Cuba, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009.   However, he has been criticized for his policies toward Syria, Russia and the Middle East, three intensely complex and complicated issues with no easy solutions.  

President Obama held his final news conference in the White House pressroom Wednesday, thanking reporters and sending a message to the incoming president about the importance of having the press corps in that location.  "Having you in this building has made this place work better.  It keeps us honest, it makes us work harder," he said.  The president was asked about the election's impact on his daughters.  "What we've also tried to teach them is resilience," he said, "and we've tried to teach them hope and that the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world."

The president said he plans to take time off with his family, but he will speak about issues he deeply cares about.  "I believe in this country.  I believe in the American people.  I believe that people are more good than bad."  He continued, "If we work hard and if we are true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.  That's what this presidency has tried to be about."  He concluded, "At my core, I think we're going to be OK.  We just have to fight for it, we have to work at it and not take it for granted." 

Thank you President Obama, this was your victory.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Will Trump be Presidential?

President Elect Donald Trump will be sworn in to office Friday as America's 45th president on the west front of the U.S. Capitol before thousands of supporters and millions watching on television around the world.   The peaceful transition of power will symbolize the strength of the American democracy.  

Perhaps equally important will be what President Trump has to say in his inaugural address.  The nation has been deeply divided for decades by partisan politics; the world has been roiled with regional conflicts and the growing threat of terrorism.  Will the newly sworn-in president speak of his genuine interest of uniting the country, which is rich with diverse cultures and beliefs?  Will he clearly identify the threats, foreign and domestic, facing the nation, and assure even his most strident opponents that he has the temperament and character to lead the country?  

Many of his predecessors used their inaugural address to set a tone for their presidency.  In his first address, President Thomas Jefferson said, "Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.  We have been called by different names brethren of the same principle.  We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists."

Following a great Civil War President Lincoln sought to heal the nation's wounds in his second inaugural address.  "With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds," he said.  "To do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

In his first inaugural address, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to a nation crippled by the Great Depression.  "This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.  So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," Roosevelt intoned.  "In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with the understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory."

As the nation was still recovering from World War II, it elected a war hero as its president.  In his first inaugural address President Dwight Eisenhower said, "We are summoned to act in wisdom and in conscience, to work with industry, to teach with persuasion, to preach with conviction, to weigh every deed with care and compassion.  For this truth must be clear before us: whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come to pass in the heart of America."   

President John F. Kennedy, who was elected in 1960 in a close election, sought to mobilize young idealistic citizens with his stirring oration.  "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," he declared.  "The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.  And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

President Ronald Reagan was elected in a landslide in 1980 as the country was reeling from inflation, high unemployment and gasoline prices, and a crisis of confidence.  "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem," he maintained in his first inaugural address.  "We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around.  And this makes us special among the nations of the earth.  Our government has no power except that granted by the people.  It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed." 

President Barack Obama was the first African American elected to the nation's highest office.  The deeply divided country was mired in two costly wars, was experiencing its worst economic recession in nearly one hundred years, and was split along party lines.  A massive crowd of 1.8 million people attended his swearing in, which was watched by a record audience around the globe.  "On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord."  He continued, "On this day, we come to proclaim and end to petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for too long have strangled our politics."    

Despite the soaring rhetoric, many presidents were not able to achieve all of their goals.  But President Trump's inaugural speech comes at an important time in this nation's history.  He will face enormous challenges, domestic and foreign.  The election is over, and while he finished second in the popular vote, he won the presidency.   And while the Russians meddled in the election, he was the winner.  

The American presidency is the most powerful office in the world. Now it is time for President Trump to actually govern.   Now it is time for him to end his personal insults, his impulsive and boorish behavior.  Now it is the time for an end to his Twitter rants, or tirades against the press.  Now it is time for him to praise U.S. intelligent agencies and their courageous employees, and to praise America's allies and support its alliances.  

Now it is time for President Trump to act presidential.  Too much is a stake.