Mr. Trump goes to Riyadh

Every day that step further into the Trump administration feels more and more like we’re living in a bad dystopian fiction novel.

Seeing the man who at one point on the campaign trail called for “a complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. being presented with a gold medal by Saudi leaders in full hijab attire was as mentally puzzling as if you told me that Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were getting hitched after meeting on Grinder.

It’s like the entire world has gotten together on one big practical joke, and the American people are the victims.

And no soon did my brain complete processing that image when I suddenly was presented with the visual of Donald Trump in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall.

I normally refrain from using millennial vernacular, but … dafuq?

The most sacred site in Judaism being intruded upon by an orange-haired buffoon who thinks the generations-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is as simple as solvable as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

His next stop? The Vatican.

Trump Saudis

Trump, a man who lives a life so glamorous that the inside of his penthouse suite is literally made of gold, meeting with a man who empathizes so much with the poor that he voluntarily shunned the papal apartment to live in the more modest Vatican guesthouse. They should get along as well as Voldemort and Harry Potter.

(Someone teach Pope Francis two words quickly: Avada kedavra).

This “religion tour” was apparently designed to be a symbolic sojourn to bind the three doctrines under a call for peace, while joining together to combat terrorism.

It’s a noble message. Just not the right messenger.

This was one of my biggest fears when Donald Trump was running for president. The fact that he would be the one representing America on an international stage.

People can definitely scrutinize some of Barack Obama’s domestic and global policy initiatives. But one thing that is undeniable was that the man held himself with grace and dignity wherever he went. He respected foreign cultures and customs, he was well-versed in his host country’s history, and he had a nuanced understanding of the conflicts he was speaking about.

Trump, meanwhile, has shown a tendency to have his opinion changed in a single conversation with a foreign leader, and knows as much about history as my cat understands particle physics.

Everything just seems backwards right now. Donald Trump is our president (still), and The Rock might be our next president.

Which would mean that we may be able to live in a country where we can tell people our last two presidents were victims of a Stone Cold Stunner.

If you, like me, needed something — anything — to take your mind off these chaotic current events, then enjoy this viral video from today of a girl being pulled into water by a sea lion.

I’ll be out of town for most of the week through memorial Day weekend. i’ll try to check in at least one more time before then, but no guarantees.

Until then, enjoy the “Pope-Trump Happenin’ at the Vatican.”

You heard that name here first.

When your country no longer upholds its values

There once was a time – not too long ago – when the United States of America was the standard bearer for democracy. When we set the example for the rest of the world to follow.

Look around the globe. Pick any country. In nation after nation, you’ll find authoritarianism, corruption, inequality, crime, nepotism, oppression, racism. It’s rampant. Some countries contain all the above.

And we’re not immune from those evils. America has never and will never be perfect. We’re still an evolving process.

But very few countries have achieved what we have. The checks and balances we have in place to oversee our president are abundant, and they’re there for a reason — to protect the American people from a despotic leader.

Donald Trump is rewriting the book on 240 years of history.

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And while he’s raised many red flags, and alarmed not only the American public but members of Congress, not much has stood in his way. At least not yet.

People excuse Donald Trump’s behavior because they say he has yet to do anything illegal (yet). But what we fail to realize is that the goalposts of what we consider illegal actions from a president are becoming narrower and narrower.

What’s illegal and what’s not should not be the benchmark for our nation’s highest office.

It’s really the unwritten rules of governing, which Donald Trump has repeatedly torn to shreds, that we should be concerned about.

It’s not illegal to undermine a federal judge, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to discredit the entire press corps, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to share top secret, classified information with hostile foreign nations, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to fire the FBI director midway through his term while he’s investigating you, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

These are the boundaries that Donald Trump is destroying. And all those other countries who are guilty of all of those heinous actions I listed above, well, we can no longer tell them that they need to be more like us. Not if this keeps up.

Now, they can look at what’s going on here and say, “Hey, if they’re doing this, then we can do whatever we want.”

We used to look at backsliding democratic nations like Venezuela, Turkey and Russia and hold our head high. We’d say that this could never happen to us.

Now we’re the ones who other countries are laughing at.

And it will take a while to fix what Donald Trump has done. A significant portion of our credibility has been shattered. But it’s not irreparable.

At the end of the day, we must remember that we brought this onto ourselves. We voted.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our country’s history. But we’ve always learned from them.

Let’s just hope this is another learning experience.

I just met you, and this is crazy. Here’s my number, so Comey maybe

Well, it did not take long for another head of a major federal organization to be relieved under the nascent presidency of Donald J. Trump. And this time, it will have major ramifications.

Tuesday was otherwise a relatively boring day until breaking news dropped in the early evening, capturing every news channel’s full attention.

The resignation of U.S. Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson.

I take pride in knowing I’m maybe one of four people in the world who knows that happened yesterday.

Obviously, the dismissal I’m actually referring to was the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Arguably the most well-known FBI chief since J. Edgar Hoover, Comey will forever be remembered as the man who may or may not have influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

His decision to disclose to Congress that the bureau was re-opening the Hilary Clinton email investigation – an extraordinary deviation from the bureau’s normal investigation protocol of maintaining confidentiality – without acknowledging that they were also investigating Donald Trump will forever go down in infamy.

Within one year, I predict that the words “Comey Letter” will have its own Wikipedia page.

James Comey fired

No one will shed any tears over the firing. In fact, some may look at is as long overdue. Doubts to his credibility from both parties was casting a dark cloud over the FBI.

But I don’t think there’s any question that the timing was extremely odd. It would have been commonplace if Trump removed Comey at the beginning of his presidency. It’s his turn at the helm, and it would have been understandable if he wished to start anew.

But why wait three months? Especially after he previously announced that Comey would keep his job?

If anything, it continues a pattern of unpredictability and spontaneity that makes his administration seem disorganized and incompetent. He also told Preet Bharara he would keep him on as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Weeks later, he fired him.

And now here’s the same story with Comey.

What’s the common trend? Both men were investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. That doesn’t look good for Trump. Saturday Night Massacre, anyone?

Trump cited Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation as his rationale, but it will take weeks to parse through the specific details of the events that led up to the firing. Already, it’s being reported that Comey had requested additional resources to further his investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.

At the end of the day, though, this is just another bad day for our democracy. You have one side calling this move “authoritarian” and “Nixonian,” and the other lauding it as a “decisive.”

It’s hard these days to be liked in Washington. James Comey learned that the hard way.

And now, Donald Trump must find a replacement to lead the agency that may or may not still be investigating him, while obtaining Senate approval.

That will end well.

It wasn’t hard to predict that we were in line for four years of chaos. Let’s just hope 2020 brings us a cast of inspiring figures who wish to make a run for the presidency, because we’re going to need something to be hopeful about.

And this time, James Comey, when October 2020 rolls around … keep your god damn pen to yourself.

 

Hasan Minhaj … PREACH

One of the most important ingredients for a healthy democracy is a free and open press. History has been marked by nefarious and corrupt leaders who, over time, abuse their power to clamp down on civil liberties and control the national press.

Journalists serve as a check on any regime. People may not always like what they have to say, but investigative reporting is what prevents a dictatorship.

In nations across the country, the press serves as an extension of the government. In those cases, instead of receiving the truth, the public is hearing propaganda that bolsters government influence. It sedates and essentially brainwashes people, and creates an environment that allows a government to run amok.

This is a divisive time for America. There are people who loathe our president and adore the press; and then there’s people who revere our president and abhor the press.

I’m not using this post to tell you how you should feel about the president. But we should all be thankful that America possesses an open and independent press that is able to inform the public of things they otherwise would never know. It’s one of the most important tools that keeps our government from breaking the law.

And that’s why the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is such a big deal. Founded in 1921, the event celebrates the First Amendment and the free press, and serves as a lighthearted evening that reminds us all that, at the end of the day, the White House and the press corps are allies.

Until today. Because Donald Trump didn’t go.

The list is endless, but this yet another reminder that our president does not care about protecting the fabric of our democracy.

Last Saturday’s event, nicknamed the “Nerd Prom” – which happened to coincide with Trump’s 100th day in office – was hosted by Hasan Minhaj, who you would only recognize if you are a frequent watcher of the Daily Show.

I have no insider information, but I saw Minhaj as a top candidate to replace Jon Stewart upon his departure. He is young, funny, energetic, and brings an outside perspective unique to most Americans. The job ultimately went to Trevor Noah, who is doing a nice job in his own right, and I’m glad to see that both men have found success.

Nonetheless, Minhaj has some pretty damn poignant things to say at the close of his speech, and I think it’s important for all of us to hear. I’ll share with you a snippet.

“We are in a very strange situation where there’s a very combative relationship between the press and the president. But now that you guys are minorities, just for this moment, you might understand the position I was in. And it’s the same position a lot of minority kids feel in this country. You know — do I come up here and just try to fit in, and not ruffle any feathers? Or do I say how I really feel?”

I don’t really have much more to add.

And know that now, more than ever, is the time to support journalists.

Why Trump’s first 100 days in office have been an abject failure

The fact that Donald Trump’s approval rating has been hovering somewhere around the mid to high 30 percent range since he took office should not surprise anyone.

Of the American electorate, it’s safe to say about one-third are die-hard Trump supporters. The ones who flooded his rallies. The ones who you saw quoted on television saying that we need to ban Muslims and build a wall at the expense of the Mexicans.

That last 20 percent or so of voters who supported him enough to get him over the hump and into the White House were clearly moderate Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton.

And if you flash back to Nov. 8, it’s hard to blame them. The propaganda machine about Hillary Clinton’s potential conflicts of interest and corruption was in full swing, boosted – as we know now – by state-backed Russian hackers.

Just days before the election, FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency was reopening their investigation against Hillary Clinton, in what will infamously become known as “The Comey Letter.” What he did not say was that his agency was also investigating Donald Trump.

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So of the steadfast conservatives who would never vote for a Democratic candidate, it stands to reason why those dark clouds hovering over Hillary Clinton would sway them to vote for Donald Trump, even with all the controversies of his own.

Is that a legitimate excuse to vote for a narcissistic, mentally unstable xenophobe for the most powerful position in the world? No. But that’s why it happened and that’s how we got here.

Saturday marks Trump’s 100th day in office, a milestone that Trump has publicly criticized but also privately obsessed over.

Any one that has spent any time studying how government works – especially one like ours, with its extensive checks and balances – understands that a president can only be effective through diplomacy and compromise by working with both sides.

If you pedal a set of campaign promises that were never too popular to begin with, and then proceed to double down on them while ignoring one half of Congress, then any half-wit who took one undergraduate course in political science understands that’s the opposite way to run a country.

Donald Trump ran a business as a one man show. It was his way or the highway. That doesn’t work for government. And voters have no one to blame but themselves for not foreseeing this.

At this juncture, it’s apparent that Trump is more concerned with pleasing his base than governing.

Which leads us back to that dismal approval rating. Trump will shrug it off as “fake news,” but the educated Republican voter who relied on Trump to live up to his campaign promises is likely to be disappointed at this point.

And unless Trump suddenly learns the fine art of diplomacy, that’s not likely to change.

Yes, there’s still a lot of time left in his presidency *shudders*. But if his first 100 days are any indication for how he will approach healthcare, tax reform, foreign policy, national security and other important issues that affect the day-to-day lives of Americans, then those swing voters are probably going to be experiencing some serious regret. And soon.

But while it’s been a bad 100 days for our president, it’s been a good 100 days for a lot of other people: the grassroots activist. The protester. The men and women who suddenly found their political voice amid this tumultuous regime.

Trump will one day be gone.

But those voices will linger.

What I missed while I was in West Virginia

Well, I spent the last week road tripping to West Virginia on business, and I came back to find that the United States is the closest it’s been to nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis more than five decades ago.

For the record, it was my first time in West Virginia, and while I try hard not to stereotype, everybody there looked exactly like I expected them to. Lots of flannel shirts and trucker hats. The only disappointment was that people weren’t walking down the streets wearing coal miner uniforms.

But I can safely say that I didn’t meet a single unkind person in my brief time in the state. The more I travel south, the more I can confirm that southern hospitality is indeed a real thing.

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They don’t call West Virginia the Mountain State for nothing

Now I can cross West Virginia off my travel bucket list … said no one ever.

And while being surrounded my mountains affords you a certain feeling of detachment that lets you distance yourself from the rest of the world, I did still try to keep up with the news. Turns out a lot happened while I was away.

As we all know, North Korea is a rogue nation that is recklessly building up its nuclear arsenal. Their government is a true dictatorship to the core, with a history of starving and imprisoning its people for even the tamest of offenses. Simple accommodations like electricity and television in homes are scarce, bordering on nonexistent.

And led by such an unstable figure such as 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, the situation obviously requires a great deal of subtlety and diplomacy to avoid setting off a domino effect that ends with nuclear catastrophe.

So naturally, Donald Trump is the perfect man for the job! Subtlety and diplomacy just happen to be his strong points.

North Korean officials have publicly stated that any threats to their nation would be met with a nuclear strike. They may be bluffing. But that’s not something I want to find out, and it’s hard to feel comfortable when we have nearly as unpredictable of a leader making our decisions.

Kim Jong-un

Sound bites like “the era of strategic patience is over” may sound good on TV, but could realistically have devastating effects. Pretending you’re sending a naval armada may look tough, but in reality, it’s the nuclear equivalent of lighting a match in a tinderbox.

I always figured that one day this blog would end because I became too busy or too lazy, and not because of nuclear extinction. So we’ll see.

What else happened last week? Well, Arkansas, still embattled in legal wrangling over their 10-day execution fest, was able to go through with one execution of African-American prisoner and convicted murderer Ledell Lee, after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to let it happen. A double execution is also planned for Monday night.

Which means that Neil Gorsuch’s first decision as a Supreme Court Justice was to kill a black man.

Sounds about right.

But by far the biggest news that happened over the last several days is the French French electionspresidential election. The nation picked its top two candidates on Sunday, choosing centrist Emmanuel Macron and right-wing sensationalist and known Muslim hater Marine La Pen, who will now compete in a runoff next month in what is set to be a major turning point in the history of Europe.

Political experts foresaw this as a watershed election not only for France, but the entire continent and the future of the European Union. And now, the French people have a choice to do what the United Kingdom and United States failed to do – reject populism and xenophobia and join together behind a more unifying force.

This upcoming vote deserves a lot more attention, and I’ll devote a post to it in the near future in lieu of making this one too much of a currents event overload.

Bearing that in mind, I fortunately was unable to even touch on Bill O’Reilly!

Pun absolutely and horribly intended.

General rule of thumb: don’t compare the Holocaust to anything

It’s been about a week since I discussed politics, and since then, the entire world has basically changed course.

And that’s not really much of an exaggeration.

Early last week, the world was exposed to shocking visceral images of incapacitated children, poisoned by sarin gas in what appears to have been a chemical weapons attack by the authoritarian Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad. The use of chemical weapons is not only outlawed by the United Nations, but also in an agreement between Syria, Russia, and the U.S. in 2013 after the country used chemical weapons against its people the first time.

In response to the horrific attack, President Trump – who categorically denounced any type of intervention in Syria four years ago – launched a surprise missile attack on a Syrian air base.

Russia, who has helped prop up the Assad regime during the country’s six-year civil war to protect its own interests in the region, condemned the attack.

The United States, in turn, accused Russia of covering up the Syrian government’s role in the attack. And this was all on the eve of Thursday’s meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin, which, until the two finally sat down, no one was sure was actually going to happen.

And just like that, the Trump-Putin bromance has finally come to an end.

Sean Spicer

While many have praised Trump for his decisive action, others have been critical of his spontaneous action that in all likelihood was taken without an overall strategic plan. Others say it’s a smokescreen to distract us from discussing U.S.-Russia collusion.

But this, without a doubt, begins a new chapter in our country’s role in the Middle East, as well as our relations with Russia. We knew Trump’s footprint would be left on the geopolitical landscape. This is it. And now we see where we go from here.

Unbelievably, these seismic events were still outshadowed this week by the incomprehensible remarks by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who, without any provocation, essentially downplayed Adolf Hitler’s cruelty and rewrote history to pretend like he never gassed and murdered more than six million Jews.

The statements were made during a White House press briefing, which drew audible gasps from reporters in attendance, and led to Spicer issuing an apologetic statement afterwards. But the outcry over his remarks was so great that he appeared on camera on CNN to issue a further apology later in the day. He then spent all of Wednesday on an apology tour.

Oh, Sean. I mean, the man has the hardest job in the world, being forced to justify the nonsensical actions, statements and tweets of Donald Trump to the press. But watching him try to back away from his own words was like watching a trainwreck in action.

Adding insult to injury, he referred to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers,” as if they were some type of museum, and misstated the name of the Syrian president.

And on top of that, he said it during Passover.

It’s pretty much common sense. Whether you’re talking to a friend, a colleague, your pet dog, or especially the entire national press corps, do not draw comparisons to the Holocaust. And don’t show sympathy for Adolf Hitler.

It’s pretty much the basic rule of humanity.

Melissa McCarthy … you’re up.