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Friday, June 22, 2018


Time for a competency hearing?

by Tom Sullivan

A poll out this morning shows 42 percent of Americans think Donald Trump should be impeached or removed from office. This is on par with public opinion on Richard Nixon (43 percent) months before he resigned in August 1974. Impeachment takes months, and high crimes and misdemeanors have not yet been proven. But incompetence has. Not just Trump's, but his entire administration's.

The Trump administration changed its story on its family separation policy no fewer than 14 times, reports the Washington Post. Protesters this week drove DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from a Mexican restaurant over the family separation policy she had denied existed. A patron at another Mexican restaurant called Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller a fascist days earlier. Bragging rights for Miller, perhaps. "There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS,” an outside White House adviser said of the rumored architect of the separation policy. Then yesterday, the first lady leaves for a border inspection wearing a coat emblazoned with graffiti lettering: "I REALLY DON'T CARE, DO U?" The policy that was not a policy but a law the president had no power to change Trump changed (sort of) with an executive order on Wednesday.

But it's not the tone-deafness or the rank corruption doing damage to thousands of lives. It's the incompetence.

Perhaps 2,500 small children, some barely a year old, have been separated from their parents at the border and distributed to detention shelters across the country with no plan in place for reuniting them. An Assistant Federal Public Defender in Texas wrote in the Washington Post that in questioning before a judge, the lead investigator in his client's case had no knowledge of the whereabouts of her 4 year-old daughter taken by federal authorities:

At another hearing before a different judge, as one of my colleagues asked the agent on the stand about the whereabouts of my client’s child, the prosecutor objected to the relevance of the questions. The judge turned on the prosecutor, demanding to know why this wasn’t relevant. At one point, he slammed his hand on the desk, sending a pen flying. This type of emotional display is unheard of in federal court. I can’t understand this, the judge said. If someone at the jail takes your wallet, they give you a receipt. They take your kids, and you get nothing? Not even a slip of paper?
That should put an end to Nazi references. Nazis kept detailed records.

The Washington Post is asking readers to help locate detention centers across the country where children might be held, essentially crowd-sourcing a map for an administration that has lost track. Authorities are relocating them in the middle of the night.

One child 8 months old and another 11 months old arrived in Grand Rapids, MI after being separated from their parents weeks ago:

"These kids are arriving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Not only are they being separated from their family, they are being transported to a place that they don't know in the middle of the night," said Hannah Mills, program supervisor for the transitional foster care program at Bethany Christian Services, which is currently assisting the displaced children. "We have found on many occasions that no one has explained to these children where they are going."

According to Mills, some of these displaced children got picked up right at the airport by a foster family, while others wound up at a foster care center, begging to talk to their parents. Many have gone 30 days or more without talking to their parents because their parents can't be located, she said.
So it goes. The sitting president thinks chaos works for him. He doesn't care what it means for others. Here, or for the rest of the planet.

Trump, writes George Packer, is undoing the post-war liberal order that brought stability to chaos:
Trump, with his instinct for exploiting resentments and exploding norms, has sensed that many Americans are ready to abandon global leadership. The disenchantment has been a long time coming. Barack Obama saw that the American century was ending and wanted to reduce U.S. commitments, but he tried to do so within the old web of connections. In pulling back, he provided Trump with a target. Now Trump is turning retrenchment into rout.

What would it mean for the United States to abandon the liberal order? There’s no other rules-based order to replace it with, which is why the definite article in the G-7 communiqué was appropriate. The alternative to an interconnected system of security partnerships and trade treaties is a return to the old system of unfettered power politics. In resurrecting the slogan “America First” from prewar isolationists who had no quarrel with Hitler, Trump was giving his view of modern history: everything went wrong when we turned outward.
Perhaps a rules reset was inevitable. A more orderly one might have been less destructive. But team creative destruction tends to profit more from the chaos it engineers, so why not let Trump run amok and multiply malevolence with incompetence? Nothing tops a profitable quarter better than showing the lessers who's boss.

In the instantly iconic G7 photo, says Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, we see the world's leaders trying to convince Trump to sign an agreement supporting a “rules-based international order.” Bremmer told CBS:
As the photo shows, their arguments were not warmly received, but Trump did eventually agree to join the other G7 nations in signing the communique. Bremmer describes what happened next: “He stood up, he put his hand in his suit jacket pocket and he took two Starburst candies out, threw them on the table, and said to Merkel, ‘Here, Angela, don’t say I never gave you anything.’”
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou

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