Oh boy, I don’t know where to begin. I remember civics lessons in grade school and citizenship merit badges as a Boy Scout. The grade school class was every other Friday for one period and the merit badges were boring and something you had to get through to advance. I learned there was a house and a senate and each state had two senators and a bill needed to pass both houses of congress. That was about it. I grew up in a strongly Republican right wing town. I didn’t know it was right wing until much later but they had the strongest chapter of the John Birch Society, which at the time boasted a fancy copier machine that could also collate as it copied. The head of the society was Robert Welch of Welch’s jam and grape juice. He called Eisenhower a Communist and I’ve never bought anything named Welch’s since that time. Boy oh boy, how times have changed.
We’ve still got those folks screaming they are patriots and that if you’re not with ‘em they’re agin you. They’ve gotten much better organized and their efforts are better directed by the same hidden money interests. Not different, the same, although there are some new players, but the old guard is still there in the form of the sons and daughters of the original ones.
I’ve learned more about the Constitution, my rights, and how our democracy was formed and how it is designed to work in the last few decades then I ever thought I’d need to know. But yesterday I learned a very disturbing thing – how Trump won. I posted the article but to recap: big money and big data combined to create profiles of 200 million Americans, down to psychological profiles, and political likes and dislikes. They used that information to individually target voters and sent them specifically designed messages framing those messages in carefully crafted words, pictures, videos, headlines and even colors to elicit the response they wanted. If you drive an American car you’re more likely to vote for Trump. In Little Havana in Miami they sent out a video showing Hillary saying something that those folks wouldn’t like in an effort to cause doubt and keep them away from the polls. They targeted 17 states in their efforts, and you know what? It worked. Before they were on Trump’s campaign they were on Cruz’s. People wondered why Cruz did so well in rural Wisconsin. Well, wonder no more. Those folks got targeted messages that fired them up.
People running a traditional get out the vote campaign were caught flat footed as is evidenced by the sweeping victories of people who stand for things most voters don’s agree with.
Okay, so that’s one thing, and if it isn’t countered in kind by the next election cycle we are in deep do-do.
Moving on, did anything else happen yesterday? Oh yeah, ten days into his presidency Mr. Trump has managed to create a Constitutional crisis of his own making, one that could have been easily avoided. The question for many is “Did he choose to do this, or was he unaware, or is this all part of the grand scheme of Bannon to destroy our government as he pledge in 2013 that he wanted to do?” It’s unclear at this point in time.
As most of you probably know by now Team Trump fired the acting Attorney General because she issued a directive to her attorneys not to defend his Muslim ban because she thought it unconstitutional and asked for clarification from the president. Instead of explaining their position they fired her, which left a gap in some important legal stuff. Apparently, she was the only person who could sign a certain kind of wire tap request. Trump got another person to step in temporarily until his AG nomination is approved, which is severely in doubt, but as I understand it to be able to issue these wire tap requests you have to be approved by the Senate. Some have said there are ways around this, I don’t know.
Immediately, historians and constitutional scholars were roused to the phone to explain, enlighten and clarify. Parallels were drawn to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” which I remember in my early 20s as happening but didn’t really pay much attention to. Nixon’s original AG, John Mitchell, had been relieved of his duties and a new AG was appointed whom Nixon told to fire the Special Watergate Prosecutor because the prosecutor had demanded the Watergate tapes and Nixon knew if they came to light he was guilty and would be impeached. That AG, Elliot Richardson refused, was fired and replaced by another who refused and was fired and replaced by Robert Borke who did the dirty deed. All on one Saturday night. Ah, Robert Borke and I thought all that happened to him was he didn’t get appointed to the Supreme Court.
So the historians filled us in on the history but the Constitutional scholars helped with the meaning and consequence. The significant thing is that this was brought about, whether intentionally or not, by actions in the White House. The Attorney General is charged with upholding the law not doing the bidding of the politician who appointed them. A point that seems to be lost on the White House. Additionally, it was noted that the State Department has a special dissent procedure which states that you can dissent via this process and that there will be no repercussions. If for instance you don’t think you can carry out a request because you think it’s illegal, like say waterboarding. However, you have to sign your name so they can respond. This request goes directly to the secretary of state skipping the whole chain of command. One hundred people have filed dissents since this President was elected, very unusual. So when Mr. Spicer said if people in the State Department can’t do their bidding they should quit. He obvious is oblivious or unknowing of how things work. Maybe they want everyone in the government to swear loyalty to Mr. Trump?
The people who have left the Department of State, career diplomats, which has been described as a purge, and if you look at the organizational chart the top three levels appear to be gone. They are getting down to the level that the people who issue passports and visa will be next to go.
Back to the Constitutional crisis, historians used the word unprecedented. Yes, there are similarities to The Saturday Night Massacre but that was a situation brought on by circumstances outside of the White House. This was created by the White House, whether intentional or not. (I already said that didn’t I? Oh well.) There is a fascinating thing to consider: do Trump and Bannon want chaos, or is it just incompetence and naivety? Hard to know at this point. Is this all a grand plan to install Pence as president, and if so don’t you wish Kaisich had stepped up to the plate when asked? I think both governors are sneaky and deceitful when it comes to the ways they shut down women’s clinics in their states but at least Kaisch seems rational and not imbued with religious zealotry.
All this happened before 10 pm last night, and then . . . and then . . . Trump fired the head of immigration, the guy in charge of airport security. If they thought everything was going so well at the airports as they professed why fire this guy and put in someone three levels down, a junior assistant something or other? Oh wait, he’s in charge of the deportation and enforcement? Oh maybe he doesn’t have any qualms about locking up citizens and sending them to black sites or other countries, stay tuned.
Lastly, there was a lawyer who was part of the team that argued for a stay on the Muslim ban. BTW if you are keeping score, as of last night the White House is 0 for 5 on court appearances about the Muslim ban. (That makes the WH Losers!!!) This lawyer, a young fellow, was part of the team that argued in New York about the ban. He said that the lawyers for the government offered no reasons for the ban because they hadn’t been informed about it. Surprise, surprise, the White House issued an executive order and didn’t consult the people who would have to defend it in court. Nor did they consult with the people who would have to enforce it. Apparently the head of Homeland Security was asked about it while it was being announced, when he was on a helicopter. So I guess you could say he heard about it, but had no input.
Additionally that lawyer said that the wording was so vague that it was not clear if it applied to Green Card holders or not, as well as other individuals with other statuses. This despite Reince Pribus told Chuck Todd in his Sunday morning “if you’d just stop talking and listen” statement (or Steven Bannon’s “shut up and listen” to the press because you lost and you’re the opposition. Really? The press is the opposition party? Apparently,lawyers reading the words from the White House on this order couldn’t figure out exactly who it applied to, but the intent was clear, and that is apparently an important part of interpretation. This because of Mr. Trump’s statement both as president and as candidate, and because of his actions as president.
One of the constitutional folks asked about this said that this was “an unforced error” on the part of the White House. The last time such a thing happened in our history, ten months later the President resigned. Things move faster now.