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Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Cool to Trash Gubmint

Image result for us capitol

I am really more than a bit tired of the trend--because that's all it is, a trend--to be against or to out and out hate government.

Like most trends, it's tiresome but this one goes beyond that. It's not just wrong but wrong-headed, too

Seems Right Wingers and Republicans and Libertarians, all, at minimum, like to rail against government. They sometimes literally say or will write, on social media, that "government doesn't do anything right."

To that I like to point out just a few of the things government has gotten us all.

The Interstate Highway System


The Social Security system, which lifted millions of Americans out of poverty and keeps millions more out of same.


And then there's Medicare.


And Medicaid.


Note that's "healthy and employed" so they can stay at work and be productive and benefit our society, locally and nationally. So there aren't just costs to Medicare and Medicaid, to be clear. There are benefits as well.

Heck, "gubmint" took us all, took man to the moon, for God's sake, no small task.


Government cleaned up some of our dirtiest and most-polluted rivers.

Including, of course, the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency.


Heck, at one point, at least a few of our rivers were so polluted, they actually caught fire.


And these are just a few, quick examples of how government actually not only works for us but helps us all, individually and collectively.




Again, this is a case of all of us benefiting, too, due to "gubmint", these regulations called the Clean Air Act of 1970 and what it's done for us. We live longer lives, better lives, healthier lives and so, more productive lives because we require companies to pollute less. It's a total win for all, including those companies.

Have governments, has our government, at times gone wrong, done wrong by the very people it is to serve?

Of course.

Has there been, is there waste in government?

Most certainly.

But it's up to us, the people, to keep our government on the "straight and narrow." Things will go wrong, things will be done poorly or wrongly and/or not at all, at times. But government can do and has done great things, over time, certainly.

Government is, after all, us, we the people.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Religion and Its Evolution


Face it, accept it or not.

No automatic alt text available.


This Unprecedented Presidential Administration


Adding to the fact that this has been the most protested administration, both before and after it took office and, again, both nationally as well as internationally, there is now this.


Look at that. It's incredible.

--A total of 10 people already resigned in less than 6 months of an otherwise entirely new administration.

--Four people left the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. Or what used to be the Environmental Protection Agency, anyway. Now it's the Fossil Fuel Protection Agency, it seems.

--And a total of four people were fired from this administration. So far.

Yet one more indication and example of the turmoil of this man Trump and his administration.

God help us, America.

Links:








Republican State Senator From My Hometown Making Us Proud


Yes sir, St. Joseph's own Republican Representative Rob Schaaf, no less, is asking questions and trying to hold our very Republican Governor, Eric Greitens, to task for what he said and claimed and challenged during the now-Governor's campaign for that job.


Bait-and-switch 


Some of the article:

When Eric Greitens was seeking the Republican nomination for governor last year, he claimed to support transparency in the funding of political campaigns. He said in one interview, “What I’ve found is that the most important thing is that there’s transparency around the money,” continuing, “I’ve been very proud to tell people, ‘I’m stepping forward, and you can see every single one of our donors, because we are proud of our donors and we are proud of the campaign that we are running.’ ”

Since that time, Greitens has turned his back on transparency, accepting millions of dollars from undisclosed donors and now disavowing donor disclosure altogether. With this reversal, he has betrayed the Republican Party and the people of Missouri. His new stance threatens the integrity of our republic.


It's a great article, I think, and even important. Any and every voting age Missourian would do well to  read it so they know what's going on in our state and what should likely change.


Eric Greitens and a No-Bid Contract?


Our own Star newspaper printed and published what I think is an important story this week on our new, pretty boy, Republican Governor Eric Greitens that every Missourian should read and be aware of.

Editorial: Gov. Eric Greitens is behaving just like those ‘corrupt career politicians’

Editorial: Gov. Eric Greitens is behaving just like those ‘corrupt career politicians


Remember his political campaign to become governor when he railed against those--his words--"corrupt career politicians"?

It didn't take him long to throw all that in a waste bin. 

For starters, he wants our state to issue a no-bid contract. 

How that is remotely in the people's best interests, I can't imagine. What happened to those "free markets" and Capitalism those Right Wingers and Republicans love so much and that they say bring us all lower costs?

Second, not to be done there, he wants to issue this no-bid contract to a business that gave him a "...$25,000 campaign donation in December..."

So two things become very clear from this.

First, it only costs any wealthy person or corporation a paltry $25000 to buy this Governor Greitens of ours.

Second, it only took 7 months for this same guy--again, this Republican--to go from supposedly fighting for the people down here to taking in money and working and fighting for, again, the already-wealthy and corporations.

He;s got a low price and a quick turn around, both, this Eric Greitens.

I wonder what he'll sell us out on next.

Can you imagine how much screaming we'd be hearing at this time from Republicans in this state if a Democratic governor pulled such a stunt, pretty boy or no?

Finally, importantly, on any every government level, from the city to county to state, all the way to the Federal level, why are no-bid contracts even allowed?   Why are they legal?




Quote of the Day/Week



"Let me say, in one week Donald Trump got rebuked by 

the Boy Scouts, 
by the Pentagon, 
by the International Association of Police Chiefs," 

Rep. Ted Lieu said. 

"You really gotta' try to be that bad."

Links:

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Update For Trump Voters



1. He told you he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something “beautiful.” 

You bought it. 

But he didn’t repeal and he didn’t replace. Just as well, too, thank goodness. His plan would have knocked 32 million off health insurance, including and maybe especially many of you.

2. He told you he’d cut your taxes. 

You bought it. 

But tax “reform” is stalled. And if it ever moves, the only ones whose taxes will be cut are the wealthy. That "Trumpcare" the Republicans came up with was little more than yet further tax cuts for corporations and the already-wealthy.

3. He told you he’d invest $1 billion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

You bought it.

But his infrastructure plan, which was really a giveaway to rich investors, is also stalled. And a lot of his fellow Republicans want no such spending on infrastructure.

4. He said he’d clean the Washington swamp. 

You bought it. 

But he's brought into his administration more billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history, to make laws that will enrich their businesses, along with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries they recently worked for.

All The President's Billionaires: 

A Guide To Trump's Gilded Inner Circle


5. He said he’d use his business experience to whip the White House into shape. You bought it. But he created the most chaotic, dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history, in which no one is in charge.

6. He said he’d close “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors but unfair to American workers." 

You bought it. 

But he picked a Wall Street financier Stephen Schwarzman to run his strategic and policy forum, who compares closing those loopholes to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

7. He told you he’d “bring down drug prices” by making deals with drug companies. 

You bought it. 

Now the White House says that promise is “inoperative.”

8. He said that on Day One he’d label China a “currency manipulator.” 

You bought it. 

Then he met with China’s president and declared "China is not a currency manipulator."

9. He said he wouldn’t bomb Syria. 

You bought it. 

Then he bombed Syria.

10. He called Barack Obama “the vacationer-in-Chief” and accused him of playing more rounds of golf than Tiger Woods. He promised to never be the kind of president who took cushy vacations on the taxpayer’s dime, not when there was so much important work to be done. 

You bought it. 

But in his first 6 months he has spent more taxpayer money on vacations than Obama did in the first 3 years of his presidency. Not to mention all the money taxpayers are spending protecting his family, including his two sons who travel all over the world on Trump business.

Trump on track to spend more on travel 

this year than Obama did in 8 years


11. He said he’d force companies to keep jobs in America. 

You believed him. 

But despite their promises, Carrier, Ford, GM, and the rest are shipping jobs to Mexico and China. Meanwhile, he and his political party have done and will do nothing to take away tax credits for those expenses incurred to offshore those jobs and that manufacturing.

12. He said he’d create coal jobs. 

You believe him. 

He hasn’t. 

But here's what he has done: Since 1965 a federal program called the Appalachian Regional Commission has spent $23 billion helping communities in coal states fund job retraining, reclaim land, and provide desperately needed social services. A.R.C. helped cut poverty rates almost in half, double the percentage of high-school graduates, and reduce infant mortality by two-thirds. Trump’s first proposed budget eliminates A.R.C.

At what point do you all realize his promises are never going to be fulfilled and that he's only in this for himself and his own gain?

Soon?

Could it be soon?

Please?

(And mind you, the above is only a partial, abbreviated list).

Source:  Mostly from Professor Robert Reich on his original broadcast, June 30, 2017.


Friday, July 28, 2017

A Better Day, A Great Week


Big doings overnight, of course. The Republicans in Congress had their repeal of Obamacare shot down, finally, once and for all, it's being reported.


So, to recap the week so far:

--Obamacare 'repeal and we don't know' is dead

--the Russian sanctions are solidifying 

--a crude, fowl, sycophant is discrediting the entire White House (in this case I mean the new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, not President Trump himself)

--And Kansas will soon, very soon, be rid of the scourge that was and is Sam Brownback

It's enough to give a person hope.

Links:





Here's a bit of a blockbuster headline, too.


Ex-Cruz aide: Trump presidency 'is effectively over'



Thursday, July 27, 2017

What Guns Allow -- And Don't


Image result for "When a man or woman doesn't have a gun in their hand, he or she tries harder to use his or her mind, sense of compassion and intelligence to work out a solution."


Horrible List Kansas City Makes


I saw this new list yesterday and yes, unfortunately, Kansas City is on it.

50 Worst American Cities to Live In 
- 24/7 Wall St.

We're 49 out of 50, sure, but still, we're on it.

Dangit.


49. Kansas City

Population: 151,261
Median home value: $87,600
Poverty rate: 22.2%
Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 16.3%

While low property values can help make homeownership a reality for financially insecure individuals, cheap housing is more often indicative of a weak economy and poor living conditions -- and this appears to be the case in Kansas City. The typical home in the city is worth just $87,600, far less than the $194,500 national median home value.

Relative to the size of its population, Kansas City has very few amenities and attractions that might enrich the lives of residents. There are fewer bars, libraries, recreational centers, museums, and hotels per capita in Kansas City than there are in the U.S. as a whole. There are just 120 restaurants per 100,000 Kansas City residents, among the fewest food establishments per capita of any U.S. city.

Ow. Really. That hurts, just being on the list.

But it could be worse. 

We could be Little Rock Arkansas at number 26 or Fort Smith, also Arkansas, at 24.

Missouri wasn’t done there, either, unfortunately. Springfield hit a very high number 12, nearly making the top 10 worst cities to live in.  Wow.

Image result for springfield missouri

12. Springfield, Missouri

Population: 166,798
Median home value: $113,500
Poverty rate: 24.1%
Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.0%

Few cities have a greater crime problem than Springfield, Missouri. The city’s annual violent crime rate of 1,356 incidents per 100,000 residents is more than three times the national violent crime rate of 373 per 100,000. Springfield’s property crime rate, at 7,795 incidents per 100,000 people, is also over three times the national property crime rate and the third highest of the 551 cities reviewed.

High crime in a city often coincides with high poverty in a somewhat circular cause and effect. Springfield’s poverty rate of 24.1% is nearly 10 percentage points greater than the national poverty rate.


Not done there, St. Louis does, in fact, break that top ten, even making the top 5 worst cities.

Image result for st. louis arch

4. St. Louis

Population: 315,685
Median home value: $130,800
Poverty rate: 24.9%
Pct. with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.7%

St. Louis is representative of the economic decline that afflicted many large industrial cities over the latter part of the 20th century. Decades of manufacturing decline, white flight, and exclusionary zoning in St. Louis have led to some of the worst urban decay, racial segregation, and income inequality of any major city today. Some 24.9% of St. Louis residents live in poverty, far more than the 14.7% national figure. St. Louis has struggled with a high crime rate since the 1960s and today has the highest violent crime rate of any U.S. city. There were 1,817 violent crimes reported per 100,000 St. Louis residents in 2015, nearly five times the national rate.

Many of the economic problems in St. Louis are tied to the city’s rapid population decline. The city’s population is less than half of what it was during its 1950 peak of 860,000 people, and it continues to decline today. While the U.S. population grew 11.5% over the last 10 years, the number of residents in St. Louis fell 5.4%.


We have to do better, folks.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stupid State Republicans


Once again, a bunch of mostly all white, old men, Right Wingers, Republicans, all got together, in spite of their claims of being "small government" advocates and ruled one more time against women's and couple's individual reproductive rights. This time, it was out of our own Jefferson City.

Image result for stupid greitens


And they spent yet more state money in special session to do it, "Conservatives" that they are.

Are the roads and bridges and highways and sewers and all our infrastructure fixed?

No!

Is I-70, from Illinois on the East, all through the state, to Kansas on the West, upgraded and improved and modernized and made safe?

Again, no.

Is our own Missouri Department of Transportation, MoDoT, fully funded and functioning?

Absolutely not.

But are women and couples' private, personal, again, reproductive rights yet more limited even though, as we know, abortion is legal and has been since 1973?

YES!!

And they spent yet more state money, that they say we don't have, to do it!

For them?

SUCCESS!

I've said it before but why any woman would vote Republican is beyond me. Far beyond me. Well, unless she's a Right Wing, "Christian", anti-abortion zealot, of course.

But then, why any Black person, Hispanic, Latino, gay, physically-challenged or elderly person would vote Republican also baffles me completely. (Unless that elderly person is already filthy, stinking rich, of course. Then I think they have to vote Republican, don't they? Isn't that a law?).

Keeping in mind, this is also the state political party that just voted lower wages for Missourians into law, too.

Yay, us.

Link:

Missouri legislature sends right-to-work bill to Gov. Eric Greitens



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trump Fits the Republican Party After All


There are and have been many things about Donald Trump that aren't Republican Party policy and platform, famously, and it has driven and still does drive a lot of them near mad. He certainly fits no mold. When you don't know much and your guiding goals are your own success and increased fortune instead of even your declared political party's goals, let alone your nation's, it's very unlikely you'll fit neatly in any given box.

All that said, the New York Times today has an insightful article today. In the paper version, it's titled "A 'Trump Doctrine' Is Born." Here's the headline when searching for it online.


Donald Trump's Plan 

to Save Western Civilization 


This is the byline description of the article: "'America First' has become 'Defending the West.'"

When you think of it, how perfect, how fitting is it for this President, Donald Trump, to have had a campaign slogan and now a presidency that declares "America first"?

It's incredibly fitting.

This is, after all, the Republican Party. It's the political party of people who have been fighting for the already-wealthy and corporations for the last 100 years, at minimum.

So when a multi-millionaire--or possible billionaire?--becomes President through and with that same political party, it should be no surprise, then, that he adopts a policy and platform and slogan that is all about "America first." It's all about us, America, the world's richest nation, probably, somehow either only emphasizing keeping our wealth or, more likely, growing and increasing that wealth.

Nothing about helping the less advantaged. Nothing of helping the poor, the staring, the sick, the needy. Just "America first!" To heck with anybody and everybody else. 

His and their healthcare plan, if you can call it that, is more of the same. It provides yet more tax cuts for those already-wealthy while dropping, it's estimated, 32 million Americans from their health insurance and so, health care.

Now that's sick.

So yes, "America first!"  The rest of you freeloaders, get busy. Get back to work. You think we made all this money by someone just giving it to us?


Quote of the Day -- On the Orange Nightmare


From economist Paul Krugman.



Clearly the most important thing happening in and to America right now is the constitutional crisis. Not potential crisis: it’s already here. The president’s inner circle is under investigation for possible collusion with a hostile foreign power, collusion that may have put him in office; he himself, whether or not he’s currently a direct target of that investigation, is clearly suspect. Yet he has already made clear his determination to block any investigation that gets too close.

This is way worse than Nixon – yet all indications are that the moral rot of the Republican Party now runs so deep that the constitutional answer to a rogue president is null and void. This is an existential threat to the republic, and it can be hard to focus on anything else.

From the article:  

What We're Getting With and From This President


Columnist Leonard Pitts puts it very well today.


So here we are, six months later. How time has trudged.

But the calendar does not lie. On Thursday, we will be half a year through the Trump Era. And, contrary to his signature promise, America seems less great by the day. Nor are his other promises faring particularly well.

There is no sign of progress on that border wall, much less any idea how he is going to make Mexico pay for the thing. His promise to preserve Medicaid and provide healthcare for everyone has dissolved into a GOP bill that would gut Medicaid and rob millions of their access to healthcare.

Meantime, the guy who once said he would be working so hard he would seldom leave the White House spends more time on golf courses than a groundskeeper.

But for all that Trump has not achieved, there is, I think, one thing he indisputably has. He has taught us to live in a state of perpetual chaos and continuous crisis. Six months later, the White House commands the same horrified attention as a car wreck or a house fire.

In that sense, last week’s revelation that the Trump campaign, in the person of Donald Trump Jr., did in fact collude with a hostile foreign power to influence the 2016 election was just another Tuesday. Sure, it might have been shocking from the Bush or Obama campaigns. But under Trump, we live in a state of routine calamity.

Besides which, a few days from now, there will be something else. With Trump, there inevitably is. Things can always get worse — and usually do.

And when they can do, we can count on the GOP, that inexhaustible fount of righteous outrage, to stand tall and courageously look the other way. For almost 20 years,the party has never seen a minor episode (“Travelgate”), a sheer nothing (Whitewater) or even an international tragedy (Benghazi) it could not turn into Watergate II. Yet, as credible accusations of treason, obstruction, collusion, and corruption swirl about this White House, the GOP has been conspicuous in its acquiescent silence. It seems the elephant has laryngitis.

But the rest of us can’t stop talking.

Indeed, from the studios of CNN to the bar stools of your neighborhood watering hole, amateur psychoanalysis has become America’s favorite pastime in the last six months. Dozens of theories have been floated, all aimed at answering one question:

What is wrong with him?

But I have come to believe that question misses the point. Sixty-three million people voted for this. And make no mistake, they knew what they were getting. It was always obvious that Trump was a not-ready-for-prime-time candidate, but they chose him anyway. And the rest of us need to finally come to grips with the reason why.

It wasn’t economic anxiety. As a study co-sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic reported in May, people who were worried for their jobs voted for Hillary Clinton. But people who dislike Mexicans and Muslims, people who oppose same-sex marriage, people mortally offended at a White House occupied by a black guy with a funny name, they voted for Trump.

That’s the reality, and it’s time we quit dancing around it.

This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question.

What in the world is wrong with us?


Links to more of Mr. Pitts columns:


Republican Party has ‘flat out lost its mind’

Mr. President: ‘Just who the hell do you think you are?’

No, Donald Trump isn’t crazy, but he’s not very smart, either

President Trump is an 'F' student


Quote of the Day -- Sunday Edition



"Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality." 

--Gora

Saturday, July 22, 2017

This Bizarro Administration


Bill Moyers on Donald Trump and this Presidential administration.


We’re now six months into the Trump Presidency…and what do we have? Especially in light of the stunning new New York Times interview with Mr. Trump?

A reasonable analysis is: What we have is the weakest, most chaotic, toxic and confusing first six months of any U.S. Presidency in history. Only Abraham Lincoln got off to a worst start, with the country virulently divided over slavery and the Civil War looming. Fair to note that Lincoln went on to become one of the greatest Presidents ever, but the challenges Lincoln faced were epochal, not the self-inflicted implosion we are currently witnessing. Lincoln's successor Andrew Johnson had a rough start too. But Johnson was not an elected President; he ascended to the office upon the assassination of President Lincoln and the Civil War.

No elected President—none—has had such a tumultuous, scandal-threatened, and downright mind-boggling start, with such low public approval, as has this one. And this has happened while the President’s party controlled both Houses of Congress, now likely the Supreme Court, a majority of governorships and state legislatures—and the FBI.

It is not bias or political partisanship to conclude this. It is fact, historical and otherwise. It is those who deny this that are the ones blinded by partisanship.

With this fact—and in no small part because of it—comes a companion conclusion: that this is dangerous time. Very. No one should underestimate the potential peril. Not just for the Trump Presidency but also and more importantly for the country. Our people are troubled and divided. Friends and allies abroad are worried (as in, “what the hell has happened to America?) Enemies and competitors smell vulnerability.

In his NYT interview, Mr. Trump blasted his own appointed Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions, and, in effect and not for the first time, threatened Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible crimes involving Trump family members and associates and Russia. Mr Trump specifically demanded that Mueller avoid looking into the President’s tax returns and financial dealings. In other words, “don’t follow the money,” in regards to possible Russian dealings or anything else. Thus, raising anew the question, “what is he hiding?”

So, six months in, and on and on it goes. Where it ends no one knows.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Entertainment Overnight -- Can't Stop


Parts I and II





Missouri Makes a Very Dark List


Wow.

Missouri not only made the top, worst 10 on a new survey of the 50 states in America, it actually made the top, worst 5.

America's 10 worst states to live in 2017 

- CNBC.com


"These are the 10 worst states in the US for quality of life, including crime, health, social tolerance and the environment."

So check out what they say about our own Show Me state:

Related image

5. MISSOURI

Show Me how to stay safe in Missouri, where violent crime in all categories has been rising, in some cases by double digits. Missouri also lacks statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and gender identity. And the state is near the bottom for public health funding.

2017 Quality of Life score: 99 out of 300 points
Weaknesses: Crime rate, health, inclusiveness
Strength: Attractions
2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 49

Note that last statistic, too.  2016 Quality of Life rank:  49.  Out of 50, of course. Only one state worse than us, whoever that is. 

Even on this list, we're worse than Mississippi, for God's sake. 

WORSE THAN MISSISSIPPI.

Let that sink in.

I know I personally take no comfort whatever in learning that neighbor state to the South, Arkansas, is ranked 4th worst or that, again, neighbor state Oklahoma is ranked number 3.

We should no way be on this list. This is horrible.

We must do better. We have to.

And we start by getting Republicans out of public office.

Let's get started.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Entertainment Overnight -- Heatwave





Christianity and Capitalism


People, in this nation, who consider themselves to be both Capitalists and Christians are only Capitalists.


Mark 10:21-22   Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Luke 12:16-21   Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

And my personal favorite:

Matthew 19:24    Jesus said "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Think happy thoughts.

And enjoy your Sunday.

Link:  9 Jesus Quotes About The Poor


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quote of the Day/Week/Month/Year/Four Years


More Michael Gerson on The Orange One.


And here it is:


"A faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament."


And another from the same article:


"Putting a future president in the debt of a foreign power — and subject, presumably, to blackmail by that power — is the height of sleazy stupidity. It is not a mistake born of greenness; it is evidence of a vacant conscience."

I say again, God help us.


The Most Insightful Writing On This President?


I do believe, personally, that Michael Gerson may well be writing the most lucid, insightful and intelligent, relevant, nearly important pieces about this current President.



It is sometimes argued that the media should spend less time on President Trump’s transgressive tweets in order to devote more attention to real issues such as North Korea. In fact, it is necessary to focus on Trump’s tweets precisely because they shed light on the mind that is doing the deciding on North Korea. It is a distasteful exercise. But we cannot look away. We need to know the state of mind we’re dealing with.

Trump’s tweets reveal a leader who is compulsive, abusive and easily triggered. Trump describes all this as “modern day presidential.”

What we are witnessing is not a new age in presidential communications. It is an ongoing, public breakdown. And the question naturally arises: Is this the result of mental dysfunction?

Most psychiatrists are (understandably) uncomfortable with diagnosis from a distance. And the particular diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder requires significant impairment – which is a hard case to make of a figure at the pinnacle of American politics.

And yet. There are judgments that must be made about the fitness of the leaders. Citizens are under no ethical obligation to be silent when they see serious dysfunction. The challenge here is not merely the trashing of political norms. The main problem is the possibility that America has an unbalanced president during a period of high-stakes global testing. This is not a clinical diagnosis. It is a civic and political judgment, made necessary by the president’s own words and acts. Trump holds a job that requires, above all else, the ability to unite and steady the nation in a time of crisis. There is no reason to believe he can play that role.

Much of the prudence and courage required to confront this problem will need to come from Republicans and conservatives. Where to start? How about refusing to downplay revolting lunacy?

It is not merely an “occasional ad hominem” for a president to employ the tremendous power of his office to target individual American citizens who oppose him. It is an abuse of power.

It is not merely “uncouth” for a president to tolerate, even to hint support for, violence against political opponents (“I’d like to punch him in the face”). It creates an atmosphere of intimidation.

It is not merely “exaggeration” for a president to issue a series of eye-stretching lies, including that his predecessor spied on him and that a popular vote victory was denied to him by widespread electoral fraud. It indicates either a deep cynicism or a tenuous connection to reality.

It is not being “coarse” for a president to engage in consistent misogyny. It is a sign of a disturbing and deep-seated dehumanization of women.

Many conservatives would respond to this critique by saying, “At least he fights!” The question is: For what? Trump evinces no strong or consistent policy views. He fights for himself – for admiration and adulation – which is the only cause his extreme narcissism allows.

Many conservatives would also respond by saying, “At least he does conservative things!” But if health care is any indication, Trump lacks conviction, knowledge and the ability to persuade.

House and Senate Republicans should be prepared to aggressively challenge unbalanced or unhinged presidential language and decisions, rather than trying to dismiss them as simply a “distraction.”

No one really knows how to deal with this situation, which still feels more like an unnerving political novel than our political reality. Trump has led our country into unexplored territory. If this is “modern day presidential,” all progress moves toward the past.


--Michael Gerson served as President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001-2006 and is a columnist for the Washington Post


Wednesday, July 12, 2017