Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What the President Knew? Really?

 I needed a reality check, last night, so I tried it out at dinner last night on Mr. Fernández:

“General Flynn called up the Russian ambassador and told him not to worry about the sanctions: Trump would take care of them. But Trump didn’t know a thing about the call, much less approve of it.”

Mr. Fernández just gave me a look.

I told you I needed a reality check, and that’s part of the story. But it’s more than that. I needed the answer to the question: why did we cede our government so easily, and so quickly?

Trump did what Trump does: he got the deal done. He’s been doing it ever since he first moved into Manhattan. Then, decades ago, the city was crumbling, the infrastructure was destroyed, crime was rampant, and the tax base eroded. So when Trump wanted to buy the Commodore Hotel, the city was more than happy.

I read about it in the book Trump Revealed; the details of the scheme escape me, but the essence is this. Trump had little money, and no history of doing a deal of that scope. Nonetheless, he was able to trick the city of New York into thinking he had financing (he sent them some papers, but they were unsigned), and also into giving him a 40-year tax break. Trump claimed that nobody else would have done the deal; in fact, several other developers did similar projects, without the gravy thrown in.

Trump, in short, is the grown if not matured version of the bully / show-off that you hated in junior high school. I get that, though I don’t like it.

What don’t I get?

I don’t get why everybody went along with it.

I tried to believe that the Republicans didn’t go along with it. In a sane world, having virtually every ex-president say that Trump was going to be a complete disaster….well, shouldn’t that carry some weight? And then came one outrage after another. Trump wouldn’t release his tax returns? We had just started to get upset, when he told us: not paying taxes meant he was smart.

It went on and on. He admitted he groped women, and then threatened to sue The New York Times. Finally, somebody acted like a grownup, and put him in his spot: the Times wasn’t defaming him, it was confirming his statements.

So then Trump sewed up the nomination, but surely the men (sorry, but there it is…men) in charge would prevent so disastrous a candidate from being chosen, right?

In fact, the convention was deeply disturbing. People who know Hillary are said to like her very much. But even if you don’t know her or don’t like her, can anything excuse the vitriol against her in the convention?

Lock her up????

Where was the convention held—Caracas? (Apologies to my Venezuelan friends….)

Nothing had been normal for a long time. Did it start when Obama was first elected, and then refused to enact his program? Remember all that time ago? Remember him trying to be the great conciliator, bring everybody to the table? Getting everybody who could be gotten onto the same page?

Remember what a bust that was?

They vilified the man, and would he respond? No—he kept on being calm and reasonable, and that drove them more nuts. So he produced his birth certificate and went on doing his best. Which wasn’t bad: the BBC reported that two polls had found that 60% of the public approved of Obama by the end of his term.

But the Republicans had the taste of blood in their mouth, and nowhere was it more evident than in their declaration that they would not replace the seat that Justice Scalia left vacant.

This was unprecedented. And did it matter how much the left howled? No, because who cared? The base of the Republican Party no longer responded to what The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN was saying. And worse, the Supreme Court itself did absolutely nothing. Did any of them speak out, to defend their institution? No, they were as mute as mules, with the one exception of….

Yup—Thomas got it.

So the Supreme Court snoozed away while its integrity got torn to shreds. Which meant and means that now we have no Supreme Court, because anything less than a unanimous decision is going to be suspect. And what, by the way, will happen if Trump decides to challenge the Ninth Circuit of Appeals’ decision on the illegality of Trump’s immigration ban? How will the Republicans react to a 4-4 decision, should it come to that? Then, the appeals court will be upheld—and how is that going to play? A constitutional crisis?

So the last six months have been a long, drawn-out and endless replay of that moment when, sitting frozen behind the steering wheel, you see the semi jump lanes and bear down on you.

It was unreal: the CIA, the FBI and everybody else and his brother said it. The Russians had interfered with the elections. And did anything Trump do or say indicate that they had not? Could anything be more blatant than Trump’s statements and actions? Or did we need to hear, “steal our vote!” shouted repeatedly at the convention, the way we heard, “lock her up!”?

So now it was that some sore losers—in fact the majority of voters—couldn’t get over the fact that the opponent won. And nobody said the obvious: this was a tainted election. The Russians screwed around with the most element of our democracy. We have to investigate, correct the situation, and do the election over. And right, this time.

This is what happens in junior high school, right?

But wait—it wasn’t just that Trump may or may not have been elected legitimately! In fact, Trump was conducting business before he had been sworn in! And so I sat around, one morning, and wondered: how could a president-elect summon every last ambassador home? Oh, and did any one of them say, “hey, you’re not my boss yet?” And where, dammit, was the boss? Because it’s time, Obama, to shoot a little of the spleen over at you.

It was, in fact, perhaps the most appalling sight of the whole election: Obama receiving Trump in the White House, Michelle serving tea (or whatever) to Melania. And what, by the way, was most shameful? This week, The New York Times had to chastise a female reporter who said, privately at a dinner, that Melania was a “hooker.”

Remember that old adage? If the question, “is she a lady” has to be asked, then you already have the answer? Sorry, but after you pose nude and handcuffed in a private jet for GQ magazine…well, the question of whether you’re a hooker or not becomes almost moot.

In short—absolutely everybody stood by and watched a sick fraud assume the presidency of the country through a fraudulent election.

So here we are. We are busy trying to wonder, as Bernie Sanders said on Facebook this morning, what the president knew, and when.

Know what?

I don’t give a flying eff what the “president” knew or when. I do give that eff about the fact that for the first time in my life, I had to watch somebody steal the election. And I had to watch us all watch him, while we did nothing.

It’s a little hard to imagine where this is going, but does anybody imagine that it’s good? And the Republicans—what are they going to do about this train wreck? Paul Ryan, of Janesville, Wisconsin? Saying that he “supported” Trump, late in the campaign, but that he would no longer “defend” him?


Well, it’s time to do what we have to do.

We have to get our ex-presidents together, from Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama.

All of them.

And then they have to go to the Organization of American States.

Remember them? The OAS?

Well, I looked them up, and they can help! Here’s the description, from their website:

The right to universal suffrage by secret ballot is a cornerstone of the democratic system. It is imperative that citizens of every county be able to rely on electoral processes that are free, peaceful and transparent. The independent, impartial observation of elections lends transparency and confidence to the electoral process and is one of the basic tools the OAS has to help strengthen democracy in the region. The Organization also provides support in the aftermath of elections, helping countries in their own efforts to strengthen the electoral system and make it more transparent.   

Wow—nice to know!

I’m kidding, of course.

Wait—am I?

Who knows? But why do I feel that, like asking whether a woman is a lady, asking whether an election is fraudulent is…

…exactly the same thing?