Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The In-Laws and the President

The law is the last result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the public.
— Samuel Johnson, Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson

Herewith a little known fact. At least two of Mr. Trump’s positions on immigration, and the abuses that he believes our lax rules have led to, may be the direct result of his personal experiences. The first is his objections to illegal workers who come into the country and take away jobs from hard working United States citizens.

A White House paper was released September 5, 2017, with the catchy title: “President Donald J. Trump Restores Responsibility and the Rule of Law to Immigration.” In the section entitled: “Protecting Our Workers,” the paper says that the goal is to “encourage companies to raise wages and recruit American workers. This means stopping the practice of hiring illegal workers who unlawfully deprive American workers of jobs and higher wages.” When that paper was written, Mr. Trump had no idea that within three months following its release, a court would unseal the terms of settlement of a trial that took place 20 years earlier involving claims for lost wages filed by illegal immigrant laborers Mr. Trump had hired to demolish the building that stood where Trump Tower now stands.

According to a report of the case in the New York Times, Mr. Trump, through a contractor, hired 200 undocumented Polish workers to help demolish the building. They worked without hard hats, gloves, or masks, and were paid $4.00 an hour which was less than half of union wages that were being paid to other workers on the job. The Polish workers had the temerity to sue him over their pay and working conditions. According to one witness at the trial, Mr. Trump told him that he liked the Polish workers, telling the witness that the Polish guys “are good, hard workers.” Although Mr. Trump testified that he didn’t know there were illegal aliens working on the job, the workers’ lawyer received a call from Mr. Trump’s lawyer threatening to have the Polish workers deported. After 15 years of litigation, the kinds of protracted litigation that Mr. Trump specialized in in his earlier life, the case was settled. The terms of the settlement were kept under seal until mid-December 2017, when the judge ordered them unsealed. We then learned that the settlement cost Mr. Trump $1.375 million. It is not surprising that Mr. Trump wants to crack down on illegal laborers coming into this country and taking jobs from U.S. workers. That’s exactly what he did, and it worked out badly for him. He wants to protect other employers from having the same bad experience.

The other arena in which Mr. Trump’s immigration policies may have been framed by personal experience, involves “chain migration.” “Chain migration” occurs when immigrants wanting to immigrate to the United States are sponsored by family members who already live in the United States. Family members who qualify for sponsorship by those already living in the United States are the spouse, minor child, or parent of a U.S. citizen, and certain other individuals described by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. That, Mr. Trump believes, is too inclusive and he has tweeted about it repeatedly. In one tweet in November 2017, he said: “Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil. NOT ACCEPTABLE.” It was probably only an unfortunate coincidence that within three months after that tweet, chain migration hit close to home.

Towards the end of February 2018, there were a number of reports that Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, who have lived in the United States since the early 2000s, would soon be converting their green cards into citizenship papers. They got into this country because under the current rules that Mr. Trump hopes to change, American citizens can petition for residency for, among others, their parents, and that is what Melania Trump did for her parents.

It should come as no surprise that Mr. Trump decided to take advantage of his power as president to make a statement about chain migration, just as he used that power to make a statement about illegal workers who cost him more than a million dollars. The change he proposes won’t benefit him personally, but it will protect others who might find themselves in his situation. They will not affect him personally. because his in-laws already live here. Nonetheless, the idea for limiting chain migration came to him as a result of personal experience.

Relationships among in-laws, as many readers know, can at times be trying. According to news reports, Ms. Trump’s parents have obtained green cards and are now awaiting a date to be sworn in as United States citizens. Since arriving in this country, they have reportedly lived some of the time in Trump Tower, spent time at Mara Lago, and are now frequently seen in Washington. Their ubiquity, may well have contributed to certain tensions between the son-in-law and Melania’s parents. And those tensions may explain Mr. Trump’s ferocious opposition to chain migration. That, of course, is mere speculation on my part. It would not be a surprise, however. Family tensions can do that to you-more especially when one of the parties to the relationship is Donald Trump.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Birds of a Feather

A great devotee of the gospel of Getting On.
— G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession

He’s back. It’s the same old Romney we’ve known over the years. And his reemergence is reassurance. We know what to expect. Mr. Trump, as even his best friends acknowledge, is a man without principle and thanks to recent events, we are reminded that Mr. Romney is similarly bereft. Historical episodes abound.

When Mr. Romney ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994, and for governor in 2002, he said he was pro-choice. During the 2012 primary season when he was running for president, he said he supported repealing Roe v. Wade. Whereas, he at one point said he favored a path for illegal immigrants to become citizens, he later said there should be no “special pathway to citizenship.”

When Mr. Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he presided over the enactment of the Massachusetts health care law that was the model for the Obama health care initiative. That law, among other things, imposes a penalty on those who decline to purchase health insurance, subject to some exceptions. As governor, Mr. Romney defended that provision saying it was a penalty and not a tax. When the U.S. Supreme Court said it was a tax and not a penalty, Mr. Romney immediately recognized the error of his earlier ways, and said it was a tax. More recent examples are found when we refer back to 2012 when Mr. Romney was running for the office Mr. Trump now occupies.

In 2012 Mr. Romney was endorsed by Mr. Trump. In gratefully acknowledging the endorsement, he said: “There are some things you just can’t imagine happening in your life. This is one of them. . . . [H]aving his endorsement is a delight. I’m so honored and pleased to have his endorsement.” Things went downhill from there. Romney lost the election. Then Trump ran.

On February 24, 2016, Trump tweeted that in asking for Trump’s endorsement in 2012, Romney was “so awkward and goofy that we all should have known he could not win!” The next day Trump tweeted: “Mitt Romney, who was one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, is now pushing me on tax returns. Dope!” Less than one month later Mr. Romney delivered a speech at the University of Utah in which he said, among other things: “Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities. The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics. . . . There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. . . .” Then a strange thing happened. Trump became president and Romney became lackey. Here’s how that happened.

Between Trump’s election and swearing in, he was filling cabinet positions. When Romney thought he was being considered for Secretary of State, he dined with the man he had, but a few months earlier called a “fake” and a “con-man.” In speaking with reporters after dinner, he told reporters he: “had a wonderful evening with President-elect Trump. We had another discussion about affairs throughout the world and these discussions I’ve had with him have been enlightening, and interesting, and engaging. I’ve enjoyed them very, very much.” (What Trump could have said about foreign affairs that was enlightening was not disclosed.)

Mr. Romney did not become Secretary of State. If Trump advisor, Roger Stone, is to be believed, he was never being considered. Mr. Stone said Trump interviewed him “simply to torture him. To toy with him. And given the history, that’s completely understandable.” And following the rejection, Mr. Romney became the same Mr. Romney who criticized Mr. Trump before the election.

After the death of Heather Heyer at the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, Romney said what Trump communicated to the world “caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn.” On January 15, 2018, following Trump’s vulgar description of African countries, Romney said: “The sentiment attributed to POTUS is inconsistent w/America’s history and antithetical to American values.” But then, another strange thing happened.

On February 16, 2018, Mr. Romney announced he was running for the U.S. Senate from Utah. On February 19th Trump endorsed the man he had described as “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics, saying he would “make a great Senator . . . and has my full support and endorsement.” In less than an hour Romney, who on March 3, 2016 said: “if Trump had said 4 years ago the things he says today about the KKK, Muslims, Mexicans, disabled, I would NOT have accepted his endorsement.” This is not March 3, 2016. It is February 19, 2018. On that day Mr. Romney thanked Trump for his endorsement.

Those who have watched Mr. Romney’s completely unprincipled stands over the years, should not have been taken aback by the rapprochement between the two con men. They are cut from the same cloth.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Parades and Trump and Women

Now comes the mystery.
— Henry Ward Beecher, Last words

Herewith two riddles: one with an answer-one without. The riddle with the answer is solved, thanks to a story by Hannah Elliott, that appeared in Bloomberg News on May 4, 2017. The mystery was why Mr. Trump wanted to have a great big military parade like the one his friend, Emmanuel Macron took him to in France. That parade was so exciting for Mr. Trump, that he immediately decided there should be an even bigger military parade in this country. Mr. Trump said of the French parade: “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen. It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France. We’re going to have to try to top it.” Plans have already begun. A military official who spoke with a reporter said: “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France. This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

Not acknowledged in reports, is that there is another reason Mr. Trump wants a big parade. The reason is found in Ms. Elliott’s story. The headline says Mr. Trump misses driving and “So would you if you owned his cars.” She then offers a litany of all the magnificent vehicles that Mr. Trump has owned over the years, cars worth, collectively, many millions of dollars. They include a $270,000 Ferrari Coupe, a $460,000 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster, a couple of Rolls Royces and other cars similarly valuable and fun to drive. As president, Mr. Trump cannot go for a joy ride in one of his cars because of concerns for his safety. There, is, however, one vehicle his protectors will let him drive and he will joyfully ride it in the parade. It is not as glamorous as his cars, but driving one of these vehicles will almost certainly fulfill the dreams of a little boy- a tank. This writer has it on very poor authority, that the military has promised Mr. Trump that he will be permitted to drive the lead tank in the parade. The parade will stop, from time to time, to permit Mr. Trump to open the hatch, stand up, and wave to the adoring crowd that will be in attendance. His golden hair will provide a stark and colorful contrast to the drab colors of the vehicles in the parade and their militarily clad drivers. When you watch the parade, and see Mr. Trump waving, remember that you first learned of it here.

Herewith the insoluble riddle. Mr. Trump is the president of the United States, the highest elective office in the country. Prior to his election he was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, misconduct that was documented in a lengthy article in Time Magazine last December. The article contains descriptions of his behavior by 19 women alleging improper conduct by Mr. Trump in encounters with them. Each woman’s description of the offensive conduct is accompanied by a rebuttal from Mr. Trump or one of his spokespeople denying that an improper conduct occurred. These 19 women were less fortunate than Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels. She described a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump in an interview in 2011, another encounter Mr. Trump says never occurred. Nonetheless, his lawyer paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 a few weeks before the 2016 election in exchange for her agreement not talk about the non-existent encounter. (Herewith a riddle within a riddle: why was Stormy the only woman Mr. Trump denied having any contact with to receive $130,000? Were the 19 women mentioned above not entitled to similar payments?)

Because of his past behavior, Mr. Trump is well qualified to express opinions on accusations made against his friends and colleagues in the White House. A recent accusation involved staff secretary, Rob Porter. His former wives and a girlfriend accused him of abuse. When the details of the abuse were first reported, Mr. Trump joined his staff in professing complete ignorance of the allegations, and voiced unqualified support for Mr. Porter. When Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI, said in a statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the agency had notified the White House as early as last March that it had concerns about Mr. Porter as a result of screening him for the security clearance he never received, it became obvious that the White House’s claims of ignorance were lies and that the allegations from the women were true. Mr. Porter resigned.

Lamenting Mr. Porter’s departure from the White House Mr. Trump emitted a tweet: “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused-life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as due process?”

Many of us wish that Mr. Trump’s tweeted assertion that there is “no recovery for someone falsely accused-life and career are gone” applied to him. It obviously did not, since he is now the president of the United States. The riddle is this: How and why did this happen? A possible answer (and there may be others) is that he was not falsely accused and, therefore, the accusations had no effect on his “life and career.” Whether or not that is the reason he is now president, be sure and wave to him as he drives by in his tank.