Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Donald Trump and Barack Obama: Examining off-the-cuff American history lessons from our two most recent presidents

May 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 3, 2017

I was tickled to my cynical core Monday morning when I learned that President Donald Trump had bloviated about Andrew Jackson, one of his antecedents in the Oval Office, and the Civil War. After all, who better than Trump — who in February became the first to discover, regarding health care policy, “It’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated” — to lecture the American public on history?

In an interview with SiriusXM’s Salena Zito that aired Monday, Trump said the following about the nation’s seventh president:

I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, “There’s no reason for this.” People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?

There are plenty of analyses of (this edition of) Trump’s dunderheaded comments; see, for instance, this Jeet Heer joint at The New Republic. But it got me wondering: Did Trump’s predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama, ever speak extemporaneously about Andrew Jackson or the Civil War? And if so, had he ever made such dumbfounding remarks?

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On presidential proprietary and Donald Trump

March 31, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 31, 2017

Last June, journalist Robert Kuttner examined the different ways in which a then-hypothetical President Trump might abuse his power.

We are now 70 days into the Trump administration, a span in which the administration has been mired amid scandal, incompetence and apparent if not actual corruption, not to mention historically low approval ratings. Yes, it’s early, but we can get a good sense of the ways in which Kuttner — who looked into the ways in which President Nixon politicized the Internal Revenue Service — was right and wrong in his prognostications about the figure I’ve taken to calling President Short Attention Span.

Trump will insist on loyalty. Kuttner was spot-on about this. In his eagerness to blame the failure of his ill-advised health-care reform initiative on everyone not named Donald Trump, the president blamed Democrats and Republicans alike. The commander-in-chief seemed particularly eager to call out Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, notwithstanding Ryan’s relative obeisance to Trump, as well as members of the House Freedom Caucus who objected that the American Health Care Act wasn’t cruel enough.

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The news cycle gazes fondly upon Trump, but only for a brief moment in time

March 3, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 3, 2017

President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday was, by his low standards, not a bad speech. Trump largely stuck to his script, offering little in the way of needless provocation. While the address contained plenty of misleading information, it featured a notable dearth of novel or headline-making lies. This is, shall we say, a slender basis for praising the leader of the free world. Then again, that’s where we are in 2017.

Unfortunately, much of what the president said was undercut either by the facts or by his earlier statements — in some cases, ones that Trump had made that very morning.

Trump took a few seconds at the beginning of his remarks to condemn the wave of anti-semitic bomb threats and cemetery vandalism as well as “last week’s shooting in Kansas City,” an apparent reference to what appears to have been a racially motivated murder in Olathe, Kansas. Some commentators called this a grace note, but this was literally the least that the president could have done — Trump, who is quick to snipe at people who disagree with him on Twitter, had been silent on the subject for days. Moreover, that morning, he’d suggested to Fox News interviewers that the wave of anti-semitic incidents might be a false-flag operation designed to make him and his deplorable followers look bad.

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Fiction vs. reality: On triggering — or countering — ‘The Pence Contingency’

February 22, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 22, 2017

Ever since November’s election, it’s been hard to shake the feeling that we’re living in an airport-bookstore thriller. I can just envision the jacket copy for this beach read:

An erratic businessman has been elected to the White House. Ultra-wealthy Americans, Washington bureaucrats and foreign governments plot how to implement their divergent agendas while distancing themselves from the damage that the unpredictable president is doing to the social, political and international institutions that have maintained domestic and global stability ever since the end of the Cold War. But a small faction of fanatical conservative elites are using the conflict and chaos as cover for a secret plan that could leave America under their direct control for years to come…

The plot almost writes itself. Vladimir Putin and his top advisors subtly push the president to disavow America’s NATO commitments; China, Iran and various fundamentalist terrorist groups — of both the radical Islamic and radical Christian varieties — scheme to undermine confidence in America’s ability to maintain peace and security; the upper crust and their conservative allies work to reduce the 1 percent’s tax burden while cutting the safety net and other social services; a medley of Fox News broadcasters and Republican governors, administrators and legislators promote and enact reforms that allow conservative Christians to punish unmarried women for having sex and homosexuals and non-Christians for reminding anyone of their existence.

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Divert, distort, distract: An early controversy sets the tone for Trump’s reign

February 1, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 1, 2017

As the ghastly mess that was the drafting and rollout of the new executive order limiting the entry of refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations became fully apparent over the weekend, I wondered about this episode’s implications for the remaining 207 weeks of President Trump’s administration.

As noted Monday afternoon, the incompetence displayed by the newly installed executive and his crew was deeply troubling. But that wasn’t the only striking thing about the incident; indeed, I think many of the patterns that we saw over the past few days will recur time and again over the coming three years, 11 months and change.

Consider the following:

The administration bypassed normal government operating procedures. As discussed yesterday, a number of lawyers and agencies weren’t consulted about the travel ban. Trump, a business executive unused to working within governmental constraints, loves to make his own rules, even when he’s been warned that there are very good reasons for following established procedure.

The administration got help from congressional employees while keeping Republican lawmakers in the dark. On Monday evening, Politico reported that top Trump aides had recruited senior congressional staffers to help draft the order without informing any actual members of Congress; indeed, the staffers were required to sign nondisclosure agreements. Competent, transparent administrations don’t work that way; but of course, Trump’s crew has not yet developed a feel nor show an inclination for working conventionally and has never displayed any desire to be transparent.

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All the president’s incompetence: Unnerving early signs from the Trump administration

January 30, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 30, 2017

There’s a classic joke in which two women are dining at a restaurant. (A version of it appears in Woody Allen’s 1977 movie Annie Hall.) One lady says, “The food at this place is really terrible.” The other lady replies, “I know, and such small portions!”

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this while reading an otherwise sobering essay Saturday night about an executive order that President Donald Trump issued on Friday during a visit to the Pentagon. The document, as much of the world now knows, was designed to bar entry to travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months and to suspend all refugee admissions for six months. It quickly attracted a great deal of outrage, much of it associated with the hashtag #MuslimBan, and led to a series of judicial defeats for the fledgling administration as the ACLU and other civil-rights lawyers filed lawsuits in various federal district courts.

Reports emerged that the executive order had been drafted virtually in secret, without input from the federal lawyers or agencies that normally would vet such administrative initiatives. Informal Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that the president had asked him and a panel of attorneys, including former George W. Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey and at least one sitting Republican congressman (from Texas, natch) to design a Muslim ban that could pass legal muster.

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Cheeps and Chirps for Jan. 29, 2017

January 29, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 29, 2017

Wow, I didn’t realized it had been so long since I’d shared some of my Twitter gems.

I’m going to limit myself to tweets from Jan. 28, as the cruelty of President Trump’s executive order banning Muslims sank in, and as news broke that the president’s inner circle was going to limit the participation of the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in some key national security meetings.

• ZOMG Donald Trump!

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Trump, unchecked: The president-elect tilts hard right as his elevation to office approaches

December 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 17, 2016

On Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, unless something unprecedented occurs, the electoral college will officially designate Donald Trump Sr. the winner of the 2016 United States presidential election.

I expect this to happen, although it should be noted that an incredible number of things about this election have been unprecedented. For instance, Hillary Clinton was the first female presidential candidate to be nominated by a major American political party, and Trump was the candidate with the thinnest (read: a nonexistent) record of public or military service.

I’ve experienced a number of emotions since Trump’s election, including disbelief, disappointment, anger, resignation and sorrow. I also felt, for a time, something unexpected: hope.

Trump’s victory speech was unexpectedly magnanimous, given the harsh nature of his campaign. The man who during the second presidential debate had threatened to jail his opponent over missing emails from her tenure as secretary of state struck a gracious note early in the address that he delivered around 3 a.m. on the East Coast on Nov. 9:

Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. I mean that very sincerely.

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No prior experience? No problem! Trump fans hail the election of a candidate with a historically thin résumé

November 18, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 18, 2016

With the election of Donald John Trump Sr. as president of the United States of America on Nov. 8, 2016, the nation entered a new era: That of the celebrity-president.

Trump will be just the fourth president in our nation’s history never to have held public office prior to entering the White House. He will be the first to do so without any experience serving in either the military or elected office.

Trump had three predecessors who lacked any political experience: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. Grant served in the army for 23 years, according to Vox’s Zachary Crockett, while Eisenhower had a 37-year-long military career and Taylor’s army stint spanned four decades. All three reached the rank of general; all three supervised forces in battle.

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Why #ImWithHer: Considering Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

November 7, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 7, 2016

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, I will vote for Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States of America. The Democratic candidate is an imperfect individual, but she is eminently qualified to serve as president, and I expect her to be an acceptable — and perhaps even an excellent — steward of the national interests as chief executive.

By contrast, knowing what I do about the character and campaign of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, I cannot imagine myself backing him in good conscience for any position of importance.

Trump seems temperamentally unsuited for high office, as indicated by two recent news items. One is that he and adviser Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief, have parted ways because, according to a reporter, “Trump couldn’t focus — surprise, surprise — and … advising him was a waste of time… [The] debate prep sessions weren’t going anywhere.” The other is that Trump’s campaign has managed to wrest control of his Twitter account away from the candidate. (The Trump camp disputes both reports. Instead, a surrogate has blamed Ailes for telling irrelevant war stories when he was supposed to be preparing the candidate for his encounters with Clinton, and an aide maintains that Trump still runs the account.)

All of which is to ignore numerous signs of Trump’s misogynistic attitudes and actions, which would have disqualified most candidates in previous elections.

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