From Where I’m Sitting
In keeping with our Short-Attention-Span President, I have been up and about since about 7:40 a.m. (it’s Saturday, March 4th, now 9:22 a.m.), watching, listening to, & reading the news. It’s hard to escape the specter of Donald Trump. I don’t have a lot to say --- just some observations --- and I can be just as random and scattershot as the ADHD-in-Chief! This is Day 45 of the Trump administration and here’s what it looks like from where I'm sitting.
#1. The continued Russia fiasco.
Now we find that someone named J.D. Gordon, another Trump “associate” (a member of his national security team) met with Russian Ambassador Kislyak at the Republican Convention in Cleveland in July. Mr. Gordon was apparently in Cleveland to insure the Republican Party Platform did not use “hawkish language on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.” (NY Times, March 4). There has even been an unsubstantiated charge of a "quid pro quo" (no "hawkish language" and Hillary gets hacked --- which did happen within a week of the platform's publication --- I'm just sayin') The Ukraine, of course, is where the since departed Paul Manafort has extensive business ties, particularly with its autocratic leaders. We have also learned that Jason Greenblatt, a White House special representative for international relations, met with the chief rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar, an ally of Vladimir Putin, last summer. Pile this on top of Michael Kelly and Jeff Sessions --- and who knows what else is to come --- and we have the makings of a great scandal or a huge tempest in a teapot.
2. Twitter Rant # ???? .
So, we woke up this morning to Six, yup, count’m, SIX “tweets” from the Thumb-in-Chief. And, as usual, there were claims with made no concrete evidence provided. Trump accused Obama of wiretapping his phone and likened it to “McCarthyism.” At one point he spelled tap incorrectly (“tapp”). This was on the heels of yesterday’s misspelling of “hereby” (it took THREE tries to get it correctly --- “hear by,” “hearby” and, finally, “hereby”) --- which was part of a Tweet that was, quite ironically, about America’s failing education system. And while we’re on that topic . . .
3. Has this guy read the Constitution – or American History?
There are several issues here. First, the school that Trump and Betsy DeVos visited yesterday was St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Florida. They were there to promote Florida’s “tax credit/voucher” system that allows businesses, in particular, to write off donations to “scholarship” programs that provide families with money to help finance private/parochial school tuition payments. Apparently 291 of St. Andrew’s 340 K-8 students receive such assistance. This is an interesting two-step around the First Amendment. Apparently “tax credits” --- a state financial benefit --- do not count as “public funding” for a parochial/religious school, which would clearly violate the First Amendment. I am not comfortable seeing any government-sponsored benefit ($$$) going to a private/parochial institution that has students, when asked “What are our goals?,” respond with “College and heaven.” (NY Times, March 4, 2017). This is not just because I am an atheist; it is because the First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” It would seem any government-sponsored monies (or “tax credits”) going to a church-sponsored endeavor (school) is a violation of the First Amendment.
What should be more concerning to all of us is Trump's “management style,” which is also counter Constitutional and totally ahistorical. From the earliest days of this Republic, starting with George Washington, the President has appointed Cabinet members who are empowered to run the various Departments of the Federal government. We also have many examples of Cabinet members who do not necessarily agree with one another(Hamilton/Jefferson) --- or even with the President. Most recently, Obama appointed General Robert Gates, a Republican and a former member of the Bush Cabinet, his Defense Secretary. We are seeing the Trump administration micro-manage various Department Secretaries’ appointments. According to the March 4th NY Times editorial page, Ben Carson’s first HUD appointment, senior adviser Shermichael Singleton, was “booted for writing critically about Mr. Trump during the campaign. He was replaced by a Trump Organization employee Mr. Carson doesn’t know.” To date, Trump has filled less than three-dozen of 1000 officials needed to run the federal government. Because of Trump’s need for unquestioned loyalty and his reliance on a family-oriented inner circle, people like Rex Tillerson (our “gone missing” Secretary of State) are on the outside looking in --- as his Department’s proposed budget is slashed by 37%. What would that mean to the 70,000 State Department employees around the world? And to United States diplomacy? (See Roger Cohen's NY Times op-ed) This President, with no sense of history and a virulent “American First” chief adviser in Bannon, is rolling our foreign policy back to the 18th Century, when Washington warned about “entangling alliances” (with good reason in 1796 --- not at all practical in 2017).
We are only 45 days in. The “best” (?) is yet to come.
Don’t be distracted. Don’t get fooled.