I wrote this for the Urban News in February 2019.
Donald Trump, our president, shut down the government for five weeks in order to distract us from multiple ongoing investigations.
The shutdown made no sense on a number of different levels. Republicans held both houses of Congress for the last two years. Yet Donald Trump did not make a big deal out of not getting his funding for his “big, beautiful” Mexican wall. He did not take his best chance of getting funding by pressuring Paul Ryan, then the Speaker of the House. Yet now that Democrats control the House, he wants funding for a wall that most Democrats—and for that matter, most Americans—do not support.
So he invited the new Democratic leadership—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—to the Oval Office and threatened them with a shutdown if they didn’t give him his wall. Unfortunately for Trump, 58% of Americans oppose building the wall. So the Democrats refused to cave to his threats, and after 35 days, President Trump backed down and allowed the government to reopen, without wall funding. To hold 800,000 government employees hostage over a diversion is despicable.
So why did he do it?
Trump’s inauguration committee raked in more than a hundred million dollars but spent only a fraction of the total. Investigators are trying to figure out where the money went.
Trump’s over-the-top opulent hotels have been packed full of diplomats and private money- and power-brokers from all over the world ever since he was elected. This seems to be an obvious conflict with the emoluments clause in the Constitution, which prohibits the president from profiting from his high office. This is being investigated by federal attorneys, and House Democrats have also promised to investigate this as well.
Trump’s son and son-in-law and his campaign leadership are being investigated for colluding with the Russians to get him elected. His former and present cabinet secretaries are being called before the House for investigative oversight hearings. And Donald Trump’s biggest worry was what convicted felon Michael Cohen has said to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team—and what he will say to investigators.
Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s inside man, his personal lawyer, his fixer—his consigliere. Nancy Pelosi’s House is going to question him. Maybe it was time to distract the public with a shutdown.
Roger Stone is the political insider’s insider. He has worked behind-the-scenes for years in the bowels of the Republican machine. I had never heard of him before a couple of months ago—though he was one of Richard Nixon’s fixers and “dirty-tricksters” in the 1970s. In fact, he and Nixon’s other henchman, Paul Manafort, formed a lobbying and political consulting firm called Black, Manafort, & Stone in the late 1970s to do dirty tricks for other Republicans—beginning with Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980.
The reason that Roger Stone is more interesting than almost all of the other characters indicted by Robert Mueller is because Stone sent out tweets that oddly foreshadowed what was to come. His tweet, “It will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel” (Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman) would have meant nothing—if WikiLeaks had not released John Podesta’s emails just days later.
How did Stone have that knowledge? Where did his information come from? Was it just a lucky guess, as he told the Senate Intelligence Committee?
It appears from the indictment that Roger Stone tried to contact WikiLeaks. It also appears that a high-ranking official in the Trump campaign was in contact with Roger Stone and asked Stone to reach out to the Russians. This appears to be the collusion that we have long suspected.
Donald Trump, Jr.
One of the most curious things that happened during the Trump campaign was the meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. This is a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. wanted to have so badly because he was going to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The curious thing was that he was going to get this dirt from the Russians.
We already know that the official story about this high-level meeting was false, on many fronts. The Trump campaign and Trump Jr. insisted it was about Russian adoptions. They insisted that the president didn’t know about it, and that he had nothing to do with Junior’s written explanation. Then it turned out that the president had dictated Junior’s memo on the plane back from Europe, and that he and his senior advisors had all lied about that fact.
The official story also said that the meeting itself was a bust: according to all the participants, the Russians did not deliver the goods. But the question remains: Did Donald Trump Sr. know about this meeting? Did he know in advance, or was he told about it while it was taking place just a few floors below his own Trump Tower office?
According to President Trump, he was like Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes: he knew nothing. Nussink! But Junior made two calls during the meeting to blocked phone numbers. From a New York Times report it appears that one of those numbers belonged to NASCAR CEO Brian France, the other to investor Howard Lorber. Yet, I would argue, this does not absolve anyone.
We know how Donald Trump runs his business. Nothing gets done without his say-so. This is exactly how he ran his campaign. I find it hard to believe that a high-level meeting between his son, son-in-law, high campaign officials, and numerous Russian officials would take place at Trump Tower without his knowledge.
Just the other day, I saw an online poll that asked Democrats whom they supported in the 2020 presidential campaign. I responded by saying nobody. I am sorry, right now, we have nothing more than a popularity contest.
Sen. Kamala Harris was the first major candidate to enter the race. Besides being a Democrat and from California, I know nothing about her. I have no idea what she stands for. I do know that she was California’s state Attorney General, but that is it.
Sen. Cory Booker has thrown his hat into the ring. This is not a surprise. Mostly I know him as the former mayor of Newark. He is been an outspoken senator from New Jersey but, again, I do not know where he stands on most of the issues.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also announced that she is running for president—or at least forming an “exploratory committee.” I thought she should have run for president back in 2008. She had the right mojo at that time. She is smart, articulate, knowledgeable, and thoughtful—on all of the issues. She is clearly a progressive. She will stand up for the average American worker, but she did not run in 2008. For reasons that I do not understand, she did not run in 2016 either. Why is she running now? Has her time come and gone?
There is a lot of talk that Joe Biden should get into the ring. The former vice president is clearly a liberal, but he comes with some personal baggage. He has run for president twice and did not come close to winning the nomination. He also has a tendency to say the wrong things at the wrong time. So, I do not think that Joe Biden should run for president.
I also do not think that Hillary Clinton should run for president. And although Bernie Sanders has not formally declared that he is running, I think we all know that he wants to be back in the race. I like Bernie Sanders. I think he has some fabulous ideas. But a few things trouble me. When you go back and look at the 2016 election, when Bernie Sanders was confronted by the Black Lives Matter movement, he froze. Neither he nor his staff was able to come up with a coherent response for days. For me, this revealed a lack of empathy that I believe is troubling.
I caution all liberals and progressives: Do not fall for the window dressing. Just because a candidate has a good slogan and a great smile does not mean they should be president.
We need someone who is thoughtful. We need someone who can confront the problems that America faces today. We need someone who can work with world leaders and also bring us together as a nation. We need someone who can defeat Donald Trump. We need someone like (dare I say it) Barack Obama.
I had no idea who Ralph Northam was before a couple of days ago. He is the governor of Virginia. It appears that in the mid 1980s, while he was a medical student, he allowed a racist photo to be placed on his medical school yearbook page. Some Republican trolls found the photo and posted it on-line, and it was verified by CNN a couple of hours later.
The photo shows two men, one in blackface and the other in a KKK outfit. As the scandal intensified, the Democratic governor put out a mediocre press release that apologized for any previous bad behavior. This was followed by video in which the governor admitted that he was in the photo and declared that he was not a racist and wanted to build bridges between races. The following morning, he claimed he was NOT in the photo and resisted the growing calls for his resignation.
So, are there things that could have been done 30 or 40 years ago that we should forgive and forget? This was an important question when Brett Kavanaugh was sitting in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I think it still is.
Whether Northam is in that photo is not really important. The fact that he allowed that photo to be on his page in the yearbook is important.
Now, it is possible that Northam is a completely different person today than he was 30 years ago. It’s possible that he had some sort of epiphany.
If so, then Ralph Northam needed to start off by saying he was racially insensitive in the past, and showing that he is a changed man today. Unfortunately, he didn’t do that. He tried to hide his past, or bury it, or maybe he actually had forgotten about that behavior.
We live in a world where Donald Trump, for more than 30 years, has used race to divide Americans. Despite that history—or because of it—he became president two years ago. We who are liberals have fought such racism for all those decades, and before then, and still today. We fight it whether it emanates from the White House or the State House of Virginia.
I can forgive Ralph Northam for his past. However, I respectfully ask him to resign. He should step down for the good of the Democratic Party, for the people and the state of Virginia, and for the nation. We do not need any more racists in a position of power.
State of the Union Address
Did you see the State of the Union? I didn’t. I couldn’t watch it. Why do I need to torture myself? We knew that he was going to distort the truth. He did that (I read the transcript). We knew that he was going to attack the Democrats while calling for unity and calling the Mueller investigation a witch hunt. He did that also. Traditionally, the State of the Union is used to introduce new policies. Trump broke with tradition. Oh, wait, he did announce that he was going to meet with North Korea dictator in February. This is just another sad and ineffective publicity stunt.
Stacey Abrams, who lost her bid to become the governor of Georgia, gave a wonderful progressive, Democratic response. She called for policies which strengthen the middle class and uplift hard-working Americans. She wants to expand healthcare and clean up the environment and tackle climate change. Her message was positive, optimistic, honest, and future-oriented: a stark contrast to President Trump’s address which was a tired sack of _____ (you can fill in the blank!).