Trump Attacks Those He Can't Yet Control
February 22, 2017
Robert Reich / San Francisco Chronicle & Charles P. Pierce / Esquire Magazine
Commentary: With Republicans in the majority in Congress unwilling to cross Donald Trump, the job of containing Trump's incipient tyranny falls to three crucial centers of independent power: the courts, the press, and a few state governments. Which is why Trump is escalating attacks on all three, seeking to erode public confidence in them. The "fake news" charge is really perilous, a tactic designed to subvert the idea of an informed citizenry -- the basis of American self-government and freedom.
Trump Attacks the Institutions
That Must Contain his Power
Robert Reich / San Francisco Chronicle
(February 14, 2017) -- With congressional Republicans in the majority in Congress and unwilling to cross Donald Trump, the job of containing Trump's incipient tyranny falls to the three remaining centers of independent power: the nation's courts, its press and a few state governments.
Which is why Trump is escalating attacks on all three, seeking to erode public confidence in them.
After federal Judge James Robart -- an appointee of George W. Bush -- stayed Trump's travel ban, Trump leveled a personal attack on "this so-called judge" and then tweeted: "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system."
While other presidents have publicly disagreed with court decisions, none before Trump has gone after individual judges with personal invective. None has tried to intimidate individual judges. None has questioned the legitimacy of the courts.
Trump is on the warpath against Robart and the courts because they defied him.
So has the press. And as with the courts, Trump has responded by seeking to undermine public confidence in the media. Speaking to the US Central Command, Trump veered off his prepared remarks to make a remarkable claim: The media was intentionally covering up reports of terrorist attacks.
"You've seen what happened in Paris and Nice," Trump told the assembled military officers. "It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that."
What could be the media's reason for covering up terrorist attacks? The only possible inference is that the press -- like the courts -- is imperiling our nation because it doesn't kowtow to Donald Trump.
State governments pose a third line of defense against Trump. Several state attorneys general have taken Trump's travel ban to court, and one particularly large Democratic state -- California -- has defied him on immigration and the environment.
So Trump is directing his ire against these states as well.
Trump is threatening to take federal dollars away from California. "We give tremendous amounts of money to California. . . . California in many ways is out of control. . . . We may have to "defund California." "Certainly that would be a weapon," he told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
Rubbish. The federal government doesn't give money to California, at least not net dollars. Californians send more tax dollars to the federal government each year than the state gets back.
Fiscally, California isn't "out of control." Since 2013, the state has operated with a budget surplus. That's more than can be said for the federal government. Or for Trump's own business, for that matter.
Trump's real beef is that California is independent of him. It's defying Trump with its high environmental standards and sanctuary cities.
Even worse, from his standpoint, its citizens voted against him in the 2016 election by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, preferring Hillary Clinton by about 3.5 million votes. He can't seem to get this out of his mind.
Trump repeatedly claims that millions of those votes were fraudulent. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer identifies California as one of the "bigger states" that merit a federal probe into election fraud, adding, "That's where I think we're gonna look."
But Trump has zero evidence of voter fraud in California, or anywhere else for that matter.
For Trump, evidence is irrelevant. California needs to be taught a lesson -- as do the federal judges and the journalists who defy him. And what is that lesson? That if they dare cross Trump, he'll make sure the public distrusts them.
The judiciary, the press and California are major centers of resistance to Trump because they are independent of him. So he's escalating his attacks on them.
Trump doesn't want any independence. He wants total control.
Robert Reich is professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. He blogs at www.facebook.com/rbreich.
© 2017 Tribune Content Agency LLC
Our President* Spent His
Saturday Lying to Our Faces
Charles P. Pierce / Esquire Magazine
"How many more of these whackadoo performance pieces does he have to present before somebody throws sand in the gears?
(February 19, 2017) -- "I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people. This was a great movement, a movement like has never been seen before in our country our probably anywhere else."
Christianity. Islam. The Protestant Reformation. Abolitionism. Daniel O'Connell, Women's suffrage, the labor movement, Gandhi. The Civil Rights Movement. The movement against the war in Vietnam. Punk rock.
"Within a few days of taking the oath of office, I've taken steps to begin the construction of the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipelines. Anywhere from 30-40,000 jobs. And very importantly, as I was about to sign it, I said who makes the pipe? Who makes the pipe? Something this audience understands very well, right?
"Simple question. The lawyers put this very complex document in front. I said, who makes the pipe? They said, sir, it can be made anywhere. I said not anymore. I put a little clause in the bottom. The pipe has to be made in the United States of America if we're going to have pine line."
The 30,000 jobs figure was debunked years ago. The pipes for it have been sitting in North Dakota for years. Many of them were not made in America.
"In fact, when the Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe, was great. Great guy. When he came over, he said, thank you. I said for what. You saved us many, many millions of dollars on the F-35 fighter jet. Because when I negotiated, I took our allies into the same negotiation.
So the first thing he did was thanked me for saving them money and that's good. Okay. That's good. I know the media will never thank me so at least Japan is thanking me, right?"
There is absolutely no evidence this ever happened.
"But we believe in two simple rules. Buy American and hire American. We believe it."
Except at his winery.
"Here's the bottom line. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden."
Nothing happened the night before in Sweden.
"The nation state remains the best model for human happiness and the American nation remains the greatest symbol of liberty, of freedom and justice on the face of god's earth. And now we have spirit like we've never had before.
"It's now that we have our sacred duty and we have no choice and we want this choice to defend our country, to protect its values and to serve its great, great citizens. Erasing national borders does not make people safer. It undermines democracy and trade prosperity. We're giving it away."
Steve Bannon's lips didn't even move. I think he was drinking a glass of water.
How many more of these whackadoo performance pieces does he have to present before somebody throws sand in the gears?
If four Republican senators—say, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Susan Collins—would agree to caucus with the Democrats under Chuck Schumer, the whole thing would grind to a halt until we could catch our breath and see if we really want to live in the madhouse of this president*'s mind for the next four years. Bold speeches in Munich and chest-thumping on Twitter won't cut it. It's put up or shut up time.
And, please, for the love of god, ye editors and news directors throughout the land, enough with the expeditions into the heartland to talk to people who helped bring this down upon themselves and on us. These folks have nothing new to say.
They voted their id and their spleen and they're still on a high from that. Some guy in a cafe in Dubuque wants to say that he voted for this president* because he "tells it like it is," or because he thinks the steel mills are coming back? Can you watch that rally in Florida and believe that these opinions have any real merit?
"You gotta keep his con even after you take him," Henry Gondorff warned. "He can't know that you took him." Until they realize how badly they've been taken, what's the point in all these stories? You're listening to people in love with their own delusions. It's not even magical realism because there's no magic and nothing's real.
The press-bashing bothers me less than it bothers a lot of people, and certainly less than it should bother the likes of David Frum and other career conservatives. Press-bashing has been in the conservative playbook for as long as the power sweep has been in Green Bay's.
In 1964, Goldwater delegates tried to climb up into the broadcast positions and throttle anchormen. Nixon and Agnew, of course, were sui generis, but history tells us that President* Trump is little more than a crude evolutionary fluke in this long progress.
It's the other thing -- the "fake news" conjuring words -- that is really perilous. That is a tactic that breaks down the idea of an educated, informed citizenry that was assumed by the Founders to be the basis of American self-government. Because of that, there are consequences to believing nonsense in this country that are far more serious than they are anywhere else.
Couple the delusions in the Heartland with a president* that is more than willing to populate those delusions with monsters from his own id and you no longer have a functioning democratic republic. You have an incompetent, incoherent East Germany, with golden commodes and a $200,000 annual membership fee.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.