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  • September 12th, 2019

BATTEN DOWN THE SHARPIES–HURRICANE COMING

By Joel M. Vance

First, he wanted to drop nuclear bombs on hurricanes to change their course. Then he did it with a far less damaging Sharpie pen. If there was any doubt Donald Trump was losing bricks from a load which was some shy of a full load to begin with, his record dealing with hurricanes should make it painfully obvious that someone should line the walls of the Oval Office with rubber.

 

They’re now calling Trump’s second grade attempt at abstract art Sharpiegate after Trump extended the course of Hurricane Dorian on an official NOAA weather chart, using a Sharpie pen to draw a sloppy loop, to include a portion of Alabama just so he wouldn’t have to admit he was wrong when he originally tweeted that Alabama was in the path of the hurricane.

 

But adding a funny name to the Trump gaffe trivializes what actually is a serious concern (or certainly should be) to the country, especially to the 40% or whatever it is, which thinks that anything the president says is true, regardless of its obvious falsity. This credulous mob would vote for fat Donnie if he were wearing a black uniform with a swastika armband. He has them bamboozled every bit as effectively as Adolf Hitler bamboozled his ardent followers in the 1930s.

 

P.T. Barnum famously said “There’s a sucker born every minute” and Donald Trump is proof that 40 million or so mothers gave birth to Barnum’s statement. Barnum, merely was trying to sell phony sideshow gimmicks to a credulous public, and did very well at it. But that was county fair carnival baloney whereas, what Trump is selling, is the fate of our country.

 

The answer is to hold him to account, and I fear that waiting more than a year to do it at the ballot box gives him far too much time to wreak havoc on the nation. Almost daily he and his stable of downright evil minions dismantle yet another safeguard of our democracy. That’s the way it happens, in increments and almost imperceptibly, until you look around and nothing is left. The curse on someone who is, as I am, 85 years old is that we have known good times, and, more important, know what good times look like.

 

I was a kid at the tail end of the Depression, and an adolescent during World War II, certainly a traumatic time— but a time when the country was one, dedicated to preserving itself as the world’s leading democracy. As an adult, I lived through the terrible times when McCarthyism threatened to overturn decency (until  Tailgunner Joe got slapped down and eliminated from public life, as well he should have been). And I lived through the trauma of the 1960s when Bull Connors and his ilk turned fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators, who were seeking only equal rights under the law, and when evil white men killed civil rights workers and were freed by intimidated and indoctrinated all white juries south of the Mason-Dixon line.

 

I further survived the national trauma of the Nixon scandal(s). But Richard Nixon, for all his faults, was nowhere near the scale of Donald Trump as a failed human being. Nixon was paranoid, but not a poster boy for nuttiness. I don’t recall that anyone suggested that he be institutionalized, but increasingly critics as well as mental health professionals are suggesting that perhaps Donald Trump would be better suited to a sport jacket whose sleeves tie in the back.

 

After all, it was Nixon who presided over the country when several of the nation’s national resource protection laws came into being— the clean air and clean water acts, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. This resource protection legacy is exactly what the Trump administration is ardently seeking to destroy.

 

Nixon famously said “I am not a crook.” Donald Trump honestly could not make such a claim. He is a crook and if his tax returns ever are unveiled and analyzed I have no doubt they would reveal lawlessness of an almost unimaginable scope. I’m willing to bet he has laundered money for Russian oligarchs who, in turn, financially backed his presidential campaign. No doubt he has variously inflated the value of his properties to secure loans that otherwise would have been denied or devalued them in  order to pay lower taxes.

 

The mere fact of his Sharpie scribble on official weather map technically is a violation of the law, although compared to the magnitude of his other legal missteps is only a blip on the radar. But it is a symptom of his madness in that he has turned a piddling misstatement into a lingering presidential pout. Something that should’ve been ignored, apologized for, or dismissed with a deprecating quip, instead has turned into a lingering tantrum, involving at least one high-ranking naval officer, and federal weather officials who no doubt he pressured into reluctantly agreeing with his Sharpie silliness.

 

As if the entire fetid mess of Trump’s chaotic present lifestyle weren’t enough, the Trump reelection campaign, in an astonishing display of poor taste, is selling black marker pens decorated with Trump’s signature in gold, and is bragging about the fact that hey, they are made in America. Perhaps that is what the goofball president means when he brags about bringing jobs back to America. The discouraging fact is that Trump’s drooling followers will buy the damn things.

 

He persistently and consciously violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution and it is maddening to see the overseers of probity in government letting him get away with it. Trump Tower is replete with special interest renters pouring money into his pocketbook because, unlike any reputable politician, he retains control of his business interests and the money they generate.  Foreign entities routinely rent Trump’s facilities, doubtless in hopes of currying favor.

 

One minor news story involves an Air Force cargo plane landing close to his Scottish golf course for refueling with an overnight flight crew staying at a resort owned by him. Similar military flights routinely refuel at lower cost at overseas military installations, and the flight crews stay either on base or at much lower cost hotels nearby. Somebody much higher up than the pilot and crew of the plane had to issue orders for the diverted landing. Something is rotten, not in Denmark as Shakespeare would have it, but in Scotland and (see next paragraph) in Ireland as well.

 

Then of course there were Air Force Two flights with Irish officials in Dublin by Trump’s toadie vice president, Mike Pence, about 200 expensive miles each way so he could stay at Trump’s Irish golf resort, rather than at the site of the meetings where everyone else stayed. That’s what’s known as sucking up to the boss (who, coincidentally, suggested that Pence might want to stay at fat Donnie’s financially troubled resort). Any person of integrity would have trouble sleeping at night, stuck in a grimy situation like that. But apparently uber religious Pence had no trouble abandoning his Christian principles to serve his master. A guy named Judas had a similar trait long ago, except he betrayed, not served the boss.

 

It may be instructive here to list again as I did several blogs ago the Mayo Clinic list of the signs of antisocial personality disorder— in other words the signs of someone who is a sociopath.

 

 Disregard for right and wrong. Persistent lying or to seek to exploit others. Being callous, cynical and disrespectful of others. Using charm or wit to manipulate others for personal gain or personal pleasure. Arrogance, a sense of superiority and being extremely opinionated. Recurring problems with the law, including criminal behavior. Repeatedly violating the rights of others through intimidation and dishonesty. Impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead. Hostility, significant irritability, agitation, aggression or violence. Lack of empathy for others and lack of remorse about harming others. Unnecessary risk-taking or dangerous behavior with no regard for the safety of self or others. Poor or abusive relationships. Failure to consider the negative consequences of behavior or learn from them. Being consistently irresponsible and repeatedly failing to fulfill work or financial obligations.

 

It is impossible to read through that list of personality disorders and not think of Donald J Trump, the classic narcissist, among a multitude of other human flaws. Multiple sources within the administration are privately telling the media folks that Trump is veering ever closer to outright madness. He can call reporters “the lying media” all he wants, but that won’t stop them from seeking out the truth from folks who still remember how to tell it.

 

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Congress acts so powerless against this menacing nutcase. There are two avenues open immediately to rid the country of him— bring impeachment charges, or invoke the 25th amendment by claiming he is no longer able to perform the duties of president. But so far, the House of Representatives seems incapable of taking decisive action, allowing numerous subpoenaed witnesses in a variety of investigations basically to flout the summonses and, in essence, tell Congress to go to hell.  The Senate, of course, is dominated by Moscow Mitch McConnell, Trump’s bosom comrade in Russian meddling and as long as the Republicans rule the upper house it will take no action in calling the president to account.

 

As feeble as it sounds to me, the rationale for not launching and impeachment hearing is that the public is indifferent to the prospect. If that is true, first of all it doesn’t say much for the public at large. Secondly it poses peril l to the fate of the nation if apathy determines our future. Remember the old saying attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 

There is another quote written in 1920 by H. L. Mencken, one of my favorite curmudgeons for many decades. Mencken often was bigoted and when he targeted something he didn’t like, which was often, he used a pen dipped in acid.  But it’s pretty hard to argue with this prescient prediction  he wrote 99 years ago: “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”

 

Those of us who lived through the Nixon debacle remember that a Senate committee recommended an impeachment inquiry and the House of Representatives followed through. When the infamous Nixon tapes surfaced almost certainly the House would’ve impeached Tricky Dick and the Senate probably would have convicted him—but he cheated the political hangman by resigning. When Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, it was widely reported that Trump moaned, “This is the end of my presidency.” So far, he has evaded that bullet and many others, including the infamous Billy Bush tape with comments about his treatment of women that are far more graphic than any of Nixon’s damning language. Give tricky Dick credit—he stuck with one wife, and two admirable daughters.

 

Resigning is nothing that Donald Trump ever would do because that would be the same as admitting he has made a mistake and he is incapable of that. If he can’t even admit misstating the path of a hurricane then he is incapable of admitting any mistake, including the biggest one of all—admitting it was a mistake for him ever to be born.

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