Amy Siskind is doing yeoman’s work attempting to chronicle, weekly, the things that are subtly changing under President Trump. This, as Ms. Siskind reminds, is something that experts in authoritarianism recommend, “so you’ll remember.”
Before you chortle and dismiss Ms. Siskind (or GTFUP.org) as needlessly alarmist and dramatic (“authoritarianism?!? Come on this is America!”), consider that President Trump’s entire political strategy appears to be to inundate us with outrages, to brazenly do a dozen outrageous, unthinkable things on any given day, and then lather, rinse and repeat until we completely lose track, and start to forget. On that front, he’s winning: we’ve already completely lost track.
There were massive, important stories this past week that got plenty of coverage: the continued revelations regarding Russia, President Trump’s unnerving first international trip, the wedge being driven between the United States and our historical allies, while our President casts his lot with the world’s dictators.
But as a “fun” exercise, I attempted, every night when I got home for the past week, to catalogue “secondary” stories that, despite receiving some attention, couldn’t help but be buried by the constant stream of breaking news. It was really fucking hard, and if I’m confident in one thing, it’s that list below – while staggering in its breadth and the myriad ways it reflects an utter assault on American values – is woefully incomplete.
Nevertheless, I’m going to try to do this from time to time on GTFUP.org, to keep track of the deluge of insane and unsettling stories – daily attacks on who we are – that get buried or drowned out by the very intentional efforts to make us forget.
From the past, roughly, 7 days:
- The Trump Administration released its budget proposal, which was promptly derided as shockingly cruel and regressive, as well as typically stupid and uninformed, by all but F.A.T.’s most ardent cheerleaders (and Paul Ryan and his lot). The massive cuts contained in the budget would gut the State Department, destroying America’s invaluable soft power on the world stage, and opening us up to “a lot of Benghazi’s,” it would eliminate important student loan forgiveness programs, gut legal aid, and slash federal science research dollars, crippling major research universities.
- One analysis found that cuts to foreign aid – a minuscule portion of the overall federal budget – would lead to the death of millions of human beings around the world, and specifically in Africa. And for those who say “well why should we be responsible for Africa“, first, global stability is good for everyone, and especially for the U.S., second, again, one million human beings may die, and third, fear not, F.A.T.’s budget does plenty to harm us hear at home too! Indeed, much independent analysis noted how strikingly cruel Trump’s budget was to low income voters, ostensibly his voters.
- And to top it all off, the budget proposal included a $2 trillion (that’s $2,000,000,000,000) math error, in a dishonest attempt to pretend the budget was fiscally responsible. When confronted with this, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney (the architect of this monstrosity), all but shrugged his shoulders.
- This past week, the craven, ideologically unmoored House GOP health care bill that President Trump hailed as his great, beautiful victory finally received a non-partisan CBO analysis, and the results are considerably less than good.
- Meanwhile, insurance companies are openly complaining about President Trump’s sabotage of the ACA insurance markets – in North Carolina, insurance premium resources on the individual exchanges are going up 22.9 percent, and the reason is that F.A.T. refuses to guarantee payments promised under the ACA; if President Trump would step up and do his job, the rates would have gone up a fairly standard 8.8 percent.
- Oh, and a healthy chunk of the Republicans who voted for the monstrous bill own large volumes of stock in various drug and healthcare companies, giving rise to, at very least, a serious stench of conflict of interest.
- Of course, in the Trump era, conflict of interest is apparently no longer a problem…
- It was reported this past week that the Trump Organization was not, as the President had promised, tracking foreign payments to Trump hotels and other companies. This was already a B.S. “concession” by F.A.T., a half-assed, B.S. answer to the rampant “ethical” concerns. But apparently President Trump can’t even be troubled to be half-assed when it comes to ethics.
- And while we’re talking broken “ethics” promises, it turns out the Trump kids who are running Trump’s businesses are also actively working with GOP operatives and representatives, tearing apart another pathetically weak ethical facade F.A.T. has been hiding behind.
- And remember Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp,” and his big boy signing ceremony when he carried on about “cutting red tape”? Turns out the red tape he’s cutting benefited the “special advisor” who told him where to cut, to the tune of $60 million in the first quarter of 2017 alone.
- And one silver lining for Jared Kushner this week may be that he has successfully deflected attention from his own family, who are actively wooing hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese investments by promising visas and access to the President to potential investors.
- Meanwhile, in “other” Russia news, a Russian bank is carrying Trump’s water, suing a U.S. news organization for publishing details of the infamous Trump dossier; yet another critic, a journalist, of Putin and Russia was murdered; and the fallout continues from Trump’s secretive meeting with the Russians, when he spilled highly classified intelligence in order to impress his Russian guests: now Israel is altering its protocols for sharing intelligence with the U.S., and other historical allies are considering following suit.
- Of course, none of this has deterred President Trump from his strange, unsettling fascination with brutal dictators. It was revealed this past week that, on a phone call with Phillipines dictator Duterte, President Trump praised the ruthless, thuggish dictator for doing an “unbelievable job” cracking down on drugs (Duterte has murdered thousands without trial as part of his “war” on drugs), and tried to impress Duterte by boasting about the location of two U.S. nuclear submarines. And in case there was any question about the cut of Duterte’s gib, of the moral fiber of the “strong leaders” F.A.T. is so eager to cast his lot with, Duterte just this week “jokingly” encouraged his army to feel free to rape women while imposing martial law. As Jennifer Rubin, One of the Good Ones, President Trump’s tendency to “back slap” authoritarian murderers and thugs is his most “anti-American habit.”
- So of course it came as no surprise, given his love and admiration for dictators and authoritarianism, that President Trump and his administration remained strikingly silent in response to members of the Turkish President’s security detail brutally beating protesters on American soil.
- And speaking of striking silence – silence that speaks infinitely louder than words – our “leader”, F.A.T., has not seen fit to address two separate incidents of domestic terrorism, the horrific attack in Portland, and the murder of a Maryland student by an apparent white supremacist.
- If President Trump ever comments on these stories (or the countless other, less sensational stories of race-based attacks, a burgeoning, violent white supremacism, and the general emboldening of overt, proud racist tirades), you can count on him to shrug his shoulders, mutter something about “mental illness,” and blame it on liberals. What a fine and inspiring leader.
- But this, also just reported this past week, is President Trump’s problem. Since his election, incidents in the U.S. military of ugly anti-semetism, attacks on LGBT soldiers, attacks on Muslim soldiers are reaching a crisis point: “The reality of Trump being commander in has unleashed a raging battle cry along the lines of ‘There’s a new sheriff in town, and he loves white, male, straight, Christian fundamentalists one hell of a lot more than anyone else…” Remember when we used to expect the President of the United States to attempt to speak for and to all people of the United States?
- Meanwhile, Trump’s cabinet has apparently gotten the memo regarding propping up dictators…
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was downright smitten with Saudi Arabia because there was “not a single hint of a protester anywhere…” Well yes, Wilbur, that’s probably true, because it’s, you know, Saudi Arabia. And as if on cue, Saudi Arabia announced shortly after Trump left town that it would be beheading a disabled man who “confessed” to taking part in protests.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference with Saudi officials – the same Saudi officials who are going to behead a protester – but declined to invite any American press, hence he get any tough questions or be subjected to any signs of intent.
- This all in the same week, of course, of a Republican congressional assaulting a reporter, lying about it, and Republican’s swarming to his defense because, you know, “liberal media!”
- In other Trump administration news, creepy little Stephen Miller is undermining allies’ attempts to deal with a very real refugee problem, because, you know, Muslims…
- And eminently qualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to commit to curbing discrimination in private schools, and couldn’t articulate a single situation in which a private school’s actions could be so discriminatory (easy answer Betsy: a school that refused to admit black kids) that Ms. DeVos and the Trump Administration might withhold funding.
- In the world of State News, while Rome was burning, Fox News spent much of last week trumpeting an insane conspiracy theory surrounding the death of a DNC staffer last year. The impetus appears to be to “defend” Donald Trump, but in so doing, Fox News (and the other conservative outlets, and GOP leaders who gave oxygen to this craven B.S.), also cast their lot with, you guessed it, Russia. The “story” was overwhelmingly debunked immediately, but it took Fox News a full week to print a meek retraction. The dead staffer’s parents have pleaded with conservative media to stop slandering their son, but many conservative outlets continue to do so.
Finally, while the foreign trip got plenty of coverage, and should, I hope, get more as we receive more information about the actual fallout, one image has been haunting me, knocking around my brain like a battering ram:
This is our President.
It is not hard to imagine how the Enablers will spin this: “he’s an alpha male! tough! masculine!”
But I know a lot of “alpha males”, and they sure as shit don’t act like that. When some guy pulls crap like that, that’s not a leader, that’s an asshole; a petty, small, insecure, asshole. A sad man-child who, rather than earning power and respect, thinks that it’s “manly” to shove his way to the front of the line.
This is, right now, the face of conservatism, and too many conservatives are willing to surrender their principles to this pathetic, misguided notion of “power.” But to everyone other than the Enablers – who will follow this sad little man to the gates of Hell – can we agree that this is not how a president should act? Can we agree that we would never show this video to our children and say “be like him“? If we can’t, we’re more broken than I thought…