Hard to believe. Coming into the final stretch, remarkably it seems that—in some of their TV ads at least—the Trump campaign’s closing argument is: Oh c’mon, he’s not so bad.
Of course, there’s not a peep in the ads about the nearly 250,000 dead Americans on his watch, the more than nine million cases of Covid-19 here. Herd immunity uber alles.
He is that bad, and much, much worse. If you know anyone who has yet to vote, or who hasn’t a plan to do so over the next few days, please gently nudge them in the proper direction.
Meanwhile, I’m one of those Luddite-types who often has to print out a long article from the internet rather than read it on the screen. My eyesight may be to blame, but there’s something helpful about holding the pages in my hand, thinking as I read, highlighting the points I think are important and useful or just plain entertaining.
That’s why I’ve printed out all of that magnificent reporting from The New York Timeson Donald Trump’s magical tax returns—including the news of his various dodges to avoid the taxman, the vast debt he owes Deutschebank (and others), his Chinese bank account, and even the revelation that back in his “Apprentice” days, he received half a million bucks to endorse Double Stuf Oreos. For some reason, I find that impressive.
(You may recall that back in 2015, making a move typical of his habitual opportunism and backstabbing, the novice presidential candidate Trump, biting the corporate fingers that fed him, announced he now was boycotting Oreos because Nabisco was moving some of its cookie production to Mexico. I am not making this up. )
In any case, from the time I started writing about the coronavirus and Trump’s gross indifference to it, back on March 12, I have printed out enough material as research to wipe out a small pine grove and for that I am truly sorry.
While each week of this pandemic has gone by, I have used news and views from many sources to create these past months of commentaries. Via that process I physically have built a paper pile that is now more than a foot and a half high. I may sell the air rights.
As if to prove that in any single day and hour there is more madness, corruption, prevarication, ego, and sloth in this White House than in the bleakest sections of the Old Testament, this week’s contributions to the pile include the following:
Begin with reporting from Politico that, “Never before in modern presidential politics has a candidate been so reliant on wide-scale efforts to depress the vote as Trump.
“’What we have seen this year which is completely unprecedented… is a concerted national Republican effort across the country in every one of the states that has had a legal battle to make it harder for citizens to vote,’ said Trevor Potter, a former chair of the Federal Election Commission who served as general counsel to Republican John McCain’s two presidential campaigns. ‘There just has been this unrelenting Republican attack on making it easier to vote.’”
Responding to the suppression charges—which include not only dumpster loads of litigation but also so-called armies of poll watchers possibly intimidating voters—representatives of the Republican National Committee told reporters on a background call Friday morning, “We don’t like the construct of that narrative.”
I’ll bet they don’t—the truth hurts them just like the bright light of day disintegrates Dracula.
Then there’s this: The Washington Post observes how Trump “abandoned his pledge to ‘drain the swamp,’” that, “during his four years in office, Trump has taken few steps to clean up Washington. He has instead presided over a norm-shattering expansion of private interests in government.
“The government has had to spend money at Trump’s private hotels as his family has traveled around the globe. Trump sidestepped rules that had been designed to prevent nepotism, allowing his son-in-law to serve in a top government role. He has touted companies run by supporters and allies who received government contracts. His administration has allowed former lobbyists to serve in jobs in which they have oversight of policies that affect their former employers.”
Another Post investigative team adds to the story: “Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers—and from his political supporters—into his own businesses… In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office.”
“The president brought taxpayer money to his businesses simply by bringing himself. He’s visited his hotels and clubs more than 280 times now, making them a familiar backdrop for his presidency. And in doing so, he has turned those properties into magnets for GOP events, including glitzy fundraisers for his own reelection campaign, where big donors go to see and be seen.”
And to simultaneously pour cash into the Trump family trough.
Remember, this is the guy who in 2016 pledged, “If I win, I may never see my property—I may never see these places again. Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf. Believe me.”
Here’s The New York Times with an in-depth investigation of how Turkey’s President Erdogan tried to quash a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the corrupt, state-owned Turkish financial institution Halkbank. As part of his ongoing bromances with dictators, Trump was ready to go along—something his predecessors Barack Obama and Joe Biden refused to do. Because it was unconstitutional.
According to the Times, “Mr. Trump’s sympathetic response to Mr. Erdogan was especially jarring because it involved accusations that the bank had undercut Mr. Trump’s policy of economically isolating Iran, a centerpiece of his Middle East plan.”
Next, National Public Radio reports on how Donald Trump appointee Michael Pack, head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, has torn down the firewall protecting journalists at the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other affiliated newsrooms from political interference. Apparently, the intent is to turn these outlets into one more propaganda tool for the Trump White House, spouting nonsense and hate instead of the truth. And NBC News reports how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife “have repeatedly blurred the lines between official government business and domestic or personal matters. Both Congress and the State Department’s inspector general have been investigating potential misuse of government resources.”
Former Congressman Pompeo’s political ambitions back home in Kansas and possibly beyond are well-known; he has made many trips back there and coincidentally, a great many influential Kansans have turned up at State Department functions for some high-level flattering, leading House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) to ask if Pompeo has turned State into “a personal travel agency or political exploratory committee.”
Enough. You get the picture and there’s plenty more where all of these came from. The horrors never stop, and many are far worse. The pandemic. Immigration policy. Support of white supremacy. The Trump administration is the perpetual motion machine of chicanery and chaos.
But just let me finish with my personal favorite this week—word that madcap Michael Caputo, the political appointee who served as assistant secretary for public affair at the Department of Homeland Security, now on medical leave, wanted to spent $265 million of your taxpayer money for a publicity campaign to “defeat despair” over coronavirus—and along the way, sing the praises of you-know-who.
As per The New York Times, big name celebrities were to be engaged in the effort but only 10 of 274 were approved because so many said no and because DHS “sought to exclude celebrities who had supported gay rights or same-sex marriage or who had publicly disparaged President Trump.” These included Jack Black, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Companies with “no obvious expertise” were hired to work on the effort, some with alleged connections to Caputo. “Ultimately, the campaign collapsed in late September amid recriminations and investigations.”
Now the best part: according to last Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, as a feature of the proposed program, Caputo “offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.
As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.
On one of the recordings, Caputo is heard to say to one of the top Santas, “If you and your colleagues are not essential workers, I don’t know what is. I cannot wait to tell the president… He’s going to love this.” History does not state if the president clapped his tiny hands in childish delight or if he was even informed of this caper.
Caputo is fighting cancer now and one can only wish his full recovery, but his actions are just one small, especially goofy measure of the depth of the rabbit hole Donald Trump and his flunkeys have dragged the rest of us down.
Told that the DHS deal had fallen through, Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, told the Journal, “This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen… They may have been fibbing a little bit to Santa.”
Join the club, Claus. There are few of us who haven’t suffered from the grand-scale fibbing of this White House. But unlike the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, a majority hope Christmas may be coming a few weeks early, on November 3.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.