Saturday, February 11, 2017

TRUMP WATCH #11 Savor his setbacks, but don't become complacent (again)

It has been 3 weeks now since Trump took office and already his mis-management style has caused the Trump-Bannon administration to suffer a series of self-inflicted setbacks. Let us savor these, as doing so may provide us with some needed emotional relief.
However, let us also continue to be vigilant and use these Trump defeats to inspire us to increase the pressure on our other elected officials (of both parties) to do their job, which is to provide the checks and balances that the Founders built into the Constitution and into state constitutions to protect America from demagogues and tyrants like Trump and Bannon, and their enablers and underlings like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Kellyanne Conway, General Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, Betsy DeVos, Tom Price, Ben Carson, Steven Miller, Sean Spicer, Rex Tillerson, Andrew Puzder, Rick Perry, Steve Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Scott Pruitt, et al.
A partial list of mis-steps and setbacks from the first 3 weeks of the Trump-Bannon regency (oops, I meant “administration”):
A partial list of mis-steps and setbacks from the first 3 weeks of the Trump-Bannon regency (oops, I meant “administration”):
  • Despite the Republican-controlled Senate’s best efforts to fast-track confirmation of Trump appointments to key positions, the Washington Post reports that, as of Feb 10, only 9 out of 694 of such appointments have been confirmed. Indeed, the Trump administration is so ill-prepared that 659 of these appointments have not even been submitted, including ambassadors to nearly every country! 
  • Add to this fact that last week Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of the Army, billionaire investor Vincent Viola, withdrew from his appointment because, according to him, “the challenges of separating from the organizations that he has built over the last thirty-five years have proven insurmountable.” (Could these challenges be any greater than those Trump would face were he to recognize the palpable---though apparently technically not illegal conflicts of interest he has with his far-flung Trump Organization?)
  • And then only yesterday, Trump, himself, refused to accept the choice that his own Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) made to have the veteran diplomat Eliott Abrams be his Deputy Secretary, thus "leaving Tillerson as the lone ­Senate-confirmed person chosen by Trump who is on the job at the State Department. Tillerson’s chief of staff and several other advisers around the new top diplomat were campaign aides or political advisers selected by the White House."
  • Of course the highlight of Trump’s ill-considered nominations was the Senate hearings on Jeff Sessions nomination to be Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. At the end of a week of stinging criticisms of Sessions’ appointment--- by myriad organizations, citizens, commentators, and Democratic senators--- Senator Elizabeth Warren was reading into the Congressional Record (before an almost empty Senate chamber) a letter written by Coretta Scott King in 1986 opposing the appointment of Sessions to a federal judgeship. Suddenly and unexpectedly she was interrupted by Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell who prevented her from continuing by invoking an arcane Senate rule, forbidding one Senate member from impugning another on the Senate floor. A number of Warren’s colleagues, including Bernie Sanders, furiously came to her defense by taking up the letter and themselves reading it on the floor, challenging McConnell to try to silence them as well. Sherrod Brown, Senator from Ohio, added to his reading of the letter, “It's a sad day for our democracy ... when the words of Coretta Scott King are not allowed on the floor of the U.S. Senate.” 

    Several days later, McConnell, seeking to justify his actions, now-famously stated, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” giving rise to a nationwide outcry of support for Warren embodied in countless iterations of : “Nevertheless, she persisted” on T-shirts, signs, and social media pages, extolling women throughout American history who have persisted against misogynist attempts to silence them.
  • And let's not forget that a White House official confirmed on Friday that national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke privately with Vice President Pence in an apparent attempt to contain the fallout from the disclosure that prior to Trump's inauguration, Flynn (a private citizen at the time) had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador and then allowed Pence and other White House officials to publicly deny that he had done so. Stay tuned, as this could easily result in the first of many forced exits by a Trump appointee. (Does Trump remember how to say “You’re fired?”)
  • Apparently Trump isn’t quite ready to fire his advisor Kellyanne Conway, even after her Bowling Green Massacre gaffe, followed by her apparently committing a pretty serious ethics violation. Last week in an interview on CNN, after Trump, himself, fulminated on Twitter against Nordstrom for dropping the fashion line of his daughter and advisor, Ivanka, Conway urged viewers to buy Ivanka’s “stuff.” Despite presidential spokesman, Sean Spicer’s statement that Conway would be receiving ethics counseling, Trump again took to Twitter to defend Conway’s behavior. 
  • While Kellyanne may be safe for awhile (especially if her husband, George Conway, is tapped by Trump to be Solicitor General after conservative lawyer Chuck Cooper removed himself from consideration for that post, it looks as though Sean Spicer might be close to being fired. Apparently, Trump hasn’t been a fan of his from the get-go and he is now in Trump’s doghouse for reporting that Kellyanne was “in counseling” over her ethics blunder. Even more seriously for the Donald is the humiliating (to him) spectacle of his spokesman, Spicer, being the butt of so many jokes and especially that he was played by a woman (Meliissa McCarthy) on SNL.

Finally, on a much more substantive note, let us celebrate the Appeals Court rejection of the Trump-Bannon Muslim Travel Ban by reading about 6 Highlights of the ruling, which is one of the finest examples in recent times of the Judicial Branch of the government exercising its constitutional duty to provide the necessary checks and balances when another branch (in this case the Executive branch) appears to have exceeded its constitutional authority in a variety of ways.

At the same time, let us be vigilant and keep our elected representatives vigilant as to the next efforts of the Trump-Bannon administration to ban Muslims, refugees, and other immigrants from entering the country under the guise of Homeland Security. While there have been mixed signals from the White House on this matter, I think it most likely that their lawyers are even now hard at work crafting a new executive order on this matter that they hope will avoid judicial rejection by not being so clearly unconstitutional. Despite Trump’s bellicose nature, I think his close advisors and handlers will dissuade him from appealing the current executive order to the Supreme Court where it would almost certainly fail to be overturned, possibly by an embarrassing lopsided majority.  

A three-judge panel unanimously upheld the decision to temporarily block President Trump’s travel ban. We’ve annotated the ruling.

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