Friday, March 02, 2018

Trump And His Toxic Regime Aren't Normal-- But "Normal" Has Been Wretched For Too Many Americans


Trump doesn't tell the truth about anything. He never has. He's lied his way through life. And the video above, one of many showing him claiming to be "the least racist person" in the whole wide world, is just another flat out lie. Trump is a disgusting, vile racist, a disgrace for the United States. And most Americans finally see it. A poll commissioned by the Associated Press found that "more than half of Americans (57%), including large majorities of blacks and Hispanics," say that Señor Trumpanzee "is a racist. More than half think his policies have made things worse for Hispanics and Muslims, and nearly half say they’ve made things worse for African Americans." Only 21% of Republicans agree with normal people about Trump's racism.

This morning best-selling author Kurt Eichenwald, explained on Twitter why he quit Newsweek. And the base of the story is Trump's incapacitating drug use. Happy to share:
According to medical records obtained by Newsweek, Trump was diagnosed with a “metabolic imbalance” in 1982 by Dr. Joseph Greenberg, a Manhattan endocrinologist. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know the full meaning of Greenberg’s findings. “Metabolic imbalance” is a catch-all phrase for different conditions and, in itself, is equivalent of a diagnosis of “heart problem.” There are electrolyte insufficiencies, anaerobic imbalances, acid imbalances, and an assortment of related disorders that can have serious health consequences. According to a 2007 peer-reviewed study in the American Journal of Managed Care, patients with underlying mental illnesses have a higher incidence of this syndrome.

During the campaign, Trump released a letter from Dr. Harold Bornstein stating that he had been the then-candidate’s physician since 1980 and that there had been no significant medical problems throughout that time. The letter did not reveal that Trump had a second doctor during that time who had diagnosed him with a potentially serious condition.

The medical records and interviews with former officials with the Trump Organization reveal that Greenberg gave Trump a prescription for amphetamine derivatives in 1982 to treat his metabolic problem; the records show that Trump continued taking the drugs for a number of years and the former officials said that Trump stopped using them in 1990 at the latest.

The derivatives were diethylpropion, known under its brand name as tenuate dospan. These drugs are designed for short-term use; studies have concluded that patients can avoid developing a dependence on the drug if they take it for 25 weeks or less. But Trump continued downing the pills for years. According to two people-- someone who said Trump would consider him a friend and a former Trump executive-- the then-real estate developer boasted that the diethylpropion gave him enormous energy and helped him concentrate. A former Trump executive claimed to have picked up the medication while running errands for the boss. This person said the prescription, for 75 milligrams of diethylpropion a day, was filled at least for a time at a Duane Reade drugstore on 57th Street in Manhattan, a few blocks from Trump Tower. The executive said, like many celebrities, Trump used an alias for the prescription.

According to the Toxicology Data Network at the National Institutes of Health, diethylpropion has a high risk of dependency and chronic abuse-- such as taking it for years-- can cause delusions, paranoia, and hyperactivity. Studies in medical journals also report it can result in sleeplessness and impulse control problems, characteristics Trump demonstrated throughout the campaign and in the weeks since his inauguration.

Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman, acknowledged that Trump used them as diet pills for a few days in the early 1980s. However, the medical records contradict the assertion of the length of time Trump used the drugs and photographs of Trump from 1982 show him to be quite slender. In a telephone call from Newsweek, Bornstein, Trump’s current doctor, said he would only answer questions if I could identify the location of Mount Sinai. Assuming he was referring to the world-renowned hospital, I replied “Manhattan.” He said that was incorrect, and asked the question again. I asked if he meant the actual Mount Sinai and he said he had not specified anything. I replied Mount Sinai was in Egypt, in the Sinai Peninsula. He said that was wrong and hung up. (While Mount Sinai is in Egypt, the location of the Mount Sinai described in the Bible as the location where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, if that is what Bornstein meant, is the subject of debate among religious scholars.)

According to the former Trump executives and the person Trump considers a friend, his drug use was widely discussed within the company as symptoms of possible abuse began to  emerge. Trump had always been aggressive-- sometime brutal-- in business as well as loose with the truth, but in the late 1980s, things had become much worse. While former employees said he had often been thoughtful and caring to his staff, he suddenly exhibited abusive behavior that at times seemed irrational. His self-aggrandizement grew to delusions of grandeur, his thin skin thinned more, his decisions grew more reckless. While he had always been a liar when it was convenient, he sputtered greater numbers of falsehoods at an alarming rate and seemed to believe them. When previously he would speak in sexist ways that were fairly typical in businesses during the early 1980s, toward the end of the decade he seemed to have no filter and openly said far more inappropriate things about women.

The worst impact of this recklessness may have been on his business; before the late 1980s, Trump usually focused on one major project at a time to ensure everything met his exacting standards. By the end of the decade, his reckless shopping spree was legion: he borrowed billions to open one Atlantic City casino after another, launching another one before any had turned a profit and ultimately creating a business model where he was competing with himself. As the scaffolding under his gaming business started collapsing, he borrowed even more money to buy his own airline. All of those late-1980s businesses flopped, sending Trump companies into multiple bankruptcies. Trump stopped the diethylpropion completely in 1990 under the supervision of a doctor, a former executive with his company said (ending the drug after long-term use causes serious withdrawal problems.) There is no evidence that Trump ever began using them again and, according to people who knew him throughout the 1990s, he returned to his arrogant, aggressive, self-aggrandizing, yet far more reasonable self.

Yesterday Matthew Yglesias went to Trump's other Achilles heel: the overwhelming, unprecedented corruption. Sure, Kushner is integral to that, but that was Trump's modus operandi long before Kushner was even born, back when Trump and Kushner's crooked father were ripping off anyone they could sucker into a deal. Yglesias feels the Democrats can win back Congress by focussing on Trump's corruption, including his "exploitation of loopholes in American conflict of interest law," his collusion with Putin-- "itself just one element in a vast nesting doll of shady dealings and opaque finances that congressional Republicans are helping Trump keep under wraps"-- and a kind of personal corruption that has more Americans daily convinced, correctly, that Trump "is on the take in outrageous ways."
The potential for serious corruption was always implicit in Trump’s presidential bid. We have had wealthy presidents before. But the Bushes, Kennedys, and Roosevelts were heirs to large, diversified fortunes consisting of stocks and bonds that could be placed into blind trusts in relatively straightforward ways.

...There is nothing blind about his finances-- his business empire is merely managed on a day-to-day basis by his adult sons, with whom he is in regular contact and who also work as leading members of his political operation.

His daughter and son-in-law serve as high-ranking officials in the White House, he operates a hotel in the nation’s capital that serves as an informal headquarters for his administration, and he spends a majority of his weekends at his private resorts in Florida, Virginia, and New Jersey.

Some of the grifting that results from this is almost comical, as in the periodic stories about the Secret Service spending thousands of dollars at a time renting golf carts from clubs that the president owns.

But lining his pockets with vast sums of public money is the least of the problems with Trump’s conduct in this regard. The real issue is that by joining one of Trump’s private clubs, wealthy individuals are putting cash directly in the president’s pocket while also gaining access to him. Trump seems to regularly-- and quite openly-- poll Mar-a-Lago members for their thoughts on the issues of the day. But it’s also an opportunity for more subtle lobbying in unprecedented ways.

Republicans are, in a curious way, often less vulnerable to standard money-in-politics corruption narratives. There’s always a solid baseline case that the reason the party of business and small government is making business-friendly regulatory decisions is ideological rather than pecuniary.

Trump’s regressive tax bill, for example, has almost certainly been a huge financial windfall to his club members. But to suggest a corrupt motive for a Republican president to push a regressive tax bill ignores the fact that all Republican politicians for the past couple of generations have pushed regressive tax bills. That Trump used to promise that he would raise taxes on the rich only to flip-flop later is striking, but ultimately not evidence of corruption.

...Politicians have been bribed in the past, of course. But traditionally, to pull it off requires a level of subterfuge that is itself illegal and courts detection. Bribe money cannot be reported as such to the IRS, but hidden untaxed income-- the proverbial cash in the freezer-- has a way of getting you caught.

Trump owns dozens of legitimate businesses, however, so bribe payments can be duly reported to the IRS as hotel rentals or real estate investments or whatever else. And he’s broken with decades of precedent by declining to make his tax returns available to the public, while all his financial disclosure forms reveal is that he owns a lot of shell companies named after himself.

One of the cardinal rules of American election law is that politicians cannot take campaign funds for personal use. That’s a critical line between a legitimate contribution and an illegitimate bribe. Trump, however, has erased this line. This weekend, he’s expected to pop down to Mar-a-Lago not only to relax and charge the government for use of his golf carts but also to appear at fundraisers for the RNC and his reelection campaign.

For a politician to personally pocket campaign contributions is a serious crime, but hosting RNC fundraisers at Trump-owned properties completely eviscerates the spirit of those laws. Meanwhile, taking cues from the top, a general tendency toward poor ethics is spiraling down throughout the government.

Trump’s corruption is contaminating everything

An early Trump administration controversy that now seems almost quaint came when presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway used a television news appearance from the White House grounds to tout Ivanka Trump’s shoe brand. It wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but this kind of low-level legal violation keeps happening in the Trump era, right up to an apparent Hatch Act violation from Jared Kushner as he touted Brad Parscale’s appointment as campaign manager of the Trump 2020 reelection bid.

But the list gets longer and contains more serious violations:
US intelligence agencies have reports of multiple foreign governments discussing ways to use Kushner’s business interests to compromise his work for the federal government.
This week, four political appointees at the Commerce Department lost their jobs after they flunked background checks.
Even as Ben Carson’s tenure at the Department of Housing and Urban Development was facing an inspector general investigation over improper involvement of the Carson family in public business, Carson apparently demoted a career staffer after she objected to his plan to spend $31,000 on a dining set for his office.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was caught improperly accepting Wimbledon tickets and charging the public for his wife’s travel.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is flying first-class at public expense so he could avoid having unpleasant interactions with fellow passengers.
These kinds of problems will only grow worse the longer Trump’s own conflicts of interests are permitted to go unabated. Maintaining a high standard of ethical conduct across a sprawling bureaucracy overseen by dozens of political appointees is genuinely challenging, even when elected officials are trying to do it.

When the president of the United States doesn’t care about ethics and the predominant attitude of his co-partisans in Congress is that ignorance is bliss, corruption will grow like mushrooms in the shade.

The GOP is all in on Trump’s corruption

Democrats running in 2018 obviously must and will talk about their ideas on health care, jobs, education, environmental regulation, and more. Still, there is fundamentally no escaping the reality that Trump himself is the central political issue of our time. That’s especially the case as long as the economic and military environment remains basically benign.

And while there’s plenty about Trump to criticize, not every target out there is actually all that sound.

In particular, while dwelling on Trump’s racism is probably smart in some parts of the country, it runs the risk of implicitly conceding that Trump is on white America’s side. The truth, however, is that Trump is on Trump’s side. He’s governing fully within the contours of a baseline pro-business agenda that differs from standard Republican fare largely insofar it involves personal enrichment in an unusual way.

And, critically, the entire congressional Republican Party is in on it. Republicans can easily distance themselves from Trump’s temperamental issues-- Paul Ryan often sniffily declines to comment on stray Trump tweets-- or dismiss the Russia issue as some kind of “deep state” conspiracy. But the basic reality is that the reason we don’t know who is paying Trump is because Republicans in Congress don’t want us to know.

And importantly, when Democrats are seeking to motivate their own base to turn out, checking Trump’s corruption is a promise they can actually deliver on in the short term. Trump’s clubs’ financial records can be subpoenaed. His tax returns can be released. Current and former government officials can be brought in to testify.

None of that will eradicate the inherent conflicts of interest involved in the current arrangement-- for that, Trump himself will have to be defeated-- but the veil of secrecy around Trump and money truly can be lifted. But to get there, Democrats will need to elevate the issue out of its current sleeper status and find a way to put it on the front pages.

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At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seldom pick on obvious typos, but this is outrageous:
"Trump is a disgusting, vole racist...." On behalf of small forest rodents everywhere, I demand an immediate retraction of this libelous statement.

At 6:05 AM, Blogger Marcia said...

OK You've complained. What are your solutions? Here's mine.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yglesias is mistaken. Most Americans don't care much about the crimes afflicting the wealthy as long as they themselves aren't victimized.

Yglesias clearly hasn't noted the serious lack of concern regarding Trump's sexual assaults which occured long before Trump even announced he was running. No one cares about the frequent reports of Trump defrauding contractors who did work for him. No one cares about the (at minimum) four major bankruptcies, or the blatant fraud of Trump University. No one really cares whether Trump has laundered money for the Mafiya, or pals around with South Asian dictators renting his name.

All most Americans care about is beer in the fridge, pizza in the microwave, and pretty women to drool over while watching FOX or sports.

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Americans worship wealth and power even as that wealth and power ratfuck them daily. So "normal" being wretched is just fine with us/US.

I can say this because each and every election since 1978 has re-affirmed our worship for wealth and power, their ratfucking of us/US and our wretched normal.

If we cared about improving anything, none of the current congress except Jayapal and a few others would have long ago met their electoral demise.

In fact, if we gave a flying fuck about democracy and our nation, we'd have mounted several hundred heads on pikes by now.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

voles also live in the arctic -- the main food for arctic owls.

As we all religiously adhere to the 'lesser evilism' meme, we can expect every "next normal" to be more wretched than any previous "normal".

The end of slavery, the NEW DEAL and the GREAT SOCIETY were times where "normal" was improved upon. But each one needed a tremendous amount of upheaval to catalyze them.

It's lamentable that we humans don't seem capable of making improvement a constant trend except in times of colossal distress.

I shudder to imagine what it will take for us to seek improvement since 2008, Sandy Hook and others didn't even come close to being bad enough.


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