BY JOHN SHAFFER
President Trump's opening to North Korea may have advanced the cause of peace, and, just as Nixon may have been the only President who could have opened China, Mr. Trump may have been the only one who could have accomplished the North Korea initiative. The expectation is that if a leftish President, or an “establishment” President had done the reaching, there would have been an outcry from traditional anti-communist opinion; however, since it was done by a Republican, such opinion was muted or softened. It also took a Reagan to make a deal (and what effectively proved to be the final deal) with the Soviet Union. We presently are at a similar point in America’s dealings with North Korea: the “make America great again” President likely can get away with saying things and doing things that a Democrat President could not.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
• Remember the campaign to raise the minimum wage? The “Fight for $15”? Well, it has been successful in many places, and we expect it eventually to be the industry standard in fast-food. This week’s news informs us that McDonald’s already has installed self-service kiosks in about 25% of its American restaurants and expects to install them in 1,000 stores every three months for the next two years, which means that almost every McDonald’s will have one by the end of 2020. Does anyone think that may have anything to do with a minimum wage twice what the present US minimum wage is? Well, it just might be that kiosks that can operate for far less than $15 an hour (and don’t have to be paid health care or benefits) would have taken over a lot of jobs sooner or later. We suspect the successful “Fight for $15” has made it happen much sooner.
• You probably have heard that the President cancelled his invitation to the Philadelphia Eagles for the “traditional” Rose Garden celebration for their championship. Apparently the Eagles had said that about 70 members of the team would be present, but this week said that only about ten or so could make it on the original date so asked the President to reschedule the event for a week later –
BY JOHN SHAFFER
We didn’t have the highest grade point average, or SAT scores, or IQ, so there are things that are beyond our comprehension. One example is the current flap over “spygate,” that is, the allegation that the Obama Administration gathered information on the Trump campaign. President Trump has made such an accusation on several occasions over the months since his election, and the Obama team and the mainstream media have instantly and loudly scoffed at and denied the charge as often as it has been made.
But, more and more information is coming out, specifically, that the Obama administration had placed an informant in the Trump Campaign. We aren’t even going to speculate on what the reaction would have been had the Bush administration placed an informant in the Obama campaign, but we can guess the response would be several degrees more fierce and indignant than the response to the spying on the Trump campaign has been. Well, gosh, they don’t even use the word “spy.” Former CIA Director John Brennan, former NSA director James Clapper, and various folks a bit lower on the organizational flow chart have used words such as “seeking insight,” or “observing”; and they insist on the term “confidential human source” instead of spy. To mangle an old saying, a rose by any other name still might smell bad.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
President Trump has pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal. He had promised that he would, and it was widely expected that he would, but there are people who wish he hadn’t. Specifically, the people who populated the Obama administration, which arranged the deal in the first place. If you think the the word “deal” is a bit too informal, call it an “agreement” instead. Just don’t call it a “treaty,” for that is expressly what it is not. A treaty formally binds its parties, and must be, under the US Constitution, approved by two-thirds of the US Senate. In the face of nearly universal opposition from Senate Republicans, and significant opposition from Senate Democrats as well, President Obama never even introduced it as a treaty – he knew he lacked the votes. Instead, it was his own executive agreement (officially, a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and, the meaningless terminology is indicative that it might have a lifetime roughly equal to that of his own administration. Were it a treaty, it would be permanent and would require another treaty to undo; as a deal or an agreement, it could vanish, and it has done so.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
OK here is the definition; see if you can guess the key word: “to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly.” And here is the bonus definition for “officious” – “objectionably forward in offering one’s unrequested and unwanted services.” And the key word is – that’s right: “meddle.” Definitions are from our favorite dictionary, the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1966 edition.
We wonder how many people who keep asserting that the Russians “meddled” in the 2016 presidential election know the meaning of the word. The Russians unquestionably "meddled," but they did not do anything that materially changed votes or the outcome anywhere. As noted above – there is no doubt that the Russians “meddled.” Its connotation is far more of a “sticking in one’s nose where it doesn’t belong” pestiness than of a dark, wicked evil form of manipulation or altering the outcome. The latter type of actions require a much stronger form of interference than mere “meddling.”
Interestingly, the same people who downplayed the threat of the Soviet Union thirty years ago are today about ready to begin some form of hostilities against Russia for “meddling” in our election. Hold on – not only thirty years ago – the same people who mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for claiming that Russian was a threat – remember “the 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back”? – and who ignored, downplayed, explained away or empathized just about every action that Russia took during the eight years of the Obama Administration, are today up in arms because they do not think President Trump is sufficiently up in arms over the Russian meddling.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
Back in the "Red Scare" era one of the most hackneyed phrases used in movies, stories, satire, news, and about everywhere else was "Are you now or have you ever been a Communist?" Of course, some civil libertarians (among others) thought this a terrible question to ask, because of course those who were Communists did not generally want to admit it - especially under oath.
Well, last week we learned there is another question that makes the progressive left and the establishment of the Democrat party every bit as outraged as the "have you ever been" question, and, believe it or not, the dreaded question is "Are you a US citizen?" In context, the Administration has announced that the question would be included on the 2020 US Census form. Although it was dropped from the standard form in 1950, it has been included on the "long form" and even the Obama Administration asked it. We don’t think that any question of this nature has provoked such emphatic opposition for 70 years or so. The Trump administration may not be succeeding in everything it does, but one task it performs with ease: "triggering" the progressive/Democrat/establishment with just about every move it makes, and the Administration's decision to ask the "dreaded" citizenship question has triggered an avalanche of negative reactions.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
President Trump has taken note of America’s trade balance and the decline in some basic industries in America's heartland has proposed steep tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. He believes this is the best way to address the situation. Unfortunately, the President is looking at the problem from the wrong end and has proposed something that will have a negative impact. We have a hint of that with the multi-hundred point drop in the major stock index averages that resulted from the mere announcement of tariffs. The tariff may seek to improve the lot of those in the industries that manufacture steel and aluminum (and they may well do so – at least one steel plant will be reopened in the wake of the President’s decision), but it is likely that whatever benefit that segment of the economy will experience will be more than offset by the negatives felt by the rest of us – declining stock values, increased cost of goods, distortion of the markets, etc.
We won’t dispute that American manufacturing has experienced some steep declines in certain industries, but what if the President had gone about trying to fix the problem by trying to figure out the reasons why those industries are in decline. In other words, why can foreign competitors produce those goods at a lower price?
Sure, if those overseas producers are illegally undercutting our markets, or are enjoying subsidies that our producers can’t have, the answer could be to impose a tariff to “level the playing field.” But if our competitors are just exploiting their natural advantages, maybe we should be trying to lower our costs of production. Why have we priced ourselves out of so many industries?
By John Shaffer
How To Succeed on the stage? Well, It is simple: Take a great show, a great cast, a great director, great musicians, a great stage crew, great props, sets and costumes, and wrap it all up with a love for the theater, and that is just what happened with last week’s Troy High School Drama Club production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
This was another in a long string of brilliant musical successes for the Troy High School Drama Club. This year’s show, like last year’s Aida, was very ambitious and challenging, as it is not as frequently performed in high schools, but the cast handled the show with aplomb and played the roles as if they had grown up with them all their lives. The “senior class core” of the Drama Club - Braden Ward, Megan Corbett, Stacie Simpson, Anna Dunbar, Zane Longwell, Grace Lathrop, Megan Everts, Breana Millard and others - all excelled, and this show places a proud exclamation point on their superb high school careers and will strengthen the Troy drama program even more.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
Last week we explained our view of the horrific slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. A lot has emerged since then that indicates, if not establishes, that the situation was even worse that we knew, and that of all the school shootings or mass killings that have taken place in recent years, this one probably was the most preventable; because there were so many “warning signs” that were not heeded. The words "not heeded” don’t go far enough. There were many warning signs that were ignored or, even worse, swept under the rug.
It is appalling that at least one deputy (the School Resource Officer, no less), and perhaps as many as four, waited outside and refused to enter the building. Unarmed school employees and students did, and armed officers from Coral Gables and other police departments did, and EMTs wanted to but were prevented from doing so; but those armed Broward County deputies did not. They forgot one of the most important lessons learned from the Columbine murders twenty years ago: confront the shooter. Had those deputies done so, perhaps he would have fired at them, but then he would not have been firing at the children. Confronting the shooter forces him to alter his plans, forces him to lose control of the situation, forces him to react to something instead of having his way with unarmed victims. If not common knowledge, this at least is common sense. No, we do not mean crashing through the door as Rambo would, but confronting the shooter; while he is thus occupied, some of those victims could escape to safety, and a way may be found to neutralize him.
But the knowledge that people who could have taken action during the shooting failed to do so is not the worst thing that has been exposed; for, despite realistic training and capable weaponry, human fears still haunt the best of us; and can we be sure that we would have “run toward the guns” had circumstances placed us in the line of fire? The deputies who did not enter the building probably should be replaced with ones who will, but no other punishment is called for.
By John Shaffer
The horrific murders at the high school in Parkland, Florida have focused the public’s mind, and the appalling sorrow caused by the killing of seventeen innocent people has driven some to lash out to find the villain – and for the progressive left, it is, as it always is, firearms. Many folks are angry, and the angriest ones are angry, not with the shooter, nor with the school authorities or local law enforcement officers who failed to prevent the crime. No, they are angriest with, in no special order, the NRA, Republicans and President Trump. In fact, there has been remarkably scant anger expressed at the shooter. (We will describe him as “the shooter” because we do not want to give his name any publicity.)
Parkland students have been bussed to the state capitol in Tallahassee, will meet with President Trump and plan a march on Washington. They are shocked and saddened and are demanding action, and that action seems to be centered on banning various firearms. It is ironic that we are told to "listen to the children," because the school authorities in Parkland assuredly did not "listen to the children" when they were trying to warn how dangerous the shooter was.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
One always can count on former Obama administration National Security Advisor Susan Rice to say something worthy of comment, and the news that she wrote a "memo to herself" on Inauguration Day is interesting in itself - after all, how many of us write memos to ourselves that explain meetings that occurred fifteen days earlier? Yes, that's right, the memo, written on January 20, relates to a January 5 meeting with President Obama, FBI Director James Comey, Ms. Rice, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and Vice President Joe Biden which discussed possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. One problem - Mr. Comey did not mention this meeting when he testified to Congress about his meetings with the President and the “Russia” investigation. We’re sure it was a simple oversight.
Interesting also that the President and his inner circle and the FBI were concerned about the possible associations that the President-Elect had with Russia, especially considering that they showed extraordinarily little interest in the associations that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had (or perhaps was having) with Russians. Not even when a Russian oligarch funneled half a million dollars to Mrs. C’s husband. Those would seem to be at least as interesting.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
A couple of stories came to light last week that show us why so many people cannot stomach the sleazy, dishonest tactics of career bureaucrats and of career politicians.
Number One - Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, who was "removed" from his position last week. It seems that last year, (this according to Howard Kurtz in his book Media Madness: Donald Trump. The Press, and the War Over Truth), Mr. McCabe privately told President Trump’s then-Chief of Staff Reince Pribus that the there was nothing there to a New York Times story claiming that Trump administration's officials had had repeated contact with the Russians. Mr. Priebus asked Mr. McCabe if it would be all right if the FBI could say that in public. Mr. McCabe, and his boss, FBI Director James Comey, declined, but then a few days later, CNN broadcast the following: "According to multiple U.S. officials the FBI rejected a White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between President Trump’s associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence.” So the FBI leadership told the White House the President was in the clear, refused permission to allow that word to be made public, but leaked the “news” that the White House had “pressured” them to clear them. Pretty sleazy, and, if we recall, Mr. Comey played almost the identical trick on President Trump – privately telling him he was not the target of an investigation but refusing to do so in public.
Number two - CIA director Mike Pompeo met with his Russian counterpart, and US Senator Chuck Schumer decided to make some political hay - so he did a little grandstanding, and released a letter he sent to Mr. Pompeo asking for an explanation. Mr. Pompeo's response included this: “We periodically meet with our Russian intelligence counterparts for the same reasons our predecessors did, to keep Americans safe.” This soon appeared on CNN, but the story left out the words “for the same reason our predecessors did," which made it appear that the CIA director was a stooge of the Russians, an idiot, or hopelessly naïve. We are not sure if that one should be blamed on Senator Schumer or CNN, but the former did nothing to correct the record, even though his office released a copy of the letter proving exactly what Mr. Pompeo said.
Number 3 - Congressman Adam Schiff - who did not want the FISA memo released. He issued a breathless statement claiming that the memo had been changed from the one the committee voted on - and you know what, that was true - as far as it goes. But the changes were of three types - grammatical; one change requested by the FBI, and - get this - a third change, requested by Mr. Schiff! Yes, that's right, Mr. Schiff demanded a change, and then when it was made, screamed that the memo was changed. Sort of like the person who murders his parents, then wants the court to show mercy because he is an orphan. We are not sure if the Republican FISA memo is a “nothingburger” or a “threat to our National Security.” The Democrats have claimed both. Mr. Comey dismissed it with an airy, “That’s it?”
BY JOHN SHAFFER
The House Intelligence Committee has voted to release a four-page summary of various documents relating to the FISA investigation of President Trump (and, perhaps, of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well). The Democrats on the committee voted against releasing the report. Why, in this era of “transparency” would they not want it released? There are several possibilities, but let’s go with the most logical one: there is something in it that would be damaging to them. The fact that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has been “removed” from his position may provide some hints in that direction.
The most important thing to remember is that the 2016 election took place when Barack Obama was President of the United States and Loretta Lynch was Attorney General. Whatever it was that the Russians were doing – the Obama administration did not make an issue of it. The probable reason is that there was no “Russian interference” in the election at all – at least no more than there has been in the past. Think about it – if a Democrat administration, term-limited and not seeking reelection but wanting to be succeeded by a fellow Democrat, had evidence that a Republican challenger was working with the Russians to subvert the electoral process – would they not publicize it? Would they not shout warnings? Would they not call out that candidate? They did none of those things. They had no problem with throwing all sorts of charges and accusations at Donald Trump, but doesn’t one find it interesting that the only accusation that has lasted a year after the election is one that was never mentioned during the election? In fact – President Obama, his National Security Advisor, his Director of National Intelligence, his CIA Director, his Vice President, all publicly denied that there was interference in the election. But what did not exist in reality has been concocted to exist through a rigged investigation; and the four-page memo is likely to explicitly outline that rigging, and thus the departure of Mr. McCabe and the negative reaction to the Democrats who have staked everything on “Russia, Russia, Russia.” They have staked everything on challenging the legitimacy of the election – and "Russia" did not become a theme until. all the other themes failed (the popular vote, the electoral college, recounts, etc. Only then did they latch onto the Russia notion.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
If one were to ask a dozen people what the biggest problem facing our federal government, one may get a dozen different answers. After this weekend’s “Schumer Shutdown,” perhaps a few of those hypothetical folks would say “the Senate rules.” That may not be the biggest problem, but it is a good place to start, since the Senate rules prevent us from taking action that would address many of the other problems. The majority of the US House voted in favor of a budget, and so did the majority of the Senate – but because of a “60-vote” requirement (variously referred to as the “Byrd Rule,” The “Daschle Rule,” or the “Reid Rule”) that majority wasn’t big enough.
The Founding Fathers intended that the House would represent the people and the Senate would represent the states. The Constitution established a few instances that demanded a “super majority” or two-thirds of the Senate (or in some cases, the House) – including convictions in Impeachments, amendments to the Constitution, expulsion of a member, overriding a presidential veto, and, with the 25th amendment, ruling on the disability of the President.
BY JOHN SHAFFER
The intonation of today's title is important. Depending on how the words are stressed, "What did he say?" can mean either an inquiry of exactly what was said, or an expression of shock or surprise at what words were spoken. For the sake of delicacy we will use the word "mess," which is the same euphemism that The Atlantic used back in 2016 instead of a scatalogical term that President Obama used to describe Libya. In the case of President Trump and the infamous remark, different witnesses disagree on what he said; and few people seem truly shocked or surprised that he said it, and that is the problem - it sounds so much like something we assume the President would say, and most of can believe that he would say it, that we conclude that he said it. We think it possible that the alleged remark was a paraphrase by a witness who was either offended by a sentiment being expressed or who wanted to embarrass the President. Of course, remarks of this type are undiplomatic, and insulting, crude and impolite, and should not be said, and if they are said, they should be regretted. But let us keep a few things in mind:
1) If the President did say that word, he said so in a private, behind-closed-doors conversation. He did not say it in public; or in an interview; or in a speech; or in a statement; nor did he have one of his spokespeople say it or release it. In other words, it was private. We are willing to bet the rent money that he is not the first US President to use nasty language or express disturbing opinions in private. Furthermore, we are willing to double that bet, and say that Senator Durbin, the presumptive leaker, has spoken words of comparable value in private, and probably also has heard them spoken by any or all of the last four US Presidents (or presidential candidates) with whom he has held private meetings over the years. Now, if the Senator would disclose all other instances in which Presidents used scatalogical language, or made insulting remarks about people or places, we can compare them to what has just been disclosed and determine the scale of offenses.