Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. King's Words Live On

As America celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many reflected on the words of this great civil rights leader.  In 1964, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work combating racial injustice through acts of nonviolence and civil disobedience.  He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, while standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.  

Now, 50 years later, Dr. King's words still inspire and animate the spirit of equality for all, no matter one's race, creed, color or place of birth.  "I have a dream," Dr. King said at the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington, "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."   

Yet today we have a president who uses race to divide the country in order to pander to many of his supporters.  Today we have an inarticulate president who bullies and blusters anyone who threatens or challenges him.   We have a president who does not appeal to our better angels, rather who demonically fans the flames of hatred and fear.   Dr. King once warned, "We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."

Since its founding, America has stood as a beacon of hope and freedom for those who live outside its borders.  That beacon has been tarnished by President Donald Trump.  Last week, in a private meeting with congressmen about immigration, he asked, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"  Dr. King once said,  "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

President Trump has often made conscientiously stupid comments.  "When Mexico sends its people," he said in announcing his candidacy for president, "they're not sending their best...they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us.  They're bringing drugs.  They're bringing crime. They're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people."   As a candidate for president, following a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, he declared, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representative can figure out what in the hell is going on."  King once observed, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." 

More than a dozen women have made sexual misconduct allegations against Trump.  Throughout his career he has demeaned women.  "If I were running 'The View', I'd fire Rosie O'Donnell," he said in 2006, "I mean look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I'd say 'Rosie, you're fired."  As the host of The Apprentice he observed, ""All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me--consciously or unconsciously, that's to be expected."  And he was recorded on an Access Hollywood tape saying, "I'm automatically attracted to beautiful (women).  I just start kissing them.  It's like a magnet.  Just kiss.  I don't even wait.  And when you're a star they let you do it.  You can do anything.  Grab them by the pussy.  You can do anything."  Dr. King once said, "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."  

Last August white supremacists, white nationalists, Klansmen, neo-Confederates, and neo-Nazis demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting racist and anti-semitic slogans, while carrying semi-automatic weapons, swastikas, anti-Muslim banners and Trump/Pence signs.  A man linked to white-supremacists rammed his car into a group of counter-protestors, killing one person and injuring 19.  Incredulously, President Trump did not denounce racists.  Instead, he blamed everyone, "We condemn in the strongest terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."  King would have observed, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." 

Amid all his controversial statements and inappropriate actions, those who support President Trump, whether they are staff or members of Congress, have defended the president with lies and misleading statements.  Although many are shocked by what the president says, they remain silent for partisan reasons.  As he insults world leaders, as he undermines the American Democracy, as he exaggerates his IQ and wealth, they play along.  "My IQ is one of the highest--and you all know it!  Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault," Trump has said.  These loyalists, these sinecures, these family members know that all that is required is their loyalty and silence.   To them, Dr. King would say, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  

In his 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King said, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."  He added, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity."  

Dr. King's inspirational words and deeds, which will endure through the ages, powerfully symbolize how great America can be.  "The time is always right to do what is right."  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Journalism Fights for its Life

In his important year-end post for his site PressThink, New York University journalism professor and critic Jay Rosen warned, "the world has changed and journalists are in the fight of their lives."   Rosen's point is that the way for journalism to earn trust has changed because users now have more choices and more control.  He then provides a thoughtful list of ways is which journalists can win trust through transparency. 

But how does one win the trust of everyone in the era of Trump, who now is a bully with the White House pulpit?  The president proudly claimed in an interview with the Fox Business Channel last October that he "started this whole fake news thing."  Of course, that is not true.  In fact, according to the Washington Post, "President Trump has made 1,950 false or misleading claims over 347 days."  


That the president frequently lies is not fake news, and it is not new news.  A Morning Consult/Political poll last December found that only 36% of those sampled thought the president is honest.  In fact, 51% of those polled believe he is dishonest, while 60% think he is reckless.   Yet his almost daily attacks against the press, mostly false or misleading, have staggered many members of the press.  


The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of the press.  Freedom House reports that freedom of the press is in decline around the world, including here in the United States.  A record number of journalists have been imprisoned worldwide, including twenty-one on "fake news" charges.  Senator John McCain issued this warning to President Trump in December on Twitter, "@POTUS must understand his harmful rhetoric only empowers repressive regimes to jail reporters and silence the truth."  


Soon after his return to the White House, following a holiday break in Florida, the president launched another fusillade on Twitter against one of his favorite targets, The New York Times.  "The failing New York Times has a new publisher, A.G. Sulzberger.  Congratulations!  Here is a last chance for the Times to fulfill the vision of its Founder, Adolph Ochs, "to give the news impartially, without fear of FAVOR, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved," his first tweet read.  It continued on a second, "Get impartial journalists of a much higher standard, lose all your phony and non-existent "sources," and treat the President FAIRLY, so that the next time I (and the people) win, you won't have to write and apology to your readers for a job poorly done!"  


Clearly the president's claims of fake news and his attacks on news organizations are all a tactic.  If he was innocent of sin, if his White House was free of scandal, if his agenda was popular with the masses, he wouldn't have to protest too much.  But he doth protest an awful lot!  He loves to spin his own alternate reality and lash out at the press.  His communications' staff, assorted acolytes and members of Congress echo his attacks because it is in their own personal interest, and the mainstream media is an easy target.  Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron stoically observed last year, "We are not at war with the administration, we are at work."  


But for more news channels, more news sites online, and the growing amount of users who get their news from social media, opinion is now the currency of the realm.  An enormous amount of Americans get their information from sources they feel agree with their views, i.e., one's that are consistent with their core beliefs.  And some news outlets carefully craft their content to appeal to their likely viewers, and to advance a political agenda.  This has left America so politically divided it is hard for people from different regions or ideologies to agree on basic facts, let alone have an rational and calm discussion.  


More transparency is important, absolutely, but do Sean Hannity's 3.2 million viewers care if he is transparent?   Few of his viewers check around with different sources to get the other side of the argument.  And they don't care that Hannity regularly consults with President Trump, who is a big fan of his program.   Sure, Hannity is not a journalist, but he is on the Fox News Channel.  


The big question is at what point will Americans say enough is enough with the attacks on the press.  At what point will Americans be motivated enough to devote time to study all sides of the issues.  At what point will Americans take the time to be well informed before making decisions about elected officials, as our Founding Fathers had intended when they wrote the First Amendment.  The Fathers wanted to assure that America would not be ruled by a despot, rather that it would always be ruled by the people.  


The press is not perfect, but most major news organizations have a process to assure that all of the facts are fully vetted before they are published, and to assure fairness, impartiality, independence and accountability.  On the other hand, the administration, the Congress, and government agencies are not always transparent and accountable to the people.  That will only happen with a strong and vibrant press.  


Journalists may be in a fight for their lives, due to evolving business models and rapid changes in technology, but their survival is essential for the maintenance of this great democracy.  

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It's Good to be King

The King and his retinue have departed the nation's capital and arrived at their royal vacation retreat, Castle Mar-a-Lago.  There the royal family will gather to celebrate the holiday season with wealthy dukes and duchesses who will loyally and unabashedly express their overwhelming adulation for their divine leader and his unsurpassed brilliance.

Fawning over their great leader seems especially appropriate this holiday season.  The King from Queens had just signed a tax bill that will give millions of dollars in tax breaks to His Royal Highness and members of the royal family, as well as to the nation's lords and ladies.  Of course, the vast majority of the citizens will receive crumbs, which will become apparent to them in the coming years.  All of this will be funded by huge deficits that will be passed on to their children.  


Shortly following the passage of the tax bill, His Royal Highness was besieged with the praise from Republican members of Congress and from his cabinet.   "You have spurred an optimism in this country that is setting records," said the vice president.   The King must receive devotion and fealty from those who serve him.  


But that optimism is limited to only a few.  The King is not popular among his country's masses.  He has continuously resorted to bullying and bluster to rule his subjects. He has demeaned opponents with schoolyard epithets, and he has humiliated others in order to get want he wants.  His daily rants and raves have unsettled even those closest to him.  


All of this has been to the delight of the Tsar of Russia, who up until recently was considered an enemy.   Now the King and the Tsar have formed a close bond. And the Tsar is pleased with how the King has disrupted democracy in his own country and around the world.   This is why he extended the King his help in winning the throne.  These men are so much alike.  And the King trusts the Tsar more than the servants in his own nation's justice and intelligence departments.


Many thoughtful observers are saddened by how the King has lowered the standards of his office.  They point to his self-dealing and manifest crudeness.  They cite the many scandals that have plagued his reign, his outrageous actions towards women and minorities, and the constant dishonesty and deception that the King has practiced.  His intemperate, impulsive and reckless behavior has taken global allies aback, and it has unnecessarily stirred the drums of war.  The King exploits fear naturally.  His instinct is always to divide in order to conquer.


For the nearly year since the King ascended to his throne the nation has continuously been on edge.  Most citizens have been shaken by the constant tumult, and have tired of the contemptuous antics. Meanwhile, under his rule meaningful government programs dealing with the environment, healthcare, consumer and basic human rights have been slashed or eliminated.   Corporations and the wealthy donors have been richly rewarded.  None more generously than members of the royal family and friends.


Many of his most ardent supporters will gather in Castle Mar-a-Lago this weekend to celebrate the holiday by kissing the ring of their great benefactor.   The dark clouds that have formed over His Royal Highness and his reign will be ignored.  Instead, it will be a scene reminiscent of the Romanov's.   And the King will thrive in this exclusive and alternate reality he has created as he soaks up the praise that will be lavished on him by his obsequious followers.


In the words of the late Tom Petty, an American icon, "It's good to be King and have your own way."
 

Friday, December 8, 2017

The GOP Targets Entitlement Programs

Republicans have long coveted deep cuts in federal entitlement programs.   Up to now Democrats have thwarted their attempts to slash America's social safety net.  But that may change in the coming year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is openly making the case, and he has robust support from the Republican controlled Congress.  On Wednesday, Ryan said, "We have a welfare system that's trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work.  We've got to work on that."   Ryan added, in an interview on Ross Kaminsky's radio show, "We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and deficit." 

Ironically, Ryan's bold pronouncement comes as Republicans in Congress work to reconcile their so-called tax reform legislation.  The hastily crafted bill, when enacted, will disproportionately benefit high-income earners and large corporations while adding up to $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.   Their justification is that the measure will increase economic activity, which will add jobs and grow wages.   But few economists agree with this misguided premise.  In fact, this tax bill is merely a sop to wealthy Republican donors who threatened to cut off their donations to the party unless taxes are cut.     

With even larger deficit spending as a result of the tax cuts, Republicans can turn their attention to reducing federal expenditures.  The largest drivers of federal spending are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, military spending and interest on the debt.  Defense and interest payments will not be cut.  That pretty much leaves the entitlement programs.  

"Starving the beast" is a political strategy conservatives developed decades ago for reducing government spending.  In 1978, economist and future Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told a congressional committee, "Let us remember that the basic purpose of any tax cut program in today's environment is to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenue available and trust that there is a political limit to deficit spending."  Liberal economist Paul Krugman later observed, "Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government's fiscal position.  Spending cuts could be sold as a necessity rather than a choice."   Speaker Ryan and Republicans are doing just that.  

Once the Republican tax proposal is passed and signed by President Donald Trump, there will be no going back.  Most Republicans in Congress have signed on to the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.  The pledge, authored by political activist Grover Norquist, states that the signatories will never vote to raise taxes under any circumstances or they will be challenged in their next Republican primary election.    

A possible hurdle to entitlement cuts could be President Trump, who as a candidate tweeted in 2015, "I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid."  But the president, who is obsessed with winning political victories, will likely endorse any GOP initiative, proclaiming that proposed changes to entitlements are meant to save the programs. 

The federal government and the states currently jointly fund Medicaid.  Medicaid provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including the elderly, low-income adults, children and people with disabilities.  Speaker Ryan favors converting Medicaid into a block grant program for states and then capping the grants.  But historical data on grants indicates that over time this will result in a decline in Medicaid funding.  And the nation's neediest citizens will feel the impact.    

Nonetheless, there is broad support among congressional Republicans and their wealthy donors for reducing the cost of entitlements.  Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who is the Republican Senate Finance Committee Chair, summarized the sentiment of his colleagues last week in a speech on the Senate floor.  "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything."  

Sadly, the Republican dream of undoing entitlement programs established by President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society may finally be within their reach.     

Friday, November 3, 2017

The GOP Plan: Cut Taxes and then Entitlements

The Republicans proposed a tax reform package Thursday that would, if signed into law, radically alter current tax laws and provide a huge windfall for corporations and millionaires.  It would also add $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, so Republicans are already eyeing huge cuts in social programs to make up the difference.  It will be a transfer of wealth from the needy to the greedy.  

President Donald Trump stands to be a big winner if the proposed bill passes.  The bill calls for the elimination of the estate tax by 2024.  Trump's estate is worth a little over $3 billion, so this would mean Trump's children stand to inherit well over $1 billion more than they will under current law.  The bill also eliminates the alternative minimum tax, which some individuals are subject to today.  Trump would have paid $30 million less in federal taxes had the AMT been eliminated in time for the 2005 returns.   No wonder the president is pushing Congress so hard to pass this bill.

Corporations are the big winners under the legislation.  They will see their federal tax rate reduced from 35 percent to 20 percent.  Republicans claim that the corporate tax rate is currently the highest in the world.  House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday, "With this plan, we are making pro-growth reforms, so that yes, America can compete with the rest of the world."   It should be noted that few U.S. corporations currently have to pay the full rate.  Meanwhile most small businesses, the main driver of jobs in the economy, will not benefit under the GOP proposal.   One special interest group spokesperson described the measure as a "war" on small businesses.

The proposal calls for only three tax brackets in an effort to "simplify" returns.  The top individual bracket, for those with the highest income, is reduced to 35 percent.   The lowest tax bracket goes from 10 percent to 12 percent, with individuals making up to $24 thousand annually paying no taxes.  Nonetheless, the benefits for individual taxpayers will depend on their income, where they live and the type of tax breaks they claim.  For instance, the measure caps the amount of state and local taxes that can be deducted from one's gross income.  The bill also ends the electric car tax credit while increasing taxes on wind and solar energy.

Congressional Republicans and the president are desperate for a win after having accomplished nothing legislatively this year, even though they control both houses of Congress and the White House.  So they must succeed with the tax cuts they promised last election or Republicans will be more vulnerable in the 2018-midterm elections.  An ABC/Washington Post poll released Thursday shows that half of all Americans oppose the GOP plan, while 75 percent of Republicans favor it.  Sixty percent of all Americans polled believe the plan favors the wealthy.  Another concern for congressional Republicans is the thin majority they have in the Senate.  To compound matters, Trump's harsh attacks against GOP Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake and John Corker has put the measure in further jeopardy. 

It is estimated that only $300 billion of the $1.5 trillion proposed tax cuts would go to individuals.   Corporations would get $1 trillion in cuts, and heirs to estates would get the remainder, about $200 billion (including the Trumps).  Nonetheless, enactment of the tax cuts will mean Republicans can move on to one of their favorite targets: entitlements.  They will use the exploding debt as a justification for deep cuts in Medicaid and Medicare; only they will call it "reform."  They will propose block grants and caps on the rate of growth.  It will amount to billions of dollars in reductions.  And people in need, especially seniors and the poor, will feel the impact.  

This is the GOP long game, it is consistent with their core philosophy of smaller government, and a win on taxes will give them a head of steam to rein in entitlements.   But to follow the Republican playbook will lead to an even larger disparity between rich and poor Americans.  And the immense income disparity in this country today, the richest nation in the world, is already an inexcusable tragedy!  

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trump's Moment of Truth Is Coming

President Donald Trump leaves this week for an important 12-day trip to Asia where he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.  But most of the president's attention is focused on the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 Presidential Election following the indictments of two key Trump campaign officials and the guilty plea of a former campaign adviser.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report this past January that Russia interfered in the election at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to help Trump win. Ultimately, Putin felt that Trump, if elected, would ease crippling U.S. sanctions on Russia that were initially imposed because of Russia's annexation of Crimea.  President Barack Obama imposed additional sanctions last January because of Russia's meddling in the election. 

Trump avoided criticizing Putin throughout his campaign, and, in fact, frequently praised him.  In August, Congress overwhelmingly passed additional sanctions against Russia for its election interference, which Trump signed even though he said he was opposed to the measure.  Of course, he had no choice because Congress would have overridden a Trump veto.

Questions arose throughout the campaign as to whether members of the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russians.  Suspicions heightened when several key members of the Trump campaign failed to report meetings with Russian officials.   Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former national security adviser General Michael Flynn and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner all had to subsequently amend their disclosure forms. 

President Trump has frenetically tried to derail the Russia investigation and clear his name.   One of his first acts in office was to have a private diner with then FBI Director James Comey.  According to Comey, Trump sought Comey's personal loyalty and asked that the FBI director make a statement clearing him.  Comey had been investigating possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.  On May 9, Trump dismissed Comey and later told NBC News, "When I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said 'you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'"  Critics immediately declared that Trump had obstructed justice, which is an impeachable offense.

The acting attorney general appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation.  Mueller, a Republican, is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Washington, yet he became the target of attacks from the White House.  Three congressional committees have been investigating Russia's role in the election since earlier this year. 


Mueller put together a top team of criminal attorneys and began interviewing witnesses.  Their efforts began to bear fruit this week with the announcement that a grand jury had indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his close associate, Rick Gates.  Manafort and Gates had done millions of dollars in business with Russian oligarchs that they failed to report on their federal tax forms.  Mueller may be using the indictments to squeeze Manafort for more information relating to Russian interference.  

A few hours later, Mueller revealed that Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to perjury.  Papadopoulos admitted that during the campaign he had tried to set up a meeting with Russian officials to obtain Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails in an effort to help the Trump campaign.  At about the same time during the campaign, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner took a meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was arranged by Russians seeking to pass on "dirt" about Hillary Clinton.  Mueller has promised Papadopoulos a reduced sentence for his cooperation, and there is speculation that he has plenty more to offer about Trump campaign collusion with the Russians. 


Meanwhile, Trump and White House officials have tried to shift the story to Hillary Clinton for her alleged role as Secretary of State in approving the sale of uranium to a Canadian company controlled by Russians.  The Trump claim is that the Russians donated $145 million to the Clinton foundation in return for her approval.   The big flaw with this charge is that Clinton had no role in making the decision.  

Monday's indictments and guilty plea have many White House officials near panic.  There are internal debates over what the president should do next.  Some Trump allies are urging the president to fire Mueller.  But if he did so he would be inviting congressional Republicans to consider his impeachment.  This would create a constitutional crisis that the nation hasn't seen since Watergate.


Meanwhile, Mueller and his team are continuing to interview witnesses, including White House staff, and more indictments are expected in the near future, according to some reports.  At some point the president may be questioned under oath about what he knows of obstruction of justice and collusion.  The criminal charge for collusion would be conspiracy.  Of course, lying to a grand jury is perjury.  So the president would then be facing his moment of truth. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trump's Fake News Obsession

When he finds himself on the defensive, President Donald Trump's go-to tactic is to lash out at the press.  On Thursday, Trump once again went on Twitter to unleash his latest assault.  "Why isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news in just made up-FAKE!" he posted.  In Trump's world the press should provide a continuous stream of praise for his presidency.   

Trump is not ignorant about the Founding Father's original intent when they codified a free press in the Constitution.  He simply wishes to ignore it in order to manipulate public opinion on his own behalf.  Trump is obsessed with how he is perceived, and his regular Twitter storms, directed at the press and other critics, reveal an excessively narcissistic and thin-skinned man.   

Trump's latest Twitter tirade followed new developments in the many government investigations into Russian interference with last November's election, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.  On Wednesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said, "The Russian intelligence service is determined - clever - and I recommend that every campaign and every election official take this very seriously."  As to whether anyone in the Trump campaign colluded, Burr said, "The issue of collusion is still open."  Along with the Senate committee, a House committee and a special counsel, headed by Robert Mueller, are also investigating Russian interference.  

Trump is frustrated with these investigations and has sought to end them, including firing former FBI Director James Comey.   That action and his other attempts to derail the probes have led to allegations that the president obstructed justice.   Major news organizations, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have aggressively reported on the Russian investigations, many times breaking new ground while drawing the ire of the president.   Burr responded to Trump's tweet Thursday, saying he would hold the news organizations accountable, "If, in fact, we find news organizations have not covered it factually, I think you will see that in our report."  

White House news leaks and fierce infighting have also spilled into the press.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called the president a "moron" during a Pentagon meeting this summer, according to NBC News.  It is no secret that Tillerson and Trump have been at odds on staffing and policy issues for months, but it was noteworthy that, rather than denying he made the remark, the secretary told reporters Wednesday, "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that." Trump tweeted,  "The @NBCNews story has been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews.  They should issue an apology to AMERICA!"  NBC News stands by their report. Republican Senator Bob Corker added to the controversy Wednesday when he told reporters, "I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary (Jim) Mattis and Chief of Staff (John) Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos."

The Trump administration response in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico received sharp criticism, especially from the Mayor of San Juan, its capital and largest city.   While a majority of island's 3.4 million residents struggled with no power, water and food shortages, enormous destruction, Trump inexplicably blamed the problems on the mayor's poor leadership. 

When Trump visited Puerto Rico earlier this week he was more focused on the island's financial woes than comforting, telling local government officials, "you threw our budget a little out of whack, but that's fine." He then compared Hurricane Maria with Katrina, suggesting the hurricane that hit New Orleans more than a decade ago was worse.  Later, while visiting a relief shelter, the president tossed rolls of paper towels to residents, which humiliated many Puerto Ricans who watched.  His visit was widely criticized in the press, which led Trump to tweet,  "Wow, so many Fake News stories today.  No matter what I do of say, they will not write or speak the truth.  The Fake News Media is out of control!" 

In August the president lashed out at the press following its coverage of remarks he had made following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, several days earlier, which resulted in the death of one protester.  In those remarks, the president blamed "both sides" instead of singling out Nazis and white nationalist groups for the violence.  At a subsequent campaign rally in Phoenix, the president called the news media "sick people."  He added, "It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions and yes, by the way, they are trying to take our history away our history and our heritage." 

Could it be that more Americans are growing tired of the president's penchant to distort, twist and misstate the truth? According to a just released Reuters/Ipsos poll of more that 14,000 respondents, confidence in the news media is increasing.  Nearly half of those surveyed have at least some confidence in the press, and increase of nearly 10 percent over the past year.   Meanwhile, Trump's average approval rating is below 40 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.   

President Trump is a deeply flawed man whose beleaguered presidency has been filled with scandal, missteps and controversy.   Trump's extreme selfishness makes it impossible for him to be empathetic, self-reflective, mindful and truthful.   At her news briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders justified the president's press attacks, saying, "we should call on all media to a higher standard."  

No, Sarah, we should demand that President Trump apply the highest standards to his presidency.