George Washington Warned Us This Might Happen.

Having watched the History Channel docuseries on George Washington and having completed further research, I could not avoid the conclusion that the “Father of our Country” had foreseen the dangers we now face. After leading the nation to liberty and setting the standard for future presidents, he offered some advice to all Americans in a prescient farewell letter. Though I’m certainly not the first to look at his letter in context with the current state of our union, the obvious warnings bear repeating.

In particular, Washington stressed that Americans must remain united in order to maintain our liberty. At the same time, he warned of the three greatest threats to our unity: Regionalism, Partisanship and Foreign Interference.

It now seems clear that, despite his warnings, we have fallen victim to all three.

Regarding regionalism, Washington feared that loyalty to states and geographic regions would lead to factionalism – that people would vote for their self-interests rather than for the good of the union. Of course, we now see evidence of factionalism in references to the “coastal elites” and to “flyover country.” Such attitudes are at the heart of the so-called grievance politics that resulted in the election of Donald J. Trump. We also see factionalism reflected in congressional decisions, such as former Speaker John Boehner’s demand that the Pentagon build unneeded Abrams tanks in his state of Ohio. And in Arizona’s battle to maintain airbases for the outdated A-10 Warthog against recommendations from the Pentagon.

As for the dangers of partisanship, Republicans have led us down that rabbit hole for the past five decades. It’s not that Democrats are entirely blameless. But Republicans have taken every opportunity to suppress votes and disenfranchise voters as evidenced in the recent Wisconsin primary. Not only did they endanger lives by insisting that the election take place in the midst of pandemic. It sets up the likelihood that many of those who stayed home or who were unable to wait in long lines will have their names purged from voting lists for this fall’s election. Republicans have used their control of state houses to gerrymander districts to ensure their re-election. They have also used the filibuster, parliamentary tricks and dirty money to stuff the courts with ideological judges, and to block the initiatives of their Democratic rivals. But none of that compares to the hyper partisanship that Trump has displayed by calling the COVID-19 crisis a “Democratic hoax” and by favoring Republican-controlled states with medical supplies during the pandemic!

Even worse, mountvernon.org explains that Washington feared partisanship would “open the door to foreign influence and corruption” resulting in decisions on “ill-founded jealousies and false alarms.” He feared that it might lead to the election of “those in league with foreign conspirators.” Of course, that’s exactly what happened in 2017 when Trump was allowed to take office after soliciting and receiving help from Russia during the campaign. If you read the Mueller report, that fact is undeniable. The collusion with a foreign government was breathtaking in both its scope and breadth. But Trump didn’t stop there. Almost immediately after winning the public relations battle over the Mueller investigation, he again sought help from a foreign government to undermine a political rival. An action that led him to be only the third president in US history to be impeached.

Finally, Washington warned us to guard against would-be despots who would use parties as “potent engines…to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Of course, we’ve already seen that in the Trump administration. Trump has almost entirely and repeatedly ignored the interests of the majority of Americans who voted against him. He has used the national treasure as his personal bank account. And he has removed anyone who has failed to show their undying loyalty. Loyalty to him. Not the nation. It’s frightening to think of what he might do if he manages to retain office.

Given how Washington’s warnings have gone largely unheeded, I was astonished to learn that Washington’s farewell letter is recited annually in the United States Senate, a tradition dating back to the Civil War. Maybe some year, Republicans will actually listen to the reading. That’s assuming their actions don’t destroy the nation first.

Trump’s Fatal FEMA Fiasco.

George W. Bush was rightly ridiculed for his “doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie” comment following FEMA’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina. So what should be the consequences for Trump’s “…thank you for the amazing job you’re doing…We’ve set every record you can set” statements about delivering medical equipment to New York? Or his “The federal government has done something that nobody has done anything like this other than perhaps wartime” comment. Or his, “My administration has done a job on really working across government and with the private sector, and it’s been incredible” claim?

One might rightfully give the administration praise if any of it were true.

But, instead of delivering the personal protection equipment that medical personnel need for dealing with COVID-19 patients, the administration has left them in danger. Some nurses have likened their efforts to help patients as “a suicide mission.”

So, what has gone wrong with the administration’s response to the pandemic? The short answer is almost everything.

First, over many years, much of the manufacturing of N-95 masks, shields and gowns has been shipped overseas, primarily to China. So, when the outbreak began in Hubei province, China understandably used most of its production. In fact, the Trump administration sent 18 tons of masks and other equipment to China from our nation’s emergency stockpile. This further reduced the emergency medical stockpile that was already diminished following the Swine Flu epidemic. Though the Obama administration had requested funds to rebuild the stockpile, the Tea Party dominated Congress withheld funding as a way of limiting the debt ceiling.

To make matters even worse, from the time he took office, Trump and his administration had recommended large cuts to the National Institutes of Health and to the Centers for Disease Control. And, when John Bolton became the White House Chief of Staff, he recommended that the National Security Council’s pandemic response team be cut and folded into another agency. That left the team leaderless and gutted.

As the outbreak continued in China, Trump denied that the virus posed a threat by publicly calling it a Democratic hoax.

By the time the first case showed up in Washington state, the US was facing a perfect storm. Trump continued to call it a Democratic hoax and refused requests for help by Washington Governor Inslee, calling him “very unpleasant” and “a snake.” For six critical weeks, Trump continued to dismiss the threat, saying “it’s all under control.” He even claimed that it would disappear as the weather warmed.

As a result of the administration’s delay in recognizing a national emergency, the virus had spread and we were woefully short of supplies. Worse yet, the administration claimed, and continues to claim, that the task of dealing with the crisis is up to the individual states. In fact, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor claims that the national emergency stockpile is “ours.” Ours? Who is he referring to? Does he believe that it is the sole property of the Trump administration and its supporters?

The administration’s recent actions and statements indicate that might be exactly the thinking.

To explain, consider the administration’s process for distributing masks and other personal protection equipment: FEMA purchases masks from manufacturers in China and elsewhere. Those masks are sent to private distributors. The distributors then offer them for sale on the open market to the highest bidder. That bidder may be one of the 50 states, a foreign nation or a private entity. In some cases, the bidder is FEMA, itself. That’s right, FEMA sometimes repurchases the masks at a higher cost than what they originally paid the manufacturers! Why? So Trump can reward loyal red state governors, some of whom have made no attempt to mitigate the pandemic, by giving them priority over blue states.

You read that right. Trump is facing re-election soon, so he is politicizing life and death!

I’m not exaggerating.

The Fractured States of Trump.

From the moment he rode down the golden escalator to announce his candidacy for president until now, Trump has managed to avoid accountability for his actions. Sure, he was rightfully impeached for abusing his power to pressure an ally into investigating his likely opponent in the coming election. He was deservedly investigated for colluding with a foreign rival to win election in 2016. And his moral compass was fully exposed by the Access Hollywood tape, by the many accusations of sexual assault and rape, by his verbal attack against a Gold Star family, by his Trump University scam, by his Trump charity scam, and by the thousands of lawsuits filed against him and his companies. But there were no real consequences.

Trump has proven to be the Teflon Don.

Even after steadfastly refusing to reach out to the 59.6 million US citizens who voted for someone other than him, he has paid no price. Not once has he acted as a president of the United States of America. Rather than unite, he prefers to divide, to offend and to marginalize. Like a crime boss, he demands loyalty from everyone surrounding him. And he views those who refuse to support him as the enemy.

During the past three and a half years, those of us who voted against him have been disgusted by his decision to cage immigrants and refugees; by his orders to rip children away from their parents; by his obedience to Putin; by his taking of sacred lands from Native Americans for mining and oil exploration and for his stupid wall; by his allowing…no…encouraging corporations to pollute our air and water; by his treating the climate crisis as a hoax; by his weakening of the international alliances that keep us safe; by his mocking of opponents; by his ballooning of the national debt in order to make the swollen stock markets look good for his reelection campaign; by his dismantling of our nation’s most necessary institutions or by appointing political hacks and sycophants to lead them; by his packing of our courts with unqualified ideologues who will give support to his illegal and unconstitutional acts.

Though Trump has been incompetent and disruptive as a president. He has excelled at greed, narcissism and cruelty. He and his MAGAtt supporters have reveled in punishing immigrants, people of color and, most of all, the “libs.”

Yet the coronavirus has exposed the Trump presidency as never before. It has shone a light on the failures of his administration, his lack of credibility, and his determination to politicize everything, even the suffering of those who have contracted the disease. By previously dismantling the agency that had been created to respond to pandemics, Americans were left vulnerable – without proper leadership. By failing to distribute test kits in a timely fashion, healthcare providers were unable to react appropriately. By cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy during a good economy, Trump has left the Fed and Congress with few mechanisms to deal with an impending recession. By downplaying the severity of the virus, he allowed the disease to spread. And by saying that he didn’t want to allow a cruise ship with known victims to dock for fear that they would make the numbers look bad, he revealed his narcissism and cruelty for all to see.

Is it any wonder then that Americans are beginning to panic? That the stock traders are worried about the future?

It is now clear that we don’t have capable or caring leadership. What we have in our nation’s highest office is a deranged, orange-tinted 73-year-old who acts like a selfish infant.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Ten – Personal Behavior)

The final installment of this series concerns the promises Trump made about his behavior. He derided anyone who claimed he was not presidential, claiming he would be the best president ever.

Andrew Jackson: One of the first clues that this would be no ordinary presidency came when Trump chose Andrew Jackson as his model and hung Jackson’s picture in the Oval Office. Jackson, of course, was a slaveholder and a racist who was responsible for The Trail of Tears which resulted in more than 45,000 Native Americans being removed from their homes in the Southeast and forced to march to “Indian Territory” – now Oklahoma.

Vacations and Golf: Trump ridiculed President Obama for playing golf while in office and promised that he would not take any time off for vacations or golf. In fact, Obama played golf a total of 113 times during his first term in office, mostly on military and public courses.

By contrast, Trump is projected to play golf 302 times during his term. Since becoming President, he has spent a quarter of his days at one of his golf properties charging Secret Service $650 per night for each officer. He even charges them for golf cart rental! That’s why his Treasury secretary has refused to reveal the resulting cost of Trump’s security until after the 2020 election. But the total is known to be in the hundreds of millions. By vacationing and holding meetings at his own properties, he also rakes in taxpayer money for other government officials. And lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and others seeking access to the president are encouraged to spend money at his hotels and resorts.

Tax Returns: Trump promised to release his taxes as soon as the audit was finished. He still hasn’t. And he has sued to prevent them from being released. The case has gone to the Supreme Court.

Sexual Assaults: Trump was famously caught on tape bragging about his sexual assaults and intrusions into the dressing rooms of teenaged beauty queens. But when numerous women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct and rape, including one who was 13-years-old, he said they were lying and promised to sue them after the election. He has not. But some of the accusers have sued him and more accusers have stepped forward. To date, at least 23 credible women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. And one woman who accused him of rape has a court-mandated order for Trump’s DNA.

Private E-mail Servers: Trump promised he’d prosecute Hillary Clinton and lock her up for using a private e-mail server while Secretary of State. Instead, Clinton was fully exonerated after a lengthy investigation. Stunningly, many in Trump’s administration have also used private e-mail servers for government business, including his family members and his former deputy national security advisor who used a private server to discuss the transfer of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Lies: Trump has accused his political opponents, Robert Mueller, the media and Congress of lying. But even if they have (and they most certainly have not), Trump is the king of lies. To date, the Washington Post and other fact-checking organizations have documented that Trump has made more than 15,000 lies and misleading claims as of mid-December. And he seems to be lying at an even faster pace in 2020.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part Nine – Draining The Swamp)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” But, on many issues, he has either done nothing or made matters worse.

Swamp Creatures: Trump said he’s drain the swamp. But his administration includes more corrupt billionaires, CEOs, and Wall Street moguls than in any administration in history. These new swamp monsters have gutted regulations and signed orders that will enrich their own businesses and those of the president. At the same time, Trump has filled departments and agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who are crafting new policies for the same industries in which they recently worked.

Lobbyists: Trump promised to re-institute a five-year ban on all executive branch officials lobbying the government for five years after they leave government. He did. But the ban he signed applies only to lobbying one’s former agency. Not the government as a whole. Moreover, he has churned through advisors and assistants like no other. So the revolving door between government and lobbying firms has actually accelerated.

Only The Best People: Trump promised he’d use his business experience to fill the White House with “great people, the very best people.” But many of the people he hired are unqualified ideologues, political hacks and white nationalists. These people have dismissed science, defied the rule of law and ignored common sense. As a result, he has created the most dysfunctional, back-stabbing White House in modern history. Those who do not prostrate at his feet and show complete loyalty are summarily fired by tweet. By far, the worst of his loyalists is Attorney General William Barr who has politicized the Department of Justice as never before in order to please his master.

Foreign Interference: Trump promised he’d “stop foreign lobbyists from raising money for American elections.” But foreign lobbyists are still raising money for his re-election and those of his spineless congressmen. And, of course, he was impeached for trying to extort a foreign leader into finding dirt on a political opponent just months after the Mueller investigation enumerated the many ways he had solicited and used election help from Russia then tried to cover it up.

We recently learned that Russia is again trying to intervene in the 2020 election. But Trump refuses to condemn Putin and Moscow Mitch refuses to allow a vote on House-passed bills that would secure our elections. And Trump is still soliciting foreign support. As I write this, he’s holding what amounts to a political rally in India.

This Isn’t A Political Campaign. It’s A Street Fight.

It seems that many of the Democratic candidates for president are approaching the electoral campaign as if 2016 never happened. They are focused on policy and change. What they fail to understand is that 2016 changed everything. The Democratic nominee won’t be running against a mere candidate. They will be running against an unprincipled crime boss with the most powerful position in the world. A man who is willing to lie, cheat, bully, threaten, steal, and do whatever it takes to win.

We saw, in 2016, that Trump was willing to solicit and use help from Russia. We saw him file campaign papers for his re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. He has used virtually every presidential appearance as a campaign event. He has launched the largest disinformation campaign in history on social media. And he was impeached for trying to use congressionally-approved aid to Ukraine to extort its leaders into announcing an investigation into phantom “wrongdoing” by Joe Biden.

Since his impeachment, in an act of retribution, he has fired two of those who testified under subpoena and fired another for the crime of being a twin brother of one of the witnesses. He has used the pretense of national security to block the book of his former National Security Advisor. He has threatened a Senator in his own party for voting for his removal. He has sent his capos – Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani – on a mission to find dirt on his Democratic opponents. And he has undermined the Department of Justice by calling for Barr to intervene in court cases against his criminal friends.

In addition, Trump’s GOP supporters have vigorously set about trying to find new ways to rig the upcoming election. They have widely spread disinformation about Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party. In GOP-controlled states, they have Gerrymandered districts and passed laws to suppress the votes of blacks, students, and the poor – those who traditionally vote Democratic. They have even refused to change voting machines and procedures to secure the election results.

Given all this, it should be obvious that Trump is no ordinary candidate. And this will be no ordinary election. The Democratic nominee might as well be running against an angry and emboldened Don Corleone on steroids. But, unlike the Godfather, this crime boss has all of the mechanisms of the government, including the “justice” system at his disposal.

Far from being embarrassed by Trump’s lack of moral and ethical character, his supporters are energized by it, seeming to care only about sticking it to the libs, blacks, gays and “illegals.”

And, thus far, the only Democratic candidate who seems to fully recognize the kind of fight the party is facing is Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg has used his billions to troll Trump with ads designed to expose him for what he really is: A fraud and a crook. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg is another New Yorker. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg’s wealth has made him unafraid to take on Trump. Maybe it’s because Bloomberg, as New York’s former mayor, has experience putting mobsters in their place.

Don’t get me wrong. I like ALL of the Democratic candidates. I want someone who will be transformative – to undo all of the harm done by the mobster-in-chief; to take power away from the plutocrats and give it back to the people; to re-establish our democracy. But I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination. (In fact, I’d vote for anyone with half a pulse over Trump.) But I believe, in order to win, the nominee will have to be prepared to roll in the muck and shield themselves from the feces that The Don and his Trumpanzees are certain to fling their way.

So far, only Michael Bloomberg seems to understand that.

The March Toward Autocracy.

Ever watch a kindergarten class out for a walk in the city? They are all hooked to a rope connected to two teachers so that no child can step out of line. Such is the case with our Republican Congress. Led by DonTheCon, they follow along through oncoming traffic toward the edge of a cliff where they’re expected to take a giant leap of faith. If they do step out of line, there’s Moscow Mitch to herd them back into place.

I believe there’s no better description of today’s GOP under Donald J. Trump.

Trump clearly conspired with a foreign rival to attain office. Once in power, he has set about destroying the United States of America as we know it. He has intentionally divided the nation as we have not seen since the Civil War. He has undermined our institutions – the press, the judicial system, the national security apparatus, the military. He has used the machinery of government and the power of his office to attack and investigate political opponents. He has obstructed justice and any form of congressional oversight.

He has changed our tax codes to further benefit the rich and the powerful. He has demeaned and estranged our closest allies. Though having broken nearly all of the Ten Commandments, he has pandered to evangelical “Christians” while banning the followers of Islam from entering our country. He has turned aside refugees – the victims of violence and economic collapse – and re-victimized them by locking them in cages to endure horrific conditions. He has pandered to white nationalists and embraced the world’s worst dictators as though they are members of the same club.

Indeed they are.

He has carved up our national monuments and auctioned off the mineral rights to the highest bidder. He has eliminated environmental regulations allowing oligarchs to despoil our air and water. He has cheated on his taxes, refusing to reveal the depths of his cheating by hiding them from the public. He has used the national treasure as his piggy bank to enrich himself and his family while ordering the Treasury Secretary to shield the numbers from accountability.

As he neared re-election, he chose to enlist the help of a foreign government yet again, using taxpayer funds to extort its help in damaging a political opponent. And, when he was caught, he gathered those Republican congressmen and senators – those obedient toddlers – around him for protection.

Though impeached, his followers refuse to remove him from office…even refusing to examine the evidence. So now it’s up to the voters to do what the Senate should have done.

That will be difficult. Though Trump’s support represents a minority of the electorate – mostly an angry mob of white supremacists, religious zealots, the uninformed, the misinformed and aggrieved losers – his party has spent years preparing for this moment. The GOP has aggressively Gerrymandered congressional districts. It has set about removing the names of millions of voters from the rolls, forcing them to re-register to vote – that’s assuming they’re even aware that their names have been excluded. The GOP has reduced the number of polling places and voting hours in Democratic-leaning districts. It has blocked voting rights for felons who have served their sentences. It has intimidated opposition voters. And, in many states, it has forced voters to leave work and drive many miles in order to purchase a voter ID, often making them choose between obtaining the ID or earning enough to feed their children.

Even without all of their voter suppression tactics, the GOP has a distinct advantage. It controls a large majority of the nation’s geography, if not its voters. Half of the nation’s population resides in 9 largely blue states. But the remaining 41 mostly red states hold a majority of the electoral votes. So it’s possible that Trump – the president with the lowest approval ratings in modern times – will, once again, lose the popular vote this November by overwhelming numbers and still win a majority of electoral votes.

The only sure way to stop him is for decent, caring Americans to turn out to vote as never before.

And, if Trump is defeated, the winning candidate should quickly set about nullifying the Trump presidency. Every presidential order should be immediately overturned. Every appointment, every administration decision should be scrutinized and rectified, as quickly as possible. And, if Democrats are fortunate enough to gain majorities in both houses of Congress, they should pass legislation designed to protect our elections, to restore voting rights, to eliminate the Electoral College and to protect our environment.

As important, Trump should be prosecuted for his many crimes – for his tax evasion, for violating the emoluments clause, for conspiring with enemies of state, for abuse of power, for obstruction. He and his family should be forced to repay the millions they have stolen from taxpayers. And Trump should be locked up as a warning to any like-minded individuals who would consider undermining our democracy ever again.

Trump’s Broken Promises. (Part One – The Economy)

The Trump White House is fond of sending out emails and Tweets stating “Promises Made. Promises Kept.” Certainly Trump has kept a few of his campaign promises. But let’s look at Trump’s promises about the economy. You’ll see that the promises broken far outnumber those kept. Here are just a few:

Deficit and Debt: Trump promised to eliminate the federal deficit and reduce the debt. He hasn’t. The deficit is expected to reach $1 trillion for 2020 and the debt has soared to more than $23 trillion. And, recently, he was recorded saying that the debt doesn’t matter because “I won’t be here when it blows up.”

GDP Growth: Trump promised he would grow the GDP by 4 percent per year and maybe more. The reality is that the GDP has grown at a rate of approximately 2 percent per year – a growth rate lower than all but the first years of the Obama administration.

Trade Deals: Trump promised he would negotiate better deals with China, Canada and Mexico. Instead, he started a trade war with China passing the cost of tariffs onto US consumers. His trade war also forced many US farmers into bankruptcy despite $16 billion in subsidies that have mostly benefited the richest farmers.

Taxes: Trump promised he’d cut taxes giving the average US family a $4,000 annual pay raise. Instead, he cut taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. 53 percent of all Americans will see their taxes rise.

Tax Loopholes: Trump promised to close tax loopholes such as the “carried interest” loophole for private-equity managers, hedge fund managers, and real estate partners. He hasn’t. Indeed, his tax bill provides additional loopholes for…wait for it…real estate developers.

Infrastructure: Trump promised to invest $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But, after his tax cut and increase in military spending, there’s no money left for infrastructure.

Outsourcing Jobs: Trump promised he would stop companies from shipping jobs overseas. Instead, Trump is subsidizing companies that export jobs. As a result, the off-shoring of jobs for some major US manufacturers has reached record numbers.

Coal Jobs: Trump promised to bring back jobs in the coal industry. He hasn’t. Even after he relaxed pollution restrictions on coal mining and coal power plants, the number of coal-related jobs has remained steady.

Steel Jobs: Trump promised to protect American steel jobs so he imposed tariffs on foreign-made aluminum and steel. The tariffs protected some jobs. But our industries must now pay more for the materials, which has threatened jobs in other industries, such as auto manufacturing and construction. And the additional cost is passed on to consumers and taxpayers. It has been estimated that 400,000 jobs may be lost as a result of the tariffs.

Winning: Trump promised that we would all get tired of so much winning under his leadership. And, though the economy has grown under Trump, it has grown at a slower rate than under his predecessor. Likewise, fewer jobs have been created under Trump and the important employment-to population-ratio has slowed since Trump took office. At the same time, income and wealth inequality have accelerated as a result of the Trump tax cuts. Indeed, those of us who are not among the top 1 percent have not experienced a lot winning.

Given that the Washington Post fact-checkers have determined that Trump has made 16,241 false or misleading claims since taking office, it should come as no surprise that he has broken many of his campaign promises.

Russia 2.0?

A lot has been written about Trump’s many links to Russia, his subservience to Putin and his admiration for some of the world’s most despicable strongmen. Those things should make every American wary of the intentions of our Dear Leader. But are they merely innocent, well-intentioned attempts to reach out to our adversaries in the interest of peace? Or is there something more disturbing, more threatening at play?

For that answer, it’s useful to compare Trump’s actions with those that undermined the Russian Federation’s once promising democracy and gave Putin complete control of the government and his nation’s resources.

1 – Putin labeled the government weak and ineffective promising to return the nation to its former power and glory. (Trump’s slogans of Make America Great Again and America First are right out of the dictators’ playbook.)

2 – Putin attacked the news media for reporting anything negative about him. (Trump labeled the news media and reporters as “enemies of the people.”)

3 – Putin used compliant media outlets to spread lies and propaganda. (Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, online sites such as Breitbart News, and radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh willingly and gleefully perpetuate Trump’s stream of lies.)

4 – Putin subverted the electoral process and suppressed votes for opposing candidates. (The GOP’s voter suppression efforts actually precede Trump by several decades. But these efforts have become more widespread in the age of Trump.)

5 – Putin embraced organized crime and other thuggish leaders such as Syria’s Assad to increase his power. (Trump has lifelong ties to organized crime through his family attorney Roy Cohn. He has helped Russian mobsters and oligarchs launder money. And his admiration for dictators like Putin, Erdogan and Mohammed bin Salman is obvious.)

6 – Once in power, Putin used the Russian government and economy as his personal piggy bank. And he has used offshore tax havens to shelter his ill-gotten gains. (In violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump has funneled millions of government funds into his properties. And, for many years, he has used offshore accounts to avoid taxes. His name appears in the Panama Papers – a list of those who invest in offshore tax shelters – an astounding 3,540 times. Further, a similar list known as the Paradise Papers exposed links between Trump, Putin and Russia.)

7 – Putin used the intelligence apparatus and law enforcement to investigate his political enemies. (Attorney General Barr has authorized an investigation into those he and Trump claim “spied” on the Trump campaign. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is busy using government resources to gather dirt on Trump’s political rivals.)

8 – He took control of the courts so the laws could not be used to undermine his authority. (With the help of a compliant majority in the Senate, the Trump administration has packed the courts with a record number of young, ideological judges – many for lifetime appointments. Trump nominees now comprise a quarter of the seats on all federal appellate courts.)

9 – Putin gave control of natural resources to his closest friends and most ardent supporters making them, and himself, obscenely wealthy. (The Trump administration has auctioned off mining and oil drilling leases on federal lands to his supporters at wholesale prices. His administration has also pushed for logging in national wildernesses. At the same time, Trump has rolled back environmental regulations to make the extraction of resources more profitable.)

10 – Putin gave favors to the wealthy and corporate leaders, including helping them avoid taxes in order to further build their wealth. (One of Trump’s first acts was to cut income taxes for corporations and the very wealthy. One of the little-known effects of the bill was to allow corporations to “repatriate” billions of dollars, most of which were used for stock buybacks for the benefit of corporate executives.)

11 – Putin and his friends took control of the legislative bodies by using the power of their wealth. (The US has been an oligarchy for decades. But the money needed to run for office has skyrocketed in recent years. This, of course, benefits Trump’s wealthy supporters. In addition, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent by industries and corporations to shape or block legislation.)

12 – Putin gave favors to the leaders of the nation’s majority religion and encouraged the persecution of those who practiced other faiths, as well as gays and lesbians. (Trump has embraced evangelical Christian leaders who consider homosexuality and abortion abominations under God. In return, they have claimed he was chosen by God to lead us. Trump also placed a near-complete ban on Muslims entering the US. He has empowered his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against followers of other religions and people of color.)

When you compare the actions of our wannabe dictator to those of Putin and other tyrants such as Erdogan, the similarities are frightening. Given the depths to which he has taken our nation in his first term, we should all fear what a second term might bring.

Destruction Of The US. (Part Fourteen – GOP)

This is the last of my 14-part series. But last certainly does not mean least. Without the treachery and complicity of the Republican Party, most of the other factors that are destroying our nation either would not be possible. Or they would be far less damaging.

The damage done to our government by the GOP began in earnest prior to the Nixon administration and has accelerated ever since. In 1968, Nixon undermined the Vietnam peace talks in order to benefit his election prospects. Similarly, he ordered the Watergate break-in to sabotage Democratic candidates during the 1972 election. Following Nixon’s lead, Reagan undermined the Carter administration’s efforts to release hostages from the US embassy in Iran in order to damage Carter’s re-election chances. Reagan attacked labor unions and, based on the discredited “trickle down” theory of economics, he cut taxes for the rich. George H.W. Bush led us in to war in the Middle East over oil. And two of his sons conspired to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Then George W. Bush led us into a war with Iraq on false pretenses.

But the GOP’s impact on our democracy has never been more damaging than it has over the past 11 years. During the Obama administration, it tried to undermine attempts to pull our economy out of a worldwide recession created by GOP policies. It blocked dozens of judicial appointments in the Senate culminating with its successful effort to steal a seat on the Supreme Court. And, having captured a number of state houses, it began instituting a wide variety of voter suppression laws in a blatant effort to prevent minorities and other Democrats from voting.

Since 2016, having colluded with a foreign rival to steal yet another election, it has allowed its Con-Man-in-Chief to sidle up to dictators, to bully allies, to promote white nationalism, to cut taxes for the ultra-wealthy, to take affordable health care from millions, to undermine public education, to roll back environmental protections, to block any attempts to address the climate crisis, to rip immigrant children away from their parents, and to pack our courts by giving lifetime appointments to young, and often unqualified, ideologues. The party has not only excused blatant abuses of power by Trump. It has openly participated in them as did William Barr in his handling of the Mueller report. Further, Republicans in Congress have tried to block any attempts of congressional oversight by the Democrat-controlled House. (Witness the behavior of House Republicans during the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s attempted shakedown of Ukraine.)

The GOP has run up trillion-dollar deficits in order to justify defunding all social safety nets, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps. At the same time, it has handed out subsidies to some of the world’s greediest corporations. Worst of all, the party has participated in the wholesale betrayal of our Constitution by accepting campaign money and other support from Russian oligarchs and excusing Russia’s interference in our elections.

It may have once been labeled the Grand Old Party as a result of Abraham Lincoln’s fight to end slavery and hold our nation together. But the only thing grand about it today is its level of hypocrisy and criminal behavior.