Saving Ourselves From Trump

Alan Zendell, October 2, 2017

The longer this country suffers with Donald Trump as president, the more urgent it feels to counter the negative impact he’s having on it. But as urgent as it seems, it’s also befuddling. It feels like our relatively sane world has somehow descended into a surreal madness.

It’s clear that Trump could only have been elected when frustration with the established order reached a breaking point. We’ve seen this before countless times in history. I think that when the realization that things aren’t working sinks in, it becomes too much for average people who are dealing with their own problems. People who are barely scraping by, who feel they’ll never get ahead. People who can’t afford health insurance for their families or see their kids failing in awful schools. People who see their employers shipping jobs overseas and wonder if they’ll be next.

And those are the ones who still have something to cling to, some reason for hope. What about the ones who feel themselves slipping through the cracks of society and noticing that no one seems to give a damn? What happens when the total number of people living that way reaches a critical mass?

When that happens we become ripe for the kind of unscrupulous, nihilistic populism on which Trump has built his success, though it’s hard to characterize reversing years of excruciating progress toward a better, fairer nation as success. It’s basic human nature that people in desperate straits are susceptible to any charismatic savior who can convince them that their problems are someone else’s fault, and those someones are usually of a different color or gender, or are here through circumstances that are less than legal, though all they want is a chance to live and provide for their families. It makes no sense at all, but somehow it’s easy to convince angry, scared people that they’re victims of some great conspiracy and only their new hero can save them.

It doesn’t matter if he lies or if he has no facts to support anything he says, as long as he’s able to tap into the dormant basic instinctual human need to find someone to blame. And once that ball gets rolling, there’s no stopping it. So when someone like Donald Trump whose lust for power and completely amoral, narcissistic need for followers also has a unique ability to tap into the darkest aspects of what makes us human, and his message is “just blow it all up and let me show you a better way” people react like those mesmerized cults that drink Kool Aid. It’s a lynch mob mentality that can’t be stopped until it’s too late.

It’s too late to keep the scabs from being ripped off decades of gradually healing racial hatred and gender inequality. It’s too late to prevent the wave of xenophobia that created the wall mentality we live with. It’s too late to prevent our Department of Education from being run by someone who wants to destroy our public school systems. It’s too late to prevent someone who has spent his entire career trying to destroy the health care safety net of “entitlements” from heading the Department of Health and Human Services, though his own elitist sense of entitlement seems to have undone him. It’s also too late to reverse the setbacks we’ve suffered from the denial of scientific fact in favor of short term profiteering.

But it’s not too late to open our eyes and look within ourselves. Our worst acts of terror and violence, like today’s heinous events in Las Vegas, have not been committed by outsiders, and could never have occurred in a society that had a sane attitude toward firearms. It’s not too late to realize we’ve been hoodwinked. It’s not too late to recognize the difference between honest journalism and the babbling of sycophants and surrogates. It’s not hard to distinguish the noise that comes out of Trump’s mouth from truth if we simply listen.

Unless Robert Mueller can prove that Trump committed a crime worthy of indictment or impeachment, we’re stuck with him for another forty months. But we don’t have to sit and watch our country come to ruin. It won’t be easy, but if we persist and we make our voices heard, we can turn this around.

And it may not be as difficult as it seems. The truth is that Trump is venal, with no ideology of his own and no moral compass. All he cares about is winning and being adored by the masses. Maybe when the masses wake up and make it clear that they want something different, Trump will suddenly realize that he can win the victory he craves by simply changing his mind. Why not? He’s done it before, repeatedly. He has no belief system guiding him, only the need to come out on top. Maybe all we have to do is promise to love him and if enough of us speak up loudly and clearly, he may hear us.

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Puerto Rico

Alan Zendell, September 26, 2017

Sometimes it’s fun to look at a bunch of seemingly unrelated random facts to see if there’s a previously undiscerned pattern. Let’s try it now. Really, it’ll be fun.

Fact: Donald Trump has been obsessed with his war on the NFL players all week.

Fact: When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, it occupied his attention for days. He lauded the wonderful people of Texas and promised them immediate massive federal aid to rebuild, deploring the reality that ten percent of Houston was without power. Nice touch except for the campaign rally tone which was devoid of compassion.

Fact: When Hurricane Irma struck Florida, it occupied his attention for a week. He lauded the wonderful people of Florida and promised them immediate massive federal aid to rebuild, deploring the fact that over a million people might be without power for a few days.

Fact: When Hurricane Maria ravaged the entire island of Puerto Rico Trump spoke of the total devastation and pledged help, but he seemed more energized by the ferocity of the storm than the plight of the people, and Puerto Rico seemed to fall off his agenda a day or two later.

Fact: In presidential elections, Texas has 38 electoral votes, Florida has 29, Puerto Rico has 0.

Fact: Texas has 36 voting members of the House of Representatives and two senators, Florida has 27 voting members of the House of Representatives and two senators, and Puerto has 0.

Fact: During the 2016 election Trump conducted 10 campaign rallies in Texas, 30 in Florida, and 0 in Puerto Rico.

Fact: In 2016 Texas voters were ethnically classified as White (non-Hispanic): 11.4 million; White (Hispanic): 9.0 million; Black: 3.1 million; Other: 1.3 million. Florida voters were ethnically classified as White (non-Hispanic): 10.9 million; White (Hispanic): 3.9 million; Black: 3.1 million; Other: 0.6 million. It’s hard to find comparable data for Puerto Rico, but it’s safe to say that most other Americans consider Puerto Ricans almost entirely non-white.

Fact: In recent days, Trump’s tweets have focused entirely on NFL players, touting a terrible health care bill that 80 percent of the country hates, and insulting Kim Jong Un. Not a single mention of Puerto Rico.

Fact: The electric power grid for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million people has been destroyed.

Fact: All of Puerto Rico’s citizens are American citizens with the same right to the protection of the federal government (except voting rights).

FEMA has a presence on the ground in Puerto Rico, but their role is to coordinate aid and resources needed to save lives and rebuild. The problem in Puerto Rico is that there are precious few resources to coordinate.

Puerto Rico ranks in population with Iowa, Connecticut, and Oklahoma. Imagine if any of those states had to live without electricity for up to six months and were largely under water for weeks. That means no air-conditioning or refrigeration, no artificial lighting, no fresh food, and a completely dead tourist industry in a place whose economy is totally dependent on it. It also means very limited ability to move around. You can’t even fill your car with gasoline without electricity unless the pumping station has its own generator. Do you think Donald Trump would be ignoring Oklahoma or Iowa if it suffered the same fate as Puerto Rico?

Our little game of finding a meaningful pattern isn’t a game at all. Puerto Rico isn’t like those states. It’s not part of Trump’s base. Its people mean nothing in terms of his re-election or even his ability to sustain a single term in office. Trump doesn’t own a fancy resort in Puerto Rico. To all appearances, 3.5 million Puerto Ricans don’t matter as much as whether a few athletes offend the president’s sensibilities by silently protesting police brutality while the national anthem is being played, or showing that he’s tougher than some tinhorn dictator in Asia.

Can you imagine living on an island that is running out of food in a tropical climate without power or telephone service? Can you imagine millions of people begging for help and having it fall on deaf ears? We see these things every day in the third world, but these people are Americans! How dare Mr. Trump ignore them. It seems the adoring crowds he’s attracted to only matter if they’re filled with white people who vote for him.

With every compassionless act, our president diminishes our country. We knew he was devoid of moral leadership the day he announced his candidacy. We who have watched his career for decades have always known that he cared only about himself, but to behave this way before the world in the age of 24/7 media is horrifying.

How did our country come to the point at which our president has to be shamed into doing the right thing? I can only imagine General Kelly reading him the riot act. So Donald Trump has finally agreed to visit Puerto Rico 7 DAYS FROM NOW! It took him six days to decide to go to inspect what he himself called apocalyptic destruction, and it will be seven more before finds a break in his schedule to do it. I wonder how long it took to plan his campaign stop in Alabama last week – you know, the one where he started the war with the NFL.

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Kneeling Before the Flag

Alan Zendell, September 25,  2017

The first time I saw Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem it irritated me greatly. I am unabashedly patriotic, sometimes at the cost of some embarrassment, so what I initially took to be disrespect for our national anthem seriously pissed me off. It didn’t help that I considered the San Francisco 49er quarterback vastly over-hyped at the time.

It also didn’t help that I’ve never been a fan of people who wear their politics or their religion as a badge of honor, especially professional athletes on the playing field. Most people don’t pay to watch an athlete genuflect every time he gets a hit, makes a basket, or catches a pass. Neither do they pay to be exposed to an athlete’s political views.

All that said, when I looked more closely at the growing movement of athletes passively expressing concern over the national epidemic of violence against people of color, I moderated my stance. I also believe strongly in the first amendment, and while I thought such demonstrations rather tasteless, what they were protesting was far worse. I stopped seeing their silent, peaceful protests as disrespect for either our anthem or our flag. I began thinking of kneeling before the flag as somehow akin to flying it at half mast, mourning the fact that it is lessened by the loss of something vital to our values and principles.

I finally accepted the protests as harmless, and even began to feel inspired by the solidarity team members showed. I saw no disrespect for our country. Rather I saw the kind of sadness I felt whenever I thought someone or something diminished my country in the eyes of the world.

When Donald Trump marched into Alabama to support one of the candidates vying to replace Jeff Sessions last Friday, he was in full campaign bombast mode. He was loving throwing red meat to the crowd, loving basking in the wild cheers he so craves. And when he decided to call every NFL player who kneels during the anthem a son-of-a-bitch and implored NFL owners to fire them, he tried to posture his rant along the lines of his patriotic “Let’s Make America Great Again” theme.

But we who have come to know Donald Trump these past two years knew better. The simple, obvious subtext was that all those sons of bitches were black, and the raucous Alabama crowd didn’t have to have that explained to them. This, after all, was the same Donald Trump who thought many of the people marching with the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville were fine people. The White Supremacists marching through the University of Virginia campus were spouting racial hatred and expressing their love for their president who they believed had enabled their message with his racist campaign rhetoric.

It’s far more likely that there are many fine people among the players who knelt on the field during the anthem. They spouted no hatred, and many of them held their hands over their hearts out of respect for the flag. Most of the huge crowds attending their games seemed quite content to give them their moment of passive expression. There was no lack of cheering when those same athletes stepped onto the field a few moments later. When a touchdown was caught by a pair of black hands, their owner was embraced by the crowd like a brother. No one screamed traitor or tore up his ticket and walked out of the stadium.

So if Donald Trump claims his attacks on the NFL and other professional sports are based on patriotism, he’s either lying or he’s part of a sad minority who can’t see beyond the ends of their own racist noses. This is the same Donald Trump who will do or say anything to arouse his base at any time, but I’m puzzled this time.

I thought those cheering crowds filling the stands at football games were his base. Weren’t many of those beer-drinking, tail-gating, trash-talking fans the same ones who lined up for his rallies and bought all those MAGA baseball caps? Maybe the Donald has really stepped in doo-doo this time. If he thinks that doubling down to stoke up the same latent racism that won him the election will work here, he may be surprised. Most football fans don’t care what color their heroes are as long as they hit harder, run faster, and score more than the other team.

This should be a very interesting few months. The football season lasts until February, almost until election season, and the television cameras will be watching every week. The NFL is a monolithic entity in this country. Anyone who attacks it does so at his peril.

I’ve always believed that Donald Trump was his own worst enemy. We may soon see whether that’s true.

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The Failure of Graham-Cassidy – RIP

Alan Zendell, September 23, 2017

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said a couple of days ago that he could give us ten good reasons to vote against this bill. Coming from Grassley that’s significant, because he has been a consistently conservative hawk on the federal health budget for decades. More significant, however, was his conclusion: he’d support Graham-Cassidy anyway because his party was politically committed to getting rid of Obamacare.

The more I hear that the more it makes my head ache. Politics is supposed to be a process for resolving differences through open debate, not an excuse to ignore the will of the people. Ever since the Republicans’ first attempt to ram through their partisan repeal and replace efforts, the polls have consistently shown that when most Americans look at the alternatives, they would rather have Congress fix the ACA and find a way to lower premiums than go back to a world of restrictive preconditions and dozens of other insurance industry horrors. And they have stated their preference by a clear majority.

Congress’ low approval rating is largely based on its inability to reach a bipartisan consensus on anything but pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey. Americans want major legislation to represent the best compromise of opposing points of view. That’s how representative government was meant to function. And that’s more than just a pie in the sky ideal. As many Senators, including both Arizona Republicans, Flake and McCain have repeatedly stated, major legislation rammed through by one party is unsustainable. It’s subject to the same kind of craziness we’ve seen with the ACA. With each change of majority party a partisan Congress will try to undo what its predecessor did.

To be fair, the ACA was passed in similar fashion by the Democrats, but to be even fairer, that was largely because then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to block everything Obama tried to accomplish from the day he took office. Is that really what everyone who voted against Obama in 2008 intended? Isn’t it time to stop all this and get on with doing the peoples’ business?

The likely collapse of Graham-Cassidy will undoubtedly be followed by a bi-partisan attempt to craft an improved law, whether it’s called Obamacare-2 or Trumpcare. That will happen partly because Trump will happily trash his own party for another “failure” and eagerly sign on for a bi-partisan debate. Our ideologically impaired president really couldn’t care less what the ultimate bill looks like as long as he can take credit for a victory.

So let’s once again thank John McCain for sticking to his philosophical guns. McCain knows this is probably his last hurrah in Congress, and he’s establishing his legacy. He is insisting that the United States Senate function as it was meant to. He simply won’t support a bad law that circumvents the normal rules of the Senate to avoid bi-partisan debate. And this time, he skipped the last-minute theatrics and came out with his No vote ahead of time to provide cover for other senators who know Graham-Cassidy is a bad idea.

And the other two physicians who are Republican Senators? John Barasso of Wyoming supports the bill without public comment. I find it hard to accept that a physician would vote strictly along political lines on something that affects the health care of a large percentage of Americans. Rand Paul of Kentucky is very clear about his opposition to the bill, but his opposition in on strictly libertarian grounds, also not addressing the nation’s health care problems. What’s wrong with this picture?

In any case, Paul is not someone to be bullied by Trump, McConnell or anyone else, so I’m glad of his No vote, even if I’m puzzled by his reasons. With two clear No’s on record Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski can seal the fate of this bad idea. My guess it that it will never come to a vote. There’s nothing Mitch McConnell likes less that public humiliation.

I look forward to seeing what Patty Murray (D-Wash) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) can accomplish in getting the Senate to function the way it’s supposed when they’re given a chance. But mostly, I look forward to being able to believe that our government really cares about the health the people it represents.

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The Last Cynical Gasp of the Republican Senate

Alan Zendell, September 19, 2017

I hate to cast this in terms of Democrats versus Republicans, but the Senate Republicans have set it up that way. They seem relentless in their attempt to set health care back on the deadly track it was on ten years ago.  For all the bluster, the arguments haven’t changed. It’s all about the money, stupid!

And that’s really tragic, especially in a country like ours that has always held itself up as the beacon of hope for the needy and dispossessed. Every year, millions of Americans face agonizing choices over the cost of health care. Parents without health insurance who have children in dire need of medical care that they have no way to pay for are running out of alternatives.

In recent decades their primary option was to “spend down” their savings and investments until they fell far enough below the poverty level to qualify for Medicaid, but the current Graham-Cassidy bill would so decimate Medicaid over the next eight years, even that option won’t be available to many. Having to impoverish an entire family to qualify for welfare to pay to save a sick child’s life is horrible and humiliating enough, but to have even that possibility taken away is simply unconscionable. It has no place in America.

Neither Donald Trump nor any of the Senate Republicans supporting this bill has ever had to make a choice like that. For them, it’s easy to reduce everything to numbers. They don’t have to feel the human pain and suffering. But wait – isn’t that exactly what their oaths of office have sworn them to do?

The current September 30th deadline to get the Graham-Cassidy bill done is based on a combination of arcane Senate rules and the very real burdens facing the Senate on other issues that will challenge our economy. Remember that first and foremost, the health care debate is about taxes, not the health of Americans. And if the situation weren’t dire enough, recent events like devastating hurricanes put even more stress on our national budget.

Our politicians never flinch at the cost of rebuilding and saving lives after national disasters, so why is it different when they debate health care? The quality health care for all that Donald Trump promised us comes at a very high cost, and that cost must of necessity be borne largely by the wealthiest Americans. They can sugarcoat it a hundred different ways, but the Senate Republicans know that the less the wealthiest Americans pay in taxes, the more people at the other end of the spectrum will die and have their families’ livelihoods destroyed.

Lindsey Graham posed the money issue in a different, even more cynical way, yesterday. He pointed out that 80% of the Medicaid expansion money spent under Obamacare goes to four states: New York, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland, a very unsubtle appeal to the very regional divisiveness that Trump campaigned on. Those four states represent the liberal, progressive establishment, and Trump made them the enemy of all hard-working blue collar Americans. I understand the idea of wanting other states to share in the federal Medicaid money, but when you couple that with shrinking the pot by close to a trillion dollars over the next ten years, everyone loses.

Ten Governors, five Republicans and five Democrats, have come out strongly against the latest Senate bill. Graham and the other senators pushing the bill say it’s really about giving the decision-making power back to the states, but those governors are the people into whose laps the problems will land if the bill passes. And every one of them rejects the idea. Their response is: “What good is having spending flexibility when there’s nothing left to spend?”

The simple logic of the situation is so clear, the only possible explanation for why the Senate refuses to give the American people what they want – an open bi-partisan debate on health care – is cynical beyond words. It’s their last chance to satisfy their greedy donors and lobbyists, who are the only people who will profit from this bill.

Can the Senate Republicans succeed this time? It seems unlikely. With their governors backing them, there’s no reason to believe Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski will change their votes. Neither is there a reason to expect John McCain to. He doesn’t even have to vote to kill this bill, all he has to do is not show up while trying to recover from brain cancer. And there are other wild cards like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio. With his own Governor, John Kasich, spearheading the attack against this bill and outlining the great harm it will do to the citizens of Ohio, can Senator Portman possibly vote for it?

This final attempt by the Senate Republicans is one of the most cynical things I have witnessed in politics in my seventy-four years. God help us if it succeeds.

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Can Trump Separate Himself from the Adoring Crowds?

Alan Zendell, September 18, 2017

There are many points of view concerning Donald Trump in our divided country. What I find most disturbing is the large number of people who are willing to treat the presidency and the various crises our nation faces as a long-running TV reality show. I know that’s almost a cliché by now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious problem. Perhaps we’re so immersed in television shows like Homeland, House of Cards, and Designated Survivor that we forget there’s a real world out there that’s pretty dangerous.

Way back when The West Wing was so popular it always disturbed me that people really believed the main preoccupation of the occupants of the White House’s business wing was exchanging witty repartee. Serious business is conducted there, and it can’t be done effectively by people whose principal agenda is individual power grabbing and one-upmanship. No one’s going to shut down Twitter or Facebook any more than we can close the Pandora’s box of nuclear weapons.  We have to learn to adapt to a world filled with nuclear proliferation in which anyone can tweet any irresponsible nonsense and have millions of followers cheering.

We’re used to the media rants of Kim Jong Un, and most of us dismiss them for what they are: bombast intended to convince his own people that he will let nothing stop him from making their country secure, and in a country in which the population has known nothing but lies and propaganda, shut off from the outside world, that can work. We’re accustomed to the extremist websites utilized by ISIS and other terrorist groups, all of which have one thing in common, attempting to create fear and disarray among the people and countries they hate while propping up their own base.

For years we were bombarded with threats from Iran, but until recently, when Trump began talking about pulling out of the nuclear accord, they’ve been pretty silent. What we can infer from this is that as nations and regimes mature, they learn that bombastic rants simply label them as rogue nations. We are wary of them in the same way that we’re aware of swarms of killer bees on our neighbor’s property, but no one takes them seriously as responsible international partners.

Nations and leaders that behave that way are eventually isolated and ostracized. Nations that are secure in the knowledge of their own strength and values have no need for bombast, just as true heroes need not parade their egos around on their sleeves. Israel, for example, while always vigilant in defending against external threats, is also fully aware that their military can completely destroy anyone that attacks them. Thus we do not read tweets from their leaders about will happen to their enemies if they misbehave.

Our two greatest potential adversaries, Russia and China, conduct themselves in a statesmanlike if not always friendly fashion. Mr. Putin’s words are carefully measured as are president Xi’s. The worst we ever hear from them is veiled warnings about what may happen if we act too aggressively against their perceived interests. That doesn’t mean they’re our friends. It means that they are mature leaders secure in their power.

And yet, we have a president, even after eight months of on-the-job training, who thinks wild threats of nuclear destruction are an effective way to conduct business. He thinks that claiming to be prepared to exercise military options which we all know don’t really exist will somehow silence an enemy that has no intention of being soothed until he gets what he wants. What I conclude from all this is that all of our worst fears about Donald Trump are well founded. He craves more than anything the cheers of the crowd even if he has to invent scenarios in which he can cast himself as the hero. But that’s not what our presidency has ever been about. It’s supposed to be about humility and reasoned leadership, and sincerely crediting others with success, which are the truest signs of strength, while at every turn our president continues to express all the characteristics of a schoolyard bully.

If you’re not sure about this, I have a serious question for you, one that’s very worth pondering. Suppose that behind closed doors, our military strategists devised a solution to the current problems with North Korea. Suppose they proposed it to the president with the caveat that he had to remain in the background, and it would only work if he didn’t claim credit for its success. One tweet from him and it would all be undone. Faced with that choice, what would the Donald Trump we know do?

Would Trump, even under those conditions be able to place country over the roar of an adoring crowd? Nothing we know about him says he could, and that’s as dangerous an indictment of our president as anyone can make.

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Tigers Don’t Change Their Stripes

Alan Zendell, September 15, 2017

Winston Churchill famously changed parties twice during his political career. Both times it was on differences of principle: free trade, tariffs, equal treatment of social classes. When he was accused of being disloyal and untrustworthy he said he would never “refuse[d] to do right because the devil prompted [me]. Neither shall I be deterred from doing what I am convinced is right by the fact that I have thought differently about it in some distant, or even in some recent, past.”

To many of us who revered Churchill, his ability and willingness to revisit long-held beliefs and change his mind in a clearly disciplined manner was one of his most admirable traits. He always stuck to his principles, but they were never so mired in concrete that he couldn’t budge when circumstances warranted. Moreover, few ever accused him of lying.

That is in stark contrast to Donald Trump, who sways with the wind whenever it suits him. While Churchill’s party switches may have luckily predicted changes in national sentiment, they were never ego driven. Churchill was arrogant and strong-willed, but he was not the kind of narcissistic, self-aggrandizing leader who thinks unpredictably turning on his allies enhances his power.

Compare that with Donald Trump, who throughout his long career has never demonstrated loyalty to anyone but himself, though he demanded it uncompromisingly from everyone else. Trump’s only guiding principle has ever been money, which he lavished on whichever party suited him at the time. He continually bragged about that during the campaign.

He began his political career by trashing the Republican establishment and usurping the Grand Old Party, which had become so splintered and unorganized that it was ripe for the taking. For all that Trump held no real ideology of his own, he might as well have preyed on the Democrats, but he calculated that Hillary Clinton’s party leadership would be harder to unseat. So Trump the faux-Republican, formed an ideological alliance with millions of people who felt betrayed by both parties and were susceptible to his populist, nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric; with extreme right wing conservatives whose principles were not and never will be his; and with various alt-right hate groups whose common goal is maintaining the United States as white male dominated nation.

When the Republican-controlled Congress began its ill-fated attempt to govern in secrecy and exclude every voice they couldn’t control, Trump endorsed their approach, though it was surely anathema to him. And as he came to realize that the strange cast of people he’d fallen into bed with didn’t represent the sense of the country he’d sworn to lead, instead of acting like a leader and attempting to change the dialogue, he simply attacked his own party mercilessly so he wouldn’t have to accept blame for their failure.

His lack of loyalty to any cause got him in serious trouble in Charlottesville. His inability to distinguish and articulate right from wrong even in so obvious a situation reflected more than anything that Trump’s lack of commitment to anything not tied to profit seriously handicaps him as leader. And in the wakes of devastating Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, while he has been paraded around visiting scenes of destruction, contrast his approach to that of his Vice President. Like him or not, Mike Pence understands the role of Consoler-in-Chief, because at his roots he understands compassion, something Donald Trump does not and never will.

We have now arrived at the intersection of two issues which were lynch pins of Trump’s presidential campaign. One is Jeff Sessions, who was the first sitting senator to endorse him, largely because the staunchly anti-immigration senator saw in Trump the opportunity exercise control over a subject he’d fought for for decades. Trump touted Sessions wherever he went as evidence that the Republican infrastructure was crumbling to his will. In truth, Trump and Sessions never had anything in common, as evidenced by their relationship since the election. Had their interests not coincided over attacking immigrants, they would have had no relationship at all.

And now it all comes to a head over DACA, and once again, close to million young people attempting to live as law-abiding Americans in the only country they’ve ever known have become the political pawns of a cynical system and a president who loves to leave both allies and enemies swinging in the wind so they always know who’s boss.

Some people would love to believe that appearing to strike a deal with the Democrats over DACA represents a welcome change in the partisan gridlock in Washington, but don’t be fooled. Trump’s relationship with the truth is whatever he wants it to be at the moment. It’s not clear that there will even be a deal, as Trump’s tweets contradict themselves hourly. As Ashley Parker wrote in today’s Washington Post, “Often, Trump’s underlings, friends, foes and allies never know quite where he stands — in part because of the president’s penchant for telling his immediate audience exactly what they want to hear in any given moment. People who meet with the president frequently leave buoyed, an optimism punctured by a nagging question mere hours later: What just happened?”

What happened is what always happens with Trump. They got played by the master of misdirection and obfuscation. And that, my friends, is our president.

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