Some Political Conspiracies Are More Than Theory.

It seems that every week conservative politicians, media pundits and, especially, President Trump come up with another unfounded conspiracy theory. On a regular basis, they have attacked the press, the Department of Justice, the FBI, the CIA, and others as operatives of the “Deep State” intent on undermining the Trump administration.

In order to foment fear before the midterm elections, they trotted out the wild conspiracy that George Soros and the HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) organized a caravan of “terrorists” to “invade” the United States. And, following the midterms, they have claimed that Democrats are committing election “fraud” by counting all of the votes, including mail-in votes from military personnel serving oversees.

Such crazy claims are not new. Nixon and Agnew claimed that they were victims of the “liberal” press even as they ordered the break-in of the Democratic National Committee and organized dirty tricks to frustrate and damage their Democratic rivals. But they really took root during the Clinton administration when, after the end of the Fairness Doctrine regulating broadcast media, Rush Limbaugh and others took to the airwaves to claim the Clintons defrauded investors in a real estate development named Whitewater. They claimed that Hillary Clinton ordered a contract killing of Vince Foster (he committed suicide) to cover up another fake conspiracy labeled Travelgate.

And the conspiracy theorists worked overtime during the administration of our nation’s first black president. They famously claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya making him ineligible to hold the office. They claimed he “palled around with terrorists.” They claimed he was only elected as the result of massive voter fraud aided by ACORN. They claimed the New Black Panthers intimidated GOP voters at the polls. They claimed he was working with the UN to take away Americans guns. They said that Agenda 21, the UN plan to prevent climate change and feed the planet, was a “black helicopter” operation to sell out the US. They claimed that Jade Helm 15, military exercises in the southwestern US, were an Obama plot to institute Sharia law, jail dissenters and to take over the US (never mind that it would be unnecessary since Obama, as president, already controlled the US government).

Then, of course, there was Benghazi, the supposed betrayal of a US ambassador by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the belief that Hillary’s use of a private email server for unclassified communications compromised US security. (Interestingly, the GOP is silent on President Trump’s use of an unsecured mobile phone for his Tweets and private conversations.) There was Pizzagate, the theory that Hillary was trafficking children out of the non-existent basement of a DC pizza parlor. And, perhaps, the most dangerous theory is the ongoing belief in QAnon, the fictitious anonymous operative (or operatives) within the Deep State who releases supposed classified information revealing the conspiracy against Trump.

All of these theories are not only wholly unfounded. They defy logic. Moreover, they may indicate a serious mental health crisis in the US.

On the other hand, there are GOP actions once believed to be conspiracy theories that have since been proven true beyond doubt. The most famous of these is Watergate. But there is also then GOP-candidate Nixon’s treasonous interference in the Vietnam Peace Talks that resulted in his election, but cost thousands more lives. (Nixon’s actions are documented in the upcoming program “Betrayal” on MSNBC. Similarly, the Reagan campaign is known to have interfered in the Carter administrations negotiations with Iran for the release of US diplomatic hostages.

There is the Iran-Contra affair, which consisted of the Reagan administration illegally selling arms to Iran, despite sanctions, in order to fund the anti-socialist Contra rebels in Central America. There is George W. Bush’s 2000 election “victory” in Florida that has been proven the result of voter suppression and outright election fraud orchestrated by his brother. There are the false claims of Iraqi WMD that led to the Iraq War. There is 2016 theft of emails from the DNC, the DCCC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager that were used by GOP candidates to gain power. There are the proven connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. There are the multi-million dollar donations to the NRA by a Russian oligarch to help fund GOP candidates in 2016. And there is the Russian interference in the 2016 elections for the benefit of Trump.

There are the ties between Trump administration officials and white supremacist groups revealed by Trump’s comments following Charlottesville. There is the obvious violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause by Trump and his family. And, of course, there is the cover-up of Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels culminating in a Trump-ordered payoff in exchange for her silence.

The point is, when you hear a conspiracy theory, consider the source – especially if it comes from the Trump administration, Fox News Channel, InfoWars or any other conservative pundit. More likely than not, it will be nothing more than an attempt to deceive or GOP wishful thinking.

The Wannabe King.

The president’s actions on the day following the 2018 midterm elections will long be remembered as a window into his disturbing mind. He not only forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He replaced Sessions with a conservative ideologue. (As I’ve previously noted, that gives the president an acting Attorney General who is openly hostile to the Mueller investigation.)

Hmmmm…why do you suppose he would want to do that?

Prior to the announcement of Session’s “resignation,” the president presided over a press conference during which he courted a confrontation with a CNN reporter leading to the suspension of the reporter’s White House press credentials. When an NBC reporter stood up for his press colleague, Trump all but threatened him. And when a PBS correspondent understandably asked if the president’s labeling himself as a nationalist would be a welcome sign to white nationalists, Trump called the question “racist” and admonished the African-American correspondent for asking such a “horrible” question.

All of that was highly disturbing. But even more worrying was the president’s performance at the beginning of the press conference when he threatened “war” with Democrats after they wrested control of the House away from Republicans. More alarming yet was the fact that Trump ridiculed the Republicans who lost their bids for re-election. He mocked GOP candidates Mia Love, Barbara Comstock, Peter Roskam, Erik Paulsen, Carlos Curbelo and Mike Coffman for refusing his “embrace” saying, “They did very poorly.” “Mia Love gave me no love,” he continued, “And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” (Interestingly, at the time he was heaping scorn on Love, the race had not yet been called.)

The president’s comments should cause everyone to pause. Not just the members of his party. Every single one of us.

It’s clear that Trump believes that those he considers underlings should pay tribute to him above all else. Above the electorate. Above the Constitution. Above the nation. No previous occupant of the White House has ever expressed similar beliefs. Nor have they likely even entertained them. Nixon was a self-centered bully who thought he was above the law. But I think such beliefs were even beneath him.

Trump is now entering dictator territory.

It is Trump’s Me First attitude that has led to his view of the office as a money-making opportunity. To ignore the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause; to vacation at his own properties in order to generate income from his Secret Service detail; to cut trade deals with foreign governments that benefit his family’s business interests.

After China’s Xi Jinping made himself president for life, Trump said “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll want to give that a shot someday.” Was he joking? Or was he serious? Given his performance at the press conference, we can’t be certain.

Democrats’ Dilemmas.

Now that Democrats have overcome the Republican’s extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression to take control of the US House of Representatives, they face a serious dilemma. If they reach across the aisle and cooperate with the president to pass legislation on behalf those who elected them, Trump will take credit for it. (No one is better at claiming credit for others’ efforts.)

On the other hand, if Democrats obstruct Trump’s sinister agenda, Republicans will call them obstructionists and use their propaganda networks to undermine the Democrats’ chances of re-election. (Seemingly, only Republicans are able to obstruct without paying a price.)

And, as of today, Democrats are faced with an even more serious challenge following the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. By passing over Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to install one of his compliant lackeys, Trump is clearly obstructing justice by taking responsibility for the Robert Mueller investigation away from Rosenstein. As the new Acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker will not have to recuse himself. Moreover, he will be able to block any further indictments or, worse, prevent the Special Counsel’s report from becoming public. Of course, this comes on the heels of the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court likely based on Kavanaugh’s belief in the supremacy of the presidency – that the president is above the law.

The result is a constitutional crisis most Americans have been wanting to avoid – the modern equivalent of Watergate’s Saturday Night Massacre which ultimately led to Nixon’s resignation.

Lest you dismiss Trump’s actions as mere politics as usual, you should consider the fact that the Trump campaign’s conspiracy involving Wikileaks and Russia is actually far worse than Watergate. Both consisted of interference in a presidential election. Both were break-ins – one into an office, the other into computers. Both involved the theft and use of Democratic documents. Both involved dirty tricks. And both led to indictments and convictions of the presidents’ campaign operatives. The difference is that Watergate did not involve a foreign government hostile to the United States.

All of this means that the new, Democratic-controlled House will be forced to take measures to ensure that the Mueller investigation continues unimpeded until we get to the bottom of the Trump campaign’s conspiracy. And to determine, once and for all, whether or not the president was directly involved and aware of the conspiracy.

How Democrats go about these tasks may determine the outcome of the 2020 elections. If they do not protect Mueller and do not let the investigation continue to its conclusion, they will be punished at the polls by Democratic voters who will be understandably infuriated at their failure to hold Trump accountable. But, if their actions seem too partisan, and if they ignore the many other serious issues facing this nation, they will be punished by independents and swing voters.

Democrats will be walking a tightrope. It will take much thought, foresight and balance to attain their goals. Let’s all hope they are up to the task.

Will Election Winners Live Up To Their Promises?

Over the past year, Americans have been subjected to non-stop campaigning by national, state and local candidates. They and their affiliated Political Action Committees fueled by billions of dollars have papered our cities with flyers and ads. They have held thousands of campaign rallies. They have run tens of thousands of commercials on television and social media. And many of those commercials and ads have tried to create fear about the opposition.

We have been told that an invasion is coming – an invasion of MS-13 gang members, terrorists and thugs from Central America. We have been told that, if the angry mob of Democrats win, they will turn the US into a socialist country, and we will forever lose our democracy. We have been told that many of the candidates are corrupt. We have been told that if the opponents get to Washington, they will raise our taxes, bankrupt our nation and turn our health care over to a government bureaucracy.

Both sides have told us that they, and they alone, can end the division.

Both sides have told us that they will preserve our access to affordable health care. Both sides have promised to protect those with pre-existing conditions. Both sides have promised to preserve Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Both sides have promised to improve education and the economy. Both sides have promised to create jobs. And, ironically, many on both sides have promised to be independent and to reach across the aisle for our benefit.

Really?

To the last claim, I’ll simply respond this way: If every candidate who promised to work across the aisle actually worked across the aisle, Congress and our country would not be so divided.

The Nexus Of Sports And Politics.

I certainly do not mean to demean sports. In my opinion, participation in team sports is one of the very best ways to prepare for life. Through my participation in team sports, I learned the value of practice, preparation, competition, teamwork, determination, toughness, and sportsmanship. When I was young, sports challenged you to do your very best. If that wasn’t good enough, you congratulated the other team then you went home and you worked even harder to improve yourself.

Unfortunately, I believe the sports culture took an ugly turn sometime around the late 80’s and early 90’s fueled, I believe, by cable sports networks. It was about that time when I first heard college fans boo the visiting team before the game even started; when I heard sports radio jocks call out and demean amateur players; when I heard fans demonize opponents; when I heard someone pronounce the runner-up of a tournament as the “first loser.”

Whether or not it was coincidental, that cultural change also happened to coincide with the self-esteem movement distinguished by the idea that you’re special; that no one in the world is exactly like you; that it’s bad for you, or your child, to be average. Receiving a C on a report card was akin to receiving an F. Though returning WWII vets were once proud to call themselves “Average Joes,” modern Americans began to consider the term average to be an insult. Everyone seemed to believe that they were exceptional.

Winning and excelling became all important. The long-time American tradition of cheering for underdogs was replaced by cheering for “winners” even if their winning is the result of cheating.

Not surprisingly, that attitude has carried over into our politics. Our politics are no longer about policies and values that will benefit the majority of Americans. Now it’s about winning at all costs. For some, even that is not enough. For them, it’s not enough for their side to win. The other side must lose. They want to punish the “libtards.” They wear shirts saying they’d rather be Russian than be a Democrat. They display bumper stickers that say “Christians cannot be Democrats. Democrats cannot be Christians.” They call Democrats an angry mob. They try to suppress, or even outright block the votes of those who might vote against them. They gerrymander districts to ensure that their political opponents are under-represented. They attack their opponents with horrific lies and attack ads. They dump manure at the doorstep of Democratic headquarters. And they think nothing of stealing the emails and communications of Democratic organizations.

Thanks to people like Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, there is no room for compromise. Indeed, a willingness to compromise is considered a sign of weakness. Such politics go beyond tribalism. For many Republicans, politics are an all-out war against the other tribe. But history tells us that, in order to survive, even the most primitive tribes eventually learned to stop fighting and seek peace. Those that failed to do so were wiped from the face of the Earth.