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!

Category: Politics Page 1 of 24

Presidential caucuses have been Connie’s specialty in Iowa as she followed the elections of 2004, 2008, 2012 and wrote the 2 books “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House.” She also continues to follow politics by avidly reading everything she can get her hands on, including “Rolling Stone,” “Mother Jones,” “Newsmax,” “Time,” etc.

Dominion Voting Machine Conspiracy Theories: Only Crackpots Need Apply

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute warns that the crack-pot Dominion Voting Machine conspiracy theories are harming cyber-security:

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

Last week, Julian Sanchez wrote about a crackpot conspiracy theory making the rounds: The allegation that voting machines or tabulation software produced by Dominion Voting Systems had somehow been “hacked” or “rigged” to alter the outcome of the presidential election. At the time, I worried I might be giving undue attention to an outlandish claim that—given how thin and easily debunked was the “evidence” for it—would surely fade away on its own. Apparently, I need not have worried. Since then, the Dominion Theory has not only led to the firing of Chris Krebs, the well‐​respected head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, but featured in a press conference held by Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who made it the centerpiece of a wildly implausible case that Donald Trump had won the presidency by a “landslide” and been deprived of victory by massive and systematic vote fraud. According to Powell’s increasingly byzantine version of the theory:

“The Dominion Voting Systems, the Smartmatic technology software, and the software that goes in other computerized voting systems here as well, not just Dominion, were created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chavez to make sure he never lost an election after one constitutional referendum came out the way he did not want it to come out.”

None of this is true. Dominion and Smartmatic are separate companies, and indeed competitors; the tenuous connection between them is that Dominion once purchased assets from a firm that had been owned and sold off by Smartmatic years earlier. Smartmatic is an American company, though its founders are Venezuelan, and its software was not used in any of the swing states currently under scrutiny. (It has provided software used in Venezuelan elections, but the company itself has called out electoral fraud there.) Powell’s claim appears to be little more than an effort to insinuate guilt by (very indirect) association with an authoritarian regime.

The other supposed “evidence” for chicanery linked to Dominion is equally shoddy. Election‐​night tabulation errors in Michigan—detected and corrected almost instantly—were speculatively attributed to Dominion software by online conspiracy theorists, but local election officials have since explained that they were the result of human errors, not computers misbehaving. Claims amplified by Trump that millions of votes had been “deleted” in Pennsylvania were unequivocally refuted by state officials. Trump appears to have picked up the notion from a report on the One America News Network, which got the idea from a blog post citing data from the polling firm Edison Research—though Edison itself had produced no such report.

Evidence against the theory is overwhelming, and has only become stronger in the week since my original post. Georgia recently completed a manual recount of paper ballots, supervised by the Republican secretary of state, and found no sign of any significant tabulation errors. (The states electronic voting machines generate voter‐​verifiable paper records, and in most battleground states the in‐​person votes that would have used such voting machines favored Trump, with Biden having the advantage in hand‐​marked mail ballots.) In an open letter, 59 of the country’s most prominent election security experts said they’d found no evidence of systemic fraud—cyber or otherwise.

None of this, alas, was enough to save Chris Krebs, until recently director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the Department of Homeland Security. For the sin of issuing a statement that the agency had found no evidence of voting systems being compromised, Krebs was summarily terminated by tweet, with Trump declaring the agency’s expert analysis “highly inaccurate.”

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Since the evidence‐​free Dominion theory is unlikely to persuade any court, Krebs’ dismissal may be its most damaging consequence, at least in the short term. This is not merely because Krebs was widely respected and viewed as highly competent, but because the firing sends a clear signal to all government employees: if your own analysis contradicts the president’s claims about vote fraud, you shouldn’t expect to remain employed for long. This undermines CISA’s core mission, which includes assisting and coordinating with states which may lack the federal government’s capabilities when it comes to monitoring and detecting sophisticated cyber‐​threats. Now the specter of political interference hangs over any warnings the agency may provide in the future. The agency may now hesitate to provide state officials—and the general public—with reassurances about the integrity of local elections, while warnings about actual threats may be viewed with suspicion given Trump’s clear desire to find evidence of fraud. Nor is the harm limited to CISA. The Intelligence Community at large is on notice: produce reporting at odds with the president’s public claims, and you place your career at risk.

This is particularly poisonous because it distorts what’s known as the “intelligence cycle”: the process by which agencies gather intelligence, analyze it, disseminate reporting, and then use that information to allocate resources and prioritize the next round of intelligence collection. Any distorting effect on what is reported—either because employees feel obliged to emphasize information that confirms what the president wants to hear or suppress information that contradicts his presuppositions—risks creating a feedback loop, infecting the next round of planning and intelligence collection, and diverting resources and energy away from genuine threats and toward spurious ones. We should hope the president‐​elect has the wisdom to avoid such potentially toxic interference.

Trump Power Grab Is Going On Now: Pay Attention

“Bee Gone: A Political Parable”

Trump exhorted his far-right army to mobilize for a sustained conflict over the election results. He refused to say whether he’d accept a legitimate loss. And he confirmed he’s expecting the Supreme Court to help invalidate countless legally cast ballots.

Can Trump can pull off one of his most-discussed means for rigging the election: getting a GOP state legislature to appoint substitute pro-Trump electors to the electoral college, regardless of the popular vote in that state? That’s what is going on right now.

Trump is telegraphing his scheme.

At the debate, Trump said he “can’t go along” with a result tallied up from millions of mail-in ballots, which will mean “fraud like you’ve never seen.” He urged supporters to “watch” the voting “very carefully,” i.e., to engage in voter intimidation. When his own GOP appointed cyber-security official, Christopher Krebs, who had done a good and honest job, testified that it was the fairest election in history, DJT fired him.“We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow,” wrote Krebs, a former policy director at Microsoft whom Trump appointed to his role in 2017 after Russia’s 2016 election Interference campaign.

It is unconscionable that the man in charge of keeping foreign countries from interfering in our elections, who has, by all accounts, done an admirable job, is being punished for doing his job well. Trump is also playing with fire in replacing the Secretary of Defense and other high ranking officials, just as is done in tin-pot dictator countries before a coup d’etat. The Republicans in the House and Senate, so far, are simply going along with these anti-democratic acts and making excuses for the man-child orchestrating them.

Asked what he expects of the high court and his most recently appointed Supreme Court Justice Amy Conan Barrett, Trump said: “I’m counting on them to look at the ballots.” He is dragging his feet as long as he can, demanding recount after recount, even though none has changed the results. He is seeking to sow dissension in the ranks of his loyal-to-the-bitter-end followers and to get their public outcry to the point where red state officials will feel confident in saying that they are sending in their own electors for the Dec. 14th Electoral College vote. So far, only a few GOP Senators have had the cojones to even congratulate the rightful winner and I know of only two who have spoken out at all about any portion of this travesty.

We are in deep water, here, folks, and there doesn’t appear to be anyone throwing us a life line. The Senate won’t, as they demonstrated during the impeachment opportunity. Bill Barr won’t, as he’s the guy who helped Reagan out during Iran/Contra and has already demonstrated how he will work to undercut the Mueller Report by releasing his own Cliff’s Notes version early and supporting Trump in many other unethical ways.

“We have it totally under control.” (Jan. 2020)

Trump did also say he might not “need” the court to settle “the election itself.” But that only inadvertently confirms that he believes the court is at his beck and call to hand him the presidency, despite the fact that he lost the election by over 5 million votes. His supporters in Michigan have already tried to refuse to certify that their state vote went to the Democrat.

As far-fetched as it seems that a state legislature might appoint pro-Trump electors, it’s important to note that some Republicans are already claiming that the fictional mass fraud in large-scale mail balloting could serve as the justification for doing just this.

As one Trump legal adviser said, they might say: “We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.”

And so, when Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of a prolonged count after Election Day — as he did at the debate — he’s opening the possibility of using exactly this justification for precisely this endgame.

 

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned; Trump Sulks While A Quarter of a Million Die

The editorial below appeared in the Nov. 12th Quad City Times and was written by Michael Gerson (WaPo). When you’re right, you’re right and I’m sure Gerson has said this better than I could:

************************

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

President Donald Trump will be remembered for many things.  For the audacity of his mendacity.  (* He just fired the head of the cyber security team).  For his ready recourse to prejudice.  For his savant’s ability to rile and ride social resentment.  For his welcoming of right-wing crackpots (QAnon?) into the Republican coalition.  For his elevation of self-love into a populist cause.

For his brutal but bumbling use of force against protesters.  For his routinization of self-dealing and political corruption.  For his utter lack of public spirit and graciousness even to the very end.

And, to be fair, for the remarkable achievement of winning more than 73 million votes with an appealing message, without significant achievements, without a discernible agenda for the future (and after 240,000 U.S. citizens lay dead because of his inattention to duty.)

But although Trump will be remembered for all these things, he will be judged for one thing above all: When the pandemic came and hundreds of thousands of Americans died, he didn’t give a damn.

How do we know this? It is not easy to read a man’s heart, but it is easy to detect that organ’s absence. Trump is not only refusing to provide leadership during a rapidly mounting health crisis, he is also sabotaging the ability of the incoming Biden administration to cooperate with leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies.  By disrupting the presidential transition during an unfolding Covid-19 disaster, Trump is engaging in history’s most dangerous sulk.

Even before his re-election loss, Trump had trouble expressing empathy for victims of the virus and their families. Even after his own bout with Covid-19, Trump did not seem capable of feeling or imagining the suffering of others. (*We saw this in Puerto Rico when his sole presidential act was to throw paper towels to the suffering populace.)

This may reflect some psychological incapacity. But it also indicates a certain view of pandemic politics.

From the start, Trump did not believe the disaster itself was a true enemy.   Rather, he viewed the public perception of widespread disease as the real threat—the threat to his political future. So, the fewer Americans who believed in the disease’s spread, the better. And the less attention the victims of the disease received, the better.

This helps explain Trump’s own explanation given to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward at the start of the pandemic.  “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said.  “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.” A panic, after all, might spook the stock market, or make him appear responsible.

This is a distorted way to view both illness and politics.  Interpreted as an attack on him, Covid-19 should be minimized.  In reality, the disease was—and is—an attack on the American public, which can be fought only by elevating attention to the disease and warning against indifference.  It was Trump’s monomania that dictated the path of denial and inaction.

At one point early in the unfolding crisis, a senior official urged Trump to take leadership and “own the problem.”  But that is exactly what the president wanted most to avoid.  As the danger became undeniable, the president doggedly denied it.  “It’s going to disappear,” said Trump.

The goal was not to calm the public, but to anesthetize it.

In this cramped and selfish view of the world, every Covid-19 victim who is highlighted by the media is perceived by the president as an attack on himself. And the public expression of sympathy on his part would be self-sabotage, an admission of his failure.

So when Trump recovered from the disease, he did not say, as former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie did, “I should have won a mask.”  Instead, Trump pronounced himself “immune,” held dangerous largely mask-free rallies, and used his own recovery to play down the seriousness of the disease.

Covid-19 Test Site.

Recovery from Covid-19 did not change Trump’s perspective, and neither has electoral loss. The president is apparently too busy moping, golfing, fuming and lying to assume leadership during a spiraling health crisis. (*Today, however, he took time to fire the head of cyber-security for the election and to make an attempt to disenfranchise all of Detroit.).

He has roused only enough interest to take personal credit for a prospective vaccine.  Once again, Trump does not seem to regard Covid-19 as a threat to the country requiring responsible action  He sees the pandemic as an attack on his person to be downplayed or denied.

This is egotism, turned cruel and deadly. (*The nation’s Top Psychiatrists say that Trump is, indeed, a malignant narcissist. This means narcissism, anti-social personality disorder, paranoia and sadistic tendencies rolled into one and created to describe Hitler.)

The country will not be delivered by appealing to Trump’s better angels, who fled in disgust long ago.  It might help if elected Republicans stopped ignoring and enabling Trump’s lethal tantrum.  But the hours until noon, January 20th, still move too slowly.

 

Thoughts, Post-Election, Regarding the Presidential Election of 2020

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

I have purposely refrained from writing anything “post election,” hoping that I could post something very hopeful and positive.

Instead, although former Vice President Joe Biden prevailed and has won enough votes to be declared the winner of the presidential race by everyone except hard-core Trump supporters, the news from the front was not as rosy as Democrats might have hoped. Cheri Bustos, who was Chairperson of the DNC, has stepped down amidst the news that the “blue tsunami” that many thought was going to happen did not materialize.

I never felt that there was going to be a “blue tsunami.” I was still coping with the debilitating news that Trump was going to be our president, rather than Hillary Clinton. Mind you, I was not an avid Hillary supporter, but I did think she would be competent, which was not at all clear with the mercurial temperament of DJT.

I felt the way I did when Stephen Colbert had set aside his entire late night talk show to revel in Hillary Clinton’s victory and, instead, had to consume the champagne in a much-less festive fashion.

Since the polls closed on November 3rd I’ve waited for a sign that a smooth transition of power was taking place and our long national nightmare with DJT might be over. It will be two full weeks tomorrow and Biden’s popular vote continues to rise. However, the Trumpers are in the position that those of us who backed Al Gore in 2000 were placed in after the hanging chad election in Florida. Only worse.

There is far more evidence, this time, that the citizens of the United States wanted to be rid of Donald J. Trump. That enthusiasm for change did not, however, extend down the ballot, and the mere fact that 170 million people could still bring themselves to vote for Donald J. Trump is disconcerting.

After reading many “post election post scripts” in these 2 weeks, I have settled on tapping the thoughts articulated by Leonard Pitts of the Miami “Herald” and here are this Black American’s thoughts, published on November 9th:

Recognizing Who We Are: Faced with a clear choice between good and evil, America did the right thing, barely.  That is sobering and profoundly disappointing.

“Forgive me for being the ant at the picnic.

Certainly this is a glad moment, an ecstatic and delirious moment.  The election of 2020 has ended at last.  Joe Biden is finally the president-elect and Donald Trump is finally consigned to the dank well of ignominy he so richly deserves.

As Gerald Ford once said in the aftermath of a less dire threat, “Our long national nightmare is over.”  As the Munchkins of Oz once sang, “Ding dong! The wicked witch is dead.”

But if gladness is mandated, caveats are required.  America needed an emphatic rejection that left no doubt that the chaos, lies, lawlessness, bigotry and ignorance Trump represented were not, as some of us are overly fond of claiming ‘who we are as a people.’ We needed to deliver him a thundering, emphatic rejection.

And we did not.

To the contrary, a victory that should have been an overwhelming landslide had to be eked into existence.  Indeed, even in defeat, Trump actually improved on his 2016 popular vote count by, at this writing, roughly 7 million votes.

Think about that.  After he bungled a pandemic (240,000 Americans dead; 420,000 by March 1st), after he botched the economy (nearly 5 million jobs lost—more than any president since WWII), after he alienated our allies and emboldened our enemies, after he undermined every institution, down to and including the National Weather Service, after he extorted Ukraine, occupied Portland and declared war on Lafayette Square, and, after he embraced an agenda of brazen white supremacy, after, in other words, they lost the excuse of ignorance, because they knew exactly what Trump was, 7 million more people cast their ballots for Trump.

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

Yes, he lost.

Yes, Biden tallied more votes than any candidate in history (78,789,001, 50.9% for Biden to 73,167,876 votes, 47.3% for Trump) and, of course, won the Electoral College. But the caveat looms large.

Faced with a clear choice between good and evil, America did the right thing, barely.  That is sobering and profoundly disappointing.

And it strips bare all the glossy claims about who we are as a country, underscoring the fact that in a meaningful sense, we are not one country at all anymore, but two sharing the same borders.  The last time that happened, it took four years and 750,000 lives to force us back into some semblance of oneness.  Even then, the seams of the fracture were always visible.

Unlike that break, this one is not starkly geographic: South versus North. No, this one is city versus country, college educated versus high school educated, and, most significantly, future versus past.  Meaning that yesterday, this was a nation where white people were the majority, and tomorrow it will be one where they are not.

The fear and resentment that inspires in many white people cannot be overstated.  It has warped our politics for years, culminating in the disaster of Trump.

Now, Biden is elected on a promise to heal those breaks, but that will require more than a good man’s good intentions.  It will require white Americans to divest a system of white supremacy that, let’s face it, has been very, very good to them.

Unfortunately, it has been less good for the country.  So a moral reckoning is required here.  It is time more white Americans finally recognize that white supremacy is not something you compromise with or rationalize.  It must be a deal breaker, always.  And it isn’t, as evidenced by the fact that the man who called Mexicans rapists and Haiti, El Salvador and the nations of Africa “shithole countries,” who described neo-Nazis as “very fine people” and told four Congresswomen of color born in this country to “go back where they came from” just won 7 million more votes than he garnered in 2016.

That’s “who we are as a people.”  Let’s stop kidding ourselves about that. And start figuring out how to become what we said we were all along.”

 

 

How Trump Might Try to Cheat to Win

BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE

This is a slightly truncated version of the original “Washington Post” article that explains one of the likely methods that DJT will/would try to use to steal the November 3rd presidential election.

Could Trump steal the election? Here’s one way to find out. (Sept. 30, 2020)

The disastrous debate that unfolded in Ohio should prompt us to take the possibility that President Trump will try to steal the election far more seriously — even as it also renders that outcome much less likely to succeed.

Trump exhorted his far-right army to mobilize for a sustained conflict over the election results. He refused to say whether he’d accept a legitimate loss. And he confirmed he’s expecting the Supreme Court to help invalidate countless legally cast ballots.

It’s this last point that presents a way to gauge Trump’s chances of executing some version of his corrupt designs.

The short version is this. At Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Democrats can press a line of questioning that might illuminate whether Trump can pull off one of his most-discussed means for rigging the election: getting a GOP state legislature to appoint substitute pro-Trump electors to the electoral college, regardless of the popular vote in that state. 

Trump is telegraphing his scheme

At the debate, Trump said he “can’t go along” with a result tallied up from millions of mail-in ballots, which will mean “fraud like you’ve never seen.” He urged supporters to “watch” the voting “very carefully,” i.e., to engage in voter intimidation.

And asked what he expects of the high court and Barrett, Trump said:I’m counting on them to look at the ballots.”

Trump did also say he might not “need” the court to settle “the election itself.” But that only inadvertently confirms that he believes the court is at his beck and call on this matter.

As far-fetched as it seems that a state legislature might appoint pro-Trump electors, it’s important to note that some Republicans are already claiming that the fictional mass fraud in large-scale mail balloting could serve as the justification for doing just this.

As one Trump legal adviser told the Atlantic, they might say: “We don’t think the results of our own state are accurate, so here’s our slate of electors that we think properly reflect the results of our state.”

And so, when Trump casts doubt on the legitimacy of a prolonged count after Election Day — as he did at the debate — he’s opening the possibility of using exactly this justification for precisely this endgame.

As Edward Foley outlined in a prescient 2019 article, if Trump were ahead in the Election Day count, he’d likely put this scheme in motion while claiming “machine politicians in Philadelphia” are trying to steal the election with fabricated mail votes.

Could this work?

Democratic National Convention

To be clear, it shouldn’t.

The Constitution does assign to each state the authority to “appoint” its electors, in a “manner” that the legislature “may direct.”

But in a terrific piece, three legal scholars — Grace Brosofsky, Michael Dorf and Laurence Tribe — explain that precedent shows this means the legislature must “direct” how the state appoints its electors by making laws that create and define the process for doing so.

Virtually all states have made laws that provide for electors to be appointed in accordance with the popular vote outcome in them. (Maine and Nebraska do this by congressional district.) Thus, those scholars argue, legislatures can’t appoint pro-Trump electors without making a new law providing for appointment of electors based on legislators’ own will, not that of the voters.

Such a new law would require the governor’s signature. And in three states where this appears most likely to be tried — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — Democratic governors would veto any such effort by GOP-controlled legislatures.

The Supreme Court has upheld the principle that a governor can veto such an effort, those scholars note. In the 1932 case Smiley v. Holm, the court ruled that the Minnesota state legislature could not change election rules unilaterally in the face of such a veto.

This ruling confirmed that for the court, “state legislatures cannot alter” laws governing the selection of electors “except through their ordinary state lawmaking procedures,” which would require a gubernatorial signature and be subject to veto, the scholars argue.

So friendly legislatures can’t do this on Trump’s whim without a new law, no matter how loudly they scream that ongoing counting of mail ballots is fraudulent.

Such a case might again find its way to the Supreme Court. But how would it rule?

The question for Barrett

Democratic senators can press Trump’s nominee on this question — by asking whether she believes Smiley is settled law, and on whether she believes the Constitution does or does not allow state legislatures to appoint electors outside the lawmaking process.

Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School, told me Barrett would likely evade this question, by merely promising to “respect precedent” while declining comment on a question that might soon be before the court.

Still, this might be worth trying. Given that Trump has explicitly said he expects the court — and Barrett — to help him pull off something like this, we’re in an extraordinary situation. By confirming that Smiley is settled law, Barrett could strongly suggest that such an effort will fail, sparing the country from it.

“She could certainly throw cold water on it,” Dorf told me. “She could make it clear that she’s not likely to be receptive to an argument” that legislators can appoint electors without a new law.

As for other justices — such as John G. Roberts Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — they might also look askance at such an effort. In Bush v. Gore, the court described the process for appointing electors as a “legislative” scheme. Dorf says they might see this as invalidating any effort to appoint them outside the lawmaking process.

To be clear, Trump’s disastrous debate performance makes it more likely Biden will win the “blue wall” states by a comfortable enough margin that Trump won’t even try such a scheme.

But Trump also made it clear at the debate that he’s unhinged enough to try anything — and is perfectly happy to rile up millions of supporters behind an effort to overturn a legitimate loss. So if there’s any way to take this off the table now, we should try it.

Dan Partland (“Unfit”) Re-Scheduled for October 22nd on Weekly Wilson Podcast

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

My apologies to all who tuned in to hear me speak with Dan Partland, Writer/Director/Producer of “Unfit,” the #1 Amazon documentary that answers the question, “What the hell is wrong with Donald J. Trump?”

Due to technical difficulties beyond my control, my show was not on the air on 10/15, but Dan Partland has agreed to be with me “live” on 10/22. Trust me: you want to hear this man talk about the truths revealed in his excellent documentary. You can tape the presidential debate, since we already know, based on tonight’s town halls, that DJT will do his best to interrupt and ruin it, anyway. It’s a “live” call-in format so you can call in with questions at 866-451-1451.

Here’s my other thought for today, before I begin comparing the two town halls in a separate piece (to run later). It is page 705 of Jeffrey Toobin’s book “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.”

“He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What is right matters even less. And decency matters not at all. I do not ask you to convict him because truth or right or decency matters nothing to him, but because we have proven our case and it matters to you. Truth matters to you. Right matters to you. You are decent. He is not who you are.” (Adam Schiff’s adjuration to the Senate during the impeachment of DJT).

“Unfit” by Director Dan Partland Documents Trump’s Mental Health

The documentary “Unfit,” (now available for rental on Amazon Prime) is the perfect companion piece for Mary Trump’s book “Too Much and Never Enough.” Both informative works feature trained professional psychiatrists or psychologists speculating on the line that the documentary mentions early on, articulated by George Conway (husband of Kellyanne Conway), “What is wrong with him?”

Of course, right now, what is wrong with him is that his stubborn denial of the science and refusal to wear a mask routinely in public has landed our chief executive in Walter Reed Hospital with Covid-19. This just three days after making fun of former Vice President Biden for wearing a mask in public.

But Dan Partland’s documentary, inspired by an article in “Rolling Stone” wants to know what causes Donald Trump to “go off the rails.” We all saw this behavior in real time during the September 29th presidential debate—which wasn’t very presidential at all and certainly put the “off the rails” behavior on full display for the nation and the world.

After a discussion of the Goldwater Rule, which came after the 1964 election when Barry Goldwater’s reputation for wanting to use nuclear weapons caused some mental health professionals to use terms that were libelous and slanderous. Goldwater sued and won. The slogans like “In your heart you know he’s right—-far right” were discredited and an unwritten rule arose that the professional psychiatrists and psychologists should refrain from diagnosing those who were not in their care. However, as the film attests, “We never intended it to be a gag rule.” Yet it did become a gag rule.

However, the truly unique nature of this year’s issues caused the formation of a group of professional psychiatrist and psychologists who formed a group called “Duty to warn.” Like the Lincoln Project, this group of mental health professionals set out to warn about the clear signs of a malignant personality disorder in Donald J. Trump.

What are the signs of a malignant personality disorder?

They are:  1) Narcissism

2) Paranoia

3) Anti-social personality disorder

4) Sadism

Narcissism:

The narcissism is pretty clear. Trump constantly tells us he is “a very stable genius” and nobody can do whatever it is like he can.

Paranoia:

Donald J. Trump’s devotion to conspiracy theories formulated by groups like QAnon and his constant whining about how unfairly he is treated contributes to his sense of paranoia. Even today, there has been some talk that Trump was quite concerned about his recent diagnosis of Covid-19 and that that is why he was helicoptered to the hospital.

Anti-social personality disorder

Trump does not seem like “a people person.” He has been far more astute at mocking and making fun of his enemies than in demonstrating any compassion or empathy for those who are suffering. This tendency helps explain why he doesn’t seem to radiate the emotional depth of someone who really cares. His lack of remorse and refusal to accept responsibility for missteps or misstatements is correlated with this disorder. Trump seems to have few friends and he has racked up three wives in his 72 years. One analyst used a line from Macbeth: “Those he commands move only in command, nothing in love.  Now does he feel his title hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief.”

Sadism:

Tony Schwartz, who really wrote “The Art of the Deal,” described Trump as a sociopath and said, “He doesn’t feel anything.” This is in keeping with his actions when his older brother, Fred, lay dying and Donald went off to the movies instead of spending time with his dying brother. DJT seems to take a perverse glee in taking petty revenge against those he thinks have wronged him.

Director Dan Partland has assembled a stellar cast of mental health professionals, including John Gartner, PhD, the founder of Duty to Warn; Lance Dodes, M.D., a Harvard graduate from Boston; Justin Frank, a Harvard grad in charge at George Washington University; and some better-known faces like Anthony Scaramucci, who noted that DJT is “a reflection of the cultural zeitgeist.” Bill Kristol, a Harvard PhD who served as Chief-of-Staff to former Vice President Dan Quayle, Richard Painter, who worked under Bush, and Malcolm Nance (author of “Defeating Isis”) are also featured, commenting on the president’s bullish, obnoxious, arrogant, narcissistic behavior, visible to the world at large.

Dan Partland, who is the Writer/Director/Producer of “Unfit,” has been a much-decorated documentary filmmaker for over twenty years. In the 15 years that the Emmys have recognized primetime nonfiction series, Partland’s shows have been nominated for best in class 5 times, and in 3 different sub-genres; Reality, Nonfiction format, and Documentary. Partland has twice won nonfiction series Emmys and in 2011 and 2012 was nominated by the Producers Guild of America for Nonfiction Producer of the Year. In 2001, Partland won an Emmy (Best Non-Fiction Program) for his work on the ground-breaking 13-part doc series American High on Fox. Partland served as the Supervising Producer and a Director of the critically acclaimed show that is widely regarded as one of the progenitors of the current doc series genre.

Partland’s work has spanned several nonfiction genres.  He produced and directed How To Raise An Olympian, a winter Olympics special for NBC and was Showrunner for the multi-award-winning CNN archival series The Sixties. Partland was the Executive Producer and Showrunner of A&E’s Intervention for over 150 episodes, garnering countless awards and accolades including the Emmy for best reality series.

Partland will be joining me to discuss “Unfit” on Thursday, October 15th on my Weekly Wilson podcast (7 to 8 p.m.) on the Bold Brave Media Global Network. It’s a live format, so call in at 866-451-1451.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Been A Rough Four Years

Supreme Court: To Pack or Not to Pack. That is the Question.

When I heard the accusation about “stacking the court” from Pence (at the VP debate) it rang a bell with me from the book by William Dallek I am currently reading, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Political Life.” I knew that FDR had tried to “pack” the Supreme Court—-as Pence termed it. And FDR’s effort failed. “The whole New Deal went up in smoke as a result of the Supreme Court fight,” according to Dallek’s excellent book. The fight opened a divide in the Democratic Party alienating Roosevelt from some former allies and also alienating some Republican allies, like his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.

As Dallek said in his book, “Roosevelt’s effort to master the judiciary produced something of a pyrhhic victory. FDR’s expenditure of so much political capital on the Court battle forced him to approach other Congressional disputes with uncharacteristic restraint. Advancing new liberal reforms became a distant hope. The Court controversy, one contemporary observer said, sidetracked ‘much useful legislation that otherwise might have been put through.’”

FDR had a plan, which he tried to float as a way to alleviate the overloaded work schedule of the Court. His plan was to add 6 justices, one for every Justice who had served at least 10 years and failed to retire 6 months after turning 70. This would have allowed FDR to immediately appoint 6 new justices, bringing the total to 15. Although the exact number of Supreme Court Justices is not set by the Constitution, the number has been set at 9 since 1869.

FDR, in Fireside Chats (March 4 & 9, 1936) said “There is nothing novel or radical about this idea. It seeks to maintain the bench in full vigor.” He was obviously feeling apprehensive about the move, but he made it——unsuccessfully—-anyway.

All sorts of rhymes sprang up. Here is just one: “Ancient judges sat in the hall, Ancient judges due for a fall. Our country’s Great Leader thinks some younger men, would see that the court gave us justice again.”

Although 60 to 65% of voters were willing to elect FDR to an unprecedented 3rd term, 50% of those same voters opposed the plan to change the court’s make-up. “The issue touched off the worst congressional conflicts of his administration.” As Dallek put it (p. 280), “As someone with a progressive temperament and an adaptive personality that enabled him to accept that changing times meant adopting fresh ways of thinking about old problems, Roosevelt was impatient with politicians who doggedly clung to the past.”

So, things did not go well for one of the most famous Democratic presidents in history when he attempted to “pack the court.”

I began to wonder WHY Pence would specifically attack Harris on this idea, since it seemed quite obvious that it is the GOP who are trying to “stack the courts” and have, indeed, probably succeeded with their recent nomination of an arch Conservative to fill Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat. Did someone I didn’t know about suggest that the Dems might want to change the make-up of the Supreme Court?

I asked this question of Google and the answer was that Eric Holder had mentioned it (former Attorney General under Obama), but that didn’t mean the rest of the party had any plan or knew or approved of his remarks, whereas the GOP have been crowing about how many judges at all levels they have appointed and are attempting to appoint even now.

I began to wonder if and when there had been successful attempts to “pack the Supreme Court.” The answer is that it has happened 7 times in history. The first 3 times centered around the political reaction to the Revolution of 1800. The Court was reduced in size at that time from 6 to 5 to prevent Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party from filling a vacancy as the Federalist Party left office. Once Jefferson was firmly in power, the size was moved back to 6 justices, then to 7, so that Jefferson could appoint new justices. Over the next 30 years, efforts to expand the Court were denied, but President Andrew Jackson gained enough power to add 2 new Justices in 1837.

Lincoln increased the size to 10 to prevent judicial attacks on his war policies. After Lincoln was assassinated, Congress reduced the size of the court to 8, to prevent Andrew Johnson (the new president) from harming Congress’ Reconstruction efforts. Ulysses S. Grant added a justice to insure the overturning of a recent Court decision that invalidated the legal tender law that allowed the government to finance its war efforts.

Obviously, what one party does (the GOP right now) can be done by the opposing party when power shifts (tit for tat). At least, those attempts can be made. In FDR’s case, the attempt was made at a time when he was in his 2nd term and riding high, but his move still failed in 1936.

So, that is the history, in a nutshell, of the attempts to expand the Supreme Court.

Vice Presidential Race Held in Utah on Oct. 7, 2020

The only vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was held last night (October 7th) and the majority of viewers polled by CNN thought (59% to 38%) that Harris had won the debate.

Some observations:

  • Unanswered Questions – There was a distressing tendency for the participants NOT to answer the question asked. Sometimes it was a complete ignoring of what was asked, as with the question about whether these two second bananas had had discussions with their bosses about what to do and how to do it if their elderly bosses (Trump and Biden) were to be incapacitated.
  • Time Issues – After watching Trump act like the barbarian at the gate during the first (and, so far, only) presidential debate, it was going to be interesting to see if Pence obeyed the rules better than his famously contrarian boss. For me, the answer was that Pence was certainly an improvement, but he still ran long on nearly every question. With each question, I would glance at the second hand on my watch when he began to run long. Pence never went over by LESS than 20 seconds and often went over that amount. With 9 questions being asked, 9 x 20 or 30 seconds meant, to me, that Pence got more air time. At the end of the debate, a figure was put up on the screen that indicated how much time each participant got and it appeared that they felt it was relatively even, but it most certainly did not look or seem like Harris got the same time consideration as Pence.
  • Good Point(s): Pence’s team felt they drew blood on the question of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, the best moments for Harris were her remarks about pre-existing conditions, when she said, “If you have pre-existing conditions, they’re coming for you.”
  • Moderator: Susan Page (USA Today) – She was better than Chris Wallace, but that isn’t saying much. “Thank you, Mr. Vice President” was not an effective way of shutting Pence down when he ran over. When will they either shut down the microphones or put the candidates in glass boxes that can be soundproofed and shut down, when necessary.
  • Chutzpah Award: The fact that Mike Pence could accuse Kamala Harris of “politicizing the pandemic” with a straight face was astonishing. What chutzpah! Most other charges (taxes, fracking) at least seemed to be answered by the participants [when they chose to answer, that is].
  • Does the race change at all? Most say no, except for the age of the presidential candidates, but that is one reason that the question about the transfer of power should have been asked.

Out of 10 people with widgets, 4 said Pence won, 4 said Harris had won and 2 abstained. Most of the experts say the votes ae “baked in.”

  • Truthfuless:  Fact checkers had to step in and say that the claim (by Pence) that Trump had increased manufacturing jobs had to be corrected. Actually, on Trump’s watch there have been 164,000 jobs lost (not the 483,000 gains that Pence tried to claim, incorrectly. The Biden position on fracking might be fluid and that was discussed, as well.
  • Kamal Harris: She got in some good ones, all with a smile. Being female and a candidate brings a certain set of problems for women running against men. When women were polled, 69% said Harris had won, versus only 30% selecting Pence. It was a much closer judgment for men, who said that the margin was still in Harris’ favor, but pegged it as 48% to 46%.
  • Most Interesting Segment: At the point when the BLM situation was being asked about (Brianna Taylor), a large, very visible black fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and remained there for over 2 minutes. As my son said to me, “Mike Pence’s only black friend.” Watch for the skit on Saturday Night Live.

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