Hits and Misses

Hits and Misses

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Does Psalm 52 Apply to Donald Trump?

Psalm 52, a song of worship from before the Christian era, describes a kind of self-centered behavior that has become all too familiar.  This translation is from the King James version of 1611:

Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.

2 Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp rasor, working deceitfully.

3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.*

4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.

6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:

7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

9. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.

*"Selah" is a Hebrew word sometimes found at the end of a verse of a psalm; it may have signaled a musical break or it may have meant "forever."

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Prayer Breakfasts: A Re-Definition

Hearing me exclaim, "Jesus Christ," over coffee this morning while reading about Trump's unconstitutional intentions to subvert the upcoming census, my wife Caroline quipped, "Trump has given new meaning to Prayer Breakfasts.  All over America, people at the breakfast table reading the latest news about him are invoking God."

Friday, May 24, 2019

Presidential Sound Bites

President Trump's recent declaration, "I don't do coverups," goes well beyond the normative statement of an earlier Republican president, "I am not a crook." One tape recording undid Nixon; the abundant evidence that will be forthcoming from Congressional subpoenas will bring down Trump. What we have learned so far is that Trump is a terrible negotiator and a failed entrepreneur. We are now learning that he does do coverups, many of them.  He's just not very good at concealing them. Despite his stone-walling tactics, eventually the truth will come out:  it always does.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Deflating Trump's Bombast about the Mueller report

Although Trump is claiming complete exoneration from the Mueller report, I confess to more than a little skepticism, not least because the basis of Trump's triumphant claims is not the report itself, reputedly close to 400 pages long, but the four-page letter Attorney General Barr wrote summarizing that report. According to one account, Trump was told the contents of that letter over the telephone, and, given he is not a reader, it is altogether possible that he hasn't even read Barr's four pages. If he had, he couldn't boast that Mueller exonerated him on obstructing justice: Barr's letter is crystal clear that Mueller did not exonerate Trump on that charge.

The other question Mueller examined is whether Trump and his associates conspired with Russian agents. Barr's letter says they didn't, so there is no case to be made for criminal conspiracy. And that may be accurate. But a more nuanced opinion might well be that there was lots of conspiracy, but either it never rose to criminal conspiracy or, if it might have, it would be too difficult in court to prove conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fourteen (14!) of Trump's associates had been in contact with Russian nationals, among them Donald, Jr.; Jared Kushner and Ivanka; Michael Cohen, Trump's fix-it attorney; Paul Manafort, at one time Trump's campaign manager; and Michael Flynn, a campaign adviser and, briefly, Trump's National Security Adviser.  We also know that not only during the campaign but after he was elected, Trump was pursuing a multi-million building project in Moscow--even though he repeatedly lied about that fact.  And when Donald, Jr., began to get some heat about meeting with a Russian to obtain Hilary Clinton's e-mails, Trump himself wrote while flying in Air Force 1 an entirely false account of that meeting's purpose and had it disseminated over his son's name.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. These meetings and many more did take place.  One question is, Were they the result of intentionally conspiring with the Russians or merely the bungling efforts of political novices to win the election by any means?  The latter may well be the case:  conspiracy could exist on the Russian side, but on Trump's side his people could have been clueless: stupid, perhaps, but without corrupt intent.

I'd like to think there was no conspiracy. Trump says there wasn't, but he lies so often and so outrageously that only a cretin would believe him. I keep coming back to a simple question: Given that fourteen individuals had over 100 contacts with Russians, if these encounters were indeed innocent, why then did a number of these individuals lie to the FBI or to Congress about what took place? We know they lied because subsequently they either pled guilty or were convicted in courts of law. So, why did they lie?

We won't know what really went on until we read the Mueller report. Barr has promised a mid-April date for releasing the report with some needed redactions. Let's hope he makes that date, and that the redactions are as minimal as possible.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Another French Comment on Brexit

Given that Brexit is a mess with negative economic implications for the United Kingdom, it's a momentary relief to learn that not everyone is filled with doom and gloom.  In The Independent, Jon Stone reports that France's Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau has named her cat "Brexit."

Why?  Because "he meows loudly to be let out but just stands there when I open the door."

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Congressman John Dingell’s “Last Words for America”

John D. Dingel (D, Michigan) died at 92 on February 7, 2019.  He served in Congress from 1955-2015, the longest span in American history.  Always seeing the larger picture, always ahead of his time while conscious of the need to compromise, he dictated to his wife, Representative Debbie Dingell (D, Michigan), his last words addressed to the American people on the day he died.  We would do well to heed them.

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.
And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.
My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Think about it:
Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.

But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).

In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better). I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.

As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Plus Ça Change: A French Comment on Brexit

Sylvie Kauffman quotes a telling comment on Brexit in "Watching Brexit Fall Apart" (NY Times, 22 January 2019).  Referring to the mixed feelings Great Britain has entertained ever since joining what was then the European Economic Community in 1973, the French legislator Jean-Louis Bourlanges quipped, "The British always had one foot in the E.U. and one foot out--now with Brexit they want the opposite."