TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Inhumane Sanctions Reflect A Cold, Callous Heart

The word “humanity” is often tossed around, but I wonder if the term is understood. Definitions abound. Here’s how Merriam-Webster explains it: A) the quality or state of being human; B) the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals.

Another word that also seems to be understood is “sanctions.” Again, the dictionary’s definition: A) a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule; B) a penalty, punishment or deterrent.

Take North Korea, for example. Sanctions in place right now deprive them of coal and food products, as well as other items essential to life, in response to their constant violation of human rights and their military threats.

Their leaders live like kings. When their president is offended by citizens, he simply has them killed.

The United States has thousands of troops stationed in South Korea. They’ve remained there since we bombed the hell out of the North from 1950 to 1953 and finally forced a truce, which holds to this day.

Why should the North feel comfortable with our troops next door … and particularly since we have placed anti-ballistic missiles in South Korea?

The North Korean people face winters as bad as any the free world experiences, and coal is essential for heat. Whenever sanctions are applied, it hurts the civilians. That is simply inhumane. Yet we applaud the act of withholding coal.

We have enough nuclear deterrent to destroy the entire world if we wish. So why do we maintain thousands of troops in South Korea 64 years after signing the truce?

All administrations say they are there to “preserve the peace.” But at the same time, they claim that if the North moves, the North will use nuclear weapons. The last thing we need is to have our men and women on the ground where the fear is nuclear. Their presence will not for one second deter an admitted mad man. (We sure don’t need two mad leaders in this world, but that’s what we seem to have right now.)

America’s current dictator wants China to do his dirty work for him and is surprised that there is nothing in it for the Chinese, even if they could control the North. China is not our ally, but neither is it an enemy. China is growing; while you can call them inhuman or inhumane if you wish, at least they have signed onto the Paris Accords and are working extremely hard to clean the environment. Only one world leader ignores climate change, and that is 45.

Is it humane for us to punish civilians … not just in North Korea but also in the Mideast, including but not limited to Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq? By agreement, we are supposed to exit Iraq, and the same holds true in the near future for Afghanistan. The Russians left Afghanistan knowing nothing would stop the occupants from feuding, as they have since time began. Then we took over.

We killed the leader of Iraq, not knowing at the time that his method of governing was what kept the country together, albeit not in a democratic way. The price has been, and is now being paid by the Iraqis.

The Afghans and Iraqi no longer desire our presence. The cost to the U.S. is far up into the billions, not counting thousands of men and women killed and wounded in action, including those grappling with continuing mental problems resulting from those wars.

When we talk about sanctions, we should consider them in the same sentence as the word “humanity.” In the world today, using them is dead wrong.

Here at home, we have leaders falsely claiming to be concerned about humane treatment of our citizens as they seek to abolish the Affordable Care Act. Though it does definitely need improving, that certainly won’t happen under their UN-affordable Care Act that essentially exists to give substantial tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Those breaks would come at the expense of health care for the elderly, the young, families, the disabled, low-income individuals and military veterans … everyone except the wealthy. That’s just plain wrong.

What 45 and the Republicans in Congress propose and support is absolutely IN-humane. Their proposal places sanctions on those who can least respond by proposing the deletion and replacement of the ACA — which may not be perfect, but has greatly improved the picture for tens of millions of Americans.

This is the United States of America, not the Soviet Republic of the United States. It’s time for our legislators at all levels to throw off their party labels and start representing the American people — all of us. In the current environment, we cannot afford to be simply Republican or Democratic. We must first be American. That means we must look out for each other, not line a small number of rich people’s pockets.

I’m 78 years young. In my wildest nightmare, I could never have envisioned the cold-blooded, forget-about-people administration we now have. This can be laid at the feet of POTUS 45. Make a list of his pre-election promises and another of those he has broken or where he has flat-out lied. You’d better have lots of computer memory and a ton of paper if you go to print them out.

Simply stated, this administration is being inhumane … and it is we the people who are under its sanctions. Amen

CLAY JENKINSON: Sad Lessons From the Nixon White House

Given where things are headed, I’m preparing the way a humanities scholar prepares. I’m reading accounts of the life and presidency of Richard M. Nixon. I’ll place a short bibliography of books worth reading at the bottom of this essay.

The constitutional crisis we are now descending into is either much less grave than Watergate or much, much more serious. Time will tell. If President Trump is just an ignorant bully who doesn’t really understand obstruction of justice, he’ll probably survive to limp out his term. If people around Trump actually conspired with Russian agents to affect the 2016 election, some of them are going to go to prison, and the President may well have to resign. It’s one thing to bug the Democratic headquarters (June 1972), a very different thing to collude with a foreign power to distort domestic elections in the United States.

Personally, I sense that this story is ultimately going to be about sex (the hookers in the Moscow hotel) or about personal financial skullduggery (Trump’s beholdenness to the kleptocrats in Russia who have financed his global operations), or both. If treason was committed, it was probably done more out of ignorance and arrogance than with seriously malicious intent to subvert American sovereignty. Time will tell.

Why Nixon and Watergate?

As Mark Twain is said to have said but didn’t, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

Here’s what I have learned from my recent reading of Nixon books.

1. It’s not the crime but the coverup. This is now a cliche. But it is nevertheless true.

2. Of course the president is involved, not necessarily in the crimes themselves, but in the coverup. Presidents don’t usually know how grave the situation is until it is much too late. In the earlier, more “innocent” phases of the scandal, the president thinks he can manage it to his advantage. As the scandal deepens, the president learns that the crimes did in fact occur, but now it is too late to cut his losses or pretend innocence. Nixon was almost certainly unaware of the Watergate break-in or the break-in at Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in Los Angeles. But he had ordered and coordinated the cover-up of “whatever it was” early on, and by the time he realized how grave things really were, it was too late. In for a penny of cover-up, in for a pound.

3. Blaming the media works, but not forever. Woodward and Bernstein, the Washington Post, the New York Times, CBS and other entities all made serious mistakes in their reporting. Some of what they reported turned out not to be true. Naturally, the Nixon administration clutched at each of these “lies” and declared (on their basis) that “nothing the press reports can be trusted.” The media’s mistakes were unfortunate and unfair, but the great news entities got the larger dynamics of the story right, and while diehard Nixon lovers never accepted the truth, a critical mass of American opinion-makers and leaders came to realize that the story was essentially true. Any story this complicated is hard to sort out, particularly when the principal actors refuse to cooperate in setting the record straight, and others are leaking material out of malice of to save their sorry skins.

4. Invariably, as the scandal deepens, the president argues that his enemies are making it impossible to do good and important things for the American people. This, of course, is true, but it doesn’t mean the administration is innocent, and no matter how much you blame your enemies, in the end the collapse of a presidential administration is self-inflicted. Presidents almost never admit this. Nixon did, years later, to his credit. The “people’s business” argument is often all the President has left in his rhetorical arsenal, but it never works.

“a growing cancer on the Presidency …”
“a growing cancer on the Presidency …”

5. Another of the predictable “defenses” is that “this is an inside-the-beltway scandal, which the real American people don’t care about.” This is both true and untrue. Compared to the cluster of real issues the American people want addressed — health care, border security, energy policy, education, jobs — these scandals are of negligible importance. But the American people do love a good scandal, especially one leading all the way to the top, and no matter how disproportionate the scandal-mongering gets, there is no stopping it. In the case of Iran-Contra, the American people had finally to decide if they could stomach impeaching President Reagan, who most Americans liked in spite of his failures. Everyone sensed that he was not evil, like Nixon, but just manipulatable and a bit addled. At some point, a presidential scandal reaches the Decision Point: acknowledge the president’s guilt but somehow agree to carry on under his leadership, or force the issue and get rid of him.

6. The president probably doesn’t know all the bad things that have been done in his name. He really is relatively innocent. His aides don’t tell him the whole truth. Once the scandal begins to thicken, everyone starts looking for a scapegoat. Nixon didn’t really want to know the truth until too late. When he finally started trying to figure out what had happened and who was responsible, he could no longer cut his losses, fire the culprits, apologize sincerely and carry on. My point is that when presidents profess their innocence or their bewilderment about crimes committed in their name, they are often telling the truth or at least a partial truth.

7. At some point the president hopes there is a foreign policy crisis that will drive the scandal off the front page. In Nixon’s case, the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 and the oil embargo that followed should have made the Watergate “caper,” as one of his aides called it, go away. This never actually happens. The scandal may very temporarily slip off the front page, but it will not disappear for very long, and meanwhile the best reporters finally have time to do more serious digging. Perverse though it sounds, I’m guessing there are people close to the current president hoping for a big terrorist attack somewhere in America or an American outpost. Think of that.

8. Firing the chief investigator always makes matters worse. Nixon tried this in the Saturday Night Massacre (October 1973). President Trump should not have fired FBI director James Comey. In doing so, and denouncing Comey as a “nut job,” President Trump brought on the special counsel. He also offended Comey so deeply that the former FBI director now seems determined to do what he can to bring Trump down.

9. John Dean was telling the truth. Beware of challenging the veracity of the Dean/Comey figure. When you pretend that the “facts will show” that the president was telling the truth and the key witness was fabricating and lying, it’s always safe to bet on the John Dean figure rather than the president.

10. The president always makes the mistake of viewing his problems as political when they are already legal. By the time he realizes that they are legal (or constitutional) problems, not primarily political ones, it is too late. Meanwhile, because he chose to see the scandal as a political matter, and reckoned that he could “tough it out,” the President finds himself engaged in the cover-up. See No. 1.

11. Elections are extremely irrational affairs, and people who should know better do crazy, erratic and illegal things to get their guy elected. Nixon was going to win the 1972 election by a comfortable, perhaps even a gigantic, margin. He had absolutely no rational reason to permit the dirty tricks and break-ins that were undertaken in his name. But elections bring out a kind of insanity in those close to a candidate. This is what we are going to learn about the 2016 Trump campaign. President Trump may turn out to have been essentially unaware of the Machiavellian actions undertaken by his closest aides, but that doesn’t make him innocent. In Trump’s case, his zealots may have felt that he simply could not win without shady maneuvers. And they may have been right.

12. There is a great deal of self-pity before it ends. Just wait.

13. And finally, the last weeks of a collapsing administration are truly dangerous. Nixon’s closest aides finally took steps to make sure the president didn’t do anything in the last weeks that might have precipitated Armageddon. The temptation to lob a missile at North Korea may finally overwhelm a discredited and desperate president. In the last weeks of his administration, Nixon told his core advisors that he wanted to die, that he wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. At some point, the most responsible members of an administration have to “parent” the collapsing president.

Eventually, even partisan stalwarts realize that for the good of the republic, the president must be removed from office. When Barry Goldwater finally comes over to the White House and says, enough, it’s time to start the helicopter.

None of this gives me any joy. In fact, I hate to see the glee and the high-fiving of the left. Some members of the media and some partisans can barely suppress their mirth. We are witnessing the possible collapse of a duly-elected president of the United States. This can never be good for America. Richard Nixon’s fall was a classical tragedy. Donald Trump’s, should it come to that, will more closely resemble a farce. But his fall would represent a very serious setback for the United States of America.

I remember driving up to a farmhouse near Wahpeton, N.D., on the day that Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. I was there to take a photograph of an award-winning shelterbelt. The farmer opened the front door. When I introduced myself, he said, “I’m sorry. This is no longer the right day for such a photograph. Please come back another time.” He could not have been more polite. He could not have been more serious. In my opinion, he could not have been more right.

Books to read:

  • Evan Thomas: “Being Nixon: A Man Divided.”
  • John Dean: “The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It.”
  • Bob Woodward: “The Last of the President’s Men.”
  • Rick Perlstein: “Nixonland.”

CLAY JENKINSON: The Death Of Decorum In The White House

As a scholar not a partisan, I have been trying to think if any president in American history has behaved in a less presidential way than Donald Trump.

Andrew Jackson was a frontier ruffian in some respects, a loud populist, and during his inauguration March 4, 1829, his rural supporters trashed the White House.

Theodore Roosevelt called his enemies colorful names (he said McKinley had the backbone of a chocolate éclair, and he called William Jennings Bryan a human trombone). His roughhousing with his rambunctious children in the White House raised the eyebrows of the Victorian stuff shirts of his time. As president, Roosevelt rattled the nerves of Charles Elliot, the president of Harvard, when he showed up at his old alma mater packing a loaded pistol. When one of his old pals from the Dakota Bad Lands fretted that he might not be admitted into the White House through the usual doors, TR urged him next time just to shoot out one of the windows. Probably he was joking.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Bill Clinton famously spoke with foreign diplomats while receiving oral ministrations in the Oval Office from Monica Lewinski and fiddling creatively with cigars. He was not the only president to have opportunistic sex in the White House, of course, but his sexual style always felt a little like it belonged in a trailer park. JFK is said to have taken LSD in the White House with one of his girlfriends, in the middle of the workday. One hopes it was a relatively quiet day during the nuclear-tipped Cold War.

The always elegant Thomas Jefferson.
The always elegant Thomas Jefferson.

Most presidents either have or adopt proper Presidential deportment. Think of Ronald Reagan (a conservative populist) or George Bush senior (a patrician) insisting on always wearing a coat and tie in the Oval Office, never propping their feet on the famous Resolute desk, and invariably speaking, at least in public, with decorum, a careful and heightened diction and a demeanor that reflects an awareness that they were the prime representative of one the most powerful and important nations in history — the republic of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, Kennedy, Reagan, and elegant Obama.

Trump mocks a disabled reporter.
Trump mocks a disabled reporter.

No. 45, Donald Trump, behaves like a rich frat boy, your crazy unfiltered uncle at the Thanksgiving table, the loudmouth at the end of the bar at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the golfer who wraps his 7-iron around a tree when he misses an easy shot. Trump behaves like a psychologically damaged 70-year-old man trapped in the persona of a spoiled 13-year-old adolescent, a reality TV star who got paid millions to be brash, rude, demeaning, and narcissistic.

And here’s the astonishing thing. For about 35 percent of the American people, it works! In fact, some significant percentage of the electorate thinks this is precisely what American most needs. When you mock a disabled person by waving your arms in what you think is a spastic parody, declare that your wealth and celebrity allow you to grab women by their sexual parts with impunity, when you call Mexicans “hombres,” shove the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way during a photo op or call terrorists who just blew up the bodies of several dozen British young people “losers, a bunch of losers, OK,” you would seem to prove yourself unfit for the presidency of the United States. Who really wants to defend such behavior? And yet, this man who has never tried to hide his core persona was elected president of the United States in 2016.

I have close personal friends, decent, morally mature and sensitive men and women, who defend Donald Trump’s antics and hijinks and say that he is the victim of “fake news” and a liberal national media that is indeed the “enemy of the American people.”

This phenomenon is simply mystifying. Trump’s behavior gets denounced every day, almost every hour of every day now, but I’m much more interested in trying to understand it, or more particularly trying to understand why there is about a third of the population that defends such loutish and unpresidential behavior or even fist pumps it.

If your preacher talked this way, would you defend it? If a high school English teacher talked this way, would you defend it? If Obama had talked this way, would you have defended it? If your best friend talked this way, would you defend it?

I heard a commentator named Dylan Byers on one of the talk shows last week say that we will never recover our national social and political equilibrium until we figure out why about half the nation is so pissed off, so utterly disillusioned with America’s path, so profoundly fed up, cynical and eager to say not much more than “up yours” to the rest of us, that they routinely, even invariably defend the least presidential character in American history.

I suppose you could argue that even Thomas Jefferson had his moments. He deliberately ruffled the feathers of British ambassador Anthony Merry with his pell mell dinner protocols. Occasionally, for effect, or in philosophical absent-mindedness, he greeted White House visitors in his slippers. He blustered about Spain’s colonial presence in the western hemisphere and rattled the saber towards Madrid and Mexico City from time to time, knowing that it was highly unlikely that Spain would take the bait and actually wage war against the United States. Weary of the opposition press of his time, Jefferson eventually suggested that we divide newspapers into four sections: truth, probabilities, possibilities, and bald lies.

That’s the sum total of Jefferson’s rudenesses. Probably no president in our history had more elegance, and a finer sense of etiquette than Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson’s world was essentially no different from a Jane Austen novel: “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Emma.” Everyone is polite, euphemistic, civil, and nonconfrontational. Whatever gets resolved — and, of course, they faced the same problems all humans always face — has to be resolved by indirection, strained politeness and nuance. It’s hard to know when someone is enraged in Jane Austen’s world because they always unburden themselves using their “inside voices” and employing complete sentences. Or they faint.

Thomas Jefferson was an exquisitely civilized man. He did not Tweet or hold impromptu news conferences or mouth platitudes with tedious repetition of every phrase. “We’re going to be great again. I tell you great again. I mean great folks. Really great. So great.”

Jefferson sat down in front of a plain sheet of expensive paper and the best writing instruments of his time. He thought through just what he wanted to express before he touched pen to paper, paused to regroup between sentences, tried hard to phrase his views in a way that would find harmony in the letter’s recipient.

When he disagreed strongly with someone, Jefferson invariably attempted to lighten the tension by saying, “If we disagree, let us disagree as rational friends.” This was a personal application of the famous utterance from his First Inaugural Address: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.”

Much later, Jefferson wrote one of his most beautiful letters to a man named Charles Thompson. The letter epitomizes the soul of the kind of individual you want to be president of the United Sates.

“It is a singular anxiety which some people have,” Jefferson wrote, “that we should all think alike. Would the world be more beautiful were all our faces alike, were our tempers, our talents, our tastes, our forms, our wishes, aversions and pursuits cast exactly in the same mould? If no varieties existed in the animal, vegetable or mineral creation, but all moved strictly uniform, catholic and orthodox, what a world of physical and moral monotony would it be!”

Well, I guess you cannot Tweet that.

I’m Clay Jenkinson.

CLAY JENKINSON: You Do the Math: A Tale Of Two Presidents

A tale of two presidents. Here’s President Obama’s statement in the guestbook at Israel’s Holocaust memorial, July 2008:

“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

And here is what President Trump wrote this week:

You don’t have to seek these images out. They just pop whenever you search for photos of Donald Trump.
You don’t have to seek these images out. They just pop whenever you search for photos of Donald Trump.

“IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS – SO AMAZING & WILL NEVER FORGET!”

This isn’t about the politics or the policies of the two presidents. I am not intending to make a partisan statement about the political outlooks of the two individuals. That’s a theme for some other time.

President Obama in Jerusalem.
President Obama in Jerusalem.

No matter how fed up half of the American people are with the status quo, the “establishment,” the “swamp,” we need and deserve decorum and grace in our national leaders. It is the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. Think of the elegance, grace, civility, intelligence, respect of such men as JFK, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. And then think of the style of the individual who now presides over the United States. The president is not just a power broker. He or she is also the principal representative of the United States of America, the world’s most important constitutional republic. The president represents a third of a billion people on the world stage. Does Donald Trump represent your idea of America?

When you shove Montenegro’s prime minister out of the way at the photo op, when you mock a disabled reporter by imitating what you think are spastic gestures, when you call the head of the nation’s most important law enforcement agency a “nut job,” when you browbeat our allies at a ceremonial occasion at the new NATO headquarters, you are not advancing the public work of the United States but terrifying a world sorely in need of thoughtful leadership and reducing America’s soft power in the world.

We deserve better.

That there are people who will defend these stunts is a sign of the ethical degradation of America.

CLAY JENKINSON: Time To Get It Over With

Donald Trump is almost certainly going to have to resign. His behavior in the Flynn-Comey affair is nothing short of obstruction of justice. Even Republicans who have defended his hijinks until now are beginning to understand the gravity of the President’s misbehavior.

Richard Nixon waves farewell. He was a crook, it turns out, but he loved this country and he understood its place in the world.
Richard Nixon waves farewell. He was a crook, it turns out, but he loved this country and he understood its place in the world.

We need to swallow hard and get this over with.

I knew long before the election that President Trump was going to be bombastic, crude, impulsive and that he would play fast and loose with constitutional and political niceties.

He flirted with an unapologetically extra-constitutional presidency, or at least Know Nothingism, openly declaring that he would profile Muslims, shake up long-established foreign policy norms and alliances, undo hard-fought environmental regulations, and undermine the credibility of some of our most important institutions, inlcuding the judiciary.  He made all of that clear in his two-year campaign to become the Republican nominee and then president of the United States.

Donald Trump won the 2016 election. Elections matter. He had a right to try to change America in the ways he outlined. Millions of Americans voted for him because he told them he would fix what was wrong with the United States.

We can’t afford a prolonged (and predictable) constitutional crisis.
We can’t afford a prolonged (and predictable) constitutional crisis.

But what none of us could really know was that he would permit his closest cronies to commit treason against the United States by egging on Russian interference in our national election. We could not know that he would divulge state secrets to the Russians, demand loyalty vows from key figures in his administration or attempt to obstruct justice by first undermining the credibility of the FBI investigations, then trying to coerce FBI director James Comey and — when that failed — firing Comey, the national officer investigating the crimes of Trump’s cronies, and perhaps his own.

We are edging toward an impeachment crisis. Whether we have the national will to see it through will be a test of our genuine patriotism and our love of the American Constitution. It will also be a test of the Republican Party.

It seems to me that this can only end one way: Sometime in then next year, Donald Trump is going to leave the presidency one way or the other. Mike Pence is going to be the next president of the United States. If you try to construct a scenario in which Trump survives this crisis, you will find it impossible to see a reasonably plausible path.

A man wholly unfit for the presidency. His wounds are all self-inflicted.
A man wholly unfit for the presidency. His wounds are all self-inflicted.

The only way Trump can survive is to go on national television, admit everything, apologize in plain and unmistakably sincere terms, throw himself on the mercy of the American people, ask for a final opportunity to redeem his presidency and pray publicly for forgiveness. If he did this, he would probably survive. The American people believe in second chances.

The likelihood of Trump facing his limitations in an unmistakable and humble way approaches zero. Hubris is his brand. He does not have the right stuff to confess to his inadequacies and his crimes.

Here’s why we need to get this over with sooner rather than later. While we spend months processing these increasingly damaging revelations, with Trump’s diehards blaming the Democrats, the establishment and the media, our true enemies are plotting destruction to America and its vital interests. Their capacities for mayhem are equal to their appalling anti-American rhetoric.

Remember the Condit-Levy madness of 2001? For months, that summer the American people wallowed in sexual prurience after Chandra Levy was killed in the District of Columbia, and her boss, Gary Condit, denied, then admitted, he was having an affair with her at the time of her disappearance. Condit did not kill Levy. But his sexual predations distracted an entire nation at a critical moment in our history.

During those wild and crazy months, former senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman were warning us that al-Qaida was planning a major attack on the United States. They cried out plaintively using every tool in their possession. They were right about the threats.

But the American people would not listen because they were drunk with intrigue and innuendo, and they preferred to obsess over a tawdry D.C. sex scandal than attend to the urgent security crisis that was unfolding just on the other side of the National Enquirer. Think of the price we paid for our prurience.

We know that our Islamist enemies are now intending a major attack on the United States. Probably it will come in the form of a series of airline bombings, using laptop computers or other electronic devices that can be slipped through airport security inspections. National security officials have said recently that the current threat is the greatest since September 11, 2001.

Two things are critically important now:

  •  First, we need to get this political-constitutional farce over as soon as possible. Almost everyone now has a sense of how it is going to end, even many of the diehards.
  • Second, when the real crisis comes something catastrophic, perhaps on the scale of 9-11 — we are going to need to have a president in place who can lead us through dark times to national survival and recovery. A stable president might even be able to prevent the attack.

I take no joy in the collapse of the Trump presidency. We are the most important nation on Earth. The stakes could not be higher. We don’t have the luxury of a protracted national comedy of political ineptitude and malfeasance. Who wants to hear the last defenders defend the indefensible as things spiral into collapse? We need to attend to the urgent issues of our time: energy policy, health care, immigration, natural resource conservation, education and above all, national security.

As in the summer of 2001, we have once again taken our eyes off of the ball. I am terrified by what is undoubtedly taking place behind the gaudy and sensational scenery as the fifth month of the Trump presidency begins.

Let’s just get it over with.

Clay Jenkinson

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Ask What You Can Do for Your Country

In his inaugural address, President John Kennedy challenged the youth of our country to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

If ever there was another time to rally to that call, it is now. We have an administration led by a president with no soul, no moral compass — a man with no empathy nor concern with the problems confronting the elderly, the average wage earner, women, all minority groups — and, worst of all, one who has developed an environment where absolute lies are acceptable.

POTUS 45 slammed President Obama for his vacations and golfing, and took special exception with his executive orders. That was on the campaign trail. Now that he occupies the White House, his actions are enough to qualify President Obama for sainthood.

Kennedy’s call to the youth of our country takes on particular significance today. POTUS 45 has promoted a travel ban from seven Muslim countries; rolled back clean air and water regulations; tried to give political cover to extremist religious groups, including churches, to promote politics from within, violating the separation of church and state; cut funding to sanctuary cities; taken steps to discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; and — last but not least — promoted a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that gives tax breaks to the wealthy while depriving tens of millions of affordable health care.

I could go on til the cows come home, but the political picture would not improve a bit. The samples I have provided should give the youth of this country — to me, that’s anyone under 55! — solid reasons to get involved in learning much more about our government. It should scare the bejeezuz out of the over-75 crowd. (I’m 78, so that includes me.) We might lose our health coverage, too, along with the right to affordable health care.

Follow what 45 is doing, not what he has said. So far, the Republicans are claiming that health care will be “available” for all. They don’t say, though, that it will be affordable for all. Don’t be lulled to sleep by false promises. The ACA should be repaired (for it does need repairing) — but not replacement.

Last week, the dingbats in Congress voted for an act they had not even read. Go back to Ryan and his ilk, who yowled like a castrated pony back in 2011 because Obama and the Democratic majority “rushed” (over the course of two years) to pass the ACA, while the R’s passed their miserable repeal-and-replacement in just two weeks.

Watch what is being done, not what was said. He who campaigned on “draining the swamp” and attacking Goldman-Sachs has surrounded himself with the Wall Street firm’s former executives and other extremely rich folks who have never had to deal with the real-life problems of the average citizen.

The worst thing that can be said of our fearless leader (so long as he has security and the military to protect him) is his vindictiveness. Anyone who criticizes him is on his personal hit list. He’s after “Saturday Night Live,” late-night comic Stephen Colbert and other critics too numerous to name.

I’ve recounted all this cannon fodder to make my point about another president … a prime example of a man among men; a man whom we should all model our lives after, a man who cares about Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants: Former President Jimmy Carter.

After Jimmy Carter left the White House, he devoted his life (and still does) to helping the underprivileged, the downtrodden, the poor and the sick. He has traveled worldwide to help those in need. He has worked tirelessly to improve their quality of life and to bring them food, medical care and housing assistance when no one else would. Regardless of your opinion of President Carter as the head of our nation, you can’t question his contributions as a giving, caring human being, doing the best he can with the time he has for his remaining years on this earth.

Carter was no fan of 45. He has made that clear. So 45 must have his revenge, and it has been both childish and predictable. President Carter was nominated for Argentina’s highest distinction offered to a foreign person, the Order of the Liberator General San Martin, the equivalent of the United States Medal of Freedom. The award had been approved by the Argentine foreign ministry and was published in their Official Gazette. He was chosen for his contributions to human rights and his work for peace during Argentina’s last military dictatorship during his tenure as president — as confirmed by the reporters of CNN.

Now, enter our immature, vindictive child-president. Carter had not been nice to 45. (Not many intelligent people have.) So, with all of the venom an infantile kindergartener could possess, 45 and his administration pressured Argentina to cancel the award honoring President Carter. A kind, decent, caring human being like Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his life for the good of mankind, did not deserve this meddlesome and juvenile treatment.

We who care about this country have to get involved. One bad election with horrible results, to date, does not identify who we really are as a people. How we move forward and deal with this administration certainly will.

This is a time for all people to care about each other: to stand up for each other, to protect this earth we occupy and to take on those who do not have our best personal and economic welfare in mind.

For those who believe we have but one creator — God, Allah, or whatever you call him or her — the name doesn’t control us. Our beliefs do. For those who do not believe … then believe in your fellow human beings and the earth we must save for generations yet to come.

We have an administration that has outlined priorities that benefit the few, but it only prevails if we the people allow it.

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The “who” is us! The “when” is now! The “what”? We must get involved to protect our country. Amen.

RON SCHALOW: Kevin Cramer Must Go

It’s not even a close call, so save the coin toss. Cramer takes North Dakotans for granted and assumes he’s in a safe district. Why, because he’s such a charmer?

Guess again, smirk-boy. Smug-boy. Whatever. I’m older than the kid, so I can say that. Plus, I don’t care. I don’t feel any pleasantness oozing from my aura.

After decades of government jobs, by appointment or election, it’s time for Kevin Cramer to be forced to get a job where he can do less damage.

In case you were wondering, Kevin Cramer will vote for the user’s manual of a Hamilton Beach four-slice toaster if the order comes down from the repellent Munster kid — or the Denny’s menu-signing circus peanut. He has no personal integrity. No brain, no strain.

Our congressman voted it’s on the record to cruelly send millions of the people, “on our side,” to their graves, including innocent children, and 7 million veterans. Never underestimate what this @$$hole will do.

Who needs ISIS or the North Korean fat kid? Just cool your jets, fellas. We’ve got the “death to America” stuff covered by the Party of Lincoln. They’ve had some philosophical changes in the past 150 years, which Abe never endorsed — or ever envisioned.

Their antics probably crossed Stephen King’s mind, though. The health care horror story is likely on its way to Barnes and Nobles, as the representatives celebrate with foreign beer and domestic strippers.

We hire the weasels, send them where all of the lobbyists hang, pay them handsomely, give most of them too much respect, and they hurriedly plot our demise. Drive-through suicide, the Trump hatchlings call it. Bodies will be catapulted over the wall.

Donald Trump said “everyone” would be covered. That was a lie. We’ve seen this con before, and it wasn’t on the midway, where the Trump cousins hand out bags of water and a small orange carp. Bait, depending on the locale. It wasn’t a little white lie, either. It was a Trump-sized and textured, pile of horse$#!*. Kevin Cramer doesn’t care.

Not that anyone paying attention should be surprised. Our congressman has always been a tool.

He doesn’t even try to hide it. Did he know that his oil buddies were sending 30,000 gallon soup cans of butane, methane, propane, ethane and other explosive gases, mixed with the fine Bakken crude, down the rail? Sure. Did he care? Nope. Even when 47 Quebecers died, it didn’t faze him.

When it was determined that 60 to 70 would likely die in a Fargo or Bismarck Bakken train explosion, it didn’t faze him. Cramer won’t cross the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The same could be said for the North Dakota GOP. Smaller weasels. Possibly voles.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Sen. Schumer care, though. And quite a few other politicians throughout the nation, who don’t want their constituents vaporized.

What bothers Cramer, is women wearing white in front of the president. Big Don could have figured that his Klan pals were in the house, or he could have gotten confused about the venue. Trump’s not too sharp — and often gets makeup in his eyes. He might have thrown out the first pitch to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who rarely carries her catcher’s mitt in public but is considered a splendid receiver.

Meanwhile, at the same event, the dignified Congressmen Cramer, seething in the standard male uniform, yelped like an excited Mexican Chihuahua hombre pup, when the Trumpmeister announced the go-ahead for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Kevin is fascinated with, and has an abnormal love for, a carbon-based liquid, that began its development through one of the quirks of nature, that took place a few million years ago — it wasn’t a given that it would exist— but proved to be useful, when humans decided they needed one-day delivery on 16-foot-long $600 ties from the Trump Collection. The great man spit on each one, which makes them collectors items — or evidence.

I considered some Trump Fragrance, but who wants to smell like an obese sweaty golfer — and crocodile breath? I can handle that myself, without taking out a loan. Melania is said to love the odor, which is one of the reasons why she lives so close — 200 miles is about right — to the lumpy beast. I’m not talking about their pet camel, Wally. He smells like waffles.

Cramer is talking like Trump, much more lately, which leads some people to think that he’s losing his grip on the reality thing. Classic Trump.

Crying about some people being mean to him because he can’t answer basic questions at one his “town halls” in the Socialist Republic of Fargo. Then he runs to Rob Port, on WDAY-AM in Fargo, to complain about his constituents and claim that he was set up for something, by the group Indivisible. It’s a lie, but like Trump, it doesn’t matter.

A group wants to drop off some petitions at his office. But they can’t, because the office is supposedly closed, and three regulation-size cops are on hand to keep two small scary women from entering the office building.

Cramer’s story, also shared with his pal Port on WDAY-AM, is that the owner of the building knew a loitering horde had broken through the perimeter weeks ago, plenty of time to have the police on hand. But the congressman had no clue. Plus, he’s so unconnected with the humans in Fargo, he could not find one person to man the office for 30 minutes. Another crock of $#!*, but he’s sticking to it. Crafty women! Always taking advantage of Kevin.

Sean Spicer, the press secretary for the president, thought it was a good idea (it wasn’t) to compare Syrian President al-Assad to Hitler, saying that good old Adolf wasn’t so unhinged, as to use chemical weapons (on the battlefield). Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Cue Cramer. Stupid? Pshaw. That’s his specialty. Because he’s such a powerful member of the House — and not too bright —  Kevin jumps into the outhouse pit without reservation. Sean was “technically” right, he claims. This Hitler story is being distorted by the media and their fancy digital movie cameras. Well, Spicer had already apologized and likely wanted to hide under his bed until after the impeachment. Cramer just looked like a doofus. Perfect Trump material.

Back before the election, when Kevin did think he was Trump material, and a valued adviser, he prepped the grabby, disabled mocking, bastage for his speech in Bismarck, dreaming of being named Energy secretary. Actually, Cramer was the perfect person to ruin the department and do away with the silly protections for water, air and people. When will the government ever get its boot off the throat of the most profitable industry the world has ever known, and set them free to make real money?

After the speech, experts, real experts, wrote that it was as if Trump didn’t understand the basics of the marketplace. He certainly had no clue about coal. The coal industry is dying due to the free market, and it will never employ as many men it did in the heyday in the Appalachians, when it treated the workers like bad meat and simply buried the ones who died on their feet, in the woods, and then sent another one into the hole. The black lung was free, though.

Now, mechanization has replaced humans, and they blow up a mountain just to claim a small seam of coal, and scrape up the black chunks with huge payloaders. Luckily, thanks to Trump, the companies don’t need to worry about the coal crap that ends up in the streams — and gives the water some flavor. This is Cramer’s man. An idiot.

Kevin has always been a little nutty. He seems to delight in taking things away, like food from kids, then whipping out his holy interpretation of the Bible, which reads differently than my copy — or the one that Trump carries around as a prop.

Cramer has to go. He is not a nice man — or a good man. People that know him well, and relations say this. Now, it’s clear that he could care less about our lives, either jeopardized through the lack of access to health care or the indifference to public safety.

Some will say that Cramer acts kindly to certain individuals, which is great, but his responsibility carries greater weight than the neighbor with the kind heart. Millions are left hanging in the wind if this preposterous health care bill should survive the process, which is apparently what our congressman wants. He friggen voted for it. He lacks empathy, trustworthiness, credibility, and he’s a major suck up. He’s not statesman. He’s a lemming. A sheep. A snowflake. UnAmerican.

You’re Only as Good as the Company You Keep

Cramer’s adoration for Trump should make every self-respecting North Dakotan gag. I could go on forever about Trump’s transgressions that affected the poor, minorities, honest craftsmen, women, ripped off students, blah, blah, bah. Plus, it’s on the record.

Donnie lied 555 times in his first 100 days in a job that requires a qualified adult, a truth teller and not a bullshitter. He has proven that he hasn’t the part of the brain that keeps normal people from lying once per minute — and not caring.

Trump is an admitted sex offender. It wasn’t locker room talk. It was admission of an assault. I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms, and BS like grabbing a woman by the @#&*%$# is the obvious crude braggadocio of a sleazy bloviating jackass and would be treated accordingly. Cleats to the balls, 5-iron to the throat or basketball to the face. Something painful, instead of the whimpering of apologists, like Cramer, who aren’t fond of women in the first place.

Does Kevin approve of a grown man taking a stroll through a dressing room of teenage girls? If he approves of Trump, he does.

How about the cheating on all of his wives?

How about his funny disabled man imitation?

How about his snide remark about a news reporter’s menstrual cycle?

How about Trump’s general lack of morals? Sociopathy?

Flip, flop, flop, cough, gibberish. Which of the policies that Trump has today appeal to our congressman? Not those of yesterday, or this morning, or tomorrow, or the second part of his last sentence, but this moment.

Russia, Russia, Russia.

Hot off the press: “100 Days of Accomplishments Under Trump,” by Kevin Cramer, which puts an end to any speculation to whom our congressman is loyal. If it’s not to the people of this state, what good is he?

Just for Members of the North Dakota Legislature Who Support Trump and Won’t Accept the Facts Behind Their Own Actions, Who also Need to be Retired

One Topic — Oil Taxes

Members of the North Dakota GOP, and their shills, continue to deny that the oil extraction tax was cut in 2015 by the Legislature. They lie. Our state has lost millions of dollars of revenue to out-of-state oil barons. Meanwhile, some of our most vulnerable citizens continue to suffer.

The tax deniers want people to believe that taking to two unrelated issues, mashing them together and calling it reform, obscures the fact that taxes were unnecessarily cut for global oil companies. They can call it reform, form-fitting, secret formula, formaldehyde, formidable, or anything else, but it’s still a tax cut.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Civil, Friendly Discussion Still Needs To Be Based On Facts

Sometimes a friend can jolt you into his reality. I was having that kind of conversation with a lifelong friend … someone with whom I rarely discuss politics. I didn’t know what his politics were until we had this talk. My wake-up call was loud and clear.

Before I get into the subject, I think it’s best to validate my claim that I vote for the person I deem best qualified without regard to their political party. Here’s my record:

My first vote went to John F. Kennedy in 1960, followed by Lyndon Johnson in 1964; Humphrey in 1968; Nixon 1972; Carter in 1976 and 1980; Mondale 1984; George H.W. Bush in 1988 and 1992; Clinton in 1996; Gore in 2000; Kerry in 2004; and Obama in 2008 and 2012; In 2016, I definitely did NOT vote for Donald J. Trump. Some of my votes went Republican, and some Democratic; obviously, I did not pick winners in every case.

Back to last week. What brought things to a head with my old friend was my saying some unflattering things about Trump. He replied, “Obama lied every time he opened his mouth.” He told me he believed nothing that he said.

I’ve heard many reasons why some did not like POTUS 44 (Obama), but lack of truth was not one of them. I countered that 45 (Trump) is a proven liar. You can go to any news source — radio, TV, print, the Internet — and find all kinds of his statements that have been absolutely false. He questioned Obama’s birth certificate; he insisted he received not only the most Electoral College votes (true) but also the most popular votes (false). He claimed the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever, despite photographic evidence this was not true. I could go on and on with his false claims. Only a small percentage are true.

Obama had a scandal-free administration … but my friend didn’t care. He demonstrated great family values … but my friend didn’t care. When pressed to cite any specific lies he’d told, I got no response.

My friend and I are both grandparents, and our grandchildren will, I hope, have good role models. When I asked him about 45’s infidelities and sexist comments and his attitude toward women, my friend had no response. He didn’t agree. He simply failed to respond.

POTUS 45’s continual lying and demonstrated lack of knowledge, his self-centered approach to everything, his childish name-calling and attacks on the media along with everyone who does not agree with him: None of it seemed to concern my friend. If it did, he kept silent.

I’ve been learning fast that if you want to comment on politicians — or anyone, for that matter — fact-checking is a good idea. There are so many false stories circulating, particularly on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Someone gets a thought in their head, it comes out their mouth, and suddenly it’s perceived as fact. When you think about it, you all know this is true … and, to an certain extent, I think we all do it.

Cable and network news often have their own slants. Some are strictly factual and report what is; but others slant their approach to the news to support their editorial viewpoints. That, too, can be very misleading.

My wife reminds me to watch Fox News if I want the Trump view but MSNBC for the other view. In between, you have reliable sources on CNN, which I consider the most balanced news program on cable air. While public TV and radio are sometimes accused of being left-leaning — by commenters on the far right — in my view, they are fair and balanced.

It’s very important to learn more about what others think and why they think it. That’s why I am definitely a news junkie. Talk radio is another thing, however. My view is that there is one powerhouse regional station with a large audience that definitely leans Democratic. Another station with a much smaller audience falls into 45’s camp, loud and clear. Our third talk radio station, which is second in size of its listening audience, seems to cover both ends of the spectrum rather well, but with a definite tilt towards the party of Trump.

My friend claims (and I believe he’s a straight shooter) that he doesn’t watch the news. He says he no longer has TV and doesn’t listen to talk radio. That pretty much leaves two alternatives: talking directly to the source or, worse yet in my opinion, making a choice based on single-issue religious teachings.

If you wish to slam someone without specifying your factual basis — politician or not —you are simply urinating into the wind. Facts really do count. I can’t understand the sometimes-unspoken religious fanaticism that permeates the world today.

Trump says he wants to repeal Roe v. Wade (if you believe that, I have a little air left over for free in my backyard), while POTUS 44 was satisfied to leave the law as it stands.

Is it wrong for women to be in charge of their own bodies? Is it right for someone else (usually men) to tell a woman how to regulate her health care? Is it consistent to want the victim of incest, rape or a pregnancy that could kill the mother to carry a fetus to full term? Is it right that the fetus is the only thing the Right to Life groups think should survive?

We are bombing the hell out of Mideastern countries and killing unknown numbers of civilians. Where is the concern for them? The president has ordered our military into pointless, thoughtless actions in which they die for lack of planning. Where is the concern for their lives? Many of the same folks who worry so much about the fetus in every single pregnant woman’s body don’t comment or oppose the ravages that these conflicts inflict on humans who are already born. We wonder why other nations may not hold us in high esteem. Well, think about what we have done.

Our current president, a man who has the worst case of diarrhea of the mouth that the Lord ever allowed to live, is now thumping his “never been in the military — never held elective office” chest at North Korea. He wants to show the North how tough we are.

Perhaps if 45 had ever read a history book, he would know that when North Korea invaded South Korea almost 70 years ago, the Chinese then joined the North to draw the war to a stalemate. The armistice that ended the fighting still stands today in a divided Korea.

The U.S. dropped more bombs on North Korea during the Korean conflict than during all of World War II. We indiscriminately bombed civilian targets and used napalm. Entire cities and their populations were destroyed. I doubt the young hereditary president of the North needs reminding of what the U.S. is capable of — but this certainly does demonstrate why he wants whatever weapons he is trying to develop. His military also must be well aware that any offensive attack on this country or its allies would result in the immediate and total destruction of North Korea.

If ever this country needed real and wise leadership, it is now. If ever we must stop bashing each other and restore civility, it is now. It’s easy to taunt judges and others by calling them names … a lot easier than civilly discussing issues without judging.

I try to base my observations and what I see, read and digest. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. I do expect, however, that if you support someone, you can explain why, and if you oppose them, you can also explain your reasons. If your opinion is based on facts, then state them. Without grounding your opinions in facts, they’re just empty words … and that’s not worth losing friends over.

My old friend is still my friend, but I still don’t understand what he sees in 45 or why he hated 44. I know he’s not racist. Maybe it’s that religious fanaticism that people don’t like to talk about. He may be wrong but, as my dad used to say, he’s still my friend. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — The Rule Of Law May Not Make America Perfect, But No Other Compares

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is amazed that a judge “sitting on an island in the Pacific” can issue an order blocking POTUS 45’s travel ban. He then opines the president has the constitutional authority to act as he did.

As attorney general of the United States, Sessions has taken an oath to uphold the constitution and lawful court orders. He apparently doesn’t understand that we have three separate but equal branches of government: executive (the president), legislative (Congress), and judicial (the courts).

The attorney general and 45 have one thing in common — disrespect for judges who rule against their positions. For 45, the cause is ignorance because he has no concept of “separate but equal.” For Sessions, it’s that he has crossed the ethical rules and regulations that govern attorneys.

While it may not seem so, the legal system is based on laws and respect for those laws. Sessions crosses both legal and ethical boundaries with his uninformed comments.

The Hawaiian judge who issued the order received a confirmation vote from then-Sen. Jeff Sessions. Like all federal judges, his appointment is for life. For 45 and his appointed court jester to continually attack him and other federal judges is personally baffling to me.

I discount 45 because I have no respect for him as a man, husband, father and as president. Sessions, on the other hand, knows better. He’s not the private attorney for 45, but he’s acting like it. As a lawyer, he’s charged with knowledge of the law.

Remember, the federal courts represent all of us, whether we like it or not. The attorney general is supposed to represent the United States, but this one is in lock-step with the dictator-wannabe who appointed him.

The first thing Sessions did (after promising one New York U.S. attorney he wanted him to stay on) was to fire every United States attorney. As of April 24, not one single replacement has been nominated. So much for the lack of leadership by the top officer of the Justice Department.

The U.S. attorney who was asked to stay on — and then immediately fired when he later refused to resign — was in charge of an investigation into the possible criminal wrongdoing of the current administration, including members of POTUS’s family.

While the federal attorneys general have great support staff, this lack of leadership in the number one spot is absolutely inexcusable …  particularly at a time when the Russian influence in our election and — more troubling — its influence with Trump himself and his family members has not been resolved.

The FBI will gather the information, but all prosecutions must be approved by the attorney general himself or U.S. attorneys — and 45 and Sessions have put a roadblock in their way.

Although I don’t intend do go into the unlawful “pattern” of this administrations actions, or lack thereof, there “is” a pattern. Following the cleansing of the leadership of the U.S. attorney offices, the uninformed one heading our government also fired top leadership in the State Department and has yet to appoint any replacements.

Methinks all of the bluster between United States and North Korea is simply a lot of swaggering boastfulness between the two egomaniacs leading each country. It’s 45, once again deflecting attention from the criminal investigation. The village idiot knows that if North Korea launched a nuclear weapon at any other country, our nation would cause it to cease to exist. Everyone wants to blow his own horn, but even the crazies do not want nuclear war. If it occurred, there would be no winners.

The State Department represents all aspects of our international relationships. To operate properly, it must have a staff that includes the support employees who actually allow it to function. When 45 gutted the Department of State, he gutted this country.

He appointed a secretary of state with no experience and with personal and financial ties to Russia and basically made him dictator of a rudderless ship. State needs staff, and the states need U.S. attorneys.

Remember all of those promises to bring jobs back to the USA? Recall 45’s and Ivanka’s calls to buy only made in America … as they now continue to promote their own foreign-made products?

Made-in-China steel was supposed to become a thing of the past by the Exalted One’s executive order. That made for good public relations — but steel made in China will in fact still be used for the DAPL. Meanwhile, I don’t see any new American steel plants opening!

POTUS 45 proclaimed he would bring back the auto industry and all of its lost jobs. But he’s either lying to the people or just plain uninformed if he doesn’t understand that it was not foreign countries that killed many of our factory jobs. It was automation.

What we need is new jobs to replace those that are permanently gone.

Now, about supposedly making America great again: The Elected One promised to promote infrastructure — bridges, roads, airports, trains, buses and all modes of public transportation. It seems to me that transportation and all area of infrastructure create jobs.

But wait a minute. Not so fast! This president and a few of his supporters want to build a wall between Mexico and America before taking any actions that would impact upon the vast population of this country. At the same time, he uses the threat of potential enemies to justify a great expanse of military spending … notwithstanding that the military itself has made no such request.

The current administration is promoting substantial tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Yet it has produced nothing to show how it will pay for any of it except at the expense of those of us who can least afford another burden.

Currently he who promotes (but has not produced) jobs also has shoved Amtrak onto the chopping block. Instead of modernizing and upgrading the railroad, he wants to cut it.

Give him enough time, though. If he doesn’t get us into a war to distract from all of the legal investigations, he will manage to destroy our internal functions. By “destroy,” I mean that if we don’t upgrade and repair — everything — we will degrade everything.

Who benefits from all of the confusion in the leadership — from utter inaction, other than the tweets of a madman in the White House? A guy named Putin and a country called Russia.

I often use that term “madman” as an exaggeration, but not in this case. With all of the news coverage in the past year — some confirmed, some not —  President 45 has yet to question any actions of Russia.

The answer to so many unanswered questions lies in 45’s tax returns. If they would show nothing that would damage him, why would he not release them? On the other hand, if they reveal the personal financial ties between 45 and his offspring and Russia, it might well result in removal or impeachment. At the very least, he’d face so many additional lawsuits that he’d have to leave his country club, go back to the White House and do what Barack Obama did — work to the best of his ability to serve all of the people of this country.

I’m not talking about Republican or Democratic issues. I speak as an American about American issues. Amen.

RON SCHALOW: Love, American Style

Stan shuffles into the dark bar, stands still for a minute to let his pupils expand, and waits for the blindness to dissipate. Then, without moving, he hollers, “ORV! ARE YOU IN HERE?”

A strange voice answers from the shadows. “Which Orv are you looking for?

“The ornery one.”

“Oh, he’s sitting at the bar.”

Stan shuffles over to the barstools, cane in hand. “Orville, you scamp! Why didn’t you answer when I called out?”

“I was hoping you would go away,” grumbles Orv.

“Have I ever?” chirps Stan.

“No. But you seem to be getting denser by the minute, so it was worth a shot. I’ll keep trying until I get results, or literally throw a shot your way. Hey! Other Orv! Keep your yap shut in the future.”

Stan stares at nothing. “Yeah. I am getting dumber. That’s going to be problem in the future, or I could just run for president. Intelligence doesn’t seem to be a requirement for that gig. And our congressman is an idiot of biblical proportions. Mini Trump is what we kids call the smirking, condescending Cramer bastard.”

“Maybe they’re hitting Donnie too hard with the Adirondack in the morning. They could switch to aluminum, I suppose, but those will leave a dent, too.”

“WHAT?”

“I just assumed that Reince, or one of the other nitwits from F Troop, was giving the president a good whack in the forehead with a baseball bat, first thing in the morning, to jar a few of the remaining neurons into action. They aren’t doing something right, though. Don’s still an embarrassment. Maybe the Priebus feller isn’t strong enough to take a good cut. I think Jose Canseco could be hired for a reasonable price.”

“They need somebody with power to all fields. Good grief. You’ve seen the Trumpbage try to string a few words together. It’s not decodable. Exponential gibberish. He realizes that this is an English-speaking country, for the most part, doesn’t he?”

“Shut up, Stan!”

“Maybe he’s playing his Rosetta Stone English CD’s backward and hearing those hidden messages from Charles Manson they talk about. This is Steve Bannon’s doing, I bet. He’s been in a knife fight with the Jewish son-in-law for access to the Play Dough between the ears of the royal @$$hole.”

“Shut up, Stan!”

“I wonder how many times someone in that putrid environment enviously said, he went to Jared? I think the Kushner kid is running the country, which suits me fine. We could have picked a name out of a hat and been better off than having the fat @$$. He’s not even trying to make sense of all of the details necessary to be the friggen president. Who ever thought that being president would be so time-consuming. He’s going to just BS — and golf — his way through it all, as always.”

“Bartender!” yells Orv. “Fill it to the rim, and keep it there, please.”

“Still on the Smirnoff, I see. A rich dick like you should be sipping Stoli, or some other clear alcohol on the top shelf. I’ll have a Coke, bartender, if you’re interested, after I’ve been hanging onto the bar for balance these last 15 to 45 minutes. I’m not good at time, in the same way you’re not good at bartending. I don’t have as much money as this spud-fed @$$hole, but I can pay, so if you don’t mind.”

“Quit giving the kid a hard time,” grouses Orv, “you lib#&%@ jackass. He does just fine,”

“Not really. Remember when the doofus child decided to launch those Tomahawk missiles into Syria? Seems like it was just last week. Like Trump, the whole exercise was a dud, kind of like this dope behind the bar. I doubt if Trump even knows what he intended to accomplish, or know where Syria is. But the lump of flesh, who I wouldn’t trust to watch grass grow, is in charge, so what are you going to do?”

“He says, we normally don’t hit the runway because they’ll just fill it in the holes. We don’t hit runways? I think we do. What the hell does Trump care, anyway? Can we inconvenience the evil Assad bastard at all? He could just as well of found a blank spot between Cooperstown and Interstate 29 and put a few dozen divots in a potato field, or whatever you guys decide to plant after the ground thaws.”

“Orv, the potato and beet farmer, perks up. “That’s extra stupid, you lib$%@# moron. We don’t need any big holes in our fields!”

“Don’t we Orv? Don’t we? It’s as flat as a pool table around here. A few more duck ponds won’t be a bad thing.”

“Yes they would!” screams Orville. “They would cost somebody a lot of money!”

“Maybe they could send the ducks the bill,” laughs Stan. “Get it, Orv? The bill?”

“Har de har har har.” mocks Orv.

“Evidently, watching the missiles shoot into the night sky was a beautiful sight. At least according to Brian Williams of MSNBC, who appears to be on some excellent mood enhancers. Yes, Brian; the pretty colors were quite groovy, man. MSLSD, dude.”

“Williams is a pinko liar,” grumbles Orv.

“Yeah, he doesn’t seem too bright. I’ll bet he knows more about Hitler than Spicey, though. Gawd!”

“I’m not going to defend that one,” growls Orv. “Quit trying to bait me into an argument.”

“Well, Cramer is defending Spicey, as if getting gassed in cramped quarters is different than breathing in some poison while walking down the street. What a maroon. Yes, they’re technically distinct, but so is comparing Kevin to a smarter lightpost. He’s your boy, Orv.”

“Shut up. I said I won’t be baited into one of your stupid conversations.”
“But that’s why I came here, Mr. Trump supporter. Pick something from the Mar-a-Lago nutcase to defend. The sexual assaults, the lies, the ignorance — should I go on? The list is a mile long. Name something, potato boy!”

“Shut your face, Stan, before I beat you with your own cane.”

“Hah,” snorts Stan. “The jokes on you, chubby dragon breath. Every part of my body already hurts, so you can swing this thing until your soft Trump arms get tired and I won’t even notice.”

“I suppose you enjoyed the pricey bottle rocket show, Orville, you portly hombre. An expensive fireworks display, which this Bashar Assad character may have observed, especially since the master tactician told them beforehand that a few dozen explosive thingys were coming, bigly. The bombs didn’t scare Russia or Iran, either.”

Orville: “You can’t allow anyone to use sarin gas on children. It’s sickening. That’s not obvious to you, lb%&@# freak?”

“Trumpdud didn’t stop anything, and the Syrians have been getting bombed and gassed for years. Trump acted like he wasn’t even aware of the former mayhem. Donnie could do some good, but it’s not in the tangerine man. Maybe he could quit lying about refugees just pouring over our border with no vetting. It’s not true, but it keeps the deep thinkers frightened.”

“We have no control over our borders at all,” yelled Orville.

“Baloney. And maybe Trump could quit lying about it being impossible to vet a Syrian citizen.”

“That’s true, you liberal yutz. How can you tell anything about these people? Orville takes a big gulp, and the bartender tops off his glass. Orv is a big tipper.

Stan explodes. “That’s a friggin lie. The Syrians keep accurate and thorough records. They’re an ancient people who figured out a few things eons before North Dakota was even given lines on a map.”

“The best thing the Trumpweasel could do, if he really cares about the children, is let them come here. Orphans and those already vetted immediately, and expedite the process for families. That goes for the Syrians and refugees from every other country.”

“Too dangerous. We should just keep bombing at a safe distance. Besides, where are we supposed to put them all?”

Stan counters. “We have nothing but space. Is anyone even using Wyoming? Economists say that an influx of new people will be good for the economy, and it will be good to see the bigots, like you, worked up. Some of you apes are still ticked off about the Irish.”

“They drink too much,” slurs Orv.

“Did you know that Kevin Cramer is Trump’s official golf ball washer, now? It’s Cabinet-level stuff.”

“Put a sock in it, Stan!”

“It’s true. Trump pops a Titleist in Cramer’s mouth, waits while he swooshes it around, and spits out a shiny dimpled orb. It’s the chemicals applied to the grass —- with a dash of lead added to his bottled water — that prevents the congressmen from picking up on the lies, and flip flops, that Trump pumps out by the pound. It’s the media’s fault for reporting everything the president says, according to the fertilizer-fed Cramer.”

“Quit lying, Stan,” yelps Orv. “And lies don’t come in pounds, you commie liberal loon!”

“Seven lies to the pound,” state’s Stan flatly. “I don’t know the metric conversion. So, when are we bombing the crap out of North Korea? Has one of Rob Port’s anonymous sources spilled any military secrets? I know you’re buds with the misleader of Minot. Did he email you any of his creative facts?”

“I don’t have any idea when North Korea gets lit up. How the hell would I know?”

“But you’re loading up on military stocks aren’t you?”

“Mind your own beeswax, you nosey SOB,” grumbles Orv.

“War is good for bidness.”