Archive

February 17th, 2017

James Comey's behavior looks worse and worse

    If Republicans had any remaining excuses for not investigating the relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials, Tuesday night's news obliterated them. "Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials," reported the New York Times. "Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn," said CNN.

    Then again, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Tuesday, it's not "useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party." So perhaps the country will have to wait while the GOP decides which matters more -- the party or the truth. In the meantime though, Tuesday also destroyed any excuse for FBI Director James B. Comey's conduct during the election.

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Rejecting fear as a transgender woman

    I spent the past five years leading a team of intelligence analysts charged with combating arms smuggling and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    I am also a transgender woman - born biologically male and raised by my family as a boy.

    Being a transgender woman has taught me a few things about the divisions in our society. Many people believe fear and hate in the United States have risen to such levels that these challenges are impossible to overcome. But my story demonstrates that good is possible when you look across our divisions as I have.

    As a child growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, I knew I was different. As puberty hit, I came to understand that I was a female inside. I withdrew to protect against people learning what I dared not share. On Sept. 11, 1994 - when I was 17 - my father died in a car accident. While mourning him, I lashed out in fear and hate against my identity, throwing out my hidden stashes of women's clothes and purging my plans to tell my parents that their son was a daughter inside. Fear and hate won that day.

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Flynn scandal magnifies the Republican divide

    The first day of fallout from the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn showed that the White House, Senate and House, all run by Republicans, are thoroughly out of sync.

    The White House, where Flynn managed to hang on for weeks after it was known he had engaged in what appears to have been inappropriate communications with a Russian ambassador, is divided against itself. Within hours of Flynn's resignation, Breitbart News, home base of White House ideologist Stephen Bannon, had published an attack on White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, blaming Priebus for the deluge of leaks that plague President Donald Trump.

    Given Trump's chaotic insecurities, and longstanding habit of pitting subordinates against one another, the White House team is unlikely to be cohesive soon -- or possibly ever.

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President's credibility gap extends globally

    President Donald Trump's novel forms of aggression, including his ferocious assault on democratic norms, continue to batter the political system. He has inspired a lively resistance. But he remains popular in Republican districts and states, and his White House will improve its chaotic performance. An inexperienced, fractious and mediocre staff and a spectacularly unknowledgeable president will get better at planning and execution in the months ahead. If nothing else, they will learn to fake competence.

    Faking credibility may be harder.

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway often does not tell the truth. White House press secretary Sean Spicer often does not tell the truth. White House national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to have been untruthful on a crucial matter of his communications with a hostile foreign power. And, of course, Trump himself states so many falsehoods, with such unrepentant regularity, that political reporters now tabulate the daily hits and misses like a box score.

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Donald Trump is suddenly looking like a very weak autocrat

    President Donald Trump once again unleashed a fearsome barrage of tweets on Wednesday morning. The target was the New York Times's new report that intelligence officials have established contacts between Russian intelligence and Trump campaign officials during the campaign.

    Trump attacked the news media again, railing that "the fake news media is going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred." He also blasted the intelligence services, claiming that they are "illegally" giving information to the media, which, he opined, is "just like Russia."

    This has become a pattern, in which Trump deals with setbacks by lashing out at other institutions, including ones that can function as a check on his power. When the courts blocked his immigration ban, he blasted both the courts and the news media for making us less safe, in what seemed to be designed to lay the groundwork to blame them for a future terrorist attack, a move that even some Republicans criticized for its authoritarian tendencies. This appeared to be a test run of sorts, in which Trump was experimenting with how far he could go in delegitimizing the institutions that might act as a check on his power later.

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Mr. President, shake hands with Andrew Jackson

    I've never met Steve Bannon and find most of his reported views repugnant. But I owe him: He caused me to reread Jon Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson, "American Lion."

    Bannon, President Donald Trump's provocative adviser and theorist, has promoted the notion that Trump is a modern version of Jackson, a populist who ran roughshod over the ruling class and ushered in a new political order. Others like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, always quick to claim historical antecedents for conservative theories, embrace this.

    There are some legitimate parallels. Both men triumphed over and rattled established political elites with support from people of ordinary means. Trump did it in the 2016 elections, Jackson in 1828. Both vowed to clean up corruption in Washington and both had racial ignominies. Jackson was a slaveholder and, as president, mistreated Indians. Trump has insulted blacks, Muslims and Hispanics. After taking office, both suffered from self-inflicted chaos; Trump over flagrant misstatements and managerial turbulence, Jackson over his stubborn defense of the dubious morals of his secretary of war's wife.

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Why Flynn was undone by a phone call

    During a normal transition, at the beginning of a normal presidency, nobody would be surprised if the newly appointed national security adviser got on the phone to speak to a foreign ambassador -- even the Russian ambassador. Or the Chinese ambassador. During a normal transition, at the beginning of a normal presidency, the idea that official sources would share the gist of a transcript of such a call with journalists from The Post would be considered outrageous.

    But this is not a normal presidency, and Donald Trump's team did not run a normal transition. Nor do normal national security advisers start their tenure as reported objects of an FBI investigation. As Michael Flynn took on his role in the Trump administration, the U.S. intelligence community had already unanimously concluded that Russian hacking, and Russian trolling, played a role in the presidential election. But the question of whether Flynn, Trump or anyone else had promised the Russian government something in exchange for that help remained wide open.

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A modern-day '1984'

    Remember George Orwell's Ministry of Truth? In his dystopian novel "1984," its purpose was to dictate and protect the government's version of reality. During the Cold War, Orwell's book was banned behind the Iron Curtain, because readers perceived the novel as an allegory for their own repressive regimes.

    It was a serious crime to distribute information defaming the Soviet social and political system. Such criminal laws were widely used by the Kremlin to silence dissidents, human rights activists, religious movements and groups fighting for independence in the Soviet republics. Similar laws were on the books in East Germany, Poland and other Eastern bloc countries.

    Thankfully, today this landscape is much changed, but increasingly there are disturbing echoes of the past. Amid a debate about the rising influence of fake news and the danger it poses to the political and social order in the West, democratic politicians in Europe have proposed sanctions - and even prison terms - for those found responsible for distributing false information.

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Trump Deserves Flynn

    Donald Trump’s zeal for extreme vetting has one glaring exception, one gaping blind spot: his own administration.

    If you’re a bedraggled sixth-grader from a beleaguered country where the Quran is a popular text, he will stop you at our border. If you’re a retired lieutenant general who hallucinates an Islamic terrorist behind every last garden shrub in America, he will welcome you to the White House.

    Michael Flynn’s fall was foreordained, predictable by anyone with the time, patience and fundamental seriousness to take an unblinking look at his past, brimming as it was with accusations of shoddy stewardship and instances of rashness.

    This is a man who once claimed that Arabic signs along the Mexican border pointed terrorists toward the United States — and who never provided any corroboration of that. I learned of this particular bit of hysteria when it was being discussed one night on Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN. The Trump apologist Kayleigh McEnany was asked for her reaction. She said that no one could prove that there weren’t such signs.

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Trump’s Gold Lining

   Listen up, haters.

    The brief reign of Donald the First has been completely head-spinningly nuts so far. But let’s stay calm and look for the silver lining, or in this case, the garishly gold lining.

    Donald Trump has indeed already made some of America Great Again.

    Just not the aspects he intended.

    He has breathed new zest into a wide range of things: feminism, liberalism, student activism, newspapers, cable news, protesters, bartenders, shrinks, Twitter, the ACLU, “SNL,” town halls, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Hannah Arendt, Stephen Colbert, Nordstrom, the Federalist Papers, separation of powers, division of church and state, athletes and coaches taking political stands and Frederick Douglass.

    As Trump blusters about repealing Obamacare, many Americans have come to appreciate the benefits of the law more.

    Lena Dunham credited the “soul-crushing pain and devastation and hopelessness” of Trump with helping her get a svelte new figure.

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