Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fuck You Trump. America is So Much Better Than You

Fuck you Trump. In just a little over a week into your (or should we say Steve Bannon's) nascent presidency, you've already managed to create chaos at home and abroad. You've angered members of your own cabinet, Congress, Republican leadership, the media and have fostered an early atmosphere of contention among White House staffers. Overseas, you've pissed off our allies, ignited trade war talk, incited terrorists and are threatening global stability. You're an incompetent, malevolent, horrible leader.

Wait, there's more. You're an intellectually-bankrupt, thin-skinned, insecure, delusional, paranoid, heartless, soulless, attention-starved pathologically-lying maniac suffering from an extreme case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You view disagreement as betrayal. As Carrie Barron, M.D. wrote in Psychology Today, this disorder renders you "scary, dangerous, and ruthless."

But fuck you, Trump. We are not frightened by you. Not because we feel comforted by the protections of the Constitution or from our system of checks and balances and due process, but rather because we the people own you. We pay you and you work for us. We have all the power, not you. You're not living in Trump Tower anymore. You're in the people's house now. To paraphrase Sting, every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, we are watching you.  And we will do anything and everything in our power to marginalize you and ultimately kick you out of our house.

We will not tolerate your sexist, xenophobic, racist views and policies. We will not allow bans or registries or discrimination of people based on race and religion. We will not legitimize your alternative facts, fake news and faux hysteria to manipulate the masses and justify your abhorrent behavior. We will not allow you to use the presidency to feed your rapacious Id and enrich your wallet.

We will keep marching in the streets. We will keep fighting in Washington. We will keep filing lawsuits. We will keep using the pages and airwaves of the nation's free and open press. We will never stop waging our moral and legal war with you. Never.

We will be your worst enemy. Worse than Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Bashir al-Assad combined. Because we are the American people, and we will never allow a self-serving fascist dictator to destroy our beloved democracy.

You are a tyrant, and there's no place in America for tyranny.

So,  fuck you, Trump. America is so much better than you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Is Donald Trump Having a Meltdown?

Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 3-million votes. And it's absolutely killing him. Witness all the whining and conspiratorial rhetoric he's been spewing since his controversial victory November 8th. Clearly, he's unhealthily obsessed with this humiliating margin and has been waging a bizarre self-sabotaging campaign which counter-intuitively calls into question the very legitimacy of his presidency. We can only conclude that his megalomania is so out of control that we're experiencing the first-ever presidential meltdown.

The most unpopular incoming president in modern history this week called for a "major investigation" into what he claims was such widespread election fraud involving undocumented immigrants that it cost him 3-5 million votes and tipped the popular vote from him to Clinton. It's a patently false charge for which he's not presented a single shred of evidence, and one which has been repeatedly debunked by fact-checkers and the Pew Study, which Trump disingenuously cites as his proof. FraudGate is a solution in search of a problem.

We should be witnessing the honeymoon phase right now between Trump, Congress, the press and voters. Instead, he's obsessing over numbers, ratings and the trivial 'bigly'-ness of things like his inaugural crowd, the size of the protest marches and the popular vote count. If he is this thin-skinned, erratic and distracted now, imagine what Trump would be like if the economy turns negative, the stock market crashes and/or there's an act of terrorism. If this is Honeymoon Trump, what the hell does Stressed-Out-National-Crisis Trump look like?

Most alarming is that Trump's emotional unraveling is occurring in just the first week of his nascent presidency. What seems to matter most to the new Leader of the Free World is not uniting the electorate, growing the economy, creating jobs or fighting terrorism. Trump's number one priority is Trump. He's commander-in-chief alright, but the mission is Operation Self-Aggrandizement: Please America, give me the attention, praise and credit I so desperately crave.

To be sure, Trump's victory was a truly spectacular accomplishment in which he defied all odds, bucked traditional wisdom and played the game of politics by his own rules. But it's not enough for him. He's simply incapable of feeling a genuine sense of satisfaction, pride and accomplishment, and instead constantly seeks the validation and vindication from others. When they don't comply, he's deeply rejected, offended and cravenly takes to his bully pulpit (usually Twitter) to strike back. It doesn't matter who or what is left in his wake.

There are truly dangerous consequences to Trump's lingering Id-driven fixation with the general election results. His egomaniacal quest to rewrite history is undermining the integrity of our democracy, suggesting instead a banana republic sullied by rigged elections and illegitimate leaders. More unsettling is how he's expending his political capital on this bogus fraud claim rather than the indisputable fact, according to 17 national security agencies, that Russia, an enemy state, hacked the election. In what many believe is an act of treason, he's defended Vladimir Putin while disparaging the Unites States intelligence community.

But perhaps the greatest threat to America's democracy is that we're now living in the "post-truth" age of "fake news" and "alternative facts." Trump's lying is pathological and stunning in its depth and breadth whether, for example, it involves voter fraud, crowd sizes, crime rates, Mexico paying for his wall or Muslims dancing in the streets after 9/11. For the first time in history, we're unable to trust any information that comes out of the White House. Our new reality is that there is no reality. We can no longer distinguish fact from fiction. Lying is the new spinning. The truth is whatever Trump & Company says it is. Our free and open press is being attacked and restricted. Propaganda now rules the day. And we're looking more and more like a fascist state. That's some seriously scary shit, people.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Media's Existential Crisis

January 11, 2017. The day not-my-President-elect Donald Trump had a Hollywood-worthy showdown with the media during his first press conference in five months. The only thing missing was the cheesy soundtrack from a Sergio Leone Spaghetti western. We'll give this one to Trump. The losers? CNN, its reporter Jim Acosta and the entire 4th estate. What happens next will determine whether the media survives the Trump era and continues to play a central role in American politics and daily life, or if it limps away a sad broken footnote in the most bizarre, divisive administration in history.

It's definitely time to sound the alarms, as we've entered unchartered territory. The media should be terrified, as its very existence is in grave danger. Trump and the press have raced right past whatever honeymoon normally exists and have stage-dived into the contentious, punitive phase of this dysfunctional relationship. And it's the American public who will suffer. Transparency, accountability and freedom itself are on the verge of extinction. The administration's utter disdain for the press has become the biggest threat to our democracy.

The confrontation with Acosta erupted when the reporter, after Trump accused CNN of being a "fake news" network, attempted to ask a question. He was summarily denigrated and dismissed by Trump who used his bully pulpit to be, well, an obnoxious, petulant, vindictive bully. 

Acosta sat frustrated and silenced. And his colleagues got the message: cross the big guy (with at least what he thinks is a slight) and he will berate you and likely have his press secretary threaten to throw you out, as Sean Spicer did to Acosta. It was tough to watch, and a harbinger of future Trump-era pressers. In a matter of seconds, America's free and open press didn't seem so free or open.   

The episode with Acosta was just the tip of the iceberg. As retribution for what it deems "unfair" coverage, the administration is considering making drastic, unprecedented changes to standard practice and protocol including ejecting the press from the West Wing; limiting or eliminating daily White House briefings and press conferences; denying credentials; ending the Saturday morning presidential radio address; and placing limitations on the press pool. It's also threatened to expand the nation's libel laws granting Trump greater punitive power against reporters and media outlets critical of him and the administration.

At this extremely critical juncture the media cannot allow itself to be marginalized, hampered and/or restricted. It must exert itself and regain control of the process, not be neutered into submission. The White House is the people's house, and whether he wishes to accept it or not, Trump works for the people. And since 320-million citizens cannot fit into the briefing room, the 49 reporters who represent them there must be free to challenge the president without fear of reprisal, threat of ejection, or being banned.

If one of their own gets "Acosta'd" again, perhaps all 49 White House reporters should get up and leave Trump and Spicer standing alone in the briefing room. I suspect that would make a strong point. And if the administration carries out its threatened changes and severely limits future media access, perhaps it should no longer cover Trump's bombastic tweets. Maybe it should also place a moratorium on appearances by Kellyann Conway and other surrogates who use the generous airtime afforded them to spread the administration's propaganda. 

To be sure, Trump needs the media more than it needs him. He's an attention-starved, self-aggrandizing showman, and without the media there is no show. And no one knows this more than Trump himself. Without the media the administration cannot spread its message, promote its agenda or tout its successes. No one's expecting a love affair between the press and the White House. But the American public has a right to know what's going on within the presidency at all times, and the administration should not hinder or obstruct that Constitutionally-protected access.

Friday, January 13, 2017

WTF Kind of Press Conference Was THAT!?

Donald Trump had not held a press conference since July 27, 2016. So it was with great anticipation and expectation that the not-my-President-Elect took to the podium Wednesday in Manhattan's Trump Tower lobby to finally answer reporters' questions pertaining to his business conflicts, tax returns, the economy, Obamacare, Russian hacks and Kompromat. We can add that last one to Kleptocracy and Emoluments as big new words we now have to know thanks to Trump.

Yes, there was Trump, his top advisors, the media, a mike, chairs and TV crews. But it was nothing like a traditional press conference. In fact, it was perhaps the most bizarre, chaotic, hostile presser in United States history. It was more like an end-of-term slugfest between a frustrated media and an exhausted, combative, unpopular president than the start of a new administration. If this is what a honeymoon looks like, no one should ever get married.

A few highlights:

-It was more like a bad concert with even worse opening acts. Before he spoke, Trump summoned his henchmen to grease the wheels and neuter his anxious audience. Incoming press secretary Sean Spicer issued antagonist denials of UrineGate (the latest alleged salacious Trump scandal) and a verbal thrashing to reporters. Vice president-elect Mike Pence stroked Trump's gargantuan ego by extolling the boss's virtues while citing the media's moral bankruptcy.

-Trump articulated his positions with the grammatical deft of an attention and praise-starved 10-year-old. Everything was characterized as either big, beautiful, tremendous, great or amazing yet totally lacking substance (not a new trait for Trump). He predicted reporters would be "very proud" of what he's going to do with Obamacare. Good boy, Donnie!

-Trump essentially told the media to 'fuck off.' He accused CNN of being a "fake news" network and denied one of it's reporters, Jim Acosta, the ability to ask a question. The two then got into an unprecedented front-row heated exchange, with Trump dismissing him as "rude." It was pure theater, but chilling nonetheless in terms of a free and open press (or lack thereof).

-Trump essentially said, (cue: Alec Baldwin) 'Don't worry, I'm not gonna have anything to do with my various businesses--my genius sons Eric and Don Jr will run them--and we're never gonna talk about them. So we're good now, right?'. And (cue: Penske file) we learned that if ya ever wanna look like you've got an elaborate divestiture plan, just have your attorney speak with a mound of very important-looking documents stacked next to her even though no one will ever get to see what's in them.

-Trump essentially said, 'There's no conflict of interest with my DC hotel. No one's gonna bribe me by staying there. But if they do, I'll just give the profits to taxpayers.' If you're waiting for a plan outlining who will monitor these transactions, figure out 'profitability,' be accountable for the process and how transparent this will all be to the public and Congress, don't hold your breath. You may die.

-Trump essentially said 'you should thank me for turning down a $2-billion deal from Damac Properties.' But more importantly, he wanted to remind us he still has the unconflicted right to do billion-dollar deals. And probably will.

-Trump lied the whole time. Example: he claimed that 96-million people are looking for work. It's actually 5.5-million according to factcheck.org. Or when he claimed he doesn't have any Russian debt, when by most journalistic accounts it's believed he owes upwards of $1-billion, much of it to foreign creditors including those in Russia. But we have no real insight into his debt, or anything else pertaining to his finances, because he won't release his tax returns. And about those returns...

-Trump essentially said 'you're never gonna see 'em because no one cares about them except you asshole reporters. And besides, ya know, there's the, um, audit....'

-Trump ducked, dodged and diverted every time a reporter managed to get a tough question out. It's back to blaming the media, most of whose asses he royally kissed in his opening remarks...but whom will surely, over time, get Acosta'd (what happens to a reporter when Trump decides to publicly denigrate him/her).   

-Trump, in refuting UrineGate, provided some moral clarity by sharing how he stresses to his team when traveling that...'it's ok to be sleazebags, just be careful in hotel rooms because there's cameras everywhere.' But most compelling is the 'proof' that Trump didn't have hookers pee all over his Moscow hotel room as alleged because he's a "germaphobe." But if it weren't for those damn germs! 

-We learned that, according to Trump, being liked by a brutal, murderous dictator like Russia's President Vladimir Putin is an "asset."

-We learned that God put Trump on Earth to be it's "greatest jobs producer" ever. Apparently God told him to just focus on America and fuck Mexico.

-We learned that after seven years of bashing Obamacare, Trump and Republicans have no idea what to do with it. Repeal and replace now? Repeal and replace later? Repeal and don't replace....and just screw all those angry old white folks who voted for us? Maybe they should text God and see what she thinks? 

-We learned that Trump's pressers will just be post-election versions of his campaign rallies, with paid staffers in the back cheering when he berates reporters.

-We learned that for the next four years, in this newly defined 'post-truth' era, the definition of "fake news" will be any news that's negative, regardless if it's true.

-Most important, we learned that there's only one Trump. There's no pivot Trump. No presidential Trump. Just the same old empty-suited bombastic bully oligarch who clearly doesn't give a shit what anyone, especially the media, thinks.