Saturday, May 14, 2016

Trump Quote of the Week "I know Putin well"

This is a companion to last week's Trump QOTW, where he claimed to know Russia well . . . from having held a Miss Universe pageant there.  This week, he did it again by claiming to know Vladimir Putin well.
"I know Putin well.   He said I was, I don't know, a genius or something. . . .  We were on 60 Minutes together . . .  like stable buddies."
Get the picture?   He and Vladimir are thick as thieves in their budding bromance.  Trump admires him as a "strong leader," and he implies that they hung out together, waiting for their interviews on "60 Minutes."  FACTTheir interviews were featured on the same "60 Minutes" program;  but Putin's was done in Russia and Trump's was done in New York.   Truth be told, they have never actually met, which Trump finally owned up to.

Oh, but wait !!!   Someone in Trump's inner circle does know Putin well.   See post below about Paul Manafort's prior work for Russian oligarchs, Ukrainian dictators.  Not good.


Will Trump's campaign manager get security clearance? Will Trump?

Successful campaign managers and strategists who get their clients elected president often wind up in influential positions in the White House.   Think Karl Rove (George Bush) and David Axelrod (Barack Obama), as only the latest two to follow that path.

Anyone that close to the president presumably has to have security clearance.   Which may present a problem if Donald Trump (perish the thought) should get elected.   This concern surfaced when it was announced that Trump would begin getting security briefings once he is formally the Republican nominee.

Ben Smith of BuzzFeed reported on the activities of Trump's new campaign director Paul Manafort that might be a problem.   Much of his recent work has been for pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and "doing complex deals for an oligarch with close ties to Putin."

Smith continues:  "Manafort may be best known as manager for 2010 campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian politician whose ouster as president prompted a Russian invasion of the country. He has, according to court documents, managed tens of millions of dollars for Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch denied entry to the U.S. reportedly for ties to organized crime, but so close to Vladimir Putin that top Russian officials fought (unsuccessfully) to get him a visa."

Adam Blickstein, a former aide to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, sounded a similar note of alarm.  “Given his dubious foreign connections, it’s fair to assume that many in the intelligence and national security community would be extremely wary of him handling or receiving material at even the lowest level of classification.

Smith quotes an unnamed former Republican national security official as putting it more bluntly“[Manafort] is an intelligence classification vetting nightmare scenario.” 

It's not only Manafort.  Many are concerned about Trump himself being given access to security secrets.   Given his record of throwing out snippets of gossip ("people are saying") and quoting the National Inquirer as though it is serious journalism, can he be trusted to separate state secrets from hearsay?

A newly elected Commander-in-Chief has to be ready on day one.   But this also means giving a lot of classified information to the one who goes on to lose the election.   Maybe it's time to change that tradition and wait until after the November election and brief only the one who wins.

I've been wondering:  When, if at all, do presidential candidates get vetted for security clearance?    What would happen if they discover something that would ordinarily make a person ineligible for top clearance?   Obviously you can't have a president who can't be told everything.   Can we?


Friday, May 13, 2016

London elects a mayor who is Muslim

LaunchGood is a web site for crowd-funding of small, good works projects started by individuals.   It was initiated by Muslims and clearly features Muslim sensibility and values;  but their projects are not primarily for other Muslims.

I began following them last summer when they were raising money for African-American churches destroyed by a wave of racial hatred and arson.   So  I was interested in the pride they must feel that London has just elected a new mayor, who is Muslim. 

Sadiq Kahn, a Pakistani who grew up in London, is the son of a bus driver and a seamstress. He became a lawyer, civil rights advocate, and member of Parliament.  As the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city, he said that his election shows that there is no clash of civilizations between Muslims and the West.
"I am the West, I am a Londoner, I'm British, I'm of Islamic faith, Asian origin, Pakistan heritage. . . .  these others who want to destroy our way of life and talk about the West, they're talking about meWhat better antidote to the hatred they spew than someone like me being in this position?"
Little by little, with groups like LaunchGood and leaders like Mayor Khan in London and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI) in the U.S. Congress, the world will come to realize what we've been saying:   that these terrorists groups do not represent Islam.  They pervert a peaceful religion, just as White Supremacists and KKKs pervert Christianity when they link themselves to it by symbols.  Just as do the "Christians" who spew out anti-Muslim hatred.

More in the post below about this remarkable man, Sadiq Kahn, who was elected mayor of arguably the greatest city in the world  -- by the largest number of votes in its history. 


Comparing London's new mayor and Donald Trump

Roger Cohen is a writer on international affairs that I greatly admire.   His opinion column, "Sadiq Kahn Vs Donald Trump," appeared in the New York Times.
*   *   * 
"The most important political event of recent weeks was not the emergence of Donald J. Trump as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party but the election of Sadiq Khan, the Muslim son of a London bus driver, as mayor of London.

"Trump has not won any kind of political office yet, but Khan, the Labour Party candidate, crushed Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative, to take charge of one of the world’s great cities, a vibrant metropolis where every tongue is heard. In his victory, a triumph over the slurs that tried to tie him to Islamist extremism, Khan stood up for openness against isolationism, integration against confrontation, opportunity for all against racism and misogyny. He was the anti-Trump. . . .

"The world of the 21st century is going to be shaped by such elided, many-faceted identities and by the booming cities that celebrate diversity, not by some bullying, brash, bigoted, 'America first' white dude who wants to build walls. . . .

"Khan’s election is important because it gives the lie to the facile trope that Europe is being taken over by jihadi Islamists. It underscores the fact that terrorist acts hide a million quiet success stories among European Muslim communities. One of seven children of a Pakistani immigrant family, Khan grew up in public housing and went on to become a human rights lawyer and government minister. He won more than 1.3 million votes in the London election, a personal mandate unsurpassed by any politician in British history.

"His election is important because the most effective voices against Islamist terrorism come from Muslims, and Khan has been prepared to speak out. After the Paris attacks last year, he said in a speech that Muslims had a 'special role' to play in countering the terrorism, 'not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else.' . . .

"As George Eaton observes in The New Statesman, 'Khan will be a figure of global significance. His election is a rebuke to extremists of all stripes, from Donald Trump to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who assert that religions cannot peacefully coexist.'

"Trump as a politician is a product of American fear and anger above all. . . . [He] is the mouthpiece of this frightened America that sees threats everywhere. . . .

"Khan’s rise, by contrast, is a story of victory over the fears engendered by 9/11. His victory is a rebuke to Osama bin Laden, the Islamic State, jihadi ideology of every stripe — and to the hatemongering politicians like Trump who choose to play the Muslim-equals-danger game. Khan has argued that greater integration is essential . . . .

"Put together an egotist, a bully, immense power and a taste for gut-driven unpredictability and you have a dangerous brew that could put civilization at risk. Those small fingers would have access to the nuclear codes if Trump was elected.

"In this context, Sadiq Khan’s victory is reassuring because he represents currents in the world — toward global identity and integration — that will prove stronger over time than the tribalism and nativism of Trump."
*   *   *
The contrast between Sadiq Khan and Donald Trump, and between the campaigns they ran, could hardly be more sharply defined.   Congratulations to the new mayor and to the people of London, who were not swayed by the divisiveness waged by his opponent based on Kahn's religion.  Instead, as Mr. Kahn put it, the people "chose unity over division, and a rejection of the politics of fear."   He gave encouragement to Hillary Clinton, saying that the same can happen here, that "hope trumps fear."   And then he said, "Forgive the pun."


Thursday, May 12, 2016

WSJ editor advises conservatives: vote for Clinton

Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal has started a media storm by suggesting conservatives vote for Hillary Clinton.   A member of the infamous, conservative editorial pages of the WSJ????   Now that is a thing.  A Big Thing.

Here's his reasoning.
 *   *   *
"The best hope for what’s left of a serious conservative movement in America is the election in November of a Democratic president, held in check by a Republican Congress. Conservatives can survive liberal administrations, especially those whose predictable failures lead to healthy restorations—think Carter, then Reagan. . . .

"The stain of a Trump administration would cripple the conservative cause for a generation.  . . . If the next presidency is going to be a disaster, why should the GOP want to own it? . . .

"Conservatives are . . . supposed to believe that it’s folly to put hope before experience; that leopards never change their spots. So what’s with the magical thinking that, nomination in hand, Mr. Trump will suddenly pivot to magnanimity and statesmanship? Where’s the evidence that, as president, Mr. Trump will endorse conservative ideas on tax, trade, regulation, welfare, social, judicial or foreign policy, much less personal comportment? . . . 

[Citing a recent op-ed in the WSJ by Bobby Jindal, who advised voting for Trump as the lesser of two evils, Stephens counters:]

"The deeper mistake that Mr. Jindal and other lukewarm Trump supporters make is to assume that . . . the policy disasters he anticipates from a Clinton administration will be indelible, while Trumpism poses no real threat to the conservative ideas [Jindal] has spent a political career championing. This belief stems from a failure to take Trumpism seriously, or to realize just how fragile modern conservatism is as a vital political movement. . . .

"For conservatives, a Democratic victory in November means the loss of another election, with all the policy reversals that entails. That may be dispiriting, but elections will come again. A Trump presidency means losing the Republican Party."
*   *   *
Bret Stephens is not the only conservative thinking this way.    Better to lose the presidency and retain control of the House, at least -- and preserve the moderate conservative movement from its baser and nativist version.    All this is good for the Democrats up and down the ballot.   Republicans will have so many different strategies, going in different directions, that it will be impossible for them to unite.   Maybe we'll win it all.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Maybe if NC Gov. McCrory reads this, he'll get it.

Gov. Pat McCrory and other North Carolina Republican legislators just can't seem to get their minds around what it means to be trans in gender identity.   This is from Jennifer Bendery, White House reporter for Huffington Post.
Gov. McCrory wants Caitlyn Jenner, who came out as transgender last year, to come with him to the bathroom to reapply her lipstick versus sharing a powder room with Mrs. McCrory.
Now do you get it, Gov.?    It's not a predator problem.   It's the feminine trans women  in dresses -- who have to use the men's room under your law -- that are made more vulnerable to hate crimes because of your law.


Attorney General Loretta Lynch understands what it means to be transgender -- unlike the state legislators and governors who enact bathroom laws

The U. S. government and the State of North Carolina are suing each other over bathroom use.   Or, more technically, they are in dispute about whether NC is unlawfully discriminating against trans people who, the U.S. claims, are protected under federal civil rights laws that forbid discrimination based on sex.   Or, in everyday language:  Should bathroom choice be determined by your anatomy or by your deep-seated and complex sense of who you are?

What I want to highlight here is the difference between the rhetoric of those whose willful ignorance and bigotry are exploiting fear in a totally distorted scenario -- and those like AG Lynch who understand and empathize with the real victims of this fight.

We've heard ad nauseum the horror tales of men in dresses preying on innocent children in bathrooms meant for females.   Some even acknowledge that they know it's not the trans people themselves who would do that, but they fear predators will get by with it because we will not object to obviously masculine men in dresses going in.   But, as one critic pointed out, the likelihood of a real predator putting on a dress and trying to carry out his abuse in a place with lots of women witnesses around is really pretty silly and remote.   So I think we can assume that the perpetrators of this hoax are simply using this to create a political hot button issue.

Now, contrast that with the reason and sensitivity coming from AG Loretta Lynch, as reported by Ryan J. Reilly for HuffPost.

"The Justice Department said in a lawsuit that the so-called 'bathroom bill' 'stigmatizes and singles out transgender employees, results in their isolation and exclusion, and perpetuates a sense that they are not worthy of equal treatment and respect.'

"A person’s external genitals, the feds said, are 'but one component of sex and not always determinative of a person’s sex' . . . Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the lawsuit 'is about a great deal more than just bathrooms' and affects the 'dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens. Speaking directly to the citizens of North Carolina, where she herself was born and raised, Lynch said the law inflicts 'further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share. . . . The entire Obama administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.'”

[Lynch continues] “'This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation, . . .  We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation. We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education. And we saw it in the proliferation of state bans on same-sex unions intended to stifle any hope that gay and lesbian Americans might one day be afforded the right to marry.'

“'That right, of course, is now recognized as a guarantee embedded in our Constitution, and in the wake of that historic triumph, we have seen bill after bill in state after state taking aim at the LGBT community,' she went on.  'Some of these responses reflect a recognizably human fear of the unknown, and a discomfort with the uncertainty of change. But this is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion and open-mindedness.'

"The attorney general added that 'what we must not do — what we must never do — is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human. This is why none of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something they are not, or invents a problem that doesn’t exist as a pretext for discrimination and harassment.' . . .

"The Obama administration told an appeals court last year that 'treating a student adversely because the sex assigned to him at birth does not match his gender identity is literally discrimination "on the basis of sex."’ The appeals court ruled in favor of a trans student who was denied bathroom access." 
*   *   *
Damn, it feels good to have people like President Obama and Attorney General Lynch in charge at a time like this.   Either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders -- or any Democrat who could be nominated -- would undoubtedly take the same position.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Gov. Nathan Deal's legacy-defining vetoes

In a prior post I gave Gov. Nathan Deal two cheers for his veto of the Georgia HB-2, the so-called religious freedom law, that arguably would (some say would not) give legal cover for private businesses to discriminate against LGBT clients.

I withheld the third cheer, because it seemed to me that Deal's action was right but his motivation was more pragmatic than principledto avoid the kind of economic and reputational hit the state would take for creating such a backward social context (witness what's happened in North Carolina since their governor did sign an even worse bill).

But now I'm rethinking my position and am inclined to give the governor a bit more credit for courage and maturity.   That change comes partly from his subsequent veto of the campus carry gun law as well.

My opinion was also influenced by what Jay Bookman pointed out in his AJC column on Sunday, May 8th:   that Deal cast these vetoes knowing he would pay a political price.  He still has things he wants to accomplish that need legislative support to enact, and many Republicans are angry at him for these two vetoes.   There's also the school reform constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot that is a signature issue for him.  He will need widespread voter support for that to pass.

In addition to the effect on his agenda, however, Bookman had praise for the eloquence and reasoning of Deal's veto message on the gun bill, which quotes both Thomas Jefferson and Antonin Scalia to support his decision about guns on college campuses.  Bookman writes:
"The claim that there's a constitutional right to carry weapons on a college campus is fraudulent.  It is a political fabrication, with no basis in the Constitution or our nation's history.  Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in Heller vs. D.C., the most pro-gun Supreme Court opinion in U.S. history, made that as clear as possible:
'Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on . . . laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.' 
"In his veto message, Deal summoned even more powerful voices to speak on his behalf.   In 1824, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and four other leading men met at the soon-to-open University of Virginia as the school's Board of Visitors.   During that meeting they approved by-laws for student conduct, including a provision stating that 'No student shall, within the precincts of the university, introduce, keep or use . . . weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder."
And Gov. Deal added in his own words:
"The approval of these specific prohibitions relating to 'campus carry' by the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the principal author of the United States Constitution should not only dispel any vestige of constitutional privilege but should illustrate that having college campuses free of weapons has great historical precedent."
*   *   *
Thank you, Gov. Deal.  You have earned a new level of respect for going against the will of your Republican colleagues and doing what you felt was right, even though it may hurt you politically.   On the first veto, you could say that it would have been an economic disaster for the state.  But on this one, that was less a factor and therefore less of a political cover. 

This is not an overall flip to endorse Gov. Deal (or his school takeover amendment).  He still has much to answer for in my book.  But on these two vetoes I give him credit and appreciation.