Today, Barr testified/spun before Congress. A perfect example: Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Attorney General William Barr what is it about Trump ordering his White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller (as well as demanding that McGahn lie that Trump had ever asked to fire Mueller) that is not obstruction of justice. Barr’s response was to spin a picture of Trump, with his brilliant legal mind, requesting a closer look at Mueller’s conflict of interest; and Trump never outright made such a crude demand as saying, “Fire Mueller!” Huh? Which is more likely, that Trump was simply expressing a legal opinion or that he barked out what he wanted? Feinstein followed up with the question: “So, what was the conflict of interest?” Barr never ever answered that question! He proceeded to tap dance byway of speaking on legal theory to run out the clock. And that is just one example of Barr’s technique. Don’t expect Don McGahn to ever get a chance to testify himself. If he does, that would be well worth seeing.
Meet Trump’s New Fixer: The Attorney General of the United States. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.
Working for Trump is not the first time that Attorney General William Barr has been called upon to clean up a mess. Barr had the very same job of Attorney General under George H.W. Bush where he presided over making the Iran-Contra scandal fade away. Papa Bush, with Barr’s whole-hearted support, pardoned six key people from the Reagan administration who were involved, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.
If Barr saw no problem in absolving players in Iran-Contra, one of the biggest scandals since Watergate, then he certainly has no problem in helping to somehow make the Mueller report go away; clear Trump & Co. of any and all charges; and just perform his role as a smug little henchman doing his master’s bidding.
Captain America Caption Contest in Support of Tolerance
Can you think of a winning caption for the above cartoon? Details follow.
When this cartoonist decides to put on a Captain America costume, he knows it will get complicated. New York based cartoonist Vishavjit Singh has set out to open the hearts of his fellow citizens and it looks like he’s gaining ground.
If you live in the Seattle area, you will want to especially take notice of a caption contest for Singh’s new art show, “Wham! Bam! Pow!” at the Wing Luke Museum! Email your caption for the cartoon at the top of this post to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win a $50 gift card to GoPoke, a pair of general admission tickets to the Wing Luke Museum, and a framed drawing of this comic from cartoonist Vishavjit Singh with your winning caption.
WHAM! BAM! POW!
Vishavjit Singh began drawing cartoons in 2001, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks: as a Sikh American with a turban and beard, he had become the target of a toxic mix of fear, anxiety and ignorance. Vishavjit set out to challenge the label of the ‘other’ placed upon him (and many others of Sikh, South Asian, Muslim, and/or Middle Eastern extraction) by illustrating stories capturing the joys and predicaments of Sikh American life. His simple imagery and gentle humor often come with an edge that pierces stereotypes, prompts self-reflection, and promotes action.
In 2012, horrified by the deadly attack on a Sikh Gurudwara (house of worship) in Wisconsin, Vishavjit decided the world needed a superhero who fights bigotry and hate in our midst. Wham! Bam! Pow! follows Vishavjit’s journey as he explores America’s inspiring, contradictory values and discovers the heroic power of compassion.
Wing Luke Museum in Seattle
Don’t miss “Wham! Bam! Pow!” from May 4th to February 24th, 2019.
Now on display at The Wing.
King Trump Confronts American Presidents. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.
If someone could use an employee manual, it would certainly be the current occupant to the highest post in the land. Jeremi Suri’s new book guides us through what has become of the American presidency, from its development to its inevitable decline. If Donald Trump were to read it, “The Impossible Presidency” would provide much food for thought.
Suri’s prose has an inviting conversational tone that lifts the reader up. His main argument is that, after a long period of expansion, the job is now collapsing in upon itself. For the first part of the book, we read about the presidents who transformed the office: Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and the two Roosevelts. The second part of the book follows the fall: JFK and LBJ; Reagan; Clinton and Obama. FDR was the last president to fundamentally remake the job and save the country, and the world, in the process. No one else is going to top that. Furthermore, the job has become so complex that no one person, according to Suri, can ever hope to juggle all the responsibility. Spoiler alert: Suri advocates for a two-person job with a president and a prime minister. Of course, we’ve already established a partnership between president and vice-president since Carter. But that may not be enough.
It is Donald Trump who so neatly underscores Suri’s thesis about the decline of the job that he cannot help but cast a long shadow over the whole book. Suri uses contemporary politico lingo currently associated with Trump. Suri describes past presidents as responding to their “base” and “doubling down” on important issues. More to the point, Suri provides numerous highly relevant examples of how presidents have appealed to the male white voter. This is a fact that each president has wrestled with from the very beginning.
THE IMPOSSIBLE PRESIDENCY by Jeremi Suri
In a work full of evocative and highly informative passages, what Suri does with FDR stands out. Suri weaves a series of recollections by Saul Bellow as a Depression era youth who is galvanized by the reassurances of FDR, the man on the radio, with the funny posh accent, that everyone intently listened to. In the case of FDR, his word was as good as gold. When FDR ordered an increase in the money supply, he answered any criticism over its legitimacy by stating, “How do I know that’s any good? The fact that I think it is, makes it good.” As Suri points out, that kind of common sense meant everything to a struggling boy like Saul Bellow. It was real words backed up by real action.
In a very accessible and compelling style, Suri guides the reader in distinguishing the most consequential American presidents. In this excerpt, you get a taste of Suri’s writing as he compares Lincoln to FDR:
“If Lincoln was the nineteenth-century president, Roosevelt was the twentieth-century American leader.
Lincoln’s presidency anticipated Roosevelt’s. The latter had to contend with the collapse of the American (and world) economy, but they both spent much of their presidencies at war. In retrospect, Roosevelt’s ability to respond creatively to the Great Depression and echo Lincoln’s war performance is truly exceptional. No other president faced the same range of existential challenges. As a consequence, no other president had so many opportunities to change the basic structure of American society, and vast sections of the modern world. Roosevelt turned the darkest of times into the brightest of new hopes. He was not only the first welfare president, but, by 1944, the first global president, influencing more parts of the world than any previous American executive. He pioneered the New Deal and then globalized its reach.”
No less heroic is the way that JFK navigated the Cuban Missile Crisis. In sharp contrast to FDR’s time, Suri points out, the job of president had become so compartmentalized that, even at the height of the crisis, JFK was hamstrung with a schedule crammed with activities of little to no real significance. The office had taken on such a life of its own that it was assumed the president would simply pick how his advisors wanted to strike at Cuba not whether to discuss other options. Of course, we know JFK found another option. But, in the case of Vietnam, the system forced his hand. For LBJ, it was more of the same: another president distracted as well as compelled to great action.
Suri states that gradual and incremental progress is the new template fashioned by Clinton and Obama. But, Suri goes on to say, a sense for bold action must not be lost. For Clinton, it was not responding to the genocide in Rwanda. For Obama, it was not responding to ISIS as the threat emerged. In both cases, each president was conscious of the risk of overextending and held back when they should have acted. As for Trump, Suri seems to see him as more of a warning that we’ve hit rock bottom and now we must plan for what lies ahead. This is an essential book for putting our current state of affairs into proper historical context.
How Much More of King Trump? Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.
The focus of this book is to show how the modern American presidency has evolved into a colossal apparatus. In turn, the role of a modern American president has become virtually unmanageable, too demanding for just one person. Or has it–or is that the crucial problem? To be sure, it is a problem but solving it won’t resolve other government dysfunction. Suri does not delve into what his proposed solution would gain. A team of president and prime minister, as he suggests, would still be at the mercy of a corrupt and compromised Congress. But one step at a time. A post-Trump America, in and of itself, will be a step in the right direction. More and more Americans, even loyal Trump supporters, are coming to see that something is fundamentally wrong with our current chief executive, his election, his entire administration. One American president who Suri does not cover is President Jimmy Carter. Here is a president who valued integrity and did quite a lot of good while in office. Look it up and you’ll see. This book is just the type that inspires you to keep looking up in more ways than one.
“The Impossible Presidency: The Rise and Fall of America’s Highest Office” is a 368-page hardcover published by Basic Books. You can order this book from Amazon by clicking the image below:
“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”
There is an artful moment during the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey. Sen. Angus King, (I) Maine, asked if Trump saying he hoped the Flynn investigation would go away was a direction. And Comey quotes the famous line attributed to Henry II, and which floats within Shakespeare’s Richard II: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” The senator said he was thinking of the same quote.
King Henry II wished that a priest would go away. That was Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The next day, that priest was murdered, honoring the king’s wish. King Trump “hopes” for something, that the investigation of Michael Flynn would go away, an inappropriate suggestion, even for royalty.
As the Trump era unfolds, the opposition unfolds too. From USUncut:
Some of these numbers are subject to change, but the historically massive scale of this protest can not be denied. The protests in Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City alone totals over 2 million people. Over 670 marches took place worldwide, with thousands of people also taking part in demonstrations in Tokyo, Dublin, Capetown, Paris, Vienna, and Yangon, to name a few.
Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position.
Seattle would like to be considered a first-rate bicycle-friendly city. Unfortunately, it’s just not up there with Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Not even close. We locals are facing a lot of problems. There’s a huge push to get cyclists on the roads despite intolerant car drivers. We have a poor infrastructure for cars let alone bicycles. We have the City of Seattle with ill-conceived solutions including confusing and impractical bike lanes. We have a city official, Scott Kubly, who used his influence to have the City of Seattle buy a failing bike-sharing system, Pronto Bikes. Cyclists in Seattle are in a highly awkward position. They are risking their own lives to pursue their cycling passion in a city ill-equipped to accommodate them. And, given what they go through, they feel entitled: they push right on through, jump onto sidewalks when they feel a need, and make life for pedestrians just a bit more stressful and even dangerous. I have many fond memories of riding a bicycle. I have fond memories of once driving a car in Seattle–not anymore. Seattle has a long way to go before it can call itself a cyclist paradise.
Thousands of people gather at Republique square, 11 January 2015.Photo: Associated Press
Is it a brave new world since the attack on Charlie Hebdo? The short answer is Yes and No. As the Jan. 11 Paris anti-terrorism rallies made clear, people choose not to live in fear. No, we will not live in fear. That is the universal gut reaction and what inspired such a massive outpouring of expression.
Then you add world leaders getting involved, taking a prominent spot at the rallies, and things get very calculated. Still, it was what it was: a moment. The deadly Jan. 7 terrorist attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo inspired the biggest march in France’s history with at least 3.7 million people participating.
Then you add a multitude of talking heads and assorted pundits and you sift through that for a while. Some comments were fueled by unchecked outrage. Some comments were motivated by an ax to grind. Some comments were made by perhaps the unheroic wishing to be part of something that seemed heroic. And so on down the line. Pretty tiresome but also human.
But have we entered into something new? Yes, in the sense that Charlie Hebdo is now part of the hive mind. For now, for a very long time to come, we will consider and discuss what happened at Charlie Hebdo and its fallout.
There can be no universal consensus, no universal support, for the content in Charlie Hebdo. That is part of its appeal. It’s regular print run of 60,000 has risen to, at last count, 7 million. It is freedom of expression that inspires many of its supporters, many who are totally new readers to the paper. Jump in, feet first, when it comes to freedom of expression, they say. The fact remains that Charlie Hebdo is more than willing to cross a line into questionable and volatile terrain. It is out of any significant frame of reference for many of these new readers. It is only fair, and decent, to stop and think, no matter what the paper’s intentions, who is ultimately being hurt, offended, marginalized, targeted, turned into an Other, for the sake of some alignment with freedom of expression. Things, even seemingly innocent jokes, have ways of taking on lives of their own.
Ultimately, freedom of expression must win out. South Park must exist. Charlie Hebdo must exist. Any paper, any website, any street corner prophet, has a right to expression. But it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to feel obligated to join in and legitimize any and all content. In the spirit of attempting to make sense of events, there is a new site focused on dissecting Charlie Hebdo which may prove helpful. You can find it here. Learning more about Charlie Hebdo is good, in and of itself, whether or not you agree with its content.
Editor’s Note: Here in Seattle, we have an election this Tuesday. And, here in Seattle, we are going through some vastly problematic growing pains. What exactly are we doing as we sprout condos in every conceivable spot? Well, rest assured, Seattle will elect someone mayor. However, we the citizens of Seattle need to look beyond this, or any, election. Consider, for example, visiting a site looking to make a difference, Reasonable Density Seattle. Sure, growth can be wonderful, just as long as we don’t stomp out the very reasons Seattle is so attractive.
Visit us every Monday for a new installment of Ballard Comics.