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Baffled — or Maybe Just Angry

Terry H. Schwadron

July 28, 2019

Like every morning, I poured coffee and accustomed myself to a new day by checking the news of what weird things we have done to ourselves. I must admit, I’m baffled by what I am hearing. Whatever messages, coded or assertive, our nation’s leaders think they are sending my way are orbiting without landing.

This business of governing for themselves, for their own gain or advancement without keeping little guys like me in mind, is plain confusing about why the players can’t see what effects their actions and words are having.

These things happened basically in the same day:

— The Wall.The Supreme Court found time to block a stay in the case brought by the ACLU and others arguing against spending money already assigned to the military to build portions of the Wall on the southern border. OK, I could understand, if not agree, both that Donald Trump is so oblivious of the rules of government that he would raid one account to spend it on another, even at the expense of military families, and that rational minds would dispute that move.

But without deciding the case, only the stay order to keep things unchanged while the case is argued, the Court went ahead, voting 5–4 along the usual partisan lines, to remove the stay. The majority opinion from the otherwise strict-constructionist wing means construction can move ahead, even without settling the matter of whether it is legal for the executive branch to bypass the assigned Constitutional right given to Congress to appropriate moneys. Instead, a lower court is supposed to proceed with the court arguments.

It took mere seconds to hear Trump crowing about a major victory before the Court. You can practically hear him moving out the bulldozers to get cracking.

What if the case ends up in a decision finding the law here to actually favor the opposition — which the Court questioned might not have standing in the case. We’ll have a Wall, but no law to back it. Isn’t that the whole point of a stay — to suspend action while the legal matters are sorted out?

The only thing that makes sense is that the Court majority is acting in a total political manner, and this decision merely allows Trump to do as he wishes without settling a matter of law.

I’m officially baffled — or more accurately, more skeptical that this Court majority has my interests as an individual taxpaying citizen at heart.

A Deal with Guatemala.Trump announced a “deal” with Guatemala to have the country designated as an official “safe third country,” a designation that requires that migrants from Honduras and El Salvador seek asylum in Guatemala before heading to the U.S. border, and eases deportation of those illegally entering our country to be sent back to Guatemala.

The “deal” part was not disclosed, other than saying that Trump had threatened Guatemala with serious trade tariffs and other such tools to crush business there unless they complied. In “The Godfather” they called that a deal that could not be refused. Again, there are tons of questions here, including the fact that any such designation apparently requires that the Guatemalan legislature approves it, and from news reports, that legislature hates this idea.

At the same time, Guatemala is hardly considered a “safe country” now, as evidenced by the number of Guatemalans among the large tide of migrants who seek to enter the United States, or by its description by United Nations officials as a crime-ridden country. Somehow, under such an agreement any asylum seekers who travel through a “safe country” on their way to the U.S. must be returned to that country to request asylum either in the United States or in that country. As a result of such a deal, Guatemalans and Mexicans would be the only Latin American migrants able to seek protection at the US-Mexico border.

Again, if problem-solving is the issue at hand, I’m baffled. This solves nothing for anyone who is not Donald Trump, who thinks it will end immigration attempts and show him to come across as a strong but compassionate.

This is PR, not policy.

— Calling names.This is a favorite game in Washington, of course, but it seems not good enough to criticize an opponent for policy differences. Instead, it is required to call the opponent out personally.

So MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough picked up on the tradition to label Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “Moscow Mitch” for failing to allow the Senate to vote on bills to strengthen U.S. election procedures to protect them from Russian interference that our intelligence agencies is continuing. McConnell is wrongly too sensitive to Donald Trump’s sensibilities that doing so would question the legitimacy of his 2016 election. Still, name-calling doesn’t fix anything.

Scarborough was outdone by Trump himself, who launched a personal Twitter attack on House Oversight Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, a longtime Democratic force who is black, highly respected and slow to anger, for criticizing conditions at border detention centers that are outrageously inhumane. Rather than simply defending border conditions, Trump called Cummings’ Baltimore congressional district “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infected mess,” saying Cummings should be tending to it.

Apart from the fact that the largely black district — in which Cummings still lives in his family home — is above average in income, in home ownership, in college-educated residents and other markers of middle-class success, the screed came across as yet another racially-insensitive insult against a leader of the congressional black caucus. For a guy who is seeking reelection as president — and a guy who claims he is not responsible for rifts in the country — it’s another cut at racial division as well as imprecise steam-roller attack with no possible good end in sight.

The mayor of Baltimore, Democratic candidates and leaders all jumped on the insults.

Once again, I’m baffled, other than accepting that Trump is a tried and true racist deaf and blind to what effects he is stirring.

Maybe I should feel angry rather than baffled.


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Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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