To whom or to what am I loyal?

I am an American. I believe strongly and am loyal to the principles of individual freedom and limited government embedded in the American Constitution. I have also been a Republican all of my life because I judged that the Republican Party best reflected the above principles. But in 2016 I changed my party registration to Libertarian because I no longer believed that the Republican Party remained faithful to my political beliefs.

I have followed the testimony in the Impeachment hearings investigating high crimes and misdemeanors by President Trump. Generally, I have relied on press summaries but I watched the live full testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Jenniffer Williams, Ambassador Gordon Sondland, David Holmes and Fiona Hill.  Ambassador Sondland was a large contributor to the Trump campaign and was rewarded with the appointment as Ambassador to the European Union, an assignment that included Ukraine.  Amb. Sondland has no foreign policy experience. His testimony, however, set a high standard for frankness and openness. He came across as very bright and (now) well informed. In his testimony, however, he obviously wished to justify the role he played in attempting to persuade the Ukrainian President to agree to Trump’s request for a “favor.”

The testimony of Ambassador Sondland and the others (including Bill Taylor, George Kent, and Kurt Volker) left no doubt whatsoever that President Trump, operating through Rudy Giuliani, tried to bribe Ukraine’s new anticorruption President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to publicly announce an investigation of Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and of the Biden’s involvement with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.  Hunter Biden–former Vice President and current Democratic Party presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son–served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company, from 2014 to 2019.  “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Pence and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were among those whom Ambassador Gordon Sondland said were aware of the pressure on Ukraine for probes that could damage President Trump’s political opponents” Sondland said there was a quid-pro-quo

It is common for our foreign policy relations and aid to be based on quid pro quos. That is to say that we provide aid when conditions are met that we think service American interests.  What is involved here, however, is President Trump using American tax payers money and the powers and influence of his office for his personal political advantage.  In fact, his actions toward Ukraine are quite contrary to our American interests (which is a stronger, less corrupt Ukraine on the border of Russia).  In my opinion the now well known facts of Trump’s behavior visa vie Ukraine is impeachable.

For a while I still held out hope that there would be Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee who would honestly seek the truth of Trump’s behavior. I was sadly disappointed. Congressman Devin Nunes couldn’t get beyond repeating old discredited claims and his demand that the whistleblower testify. The idea that the secondhand claims by the whistleblower of impropriety by Trump would add anything to the firsthand testimony we have now heard doesn’t pass the laugh test. The council leading the questioning for the Republicans is pathetic–a real embarrassment. He seemed to only strengthen the case against Trump.

In my opinion many of the policies being advanced by many of the Democrat presidential candidates need to be effectively countered. I am losing hope that the Republican party is still capable of doing that.

 

 

 

Trump the Terrible

To say that Trump’s future presidency promises to be a mixed bag, while true, seems increasingly too kind. On the positive side there seems to be a very good chance of a truly monumental tax reform. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady recently released the outline of a major tax reform plan as part of Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” agenda that would, if enacted, introduce a dramatic, growth enhancing reform of U.S. personal and business income taxation. While there are a few differences with the President Elect’s tax reform proposals, it should not be that difficult to resolve them. Prospects for adoption are the best they have been for decades.

On the growing negative side Trump is adding to the nasty character traits he seemed unable to control during his campaign—a level of blatant corruption that would even embarrass the Clintons. After having his daughter, who is also his business partner, at his side during his private meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a few days later he put Ivanka on the phone with Argentina’s President (Trump is seeking approval to build a real-estate project in Buenos Aires).

For me these examples of Trumps many conflicts of interests pale in comparison to the deal he claims credit for to keep 1000 Carrier jobs in Indiana where Mike Pence is still the governor. The Chicago Tribune reported today that “Carrier would receive a $7 million package of incentives to keep its factory here from moving to Mexico, the company said Thursday, under a deal negotiated with the state after an unusual intervention by President-elect Donald Trump that could reshape the relationship between the White House and private enterprise.” http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-trump-carrier-jobs-subsidies-20161201-story.html

This goes beyond the corruption of personal enrichment and vote buying from the public purse to measures that undermine the very basis of our national wealth. And Trump proudly stated to the press that he would give any other company that wanted to move production abroad a VERY hard time. He is gloating over his “skillful” use of his great power as president.

The standard of living of the average middle class family in the U.S. could not even have been imagined half a century ago. Among the many things that make our wealth possible is the ability of companies and each of us to allocate our resources where we think they will be most productively used. Trump is now inserting the power of the Presidency—of the government—to over ride those economic decisions in order to save some jobs at some (favored) companies at the expense of other jobs and overall economic efficiency. This is blatant corruption of a high order and if allowed to persist will erode our economic productivity and standard of living over time. Read any of my blogs on trade and free enterprise (or what most of us call the liberal economic order).

Not only is Trump’s corruption shocking, but also his failure to behave presidentially is beyond embarrassing. It is dangerous. Someone should take Trump’s phone away until he figures out that his campaign style of ad libbing is simply wrong for the POTUS. When he said he would jail and take away the citizenship of flag burners, was he ignorant of the law (confirmed by a Supreme Court ruling) or contemptuous of it??? In his recent phone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, was he looking ahead to what he might say to the Indian PM when he committed himself (and implicitly the United States) to the following: “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” You can read the entire terrific, wonderful, exceptional conversation here: http://www.pid.gov.pk/?p=30445 What in the hell is he thinking? Unfortunately the list of problems is growing. And he’s not even the President yet.

Making sense of Trump

With the latest scandals and polls dropping, Trump’s defeat becomes ever more certain. But rather than broadening his appeal to the undecided Trump has instead doubled down with his hard-core base and declared the election “rigged.” What is he thinking? What is his strategy? The generous interpretation was given by veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy: “’I think Trump is right: The shackles have been released, but they were the shackles of reality. Trump has now shifted to a mode of complete egomaniacal self-indulgence.’” http://wapo.st/2ef3vmQ This interpretation states that Trump is only making excuses for his defeat to save his damaged ego.

Maybe. But few observers claim that Trump is dumb. This implies that he knows what he is doing. His repeated claims that the establishment (press, elites, corporate America) has rigged the elections is so treasonous that Republic House leader Paul Ryan spoke out against them Saturday: “’Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,’ Ryan’s press secretary, AshLee Strong, said in a statement sent to several media outlets.” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/10/15/paul-ryan-pushes-back-against-trumps-claims-that-the-election-is-rigged/

“The people who speak for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on Sunday tried to walk back his incendiary comments about a ‘rigged’ election, with vice presidential candidate Mike Pence saying that Trump was only referring to media bias and vowing that ‘we will absolutely accept the result of the election.’… And literally hours after those media appearances, Trump was back on Twitter ― making clear that, yes, he thought voter fraud was a real threat to the election’s legitimacy.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-rigged-election_us_5803876de4b0162c043c7d1f

Poor Mike Pence who seemed a generally decent guy. He is in an even worse position than Paul Ryan being dragged along through Trump’s seditious muck. What does Trump want or expect his hard-core supporters to do when he losses in a rigged election? He doesn’t seem to be pumping them up to just hang their heads and go home. Trump seems not to care who or what he destroys as befits his disgusting model of zero sum capitalism in which he profits (wins) by gaining better terms in deals with counterparties and/or stiffing business partners with his bankruptcies. No win win for Trump.

The real concern, as expressed strongly by Fareed Zzkaria Friday, is that along with destroying the Republican Party, Trump will destroy America as well. http://wapo.st/2dWNmQe

Trump has gone from evil to seriously dangerous, not because he has changed any—he hasn’t—but because there are so many people who have been willing to support his ugly, incoherent, ranting candidacy. I understand their anger at an ever larger, more intrusive government that has in the nature of things been captured for the benefit of crony (rather than real, competitive) capitalists. But Trump only promises to expand government further and to manipulate it more skillfully, for the benefit of….??? I will vote for Gary Johnson and William Weld.