Reality Check # 6 — Cruise missiles are less destructive than a terrible Supreme Court Justice

Last week saw Trump’s floundering Presidency saved by the quick response of his national security team to the Syrian chemical weapons attack on a hospital near Aleppo. Generals McMaster, Mattis, and Dunford, with CIA head Pompeo, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and the U. S. Navy planned and executed the Tomahawk cruise missile attack on a secondary Syrian Air Force base, thereby bringing steel and thunder, and more importantly, resolve into the President’s otherwise weak and confused performance as Commander in Chief to date.

Will Trump’s image benefit from their speedy action? Sure. Will his instant popularity last? Doubtful, once the public comes to understand that little serious damage was done to the Syrian forces of Dictator Assad. But even when people realize the Tomahawk attack was more of a PR event than a military “victory”, the global political benefits of the forceful-seeming response will have some lasting impact:

  • The bombing shows our potential enemies along with our allies that, when guided by professionals, Trump can take decisive action
  • The bombing warns Assad and his Russian puppet masters that the US is not going to walk away from the tragic, cruel, seemingly hopeless Syrian civil war
  • The bombing buys Trump much-needed time to get his White House in working order.

But, with all its associated benefits, the impact and memory of the US bombing will fade in time. The same cannot be said of two other Trump administration “victories” this week, when, first, the Senate voted to kill the 60-vote requirement to confirm a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and then, triumphant in their march backward toward a repressive America, voted to seat Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court.

Your Truthteller predicts that Gorsuch will prove to be the most right-wing Justice in recent history — that is, until the next Trump appointment, should he get one. Thanks to the Senate rules changes, he can now nominate a flagrantly reactionary judge, knowing his choice only needs fifty-one votes to be appointed to the court.

If, as expected, the Republicans add several Senate seats to their current 52-seat total in 2018, then, even should a Democrat win the Presidency in 2020, it’s unlikely she or he will control the Senate. The result? A Democratic/Progressive successor to Trump will be unable to appoint a justice who is deemed “liberal” or left-leaning by the Republicans, who can block any nominee with just 51 votes. More broadly, from last week, a President who faces a Senate controlled by the other party will likely not be allowed to appoint any Supreme Court Justice.

We could well see the Court lose one or even two Justices to age after 2020, to find that those seats cannot be filled, thanks to Republican obstructionism. Merrick Garland will be joined by more Democratic-supported Nominees on the bench of the betrayed.

Worse, the business of SCOTUS will be proceeding apace, as the five or six right-wing Justices overturn one progressive precedent after another. We need to remember: a Court with just seven active Justices can accept cases from the lower courts if as few of four Justices agree. With Gorsuch, the right wingers will control five. The addition of another Conservative should Trump get the chance will give the reactionaries six of nine Justices.

When those of us warned voters in the months leading up to the November election that a victory by Trump would have disastrous consequences for American democracy, this is what we were talking about. Putting SCOTUS in the hands of the conservative faction of the Republican party means that for at least the next twenty to twenty-five years, the great Corporations, the religious right, the rabid America Firsters, and the anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-middle class, anti-gun control, and anti-civil and voting rights forces will have a cooperative Court to ensure that anti-progressive, corporate-friendly, one-percent enriching Republican legislation continues to become the law of the land.

Overturning Citizens United? Not gonna be possible. Climate change regulation and proactive environmental programs? Forget them. Long term economic growth? Forget it. Voting rights? Forget them. Women’s reproductive rights? The appointment of Gorsuch, coupled with the Ryan/Pence agenda, dooms them. The reining in of the Greed Class, who’ve used the law to secure their economic strangle-hold on our country? Not going to happen, not with a Republican-controlled Congress, a malleable, morally spineless President, and a pro-business Court to back them up.

This seemingly small change, the quiet takeover of the Supreme Court, will put approximate 20% of Americans in legal control of the other 80%.for the foreseeable future. Since the dominant 20% will march in lockstep to the drumbeat of the ruling one-tenth of one percent, this control will:

  • Match the economic domination of America already secured by the great corporations and those who own them
  • complete the crushing of individual and lower class rights, furthering the trend we’ve witnessed in most of the Red States for over a decade
  • become the club with which the few who rule American will beat down any group who challenges the ruling elite’s authority.

The murder of those poor Syrian children and their relatives was an inexcusable criminal act. But, tragic as it was, it pales in your Truthteller’s eyes to the murder of American democracy. Someday, somehow, Assad and his Generals and Russian enablers will, I hope, be punished. But the murder of the dream that is America will not be prosecuted and judged in any court, for the Supreme Court, the place where ultimate justice has so many times been obtained by the weak, by minorities, by the outsiders, and by women, is now in the hands of the right wing authoritarians.

Reality Check #5 — It’s not going to get better

The latest surveys all testify to Trump’s growing unpopularity:

  • One third of Americans give his performance a grade of “F”
  • The most credible polls of favorability show him with a rate of from 36 to 40%, meaning nearly two-thirds of Americans have a neutral to negative assessment of him as Commander-in-Chief
  • Surveys show that his core supporters are increasingly dismayed by his ceaseless belligerence, willful ignorance, and continuing managerial incompetence.
Insider surveys suggest most knowledgeable pundits and political professionals expect his popularity to continue to sink, as additional negative revelations about the collusion of the Trump campaign with dark Russian interests are discovered. His endless Twitter war on just about everybody doesn’t bode well either. But long term, meaning in his case, the next three to six months, it’s Trump’s abandonment of his campaign promises that will cause more of his voters to abandon him.

All this negative news has fueled a fresh wave of gloating by Democrats and unceasing TV commentary with a strong flavor of “I told you so”, delivered by otherwise intelligent politicians and party pros who should know better. Sure, the mentally unfit buffoon in the White House is down, but he’s far from out.

Investigations like those underway always take many months to reach a conclusion. Watergate, the most famous of Congressional probes, required over a year to produce results, and only did so due to the more or less accidental discovery of Nixon’s secret audiotapes. In the present case, Trump’s allies control both houses of Congress, and could soon have a hammerlock again on the Supreme Court. The opportunities to hinder or outright block an investigation’s slow progress will be manifold for Trump and his cronies, as evidenced by the crude obstructions of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Nunes over the past two weeks.

Get real, Democrats, liberals, idealistic Bernie backers, and all you millions of women now living in fear for your freedom and health care: do not expect any of the President’s troubles and mistakes to lead to his impeachment this year, even if Congressional (or an independent commission’s) investigators succeed in uncovering prosecutable crimes or high misdemeanors by Trump or his immediate staff.

The truth is we’re stuck with Trump for at least two years. This makes him an ongoing threat to the health and well being of our country. Even if his legislative agenda stalls due to the infighting among Republican factions, Trump can still do serious damage with his Executive Orders, and even more harm when his Cabinet Secretaries use their power to slow or halt the enforcement of established law.

And if the thought of the would-be dictator trampling more of our rights, and attacking the poor and working classes is depressing, never forget that his replacement by Vice President Pence, should that unlikely scenario play out, would be even more of a disaster for the country.

But don’t give up, fellow progressives. Your Truthteller’s bleak outlook isn’t necessarily all bad.

We have roughly eighteen months to prepare for the the 2018 Congressional election, our real chance to resist Trump and his pussy-hating Republican allies. It’s vital we turn out the left and moderate vote in enough districts to take back the House majority and send Ryan and his pals packing. Funding for Democratic candidates is strong. The continuing string of unforced and intentional policy and legislative errors of Trump/Ryan/McConnell will drive more and more voters away from the Republican ranks, or at least encourage them to stay home in November of next year.

So this is the silver lining in an otherwise gray sky for the next year and a half. Simply by doing the job of getting out our voters, we can stop the anti-progressive legislative and policy agenda in its tracks. Even if the right wingers take a few more Senate seats next year, we can still prevent any further erosion of our rights through our control of the House.

Reason enough to roll up our sleeves and do everything possible to encourage grass-roots progressive action in all the House districts where we have a chance to win. And don’t underestimate the odds of retaking control of the Senate, as the Trump “strategy” team makes one miscalculation after another, alienating senatorial voters in the states in play. Many, many Republicans are deeply offended by Trump’s looseness with the truth and his closeness to Russia. It needs to be our mission to make those Senators who condone his behavior and policies pay for their betrayal of the rest of us.

Establishment One; Trump Zero

Trump’s second major defeat

As I write, Trump seems headed for his second goose egg. The only question is which of his agenda items will fail next?

Going by the never-ending media frenzy, Defeat Number Two ought to be his latest attempt to bypass the Constitution with a slightly re-written Muslim, I mean “immigration” ban. But the court battle over the revised executive order is likely to still be unresolved well into the summer months, so the highly probable rejection of his Muslim ban will probably be Trumpfail number three, or even four.

The most satisfying next Trump clown car wreck would of course be the collapse of his much ballyhooed Wall. Satisfying, that is, for the majority of American voters, who voted against him last November. But again, time is already against the moment when we can savor his rage as his Wall disappears into the north Mexican desert sands. Congress is already playing it’s classic delaying game, wrestling how to slow if not altogether stop its wasteful, foolish construction. We all, even Trump, know that the Mexicans won’t pay for it, and we’re quickly learning that the US Congress won’t, either. Trump’s only hope to get a win on this most-repeated campaign promise is to borrow twenty-five billion dollars from his Russian gangsta buddies.

Meaning the end of April vote on funding the government, which has to happen, whether Trump is too busy playing golf at Mar-A-Lago or not, is shaping up to be his second major fail. No, it’s technically not the defeat of one of his absurd agenda items; it’s simply a requirement of the law, and every Administration has to cajole the Congressional factions to go along with raising the debt ceiling (again), or see their entire program placed at risk.

Now, I’m sure the Democrats would love to join with the so-called Freedom Caucus and help shut down this sorry excuse for a national government, but they may not be able to: At his present rate of bumbling, unforced errors, laziness, poor communications, and ill-considered policy fails, there’s a good chance that Trump and his corrupt cronies will succeed in closing the Administration doors before the Dems even get the chance to vote in late April.

Adding these three defeats to his TrumpCare fiasco, I predict a score of four for the combined “establishment” to zero for the Trump/Bannon goon squad going into the fall.

Trumpfollypaloozer votes five, six and seven

His golfing, I mean Presidential scorecard looks to get even worse, as we near the end of his first year in office.

The Budget is another example of an allegedly joint Ryan-Trump plan that is so far from being acceptable to his Party, and to almost all Americans, as to be dead in the taco bowl. If by some miracle Ryan and McConnell can get it passed and on Trump’s fake desk in Mar-A-Lago, they’ll be handing the Democrats a long list of killer issues for the 2018 races.

Tax reform is another likely loosing cause for Trump and Ryan, and another huge win for the middle and poor classes. It’s even more messy: Trump and Ryan now seem sure to lock horns over the bill, meaning it will again be easy for the factions in the Republican Party to take opposite sides over just what “reform” means, and just how much the One Percent and the One-tenth of One Percent will be allowed to steal from the federal government. Their differences on Ryan’s dream proposal have so far been papered over, with most of the details that will be in Ryan’s plan kept in the dirty darkness of the Republican caucus rooms until the last minute.

Leaving us with the ghost-like “infrastructure bill”. At this point, Trump and Ryan are so far apart on what that means, and both are so far apart from anything the Democrats and Freedom Caucus would even vote for it’s safe to say this item is never going to see the light of day this year, or maybe ever, so long as the Republicans rule the Congress.

But can a proposal that never gets a vote be fairly counted as another loss for the oaf in the White House?

Yes, because he promised it as a condition of being elected.

Yes, because the only serious hope for all those “good jobs” Trump has promised, and still promises, would come from a well-constructed national program to rebuild our creaky, crumbling country.

And yes, because Trump’s first and massive defeat counts, even though the chicken-hearted Republicans did not allow a vote to happen.

The likely score, come December?

Establishment forces seven; Trump nothing.

“Originalism” is just another word for “Obstructionism”

As the Senate plods toward the seemingly inevitable appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the SCOTUS, your Truthteller restrains himself from screaming how I predicted this was going to happen if Trump won the election. No point in that sort of drama, now.

Nor would there be any value in belaboring the truth how President Obama and the American people were robbed of a SCOTUS appointment for a solid year by McConnell and his Republican cronies. Yes, the Republicans should have held hearings on Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. But no, it was not inevitable that he would have been confirmed; the Senate (and country) is now so polarized that it’s highly unlikely any Democratic nominee would be approved, even such a middle-of-the-roader like Garland.

Instead, we face the prospect of seeing the conservative Gorsuch fill the chair occupied by Antonin Scalia. Scalia was a terrible Justice from a Progressive point of view. And by several accounts, Gorsuch can be expected to be even more to the right than Scalia, especially in cases involving large corporate plaintiffs and defendants.

None of this is news to any Progressive familiar with the events following President Obama’s nomination of Judge Garland. Nor are we surprised any more by the near-universal praise of Scalia as a paragon among Justices. Nor have we allowed the often-endearing tales of his out-of-Court behavior to make us forget the hard, historical truth: Scalia’s tenure was disastrous for the future of our democracy. Anyone who needs to read the evidence can Google his record.

What is less understood is the debate about Scalia’s judicial “Originalism”, and the sub-arguments of just how “pure” an Originalist he was.

The judicial theory of Constitutional “Originalism” holds that the primary job of the SCOTUS is to ensure that the final decision in cases adheres to a reading of the USCon where the (imagined) “original intent” of the Founders takes precedence over any other decision-criteria of the Justices. In a word, according to the so-called Originalists, all SCOTUS decisions need to remain forever and rigidly in sync with the original intentions of the rich white men who wrote our Constitution.

Yes, I know. The whole notion that this theory of SCOTUS “justice”, and only this theory, is the only acceptable guideline for making final decisions on our laws is, sorry Conservative flyweights, crazy. If I must, I’ll try to explain why in one or, very likely more than one, future post. I don’t look forward to the task, nor should you, dear reader.

What concerns us now, as the confirmation of Gorsuch marches forward, is how this esoteric discussion of what we used to call “Strict Constructionism” has become the favorite topic among the TV talking heads and the pundit class. In a few words, the perceived issues may be summarized as follows:

  • Scalia was the most Originalist Justice in recent decades
  • Gorsuch is (probably) going to take the Scalia chair
  • Will Gorsuch be more, or less of an Origanalist then was Scalia?
Notice: no one seems to be asking the much more important question, namely, to what degree will this new Justice continue the recent SCOTUS trends of ruling against citizens in favor of corporate interests and undermining voting rights?

Instead of debating Gorsuch’s conservatism versus Scalia’s, commentators need to be reminding us that the real impact of “Originalism” is to serve as a further block of the movement toward a more progressive, just, informed society.

Instead of accepting the stupid, even evil idea that the USCon is somehow magically the best guideline for judging public policy going forward, our leading thinkers should be exploring the many ways in which the Constitution is obsolete.

Whose health?

The now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t Official Trumped-up Republican approach to “fixing” health care would be just another Trump policy disaster in the making if it were not so nefarious.

The primary reasons the Repubs have been trying to repeal Obamacare for 7 years are to:

  • Kill the special taxes on the wealthy that were “bundled” with the ACA to pay for it — “repeal” means a huge tax break for the 1%, and a monstrous tax break for the richest 1/10th of the 1%
  • Put the health insurance industry back in control of all non-Medicare health insurance
  • Severely cut Medicaid over time
  • Force hospitals and state governments to pay for the huge increase in medical expenses that will result once Obamacare is dead, and no longer covers some 20 million working class, poor seniors, and single moms.
The Republican alliance of big business, right-wing Christians, and self-styled fiscal conservatives is, as always, mouthing about their faux “principles” while redistributing wealth and income upward.

Do the whites who run things give a crap about the poor, the working poor, students, and seniors? Of course not, and why should they — these impoverished groups will not vote to stop Ryan and Trump and the Koch Brothers.

So long as roughly 45% of voters refuse to go to the polls, and the Democratic Party continues to focus on the demographics of the future, we will have a society where 20% has all the privileges and 80% is stuck with the pain.

Reality Check #4 — Trump isn’t the problem…

…just as he clearly isn’t the solution. But hoping against hope for his impeachment is foolish. Impeachment would see Trump replaced by Pence. People should realize Pence accepted the VP slot in hopes of advancing his rabidly retrogressive agenda of far-right religious measures to turn this country into a White-dominated Christian Nation. The media and Dems are obsessed with Trump/Bannon drama, incompetence, and anti-American Executive Orders, but the real drama and conflict is between the mentally unfit President and his overweight Rasputin whisperer, and the Republican Congress, led by its triumvirate of reactionary co-conspirators: Pence, Ryan, and McConnell.

The Republicans are the real pro-White Nationalist faction, have been for the past forty years and longer; Bannon is just an opportunistic latecomer. With their jumbled, now you see it, now you don’t agenda, Trump/Bannon are standing in the way of the corporate-controlled, rightist Congress. The 2017 Republican legislative juggernaut is assembling, only held up by their healthcare ineptitude. But the crunch is coming, and when it does, Pence, not Trump, will have the backing of Congress.

Will Trump sign the Ryan bills? If he does not, he’ll become billionaire road kill.

As argued in my previous post, Pence and his pro-business, pro-White Nationalist allies will use Trump’s mental instability and inability to govern as grounds for a 25th Amendment-sanctioned coup, and toss him and his reality TV clowns out of power and into the oncoming traffic of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Understand this: the booting of Trump and his odious family and swamp bottom feeding toadies will not be the day America is saved. It will be the day most women, union members, African-Americans, Latinos, working class people of all colors, students, LGBT persons, and especially, climate change activists come to call “the day the U.S. Constitution committed suicide.”

Taking Trump down

There is much discussion among the Democratic and Progressive political pros regarding the best strategy for blocking Trump, and making him even more unpopular. Make Trump toxic enough, the idea goes, and then maybe the Dems can retake control of the House in 2018, even while (probably) losing seats in the Senate.

IMO much of this discussion is absurdly irrelevant. I’ve said so, today, in this post to PoliticalWire.com:

The first priority for the Democrats is not to “take Trump down”. The immediate priority is to help the liberals, progressives, independents and Party democrats solidify the organic Resistance into a permanent foundational force. This cannot be a Democratic Party organization; the Party has lost all credibility with most of those it needs to regain Congressional power.

The Party needs to bring youthful energy into its leadership, and put all its resources into the hundreds of attempts to disrupt and delay a Congress whose leadership and right-wing faction is bent on the destruction of civil rights and the national re-establishment of unbridled White and Corporate Power.

As for Trump, the threat to our country is not a mad would-be King, but the Rasputin who’s whispering chaos in his ear. Sooner (I predict) rather than later Bannon and his anti-Constitutional faction will overstep the end of a bridge already too far.

When that happens, Pence will collect a majority of the Cabinet, cite the 25th Amendment, and assume the Presidency. After a lengthy fight, he will prevail, and this present awful excuse of a President will resign.

Leaving us with an awful 46th President, a religious fanatic who will help Ryan enact his entire agenda, probably before the 2018 Congressional election.

The most vexing question therefore, fellow progressives, is not when or how Trump can be toppled, but what happens when the Toppler-in-Chief takes over America’s destiny.

Reality Check #3 — A President who is not “Presidential”

Time to wake up, all you pundits and media types, all you Liberals, along with the few Republicans who have not yet sold their political soul to the TV President:

Trump is not going to change.

He will not suddenly morph into a reasonable, dignified, conscientious, thoughtful person, not now, not in his first 100 days, not this year, not ever. Reason, dignity, conscientiousness, rational analysis, concern for others, tolerance for the views of all Americans; all these are simply missing from the Trump TV Klown Kit of tricks, pranks, lies and scams, just as they are missing from the Twitterverse, his chosen communications medium.

Commentators who insist that he “must” stop Tweeting, or “must” listen to the National Security professionals, or “must” get real about foreign policy, or “must” act like a responsible adult may as well be asking a pig to blast out perfumed farts. Pompous experts who warn that Trump will lose his supporters unless he starts acting like a President instead of a spoiled rich adolescent are making the error of assuming that Trump cares — not just about his supporters, but about anything or anyone more than roughly two feet away from him at any given moment, anything outside of groping range of his small hands, in short.

Those who chastise him for stupidly alienating foreign leaders and whole countries and entire cultures don’t get that Trump simply doesn’t know how to deal with our allies (or enemies): his ignorance of foreign affairs, international economics, and human history is bigly. And even if he could be convinced the values, experience, opinions and goals of those in other lands were important, he’d be incapable of saying so in any way that didn’t first demean them.

Those who waste breath bewailing his inability to make a cogent sentence, or express a clear policy, even a bad one, miss the key point: he cannot understand any reality that requires explanation in more than a few short sentences at the 6th grade reading level. He doesn’t prefer watching TV to reading heavy reports and serious analyses and, especially, books, because the TV images are bright and shiny, and allow his juvenile attention span to wander: he doesn’t read books because he cannot understand their contents.

But it’s worse than an absence of literacy and mature intelligence. Trump doesn’t like serious books because he has no earthly idea why anyone would bother writing one. He has no respect for authors or scholars or analysts who spend months or years working to understand issues and problems, then more months writing down their suggestions how to deal with them. Why, Trump seems to think, can’t they just go on TV and spit out their ivory tower, fake news crap in three minutes?

If he cannot or will not read, why would he see any reason to learn how to make a meaningful paragraph? Much easier to simply make stuff up and then shout it like a twelve year old schoolyard bully at a hall full of people who are at approximately the same intellectual level. No wonder he cannot make a real speech, and has no respect for those who can.

The problem isn’t his pussy-grasping small hands; it’s his small brain, incapable of grasping large ideas.

Reality Check #2 — The (so-called) President is not intelligent enough to be President — Part Two

In the previous post, your Truthteller outlined several major indicators of Trump’s lack of a functioning intelligence. By “functioning intelligence”, we mean the intelligence needed to perform as an executive. The executive in charge of our national government, namely the President, requires a “functioning intelligence” capable of managing far more than, say, the global enterprise managed, for example, a CEO like Rex Tillerson.

After less than one month of a Trump-misled administration, we have enough data to conclude that Donald Trump is demonstrably incapable of doing the job less than 25% of American citizens selected him for. A few examples:

  • Smart executives pick their deputies, senior managers, and advisors carefully, based on their proven successful experience, and on the size of their brains, not on the size of their bank accounts, or their “loyalty”
  • Smart executives who publish “Executive Orders” or similar directives actually read them before signing them in front of millions of citizens
  • Smart executives arrange “photo ops” after they have fulfilled a promised task, not when they are merely announcing it, and how “great” it will be whenever it’s done — correction, make that if ever it’s done
  • Smart executives don’t promise a vast project costing over ten billion dollars and then, without so much as an admission of inept accounting, quietly double the expected cost to over twenty billion a few weeks later
  • Smart executives don’t deny reality, period.

A smart executive in a public job has to pay special attention to the moods and sensitivities of their followers, along with those needed to build a broad consensus for governing.

Trump fails at these political, public relations tests for executive intelligence even more dismally than he flubs the daily demands of administration:

  • Smart people who hope to succeed in office don’t lie several times a week, nor are their lies so easily proven to be falsehoods
  • Smart people who dream of being re-elected don’t act like a fool, or a charlatan, or a con artist on a daily basis
  • Smart people do not attempt to communicate serious ideas and policies and strategies via social media
  • Smart people who expect to be respected by the people they hope to lead publish their tax returns
  • Smart people who expect to be respected by the people they hope to lead divest themselves of their assets when taking public office
  • Smart people who expect to govern don’t take every opportunity to destroy any possibility of earning a consensus upon which to build a governing coalition
  • Smart people who expect to be respected by the people they hope to lead don’t go out of their way to demean and denigrate whole swathes of people, in effect denying them any right to have any say in their governance.
How, many ask, can Trump continue to be so visibly, demonstrably, unstoppably stupid? How can he expect to lead the country?

The answer, fellow citizens, is he doesn’t. Trump is only interested in leading the 25% or so of Americans who voted for him. The rest of us can either get out of his way, or get rolled over by his destruction-bent mob.

For the present, all we can do is hope the military and security commanders surrounding this bloated disaster of a Chief Executive are prepared to perform an act of supreme patriotism should Trump’s stubby finger ever get close to launching a nuclear first strike, and arrest the mad, mentally dangerous, would-be warmonger on the spot.