|Barack Obama helped lay the groundwork for
Donald Trump's ascension to the White House
Who taught us that lesson? Why, it was President Barack Obama himself. Democrats have spent the past seven days pointing fingers in all directions -- at Hillary Clinton, as a candidate who was too flawed to win; at moderates, who failed to get behind Bernie Sanders, a candidate who could have beaten Donald Trump; at the DNC and former chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who tried to stick a fork in Sanders' momentum.
Lost in all the self-flagellation is much attention for the man who probably deserves the bulk of the blame, and that would be Obama.
Why? Well, the Obama presidency probably was destined to end badly before it even started. That's because in January 2009, just days before his inauguration, Obama said he was going to "look forward, not backwards" regarding issues of flaming criminality during the George W. Bush administration.
How numb-headed was that statement? New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a piece titled "Forgive and forget?" and dated Jan. 15, 2009, provided powerful insight. Wrote Krugman:
During the Reagan years, the Iran-contra conspirators violated the Constitution in the name of national security. But the first President Bush pardoned the major malefactors, and when the White House finally changed hands the political and media establishment gave Bill Clinton the same advice it’s giving Mr. Obama: let sleeping scandals lie. Sure enough, the second Bush administration picked up right where the Iran-contra conspirators left off — which isn’t too surprising when you bear in mind that Mr. Bush actually hired some of those conspirators.
Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.
Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.
And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
How did Obama's nonsensical stance -- if it was our nation's stance to never look backwards, no crime ever would be investigated or prosecuted -- come back to bite him in the fanny? How has it led to a scenario, under an unqualified president who appears to have despotic tendencies, that could become more nightmarish than many of us can imagine? Let's spell it out in five simple steps:
(1) A discredited GOP brand remains afloat
A genuine investigation of the Bush administration probably would have led to dozens, maybe hundreds, of criminal convictions. The sight of Rove, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, and others heading off to prison in orange jumpsuits probably would have caused even the most heart-headed conservatives to say, "You know, I'm starting to get the feeling that reflexively voting straight GOP might not be such a good thing. Maybe I need to study up a bit, or just stay home on election day." Under that scenario, Democrats probably take back both chambers of Congress in 2012 or '14, and the 2016 presidential race is not even close -- regardless of who the general-election candidate turned out to be. And Obama gets much of his agenda passed, without obstruction from Republicans. Obama might have truly been a great president if he had not worked against his own interests by giving GOP crooks a free pass.
(2) Inattention to justice emboldens Russian hackers
One day after the election, Wired published a story titled "Trump's win signals open season for Russia's political hackers." It shows Russian hacks go way beyond the U.S., with at least a dozen European organizations targeted by a state-linked hacking group called Fancy Bear, or APT28, since summer 2016. From the Wired article:
Following Donald Trump’s presidential win, and even in the weeks leading up to it, cybersecurity and foreign-policy watchers have warned that Russia’s government-sponsored hackers would be emboldened by the success of the recent string of intrusions and data dumps, including the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Security firms that analyzed the breaches, and US intelligence agencies, have both linked those attacks to the Kremlin. That Russia perceives those operations as successful, experts say, will only encourage similar hacks aimed at shifting elections and sowing distrust of political processes in Western democracies, particularly those in Europe. “What they’ll learn from this is, ‘We did it, we got away with it, we got the outcome we wanted,'” says James Lewis, a cybersecurity-focused fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This will only increase their desire to intervene.”
Why shouldn't Russian hackers feel free to act brazenly? The U.S. did nothing about apparent domestic election theft in 2000 (Florida) and 2004 (Ohio) at the presidential level -- not to mention the likely stolen Alabama governor's race in 2002 between Republican Bob Riley and Democrat Don Siegelman. A reasonable Russian hacker must be saying to himself, perhaps at this very moment, "I have nothing to fear. Obama is a proven wuss, and his Justice Department doesn't scare me in the least." From Wired:
Russia’s shift to bold, barely covert hacking operations has also no doubt stemmed partly from a sense of impunity. American intelligence agencies took months to publicly name the Russian government as the source of the DNC hack that came to light in July. Even then, the response has been murky: Despite Vice President Joe Biden’s assurances that the US would be “sending a message” to Putin intended to have “maximum impact,” it’s not clear if or how that counterattack happened.
Trump’s win may now delay America’s response or reduce its efficacy. . . . Even if the Obama administration carries out its response before Trump’s inauguration, Putin may doubt that any policy of deterrence would carry over to Trump’s administration -- particularly given the fondness for Putin that Trump expressed on the campaign trail, his weak support for NATO, and the doubts Trump has publicly cast on attributing the DNC hack to Russia. After January, America’s account of grievances against Russia’s hackers could be wiped clean.
(3) Obama appoints a partisan hack to head the FBI
While James Comey enjoys a reputation for integrity among many politicos, an October 13, 2016, article at Salon shows many knew he was a "preening, partisan hack" from the outset. Comey's outlandish, wildly improper statements regarding the Clinton "e-mail scandal" might have alone turned the election toward Trump: From Salon:
Liberals who lived through the ’90s and the endless Whitewater probe that went nowhere met President Barack Obama’s appointment of James Comey as director of the FBI with a primal scream of “Are you kidding me?” It was inconceivable that, just as former president Bill Clinton had foolishly appointed a Republican FBI director, Louis Freeh, who saw it as his primary duty to investigate a president he did not respect, a Democratic president was appointing a GOP lawyer to the same job 20 years later in an even more toxic political environment. . . .
It’s not as if the Democrats were unaware that Comey’s reputation for being nonpartisan was bunk before the White House inexplicably tapped him for FBI director. He first came to public attention as the deputy special counsel for the Senate committee investigating Whitewater. In a foreshadowing of his testimony last summer, he and his committee were unable to find any criminal wrongdoing by Bill and Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater matter but nonetheless decided to issue a public report filled with aspersions and innuendo accusing the Clintons of hiding secrets and engaging in misconduct. That’s par for the GOP course with its congressional witch hunts, but beyond the pale for an FBI director.
(4) Obama's legacy sinks in the sunset
In the days and weeks leading to Election Day 2016, much was written about Obama's legacy. And, in fact, he had built a substantial record of achievement. As a white male (living in Alabama at the time), I'm the rare bird in my species who voted for Obama twice. And I would not take back either vote. In my view, Obama saved us from a Great Depression II -- and for that alone, he deserves our everlasting thanks. That makes his dismal record on justice issues even more difficult to swallow. And it brings sadness to think that by the end of Trump's first term, we probably will be back on the edge of another recession or depression. After all, Trumps's economic policies are nothing but refried Reaganism and George W. Bushism, and both of those led to recessions. As a number of commentators already have stated, Obama's legacy is toast, with many of his achievements set to vanish. Obama did this to himself.
(5) Governance by organized crime
Perhaps worst of all, Obama has left all of us vulnerable to governance by organized crime. That hits close to home because Carol and I have experienced 16 years' worth of legal miseries driven by glorified organized crime. It's become clear to us that America's court houses, law firms, and law-enforcement agencies are riddled with organized crime.
If hackers did act on behalf of Trump, at Vladimir Putin's insistence . . . well, Putin's ties to organized crime are well known. Consider this July 2016 article from Newsweek, titled "Putin welcomes return of the Russian Mafia." From the article:
At home and abroad, Russia’s gangsters and spooks are often closely connected. Criminals are suspected in assassinations of Chechen rebels in Turkey; Russian cybercriminals have been used to fight the Kremlin’s virtual wars in Georgia and Ukraine and to crack into German and Polish government systems; and cigarette smugglers in the Baltics appear to have been used to raise funds for Russian political influence operations.
The traffic goes both ways too, with Russian intelligence and security officers often corrupted into working for the criminals.
The reason for the crossover is clear: Russia is engaged in a geopolitical struggle with the West but lacks the economic and soft power of its adversary. As such, it must take advantage of covert and unconventional tactics to make up for this deficit. From this perspective, criminal networks are an obvious asset.
Even if you take Putin out of the equation, consider Donald Trump's own ties to the mob, as portrayed in an article at billmoyers.com:
Last December, a Good Morning America piece by the network’s investigative master Brian Ross touched on one tendril [of Trump's mob ties]: Trump’s relationship with a twice-convicted felon, the Russian émigré Felix Sater, who (along with several other felons) occupied office space in Trump Tower. On air, Ross reported that Donald Trump had testified under oath in a civil lawsuit that Sater “helped develop the Trump SoHo hotel and condominium in New York City.” Online, in a simultaneous piece co-written with Matthew Mosk, Ross noted that in 1991, Sater got into an argument with a commodities broker at the bar of a New York restaurant, smashed a margarita glass and with the broken-off stem, slashed the man in the cheek and neck, breaking his cheek and jaw, severing nerves and lacerating his face and jaw. The victim required 110 stitches. Sater was convicted of first-degree assault and sent to prison in 1993. Then, in 2000, he pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges for running a $40 million “pump and dump” stock scam and for, as Mosk and Ross wrote, “collaborating with members of four New York mob families.” Sater served no time, however, because the FBI testified at his sentencing hearing that he was “an important witness on both mob-related and national security matters.”
Boy, sounds like "President Trump" has associated with some sweet fellows.
Roughly two months ago, The Wall Street Journal published a piece titled "Donald Trump and the Mob." Here is a "highlight," from a summary at People magazine:
As a young real estate developer in Atlantic City, Donald Trump dealt with people who had ties to organized crime, according to a new Wall Street Journal examination of his career.
The Journal reports that although Trump knew a business partner in Atlantic City had connections to “unsavory” people and although an FBI agent advised him in a sit-down that there were easier ways to invest, Trump nevertheless went ahead with plans to break ground in Atlantic City. He would ultimately go on to own four casinos there.
People Trump dealt with as a real estate developer in New York also had ties to the mob, according to the Journal.
Among these people were Kenneth Shapiro, who was identified by law enforcement as an agent of Philadelphia mob boss Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo; Robert LiButti, a gambler convicted of tax fraud who was banned from New York racetracks; and John A. Cody, a union leader found guilty of racketeering, the Journal reports.
Meanwhile, we've discovered a piece at tdmsresearch.com, which shows that exit polls conducted by Edison Research have Hillary Clinton winning four battleground states -- North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. From the post:
With these states Clinton wins the Electoral College with a count of 302 versus 205 for Trump. Clinton also won the national exit poll by 3.2% and holds a narrow lead in the national vote count still in progress.
Exit polls were conducted in 28 states. In 23 states the discrepancies between the exit polls and the vote count favored Trump. In 13 of these states the discrepancies favoring Trump exceeded the margin of error of the state.
Translation: It's possible Hillary Clinton actually won the race in a landslide. Gee, can't imagine why anyone would question the computerized vote counts in this election -- or the legitimacy of the Trump presidency.