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Lincoln He Is Not

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

In 1864 Abraham Lincoln won a second term that had looked unlikely a year earlier because the Civil War was not going well for the Union, but Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg turned the tide, and Sherman’s triumph in the Battle of Atlanta sealed the deal.  Lincoln won with 55% of the popular vote and an Electoral College margin of 212-21.  Trump likes to compare himself to Lincoln and even claims to have done as much for black Americans as Honest Abe, maybe even more, but in this election his chances are a negative mirror image of Lincoln’s.  A year ago the president was counting on the strong economy Obama left him and a booming stock market to get re-elected, but then COVID-19 struck, killing over 225,000 Americans and causing over 10 million in job losses to date, representing his Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and this week the stock market started tanking, copying the Battle of Atlanta.  As a result Trump is campaigning in places he won before and has to hold now but where he doesn’t want to be, as he told the voters in Erie, Pennsylvania, while Biden is campaigning to expand the electoral map.

When Trump has died, his tombstone should say ‘Here lays Donald J. Trump, he’s doing a great job,’ because those are the words the president has uttered more than any others during the last four years.  That job apparently didn’t include protecting Americans against the corona virus, because the White House is now semi-officially pursuing a strategy of herd-immunity that will kill millions of elderly Americans unless a vaccine becomes available soon, and Trump is still making fun of wearing masks, with social distancing the only protection against getting infected.  Because spreading the virus is an essential part of this strategy the Trump campaign is staging a superspreader tour with rallies in places where the pandemic is spiking and with very few masks and no social distancing.  Research now shows strong and significant correlations between those rallies and local breakouts of COVID cases, with a national growth of 35% in the last two weeks.  In spite of these facts the president keeps claiming that the US is turning the corner and blames the press for the ‘fake news‘ about COVID, COVID, COVID that doesn’t fit in his alternate reality.

During a Sunday morning show Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stumbled upon the truth when he said ‘we cannot control the virus,’ waving a white flag while strangely accusing Biden of surrendering because Biden wore a white mask.  Since then the Trump campaign has been in damage control mode, with the president claiming that COVID will be controlled and that masks are handed out and being worn at his rallies.  Reporters checked his claims and found that very few masks are handed out and that they’re only consistently worn in Trump’s immediate environment. In the second debate with Biden the president said ‘we’ll have to live with the virus,’ and five members of Mike Pence’s staff proved his point by becoming infected, suggesting that eventually the only place in the country with herd immunity will be the White House.  Pence, who still heads the Corona Task Force, meanwhile continues to campaign against CDC rules.    

After a cranky Trump walked out of a ’60 Minutes’ interview because Lesley Stahl asked him ‘tough questions’ the White House press secretary gave Stahl a pile of documents she claimed were the president’s health care plan, but that according to Lesley made no sense whatsoever.  Trump’s misinformation campaign continued in Wisconsin, a state he is almost certainly going to lose, where he produced 131 falsehoods during a 90 minute speech, indicating that he’s back in prime form.  In a win for the president the Supreme Court, where Trump’s and McConnell’s wench Amy Coney Barrett took the ninth seat yesterday, ruled that Wisconsin cannot count any votes after election day, possibly disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.  It goes to show how fearful the president and his band are of the electorate this year.

In a temporary setback for Trump a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department cannot represent him in de defamation case of a woman who claims he raped her, but this case will undoubtedly end up in the Supreme Court where Justice Barrett will side with the rapist.  On Fox & Friends Jared Kushner once more illustrated why the money his father spent to get him into Harvard in spite of mediocre grades was wasted when he blurted out that the president ‘cannot want black Americans to be successful more than they want to be successful,’ effectively blaming the black community for its own problems after slavery, Jim Crow, systematic voter suppression and a myriad of forms of discrimination. 

 

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Running against Dr. Fauci

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

The last couple of days Trump has served up a primer for emerging dictators.  First he joined the chant ’lock her up’ for the Michigan governor who had just escaped being kidnapped and most likely killed by domestic terrorists, expanding it to ‘lock them all up’ to include Joe and Hunter Biden, whom he called criminals. When asked by a reporter exactly what crime they might have committed the president yelled ‘you’re a criminal too, for not reporting about it.’  That reporting would have been about a cockamamie NY Post story involving Hunter’s broken laptop that allegedly showed improper contact between his father and Ukrainians.  This fable almost certainly originated with a Russian intelligence agent, who used Rudy Giuliani to get it to the US media, and was so suspect that the NY Post reporter would not sign his name to it.  Trump had been warned by US intelligence agencies that the Russians were using Hizzoner to peddle horseshit to the Oval Office, but ignored the warning because he wanted the shit. After the Ukraine story failed a similar China story popped up, but by then the source, Giuliani, had become totally unbelievable.     

Although the president keeps spewing disparaging remarks about Biden and demands that he be indicted it appears that he really is running against those who maintain that COVID-19 is a dangerous threat, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and 99.9% of medical professionals.  In spite of an alarming increase in the number of COVID cases Trump maintains that the US is ‘turning the corner’ and continues with a super-spreader tour that takes him to some of the most affected parts of the country.  Growing more aggressive by the day the president called Dr. Fauci ‘a disaster’ and referred to the medical community as ‘idiots.’  His opinion is formed by MRI-expert Scott Atlas, who is not bothered by any knowledge about infectious diseases and whispers dangerous nonsense in Trump’s ear, like that only 25% of the population needs to be infected to achieve ‘herd immunity’ and that 85% of the people who wear masks get infected, information that the president gladly repeats.  Since it is clear that there won’t be a vaccine before the upcoming election the president’s strongest argument for his approach is that people are tired of the virus, although most Americans seem not to be tired of living.  

Trump claims that he doesn’t remember if he was tested for COVID before the first debate with Joe Biden, and instead of a second, virtual, debate there were two competing town halls where a nervous president made the usual ass of himself while Biden, who attracted more viewers, did quite well.  At this point it is not even certain that Trump is no longer infectious, and the Biden campaign will demand irrefutable proof before they let the third debate on Thursday proceed.  Certain is that during the two minutes the participants have to respond to a first question the microphone of their opponent will be shut off, so that the president cannot repeat his disruptive behavior of the last debate.  The Trump campaign first objected to this new rule but eventually figured that he really needs the air time.

Initially the president also refused to give financial assistance to California to deal with the devastating effect of the wildfires, but a public outcry and one call from the governor made him change his mind.  A second stimulus package has been hanging in the balance until now, because Trump didn’t want to pay for testing, but negotiations are ongoing, although McConnell won’t let anything pass the Senate. It was revealed that the 2020 budget deficit was $3.1 trillion, and that the national debt grew to $21 trillion.  In his town hall the president confirmed that he owes someone $400 million in debt, with a personal guarantee that indicates a lack of assets, but he called it ‘peanuts’ and started bragging about his formidable wealth.

To his campaign routine Trump has added a silly dance to the tune of ‘YMCA,’ one of the few songs he is allowed to play at his rallies.  Although he is belligerent he also acknowledges the chance that he’ll lose the election, telling states that he’ll ‘never come back’ if he doesn’t win there and even contemplating leaving the US altogether.  Pundits observe that although in 2016 Trump had a relatively coherent economic message and showed some discipline in the last couple of weeks before the election this time his only message is one of hatred and rage, delivered by an unhinged candidate who doesn’t have anything else left in the tank.


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Superman and -spreader

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On Saturday Trump resumed his campaigning with a small event on the South Lawn where he spoke for 18 minutes with a raspy voice, a band aid from a recent IV, probably for the steroid he’s taking, on his right hand.  Until the election the president wants to hold at least one rally every day, because his campaign is almost broke and it’s one way for him to get free TV coverage.  Before his next rally in Florida on Monday, where very few in the large crowd wore masks and there was no social distancing, Trump’s physician issued the statement that he had tested negative twice on consecutive days and was no longer contagious.  The president took that one step further and declared himself ‘maybe immune,’ still sounding hoarse and threatening to kiss every man and ‘beautiful’ woman in the crowd.  According to experts the tests Trump took, of which the dates were not mentioned in the statement, are cheap and unreliable because they show a high percentage of false negative results.  The only explanation why an available much more accurate test was not used is that the president is still spreading the virus and the tests are meant to cover that up.

Over the weekend the news broke that when he left the hospital Trump had wanted to wear a Superman tee shirt under his dress shirt, first looking frail but then ripping his shirt off.  He was persuaded not to do that, probably because he didn’t look all that super to begin with, but it is a sign of how desperate he is becoming with Biden’s lead in the polls growing every day.  Another sign of desperation was his demand that Obama, Biden and yes, Hillary Clinton, be arrested and indicted, although John Durham’s investigation of ‘Obamagate’ is unlikely to yield any results.  AG Barr’s inaction earned him the wrath of the president, who was also angry with Mike Pompeo for not  producing Hillary’s emails although he is at the State Department, which made Pompeo promise to try and find them before the election.  Trump was happier with VP Pence, who during the vice-presidential debate refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power.  The steroid is making the president more erratic than normal, so first he canceled all stimulus negotiations, then he wanted a large stimulus, and finally he demanded a $1.8 trillion stimulus that he could allocate.

Democrats don’t want to give Trump money that he can distribute at his discretion three weeks before the election and most Republicans don’t want a second stimulus at all, so possibly nothing will happen until January, leaving the unemployed and small business owners suffering.  Equally impulsive was the president’s decision to cancel the second debate with Biden after the format had been changed into virtual because of his COVID infection, denying himself an audience of eighty million, although it’s quite possible that Trump benefits more from not being heard and seen than from public exposure. The president doesn’t feel that way and wants to campaign like it’s still 2016 in spite of COVID, last night in Pennsylvania.

On the day that the plan of a white terrorist group to kidnap and possibly kill the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, was revealed Trump attacked the governor for not having profusely thanked him for the FBI’s preventing the plot.  At a court hearing yesterday FBI agents testified that kidnapping the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, had been discussed by the same group, which goes to show how dangerous the president’s calling for ‘liberating’ states and undermining ‘Democrat’ authorities has become, with gangs of heavily armed hoodlums standing by to act upon any squeek from Trump that they can interpret as a call to arms.

This week the New York Times revealed how the Trump family developed routines to transfer millions of government dollars into its private coffers and built a network of national and international ‘customers’ of its businesses who only pay the Trump Organization because they expect some kind of benefit only the White House can provide.  Having rivals arrested and indicted on fake charges and illegally enriching oneself is what autocrats like Putin excel at, and in what hopefully are the last convulsions of his corrupt presidency Trump now operates on that level.

 

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Trump’s Biggest Gamble

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

On September 3rd The Atlantic published an article revealing that Trump had called US marines who died in France in WWI ‘losers’ and American veterans ‘suckers.’  We have since learned that already in February the president told Bob Woodward that COVID is a serious threat, although he kept playing it down for months.  Then we found out that most of the last twenty years Trump didn’t pay taxes, and during each of his first two years in the White House paid exactly $750, and finally the president called upon white supremacists to ‘stand by’ during his first debate with Joe Biden.  There were enough scandals in one month to fill a whole presidency, but last week the president tested positive for COVID and most of those scandals now seem to have been forgotten.  At a presser Trump’s physician initially said that his patient tested positive on Wednesday September 30th, but he had to make that 36 hours later because on that day the president traveled to Minnesota for a rally and the next day to New Jersey for a fundraiser.  From Trump’s being fatigued after the rally and lethargic at the fundraiser observers derive that he had already been infected then.

The announcement was the beginning of a shadow play during which the president’s doctors gradually lost all credibility.  On Friday October 2nd it became clear that Trump had been given oxygen at least twice and was being treated with a mix of antiviral drugs – including a steroid – that no other patient has ever been treated with.  That evening he was transported to Walter Reed hospital where on Sunday a video was produced with the president saying that he was feeling much better, although his coughing had clearly been edited out.  Sunday evening he went on a joy ride to great well wishers outside the hospital, exposing two secret service agents to his COVID droplets, and Monday morning Trump defecated with a tweetstorm of propaganda, after which he apparently demanded to be released.  His doctors, whose Commander in Chief he is, complied, again giving a presser where information about the president’s condition was completely obfuscated, except for the statement that he’s not out of the woods yet.  Trump seems to think differently, because upon his arrival at the White House he announced that he would soon be back on the campaign trail.

As things stand now, nobody knows exactly how the president is doing.  A Tuesday statement from his doctors says that he has ‘not reported any symptoms,’ but taking Trump’s word for anything is dimwitted, to put it mildly.  According to Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonary critical care physician, the cocktail of medications Trump consumes can only point at COVID pneumonia, which comes with debris in the lungs and difficulty breathing, something the president was clearly experiencing upon his return from Walter Reed.  Many patients show improvement after two or three days of treatment but relapse later, so Trump’s critical time is still coming.  He should be lying low, but cannot as his re-election chances slip away.

It’s obvious how the president will be campaigning from now on.  He’ll say that COVID is a bitch but he has shown that it can be beaten, so there is no reason for the masks, the lockdowns, the quarantining and the contact tracing.  All that one needs is a helicopter and immediate access to the best healthcare in the world.  In a video that was shot after he came back to the petri dish that the White House has become Trump urged Americans not be ‘dominated by the virus and not to be afraid of it.’  That message alone will kill thousands who don’t have access to experimental medications and Marine One, but as always the president only cares about himself.

People who have experience with steroid treatments know that they can cause manic episodes that make patients believe they’re brilliant and create heavy mood swings, while they also temporarily make them feel physically stronger.  In his tweets and statements Trump is clearly displaying these symptoms, and his decision to stop negotiating further COVID relief has all the trademarks. Even if his lungs turn out to be healthy he’ll come crashing down from his steroid high at some point and there is no telling how hard he’ll fall.  The nuclear codes should have been removed by then.

 

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A Billion Dollar Terrorist

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

So Donald Trump is a billionaire after all, but only in debt.  The New York Times’ reporting about the president’s tax returns shows that he owes $1.1 billion in loans and mortgages, all coming due in the next five years, and it explains why Trump cannot afford not to be president anymore.  Suddenly it makes sense why Trump downplayed the COVID pandemic and pushed hard for schools to reopen, so that parents can go back to work, why the White House edited CDC documents, and why the president brought in Dr. Scott Atlas, who promotes herd immunity that would kill millions but keep the economy functioning.  Trump needs money, and since his assets are in real estate, hotels and golf courses, businesses that cannot operate on-line, his pipe dream is a ‘miraculously strong’ third quarter, followed by an even stronger fourth, as unlikely as that is to occur.  Part of his problem is that he believes in his self-created myth of being a successful businessman, but properties that have been losing money for years won’t suddenly turn a profit, not even with a strong economy, and as much as the president may fantasize about revenues most of his assets remain negative.       

If Trump cannot make money the old-fashioned way, running successful businesses – something he has never done in his life – the presidency offers him a lifeline.  As long as he is in the White House banks and other lenders won’t foreclose on him, and foreign countries will consider him a good investment as long as he actively or passively wields US power in their interest.  The tax returns do not divulge the amount of foreign money already planted in the Trump Organization, legally or illegally, but going by Trump’s sons’ past statements the Russian contribution alone is enormous.  Hence the president’s refusal to accept the outcome of the election and to guarantee a peaceful transition of power if he loses.  He will fight tooth and nail to hold on to the Oval Office, assisted by the criminal mastermind who runs the Department of Justice.  Upcoming election litigation is the reason why an ultra-conservative Justice must be confirmed before November 3rd, and as much as getting rid of the ACA and taking health care away from 23 million Americans would be a nice side effect, it is not the primary reason why Amy Coney Barrett was nominated a week after RBG’S passing.

In Tuesday night’s ‘debate’ Trump made it perfectly clear that he not only is sabotaging the election, but also that he’ll completely disturb the process leading up to it. He knows that he’s losing, with Biden’s poll numbers in most battleground states already well outside of the margin of error, and realizes that he cannot expand his base. So his only option is to try and keep Democratic voters away from the polls or the mailboxes, and if that doesn’t work, discredit and challenge the election results in a drawn out court battle. The best he can hope for is that we’ll never know who won.

If Putin put a lot of money in Trump’s pockets it was well spent. All of his career the Russian leader has tried to undermine American democracy, but until Trump he didn’t have the tool to do it. And Trump’s dire financial situation gives him, or any other foreign despot, more options. He can buy Trump’s debt, and hold it as leverage over the president, or he can offer to pay off the debt when it’s due in return for certain favors. Either way, the president would be a foreign asset as long as he’s in the White House.

The scariest part of the debate was when Trump failed to disavow white supremacists, according to the FBI the number one domestic terror threat, even asking for the name of a specific group – as if it makes a difference – and then telling the ‘Proud Boys’ to stand by. Together with Don Trump Jr.’s calling for ‘an army’ to show up on November 3rd we witnessed the US President threatening with a terrorist attack on the election, let that sink in.

 

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