Friday, June 9, 2017

Unfit on Day One: Paul Ryan Offers an Insulting Excuse for President Trump's Fiasco

by Nomad

The Foundation Stone

It is hard to find the just one adjective to describe former FBI Director Comey's testimony before the Senate yesterday. "Riveting" for most viewers, "devastating" for Trump and his defenders but perhaps, whichever side of the political spectrum you find yourself, it was a "historical event."

Under oath, Comey made a solid case that the President knowingly attempted to quash an investigation of the alleged Russian collusion of Mike Flynn. Comey's notes claimed that Trump actually said:
I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is good guy. I hope you can let this go.
As the hearing was wrapped up, it was impossible not to conclude that the foundation stone for articles of impeachment had been solidly laid.

Furthermore, the confused justification for firing the head of the FBI made no sense and that allegations made by the White House and his spokespeople that the FBI was in disarray were "lies, plain and simple."
And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them.
There were stunning revelations too. Here's an incomplete list.
  • Comey wrote memos after his conversations with President Trump because he was concerned that the president would lie about what was said. 
  • Comey also was given the impression by Trump that his remaining in his position was dependent on his loyalty to the president. 
  • Comey assumed that Trump was issuing a directive when he said he hoped the FBI would drop the investigation of Flynn. 
  • Despite Trump's claim to the contrary, Comey said there's no doubt in his mind that Russia meddled in the U.S. election. 
  • On several occasions, Trump asked the FBI director to make public announcements to the effect that President Trump was himself not under investigation.  
  • Trump, according to Comey, never showed concern for protecting the nation against any further Russian interference, never asked for advice preventing a recurrence or showed any interest in safeguarding the nation from Russian involvement in the elections.
  • As per Comey's notes, Trump asked Comey what "we" could do to "lift the cloud" which Comey took to mean the general Russia investigation. 
It was reported last month that Trump had privately told the Russian officials in the Oval Office that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him. According to a leaked White House document, Trump called the former FBI director, "crazy, a real nut job."Presumably, the Russian delegation was bemused and amused by Trump's contempt of Comey.
Pity for us that many of the juicy bits couldn't be explored at that hearing because they alluded to classified information or were part of an ongoing investigation. That leaves room for a lot of speculation because some of the unanswered inquiries were quite tantalizing.
In particular, Comey couldn't answer -at least, in an open setting- whether he thought that Trump colluded with the Russians. 

It was easy to overlook the full significance of that remark. 

Fools Rush In

As it was expected, Republican leadership rushed to Trump's defense. Laughably, some even tried to claim that Comey's testimony had actually vindicated the president.

At a press conference following Comey's testimony, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately assured journalists that
“No, I can definitively say the president is not a liar, frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
Huckabee's credibility as a character witness is dubious, to say the least. She was one of those that alleged that Comey had "lost the confidence" of the "rank-and-file" FBI employees, "politicized" his role and become a "distraction" in explaining the timing of the former director's dismissal. 

She claimed the firing was an attempt by Trump to restore "credibility" to the FBI. None of these claims were supported by evidence and served only to trash Comey's long and outstanding career. 
In fact, according to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, said that Huckabee's statement was "not accurate,” and added that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI, and still does to this day.”

When Comey was fired, she first claimed that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had performed an audit of Comey's professional performance and then recommended his firing to Trump, and Trump had accepted his recommendation.

Later, when statements from the President contradicted that version of events, she lied about ever making that claim!

One of the most outlandish examples of this was Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's excuse for why the American public should not hold Donald Trump accountable.  As reported by MSNBC, Ryan told reporters at a news conference Thursday  
"The president is new at this, he is new to government, and so he probably wasn't steeped in the long running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI, and White Houses.. He is just new to this. And so I think, what I got out of that testimony is we now know why he was so frustrated when the FBI director told him three times there is no investigation of him yet that speculation was allowed to continue."
That's another deceptive version of events. It was not a case of Comey telling the president three times but of Trump asking Comey three times.
It might sound like a minor detail, but Ryan's version whitewashed the reality that Trump was anxious to clear his name. A far cry from "the buck stops here" attitude of past administrations.

Obviously realizing the weakness of the "naive neophyte" defense, Ryan hedged slightly by adding
"I’m not saying it’s an acceptable excuse, it’s just my observation."
Call it what you will, an excuse is an excuse and this one was about as ridiculous and as insulting to the American public as any Republican has delivered.
It's the kind of excuse people give to puppies who are not fully house-trained.

"Pathological Liar"

Once upon a time, and not so long ago, it was Donald Trump who claimed back in August 2016 that candidate Hillary Clinton had proven herself unfit to serve in any government office on the grounds that Clinton had embraced policies that have hurt national security.
On other occasions, he called Clinton "very dangerous,” a "pathological liar,” and a “security risk.”

During the campaign, Trump consistently pointed out that Clinton's experience as a Senator and Secretary of State counted for nothing. Indeed, it was used as evidence of her poor judgment and of being too deep in the swamp of Washington.
Inexperience, as Trump's marketed advantage,  signified a fresh approach. It was just the kind of thing that was needed to "shake things up."  For his fans, this was supposed to be Trump's greatest strength. 

Now it is his apologists' last excuse.

But Ryan's "observation" is an affront to the public for another reason. For that, we have to go back to 2008 when McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin- of all people- attempted to build a case that experience in government was most certainly an asset for any presidential candidate.

Nobody in the Republican party questioned that. Obama was unqualified to be president because we couldn't afford to have a president receiving on-the-job training. The stakes- back then- were too high to take that risk. 

In October 2008, in Reno, Nevada, Palin argued that Obama was too inexperienced to handle foriegn policy. That's quite a statement coming from one of the most unqualified vice presidential candidates in history.
I want a president who’s ready on Day One. I want a president with the experience and the judgment and the wisdom to meet the next international crisis – or better yet to avoid it. I want John McCain as our commander-in-chief.
Her critics turned that talking point back on her when they asked whether she herself was ready to be vice-president on Day One. 

Different Tunes

Eight years later, Palin was whistling a very different tune when it came to the advantages of experience. Military experience..not a problem. Political experience.. who cares about those details. 

In one of the silliest and embarrassing endorsements in US political history, Palin claimed in January 2016,
"Only one candidate’s record of success proves he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people, how refreshing. He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again.

When analysts took a closer look at that "record of success," in August 2016, what they uncovered plenty of things that should have set off alarm bells.  
Lost contracts, bankruptcies, defaults, deceptions and indifference to investors—Trump’s business career is a long, long list of such troubles, according to regulatory, corporate and court records, as well as sworn testimony and government investigative reports. Call it the art of the bad deal, one created by the arrogance and recklessness of a businessman whose main talent is self-promotion.
Experts warned us if Trump ever became president there would be trouble with capital T. He was unsuited for office, emotionally, intellectually and, most importantly, ethically. Republicans took no never-mind to those portents.
In a remarkably short time, Trump has demonstrated beyond all shadow of a doubt that he does not belong in a position of power at any level of government.

President Obama was one of those that pointed out Trump's unfitness, citing Trump's "attack a Gold Star family that made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn't appear to have basic knowledge of critical issues in Europe, the Middle East, in Asia." 
These things alone were enough to demonstrate that Trump was "woefully unprepared to do this job."

And Trump's response was typical. Trump said of Obama:
"He's a terrible president. He'll probably go down as the worst president in the history of our country. He's been a total disaster."
Irony abounds.

All of the warnings and dire predictions are now being realized and the best excuse Republicans can offer the American public is that he wasn't really qualified to take office on Day One.

By the looks of things, 139 days later and Trump is even less qualified to be president than his first day.