Friday Trump & Politics Roundup - 10
This is my semi-regular feature to post links to articles about Donald Trump along with excerpts from those articles. Trump has the potential to cause so much damage to our country and the world that it's every citizen's responsibility to keep pressure on him and our other elected officials to try to minimize the damage. To read previous entries in this series and other Trump related posts, check out my Trump archives.
I find myself varying between opposite extremes in my reaction to Trump so far. On the one hand, he's doing / attempting to do really bad things - conflicts of interest and his refusal to put his businesses in a blind trust, breaking anti-nepotism laws, breaking the emoluments clause of the Constitution, the immigration ban, his horrible cabinet appointments and obvious cronyism ... well, everything I've been calling attention to in these posts. But then, I see him behave like he did in his press conference, and I'm tempted to believe he's so incompetent that he's not going to be able to accomplish anything. Then I go and read articles about how nobody took Hitler seriously until it was too late (like this one - Early Warnings: How American Journalists Reported the Rise of Hitler), and I'm back to being worried again (just to be clear - I don't think Trump is the next Hitler, but there are some unsettling parallels in tactics. More info: Salon - Donald Trump: Not exactly Hitler! But his "Nazi Germany" comments conceal a dark parallel pattern and The Independent - Donald Trump using Adolf Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' playbook, says world expert on Nazi leader).
Anyway, here are this week's articles.
"On Thursday, President Trump signed the bill, which means the stream protection rule is now dead. Coal companies will have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams. / Killing this regulation won't exactly fulfill Trump's goal of reversing the coal industry's decline; that decline has more to do with cheap natural gas than anything else. Instead, Republicans are mostly focusing on this rule because they can. Because the stream protection rule wasn't finished until very late in 2016, it's much, much easier to kill than most of the other Obama-era rules around coal pollution. It was a ready target, so long as the GOP acted fast." ... "In the end, environmentalists weren't thrilled with the rule -- many groups didn't think it went far enough to restrict the dumping of debris, and they don't believe coal companies can restore damaged streams fully to their prior state after mining. But on balance, they thought the rule an improvement over the status quo. An outside analysis suggested the rule would improve water quality in 262 miles of streams throughout Appalachia."
"Trump has a long history of trying to do business in Russia, but despite many efforts and plenty of boasting and angling, he hasn't managed to land a single major real estate deal there. / But that's only part of the picture. He has partnered with Russian financiers on major projects elsewhere around the world. Russian investors have been instrumental in helping him cope with all the credit problems he has thanks to his serial bankruptcies. And a number of Trump's former and current advisers have had financial ties to Russia."
"President Donald Trump held a press conference today in which he once again boasted about his November election win and attacked the mainstream media for producing 'fake news.' / But beyond the usual boasting and bashing, the president made several jaw-dropping statements that were surprising even by his standards. Below, we'll go over the seven craziest moments at today's press conference." ... "1.Trump says that while the leaks coming out of his administration are real, the news stories being written about them are still fake news." ... "2.Trump falsely claims that his electoral college victory this past November was the biggest since Ronald Reagan's." ... "3.Trump said he was fine with WikiLeaks because it never leaked classified information." ... "4.Trump dismisses GOP town hall protesters because most of them are Democrats." ... "5.Trump insists that the alternative to getting along with Russia could be 'nuclear holocaust.' " ... "6.Trump shouts down a Jewish reporter who asked him about rising anti-Semitism." ... "7.Trump asked a black reporter to help him set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus."
"As political leaders in Japan pay close attention to how U.S. President Donald Trump will go in office, so, too, are interpreters who have had a nightmarish experience translating his disjointed speeches." ... " 'He is so overconfident and yet so logically unconvincing that my interpreter friends and I often joke that if we translated his words as they are, we would end up making ourselves sound stupid,' Tsuruta, who is also a professor of interpreting and translation studies at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, said in a recent interview.
"What will you do when terrorists attack, or U.S. friction with some foreign power turns into a military confrontation? I don't mean in your personal life, where you should keep calm and carry on. I mean politically. Think about it carefully: The fate of the republic may depend on your answer." ... "We're only three weeks into the Trump administration, but it's already clear that any hopes that Mr. Trump and those around him would be even slightly ennobled by the responsibilities of office were foolish. Every day brings further evidence that this is a man who completely conflates the national interest with his personal self-interest, and who has surrounded himself with people who see it the same way. And each day also brings further evidence of his lack of respect for democratic values." ... "In the end, I fear, it's going to rest on the people -- on whether enough Americans are willing to take a public stand. We can't handle another post-9/11-style suspension of doubt about the man in charge; if that happens, America as we know it will soon be gone."
[I'm pulling out a lot of quotes from this one. I really recommend reading the whole thing.]
"No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property."
"What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example--and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country."
"Outside the Islamic world, the 21st century is not an era of ideology. The grand utopian visions of the 19th century have passed out of fashion. The nightmare totalitarian projects of the 20th have been overthrown or have disintegrated, leaving behind only outdated remnants: North Korea, Cuba. What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites."
"Donald Trump, however, represents something much more radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we'd know what to call it. It's happening here instead, and so we are baffled."
" 'Populist-fueled democratic backsliding is difficult to counter,' wrote the political scientists Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz late last year. 'Because it is subtle and incremental, there is no single moment that triggers widespread resistance or creates a focal point around which an opposition can coalesce ... Piecemeal democratic erosion, therefore, typically provokes only fragmented resistance.' Their observation was rooted in the experiences of countries ranging from the Philippines to Hungary. It could apply here too."
"If citizens learn that success in business or in public service depends on the favor of the president and his ruling clique, then it's not only American politics that will change. The economy will be corrupted too, and with it the larger culture. A culture that has accepted that graft is the norm, that rules don't matter as much as relationships with those in power, and that people can be punished for speech and acts that remain theoretically legal--such a culture is not easily reoriented back to constitutionalism, freedom, and public integrity."
"By all early indications, the Trump presidency will corrode public integrity and the rule of law--and also do untold damage to American global leadership, the Western alliance, and democratic norms around the world. The damage has already begun, and it will not be soon or easily undone. Yet exactly how much damage is allowed to be done is an open question--the most important near-term question in American politics. It is also an intensely personal one, for its answer will be determined by the answer to another question: What will you do? And you? And you?"