Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That Trump should not be president seems axiomatic. But is the alternative any less bad?

There are thousands of reasons to get rid of President Donald Trump - for starters, he lies incessantly about everything, the estate tax for example. Nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond contamination by Trump’s dishonesty, even presidential behavior toward fallen warriors and their families: Trump forced to walk back ridiculous falsehood about Obama. Steve Benen reports.

Nearly two weeks ago, four American soldiers were killed in Niger, and before this afternoon, Trump had said literally nothing about it. Asked about his silence at a White House event, the president said he had not yet contacted the fallen Americans’ families because he wanted “a little time to pass.” He added that he’s written letters to those families, but they haven’t been sent yet.

Let’s note for context that since the ambush that claimed those four servicemen’s lives, Trump has golfed five times.

The president then decided to brag about how awesome he thinks he is as compared to his predecessors.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”

Even by Trump standards, this was a breathtaking lie. In fact, Alyssa Mastromonaco‏, a deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, quickly explained that Obama (and other previous presidents) often called the families of Americans killed in action. Disgusted by Trump’s smear, Mastromonaco went to describe Trump as “a deranged animal.”

First, Obama didn’t call the families, then Obama didn’t call them “often.” Initially, Trump said he had the facts about what previous presidents did, then Trump said he didn’t have the facts and it’s the generals’ fault if the claims were wrong.

Regardless, this was a rare example of Trump being pressed on one of his lies at the same event in which he told the lie. And confronted with reality, the president folded almost immediately.

Quite possibly Trump makes shit up because he doesn’t know anything. He’s dumber than a brick and does not care that a common brick in my driveway is smarter than he is. Check out this from the Daily Kos Former Wharton Professor: “Donald Trump Was the Dumbest Goddam Student I Ever Had.”.

Part of the comorbidity that defines this president is an amazing shirking of responsibility, as reported by Steve Benen in another report from the Rachel Maddow blog, Trump rationalizes his failures: ‘I’m not going to blame myself’.

… in Trump World, the buck always stops somewhere else.

Trump drove this point home during remarks at a White House cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon:

“Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators. But we’re not getting the job done.

“And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done…. We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done.”

It was a rare example of the president correcting himself in public. Initially, Trump said “we’re” not getting the job done, suggesting he and other Republicans collectively need to pick up their game, before he realized that he should clarify matters. “They’re” not getting the job done.

The president’s responsibility allergy has never been clearer.

Psychologically Trump should scare the hell out of everyone. You don’t have to conduct a personal interview with Trump to know that there is something very, very wrong with this guy. The public record of his statements and actions indicate a psychological disorder and that in turn suggests a mechanism for his removal from office, the 25th amendment. Jeannie Suk Gersen (“a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and a professor at Harvard Law School”) reports on How Anti-Trump Psychiatrists Are Mobilizing Behind the Twenty-Fifth Amendment

… the former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned Trump several months ago that “the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment.” That Amendment to the Constitution provides that the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet—or, alternatively, a congressionally appointed body—can determine that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and remove him.

The removal of Trump using the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the aim of a newly launched social movement composed of mental-health professionals. The group, called Duty to Warn, claims that Donald Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism that makes him incapable of carrying out his presidential duties and poses a danger to the nation.” On Saturday, the organization held co√∂rdinated kickoff events in fourteen cities, where mental-health experts spoke out about Trump’s dangerousness and, in several, took to the streets in organized funereal marches, complete with drum corps.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of American voters now believe that Trump is not “fit to serve as President.” While many lay members of the public have observed Trump’s increasingly erratic and unstable behavior, commentary from mental-health experts about Trump’s mental state was slow to gather steam because of the Goldwater Rule, an ethical principle of the American Psychiatric Association that says that psychiatrists cannot express professional opinions about public figures they have not personally examined. …

… Many appear to have given up on the impeachment of President Trump for the moment. But it’s a real turning point when mental-health professionals are so willing to organize politically, break brazenly with long-standing protocol, and even risk discipline by licensing boards. After this, talk of Trump’s removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment may not seem so crazy.

The trick here is who gets to make that move. The 25th amendment specifies the cabinet (appointed by Trump) or other body appointed by congress (dominated by Trump’s own party, a group not known for their bravery).

That aside, successfully using the 25th to remove Trump would carry some worrisome consequences.

Jane Mayer, also writing in the New Yorker, exposes The Danger of President Pence. Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.

Note from Scriber: Mayer has an excellent and very long biography of Pence. I’ve had to be very selective in choosing my snippets with the result that a lot more of why we should be apprehensive about a Pence presidency is not covered here. You need to read the original.

In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat [Democratic Congressman Phil] Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries. It wasn’t technically illegal, but it violated the trust of his supporters and sullied his pious image. “Mike burned a lot of bridges,” Gregory recalled. “He upset a lot of his backers. It was partly because of immaturity, but he really was kind of full of shit.”

The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.” Sharp, who after two more terms joined the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is now semi-retired, remains unimpressed by Pence. “This is not a person, in my limited exposure, about whom I’d ever say, ‘Wow, he should be President!’ ”

After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)

Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise. A key link to these groups was provided by Marc Short, the current White House official, who in 2008 became Pence’s chief of staff at the Republican Conference. Short had grown up in moneyed conservative circles in Virginia, where his father had helped finance the growth of the Republican Party, and he had run a group for conservative students, Young America’s Foundation, and spent several years as a Republican Senate aide before joining Pence’s staff. His wife, as it happened, worked for the Charles Koch Foundation, and he admired the brothers’ anti-government ideology. A former White House colleague described Short to me as “a pod person” who “really delivered Pence to the Kochs.”

… the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson [executive director of the Checks & Balances Project] went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

And in a rare moment of national unity, we should all share Steve Bannon’s concern.

The bottom line is simply this. There are lots of reasons why Trump is unfit to be president. But there is no good alternative in the succession. If Pence is not a welcome alternative, then consider that the next in line is Paul Ryan.

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