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

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