Tuesday, January 15, 2019

President Trump is a leader of one America, an antagonist to another

By:  Michael G. Lander

President Donald J. Trump is a wildly popular figure among most conservatives, as
evidenced by the large crowds that he draws at his rallies, like this one at the Landers
Center in Southaven, Miss. on October 2, 2017. In spite of his immense popularity,
however, beyond his conservative base, he does not seem to hold the same appeal
beyond that, thus far. He has made little effort to expand his base, preferring instead,
it seems, to antagonize and to marginalize anyone who does not support him.
Unlike any U.S. president who has ever come before him, Trump has focused his time,
energy, and efforts to only satisfying the interests of his supporters and further
facilitating a bitterly divided America.

We are living in two distinctively different Americas, or what some might say are two different and contrasting realities. 

In one of them are those who fully support and stand behind President Donald J. Trump. In the other America are those who don’t.

Between the two, there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground between them.  In each of these Americas, they either love him or they hate him.

One thing that everyone of them might agree upon is that there has never been a time in our nation’s history when a man like Trump has been our president.

In November 2016, this paradoxical, unconventional, and unpredictable man, and the unlikeliest of presidential candidates, was voted into office. 

Without having had any previous political, military, or public service experience, and having a sordid and unsavory past, with marital affairs, a propensity for spewing vulgar, hateful, and offensive words, and having allegedly conducted some shady business practices, and declaring close to half a dozen bankruptcies, he was still able to overcome the odds that would have sunk any other political candidates in the past.

Unlike any president before him, he has completely shattered the norms of what is expected or tolerated in our nation’s leader.

Throughout his presidential campaign, and the first two years in office, almost everything that he has said or done has not mattered to those who support him.  In many ways, as far as they’re concerned, he can do no wrong.

The controversies that have plagued him and his administration, and the ominous cloud of a special counsel investigation that hangs over him, does not seem to be of any concern, whatsoever, except to those who oppose him.

The Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon nearly 50 years ago, led to the criminal indictment of 69 people, (many of whom were top Nixon officials), with 48 either pleading or being found guilty.

Thus far, the special counsel investigation, led by Robert Mueller, has led to the indictment, or guilty pleas, of 33 individuals, (five of whom are former Trump aides) and there is no clear indication, as of now, that the president, will not ultimately be implicated, himself.

At the heart of the investigation is Russia’s meddling in our nation’s 2016 elections and the possible undue influence that it had, and might continue to have on our elections, and the possible threats that Russia might have on the safety, security, and long term interests of our nation.

What is of special concern for Trump’s detractors is his lack of full cooperation with the special counsel investigation, his frequent attacks on it, (repeatedly calling it a witch-hunt), his efforts that seem to be aimed at undermining it, and his unwillingness to ever speak out or to initiate any actions, himself, against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.

For all but Trump’s ardent followers, life in America today has the look and feel of a collective nightmare, or a reality television program, endlessly going from one crisis and one controversy to another, pitting Americans against one another and further polarizing us and dividing us in ways unlike any other time in our nation’s history, second only to the U.S. Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 with Abraham Lincoln being the first Republican
president from 1861 to 1865. This statue of our sixteenth president was designed Daniel
Chester French and it is located in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The only time
that the nation has been more divided than it currently is under the nineteenth Republican
(forty-fifth president) - Donald J. Trump, was Lincoln who led the nation through its bloody
civil war.

In spite of all that he has faced, Trump has seemed to have been able to persevere and to succeed to some degree, because he says what his core supporters want to hear and he has remained faithful to them, striving to deliver on what he has promised them.

His supporters, for the most part, love, admire, and adore him and they have remained faithful to him, because they feel like he is one of them and that he is looking out for them and striving to recreate the kind of America that they want to have, and returning it to the greatness that it once was.

Some of the admiration and respect that he receives from them comes from his never surrender, streetfighter-like mentality, and his frequent attacks of his critics, opponents, and anyone else who attempts to go up against him or them.

His attacks on the institutions of government, the media, Democrats, immigrants, or anyone else who challenges him, criticizes him, or opposes him in any way, incurs his wrath and that of his base.  Dissension of any kind is not tolerated.

Unlike any previous administration before him, Trump, and his administration, often seem to be on the offense, employing a combination of tactics that include distraction, deflection, diversion, and obfuscation to disarm his opposition and anyone else who poses any threat to him.   

Trump’s success at becoming president in November 2016 was a confluence of circumstances, essentially a perfect storm, that put him into the White House and what has, at least for now, kept him there.

Whether you love him or hate him, he seems to have tapped into the anxiety, fears, and anger of many Americans who feel as though they have been overlooked, looked down upon, or simply ignored by a government and the Washington elites who they don’t think truly represent them and who are not looking out for their security, and their best interests.

Trump, more than anyone ever before him, connects with them on a deeply personal and intimate level. For them, he seems to love his country, who wants to fix all that they see that is wrong with it, and to make it better and stronger and what they think it was once before.

What is also so appealing to his followers is his swagger and his confidence and they admire his brash, tell-it-like-it-is language, and they are drawn in by his larger-than-life personality, his charisma, and his ability to relate and to interact with them like few presidents have ever done before him. 

With all that Hillary Clinton may have had going for her with her vast knowledge, ability, and experience in government, she did not have the same gregarious personality but, even more importantly, she didn’t have the same messaging as he did. 

She didn’t seem to be able to connect with people, to show them that she cared as much about them, and she was unable to energize people, like he did, especially in the key battleground states.

Trump was, and still is, extremely popular with most conservatives, especially those living in rural areas, those who do not have a college degree, and some who profess to be evangelicals.

This is the east front view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The divisiveness that exists
in the U.S., especially nowadays, may be no better demonstrated than by those serving in this building
as our nation's congressional representatives. Their inability to overcome partisan politics, to
compromise, and their catering to special interests, and to their own interests, and their failure to
serve and to provide for the common good of all, likely contributes to the extremely low approval
ratings that they routinely receive from many Americans.
For these groups, Trump is an answer to their prayers, even though he does not exactly exemplify the same values, morals, and standards that they may strive to live by and want to teach and raise their children by.

For some Christians and evangelicals, they are willing to overlook any personal failures or shortcomings that he has because they believe that God has put him where he is and that he is doing what they and what God wants him to do on their behalf. 

In this way, they feel the ends justify the means and they do not appear to be especially concerned about how hypocritical and inconsistent that their support of Trump might seem to be to non-Christians.

Generally speaking, many of these individuals are feeling increasingly threatened by a rapidly changing country, an increasingly diverse society, and perceived threats to their way of life, their faith, their heritage, and their culture.

They are also suspicious of big government and what many refer to as “the deep state,” but they resent those who are not necessarily patriotic and those, especially minorities, who chose to protest against any perceived injustice or unfair treatment by those in authority, such as some of those who are in law enforcement. 

Many Trump supporters, and Republicans as a whole, seem to want greater limits and reductions in immigration, welfare, foreign intervention, aid, and abortions, with no universal healthcare, no restrictions on gun rights, and more religious freedom, so long as it is Christian.

Aside from the various issues that many of them support, some of the zealousness that they have for Trump may be rooted in their bitterness and anger of having had to live through eight years under President Barack Obama.  For them, having Trump is a payback to those who subjected them to a man who many of them did not like and, unfortunately, for some, race may be a factor in their outright disdain of Obama.

For those who object to Trump, more often than not, they see him as a terribly flawed, unethical, unscrupulous, and an immoral individual, with no sense of decency, who is ignorant, close-minded, reckless, narcissistic, self-centered, and who is a sociopathic liar who is bigoted, misogynistic, and xenophobic.

They believe he is driven and motivated almost exclusively by power and money, with a proclivity to authoritarianism, and that he thinks that he is much better and smarter than anyone else, but that he actually has the mind, language skills, and demeanor of a petulant 8-year-old child.

He has, for them, little to no character, integrity, morals, manners, or respect for others, or for the institutions which he oversees, and because they don’t see that he is tethered to any ethical principles or standards, he is prone to vacillating on many issues, and he has little to no loyalty to others, with no conscience, and little empathy or compassion, or concern for the welfare and well-being of anyone who doesn’t support him.

He is perceived by many of them to be lazy, irrational, incompetent, intolerant, hypocritical, undisciplined, shortsighted, insecure, paranoid, lacking in impulse control, unwilling to listen, and displaying very little curiosity or interest in reading, learning, or admitting that he is ever wrong.

This is the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. It is one of the three branches of
government that is meant to be a check on the executive and legislative branches. For
many conservatives around the country, the 2016 election was especially significant
since they sought to stack the Supreme Court with conservative judges who will
favorably rule on issues of great concern to them, now, and for decades to come.
For them, Trump's election was pivotal to ensure that this happened and it seems
to have already paid off for them.

The opponents of Trump see him as having an extremely flawed and corrupt character, that he has inflicted irreparable harm on to our nation, its institutions, and the environment, having fractured or harmed the longstanding relationships with our allies while pandering to nations who have traditionally been our enemies, diminishing our leadership role around the world, and dividing us like no other person ever has and appealing to the very worst in all of us. 

For them, there is little, if anything, that they can find that is redeeming in him.

He is, for them, the most unqualified, ill-equipped, and crooked man to have ever occupied the office of the presidency.  They see him as being unfit for office, abusing the power of his office, and using the presidency for his own personal enrichment. 

They also believe that he has violated his constitutional oath, committed high crimes and misdemeanors, violated campaign finance laws, obstructed justice, subverted democracy, and conspired with foreign entities in matters detrimental to our national security and our national interests. 

The office of the president, many of them contend, hasn’t changed Trump, but that Trump has forever changed the presidency. 

He has replaced traditional conservative doctrine with his populist, nationalist, isolationist, and nativist ideology and most of the GOP has abandoned much of what they once stood for and have become like him.

Instead of standing up for what they might think is right and just, many outside the GOP see the Republican Party as just being like enablers are to an alcoholic or accomplices are to a crime.     

When it comes to Trump, the GOP, to them, more closely resembles the monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil. 

They are the ones to blame, his opponents say, for defending him, ostracizing or dismissing those who assail him, and for sitting on their hands and doing nothing as he has says or does whatever he wants to with little to no repercussions or consequences for it.

For Democrats, or anyone else who doesn’t buy into what Trump is peddling, America today is almost completely unrecognizable to the America that existed before the Trump phenomenon. 

In many cases, it seems like the GOP has become more like a cult than a political party and the situation is much worse to them than they might have ever imagined it would ever be under his presidency. 

While many Republicans continue to stand behind Trump and will always see him as a savior for American exceptionalism, those living in the alternate America, will only look at Trump as being a clear and present danger to the United States and they fear for our nation and for the entire world so long as he remains our president.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Trump administration should reassess where threat of terrorism in the U.S. really lies

The Trump administration should reassess where the threat of terrorism in the U.S. really lies
By:  Michael Lander

On Jan. 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order, temporarily banning entry, for 90 days, of individuals seeking to come to the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. 

The president, at the time, sought to justify the urgent need for this action claiming that it was desperately needed for the safety and security of our nation and that it would allow enough time to review, improve, and implement a better vetting process than what was already in place.

Unfortunately, for the president, his order, and a revised version of that order, were quickly challenged in the court system, and were blocked, or met with restraining orders, due in part to his campaign rhetoric of implementing a Muslim travel ban.  It is now headed to the Supreme Court where its fate may be hurt by the president’s own words and his tweets.

After the most recent terrorist attack in London, on Saturday, June 4, for example, the president again reiterated the need for a travel ban, and suggested that the Justice Department should not have submitted a politically correct version of his order.

These, and other such comments, are likely to cause further consternation for the president’s White House communication staff and advisors who are trying to steer away from any implication that these latest comments might infer that the president’s order is actually just a ban against Muslims, which, if it were, would further imperil the fate of his executive order.

Whatever may ultimately be decided about the president’s executive order, the rationale for it has come under fire from critics who claim that it doesn’t actually get to the heart of the threat that is posed to the U.S. by radical Islamic extremists.

Also, some might ask that since the ban was only intended to be in effect for 90 days, why additional time would be needed to implement enhanced vetting procedures when almost twice that time has already elapsed.

For those who strongly oppose the travel ban, the problem they believe is in first identifying where the real problem exists.  They contend that the evidence does not seem to suggest that it is coming from those immigrating from a handful of Muslim majority nations.

Opponents to the president’s travel order say that, in the U.S., most terrorist acts are not committed by refugees and immigrants, but they are almost always committed by U.S. citizens who, in many cases, have become self-radicalized.   

Click here for a historical list of terrorist acts in the U.S.

Even though there is substantial evidence that refugees and immigrants to the U.S. do not pose the greatest threat to the U.S., this does not mean, nor does it preclude the possibility of an increase of terrorist acts committed by radical Islamic extremists, homegrown or otherwise.   

Currently, one of the greatest and growing threats of terrorism in the U.S., and around the world, is coming from ISIS, which, according to the former Mecca Grand Mosque IMAM, Adil Al-Kalbani, draws its beliefs from the Saudi version of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Ninety-four (94) percent of global terrorism from 2001-2015 is associated with Wahhabi/Salafi (Sunni).

The National Bureau of Economic Statistics lists the largest ISIS foreign fighter contingents as coming from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, and Jordan.  None of these are on the president’s list of nations impacted by his executive order nor are the nations of the 9/11 hijackers, 15 of whom were from Saudi Arabia, two who came from U.A.E., and one who came Egypt and Lebanon. 

The U.S. State Department has identified Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan as nations that have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.  Even though Russia and China are not on the State Department’s list, both nations are known to have deep connections, and have provided funding, to one or more of these countries. 

China is a strategic ally of North Korea and Russia is a strategic ally to Iran and Syria with strong diplomatic ties to North Korea, as well.

In addition to these countries, other sources have identified nations like Afghanistan and Pakistan as sources of global terrorism, too.

As important as it is to reevaluate, reassess, and refine vetting procedures for immigrants, it alone is not the end-all solution to the threats that come from a greatly distorted version of Islam.  

We must concentrate, instead, on a multi-faceted approach that focuses on ensuring greater assimilation and improved communication with the Muslim communities (and the 3.3 million Muslims) already living in the U.S., and finding methods to disrupt the ways in which individuals become self-radicalized.  

Given the magnitude of the threat that comes from friendly, and not-so-friendly nations to the U.S., and that which comes from our own U.S. citizens who may become self-radicalized, the president’s executive order does not sufficiently address where all of the real dangers for Americans might actually lie.

Until the Trump administration redirects its focus beyond an executive order that may yield little more than the fulfillment of a campaign promise, and it pursues a strategy that gets to the greatest potential source of terrorism by radical Islamic extremists, Americans will not be as safe as they might hope to be.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

President Trump's attacks on our media should be of concern to all of us

President Trump's attacks on our media should be of concern to everyone
By:  Michael Lander

The greatness of the United States of America comes not from
one, but from the many, united in resolve and committed to
the rights and freedoms of all, to include a free and
independent press.

It would be impossible for anyone to argue that the mass media has become nothing short of public enemy number one. 

In just the first five weeks of President Trump’s administration, he, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, have targeted the media, describing them as an enemy of the American people. 

The president has not even come close to saying anything like that, even about our Cold War adversaries, and has, in fact, been much more friendly to the Russians, and to their leader, Vladimir Putin, than he has yet to be with most of those within our own media. 

There has never been a time in our nation’s history when the media has been under such an attack by a president and it appears to far and away exceeded anything that has ever occurred, even during the embattled administration of Richard M. Nixon. 

It was during Nixon's administration that the media exposed what had happened at Watergate, and the subsequent attempt of the administration to cover it up, which ultimately led to Nixon’s downfall and his unceremonious resignation on Aug. 9, 1974.

While the current attack on the media, and the combative relationship that President Trump currently has with it, may be completely unprecedented, an onslaught of criticism and accusations are not anything that the media is exactly unfamiliar with.

Ever since our country was founded, members of the press, (because of the nature of their job), have had to endure times when they have been maligned, hated, accused of being biased, untrustworthy, or any other manner of things.

Even though the work of media has not always been easy and well-received, things have recently been taken to a whole new and disturbing level when the president, himself, has now engaged in attacks of the press, as well. 

As a man who is the leader of our nation and who, in many ways represents the free world, he should be the leading champion of the rights and freedoms that we have in our country, extolling our virtues and ideals, and the important role that a free and independent press plays in helping to ensure that it remains that way.

Instead, for whatever reasons that he might have, the president seems to be attempting to undermine, to subvert, to oppress, and to delegitimize the media by accusing it of lying, creating “fake news,” and labeling it as the “opposition party” and the “enemy of the American people.”

The accusation that the media routinely lies is especially ironic since he and his White House staff have seemed to have already earned a reputation of being fast and loose with the truth, and for giving us a new way to describe things that are false by simply referring to them as alternative facts.”

Whatever the president’s motives might be for this, the role of the free press is, first and foremost, to serve the American people. 

They do this by seeking to inform, to enlighten, to get to the facts and to the truth, to distill complex issues and to present them in a way that everyone can understand.

They also provide a check and balance to those in power, to help ensure accountability, to act as an intermediary between the rich and powerful and those who are neither, to serve in an adversarial role, when necessary, and to not always say what people may want to hear, but what they need to hear. 

Because of what the media does, they can be an extremely powerful weapon and, as such, it has often been referred to as the fourth branch of government (or the fourth estate) since it serves to monitor the political process, ensuring that politicians don’t abuse the democratic process for their own benefit.

Since we may not ever know the reasons or intentions of the president in attacking the media, one can only speculate as to why he and others, in power, might ever be motivated to do this.

There are any number of possibilities that one can come up with as to why the media would be targeted, some of which may be more viable explanations than others.

Liberty is what we, as Americans, have long
revered, cherished, and embraced, but it only
has been guaranteed to us through a
steadfast commitment, sacrifice, and
defense of them for all Americans and
further ensured by a free and
independent press.

Some of these possibilities could be that the administration wants to control, intimidate, silence, or to alienate the media because it presents a threat to them and their agenda.

It could also easily be an effort to lessen the influence of the media, which may be providing information that runs counter to what they are hoping to accomplish or, if you ascribe to more conspiratorial motives, you could see this as a ploy to divert or to deflect attention away from themselves and what they are doing or not doing.

It is also possible to imagine that this could be a way for the administration to simply undermine the credibility and the trust of the media so that the public does not accept what the media is reporting. 

With that groundwork laid, the administration could then be better able to restrict the flow of information and to spin the news in the way that better serves their purposes.

Whatever the president and his administration’s intentions may or not be, the one thing that is certain is that not all criticism of the media is entirely unfounded.

Among some of the criticisms that are waged against the media today, some of the more frequent ones are that it tends: 
(1)  to focus on entertainment and celebrities, (what some refer to as infotainment), over true and impactful news stories, 
(2)  to report on the more sensational and attention-grabbing stories while under-reporting or ignoring those that might be more important to the people in their respective communities,
(3)  to rely far too much on anonymous sources or on sources that have an agenda, and
(4)  to be biased, whether intentional or not, in the who, what, when, where, why and how they report a news story.

One of the most prevalent accusations that have been waged against the media is that there is a liberal-leaning bias.   While there is some evidence to suggest that this does exist to some extent, other biases are often overshadowed because of this and they often go unnoticed.  

Click here to read about these other biases on News Bias Explored - The Art of Reading the News and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting - How to Detect Bias in the News Media.

The one place where politically-driven bias can easily be found in the media is on television news networks, which seem to be audience-driven and are usually tailored specifically toward the political leanings of their audiences. 

This seems to influence the selection and the presentation of the news stories that are covered as well as other news-related programs, along with the commentary, that the various television networks carry.

Also, one of the biggest concerns of media watchdog groups is the limited number of corporations that control most of what we see, hear, and read.  These groups also point out that media organizations may be discouraged or prevented from investigating or reporting on anything that might negatively impact the financial interests of the corporations which owns them. 

In spite of the things that the media could improve upon, it does seem, for the most part, to do what it needs to do on the behalf of the public at large.

Most journalists are professionals who want to be accurate and truthful in their reporting, who want to follow and adhere to established guidelines in seeking out credible sources, following any leads, verifying, and corroborating any information that they receive.

They also try to conduct fact-checks, and they make an effort to present all sides of an issue, whenever possible, so that the audience or the reader can take in all of the information that is provided and to then decide for themselves what conclusions that they wish to draw from it.

Click her to read about what guidelines (Society of Professional Journalists) to which journalists follow and adhere.

Regardless of what we think about how journalists do their jobs, the press is protected, nonetheless, under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and there are no exceptions or caveats that are otherwise specified than their right to do so without government interference. 

Thomas Jefferson once said that our liberty depends on the freedom of the press and an independent press is essential for a functioning democracy. 

Click on these links to read more about the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press from Lincoln University and more about it from the New World Encyclopedia and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

We might not always like what we hear or read, but the American people should always be concerned whenever there is an attack on the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press since, in the end, it ultimately is an attack on us all.