Constitutional Conflicts

August 11, 2018

We frequently hear from advocates of the 1st amendment, the 2nd amendment, the 4th amendment, et al.

We don’t often hear about one of the key concerns of our ‘Founding Fathers’, perhaps best voiced by James Madison who said, “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

Indeed.

Madison and his colleagues made sure that one of the basic precepts of the U.S. Constitution was to ensure a separation of powers enforced through a series of checks and balances to prevent a single person (or branch of the federal government) from becoming too powerful, thus thwarting the potential for fraud, self-aggrandizement and to encourage timely correction of errors or omissions.

The system of checks and balances is intended to act as a circuit breaker over the separation of powers, balancing the authorities of the separate branches of government.

It assumes honest and impartial actions by each department charged with the responsibility to verify the appropriateness and legality of actions initiated by the others.

Never before Donald Trump have we had a senior elected federal official who refused to disclose the details of his finances.  And, in U.S. history there has never been a president for whom it was more important that we know the details of his finances.

Trump has a well-documented history as an incompetent and perhaps corrupt businessman. After election, he refused to divest himself of his holdings, providing an open window of opportunities for bad people to entice him – and his family – with unimaginable advantages.  Why?  Trump’s income comes from an incredibly complex web of companies that are impossible for outside observers to comprehend.

We know from public information that the Trump Organization is not just one company, but a very complex assemblage of pass-through entities.  In a March 2016 letter from his tax lawyers, Donald Trump’s financial situation is described as “inordinately large and complex for an individual” because he holds “interests as the sole or principal owner in approximately 500 separate entities (which) are collectively referred to and do business as The Trump Organization.”

Now, more than 18 months after Trump was inaugurated, The Trump Organization continues to bring in money from deals involving potentially questionable characters and foreign governments possibly looking to influence POTUS. We have no idea who his partners in those hundreds of pass-through companies are, and whether they might have compromising information on him.

How can it be that we have allowed Mr. Trump to get away with keeping his tax returns secret?

Why?

Members of Congress have abdicated their role as arbiters of Executive Branch ethics by refusing to demand release of current (2014 – 2017) business and personal federal income tax returns from Donald Trump, The Trump Organization, and any relevant and/or related entities.

We can only conclude that this is clear evidence of dereliction of duty by these officials whom we elected to represent the interests of the American people.

Economically and financially competent American voters must demand full and immediate disclosure of current tax returns by senior elected officials, particularly at the executive and legislative level.

If they who wish to serve don’t wish to disclose, they shouldn’t run for public office.

If they who are elected refuse to disclose, they should automatically be removed from public office.

No exceptions. No excuses.

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Those who are schooled in the techniques of propaganda will always frustrate those of us who rely on facts and logic to arrive at informed conclusions.

Those who possess a rudimentary understanding of how propaganda works can have a rather profound effect on public opinion.

Those who are unwilling to learn from history are bound to repeat the mistakes which were made in the past.

Senator Joseph McCarthy was an American politician who served as U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957.  McCarthy rose to national prominence in the early 1950’s by initiating a probe to ferret out communists holding prominent positions in both the public and private sectors. During his investigations, safeguards promised by the Constitution were trampled.

An atmosphere of fear of world domination by communists hung over America in the post-WWII years:  fears of a nuclear holocaust based on detonation of an Atomic Bomb by the USSR in 1949;  the transition of China – the world’s most populist nation – to communism; and the effective control of half of Europe by the Stalin regime.

McCarthy picked up on national paranoia and relentlessly told his story that communist spies were everywhere and that he was America’s only salvation.

McCarthy was never elected to the Presidency, yet his leadership as head of the Senate Committee on Government Operations gave him the platform from which to launch an investigation which derailed and/or ruined the careers of thousands of public and private sector professionals.

McCarthy created a carefully manufactured series of situations and events which provided the foundation for his quest to distract the attention of a majority of the American public to focus away from the big picture toward his personal animus toward communist intrusion.

One of his techniques involved throwing Congress ‘under the bus.’  He publicly cited “..the graft, the corruption, the dishonesty, the disloyalty, the treason in high Government positions” as a critical ingredient in failure of government to protect “the 140,000,000 American people” from the “cloak of numbness and apathy” and offered to supply his spark to rekindle their passions.

McCarthy’s Reign of Terror lasted almost 5 years, until Senate leadership introduced resolutions in late 1954 to censure McCarthy for ‘behavior contrary to Senate traditions’.

On December 2, 1954, the U.S. Senate voted 65 to 22 to condemn McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute”.

The McCarthy saga ought to provide an historical reference to the dangers of allowing a passionate and eloquent person who has perfected some of the powerful tools and techniques of propaganda to take the American people on a wild and crazy ride toward ruin.

What is most distressing to me is the willingness of congress to allow such egregious behavior to continue unchallenged:  in the 1950’s for almost 5 years; in the 2010’s for over 2 years.

Sixty plus years later, it seems that Donald Trump is using some of the Joseph McCarthy techniques to distract us away from the real issues at hand.

Trump has perfected the art of propaganda, using a myriad of techniques which were refined over the course of the 20th century.

Trump’s particular expertise is in an arena often referred to as ‘authoritarian’ or ‘totalitarian’ propaganda, a form of communication where a would-be leader offers a simple narrative which explains the root causes of pain groups of people feel, while concurrently providing a simple solution to remove the pain.

The offered reasons for the pain (and problems) point toward another group (or groups) working in conspiracy with corrupt politicians. (“Drain the Swamp”  “Lock Her Up”  “Make America Great Again”  “It’s The Immigrants”  “Build A Wall”)

The solution is very simple:  Join the New Team; Elect the Would-Be Leader; and the problems will be solved through elimination of the corrupt politicians and their entrenched groups.

The constant repetition of the simple message helps get it accepted, and it ensures a loyal and stable base.

The repeatedly false claims that Trump made during his campaign — ‘crime is at record highs, the economy is in decline, Obama has killed jobs, the military is a disaster, an international conspiracy is behind it all’ –and so on—are immune to disproof by presentation of actual facts. During his campaign, Trump created a fictional world too compelling to be weakened by reality.

Why do groups of people buy into such fictions?

Is it ‘groupthink’? A mass desire to escape from the reality of change? Or some other emotional variable?

What gives authoritarian propaganda its magnetism is the promise to fully reveal the previously secret dealings of those ‘swamp creatures’ who formerly called the rules of the game.

What such propaganda fails to reveal is the replacement of one set of entrenched swamp creatures with an entirely new – mostly inexperienced – cadre of fresh swamp dwellers.

“Those elected members of congress who are unwilling to learn from history are bound to repeat the mistakes which were made in the past.”

Today, I watched and listened to a significant portion of the Congressional hearing involving FBI agent Peter Strzok.

I believe this Spanish Inquisition model was perfected by Rep. Trey Gowdy during his multi-year ‘Joseph McCarthy-inspired’ Benghazi investigation.

I also believe that the needs and rights of the American people are being completely ignored by members of Congress who follow this Model, seemingly fully deaf and blind to the needs and rights of the American people.

Trey Gowdy gained a national stage when he took charge of the Benghazi committee in the spring of 2014, prior to which there had already been seven (7) previous House and Senate investigations (plus an internal review by the State Department) into the conditions surrounding the terrible attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost by members of the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia.

The Benghazi incident took place in September 2012 when attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and 3 other Americans.

Gowdy’s Select Committee on Benghazi consumed significant amounts of American resources, yet it yielded nothing that was not already known.

Today’s performances by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (backed up by Rep. Trey Gowdy) would be worthy of Tony Award nominations had they taken place within a Broadway show.

Although they were not performing on Broadway, they did help to inspire a vicious and highly partisan attack on Mr. Strzok, both professionally and personally.

I am an American citizen, property owner and voter who has become completely disillusioned by the increasingly malignant infestation of our legislative bodies by individuals who seem to be motivated by evil intent, and who further seem to be unwilling and unable to adhere to the commonly acknowledged rules of decorum.

This charade — publicly attacking Peter Strzok, a man who has an exemplary 20+ year history of service protecting and supporting the U.S. Constitution — is completely out of context.

If Strzok is a traitor or is guilty of some heinous crime, that should be determined behind the scenes, perhaps by a Grand Jury.

There is no excuse for a committee of the Congress to attempt to publicly eviscerate and excoriate a sworn federal agent who has proven his willingness and ability to protect the best interests of American citizens while upholding the U.S. Constitution.

Today, Donald Trump was in Brussels representing the U.S. at a NATO summit.

His documented behavior was at best, rude. Some have called his actions to be “obnoxious and uncivilized.” Others have said, “…consistently appalling and despicable behavior.”

Trump continues to test the lower boundaries of bad behavior, creating an internationally negative aura against the people of the United States.

How to explain this immature and puerile public conduct by a man who is currently serving as the President of the U.S.?

Here is one clue: In his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump states, “Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye. I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that, but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a forceful way.”

The Donald attended an exclusive private elementary school (Kew-Forest) from 1950 to 1959.

Ann Trees, one of Trump’s elementary school teachers (now retired), was quoted in a 2016 Washington Post article as saying, “Who could forget him? He was headstrong and determined. He would sit with his arms folded with this look on his face — I use the word surly — almost daring you to say one thing or another that wouldn’t settle with him.”

Sound familiar?

An unsubstantiated story from Trump’s youth adds some additional credence to the potentially negative effects of a weak upbringing. The story dates to the early 1950’s (likely 1954) when The Donald would have been in 3rd grade.

Donald’s father, Fred, entered young Donny into a contest, ‘King of the Playground Bullies’. Despite being one of the youngest contestants, The Donald took second prize.

Donald’s father was quite disappointed, and from that point forward, Donald himself vowed to become the best and meanest bully the world would ever know.

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Fast forward 65 years, and The Donald proved his mettle today on the world stage in Brussels.  Let’s hope his father Fred is proud of his progeny.