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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 12
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-02 11:16:48
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Week 12 - Columns 78-84 (September 2-8)
On:  the era of post-truth, double standards on immigration, Trump’s lies, Trump and the Alt-Right, contempt for the US Constitution, an impeachable president, kleptocracy in the White House.


Column 78

In the Era of Post-Truth Trump’s Base no longer trusts in Facts


Enormous majorities of Trump’s voters believe the news media regularly publishes false stories. Even bigger majorities of them believe the news media’s falsehoods are a bigger problem than the Trump administration’s falsehoods are, while only small fractions think the administration lies regularly.

Amid increased press scrutiny of Trump’s falsehoods and failings, do Trump’s assaults on the media — and the related widespread belief among Trump voters that the media regularly produces “fake news” stories — further bond them to Trump and make them more likely to believe he’s succeeding?

Possible, just note this finding from a recent poll of Trump’s voters: Nearly nine in 10 respondents (88%) said that media criticism of Trump reinforces that the president is on the right track, and the same percentage agreed with Trump’s assertion that the press is “the enemy of the American people.”

The Post fact-checking team documented more than 400 false or misleading statements as of Day 91 of Trump’s presidency. It has gotten worse since. Other administration members have taken their cues from this and have set the tone early on by lying about Trump’s inaugural crowd size and accusing the press of falsely diminishing it. Yet to Trump voters, not only does this reality not exist at all; such critical media scrutiny of him and his administration also is a sign that he’s doing something right — that he’s on their side, and the news media is the enemy. But facts are stubborn things as John Adams used to quip.

Still, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Trump is accomplishing one of his key goals. In the minds of his voters, at least, his project to obliterate shared agreement on the legitimate institutional role of the media in informing the citizenry proceeds apace. But that is not the case for the overall poll of all Americans. As it is, more than fifty percent of Americans think Trump is “failing” to bring needed change to Washington, while only 36 percent believe that he is succeeding. Gallup now has Trump at 39 percent, and the average of polls has him at 43 percent. He is obviously under water.

The core Trump principle about truth is that a lie is as good as the truth as long as you can get your base to believe it. Now, given the basic emptiness of Trump’s presidency so far, it can be logically argued that his greatest achievement is that he is still standing there, making pronouncements and signing executive orders as if they meant anything and moving about now here, now there, without a discernible clear plan. It appears that he counts as a victory every day he can postpone his final reckoning with Russia. Some big distraction must be in the offing. Stay tuned for more follies to come.


Column 79

On Poetic Justice: Based on Trump’s Immigration Standards,
Melania Ought to be Deported back to Slovenia


Diva Maslenjak faced summary deportation when it emerged she lied about her husband's service in a Bosnian Serb military unit when securing US citizenship in 2007. She arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1999, fleeing persecution as a Serb living in Bosnia. She claimed her husband had never served in the army, but this was proven to be false and she was deported.

Under new hardline immigration rules brought in by the Trump administration last month, immigration officials are required to prioritize the removal of any foreign national who has “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a government agency”.

Defending this stance during a Supreme Court case which challenged the ruling against Ms Maslenjak as unconstitutional, Justice Department lawyer Robert Parker suggested a minor 20-year-old offence such as driving at 60mph in a 55mph zone 20 years previously could be enough to reverse an entire citizenship decision.

But, if what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander, and a technical precedent has been set, then the argument that even an "immaterial" error on official paperwork can justify deportation, put forward by the Trump administration in a recent Supreme Court case, would be sufficient to deport the President's wife, Melania, who worked illegally in the US around the same time as Diva Maslenjak.

The First Lady of the United States reportedly violated her terms of entry by failing to disclose modeling work money earned from nearly two months of illegal work in the USA on a visitor's visa (for which she was paid $20,000, seven weeks before she acquired legal permission to work), and subsequently failed to mention the offence on immigration documents.

She subsequently applied for a green card in 2001 and became a naturalized US citizen in 2006 without ever disclosing any past indiscretions. When all this surfaced she and her husband Donald Trump promised to clear up the matter with pertinent documentation. It was never cleared.

Despite these revelations about her career history, however, Melania seems unlikely to face deportation. Not so for Diva Malenjak. There seem to be in place two distinct immigration standards. Obviously what is good for the goose is not good enough for the gander in Donald Trump’s sense of universal justice and fairness for all citizens.


Column 80

A New Poll Shows that Fewer and Fewer People still believe Trump’s Lies


A rather recent new Gallup poll strongly suggests that an increasing number of Americans just don’t believe Trump’s spin about his presidency anymore. It finds that only 45 percent of Americans think Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, an astonishing slide of 17 points:


(Courtesy of Gallup)

Note that the drop has been 11 points among Republicans and 9 points among conservatives. Meanwhile, among Americans overall, there has been a 7-point drop in those who think Trump can bring about the change this country needs, from 53 percent to 46 percent, and a 6-point drop in those who think that Trump is honest and trustworthy, from 42 percent to 36 percent.

Trump’s failure to fulfill his promises is worrying to Republicans, too. The Post reports that Republicans, eyeing the 2018 elections, are fretting that Trump has achieved “no major legislative victory,” which cuts against his promise to execute “beautiful” deals in Washington. As GOP pollster Frank Luntz puts it, Trump and Republicans must post “a record of accomplishment,” because “if you don’t, no rhetoric will fix it.” Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) commits full-blown heresy, warning: “We can’t blame this on Barack Obama. We have to look in the mirror.”

It’s important, however, to drill down with more precision on what it really means that Trump is failing to “keep his promises.” There are several ways this is occurring, and they are distinct from one another. First, Trump is explicitly adopting policy goals that contradict black-letter promises (the GOP health-care plan that he championed would roll back coverage for 24 million people and deeply cut Medicaid, after he vowed “insurance for everybody” and promised not to cut Medicaid). Second, he is failing to unite the party to accomplish generally promised goals (Republicans have yet to pass anything that can satisfy the baseline need to be described as “repeal and replace”).


Column 81

Two Alt-right White Supremacists Granted White House Press Passes


Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room where they can be seen making a hand sign that can be used to signify “white power.” The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has characterizes the symbol as a “racist hand sign.”

“Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House,” Fusion senior reporter Emma Roller tweeted, alongside a screenshot of the picture. Ms Fairbanks, however, claims the hand gesture was not a reference to the white power movement. She pointed to her partial Puerto Rican heritage as evidence that she cannot possibly be a white supremacist.

“White power! Except I'm Puerto Rican. Can it be PR power?!” she tweeted. The symbol, however, has become more contentious with the rise of the alt-right – a far-right contingent in the United States that rejects both mainstream conservatism and liberal ideologies. The self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right, Richard Spencer, is a well-known white supremacist.

Alt-right journalist Lucian Wintrich, a writer for The Gateway Pundit, sparked outcry when he flashed the symbol in a similar picture at the White House in February. Notorious alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos also frequently flashes the symbol.

The resurgence of the symbol may be traced back to a popular alt-right meme, known as “smug Pepe,” which began circulating on alt-right, pro-Trump message boards in 2015.

Fairbanks gained notoriety when she moved from supporting Senator Bernie Sanders to supporting Trump for president. She now frequently speaks out against Islamic terrorism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Her employer, Sputnik, applied for White House press credentials last month. Mr Cernovich is the founder of the men’s rights blog Danger & Play, and author of the book “MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again.”

Obviously racism and white supremacy is alive and thriving within this administration as amply demonstrated at the reaction to the recent events sponsored by White Supremacists at the University of Virginia.


Column 82

Donald Trump Reveals his Contempt for the US Constitution
defined as “an Archaic Document Bad for the Country”


Just as with an eight year old juvenile, any excuse is good to shift the blame. Trump has blamed the US constitution for the problems of his first 100 days in office. He has directly called the system of checks and balances on power to prevent abuses, “archaic.”

The exact quote is this: “It’s a very rough system, an archaic system…It’s really a bad thing for the country.” The blame being shifted is that of Trump’s mishaps in his first days as president  have seen his popularity fall to unprecedented lows. It’s now hovering below 40 percent, compared to 65 percent for Barack Obama at the same point in his presidency.

Despite the setbacks, Mr. Trump continues to insist, without offering any evidence that he has so far kept all the promises to the American people. He has declared lately that  “Issue by issue, department by department, we are giving the people their country back. After decades of a shrinking middle class, open borders and the mass offshoring of American jobs and wealth, this government is working for the citizens of our country and no one else. In the past 100 days, I have kept that promise — and more.”

What was needed was a scapegoat on which to blame his mishaps in the presidency. He has found it in the Constitution and its system of checks and balances.

The only apt reply to this latest outrage, on the part of all those who love democracy, to this latest display of contempt toward the limitation of unfettered and arrogant power is probably “thank God for the political genius of the US founding fathers who devised check and balance.” It is that check and balance which will eventually remove him from office. If check and balance does not work any longer, the game is pretty much over.


Column 83

As per former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Sen. Mark Warner,
Donald Trump is most likely to be Impeached


Donald Trump is unlikely to finish his first term as President, according to the leading Democrat on the committee, Senator Mark Warner, looking into alleged Russian interference in the US election, and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. They put the odds at two to one.

Senator Warner has previously declared that the Kremlin had paid an army of more than 1000 people to create fake anti-Hillary Clinton news stories targeting key swing states and the investigation now has “specific, concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion…discussions took place between people in Trump’s campaign and agents of Russian influence relating to the use of hacked material.”

All of the above is beside the dossier passed along by the British government detailing the collusion between the Kremlin and Donald Trump last December. It alleges the existence of a sophisticated Russian program of "cultivating, supporting and assisting" Trump as he campaigned for the presidency. Trump has of course dismissed the allegations as "fake news." Indeed, fake news within a fake and intellectually bankrupt presidency.


Column 84

Is Kleptocracy turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic?


After some eight months of Trump presidency the question arises: has it begun to undermine some fundamental norms of American democracy and tradition?

To fathom how urgent may be such a question in the era of “alternative facts” and “fake news” we need to consider the following indisputable facts: Trump and his advisers in the White House have repeatedly threatened their political opponents and journalists who dare criticize or raise serious questions about the administration. The weakening of First Amendment protections governing freedom of the press has become a tactic to combat criticism. Foreign dictators and authoritarian personalities (Putin, Le Pen, Duterte, al-Sisi) have been praised and admired while our democratic allies have been treated with contempt, the legitimacy of US federal judges who have ruled against the administration policies has been mocked. This is just to mention the most salient facts.

Moreover, the trump family has unprecedented conflicts of interest and are openly defiant about their intentions to profit from the presidency with impunity, never mind that ethics lawyers have sounded the alarm and warned that the Constitution is being violated and impeachable offenses are being performed, especially those connected with receiving benefits from foreign governments through business dealings while in office. Lawsuits have already been filed on those grounds.

Is this the new commonplace normal? The good news is that these anomalies are being noticed more and more by thoughtful people and the press. The bad news is that there is no guarantee that those lawsuits would prevail in a court of law. It could take years before they are resolved and meanwhile the country would have been transformed into a Banana Republic. Nevertheless, the courts, within American democracy, continue to play and important role in defining the scope and limits of presidential power, and clarify constitutional principles.

Congress too, however, has a constitutionally mandated duty to check presidential power. It has a plethora of tools available if it chose to act, but so far, the Republican faction of Congress which is in control, has shown little inclination to use them even if the vast majority of them are not enthusiastic about Trump’s presidency and see him as an embarrassment and even a threat to the Constitution.

The corollary question at this point is this: can these reluctant Republicans eventually be convinced to act? Public opinion might have to do the convincing with their voting. For, if general apathy and the  feeling of being overwhelmed by this unprecedented presidency win out and the unacceptable becomes the norm, it will signal the beginning of the end for American democracy as we know it. We will in effect have become a Banana Republic and the experiment in democracy that was America will be no more.


End of Week 12



Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8 - Week 9 - Week 10 - Week 11 - Week 12 -


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!

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