Media (402)


Ignorance and Disinformation

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA) 

As long as he’s been president political observers have wondered how Trump would function in a crisis situation.  There were some opportunities to observe him in international conflicts, but he fell in love with Kim Jong-un and backed away from a military confrontation with Iran, with the latter making more sense than the former.  Now there is the corona-virus crisis, and the nation has a front row seat to watch the president rise to the occasion.  Initially Trump called COVID-19 ‘a new hoax,’ of which the purpose was to bring the president down, and spoke of the ‘great job’ his government had done preparing for all eventualities.  It soon turned out, however, that that job had consisted of cutting 80% of the Centers for Disease Control’s funding for a global disease outbreak and shutting down the global health security unit of the National Security Council.  Then Trump suggested that the virus might ‘miraculously’ disappear, but just in case it wouldn’t he put vice president Pence in charge of managing the government’s response.  Pence immediately told the CDC to stop issuing statements and pulled Dr. Anthony Fauci, its utmost expert, off the Sunday morning shows.

The message Pence sent to the CDC was essentially ‘stop informing the public,’ but because of the world-wide spreading of the virus  the White House could not remain silent, and since neither Trump nor Pence had anything sensible to say about the threat to the health of the US population it was inevitable that Fauci would re-emerge as a spokesperson.  What followed were bizarre moments, for instance when Fauci, flanked by the president and his VP, used the word ‘pandemic,’ and you could see Trump think ‘there goes the stock market’ while his face turned from orange to red and he was clearly enraged.  At another occasion Trump, again more concerned about the markets than anything else, tried to assure the American people that there would be a vaccine ‘relatively soon,’ followed by Fauci’s explaining the process of developing a vaccine and estimating that it would take a year to a year and a half before a vaccine would be available.  That was after a meeting with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry where the president first made clear that he didn’t know what a vaccine is and then asked if the flu vaccine would work in this case.

Trump preferably surrounds himself with staffers like his new National Security Advisor who don’t know much about the area they’re responsible for, which allows him to ramble without being contradicted, and he is therefore very uncomfortable in meetings with people who actually know what they’re talking about.  True to form he shared with representatives of the airline industry his optimistic view that Americans would fly less and stay in the country more to go shopping here and not elsewhere, probably making his audience worry about their own stock options.

The biggest blunder made so far was the administration’s initial inability to produce a diagnostic test kit for the virus, which put the US far behind other countries.  The CDC botched its first attempt to produce a reliable kit, and today it was announced that the deadline for its production would not be met.  According to Trump a decision by Barack Obama had delayed the approval of tests by the Food & Drug Administration, but health experts have no idea what that decision might have been.

Meanwhile the president’s attempts to misinform the public continue.  Last night on ‘Hannity’ he said that he ‘had a hunch’ that most COVID-19 patients have very mild or no symptoms and that some of them even go to work, and that therefore the World Health Organization’s fatality rate of 3.4% is too high.  The suggestion that patients could go to work is about the most dangerous message that can be sent right now.


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A Tale of Two Crises

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Before his departure to India Trump continued his cleansing of the security services with the removal of Deputy National Security Advisor Victoria Coates, although the White House denied that she was suspected of being ‘Anonymous.’  Devin Nunes’s henchman Kashyan Patel, who played a prominent role in smearing the Mueller probe, was hired as advisor to Richard Grenell, the new acting DNI, and ‘Johnny’ McEntee, charged with purging the administration of ‘bad people,’ is receiving help from Clarence Thomas’s wife Ginni, one of the leaders of the ultra-conservative ‘Groundswell’ group.   The NSC process has already degenerated to the point where NSA Robert O’Brien reads the president’s tweets aloud at the beginning of meetings, so that the council’s advice can be tailored to what Trump wants to hear.  When asked about the removal of Joseph Maguire as acting DNI the president lied that Maguire had not been pushed out but that his term would have ended on March 11th anyway.  Maguire could of course have been the permanent appointee, but was not rewarded for keeping the whistleblower complaint away from Congress.

Trump was furious when the news broke that Russia is helping both him and Bernie Sanders in the 2020 election.  He still sees every mention of Russian support as an attempt to delegitimize his 2016 victory and claimed that he was never told that Russia is interfering again on his behalf, suggesting that Adam Schiff leaked the information.  The president stated emphatically that he neither got nor ever wants any help from Russia, but simultaneously used the opportunity to say that ‘of course Putin wants Bernie, because Bernie honeymooned in the Soviet Union.’  And then it was off to India, where the Trumps visited the Taj Mahal, namesake of the Atlantic City casino Trump ran into the ground in spite of frequent injections of money from his father.  At a presser the president called a rally in the world’s largest cricket stadium that seats 125,000 ‘the biggest event India has ever seen,’ apparently unaware that Dwight Eisenhower once drew a crowd of one million.  According to reporters, after Trump’s speech one third of the attendees had left the stadium, and after India’s president Modi had spoken only one third was still there.

Back in the US the president had to deal with the crisis caused by the corona-virus, misspelled as ‘carona-virus’ by him in a tweet.  Trump was furious with the Centers for Disease Control because of the virus’s effect on the stock market, for which he also blamed the media, the Democrats and in particular Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.  At a press conference he claimed that the risk to the US was minimal because of ‘great early decisions’ – which didn’t include moving money away from CDC for ‘the wall’ – and professed his ignorance with regards to annual flue deaths.

Incorrectly maintaining that there are only 15 corona patients in the US, who are all getting better,  Trump put Mike Pence in charge of the effort to contain the virus, to the surprise of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who had not been informed.  According to the president Pence has a stellar record managing health crises as Governor of Indiana, although we were soon reminded that he caused the spread of HIV/Aids because he had ‘to pray on’ a containment strategy.

The presser, for once in the White House room reserved for such occasions, produced a bizarre tale of two crises.  On the one hand there were Trump and Pence, displaying a ‘no big deal, we have it under control’ attitude, and on the other multiple CDC experts who warned that a spread of the virus is inevitable.  Of course the latter are not as interested in the stock market as the president.

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Trump’s Law Enforcement

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

With his impeachment trial over Trump is reorganizing his troops and updating his weaponry.  After kicking the Vindmans out of the White House and Sondland out of Brussels he removed the Undersecretary for Policy, John Rood, who had testified in Congress that Ukraine met the standards for military aid, from the Pentagon.  And the president claims that he knows who under the pseudonym ‘Anonymous’ wrote a book about White House insider attempts to thwart his agenda, but so far nobody has been identified.  Choosing loyalty over competence Trump appointed Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany, as acting Director of National Intelligence.  Grenell has no intelligence background and will keep doing his ambassadorship on the side, but he is close to Don Jr. and apparently that qualifies him sufficiently.  The president also chose his former body man John McEntee, in the West Wing simply known as ‘Johnny,’ to head the Presidential Personnel Office, and he brought former Communications Director Hope Hicks, who is slated to become the 4th Mrs. Trump if that position becomes available again, back from exile.

After Attorney General Barr, who is facing an insurrection at the Justice Department, said in an interview that the president’s tweets about pending cases make it impossible for him to do his job, Trump agreed.  Barr’s implicit message that he’s happy to do the president’s dirty work but can only do it in the dark, however, fell on deaf ears with Trump, who told the White House press corps that he has every right to interfere because he is the chief law enforcement officer in the country.  Illustrating what he believes to be his authority the president then attacked the judge and the jury forewoman in Roger Stone’s case and threatened to sue the four prosecutors who withdrew from the case when Barr reduced their sentencing recommendation.  And Trump was only getting started.  Without the customary Department of Justice review process and in fact on a whim he granted clemency to the disgraced ex-Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who was doing 14 years for trying to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after Obama had been elected president.  A FOX News appearance by Blagojevich’s wife had gotten her husband off the hook.

Having commuted the sentence of Blagojevich, who immediately upon being set free declared himself a ‘Trumpocrat,’ Trump pardoned Bernard Kerik, a former NYPD Commissioner under Rudy Giuliani, who was convicted for tax fraud and is now a FOX News commentator.  Pardons were also granted to Michael Milken, the former ‘junk bond’ king who had done 2 years for securities fraud and conspiracy, Edward DeBartolo, the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers, convicted for concealing an extortion plot, and three other male white collar criminals.

Next to seven men Trump also pardoned or commuted the sentences of four women, respectively convicted for storing and distributing drugs, Medicare fraud and participating in a stolen vehicle ring.  Pundits see a relationship between the president’s earlier pardoning of Scooter Libby and the commutation of Blagojevich’s sentence, because both had been prosecuted by Pat Fitzgerald, the former US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and a friend of James Comey.

Trump’s commutation and pardoning spree is widely seen as an attempt to prepare the American electorate for the upcoming pardons of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and possibly also Paul Manafort.  Today Stone was sentenced to 40 months in jail for his role in the Russian plot to get Trump elected in 2016, and the president cannot let him rot in the slammer and risk that Stone starts singing about it.

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Rule of Law No More

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

After his acquittal in the impeachment trial Trump went into full vengeance mode.  Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and his brother Yevgeny, a lawyer who had nothing to do with the Ukraine case, were removed from their positions with the National Security Council and perv-walked out of the White House.  The fact that Alex had obeyed a congressional subpoena – and thus disobeyed a presidential order – only made things worse for Trump, who insisted that the Pentagon should investigate him.  Gordon Sondland was next, and after his removal as US Ambassador to the EU everybody who testified to the House Intelligence Committee had retired, been fired or left their positions.  A final victim, at least for now, was a female Pentagon employee who had questioned the withholding of money for Ukraine and whose nomination for comptroller was withdrawn.  At a rally in New Hampshire the president, with his whole mob family minus Melania present, read Al Wilson’s ‘The Snake’ to discredit asylum seekers, confused Concord NH with Concord Mass,  called for Obama’s impeachment and engaged in some virtual incest with his daughter Ivanka.

When prosecutors, following guidelines, recommended a 7-9 year sentence for Roger Stone for lying to and obstruction of Congress and witness tampering in the Russia investigation, Trump tweeted furiously that the sentence would be a miscarriage of justice, and within a few hours the Department of Justice, apparently after an intervention by Attorney General Barr, withdrew the recommendation, just like it had earlier reduced the recommendation for Michael Flynn from a prison term to probation.   The president declared that he never communicated with Barr about the recommendation, which may very well have raised his number of lies to over 17,000.  In addition to interfering in Stone’s case Barr issued a new policy that all politically sensitive investigations have to be approved by him.  All four prosecutors who had been involved in the Stone case quit the case in protest, and one of them resigned from DOJ altogether.  A new victim of Trump’s wrath was the DC District Attorney who oversaw the Manafort, Flynn and Stone cases and had resigned to take a top position with the Treasury Department that was subsequently denied to her.

Still not able to let go the president told reporters that prosecutors should apologize to Stone, who will be sentenced next week.  When asked if he would pardon Stone Trump said that he didn’t want to talk about that now, but since the judge has full discretion with regards to the sentence and she and Stone have duked it out quite a bit during the trial a stiff sentence, followed by a pardon, might be forthcoming.  In a new development, according to Lindsey Graham a line to Barr has been opened for Rudy Giuliani, who is under investigation himself, to relay dirt about Hunter Biden.

Next to the dismantling of the rule of law the week was full of the usual idiocies.  At the New Hampshire rally Trump announced without any proof that the Corona virus would be gone by April because of the rising temperatures, and said that the EU had been created to rip off the US.  With the text ‘Tough Guys for Trump’ he tweeted a clip from HBO’s show ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ with Larry David wearing a MAGA hat, clearly not realizing that David was making fun of his deplorables.

After a line-up of Senate Republicans, led by bobblehead Susan Collins, fantasized that the president had learned ‘something’ from his impeachment trial their hopes and dreams were put to the test yesterday.  In answer to reporters’ questions Trump said that he had learned that Democrats are ‘crooked and vicious’ and that his impeachment was ‘a disgrace that should never have happened.’

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Trump Unleashed

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

Every American child learns that when the national anthem is played you are supposed to stand straight with your right hand over your heart, but not Donald Trump.  The man who excoriated black football players for kneeling during the anthem in protest against police killings of young black men was jumping around and pretended to be directing when the anthem was sung before the Super Bowl.  It was only the beginning of the president’s deepest dive into the sewer so far.  Emboldened by his upcoming acquittal in the impeachment trial Trump delivered a State of the Union address that was so full of falsehoods that Pinocchio would have refused to read it.  The thrust of the speech was the state of the US economy, according to the president better than ever.  Probably not knowing that GDP grew more under Carter and that job growth was higher under Obama during their presidencies Trump spoke of a ‘blue collar boom,’ while employment in manufacturing is declining, in part due to his China tariffs.  Without any evidence he also boasted that people at the bottom of the economy have done far better than people at the top.

Another whopper was the president’s promise to protect people with pre-existing conditions, at a time when his minions are in court trying to end Obamacare, and his blaming Democrats for wanting to introduce socialism in health care by taking insurance away from 180 million ‘happy Americans.’  Almost amusing was Trump’s statement that America is respected again, at least to those who remember how his closest allies were making fun of him at a recent summit.  For the lowest point of the address Melania decorated Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, adding the singer of ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ to a pantheon with among others Jacky Robinson, John Lewis and Maya Angelou.  From the start, when he refused to shake Speaker Pelosi’s outstretched hand before his address, it was obvious that the president was on the war path, and she returned the favor by ripping up the speech while he was still basking in the Republican applause after delivering it.  It would only get worse the next day, when the Senate voted to acquit Trump but Mitt Romney called him guilty on one of the Articles of Impeachment.

As the first Senator ever to vote for the impeachment of a president of his own party Romney explained that his faith forced him to take his oath before God seriously, and mentioned the pressure put on him to ‘stand with the team.’  Since he denied Trump a single-party vote to remove him from office Romney immediately incurred the wrath of the Trump family, with the Don calling him a ‘Democrat secret asset’ and Don Jr. demanding that he be expelled from the GOP.  Signaling its disarray a White House press event was cancelled right after Romney’s vote.

At the National Prayer Breakfast the next morning, with Nancy Pelosi sitting four chairs away from him, Trump talked about the people who ‘misuse their faith to do what they know is wrong’ and those ‘who say they pray for him but don’t,’ clearly referring to Romney and Pelosi.  And at an event later in the day where he did some stand-up comedy the president pretended to reflect and acknowledge that he ‘said a lot of things he shouldn’t have said,’ adding ‘but I meant every word of it.’

Taking a victory lap and effusively praising his family, his Republican backers and his lawyers, Trump, clearly after a triple dose of Adderall, found the time to call Pelosi and Adam Schiff ‘vicious people,’ investigators ‘leakers and liars,’ James Comey ‘a sleazebag’ and spoke of the ‘top scum of the FBI.’  His impeachment had been ‘a dirty rotten deal,’ promoted and effectuated by ‘evil and sick people.’

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