Proving Woodward’s Point

As I said yesterday, anyone who has watched this deeply dysfunctional President has come to the same conclusions Woodward attributes to Trump’s staff. But thanks to the very low levels of civic literacy in this country, it may not be apparent to everyone how profoundly his proposed actions violate the most basic of our constitutional premises.

A couple of examples from the Washington Post:

President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

“I don’t know why they don’t take care of a situation like that,” Trump said. “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don’t even know what side the protesters are on.”

I rather doubt that the Daily Caller’s reporter asked the appropriate question: Are you aware that the First Amendment to the Constitution specifically protects the ability of citizens to “petition their government for redress of grievances?” (The Daily Caller is a  website founded by conservative pundit Tucker Carlson and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Hence my assumption the reporter didn’t confront the President.)

It doesn’t really matter. Since Trump has given exactly zero evidence of ever having encountered the Constitution–let alone understanding it–I’m sure a reference to the First Amendment would have fallen on deaf ears.

In another Post column, David Von Drehle addressed the President’s utter contempt for the rule of law.

Here’s a question I never expected to ask:

Should law enforcement officials ignore crimes committed by their friends and associates?

I grew up thinking the answer was a simple no. The figure of Justice, with her scales in one hand and her sword in the other, wears a blindfold to symbolize her impartiality. Carved in stone over the doors of the Supreme Court are the words: Equal Justice Under Law.

As I got older and saw a few things, I came to understand that justice, as meted out by humans, is imperfect. Yet the principle of the matter — the goal for which we should aim and the standard by which we should measure — remains the same. Impartiality. Equality. Fairness.

So why am I asking?

On Labor Day, the president of the United States used Twitter to express precisely the opposite idea.

Von Drehle was referring to Trump’s angry eruption at the indictment of “two very popular Republican Congressmen.” He clearly believes that the role of the Justice Department is political, that since both he and Sessions are Republican, the department should protect Republican wrongdoing.

I don’t know what’s worse–that Trump would have such an uniformed view of what “law” means, or that he was willing to tweet his ignorance for the whole world to see. As Von Drehle concluded,

Nineteenth-century orator Robert Green Ingersoll once wrote, “Nothing discloses real character like the use of power.” In his pity for Paul Manafort, convicted tax cheat; in his hatred for truth-telling “rats” and “flippers”; and now in his assertion that the law should exempt his political allies, Donald J. Trump is disclosing his.

Sixty percent of us, plus or minus, noticed.


  1. Justice is only for those who can afford lawyers, and even then, it’s not on your side in 2018.

    And I’m not even sure most Americans even grasp the disparity. I don’t see the moral majority or silent majority protesting all the black people in prison or police brutality against blacks.

    Stories surfaced yesterday that the CAFOS in NC were draining their manure lagoons in fields surrounding black neighborhoods ahead of Hurricane Florence.

    White collar criminals aren’t treated as equals with regular folks. Abuse of power is the norm in The USA—not the exception.

    What’s worse are those writing the laws are tilting the game in their favor every day for decades.

    The “rule of law” and the term “justice” means nothing in our country.

    I was hoping to Cuomo lose and Zephyr Teachout would win in New York. Neither happened.

    Morality is just a word in the dictionary.

  2. Trump is only one example of why big and small businessmen can be so dangerous in elective office. Many and perhaps most businesses – especially private businesses and businesses without collective bargaining – are run like dictatorships where any dissenter can be immediately fired for challenging or exposing the boss or the boss’s friends. Businesses can pick their niche markets rather than serve all consumer’s wishes. The business interests and profts supercede public interests and satisfaction.
    Government is so very different. The boss must collect research from all his agencies, Cabinet officials, White House staff, and interest groups affected from all sides. Government leaders must seek counsel from multiple agencies (and often allies) to make an informed decision on the economy, the military, diplomatic relations with allies and enemies, and more. Government is collaborative. It REQUIRES teamwork to avoid catastrophic mistakes.
    Trump’s recently reported reaction to braille elevator panels in Trump Tower is a perfect example. Despite being told that federal law required such panels, Trump demanded they be removed because he was so sure no blind people would be living in Trump Tower. Trump just doesn’t feel laws apply to him and doesn’t feel any obligation to serve everyone – not even in a public building where he is not permitted to discriminate against those with disabilities as tenants or visitors to his building. Trump doesn’t have a collaborative bone in his body and shows no interest in learning how to collaborate. If he did, he might be confronted with information he didn’t want to believe from those who have more knowledge, expertise, and experience than he has.
    Good managers surround themselves with good people in whom they have confidence and who have knowledge and skills in areas the manager doesn’t have to compliment and expand the manager’s knowledge and skill base. It appears Donald Trump thinks he would look weaker rather than stronger for doing that.
    Bob Woodward was right in titling his book “FEAR”. Trump fears the public will learn he does not know much about government or about hiring people who do.

  3. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the founding fathers; you know, Adams, Jefferson, Washington and Madison. I wonder what they would think about a mentally ill president who had not studied and understood the words that they wrote so long ago. I wonder what they would think about the leader of our country disparaging the First Amendment? I wonder what they would think of a president who turned the White House into a going concern for this family.

    Would they think that the idea of America had failed?

  4. This morning I read that the three groups that have told Susan Collins that they have raised $1.2 million and they will use it to unseat her, if she votes for Kavanaugh, have been referred to the Justice Department for bribing a public official. A while back Mitch McConnell said he had heard from donors about the tax cut package that Republicans were pushing through. It seems, if they didn’t get their tax cuts, they wouldn’t be donors much longer. They weren’t referred to Justice for that. I guess that $1.2 million is a bribe, but billions are “free speech.”


  5. Sheila,

    “Sixty percent of us, plus or minus, noticed.”

    Numbers are irrelevant if you’re unable to stand-up. Apartheid in South Africa is a good example that numbers are not always the overriding factor. It took the leadership of Nelson Mandela to change that political equation.

    Reference: “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela (Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 1994).


    “The “rule of law” and the term “justice” means nothing in our country.
    I was hoping to Cuomo lose and Zephyr Teachout would win in New York. Neither happened.”

    Voting without meaningful leadership can’t change anything. I can’t speak for Todd. But I believe that is the point he is making today, which I agree 100%.

  6. I don’t think that any DT supporter cares one bit about his knowledge of or performance of his duties relative to the Constitution. He validates their resentment and bigotry, supports their religious beliefs as the sole legitimate rule for everyone else, reinforces their entitlement and perceived superiority as white. That is all that matters to them. If they’ve got theirs, no one else gets any and that is the way it should be, because they are better, smarter, more deserving and “God’s plan” cannot be denied.

  7. Just watched Active Measures last night. NYT says Manafort may do a plea deal. Mueller is taking them down and Trump will implode. While everyone is hopeful of the blue wave, look for inspiration and listen to podcasts by WBEZ out of Chicago called “Making Obama”. It’s all about his early years before and after law school as community activist in Chicago. There is a lot to learn from Saul Alinsky’s Community Activism.

  8. I’ve been a little disappointed in Woodward’s book in that much of it was a re-hash of what we’ve seen in other books about the inside of this White House and all the personality deprivations of the president. But, it does corroborate what the 60+% have known since before the election.

    Yes, the Republicans are complicit; Lindsay Graham, trying to be the voice of sanity, quickly found himself as a self-ordained Trump whisperer who got jilted by the true madness of his subject. Trump is insane, mad as a hatter. The Republicans (even Graham admitted to Trump that Congress is completely useless) have absolutely no moral fiber…or fiber of any other sort either. They are merely corporate whores; the “discussion” about bribing Collins is laughable in view of how Citizens United decisions made bribery a cottage industry in our Congress.

    As is so often stated in this, and many other responsible blogs, we the peoples’ only solution is to vote out those professional politicians who are scamming us. This will do the two things necessary to make sure we have future elections.

    (1) The repudiation of Donald Trump and the specter of impeachment will stop most of the insanity coming from the Oval Office.

    (2) Returning Congress to citizen representatives will recoup the intent of the founders to have real people represent the the citizens instead of silk-suited criminals.

  9. bumper sticker:
    capital punishment,
    if you have no capital,
    you get the punishment…..
    manafort is debating rolling over on trump,and his ilk… seems hes outta money to defend,er what happen to his go fund me account? anyway, popadopolous got a warning,not to come back while on supervised,,,… and maybe it will give manafort some working ,er,capital…though trump will probabaly pardon him,as with his bribe needs…manafort is guilty of money laundering,,no lie, but, its how he got the money, installing a putin ,oligarch backed russian,to be president of ukraine.. until that president,was caught pilfering the treasury,in which is how,manafort was paid,in cash.. ledger in hand,and seen on alot of euro news wires..i have no problem seeing manfort not as a Anerican,but a con man lobbyist who feels money is the only essential. kinda like clintons campaign advisors..or today,most political advisors..seems deep commitment to the people,is who will pay them the most,and under what terms…manafort is a cheap crook,and a oppertunist,like trump, and sentencing them both to live in russia,under putins terms,seems like a great sentence..take kavenaugh with you too..

  10. “This morning I read that the three groups that have told Susan Collins that they have raised $1.2 million and they will use it to unseat her, if she votes for Kavanaugh, have been referred to the Justice Department for bribing a public official.”

    Peggy; if those three groups have raised $100.2 million to unseat Collins, it is not worth a fart in the hurricane Florence wind gusts. She has NO opponent in this election; they said they would use it to unseat her in 2020 which is TWO YEARS away…Senatorial terms are SIX YEARS. These groups need to find a better use for their $1.2 million for the November 6th election…possibly use it to support Democratic candidates who are actually running.

    “I’ve been a little disappointed in Woodward’s book in that much of it was a re-hash of what we’ve seen in other books about the inside of this White House and all the personality deprivations of the president. But, it does corroborate what the 60+% have known since before the election.”

    Vernon; Bob Woodward’s corroboration of previous writings and documents comes from one of the men who ousted Nixon from the White House. His voice, his words, carry the weight of qualification and experience from one who has “been there, done that”. I have ordered “Fear”; have had a copy of Wolff’s book, “Fire And Fury” since it first came out but just started reading it yesterday so I could compare his “inside” views and conclusions with Bob Woodward’s. The evidence is piling up; the fact that Trump’s own people are deserting him or are forced out or arrested, coupled with his own stupidity and endless lies, adds up to what is considered “physical evidence” in courts.

    Trump’s constant denial of “collusion” with Russia is an admission that Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election has validity. I do not remember Mr. Mueller or any of his investigators stating directly that they looking for collusion involving Trump; they are investigating the Russian interference and are uncovering more and more connections to those connected to Trump and/or his appointees and family members. Circumstantial evidence at this time; and more time is needed to uncover the many tentacles of the interference. Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and “Deep Throat” took 28 months to deliver full evidence against Nixon by connecting him and his cronies to all of the Watergate crimes.

    Theresa; about our forefathers, “Would they think that the idea of America had failed?” Those wise men would NEVER have allowed a situation like this to get this far.


  11. Haves and have nots. Trump’s brand management skills have empowered the haves and fooled the have nots who have been angered by entertainment media into looking for revenge on those they blame for their problems: those who look and/or act different, those who supported Obama (obviously the wrong race to rule), progressives and intellectuals, politicians, poor people, in a word anyone who represents the change that they blame for the loss of entitlement that the white working class feel like they’ve suffered.

    The destruction comes from an administration not capable of leading anyone away from the trauma but instead reinforcing the causes of it.

    The worst conceivable administration for these times.

    We can blunt and slow the damage on Election Day Nov 6. We can contain the toxic Executive Branch with a Legislative Branch hostile to the incompetence and corruption and destruction of the American Dream and neighbourly collaboration that used to be America’s brand.

    It’s just a start but a necessary one.

    Help America recover.

  12. As I was reading Sheila’s blog my mind was forming a response. Imagine my disappointment when Todd had pretty much covered it. Let me underline the point I want to make.

    We do not have a justice system. We have a legal system. We do not even attempt to find justice. The richest hire attorneys who can win legally and justice has NOTHING to do with it.

    This is made worse by the sad fact that these same rich people and corporations now purchase new law via lobbying and campaign donations, thus tilting the legals system to slide more and more in their favor.

    The poor, the weak and the worker, if they look for justice, look in vain.

  13. JoAnne,

    I know who Bob Woodward is and what he did. I am certain that every word is accurate in his book. He has no need to fiddle the truth or the facts…unlike the subject of his most recent book.

    I guess I want to say that it’s time to reduce the time we spend flogging what we all know is the situation and start formulating how we’re going to get good, solid citizens into our government, people who are immune to bribes, who are courageous enough to overturn stupid and dangerous laws and “decisions” – like Citizens United and the Electoral College. These things are going to take an enormous amount of courage and dedication to our Constitution that our current president and Congress seem to confuse with who is paying them to vote.

  14. The best scenario that can come from the Donald Trump mess is a Mike Pence presidency. What is he guilty of? We’re not in the Watergate era of 1974.

    That [Watergate era] was all before: “the rise of Conservative Media, featuring Fox, talk radio, and a bunch of noisy partisans on the Internet and bestseller lists who almost never admit their side does anything wrong.” That statement is from the beginning of an article in the June 13, 2005 edition of Newsweek , by Jonathan Adler entitled: “IF WATERGATE HAPPENED NOW. The following is the last paragraph of the one-page FUTURISTIC essay:

    “Nixon gave a TV interview to the the British journalist David Frost in which he said, [sounds much like Donald Trump] “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” This explained why he felt comfortable approving the break-in at the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Ken Duberstein and a few other principled weighed in that Nixon was bad news, but they were drowned out by former aides like Pat Buchanan and G. Gordon Liddy, who wanted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. When “Firebombing Brookings: Good Idea or Not?” became the “Question of the Day”on MSNBC, Liddy’s radio show got a nice ratings boost. After Ralph Reed disclosed that Nixon and Henry Kissinger had been on their knees praying in the Oval Office, Nixon went up 15 points in the Gallup, double among “people of faith.” Our long national nightmare was just beginning.”

    This isn’t 1974. Adler’s article was written in 2005, included with other articles in Newsweek, commenting on the revealing of “Deep Throat,” the intelligence source for Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men.” What a magnificent verbal picture of the future.

    Mueller’s investigation will do nothing to stem the RED TIDE. This isn’t 1974, it’s more like Orwell’s “1984.”

    But don’t worry, we have the Southern Poverty Law Center/ADL protecting us. Who needs another Deep Throat?

    Nevertheless, keep praying, facts seem to be irrelevant to many on this blog.

  15. Don’t worry about the Southern Baptist Convention, even though it has more ministers than the Catholics have priests.

    After we published “Democracide: The Far Right’s Path to Power,” and distributed it in 1993, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), quickly, countered with “The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America” in 1994.

    Looking at the Index to the ADL’s book, you see the following:

    Southern Baptist Convention, 7 n. 70
    Home Mission Board, 50

    That’s it. However, page 70 is important, but the importance has to do with how misleading it is. And we still wonder why things have gotten so bad.

  16. I don’t always fully agree with Todd’s screeds, but I think he’s mostly right on point today about this country’s “justice” system serving only the elites and corporations.

    A good example. Matt Taibbi’s article on the Rolling Stone web site yesterday pretty well ties it up in a nice package with a red bow on it. Taibbi explains how the financial crisis was basically the result of a criminal ponzi scheme, and that those who committed and fostered those criminal acts not only weren’t prosecuted, but most of them ended up receiving great financial rewards due to the government’s massive bail out of the “banks to big to fail.” And in the process, the government has now created even bigger and more concentrated “banks to big to fail.”

  17. All the commentaries today are good, especially (in my estimation) those of Nancy, Peter and Vern, but I am beginning to think that we are shooting at the wrong target, i.e., perhaps we are treating this whole Trump misadventure as a political matter when we are really dealing with cult behaviour or, more likely, an admixture of the two. Commentators on this blog are very good at setting out our currently ridiculous situation as political scientists but there are probably few if any psychologists and psychiatrists among us, and Trump has provided us with both political science and cult behavior in a single package in his attempt to bring his Otherworld into ours, bouncing back and forth between reality and such claims as the Puerto Rican and other claims and assertions that I as a lay person would call insane.

    Is it possible that Trump knows his cult of 35% will ignore his insane claims and thinks he should make such assertions to the rest of us anyway so that our attention is diverted from what is going on in our real world of grossly inequitable taxation, wage inequality, racism, claims that the press is the enemy of the people etc. etc. etc.? I think so, so is there a doctor in the house? Are we looking at cultism with a plan, a plan to destroy America, its institutions and people in accord with Bannon’s admittedly Leninist plan to “destroy the administrative state?”

    Let’s take Bannon’s plan a step further, and one proven by history. If the administrative state (aka in our case, democracy) is destroyed, then (a la Lenin and his Bolsheviks) the strongman among the destructors (aka cultists) becomes the dictator. Is this Trump’s real plan, i.e., destroy all opposition via trashing of the Constitution and institutions so that he can gather all power unto himself?

    I don’t know; I am not a shrink, but as the Music Man lamented in the musical of the same
    name, “We got trouble, folks, right here in River City!” What to do? We can start with voting for sanity and only sanity this November 6.

  18. Yes, Gerald. All you say is correct and the urgency to remove the Trump cult from our government grows each day.

    Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans are going hammer and tong at stacking the federal bench with right wing ideologues and reactionaries. Schumer certainly abetted that process, but the United States being a nation of laws is quickly deteriorating into a nation of cultism…just like the Mayans and Aztecs. When they couldn’t find short-term fixes to their problems, they reverted to ceremony, cultism of death and an overbearing religion which brought them both down.

  19. Gerald,

    You don’t need a psychiatrist to see, as you have pointed out, that “we are treating this whole Trump misadventure as a political matter when we are really dealing with cult behaviour or, more likely, an admixture of the two.”

  20. Gerald,

    We are fortunate to have so many different views on how to understand the disaster, we are all facing. I apologize, for the fact, that my views seem to be the most difficult to “stomach.”

  21. —–Original Message—–

    Sent: 9/14/2018 12:12:29 PM
    To: “Senator Joe Donnelly”
    Subject: Re: Thank You (Message Delivery Confirmation)

    Thanks. I’m 92YO and don’t do Facebook or Twitter. Please reply by email to my query about your pending vote on the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination. Will you vote FOR or AGAINST confirmation? Thank you.

    Show original message On Friday, September 14, 2018 6:06 AM, Senator Joe Donnelly wrote:

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please accept this email as confirmation that I have received your message. As your Senator, I believe that the best way to represent Indiana is to listen to the concerns and ideas of Hoosiers from across our state. Your voice is important to me and helps me to better serve Indiana and our country.

    I encourage you to visit my website, check out my Facebook page, and follow me on Twitter. If you would like to receive regular updates about my work on your behalf in Congress, sign up to receive my e-newsletters here.

    If you have reached out to me as part of an advocacy campaign, please rest assured that your message will be considered. If you would like to engage with me directly, please use my webform. Alternately, you may find more information on my position on the issue of your interest on my webpage.

    If you would like help booking tours for your upcoming visit to Washington, D.C. or requesting a flag to be flown over the Capitol, please contact my Washington office at 202-224-4814.

    Thank you again for contacting me. It is an honor to represent you in the United States Senate.


    Joe Donnelly
    United States Senator

  22. Theresa Bowers @7:55am

    “Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the founding fathers; you know, Adams, Jefferson, Washington and Madison. I wonder what they would think about a mentally ill president who had not studied and understood the words that they wrote so long ago.”

    They DID (as did their successors) address the problem with the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its subsequent revisions. Google it for an interesting morph of thought and the law.

    We have plenty of written and oral evidence of his incapacity but the unearned adoration he gets from his shrinking base makes it politically difficult to succeed with an ouster campaign. But do not lose heart; he’s bound to commit more bloopers and only one, the right one, is needed to enrage the electorate and unseat him. Meanwhile, VOTE BLUE, the first step, November 6th.

  23. What I find distressing is – How since 2015 Agent Orange has sucked the air out of the McMega-Media, such as CNN, MSDNC, and FAUX News, along with various print media. Everything else is ignored, except today we have a Hurricane to divert the collective attention of America.

    A story concerning Wells Fargo is never center stage:

    Just a few of Wells Fargo’s recent greatest hits include:
    • Blaming a computer glitch after it foreclosed on 400 homes for absolutely no reason (the bank was “very sorry”).
    • Facing accusations of gender bias from senior executives
    • Forcing redundant car insurance on more than 800,000 people, raking in $73 million while 25,000 people had their cars repossessed.
    • Allegedly changing loan terms of bankrupt mortgage borrowers in secret without informing them.
    • Playing a role in funding Trump’s immigrant prisons as one of the lenders to private prison companies GEO Group and CoreCivic.
    • Being accused of falsifying records in order to make mortgage applicants pay for delays the bank actually caused.
    • Facing allegations of stealing from rich investors to pay for legal fees to defend a lawsuit from those same rich investors.
    • Pushing even its richest clients into unnecessary products and charging huge fees.
    • Opening 3.5 million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts and blaming it on low-paid workers struggling to hit incentives.
    Will anyone go to Jail??? I doubt it. The Proles are arrested everyday for Burglary, Theft and Fraud, but Corporate America skates, with their Get out of Jail Card.

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