Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Never His Fault

I’ll say this about Trump: he’s consistent.  Nothing bad that happens to him is his fault, and he takes credit for things he has no right to do.  Just take a look at this series of quotes from his press opportunity during yesterday’s cabinet meeting:

Trump predictably went on a rant about the whistleblower at the heart of the House impeachment probe into Trump’s Ukraine scheme.

The rant got a little less predictable when Trump bizarrely suggested House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) was the informant in the whistleblower’s complaint.

“Maybe the informant was Schiff. It could be shifty Schiff,” the President said. “In my opinion, it’s possibly Schiff.”

[…]

As he was complaining about how the impeachment inquiry was distracting him from staying out of wars, Trump suddenly decided mid-sentence that he might go to war after all.

“In the midst of [the inquiry], I’m trying to get out of wars,” Trump said, immediately followed up by: “We may have to get in wars, too. We may have to get in wars.”

“We’re better prepared than we’ve ever been,” he continued. “If Iran does something, they’ll be hit like they’ve never been hit before. We have things that we’re looking at.”

[…]

Trump also spent several minutes moaning about being forced to cancel his plan to host next year’s G-7 summit at his Florida resort, claiming that using the resort for the summit would not serve to promote his businesses.

“Then they say ,’Oh, but you’ll get promotion,’” Trump said of his critics. “Who cares? You don’t think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that’s ever lived.”

“I don’t need the promotion,” he insisted.

He also derided critics for bringing up “this phony Emoluments clause.”

[…]

Trump repeatedly attacked Democrats during the presser, but he did praise them for one thing: Staying united with each other, unlike a certain someone in his own party.

“They’re vicious and they stick together,” he said. “They don’t have Mitt Romney in their midst.”

[…]

Trump, ever obsessed with his rally crowd sizes and applause, brought up the two topics that apparently earned him “the largest cheers” at his rally in Dallas last week.

“My largest cheer that night was two things: We’re building the wall, that’s number one,” Trump bragged. “And number two, probably tied for number one, was we’re bringing our soldiers back home.”

[…]

Near the end of the pool spray, Trump grumbled about the “never-Trumpers” in his party.

“Those people might be worse than the Democrats,” Trump said. “The never-Trumpers.”

“The good news is they’re dying off fast,” he added. “They’re on artificial respiration, I think.”

Yeah, about that “phony Emoluments clause”?  It’s about as real as the ones about impeachment.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

For All To See

Everybody loses their shit every now and then.  If you’re in a very high-profile job with urgent matters coming at you in every direction and everyone expects you to make very tough decisions, you’re going to let off steam.  But you don’t do it in front of people who will walk outside and tell a gaggle of reporters that they just saw someone turn into a six-year-old brat in front of them.  You keep it together until the doors are closed and there’s no one who can hear you.

Not this guy.

Trump faced off against both parties in Congress on Wednesday in an extraordinary confrontation over his decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies as the vast majority of House Republicans joined Democrats to condemn his policy in an overwhelming vote.

Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated after withdrawing troops from Syria and clearing the way for a Turkish offensive against Kurds who had fought alongside the United States. The president all but washed his hands of the conflict, saying that it “has nothing to do with us,” generating withering criticism from Republicans and leading to a stormy clash with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bereft of supporters and under pressure from an impeachment inquiry, Mr. Trump spent much of the day defending his decision and lashing out against rivals. He dismissed the Kurds, who until last week shared outposts with American soldiers, saying they were “no angels” and fought for money. And he berated Ms. Pelosi as a “third-grade politician” or “third-rate politician,” depending on the version, prompting Democrats to walk out of a White House meeting.

“I think now we have to pray for his health,” Ms. Pelosi told reporters afterward. “This was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.” She said Mr. Trump seemed “very shaken up” by the cascade of criticism.

Mr. Trump said it was the other way around. “Nancy Pelosi needs help fast!” he wrote on Twitter. “She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!”

Yeah, that last little bit of projection shows that he’s got all the tantrum moves down pat.

This will either be another bit of evidence at his impeachment trial or the invocation of the 25th Amendment.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Rudy’s Buddies

This impeachment inquiry is providing some great comic relief.

Rudy Giuliani lunched with two associates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday just hours before the duo was arrested at a Washington-area airport, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are business associates of Giuliani who had been working with the former New York mayor on his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden. A person who saw the trio eating at the Trump hotel spoke to the Journal for the story.

Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia on Wednesday and on Thursday were indicted for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections. A law enforcement source told CNN they were booked on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, to connect to another flight.

Giuliani declined to comment to CNN on the report.

Parnas and Fruman are two of four men who were indicted on Thursday. Andrey Kukushkin has been arrested and is expected to appear in court Thursday in the Northern District of California, according to the Manhattan US Attorney’s office. The fourth man, David Correia, hasn’t been arrested. All four are US citizens, according to the indictment.

When asked, Trump denied knowing either Parnas and Fruman, but a little digging came up with some lovely photos of Mr. Fruman’s dinner at the White House back in May.

And the one-way tickets to Vienna?  Oh, they’re going to take in some opera at the Wiener Staatsoper. And bring back some strudel.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

More From The Stable Floor

Sheesh.

Trump said Wednesday that it would be “easy” for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy” and were only interested in fighting for “their land.”

“With all of that being said, we like the Kurds,” he said in response to questions about Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

He got this talking point from some right-wing nutjob.  Who needs the State Department when you’ve got the blogosphere?

For more background on the history of the Kurds and our constant betrayal of them, read this post by Adam L. Silverman.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday Reading

The Smoking Arsenal — Charles P. Pierce.

What the hell do we call this? The smoking arsenal?

The release of a motherlode of criminal evidence in the form of texts between various inmates at Camp Runamuck, all of which concerns the president*’s attempt to extort Ukraine into helping him ratfck the 2020 election, establishes the guilt of the president* beyond the shadow of a doubt. In the released material, you can see a whole brigade of hapless functionaries stumbling from one crime to another, fully aware that they are doing so, and concocting strategies on the fly to carry out the president*’s criminal orders. You read for yourself how they all ended up toadying to Rudy Giuliani’s insane “mission” to Kiev. It’s like reading a John Le Carré novel starring the Marx Brothers.

The simple politics of the release is pure genius. On Thursday, former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker briefed House investigators on the matter. Around midday, presidential* lawn ornaments Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Mark Meadows threw themselves at a microphone to deliver the Nothing To See Here party line. Then, the texts were released and now every single Republican in the Congress looks like a fool or a crook. There’s no third alternative.

But the politics of it are a lesser concern. The conduct revealed in the texts is as subversive as anything undertaken by any KGB operative in the high days of the Cold War. The president* set the government of the United States against itself, and he used a vulnerable ally to do so. He could have travelled the world shooting our ambassadors personally and done less damage. Nobody will trust American diplomats again for a very long time, nor should they. From NBC News:

In fact, the only U.S. official included in the text messages who pushes back is a career diplomat, William Taylor, who became the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine after Trump pulled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch out of her post earlier this year. Yovanovitch’s ouster has become another topic of key interest to Democratic lawmakers in their impeachment inquiry.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor wrote, using an acronym for the White House, after Trump canceled a planned meeting with Zelenskiy in Poland. A week later, he told Sondland: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Sondland, several hours later, pushed back, telling Taylor that Trump “has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind.” He suggests they stop discussing the matter via text message.

That certainly sounds legitimate to me. Sondland is Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Now, Ukraine is not a member of the European Union. So what, you may wonder, is Sondland’s dog in this fight. Clearly, he was one of the White House messenger boys in the extortion and bribery plot that was unfolding all around West Asia. And the conspicuous “no quid pro quo,” followed immediately by a suggestion that they no longer put these perfectly innocent requests into writing, would be comic if the stakes weren’t so very high. From The New York Times:

Mr. Volker told the House investigators that the Ukrainians had earlier proposed language promising a statement on fighting corruption that did not specifically mention Burisma and 2016. When Mr. Giuliani was shown that original language, Mr. Volker told the House, he indicated to Mr. Volker that it was not sufficient and said the Ukrainians should be asked for specific public commitments to investigate Burisma and 2016.

By Mr. Volker’s account, according to the person familiar with his testimony, he was eventually told by Mr. Yermak that the Ukrainian government could not agree to the language being sought by Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Volker told Mr. Yermak that he was right, and the idea was dropped, according to the account Mr. Volker provided the House.

I have no sympathy for any of these people, and neither should you. They sold their souls to a crook and a charlatan who may well be half-mad into the bargain. They sold out the diplomatic status of the country in service to a lunatic conspiracy theory that was the obsession of a president* who believes anything his favorite TV commentators tell him. They sold out an embattled ally in order to aid in the reelection of a president* against whom this country may not survive in recognizable form.

On Thursday, just as the current storm was rising, the president* tweeted of his “absolute right” to conduct foreign policy in this manner. No president has an “absolute right” to do fck-all. The longer this man is allowed to infect this republic, the more it will change into something very different. He cannot be allowed to remain in office and, god help us, he cannot be reelected. That would be the end of things.

Glamour and Substance — Nichelle Gainer has an appreciation of Diahann Carroll.

I am an ’80s kid. I grew up in a New Jersey suburb that, to my mind’s eye, bore more than a passing resemblance to the fictional town in “Stranger Things.” While I enjoyed shows like “Square Pegs” and movies like “The Breakfast Club,” I was perplexed by how homogeneous they were, especially since my high school had nearly an even balance of black and white kids.

That’s where Jet magazine came in. At that time, black faces were still rare enough on the big and small screens that the publication printed out a listing of every black performer appearing on American television that week. Thanks to those listings, I discovered a magnetic performance by one of my favorite stars Diahann Carroll, who died this week at 84.

It was from the NBC TV movie “Sister, Sister,” which first aired in 1982. Written by Maya Angelou, the story follows three very different siblings and their struggle to heal old wounds and sell their family home following the death of their mother. In one of my favorite scenes, two of the sisters (played by Ms. Carroll and Rosalind Cash) confront each other about long-held secrets and their screaming match turns to blows. It is glorious and satisfying — a “cat fight” that would make the “Dynasty” divas Dominique Devereaux and Alexis Carrington applaud in respect.

Even when she was sparring onscreen, Ms. Carroll’s class and elegance went unquestioned, but early in her career, the public perception of her commitment to issues affecting black Americans was another matter. Like many black stars in the ’60s and ’70s, her personal and professional moves were scrutinized relentlessly. She wore clothes by white designers, married white men and, to the untrained eye, appeared to live in a mostly white world, seemingly oblivious to “real” problems. Her character on “Julia” was a single mother, and aside from the occasional guest star the show lacked a consistent black father figure.

Yet Ms. Carroll is also the same star who testified before Adam Clayton Powell Jr. about the lack of opportunities for black performers and held a fund-raiser in her home for the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, Shirley Chisholm. She never allowed public perception to dictate the choices she made.

It is crucial to remember her substance. Her educated and well-spoken character Julia Baker, the first black professional woman depicted in an American TV series, stood in stark contrast to the subservient roles typically reserved for black characters. Ms. Carroll was keenly aware of the responsibility she bore in this role and was strategic in how she handled the press at a time when riots in black neighborhoods in major cities across the country were not infrequent. She refused to do any interviews for “Julia” without “racial quotes” being read back to her.

She once said of a “well-meaning” reporter: “He was not aware that a little word here and a little word there could kill me.”

She added, “I told him I think everything going on in the black community now has a more positive feeling than before. He wanted me to say that a certain element was detrimental and I wouldn’t.”

She rebuffed those who felt she lacked social awareness. “I was not ignorant about the issues of civil rights in this country, or my place as a national celebrity who could voice opinions to help make changes,” she wrote in her 2008 memoir “The Legs Are the Last to Go.” She would point to the efforts she made in supporting the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers.

Beyond the checklist of history-making “firsts,” she was savvy throughout her career, navigating the minefields of racism and sexism with an aplomb that seemed effortless. She attended charm school, modeled for Ebony magazine as a teenager and transformed her glitzy look from her early days as a Las Vegas nightclub performer to the softer, housewife chic that would be more “relatable” to “Julia” television audiences who needed to be spoon fed images of a black woman who did not fit a stereotype.

She often told the story of her first meeting with Richard Rodgers, who created her Tony-winning role in “No Strings.”

“The day that he asked me to join him for lunch before he left for Europe, I thought it was very important that I startle him when I arrived at the restaurant,” she recalled in 1998. “I think that business of overwhelming people with your presence, and your grooming — it’s not part of today. It’s not important today. I cannot tell you what it meant then. I was dressed in Givenchy from head to toe. It meant a great deal during an interview.”

Sometimes, she deglamorized herself, as she did in her Oscar-nominated role as a poor mother of six in the 1974 film, “Claudine,” or as a fortune teller in the 1997 film, “Eve’s Bayou.”

Ms. Carroll’s career and life were long enough for her to bear witness to the fruits of her labor. Black performers of her generation were accustomed to the pressures of navigating rarefied spaces in Hollywood, and so it was no surprise that she said she was proud to see so many young black people behind the scenes on the set of “A Different World” and was “choked up” as she watched Shonda Rhimes call the shots on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” nearly a decade later.

“Some people come of age as teenagers, I came of age as a senior citizen,” she wrote in her memoir. Sometimes we forget that even timeless legends don’t see themselves the way that we do. Diahann Carroll not only embodied glamour, she expanded its very definition with her bold choices while never attempting to hide herself behind a perfect image. I will forever be in awe.

Photo: NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images.

Doonesbury — Pick a fact!  (Click on the picture to embiggen.)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

If He Goes, Everybody Goes

Trump does not do a solo.

Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.

Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

I really doubt that Trump was thinking that if he got caught, impeached, and convicted, he’d make sure to take his veep with him, knowing that the next in line for the presidency would be the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, followed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Charles Grassley, before it reverted back to the cabinet in order of the creation of the department.  Trump has no idea how that works; he probably thinks he can hand it off to Ivanka.  Involving the vice president wasn’t strategy or a part of the cover-up; it’s the way he does business.  He staffs the knucklehead and gritty work to minions and then takes credit for the outcome if it’s good and has a scapegoat if it blows up in his face, which this Ukraine mess is surely doing, with cheese.  That’s a part of the art of the deal.

Based on what we saw yesterday in the rant-fest of a press conference, Trump is ready to scorch the earth and leave no one behind to pick up the wounded or the bodies.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Lying And Dividing

Anyone who’s watched law and order TV shows, including the actual “Law & Order” series and their offspring (all over cable TV if you look beyond the paid programs for skin cream and boner pills) knows the drill: a suspect will first deny any knowledge of the alleged crime.  “I had nothing to do with it; it’s all bullshit.”  Then under questioning and faced with the evidence, the line will shift to “Well, maybe I did know something, but it wasn’t me.”  Then with more evidence, such as pictures or recordings, it becomes “Well, yeah, okay, but there was nothing wrong with it; it was just two people talking.  Can I see my lawyer now?”

I think we’re getting to that last part now with Trump and the whistle-blower and Ukraine.  He’s gone from claiming it never happened (“Fake News”) to admitting — boasting — that he did bring it up more than once in his phone call in July with the president of Ukraine.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters Sunday morning. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”

And while Trump and his minions may try to cling to their stories as well as their Miranda rights, a large number of Republicans are making tracks.

Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows, nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), and some, such as [Rep. Paul] Mitchell, who are simply quitting in disgust.

As the article in the Post notes, as they go, the party is remaking itself in the image of Trump.  That means that for every Republican that retires or quits, there’s a bench of MAGA-hat wearing xenophobic evangelical hypocrites and know-nothings who will rush in to fill the void, especially in blood-red districts where fear and loathing of Others runs rampant even as their businesses and crops go rotting thanks to Trump’s tariffs and immigration deportations continue.

That scenario may be making it easier for the Democrats to take control of the House by a wider margin than they have now, and take back the Senate.  But that’s more than a year away, and meanwhile, we have a White House that is being run like a bad spinoff of “The Sopranos.”  And our adversaries are watching it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Art Of Ventriloquism

Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker look at what it takes to work as an adviser to Trump.

“You’re there more as an annoyance to him because he has to fill some of these jobs, but you’re not there to do anything other than be backlighting,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House communications director who is now critical of Trump. “He wants, like, a catatonic loyalty, and he wants you to be behind the backlights. There’s one spotlight on the stage, it’s shining on Trump, and you’re a prop in the back with dim lights.”

I think it’s more like being a ventriloquist: you’re there to make the dummy look good.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Optical Illusion

Whoever it was that put it in Trump’s head to invite the Taliban to come to Camp David for a secret meeting around the same time as the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks needs to be fired.  Oh, wait… it was probably Trump himself.

But never mind.  Trump called the whole thing off, firing off a series of tweets that both revealed this mind-spinning idea and then put the kibosh on it because the Taliban did what the Taliban does: blow up cars and kill people.

Digby:

The fact that the president tweeting out a temper tantrum about a supposed secret meeting with the Taliban at Camp David that was scheduled for the next day being canceled isn’t even considered weird is astonishing enough. That he thought this would be a good idea in the first place is simply gobsmacking. Presumably, he wanted to have the Taliban leaders around for the 9/11 commemorations so he could do some sort of Kim Jong Un photo-op and declare the Taliban a lovely group of guys who are looking to build some condos in Kabul.

Unfortunately for him, they don’t seem to understand the way to Trump’s heart is to kiss his ass first and save the violence for later when he will defend them in order to save face.

It also occurs to me that someone — certainly not Trump himself — remembered that Jimmy Carter negotiated a peace agreement between Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel at Camp David in 1978, and Bill Clinton did the same with the PLO and Israel in 2000.  It was great optics for the presidents and there were Nobel Peace Prizes in play.  So someone must have put a bug in Trump’s ear that if he was able to work out some kind of deal with the Taliban, he’d be hailed as a peacemaker and have a lock on the Nobel.  (Trump’s interest in making the trip to Stockholm is based solely on his obsession with Barack Obama and his winning the prize in 2009.)

The fact that the high-profile meetings that Trump has had with our foreign adversaries such as Russia, China and North Korea have all blown up like a wet firecracker and that Putin, Xi, and Kim have played Trump like a five-dollar fiddle doesn’t mean anything to Trump.  He wants the optics and the BREAKING NEWS banners on cable so he can call into Fox and Friends and bloviate about what a Dear Leader he is.  That’s all that matters to him, and he knows the base will eat it up.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

It’s The Little Things

Via the Washington Post:

On Wednesday, it appears the White House attempted to retroactively justify a tweet that President Trump issued over the weekend in which he warned, erroneously, that Alabama would be affected by Hurricane Dorian.

In a White House video released Wednesday, Trump displays a modified National Hurricane Center “cone of uncertainty” forecast, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, indicating Alabama would in fact be affected. The graphic appears to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida.

“We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,” Trump said as he displayed the graphic from Aug. 29, which now includes an added appendage extending the cone into Alabama. “That was the original chart,” Trump said. “It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf,” Trump explained in the video.

Asked about the altered hurricane forecast chart at a White House event on opioids Wednesday afternoon, Trump said his briefings included a “95 percent chance probability” that Alabama would be hit. When asked whether the chart had been drawn on, Trump said: “I don’t know; I don’t know.”

White House deputy press secretary J. Hogan Gidley later confirmed the drawing was made using a black sharpie, while criticizing the media for focusing on it.

Trump’s tweet on Sunday came as Dorian was hitting the Bahamas as a high-end Category 5 hurricane, and the tweet sparked enough public alarm that it prompted the National Weather Service in Birmingham, Ala. to bluntly tweet 20 minutes later: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

Busted.  And as others have noted, not unlike a kid in grade school trying to change the grade on their math test from 62 to 82 to prove to their parents that they’re doing their homework.

Turns out altering official government reports is illegal.

Altering official government weather forecasts isn’t just a cause for concern — it’s illegal. Per 18 U.S. Code 2074, which addresses false weather reports, “Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both.”

That law applies to what is now known as NOAA’s National Weather Service, which contains the National Hurricane Center.

So this may the how the House finally comes around to impeachment.  Hey, whatever works.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Worn Down But Not Out

Yeah, I’m technically on vacation so that’s one reason why I haven’t been posting a lot here.  That will end after Labor Day.  But one of the other reasons is that I have been getting tired of having to wake up and see what kind of gross stupidity Trump did overnight.

Frank Bruni agrees with me and I agree with him.

Trump’s presidency has baffled me, enraged me and above all saddened me, because I’m a stubborn believer in America’s promise, which he mocks and imperils.

But last week his presidency did something to me that it hadn’t done before. It absolutely flattened me.

I woke up Saturday, made my coffee, shuffled to my computer, started to glance at the news and suddenly had to stop. I couldn’t go on. Trump had yet again said something untrue, once more suggested something absurd, contradicted himself, deified himself, claimed martyrdom, blamed Barack Obama, made his billionth threat and hurled his trillionth insult.

That was all clear from the headlines, which were as much as I could take. He had commandeered too many of my thoughts, run roughshod over too many of my emotions, made me question too many articles of faith.

I don’t know about articles of faith, but what bothers me the most is the number of Americans who somehow rationalize the behavior because it’s coming from a mouth that is speaking what their id has harbored but dare not speak aloud; giving vent to prejudices and secret hatreds and hurts that they have dared not share because they knew it was wrong.

The job then is to not waste time chronicling the exploding number of lies and prejudices that Trump spouts but to keep trying to win back the reins and even convince the True Believers that they’ve been mislead and conned.  That’s done delicately; no one likes to be told they’ve been a sap.  So from now on, let’s spend more time building up the new rational voices, support the resistance, and provide hope for the future.  It doesn’t have to be the way it is now.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Reading

James Fallows in The Atlantic: If Trump were an airline pilot.

Through the 2016 campaign, I posted a series called “Trump Time Capsule” in this space. The idea was to record, in real time, what was known about Donald Trump’s fitness for office—and to do so not when people were looking back on our era but while the Republican Party was deciding whether to line up behind him and voters were preparing to make their choice.

The series reached 152 installments by election day. I argued that even then there was no doubt of Trump’s mental, emotional, civic, and ethical unfitness for national leadership. If you’re hazy on the details, the series is (once again) here.

That background has equipped me to view Trump’s performance in office as consistently shocking but rarely surprising. He lied on the campaign trail, and he lies in office. He insulted women, minorities, “the other” as a candidate, and he does it as a president. He led “lock her up!” cheers at the Republican National Convention and he smiles at “send them back!” cheers now. He did not know how the “nuclear triad” worked then, and he does not know how tariffs work now. He flared at perceived personal slights when they came from Senator John McCain, and he does so when they come from the Prime Minister of Denmark. He is who he was.

The Atlantic editorial staff, in a project I played no part in, reached a similar conclusion. Its editorial urging a vote against Trump was obviously written before the election but stands up well three years later:

He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent

The one thing I avoided in that Time Capsule series was “medicalizing” Trump’s personality and behavior. That is, moving from description of his behavior to speculation about its cause. Was Trump’s abysmal ignorance—“Most people don’t know President Lincoln was a Republican!”—a sign of dementia, or of some other cognitive decline? Or was it just more evidence that he had never read a book? Was his braggadocio and self-centeredness a textbook case of narcissistic personality disorder? (Whose symptoms include “an exaggerated sense of self-importance” and “a sense of entitlement and require[s] constant, excessive admiration.”) Or just that he is an entitled jerk? On these and other points I didn’t, and don’t, know.

Like many people in the journalistic world, I received a steady stream of mail from mental-health professionals arguing for the “medicalized” approach. Several times I mentioned the parallel between Trump’s behavior and the check-list symptoms of narcissism. But I steered away from “this man is sick”—naming the cause rather than listing the signs—for two reasons.

The minor reason was the medical-world taboo against public speculation about people a doctor had not examined personally. There is a Catch-22 circularity to this stricture (which dates to the Goldwater-LBJ race in 1964). Doctors who have not treated a patient can’t say anything about the patient’s condition, because that would be “irresponsible”—but neither can doctors who have, because they’d be violating confidences.

Also, a flat ban on at-a-distance diagnosis doesn’t really meet the common-sense test. Medical professionals have spent decades observing symptoms, syndromes, and more-or-less probable explanations for behavior. We take it for granted that an ex-quarterback like Tony Romo can look at an offensive lineup just before the snap and say, “This is going to be a screen pass.” But it’s considered a wild overstep for a doctor or therapist to reach conclusions based on hundreds of hours of exposure to Trump on TV.

My dad was a small-town internist and diagnostician. Back in the 1990s he saw someone I knew, on a TV interview show, and he called me to say: “I think your friend has [a neurological disease]. He should have it checked out, if he hasn’t already.” It was because my dad had seen a certain pattern—of expression, and movement, and facial detail—so many times in the past, that he saw familiar signs, and knew from experience what the cause usually was. (He was right in this case.) Similarly, he could walk down the street, or through an airline terminal, and tell by people’s gait or breathing patterns who needed to have knee or hip surgery, who had just had that surgery, who was starting to have heart problems, et cetera. (I avoided asking him what he was observing about me.)

Recognizing patterns is the heart of most professional skills, and mental health professionals usually know less about an individual patient than all of us now know about Donald Trump. And on that basis, Dr. Bandy Lee of Yale and others associated with the World Mental Health Coalition have been sounding the alarm about Trump’s mental state (including with a special analysis of the Mueller report). Another organization of mental health professionals is the “Duty to Warn” movement.

But the diagnosis-at-a-distance issue wasn’t the real reason I avoided “medicalization.” The main reason I didn’t go down this road was my assessment that it wouldn’t make a difference. People who opposed Donald Trump already opposed him, and didn’t need some medical hypothesis to dislike his behavior. And people who supported him had already shown that they would continue to swallow anything, from “Grab ‘em by … ”  to “I like people who weren’t captured.” The Vichy Republicans of the campaign dutifully lined up behind the man they had denounced during the primaries, and the Republicans of the Senate have followed in that tradition.

But now we’ve had something we didn’t see so clearly during the campaign. These are episodes of what would be called outright lunacy, if they occurred in any other setting: An actually consequential rift with a small but important NATO ally, arising from the idea that the U.S. would “buy Greenland.” Trump’s self-description as “the Chosen One,” and his embrace of a supporter’s description of him as the “second coming of God” and the “King of Israel.” His logorrhea, drift, and fantastical claims in public rallies, and his flashes of belligerence at the slightest challenge in question sessions on the White House lawn. His utter lack of affect or empathy when personally meeting the most recent shooting victims, in Dayton and El Paso. His reduction of any event, whatsoever, into what people are saying about him.Obviously I have no standing to say what medical pattern we are seeing, and where exactly it might lead. But just from life I know this:

  • If an airline learned that a pilot was talking publicly about being “the Chosen One” or “the King of Israel” (or Scotland or whatever), the airline would be looking carefully into whether this person should be in the cockpit.
  • If a hospital had a senior surgeon behaving as Trump now does, other doctors and nurses would be talking with administrators and lawyers before giving that surgeon the scalpel again.
  • If a public company knew that a CEO was making costly strategic decisions on personal impulse or from personal vanity or slight, and was doing so more and more frequently, the board would be starting to act. (See: Uber, management history of.)
  • If a university, museum, or other public institution had a leader who routinely insulted large parts of its constituency—racial or religious minorities, immigrants or international allies, women—the board would be starting to act.
  • If the U.S. Navy knew that one of its commanders was routinely lying about important operational details, plus lashing out under criticism, plus talking in “Chosen One” terms, the Navy would not want that person in charge of, say, a nuclear-missile submarine. (See: The Queeg saga in The Caine Mutiny, which would make ideal late-summer reading or viewing for members of the White House staff.)

Yet now such a  person is in charge not of one nuclear-missile submarine but all of them—and the bombers and ICBMs, and diplomatic military agreements, and the countless other ramifications of executive power.

If Donald Trump were in virtually any other position of responsibility, action would already be under way to remove him from that role. The board at a public company would have replaced him outright or arranged a discreet shift out of power. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far in a large public corporation.) The chain-of-command in the Navy or at an airline or in the hospital would at least call a time-out, and check his fitness, before putting him back on the bridge, or in the cockpit, or in the operating room. (Of course, he would never have gotten this far as a military officer, or a pilot, or a doctor.)

There are two exceptions. One is a purely family-run business, like the firm in which Trump spent his entire previous career. And the other is the U.S. presidency, where he will remain, despite more and more-manifest Queeg-like  unfitness, as long as the GOP Senate stands with him.

(Why the Senate? Because the two constitutional means for removing a president, impeachment and the 25th Amendment, both ultimately require two thirds support from the Senate. Under the 25th Amendment, a majority of the Cabinet can remove a president—but if the president disagrees, he can retain the office unless two thirds of both the House and Senate vote against him, an even tougher standard than with impeachment. Once again it all comes back to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.)

Donald Trump is who we knew him to be. But now he’s worse. The GOP Senate continues to show us what it is.

Cheap Flights — Jiji Lee in The New Yorker checks out these budget airlines.

D.I.Y. Air

This no-frills airline gets you where you want to go, so long as it’s in or around Belarus. You’ll also need to bring your own food, seat cushion, oxygen mask, and, for those flying in basic economy, flight crew. This crafty airline further cuts costs by occasionally allowing passengers to help out with basic tasks—like repairing the wing that will definitely come apart mid-flight.

Newark Air

An affordable option for those flying into New York City. The ticket price unfortunately does not include cab fare from Newark Airport into Manhattan, which will cost you more than the flight itself.

Dunkelhansa

This German airline is popular for its cheap flights to Europe and keeps its fares low by hiring philosophy grad students as flight attendants. Snack-and-beverage services have been replaced by conversations about nihilism. Your seat-pocket reading is just a mirror with which to face your own existential dread as you realize that air travel will never be both cheap and comfortable. (No Wi-Fi.)

Patreon Air

You pay what you can per month. In-flight entertainment is a newsletter that your friend writes semi-regularly and that you’re also paying a hundred dollars a month for.

Rx Air

Owned by a massive pharmaceutical company, Rx Air offers luxury amenities and nonstop flights for less than a hundred dollars. By purchasing a ticket, passengers have implicitly consented to participating in clinical drug trials. Rx Air is the only airline that has given canine flu to humans along with first-class seats at economy prices. Enjoy that extra legroom (if you can still feel your legs after all the injections)!

Three Kids in a Trenchcoat Airlines

A low-cost air service that’s part of the Southwest Airlines family. The flights are so cheap because all of the employees are just three kids stacked on top of each other in a trenchcoat. (You must pay extra for luggage.)

Amazon Prime Air

Same-day arrival guaranteed. There is no first class or even an economy class, because you’ll be riding in a cargo plane with Amazon Prime packages and also delivering the packages. Oh, and you’re an Amazon employee now. There is no food or water on board, but you will get to watch all episodes of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” for free (only if you sign up for Amazon Prime).

Jet Zoo

This pet-friendly airline provides exceptional service to humans and wild animals. You’ll love the expansive seats and Noah’s Ark atmosphere. Check in early or your seatmate will be a hungry Siberian tiger.

Karaoke Air

You pay extra for food and drink, but all karaoke song requests are free. And, although the fuel-efficient aircraft gets you to your destination on time, your flight will feel twice as long when you hear “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” for the twentieth time in a row.

Fly Bieber

Justin Bieber hasn’t produced a single in a while because he’s been too busy learning how to fly a plane. Flights are surprisingly entertaining, and you can see this airline lasting a very long time in the industry, despite what the haters say.

Oceanic

It’s the airplane from the TV show “Lost.” Flights seem to take forever, and it often feels like the pilots have no idea where they’re going. In the end, you’ll find out you were just in purgatory the entire time. But, on the plus side, easy-to-navigate Web site!

Air Bud

Ain’t no rule says a dog can’t fly a plane.

Doonesbury — Quick answers to complex questions.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Let’s Talk Real Estate

This is a real headline in the Washington Post:

Trump postpones Denmark trip after prime minister declines to sell him Greenland

And the people of Denmark uttered a collective “Åh, gudskelov!”

Meanwhile, other countries are scrambling to find properties that they can refuse to sell in order to keep him away.  Buckingham Palace said that Canada is not for sale, but they could offer him a deal on Hong Kong (which they got rid of in 1997, but he doesn’t read, so take the money and run).

Can we figure out a way to use this ploy to keep him out of Florida?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Another Shiny Object

From the New York Times, in all seriousness:

Trump has been urging aides to explore a way to buy Greenland from Denmark, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

His interest in Greenland began last year. At a meeting that spring in the Oval Office, he joked about buying Greenland for its resources, according to a person who was in attendance.

In the year since, the president has repeatedly returned to the topic, asking aides if they can pursue a purchase of Greenland, a semiautonomous territory that Mr. Trump has been taken with in part because of its natural resources, like coal and uranium.

Privately, Mr. Trump’s advisers are highly skeptical that such a move could ever happen. But instead of telling him they do not think it is possible, the advisers have agreed to investigate the matter, according to the people briefed on the discussions.

Yes, just humor him until they can get him to find something else to play with.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Reading

David Remnick in The New Yorker on what Toni Morrison understood about hate.

In December, 1993, Toni Morrison flew to Stockholm to deliver the lecture required of those awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her subject was the power of language. Words, she said, have the capacity to liberate, empower, imagine, and heal, but, cruelly employed, they can “render the suffering of millions mute.” Morrison was unsparing in her depiction of people who would use language to evil ends. Pointing to “infantile heads of state” who speak only “to those who obey, or in order to force obedience,” she warned of the virulence of the demagogue. “Oppressive language does more than represent violence,” she said. “It is violence.”

Morrison died on August 5th, at the age of eighty-eight. Her novels and essays, exploring black communities with intimacy and imagination, took in the legacy of slavery, the rejection of Reconstruction, the brutalities of Jim Crow––the whole of American history. Even in her final years, her political sense remained unerring. Just days after the 2016 election, writing in this magazine, she sensed the arrival of a troubling era, one centered on a callous and cunning confidence man:

So scary are the consequences of a collapse of white privilege that many Americans have flocked to a political platform that supports and translates violence against the defenseless as strength. These people are not so much angry as terrified, with the kind of terror that makes knees tremble.

On Election Day, how eagerly so many white voters—both the poorly educated and the well educated—embraced the shame and fear sowed by Donald Trump. The candidate whose company has been sued by the Justice Department for not renting apartments to black people. The candidate who questioned whether Barack Obama was born in the United States, and who seemed to condone the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a campaign rally. The candidate who kept black workers off the floors of his casinos. The candidate who is beloved by David Duke and endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Donald Trump is far from the first President to express rank prejudice. Thomas Jefferson, in “Notes on the State of Virginia,” maintained that black men and women had a “very strong and disagreeable odor.” Woodrow Wilson screened the Klan-glorifying film “The Birth of a Nation” at the White House. As we learned recently, Ronald Reagan, in a telephone conversation with Richard Nixon, referred to Africans as “monkeys.” And so on.

But what is unique about Trump, at least in modern times, is the extent to which bigotry is his principal means of rousing support. Trump backers who aren’t drawn to his bigotry choose to tolerate it. Ours is a country that could elect a black President preaching unity; it is also a country where tens of millions of Americans continue to say that they will vote for a man whose platform is nativism and division.

There is calculation behind the bigotry. Trump recognized that Obama’s ascent to the White House, in 2008, was met by a powerful racist reaction. Hate crimes and white-supremacist groups proliferated, as did threats against the President’s person. And so Trump began his political career deploying the language of conspiracy theory. First as a candidate and then as President, he spoke of Mexican “rapists,” of “caravans” filled with encroaching “aliens”; he directed invective at African-Americans, Muslims, women, and immigrants, and at legislators of color. Drawing on a long and toxic tradition, he has put forward a form of white identity politics in which violent language gives license to violent acts.

Such language is hardly a matter of thoughtless improvisation. Recently, the Times reported that the Trump campaign has seized on the imagery of “invasion”––one of the President’s favorite descriptions of immigration––as a theme for its Facebook ads. Such language is in synch with that of the mass shooter in El Paso, who, before killing twenty-two people and wounding many more in a Walmart, appears to have issued a manifesto warning that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” And, as the civil-rights leader Bryan Stevenson says, the insistence on unfettered gun ownership is a core tenet of white identity politics.

Although the solidity of the President’s base should not be underestimated, a sense of alarm is growing. The clerical leaders of the Washington National Cathedral, where the funerals of Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, and Bush took place, gave voice to that alarm last week. “When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human ‘infestation’ in America,” they wrote, in an official statement. “Violent words lead to violent actions.” And they asked, “When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.”

After the recent massacres in El Paso and in Dayton, White House aides evidently decided that Trump needed to dial back his rhetoric. In a brief speech, he denounced white supremacy, but with the vacant affect of a hostage reading for the camera. Liberated from this chore, he soon regained his usual temper; visiting the bereaved in Texas and Ohio, he found the time to lambaste local officials, along with “Sleepy” Joe Biden, “the LameStream media,” and other customary targets.

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt characterized the Presidency as “preëminently a place of moral leadership.” Trump, by contrast, once told his circle of advisers that they should “think of each Presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals.” In the Trump show, which will soon be up for renewal, immigrants, Muslims, and people of color are regularly cast as the villains.

Toni Morrison approached the enduring phenomenon of American bigotry and nativism from many angles. But she had a clear sense that the critical function of racism was distraction. Racism “keeps you from doing your work,” she said. “It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language, and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly, so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms, and you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

WTF? — Jake Cline in The Atlantic on how internet slang makes people better writers.

These are tough times for grammar snobs, those would-be avatars of flawless spelling and proper syntax who need look no further than a high-school friend’s Facebook posts or a family member’s text messages to find their treasured language being misused and neglected. Of course, split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and subject-verb disagreements have always appeared wherever words are uttered or keys are stroked. But on the internet, and particularly on social media, defenders of formal writing and the rules of language may feel as if they’ve become stuck in some linguistic hellscape littered with discarded stylebooks, the ashes of dictionaries, and a new species of abbreviations that’s tougher to crack than Linear B.

To these “grumbling” grammarians, the Montreal-based linguist Gretchen McCulloch says: Lighten up lol. In her new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, McCulloch challenges the idea that the rise of informal writing signals a trend toward global idiocy. Instead, she marks it as an inevitable and necessary “disruption” in the way human beings communicate. “We no longer accept that writing must be lifeless, that it can only convey our tone of voice roughly and imprecisely, or that nuanced writing is the exclusive domain of professionals,” McCulloch argues. “We’re creating new rules for typographical tone of voice. Not the kind of rules that are imposed from on high, but the kind of rules that emerge from the collective practice of a couple billion social monkeys — rules that enliven our social interactions.”

Of course, the old rules of language were broken long before people went online, and McCulloch offers that the internet concludes a process “that had begun with medieval scribes and modernist poets.” She also notes how “well-documented features” of regional and cultural dialects—such as southern American English and African American English—have influenced the language of the internet, most obviously on Twitter. But in contrast to the pre-internet age, she argues, now we are all “writers as well as readers” of informal English.

Drawing from her research and that of other linguists,McCulloch shows how creative respellings, expressive punctuation, emoji, memes, and other hallmarks of informal communication online demonstrate asophisticationthat can rival even the most elegant writing. Understanding the difference between ending a sentence with one exclamation point or two, recognizing what a person is conveying when they write “dumbbb” or “sameee,” and knowing when or when not to be upset after receiving an all-caps text, McCulloch writes, “requires subtly tuned awareness of the full spectrum of the language.”

The prevalence of emoji, meanwhile, does not indicate verbal indolence or a pandemic of cuteness (though adorability is certainly part of it). Instead, McCulloch writes, emoji represent a “demand that our writing … be capable of fully expressing what we want to say and, most crucially, how we’re saying it.” She even implies that William Shakespeare, whose work in part depends on the gesticulating of actors, would have been fine with the “digital embodiment” of mental states and intentions in emoji.

All this informality may also be making people smarter, McCulloch suggests. In any case, it doesn’t appear to be making anyone dumber. “Several studies show that people who use a lot of internet abbreviations perform, at worst, just as well on spelling tests, formal essays, and other measures of literacy as people who never use abbreviations — and sometimes even better,” the author writes.

Twitter has been especially good at sharpening its users’ communication skills, McCulloch finds. Because Twitter users are more likely to interact with people they don’t know outside the internet (versus Facebook, where exchanges take place largely among friends and family), linguistic innovations—hashtags, @mentions, new words, and abbreviations — are more abundant on the site. McCulloch credits improvements in her own writing style to Twitter’s 280-character limit and the way it forces users “to structure their thoughts into concise, pithy statements.”

McCulloch doesn’t spend much time on how these innovations have been used to sow division and to spread hate speech, though she does acknowledge how memes were employed to make “abhorrent beliefs look appealingly ironic” during the 2016 election campaign. Given her profession, McCulloch is much more interested in the positives that have come from the popularization of informal writing. “As a linguist,” she writes, “what compels me are the parts of language that we don’t even know we’re so good at, the patterns that emerge spontaneously, when we aren’t really thinking about them.”

As for those dug-in, intransigent standard-bearers of formal writing who still flinch every time they encounter a face-palm emoji or the sarcasm tilde (~), McCulloch extends sympathy and an olive branch. She also suggests that those fluent in internet English should go easy on themselves and try to exorcise “the ghosts of misguided grammarians” who left “us with a vague sense of unease at the whole prospect of the written word.”

With Because Internet, McCulloch is offering “a snapshot of a particular moment in time and how we got that way, not a claim to correctness or immortality.” And she calls for humility from those who are fluent in internet language and culture. “We don’t create truly successful communication by ‘winning’ at conversational norms,” she writes, “whether that’s by convincing someone to omit all periods in text messages for fear of being taken as angry, or to answer all landline telephones after precisely two rings. We create successful communication when all parties help each other win.”

After all, as McCulloch points out, “the only languages that stay unchanging are the dead ones.”

Doonesbury — Hey, he noticed.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

How To Heal A Nation

It takes a special kind of douchebaggery to turn what any normal person would consider to be a condolence call into bitterness, rancor, and self-delusion.

On a day when President Trump vowed to tone down his rhetoric and help the country heal following two mass slayings, he did the opposite — lacing his visits Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, with a flurry of attacks on local leaders and memorializing his trips with grinning thumbs-up photos.

A traditional role for presidents has been to offer comfort and solace to all Americans at times of national tragedy, but the day provided a fresh testament to Trump’s limitations in striking notes of unity and empathy.

When Trump swooped into the grieving border city of El Paso to offer condolences following the massacre of Latinos allegedly by a white supremacist, some of the city’s elected leaders and thousands of its citizens declared the president unwelcome.

In his only public remarks during the trip, Trump lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, both Democrats, over their characterization of his visit with hospital patients in Dayton.

To quote Alvie Singer, “What I wouldn’t give for a large sock with horse manure in it! “

For a president — any president — to make a trip like this, it requires delicacy and tact, two things this current occupant wouldn’t know if they knocked him down.  In the first place, just having the president show up requires all the security and advance teams which in a place that is recovering from a disaster, be it a mass shooting or a tornado, is a huge imposition.  Second, the occupant has to realize that politics is going to be a part of the event no matter what, and it has to be dealt with on a level that this narcissist cannot fathom.  And finally, they must be capable of discerning the situation, reading the crowd, and knowing just exactly what to say, or more importantly, what not to say.

We’ve had presidents who were clumsy at it but you grudgingly have to give them credit for at least trying; think George W. Bush finally showing up in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina after realizing that his fly-by in Air Force One was seen as careless.  But most of them get it.  Bill Clinton certainly did after the Oklahoma City bombing.  But perhaps the best at it was President Obama after the church shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, at the funeral for Clementa Pinckney.

That is how you heal.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Civics Class For Dummies

From the Washington Post’s The Fix:

Trump believes the Constitution gives him a wide breadth of power. That’s the message he delivered ― not for the first time — on Tuesday while addressing a crowd of teenagers and young adults at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington.

There are numerous viral video clips from Trump’s 80-minute speech at the conference, but one of the most controversial moments came as he discussed Article II of the Constitution, which describes the powers of the president.

Trump lamented the duration and cost of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which he has repeatedly said found “no collusion, no obstruction.”

“Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,” he said. “But I don’t even talk about that.”

No, it doesn’t, and no, you can’t.

Article II grants the president “executive power.” It does not indicate the president has total power. Article II is the same part of the Constitution that describes some of Congress’s oversight responsibilities, including over the office of the presidency. It also details how the president may be removed from office via impeachment.

In short, Article II basically owns your ass if you’re president.

I really think that one of the basic qualifications for being president besides being over 35 and born in the U.S. is a Grade 8 civics test.  No multiple choice, and no pictures.  This gasbag would have never make it past the primaries.