Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A sample of comments from what I'm reading

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. was interviewed by CNN's Erin Burnett after the initial cabinets appointments made by President-Elect Trump.    Chertoff had been critical of a Trump presidency during the campaign, but here's some of what he said:

""I have to take my hat off to him, because [Trump] demonstrated an ability to read the mood of the American public that confounded all the data crunchers, and I think you have to give him some credit for that . . . . It's still early and obviously he hasn't even started in office yet. But at least I'm encouraged that what we're hearing seems to be sober, disciplined and appropriate."   [except for the Tweets, I would interject, and some of the appointments.]

Chertoff was cautious in his assessment of Lt. Gen. Flynn based on the provocative tweets that he's been sending around:     "Obviously any statement that someone makes, you have to consider, but I'm very reluctant to regard tweets as a real measure of what a person thinks."  [what about his behavior in the security briefings with Trump?   Christie had to calm him down, according to someone in the room.]

[Chertoff's comments are pretty mild compared to what Flynn's superiors said about why he was forced out of his position as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.   More about that another time, but briefly it had to do both with his outspoken anti-Muslim rhetoric, his ultra-hawkish views on fighting in the Middle East, and a management style that had become intolerable for others to work with him.   From once being considered one of the most respected military intelligence officers of his generation, he is now seen by the upper military echelons as out of his element and lacking the steadiness of character and judgment to be the top strategic military adviser to the president.   This does not bode well for those crisis moments when the top people from the military, the NSC, CIA, State, and Defense all gather with the president in the Situation Room and decide what to do.   The head of NSC -- Flynn -- should be the steadiest, most reliable person in the room.   Instead, he sounds like he's become a very loose cannon.  Trump does not need a loos cannon;  he can do that himself.]

Chertoff also commented on the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General, despite past evidence of racism and bigotry from the Alabama senator that cost him the confirmation by the Senate for a federal judgeship back in the 1980s.   But Chertoff said:  "I found Sen. Sessions to be knowledgeable, smart, willing to engage and willing to listen.  People I know who actually were closer to him are really willing to vouch for him for being someone who's not carrying any kind of racial animus."    Another commentator, whose name I have lost, emphasized Sessions honesty and openness.   We'll see over time, I guess.

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My next source of comment is an essay in the November 21st edition of The New Yorker, and the essay is by Nobel Prize writer Toni Morrison, titled:  "Mourning For Whiteness."   The gist of her argument is that the strong motivating force for a large number of Trump voters was the fear of losing "white privilege," which she elaborates as losing the "comfort of being naturally better than."

Morrison points out that in our past, "the necessity of color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil rights legislation, white people's conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. . . .  There are 'people of color' everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of American.   And what then?   Another black President?   A predominantly black Senate?   Three black Supreme Court Justices?   The threat is frightening."

And I would add, it's especially frightening to those who feel they are being left behind by all the cultural changes in our society.  Immigration is only one of those changes, along with income inequality, globalization, racial, sexual and gender status.   Donald Trump understood this fear and the people most affected by it.   And he spoke directly to it -- even ramped it up, I would say, for political advantage.   It remains to be seen whether he will give them what he promised, or whether they will turn on him when they realize they've been conned, again.

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Regular readers know that I often find quotes from the Esquire contributing writer, Charles Pierce, to be especially pungent and insightful.   I like his combination of brilliance and irreverence.   (He once referred to Newt Gingrich as "floating away on a golden cloud of his own intellectual flatulence.")   In a current piece on Esquire.com, he writes about the significance of Mitt Romney going to Trump Tower for a reconciliation talk and a possible cabinet seat in the Trump administration, despite having denounced Trump in the most caustic terms during the campaign.

Pierce begins:  ". . .  And now, the lost prince of American plutocracy has come to pay a call, and perhaps find a place at court. . . . It is possible that old-guard types like Willard think they need to come aboard in order to make sure that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago doesn't sell Rhode Island to Gazprom in the middle of the night. If that's their plan, they are misreading their man as badly as they misread him over the past year. Right now, they're all coming to him, all the people who laughed at him and made fun of his candidacy, and jilted him in Cleveland last summer, and whispered about how disastrous he would be as a president. They're all coming to the big tower with his name on it. Winning!

"If Trump hires Willard to work for him, it will be because he wants to tell people that Mitt Romney came to him begging for a job and that, He, Trump, nature's nobleman, was a big enough guy to give him one. He's going to mount Willard's head on the wall of his den, right above the Tiffany vase that holds Chris Christie's balls. By next March, he'll be sending Romney out for another bucket of KFC."
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Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that.   Not a big Romney fan four years ago, I now find myself rooting for him to get the Secretary of State post.   Then at least there would be one serious, maybe moderating influence in the White House that so far seems to be filling up with zealots and fascists.   Beware of Kris Kobach, Kansas' Secretary of State,** whose chief aim these days is to carry out Trump's wish to make a Muslim Registry of all Muslims living in this country.   Kobach had been trying to do that in Kansas.   Now he may get a bigger platform on which to ply his trade.   Rumor is that he's being considered for Chertoff's job -- Secretary of Homeland Security, which would put him in charge of many issues related to immigration.   That would be a terrible terrible idea.   Kobach was most noted for his work to suppress voting, and his plan for Kansas got overturned by the courts.   This will only give the jihadist recruiters more fodder for their propaganda videos.


**   I just wanted to acknowledge an error in a previous post, where I had identified Kris Kobach as the Kansas Attorney General.    No, he is Kansas Secretary of State.

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