Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump Undermines America's Core Values

President Donald Trump promises to "Make America Great Again," but his words are nothing more than an advertising slogan.  Rather, his actions since taking office are undoing decades of progress towards a better America and undermining the very core values enshrined its Constitution: liberty, equality, justice and democracy.  

In the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  But under Trump all men are not created equal.  

For instance, last week Trump directed the military to stop an Obama-era directive that allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces.  The order also bans the Department of Defense from providing medical treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military.  In July Trump caught the military by surprise when he tweeted, "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail."  But a 2016 Rand Corp study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve would have "minimal impact" on readiness and healthcare costs.  There are currently several thousand transgender people serving their country in the military.  

Voting rights are also being assaulted by the Trump administration.  Just weeks after winning the election but losing the popular vote, Trump took to Twitter to claim,  "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."   Trump assembled a commission in May to substantiate his false claims about voter fraud.  New York University's Brennan Center for Justice found, "examination after examination of voter fraud claims reveal fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly nonexistent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators."  Why is the Trump administration intent on spending millions of taxpayer dollars in search of a problem that doesn't exist?   The answer is voter suppression.  They are determined to impose policies that will discourage or make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote, especially minorities and the elderly who tend to vote for Democrats.  

Trump has used anti-immigrant rhetoric to fuel anger in his base supporters, especially against Hispanics and Muslims, the latter for whom his has issued a travel ban affecting six predominantly Muslim countries.  Former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio regularly violated the rights of undocumented Hispanic immigrants, using racial profiling and inhumane treatment against them.  Last month he was convicted of criminal contempt of court by a federal district court judge for failing to stop using these tactics.   But crassly under the cover of Hurricane Harvey, on Friday President Trump issued a controversial pardon for Arpaio, an early Trump supporter, tweeting, "I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  He kept Arizona safe!"  The pardon received bipartisan condemnation, including from Arizona Senator John McCain, who said in a statement, "The president has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."   Alas, this may be just a precursor for pardons Trump will issue in the future for his loyalists and family members who are under investigation in the expanding Russia probe.  

The president has gone to great lengths recently to explain his failure to attack white supremacists and the KKK, blaming the "fake media" for misrepresenting what he said.  However, the president regularly whips up supporters at his rallies with attacks on the press.  At a rally last week in Phoenix, the president leveled his latest assault, saying, "It's time to expose the crooked media deceptions...they're very dishonest people."  He added, "The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news."   Yet the remarks he says were misrepresented were delivered by him on television and viewed by millions of viewers.   When Trump's back is against the wall he needs an enemy to lash out against, and the media is an easy target.  But his rages against the news media are deeply concerning as they may have a chilling affect or worse on a free press.  

Trump is clearly angry about his news coverage and frustrated with his lack of legislative success since taking office.  He has tried to derail the many investigations underway into Russian interference in last November's election, and, according to the Washington Post, he has made more than 1,000 false or misleading claims over the past eight months.  One of his biggest lies is that he has had one of the most successful presidencies in history.  To the extent Trump has accomplished anything, regretfully it is to undermine civil rights, human rights, voting rights, and press freedoms.  

Popular author Stephen King hit the nail on the head when he tweeted last month, "The news is real. The president is fake."  But, sadly, Donald J. Trump is the president.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump: The Divider-in-Chief

The man who promised "I alone can fix it" in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last July has accomplished very little after six months in office as president.   Instead, President Donald Trump has instilled a culture of chaotic infighting at the White House, he has failed to articulate a coherent foreign policy and unnerved America's closest allies, and he has fueled unprecedented divisiveness within the Republican Party.  

Trump's bombastic campaign rhetoric mobilized millions of frustrated Americans to vote for him last November and secure him an Electoral College victory.   He made many brash and unrealistic promises, but thankfully he has failed to deliver on most of them.   Trump has not drained the swamp in Washington; he has only muddied the waters.  He has not built a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.  He has not reformed taxes, he has not fixed healthcare, and he has done nothing with the nation's infrastructure despite the fact that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the presidency.  Instead, he has blamed Congress for his lack of progress.

Trump has been on the defensive about Russia's interference on his behalf in the presidential election. He fired FBI Director James Comey, he has considered firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russian investigation, and he has harshly attacked Russia special counsel Robert Mueller for his widening probe into the scandal.   Yet he thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for expelling 755 people from the American embassy in Moscow in response to new economic sanctions approved by Congress.  "I'm very thankful that he let go of a large number of people because now we have a smaller payroll," Trump inexplicably said apparently not knowing that these diplomats and staff will continue to be paid.  Where's the outrage Mr. President?

While the stock market has reached a record high in anticipation to reduced corporate taxes and regulations, there is a growing concern about the future.  Trump's favorability rating in the national polls has slumped to a record low for any modern day president.   Even some of his most loyal supporters are beginning to raise their eyebrows.   But Trump has tried to manipulate public opinion through his constant use of Twitter, often attacking the "fake media" and his opponents.  The tweeter-in-chief explained his reason last month, "My use of social media in not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.  Make America Great Again!"

Last December, then President-Elect Donald Trump laid out his military policy.  "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn't be involved with," he said at Ft. Bragg.  "Instead, our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying ISIS, and we will."   But Trump's failure to effectively govern the country, and his inability to stop investigations into Russian interference and possible collusion with his campaign, may have changed his perspective.    

A timely leak that a U.S. intelligence agency "assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles," triggered a brash response from the president.  "North Korea best not make any more threats against the United States," he said at a meeting on the opioid crisis at his New Jersey golf club.  "They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."   Trump's shoot from the hip response rattled diplomats and military experts because an attack on North Korea would lead to millions of casualties in South Korea and the region, including Americans.  Nonetheless, Trump continued his threats on Friday saying the U.S. was "locked and loaded," although the military had taken no additional action.  

But the president was not done issuing threats.  Following a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Hailey the president directed remarks at Venezuela, which has been in a state of crisis under its president, Nicolas Maduro.  "You know, we are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away," he said.  "Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying.  We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary."  

Suddenly the man who had campaigned vigorously against senseless wars was warmongering.  American diplomats scrambled to ease growing tensions in both Asia and South America.  Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Trump by phone on Saturday to "avoid remarks and actions that escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula."   And Peru's foreign minister, Ricardo Luna, who has been a vocal critic of the Venezuelan government, issued a statement, saying in part,  "All foreign and domestic threats to resort to force undermine the goal of reinstating democratic governance in Venezuela, as well as the principles enshrined in the UN charter." 

As tensions escalated with North Korea and Venezuela, violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, led by hundreds of white nationalists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate army general.  The Virginia governor declared at state of emergency.  The former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, was among the protestors.  "We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump," Duke told reporters Saturday, to "take our country back."   President Trump, who failed to denounce David Duke and the KKK during his campaign, tweeted a response on Saturday that failed to specifically mention the KKK.  "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.  There is no place for this kind of violence in America!  Let's all come together as one!"   

As events around the world continue to spin out of control the man who bragged "I alone can fix it" has once again revealed himself to the world as unqualified to be president.  Trump told Reuters reporters last April, "I thought it would be easier."  Unfortunately, the longer Trump is president the tougher it gets for everyone else.