Later On

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Archive for the ‘GOP’ Category

The curse of interesting times

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2019 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Guns, Politics

I smell a distinct odor of treason

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2019 at 1:36 pm

Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint

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Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Shane Harris report in the Washington Post:

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call.

[Gap continues to widen between Trump and intelligence community on key issues]

The White House declined to comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and a lawyer representing the whistleblower declined to comment.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that ordinarily requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers, touching off a legal and political dispute that has spilled into public and prompted speculation that the spy chief is improperly protecting the president.

The dispute is expected to escalate Thursday when Atkinson is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a classified session closed to the public. The hearing is the latest move by committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to compel U.S. intelligence officials to disclose the full details of the whistleblower complaint to Congress.

Maguire has agreed to testify before the committee next week, according to a statement by Schiff. He declined to comment for this story.

The inspector general “determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent,” Schiff said in the statement released Wednesday evening. “The committee places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress.”

The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

Trump met with other foreign leaders at the White House in July, including the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and the emir of Qatar.

Trump’s handling of classified information has been a source of concern to U.S. intelligence officials since the outset of his presidency. In May 2017, Trump revealed classified information about espionage operations in Syria to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office, disclosures that prompted a scramble among White House officials to contain the potential damage.

Statements and letters exchanged between the offices of the DNI and the House Intelligence Committee in recent days have pointed at the White House without directly implicating the president. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

18 September 2019 at 8:24 pm

Saudi Arabia Is the Worst Country in the World

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Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:

As you all know, one of Saudi Arabia’s oil complexes got hit by drones and cruise missiles over the weekend. The Houthi rebels in Yemen have taken responsibility, but maybe the attack actually originated from Iran instead? Over at National Review, Jim Geraghty says that if this turns out to be the case, we have four options:

  • Do nothing.
  • Try to bribe Iran into better behavior by signing on to France’s $15 billion loan plan.
  • Let the Saudis respond however they want.
  • Have the Pentagon respond.

Needless to say, all four of these options presume that Saudi Arabia is our ally and Iran is a mortal foe. But why?

I’m hardly a fan of Iran. They chant Death to America! and hold Americans hostage in their prisons. They support terrorist groups around the world that have killed scores of Americans. They bankroll Hezbollah and other extremist groups. There’s not much to like there.

But nothing Iran has done holds even a tiny candle to Saudi Arabia’s behavior. The theological terrorists who control religion in the Kingdom have been exporting their murderous anti-Americanism for decades. Their citizens were behind 9/11 and they bear a fair amount of responsibility for the rise of ISIS as well. They’ve been fighting Yemen forever and their current war has included endless atrocities—which Geraghty generously suggests were merely “botched” operations.¹ Internally they’re as repressive a regime as you can imagine, even more so than Iran. Just recently they murdered a critic and then carved him up with a bone saw to get rid of the evidence. They are forever trying to get America to lay down American lives in their endless proxy wars against Shiite Iran.

I could continue, but why bother? I would say that over the past few decades, Saudi Arabia has been America’s worst nightmare. Not Russia, not China, not Iran, not North Korea. All of them are frankly pipsqueaks compared to the damage Saudi Arabia has done to American interests.

And yet . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2019 at 1:43 pm

The New Kavanaugh Reporting Shows How Far Trump’s Control Goes

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Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

It’s already been widely noted that the New York Times buried breaking news about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged tendency, as a college student, to touch people with his penis when intoxicated. On Sunday, when the Times ran a forthcoming book excerpt from its own reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, it not only put the news in its Opinion section, it also placed the details of the second allegation in a remote paragraph under an appallingly random headline: “Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not.” Don’t even get me started on the grotesque tweet that accompanied the excerpt (which had to be deleted and then apologized for), or the editor’s note that popped up Sunday night to clarify that the story had previously failed to mention, “reports that the female student [whom Kavanaugh allegedly touched with his penis] declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident.” The entire debacle detracts from what is, by all accounts, a deeply researched and reported book.

But the real sin unearthed by the excerpt isn’t that there was a second account, that another former Yale student allegedly remembers seeing Brett Kavanaugh behave in disturbing and inappropriate ways. The real sin is that this former student, Max Stier, went to Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and then the leadership of the Senate, way back in the fall of 2018, to try to tell them what he remembered. And the real sin is that the FBI never investigated it. Indeed, the FBI didn’t talk to any of the 25 individuals given to them by Debbie Ramirez’s lawyer, or any of the multiple witnesses who came forward to the FBI of their own volition (including a former roommate who believed Ramirez and published his own account of Kavanaugh’s college behavior in Slate). But the FBI didn’t talk to these people because the FBI never even spoke to Brett Kavanaugh about the alleged events. The FBI never spoke to Christine Blasey Ford, either. The FBI did interview Ramirez last October and found her “credible,” but then just left it at that. According to the new reporting, an agent told her lawyers that “We have to wait to get authorization to do anything else.” They did not get that authorization, and they did nothing else.

We know all of this because we lived through it. We knew all along that the FBI “investigation” was a sham, a diversion used by three Republican senators to provide cover for their later decision to confirm Kavanaugh to the highest court in the land. Yes, these senators asked for further investigation after Ford testified, but the scope of the so-called inquiry was limited to 10 witnesses and needed to be over in a week, so it never had much hope of being a real investigation. The White House and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee so roundly constrained the investigation that the two main witnesses themselves were never questioned.
Only those who had allegedly witnessed sexual assaults were evidently deemed worthy of questioning. And the FBI felt it had no inherent authority to do an investigation into anything that wasn’t criminal—and even if it had such authority, the FBI knew it was, in effect, working for the White House.

Even as the FBI worried internally that this shamefully thin investigation would erode the credibility of the agency, it felt constrained to do anything else, so it did nothing else. We knew all of this last September, because that’s when NBC reported that the FBI had failed to contact over 40 people who came forward with material information about Kavanaugh, including several who had begged to be interviewed. And we now know that Coons, himself a member of the Judiciary Committee, asked for the FBI to investigate a third claim, and it failed to do so.

Despite this laughably brief and shoddy inquiry, Senate Republicans used it to say the case was closed. As Pogrebin and Kelly note, in the wake of no investigation of Ramirez’s claims, Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, concluded, “There is no corroboration of the allegations made by Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez.” Of course there was no corroboration. There was no investigation.

Unsurprisingly then, in the time since the FBI’s “investigation,” new books have uncovered multiple people who were told of the assault on Ramirez at the time and a possible third assault that was never even considered by the FBI. As time goes on (another Kavanaugh book is in the works), there will be more stories, and there will be more corroboration. As this is reported, Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will cry “witch hunt” because, they will say, there was already an investigation—and the only thing more suspect than a lone accuser is a fistful of them. Also, as Kavanaugh was quick to tell us himself last October, if there is more than one accuser, we should dismiss them because it was “a calculated and orchestrated political hit” meant to avenge the Clintons.

The lesson that we should take away from this whole sad state of affairs is that every arm of the federal government formally works for Trump. Recall that the second highest honor given out at the Justice Department—usually reserved for prosecutors who triumph in major litigation—was awarded last week, by Attorney General Bill Barr, to the team that shepherded the Kavanaugh confirmation. Like the FBI, the DOJ works for the president, which perhaps explains why his first tweet on Sunday demanded that “the Justice Department should come to his rescue.” And in the event that you missed it last week, in voting to allow Trump’s wall to be constructed, thus allowing the DOJ to leapfrog over federal courts in a way that almost never happens, Trump’s Supreme Court is increasingly acting as a tool to enforce his whims and fancies, and doing so at high speeds, without bothering with intermediate court review.

Just to recap then, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 September 2019 at 1:20 pm

Trump Is Not Well

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Peter Wehner wrote in the Atlantic a week ago:

During the 2016 campaign, I received a phone call from an influential political journalist and author, who was soliciting my thoughts on Donald Trump. Trump’s rise in the Republican Party was still something of a shock, and he wanted to know the things I felt he should keep in mind as he went about the task of covering Trump.

At the top of my list: Talk to psychologists and psychiatrists about the state of Trump’s mental health, since I considered that to be the most important thing when it came to understanding him. It was Trump’s Rosetta stone.

I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.

“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”

That statement has been validated.

Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.

It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogynypredatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this countrymocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)

The most recent example is the president’s bizarre fixation on falsely insisting that he was correct to warn that Alabama faced a major risk from Hurricane Dorian, to the point that he doctored a hurricane map with a black Sharpie to include the state as being in the path of the storm.

“He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Business Insider on Friday. Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, “You should ask a psychiatrist about that; I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.”

We have repeatedly heard versions of that sentiment over the course of Trump’s presidency. It’s said that speculating on Trump’s mental health is inappropriate and unwise, especially for those who are not formally trained in the field of psychiatry or psychology.

That’s true, up to a point. Yes, it is best to leave it to experts to determine whether Trump satisfies the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, some combination of both, or nothing at all.

But if a clinical diagnosis is beyond my own expertise, Trump’s psychological impairments are obvious to all who are not willfully blind. On a daily basis we see the president’s chaotic, unstable mind on display. Are we supposed to ignore that?

An analogy may be helpful here. If smoke is coming out from under the hood of your car, if you notice puddles of oil under it, if the engine is overheating and you smell burning oil, you don’t have to be a car mechanic to know that something is wrong with your car.

Accepting the reality about Trump’s disordered personality is important and even essential. For one thing, it will help us to better react to Trump’s freak show.Even now, almost a thousand days into his presidency, the latest Trump outrage elicits shock and disbelief in people. The reaction is, “Can you believe he said that and did this?”

To which my response is, “Why are you surprised?” It’s a shock only if the assumption is that we’re dealing with a psychologically normal human being. We’re not. Trump is profoundly compromised, acting just as you would imagine a person with a disordered personality would. Many Americans haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that we elected as president a man who is deeply damaged, an emotional misfit. But it would be helpful if they did.

Among other things, it would keep us feeling less startled and disoriented, less in a state of constant agitation, less susceptible to provocations. Donald Trump thrives on creating chaos, on gaslighting us, on creating antipathy among Americans, on keeping people on edge and off balance. He wants to dominate our every waking hour. We ought not grant him that power over us.

It might also take some of the edge off the hatred many people feel for Trump. Seeing him for what he is—a terribly damaged soul, a broken man, a person with a disordered mind—should not lessen our revulsion at how Trump mistreats others, at his cruelty and dehumanizing actions. Nor should it weaken our resolve to stand up to it. It does complicate the picture just a bit, though, eliciting some pity and sorrow for Trump.

But above all, accepting the truth about Trump’s mental state will cause us to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2019 at 11:54 am

What Trump Has Shown Us About Leadership

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James Fallows had an interesting column in the Atlantic a couple of weeks ago, one that I just now happened across:

Whatever is wrong with Donald Trump is getting worse. A week ago, it seemed noteworthy that he was canceling a long-planned state visit because an allied government didn’t want to let him “buy Greenland.”

Now: proposals to stop hurricanes with nuclear bombs; turning a G-7 news conference into a late-night cable infomercial for Trump’s own badly struggling golf resort;  “imaginary-friend” discussions with Chinese leaders that the Chinese say never occurred; orders that his officials “build the wall!” with a promise to pardon them for any laws they break in the process; and general megalomania and craziness.

Last week I argued (in “If Trump Were an Airline Pilot”) that if Trump occupied any other important position in public life, responsible figures would already have removed him from the controls. In this case the “responsible figures” are the Vichy Republicans who control the U.S. Senate, which is why nothing has happened to rein Trump in. Not one of these senators will stand up to Trump, even as he is melting down.

A few days ago, readers with military, corporate, and other backgrounds responded to the proposition that a person like Trump would already have been screened out by corporate, military, medical, or other professional systems. Here’s another round in response to that.


CEOs are worse than you think: In the previous post I quoted a reader who said that a man like Trump was par for the course in big public corporations. (“Many American CEOs are as incompetent as Trump.”) I said, in response, that it would be good to have a few more examples—apart, say, from Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, who was able to con much of the financial and scientific world for a long time.

This reader wrote back to say: You want examples? I’ve got examples! Here is an abridged version of his reply:

I read your challenge regarding examples of CEOs who have destroyed the company and were not fired by the board for whatever reason in the face of incompetence. First, of course, scholarship:

1. Book that discusses this very same phenomenon, as CEOs are chosen for their ‘charisma’ vs. experience and competence. Searching for a Corporate Savior, The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs  (Rakesh Khurana, Princeton, 2002). In this book there is a discussion about the parameters that boards tend to use for choosing CEOs in the US. I think you’ll find some of your examples there.

2. Examples of incompetent CEOs who destroyed or helped destroy their companies after being put on the job. Don’t take my word for it, try this list of “15 Worst CEOs in American History.” The criteria of the list:

“Those selected for the list fall into one of two simple categories – those who ruined the companies completely while they served as sitting CEOs and those who did severe damage from which their firms could never possibly recover.”…

3. Want more current examples. Sure: Take a look at “Worst CEOs of 2018.” …


We can talk about incompetence in another sense: Are they building a company that works for the world at large, or are they building a company to feed their egos?

You may say, it doesn’t matter if they do, what matters is the result. However, I think you’ll find that, if we begin to discuss the ethics of owning and managing a business, you quickly get to the ‘responsibility’ moment, where your responsibility is to your employees, your environment, your country, and your shareholders. In that order.

The idea that shareholders must always come first has always been ridiculous and only a small mind and small heart could accept that (cue the usual Republican assessments – take your examples from people like Mitch McConnell, a man who does not understand what made the US great and only cares about getting what he wants or what he thinks he wanted when he was 30 years younger.) Take your example as Bezos. Once you have made more money than God, what’s the point of not paying your employees a living wage?…

Hope you are not counting on the genius of American Business leadership to save the country from its own present course.

To reassure the reader on the final point, I’m not looking for a CEO savior. (The main theme of the recent work that I’ve been doing with my wife, Deb Fallows, is that communities need to be their own saviors.) My point was simply: Corporate oversight, however flawed, has seemed to be more effective than what we’re getting at the moment out of the U.S. Senate.

Which leads me to …


Actually, CEOs are way better than you think! A reader whom I’ve known for a long time, and whose work involves corporate governance and CEO-search processes, agrees with the original point, and disagrees with the reader above.

My friend writes:

I’d like to offer a response to the response you received [from the reader quoted above] regarding CEO’s of public companies and the Board’s judgement on their fitness to serve (“The board at a public company would have replaced him outright or arranged a discreet shift out of power.”)…

The responder’s comments are contrary to my personal experience.  For more two decades I was a Senior Partner and the Co-Leader of the [particular business area] Practice at one of the top four international retained executive search firms. My search practice was exclusively focused on C-level executive positions, not infrequently searches for CEO replacement.  In a majority of my executive searches, my client was the Board of Directors.

While the typical CEO search engagement was initiated to replace the planned retirement, often a year or more in advance, I can think of at least half a dozen searches to replace CEOs whose behavior was not only harmful to the business interests of the enterprise, but also offensive to the values of the company.

These were cases of Trump-like behavior.  This could be a painful process for the Board, particularly when the CEO was also a Founder who had overseen the selection of Board Directors over the course of many years.

I can think of four examples of CEO behavior so egregious that the Board recognized its fiduciary duty to shareholders to dismiss and the replace the CEO.  While I won’t name the companies involved, I will say that all were Fortune 100 corporations, two investor-owned systems, a specialty manufacturer, and one of the largest [insurance-related firms].  These executive searches were conducted in strictest confidence, and only the Board was aware that the CEO was to be replaced.  In contrast to your respondent’s characterization of “the medieval level at which corporate management is done,” it was clear to me and my Search Firm that in these instances the Boards acted firmly, ethically, and in the interest not only of shareholders but also of the corporation’s management and employees.


I will acknowledge that there has been a growing tendency for CEOs to recruit compliant Board Directors and undermine their independence, but I will also observe that based on many years’ experience working very closely with many of the most senior healthcare executives that the best CEOs seek strong and independent Directors on their corporate Boards.  The best CEOs of the most successful large public companies use their Directors as an extension and enhancement of management talent, and they defer to their Directors when making certain critical decisions regarding the values of the enterprise and its strategic direction.

Again, in my experience, an effective Board would not long tolerate capricious leadership, and certainly would not hesitate to act to dismiss a CEO whose personal behavior violated ethical standards, even if the enterprise was doing well.

One final note: your respondent asserts, “Many American CEOs are as incompetent as Trump.”  I demur.  With the exception of the occasional Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos), Ken Lay (Enron), or Rick Scott (Columbia HCA) – essentially Founders as well as CEOs – my personal experience and close acquaintance with a fair number of top tier executives and Board Directors is that it takes exceptional intelligence, leadership talent, and steady judgement to lead an organization as complex as a Fortune 100 corporation.


While we’re at it, let’s think more carefully about airline pilots: In the first post I used the commercial-pilot world as an example of highly consequential occupations, with checks and safeguards to thin out incompetents. And, yes, I say this in full awareness of the “Right Stuff”/“Top Gun” macho-egotist mentality among a number of pilots, which I’ve seen plenty of examples of during my own humble-private-pilot exploits over the years.

This reader writes: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2019 at 10:38 am

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