Thursday, September 26, 2019

In The Year Of the Whistle-Blower. Or How The Game Is Played.

1. I've been glued to my seat in this imaginary movie theater/cinema, clutching my bag of imaginary popcorn,  mesmerized by the Story Of The Whistle-Blower which is the title of the film playing on the world screen. 

It's convenient to treat the whole story as a fictional tale, one written, produced and directed by Donald Trump.  Then we don't have to face reality, which, however,  will face us:

The still-most-powerful country on this planet is run by a narcissist who sees nothing wrong in asking Ukraine to get him information on Biden's son that might help him in the 2020 elections (should Biden be his opponent then), and to do that asking by at least implicitly holding back the military aid the US (i.e., we, the people) has promised Ukraine in case that help isn't forthcoming*.

A narcissist such as Trump sees nothing wrong in any of that.   To him the interests of the country and his own interests are  identical**, and that merging gives him the permission to openly (and legally!)  pursue his own interests in all aspects of the job.

It's not the case that Trump engages in all sorts of impeachable offenses fully aware of what might be wrong, or even criminal, in his acts. This is because inside his own head he cannot commit a wrong.  It's simply not possible.  Given that, all criticisms of him are fake news created by crooked people who are out to get him, as in "presidential harassment" or in "the single greatest witch-hunt in American history".

Trump's many weirdly petulant tweets can also be interpreted from the narcissism angle.  For instance, on September 24 he tweeted:

Such an important day at the United Nations, so much work and so much success, and the Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean it with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage. So bad for our Country!
But those tweets are not really weird, coming from a narcissist.  Rather, they are quite logical.  That tweet, for instance, expresses the narcissistic injury Trump felt because he didn't get the public accolades for his UN speech he felt he deserved.  That is what hurt him, enough to go on Twitter about it.

You may by now be tired about all the posts I have written concerning Trump's narcissism.  I believe understanding it is crucial for anyone who wants to, say, predict what Trump might do next.  Still, I will pipe down on that topic in the future.  But I will never stop pointing out that millions of American voters decided that a narcissist running the country would be a great idea.

2.  The august New York Times has chosen to treat the identity of the whistle-blower as a crossword puzzle.  They give us the clues, we can try to figure out who that person is.  Such fun, and a great scoop for the Times, right?

I find that a serious breach of journalistic ethics.  It might take me a few hours to narrow down the list of possible subjects to a few names, but it won't take anywhere near that long for those inside the White House to nail the correct person.

3.  And what about the reactions from the Republicans in the Congress?

I was talking to a friend about the tribalism in American politics and made my usual comparison to the tribalism of the fans of various sports teams.  The fans of Red Sox, say,  hate the NY Yankees and want to see them suffer, and vice versa.  But I got confused and compared US politics to a game between the Red Sox (baseball) and the Patriots (American football)!

Which turned out to be one of those light bulb moments, because the two parties, indeed, play different political games, in my sincere opinion.  The current crop of Congressional Republicans play a game of win-at-any-cost and a game of ignore-the-rules-and-shoot-the-umpire, while many Congressional Democrats seem to be playing the game of can-I-find-the-stadium.

*  "A nice little country you have there.  It would be too bad if something happened to it."

** He is not the first ruler to think so, of course.  Apres moi, le deluge.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Impeachment. Take #238.

I put that take #238 in the title, because in a more rational world Trump would have been impeached for umpteen times already.  Maybe not 238, but a lot. His apparent "unimpeachability" has been a thorn festering on the side of our ailing democracy*.

We shall see if this most recent revelation makes any difference:

President Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine at least a week before a phone call in which Trump is said to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden, according to three senior administration officials.

Trump on Monday repeated his denial of doing anything improper and insisted that his July 25 conversation with Zelensky was “a perfect phone call.” He also hinted that he may release a transcript of it.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said late Monday that the allegations were false. “But because the media wants this story to be true so badly, they’ll once again manufacture a frenzy and drive ignorant, fake stories to attack this president,” Gidley said.
It appears the Ukrainian leader came away from the discussion with a different impression. Murphy, who spoke with Zelensky during an early September visit to Ukraine, said Monday that the Ukrainian president “directly” expressed concerns at their meeting that “the aid that was being cut off to Ukraine by the president was a consequence” of his unwillingness to launch an investigation into the Bidens.
The bolds are mine.

* If this president (who is determined to piss on all the rules and principles of democracy and also on the laws he doesn't like) is not impeached, why would any future president ever fear impeachment?   If the evidence in the second part of the Mueller report (which showed many counts of Trump obstructing justice) was insufficient for acting, then what evidence ever will be sufficient? The precedent this would create gives a bad prognosis for that ailing patient, our puny democracy.

I get that the Republicans have the power to keep Trump in power, and I also get that when/if the impeachment effort fails, Trump will use that failure as proof of his innocence.  I even get that to predict the possible electoral consequences of the dreadful choices the Democrats in the Congress face is extremely hard, and for those reasons I'm glad that making that choice is not my job.

But democracy is worth preserving, and with great power should come great responsibilities.  Trump treats his job as if it's for his own benefit alone and tweets about it as if he was still a reality television star.