Is the Kavanaugh Nomination Really Just He Said, She Said?

In deciding who is the truth-teller after hearing the senate testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the latter seeks to become a Justice on the United States Supreme Court, it is worthwhile to note a number of pertinent facts, including: that Dr. Ford has taken and passed a polygraph test, while Judge Kavanaugh has not; that Dr. Ford made no known misleading comments to the Judiciary Committee, while Judge Kavanaugh did (stating, for example, that other attendees at the social gathering in question said the assault “did not happen” when in fact they said only that they had no knowledge of it, two very different things that any judge, of all people, should be able to distinguish between; or calling being a girl’s “alumnius” just being her friend); that Judge Kavanaugh alleged a bizarre conspiracy and “political hit” against him somehow involving the “revenge” of the Clintons; that the Republican committee chairman refused to subpoena the third person in the room during the alleged assault; that Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly evaded multiple questions asking him if he wanted an FBI investigation that might clear his name, while Dr. Ford asked for such an investigation; that Republicans on the committee accused Senator Feinstein of attempting to spring a last minute assault on Judge Kavanaugh by withholding Dr. Ford’s letter to her for weeks when in fact Senator Feinstein was abiding by her consent to keep the matter confidential; that Judge Kavanaugh’s high school friend, Mark Judge, wrote a book called Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk in which he describes a character “Bart O’Kavanaugh” as belligerent and sometimes passing out when drunk; that a Republican female friend of the Judge from their days at Yale declared in a letter to Cory Booker that she had seen him so drunk that it would be totally understandable for him not to remember events during those periods of drunkenness.

But for those assured of Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness for a Supreme Court seat, set aside for a moment those facts and ask three questions in determining the truthfulness of the two witnesses before the committee:

(1) Which one has something to gain by lying, and which one does not?

(2) Which one was often evasive in answering questions, and which one was not?

(3) Even if we rule out intentional lying by either witness, which one of the witnesses is more likely to remember the event: the one who knew her attacker by face, name, and social acquaintance; who remembered specific and telling details about both the setting and the attack itself; who told her therapist six years ago about an attack when she was fifteen and named her attacker to her husband sixteen years ago; who was traumatized by that event; and who did not want to become part of a political battle and did so only when her name was leaked presumably by friends to the press? Or, on the other hand, the one who, at that time, had a reputation for heavy drinking and drunkenness, has acknowledged his fondness for “skis” (i.e., “brewskis”), and has enormous incentive—a Supreme Court seat—to suppress a memory of something he may have done when so inebriated that he could have been physiologically incapable of remembering the event at all?


When Amorality Meets Character

Let’s don’t talk politics for now. Let’s talk character.

A great American died this past weekend. And an American president, of the same political party—a petty, weak man incapable of a scintilla of grace—slinks to his corner, jealous of the honors and especially the respect and even affectionate regard being accorded John McCain, an affectionate regard that will never be accorded Donald Trump. Trump knows this, and it is central to the Iago-like hatred he has borne for McCain. In some reptilian way, Trump knows that McCain—whatever his flaws—had character, character largely built by transcending his flaws and seeking not his self interest but the national interest, even the global interest. This is alien to Trump; he seethes, knowing that he suffers grievously by any comparison to McCain. Like Iago’s hatred of Othello, Trump’s hatred is rooted in jealousy, though it is deepened by McCain’s criticism and Trump’s own sense of entitlement. After all, he achieved what McCain tried and failed to do twice.

McCain was not a war hero because he was a POW. He was a war hero because the North Vietnamese sought a propaganda victory when they discovered that he was the son and grandson of important navy admirals, and they tried to persuade him to accept an early trip home. He refused since his fellow POWs would be left behind. No doubt McCain’s decision was made just a tiny bit easier because he would have regarded a choice to accept his captors’ offer as dishonorable, and he would have hated the ignominy of knowing that he had taken a comparatively easy out while leaving his brothers behind. So possibly fear of dishonor helped him choose honor. But he did choose it, whereas Trump would have been wholly incapable of McCain’s choice, oblivious to the moral implications and pitfalls. Instead, he behaved then as he always has, his moral compass perpetually fixed on ME, in this instance by getting some physician to give him a medical exemption from the draft by claiming that his patient had bone spurs in his feet. So, no Vietnam for Trump, yet all the while he covets martial glory by looking quite fine in his military school uniform. Decades later, Trump, jealous of the honor accorded McCain for his service and endurance of five and a half years as a POW, could not help himself and petulantly denigrated that endurance by claiming that he “liked people who weren’t captured.”

It is impossible to imagine Trump doing what McCain did at a McCain town hall meeting in 2008. In front of a large crowd, a woman said she didn’t trust Obama as a Muslim and an Arab. Though McCain missed an opportunity to say that Muslims and Arabs can also be good Americans, he did not miss the opportunity to correct her, saying “No ma’am, no ma’am,” calling Obama a decent family man with whom he had serious policy disagreements. The response even elicited some booing. Two years later, in 2010, he did backslide a bit, turning rightward to appease conservative voters in his senate re-election bid. But Trump could have sprouted wings and flown into the air before he could have corrected a supporter inaccurately disparaging his opponent. He is so controlled by friendly audiences, and he so needs their adulation, that he could never have risked their criticism or disdain by saying anything that might have undermined their adoration. This is Lesson One in the art of the demagogue.

At some core level, even the ever-self-deceiving Donald Trump must surely have recognized his monumental inferiority to a man who, whatever his human shortcomings, had actual principles, demonstrated physical and moral courage, acted in what he thought was the best interest of the country, did not lie, did not approach his every single act in terms of how it might affect him personally, who was not a sycophant (especially to despots), who did not wallow in a sewer of corruption. These two men were the antipodes of the Republican party, and it is no wonder that only under intense national pressure could Trump grudgingly offer a half-hearted statement of respect after McCain’s passing, negated by days of dithering and reluctance to lower the flag to half-mast. Trump looks in the mirror and initially sees himself as the greatest and most feared president who, like Shelley’s Ozymandias, declaims “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” But then, little doubts creep in, and he sees in the mirror the man he wishes he could be—but only fleetingly, and he soon dispels that glimpse of John McCain and returns to his greatest deception of all: seeing himself as a great man.

Vlad’s New Puppy

Vlad’s New Puppy

The recent two hour meeting between Presidents Putin and Trump in Helsinki was attended only by their interpreters. No summaries were provided, no cameras allowed, and little has been officially revealed about what was discussed. However, Real Fake News has acquired a transcript of the meeting based on a secret recording of the conversation from a small recorder hidden in the brassiere of the American translator, an immigrant named Irina Tryaskova, whose family fled the Soviet Union in 1986. The transcript, fully translated into English by Ms. Tryaskova, is presented here for the first time.

Trump: Hey, Vlad, so incredibly great to see you again. I have been watching some more of your speeches and they are just so great. I’ve been learning a lot and. . . .

Putin: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Donnie Boy. I think you need to remember which way power flows in this relationship. You are never, repeat, never, to call me “Vlad.” I am President Putin to you and all your people. That better not happen again.

Trump: I’m sorry sir, it was a slip. I really didn’t mean to—I’m just so, so respectful and I like being around you and I just got a little carried away. So please, maybe you could just forget that that slipped out?

Putin: Yeah, whatever. One of the few things I like about you is that you are good at kicking down, but you must always remember the other half: you kiss UP.

Trump: Oh, that’s good sir. Kick down, kiss up. I’ve got it. I’ll have a plaque made and put it on my desk, and I’ll have my people memorize it. You are so smart. Maybe I should have plaques made for them too, do you think?

Putin: Yeah, you do that. Now here are some more things I want you to do.

Trump: Tryaskova, give me a pencil. OK, fire away, sir.

Putin: First, and you better get this right, you keep right on denying that I had anything to do with meddling in your elections. You say publicly and firmly that you accept my denial, that you believe me, and that your intelligence services must be mistaken. And in fact, Donnie, you need to rein them in a little more. A lot of Americans are wondering why you are taking my word over the CIA reports, and I don’t like that. So you gotta be more convincing, understand?

Trump: OK, sir, but I’m doing the best I can, but some damned liberals still want to believe the CIA and FBI. Sarah’s doing her best too. I mean I’ve still got Nunes and the Republicans on his committee backing me up, but that damned McCain, Corker, and Flake can’t keep their mouths shut. And if I get rid of them, the Democrats will blame you. And the fake news, and all the Democrats—it’s just so hard, sir. I don’t have all the resources you have, and I just, well, don’t really, (sniff) don’t know what else to do (sniff, sniff). . . .

Putin: Quit sniveling, Donnie. Just keep calling it fake news. And while you’re at it, I want you to fire that Mueller bastard.

Trump: Sir, I really want to, but I’m afraid it could blow up our whole relationship and I could get impeached.

Putin: Well, I’ll put that firing on the shelf for a little longer, but you keep calling it a witch hunt and doing everything else to stop it. Put the screws to your flunkies in congress. Command and control, Donnie, command and control. And a couple of other things. No talk of Ukraine or Crimea, they’re mine and your job is to say nothing on that. And that recording system we installed at your desk—turn it louder. My boys are saying they can’t hear the conversation well enough when you’re on the other side of the Oval Office. And keep attacking NATO; I want that gone, history, by the time you leave office. You’re doing a fair job of blasting Trudeau, Merkel, Macron, and May—I particularly liked your saying that “Germany is totally controlled by Russia.” You ought to get some kind of Oscar for that one.

Trump: Thank you, Mr. President. Coming from you that’s a compliment I’ll treasure. I didn’t even really plan to say it, and I certainly hope it didn’t offend you. It just sort of came out.

Putin: A couple of other things before we go out and meet “the enemy of the people”—that was a good one too, Donnie. Those bastards in the press really are the enemy, and that’s why I have to pop one or two of them off every now and then, and maybe you need to be thinking about that too. But anyway, my guys are working on your mid-term elections, and as long as you keep your nose clean, you won’t have to worry about 2020 either. Just keep saying it’s some fat guy in bed or whatever crap you threw at them last time. Oh, and I saw where you told the Ecuadorans that you’d impose tariffs and cut military aid if they pushed a resolution endorsing breast-feeding at the upcoming World Health Organization meeting. And they got the message. I don’t have a problem with you trying to protect your baby formula industry—up to a point. But I’m thinking my people are going to offer that same resolution for Russia—you know, showing how concerned we are for the little kiddies, and when we do, there won’t be a peep out of you and your people, right?

Trump: Oh, yes sir, I mean no sir, right. Absolutely right. I think breast-feeding is the best thing—Moms, dads, everybody should breast-feed, and. . . .

Putin: By the way, I’ve been thinking that we got snookered on that Alaska deal a hundred and fifty years ago. I’m not gonna ask for it back, but I want $100 million a year for your remaining years in office. Straight into my account. I don’t care where you get it.

Trump: Gosh, that could be hard. Sorry, I didn’t mean that, don’t worry a bit, I’m sure I can find it somewhere, sir. Maybe I’ll call it foreign aid or hide it somewhere in the defense budget. Or maybe repairs to Mar-a-Lago. But yeah, that Alaska deal really wasn’t fair to you, and we need to correct that. I’d be honored to do that.

Putin: I’ve also been thinking I’d like to come to the White House for a little visit, and experience some of what you call pomp and circumstance.

Trump: Oh, would you sir? That would be the greatest thing! Our countries are so alike and it would be just such an honor for me and my people to have you as our greatest guest ever. If you’d just stay a day or two it would be wonderful. You can sleep in the Lincoln bedroom and everything! I am so excited—we’ll get started on it right away.

Putin: OK, you can announce that in a few days. But right now we’re going out there, and you’re gonna say how you accept my denial of interference in your elections, and how good a guy I am, and how your intelligence people got it wrong, and how maybe your press and congress have gotten me and Russia wrong. And you’re gonna say how NATO is outdated and you’re not going to come to the defense of Montenegro in case somebody got interested in taking over that little so-called country. I might even give you a soccer ball from our World Cup games. So smile for the camera, Donnie, and don’t forget to turn up the volume on that recorder at your desk.

Trump: Got it, sir. It’s been great listening to you. It’s been greater than great. It’s been greatness, you know, greater than great gets, I mean really, really great. Really, really great. Greatness to the max. The greatest greatness. Anyway, you can depend on me, sir.

Frolicking Among the Lotus Eaters

After 1, 770 miles, we have arrived at the Quartzite, Arizona, secret initiation ceremony for new Casita Brothers and Sisters into the Casita Union of Lifelong Transients, or CULT for short. We are in the middle of the desert with some hundred and fifty or so other Believers, most of whom have already endured the stringent initiation rites, though some of whom, such as myself, apprehensively await The Trials to come. As you will remember, at last year’s ceremony in Alabama, Val leaped into the abyss, endured The Trials, and joined CULT, while I feared to take the plunge and remained an observer from afar. But this year I am committed, though with considerable anxiety. The first night of the period known as The Trials begins with each of the hopeful novitiates coming before the Senior Elder who addresses the applicant with the prompts from the secret Casita Catechism. Each applicant must give each of the ancient responses, and the slightest memory lapse results in failure of the first Trial. Nevertheless, it can be revealed that the first night also involves branding of the Casita secret symbol on the bottom of the initiate’s left foot, a symbol whose occult meaning dates back centuries to the time when Casitas were pulled by horses and oxen.

The second night of The Trials, as I observed from a safe distance last year, involves prospective initiates dancing naked around an enormous bonfire. Hopeful initiates are judged primarily on their display of ecstasy and their ability to dance without limping after the branding of the night before. Those judged insufficiently rapturous or mobile are culled by a vigorous slap on the rump by one of the Elders, who, with stern countenance, points a disapproving finger into the darkness immediately beyond the fire’s outer ring, a ring that marks the outer boundary of the Circle of Joy. Dancing continues for half an hour, involving hundreds of circuits around the bonfire, with arms flowing, ecstatic cries, and tremulous wails of orgiastic and even orgasmic utterance issuing from the glowing, fire-lit faces of the hopeful initiates. Obviously, some degree of fitness is advantageous, and those unable to sustain these exertions fall or slump to the desert floor, their limp and spent bodies dragged by others beyond the Circle of Joy. One of the Elders, a concerned, older man, is especially attentive to the younger dancers, particularly the females, gallantly darting in at critical moments if any seem about to fall, lifting and supporting their glistening, bare bodies, whispering what are no doubt words of encouragement. He is so assiduous in this role that one can only infer that it has been assigned to him by the Senior Elder herself. At the end of the half hour, the senior Elder blows on a gigantic ram’s horn to signify the end of the evening’s festivities. The Hopefuls are wrapped in gorgeous Casita blankets—emblazoned with the secret symbol—and disperse to their respective campsites.

Of course the climax of all the festivities occurs on the third and final night of The Trials, in which one of the Hopeful initiates is selected for ritual sacrifice. Historically, this has tended to dissuade some owners from seeking membership, thus opting to forgo the many benefits, such as learning the secret handshake and participating as an Elder in future initiations. The process of selection of the Honoree (the term “victim” is forbidden) is, of course, secret, partially for legal reasons, as the legal team is still exploring the outer boundaries of Congress’s recent pronouncements on the concept of religious freedom. Some among the legal team have suggested that the organization’s acronym might invite prejudice in this regard, but consensus remains elusive. In any event the grand announcement of the name of the Honoree is typically met with some relief and general applause. Naturally the choice is inconvenient for the person chosen, and usually results in some annoyance to the spouse, significant other, or next of kin of the Honoree. But that annoyance is substantially ameliorated by the awarding of a brand new Casita to said survivor, as well as the prospect of finding a new mate among the survivors of previous Honorees.

The final and most august stage of The Trials begins with the lighting of the final ceremonial bonfire, and each initiate, wearing a purple, ornate Casita robe, again comes before the Senior Elder and recites the Casita Oath and Law with appropriate and edifying gravity. Obviously I cannot reveal publicly any of the language of this venerated document upon pain of various unmentionable torturous punishments, which themselves cannot be specified to the general public upon pain of those very same punishments. Forgetting a single word leads to expulsion and possible confiscation of the initiate’s Casita, depending on the gravity of the memory lapse. Successful initiates, now first year novitiates, receive from the Elder the Casita necklace, which they are adjured never to remove.

These are the tests that lie before me. I have committed the Catechism, Oath, and Law to memory and steeled myself to the upcoming travails. Val assures me that, with a proper attitude, and presuming I am not the Honoree, I can actually enjoy them by submitting to their rigors with joy and exaltation. I’ll try to keep you informed if I get in.

Note: A few minor liberties were taken with the facts for this report.

Down in the Dumps-ter

It was the first evening of John and Val’s Marvelous Adventure, which we were spending at the Governor Jim Hogg City Park, a pleasant little place in Quitman, Texas after a drive of about 425 miles from Hattiesburg. We had eaten take-out from a close-by Mexican restaurant so as not to leave our two poor canines in our camper too long without the protective comfort of their parents, not to mention adult supervision. The evening was quite cool, and I had gotten my prized Texas map out of the car and was taking a small bag of trash out to a nearby dumpster. The dumpster was about five feet tall with a four inch ledge on each side and was empty except for some recently cut shrubbery. I apparently had one of those increasingly common senior moments and threw the map in with the trash. This map had sentimental value; after all, I had actually talked to the AAA lady; we had bonded; we were tight. It arrived, along with three others, in the proverbial nick of time, the day before our departure.

Reaching in, even standing on the ledge to do so, would not work. Still over a foot out of reach. Apparently senior moments—this was a new discovery for me—are sequential and closely timed, so I stood on the ledge, threw my right leg over the top, found the floor, and noticed that my left leg was vigorously protesting this foolishness by catching itself on the edge, threatening to drop the shoe on the outside. Finally the foot bowed to the apparent inevitable and came on inside with the rest of me. I put my recovered treasure in my back pocket, and finally started to consider the challenge of getting out. This, or at least so I deceive myself, would have been no problem to that 30 year old me, even without an accommodating ledge on the inside. I put my hands on the edge and pushed up. My feet came off the floor, but the prospect of trying to put one of them on the edge seemed to be an open invitation to tumbling over for a five foot fall with no assurance of what would hit first—all this on the first day of the trip, which seemed unnecessarily early for a hospital visit.

I stared forlornly at our little camper, all lit up and warm inside, a mere thirty yards away. I had been already gone for a good fifteen minutes, but did my lovely wife choose to inquire why a thirty yard trip to the dumpster was taking so long? As a matter of fact, no. Had I been sufficiently provident to take my phone with me? Again, no. Yelling seemed a bit unseemly, and I began to wonder what a night in a dumpster might be like. My arthritis-riddled shoulders were complaining about the push-ups, but there seemed no alternative. Still, going over the edge with one big heave seemed to promise unpleasant consequences. I tried hoisting myself on the plastic flap on the other half of the dumpster, but it was designed for thinner people finding themselves in this situation. I began to regret those days in tenth grade geometry that I had characteristically spent preoccupied with thoughts of the fair sex, motorcycles, track and field, and other distracting amusements. But at long last, a possible solution presented itself. I pushed some of the almost non-existent trash into a corner, thinking that a corner, with one hand on each side, would be more stable than a one-dimension side. I stood on the meager pile, gave a gentler push into a straight arm position with my feet above my improvised platform, managed to lift my right leg up, and—the details are a little sketchy here—ended up on the outside feet first.

Damned map. Google maps are better anyway. If I can find another dumpster, that baby is history.

Bicycle Adventures

Bicycle riding may be defined as long, Saharan passages of discomfort and boredom interrupted by occasional unexpected oases of entertainments and curiosities. About a month ago at three separate locations on our local rails-to-trails, Kelly O. and I saw three copperheads, agkistrodon contortix, one of which had the misfortune of coming under my wheels as I, being distracted by Kelly O.’s elucidation of the finer points of certain metaphysical problems in which he and I were engaged, neglected to give the surprised and annoyed serpent a sufficiently wide berth. We did not trouble to inquire after his injuries, but it is a certainty that he slinked back to his lair with a few broken ribs complaining to his wife about callous and inattentive humans.

Having nursed his ribs and bruised muscles back to health, I feel sure he would have taken comfort mixed with pleasure had he known of the adventure two weeks later of the author of his maladies. On that occasion, Kelly B., Glen, and I were at mile 46 of a long ride, again on the trail, rolling along at almost 20 miles per hour, with Kelly B. in the lead, me second, and Glen third. The trail was spangled with patches of sunlight and countless leaves, obscuring its contours, and at about the time Kelly B. said “bump,” I unaccountably found myself somersaulting through the air, with my feet, still clipped in, pointing skyward, bicycle momentarily above me. I landed on my back with a resounding and unpleasing thump, which happily threw the bike into the ditch, avoiding the inevitable scrapes or crimps otherwise its due had it, too, hit the trail. My helmet was cracked and the seat was twisted, but my companions were able to straighten the latter, and we were able to resume. Glen observed that the whole affair was most entertaining, and if I would offer to repeat it, he would happily wear his GoPro to record it for the entertainment of others.

This was not the end of our adventures. Yesterday, Kelly O. and I were resting at the Sumrall station, joyously occupied in heated debate, with Kelly this time challenging my views on some unresolved paradoxes of Aristotle. I was facing west, toward Main Street and the post office, and he was facing east toward Hattiesburg. Behind him, not seventy-five feet from us and a mere fifty feet from the post office and Main Street, there was a truck in the parking lot, with the passenger door strategically open and a woman of middle years standing on our side of it, minimally blocked to Main Street but totally visible to us. Just as Kelly was offering an unassailable riposte to a point I made concerning the Nicomachean Ethics, I interrupted with a dumbfounded “Holy cow!”, or similar expletive, as the lady completely dropped her drawers along with any pretension to modesty and partially squatted. Kelly turned around and briefly digressed from his enlightening disquisition to make an apt comment on the phases of the moon, which was then full. Before I could pull my jaw off the floor and regain the power of speech to inform her that there were facilities not five feet from where we were sitting, all of the physiological necessities had expired, drawers had been raised, and Sumrall returned to its genteel, bucolic self.

Surely these excitements were at an end. But no. Today five of us were homeward bound, having returned to the trail after a couple of hours absorbing the pastoral delights of the countryside. The wind was gusty and strong, and with no warning we found ourselves watching, not quite in slow motion, a dead oak tree, perhaps a foot in diameter near its base, wickedly fall directly onto the trail, one of its limbs catching and slightly wounding the lead rider and causing Teresa to hit her brakes so as to avoid running right into it. We all stopped of course, and fortunately the tree was small enough that we could move it off the trail. It is presumably unwise to anthropomorphize trees, but its intent did indeed seem a touch malevolent.

I would take up golf instead, but I happen to agree with Mr. Chesterton, who felt that it is unsporting to hit a sitting ball.

Me and the Klan

All the recent Charlottesville and KKK news reminded me of my own encounter with the Klan, fifty-one or fifty-two years ago when I was about seventeen. Martin Luther King was giving a speech c. late 1965 or early ’66 at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh, and the Klan decided to march in protest. I believe it was a Sunday afternoon. Several of my buddies decided, in our marvelously naive and cavalier way, to ride our motorcycles downtown and watch the parade. My memory is that the Klansmen were walking single file about ten feet from us, some in robes, some not, and some in a kind of militia-like uniform, the last of whom were carrying flashlights about fifteen or so inches long as weapons. I had never seen Klansmen or their robes before, and, ever the absurd provocateur, I called out “Where’s the party?” A short, thirty-ish, rather Snopes-like fellow took umbrage, and before you could say white supremacist, he darted out of line, landed a fine roundhouse punch to my left jaw, spit out “THAT’S where the party is!” and then quickly retreated back in line immediately behind one of the flashlight fellows. I had never actually been sucker-punched before (childhood fights being mostly wrestling matches), and more than anything I stood there simply shocked—“Damn! Some SOB just hit me!” A plain-clothes detective of some sort quickly came up to me, asked a question or two, including “Do you want to file charges?” Not having any particular desire to enmesh myself in the criminal justice system, I declined. Then, in the throes of Justice Outraged, I started heading off to find the culprit and, I guess, call him out, or at least call him something. I had gotten who knows how many yards at a brisk walk on the way to finding him when a close friend—then and now—proved his courage, friendship, and sanity by chasing after me and dissuading me from my dubious quest.

It’s amazing how foolish a young fellow can be when seen through his own old man’s eyes. Not just foolish for the initial taunt, but even more so for interacting with the Klan when I probably could have seen MLK.

Of Saints and Sinners

In the pantheon of presidential saints, we have . . . hmmm, well, actually it’s a pretty short list. Maybe Lincoln. But even with him, it’s probably safer to put him at the second stage of the four-stage process to sainthood, Venerable. After all, despite more books about him—15,000 and counting—than any other human being possibly excepting Jesus, we don’t know of any actual miracles, and who knows what youthful peccadilloes may yet be discovered to mar Honest Abe’s march to glory.

So the standards are pretty high. Our current president, Mr. Trump, once suggested that he would be our best president, with the possible exception, he generously allowed, of Mr. Lincoln. Based on this claim, it is not unreasonable to consider Mr. Trump’s application for sainthood. There was the miracle of his actually getting elected, at least if one acknowledges that not all miracles have to be good things but can include things that are simply impossible yet somehow happen anyway. But before putting The Blonde One on the road to sainthood, let’s see how he does with the seven cardinal sins.

Typically no one remembers the seven cardinal sins except priests and those fortunate to have learned some mnemonic device for recalling them. Happily, we have one: WASPLEG, which stands for wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. So how does the forty-fifth president measure up?

Wrath. If “wrath” means only screaming fits, rather than just anger, there is still some evidence. Leaks have suggested that The Don has exploded at underlings who fail their master, and his perpetual tweets have sometimes had all the characteristics of semi-literate writing done in red if not white heat. But if wrath is basically a mildly archaic word for anger, well, the President almost radiates anger, especially at anything that does not reflect well upon him. It is no great leap to assume that his obsession with denigrating the investigation of his Make Russia Great Again campaign shows him to be pretty darned angry that anyone might doubt him or even has the right to investigate him. Further, his excoriations of the press as fake news suggest a fellow who goes apoplectic in the privacy of the residential quarters of the White House when a reporter discovers some unflattering or possibly criminal fact and has the audacity to announce it on TV.

Avarice. This one’s easy. The billionaire bombast and braggadocio. The bankruptcies to avoid payments to his creditors. The unwillingness to make public his IRS returns, partly to hide his Russian connections but also to avoid revealing how little he has paid in taxes. His over four thousand lawsuits, many of which are aimed at stiffing contractors and tradesmen who have worked for him. The laughable preposterousness of Trump University, sucking thousands of dollars from credulous wannabe millionaires. The meretricious gaudiness of his physical surroundings, so much so that he can barely stand a weekend at the unacceptably drab White House. His endless pursuit of money-making schemes—golf courses, Trump steaks, Trump buildings around the world, even selling the Trump logo for buildings he does not even own. His two great goals—money and power—reciprocally reinforce each other: more money means more power, while more power, especially as president, means more money pouring into the coffers. It is not for nothing that he refused to put all of his holdings into a blind trust. And who ever heard of the “emoluments clause” in the Constitution until this president?

Sloth. The president is somewhere on the bi-polar continuum here. He is wonderfully industrious in the pursuit of his business enterprises, his eighth grade tweeting, and his (presumed former) pursuit of fair ladies. He has also shown industry in the writing of executive orders, or at least signing them. But in the area of governing, his industry flags. Of the 554 administration positions requiring senate approval, only eighty-two had even been announced, and only twenty-four actually filled as of April 24. Of course he is rather busy trying to put out fires and squash investigations, but he also is said to spend many hours attending to how he is being covered in the news. Thanks to Mitch McConnell, he did appoint a Supreme Court justice, but he has signed no significant legislation, he has had only one actual press conference where he was the only one at the podium, and he doesn’t bother to read much of anything longer than a page or otherwise improve on his vast horizons of ignorance. He can’t even write his own books.

Pride. Pride, if C. S. Lewis and presumably other theological thinkers are to be believed, is the most egregious of all the sins because the prideful person, like Milton’s Lucifer, is challenging God, even seeking to displace him. Mr. Trump has raised pride to an art form. First, of course, is that his name is on just about everything associated with him, written in glorious golden letters. Isn’t that just a little tawdry? Wouldn’t most folks be embarrassed to be thought so vain and self-obsessed? Then there is his constant bragging, particularly during the campaign, about what a great president he would be, how intractable problems would yield to his forceful deal-making and sheer personality, his assumption that his fame entitles him to grope women, and his demand of obeisance from underlings, even to the point of grotesque adulation, all of which bespeak a pride far in excess of mere arrogance. The quintessential example of grotesque adulation occurred at his recent cabinet meeting, in which each of the cabinet members except Secretary of Defense Mattis forfeited all semblance of dignity by offering their adoring praises of the president and professing their great honor and blessing at being his lackey—a spectacle of such sycophancy that an objective observer could only be left agape, stupefied. Rather than demur at this extraordinary display, the president smiled beatifically, acknowledging his due, like some middle-eastern potentate. One could further argue that many of his notorious lies, for example about crowd size at his inauguration, are self-deceptions as well as intentions to deceive others since the truth undermines his self-regard and diminishes his pride. And of course who can forget the textbook definition of narcissism in Trump’s monumentally egomaniacal statement at the GOP convention that “only I can fix it”? What galactic stores of pride are necessary to even think such a thing, much less to say it? The president might well ponder Proverbs 16:18 in his self-proclaimed favorite book, the Bible, which warns that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Lust. No further comment necessary.

Envy. This one is tricky because hard evidence is difficult to come by. Still, there are intimations of envy in the president’s need to be bigger and better than others, to be the greatest president, and to belittle any challenger. Worse, his admiration of autocrats—Putin foremost, but also the leaders of Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines—suggests how much he envies their largely unchecked power and their freedom from an inquiring press and an untamed judiciary. Who, he must privately ask, will rid me of this meddlesome Constitution?

Gluttony. In its meaning of great intemperance in the matter of eating and drinking intoxicating beverages, we must give the president a pass given our absence of evidence. But if it can mean something slightly broader, as in “a glutton for punishment,” Trump’s need to acquire and own indicates a materialism so pervasive that it snuffs out curiosity, obliterates aesthetic values, and minimizes generosity of spirit. He is ruled by his passions—power, material gain, and adulation from others.

Somehow dishonesty, bullying, and hypocrisy didn’t make the Seven Cardinal Sins list. I offer them as amendments. Meanwhile Lincoln, the president Mr. Trump hopes to be compared to, is a Venerable. Trump has a pretty long way to go to move up the ladder. How could the Grand Old Party produce both a Lincoln and a Trump?

Obamacare vs. Voodoo Healthcare: Round One to the Democrats

So after ceaselessly decrying Obamacare, and multiple Republican attempts to eviscerate it with their depressingly hypocritical mantra to repeal and replace, the GOP finally controls both houses of Congress, the White House, and, soon enough, the Supreme Court. And yet, when finally in a position to repeal and replace, they come up with, to reprise George H. W. Bush’s famous criticism of Reaganomics as “voodoo economics,” Voodoo Healthcare 1.0. But alas, it is still far too liberal with the taxpayers’ money for the far-right House “Freedom Caucus” to stomach, and no Democrat is going to vote for actual repeal, so House Speaker Ryan’s Voodoo Healthcare 1.0 goes up in much deserved flames without even going to the floor for its inevitable No vote, much to the embarrassment of Republicans, the cheers of Democrats, and the usual whining of our Liar-in-Chief, Mr. Trump, who characteristically externalizes all blame to others, in this case the Democrats. Well gee, Donnie Boy, aside from the right-wingers who were poised to vote against it, did you really think that the party that passed Obamacare without a single Republican vote was going to suddenly have a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience and vote your way?

Whatever the flaws of Obamacare, it did re-set the bar such that real healthcare reform, aspiring, at least, to eventual universal care at affordable prices, is now firmly in the public mind, and even the Republicans must respond. It is no small irony—actually hypocrisy—that in the early 90s, Republican current senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch along with then senators Bob Dole and Richard Lugar and House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich latched on to the conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute’s idea of an individual mandate for healthcare. Thus armed with the imprimatur of conservative think tank bona fides, they boldly proposed it as an alternative to anything First Lady Hillary Clinton might come up with. The theory was that if everyone had it, not just the sick and elderly, prices would be affordable, we’d have universal healthcare, and those who already had it would no longer be subsidizing the many who did not and who sought out hospital emergency rooms since hospitals could not turn them away. In the curious flip-flop of party politics, the Democrats—rarely averse to a touch of hypocrisy themselves and hoping for better—were extremely lukewarm about the mandate idea, being leery of its provenance, and so of course it was never passed. It was a reasonable idea then, and it was just as reasonable when Obama proposed it as a key element in his healthcare reform package. It was also reasonable when Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney signed the mandate into law in his state. But somehow, in that magical way that political hypocrisy is portrayed as high principle, when Obama promoted the idea, it suddenly became the work of the devil and represented a godless attack on capitalism and a government overreach heralding the birth of American totalitarianism. The Grassley-Hatch-Gingrich-Bob Dole embrace of the mandate in the early 90s was happily long forgotten, and Democrats were weak in reminding the populace of it, likely because their view of it back then when it was a conservative idea was moderately contrary to their own present enthusiasm. Romney, as presidential candidate in 2012, was not quite so fortunate in escaping the national amnesia, being frequently peppered with questions about Massachusetts’ more recent Romneycare. But, as an accomplished politician, he wriggled and squirmed and demurred at all comparisons of his mandate and Obama’s mandate.

Meanwhile Foxy News—sorry, Mr. Ailes and Mr. O’Reilly; well, not really—aka Foxy Nudes, aka Faux News, aka Fake News, rails against all things Obama and what was originally a Republican idea is now transmogrified into the work of Beelzebub himself. This stokes the Gullibles, and the GOP, fearing another entitlement, excoriates Obama and his diabolical and un-American plan. They suffer a serious blow when temporarily apostate Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts actually affirms the constitutional legitimacy of the mandate, giving Obama a rare 5-4 Court victory, and earning the Chief Justice the eternal loathing of those masses who are largely ignorant of The Affordable Care Act’s actual provisions but know very well which president concocted it, which is all they need. So Obamacare escapes an early grave. Nevertheless many uninsured do not enroll, especially many younger, healthier Americans, despite subsidies for lower income enrollees, and they are reluctantly willing to pay the modest penalty for failing to do so. Consequently, the “universal” part does not kick in well. Predictably insurance companies raise prices, partly because it’s just what they do, and partly because they are no longer allowed to refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions, nor are they allowed to kick someone off coverage for exceeding maximums allowed for expensive medical conditions.

Citizen Trump, and later candidate Trump, has managed to take about every side possible concerning healthcare, which obviously means he has no real convictions at all. He has stated, in a debate, “I like the mandate.” He has blamed legislators and insurance companies for being in thrall to each other. He has actually endorsed the importation of lower-priced Canadian drugs, competition among insurance companies across state lines, and even, back in the day, a national, single-payer system—all anathema to conservatives whose fierce opposition to all of those has forced him into line. Candidate Trump, whose own physician appears to have just been released from the local de-tox rehab center and who declared in a momentary fit of ecstasy that Trump is the healthiest candidate ever to run for the presidency, promises to repeal and replace Obamacare on his first day in office with “something terrific.” Naturally he doesn’t have the remotest idea what that would be, nor do his fellow Republicans, as evidenced by their recent failure to do what they have long promised despite their congressional majorities and Trump in the Big House. Now that the luster of “repeal and replace” has been tarnished a little, the current GOP shibboleths are “patient-centered healthcare” and universal “access” to healthcare. The first one trips off Republican tongues as if it actually means something, which of course it does not, but it makes a deliciously invidious comparison to Obamacare, which by implication must not be interested in patients at all. The second one, like all political rhetoric, also sounds appealing—“access.” Heck, who doesn’t want access? By what conceivable right does the many-tentacled government deny me “access” to something I want? The worm in that pretty apple, as Bernie Sanders pointed out to Ted Cruz in a post-election debate on healthcare, is that everyone already has access to healthcare, just as Bernie has access to buying a Maserati. But if you can’t afford it, then “access” is a sweet-sounding but meaningless term. Or, rather, what it does mean is that those who can afford it can have it, and those who can’t—well hey, it’s a Darwinian world out there.

And that is where the political divide really is: Is healthcare a right, whose costs are to be amortized among all Americans, with the wealthy subsidizing the unwealthy; or is it a normal commodity like cars or L. L. Bean coats, where those who cannot afford it, even those working full-time, will just have to do without? (Or, as Representative Chaffee has characterized it in Marie Antoinette fashion, they should quit buying a new cell phone every few months so they can afford it.) Obama has forced the Republicans to come forward a little; even they now must speak favorably of preserving the ban on excluding those with pre-existing conditions as well as allowing individuals to stay on their parents’ healthcare until age 26—both progressive features of Obamacare. The problem is that they want the dessert but don’t want the vegetables, the vegetables being the mandate and the higher taxes on the wealthy which are indispensable pieces to make the whole thing work. In that sense it is simple economics: the goodies have a cost, and if you take away the mechanisms for paying for the cost, the system falls apart.

Having promised for years, the Republicans are trapped in their “repeal and replace” rhetoric, and Democrats are firmly resolved that no repeal will take place with their help. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has, however, offered that if repeal is abandoned by Republicans in favor of fixing some of Obamacare’s problems, Democrats would be open to that. Two obvious reforms would be allowing insurance company competition across state lines, and allowing Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. Aren’t Republicans all for capitalist competition? Well, they are at least until corporate lobbyists with lots of dollars to dispense convince them otherwise. And what possible objection would Democrats have? Other bones will be much more difficult to pick, especially the “right” of healthcare vs. “access” to it, and the who pays, who benefits implications of that. Nobody, of course, is talking about a single-payer plan, as Canada and Britain have. Research indicates that those countries have lower per capita costs and equal if not better health outcomes. But that is not on the table—Democrats are too cowed to mention it and are aware of the corporate interests that would never allow it, while Republicans support those corporate interests and have screamed “government takeover” so long that some actually believe it.

So we’re still waiting for “something terrific.”

To Russia, With Love

Let’s play Connect-the-Dots.

Dot 1. President Trump has long had connections to the Soviet Union and Russia. His first trip was in 1987 to explore the possibility of building Moscow hotels. In the 90s, he went to Russia to explore renovating already existing hotels in Russia. He sought wealthy Russian investors, who had become wealthy after the fall of the Soviet Union by buying up formerly state-owned properties. Also in the 90s Russian investors bought dozens of condominiums in Trump World Tower in midtown Manhattan.*

Dot 2. Trump developed projects internationally in the early 2000s, some involving Russian money.

Dot 3. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. told Moscow investors in 2008 that the Trump organization had trademarked the Donald Trump name in Russia and observed that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Dot 4. Trump took the Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow in 2013, funded by a Russian billionaire named Aras Agalarov.

Dot 5. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was an Exxon-Mobil oil executive who made oil deals in Russia and in 2013 was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship award. Tillerson also met with Vladimir Putin.

Dot 6. Trump hired Paul Manafort as his campaign manager in 2016. Manafort had represented the former leader of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. Unrest in Ukraine forced Yanukovych to flee to Moscow, and shortly afterward Putin invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine. Putin continues to support ethnic Russian rebels fighting in Ukraine, who shot down a passenger jet in 2014. Manafort’s association with the Putin ally caused him to resign as Trump campaign chair.

Dot 7. Trump staffers objected to the GOP Platform statement that advocated “providing lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine in its fight against Russia-backed separatists after Russia’s land grab of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Staffers insisted that the language be changed to “appropriate assistance.”

Dot 8. Michael Flynn, Trump’s newly-fired National Security Adviser, was also fired by President Obama as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. After being fired by Obama, Flynn called Obama a “liar” and led Trump campaign rallies in their chants of “lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton. He was also working for Russia Today, the state-owned news and propaganda machine for Russia, and advocated for closer relations with Russia. He travelled to Russia for the 10th anniversary celebration of Russia Today, sitting at the same table with Putin. He was paid for that visit. He has not said how much, nor whether his acceptance of payment was approved by the secretaries of Defense and State, without which the acceptance of payment would be a violation of federal law.

Dot 9. U.S. intelligence agencies monitored a call from Flynn to the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, discussing new sanctions that Obama had imposed on Russia after the Russian interference in the American election. He told Vice-President Mike Pence and, according to The New York Times, the FBI that he did not discuss sanctions. Totally uncharacteristically, Putin did not reply in kind to Obama’s new sanctions and the expulsion of thirty-five Russians, presumed to be Russian spies. The intelligence agencies concluded that not only had the Russians interfered with the election, they did so specifically to help Trump defeat Clinton. Currently it is not known whether Trump or others knew of Flynn’s phone call at the time he made it.

Dot 10. During the campaign, Trump urged the Russians, “if you are listening,” to participate in the election by sharing all of Clinton’s emails. The Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign was apparently shared with Wikileaks. Wikileaks revealed emails indicating that the chair of the Democratic National Convention, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, had clearly favored Clinton over Bernie Sanders for the nomination, and she subsequently resigned. Another Wikileaks leak, again presumably provided by the Russians, exposed an email from John Podesta, chair of the Clinton campaign. Trump declared that “I love Wikileaks!” The Podesta email came almost immediately after the infamous Access Hollywood tape became public, a tape in which Trump bragged of grabbing women’s private parts and other sexual exploits.

Dot 11. Carter Page, who runs an investment company, was named as an early foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Former Senate minority leader Harry Reid accused Page of being a conduit between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Page gave a 2016 speech in which he accused the U.S. government of having a “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change” toward Russia.

Dot 12. Trump continues to excoriate the “dishonest media,” and now the “fake news media,” by which he means virtually all media except Fox News and other conservative news outlets. As the Russia connection scandal swirls, he tweeted on February 16 “The fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred. @MSNBC and @CNN are unwatchable. @foxandfriends is great!” In another tweet he referred to “This Russian connection non-sense.” In the February 16 press conference, he pointed out that “the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.”

Dot 13. Trump learned on January 26 that Flynn had lied to Vice-President Pence about the phone call to Russian ambassador Kislyak. On February 10, The Washington Post reported the phone call and Flynn’s lie to Pence that sanctions were not discussed. Three days later, and eighteen days after apparently first learning about the call and Flynn’s lying to Pence, Trump fired Flynn. Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that it was an “erosion of trust” that caused the firing, although it came only three days after the Post article. The transcripts of the calls are not yet available, though presumably they will be to House and Senate Intelligence committees. Democrats are calling for an independent investigation (like the 9/11 Commission), but Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell wants to keep it in the Republican-led intelligence committees. Democrats also fear that new Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, the earliest senator to support Trump in the campaign, cannot be a fair arbiter of a Justice department investigation.

Dot 14. A day after Press Secretary Spicer said that it was an erosion of trust that caused the firing (and presumably therefore having nothing to do with the Post article revealing the Flynn-Pence issue), Trump himself praised Flynn, stating that he, Flynn, had been “treated unfairly by the media.” There was no comment about Trump’s eroding trust in Flynn.

Dot 15. Trump has defied four decades of precedent from candidates of both parties in refusing to make public his tax returns, despite calls from various sources that he do so. His claim has been that he cannot do so because he is under audit, though the IRS has made clear that there is no legal prohibition of anyone making public his or her own tax returns. Moreover, he has said that he would release the tax returns when he is no longer under audit. As it is likely that the IRS routinely audits billionaires’ tax returns every year, this is probably a safe promise to make. The tax returns would help clarify where Trump has investments and debts.

Dot 16. Trump has refused to place his assets in a blind trust despite near universal calls to do so from ethicists and neutral observers. Instead he has handed over leadership to relatives and close associates, meaning that he still has ultimate control over his business enterprises.

Dot 17. Trump has had an ongoing hostile attitude toward the intelligence community, beginning with his pushback of the unanimous conclusion of American intelligence agencies that Russians interfered in the election with the goal of helping him get elected. He has sarcastically put the word intelligence in quotation marks in reference to the CIA, FBI, and NSA. The three agencies concluded in a report to President Obama that the Russians not only interfered with the election, they did so at the express orders of Putin and specifically to damage Clinton and help Trump (the CIA and FBI did so with “high confidence” and the NSA with “moderate confidence”). Most recently, Trump blamed intelligence officials for “criminal” leaks concerning the Flynn affair, and the The Wall Street Journal—no particular friend to liberal Democrats—reported on February 15 that intelligence officials are no longer sharing certain sensitive details, such as methods of intelligence gathering, with the President for fear that their methods and personnel could be compromised.

So what picture do all the dots appear to create? Can any or all of these dots be connected? First, and almost certainly, Trump fired Flynn only because of The Washington Post article’s revelations, given the eighteen days between Trump’s hearing of Flynn’s actions and the actual firing. Without the Post article, Flynn would almost certainly still be National Security Adviser, a strange role for an American who just before had been an analyst for a state-owned Russian propaganda arm, Russia Today. Second, and far more ambiguously, what are we to make of the numerous connections between Trump people—Manafort, Page, Trump Jr., Flynn, Tillerson, and Trump himself—and Russian officials, including Putin himself? How is it, and why is it, that Trump has collected such a collection of like-minded Russophiles in his orbit? Add to this Trump’s yearlong defenses of Putin, especially that some other entity could be doing the hacks, possibly China or some fat guy in his bed. Did Trump possibly authorize Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador, thus making Flynn a scapegoat, albeit a highly unsympathetic one? Trump has publicly stated that he admired the leadership of autocratic and dictatorial Putin, including a recent interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, in which he stated that “we are not so innocent” when O’Reilly pointed out that Putin was a killer. Was Trump’s public invitation to Putin during the campaign to interfere in the election by leaking Clinton emails an ill-thought-out tip of the iceberg acknowledgment of a deeper collusion between Trump and Putin to actually rig the election?

It is certainly premature to suggest that Trump authorized Flynn’s call, though the apparent nature of the call—suggesting that Trump would lift or at least ease sanctions—is in keeping with Trump’s own thinking. The fact that Putin did not retaliate for Obama’s expulsion of thirty-five presumed Russian intelligence agents certainly reinforces the apparent subject of the call, at least in the absence of transcripts not yet made public. Flynn’s call also reminds us that we have one president at a time, and Obama was still president when Flynn made his call.

The Trump collection of Russophiles, not just individuals sympathetic to the idea of closer relations with Russia but individuals who have financial interests in that outcome, clearly tilts their (and Trump’s) perspective favorably or at least sympathetically toward Russian behavior, and thus neuters the natural skepticism that high level individuals in an American administration should have toward a long-term adversary. For example, so far the administration has had nothing to say about the Russian deployment of a ground-launched new cruise missile, in direct violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the United States that prohibits the deployment of ground-launched missiles with a range of 300 to 3400 miles.

Trump’s financial ties to Russia, possibly including Trump debt to Russia or specific Russians, would certainly be one of two primary reasons that Trump would not wish to reveal his tax returns. The other, of course, would be that they may well reveal that he has paid no federal income taxes for approximately eighteen years after claiming a large loss in the 90s, which, apparently, he has effectively amortized over nearly two decades. But he certainly does not want his financial ties to Russia on public display.

Given that we know that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and subsequently shared that information with Wikileaks, it is probable that Russia also hacked the Republican National Committee for its own purposes. It is almost a certainty that Russian intelligence has whole file cabinets on Trump, going back to his first business dealings with the Russians in 1987, just as it has files on other presidential candidates and as we have files on numerous Russians. It is also quite probable that in addition to the Trump files containing business dealings and possible debt, some of the material is personally unflattering. Whether on the basis of business dealings or personal behavior, or both, Trump could be in the position of potentially being blackmailed without the threat even being spoken. As of this writing, February 16, Trump claimed in an almost bizarre press conference that he has no dealings with Russia: “I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no loans in Russia, I have no deals with Russia.” If the President had even a modest reputation for honesty, such a statement would have to be credited until proven false. But, even aside from his son’s own statement concerning Trump-Russia business connections, Trump is notorious for misstatements, falsehoods, and lies, and thus it is more reasonable than not to assume that “I have nothing to do with Russia” is not true. Also in the press conference he claimed to have won more electoral votes than anyone since Reagan (demonstrably false: Obama had more in both his elections, Clinton had more in both his elections, and George H. W. Bush had more in 1988). He also claimed, in connection with the Flynn affair, that the leaks were “real” but the news was “fake,” prompting the reasonable question, asked by a reporter, how could the news be fake if the leaks of that information were real? And while praising Wikileaks that helped him during the campaign, he now paints “illegal leaks” as the source of his troubles.

The business ties, the Trump inner circle of Russia supporters, the watering down of the GOP platform supporting Ukraine, Trump’s attacks on American intelligence agencies, Trump’s publicly expressed admiration of Putin, the expression of the moral equivalence of the United States and Russia when O’Reilly called Putin a killer, the silence so far in not condemning the Russian violation of the INF treaty, the likely intent to soften the sanctions on Russia, the refusal to release his tax returns, the Russian interference in the election with the purpose of helping Trump win, the unprecedented Russian decision not to retaliate after Obama’s expulsion of thirty-five Russian spies, all collectively point to, at the very minimum, an extremely un-Republican and worrisome relationship between the Trump administration and the most significant and continuous adversary of the United States since the end of World War II. It could be that Trump’s coziness with Russia is simply about money, with Trump using the bully pulpit to protect his investments and to expand his financial empire. Even given such a banal interpretation, a pro-Russia tilt for personal gain would be indefensible and almost inevitable.

But there is also a more draconian interpretation, clearly speculation at this point, but not unreasonable given what we know about Trump the businessman and the deal-maker, along with his penchant for a lack of candor. Might there have been some sort of collusion between Putin and Trump, in which Russia employs cyber-warfare to help Trump win the election, with a stated or unstated quid pro quo that Trump will take a soft stand vis-à-vis Russia. This could take the form of lifting sanctions, or, more generally, not standing in Putin’s way as he seeks to expand Russia’s international influence, to undermine other democracies’ elections through cyber attacks, to sew discord among American allies and NATO, and possibly to re-construct the Soviet Union. Certainly such a collusion would be a traitorous act and, as a constitutional “high crime,” an impeachable one. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose wife is in Trump’s cabinet, has his eye on the 2018 mid-term congressional elections, especially the tenuous Republican majority in the senate providing him with his senate leadership role, and hence he is reluctant to encourage any outside investigations. Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, though having their own personal reasons for despising Trump, seem to be placing country over party in their willingness to follow the facts—the dots—wherever they may lead. They could lead to a dead end. But maybe not.

*Factual data and quotations have been gleaned primarily from various news stories in USA Today, but also NBC News, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and

« Older entries