Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
I am writing to once again mention the ONE DAY sale (e-book) for $1.99 for “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vol. I, that is happening on January 5, Saturday, tomorrow.
I seldom use this space to advertise my own books (although it is said that Ishould), but I’m feeling distinctly nostalgic for “the good old days,” before Russian troll farms, when religion, politics and how much money one made (or didn’t make) was off the table for public discussion.
The e-book version of Volume I is (normally) priced at $4.99 and, if you would like it in paperback, the price was $14.95 on Amazon. There are numerous pictures that appear nowhere else (mine) and the blog entries from the run-up to the selection of the candidates to run in the 2008 election (i.e., Obama and McCain).
Volume II goes on to actually chronicle the presidential race, itself, which I covered, inside at the DNC, the RNC and elsewhere, for Yahoo. (Yahoo Content Producer of the Year for Politics that year).
There are A LOT of humorous entries and, if necessary, I’ll figure out a small segment from Book I to put up here tomorrow, along with a “buy” link.
Hope you all go take a look at the book, at least, on the peek inside feature.
Barack Obama in Davenport, Iowa (River Center) during the 2008 caucus season.
I don’t know about you, my readers, but I’m missing B.O. (Barack Obama).
And by B.O. I mean Barack Obama. And Michelle, of course. And the days when we had an intelligent, literate, kind, considerate, compassionate adult couple in the White House.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArzB7P9CEy8It is January. It is cold outside. Children in elementary school are dying at the U.S. border while Emma Lazarus weeps. (“Give me your tired, your poor. Your wretched refuse yearning to breathe free. The huddled masses of your teeming shore. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”).
So, I decided to put my 2008 book “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the WhiteHouse” on sale for just $1.99 in e-book format, for ONE DAY ONLY because, well, because I’m missing Barack Hussein Obama and his wife and family and the decency and integrity that his 8 years in Washington, D.C., represented.
In the day(s) when indictments are flying faster than snowflakes and the days stretch ahead of us, gloomy and dark, and we are fast heading towards the cliff of a Constitutional crisis, we ALL need more pictures of the 2008 election. This book fits the bill. It is jam-packed with previously unseen pictures, taken by Yours Truly as she followed the campaign across Iowa and, eventually, across the nation—to Denver’s DNC and St. Paul’s RNC and the Belmont Town Hall Meeting and the Ron Paul Rally for the Republic and the goings-on in Grant Park and at Invesco Field.
It’s only going to be on sale on January 5th, so hurry up and take advantage of this offer. I could be persuaded to put Volume II on sale in the future if this goes well. So crank up your e-book readers and order yourselves a slice of history for under two bucks.
Inside the Democratic National Convention of 2008 (Pepsi Center) in Denver, Colorado.
I drew back, apprehensive.
Was this guy at the Trump rally at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport, Iowa, really going to hit me? He looked seriously angry and would have fit Hillary Clinton’s description of a “deplorable.” I had done nothing to him other than attend the same rally, as a member of the press.
It was Saturday, December 5, 2015.
Yes, I was wearing a Press badge, but SERIOUSLY?
I’m a 73-year-old retired English teacher, five foot two, and unarmed—except with a pen and camera. I routinely covered presidential politics in Iowa and beyond. I also review film (www.TheMovieBlog.com) and write everything from short stories to novels to screenplays to children’s books. As a result of this journalistic encounter, I no longer cover presidential political primaries in Iowa. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I’d like to remain physically unimpaired.
I’d like to be as courageous as Marie Colvin, but I wouldn’t like to be as dead as Marie Colvin. I also want to keep both of my eyes, as I paid a fair chunk of change for cataract surgery this past summer.
I went home and said to my husband of 51 years: “This isn’t fun any more. It’s becoming downright dangerous.”
FAMOUS JOURNALIST’S WORDS OF WISDOM
A Private War: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dorman.
I did review the film “A Private War” (Chicago International Film Festival,October), which told of the life experiences of courageous U.K. journalist Marie Colvin (portrayed by Rosamund Pike).
Colvin, despite losing one eye in Sri Lanka, continued to report on wars in far-flung places, saying: “I feel we’ve failed if we don’t tell what was done. There are people dying here, and nobody knows it’s happening…When you’re covering a war, you have to go places where you could be killed…You have to make that suffering part of the record…This is the rough draft of history. You have to find it. If you lose that, you’re not helping anybody. You’re just making yourself feel better.”
She was killed in Syria on February 22, 2012.
I started out covering presidential politics in 2004, traveling across the I-74 bridge from Illinois into Iowa and writing for the Howard Dean blog, www.blogforiowa.com. A Journalism major on a Ferner-Hearst Scholarship when at the University of Iowa, I felt this was something I could do for the cause of taking our country back (Howard’s slogan).
Taken during a McCain rally at the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport during the 2008 presidential campaign. Cover of Volume II of “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).
I tried to give people on the blogs I wrote for who were not able to be there a firsthand view of the process of selecting presidential candidates. Volume I of my 2 books was about the run-up to of the candidates. Volume two was about the campaign that followed. The books are filled with photographs of all the candidates, pictures that I took during this wonderful experience.
Starting in 2004, I continued to write for a variety of blogs until, in 2008, I was sent to the DNC and the RNC (and elsewhere) by Yahoo and named their Content Contributor of the Year 2008 for Politics. My pieces (over 1,000) were “hit” 3 million times. I’ve written two books entitled “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Vols.1 & 2. (Available on Amazon in paperback and e-book).
But here I was facing a possible assault because I was Press.
This is a watershed year for journalists and journalism. The number of journalists has dropped from 114,000 to 88,000 between 2009 and 2017, according to the December 31, 2018 “Time” magazine. That same issue reports that in 1983 there were 50 corporations controlling what most Americans see or hear, but now it is down to five.
A record number of journalists (262) were imprisoned in 2017 (*Committee toProtect Journalists). Fifty-two journalists around the globe were killed. Five of the Capital Gazette (Annapolis, MD) journalists were slain in their office on December 9th. White House reporter Jim Acosta was stripped of his credentials by a peeved Donald J. Trump on November 7, 2018 and a doctored tape from “Infowars” was used to justify this unprecedented action. Jamal Khashoggi, a member of the Washington Post press corps, was cold-bloodedly killed and dismembered by Saudi Arabian goons inside the Istanbul consulate at the direction of Prince Mohammed bin Salman on October 2, 2018.
Around the world: Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam: jailed for more than 100 days after criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Sudan: freelance journalist Amal Habani arrested, beaten with electrical cords, and detained for 34 days. Brazil: Reporter Patricia Campos Mello- targeted with threats. Hong Kong: Asian news editor for the Financial Times forced out of Hong Kong because he invited an activist to speak at a press club event against the wishes of the Chinese government. The Philippines: Maria Ressa of the “Rappler” news site and her reporters were banned from presidential events and charged with tax fraud as a crackdown on “Rappler.” [That charge could send Ressa to prison for 10 years.]
Maria Ressa’s remark is worth repeating: “I think the biggest problem we face right now is that the beacon of democracy, the one that stood up for both human rights and press freedom—the United States—now is very confused. What are the values of the United States?”
Russian operatives in troll farms seeded Facebook (126 million reached on Facebook, alone, according to CNN on December 17th) with posts intended to help the Trump campaign. One USSR technique was to create a group called The Army of God, which enlisted those suffering from sex addiction(s). It is thought that the USSR hoped to blackmail some of these U.S. citizens into becoming Russian assets. The Facebook and Twitter and Instagram posts sought to sow unrest and dissension amongst the populace.
Democratic National Convention, 2008, Denver.
A good friend of my son’s—his former neighbor in Texas—engaged me on my thread on “Facebook” and immediately took to name-calling. I was a “libtard.” He and his family would move to Cabo San Lucas if Hillary Clinton were elected. I had been in this young man’s house. I had been at numerous gatherings where he prepared brisket. His son played with my 9-year-old twin granddaughters. Now I was “the enemy” because I might have a different political opinion than his. I was to be called names and generally put down.
Did I respond in kind? No, I did not.
“Jimmy,” I said, “We are never going to agree on politics, so let’s not discuss it.”
Despite my polite request that we NOT talk politics (since we would never agree), he persisted, telling me he would say “whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted.”
My response was to first beg my son to come throw cold water (figurativelyspeaking) on his fanatical friend, before the trip I had planned to Cabo San Lucas over Thanksgiving to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary at Sunset Beach (where Jimmy’s family would be vacationing at the same time as us in their time share), went down the tubes. My son did not see my e-mail(s).
A day passed.
Jimmy persisted, returning to my Facebook thread, growing increasingly more unpleasant and adamant, telling me how he was going to say “whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, wherever he wanted.” I finally said, “I don’t think that’s the way it works on Facebook, Jimmy,” and blocked him.
I allow anyone to speak their mind on either side of an issue on my Facebook thread, but there is to be no name-calling. Name calling is not allowed from either side of the aisle. That is MY “control.” Later, this good friend of my son’s texted my son to apologize to HIM. [Last time I checked, it was not my son who was called names].
I have not received an apology from Jimmy and the trip to Cabo rather pointedly left my husband and me out of the reunion with his family. They had moved to North Carolina before all this occurred—(a state I am sure is more in tune with Jimmy’s politics than Austin (Texas) was).
I like Jimmy and his wife and sons, and I regret that he could not treat a woman at least twenty-five years his senior, the mother of his close friend, with more respect. I regret even more that Jimmy is representative of the divide in this country that has been fostered by our president and social media.
This is what has overtaken our country in the wake of the election of 2016. I don’t think this country will ever be quite the same, unless certain controls that existed in the past are re-instituted or new ones are imposed.
What do I mean by “controls”?
For one thing, money, politics and religion were always considered to be “off limits” as conversational topics in polite society in my day. We no longer have a polite society, largely due to the lack of decorum at the top. It is creeping into our schoolsand seeping into our culture. I even wrote a six-book series of Christmas books for children aged 3 to 10 to try to keep these virtues and values alive, “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats.” The cats go about doing good deeds and helping other animals in distress. From ages 3 to 6 the granddaughters (twins, now aged 9) helped select the animals. We quickly moved through cats, rats and bats and, as their interest in the project waned in favor of their IPads and Minecraft, I selected deer and bear for the last two books. Next year’s book, “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee” will have Donnie Drone scheming to take over thehive. Draw your own conclusions. The illustrations by Hallmark artist Gary McCluskey are wonderful. He says it is the most fun he has had at work.
Belmont Town Hall meeting on campus in Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.
This year, “The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear” has a promotion on e-book that enters the purchaser into an Amazon $500 give-away as they read this anti-bullying tract to their 3 to 10 year old charges. I said I’d do these books as Christmas presents for my granddaughters until they no longer believe(d) in Santa Claus. They turn 10 on January 11, 2019. Six books will remain to convey to them what I have tried to pass on about behaving the way I was taught to behave towards others. [Obviously, I was not very convincing in my conversation(s) with Jimmy on Facebook, but I do still have both eyes (in good working condition) and for that I am grateful.]
These are “throwback” books that try to teach young people to be helpful, to be polite, to respect all human life, not to be prejudiced, not to bully and to try to get along with others in rhyming Seussical quatrains, with interactive activities at the back for the little ones. (www.TheXmasCats.com). In other words, the books reaffirm all the pillars of society and values that, along with what I will mention next, will hopefully return, once we select a different leader.
The Federal Communications Commission enforced the Fairness Doctrine until 1987. It required stations to cover public controversies and present both sides of the controversy. That FCC doctrine was repealed in 1987. Fox News was founded in 1996; MSNBC four months prior. The years of polite decorum in debate would soon be under attack and possibly become a thing of the past in an Internet world. We, as a society, are under constant attack from all sides. It is not hard to conceive of a Putin or a Xi chuckling at how we are being destroyed from the inside out.
I used to say that the 1962 movie “The Manchurian Candidate” was my favorite movie. Those of you who remember it will also remember that it disappeared for a very long time. That was because of the assassination of JFK. That was a “control” move, to keep anybody from thinking that a political assassination was a “good” thing.
We need to take similar action to rid ourselves or control all of the disruptive elements that are tearing us apart, and you can put the very reasonable concept of gun control in that category. I admired “The Manchurian Candidate” until fiction became fact.
I see children being torn from their parents at the border of this great land. These poor folks have dared greatly to reach a country that, previously, said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door.” (Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty).
What does our country say to immigrants—to the world—to you— now?
“Give me your white only immigrants from countries like Norway? Don’t dare to hope that we’ll welcome you graciously, because now we are solely a Me First nation? Go back to your s******* country and leave us alone?”
Is that the new United States of America message to the world at large?
As I grieve the death of all the initiatives that our last president championed (Obamacare, solar power, LGBQT rights, good relations with our allies), I urge everyone in the field of journalism or right-thinking to stand up to obvious falsehoods and untruths and misdeeds, seemingly committed to benefit those in power. Unprecedented abuses of our First Amendment freedoms occur and are occurring each day. Let’s restore this great country and save the entire planet from global warming before it’s too late. (A film at the Field Museum, “Antarctica on the Edge” says 2020 is the deadline; the film was made in 2014).
This assault on the freedom of the press may presage democracy’s last stand. Will you take an active part in helping maintain the United States as one of only 13% of the world’s countries that enjoy complete freedom of the press? Or will you side with someone who wants the satirical TV show “Saturday Night Live” prosecuted for making fun of presidents, (as the show has done for decades?)
To me, it’s not a difficult choice. I grew up in a very Republican state (Iowa) with a Democratic office-holder (my father, John Corcoran, Jr.) who only got the job as Buchanan County Treasurer after his Republican opponent died before being sworn in. (“John—your opponent died. Do you want the job?”) I was tacking up political posters on telephone poles at the age of 5 and listening to my father say, “Don’t go into politics, Con. It’s a dirty business!” Nevertheless, he served four terms as County Treasurer of Buchanan County, Iowa before starting a bank in 1941, the Security State Bank of Independence, Iowa, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary.
I’m used to being considered out-of-step with those around me, politically, but I always extend respect and courtesy to those who differ from me in their beliefs. My godmother (Arlene Raymond) was a Republican lobbyist for chiropractors in the state of Iowa for years.
What I won’t do is swallow, wholesale, lies and untruths. You have to really stay on top of things in this day and age, reading BOTH sides of the aisle, especially since the advent of news organizations that are geared at presenting only one side of any argument. [Fortunately, my vision is 20/20, thanks to the miraculous surgery of Eye Surgeon Associates on July 27 through September 11th].
With candidate John Edwards at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, during the 2008 caucus run (wearing an Obama sticker in the photo).
At one point in time during the 2008 presidential primaries, I was a John Edwards supporter. When the facts showed that he was lying to all of us and was not as represented, naturally I was crestfallen, but I did not continue to insist that it was the nasty news media that had made him into a philandering husband who fathered a child with a girlfriend while his wife was dying of cancer. It was a bitter pill for many of us to recognize that John Edwards truly had feet of clay, but we ate crow and admitted the facts. Rudy Giuiliani now says “Facts aren’t facts.” Au contraire, Rudy. Facts are what will set us free.
This will run before Christmas and I would like to end by saying, “Peace on Earth, good will towards men.” Help save our country by opening your mind(s) to all possibilities. No one is above the law and this great country needs to remain the beacon of hope it has always been for the entire world.
A former prisoner of war is brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. A Russian “asset” is intended to be placed in the White House by the manipulation of Angela Lansbury at a political convention.
Errol Morris, one of the world’s foremost documentary filmmakers (“The Fog of War,” “The Unknown Known”), presents us with his latest film, “American Dharma,” a sobering peek into the mind of the man “Time” magazine dubbed the Master Manipulator, Steve Bannon.
Dharma means “duty, fate and destiny,” according to this past and present Trump advisor. Before the film screened, the Chicago Cinema documentary chief (Anthony Kaufman) read a brief note from the filmmaker which said, “Who would have thought that Henry King, David Lean, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Ritchie and Orson Welles would offer such fertile ground for Fascism. This is my mostdespairing and horrifying movie.” Morris was referencing Bannon’s frequent allusions to films he has seen which have spoken to him, none mentioned more frequently than “12 O’Clock High” starring Gregory Peck, (directed by Henry King).
There is little doubt that Bannon (assisted by Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway), entering the Trump campaign at the eleventh hour with the financial backing of Rebekkah Mercer and family, saved Trump’s campaign. Bannon brought with him a game plan and what he refers to in the film as the Honey Badger spirit of never giving up. Bannon brought a first-rate mind and education (Harvard BusinessSchool, among others) to the battle, albeit a reputation for being “a stone-cold racist” and someone who is “doubling down on fear.” As Bannon says onscreen, “You need to be a blunt force instrument.” He adds, “We just did it and now we’re gonna’ march on the Capitol. We’re gonna’ drop the hammer.”
Bannon, who was Executive Chairman of Breitbart News under Andrew Breitbart said, “The medium isthe message and he (Trump) understood that.” Bannon described 15 to 18% of the voting public as people who didn’t like either candidate offered them in the presidential race, and notes that two-thirds of those people opted to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Bannon—who has been taking his show on the road covering the European circuit since his dismissal by Trump after Charlottesville— reminds the interviewer that “We had Brexit as the canary in themineshaft.” Says Bannon, as campaign guru he felt the Trump campaign needed to convince the American voting public of 3 things:
That Trump would stop immigration.
That Trump would bring jobs back to the United States from overseas.
That Trump would get us out of foreign wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Referencing a cautionary speech by Hillary Clinton in her campaign, known as the “alt right” speech, in which Hillary warned of the dangers inherent in a Trump presidency, Bannon crows, “That’s when I knew we had her. They’d walked right into the trap. If they (the voters) see you as the instrument to get their country and their jobs back, they’ll vote for you.” His point: Hillary did not represent the change that the states of West Virginia and most of the Midwest wanted to see.
Citing quotes like “When the legend becomes more powerful than the truth, printthe legend,” and “Evilis powerless if the good are unafraid,” Bannon pulls from Errol Morris an admission that Morris voter for Clinton “because I was afraid of you guys. I still am. I did it out of fear.”
Another favorite Bannon quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is, “I’d rather reign in Hell than serve in heaven.”
Morris asks Bannon if he’s all abut destroying everything and Bannon basically acknowledged that he is, saying, “We have to clean out some of theunderbrush” and “A complete rejection of the system is due,” which he predicts will come after another financial crisis and will be “like a scythe through grass. It is coming.”
In addition to warning us all exactly how this administration thinks, the solemn, depressing, insistent music, courtesy of Paul Leonard-Morgan, adds immensely to the tone and impact of the film. The cinematography by Igor Martinovic, who frequently poses Bannon in profile against the horizon, is good. Setting fire to the hangar (Quonset hut?) where the interview takes place is both a great metaphor for Steve Bannon’s philosophy of “the Fourth Turning” and makes for great visual imagery.
Is there anything more depressing than listening to someone this close to power telilng us, “Revolutionis coming. It will come, as night follows day?” Aside from the Steve Miller-crafted “American Carnage” speech, [which George W. Bush on Inauguration Day declared was “Some weird shit”], how uplifting is it to hear Steve Bannon tell say, “I’m saying if we don’t make changes we’re going to have an Apocalypse.” (Bannon also claimed that Trump wrote the speech himself and denied that Trump ever lies.) Recommended, but have something uplifting awaiting you when you finish up watching this important 95 minute documentary from the master.
Comedians Lewis Black and John Bowman came to the Chicago Theater on October 6th and performed to a full house, lampooning current events, politics, and life in general.
Black’s set reminded me of one I attended by David Brenner years ago, in that he presents less of a polished monologue and more of a riff on current events and pop culture. When Brenner performed, he would actually set up a music stand and put various articles on the stand, read them, reference them, and then riff about them to the audience. That approach was the closest to Black’s this night, and, in fact, Lewis Black did read us an article from a newspaper about a gun safety class at a Methodist Church in the South where an 81-year-old man accidentally shot both himself and his wife.
Black’s lead-in act (John Bowman) spent more time poking fun at Donald Trump than Black did. Bowman came out attired in a blonde wig (which he later removed), sang a song (“Santa Trump is coming to town”) about how we now can refrain from using terms like “Happy Holidays” and go back to the more religious greetings of yesteryear. In addition to making fun of Rudy Giuiliani, Gwyneth Paltrow and Pat Robertson, his remarks on television news these days led him to say, “I miss Ebola.” Bowen also noted, “I think we’re being whipped by the buckle end of the Bible belt.”
Lewis Black’s set mentioned Trump in passing, but did not dwell on the absurdity we are now facing in the political world. Black began with a marathon joke, since 45,000 people are in town to run in tomorrow’s event, went on to talk about how the psoriasis ads that feature celebrities are offputting (“Now I can’t listen to Cindy Lauper withoutthinking of her psoriasis and those pictures.”) and poked fun at the supposed memory-aiding drug made from jellyfish, Prevagen. [I was surprised that he didn’t mention how the benefits of this product have been debunked]. His prevagen comments about failing memory (he is 70) led him to talk about his elderly parents, both of whom are 100 years old. In his typically irascible fashion he said, “Remember the good old days, when I was young, and people had the common decency to die at 65?”)
Other topics that caught Black’s attention during his set:
Chicken McNuggets versus Chicken Tenders; children who don’t know that eggs come from chickens; Harry Potter’s influence; weather (“I think Mother Nature is amember of the MeToo movement”), Ben Carson (“He said his dining room set wasdangerous and that’s why he needed a $33,000 new dining room set for his office. And he needed a $7,000 sideboard. I realized after listening to him that I could have been a brain surgeon.”); Kellyanne Conway and her “alternative facts;” Steve Bannon; John Bolton (“I think someone in Bolton’s family mated with a walrus.”) and his hospitalization last year in Cork, Ireland for pneumonia. In addition to skewering the astronomically high costs of hospitalization in this country versus Ireland’s socialized medicine cost(s), he said he liked Irish nurses because they have his dark sense of humor. “One night, I said to my nurse, ‘ I don’t think I’m going to make it through the night.'” She responded, “You’re not that lucky, Mr. Black.”
The end of the evening is a “live” stream, where people in the audience are encouraged to send topics to him on their phones prior to the start of the show; he read the most interesting or amusing ones to an audience that streamed the show “live.”
Black’s main point regarding the Trump administration (“This guy.Wow. Unbelievable.”) was that there is too much material for him to keep up with the current occupant of the Oval Office. He also marveled at Trump’s cult-like followers (one of whom bellowed loudly at least 3 times), especially in the South, who are addicted to Trump’s brand of b.s. After that, the comedian remarked, “I think the Rapture is coming soon. Maybe next Wednesday.”
It was an enjoyable evening, but not as “finely tuned” a performance as my expectation for a Chicago Theater act that ended up setting me back about $70 after the upcharge to the $40+ tickets to be handled online. I had a seat in the second row (BB). I was directly in front of a woman celebrating her birthday who had flown in from San Diego with her boyfriend or husband. (She was loud even then, talking about it, or I would not know any of this).
Apparently, this birthday girl (or woman) missed out on the opportunity to see Lewis Black when he was in her vicinity, so her boyfriend or husband flew her to Chicago as a special treat for her birthday. The problem was that she then seemed to feel obligated to be truly loud and obnoxious while reacting to ALL of his jokes, laughing hysterically, as though she HAD to to justify spending the substantial sum of money to hear the comic. (Not to mention showing off for her new seatmate friend, like your children sometimes doin the presence of their peers.)
Black’s wry remarks were amusing, yes. Some of them. But there were few that were laugh-out-loud funny. Most were moderately funny, at best. The loud braying of this woman, a constant high-pitched LOUD laugh seemingly staged for her date and an audience of one man to her left (a resident of Chicago with whom she had struck up a loud conversation about her celebratorybirthday trip) was unfortunate placement, for me. She was truly annoying. I had just been thinking how great my seat was, only to wish I were far away from her as the evening progressed.
On the bright side, if you are that far down front on the main floor, there are side doors to the alley that you can exit and reach the street in time to be first to get a cab. For a woman alone, (who would otherwise probably have had to take the red line ell alone, since the cabs go fast) that was a real plus. This was the first time I’ve EVER been able to get a cab after a performance at the Chicago Theater, and I’ve seen a lot of shows there.
James Clapper (Image courtesy of www.deadline.com)
The summer of 2015 saw the first sign of digital intrusions into our voting apparatus, first appearing in Illinois and later spreading to 21 states. Russian hacking and tampering put then-President Obama in a bad position. James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was concerned that Russia might be using the data to change votes. “Russia?” he wondered.
The President’s Daily Brief (PDB) security briefing [something Trump supposedlyrarely pays much attention to]contained this information. But what should Obama do? In July of 2016 WikiLeaks and DC Leaks began publishing e-mails from the DNC, obtained by Russian hackers calling themselves “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear.” The National Security Council was deeply concerned as the intelligence regarding Russian hacking grew more and more convincing.
Obama was torn. If he went on prime-time national television and announced the findings it might look like he was attacking Trump, linking the Republican nominee with Russia. (*This would have been a very good idea, since his wife is Russian, his heroes are Russian and, in all likelihood, his secret helpers were Russian in the election of 2016). Obama did not want to appear as though he were meddling in the U.S. election by trying to tip the scales, but NOT telling the public could create a backlash in the (very unlikely) case that Trump did win.
John Brennan (Image courtesy of cnn.com)
John Brennan of the FBI argued against telling the public. He was protective of the department’s sources. Brennan, however, did tell Russian Intelligence Chief Alexander Bortnikov that we were aware of the hacking. (Bortnikov, like Trump, simply denied it.
Mike Morrell (Image courtesy of CNN.com)
Mike Morrell, acting director of the CIA twice, published an op-ed in the New York Times on August 5th that read: “I Ranthe CIA: Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.” Morrell flat-out accused Trump of “being an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Clapper was selected to brief the Gang of Eight consisting of 4 Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and House, plus the Chairmen and Vice Chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
Clapper was shocked by the partisan nature of the gathering, as the Republicans disliked everything. The Democrats loved every bit of the information. He left the briefing feeling that the intelligence apparatus in the country was becoming a political football.
Even though everyone still felt that Clinton was likely to win, Vladimir Putin’s influence campaign to undermine HRC’s campaign and coming presidency went into high gear.
Meanwhile, Clapper and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson wanted to alert the public to Russian hacking. Friday, October 7th, they released a joint statement accusing Russia of trying to interfere in the United States election. “The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromise of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.” The announcement went on to say that the authorization to do this must have come from the top in Russia. They sat back and waited for this to be a Big News Story.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE
One hour later, at 4:05 p.m., David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post released a headlined story: “Trump Recorded Having Extremely Lewd Conversation About Women in 2005.” This would later become known as the Access Hollywood tape. It literally blew away all other important news of the hour and day, such as the Russian hacking story. The “Grab them by the pussy” tape became “a political earthquake” and the announcement about Russia’s hacking in our election was lost in the shuffle.
Less than half an hour later, at 4:30 p.m., WikiLeaks dumped thousands of e-mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal account. It included information about HRC’s speeches to Wall Street financiers. E-mails between Podesta and Donna Brazile (Chair of the DNC) were also released.
ACCESS HOLLYWOOD TAPE AFTERMATH
“I’ve never said I’m a perfect person…these words don’treflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize. I pledge to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.” (Donald J. Trump) Trump went on to pivot to Bill Clinton and saying he had done far worse and concluded, “See you at the debate on Sunday.”
A summit of the top advisers to Donald J. Trump convened and Priebus said, “It’s over.” Bannon did not agree (“What do you mean, it’s over?”) Mike Pence was dubious. “Are you fucking kidding me?” was Bannon’s response. “It’s a tape, dude.” Priebus insisted, “You don’t understand; it’s over.” Trump asked each of them to weigh in on the situation. Priebus felt he should drop out right now and avoid the worst loss in American history. Bannon insisted “Cut the bullshit; that’s bullshit.” Priebus floated the idea of Mike Pence stepping up and running with Condoleeza Rice, “W’s” former national security adviser and secretary of state. “That’s never going to happen,” Bannon said loudly. Chris Christie of New Jersey felt Trump should resign in order to protect his brand. Rudy Giuiliani felt that “Basically, you’ve got a 40% chance of winning.” Kellyanne Conway suggested contacting “60 Minutes” and doing a sort of public confessional with Ivanka on one side and Melania on the other, the women crying and Trump apologizing. Melania flatly refused.
Trump asked Bannon, “What do you think?
Bannon responded, “100%”
“100% metaphysical certitude you’re going to win.”
Trump responded, “Cut the shit. I’m tired of 100%. I need to know what you really think.”
Although Priebus obviously was not a 100%-er, and he didn’t think Trump was, either, Bannon kept maintaining that Trump would win. He told the room: “We’re going to compare your talk with Bill Clinton’s action.”
“How are we going to do that?” (Trump)
Bannon suggested a Hilton Hotel ballroom at 8 p.m. that night with a hammerhead rally—which was a Bannon term for the diehard Trump fans wearing the MAGA baseball caps. Trump was delighted, while the others were opposed and a huge fight resulted with a compromise position at the end of it: Conway would have David muir of ABC helicopter in and do a 10 minute interview.
Bannon felt this was political suicide. Priebus again felt that Trump was toast. (“You guys don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to go down.”) Various Republicans were coming out of the woodwork and telling Trump he should step aside for Mike Pence. Pence even released a statement: (“As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released Saturday. I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”
There were rumors that Pence had given Bannon a sealed letter that urged him to drop off the ticket.
Two hours later Melania released a statement defending her husband and saying, “I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”
At 3:40 p.m. Trump tweeted: I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA Preparations for the ABC interview were underway. Giuiliani and Christie gave Trump an apology statement to read. Trump was surly about reading the “all political” statement that screamed Giuliani and Christie. “I can’t do this. This is bullshit. This is weak. You guys are weak.”
Christie interjected, “Donald, you don’t understand” and Giuliani told Trump that he had to do this. Trump turned to Kellyanne Conway and asked her what were the steps to cancel out on the Muir interview. She waffled, saying all her credibility was on the line, but Bannon said, “It’s not going to happen. He ain’t going to do it. If he does do an introduction you can’t have him do a live interview. He’ll f****** get cut to pieces.” The apology was re-written, but it was still all Giuliani and Christie and polito-speak and Trump said, “I’m not doing this.” He delcared that he was going to go down to the roaring crowd gathered for the rally. The Secret Service insisted to Trump that he was NOT going to go outside. Trump headed out, saying “I’m going downstairs. This is great.” (*One cautious word for DJT: watch the movie about Huey Long.) Conway was telling Trump that he couldn’t cancel on ABC, but DJT said, “I don’t care. It was a dumb idea. I never wanted to do it.”
OUTSIDE THE ELEVATOR
Chris Christie (then Governor of New Jersey) and Steve Bannon had words outside the elevator. Christie said, to Bannon, “You’re the fucking problem. You’ve been the problem since the beginning.”
Bannon, dismayed, wanted to know what Bannon was talking about. Bannon, dismayed, said, “What are you talking about?” Christie responded, “You’re the enabler. You play to every one of his worst instincts…” The 2 men faced off and Bannon said, “Governor, the plane leaves tomorrow. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team.”
Christie was not on the plane the next day. Trump, however, was, and, following on the heels of Rudy Giuliani doing all 5 networks, defending his client, he was the only one who completed a full Ginsburg (a term used for Monica Lewinsky’s attorney who appeared on all 5 network Sunday programs on Feb. 1, 1998.)
ON THE PLANE
After Giuliani had made the full Ginsburg–-a daunting task that must have been quit embarrassing and humiliating in many ways—the exhausted former Mayor of New York City who had pulled out every stop got to hear Trump say to him: “Rudy, you’re a baby! I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?” When Bannon defended Giuliani as the only one of the Trump forces who had gone to the wall for his boss, Trump responded, “I don’t want to hear it. It was a mistake. He shouldn’t have gone on. He’s weak. You’re weak, Rudy. You’ve lost it.”
Giuliani just took the abuse with a blank face as the plane took off.
Chapter 2 describes how Steve Bannon came to be involved in the Trump campaign for the presidency on or about August 13, 2016. Bannon was reading an article entitled “The Failing Inside Mission to Tame Trump’s Tongue” in the New York Times (an article that would be just as timely today.)
Trump had no operation beyond the RNC at that point. His “campaign,” which he had announced in the infamous Trump Tower escalator speech, had been launched on July 21, 2016, and consisted of perhaps 7 people. The team was scheduling rallies in what I call Newt Gingrich territory, i.e., the cheesiest venues, “often old, washed-out sports or hockey arenas.” Bannon called Rebekah Mercer, one of the biggest and most controversial sources of campaign funding within the GOP. The family had an ownership stake in Breitbart.
Rebekah Mercer noted, “This guy Manafort’s a disaster. Nobody’s running the campaign now. Trump listens to you. He’s always looking for adult supervision.” In this fashion, Ms. Mercer urged Bannon to offer his services running the campaign, even though he admitted he had no firsthand knowledge of running such a large-scale operation. Ms. Mercer noted that Trump would accept him in this position because “This thing’s in panic mode.” She sized Trump, the outsider, up as “desperate.”
The Mercers (Rebekah on right).(Image courtesy of jackrite blog)
That discussion between Bannon and Rebekah Mercer led to a meeting at the home of the New York Jets owner, Woody Johnson, for a fundraiser. The Mercers wanted 10 minutes with DJT. “Mananfort has got to go,” she told Trump. She added, “Steve Bannon will come in” and Trump’s response was that Bannon would never do it, to which Rebekah reassured him that Bannon most definitely would enter the fray.
Trump, in his usual style, blamed Manafort for his poor television skills (“He’s a stiff. He can’t do TV effectively.”)
Candidate Trump and Reince Priebus (Image courtesy of Politico)
The next discussion revolved around 44-year-old Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin lawyer and chairman of the RNC for 5 years.Priebus viewed the month of August as a catastrophe (“A constant heat lamp that wouldn’t go away.”) Priebus had called Trump up after his negative remarks about Mexicans in his announcement of his candidacy, telling him: “You can’t talk like that. We’ve been working really hard to win over Hispanics.”
At this point, according to Woodward, Mitch McConnell had already told Priebus to shut the Trump funding spigot off and direct the RNC money towards Senate candidates. But Priebus decided to straddle middle ground: survival for the party and survival for him.“He had sucked up to Trump appropriately, but had also stressed his responsibilities to the RNC. He agreed to introduce Trump at rallies, referring to that as “extending a hand to a drowning man.” Priebus had said: “It wasn’t a campaign. It was a joke.” Priebus decided there was only one path forward, and that was to maximize aggression to conceal weakness.
Woodward then pivots to a meeting that took place at one of Trump’s golf courses at Bedminster (the Trump National Golf Club). Bannon was told to arrive at one o’clock and was given detailed instructions for finding the course (“Trump provided more detail than Bannon had ever heard him give on anything.”).
Roger Ailes (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
When Bannon arrived early, he met up with Roger Ailes, who was surprised to see him. Others supposed to be present were Chris Christie and Rudy Giuiliani. (Ailes’ reaction upon seeing Bannon was “WTF.”) Something was said (by Bannon) to Ailes to suggest that Trump was going to be “prepping” for the first debate with Hillary Clinton, which was upcoming on September 26th. Ailes was surprised that Trump was “prepping” and Bannon corrected him, noting that he, Giuiliani and Christie couldn’t get Trump to “prep” but they did show up and talk some of the potential relevant issues with him, as he played golf or after he played golf.
Paul Manafort (Image courtesy of CNBC.com)
Paul Manafort, then the ostensible Campaign Manager (now a convicted felon), walked in dressed in yachting attire and both men were disgusted. Trump arrived and wolfed down a diet of hot dogs and hamburgers “the fantasy diet of an 11-year-old kid.” Trump chided Manafort, saying: “You’re terrible on TV. You’ve got no energy. You don’t represent the campaign. I’ve told you nicely. You’re never going on TV again.”
Trump constantly derided “the failing New York Times” but secretly considered it to be Gospel, and he was upset with the coverage. Bannon tried to convince him the story was BS, but Trump “wasn’t buying it.” (“The assassination of Manafort continued for a while.”) Typical commentary on Manafort, by Trump, to Bannon: “This thing’s so terrible. It’s out of control.. This guy’s such a loser. He’s really not running the campaign. I only brought him in to get me through the convention.”
Bannon laid out a battleground scenario where 2/3 of the country thought the country was on the wrong track and 75% thought we were in decline as a nation. That would set the stage for a “change agent” and Hillary was the past. Bannon underscored and emphasized that the goal was to “compare and contrast Clinton.” Steve Bannon outlined a campaign where HRC would be made the tribune and representative of a corrupt and incompetent status quo of elites who were allowing the nation to go down the tubes. Trump would become the tribune of the forgotten man who wanted to make America great again.
“And we’re just going to do it in a couple of themes,” Bannon said.#1: Immigration #2: Bring back manufacturing jobs, #3: Get out of pointless wars. Saying that those were the 3 big themes that Clinton could not defend against, Bannon went on to say, “We’re just going to hammer. That’s it. Just stick to that.” He noted that “even when she’s telling the truth, she sounds like she’s lying to you.” Trump did not.
Kellyanne Conway (Image courtesy of NYMag.com)
They agreed that Kellyanne Conway (who had previously worked for Ted Cruz) would be the designated campaign manager, but, to avoid any mention of Manafort’s ouster in the papers, he would retain a purely honorary title as Campaign Chairman but have no real power. Of Kellyanne he said, “We’re going to put her on television every day as the female-friendly face.” (They certainly did THAT! You could not avoid Kellyanne Conway on shows like “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation” during this period.)
Bannon added that HE would never be on TV. Kellyanne told Trump that he was “running against the most joyless candidate in presidential history.” (One could have said the same of Cruz, had he prevailed.) Kellyanne told Trump there was “a path back.” Kellyanne told him: “You have built a movement. And people feel like they’re a part of it.” She counseled that the Trump campaign should never do national polling, as it was misleading. It was all about the electoral college and the 270 votes, so they needed to target the right states. She also said that “People want specifics” and “You need to make good on your promises.”
Asked if she was willing to devote months of time to help him win, Kellyanne acquiesced and said: “Sir, I can do that for you. You can win this race. I do not consider myself your peer. I will never address you by your first name.”
And so was born the trio of first-time campaign managers with a flawed candidate who did have a national reputation. “You’re fired!”)
In Chapter One, Bob Woodward concentrates on Steve Bannon. He traces Bannon’s meeting with Trump back to August of 2010, when David Bossie, longtme House Republican investigator and conservative activist wanted to put Bannon, then 57, together with the Trumpster.
The chapter conveys Bannon’s linguistic style as very casual (“Dude” is one of the terms he uses repeatedly when speaking to Bossie). Bossie asks Bannon to come with him to New York to meet Donald Trump.:
“What about?” says Bannon.
“He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie answers.
“Of what country?” Bannon responds.
It is casual insouciance like that exchange that gives us our first glimpse of the evil genie behind the throne, the Breitbach editor turned kingmaker. Bannon responds, “I don’t have time to jerk off, dude.” [Again, the casual insouciance].
David Bossie (“Politico” image).
Finally, the meeting does take place, and Bannon and Bossie inform Trump that his plan to potentially run against Obama in 2012 has some problems. For one thing, his record shows him to have bankrolled those who might be considered liberal, and to have underwritten causes for candidates who are pro abortion, while, they tell him, he must be “pro life.” They suggest that he become a “Populist” president, but Trump never seems to be able to repeat the word “Populist” correctly, repeatedly calling it “Popularist.”
At that point in time, Bannon found Trump to be “engaged and quick. He was in great physical shape. His presence was bigger than the man, and took over the room, a command presence. He had something.” Bannon felt that Trump was: “Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.” (Just what we all hoped for: Archie Bunker for President!) It is interesting to note how Omarosa talks about Trump’s physical and mental deterioration in her book “Unhinged”, based on having known and worked with the man for 15 years. It would be hard to imagine anyone today saying that Donald J. Trump was either “engaged” or “quick” and he is definitely not “in great physical shape.”
They reveal, to Trump’s amazement, that there are voting records that show he has only voted once in a primary in his entire life. (For Rudy Giuiliani, in 1989). Trump seems woefully ignorant of the most basic political facts and realities, but he keeps repeating that “that can be fixed.” The two old pols tell him to run in 3 states as though he were running for Governor. The three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first 3 caucus or primary states. They instruct him to start contributing $2,400 (the maximum allowed by law) to Republican candidates in a handful of battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. They suggest he produce a policy book. (“You ought to do a book about what you think about America and these policies.”).
Later, leaving the meeting, the two men discuss the potential candidate. Bossie asks: “What about the policy book?”
Bannon responds: “He’ll never do a policy book. Give me a f****** break. First off, nobody will buy it. It was a waste of time except for the fact that it was insanely entertaining.”
And that (plus perhaps the Correspondents’ dinner roasting of Trump by Seth Meyer and Obama?) gave birth to the perfect storm of 2016 and Donald J. Trump’s candidacy.
Bob Woodward’s new book “FEAR” came out today, and I am reading it.
Bob Woodward (Twitter image), co-author of “All the President’s Men” and “Fear”
As with Omarosa’s book about the goings-on inside the White House (“Unhinged”), I will attempt to share with those of you with less idle time on their hands some of its revelations.
Today’s installment will deal only with the first 1% (I ordered it in e-book format), the Prologue. First, let it be known that Woodward had A LOT of help from his research assistant Evelyn M. Duffy, who has worked with him on five previous books.
(General Mattis, Gary Kohn, and General Kelly from the ArmWood Opinion Blog)
Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and one of the president’s top economic advisers comes off as one of those who is trying to keep Trump from screwing up by signing things he shouldn’t. Cohn, who spent 27 years at Goldman Sachs, is 6′ 3″ and full of self-confidence, notes Woodward. He is also from GOLDMAN SACHS, and, if you remember, Trump made a Big Deal of Hillary Clinton’s speech to Goldman Sachs, but now brings its president on as one of his most trusted advisers. (Go figure).
The Prologue deals with Trump’s unhinged (Omarosa’s book title) efforts to withdraw from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS. It isn’t so much that we get economic good from this agreement as that we get the ability to detect any attack that might be heading towards the U.S. mainland from North Korea because of the work of the military infrastructure present in South Korea, which has been there ever since I was a little girl (the early fifties). The U.S. stationed 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea and operates the most highly classified and sensitive Special Access Program (SAP) providing sophisticated Top Secret codeword intelligence and military capabilities.
(Image from 9news.com.au)
Woodward’s book (“FEAR”) notes that a missile from North Korea would take 38 minutes to reach Los Angeles. Thanks to this treaty and the intelligence apparatus in place there as a result of it, we would know that it was headed for us in 7 seconds. Compare that to the time it would take for Alaska to let us know if an attack from the Russians (15 minutes) and you realize that the ability to detect a lunch “in seven seconds” would give the United States military the time to shoot down a North Korean missile.”
Does Trump recognize that fact?
Apparently not. Woodward notes that it is “Perhaps the most important and most secret operation in the United States government. The American presence in South Korea represents the essence of national security.”
Why, then, did Trump want to withdraw from this important strategic alliance? Because he was angry that the U.S. had an $18 billion annual trade deficit with South Korea, plus our troops there cost us $3.5 billion a year to maintain.
Woodward notes, “Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic.” Prior to that, Woodward says, “Despite almost daily reports of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was.” (Or should we say “is”?).
The letter, which Woodward displays on the page, was dated September 5, 2017. It was the trigger to a potential national and international security catastrophe. And Cohn, therefore, removed the letter draft from the Resolute Desk and placed it in a blue folder marked “KEEP.”
Woodward: “In the anarchy and disorder of the White House, and Trump’s mind, the president never noticed the missing letter.” Rob Porter is then noted as contributing to this attempt to stop Trump from doing something stupid. Porter attended Harvard and Harvard Law School and was a Rhodes Scholar, something no one has accused Trump of being. “Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders.” “Cohn at times would just yank it (an order), and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it.”
(No copyright infringement is intended & there is no profit from the reprinting of this cartoon image.)
Cohn: “It’s not what we did for the country. It’s what we saved him (Trump) from doing.” Porter said, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he (Trump) had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.” After citing the technique of “slow walking” a bill or order that Trump might unwisely sign, Porter said: “It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually…It was like you were always walking right there on the edge.”
When confronted with arguments as to why the treaty with South Korea needed to remain in place, Trump said, “I don’t care. I’m tired of these arguments! I don’t want to hear about it any more. We’re getting out of KORUS.” The cooler heads told son-in-law Jared Kushner that a good draft needed to be prepared and, from there, “Cohn and Porter did not prepare a next draft. So there was nothing to show the president. The issue, for the moment, disappeared in the haze of presidential decision making.”
Concludes Woodward, as the Prologue winds to a halt: “The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader…It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”
I’m not sure I’ll have a graphic to illustrate today’s Trump ruminations.
Having just heard Trump going on about what a “good person” Paul Manafort is (or was) in a news clip, when is it acceptable for a President to use his bully pulpit to interfere in the jury deliberations of a man against whom there is overwhelming evidence that he tried to defraud the U.S. government (and others) of rightful taxes by establishing overseas accounts in various tax havens? Shouldn’t the Donald be shutting up right about now?
But, no. He is ranting on about what a “great” and “good” person Manafort, his former campaign chairman, is, which has certainly got to be considered anything but objective weighing of the evidence against Manafort AND prejudicial to a jury that might have dyed-in-the-wool Trump supporters amongst the twelve.
Any fact-based person would take a look at the faked bills of sale from gardeners and others, (with the owners of those companies taking the stand to testify that that is NOT their legitimate bill), and would say, “Well, at the very least, he’s a crook.” And a liar. And an opportunist who worked for the worst of the worst amongst dictators in Russian countries, which is not undocumented and not in dispute.
When the money ran out, Manafort began creatively spinning various stories to get money to support what most of us would say was a lavish lifestyle,–unless you are “in” to $900,000 ostrich jackets. (Loved the skit where an ostrich takes the stand and testifies against Manafort, on Seth Meyer’s late-night TV commentary). There’s a fantastically revealing story about Manafort’s financial decline in the latest issue of “Vanity Fair.”
The defense would have you believe, “Well, his second-in-command (Gates) is reponsible.” But, as one talking head put it, “If Gates was the quarterback, Manafort was Jerry Jones and owned the team.” It is worth noting that Gates netted a salary of only (note: I say “only” because we’re talking in millions of dollars for Manafort) $240,000 a year for keeping the books, while Manafort supposedly was paying himself over a million and a half (or more) from off-shore accounts to himself, illegally. And, of course, Gates embezzled from Manafort, so: “birds of a feather.”
At the very least, the presence of multiple offshore accounts to keep from having to pay U.S. taxes does not make Manafort a “good” person when he was the ring master for putting Donald J. Trump in office. Nor does it make Betsy DeVos a good choice for a Cabinet post (Secretary of Education) when she doesn’t have ANY experience in education (or much in finance) and sails a ship that is NOT registered under a U.S. flag, to keep from paying normal higher wages to the ship’s employees and to avoid port taxes of a U.S. registered ship. But that’s the kind of “draining the swamp” we’ve had with the Head Alligator in charge. Trump charges the Secret Service for use of his golf carts and really gouged those who rented the floor above him in Trump Tower for a while (his security detail). Since then, an unsightly trailer has been established outside the Trump Tower and is set up as Command Central for Trump’s security detail, to avoid the fleecing that was taking place in billing the government outrageous sums for a roof over their heads.
And let’s not even get started on the many other ways Donald J. Trump and family are making out like bandits while in office. It sure makes the days when former Presidents like Harry S. Truman (“The buck stops here”) refused to even take his pension, or when Jimmy Carter said he would not take positions, post presidency, on boards that might make it appear that he was profiting from having held the highest office in the land seem quaint and long ago. Has the entire morality and ethics of the U.S. really gone this far downhill in such a short time?
A few (not many, but a few) of my smart friends voted for Trump and have the cojones to admit it. They thought they were getting somebody from “outside” politics who would stop wasteful spending and rid the government of people like those now exclusively running it. They were wrong, and, some day, they will admit they were wrong, but, for now, can we just agree that jacking the national debt up, the way it has been increased under Trump is NOT a good thing? (Oh, for the days of Clinton’s surplus) and removing Obama’s ban on selling the extremely accurate missiles and bombs that just killed a schoolbus full of children in Yemen (when aimed at them by the Saudis) was probably another “bad” idea. Why remove that prohibition, which was put in place precisely because the previous administration feared that the Saudis might use them in such a way. (Let’s not forget that most of the 9/11 bombers were Saudis, something that the Bush administration tried to have us conveniently forget.)
In fact, this entire Trump presidency: bad idea. Let’s figure a way to start over and push the restart button that Hillary Clinton famously offered Putin once. No, I don’t mean by putting the much-maligned and unpopular former First Lady in office, but simply by getting rid of Agent Orange (as Spike Lee calls him) as quickly as we can. Our very survival may depend on it as we teeter and careen from crisis to crisis without a sane or smart hand on the tiller and with the entire National Security apparatus under constant attack. (John Brennan, anyone?)