|A returning Trump is boasting about how successful the G7 summit and the Nato meetings have been. “A fantastic trip” –,,,,,maybe for his personal well-being. He wants to impress his supporters and deflect from all his home-grown internal problems. But his lies are quickly uncovered by the sounds from Europe. Angela Merkel has reminded her European partners not to rely on the U.S. |
National security issues have to be solved without the United States. Trump has made America obsolete as a partner and stripped the U.S. off of its role as a world leader. And with that Putin has already won the competition. Not only has Trump lived up to his reputation for being a bully, but he also made the USA look bad on the international stage. The USA cannot be trusted anymore, said Angela Merkel.
After the unsuccessful G7 summit with demonstrative blockade attitude by US President Donald Trump, Angela Merkel called on Europe to reflect on its own forces. The German Chancellor's sentence triggered a mediaquake in the USA.
"We Europeans really have to take our fate into our own hands. The times when we could completely rely on others are a little over."
Trump has destroyed bridges to Europe
Many political observers and commentators would see Merkel's statement, "the end of a post-war era," where the US was "the dominant force in the region."
"At the same time, it is also a devastating retrospective of Donald Trump's visit to Europe," says Michael Birnbaum, leader of the Washington Post office in Brussels, Belgium. Merkel's quotation suggests that Trump has "destroyed more bridges than he built up in three days."
Monday, May 29, 2017
Mission Failed. Trump’s G7 “Success”
Sunday, May 28, 2017
New Novel By Campobello Author Bernard J. Bourque
Living on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Louis Pembroke is a scrawny and diffident twenty-three-year-old who believes that he is the reincarnation of Louis Howe, the diminutive, chain-smoking political advisor who became FDR’s secretary (chief of staff). Growing up, Louis Pembroke is psycologically and physically abused by his mother and, after her death, by an old aunt. At the Campobello Roosevelt International Park where he mows lawns, Louis has a chance encounter with eighty-five-year-old Richard Chresterton, an Englishman born in India who is rebuilding the Tyn-Y-Coed, a luxurious hotel that once existed during the glory days of Campobello’s resort era. Louis is given a job at the new establishment and develops a close connection with the owner. Accompanying Mr. Chresterton on a trip to India as his aide, Louis meets Aradhya in the slums of Dharavi. The complicated love they share and the trials they face lead to a process of renewal for Louis who must meet other challenges when he returns to Campobello.
Mr.Louis is a story of adversity, love, death and rebirth.
$13.95 available at Amazon or by contacting the author at
The book has ISBN 978-0-9959301-0-0
Friday, May 26, 2017
Only Embarrassing For U.S.
Trump shoving Montenegro’s Prime Minister
The above video would be enough to describe what kind of person Trump is. Under the big Nato meet in Brussels this American egomaniac shoves the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside to place himself in the foreground, looking arrogant, WITHOUT EVEN THINKING OF AN APOLOGY for his rudeness.
Yet every European leader has been laughing in digust at the American President, who still does not understand how Nato works and is not even able to speak one coherent sentence without having a script in front of him. Hell, he can’t even follow a script without falling into his plump language. That, however, did not keep Trump from berating Nato members about not using enough money for their defense. And even if that might be a fact, the way he brought this up was incredibly impolite and blunt.
America’a reputation is in the pits for as long as this maniac is in the Oval Office.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star….
Scientists Finally Figured Out Why Earth Twinkles From Space
DISCOVR captured a glint over South America. Scientists now think that horizontal ice crystals in the troposphere account for the phenomenon, which can be viewed from deep space. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
In a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers explain the secret behind Earth’s seeming sparkle from space: ice.
Deep Space Climate Observatory (DISCOVR), a satellite designed to alert scientists of mass coronal ejections from the sun, hangs out in space about a million miles from Earth. It’s spotted the strange glints from our home planet since it began making observations in 2015.
The glints were first recorded in a 1993 paper from Carl Sagan and his colleagues, who were examining images taken of Earth by the Galileo spacecraft as it headed toward Jupiter. At the time, the scientists noted that the flashes seemed to happen over water.
When DISCOVR launched, writes St. Fleur, the public began to ask Alexander Marshak, the paper’s author, about the glints. He discovered Sagan’s paper, but realized that the flashes in the Galileo photographs weren't limited to bodies of water. Intrigued, he worked with a team to study a year’s worth of data from DISCOVR to find the flashes’ origins.
The team looked at over 800 flashes on images taken by DISCOVR, taking latitude, angles, and oxygen absorption in Earth’s troposphere into consideration. They narrowed down their source to sunlight, then discovered that they matched up with the locations of cirrus clouds. These wispy clouds are made up of ice crystals that form in the upper troposphere. And the team thinks that horizontal ice particles inside the clouds reflect light from the Sun that can be spotted even from deep space.
That means that the twinkle is pretty different from the one that humans spot on stars. Those twinkles occur because of atmospheric turbulence on Earth that refracts starlight, creating the illusion of a shifting shape.
Earth’s distinctive glint, on the other hand, is due to its water—and the technique could one day be used to spot other water-rich planets. In a press release, Marshak says that he’s working to figure out how common the horizontal particles really are in a bid to use them to find out even more about how Earth interacts with its own far-away star.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Here’s How FDR Explained Making Electricity Public
“My friends, my policy is as radical as the Constitution of the United States,” he said
When electric power first started becoming available in the 1890s, people bought it from small private companies that sprang up around the country.
In the beginning, eager to get in on a good thing, writes the University of Oregon, many people started power companies. In the absence of regulation, things were chaotic: individual cities could have up to 30 power companies operating within that one city. “During this time,” writes the university, “some politicians called for a publicly run network in order to bring some order to the electric utility industry. But the business community successfully lobbied against government control.”
The initial chaos abated as larger companies bought up smaller power companies in the first decades of the twentieth century, the university writes. “By 1930, ten large holding companies, which were headed by multi-millionaires like John D. Rockefeller Jr., J.P. Morgan Jr. and Samuel Insull owned 75 per cent of the electric industry.”
The grid was so big and complicated, the university writes, that state regulation was impossible. But things were coming to a head: “Despite massive advertising campaigns by the private power industry condemning public ownership as ‘socialistic,’ public opinion had begun to shift toward a negative view of the big holding companies.”
A series of federal investigations revealed that the power companies were overcharging customers and paying little tax, while engaging in financial fraud. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, campaigning for president in 1932, said he had the solution to this growing problem:
Roosevelt was envisoning another way, writes Andrew Glass for Politico. He asked Congress to create “a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.” Congress responded with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation's first publicly owned power company. Roosevelt signed the bill creating the TVA on this day in 1933.
Of course, the TVA was more than a power company. It was created during the Depression, Glass writes, and the Tennessee Valley was in a bad way. The TVA would need to address more than electricity: it was created to provide flood control, assist with agricultural and economic development, maintain forested lands, and more.
When Roosevelt signed the act that created the TVA, “Malaria remained rampant in some 30 percent of the population,” Glass writes. “Household incomes averaged $640 a year. Much of the land had been farmed too hard for too long, which eroded and depleted the soil."
But the TVA brought new life to the region. “TVA-generated electricity attracted industries, which in turn created jobs,” he writes. “Light and modern appliances made life easier and farms more productive.” The TVA also worked with farmers to develop fertilizers and improve their land as well as the natural environment.
The TVA remains the largest national public power company, Glass writes, serving nearly 8.5 million customers.
Campobello Island, FDR’s summer residence did not receive electric power until 1948, but the Passamaquoddy Bay was the focus for one of the first hydro-electric power projects in the country. It was one of FDR’s friends, an American engineer by the name of Dexter Cooper, who embraced the idea of building a system of dams to capture the high tides of the Bay of Fundy, for so, during low tide, to release the water through turbines back into the ocean. As the project was launched during the depression era of the thirties, it did not receive funding and remained a project. An earthen dam, built as a pilot project, can still be seen connecting Dudley Island with Treat Island, however, the tide is slowly eating away at the dam.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
So What’s Happening?
|We enjoyed a peaceful Norwegian National Day with lots of sunshine and temps in the 70s. Attending a meeting in Eastport, ME in the morning I was back for finishing up my repair work at the Head Harbour Lightstation. Great day to hang out there. Some early visitors walking by, asking questions, but very quiet day.|
Perusing the news of the day after supper, I was wondering whether 62mill. American deplorable voters are soon to realize what idiot of a president they have elected. The turmoil in Washington and the White House seems far greater than under Watergate, especially when considering the short time Trump has been in office. I guess it takes a special kind of stupidity and naivety to assume that a politically unexperienced multibillionaire would be able to run the country.
I also noticed that the cheers of the Trump crowds have fallen silent for some time, indicating that the deplorables are starting to look for cover,
America’s international reputation was in the pits when Bush turned the country over to Obama. But thanks to President Obama’s knowledge and sensible rule, America gained back its reputation. Now, after barely 120 days of Trump, the world is watching in disgust and disbelief as America is reeling from one scandal and misstep after the other. Is the American Trump supporter realizing that he has been “trumped”? Is he anywhere near an understanding of that America has been made small again? The speeches of the Trump rallies may still be echoing in their ears, but reality shows that the words raining down on the cheering crowds were hollow, meaningless and without merit in reality.
The angry American who voted for Trump is still angry and the flame of hope he still might have, is getting smaller and smaller, soon to die. The men and women behind it being the victims of their own actions. How could they believe that a billionaire would use his time and energy to help the poor on the streets? If Trump should indeed survive the ongoing crisis, the cuts and bruises he is about to inflict on America will be sores which will take a long time to heal.
With that said, I fully understand why so many Americans are so angry, They have been had for so many decades of exploitation made possible by their government, they have been listening to the promises of big business that the crumbs finally left over on the table got moldy.
Over decades the American voter has been told that big business will take care of his income by providing work for all.
In their greedy exploitation of the American worker American industry leaders have “missed the boat”, have forgotten to adjust in time, and instead been looking for cheap solutions by moving production of their dated products out of the country.
|Government followed suit by making sure that education in public schools has been neglected. Keeping education levels low is a sure fire way of helping republicans and the rich. The way Trump came to power is illustrating that very nicely. Countries with a high level of education, like f.ex. the Scandinavian countries, don’t have the same political problem today. |
America will reach a point of no return in 2018. To stop the dismantling of democratic values and the spread of corruption, the Democrats need to gain majority in the house and the senate. If that fails, the path forward will lead through hell.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Why Norway Is Celebrating May 17
Monday, May 15, 2017
Let Me Show You How It’s Done, Mr. President. Signed, ‘Tricky Dick’
Saturday, May 13, 2017
The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump by Zembla and vara.nl
A video that needs to be watched, if you have any concerns re. Donald J. Trump being the U.S. President
Rumpelstiltskin (Pun Intended)
Friday, May 12, 2017
Slow-Motion Coup d'Etat
|By Austin Sarat OPINION CONTRIBUTOR|
The abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey late Tuesday is the latest move in President Donald Trump's coup d'etat against the rule of law and constitutional democracy in the United States. When we hear the phrase "coup d'etat," we generally think of a sudden, decisive overthrow of an existing government. While such an effort is not beyond Trump, his ongoing effort is an example of what journalist Ole Dammegard has called a coup d'etat in "slow motion."
Trump's coup unfolds gradually, through an intermittent series of attacks on the basic values of the rule of law, the most important of which is that no person, no matter how powerful, is above the law. In this conception, power is always accountable to law.
Trump's aggressive moves come unpredictably, interrupting seemingly reassuring periods of normal politics and policy debates. He pushes against the norms and boundaries of our constitutional system, then seems to retreat or desist, only to push and probe again to find its weak points and vulnerabilities.
In his criticisms of "so-called" judges, in his efforts to call into question the legitimacy of judicial rulings which block his dubious executive actions, in his dismissals of Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney in Manhattan; Sally Yates, former acting attorney general; and now Comey, Trump has shown that he will tolerate no threats to his power and no efforts that might uncover its illegitimacy. And despite the premature reassurances of some commentators about the resilience of our constitutional system in the face of Trump's authoritarian tendencies, the slow-motion coup continues.
There are, I think, three basic elements of the unfolding coup d'etat:
First, the assault on language and meaning. Trump thinks he can say anything and then insist that his words do not mean what they clearly say. His language should be taken "seriously not literally," in the words of journalist Salena Zito.
As such, Trump could sign off on the Justice Department letter recommending that Comey be fired – a letter that flatly contradicted what Trump has said throughout the fall of 2016. The letter criticized Comey for disclosing the discovery of additional Hillary Clinton emails, 11 days out from the election and called it "a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do."
But Trump praised Comey for doing exactly that back in October. "It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they're trying to protect her from criminal prosecution," he said on October 31. "You know that. It took a lot of guts." He added, "I was not his fan, but I'll tell you what: What he did, he brought back his reputation. He brought it back."
This is just the latest example of Trump's "words don't mean what they say" attitude toward language. Yet the rule of law depends precisely on the belief that words do mean what they say. In a constitutional democracy, public officials are bound by the words of the constitution, statutes and regulations. If we lose faith in the power of language to convey meaning, we lose faith in law itself.
Second, the assault on, but also the crafty use of, the media to change the public narrative. Much has been made of the president's claim that the media is the "enemy of the people." Less has been made of Trump's cagey use of the media. Firing Comey yesterday all but obliterated the attention given to Sally Yates's damaging testimony before Congress about the Russian connections of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The slow-motion coup unfolds as Trump both tries to intimidate the press and also prey on its vulnerabilities, its eagerness for the latest, attention-grabbing outrage.
And third, Trump values loyalty much more than legality. Bharara, Yates and Comey all ran afoul of that maxim. Each showed themselves to have a fierce devotion to the rule of law and to the ideals of independence and impartiality on which it depends.
It is now time to stand up to the unfolding coup. But the real work of doing so falls not to Trump's opponents, but to his allies, to Republicans in Congress. They must insist that words have meanings that can and must be taken seriously by looking beyond the flimsy pretext offered for the firing of Comey. They must not be distracted from the task of following up on Yates' testimony this week on Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Most of all, by doing both of those things, they will show that even in Trump's America, legality is still much more important than loyalty.
Austin Sarat is associate dean of the faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College. At Amherst he teaches courses on American law and politics including a course called Secrets and Lies. He is the author or editor of more than 90 books. His most recent book is entitled "Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty."
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The Erratic Dictator And Russiagate
|The Constitution of the United States is currently undergoing the most rigorous test of time. Is it strong enough to prevent a dictator from establishing an authoritarian rule?|
If a country’s leadership is interfering with legal investigations by firing law enforcement officials it rings highly suspicious. The “swamp” Trump promised to drain, is deeper than ever before and involves the most powerful and rich elite of the United States.
Corruption has deep roots in the U.S. but it rarely rears its ugly head like it has been doing under Trump.
Trump’s many statements about Director Comey have been contradictory in so many ways. During his campaign Trump has been praising Comey for investigating Hillary Clinton, but when Comey announced the investigation was closed without a charge, Trump started to attack him. His opinion about Comey changed again when the FBI re-opened the Clinton investigation only days before the election. Comey became an enemy again when he was put in charge of the Russia investigation. It is most likely that the FBI was getting close to incriminating results unfavorable for Trump and his cronies, when Trump decided that enough was enough and simply fired
Shocking firing raises questions and stakes for the White House
After the surprise move, the president will face renewed pressure for a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation.
And Trump is so incredibly dumb that he will never understand that his actions are rising more public suspicion and might actually lead to his impeachment.
His deplorable supporters might be dismayed over this, but they won’t be able to help their false Messiah stay in office.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
“I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn’t take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm — those who often have no access to the corridors of power.”
In speech, Obama takes aim at Trump and Republicans
In a pointed speech on Sunday, President Obama took aim at his successor in the White House — and at congressional Republicans who are pushing to repeal his signature health care law.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
State Of Emergency In Montreal, Flooding in Central and Eastern Canada
As floodwaters rise, Montreal declares state of emergency
Thousands in Central Canada, the Atlantic and B.C. struggling with rising water levels
The Canadian Press Posted: May 07, 2017 7:46 AM ET Last Updated: May 07, 2017 7:05 PM ET
A resident walks through the flooded streets of Île Mercier, in Montreal's west end. Mayor Denis Coderre declared a state of emergency on Sunday afternoon, which will remain in effect for at least 48 hours. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
Across the country, thousands of Canadians are spending the weekend in a desperate struggle with rising floodwaters caused by unusually persistent rainfall.
In the hardest hit province of Quebec, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declared a state of emergency on Sunday afternoon. The order will remain in effect for at least 48 hours, giving the city the power to more effectively and quickly address the situation.
"If people's lives are in jeopardy, we need to think about the people first," he told reporters.
The move comes after three dikes gave way in the city's Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, located in the north end. Homes had already been evacuated in that neighbourhood, as well as on the two nearby islands, Île-Bizard and the smaller Île-Mercier.
Floodwaters in the province are expected to peak today due to continued rain in most of the affected areas.
Canadian forces have been deployed to help affected communities cope with rising water levels, including 80 soldiers in Gatineau, seen leaving their temporary headquarters here. (Ashley Burke/CBC)
In total, nearly 1,900 homes in 126 Quebec municipalities have been flooded, with more than 1,000 residents leaving the affected zones.
A total of 1,200 Canadian Forces personnel are expected to be deployed across western and central Quebec by the end of the day Sunday, as high water continues to threaten hundreds of residences. That's up from the 400 troops initially pledged.
'Remove the people'
A state of emergency was also declared Sunday in the community of Rigaud, Que., located just west of Montreal.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the region's flood zones, saying authorities could no longer guarantee the safety of residents. He told reporters that firefighters will be going door to door to make sure people in the affected areas leave their homes.
"We will follow the fire department and actually remove the people if need be," Gruenwald said. "Because it is either that or services will be stuck to remove those people under a state of emergency at two o'clock in the morning on a stretcher. I'm sorry but we are not going to go there."
Flooding in Pierrefonds seen from above
Though the rainfall has started to die down, Environment Canada meteorologist Bruno Marquis said much of Quebec should still expect another five to 10 millimetres on Sunday.
In Gatineau, Que., near Ottawa, around 700 people have been forced out of about 390 homes as the Ottawa River continues to rise.
More than 80 soldiers arrived in the region Sunday morning to assist with the relief efforts. They've been tasked with filling and stacking sandbags, as well as rescuing families in homes cut off by water.
In the nearby village of Cumberland, Ont., just east of Ottawa, a heroic sandbagging effort failed to prevent dozens of homes from being flooded.
The eastern Ontario community of Clarence-Rockland has also been under a state of emergency since Thursday, with 181 buildings at risk of flooding.
An aerial view from a helicopter shows parts of Gatineau that are under water on Sunday. (Radio-Canada)
Alain Masson and his partner, Melanie Marcil, live in a waterfront home in Clarence-Rockland. But after a week of trying to keep the rising waters away from the property, they decided it was time to leave.
"It's beautiful when it's beautiful, but it's hell when it's hell. Hell is at its highest point right now," he told CBC Ottawa.
'I tried so hard': Emotional Gatineau man on fight against floodwaters
Electricity was cut off on one road where a house was floating away, tethered only by power lines, the town's mayor, Helen Collier, said Saturday.
Rob Kuhn, another Environment Canada meteorologist based in Toronto, said that eastern Ontario saw the most rainfall in the province. He added that upward of 80 mm of rain fell between Friday and Sunday morning in the Trenton area.
In southern Ontario, Lake Ontario's water levels are the highest they've been since 1993.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said city officials are monitoring the conditions on the Toronto Islands. Homes on Ward's Island are "potentially in jeopardy" if more rain falls, he said.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick is the hardest hit, with 100 mm of rain falling in some areas in just two days — and Environment Canada warns there's more to come.
East Coast vs. West Coast
New Brunswickers are being told to stay away from rivers, streams and tributaries as the rain continues to fall across the province.
The province's Emergency Measures Organization says waterways are extremely dangerous as levels are high, fast and cold, and could be carrying debris.
They say the banks of waterways are also unstable and anyone who gets too close is at risk of being swept away. Residents are also being told to watch out for washed-out roads as the rain continues to fall across the province.
In British Columbia, rain combined with warm temperatures that have accelerated the melting of the snowpack have resulted in flooding and mudslides throughout the province.
Two people are missing in the province and dozens of homes have been evacuated.
States of emergency were called in Grand Forks, Kelowna, West Kelowna, Kootenay Boundary District and Fintry Delta.
A truck was left half buried in the debris after a mudslide in the Shuswap area.
Dozens of properties north of Kelowna were also under an evacuation order due to flooding, while sections of the Trans-Canada Highway near Salmon Arm and Glacier National Park were closed due to mudslides.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark was in Cache Creek late Saturday morning to survey part of the damage.
RCMP say the search for a missing fire chief feared swept away by flood waters in Cache Creek, B.C., has now turned into a recovery mission, with Clayton Cassidy presumed dead.
In the Shuswap area east of Kamloops, a senior is missing after a home was swept away in a mudslide.
The missing man's family said the 76-year-old was last known to be inside the house that was swept up.
Simon Fraser University earth sciences professor Brent Ward says the recent warm temperatures appear to be causing some of the worst flooding the region has seen in more than a decade.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
A Preventive Weather Forecast
Monday, May 1, 2017
The Crazy President
Yes, Trump Is “Looking At” Changing 1st Amendment So Nobody Can Criticize Him
May 1, 2017 Mark Howard Politics
RELATED: After Months Of Escalating Tension With North Korea, Trump Suddenly Praises Dictators Kim-Jong-Un, Rodrigo Duterte
In an interview Sunday, Trump’s Chief-of-Staff, Reince Priebus, affirmed the authoritarian aspirations of this president. ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Priebus about Trump’s prior statements concerning punishing or restricting the press when he doesn’t like what they say about him. That question led to this ominous exchange (video below):https://youtu.be/E6nUtxFbpaY?t=742
Reince Priebus On ABC News
Priebus could not have been more clear. The President is actively considering changes to the Constitution that would put the free press at risk. The changes he is considering would permit retaliation from hostile government officials seeking revenge for unfavorable coverage. Even short of litigation, such a move would have a chilling effect on journalists.
Trump has openly expressed his animosity toward the press. He calls them sleazy, liars, and “fake news” (although apparently without any understanding of what that phrase means). During the campaign he corralled them in pens and revoked the credentials of those he felt were not sufficiently adoring. His comments have even put some of them at risk for physical harm.
The Authoritarian Trump Trump’s consolidation of control goes beyond just the media. This weekend he also complained about the processes in Congress that interfere with him getting his way. “The rules of the Senate,” he said, “in some of the things you have to go through, it’s really a bad thing for the country in my opinion. They’re archaic rules.” In other words, he is opposed to the sort of democratic form of government wherein the people’s representatives work together to shape a consensus on legislation. He prefers dictating his demands and having everyone comply unquestioningly.
The purpose of these assaults on the Constitution is to delegitimize any criticism or opposition, no matter how appropriate. Trump wants only positive stories about him and his administration. And he will not tolerate anyone exposing his frequent mistakes, misstatements and lies. For that reason, every American should be wary of Trump’s efforts to silence the press. And particularly any attempt to codify such censorship into law or Constitutional amendments.
Changing the constitution is certainly no one-man show and most likely America can be at ease that Trump will not be able to do that because his insufficient level of competence is standing in the way. In any case it would take years and Trump will not be in office anymore. What it does show is that Trump (and his supporters) has no respect for a working democracy with its established and proven procedures.
If You Want To Be First, Go To Trump Last
There's an obvious way to influence U.S. policy — be the last one to talk to Trump
by Andrew MacDougall
If 100 days of Trump has taught us anything, it's that the president hasn't thought much about governing
By Andrew MacDougall, for CBC News Posted: May 01, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: May 01, 2017 6:02 AM ET
When a president solicits views willy-nilly and makes decisions impulsively, the game for senior staff becomes who can get to the boss last — not first — to jam him into their preferred course of action. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
About The Author
Andrew MacDougall is a Canadian-British national based in London who writes about politics and current affairs. He was previously director of communications for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
Hands up if you, like me, watch news of the Trump administration, mouth agape, from the comfort of the couch. More than once I've wondered whether my couch would be better qualified for the Oval Office.
Now, I have a great couch (the best, the biggest, you've never seen anything like it, it's amazing), but I wouldn't want it running a country, which is where the United States has ended up under the stewardship of Donald Trump.
And no, I'm not referring to a "sofa government," the kind popularised by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who often bypassed cabinet in favour of informal chats with ministers and advisers on the sofas of 10 Downing Street. I'm talking about an actual sofa running the most powerful nation in the world.
Sitting on Donald Trump
Like the best chesterfields, the current president adapts his shape to whomever last sat on him. This apparently goes double when the president is himself sat on a sofa watching cable news.
It was seeing dead Syrian children on television — along with a late word from daughter Ivanka, whose foreign policy credentials are zero — that finally got the president to lob a few Tomahawks Bashar al-Assad's way. The current "will or won't he" on the question of a NAFTA renegotiation also smacks of a rotating cast of advisers, legislators and stakeholders whispering contradictory views in the president's ear.
With Steve Bannon and other economic nationalists whispering in his ear, Trump was going to tear up NAFTA. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
On the campaign trail, with Steve Bannon and other economic nationalists whispering in his ear, Trump was going to tear up NAFTA ("the single worst trade deal"). Then he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and declared Canada would only receive a tweak in any NAFTA talks. It was Mexico that would take the beating. Then he met with some dairy producers and heard that Canada was evil. He heard some bad stuff about lumber too. And so he pledged to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, only to walk it back after calls with Mexican President Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau.
Now, a leader receiving contradictory views isn't news; it's par for the course. It's just that most leaders have the common sense to not provide a running commentary on the advice they receive and how it's impacting their deliberations.
Ten minutes with Chinese President Xi Jinping was all it took for Trump to realize North Korea is, like, really hard and stuff. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
But Trump and his Twitter feed are an open book. He advertises his ignorance, hardly a sound negotiating strategy. Ten minutes with Chinese President Xi Jinping was all it took for Trump to realize North Korea is, like, really hard and stuff. Trump also found out the hard way about health care ("nobody knew health care could be so complicated," he remarked). Anyone doubt that the current tax reform package is headed for a similar dumpster (fire)?
The couch modus operandi goes a long way toward explaining the White House's current dysfunction; it's what fills the vacuum when the man or woman at the top has no firms views on anything.
Advising the president
If 100 days of Trump has taught us anything, it's that the president hasn't thought much about policy or governing. To pick another example, Trump banged on about building a wall with Mexico every day of the campaign, and so you would think he'd come to the White House armed with at least a hint of an idea of a proposal that might eventually, if tended to properly, produce a border wall to please his base. Nope. It's all bluster.
How to advise someone with no interest in the job, and little aptitude for its many demands? Audition for Game of Thrones by ratting out fellow advisers to the Washington press corps, obviously. That's what the staffers under Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner and Sean Spicer have been doing while the rest of us weep watching the goat rodeo. They can't advise their president any more than the president can temper his whims.
To operate effectively, political offices need structure, and access to the boss needs to be ordered in some rational way. There's too much going on for a leader to be run at on every issue, from every direction, all of the time.
If you missed a memo deadline for Stephen Harper's nightly briefing package, the prime minister missed your advice. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
During my time with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there were strictly defined routes to decisions. The business of government moved (mostly) through an orderly cabinet process, while the politics of government was hashed out (mostly) in the Prime Minister's Office. The advice received by the prime minister from the bureaucrats on policy was covered with the views of political advisers, and then Mr. Harper took the final decision.
If you missed a memo deadline for his nightly briefing package, the prime minister missed your advice. There was no barging into his office to get a decision on the sly unless an unexpected pressure necessitated it. Some viewed our system as cumbersome, but it at least forced decisions into a coherent pipeline. Harper certainly didn't go with whomever he spoke to last; he was too much his own man for that.
When a president solicits views willy-nilly and makes decisions impulsively, the game for senior staff becomes who can get to the boss last — not first — to jam him into their preferred course of action. When the president responds strongly to cable news, it prompts leaks to cable news outlets. Couch style also promotes leaving everything to the last minute. If this sounds like the proper way to run a government, I have a nuclear holocaust to sell you.
It's hard to see President Trump changing his ways. He's 70 years old and is used to doing things his way. To be fair, his way has brought him personal success. But it's also produced a string of bankruptcies.
Now, going bust in Manhattan, or Atlantic City, or Azerbaijani real estate is one thing, but going bust at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the most important political real estate in the world, is another.
I, for one, am watching in terror through my fingers from my comfy couch.