Silly me, here I’d been fantasizing about a soft military coup preventing the Braggart-in-Chief from starting World War III. Surely the Pentagon has procedures for removing emotionally-incapacitated commanders, and Trump’s generals, as he calls them, must have made contingency plans.
Or maybe not.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that arguing with a four-star Marine general like White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is almost sacrilegious. Americans haven’t always thought so. I had two uncles who’d served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur—one in the Philippines, the other in Korea. They considered him a vainglorious blowhard who was reckless with his men’s lives.
They’d have agreed with President Harry S. Truman’s explanation for why he’d cashiered MacArthur in 1951: “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President,” Truman told Time. “I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
Service as grunts in the Pacific had also persuaded my uncles that going into Vietnam was folly. They were keen to convince me that it wasn’t necessary to go to war to be a man—advice that, like Donald J. Trump, I was eager to hear. No bone-spurs here, merely educational deferments.
I do not apologize.
History teaches that while military virtues are real—duty, honor, sacrifice and courage—so are military vices: chief among them authoritarianism and an inability to admit error. Generals spend the first half of their careers polishing apples, and their command years getting their apples shined. That can lead to an inability to see other people’s point of view—particularly those of lower rank.
Hence Gen. Kelly’s unfortunate role in Trump’s latest degrading Twitter feud—exchanging insults with a congresswoman in a silly hat over the president’s ill-fated attempt to console a 23 year-old war widow.
Ill-fated because this president utterly lacks compassion, and pretty clearly bungled his effort to deliver the script Kelly offered him. The general’s dignified, moving description of a friend’s advice about how to talk to bereaved families evidently came out very differently in Trump’s mouth.
Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia recalled the president saying that her husband “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry. I was very angry at the tone of his voice, and how he said it.”
One can certainly question Rep. Frederica S. Wilson’s motives for making a political issue of so intimate a moment, but everybody who overheard the exchange on speaker-phone as Sgt. Johnson’s people drove to the airport to collect his remains heard it the same way.
Trump struck them as cold and unfeeling.
At that point, a normal man—even a normal politician—would apologize for expressing himself clumsily, praise Sgt. Johnson’s heroism, offer further condolences to the families of all the Green Berets killed in Niger, petition God to bless the United States of America, and put it behind him.
But that’s now how Donald J. Trump rolls. So he began attacking the “WACKY” congresswoman, and sent his pet general out to double down on her. Or maybe Gen. Kelly volunteered.
Either way, he gave a lacerating account of a speech delivered by Rep. Wilson at the dedication of a new FBI building in her district in 2013.
“A congresswoman stood up,” Kelly told reporters,“and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise, stood up there and all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building, and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money, and she just called up President Obama, and on that phone call, he gave the money, the $20 million, to build the building, and she sat down. And we were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.”
Trouble was, apart from the fact that Rep. Frederica Wilson did, indeed, speak at the FBI building dedication, everything Kelly said about her speech was completely false—and was proven so when the Florida Sun-Sentinel published a video recording.
Wearing her trademark cowgirl hat, Wilson said nothing about securing funding for the building, because she hadn’t. She never mentioned President Obama at all. She did praise GOP House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who helped her to get the building named for two fallen FBI agents whose heroism she extolled at length.
I doubt Kelly lied, but something about Rep. Wilson clearly set off the retired general. Democrat? Woman? Black woman? Or maybe it was just the damn hat. Whatever, he owes her an apology, but I doubt she’ll get it.
See, when generals go off half-cocked, everybody has to salute.
But John Kelly’s not in uniform anymore.
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By Steve Holland and Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House is seeking to improve President Joe Biden's low approval ratings by launching a campaign to highlight some of the recent key policy wins by the administration ahead of the November midterm elections.
Cabinet members of the Biden administration will be taking 35 trips to 23 states through the end of August, a memo showed on Monday. Biden will hold a fourth Cabinet meeting of his presidency before Labor Day. He will also head to Ohio to attend the groundbreaking of a new Intel megaplant.
The memo said the White House will also organize "hundreds of town halls and roundtables" in collaboration with Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to highlight the recent legislative wins.
Biden's public approval, while rising last week to its highest level since early June, still remains very low as only 40 percent of Americans approve of his performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed last Tuesday.
Biden's approval rating has been below 50 percent since August last year as Americans grapple with high inflation and an economy still scarred by the COVID-19 crisis.
Biden's Democrats face an uphill battle to retain their narrow control of the House and Senate in the November 8 elections. However, Democratic victories in recent weeks on major legislative priorities like climate change, gun control, semiconductors and drug pricing as well as falling gasoline prices and tempered inflation have given Biden and his team hope that voters will not turn their backs on the party in November.
A $430 billion bill, seen as the biggest climate package in U.S. history, was passed this month by Congress and will soon be signed into law by Biden.
Political analysts have said that Republicans are poised to win a majority in the House, but the race for control of the Senate appears much closer.
Republican control of one or both chambers could thwart much of Biden's legislative agenda for the second half of his four-year term.
Details of the travel and media campaign plan were outlined in a White House memo from Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O'Malley Dillon and senior adviser Anita Dunn to Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by Kanishka Singh in Washington; editing by Mark Porter)
Donald Trump has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a civil case, and if he ever stands trial on criminal charges, neither a judge or a jury may take that as evidence of guilt. But in the court of common sense, we are entitled to reach the obvious conclusion: Trump has committed crimes and wants to keep them secret.
The Fifth Amendment privilege, after all, is not to refuse to exonerate oneself. It's to refuse to incriminate oneself. Answering questions truthfully, as a rule, is incriminating only to someone who has done something wrong.
In our daily lives, everyone understands this. If you ask a coworker if he took your sandwich and he declines to reply, you have identified the thief. If you ask your child if she cut class and she says it's none of your business, you can guess the answer. Innocent people with solid alibis are usually eager to speak up on their own behalf.
But Trump is a master of stonewalling. When he faces suspicions of wrongdoing, the man who never tires of talking about himself falls into surly silence. So when investigators for the New York attorney general asked him questions related to whether he engaged in financial deception, he took the Fifth some 440 times.
The privilege against self-incrimination serves as a shield against police coercion. It requires the government to shoulder the full burden of proof before it can send someone to prison. It's an important safeguard in our criminal justice system
But there is no denying that Trump's use of it suggests a consciousness of guilt. He had refused to appear when subpoenaed by the attorney general, and he complied only when a state court ordered him to do so.
Concealing the truth is as natural to Trump as cheating at golf. He has declined to release his tax returns, as every other presidential nominee has done for decades. He refused to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller during the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. He made a practice of tearing up documents that he was legally obligated to preserve.
He denounced the FBI's search of his Mar-a-Lago estate as part of a partisan "witch hunt." But he chose not to make public the search warrant, which had to specify what material the FBI was looking for and the crimes it suspected. Attorney General Merrick Garland finally asked a judge to release it and a list of the evidence collected. Trump, his bluff called, decided not to object.
Trump claims the congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is determined to "damage me in any form." But he has tried to block every attempt to learn what he and his aides did during, before, and after the bloody siege.
The White House phone log from that day contains a gap of more than seven hours, even though he is known to have made calls during that period. Clearly, he was actively trying to avoid leaving a trail of his communications.
He ordered some of his chief advisers not to comply with the committee's subpoenas to give testimony. One of them, Stephen Bannon, was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to appear and could go to prison for two years.
Trump has not hesitated to justify his conduct around the Jan. 6 insurrection and in condemning his critics. He accuses the January 6 committee of presenting a shamefully one-sided case, with no witnesses to defend him. But why does he need witnesses to defend him? Nothing is stopping him from appearing before the committee to give his version of events. Trump, however, is unwilling to take that stage.
The reason, it's fair to assume, is the same as the reason that he took refuge behind the Fifth Amendment when grilled by the attorney general of New York. A guilty person, speaking under oath, has three options: 1) lie and risk being prosecuted for perjury; 2) tell the truth and risk being prosecuted for breaking the law,; and 3) zip his mouth.
The third option has its downside, such as reasonable people concluding that you're a criminal. But better for Trump to be thought a criminal by the general public than to be convicted in court and locked up for his crimes.
Trump can blather nonstop against the FBI, the Justice Department, state law enforcement officials, and the January 6 committee. But it's his silences that tell the real story.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
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