Monday, October 30, 2017

Papadopoulos Is the Big Fish Here, Not Manafort

The news that Paul Manafort has been indicted by Robert Mueller for money laundering should come as no surprise to anyone. Most legal analysts who have been following the Russia investigation knew it was only a matter of time before he was charged. Manafort's ties to pro-Russian factions in Ukraine were well established. Given that his apartment had been raided by FBI agents in July, it would've been surprising if he hadn't been charged.

But the news that George Papadopoulos had been arrested, pled guilty to several counts of perjury on October 5 and is currently cooperating with Mueller's team came totally out of left field. The timing of Mueller's announcement here was no accident. He is clearly sending two messages. The first is to Manafort: We have Papadopoulos. He's cooperating with us. Would you like to get the same deal we gave him? The second is to the White House: We have Papadopoulos. We know who he spoke to. Now would be a good time to come in and talk to us before we come for you.

Do not think for a moment that they aren't shitting their pants in the West Wing. They can try all they want to make this about Hillary's emails and her campaign's connection with the Steele Dossier - which was originally funded by a conservative website on behalf of a Republican donor - but Mueller's sights are clearly focused on what went on in the Trump campaign, and he's not going to be swayed by any spin (read pressure) from Fox News, Breitbart, et al.

Make no mistake about it: Papadopoulos is the big fish here. He wasn't just a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, he acted as a go-between for Russian officials who had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton and high-ranking members of the Trump campaign; one of whom is believed to be Manafort himself. The fact that he pled guilty to get a reduced sentence means Mueller has his smoking gun. In fact, he has the whole damn armory.

Where we go from here depends on two things: One, how long it takes for Manafort's lawyers to broker a deal with Mueller to their liking; and two, whether or not Trump decides to intervene by either getting rid of Mueller or by issuing pardons against all parties involved. I don't think Trump will opt for the former, not because he wouldn't like to, but because at this point he would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to find anyone at the Justice Department who would comply with such an order to do so. But I do believe he might very well use his executive authority to issue pardons for anyone connected with the investigation.

That's why the news this past August that the Mueller team has joined forces with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is so crucial here. Trump can only pardon people for federal crimes, not state ones. And that ace in the hole is what will allow Mueller to be as aggressive as he needs to in order to get at the truth.

Now I would caution those who think that we're nearing the close of this investigation to take a deep breath. Even if Mueller gets Manafort to flip, we still have a long road ahead. If the objective is to get Trump, whether it be on obstruction or collusion, then Mueller still has to find a few more pieces to the puzzle, and those pieces will be much harder to get the closer he gets to this president. Manafort was low hanging fruit, as is Michael Flynn, who it wouldn't surprise me to learn is next on Mueller's list.

If this were a baseball game, I'd say we were in the top of the third, and that's assuming we don't go into extra innings. The bottom line: it may well be a year or more before this comes to a, hopefully, satisfactory conclusion.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Now What?

Now that Jeff Flake has channeled his inner FDR; now that Bob Corker has made it abundantly clear that the White House is basically a day-care center; now that John McCain and George Bush have each publicly rebuked this president and his policies, there's only one question I have. Now what?

Because here's what it comes down to: no matter how profound they might be, words alone do not change a blessed thing. In fact, unless accompanied by strong action, even the most eloquent of words tend to - as McCain put it - fall into the "ash heap of history."

Seriously, what would've happened if after John F. Kennedy declared we would land a man on the moon, NASA had not delivered? What if after Martin Luther King, Jr's famous I have a dream speech, there had been no marches from Selma to Montgomery? And what if the Continental Congress had chosen to do nothing after Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence? History demands more from its leaders than just great oratory; it demands great followthrough. The will to change requires more than just a sharp pen or tongue, it requires a moral conviction to move forward, even when the odds are stacked against you.

In 1961, the United States wasn't capable of getting a rocket off the launch pad without exploding, so landing a man on the moon before the end of the decade was, to many, an impossible goal. It was the men and women of NASA who made that goal become a realty. MLK, Jr was the leader of the non-violent peace movement in the country who spoke many times about the inequality and injustice that the black man was subjected to. Yet, it was those marches that took place in the mid-sixties that focused the attention of the nation on the cruelty of racism. Today we honor those marches as much as we do his speeches. And, let's face it, in 1776, the idea that a rag tag group of colonies could challenge, much less defeat, the greatest nation on the globe was farcical. But thanks to the the skill and bravery of men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson is revered as a patriot rather than reviled as a traitor.

If it's true that history only remembers the winners, it's equally true that the winners are those who seize it. We now find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history. We have a rogue president in the White House who has been called out by members of his own party and by conservative writers from David Frum to Jennifer Rubin. We have a pending indictment from Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. Slowly but surely, Donald Trump is transforming the GOP into his own image. Who will stand up to him? Floor speeches and op-ed pieces won't cut it. This Republic needs action - bold and defiant action.

Instead of deciding not to seek reelection, what if Jeff Flake and Bob Corker decided to run as independents in 2018? What if other Republican senators like Susan Collins and the aforementioned John McCain decided to thwart their party's legislative agenda just to deprive Trump of any accomplishments? Better still, what if all four called for invoking the 25th Amendment? And what if, along with those four senators, there was an equal number of Congressmen who did likewise? Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would shit their pants if that happened. That would be no mere floor speech, that would be the political equivalent of a Mutiny on the Bounty, so to speak. And it would be the beginning of what I believe would be a death spiral for Trump.

Think of it this way. The reason so many women have come forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct is because of one brave woman who led the way. Her courage helped pave the way for the others to make their voices heard. And now Weinstein is finished, along with, possibly, journalist Mark Halperin. Call it the domino effect, if you will, but it works.

Going blindly along with Trump because they're afraid of facing a primary challenge is the very definition of cowardice on the part of the GOP. In 1974, Republicans put country ahead of party and voted with Democrats to pass three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. That eventually forced his resignation from office. The question before us is whether there are enough brave Republicans in 2017 who are willing to do the same against this president.

If, as Corker has suggested, his fellow colleagues know all too well how unhinged Trump is, than to remain silent isn't merely an act of complicity, as Flake pointed out, it is an act of treason that will be remembered long after his term in office is complete, assuming we live that long. The Democrats still have no unified strategy, and even if they did, they're in the minority, so they cannot force him out. The responsibility and burden for what happens rests squarely on the shoulders of Republicans.

I have never been much of an optimist. Indeed, I have been called a cynic by at least one friend. Do I think the GOP has it in them to save this country from the likes of Trump? Probably not. Indeed, some Senate and House Republicans are now calling for investigations into, you guessed it, Hillary Clinton. She's the gift that keeps on giving for these people. I predict that during the 2024 presidential election, we'll still be hearing about her emails.

Andrew Sullivan may have summed up the current crisis best:
The key is to sustain a sense of the urgency of the moment, a resolute refusal to accept this descent into an illiberal authoritarianism, and a decision to put all our differences aside for a year in order to mobilize a turnout next year that eclipses Obama’s. We have to turn the mid-terms into a presidential election. Sane Republicans need to vote for the Democrat. Leftists have to put aside their divisive identity politics. Liberals need to coalesce around a simple strategy - not impeaching but checking Trump decisively.
Tall orders to be sure, but no taller than the overthrow of an imperial government or a successful lunar landing. We need another giant leap for mankind, and we need it now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Jeff Flake's Better Angels

That was no ordinary speech Jeff Flake delivered on the floor of the Senate Tuesday. The only thing that comes remotely close is Elizabeth Warren's now epic "Moment in the Sun" speech from 2014, in which she took on not only Wall Street but her own party in a manner that would've made Frank Capra blush with pride.

What Flake did was historic and unparalleled in American politics. He didn't just challenge a sitting president, or even his own party; he challenged the entire country as a whole. He didn't mince his words in the seventeen plus minutes he spoke. No hedging of bets or halfway measures. He was blunt and to the point, even if at times his voice crackled just a bit, as if he were delivering the eulogy of a dear friend. That friend being the United States of America.

Do not simply read the transcript; listen to it. Listen to ALL of it. And do not simply dismiss this speech as merely the parting shot of a lame duck senator who finally has the freedom to speak his mind because he knows he doesn't have to run again. In today's GOP, the courage to speak one's mind is as rare as a palm tree at the Arctic Circle. Look also past the obvious policy disagreements you may have with Flake. He is, despite what the wing nuts may say about him, an avout conservative who fervently believes in self-sufficiency, limited government, low taxes and equally low regulations. On any given day he would be a formidable opponent for the Democrats.

But this was not any given day; not by a long shot. While he may not have spoken as eloquently as Barack Obama, or as passionately as Warren or Bernie, the totality of what Flake said will continue to reverberate long after he and everyone we know is gone from this Earth. This was Lincoln at Gettysburg, only longer. I'm not kidding. The parallels are striking. Both men spoke of the deep divisions within the country. And while the Civil War claimed millions of lives and split the country in two, the divisions we now face are no less of a threat to the Union that Lincoln eventually gave his life to preserve.

And while I am hesitant to highlight any one part or parts of the speech - it was that good - two passages stand out. The first is aimed directly at Flake's own party; the second at all of us.
When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do -- because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum -- when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.
There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal -- but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people.
This populist appeal is the driving force behind Donald Trump's success, and to a certain extent, behind Bernie's as well. Make no mistake about it, but for the xenophobia, sexism and megalomania, Trump could've run as a Democrat and won. Not all backward-looking people are registered Republicans; some are independents who vote for "antiestablishment" candidates like Sanders. And they're not going anywhere.

This isn't just a Republican crisis, or a Democratic crisis; it's a national crisis. The inability of the people to fully comprehend the extent of the problems that beset them, coupled by a dearth of credible solutions to those problems has created the very "vacuum" that allowed Trump to rise to power. The corruption that has plagued both parties was perceived by the electorate as a cancer that only his tonic could cure.

In a sense, what Flake is doing is laying down the gauntlet, not just for members of his own party, but for all of us. He isn't just speaking out against Trump, like so many Democrats seem hellbent on doing; he's calling for an anti Trump to rise up and save the Republic. He will not be complicit and neither should we.

Much has been written about the flagrant lies that Donald Trump has told over the last two and a half years. Indeed, the Washington Post has compiled a tally of them. At present, it is well over a thousand since he was sworn in. But here's the thing to remember: it's only a lie if people think it's a lie. And to the people who voted for and continue to support him, Trump is as innocent as a newborn baby. Pointing out the number of lies he tells only helps him to solidify the hold he has over these people. Like any good despot, he revels in undermining the very institutions that have historically defined the nation. The more they attack him, the more secure his position becomes.

If there is an anti Trump out there, he or she will have to craft a positive vision for America that brings hope to the hopeless, encouragement to the frightened and a safe haven to the lost. Healing the wounds that separate us will not be an easy task. Sadly, I am not nearly as optimistic as Flake that "this spell will eventually break." We could be in a for a very long and painful ride.

Lincoln spoke of our better angels; Jeff Flake referenced them in his speech. Now it is up to us to resurrect them before it's too late.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tales From the Book of Moron

Perhaps I should say Fucking Moron, as a certain Secretary of State is alleged to have called President Shit-for-Brains. You say tomato, I say tomahto. Either way, it's the same thing.

The shenanigans of this would-be dictator during his first nine months in office have been, by far, the most embarrassing period in our nation's history. And that's saying something considering that over the last two centuries we confiscated millions of acres of land from the indigenous population, fought a Civil War to free millions of African Americans from slavery only to subject them to decades of segregation under Jim Crow, interred Japanese Americans in camps during World War II, got involved in a land war in Southeast Asia in which we killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians, endured the assassinations of a sitting president, a potential future president and the most transformative spiritual figure since Gandhi in the span of five years, saw a corrupt president forced to resign from office to avoid impeachment, and witnessed an unholy alliance between conservative Christians and a major political party.

To beat out those "illustrious" moments would be quite a fait ac·com·pli for anyone. And yet, in just the last 48 hours, Donald Trump has outdone even himself.  He signed two executive orders aimed at decapitating the Affordable Care Act, and then he announced he would not be certifying the Iran deal. Let's look at the executive orders first.

Executive order one allows for younger, healthier people to purchase health insurance with far less benefits at considerably cheaper rates. On the surface, this may seem like a good idea. As Jake Novak writes, one of Obamacare's biggest flaws was the belief by the Administration that if these cheaper plans were eliminated, young people would naturally sign up for the more comprehensive (e.g., expensive) plans. As it turns out, that didn't happen, at least not to the extent that the law's supporters were hoping for.

Trump's order would ostensibly reinstate those plans, thus allowing for potentially millions of people to gain access to affordable insurance. However, fixing one problem will create another, far worse one. Like it or not, it was those very same young, healthy people that helped defer the costs of the older, sicker ones. As Novak adroitly points out, "the sickest 5 percent of Americans are responsible for 50 percent of our annual healthcare spending." Giving this segment of the population an escape plan will eventually "destroy what's left of the private insurance market." When that happens, millions will be unable to afford to buy insurance.

As if that executive order wasn't bad enough, Trump's next one removed all doubt about what his intentions were. He decided to end all subsidies to healthcare providers as compensation for covering people with pre-existing conditions and no lifetime caps. His rationale - if you could use a word like that with Trump - was that these payments weren't necessary; they were just increasing the industry's bottom line. That simply isn't true. These subsidies were a vital cog in the law; without them, not only would people with pre-existing conditions have to pay more for insurance, but even those without such issues would see higher costs.

The irony here is that eliminating the subsidies will not affect those who qualify for discounts under the exchanges. They continue to get those reduced rates. The people who will be affected are those who are more than 400 percent above the poverty line and who buy their insurance through the private market providers. They will be required to make up for the loss of those government  subsidies, to the tune of, in some cases, a 20 percent hike in their rates. There's also the very real possibility that if these providers cannot make up the difference through the individual plans, they may be forced to raise their rates on employer-insurance plans. In other words, tens of millions of people would see their rates go up as a result of this executive order. How's that for spite?

As we speak, dozens of states are planning on filing a lawsuit to overturn Trump's second executive order. However, the prognosis looks bleak. You'll recall it was a federal court that initially ruled that the subsides were unconstitutional in the first place. The payments continued to be made pending an appeal by the Obama Administration. With Trump's order, the appeal is rendered academic, thus the lower court ruling will stand. A plaintiff would first have to sue to reverse the lower court decision; then, assuming it won, sue to compel the new administration to resume paying the subsidies. I'm not a lawyer and even I know that would be a herculean task.

But as cruel as Trump's executive orders on Obamacare were, his decision to not certify the Iran deal could be the dumbest move of his presidency, which is quite a statement given that only a few months ago he decided to pull out of the Paris-Climate Accord, another Obama legacy initiative. Sensing a pattern here, are we?

I didn't think it possible that Iran could ever hold the moral high ground in any dispute with the United States, but Doctor Fuckenstein allowed them to claim it by threatening not to honor the terms of the deal. And make no mistake about it, if we pull out of this deal - in other words, if we violate the terms of the pact - we will do so on our own. There is zero chance that Iran will agree to go back to the bargaining table, and even less than zero chance that the other nations which signed the deal would want to negotiate a new one. Even Congressional opponents of the deal from both parties have conceded that we are stuck with it.

Try telling that to Trump. He has given Congress just two months to come up with a deal he can live with - which I suppose means a deal where he gets everything he wants and everyone else gets bupkis - or else he will scrap it altogether. Given that any bill to amend the deal would require 60 votes in the Senate, that means Donnie boy will be disappointed. My God, this is the sort of behavior one expects out of toddlers; not a sitting president. Unfortunately for us, this is standard operating procedure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue these days.

We have in Donald Trump, a man who is uninformed and unwilling to learn. Indeed, he shows contempt for anyone or anything that challenges his preconceived notions. Only a few days ago, in a continuing feud with Rex Tillerson over how to handle North Korea, he said "I have a little bit different attitude than other people might have, but, ultimately, my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it?"

Sadly, in this instance, Trump is right, insofar as the Constitution is concerned. No matter what the adults in the room may want, in the end this man child of a president still has authority to start World War III if he feels like it. And that makes him the single greatest threat to humanity since the bubonic plague.

Come to think of it, calling Trump a fucking moron is a compliment when you consider all the alternatives.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough!

As a Christian, I am well aware of the power of prayer. It is referenced in scripture over and over. In one particular passage in Matthew 17, Jesus says to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible." Even on the night of his arrest, Jesus knelt in the garden and prayed for the strength he would need to carry out his father's will. If the Son of God felt the need to pray, we certainly have no excuse for failing to do so.

But prayer alone is not enough. It must be followed up with action. James, in his Epistle, makes the best case for this argument.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James was not discounting the importance of prayer; nor was he saying that our salvation had to be earned. What he was saying is that we must live out our faith through our actions. Indeed, it is those very actions that define the quality of our faith in the eyes of God. In Matthew 25, Jesus admonishes those who are miserly with their inheritance when he says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Ever since the mass shooting in Las Vegas, I have heard Republican after Republican utter the following phrase: "My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this senseless tragedy." Sometimes they write "our thoughts and prayers," as if somehow turning it into a plural statement gives it more authority.

But to those who were affected by this "senseless" tragedy, parsing the difference is academic. A loved one has been violently taken from them, never to return. There is one less father, mother, uncle, aunt, sibling, child, or friend to love and grow old with. Thoughts and prayers do little to alleviate the pain and suffering that will take months, if not years, to heal. To pay lip service, as these politicians do, only adds insult to injury.

I have heard every single rationalization from opponents of gun-control from the sublime to the ridiculous. My favorite is that knives can kill people too, so why don't we have knife control. I have two comebacks to that convoluted logic: One, I can still use a knife for cutting the food on my plate; there is only one purpose for owning a gun, and that is to kill people. Two, "When a 64-year old white man kills 58 people and wounds 500 more in 15 minutes from 1200 feet with a knife, I will absolutely call for knife control. Until then, you've made the world's shittiest point." I lifted the latter from someone on Facebook, hence the quotations.

But shitty or not, that, and other arguments just like it, are what lobbyists like the NRA and the vast majority of Republicans continue to dish out. Here's one of my favorites: Guns don't kill people, people kill people. I agree, so let's at least keep guns out of the reach of those people who might use them to kill, like the mentally ill. Sorry, we can't do that. That would go against the Second Amendment.

So obsessed are they with protecting the rights of gun owners, the GOP is currently considering a bill that would allow the sale of silencers. Can you imagine how many more rounds of ammunition Stephen Paddock could've gotten off if no one had been able to hear where the shots were coming from? The death toll that night might well have been twice as high as it was.

I keep coming back to a piece I wrote shortly after the Newtown massacre. The problem, as I saw it, wasn't just a lack of regulation, it was the Second Amendment itself.
How many more must needlessly die to defend a strict interpretation of an amendment that, if you read it closely and honestly, seems to be referring to a "well regulated militia" not an absolute right?
Throughout most of the country's history, gun ownership was NOT considered an absolute right. In 1939, the Supreme Court in United States v. Miller ruled unanimously that "the Second Amendment guarantees no right to keep and bear a firearm that does not have 'some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.'" That decision was upheld in 1980 in Lewis v. United States, and until the Heller decision in 2008 it was the law of the land.

For the last nine years, the gun nuts have had their way: first, by successfully framing the question of gun safety as an attack on the Constitution; secondly, by effectively killing any attempt at imposing restrictions on the sale of guns. When the mentally ill can legally buy firearms and silencers may soon become available to the public, the train has jumped the track.

So what are we to do? Well, first off, we should get up off our knees. We've prayed and prayed and nothing has changed. The problem here is not a lack of will on the part of God, but a lack of will on ours. Divine intervention isn't likely to occur, so it is up to us.

Secondly, we need to reframe the whole debate on guns by exposing the plot of a small, but powerful, group of men who are perfectly fine with allowing this country to be turned into a shooting gallery for their own political and monetary gains. They have subverted the original intent of the Second Amendment. The only way to defeat them is by going back to what the framers intended. Simply calling for tougher, more "reasonable" restrictions on gun sales will not solve the problem; indeed it plays right into the NRA's hands.

Let's look at two "reasonable" restrictions that some on the Left would like to see implemented: keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and outlawing the bump stock, which allowed Paddock to turn his semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones. The former would not have stopped him from legally purchasing guns because he was not mentally ill, or at least he was never treated for any mental illness that we know of; and even if the latter had been law, he still could've killed a lot of people that night. All the bump stock did was make it easier for him to keep firing his weapons.

And therein lies the stumbling block for gun-control advocates. Reasonable measures, as it turns out, not only don't prevent these tragedies from happening, they help opponents of gun control by making the case for them that the Left's real agenda isn't about safety, it's about the taking away of personal liberty. It's an argument they consistently keep winning over and over again.

Look, I have been critical of the Left's unwillingness to compromise on a wide range of issues from healthcare to tax reform to college tuition. In my opinion, it's cost Democrats chances at building support with moderate voters. But there are some causes - like global warming - which couldn't be more black and white. Our future as a species depends on us drastically reducing CO2 emissions, and quickly. Trust me, it doesn't get any more black and white than extinction.

Gun control is every bit the black and white issue that global warming is, and it demands the same all-out war that climate scientists have waged on behalf of the environment. Half measures will not work. The Left must pull out all the stops and educate the public on what the Second Amendment actually says, not what the NRA would like people to think it says.

For instance, most people, when you bring up the Amendment, don't even know that the first part of it deals directly with a "well-regulated militia." Any objective reading of it must conclude that the intent of the Founders was to protect the rights of those militia men to own and possess guns for the "security" of the nation. If, as the NRA maintains, the Amendment was intended to guarantee the right of all people to own and possess guns, why bother to include the militias at all? We are, after all, talking about learned men who were brilliant and light years ahead of their time. They chose their words carefully. It is inconceivable to me that they would leave something this important to chance.

The thing is, I don't believe they did. I think they fully expected us to use our common sense and arrive at the same conclusion they made over 200 years ago. We haven't had any need for militias since the formation of a free-standing army, so basically, we don't really need the Second Amendment. It's about as relevant now as the Eighteenth was when it was finally repealed in 1933.

Now I fully realize this will be a difficult case to make, especially in a country that is as in love with its guns as ours. No other nation on Earth has a history that celebrates gun ownership in such a manner. Even among people who support "common-sense" gun regulation, a majority still believe that the right to own a gun is sacrosanct. If the specter of 20 children being shot to death in a school hasn't changed their minds, it is doubtful anything can.

But that is no excuse for not trying. As a Christian, my faith teaches me that God is far more interested with our character than our comfort. It's high time we started doing some character building, good people. To simply throw up our hands in disgust while so many of our brothers and sisters pay the ultimate price betrays the very scripture we claim to hold dear. At the one-year anniversary of Newtown, I wrote the following in a letter to the children who were slaughtered:
It is not enough just to honor your memory with a moment of silence. Silence has been our problem all along. If we are truly interested in honoring your memory, we must shout out at the tops of our lungs that we are tired of burying our children like this. This madness must end.
Another word for madness is insanity. And the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let Them Eat Bounty

The events of the last few days have strained the bounds of credibility. I dare say Ripley's would have a hard time finding room for them in its Believe It Or Not museum. I'd say I was shocked, but to tell you the truth, I stopped being shocked a long time ago. Seriously, if there is anyone left in this country that can honestly say they are shocked by what is happening I have only one question for you: what are you smoking?

Consider that in just the last week, Donald Trump decided to pick a fight with the people of Puerto Rico for, I suppose, the crime of not being able to move their island out of the way of a cat 5 hurricane. Then, while visiting the island, he tossed out some paper towels to the crowd like they were fans at a baseball game and he was Mr. Met.

At a press conference he actually had the gall to blame the inhabitants of Puerto Rico for "throwing our budget a little out of whack." This from a man who has spent half his presidency either at Mar-a-Lago or his other golf resort in Jersey and actually charges the Secret Service rent to stay at Trump Tower. I should also point out that only a couple of days earlier this same president discovered that Puerto Rico apparently is an island surrounded by water. "Big water, ocean water." Gee, who knew?

To add insult to injury, he told everyone at the conference that, and I swear I'm not making this up, they should be "very proud" that only 16 people died compared to the hundreds who died in Katrina, which he called a "real" hurricane. He did all this, by the way, with the governor of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan present.

The following day he visited Las Vegas, which on Sunday was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. More than fifty people were killed and hundreds more wounded by a gunman who sprayed thousands of rounds of ammunition into a crowd of people who were attending a country music festival. After news of the slaughter had spread, old blood and guts tweeted his "warmest condolences" to the families. Warmest condolences? Really? Warmest? No other word comes to mind, like maybe deepest? The only thing that surprises me about that tweet is that it didn't come with a Hallmark label and a heart emoji.

And of course anyone who had the nerve to bring up gun control was shot down, no pun intended. This is not the time to politicize this issue, we're told. Of course that didn't stop Trump from politicizing the Orlando mass shooting back in 2016. He had no problem shooting his mouth off - again no pun intended - when he thought it could help his campaign. But, you see, that shooting was done by a Muslim. Apparently, it's not politicizing when you go after people of color with religious views that you claim pose a threat to our way of life. The Las Vegas shooter, on the other hand, was just your run of the mill "white" lunatic who "legally" can purchase all the guns and ammo he wants. I mention white because, as we all know, if black men started arming themselves at the rate that white men are, Congress would pass a law confiscating every gun in the country by the end of the week.

And then there's the revelation, courtesy of NBC, that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron back in July and had to be convinced to stay on by VP Mike Pence. Trump naturally denied the story and called it fake news, just as he calls any story he doesn't like fake news. The only surprise here is that it took Tillerson so long to arrive at his conclusion. We've know it ever since Trump declared his candidacy. If Tillerson had any pride at all, he would've quit by now, especially since it seems nothing he does will have any influence over this president. Seriously, what part of the tweet about not wasting your time negotiating with little Rocket Man didn't you get? Face it, Rex, your boss is a lune.

And therein lies the problem; our problem. Trump IS a lune. There's no getting around this. Of all his shortcomings, none stands out more than this. Normal people simply do not behave in this manner. They do not visit communities ravaged by natural disasters and blame the victims. They do not tweet at all hours of the day and night the most inane and offensive rhetoric. They do not attack the media and their political opponents like some third-world despot. They do not issue threats towards a nuclear power that can only result in the possible death and destruction of millions of innocent lives. They do not spend every waking hour of their lives thinking only of how a situation makes them look. They have the capacity to be empathetic and supportive of those who have been touched by tragedy. They behave like an adult for more than just a few minutes per week.

Donald Trump isn't in over his head; he's out of his mind. Forget the Mueller investigation. By the time it reaches its conclusion we may all be dead. What we need is someone, anyone, with the courage and the influence in the GOP to come out and do the right thing: call for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. It just takes one brave soul to put country before party. One you get one, like dominos, they will all start falling.

We know two things: One, Republicans do not like this president. The contempt he has shown for them is starting to take its toll. There are now, by my estimate, some eight or nine GOP senators who've just about had it with his nonsense. Did you hear what Bob Corker had to say recently. Trust me, in private rooms, they are giving this issue serious consideration. I wouldn't be at all surprised if similar conversations aren't also taking place among House Republicans.

Two, the GOP has Mike Pence in the bullpen, so it's not as if removing Trump means Hillary gets in. Invoking the 25th simply replaces an unstable megalomaniac with a dyed in the wool conservative. Pence is ostensibly Ted Cruz only far less contemptible. It changes nothing with respect to policy, so Dems should not get their hopes up.

I called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked months ago. I call for it again. We don't have much time. Donald Trump isn't just some man child occupying the Oval Office; he's a man child occupying the Oval Office with access to the nuclear launch codes. He had no business running for the office of president in the first place, much less winning it. And, based on his conduct to date, he certainly has no business remaining in it any longer.

My question to Republicans is simple: if not now, when?