Monday, October 8, 2018

News Updates: Kavanaugh, Living in a Bubble, Trump's Week, Building a Name and Wiring Rod

Brewski Anyone? As Brett Kavanaugh takes a seat on the Supreme Court consider how awkward it will be at day’s end, any day’s end, when someone, perhaps Kavanaugh himself, suggests unwinding with a beer or two…

The continental political and social divide the country finds itself in is difficult to fully fathom until one encounters real-life proof that the respective sides live in distinctive bubbles with little chance they will meld together.  

Case in point: Recently Gilda met a Harvard law school graduate. A resident of the Washington, DC, metro, he related that he grew up in Kentucky. Yet, upon earning his law degree and returning to his home town he found the region preferred lawyers with social ties rather than legal scholarship. Fitting in was more important than knowledge. 

Gilda and I encountered the same primitive mindset more than four decades ago when we moved to Connecticut. Connecticut had an aura of being a state populated by sophisticated, educated residents. Home to headquarters of Fortune 500 companies. 

But there were plenty of factory workers, as well. Trouble was, in the Lower Naugatuck Valley where I was assigned as a reporter for The New Haven Register, hard times had befallen the workers who toiled in the brass mills of Seymour, Derby, Ansonia, Shelton and surrounding towns. Factories cut back production, laid off workers or closed down completely. Still, the dream of most fathers was to have their sons join them straight out of high school on the assembly line. Few aspired for an education-based escape from the Valley. 

Gilda’s acquaintance went on to detail his Kentucky education. The Civil War, he explained, was called the War Between the States as the teacher said it had everything to do with states’ rights and nothing, nothing to do with slavery. Indeed, slavery was not discussed. The war was hardly studied. Students learned about a few battles won by the South. Imagine his consternation upon being exposed in college and law school to the full historical record.  

Unable to find a job in Kentucky, he took his Harvard law degree to Washington.

Alternative facts. Fake News. Outright lies. When the assault on truth comes directly from the White House it reinforces provincial attitudes that are in conflict with principles of equality and tolerance.

The Week That Was: Whatever it was—a napkin or toilet paper—stuck to Donald Trump’s shoe and clearly visible as he ascended the stairs to Air Force One last Thursday, the embarrassment was palpable, the humor undeniable. He surely can blame an inattentive staff, or maybe Deep State conspirators, for the humiliation seen around the world (could the Deep State really have infiltrated his bathroom, or his dining area?). The trail of paper was as bad as when a wind gust last February swirled through his combover exposing his scalp as he climbed stairs into Air Force One.  

Then there were the optics of Melania’s trip to Africa. Ordinarily, dispensing much needed books to schoolchildren would result in laudable coverage. But the very educational programs Melania was endorsing in Malawi have come under attack by her isolationist husband who has disparaged African countries and who wants to cut aid to them. In one of its few acts of spine and resistance Congress rejected Trump’s budget cuts (  

Perhaps the unkindest but appropriate cut of all, Trump was denied the Nobel peace prize he so desperately covets. Rather than award his still vague peace and denuclearization overture with North Korea, the Nobel was given to Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nadia Murad of Iraq for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. 

How ironic that sexual violence was the dominant theme in the United States last week. Regardless of your opinion on the veracity of Christine Blasey Ford’s claim of sexual assault by Kavanaugh (Trump has moved from saying her testimony was “credible” to her being part of a Democratic “hoax” to discredit Kavanaugh), it is clear that gender relations will be a more hot button election issue in November than the economy, taxes, foreign relations and health care.   

Trump’s campaign for a peace prize, this year or in the future, probably took a hit with his addresses at the United Nations. It took a high degree of chutzpah to stand at the podium of a world organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence and shared values and spout selfish bromides. 

Trump likes to project toughness and a singular focus on America First. He did that to the approval, no doubt, of his base and even to many who liked his no-nonsense non diplomatic rhetoric. How refreshing for them to hear candor at the UN where obfuscation and deceit are practiced arts. 

The UN is the ultimate global entity. Trump all but tore up its charter before the world’s eyes. Patriotism, not globalism, was his mantra. Inside your borders do what you wish as long as you don’t impinge on America’s self interests. 

You could visualize tyrants the world over smiling. The world’s policeman, the country that had corralled their basest instincts, was hanging up its night stick. Abandoning its beat. Throwing away its handcuffs in favor of a free-for-all posture as long as you said nice things about its orange-faced, golden-locked leader. Play to his ego, not his humanitarian sensibilities. 

Okay. Through our archaic political process we elected Trump to a four year term. He can legally reverse the course of U.S. history and with it the future of the world. 

But only so far as we the people enable him. November will be the first referendum on America’s choice for tomorrow. 

Building a Name: If Democrats gain control of the Senate, this year or in some future election, they should move to rename the Russell office building for the recently deceased Senator John McCain. 
Never mind that McCain was a Republican. He was a strong symbol of integrity and patriotism. Though a Democrat, Richard Russell embodied the white suprematist, racist attitudes current among Republicans. Russell served before Southern Democrats converted en masse to Republicans. 

By initiating the renaming of the building, as minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has proposed, Democrats would be sending a message of unity, though to be honest, those who support Trump and his distaste for McCain, would not welcome such an action. To them Russell is an icon. 

The Wire: Lost among all the excitement surrounding Kavanaugh was the postponed meeting between Trump and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. 

Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and more, has at various times been accused of wearing a recording device while with Trump. The New York Times also reported several weeks ago he entertained the idea of organizing cabinet secretaries to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from the presidency. Rosenstein has denied both allegations.

If ever there was a time for Rosenstein to wear a wire, that postponed meeting with Trump would be the day.

Even though Trump has recently said he is not ready to fire Rosenstein, the dissembler-in-chief is not a credible communicator (see above about his thoughts on Blasey Ford). 

So Rosenstein’s tenure toehold seems to be more precarious with each passing day. An announcement of his departure, never officially distributed, was even prepared for dissemination by the Justice Department on the presumption the meeting with Trump was going to occur, according to the Daily Mail ( 

Rosenstein is in a seemingly can’t-win situation. Trump has long wanted him out so someone more to his liking can be installed to control Mueller. So what has he got to lose by wearing a wire so he can capture Trump in his firing element?

Now, we’ve all watched Homeland, Mission Impossible and other thrillers that rely on high-tech listening and speaking devices embedded on a body so as to be non detectable. Surely Rosenstein knows intelligence officials, current or former, who would be willing and able to outfit him for sound. Heck, maybe even Mueller’s team would be a possible link-up option.