Good Luck and All That

“We’ve got stop being so nice to people, folks!”

Donald Trump said that more than a few times when he was running for president. That was a winner. Sometimes that referred to foreign aid – he was against it. What good did foreign aid ever get us? Sometimes that referred to the cops having to read suspects their rights and be civil to them, and not just shoot them. He was against that too. The Black Lives Matter movement was a terrorist organization after all. Sometimes it referred to political correctness – pretending that Muslims and Mexicans and young black “thugs” deserved any kind of respect at all. They didn’t. Those who thought they did were “snowflakes” – upset when a rightly enraged white man called another black man a nigger. That was just a word. Liberal snowflakes would melt. They couldn’t handle the truth, and really, being nice to people was dishonest these days. Being nice to people would get us all killed. All those people wanted to kill us – and of course half the country was just plain tired of being nice to people that they really didn’t like at all. They were tired of being scolded.

Donald Trump offered Americans a permission slip. It was okay to call a spade a spade, and okay not to worry about how that word has been used over the years. Empathy was for fools, and Canadians. Sure, Justine Trudeau is a warm and caring and thoughtful man, but is Canada a world power? Obama was all empathy, almost a damned Canadian. Trump was a truth-teller. And it was okay not to give a shit. Real Americana don’t give a shit about your feelings. Get over it.

That was heady stuff. That may be why Donald Trump won the election, but it has its limits:

President Donald Trump on Friday had a simple message for the people of Texas, as the state faces what many have speculated will be the most damaging hurricane to make landfall nationwide since Hurricane Katrina in 2005: “Good luck.”

“Mr. President, do you have a message for the people of Texas?” a reporter shouted at the President as he walked to Marine One, which was waiting to whisk him away to Camp David.

“Good luck to everybody!” Trump yelled back. “They’re going to be safe. Good luck to everybody. Good luck.”

What did they expect, empathy? What did they expect, promises of help from their government? Forget it:

The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been without a permanent leader since John Kelly was sworn in as Trump’s chief of staff on July 31.

Donald Trump has other things to worry about:

Gary D. Cohn, the director of the White House Economic Council, wrote a resignation letter after President Trump blamed “both sides” in the deadly protest this month against a Charlottesville, Va., rally by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, according to three people familiar with the document.

Mr. Cohn ultimately changed his mind and decided in recent days to remain on as Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, said one person familiar with his thinking.

But in a stunning critique of the president, Mr. Cohn told The Financial Times in an interview published on Friday that the Trump administration “can and must do better” to condemn hate groups and “do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities.”

Donald Trump has a damned snowflake on his hands:

On Aug. 15, Mr. Cohn stood nearby in the lobby of Trump Tower, where the president told reporters there also were “very fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville rally. After Mr. Trump left, Mr. Cohn stood uncomfortably fielding questions about the president’s statements, and he repeatedly declined to comment.

He debated for over a week with his wife and friends on whether to quit, according to the people familiar with his thinking. This week, Mr. Cohn decided to remain in his job, believing he could be more effective as a public servant inside the White House than out of it.

He is one of the few Jewish members in the administration who have publicly condemned Mr. Trump’s remarks about Charlottesville, although he has quietly disagreed with the president on a number of policy matters.

Donald Trump has a Jewish snowflake on his hands:

On Friday, Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to Mr. Trump, tweeted that Mr. Cohn “should be fired immediately for his public attack on the president.” In his tweet, Mr. Stone misspelled the name of Mr. Cohn, whom he has aggressively criticized, and said the economic adviser was “recommended for his White House job by Jared Kushner.”

In short, those damned Jews stick together, but this one isn’t going anywhere:

Mr. Cohn told The Financial Times that “as a Jewish American, I will not allow neo-Nazis ranting ‘Jews will not replace us’ to cause this Jew to leave his job.”

And the other Jew isn’t a snowflake at all:

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who also is Jewish, defended Mr. Trump in a statement a week ago, after more than 300 of his Yale classmates urged him in a letter to step down. At a briefing with reporters at the White House on Friday, Mr. Mnuchin, an old business partner of Mr. Trump who has at times clashed over policy with Mr. Cohn, told reporters that under no circumstances has he considered resigning.

He’ll work for the guy who says that those who march arm-in-arm with the neo-Nazis can be fine people, really, and that those who protest against those neo-Nazis are a vile bunch themselves. Steven Mnuchin shrugs. He’ll praise Jesus, if necessary – but Donald Trump has a headache here. Does he show Gary Cohn a bit of empathy or fire his sorry ass? Trump ran on the idea that empathy is stupid, and dangerous. What does he do now?

And then there’s Janet Yellen on his plan to totally deregulate Wall Street:

Yellen, 71, made clear in her speech on Friday that she believes tighter regulations and standards have made the banking system safer and that while some improvements could be made, they should be modest, not structural. “The evidence shows that reforms since the crisis have made the financial system substantially safer,” Yellen said, according to prepared remarks.

Does he now say she’s full of shit, and that all that evidence is fake news, or does he show some empathy for those who were financially ruined the last time around and admit that she might, maybe, have a bit of a small point, maybe, just maybe? That would confuse his base. She’s toast.

And things only got worse:

Richard Spencer, a noted white nationalist and supporter of President Donald Trump, is one of many frequent guests at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C., according to a New York Times report published Friday.

Spencer was spotted at the hotel in early August, the Times reported, along with Evan McLaren, who works at Spencer’s white nationalist think tank, the National Policy Institute.

McLaren declined to answer Times’ reporter Katie Rogers’ request for comment at the time about his visit to the hotel because he said he was “too busy planning a rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia. That rally, where white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters, left one dead at the hands of an apparent white supremacist.

McLaren tweeted of his time at the hotel, “place to be,” after observing Trump advisor Stephen Miller meeting with Nigel Farage, a founder of the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party, at the hotel.

What, the white supremacists and neo-Nazis plan their “blood and soil” scream-at-the-Jews torchlight parades at Trump’s flagship luxury hotel? That’s a bother, but perhaps Trump can show them some empathy. Everyone deserves a bit of luxury, if they can afford it – and Donald Trump, like all Americans, has the right to make a little money on the side. What else is the presidency for?

Some snowflakes might say the presidency isn’t all about making the president even richer, and there were other worries too – Robert Mueller is looking into Michael Flynn’s potential ties to Russian hackersMueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Paul Manafort – the usual Russia stuff. Mueller may “flip” these two guys. They may spill the beans on Trump to save themselves, but that may take some time. Donald Trump can worry about that later.

Did someone mention a giant hurricane slamming into Texas? Forget that. It was once again time to show that empathy is stupid:

President Donald Trump on Friday signed a directive reinstating a ban on transgender individuals from serving in the military, although it defers to the Pentagon on whether to remove those now in uniform and leaves open the door for it to seek changes.

Trump’s directive, issued to the Defense and Homeland Security Departments, reinstates a prohibition of transgender service members lifted last year, putting a formal stamp on a politically divisive change in military personnel policy that Trump first announced last month.

Well, this was bold:

Trump’s announcement last month on Twitter that he planned to reverse the Obama policy was hailed by some conservatives who argue that the military has become a social experiment. But it also drew widespread condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans, who argue the policy shift is discriminatory and would disrupt military readiness.

That’s putting it mildly. The military has no problem with its transgender members. They ignored the Twitter thing. Each branch issued statements that they’ll stand behind anyone who’s willing to fight for their country. Even John McCain said this was stupid, but Trump says we have to stop being so nice to people, not that it matters:

Experts predict that implementation of the ban will prove a lethal thicket and predict a series of court challenges that will likely delay the policy.

That may not matter either. Let this die in the courts. This was an anti-empathy signal to the base.

Okay. Now the next question. Which group of so-called “Americans” should be banned from the military next? Muslims, of course. Gays, like before? Atheists? Lutherans? Mormons? Jews? The Irish? Women? English majors? The possibilities are endless – but for now it’s the mutant perverts who hate Jesus. That’ll do, for now. We’ve got stop being so nice to people, folks.

Forget the Texas hurricane. That was the theme of the day:

President Trump on Friday pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff whose aggressive efforts to hunt down and detain undocumented immigrants made him a national symbol of the divisive politics of immigration and earned him a criminal contempt conviction.

In a two-paragraph statement, the White House said that Mr. Arpaio gave “years of admirable service to our nation” and called him a “worthy candidate for a presidential pardon.”

Mr. Trump called Mr. Arpaio “an American patriot” in a tweet later Friday. “He kept Arizona safe!” the president said.

In his own tweets, Mr. Arpaio thanked Mr. Trump and called his conviction “a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama justice department.” He also pointed his supporters to a website that was accepting donations to help him pay off his legal fees.

That’s not the whole story:

Mr. Arpaio, 85, served for 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County – which includes Phoenix – building a national reputation for harsh conditions in his county jail, and for his campaign against undocumented immigrants.

Mr. Arpaio had touted himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” making inmates wear pink underwear and serving jail food that at least some prisoners called inedible. He was also at the forefront of the so-called birther movement that aimed to investigate President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

The criminal conviction grew out of a lawsuit filed a decade ago charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally and turning them over to the immigration authorities.

A federal district judge hearing the case ordered Mr. Arpaio in 2011 to stop detaining people based solely on suspicion of their immigration status, when there was no evidence that a state law had been broken. But the sheriff insisted that his tactics were legal and that he would continue employing them.

He was convicted last month of criminal contempt of court for defying the order, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

And here come the snowflakes:

Few of President Trump’s actions have touched a nerve among Latinos across the political spectrum in the United States quite like his pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty of criminal contempt after defying a federal judge’s order to stop targeting Latinos based solely on suspicion of their immigration status.

And this from a president who has called Mexican immigrants rapists, attacked a judge over his “Mexican heritage” and repeatedly vowed that Mexico, instead of American taxpayers, would pay for a wall on the southern border.

Artemio Muniz, the chairman of the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans, said Friday night that he was “beyond disgusted” by the pardon, saying on Twitter that the move essentially placed Mr. Arpaio above the law. “Conservatives who claim rule of law are #fakenews.”

Such reactions to Mr. Trump’s pardon reflect the enduring outrage over Mr. Arpaio’s actions as the longtime sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix…

“Donald Trump is an absolute coward for pardoning a man who engaged in racist police practices,” said Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona. “Arpaio was finally found guilty, but this shows that the legal system cannot deliver justice. We’ll now seek justice through elections, and Republicans in open districts of Arizona should be on edge.”

Maybe so, but new voter-ID laws may make it impossible for a lot of Hispanics to vote and the Republican base never wanted their vote anyway.

Margaret Talbot sorts this all out:

Trump is likely a fan of Arpaio’s because Arpaio is a fan of his – an early supporter who also went all in for birtherism, at one point sending members of a so-called Cold Case Posse to Hawaii to dig up something incriminating about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

But Trump probably also likes Arpaio because the former sheriff represents in miniature what the President would like to be more maximally – a successful American authoritarian. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Fox News, Trump called Arpaio “an outstanding sheriff” and “a great American patriot.” It’s worth considering what it takes, in Trump’s view, to deserve such tributes. Arpaio, who served as the sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, from 1993 until he was voted out of office, in 2016, has a long-standing reputation for flouting civil rights, particularly those of Latinos.

The details matter:

In 2011, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that Arpaio’s sheriff’s department engaged in egregious racial profiling in its traffic stops and discrimination in its jailing practices. In Maricopa County, Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than “similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” and about a fifth of traffic stops, most of which involved Latino drivers, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable seizures. Sheriff’s department officers punished Latino inmates who had difficulty understanding orders in English by locking down their pods, putting them in solitary confinement, and refusing to replace their soiled sheets and clothes. The investigation found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.”

So this is the great American patriot:

Arpaio, throughout his tenure, specialized in meting out theatrical punishments both petty and cruel. He required that detainees wear old-fashioned, black-and-white striped uniforms and pink underwear, presumably for the dollop of extra humiliation such costuming offered. He brought back chain gangs, including for women and juveniles. He housed detainees outdoors, under Army-surplus tents, in Phoenix temperatures that regularly soar well above a hundred degrees. “I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant,” Arpaio told my colleague William Finnegan, who wrote a Profile of Arpaio, in 2009. The sheriff called detainees “criminals” when they had not been convicted and once referred to his jail as “a concentration camp.” Finnegan described a federal investigation that found that “deputies had used stun guns on prisoners already strapped into a ‘restraint chair.’ The family of one man who died after being forced into the restraint chair was awarded more than six million dollars as the result of a suit filed in federal court. The family of another man killed in the restraint chair got $8.25 million in a pre-trial settlement.” (This deal was reached after the discovery of a surveillance video that showed fourteen guards beating, shocking, and suffocating the prisoner, and after the sheriff’s office was accused of discarding evidence, including the crushed larynx of the deceased.)

Empathy was never in play here:

Like Trump, Arpaio regards reporters, activists, and critics of his policies as personal enemies as well as enemies of the people. The Justice Department investigation found that his department had “engaged in a pattern or practice of retaliating against individuals for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.” It had “arrested individuals without cause, filed meritless complaints against the political adversaries of Sheriff Arpaio, and initiated unfounded civil lawsuits and investigations against individuals critical of MCSO policies and practices.” As Finnegan wrote, when the Phoenix New Times ran an investigation of Arpaio’s real-estate dealings that included his home address, the paper received a “broad subpoena, demanding, among other things, the Internet records of all visitors to its Web site in the previous two and a half years.” Sheriff’s deputies then “staged late-night raids on the homes of Michael Lacey and James Larkin, executives of Village Voice Media, which owns the New Times. The deputies arrested both men for, they said, violating grand-jury secrecy. (The county attorney declined to prosecute, and it turned out that the subpoenas were issued unlawfully.)” Local activists who applauded when someone made critical remarks about Arpaio at a Board of Supervisors meeting were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Arpaio had a private investigator follow the wife of a judge who had ruled against him. And so on.

The locals soon had just about enough of this:

Plenty of Maricopa County’s residents evidently liked Arpaio’s “colorful” reputation as America’s toughest sheriff. Crime rates in the county decreased during some years of his tenure, though crime rates declined across the country, too, so it would be difficult to ascribe the reduction to Arpaio’s policing practices. And his “toughness” came at considerable cost to the taxpayers, who have had to pay for the tens of millions of dollars it has cost the county to respond to lawsuits against the former sheriff. Meanwhile, reporting by the Associated Press and several Arizona media outlets revealed that Arpaio’s department, preoccupied with going after illegal immigration, had failed to properly investigate some four hundred sex crimes over a three-year period in the mid-two-thousands.

He was voted out of office, but he’s Trump’s man:

Choosing to pardon him is a gift to the white nationalists. But it also signals a broad-brush contempt for fundamental rights in this country. As Paul Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney in Arizona, told the Washington Post earlier this week, “If you pardon that kind of conduct, if you forgive that behavior, you are acknowledging that racist conduct in law enforcement is worth the kind of mercy that underlies a pardon – and it’s not. And it’s an abuse of the President’s discretion. It’s an injustice, and speaks volumes about the President’s disregard for civil rights if this pardon takes place.”

It took place. Deal with it, snowflake, but before the pardon, Martin Redish, a professor of constitutional law at Northwestern, had noted this:

This is uncharted territory. Yes, on its face the Constitution’s pardon power would seem unlimited. And past presidents have used it with varying degrees of wisdom, at times in ways that would seem to clash with the courts’ ability to render justice. But the Arpaio case is different: The sheriff was convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling. Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.

That’s the problem here:

In American constitutional democracy, democratic choices are limited by restraints imposed by the Constitution. The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment dictates that neither life nor liberty nor property may be deprived absent “due process,” which the Supreme Court construes to require adjudication by a neutral judge.

In short, under the Constitution one cannot be deprived of liberty without a court ruling upon the legality of the detention. The power of courts to restrain government officers from depriving citizens of liberty absent judicial process is the only meaningful way courts have to enforce important constitutional protections. But if the president can employ the pardon power to circumvent constitutional protections of liberty, there is very little left of the constitutional checks on presidential power.

I am not suggesting that the pardon power itself provides for a due process exception. To the contrary, on its face the pardon power appears virtually unlimited. But as a principle of constitutional law, anything in the body of the Constitution inconsistent with the directive of an amendment is necessarily pre-empted or modified by that amendment. If a particular exercise of the pardon power leads to a violation of the due process clause, the pardon power must be construed to prevent such a violation.

This could end up in court:

There’s no Supreme Court decision, at least that I know of, that deals specifically with the extent to which the president may employ his pardon power in this way.

But if the president can immunize his agents in this manner, the courts will effectively lose any meaningful authority to protect constitutional rights against invasion by the executive branch. This is surely not the result contemplated by those who drafted and ratified the Fifth Amendment, and surely not the result dictated by precepts of constitutional democracy. All that would remain to the courts by way of enforcement would be the possibility of civil damage awards, hardly an effective means of stopping or deterring invasions of the right to liberty…

The Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of neutral judicial process before deprivation of liberty cannot function with a weaponized pardon power that enables President Trump, or any president, to circumvent judicial protections of constitutional rights.

Says who? We’ve got to stop being so nice to people, don’t we? Okay, now we know what that really means – a quick “good luck” to the people of Texas as Trump walks away, and a police state. Good luck with that. We’ll need it.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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