Tag Archives: Democracy

Sketchnotes: Senate Trial 23 Jan 2020: Donald Trump vs. Val Demings

A split-screen of Demings and Trump.

A highlight from today: presentation by house manager, and retired law enforcement officer, Rep. Val Demings. She focused on the machinations of Rudy Giuliani as he worked to pressure Ukrainian Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky to announce Biden investigations. At one point during the NBC News broadcast coverage, there was a split-screen of Demings and Trump arriving in Miami for one of his rallies. What is particularly interesting about this moment is that there is talk of Demings as the vice presidential running mate for the Democratic ticket in 2020. Demings, by the way, is from Florida, a most consequential state come election time. Ironically, Trump was heading to Miami during the Demings presentation.

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Filed under Comics, Donald Trump, Visual Storytelling

NYT Opinion: Impeach Trump. Save America.

King Trump Confronts American Presidents. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

Newspaper headlines and editorials still matter even if Donald Trump will dismiss it all as “fake news,” except for news from his base. Thomas L. Friedman, three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, offers a powerful and sobering editorial, much of it simply recapping facts, on the real need to impeach Trump and remove him from office. You can find the link here and the editorial is posted below. It is the duty of every American who knows and understands to speak out in whatever way they can. Republican senators are reading and listening:

Impeach Trump. Save America.

It is the only thing to do if our country’s democracy is to survive.

By

Opinion Columnist

Impeaching a president is the most consequential thing our Congress can do — other than declaring war. So, after great consideration, I say: President Trump not only should be impeached, he must be impeached if America’s democracy is to remain intact.

Why? Because the facts here are not in doubt — indeed Trump’s allies in the media and Congress have largely given up disputing them: Trump held up congressionally directed taxpayer funding to strengthen Ukraine’s military against Russia until the new Ukrainian president agreed to do what Trump called a “favor” — announce that Ukraine was investigating Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden, and his son, who was involved with a Ukrainian gas company. Trump apparently thought that just the announcement of such an investigation would kill Biden’s campaign in its crib.

Generally speaking, I believe presidents should be elected and removed by the voters at the polls. But when I hear Trump defenders scream, “Impeachment subverts the will of the people,” I say: “Really? What the hell do you think Trump was doing in Ukraine?” He was subverting the will of the people by scheming to use our tax dollars to knock out his most feared opponent in the coming election — rather than trusting voters to do that.

The only reason the plot was aborted was that a whistle-blower from the intelligence community drew attention to the president’s plan, forcing him to release the money to Ukraine — moments before his shakedown exploded into public view. Trump was like a bank robber with a gun to a teller’s head, who suddenly heard the police sirens approaching and ran off before he could stash the money in his bag.

President Trump spoke to reporters before boarding Marine One last month. Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

So while the founders wanted to reserve removal of a president for elections by the people, they understood that there could be situations when removing a president might be necessary to protect and preserve our very framework for holding free and fair elections. That framework is the Constitution and the rule of law — and this is one of those situations.

If we say, as Republicans do, that what Trump did is not an impeachable offense, we are telling ourselves and every future president that — in direct contradiction of what the founders wrote in the Constitution — it is O.K. to enlist a foreign power to tilt the election your way. Can you imagine how much money candidates could raise from Saudi Arabia or China to tilt a future election their way, or how many cyberwarriors they could enlist from Russia or Iran to create fake news, suppress voting or spur outrage?

Trump was like a bank robber with a gun to a teller’s head, who suddenly heard the police sirens approaching and ran off before he could stash the money in his bag.

The integrity of our elections would be shattered, and we would never again have a legitimate president — a president, who, whether or not you liked him or her, was at least seen as legitimately elected. That would be a prescription for permanent political chaos, as no future presidents’ authority would be respected if they were elected on the basis of foreign interference.

But that is what Republicans are courting by blindly defending Trump’s indefensible enlistment of Ukraine’s help to take down Biden and by echoing Trump’s conspiracy theory — originated by Russian agents — that it was Ukraine that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in 2016, not Russia. They also argue that the D.N.C.’s server was shipped off to Ukraine before the F.B.I. could look at it.

This is right out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Folks, can you imagine what Russia’s President Putin is saying to himself today? “I can’t believe my luck! I not only got Trump to parrot my conspiracy theories, I got his whole party to do it! And for free! Who ever thought Americans would so easily sell out their own Constitution for one man? My God, I have Russian lawmakers in my own Parliament who’d quit before doing that. But it proves my point: America is no different from Russia, so spare me the lectures.”

If Congress were to do what Republicans demand — forgo impeaching this president for enlisting a foreign power to get him elected, after he refused to hand over any of the documents that Congress had requested and blocked all of his key aides who knew what happened from testifying — we would be saying that a president is henceforth above the law.

We would be saying that we no longer have three coequal branches of government. We would be saying that we no longer have a separation of powers.

We would be saying that our president is now a king.

If we do that, the America you studied in history class, the America you grew up knowing and loving, and the America that the rest of the world has so long admired as a beacon of democracy and justice will be no more. Oh, how we will miss it when it’s gone.

At a time when virtually every Republican lawmaker and Fox News have chosen to prostitute themselves for Trump, I do see one glimmer of hope hiding in plain sight.

This is right out of “The Twilight Zone.”

Folks, can you imagine what Russia’s President Putin is saying to himself today? “I can’t believe my luck! I not only got Trump to parrot my conspiracy theories, I got his whole party to do it! And for free! Who ever thought Americans would so easily sell out their own Constitution for one man? My God, I have Russian lawmakers in my own Parliament who’d quit before doing that. But it proves my point: America is no different from Russia, so spare me the lectures.”

As The Times reported last Saturday, incumbent presidents almost always benefit from a strong economy, and right now job growth is robust and average hourly earnings are up — but Trump’s poll numbers are not: “Instead of enjoying anything close to overwhelming popularity because of the economy, Mr. Trump’s national approval rating has remained low, dropping about two percentage points to 41 percent since the Ukraine story broke.’’

“Stock Markets Up Record Numbers,” Trump tweeted on Friday, adding, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Yes, it’s the economy, stupid — when you have a president who is not violating his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution. But if you read today’s poll numbers alongside the economy numbers, it turns out that more than a few Americans are saying, “It’s the Constitution, stupid — and unlike you, Mr. Trump, we value some things more than money.”

We care about having a president who does not lie 20 times a day. We care about having a president who does not demean his opponents and mock their physical appearance. We care about having a president who does not take the word of Russia’s president over that of his own intelligence services. We care about having a president who is not caught up in conspiracy theories, which he then makes everyone around him chase. We care about having a president who values our nonpartisan public servants. We care about having a president who wants to be the president of the whole country, not just his base.

And most of all, we care about having a president who takes seriously his oath to preserve and protect our Constitution. Without that, we will end up one day morally and financially bankrupt. How many Americans will still feel that way on Election Day remains to be seen and will also depend on the Democrats’ alternative. But for now, it’s good to know that it’s a significant number — that despite three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the country still has a civic pulse.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Thomas L. Friedman is the foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist. He joined the paper in 1981, and has won three Pulitzer Prizes. He is the author of seven books, including “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” which won the National Book Award. @tomfriedman Facebook

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Filed under Donald Trump, Impeachment, Opinion

Book Review: IT OCCURS TO ME THAT I AM AMERICA: NEW STORIES AND ART

It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art

What does it mean to be American in these strange times we live in? We have someone in power who behaves like a self-serving gremlin, determined to dismantle and foment unrest, boasting a horribly inarticulate screed. Here is a collection from some of the most respected names in the arts that acts as an answer to what it is to be American. It is entitled, It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art, published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. This title came out in 2018 and it deserves to be on everyone’s radar in 2019 and for years to come.

Vote Hillary by Deborah Kass

Sometimes, perhaps too often, we get such a gem of a book that deserves a whole new shout out. Let me run through for you what makes this one special. Gathered within 375 pages are works by talented artists and writers all tackling a common theme in refreshingly unexpected ways. The book is edited by celebrated artist and novelist Jonathan Santlofer, with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen. The roster of creators runs the gamut from exciting new talent to established legends. Each piece is a highly original voice. You’ll find, for instance, Hate for Sale, by Neil Gaiman, a poem tailor-made for today and yet unnervingly timeless. Or how about Joyce Carol Oates, “Good News!”a cautionary tale that nicely channels Ray Bradbury.

Little House on the Prairie Holding Company LLC by David Storey

Among visual art, one that immediately strikes just the right defiant tone is Vote Hillary, by Deborah Kass, a screen print channeling Andy Warhol with Trump replacing Nixon as the subject. Another compelling piece is The Ugliest American Alphabet, by Eric Orner, where he recounts all that is dismaying about Trump using every letter of the alphabet. Some other thoughtful work in comics comes from Roz Chast with Politics; and from Mimi Pond with Your Sacred American Rights Bingo. And one of the most beguiling works in comics in this book is a tryptic by Art Spiegelman. To be sure, all the work here is not espousing one particular point of view. You’ll find a bit of everything when it comes to articulating all things American. It’s not as easy as simply pointing fingers. It’s complicated, right? All in all, you have 52 distinctive voices here sharing with you just how complicated it all is in the best spirit of vigorous critical inquiry.

Your Sacred American Rights Bingo by Mimi Pond

I will finish up here by taking a closer look at the piece by Alice Walker, Don’t Despair. It is one of the shortest works and comes towards the end of this collection. She recounts how growing up in rural Georgia, all white men seemed to be like Donald Trump, petty and hateful. She looks back and wonders how she survived those times. Part of the answer is that Walker comes from a long line of ancestors who chose to live or die on their feet. Her family would survive, even proper, in the tiniest of spaces allowed to them by white people. Fast forward to today, Walker asks Is living under a dictatorship all that of a surprise? Her solution: Study hard! Study who you’re really voting for! And don’t rely on just voting for someone! “It is our ignorance that keeps us hoping somebody we elect will do all the work while we drive off to the mall.” Walker isn’t just offering hope. As she puts it, she’s offering counsel. Real change is personal and involves relating with each other. It is a time for an awakening and the choice is ours.

The Ugliest American Alphabet, by Eric Orner

It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art is a 375-page hardcover, with black & white and color images, published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

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Filed under Anthologies, Art, Art books, Art Spiegelman, Artists, Book Reviews, Books, Comics, Eric Orner, Fiction, Jonathan Santlofer, Mimi Pond, Protest, writers, writing

Book Review: ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ by Michael Wolff

FIRE AND FURY!

Michael Wolff’s political bombshell, “Fire and Fury,” is like a “Harry Potter” book event: mana for political junkies as well as a breakout book for a much wider audience. It has certainly proven to be an excellent go-to book on my nightstand these past couple of weeks. I felt it in my gut, from the start of the media campaign, that here was something that would hold up to a full reading. Wolff is not Carl Bernstein but he proves to be the right man in the right place and time. Some of the book’s juiciest bits that were placed under the media spotlight helped to distort the narrative. However, it’s not farfetched at all to find that Wolff has compiled something credible. Just don’t tell that to Sarah Huckabee since she swears the whole thing is a “fantasy,” not worthy of the American people.

January 17, 2018: Trump with communications director Hope Hicks and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

What I find most useful is that, by and large, Wolff has neatly organized and presented the machinations of all the oddball characters running amok: the mighty Steve Bannon; the royal duo, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, or Jarvanka; assorted misfits and minions such as Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer; and especially both Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, highly unqualified special assistants to the president. The important blocks of activity add up for the big picture: Jared Kushner’s highly suspicious dealings around the globe; the inept advice of Jarvanka to POTUS taking its toll; how all things Trump cannot help but inevitably fall like a house of cards. Time will tell just how much Wolff got right. It is in his best interest that the book holds up as it would make for a great movie. In his favor, he has a credible and lengthy acknowledgements list at the back of the book.

One day prior to FIRE AND FURY book release, Jan 4, 2018: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was flanked by two large television screens as President Donald Trump delivered a video message on stock market increases and economic gains.

This is much more than just about Trump sneaking a cheeseburger into bed or Steve Bannon’s pontificating. It is about a White House in crisis, even before it started, one stoking an international crisis. It is definitely about an accidental presidency, one that repeatedly abuses power, and is illegitimate. While that may sound too harsh for some hardcore Trump supporters, this book lays out the case for why the whole Trump phenomena is a shell game with players who shamelessly want to hang on to power. And it’s surprising how often Steve Bannon comes out sounding like the more sensible one in the bunch–but not for the reasons his supporters might think. The main reason he seems to have any sense is because he knew what a mistake it would be for Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey.

As Bannon explains it, it was Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner (he nicknamed them, “Jarvanka”) who pushed Trump into firing Comey. This Jarvanka push was triggered by the fact Kushner was part of Comey’s investigation into Russian meddling. And it just gets worse from there. Forget about Russian meddling for a moment. It’s all this Jarvanka meddling that’s pretty scary in and of itself. As the following excerpt demonstrates, despite the tabloid style to this book, Wolff puts together a narrative that most likely will be confirmed over and over again, especially by special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation:

“Most problematic of all, Hicks and Miller, along with everyone on the Jarvanka side, were now directly connected to actions involved in the Russian investigation or efforts to spin it, deflect it, or, indeed, cover it up. Miller and Hicks had drafted–or at least typed–Kushner’s version of the first letter written at Bedminster to fire Comey. Hicks had joined with Kushner and his wife to draft on Air Force One the Trump-directed press release about Don Jr. and Kushner’s meeting with Russians in Trump Tower.”

From left to right: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; Hope Hicks, White House director of strategic communications; and Omarosa Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, listen during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room, at the White House, on February 14, 2017. White House press secretary Sean Spicer discussed various topics, including the resignation of Michael Flynn from his position as National Security Adviser. Hicks is now one of six past and current Trump administration aides whom Robert Mueller reportedly wants to question. ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

A key player in the Jarvanka faction is Hope Hicks who provides some good grist for this book. A former model and aspiring actress, Hicks finds herself in the improbable position of being an essential link between the press and the leader of the free world. Hicks regularly provides digestible pits of information to Trump. She was responsible, for instance, in giving Trump a recap on the famous piece in The New Yorker that first connected the dots on Michael Flynn and Russia–except she failed to mention Michael Flynn. Hicks has no qualms over sending out disparaging leaks to the press about anyone deemed a problem, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Trumps legal team, Mark Corallo and Mark Kasowitz. It is no surprise that Robert Mueller is interested in questioning her.

And it all goes on, getting worse and worse. Just as one scandalous scene plays out, another rears its head to fill an endless news cycle. So, plenty of opportunity to deflect, distract, confuse, and alarm. It was just that strategy that led Trump to threaten to unleash “fire and fury” upon North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It is a well-documented fact that Trump said this since we can clearly view it on numerous news feeds. Unlike some other comments and activities by Trump & Co., there is no hiding behind the trickery of the Trump White House in this case. Wolff does an admirable job of exposing this spin doctor trickery. Sorry, Sarah, this book is significant and so far removed from your claim that it is mere “fantasy.”

If you’ve seen any of the segments Wolff has done during his book tour, he makes a compelling case: after being embedded in the White House for most of 2017, an informative book results, one that makes sense out of the political crisis of our time. Now, I will be the first to admit that Wolff seems just a little bit out of his depth. It’s like a fisherman going out to make a catch and snagging Moby Dick. And I did see his appearance with Bill Maher where he suggests Trump is currently having an affair with UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. He doesn’t come right out and say that and only hints that he would only say as much if he had absolute proof. It’s that whiff of the salacious than can take away from an otherwise even-tempered book. Ultimately, it doesn’t take away much of anything.

“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is a 336-page hardcover published by Henry Holt and Company. For more details, visit Henry Holt and Company right here. And you can get this book at Amazon by just clicking the image below:

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Filed under Book Reviews, Donald Trump, Journalism, politics, Russia, Russiagate

Trayvon Martin: How You Can Help End STAND YOUR GROUND

trayvon-martin-superman-hoodie

In a New York Times op-ed, by Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, we get some sobering analysis of what has happened. We need calm and contemplation as we forge ahead. Mr. Yankah makes a case for this being, in part, a matter of faulty law.
There is a way you can help change the law and you can find it here.

For now, Mr. Zimmerman is free but he does have more legal issues to contend with. And he must live with what he did. It was repeatedly said in the Zimmerman trial that this is not supposed to be about race. But it is. Even if we set race aside for a moment, Mr. Zimmerman is only protected by the most contrived of law.

Shortly after the news broke of the killing of Trayvon Martin, I posted about it. You can read that post here. At the time, I responded to the assertion that Mr. Zimmerman was responding to Mr. Martin’s hoodie. That didn’t add up then and it doesn’t today. It wasn’t enough for George Zimmerman either. He knew, as anyone with a passing knowledge in Florida law would know, that he was protected by Florida law, the highly controversial STAND YOUR GROUND law.

It is about race. We have made a lot of progress over the years but did we somehow magically resolve all issues on race? We can seek out justice. And part of the solution is the law. You can make a difference by signing a petition to ask the U.S. Justice Department to review STAND YOUR GROUND here.

An update: From the Washington Post, the latest on Attorney General Eric Holder against STAND YOUR GROUND, you can read that here.

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Filed under Democracy, George Zimmerman, Justice, Law, Media, Race, Stand Your Ground, Trayvon Martin