Trump and the art of distraction

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YouTube, like Facebook, is a great time-waster. A vehicle for great distraction, a bad influence, a website devoted to the notion that we have all the time in the day to watch endless cat videos. Or in today’s case, White House Correspondents Dinners — the comedians tapped for the honor of roasting the press, Congress, newsmakers of all stripes and of course the President of the United States.

There’s no way of getting around it: Donald Trump is the Commander-in-Chief. (YouTube)

First of all I would like to point out something that just sort of bothers me. A pet peeve, if you will. For the past 15 years or so when people talk about the President of the United States — regardless of who he was or is — they refer to him as “The Commander-in-Chief.” Many, who have no real clue of what that is or means, tend to leave out the hyphens. They are not dashes — which are the bits of punctuation before and after this phrase (they are longer and disconnected from the words) — when writing the title “Commander-in-Chief” be sure to add the hyphens and capitalize “Commander” and “Chief.”

Anyway, the President of the United States is indeed the Commander-in-Chief, but that is just one of the responsibilities of the Office of President. Are we becoming so militarized that the president is being refereed to primarily as the ultimate military leader? Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Generalissimo Augusto Pinochet, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Apparently the Libyan government prior to 1969 was so weak a mere colonel could overthrow it.

At any rate, this is the United States of America. We are not ruled by military dictators, we elect (sort of) civilian presidents. “Sort of” because in this last presidential election the candidate with the most votes did not win. A blowhard A-hole won the most Electoral College votes. Many of us think the E.C. should be eliminated. Unfortunately it takes a Constitutional amendment to make that happen, which means it wouldn’t be a quick and easy process and let’s face it, there is a lot that can distract us from the task, especially in the age of President Trump.

Which brings us back to the origin of this column — distractions. Specifically in this case, YouTube and Facebook.

Comedian and actor Craig Ferguson preforming at the 2008 White House Correspondents Dinner (YouTube)

So, while looking for photos for another writer’s piece I decided to try YouTube for clips from one movie. Well, after getting what I wanted I found a clip of Craig Ferguson’s White House Correspondents Dinner bit from 2008. It was good, made people laugh — and think — and then that was over there was a collection of other comedians doing the White House Correspondents Dinner. Seth Myer, Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, and Al Franken. Now Senator Al Franken, but then comedian and author Al Franken. It was his second time on the dais, May 1996, when President Bill Clinton was in a not-so-heated race for the White House with then Senator Bob Dole. He also did the dinner in 1994.

Franken ripped Dole a bit, but he did tell a funny story about the Dutch media and Dole that pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the former Senator and soldier from Kansas.

So all of the YouTube reminiscing took bout two hours and I was left thinking Senator Al Franken (pictured at the top), Democrat from Minnesota, is the only senator — or politician of any stripe — to be the guest comedian at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Some presidents have been funny, very comedian-like in some cases, but Franken is the first comedian to get elected to the U.S. Senate.

We’ve had actors become U.S. Representatives. Sonny Bono represented the Palm Springs area, followed by his wife when Mr. Bono hit a tree head-on while skiing, both representing the GOP.

At any rate I watched several hours of comedians and one president doing the Correspondents Dinner routines. I still love President Obama roasting Donald Trump in 2011. All of it distracting me from the news of the day.

So the big distraction today, revealed yesterday, was the CBO report that says 24 million people will lose their health care under the Trumpcare plan the GOP leadership is desperately trying to shove through Congress and to the president’s desk — 14 million just next year alone.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (YouTube)

Twenty-four million of your friends, neighbors and family. Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz says that if you give up your $600 iPhone you can afford the $5,000 increase in your healthcare costs. He actually said that. “Americans have choices, and they’ve gotta’ make a choice. So maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they wanna go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve gotta make those decisions themselves.”

Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California’s 29th district said in a statement, “This report leaves no doubt — under the Republicans’ bill, Americans will pay more for less. Older Americans will face higher premiums, forcing them to pay up to five times more than what a younger person pays. And it will make healthcare harder and more expensive for working families to get. It gives huge tax credits to the wealthy, while ripping apart Medicaid. The Republican plan strips 24 million Americans of their coverage and nearly doubles the amount of uninsured to 56 million people. It leaves them in the dust without healthcare. The Republicans are ramming this plan through Congress. It is reckless and unacceptable.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee
(Official photo)

Rep. Barbara Lee from California’s 13th District said, “Today, the Congressional Budget Office confirmed our worst fears: Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will bring chaos to our health care system and steal insurance from millions. One thing is certain – Trumpcare is a sham. Their plan asks Americans to pay more money for less coverage and leaves the poor without life-saving medical care.

“There is simply no excuse for allowing Republicans to rip healthcare from 24 million Americans, especially when the Affordable Care Act is already working and saving lives. For over seven years, the Republican Party has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with more effective policy. Today, their cruel campaign has been exposed for what it is: a heartless handout to billionaires and pharmaceutical executives on the backs of the most vulnerable.”

It’s safe to say both Cárdenas and Lee are opposed to Trumpcare.

Rep. Lee brought up another issue that has slipped in under the radar: More U.S. combat troops have entered Syria. In a statement to the media Lee said, “I strongly object to the White House’s decision to unilaterally place U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. President Trump’s action today shows the consequences of allowing military escalation to persist without Congressional oversight. We simply cannot allow this blank check to remain on the books. The Constitution is clear: Congress must debate, vote and authorize the use of military force in matters of war and peace.”

Lee introduced a bill to stop President Trump from escalating U.S. involvement in the Middle East. You can view the bill here. She said, “The bill I am introducing today prohibits the Department of Defense from funding any attempt by the Administration to expand our presence in Syria by putting U.S. combat boots on the ground. It is our constitutional duty as Members of Congress to place a check on the Executive Branch in matters of war and peace. We owe it to our brave service members to live up to our constitutional duty. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in preventing this president from sending our troops into yet another unchecked, ill-advised war without a full and robust debate from Congress.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
delivering the spin (YouTube)

While we are concentrating on this Trumpcare plan that will dump 24 million people off healthcare, we still have the growing Russiagate scandal. How much money does President Trump owe to Deutsche Bank, which has just been fined for laundering Russian money, the origins of which are sketchy at best.

The German bank has been fined several times over the past two years and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, had been investigating the bank’s dealings here in the U.S.

Until Saturday when President Trump fired all the U.S. Attorney’s General around the country after a Sean Hannity rant on Fox News. Will that be enough to cover up any crimes committed by the Trump Campaign and Administration?

About 11 days ago the president created a major distraction when he claimed, via a tweet, President Obama had committed a major felony by having his Trump Tower “wires tapped.” His third tweet on that Saturday morning said, “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” The misspelling of “tap” is President Trump’s.

Now we have the president’s spokesmodel, Sean Spicer, trying to spin it such that the president didn’t literally mean tapping the phones. He meant surveillance in general. Although the previous Monday Spicer told reporters the president’s tweets “speak for themselves.”

White House Communications Director Kellyanne Conway spinning microwaves into cameras. (YouTube)

And communications director Kellyanne Conway started talking gibberish about microwaves turning into cameras (the ovens, not the actual waves). I have to be honest here: I started Googling micro waves to see if they could be turned into cameras. I asked an engineer who works with waves of all types the question: can microwaves be turned into cameras? First he said that was dumbest thing Conway has said yet and then he explained that microwaves can be microphones. If you aim a microwave at a window (for example) it can record the vibrations, the Dopplar, the engineer called it, and get audio. But no video. But as it turns out Conway was referring to microwave ovens.

As of yet neither the president nor Conway has directly answered any questions about Trump’s accusations, instead referring reporters to Congressional investigations.

Several Republicans, like John McCain, have said the president needs to put up the proof or retract his statements. And all the president needs to do is call in the heads of the intelligence agencies, especially the F.B.I. and ask.

With all this chaos and misdirection, including the latest roll out of his Muslim Ban — that has already been challenged — we lose sight of the facts that Trump Campaign officials, including current Trump Administration officials (and one that was fired) were in contact with Russian officials during the campaign, when the Russians were hacking the DNC servers, and during the transition when President Obama was putting more sanctions on Russia for meddling in our election.

We already know retired Gen. Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied about their contacts with the Russians. Flynn was fired from his post as national security advisor. Sessions recused himself from any Russia-related investigations.

Donald Trump and his administration are the most corrupt in U.S. history, but because he has a GOP-controlled Congress it is, so far, going unchecked. We have a president making major policy decisions after reading or seeing some “alternative” news from worse than questionable sources (Sean Hannity and Breitbart News) and then tweeting outrageous lies.

Be sure to watch Claudia Gestro’s updates on our YouTube channel from the World Baseball Classic this week, from San Diego and Los Angeles (Claudia Gestro)

And he’s sending troops into Syria. Remember when he called American involvement in the Middle East “dumb wars” during the campaign and promised it would come to an end with a Trump Administration?

Show us your tax returns Donny. As the great character Walter Sobchak (played by John Goodman) in The Big Lebowski said, “Donny, you’re out of your element!”

One last note: we have some really great sports videos on YouTube so please do spend a little time watching them. We have videos from Spring Training, the World Baseball Classic and our local teams: Kings, Ducks, Clippers and Lakers. You won’t be wasting any time with those.

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UPDATE: Let’s not forget Iowa Congressman Steve King’s ( @SteveKingIA ) racists tweets, starting with, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Say what? And then: “I’ll be up on this hour. Let’s Make Western Civilization Great Again!” Uh … okay. Read Main Kampf much?

Then there’s his fellow Tea Party nut, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh ( @WalshFreedom ) who, after seeing the parents of the Sandy Hook children that were murdered re-open their lawsuit against Remington, had this to say in a tweet: “They resurrect their failed lawsuit against Remington. I’ll just say it: Sandy Hook Parents: Your 15 minutes is up.”

Walsh also backs up King’s tweets with his own.

This is the Republican Party today; racist xenophobes who tell parents of murdered children their voices are not welcome in the public arena.

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UPDATE: Yet another distraction. On MSNBC’s the Rachel Maddow Show a portion — some say cherry picked — of President Trump’s 2005 tax returns. It didn’t show any sources of his income that year, which was more than $100 million, only that he paid over $30 million in taxes, abut 25 percent. The forms didn’t answer any of the important questions about the president’s finances, like what kind of swamp he’s in with Deutsche Bank and Russian Oligarchs, but it showed that in 2005 President Trump was a good tax-paying citizen.

Washington, D.C. reporter David Cay Johnston — Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist — that a lot of people have heard of, said he received the forms in the mail, anonymously of course. Johnston has been covering Donald Trump for 30 years, first for the Philadelphia Inquirer and then with the New York Times. Before that he was a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads his own bureau, the DCReport. David Cay Johnston has been around the journalism block a few times covering everything from police corruption in Los Angeles to the Wall Street bailout of 2008 to, well, Donald Trump. Johnston is a well-known journalist with a long and distinguished career.

When asked where these forms — that put such a nice, positive spin on President Trump’s tax-paying habits — possibly care from, Johnston said, “… it could have been leaked by someone at his direction. With Donald, you know, you never know. Yes, I think I have to include that in the list of possibilities of where it came from.”

It’s interesting to note that the Trump Administration put out a statement before the Rachel Maddow Show aired, saying, “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago,” its statement said. “Despite this substantial income figures and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.”

No laws were broken to reveal this limited view of Trump’s 2005 tax returns, it’s just another lie from President Trump, the most dishonest and corrupt president in history. But what this little revelation did do is distract, if only temporarily, the public from the very real possibility that this president is beholden to a foreign power, a dictator, that is trying to de-stabilize the European Union and NATO.

And it is also distracting everyone from the Trumpcare problem that is quickly becoming a debacle in Congress as Republicans in the House and Senate are denouncing the plan introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Does anyone really believe someone other than Donald Trump had these tax forms sent to one of the best investigative journalists in America? If there is I have a couple of microwave cameras to sell.

Top photo: Then comedian Al Franken performing at the
1994 White House Correspondents Dinner. (YouTube screen shot)