By Doug Porter
The listicles are popping up all over the media world, hoping to capture the essence of what 100 days of Donald Trump in the White House means for the United States.
The New York Times headline reads “Trump Wants It Known: Grading 100 Days Is ‘Ridiculous’ (but His Were the Best).” The Hill is dutifully reporting on the new White House web page touting the first 100 days, making the claim “this President has enacted more legislation and signed more executive orders than any other president in over a half century,”
The executive order part is actually true, which is more than a little ironic coming from a man who spent much of last year whining about his predecessor’s actions in this arena. I’m old enough to remember when executive orders were equated with the mark of the devil in some quarters. And you can give Trump a ‘partially true’ on legislation only if you count bills undoing Obama executive orders.
More Than He Could Chew
Paul Brandus at Marketwatch compares Trump’s first lap to Jimmy Carter’s:
…Carter bit off more than he could chew. His presidency began in a rush, with multiple priorities that spread himself too thin. Everything was critical and had to be done yesterday. He and his so-called “Georgia Mafia” picked fights with members of their own party, insulting them when they didn’t get their way.
He hopped from item to item, changing direction frequently and lacking overall focus. His presidency never recovered.
Substitute “Trump” for “Carter” and the story’s about the same.
But the similarities end there. Carter still got laws passed and had a 63% approval rating, some 21 percentage points above Trump. And, of course, Carter was scrupulously honest. He said he’d never lie to the American people—and didn’t. Trump, on the other hand, can’t make it through a day without lying—and then he lies about lying. President Trump possesses the worst characteristics of Carter—but none of the best.
Jason Linkins at HuffPo (they’ve officially dropped the longer name) has a more negative view:
When you factor in his understaffed administration, the fact that many of the policies he has enacted don’t square with his campaign rhetoric, and the way CEOs have adapted to new realities by cutting Trump in on their public relations strategies, it would seem the story of Trump’s first 100 days is that he’s not so much an influential president as he is a president who can be influenced. Really, the ones who ought to take a victory lap are the people who’ve managed to hem Trump in thus far.
Trump did get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, though! And he only had to sacrifice the judicial filibuster to do it. He’d better hope the GOP keeps the Senate, or we might be re-evaluating even that accomplishment somewhere down the line.
The Scene of the Crime
The real accomplishment of the Trump White House –which at this point should be ringed by crime scene tape– has been making it past 100 days with no indictments.
The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates nearly three-quarters of Americans want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
The stench of scandal becomes more pronounced daily. Trump’s toadies at the National Enquirer are now pushing a theory holding that the President was blissfully unaware of the treasonist actions of his entourage.
Although I have doubts about reports from the legion of Trump conspiracy experts saying indictments are due shortly, two avenues are being considered by Federal and State prosecutors.
Five Eyes Tell No Lies
At the Federal level, it’s all about Russian intelligence operations. As was true in the case of past prosecutions in this area, the indictable crimes will likely come from the cover-up of the original acts. Too many of the claims in the vaunted ‘dossier’ composed by an ex-British spook would rely on proof gleaned via signals intelligence, much of which comes via close allies, including several NATO countries.
Here’s today’s tidbit, via the Associated Press:
The senior members of the House Oversight Committee say classified military documents show that the Trump administration’s former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, did not ask permission or inform the U.S. government about payments he received for appearances before Russian organizations in 2015 and for lobbying that helped Turkey’s government.
Flynn’s failure to obtain permission from military authorities for the payments raises concern whether Flynn violated a constitutional ban on foreign payments to retired military officers. That’s according to Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings.
The two leaders of the oversight committee said there was no evidence Flynn complied with federal law. They said Flynn could be criminally prosecuted, and they said Flynn should surrender the money he was paid.
Do Not Pass Go
The more interesting–and potentially winnable–basis for prosecuting members of the current administration (and presumably Trump himself) lies in the work being done by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
In March he hired public-corruption expert Howard McMaster from the office of former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. My understanding is the investigation is focused on financial dealings with a variety of international entities, most of whom have connections to… wait for it… Russia.
Last month, at a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Schneiderman revealed that his office was discussing strategies and doing research to determine what kind of action could be taken to address concerns about Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and possible violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits anyone holding a federal “office” from accepting payments from foreign entities.
“Certainly, my office is looking at anything that’s passed on to us and doing our own research,” Schneiderman said. “We’ve had meetings with people discussing these matters already.” But, he added that it was “premature to say one way or another how this is going to proceed.”
Here’s my favorite part of the State investigation angle: Presidents can not pardon convictions made under State law.
The Silver Lining
There is good news coming out of Trump’s first 100 days, and Eric Liu gets it mostly right in a Washington Post op-ed, is the emergence of a politically engaged population:
All across the country, in red and blue precincts alike, many Americans are for the first time joining civic clubs, publishing newsletters, creating political reading groups, organizing rallies, lobbying lawmakers and relearning the basics of how a bill becomes a law — or how a court can block an executive order.
To be sure, President Trump didn’t intend to generate this civic surge. And he tries at every turn and in every tweet to play down or discredit it. But it nonetheless is the most concrete way that Trump thus far has made America great again: He has awakened millions of people to become active participants in civic life rather than passive spectators.
The nationwide science marches, tax marches and women’s marches are one measure of this great awakening. So are the rallies in defense of Trump. So is the influx of dollars and volunteer hours to groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union or the Southern Poverty Law Center. So, too, is the phenomenal growth of Indivisible, which began as a Google document written by ex-congressional staffers on how to pressure a member of Congress and has now spawned more than 6,000 self-organized local chapters. This is a new and durable force in American politics.
San Diego’s Indivisible chapters are coordinating countywide, taking on issues large and small, ranging from attending the Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Delegation luncheon (and picketing outside) to attending meetings of the Otay Water District board of directors leading up the censure of their fellow director, Hector Gastelum.
The Powell Memo: A Gameplan for the Rich
It’s not like Donald Trump and the party he represents popped up overnight. Understanding how we got here is also important, as these paragraphs from the Popular Resistance Newsletter (read the whole thing when you get the chance) show:
We are in a critical juncture of history and it is important to understand how we got here. The movements of the 60s and 70s, which built on decades of work that came before them, scared the power elites because they were successfully changing the political culture and economic system. The elites responded with a clear plan, outlined in the Powell Memo in 1971, that was put into action and is responsible in large part for the crises and insecurity that we experience today. The memo, “Attack On American Free Enterprise System,” was written by Lewis Powell an attorney whom Richard Nixon nominated to the Supreme Court later in 1971…
…Journalist Bill Moyers writes about what happened after the Powell Memo was circulated:
“Within two years the board of the Chamber of Commerce had formed a task force of forty business executives—from US Steel, GE, GM, Phillips Petroleum, 3M, Amway, and ABC and CBS (two media companies, we should note). Their assignment was to coordinate the crusade, put Powell’s recommendations into effect and push the corporate agenda. Powell had set in motion a revolt of the rich…”
…It is important to understand that we arrived in this situation by what Moyers described as “careful long-range planning and implementation…consistency of action over an indefinite period of years…” By understanding this was a plan, we should understand that we need to design a way out of it. This includes seeing through the propaganda and exposing the truth; not allowing ourselves to be divided into issue-based silos or taken off track by the agenda of plutocratic political parties; and organizing not just to resist, but more importantly to demand the changes we require in our communities and on the planet.
Women Take the Lead
Last Friday’s Washington Post surveyed the political landscape, finding a surge of interests by non-traditional constituencies in running for elective office.
“This is unprecedented,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, the progressive organization that trains and recruits women to run for political office. During the 2016 cycle, her group spoke with about 900 women interested in running for school board, state legislature or Congress. This year, they’ve heard from more than 11,000 women in all 50 states — with a few dozen seriously considering House races, she said…
…Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Fund, which trains Latino Democratic candidates up and down the ballot, said that at this same point two years ago, the group had held “just a handful” of conversations with potential congressional candidates. This year, he’s talked to 12 potential candidates about challenging Republican congressmen in Texas, Florida and Virginia…
“…I’ve never seen anything like it” added physicist Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former Democratic congressman from New Jersey. Holt said he used to get one or two inquiries a year from fellow scientists interested in entering politics. But in the past five months, more than a dozen people have reached out.
More Protests Coming
Resistance to an executive branch out of control needs to happen on many fronts. Looking past the upcoming People’s Climate March and the widespread protests being organized on May 1, there are marches for LGBTQ Rights, support of the Arts, and a national action calling attention to #RussiaGate being organized.
Some of the more mundane work going on, like researching campaign funding, attending a city council meeting, and get out the vote campaigns is a lot less glamorous than marching down the street with a snappy sign. But needs to be done. Only on TV do the bad guys suddenly quit.
If you’re looking for bright lights and excitement stick to the entertainment world.
Getting our country out of the mess it’s in is going to take a lot of work over a long time. Let’s do this.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
Get the Weekly Progressive Calendar delivered to your inbox every Friday. And it’s Free! Subscribe and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.