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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 16
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-30 11:56:37
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Week 16 - Columns 105-111 (September 24-30)
On the subjects of: self-impeachment, corporate narcissism, a transformational president, defending the indefensible, deplorable behavior, slow Russian news leaks, approval ratings and impeachment odds.


Column 105

Self-Impeachment: is Trump his own worst Enemy?


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has suggested a few weeks ago that President Donald Trump will eventually self-impeach. There is no need to initiate the process so soon into his presidency before Special Counsel Bob Mueller ends his investigation on the Russia-Trump campaign collusion and obstruction of justice. She feels that Democrats ought not to be the only group calling for it, that there should first be an extensive discussion on it.

Pelosi’s comments followed a discussion over the second draft article of impeachment from Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman, who joined Texas Congressman Al Green in his official call on the House floor to impeach Trump over obstruction of justice.

Democrats have repeatedly pointed to Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey and subsequent statements to the news media that he dismissed the head of the agency while considering the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, as an example of the president interfering with a federal probe into his campaign and new administration.

 Meanwhile, Trump via Twitter has accused former President Barack Obama’s administration of breaking the law while in office, as well as demanding an apology from the “fake news” media for its negative coverage of his administration.

Several Constitutional law and history experts have previously told Newsweek Trump will only be impeached when, and if, Republican lawmakers are moved by their voting bases and independents to remove the president from office. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings have plummeted into the mid-30s according to multiple polls; well under the public’s support for impeachment, which sits at 43 percent.

Those figures have continued to fall in recent days, as Trump’s Russia ties and several highly anticipated testimonies from within his administration dominate the news cycle. Trump’s conservative agenda has also taken a hit in popularity, as approval for the GOP’s healthcare bill continues to decline while Obama’s landmark initiative, the Affordable Care Act, receives increasing support.


Column 106

Trump, a Genial Brilliant CEO, or just a “Shiny Object”?
Is his Expertise Discovering Talent or Adulation?


As of now there is no smoking gun. That is to say, there is no hard evidence, despite leaks and revelations on the Trump campaign and the Russia connection, that there has been collusion with Russian hackers seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. If there is any, we’ll have to wait for the results of the ongoing Mueller’s investigation.

What we do have, however, is a sleazy attempt, Mafia style, to influence and then destroy the FBI director as if he were an un-cooperating city inspector. So, if Republicans wish to argue that this is just a story of incompetence, then they have to acknowledge that the very premise of Trump’s campaign is untenable.

After all, Republicans knew that Trump knew precious little about governance, government, and party ideology. What they thought they’d be getting was a CEO who knew how to run a business smoothly. Trump himself promised that he would seek “the best people.” What is becoming increasingly obvious, however, is that Trump did not run his campaign like a corporate CEO with an eye to gathering talented people. Rather he ran it like a narcissist sucker, easily manipulated by anyone who knew how to massage his fat ego. Putting has understood this very well; hence his labeling Trump not a brilliant mind, but a “shiny object.”

Indeed, the best and brightest weren’t crowding the Trump Tower elevators last year. But isn’t one of Trump’s strengths that of getting people to say “yes”? That is to say, as a shrewd businessman, negotiate their bottom-line price and their loyalty?

What do we have instead? Misfit and marginal characters. The likes of Kellyanne  Conway, an inveterate liar who parades as an advocate of sorts, Paul Manafort, who was doing shady work in Ukraine for dubious causes and money, Michael Flynn, a former general with conspiratorial tendencies and suspicious relationship with foreign despots, Carter Page, an inadvertent Russian asset dubbed by Russian spies as “the useful idiot,” Shawn Spicer, a White House Press agent parading cleaning up the boss’ messes and parading as a journalist.

Trump let those “brilliant” guys manipulate him for the benefit of their overseas friends and clients, to the point that only after four years after Mit Romney, the last Republican nominee, has called Russia the greatest threat to American security, the new nominee was now praising Vladimir Putin while Russian spies hacked away.

Trump and his supporters will ultimately claim ignorance: how could Trump have known? He was the innocent victim. Haven’t we seen this devious tactic before?

In fact, after Trump was warned that Flynn was a blackmail risk, he did nothing and personally lobbied Comey to leave Flynn alone. Even were we to grant that the president is not complicit in dirty foreign intrigues, highly unlikely, if one follows the money, there is still the issue of being clueless and ineffectual.

So the whole theoretical myth of “surrounding oneself with geniuses” has always been a wishful thinking, an alternate reality a la Kellyanne. What is really operative is this statement by Trump about making sure that one is not out-smarted: “you want to be smarter than your people, if possible.” In other words, it’s a chess game with winners and losers.

In the end Trump’s White House has less to do with recruiting talent and more to do with ass kissing: making the dear president feel loved and unchallenged. It may soon become a ritual of adulation around the table every time there is cabinet meeting. Meanwhile Trump continues to complain their back about the dysfunction and incompetence among his senior staff, without providing a viable solution. He cannot even fill the critical jobs as his Cabinet agencies. One is inevitably brought back to the reign of mad emperor Caligula amply examined elsewhere in these columns.

In any case, it all goes to prove that Trump does not actually run things very well. Far from being some kind of management guru, he is an opportunist and a con man who in the end will have managed to have conned himself.


Column 107

A Transformational President? Fact Checking Trump


The emperor goes around naked but thinks he is a model of great fashion. He is in the inveterate habit of praising himself through lies and fabrications. Lately somebody has taken the trouble to check the days of his approximately 150 days in office when he uttered no lies. There were some 30 of those; some one fifth of the five months. Which means that only one in five days are lie free while the days when lies and falsehood are proffered is the normal.

Here are some examples, at random: Trump’s statements vis a vis the facts.

TRUMP: "We're thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself. And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money. And that's good right? ... Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea."

THE FACTS: His idea? Others came forward with such proposals back when he was criticizing solar power as too expensive. The notion of adding solar panels to the wall he wants to build along the Mexico border was explored in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March. Vasilis Fthenakis, director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Columbia University, and Ken Zweibel, former director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University, concluded it was "not only technically and economically feasible, it might even be more practical than a traditional wall."

TRUMP: "So, we've achieved a historic increase in defense spending."

THE FACTS: He hasn't. He is proposing a large increase but Congress is still debating — and is nowhere near deciding on — more money for defense for 2018.

TRUMP: "The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years. And we'll be putting in legislation to that effect very shortly."

THE FACTS: A federal law passed in 1996 already has that effect. It bars most foreigners who enter the country on immigrant visas from being eligible for federal benefits like Social Security and food stamps for the first five years. States typically have the authority to determine eligibility for local programs. As for people in the country illegally, they are generally prohibited from those benefits altogether. Same with foreigners who are in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas.

TRUMP: Addressing why he raised the possibility that his Oval Office conversation with fired FBI Director James Comey might have been recorded: "When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed."

THE FACTS: There's no evidence of any change in what Comey testified on June 8 before the Senate Intelligence committee. In that appearance — the only time Comey has publicly addressed the subject — his story was consistent. He said that on three occasions beginning in January he'd told the president that he was not then the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation on him as part of its work to probe Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.

TRUMP: "You see what we've already done. Homebuilders are starting to build again. We're not confiscating their land with ridiculous rules and regulations that don't make sense."

THE FACTS: Housing starts as tracked by the Census Bureau have actually fallen over the past three months. Trump seems a bit mixed up on deregulation. Some of the biggest constraints on homebuilders come from local governments, rather than federal rules.

TRUMP: On cutting regulations to help farmers: "Farmers are able to plow their field. If they have a puddle in the middle of their field, a little puddle the size of this, it's considered a lake and you can't touch it. And if you touch it, bad, bad things happen to you and your family. We got rid of that one, too, OK?"

THE FACTS: He didn't get rid of the regulations he's talking about. He signed an executive order in February directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review a rule protecting clean water. The rule can stop some farmers from using pesticides and herbicides. It's still in place, pending the review.

TRUMP: "Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia."

THE FACTS: Johnson did not state that conclusion. He was homeland security secretary (not adviser) from December 2013 to January 2017. He was asked at a House Intelligence committee hearing Wednesday whether he knew of any evidence of collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign. Johnson said he was not aware of any information beyond what's been reported publicly and what the U.S. intelligence community has gathered. That is not a statement of belief that no collusion took place. Pressed on the matter, he said Comey probably had some information to go on when the FBI opened an investigation into possible collusion.

TRUMP: "We are 5 and 0, as you know, in these special elections. And I think the Democrats thought it would be a lot different than that. 5-0 is a big — that's a big margin."

THE FACTS: Wrong score. Right score: 4-1. Republicans won open House seats in Kansas, Georgia, Montana and South Carolina. Democrats held onto a seat in California.

And the list goes on and on. Almost all statements coming out of Trump’s mouth are inaccurate, or a fabrication or an outright lie. It’s slowly becoming the new normal in presidential veracity. John Adams, the second president of the US and of “republic of virtue” fame must surely be turning in his grave.


Column 108

Defending the Indefensible


Defending his May tweet that suggested he may have “tapes" of his conversations with James Comey, President Trump said his comment may have persuaded the fired FBI director to tell the truth about their interactions.

“When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it's governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed,” Trump said in an interview.

“I mean, you will have to take a look at that because, then, he has to tell what actually took place at the events."

It's unclear what the president is referring to in arguing that Comey's story may have changed after the May 12 tweet. Comey was fired by Trump three days before the tweet and had not yet gone public with any account of his firing.

But Comey said during his June 8 testimony before Congress that Trump's tweet did influence him, though not the way Trump suggests. Comey credited the tweet with his decision to leak his detailed memos of his interactions with the president to a friend, who then gave the information to the New York Times for publication.

His motivation, Comey acknowledged, was that leaking the memos "might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."

Trump and the White House went six weeks neither confirming nor denying the existence of any tapes. But the tweet alone set off a series of events resulting in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s announcing his decision to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Russia investigation, and the House Intelligence Committee’s issuing a bipartisan request demanding the White House hand over any recordings that could be pertinent to its own investigation.

Mueller is now said to be investigating whether the president has attempted to obstruct justice in the investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia. Still, the president believes his initial May 12 tweet was not ill-advised.

"Well, it wasn't very stupid. I can tell you that he did admit that what I said was right,” Trump said, referring to Comey's initial refusal during his tenure to say the president himself wasn't under investigation in the FBI's probe. “And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn't admitting that so, you'll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that. But, I don't think it will be that hard.”

But the president's suggestion that his tweet influenced Comey to be truthful in recounting his conversations contradicts Trump's own assertion that Comey misled Congress. Trump disputed Comey's testimony that he felt pressured by the president to drop the FBI's investigation of fired national security adviser Mike Flynn, as well as Comey's account that the president asked for loyalty from him. "My story didn't change," the president said in his Thursday interview. "My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth.” Indeed, Pinocchio’s nose seems to be getting longer by the hour.


Column 109

Trump’s Deplorable Behavior and Justice


A top Justice Department corporate crime expert has quit, complaining that it’s impossible to sit across from corporate representatives and demand conduct that is under siege in the White House. Her name is Hui Chen, the compliance counsel in the fraud unit of the criminal division of Justice.

She has said that “even as I engaged in ... questioning and evaluations, on my mind were the numerous lawsuits pending against the president of the United States for everything from violations of the Constitution to conflict of interest, the ongoing investigations of potentially treasonous conducts. Those are conducts I would not tolerate seeing in a company, yet I worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conducts. I wanted no more part in it.” Chen then explained that she now believes she can effect more change outside the government than from within.


Column 110

Slow Leak of Russia News Flooding White House


There is a persistent question about connections between Trump's team and Russia which prevents him from savoring a public relations victory and building momentum for his stalled legislative agenda.

Indeed, Trump Jr.'s account of his Trump Tower meeting has seemingly changed on an almost daily basis. At first, the meeting was said to be about a Russian adoption program. Then, it was to hear information about campaign rival Hillary Clinton. Finally, Trump Jr. was forced to release emails — mere moments before The New York Times planned to do so — that revealed he had told an associate that he would "love" Russia's help in obtaining negative details about the Democratic nominee.

Even the number of people who attended the meeting has changed. On Friday, a prominent Russian-American lobbyist told The Associated Press that he, too, had been part of the discussion. The investigations have thrown the White House off balance, leaving some officials on edge about whether there are more disclosures to come.

Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner — the president's son-in-law and senior adviser also attended the June 2016 meeting — have retained attorneys separate from those hired by the president.  But behind the scenes, a few weeks ago, a group of Trump aides have already gathered to begin preparing for the initial fallout from Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting. He has been subpoenaed and interrogated by congressional investigators who have already announced that he will be recalled to testify publicly and under oath.  For some, the steady drumbeat of Russia revelations echoes how the Watergate story emerged in one Washington Post story after another. As the saying goes: the best is still to come.


Column 111

Donald Trump Approval Ratings and Impeachment Odds


Donald Trump's Presidential approval rating continues to worsen after it emerged he is under investigation for a possible obstruction of justice. Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to examine Russia’s role in the presidential election, is now reportedly directly examining the behavior of the President as well members of his wider campaign team.

Donald Trump approval rating trackerTrump's first months as president have seen persistent allegations over Russian connections, tirades against the media, a failure to push through healthcare reform, a shift to a more proactive foreign policy, and attempts to create manufacturing jobs in the US.

When he assumed office, the now 45th US president  enjoyed the lowest approval rating of any president. These ratings have not gotten any better. At the 100-day milestone, Gallup polling showed that just 40 per cent of Americans approved of the way Trump is handling his new job – compared to 55 per cent that disapprove. It has gotten worse since.

It took just eight days for Trump to gain a majority disapproval rating, according to Gallup, with 51 per cent of Americans saying they disapproved of the President on January 28, 2016. The sacking of James Comey - apparently over the FBI's investigation into the Trump camp's pre-election links with Russia - has accelerated Trump's approval rating decline, standing at 39 per cent according to the latest average.

The Comey sacking episode has raised serious questions in the US over whether the president, in getting rid of the ex-FBI chief, was committing an obstruction of justice. The idea of impeachment has started to be uttered by legal experts as well as by Al Green, a Democrat congressman from Texas.

Things seem to be getting worse: for Trump. Many are predicting that he will not make it to the end of his first term. Their latest odds are as follows: Impeachment or resignation before 2020: 58 per cent chance, to serve full first term: 50 per cent chance.


End of Week 16



Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8 - Week 9 - Week 10 - Week 11 - Week 12 - Week 13 - Week 14 - Week 15 - Week 16 -


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
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Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
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