Monday, September 3, 2018

Just In Case I Missed It - What a real president would have done by now

Yup. I missed it. The Scribers were tramping to the Franz Josef glacier on the South Island of New Zealand.

Last night on The Last Word Lawrence O’Donnell reprised an interview with Thomas Friedman.

Back on February 18th in the NY Times, Friedman wrote Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now. He made some spot-on observations about what motivates Trump. In brief:

It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.

Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down? And if you are really the president — not still head of the Trump Organization, who moonlights as president, which is how you so often behave — why don’t you actually lead — lead not only a proper cyberdefense of our elections, but also an offense against Putin.

Putin used cyberwarfare to poison American politics, to spread fake news, to help elect a chaos candidate, all in order to weaken our democracy. We should be using our cyber-capabilities to spread the truth about Putin — just how much money he has stolen, just how many lies he has spread, just how many rivals he has jailed or made disappear — all to weaken his autocracy. That is what a real president would be doing right now.

My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money. It’s something about his financial ties to business elites tied to the Kremlin. They may own a big stake in him. Who can forget that quote from his son Donald Trump Jr. from back in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” They may own our president.

But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so na├»ve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.

That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

A couple of days later, Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed Friedman on the MSNBC program, The Last Word. Here is the embedded interview. If it does not open for you, try the youtube version.

Below I have reposted part of the transcript because I think that Friedman’s view of what a real president would do is so important.

TOM FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Lawrence, it was – it was the holiday and I picked up the paper like everybody else and saw that Robert Mueller had indicted 13 Russians and several Russian organizations for basically intervening in our last election both to poison our politics and to tilt the election toward Donald Trump.

And I waited to see what the president would have to say about this and he had nothing to say about it. And that struck me as not only appalling, but actually frightening, because up to now, Donald Trump, he’s violated the norms that we expect in a president. His tweeting, his incessant lying, his general, you know, the way he speaks about people, his diminishing of others in different countries. He’s violated the norms of the presidency.

But when the president of the United States does not react to a clear and present danger, then he`s violating his oath of office. Then he is not defending – protecting and defending the Constitution and the country. And that struck me as I said not only appalling but extremely dangerous and it needed to be called out. Judging from the reaction of readers, a lot of people felt exactly that.

O’DONNELL: I want to read something the president tweeted this morning. He said, I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama. Just look at the facts. Total fake news.

What’s your reaction to that tweet?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, it’s probably lie number 2,342. The fact is that we’ve – the Congress has imposed sanctions that he has not imposed. What would actually – what would it look like? I think, Lawrence, we have to step back and say, what would a real president do in this situation?

He’d do three things. Now, let’s remember, this came after a week of our three leading intelligence agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA all testifying to Congress that not only did Russia intervene in the election, they were still doing it and they plan to continue to do it in the next round of elections. And when asked, the FBI director what had the president instructed him to do, he said nothing.

So what would it actually look like if we had a real president, not someone who’s running the Trump organization and seems to moonlight as president of the United States?

Here’s what a really president would do. (Subtitles added by Scriber.)

Explain the problem to the country - no tweets, just plain talk.

First of all, he’d give a speech to the country explaining the problem to people in a language and way that would be both compelling and illuminating people so they understand the nature of the threat.

Plan to defend against more attacks on our elections

Secondly, he would call together all the stakeholders, state and local election authorities, all the social networks, all the people who run our federal elections, leaders of the two parties, and basically layout a plan of defense for how we`re going to prevent this intervention in the future.

Plan an offense to undermine our attackers

And the third thing he would do would call in his national security team and layout an offense. Why are we sitting here every day reading about Russian intervention in our election? How Putin is basically using lies to divide us and poison our democracy. Why are we not selling the truth about him, all the money he’s stolen, all the people he’s basically made disappear from Russian politics? Why are we not using the truth to undermine his autocracy when he is using lies and poison to undermine our democracy? …

Donald Trump did none of these and it is appalling. He should be ashamed of himself.

Remember how Friedman concluded his op-ed:

This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.

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