Monday, May 29, 2017


It is Memorial Day here in the United States.  It is the day we honor those who served in the military and made the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country in the line of duty.  Often confused with Veterans' Day, which is for those who served in the military and are still alive, Memorial Day is probably the most solemn of all the non-religious holidays celebrated in the U.S.

As a side note, regarding confusing the two holidays, how often do you go to a memorial for a living person?

My father served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II.  He came home, thank goodness, and was even awarded the Purple Heart, but many of those with whom he served, and so many others he never knew, did not come home.  The same is true of those who have served in all wars where the U.S. was involved.  A far from exhaustive list would include:
Revolutionary War 
War of 1812
American Civil War
Nez Perce War
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Cold War
Vietnam War
Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan

And yet, as with a variety of holidays with deeper meanings than just days off from work or school (i.e. Veterans' Day, Christmas, Independence Day), the real meanings are lost on many Americans today.  The sense of civic awareness and responsibility seems a rare breed.

Civic ignorance at its finest.

I think civic ignorance is part of the problem.  I think another part of the problem is the public's perception of war.  It has diminished under the weight of mistrust and disillusion as, more and more, wars in the latter twentieth century and in the twenty-first century no longer fall under the same dynamic as, say, World Wars I and II.

As an anti-war individual, Memorial Day is not a day for me to gripe about the military.  My feeling is hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier.  For me, it is a reminder of why I am against war: the only death.  Simultaneously, it is a reminder of those who sacrificed for this country in which I live so that I wouldn't have to go to war.  The two are not, for me, mutually exclusive of one another.

It is a reminder to stand up and work for a more peaceful world and to honor those who have fallen.

Perhaps it is the distastefulness of war that has also resulted in less observance of Memorial Day, but that ends up being disrespectful to those who died.  It is a melding together of missions (whatever their alleged outcomes are) and those who died in the line of battle.  They are not, and never have been, one in the same.  Remember, hate the mission, if you must, but love the soldier.

Memorial Day is not for the missions that occurred, but for the soldiers who died.  They deserve our honor and respect.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 5 of 5]

As you get older in life, you learn to care less about what others think about you than you may have when you were younger.  You decide, if not far sooner in life, to not let what others see about you dictate how you act.  Be yourself, as they say.

That is easier said than done in politics.  Sometimes you say or do what you want to say or do, others times not.  How a president and his administration behave is perceived and reflected back.  Trump's approval ratings very low.  Congress' ratings ... they have been terrible for years.  What you do or don't do is also reflected back around the world.  Not that people from other countries didn't have opinions about the U.S. president back in the days of strictly newspapers, but the global world connected by the Internet and twenty-four-hour news cycles in which we live amplifies their reactions and opinions.

No doubt, those opinions will be tested during President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, and Belgium, for which he left today.  Not only what he has been saying while here in the U.S. will be factored in, but what he says during this trip will be listened to closely.  What will he say?  No one knows for certain, but it has been reported that Stephen Miller, who authored Trump's Muslim ban, is writing Trump's speech about Islam, which he will deliver in Saudi Arabia.  Fingers crossed.

One of the ways on reflecting back via the media is political cartoons.  The art form has been around for centuries and has continued to present day.  What a treasure trove of material Mr. Trump has been giving them!  I would like to offer a small sampling of what political cartoonists from around the world have been etching about President Trump, and let's see how he is perceived.  


© Cathy Wilcox


© Cecile Bertrand


© Tjeerd Royaards


© Michel Kichka


© Lichuan Xia


© Akshita Monga

United Arab Emirates
© Paresh Nath


© Geert Jegrom

© Edel Rodriguez / Der Spiegel

Is this how the leader of the free world should appear around the world?  Is this how you want your president to be perceived?  I know I do not!

There have been plenty of political cartoons here in the U.S. about Trump as well, but one that stopped me in my tracks is the cover of the upcoming issue of Time magazine...  

Back in November, just two days after the election, I concluded a blog posting with the following:
        "I believe that Donald Trump is dangerous for this country, both domestically
        and internationally.  I think his proposed policies and actions are ruinous and
        will make us more unstable and divided domestically, more hated
        internationally, and far less safe as a whole, and I am worried about my
        country's future.  I am a big enough boy to eat my words and apologize if I
        am wrong, but I voted in this election and that is how I sincerely feel in its
        aftermath.  As a citizen of this country, Mr. Trump, please prove me wrong."

President Trump, sadly, you have proven me right.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 4 of 5]

In the Broadway musical 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas', the character of the Governor of Texas opens the second act with the song 'The Sidestep'.  The song is about the oft-used political exercise of avoiding certain issues.  The chorus of the song is as follows:
Ooh, I love to sidestep
Now they see me, now they don't
I've come and gone and
Ooh, I love to sweep around the wide step
Cut a little swath and lead the people on

Let me be clear: Donald Trump is not the first politician to sidestep and lead the people on.  Sadly, he won't be the last.  And yet, for someone who kept saying he was not a politician time and time again, he certainly has found the ability to sidestep and lead the people on quite well.  Let's face it, being in business, particularly in big business, brings out those qualities in a person.  (The late comedian George Carlin once commented that businessmen don't even trust each other, particularly if making a deal.)

When you are a businessman -- and I am focusing on big business here, but this is true across the board -- you want your business to do well.  No big surprise there.  After all, you don't go into business to lose money and then fold.  If your focus, however, is so narrow on monetary gain, you may well be tempted to cut corners, keep certain information quiet, or engage in other activities to that end.  There have certainly been examples giving of Trump doing certain things through the years that were improper or unethical.  To that extent, Trump, being a global businessman, has dealings with not only cities and municipalities, but governments as well.  (I noted yesterday many of the countries Trump has dealt with for years.)

Aside from some of his dozens and dozens of executive orders affecting cities and municipalities (i.e. federal government involvement in education, the opioid crisis), Trump is still dealing with countries as President of the United States.  In business, there really is no system of checks and balances, per se, as established in the U.S. Constitution for the federal government.  A local Chamber of Commerce, a customer, or an employee may make note to at least local authorities about illegal activities, which may result in a subsequent investigation.  In government, all three branches of government can be used to keep the other branches from getting too big for their britches.

That, however, is part of the rub ... running the government like a business, a la Ross Perot (don't spend money you don't yet have) is pragmatic.  Running the government as Trump views the world (do whatever you have to, to make more money) is dangerous, reckless, and, frankly, un-American.  To be clear again: behind-the-scenes and back door deals by the U.S. government have been going on forever.  A lot of what Trump has been doing has not even been behind-the-scenes, but right out in the open.

Trump's business dealings with Russia, which go back roughly three decades, began with his attempt in the late 1980s to build a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin with the Soviet government as a partner.  The deal fell through, but Trump did meet with members of the Politburo who worked on financial and economic matters.  In the mid-1990s, Trump proposed an underground mall, also near the Kremlin, but that, too, fell through.  Afterward, Trump contracted with a Russian law firm from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s in order to file for several trademarks in Russia.

Donald Trump's business dealings with Russia have continued throughout the 2000s and 2010s.  Those dealings include attempts to establish Trump name branding, a short-lived vodka brand,.and real estate pursuits.  To that last point, Trump's older son, Donald Trump, Jr., was a frequent visitor to Russia in the late 2000s and was even quoted saying in a 2008 interview for the Russian newspaper Kommersant, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.  We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."

Then there was the Miss Universe Pageant, which Trump owned until 2015 and brought to Moscow in 2013.  Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov forked over twenty million dollars to fund the pageant.  Agalarov has ties to Vladimir Putin and to Trump, with whom he has had business deals.  As much as Trump was excited for the pageant being in Moscow, he was also open about being excited at the potential to meet Vladimir Putin.

As far as we know, the two did not meet then.  Whether they did meet then, or at any point between then and now, is still unknown.   

As has happened in politics countless times before, always for dubious reasons, lies and deception have been, and are being, used by Trump and his staff and administration.  Not just lies that feed his ego (i.e. most electoral votes in an election win ever, size of his inauguration crowd) but other, larger, lies and deceptions have been utilized.

To start, Trump feels that his saying it makes it so just doesn't work for many Americans ... and several political leaders and citizens of other countries, too.  He uses Twitter, interviews, and appearances to distract constantly ...

He claimed he fired Michael Flynn because Flynn lied to Vice-President Mike Pence about his foreign dealings.  Some initial investigation (still ongoing) showed the connections Flynn had with Turkey, so Trump cut him loose, likely to end any attention to Russia.
He claimed he had no idea bout Flynn's foreign ties.  Yesterday, The New York Times revealed that Trump's transition team knew about Flynn being under investigation weeks before Inauguration Day.
He claimed the whole Flynn fiasco was not his administration's fault, but President Barack Obama's administration's fault.  If Flynn didn't have dealings with Russia until after he left the Obama administration, how is that the Obama administration's fault? 

He claimed he fired Sally Yates, who was the Acting Deputy Attorney General, because she refused to defend his first travel ban against Muslims.  True, she did, but she was also warning the Trump transition team and administration about Flynn's ties to Russia and he didn't want to hear it.
He claimed that former Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was fired because he would not resign voluntarily at the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which Trump directed Sessions to do to Bharara and forty-five other U.S. attorneys.  Bharara was investigating money-laundering by a Russian company that Trump may or may not have had any connection.
He claimed the reporting on what is going on with his administration was wrong, but not the doing itself, and that legitimate reporting was "fake news".  Don't pay attention and only report what I tell you to report is a move of a tyrant.
He claimed his bombing of a Syrian military airport in early April was a result of his seeing child victims of gas attacks and being deeply moved by it.  He may have been moved by the pictures -- they were horrific -- but bombing an airport where pretty much everyone there had cleared the area ahead of time did nothing.  It was a diversionary move away from the Trump-Russia story.
He claimed no administration had accomplished as much as his in its first ninety days.  That is simply false.  Ask any historian.
He claimed Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped.  You can add this claim to his claim that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen. 
He claimed the Trump-Russia story was made up by Democrats because of their loss in the Presidential election.  Oh. you mean like you and other Republicans claimed Obama was not a U.S. citizen and should be disqualified from office?
He claimed, based on the fruitless Hillary Clinton E-mail investigation, that mishandling of sensitive information would happen in abundance in a Clinton administration.  He freely gave away sensitive intelligence information, which came from Israel, to a Russian ambassador (Sergei Kislyak, with whom both Carter Page and Jared Kushner met) and foreign minister ... and with only Russian media present. 
He claimed, and continues to claim, he has no ties to Russia.  Alternative fact alert!

A weak argument, and it would be weak, could be made that Trump's business experience may have prepared him for politics.  In terms of how to function as the executive in the White House?  Absolutely not.  In terms of lies and deception?  Oh, yes ... clearly, and most emphatically, yes.


Part 5 Tomorrow

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 3 of 5]

When he ran for President in the 1990's, Independent candidate and businessman Ross Perot routinely stated that government needed to be run like a business -- his key point was to not spend more than you bring in -- and he was right.  Government is not just a body dealing with laws, since sometimes those laws are financially related, and sometimes it deals more directly with financial matters.

I remember when George W. Bush was running for President in 2000.  A lot of hub-bub was made about how he would be the first president with a business degree, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and how well he would perform his duties as such.  Whether that degree had anything to do with it or not, his political record stands as testament to his being a poor leader.

Donald Trump, as we know, is a businessman, and has been for decades.  He is most notably known in New York City, where he got his start, but his reach has become global to where his name is known around the world.  His business dealings extend to other countries, including Canada, Mumbai, Indonesia, Panama, Istanbul, Scotland, Russia (where he's been involved for the better part of thirty years), and (as of just two months ago) China.  The Chinese preliminary approval of Trump brands, which may become permanent next month, includes massage parlors and escort services.  (The latter being called "escort and concierge services".)  Trump's first public griping about China was just over a year ago, right around the time he applied for this brand approval in China.  Divert, divert, divert.

What about divest, divest, divest?  It is common practice for those elected President of the United States to divest themselves from any and all business ties.  First, and foremost, there is the "emoluments clause" in the U.S. Constitution:
        "[N]o person holding any Office [of the United States] ... shall, without the
        Consent of the Congress,
 accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title,
        of any kind whatever, from 
any King, Prince, or foreign State"                                                                                                                              (Article I, section 9, clause 8)

Donald Trump's acquisition of a preliminary green light on branding in China was done without the consent of Congress.

The emoluments clause -- an emolument is defined as "a salary, a fee, or a profit from employment or office" -- was added to the U.S. Constitution (in the words of South Carolina Senator Charles Pickney at the Constitutional Convention) to keep "foreign Ministers and other officers of the U.S. independent of external influence".  That was from the late eighteenth century.

Fast forward to the mid-twentieth century, there is the 1961 Supreme Court decision in the case of United States v Mississippi Valley Generating Company.  The case dealt with a representative of the MVGC entering into a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission to build and operate a power plant to serve the long-defunct Atomic Energy Commission.  Turns out, the representative was also an officer of an investment banking company which would have profited from the project.  (He was the Vice-President and Director of the investment company!)  The contract was terminated, since the project was deemed no longer necessary, by the Atomic Energy Commission.  The MVGC sued the U.S. in a lower court for costs and damages and won, but an appeal to the Supreme Court resulting in its agreeing to review the case,

In its 9-3 decision in favor of the United States, the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision on the basis of the representative essentially acting on both the government and MVGC's behalf as well as the behalf of the investment company simultaneously, setting up a conflict of interest.  As a result of the Supreme Court's decision, the contract was, in fact, rendered null and void.  In fact, this representative's actions were in violation of a statute that reads:
        "Whoever, being an officer, agent, or member of, or directly or indirectly
        interested in the pecuniary
[monetary] profits or contracts of any corporation
        joint-stock company, or association, or of any firm or partnership, or other
        business entity, is employed or acts as an officer or agent of the United States
        for the transaction of business with such business entity, shall be fined not
        more than $2,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
                                                                                                                                          (brackets mine)

Now, why, you may ask, bring up this case, as it has nothing to do with the office of President of the United States.  Good question!  Everything in this post up to this point means that, as a federal employee, you should be putting the interests of the United States first and foremost and not illegally profiting off such.

Yes, Donald Trump is President, but he is a businessman first and foremost.  It is what he knows best, what he is most comfortable in dealing, and where he has achieved his financial success.  He even admits to not being fully comfortable as President.  How do you go from focusing on what's best for yourself, primarily, and even for those select others in your business circles, to focusing on what's best for an entire country?  Well, "you don't" is not fully appropriate.  Rather, the answer to how is more aptly "difficultly, continually, and without exception".

President Trump either does not understand that or thinks it does not apply to him.  All of the previous presidents, sure.  Him?  Not so much.  Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the U.S., gave up his peanut farm which he started from scratch.  Richard Nixon, the 37th President, sold off most of his assets.  John F. Kennedy, President #35, put all of his conflicts of interest into a blind trust.  President Kennedy understood what a blind trust was.  President Trump ... do I really need to say?

A blind trust means that all of the assets held by someone in public office (or not in public office) are run by a third party, with no information going to, or coming from, the person who initially holds those assets.  It is done by presidents to help keep their focus on what is best for the country.  And Mr. Trump?  Well, at a Republican debate last year, when pressed on this issue, he responded by saying, "Well, I don't know if it's a blind trust if Ivanka, Don, and Eric run it.  If that's a blind trust, I don't know."

Yes, he knew!  Of course he knew!  The only people who believed him when him said that are those who didn't know what a blind trust is and had no interest in finding out.

I mentioned earlier about making money for yourself and some select others.  Let us look at the recent goings-on with the Kushner family -- yes, the family of Ivanka Trump's husband -- over in China.  On May 5th, President Trump signed bill H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, into law.  The bill is for the funding of the U.S. government to the end of fiscal year 2017.  However, as reported by The New York Times newspaper, smothered in the nether regions of the text of the bill, there is a renewal of a visa program from which Jared Kushner's family stands to benefit mightily.  The EB-5 visa program came out of the Immigration Act of 1990 and it allowed wealthy foreign investors to gain visas for permanent U.S. residence in exchange for investing at least one million dollars in companies that will employ -- get this -- at least ten workers.  You read that right, ten workers.  It has been riddled with scandals for years.

Even before Trump signed the bill into law, Jared's sister Nicole Meyer was already on a flight to China to participate in two Kushner Companies presentations to Chinese investors over that weekend.  What were the presentations about?  You guessed it, making a big investment in a U.S. business to gain visas.  The dollar amount kicked around was $500,000, which would have to come from each investor, and it would be invested in a pair of luxury apartment towers located in Jersey City, New Jersey, called One Journal Square, owned by Kushner Companies.  The total investment would be $15,000,000.  One big problem, though, was Nicole Meyer's mentioning her brother's name and showing a picture of President Trump during her presentations.  (Kushner Companies, back when Jared was in charge, received a whopping $50,000,000 investment from EB-5 monies for a condo high-rise called Trump Plaza, also in Jersey City.)

The military industrial complex has also been financially fruitful for Trump, and will continue to do so.  When he ordered an air strike on an airfield in Syria last month, the missiles used were Tomahawk cruise missiles.  Tomahawk missiles are made by a company called Raytheon.  After the strike took place, Raytheon's stock price rose.  And yes, you probably guessed it again, Trump owns stock in Raytheon.

And, lest we forget, Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort doubled its membership fees from $200,000 to $400,000 less than a week after his being sworn in as President, and he profits from everyone, including foreign dignitaries who stay at his D.C. Trump International Hotel, which opened in the fall of last year.  He's even looking into opening a second hotel in D.C.

My point is not that presidents should not be allowed to make money aside form their salary.  Many of them have paid speaking engagements and write books, including their memoirs, after they leave office, so to say other presidents can do that but not the current one is wrong.  However, the Trump presidency is turning the White House into a farm ... he's using the position as a cash cow ...

... like almost any big businessman would.


Part 4 Tomorrow

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 2 of 5]

Think about your favorite books and/or films about spies.  You know the kind, complete with plenty of espionage, intrigue, shady characters, and questionable goings-on.  The story would unfold, pulling you in, slowly, methodically.  It would create its own world for you to inhabit with the author or screenwriter.  If everything going on with Trump presidency was in a film or book, that would be the world it created.

What I am addressing is, however, real life.

Let us start with Trump's ongoing admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.  President Trump has verbally trash-talked about other politicians (including those in his own party), other world leaders, and various other individuals and groups throughout his entire campaign, and continues to do so.  At one point in the campaign, he said bombing Europe (for whatever reason it might be "necessary", I assume) cannot be taken off the table.  After calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel "fantastic" and "highly respected", he said the following in response to her welcoming Syrian refugees into Germany: "[T]hey're going to have riots in Germany.  What's happening in Germany, I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader.  What she's done in Germany is insane."

And when Chancellor Merkel visited the President earlier this year, here is what the President thought was a proper response to her request for a polite gesture.

That's how you treat the leader of a U.S. ally?

However, when it comes to the leader of a country that is not an ally of the United States, Vladimir Putin, Trump is eerily silent.  In place of any kind of slander, no matter how slight, Trump lauds praise on the Russian leader (i.e. "highly respected within his own country and beyond", "a leader, unlike [Obama]"), while being careful to remind us that he neither knows nor has met Putin.

Ah, but others who are, or were, part of his administration have met the Russian President.  Trump's Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is a former CEO of ExxonMobil and he has had ties with Putin and Russia for years.  (Maybe having someone who works with and profits from an enemy of the U.S. as your Secretary of State is a bad idea?)  In fact, the President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies described Tillerson as having "more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American, with the exception of Dr. Henry Kissinger" in an interview for The Wall Street Journal newspaper back in December.  In fact, Tillerson was awarded the Russian Medal of Friendship for his work of cooperation in the field of energy.

And let's not forget former National Security Advisor (for a whole twenty-four days), Gen. Michael Flynn.  Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump on January 30, has been testifying in front of a Senate committee to the extent that Flynn was known by her to be likely targeted by Russia.  President Obama knew that he could be a problem and even warned Trump not to pick him for any administration position during their transition period at the White House.  Ms. Yates offered the same warning.  Much of Flynn's activity, that should have warranted filing with the U.S. government as a foreign agent, was with Turkey since last year.  Well, it did warrant his doing that, but he didn't do so until just over three weeks after he was fired from the National Security Advisor position.

There is also his attendance at a tenth anniversary gala for RT (Russia Today television network), Russia's propaganda machine, in December of 2015 after being interviewed by the network (for a cool $45,000) and having appeared on the network from time to time as an analyst.
Gen. Flynn (left) next to Putin at RT gala (December 2015)

Oh yeah, there's that tiny piece of business where General Flynn failed to mention involvement with both countries and getting paid for both while being vetted for the National Security Advisor position.  (Sorry, Press Secretary Sean Spicer, vetting does, indeed, reoccur the higher up in security clearance you go.)

The grab bag gets deeper: Jared Kushner, President Trump's Senior Advisor and son-in-law met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kisliak twice and once with the head of Russia's state-owned bank for development and foreign business, Sergey Gorkov.  Trump's first campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has ties with Russia that go as far back as twelve years ago.  (Trump and his people have been saying Manafort's role in Trump's campaign was "limited".)  Carter Page, Mr. I-Just-Like-Being-On-TV, a Trump campaign foreign advisor, like Jared Kushner, met with Ambassador Kisliak.  (Their meeting was at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.)  J.D. Gordon, a national security advisor to the Trump campaign, also met with Kisliak at the Republican National Convention.  He pushed for a more pro-Russia/anti-Ukraine platform at the convention.  (Remember Russia annexing eastern Ukraine a few years ago?)  The language in the platform was softened from looking to arm Ukranian fighters against Russian forces, down to "appropriate assistance" and "greater coordination with NATO defense planning".  (Yes, that is, as Trump put it, the same former "obsolete" and now "no longer obsolete" NATO.)

The FBI investigation, now without Director James Comey, who was fired one week ago today, as well as the Senate and (damaged) House investigations continue.  How much deeper do these ties to Russia go?  How much more involved with an enemy of the U.S. is this President as his various associates and connections?  And why is this being allowed to continue?


Part 3 Tomorrow 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Word of the Week: TREACHEROUS [Part 1 of 5]

[I want to apologize for not writing in a while.  Life and being overwhelmed with what's been happening here in the U.S. have consumed me.  I also want to note that this blog recently passed 9,000 views (and is already well on the way to 10,000).  Thank you very much, dear readers!]

Though opinions may vary on the worst President of the United States ever, the name that comes up quite frequently (perhaps most frequently?) among many historians and followers of history is James Buchanan, our fifteenth President.  The governing style of "Old Buck", as he was known, went from indecisive and ineffective to one wrong decision after another.  He supported various compromises that allowed the spread of slavery, and publicly declared (at his inauguration, no less) support for the Supreme Court's upcoming Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.  (The Court ruled that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery among the colonies.)  He did nothing regarding states that wanted to secede from the Union, believing the Constitution did not give him any power to get involved.  Add to this the "Utah War" (or "Buchanan's Blunder") and the little-discussed "Pig War".  (The former being a jurisdictional dispute and the latter being a territorial dispute, both exacerbated by Buchanan's doing.)

What a resumé!

Buchanan's one term as President ended more than 150 years ago and I think it is important to use it as a backdrop against the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, who is already being cited as the worst U.S. President ever, just four months into his term.  (For the record, no, I am not a member of President Trump's party saying Americans should just "give him a chance" after everything that has happened so far,)  That is not to say that there haven't been other bad occurrences in other Presidents' terms -- a non-exhaustive list might include Teapot Dome, Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, The Great Recession, Iraq War, and the "War Against Terror" -- but I will use Buchanan's presidency as my main backdrop.

In comparison to James Buchanan's indecision regarding major issues affecting the entire country, does Donald Trump also operate with indecision?  It depends on who you ask.  He does not appear to do so when he storms ahead with executive orders.  Then again, he does stomp forward and back off on other intentions and campaign promises.   He appears to mean what he says and intends to do what he does.  Any cognitive dissonance about his saying one thing and doing another as being merely indecision can be quelled with the knowledge that it was not indecision; it was lying ("not being fully forthcoming" in political-speak) about various campaign promises.

That about does it for indecision.

James Buchanan made several poor decisions in his presidency for the wrong reasons or because of not being fully informed.  And what about Donald Trump?  He absolutely makes decisions for the wrong reasons and without being properly informed; the latter fueled by his own ignorance and his staff and Cabinet's inexperience.  (The only decision of his with which I fully agreed was the backing out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, as noted in my posting from two years ago.)

While not a direct corollary, a rather broad similarity can be drawn between Buchanan's "Pig War" and President Trump's action on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Both are territorial disputes with the added element, in terms of the pipeline, of breaking a treaty with the Native American nations.  Not to mention the more-direct corollary of the U.S. government's treatment of indigenous peoples.  I guess nineteenth century treaties are just too old and no longer apply.

Wait, the U.S. Constitution is an eighteenth century document...

Granted, the job of U.S. President entails far more now than it ever did -- consider that roughly 3/4 of all Presidents did not have the specter of nuclear war hanging over their heads -- but that simply means the likelihood of bad decisions and the breadth of their results have exponentially increased.  President Trump's decisions are unfortunately clearer-than-usual examples of such.

His weekend getaways with his family so regularly are not the norm for Presidents; they tend to stay at home in the White House.  Trump treats the White House as merely his office ... make that merely an office.  American taxpayers, not Trump himself, are paying for his lavish lifestyle.  His Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida has been dubbed "White House South", while Trump Tower in New York City has been dubbed "White House North".  Apparently, Camp David, the presidential retreat, isn't quite up to his standards.  It is important to note than almost all Americans do not, and never have, lived at his standards, and included in those numbers are those who voted for him.  They didn't mind him being a successful businessman and enjoying the spoils, but they weren't told they'd pay for those spoils.  Perhaps, in light of the climate of the 2016 election, that still may not have mattered to his voters in the long run.

Two ironic terms to already come out of this presidency are "fake news" (thank you, Mr. Trump) and "alternate facts" (thank you, Kellyanne Conway).  They're ironic because "fake news", as the President uses it, means facts reported correctly that he doesn't like, and "alternate facts", as Kellyanne Conway used it, means lies.

Then there is Russia.  Oh my, there is a lot of Russia!  In addition to hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and influencing the 2016 American Presidential election, seriously, how many people who are or were on his staff, in his Cabinet, or among his appointees have no connection to Russia whatsoever?  Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, original National Security Adviser nominee Michael Flynn, adviser Carter Page, original campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law), not to mention other family members and business associates of Trump, are among the names of people with ties to Russia.

Does the phrase "stinks to high heaven" come to mind?

Let us not forget that one of the big aspects of business is marketing.  That can mean conveying information about a product and targeting a certain audience.  In the 2016 campaign and during his young presidency, Trump is not promoting a business, but his favorite product, himself.  It is often said that, when presenting yourself on a job interview, you are selling yourself; you become the product, in essence, that you want them to buy (hire).  That is meant to instill a sense of self-confidence.  In the course of his campaign, and even more so during his time in the White House, Trump's narcissism is the fuel he has used to sell his favorite product.  In fact, his worldview is if he likes it, you will, too ... if he wants it, you will, too ... if he says it, you will believe it.  It does appear he is finding out his selling tactics have not been as hands-down successful as he thought.

More to consider: Watch this video, which I first posted back in February, and let's discuss.

Let's compare Robert Reich's seven signs to Trump's presidency:
EXAGGERATE THEIR MANDATE TO GOVERN -- Trump's campaign and his Vice-President, Mike Pence, have said publicly, before and after taking the oath of office, that a "huge margin" gave Trump a mandate to do what "the voters want".   CHECK

TURN PUBLIC AGAINST THE MEDIA -- Trump has repeatedly referred to mainstream news outlets as fake news, openly arguing with some of their reporters at press meetings, and even referring to the media as "the greatest threat to democracy".  ✔ CHECK

REPEATEDLY LIES TO PUBLIC -- In reality, he cannot successfully do the other six things on this list without lying.  He has lied again and again with no signs of stopping.  ✔ CHECK

BLAMING ECONOMIC STRESSES ON IMMIGRANTS / CREATING ANTI-IMMIGRANT BIAS / THREATENING MASS DEPORTATIONS / ESTABLISH REGISTRY OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES / BANNING OF REFUGEES -- (This was a full one!)  Trump, like many politicians, have claimed for some time that those who immigrate here illegally are hurting the economy.  From the day he announced his candidacy, Trump's rhetoric has been anti-immigrant and his rally attendees were whipped into a frenzy.  He hasn't just threatened mass deportations, he has begun them.  Last year was when Trump first brought up the idea of a Muslim registry (database), but there has been plenty of pushback.  ✔ CHECK

TREAT ALL OPPOSITION AS "ENEMIES" -- Back in February, Trump tweeted that the press wasn't the enemy of the White House, but "the enemy of the American people".  (I guess also calling the press the "greatest threat to democracy" wasn't sufficient.)  On New Year's Eve, Trump tweeted: "Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don't know what to do.  Love!"  Clearly, anyone or any entity who doesn't tow the line is an enemy to Donald Trump.  ✔ CHECK

APPOINTING FAMILY MEMBERS TO POSITIONS OF HIGH AUTHORITY / APPOINTING GENERALS INTO TOP CIVILIAN POSTS -- As I noted earlier, Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is his Senior Adviser.  His daughter, Ivanka, who serves as Vice-President of Development and Acquisitions for the Trump Organization after the President allegedly "fully disconnected" from his businesses, has been attending key meetings without having any official position.  She now has a West Wing office with an official capacity of ... an adviser of some kind.  Retired General Michael Flynn was Trump's original pick for National Security Advisor; Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster was appointed after Flynn's firing.  Retired General James "Mad Dog" Mattis is the Secretary of Defense.  The Secretary of Homeland Security is retired Marine General John Kelly.  ✔ CHECK

KEEP PERSONAL FINANCES SECRET -- Even though the first two pages of the President's 2005 tax return were leaked earlier this year, he has not released any of his tax returns.


Part 2 Tomorrow