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.

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.”

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 One

Now, don’t get me wrong: Donald J Trump may well have enough brains to inherit two hundred million dollars and then hire much smarter real estate experts and accountants to run that huge inheritance into a billion dollar fortune. But that kind of greed-driven record of accumulation does not qualify him to be President.

And, yes, he has enough shrewdness to get out of bad deals by using clever lawyers, and bad investments by declaring bankruptcy, and failed marriages by paying off the spouse after blaming her for all his failures and deficiencies. But that kind of so-called brains do not qualify him to sit in our Oval Office and run the country.

And there’s no denying Trump has the con man’s gift of telling ignorant people what they want to hear, even if he has to invent a fake reality and non-facts and falsified data to convince them. Lying one’s way into the White House takes a certain kind of intelligence, true, but not the kind most folks want sitting next to the nuclear launch codes.

It’s our country, not a sandbox or middle school playground for Trump to strut like an adolescent bully, threatening and vilifying the rest of us. He doesn’t own the real estate title to our White House.

We have every right to expect either of the political parties to put forward men or women with seriously proven intelligence, especially after the disastrous tenure of Bush 43. We’re only interested in a candidate’s brainpower to perform acceptably as President of the United States, not as a “successful” business scamster.

Trump doesn’t have it.

We don’t need an intelligence test or neurological exam to conclude that Trump is borderline stupid. All we need do is list a dozen or so demonstrated proofs of his mental defectiveness.

Let’s begin with the basics:

  • Intelligent people who assume national leadership responsibility read; they don’t watch TV
  • Intelligent people who assume national leadership responsibility prepare themselves by learning the facts about all the major issues confronting the nation
  • Intelligent people who assume national leadership responsibility don’t begin their administration by denying an entire globe-full of facts and truths, from climate change to economic growth to public safety
  • Intelligent people who assume national leadership responsibility do not give credence to far-right racist, anti-feminist, anti-gay conspiracy theories — and no, sorry Bannon, there are not any such outrageous conspiracies on the left.
and, possibly most basic of all:

  • Intelligent people who assume national leadership responsibility and expect to be taken seriously as leaders do not refer to themselves in the third person when making public comments or announcements.
When Trump goes on TV and says stuff like “Trump will never let you down”, or “Trump doesn’t settle lawsuits”, a psychologist might say he is projecting a kind of “imaginary self”, one that he hopes we’ll like and respect and follow with our mouths shut. Then, if our reaction is (in his distorted, paranoid view) “negative”, he can pretend that that imaginary Trump he talked about was just a figment of his imagination, and ignore what claims he allegedly made.

There’s much, much more evidence of Trump’s lack of intellectual competence and maturity to be our President. We’ll tackle it in a follow-up post.

Assuming we’re all still here to share it.

Reality Check #1 — Trump has no interest in uniting the people

Yes, I know: it was very likely the worst Inaugural Speech in American history. Sure, having a bunch of warplanes fly over was doubtless a case of Putin envy. And I agree: failing to acknowledge Clinton, or the fact she got nearly three million more votes than he did was an act of arrogance that angered the heavens so much they decided to rain on his militaristic parade.

It was a speech that repeated the same childish pap that convinced enough “forgotten Americans” in the key swing states to vote for him.  A speech to unify our people it was not; a speech that reaffirmed the basic shallowness and thoughtlessness and jingoistic nationalism of Trump and his minions it was. A harbinger of hateful, arrogant, divisive, dumb things to come.

Those who yammer on and on about the need for Trump to stop being Trump and unite the country are missing the two most fundamental truths of all: Trump doesn’t care what anyone outside his Brain Mistrust thinks, and Trump is not trying to unify the country.

His closest advisers are shrewd manipulators, people who understand the voting blocs and numbers. Kellyanne Con, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner understand Trump’s shaky position. They can see that the more people know about Trump, the more most of those people will dislike him.

During the election, Trump could afford alienating people, because Clinton alienated them more. She’s no longer available as a convenient punching dummy, so his Brain Mistrust knows he needs to change his messaging to reassure his core supporters and keep them in the fold. His falling favorability numbers show that he’s dangerously close to the dreaded 30% favorability level, where sixty to seventy percent of the people dislike him and his Tweets, his lies, and his stunning ignorance of the world. At that historically low level, many Republicans in the House and Senate will balk at simply being voting bots for Ryan and McConnell.

So, you would think, with his “popularity”, such as it was, sinking fast, his three principal “strategic advisers” would be telling him to get serious about bringing the country together. Let’s give them the credit for being smart: for all we know they may well be trying to persuade Agent Orange to give the people something to be proud of now, not just wispy promises of a “great” future, so they will stop looking backward to a real President.

Personally, I’m betting the three Trump whisperers are doing their best to get His Hairship under control. And I’m betting he’s stamping his foot and hissing that all he needs to give them is a steady diet of more circuses, assurances that the promised cheap bread is on its way, and lots of progressive programs to crucify.

He is right, you know. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Franco, and the Jacobins all reached their goal of national dictatorship with well under 20% support of their people.

Am I saying Trump wants to be Dictator? No one knows, since he is as much a genius at saying nothing as doing nothing. But it doesn’t matter, since “Commander-in-Chief” is an even more intimidating title than “Dictator”. To go with the title and his megalomania, he has the Army, The Justice Department, and lots of toady Republican governors to call out their National Guard as the anti-Trump protests spread. Soon, he’ll have a right-wing Supreme Court to make his planned assault on free speech and the Constitution “legal”.

The important point is that Trump has learned enough political history from his strongman heroes to understand that “divide and conquer” really works. And he has the survival instincts of a paranoid bully and opportunist. He’s not interested in uniting all the diverse elements of the country because he knows that, if he did, they’d be united against him.