The Slide to Autocracy

Alan Zendell, July 25, 2018

I was one of many who was struck, early on, by the similarities between Donald Trump’s rise to power and that of Adolf Hitler. The number of websites devoted to the subject is astounding, and a year-and-a-half into the Trump administration the debate still rages. Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge that Trump is without peer in his ability to disrupt, and there are few subjects that have done more to wreck friendships and familial relationships, even marriages, than Trump’s shameless tendency toward fascist autocracy.

I have experienced it with respect to one friend, in particular, who is noteworthy because of his brilliant, scientific mind which makes his embracing of Trump’s values unfathomable to me. My friend, in his own words, was “lit up” by the comparison to Hitler because it triggered images of millions of Jews dying in concentration camps.

That’s understandable because he’s Jewish, and his family suffered greatly at the hands of the Nazis. But since he knows I’m Jewish as well, I was amazed that he would think that was what I was implying, until I realized his reaction was entirely visceral. The fault was mine – I’d been imprecise. Adam Roy, writing in the Jewish medium forward.com may have best expressed what I meant: “We want to believe that the Nazis were a special, exceptional kind of evil, because it’s easier for us. But the reality is that their brutality was just another manifestation of humanity’s worst flaws … the unthinking cruelty we unleash upon each other as soon as society gives us license.

That is what I see embedded in Trump’s governing. He is not anti-Semitic, nor is he anti-anything in principle, because that would imply that he possessed an ideology of his own. Trump is simply an opportunist who will attack and scapegoat any convenient target or group if it furthers his own ends. I doubt that he has any intention of gassing his political enemies into extinction, though apparently, he would have no compunction against locking them up.

Like Hitler, Trump’s great gift is the ability to cleave and divide, though it remains to be seen whether he can destroy the basic democratic institutions he considers his enemies. Among those so honored we can list the free press, Democrats, the loyal opposition in Congress, and any court that attempts to slow his rush to absolute power. But like Hitler, he can’t undermine democracy single-handedly. He requires our complicity as a society to give him the license referred to by Roy.

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs addressed this yesterday in a chilling article, “Trump is Taking Us Down the Path to Tyranny.” Sachs believes President Trump is attempting to remove the checks and balances prescribed in our Constitution to avoid a repetition of the tyranny from which our revolution freed us. It’s clear in everything he does, and it makes me wonder why anyone is still puzzled by his fascination with Vladimir Putin.

Trump craves the power Putin wields. He would be Putin if we let him, but he’s not Putin’s equal. Does Putin ignore and denigrate his own Intelligence people? Would he undercut them in public statements heard around the world? Does anyone believe Putin has kept his own people in the dark over what he discussed with Trump?

Sachs points to a long list of “one man” actions taken by Trump, none of which are illegal, but which in sum imply complete disdain for our constitutional separation of powers. Eschewing any interaction with Congress, Trump has instigated a trade war with adversaries and allies alike, abrogated the Iran nuclear deal, and instituted new sanctions against Iran which are intended to cripple its economy. Likewise his attempts to impose a travel ban on Muslim countries and his withdrawal from the treaty obligations of the Paris Climate Accords.

The issue isn’t whether we agree with those actions, it’s whether they should have been taken without the consent of our duly elected representatives. But it’s not all Trump’s fault. Any legislator or judge who allows him- or herself to be cowed into submission is wholly culpable in our slide toward autocracy. That’s where the comparison with Hitler is frighteningly believable.

Professor Sachs points out that “[s]imply by invoking the phrase ‘national security,’ Trump can push the Congress and Supreme Court to give him almost any degree of latitude.” But he can only do that if they allow him to. It’s worth noting that the Constitution grants the power to declare war only to the Congress, though the president can bring us to the brink of war and even initiate hostilities entirely on his own authority – unless someone stops him.

Sachs reminds us that a Swedish think-tank that specializes in analyzing democracies now ranks the United States 31st in the world, and The Economist now rates us a “flawed democracy.” And as a final note, he quotes Hitler’s subordinate Hermann Gὅring on how easy it is to get a population to back an autocratic leader. “All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Does any of this sound familiar?

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The Secret Meeting

Alan Zendell, July 23, 2018

According to this exclusive transcript of the secret meeting in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, both men were extremely pleased to be there.

T – Hello Mister President, I’m so glad we can finally meet and speak frankly to each other. (Trump grabs Putin’s hand and shakes it vigorously, until Putin’s steely stare and his iron-firm grip make him let go.)

P – Yes Donald, it is high time we met. (Боже, помоги мне!) Things are not going quite as I’d hoped.

T – Yes, those bastards in the press simply won’t let it go. How do you manage so well in Russia?

P – (Smiling benignly at his protégé…) As you have observed Donald, (наивный ребенок)
we rarely have issues with journalists, and when one of them steps out of line we have very effective methods of dealing with them.

T – Oh, you mean….

P – Shush, Donald.(Спаси меня!) Not here. I will have my Public Information Minister call to instruct you. But until you have learned our techniques, what do you say we make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear as your people say?

T – None of my people ever said that. It’s fake news. Why would anyone say that? What’s a sow, anyway?

P – (Muttering under his breath… такой идиот.) Never mind. I meant to say, let’s use their zealousness to our advantage.

T – Before we crush them beneath our boot heels?

P – Donald, if only I had met you when that dossier claimed I had. What we could achieved if I had had time to prepare you. (Pausing, shocked by the uncomprehending expression on Trump’s face… Я не могу поверить этому парню!) Never worry, just do as I tell you.

T – You said you’d teach me how to handle the media when we meet them later.

P – It’s really quite simple, even a child could do it. (Я подавил это для вас.) You need only follow two simple rules. At our press conference, whatever they ask you, don’t think. Say the first thing that comes into your mind, and make sure to confuse them with contradictions. Later when you are home, tweet something inflammatory every morning, and whenever you are forced to discuss Russia, say the opposite of what you tweeted. Then give your (пухлый, сочный) girl Sarah a script that will drive your media crazy.

T – But they’ll just keep attacking me, saying I’m lying. And there are a handful of Republicans who are only this close to showing some backbone and turning on me.

P – Donald, haven’t you paid attention to anything I’ve taught you? We’ll keep writing talking points for your friends at Fox, and planting conspiracy theories on Facebook that make it sound like you’re about to tear up your Constitution and declare martial law.

T – That’s exciting, just like you did in Crimea.

P – Donald! (невежественный дурак.) I’ve told you never to say things like that where anyone can hear.

T – But it’s only the translators. My people would never break a confidence.

P – (Flabbergasted… Неужели ты действительно так глуп, как кажется?) Yes, I’m sure you are right, but still you must observe the rules I’ve set for you. If you follow my instructions your media will be like sharks in a trout pond. They will be so distracted you will be able keep dismantling all those things you hate under the radar. And if things get too quiet, announce the list of new tariffs I gave you. Remember our mantra – Trade Wars are Good.

T – What about the election?

P – We’ve discussed this, Donald You must kill the budgets for your special counsel and for all the anti-hacking work being done by your people. Announce that you can’t afford to waste money on witch hunts and hoaxes. Never back down no matter what.

T – But, but (makes a sound like a whimper) …

P – Let them scream. Your base will love it with some help from us. By the time it all boils over, you’ll be safely into your second term. And if they impeach you, remember I’m having an exclusive dacha built for you on the Black Sea.

T – The Black Sea?

P – Yes Donald, after you oversee my annexation of Ukraine, you can move to Odessa. You’ll have your own golf course, and Ivanka and Jared will love it – it’s where all the rich Jews live in Ukraine. (Opens his arms wide, and Trump steps into his embrace.) Everything will be all right, Donald. You know you can trust me.

* * *

I know this transcript is hard to read without the translators. No worries. I studied Russian in college. Here’s a brief glossary:

Боже, помоги мне – God help me

Спаси меня – save me

       такой идиот – what an imbecile.

наивный ребенок – naïve child

не могу поверить этому парню – I can’t freaking believe this guy

Я подавил это для вас – I dumbed it down for you

пухлый, сочный – plump, juicy

Неужели ты действительно так глуп, как кажется – can you really be that stupid

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Missteps And Misstatements

Alan Zendell, July 19, 2018

I’ve been spoiled most of my life. I’ve had wonderful role models as my heroes, and with the exception of Harry Truman and Winston Churchill, none of them were politicians. They were my teachers, those special few who took the trouble to really recognize who I was, and they were scientists and writers. It’s quite a shock to my senses to have a president who is so inarticulate he can’t complete an English sentence unless it’s written down for him.

He is so directionless, his thoughts are scattered and contradictory, and he turns those unfiltered thoughts into words, without the benefit of forethought. He does it in every interview, speech, and press conference, and he did it most notably in Helsinki.

I can’t decide which is worse, being unable to confront Vladimir Putin on a world stage during a meeting he desperately sought, or expecting us to believe that he misspoke when he said he couldn’t think of any reason why Russia would hack our elections. And if he really did misspeak, how does the President of the United States make such an error live on worldwide television? Was his mouth moving with no connection to the cognitive part of his brain?

Even worse than the president’s abysmal performance is the White House Staff’s lame attempt at spin control. They apparently accomplished their goal of pacifying their base, as 68% of Republicans say they believe the president’s tortured explanations. As long as Trump didn’t lose his base, it simply doesn’t matter whether the rest of the world reels with laughter or shock at the spectacle of an American president bombing before the world. That may be the worst take-away from the Putin-Trump summit.

If we believe the media, including such conservative voices as The Wall Street Journal, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are somewhere between disappointed and furious at the way the president behaved in Europe. Prominent Republicans have been privately expressing their concerns, but confidential whispers in corridors won’t change anything.

After every Trump misstep we wonder if the most recent one will finally be enough to make those same people speak out in meaningful ways. We ask if our congressional representatives who are afraid that he will behave erratically or overstep his authority in ways that tangibly harm the country will finally take action to stop him. Congress has both the power and responsibility to pass legislation to limit the actions he can take. They can’t muzzle him, but they can greatly reduce the damage he does.

We’ve learned not to be too optimistic on that front, but the Congress at least seems inclined to use its voice (the non-binding resolution voice) to try to heal the wounds Trump has caused. They are contemplating a sense-of-the-Congress resolution that will reassure NATO that the United States can be relied upon to honor Article 5, which requires all member states to come to the aid on any member who is attacked. That would be the Congress begging Europe to disregard everything the president has said on the subject.

That would be a welcome first step, but at this moment, we don’t even know if, even bolstered by the strength of numbers, they will be willing to take it. Repudiating the president in this manner risks alienating his base, and would likely accomplish nothing here at home. It certainly won’t make Trump change his mind. The real test will be whether Congress can take any action with teeth. Can they behave in a bi-partisan way for the good of the country? Will those Republicans who badmouth Trump when the cameras aren’t rolling put integrity before politics?

If they can’t or won’t, they will simply enable him to grab as much power as he can and ignore the Constitution as long as he’s not stopped. His history is one of charging head on and bullying his way through all opposition until someone is willing to stand up to him. Financial analysts always warn that past performance is no guarantee of future success, but there’s never been a safer bet than assuming Trump’s behavior in the future will mirror what he’s always done in the past.

The rest of the world is watching, shocked at the spectacle of the most powerful nation in the world, the one they’ve always depended on to maintain international economic stability and military balance unraveling before their eyes. The German Foreign Minister said, after Helsinki, that Europe can no longer count on the United States.

If the damage is to be repaired before it worsens, it will be up to the Congress. They have the power to reign Trump in and restore order in our relationships with our allies. That’s true today and it will be even truer after the November elections.

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A Sad, Embarrassing Wreck of a Man

Alan Zendell, July 18, 2018

We’ve all had two days to absorb the Helsinki press conference in which Russian President Putin smirked and our president misread the expression as a friendly smile. No doubt we’ve all formed our opinions about it, and heard the denunciations of President Trump’s apparent inability to accept the findings of his own security people. We all saw him bend over backwards to praise his Russian counterpart – it’s a wonder he didn’t rupture his spine. After the abuse he heaped on NATO and our closest allies, what was the world to think about his infatuation with the man who is potentially America’s most dangerous adversary?

It was no surprise to most Americans that master manipulator Putin was able to run circles around Trump, much the way a scheming, manipulative seductress can hold an infatuated male in complete thrall. What does it say about our president that his need for approval from dictators and autocrats continually overwhelms his judgment? He seems almost rapturous when Putin is near.

The critical takeaways from Helsinki haven’t been realized yet. The essential question is whether the Republican leadership has seen enough, or if not, how much it will take for integrity to win out over self-interest. They’re in a tough spot. There’s a Congressional election coming up in just over a hundred days, and Trump’s base of support appears to dominate the Republican Party.

There was a time in America when people in power put the country over party loyalty and their own political futures. In 1973 a corrupt, dysfunctional president (Richard Nixon, if you’re too young to remember) created a constitutional crisis that would have torn the nation, already badly divided over Vietnam, completely apart. Disaster was averted when Attorney General Eliot Richardson and his Deputy William Ruckelshaus resigned. Think of it! Two politicians at the very pinnacles of their careers quit in protest with no assurance that they weren’t destroying their futures.

Paul Ryan has already announced that he’s leaving the Congress and Mitch McConnell isn’t running for re-election in November, and yet neither of them has been willing to speak out forcefully against the actions of this president, though neither has any use for him. Clearly, their priority is assuring a voting majority in the House and Senate after November, when it should be assuring the health and security of the nation.

The primaries are over and the candidates have been chosen. Each of them will have the same choice ahead of them in the coming months. Will they do their jobs as prescribed by the Constitution or will they permit a dangerous. erratic president to rule as an autocrat? Trump governs by threat and intimidation, and this election may well turn on who shows a willingness to stand up to him regardless of party dictates.

Distinguished Conservative commentator George Will may have said it best today: “Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him.” I said much the same thing last week in The Evolution of Trump, if not as eloquently. Richard Clarke who worked as Counter-terrorism chief and National Security advisor to presidents Reagan, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton said on PBS last night that the fascination referred to by Will has essentially turned Trump into a “controlled asset” of the Russians who feels compelled to act the way Putin wants him to.

That speaks volumes about our President. He’s like every other bully who acts tough until he meets someone who possesses the strength he wishes he had himself. In fact, Trump is the opposite of the man he worships, and once again Will said it much better than I could have when he described him as “This sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.”
It’s almost too much to contemplate – our president is an ego-driven man with an unquenchable lust for power who at his core simply melts when he encounters real strength. We saw it with Chinese President Xi, with North Korean dictator Kim, and we’ve seen and heard it since the day Trump announced he was running for president with Putin.

Not for the first time, Will also raised the question of when the Republican leadership would finally decide enough was enough. He characterized them as possessing “the peculiar strength that comes from being incapable of embarrassment.”

Maybe that should be our litmus test in evaluating candidates this year. Don’t vote for anyone until you know what it takes to make him or her blush.

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Trump’s Vision of a Greater America

Alan Zendell, July 15, 2018
Donald Trump famously began his presidential campaign with his signature slogan, “Make America Great Again” combined with a virulent attack against Muslim immigrants. When he went on to attack Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals, he was accused of being a racist. But while the connection in Trump’s mind between making America great and immigration was obvious, most of us didn’t grasp the broader implications then.

I suggested early on that Trump was not a racist, but was in fact something worse: a panderer who was willing to appeal to racists, white supremacists, and other assorted Despicables to win their votes. I wasn’t wrong in that assessment, but I too missed the point, and it’s taken until now to finally begin to grasp it.

Trump’s administration has been marked by a soaring stock market, a tax law that significantly enriched the already wealthy while throwing a small bone to the middle class and working people, and a couple of intensely fought attempts to reduce health care options for people who depend on help from state, local, or federal government programs. There has been a constant and loud appeal to seal our southern border and to assure that America will no longer be a haven for refugees and asylum seekers.

I hear that our military has been strengthened, but I cannot identify what that means specifically. And at the same time that we’re allegedly strengthening our strategic ability to defend ourselves, our administration has relentlessly attacked our allies and weakened our treaty commitments. We have withdrawn from international attempts to achieve barrier-free trade and protect our environment, and the political rhetoric out of Washington sounds more isolationist than it has in a hundred years.

That sounds like a pretty diverse basket of unrelated events and policies, but there is a subtle common thread that clarifies what Trump really means by making America great again. The key word in his motto is “again,” because Trump believes the country has lost its way and ought to return to what it was in an earlier time. But most of us who’ve been around for a few decades know the “Good Old Days” really weren’t all that good. Since World War II we’ve seen major conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan which have drained our national vitality without resulting in anything we can reasonably call victory. And in the past thirty years we’ve lived through three financial shocks that came close to wrecking our economy.

Exactly what are the good old days that Trump views as a greater America than the one we live in? There were some clues in the new tax law and the failed attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Both were driven by a concerted effort from the political Right to head off what it saw as an intolerable transfer of wealth. The simple, obvious truth was that providing health care to every American was going to be expensive, and most of the bill would be have to be paid by taxing the wealthiest Americans.

It was also obvious that while the all-out attack against immigration was advertised as a need to protect the security of our nation, it is in fact an attempt to halt the browning of America. The white majority has been steadily decreasing for decades, and it was in jeopardy of becoming a minority that would shift the balance of power in future elections.

Trump’s remarks in Europe and the UK over the last few days brought all this into focus. His most blistering attacks were against Europe’s two strong female leaders and he warned them that immigration was destroying Europe’s culture and undermining its security. But that’s just semantic code for the same white supremacy-enabling rhetoric we heard in Charlottesville. Changing culture is a euphemism for allowing non-whites and women to have equal rights and permitting Islam to gain a foothold. It’s a fascist mentality that we thought we had suppressed after World War II, but apparently it is alive and well in the mind of Donald Trump.

Our relatively uneducated, ignorant president never learned the lessons of either history or science. Everything evolves, and that includes cultures and planetary environments. Nothing in the universe remains static and fighting against change is inevitably a losing battle. Trump’s better America is one in which its wealth is concentrated in the hands of a white, male, Christian oligarchy. His lack of respect for women in general and his unsubtle attempts to reduce their access to health care are similarly code for returning to an era when they stayed home raising children while men controlled business, commerce, and governments.

Trump’s dream of a greater America looks like a 1950s sitcom. But under that superficial veneer, it’s about greed and selfishness and excluding anyone who doesn’t look like Trump’s ideal American. And it’s not the world most of us want our grandchildren growing up in.

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The Evolution of Trump

Alan Zendell, July 11, 2018

Though it seems like we’ve been living this nightmare a lot longer, it’s been only three years since real estate tycoon and reality TV star Donald Trump announced that he was running for president. He began his campaign by unleashing the most outrageous side of his character. From his opening speech to the nation it was clear that he wasn’t going to pull any punches, and most of them would be aimed at people who were either disenfranchised or powerless to defend themselves.

He demonstrated complete disdain for people who had spent their entire lives learning the nuances of government craft. He claimed he didn’t need generals, diplomats or politicians telling him what to do. He knew better than anyone. And in the first act of the drama he has shown so much skill at orchestrating, he got us to shift our attention away from the truly hateful things he said to a debate over whether he would soften his rhetoric if he was elected.

The Master of the Deal was supposed to be an expert tactician when it came to negotiating. As he’d said over and over again, the way to get a successful deal was to stake out an extreme position and then see how much the opposition was able to chip away. The Trump model was to attack with no filters, put up a tough face at all times, and never admit he was wrong. But surely, if was elected he wouldn’t govern that way, would he?

The sixty percent of Americans who were not part of his rabid base let themselves be reduced to an audience. Such was the spectacle of Trump running roughshod over every norm and standard of decency, we were rooted to our seats as if we were watching an apocalyptic film in IMAX-3D. We stopped being horrified by the things he said in the same way that watching people being hacked up with chain saws eventually dulled our senses.

And then he was elected, and the sixty percent were in shock. Most of us couldn’t bear to look. We knew Donald Trump only from the persona he’d put forward, but we still had no idea what was in his heart. We knew he was driven by extreme narcissism and arrogance, but even so, watching him preen when senior generals and admirals were forced to cowtow to him was downright creepy. We already knew he was a sexual predator, but it seemed that his perverse pleasures had even more sinister aspects.

We were told not to worry. Jared and Ivanka would temper him, and he would surround himself with competent advisors. And once the shock wore off and his own party realized how they’d been hijacked, they’d stand and fight, wouldn’t they? Jared and Ivanka appear to have had no effect on him. Ivanka sat by and watched him encourage racism and hatred, and attack the health care net women and children depend on without saying a word.

As his attacks on our allies intensified and he moved to isolate us from the rest of world, a new reality emerged. Rather than mellowing and growing into the responsibility of leading the free world, he seemed to revel in tearing it apart. He also seemed to enjoy defying everyone from the media to his “advisers” over Russia and Vladimir Putin. It turned out that the Donald Trump who claimed to know better than everyone else on every subject had meant every word.

We’ve seen Trump evolve for three years, and the emerging reality of who he really is is more frightening than what we feared he might be three years ago. He is more arrogant and belligerent than ever, looking more than ever like the fascists of the last century. He’s essentially told the world he doesn’t need them, and he means it. He’s been tweeting these things since long before he ran for president. Why are we so surprised?

And here’s the really frightening part. He not only has no trouble believing he’s right and everyone else is wrong, but he is driven to prove it to the rest of the world. His narcissism is even more dangerous than we realized, as it blinds him to everything but the fights he picks and his need to win them.

The problem is that he is the President of the United States, and he has effectively silenced or co-opted Congress so that there is no significant opposition. When he isolated himself from our traditional allies, he isolated all of us. It’s not just one egomaniac picking fights, it’s putting the health and welfare of 326 million Americans in jeopardy. Most of us didn’t ask for this fight, and we don’t want it, but unless we elect a Congress that’s willing to resist, we’re stuck with it.

The left and the right have chosen sides. Our future lies in the hands of those who sat on them in the last election because they were so repulsed by the process. We can’t treat politics as a spectator sport this time around. Distasteful as it may be, if we don’t do our part things can only get worse.

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Distractions

Alan Zendell, July 5, 2018

The announcement of the retirement of Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ushered in a week of chaos, depression, anger, and anxiety. In other words, it had exactly the effect Donald Trump hoped it would. For a week, the media obsessed on the impending loss of women’s rights and affirmative action, and the death knell for Roe v Wade, paying little or no attention to much else that the administration did. To listen to most of the talking heads, finding a way to preserve abortion rights was the most urgent problem facing our nation.

It isn’t. In the worst case, the Supreme Court might decree that abortion rights should be adjudicated by the states, but the populous left-leaning states in the Northeast, the West, and the northern lakes won’t be changing their laws. Frankly, the abortion issue is mostly a distraction right now, with no certainty about whether the Court will weigh precedent over politics.

We can’t do anything to derail Trump’s American Idol-style spectacle scheduled for next Monday when he says he’ll announce his choice to replace Kennedy. There’s no point speculating who he’ll pick because he places as much emphasis on confounding the so-called experts as finding the best judge. Whoever he picks, the confirmation drama will play out in the Senate, much the way the health care bill was decided.

Will Senators Collins and Murkowski be bought off if Trump selects a woman, even one like Amy Coney Barrett, whose extreme religious views go against all the things they say they believe in? Will Trump be able to coerce the red state Democrats who are on the ballot in November to vote his way? Will John McCain make a surprise appearance when it’s time to vote? Tune in Monday night for this must-see television event – or don’t.

Whatever you decide, don’t waste your time wondering if Michael Cohen is going to flip on the President and don’t forget about North Korea, which may already be cheating on the deal that hasn’t even been agreed to yet. Pay close attention to Trump’s words when he visits Putin next week, especially after the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed Russia’s election tampering in a bipartisan report. And watch carefully as Trump’s trade war heats up. Keep track of how many American companies are hurt by tariffs, how many of your neighbors lose their jobs, and how much more you pay for the things you need. Personally, I have no intention of giving up Canadian maple syrup.

Above all, don’t take your eye off the ball. The midterm elections will be here in 124 days. November 6, 2018 could be our last opportunity to derail the Trump juggernaut before the damage he does is too advanced to reverse.

It’s possible that the most significant event this month will be the resignation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator. Not because Trump is likely to finally realize how important protecting the environment is or because he could appoint a new administrator who isn’t a tool of the industries the EPA is supposed to regulate. The real significance of Pruitt’s departure is what it tells us about the administration’s priorities.

Pruitt wasn’t fired. The only way that could have happened was if he had publicly called Trump out for his ignorant attitude toward science and the health of our planet. If Trump had awakened one morning and decided to fire him because his scandalous behavior was an affront to every American, or if Trump had a moral center of his own that felt violated by Pruitt’s outrageous and possibly illegal behavior, we might have reason to rejoice. But instead, Trump continues to claim Pruitt did a great job and praises him because he reminds him of himself – brash, bold, unrepentant, acting in complete disregard of laws, public sentiment, and common decency. Sound familiar?

Pruitt is gone simply because Trump got tired of the bad press he was getting over Pruitt. He was spending too much time defending him that he would rather spend aping for the cameras and bragging about all the wonderful things he’s accomplished. You don’t rain on Trump’s parade the way Pruitt did and expect to survive forever.

Look at Pruitt’s departure in its proper light. It’s nothing to celebrate. It only confirms how corrupt this administration’s values are. It won’t be long before Pruitt is sitting pretty in some energy company penthouse where he has his choice of hand lotions.

And remember what’s important when November rolls around. That’s all that matters now.

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