First Week:Twitter News, “Alternative Facts”, Reversals, Lies, Chaos!

 

Donald Trump speaks to the world on two different Twitter accounts.  One is @POTUS, the formal, traditional voice of the president. By January 23, he had posted only seven messages, three to say thank you.  The second Twitter handle is @realDonaldTrump where he tweets in the early hours of the morning with instant  responses to social media and television comics or critics.  This is the unedited Donald who makes six a.m. headlines on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News.  By January 23,  in six of these messages, he boasted repeatedly about GREAT REVIEWS for his inaugural address and stressed that 31 million Americans had watched on TV, more than watched Obama four years ago.  The @realDonald Trump account, started in 2009, has 21.4 million followers;  @POTUS which he inherited has 14.3 million followers.  It is expected that @realDonaldTrump will be his favorite means of reaching the public. During the campaign, he used this technique to great advantage in becoming the number one story of the day.  The beat goes on with blockbuster results, now that he is president.

It is important to understand how Donald Trump views his job and the world.  He sits in the White House at night watching television and reading social media, sending out instant reactions and judgments in fourteen character tweets.  TV anchors on the three major networks react to the tweets at six a.m. with bold head lines. Panels of  political and historical experts then chime in, offering liberal and conservative views. That is the system American citizens, as well as members of Congress, now have for learning what major changes will occur each day in our nation.

The pace and speed of this first week of the Trump presidency have been very fast, with Trump employing the presidential Executive Orders as his means of demonstrating  bold decision-making and power.  Surrounded by a phalanx of standing aides, he sits at his desk in the oval office, signs each order and holds it up for cameras to click and record.  Most of the orders relate to campaign promises, which he stresses after each signing.  His years as a showman have been on display every day.  He looks like a man of action and resolve.  He is in charge and he is executing change as he promised his supporters he would do.  It is worth noting that Barack Obama who used executive orders to overcome the relentless Republican opposition, was dubbed  “The Imperial President” by his critics.  He never issued this many orders in any week of his two terms in office.  At this rate, Trump will soon surpass his total.

Two Trump biographers who know him well have described his first week in clear, vivid terms. Tim O’Brien saw the new president as, “a guy on a Pogo stick in the Rose Garden bouncing around with a TV remote control in his hand trying to decide what to respond to in the next 30 seconds on Twitter.”  Michael D’Antonio wrote, “ If he could have commanded the attention of the world media every day of his life in the past, he would have. The fact that the press corps is captive in the White House and can be dragged into these executive order signings is, for him, like mainlining heroin. He has hit his stride and is thrilled with this.”

There were certain issues Donald Trump fixated on during his first week in office.    The size of the Inaugural crowd on Friday was debated for days.  Trump declared, “It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”  He became very combative when aerial photos clearly showed the crowd did not stretch that far.  An analysis by the NYTimes compared photos of the same areas from Obama’s 2009 inauguration that drew 1.8 million people.  Park Service  and Metro reports of Trump’s crowd was in the hundreds of thousands.  Next, he insisted his press secretary , Sean Spicer,  meet the press corps on Saturday, to repeat that Trump had “the largest inauguration crowd ever”.  Spicer left immediately without taking any questions.  On Sunday,  Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the White House had “alternative facts” about the size of the crowd.  This new definition went viral  on social media and Chuck Todd, the host, countered, by calling alternative facts “falsehoods”.

Donald Trump  moved to a second issue when he charged that three to five million illegal votes had been fraudulently cast in the 2016 election.  He was questioning the fact that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote by 2.8 million votes.  The immediate response from Republicans and Democrats in all 50 states was that this did not occur.  Nevertheless, he insisted there had to be major investigations of the fraud, especially that it could have been by illegal aliens – immigrants. Although representative Chaffetz, head of the House Oversight Committee said they would not pursue this subject,  Trump has not moved from his position that a fraud investigation should take place.   Coverage by  newspapers and television political panels saw fraud as a completely false accusation.

A third position Trump continued from the campaign was his  “war” with the press whom he labeled “the most dishonest people on the earth”.  He was joined by Stephen Bannon,his chief strategist, who called the media, “the opposition party”.   Of the election, Bannon said,  “The elite media got it  dead wrong, 100 % wrong.”  Later, he added, “The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence and no hard work.”  Certain journalists reacted defiantly: Stephen Engelberg, editor in chief of Pro Publica, the non-profit news organization, wrote: “We are part of an essential function in any democracy.  We are here to tell the truth and we will continue to do so, regardless of how badly some might want us to parrot ‘alternative facts’”.

Other members of the media, particularly newspapers began to use the word ‘lie’ instead of falsehood when referring to words from Donald Trump or members of his staff.  John Barry  an analyst with the New York Times,  titled his valuable article on January 26, “ In Swirl of ‘Untruths”, and ‘Falsehoods,’Calling a Lie a Lie. “  The definition of lie in the Oxford English Dictionary is “ A false statement made with intent to deceive.”  Barry draws on Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, who says of a person who lies, “There is an intention to deceive, and a certain moral opprobrium attaches to it, a reprehensibility of motive.  That is a classic explanation of telling lies.    In September, when Trump announced that he no longer believed President Obama was born in  Kenya, he did it in one spare sentence, “President Obama was born in the United States. Period.” The New York Times responded on the front page with the headline, “Trump Gives Up a Lie but Refuses to Repent.”

Trump visited the  C. I. A. later in the week, ostensibly to mend fences with one of our leading intelligence agencies with whom he has been feuding for weeks.    However, while there Trump made a serious error and omission.  He stood before the Wall of Honor where 117 stars represented men and women who had died in service to the nation.   They had all received the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Yet,  he made no mention of the hallowed ground, of the dedicated and courageous people who were represented by the stars.  Instead he gave a rambling speech about himself, the “winning” campaign and his appearance many times on the cover of “Time”– as he has done often since inaugurated.  It is a constant theme of self aggrandizement.  As many observers have learned.  Donald  J. Trump  is not a man who knows the meaning of humility.

Amazon reports best selling books. Two novels:  “1984” by George Orwell became # 1 last week;  “It Can’t Happen Here” by  Sinclair Lewis,  and Hannah Arendt’s nonfiction “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”  The press in all forms is of major importance in our country. Perhaps, Thomas Jefferson said it best. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter.”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson  January 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The People Yes” 2017

 

On Saturday, January 21, millions of American women and men marched in cities and towns across America to protest the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States.  Similar huge marches also took place in many countries around the globe. We watched stunning pictures from D.C. where the Capitol area was so jammed that people could not move; Chicago where police canceled marching to avoid crushing bodies; Manhattan, Los Angeles, Boston, Hartford , Denver, Oakland.  Originally called The Women’s March to highlight issues like equal pay, abortion and sexual assault, organizers broadened the platform to include immigrant rights, voter suppression, gender rights, and environmental protection. The protest marches in foreign countries reflected the alarm people felt about Trump’s friendship with Vladimir Putin, raising questions about the viability of NATO, and stress on  “America First!” during his speech.

Hillary Clinton had attended the Inauguration, wearing the Suffragette signature white as did Jill Biden . She used Twitter to congratulate the marchers:  “Thanks for standing, speaking and marching for our values. Important as ever. I truly believe we’re always Stronger Together.”  Her campaign slogan was seen on handmade signs carried by young girls and older women sporting the pink knit pussy cat hats of the multiracial, multigenerational movement.  One young girl carried a sign, “I’m 17 — Fear me!”  Many chanted,  “This is what democracy looks like.”  Demonstrators pushed strollers or lifted children on their shoulders. The mood was positive and buoyant.  In Boston, Elizabeth Warren spoke of the image of Donald Trump being sworn in the day before, “ The sight is now burned into my eyes forever.  We will use that vision to fight harder.”  In D.C, Gloria Steinem told the crowd, “Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are.”

There have been other critical times in American history when thousands of citizens marched in Washington and demonstrated for a cause that ignited the public consciousness.  Some marches succeeded and some did not:

1913 Women’s Suffrage Procession. March 3, 1913. Inez Milholland, 26 years old, wearing a flowing white cape and a wreath atop her long dark hair, mounted a white horse and led the largest women’s march since the beginning of the suffrage movement in 1848.  Five thousand women marched behind her; business women in blue, writers in white, and musicians in red, all seeking the right to vote.  They withstood insults and hurled objects; 100 were hospitalized by the end. Although President-elect Woodrow Wilson skipped the march, it did energize the public and male politicians in the years that followed. Courageous women finally achieved passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, known as the Susan B. Anthony amendment. Women voted for the first time in the 1920 Presidential election.

1932 Bonus Army March . July 28, 1932. General Douglas Mac Arthur and army troops surrounded a group of protesting troops in Washington, wheeled tanks into position, prepared gas bombs, and gave the former fighters 30 minutes to disperse. The Bonus Army, about 20,000 World War I veterans demanded the payment of bonuses guaranteed under a 1924 law.  Payments under the law were supposed to be paid by 1945, but the veterans were suffering without jobs and funds.  They did not leave, and  the standoff lasted for weeks until President Herbert Hoover ordered their removal.  Army troops shot “a heavy barrage of tear gas” at the veterans according to The Times. Two people died during the protest. The Bonus Army veterans were not successful. Mac Arthur’s actions and Hoover’s orders were widely deplored by the public. In 1944,  Congress passed the G.I.Bill  that offered many WWII veterans the chance to attend college.

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. August 28, 1963. More than 200,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in D.C. to urge Congress to pass historic civil rights legislation.  Lyndon B. Johnson was President and Martin Luther King Jr. gave his memorable “I have a Dream” speech that millions listened to and watched on television.  At the time,  civil rights legislation was stalled by southern lawmakers in Congress.  The peaceful march and King’s stirring oratory lifted the American people to demand action by their representatives. A voter registration drive took place in Mississippi. A march took place in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery, where Civil Rights Icon, John Lewis and other protestors were beaten brutally by state troopers on the Edgar Pettus bridge.   President Johnson pressured the southern Democrats to support The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and The Voting Rights Bill of 1965.  Johnson said at the time, “The Democratic Party has lost the South”, but he was determined to pass the bills for all the American people. They are part of his significant legacy along with  The War on Poverty and The Great Society.

1969 Moratorium to End The War in Vietnam: November 15, 1969.  250,000 or more antiwar activists marched 17 abreast down Pennsylvania Avenue calling for a rapid withdrawal of all United States troops from Vietnam.   The procession was led by three drummers, followed by people carrying eleven coffins bearing the names of the dead. The marchers were shouting “Peace Now!  Peace Now!”  Nixon neither attended nor viewed the antiwar march on television. He spent the day watching college football at the White House. The war had begun during Johnson’s administration and the American people watched the death toll grow as Nixon escalated the troop buildups.  In 1972, John Kerry, who had served in Vietnam as a Navy commander of a Swift boat, asked at an antiwar protest before Congress, “Who will be the last man to die in Vietnam?”

1974 March for Life.  January 22, 1974, a year after the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, thousands of women marched in Washington to support a constitutional amendment, known as the Buckley amendment, to overturn the decision that affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion.  This did not happen and during the years that followed, individual states have passed laws to make abortion unobtainable to millions of women who lack the funds to travel to states where abortion clinics are available.  The years have also seen violence and death of doctors at clinics, and court cases that restrict the entry areas from vocal harassment. Pro Life and Pro Choice are movements that have grown since l973.  Pro Life marches occur every year; This year’s will be January 27 with Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Donald Trump, as a speaker.

1987 Second Annual March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. October ll, 1987. 200,00 people gathered in Washington to call for AIDS research and the end of discrimination against gay people. (There had been a 1979 march , before the AIDs crisis.)  More than 20,000 Americans had died of AIDS by l987.   30,00 more were suffering with the disease which also held a stigma.  At the march, they spread a huge quilt that had the names of the dead. The March was shown on television and helped to personalize the movement. Three years later, Congress passed the Ryan White Care Act, the largest federally funded program for people living with H.I.V. and AIDS.  Until 1995, AIDS deaths continued to climb.

1995 Million Man March. October 16, 1995. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly black men, joined a rally led by Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.  His message was “to accept the responsibility to be good husbands and fathers and builders of our community.” However, Farrakhan had been criticized previously for sexist and anti-Semitic remarks.  The N.A.AC.P. opposed the march. Organizers said the rally spurred 1.7 black men to register to vote. A Washington Post reporter wrote, “Some say its core message of self reliance and atonement left black men grapping alone with issues such as violence, drug abuse and poverty, letting politicians off the hook.”  In 2015, Farrakhan held a second march where much of the discussion focused on the use of police force and continued discrimination.

We do not know whether the protest marches that drew millions of Americans on January 21, from their homes to the streets across our country will develop into a Protest Movement. Donald Trump did not draw a majority of the popular vote on November 8.  He had  2.8 million votes fewer than Hillary Clinton.   He does not have the “mandate” he claims.  He needs to recognize that more than half the people in the United States were dismayed by his dark Inaugural Speech about “ American Carnage”.  They did not recognize their country from his bleak, gloomy descriptions.  He may still have the opportunity to stop and listen to that majority of citizens and voters.  Charles Blow, addressed this on the Op Ed  page of The New York Times on January 23.  It was a message directed at Donald J. Trump. “The women’s marches sent a clear signal: Your comfort will not be built on our constriction. We are America.  We are loud, “nasty” and fed up. We are motivated dissidents and we are legion.”

Epilogue: Carl Sandberg wrote his famous poem “The People. Yes”  in 1936 when the people in the United States were suffering during the Great Depression.  The last stanza is appropriate today.

“Time is a great teacher.

Who can live without hope?

In this darkness with a great bundle of grief

The people march.

In the night and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the

People march.

Where to? What next?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Joyce  S. Anderson   January 24, 2017

 

Is Donald J. Trump A Legitimate President?

 

On Friday, January 13, excerpts from the taped “Meet the Press” interview between John Lewis, the revered Civil Rights Icon and host, Chuck Todd exploded in advance of the Sunday airing.  Lewis’ voice was calm and measured when he said, “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.  I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected.  And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”  When Todd asked him what millions of Americans could do who agreed with him, he answered, “Do not be silent.  Act!”  John Lewis drew on his long history of doing just that.  He called action, “ causing some trouble” when he joined the Freedom Riders as a young man at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. He survived being dragged off one of the buses and beaten; years later his skull was fractured by state troopers at the Edgar Pettus bridge on “Bloody Sunday”.  John Lewis also told Todd that he would not attend the Inauguration on January 20, the first he would ever miss.  As of today, he has been joined by 23 other Democratic Congressional Representatives.

Donald Trump did not take long to rebut with a Twitter attack.  On Saturday, he wrote two early morning tweets: “John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district which is in horrible shape and falling apart ( not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”  “All talk, talk, talk —no action or results,’’ he added.  “Sad!”   It  should be noted that his  description of  Lewis’ Fifth Congressional Georgia District was completely false.  The district, which is majority African- American, covers three fifths of the city of Atlanta and includes: parts of wealthy areas like Buckhead;  the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Not everyone agreed with John Lewis’ characterization of Trump as “an illegitimate president.” However, many commentators on TV Cable programs and newspaper columnists expressed shock that Trump would attack John  Lewis just as Martin Luther King Jr. Day approached.  Thousands of Americans are coming on buses, trains and cars to protest the Inauguration this Friday, January 20.  Millions of Americans will watch with very mixed emotions.  Hillary Clinton will attend with Bill and know that she received 2.8 million more votes that Donald Trump.  Barack Obama, who gave his memorable Farewell Address last week in Chicago to 20,000 loving, cheering supporters, will be standing beside the president-elect as he takes the oath of office.  There is deep irony in Trump’s angry tweets toward John Lewis, since Trump was the originator of The Birther Movment. He played an active part stoking the questioning of Barack Obama’s legitimacy during the entire eight years of his two term presidency.

Ever since November 8, when the elections results were compiled and Donald Trump reached the winning 270 votes in the Electoral College,  certain organized  activities  began, aimed at resisting and fighting Trump. They are reacting to his promises and pronouncements during the long combative campaign.  Here are several significant preparations underway:

Cities Vow to Fight Trump on Immigration.  Trump declared multiple times, “I will deport millions of illegal immigrants!”  He talks about a “Deportation Force” that he will install.  Across the nations, mayors and other officials are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal agents.  These cities, often labeled “sanctuary cities”  include Los Angeles where nearly half the residents are Latinos. Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged not to cooperate with immigration agents.   In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has also vowed not to cooperate with immigration agents.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel  of Chicago has declared that it “will always be a Sanctuary City.” Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California during a protest in November, compared the situation to “conscientious objector status.” She said, “ We are not going to use our resources to enforce what we believe are unjust immigration laws.”  Additional major cities  include Philadelphia, Boston and San Francisco.  All have reaffirmed plans to defy a Trump administration and act as “a bulwark” against mass deportations.

If this opposition takes place, these cities risk losing millions of dollar in federal aid for services like help in fighting crime and running homeless shelters. They are well aware of this possibility,  since Trump has warned to block all federal funding if local officials do not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies. Some observers believe Trump may go further, fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.  His history shows that law suits are his favorite tool in many areas of business and life.

“This is uncharted territory to see if they are just playing chicken or see if they will relent”, said Jessica Vaughan, the director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies that supports reduced immigration.  “Cities have gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down.” In opposition to this conservative view, Muzaffar Chisti , director of the Migration Policy Institute office of New York Univesity School of Law, said, “Cities may not have the power to give rights. But they have a lot of power of resistance, and that’s what they are displaying right now.” More than 500 counties and cities have some type of policy  limiting cooperation with immigration authorities.  This information is based on an estimate from The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy and legal assistance group in San Francisco and Washington.

Many city leaders are seeking to calm undocumented immigrants’ fears.  Churches and synagogues are offering their houses of worship as sanctuaries.  In Oakland, Mayor Schaaf has asked local  philanthropists to provide $140 million if  federal funds are cut,  to sustain low-income pre-school programs and meals for homeless shelters. The largest clash will occur in California which has 2.3 million of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.  Many are farm workers who have provided food for the rest of the country for generations.

Democratic State Attorneys General Plan Lawsuits.   There are ten current and incoming Democratic state attorneys general.  They are planning to adopt the Republican tactic of lawsuits against Donald Trump and his administration if there is withdrawal from environmental, health care or financial regulations.  This was the G.O.P. tactic against the Obama administration throughout his two terms in office.  In Texas, Virginia and Florida, Republican state attorneys general sued dozens of times on Obama Care, environmental and immigration policies in the courts.  In an ironic twist, Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma,  who sued over clean-energy regulations, was just chosen by Trump to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Democratic attorneys general have pledged to defend undocumented immigrants and to combat hate crimes they have seen unleashed by Trump’s  divisive campaign against Muslims, Mexicans and African Americans. In  New York, attorney general Eric Schneiderman, is already investigating Donald Trump over possible violations of New York State law by his charitable foundation.  He had successfully sued Trump over violations byTrump University. Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, has joined him in an investigation into whether Exxon Mobil lied to investigators about the threat of climate change.  Rex Tillerson, the chief executive, has been chosen to be secretary of state by Trump.  Healey has said, “I won’t hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional promises.”  Finally, California’s next attorney general, Congressman Xavier Becerra, has “dared” the Trump administration to “come at us “ over immigration, climate change and health care.  Josh Shapiro, the incoming attorney general in Pennsylvania who turned down a run for the Senate, said, “I believe it to be the most impactful job in government today.”

Epilogue: This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans rallied and marched in large cities and small towns across the country to protest the votes to repeal ObamaCare by the  Republican controlled Senate and House of Representatives.  Donald Trump called ObamaCare “a disaster” throughout his campaign although it has now brought health care to nearly 90 percent of Americans. We are all left with the moral, humanitarian question:  Would a “legitimate president” ever consider taking the historic “right of universal health care” away from over twenty million men, women and children—all citizens of The United States –who have finally gained it?

 

“Tis The Winter of Our Discontent…”

 

Literally and figuratively ,  Shakespeare described best the uneasy mood and deep concerns of millions of American men and women today. On Monday, in southern New Jersey, we awake at six a.m. on January 8 to the coldest morning, seven degrees – “feels like minus 2” on the weather channel.  A bright sun shines later on our statue of Alice in Wonderland standing on the back deck of our house.  She still wears the hoodie of six inches of snow on her head and shoulders from yesterday’s near blizzard.  Her gaze remains serene , her hands still hold the roses behind her waist. Perhaps, she’s thinking— “ If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind….” Shelley is helping with his words, reminding me of hope.

Newspapers and cable news focused over the past weekend on the Friday meeting of our four top Intelligence officers with president-elect Donald J. Trump in Trump Tower, New York City.  They were: James R. Clapper Jr., director of national intelligence; John O. Brennan, director of the  C.I.A.; Admiral Michael S. Rogers, director of the National Security Agency; and James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I.  During the two hour briefing, the officials reviewed the classified report that was given to Mr. Trump.   This detailed report and its unanimous conclusions had been described to President Barack Obama on Thursday.   After the meeting, a shorter declassified report was released to the press and public .

Here are some of the main findings in the report: “Russia’s goals were to undermine faith in the democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.  We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”  They continued, “Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging stragegy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyberactivity – with overt efforts by the Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third party intermediaries and paid social –media users or ‘trolls’.”

Making the report public was almost an unheard of event in our political history.  It must have been done to counter the skepticism expressed by Trump in the weeks leading up to Friday that there was no proof that Russia had tampered with our election.  He insisted by Twitter in blunt language that “China or a 400 pound man sitting on a bed “ could have authored the cyber attacks.   Just three hours before his briefing by the intelligence officials, Trump held a telephone interview with The New York Times.  He derided the focus on the Russian hacking as nothing more than a  “political witch hunt” carried out by his opponents who were “embarrassed by their loss in the election.” His exact words, “China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names”, referring to U.S. computers in the Office of Personnel Mangement in 2014 & 2015.  “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

Fascinating parts of the report describe why Vladimir Putin sought to denigrate Secretary Clinton early in the campaign.  When she held that office, he believed she encouraged the pro-democracy protests in Moscow against  him that broke out in 2011.  That rankled as a personal grudge against her.  In addition, although she put together the framework for the Iran Nuclear Deal which Russia and China took part in, he saw her as a tough negotiator and did not consider her a “friend”.  In contrast, once Donald Trump became the Republican candidate, Putin reached out and cultivated him whenever possible.

The one significant conclusion that was NOT included in the report was whether the Russian massive involvement tipped the election to Trump’s victory.  Director Clapper made that clear at a Congressional Hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was held after the report surfaced.  After the meeting at Trump Tower, the president-elect did call it “constructive”.  Vice-president -elect Mike Pence  said that he and Mr. Trump had “appreciated the presentation” and found it “respectful.”  Trump did concede that “Russia, China, outside groups and other people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democratic National Committee.”

The report also reached into the future. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the U.S. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against U.S. allies and their election processes.”   William J. Burns, former American ambassador to Russia from 2005 to 2008 and a deputy secretary of state wrote an important Op Ed in The New York Times on Sunday, January 8, 2017.  It was titled “How We Fool Ourselves On Russia”.  He has deep personal experience when he writes, “The reality is that our relationship with Russia will remain competitive, and often adversarial, for the foreseeable future. At its core, is a fundamental disconnect in outlook and about each other’s role in the world.  It is tempting to think that personal rapport can bridge this disconnect, and that the art of the deal can unlock a grand bargain. That is a foolish starting point for sensible policy. It would be especially foolish to think that Russia’s troubling interference in our election, can or should be played down.”

In his piece, Burns gives three steps we should take:  First, sustain, and if necessary amplify the steps the Obama administration has taken in response to Russian hacking. Second, reassure our European allies of our absolute commitment to NATO.  Third, stay sharply focused on Ukraine, a country whose fate will be critical to the future of Europe and Russia.” Burns sums up with passion and strength, “I’ve learned a few lessons during my diplomatic career, often the hard way. I’ve learned to respect Russians and their history and vitality. I’ve learned it rarely pays to underestimate Russia or display gratuitous disrespect. But I’ve also learned that firmness and vigilance and a healthy grasp of the limits of the possible are the best way to deal with the combustible combination of grievance and insecurity that Vladimir Putin embodies.”

Donald Trump has said he reads The New York Times among other papers.  I hope he reads this Op Ed by William Burns.  He would learn valuable information and insights about Russia and Vladimir Putin — as he prepares to take the oath of office for President of The United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes. “Putin is very smart!”

Donald Trump’s most famous tweet can be interpreted many ways.  When President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced on December 30 that he would not retaliate against President Obama expelling Russian diplomats and imposing new sanctions, he knew exactly what he was doing.  Putin has been listening and watching Trump throughout the long campaign.  He heard Trump question NATO during interviews, saying all members must live up to their debts. He heard Trump denigrate the United Nations, calling it “a club”.  Putin’s phone call right after the election  was one of warm congratulations.  Trump repeats endlessly, “Putin said “I was brilliant” — the Russian word that actually translates into “colorful or flashy”.

It is a sure thing that Putin read the transcript of The New York Times interview with Trump in March. When Trump was questioned about the crippling economic  sanctions levied by major nations against Russia, he said that he doubted that anyone other than Obama saw much use in them.  Mr. Trump’s  nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has also been critical of the sanctions since they stymied Exxon/Mobile’s plans for further oil and gas exploration in Russia. Their current fields cover the size of Wyoming.

Putin has a reputation for sudden unexpected tactics.  His statement was very clear, “ In our future steps on the way toward the restoration of Russia-United States relations, we will proceed from the policy pursued by the administration of Donald J. Trump.” Now every foreign leader and policy expert in the United States and around the world is analyzing the risks involved in such a change. It is significant that Republican leaders such as Senator John McCain are  fierce critics of Putin, whom Mc Cain  calls “a thug and a murderer” from his record  as chief of the KGB.

During the past four years, Russia has been expanding its power throughout the region.  First they moved in and annexed Crimea.  Troops then continued northeastern into Ukraine where a stalemate exists. Recently, Russian hackers  turned off the lights in Ukraine. Russia  deployed nuclear-capable forces to the borders of three small NATO Baltic members: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.  They also appear to be working to promote right wing parties in elections in Germany and France to weaken NATO. Finally, Britain and France report Russian practice bombers and submarine missions off their coasts, something that happened decades ago during the Cold War.

Putin has sought to challenge the United States position as the world’s super power even though Russia cannot match our military or economic strengths.  He may have only one aircraft carrier, but his cyberattacks, hacking  the Democractic National Committee emails, interfered and affected our presidential election. The result is Donald Trump, the president- elect, with whom Putin  has cultivated a warm, positive relationship.  It is  important to know that Trump has  been influenced by two advisers during his campaign who have close ties to Russia.  Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager resigned after coming under investigation by the F.B.I. for his deep business activities in Russia.  General Michael Flynn, who is his choice for National Security Adviser, has a history of Russian involvement.  He was in Russia,  interviewed on RT television, the Kremlin propaganda  channel, calling for “closer ties between the United States and Russia.”. When questioned about this, he responded that “RT is like CNN, a news channel.”

It is very interesting to read what leading Russian political analysts are saying about Putin’s intentions. Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former media adviser to Putin said, “I don’t  think that Putin has a plan.  I think that he is stunned by the number of bonus points that he has gotten.”  Another analyst wrote, “Trump’s spirit is already here.”  Nicholas Petrov, a Russian political scientist  added, “I think that Putin looks strong in relation to the United States and he has freedom to maneuver, and he can do what he wants to demonstrate that the United States should recognize that Russia is not a regional power, but a great power that should be taken into account.”

`A final comment on Putin’s abrupt reversal was from Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group, a political risk assessment firm in Washington, and a former state department official.  “ We are in a whiplash moment, and I think it is unprecedented in several respects. The most important one is that the baton is about to be passed from an administration with a very hard line on Russia to one that is very much more sympathetic.”  He concluded, “They are trying to level the playing field, not by raising Russia up, but through a declining West. I don’t think Putin is out to make America great again.”

As a concerned citizen,  I wonder about certain members of the Trump family, his son-in-law and daughter, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who appear slated to move to D.C. to become part of his administration. I hope they are urging him to learn more about Vladimir Putin, his brutal KGB history and his complex motives.  I hope they are urging him to beware of flattery, and Putin’s suggestions to bring the United States and Russia closer together in the months after January 20.

How about a road sign:  DANGER AHEAD: BRIDGE NOT SAFE!