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A One-Woman Show: Sarah Huckabee in The White House Press Briefing

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Perhaps the most simultaneously intriguing and horrifying cultural phenomenon this year was not a movie, television show, or play but rather the theatrical absurdity of our political system.

Indeed, the unprecedented political landscape of President Trump’s administration has created scenarios more outlandish than the most far-fetched episode of Veep, more tense than any episode of 24, and more cringeworthy than the most awkward moments of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Filled with more morally ambiguous characters than Game of Thrones and more unforeseen twists than Survivor, the Trump Administration has truly been a terrifying, riveting narrative. However, while the aforementioned shows are ultimately designed to entertain, Mr. Trump’s administration is all too real.

Throughout this chaotic news cycle, one woman has distinguished herself as a particularly notable character: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Ms. Sanders stars in a one-woman show nearly every day, performing to an audience of journalists in her White House Press Briefings.  And to be clear, her briefings are theater —  Ms. Sanders spends her briefings articulating her spurious lines, which consist of intentionally misleading “alternative facts.”

This is not to say that Ms. Sanders is a poor performer — she’s not. In fact, she drastically outshines her predecessor, Sean Spicer, by adding an unfazed temperament to her performance that he lacked. Whereas Mr. Spicer seemed to show some semblance of remorse for intentionally misinforming the American people, Ms. Sanders brings an unperturbed facade to her performance that Mr. Spicer could not seem to muster.

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of her show is her improvisation segments. Ms. Sanders allows select audience members to ask her questions, which she impressively manages to evade, spin, and twist. Her control over her stage (and her audience) is nearly unparalleled in contemporary theater.

For example, in one of Ms. Sanders’ first shows, TIME Magazine White House correspondent Zeke Miller asked whether the White House transition was “chaotic.” Without missing a beat, Ms. Sanders assuredly replied, “No, I don’t see it as chaotic.” As Mr. Miller tried to rephrase his question, Ms. Sanders joked, “You want to see chaos, Zeke, you should come to my house early in the morning when my three kids are running around.  That’s chaos.” As laughter erupted in the audience, Ms. Sanders immediately transitioned to the next question, effectively ending Mr. Miller’s line of interrogation. This impressive, deliberate control over her audience allows her to inculcate her message clearly and without opposition.

Ms. Sanders’ emotional temperament, her finely-tuned control over her expressions and inflection, allows her to be one of the most effective and remarkable actresses in theater this year. Unfortunately for us, her show is non-fiction.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

A Fiscal Approach to the Wall

in Contemporary Politics/Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

On March 13th of this year, President Trump travelled to California to view eight potential samples for the ‘border wall’ which he promised his supporters during his 2016 Presidential Campaign. The controversial building of the wall had become a talking point, with claims that Mexico would pay for it, which Mexican President Pena Nieto continues to furiously deny. The wall should “only” cost $18 billion dollars, via Trump’s Twitter, and would be paid for through an extension of a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Removing the flagrant social rights violation that this wall imposes and personal biases against the President, the Wall could make sense, right? The United States spends close close to $750 billion dollars each year on defense, and border protection counts as defense.

According to a New York Times article, the Senate Democrats released a report in April of 2017 claiming that the wall would cost an estimated $70 billion, and would cost close to $150 million dollars to maintain each year. The wall will employ an electronically monitored zone between its two sides with armed guards patrolling. Obviously, roads would be protected heavily with gates used for inspection. Theoretically, though the cost is daunting, illegal immigration from South and Latin America would be stopped. However, the wall can easily be circumvented by criminals and immigrants alike. Major cartels can simply pay a border agent to look the other way while they construct a tunnel under the wall. The integrity of these border agents can be bought, blatantly defeating the purpose of the wall. Seeing as the wall would only be 150 feet wide, these tunnels can be done quite effectively. Thousands of criminals can smuggle their drugs and weapons through to the United States while refugees and immigrants would be trapped in their respective countries.

How can the United States then prevent illegal immigration? Recently, increased economic stability in Mexico has decreased the number of illegal immigrants. By investing in Mexican corporations and micro financing small business, the United States can improve the economy there while also making money abroad. With a stronger national economy, Mexico and other Latin American countries will be able to retain potential immigrants who can seek opportunities at their homes. In terms of that $70 billion dollars, the United States can do some good with that money. According to the Borgen project, this money can absolve all world hunger for the next 2.5 years. By investing in Latin America and curing their hunger crisis, the United States can prevent illegal immigration and create strong fiscal ties with a burgeoning superpower.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/immigration/see-all-8-prototypes-trump-s-big-beautiful-border-wall-n813346
https://borgenproject.org/the-cost-to-end-world-hunger/
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-visits-california-see-wall-prototypes-near-mexico-border-n854836

Stormy Times at the Trump White House

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Arguably the leader of the free world and certainly the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump now faces an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. In a recent 60 Minutes segment, Stormy recounts in excruciating and humiliating detail her version of their affair. She describes spanking him with a rolled up Trump Magazine; she describes how Trump said she “reminds him of my daughter;” she describes feeling no attraction towards him as they had sex; she describes rejecting his advances after watching four hours of Shark Week; she describes being physically threatened by a goon to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story.”

Trump, notably, hasn’t responded to Stormy’s allegations on Twitter (where he’s notoriously outspoken). In fact, the President’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, initiated arbitration proceedings against Stormy only for violating her NDA (non-disclosure agreement) — not for libel or defamation. Only the current (but subject to change) White House Press Secretary has denied the affair on Trump’s behalf. Trump’s silence regarding Stormy starkly juxtaposes with his typically unabashed spirit.

Unfortunately, the fact that this story even exists speaks to the dire status of our current political climate. Can anyone honestly argue that this scandal is in the least bit surprising?  If anyone thought that Donald Trump was any sort of moral exemplar during the campaign, they were likely not paying close attention. Trump’s innumerable flaws and scandals, however, seem to blunt the effect of any particular one.

Perhaps Stormy’s case is different.

The Stormy Daniels’ scandal perfectly suits our reality TV star President. Infused with sex, money, crime, broken promises, and threats of violence, the affair reads more like a reality TV show than a presidential controversy. Filled with Clickbait, FAKE NEWS, and eye-catching headlines, perhaps Stormy’s more Hollywood-esque controversy will linger in headlines longer than Trump’s countless other scandals. Stormy’s affair may not be Trump’s most egregious scandal, but it’s certainly his most fitting and entertaining one: Trumpian times call for Trumpian measures.

Ultimately, Trump’s porn star affair just further degrades the Office of the Presidency, embarrassing the US internally and internationally. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to methodically investigate the possible crimes of the President and his affiliates. As the Mueller investigation escalates, any truth behind the Trump/Russia collusion accusations seems more likely to emerge.  Stormy Daniels may have captivated the public’s attention, but Robert Mueller is bringing the real storm to the White House.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/stormy-daniels-describes-her-alleged-affair-with-donald-trump-60-minutes-interview/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/06/us/stormy-daniels-trump-lawsuit.html

#ReleaseTheMemo

in Contemporary Politics/Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

Republican congressman Devin Nunes recently released a new ‘bombshell’ memo — one written by the Republicans of the House Intelligence Committee. After an announcement that a draft of the memo had been completed, House Republicans embarked on a media circuit, appearing on all sorts of news shows to build anticipation for the ‘shocking’ memo. Within a few days, #ReleaseTheMemo was trending on Twitter (with the help of Russian twitter-bots).  Meanwhile, House Democrats argued that the memo was filled with factual inaccuracies, so they wrote a memo of their own. Unsurprisingly, the Republican-controlled House voted to send their memo to President Trump for declassification, and they blocked the Democratic memo from being sent to President Trump.

Despite being warned not to release their memo by House Democrats, the Trump appointed head of the FBI, Senate Republicans and Democrats, and the Trump Administration’s own Department of Justice, the memo was released a few days ago by President Trump and the House Intelligence Committee. The memo claimed that the Clinton campaign helped provide a FISA court with evidence against Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, allowing the FBI to extend their surveillance on Mr. Page. Notably, Carter Page had been under FBI surveillance for three years prior to joining the Trump campaign due to his (surprise!) Russian connections.  Even if the accusations in the memo are true, none of them are illegal. The memo, essentially, is just a shabby attempt of weaponizing intelligence.

However, the various reactions to the memo itself were very telling. The FBI called the memo “extraordinarily reckless.” Senator John McCain, a patriot and war-hero, claimed that “we are doing Putin’s job for him.” Former FBI Director James Comey called the memo “dishonest and misleading.” Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer called the memo “partisan and misleading.” Honorable people across the political spectrum seemed to agree that the memo was merely a political hit-job on the FBI.

Republican pundits, on the other hand, had a different reaction to the memo. Former Trump White House Staffer and possible Nazi Sebastian Gorka claimed that the memo was “100 times bigger” than what started the Revolutionary War. Sean Hannity described the memo as “Watergate times a thousand” and the “shredding of the Constitution.” Sean Hannity then proceeded to call for Robert Mueller’s unrelated investigation of President Trump to be immediately shut down. Perhaps this reveals the true intentions of this underwhelming issue. It appears that the Republicans are actively trying to discredit the FBI and attempting to delegitimize the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Many Republicans claim that the Russia investigation is nothing but a witch hunt against President Trump’s campaign. It’s hard to blame them — this is reiterated in practically every show on FOX News. Sean Hannity said a few days ago that the investigation has “no evidence.” This is demonstrably false. The investigation has already charged multiple people with crimes. Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, was charged with lying to the FBI and is pleading GUILTY. George Papadopoulos, Trump’s foreign policy advisor, is also pleading guilty to lying to the FBI. This investigation can’t be considered a nothingburger if the accused parties have admitted to being guilty! It’s truly mind-boggling that anyone can continue to cast this investigation as a baseless attack on Trump when a Republican, Robert Mueller, is conducting the investigation and multiple people have pleaded guilty to committing crimes.

This memo does nothing to answer any of the lingering questions between possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. President Trump, in a tweet where he misused the word ‘there,’ argued that the memo completely vindicated him. In reality, all the memo did was give the President Trump and the Republicans a way to discredit the FBI.

Personally, I believe the men and women who sacrifice their lives to protect our country by working for the FBI deserve the utmost respect from our President and elected officials. Any attempt to tarnish the pristine reputation of the FBI is an attempt to obstruct the very idea of American democracy. I fear John McCain is right — we’re doing Putin’s job for him. I’m just worried some of us are doing it purposefully.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a13122012/robert-mueller-russia-investigation-charges/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/us/politics/trump-fbi-memo.html
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/03/nunes-fisa-memo-sparks-reactions-from-politicians.html

World War Three or Diplomacy?

in Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”     Albert Einstein

Since 2006, North Korea has had nuclear weaponry. One of their more recent tests displayed a bomb seven times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, which triggered an earthquake with a magnitude of  6.1…in Japan. In 2017, an intercontinental missile test revealed that they had the capability to hit the United States if they desired.  Immediately, worries of a nuclear World War III spread across the nation and the globe as tensions between the two countries continued to rise.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently stated that the North Korea threat “is growing.”  So how serious is this threat? Are we staring in the face of World War III?  

Recent writers say that perhaps North Korea’s nuclear efforts don’t have the feared motives behind them, but rather they have created a nuclear stockpile simply to use as leverage for diplomacy.  The best case scenario would be that, after seeing the United States’ treatment of Cuba, Kim Jong Un is simply creating enough force to deter a similar invasion.  To protect his similar dictatorship from a Bay of Pigs-esque invasion, Kim Jong Un created and threatened the use of nuclear weapons. Another slightly comforting thought is that the weapons will just be used to strong-arm South Korea into annexation.  “Other than as a smoking crater, Kim Jong Un simply doesn’t have the resources to take over South Korea,” remarked one writer, “the nukes are just for leverage.” Top CIA officials have stated that Kim Jong Un is not the “madman” that the United States often portrays, but rather a “rational actor” motivated by “clear, long-term goals.”  “Waking up one morning and deciding to nuke LA is not something he’s likely to do,” said Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, “he knows he would be utterly eliminated…he wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his bed.”  It seems as if worries of an unprompted nuclear strike on the United States are unlikely to come true; of course, all of this relies on the rationality of our leaders…

Donald Trump’s reaction to the “North Korea crisis” and nuclear warfare in general is perhaps the greatest threat facing our world today.  The simple act of getting in petty twitter wars with another nuclear power world leader is arguably the most irresponsible act of his entire administration (which is a pretty high bar).  Those CIA officials that suggest Kim Jong Un is a rational leader are “continuously undermined” by the president’s words and actions.  The Moon administration in South Korea see Kim Jong Un’s actions as “largely defensive and rational,” but the reasonable voices of the world are drowned out by Trump’s petulant outcries. The most concerning of his antics is the increase of nuclear weapons.  In July 2017, Trump said he wanted to return the United States active nuclear stockpile to 1960 levels.  

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted. Coming to your senses is decreasing the amount of nuclear weapons in the world, not increasing it. Every presidential Administration since Lyndon Johnson in the 60s has decreased the nuclear stockpile.  Trump is single handedly starting a second Cold War. What kept the Cold War from sparking into a full on nuclear war was the principle of MAD (mutually assured destruction).  We would never start a nuclear war with Russia because we knew they could annihilate our civilization, and vice versa. What is concerning about the North Korea crisis (though seemingly counterintuitive) is that we could survive their attacks, making it possible for the Trump administration to decide to go head to head.  On a morning news show Trump seemed to invite this line of logic: “Let it be an arms race.  We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.” Yes, congratulations, your button is bigger and you would win, but with millions and millions of lives lost. Some have even suggested executing a preemptive “bloody nose strike” on North Korea, assuming that eventual war is inevitable.  Pence stated recently that “the era of strategic patience is over.” Though the experts say that peace is still entirely possible and most Americans believe that “North Korea is bluffing,” our leaders seem to be unnecessarily escalating an incredibly dangerous situation.

Nuclear war should simply not be an option and should be avoided at all costs. The power of modern nuclear bombs is incomprehensibly devastating.  Even in 1961, the Tsar bomb detonated with a forces of 3,800 Hiroshima explosions.  The thousands of 21st century nuclear bombs could no doubt wipe civilizations off of the face of the Earth.  Trading nuclear blows with North Korea just to quiet them would be sacrificing millions of lives over a matter of pride.  If the situation is handled by our leaders properly, there should be little worry. Unfortunately that’s a big if.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Property of Errant Publishing Co.
https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/906428/North-Korea-news-Donald-Trump-Kim-Jong-un-World-War-3-US
http://www.businessinsider.com/north-korea-hydrogen-bomb-test-evidence-2017-9
http://www.businessinsider.com/reason-north-korea-needs-nukes-deterrence-vs-expansion-2018-1
http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/05/politics/cia-kim-jong-un-intelligence-profile/index.html
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2017/09/peace-north-korea-170905092328093.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/nuclear-posture-review-trump-huffpost-draft-report-2018-1
https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/903266/North-Korea-news-Kim-Jong-un-Donald-Trump-Moon-Jae-in-South-Korea-World-War-3-latest?utm_source=traffic.outbrain&utm_medium=traffic.outbrain&utm_term=traffic.outbrain&utm_content=traffic.outbrain&utm_campaign=traffic.outbrain

 

Who’s Responsible for the Government Shutdown?

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

At 12:01 AM, on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the government shut down. The Senate proved unable to pass a budget plan for the upcoming year, so all “nonessential” governmental operations have ceased. Now, politicians are delivering scathing speeches, releasing ruthless attack ads, and tweeting ferociously to ascribe blame to various groups and people for the shutdown. Here are some of the most compelling suspects.

Suspect #1: Senate Democrats

THE EVIDENCE: Certainly receiving the most blame from the executive office, the Senate Democrats assembled the necessary votes to prevent the budget plan that passed through the House from becoming law. Republicans argue, therefore, that they blocked the only viable spending plan from becoming law and, thus, are naturally the cause of the shutdown. Democrats, on the other hand, point out that the House bill failed to provide a solution for the DACA kids (dubbed “Dreamers”). Senate Democrats have long held the position that they would reject any bill that fails to negotiate a solution for the Dreamers. Although the bill does continue to fund CHIP, another essential Democratic program that provides American children with healthcare, Democrats still largely rejected the budget.  To their credit, Democrats have been very open to bipartisan negotiations, earning praise from several Republican Senators, such as Senator Jeff Flake.

THE ACCUSERS: President Trump and Congressional Republicans.

VERDICT: The Democrats have been abundantly clear about their positions and are willing to negotiate. Furthermore, they hold a minority in both chambers of Congress, so it seems very hard to pin all of the blame on them. They demand that American children have a right to healthcare and Dreamers are able to continue positively contributing to American society.

Suspect #2: Senate Republicans

THE EVIDENCE: Since Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate, many expect them to keep the government functioning. The failure to pass a budget bill certainly demonstrates a poor ability to lead and continues their struggle to pass legislation, despite their majorities. In fact, multiple Republicans voted against the Mitch McConnell-endorsed spending bill. Democrats accused them of using CHIP and DACA children as political hostages by pinning them against each other, reducing them to political bargaining chips. Judging from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent tweet, it’s hard to blame them.

THE ACCUSERS: Democrats and most Americans.

THE VERDICT: Yes, the Senate Republicans are largely to blame for the government shutdown. Exploiting the lives of Dreamers and threatening the status of CHIP to force a government shutdown was a machiavellian political move to avoid the looming 2018 bloodbath. Many Republicans rejected negotiations with willing Democratic senators. However, they should not receive all of the blame, which leads us to suspect #3.

Suspect #3: President Donald Trump

THE EVIDENCE: Author of The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump has seemingly lost his former dealmaking prowess. After one year in office (with majorities in both chambers of Congress), Trump has narrowly passed one major piece of legislation: tax reform. One might assume that a slow legislative year suggests that the President also spent most of the year under the radar. One would be wrong; the president’s chaotic first year was fittingly capped with a government shutdown. And no one lays out a stronger case against the president than … President Trump himself.

THE ACCUSERS: Democrats, most Americans, and President Trump(?)

THE VERDICT: As Donald Trump once said, “The President has to lead.” He should take his own advice.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
https://goo.gl/WUb7pX

 

 

Prioritizing Justice Over Civility

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

No words resonate with the modern status of racial inequality more than those of Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Over 54 years ago, King reminded African Americans that the Negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride toward freedom would be the white moderate. King defined this individual as more devoted to ‘order’ than to progress. The archetype of the moderate, an individual preferring an absence of tension over the presence of justice, appears in both the fiction of literature and the realities of our own history. President Donald Trump’s ambiguous response to the violence incited by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville revealed Trump’s preference for American order over African-American justice. President Trump’s inexcusable behaviour demonstrates that acting on the grounds of civility with regards to racism prohibits social progress towards justice.  

In present day America, our nation’s foremost priority of civil order threatens social progress towards complete racial equality. In August of 2017, in response to the prejudice-motivated actions of a white nationalist group in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump blamed “many sides” for the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”* Yet, he failed to identify the Alt-Right white supremacist group as the sole perpetrators of this crime. By equating the blame “on both sides” instead of condemning the white-supremacists, Trump undermines the efforts of anti-racists protestors. Essentially, the President reduced the concerns of these individuals to avoid further disruption in Charlottesville. The President’s desire to placate racial animosity hinders the resolution of these recurring conflicts.

Trump, assuming the role of King’s white moderate archetype, prefers to silence the anger of African Americans rather than to combat the racist ideologies of their oppressors. In his initial remarks, Trump identified the anti-racist supporters as the “Alt-Left group,” criticizing that, unlike the Alt-Right group, these counter-demonstrators did not have a permit to protest in Charlottesville. Regardless of whether the anti-racists protesters violated this requirement, their actions to counter the hate-filled speech pervading Charlottesville deserved the President’s praise, not his criticism. Trump’s injection of moral equivalence into a situation of racial discrimination demonstrates his attempt to prioritize the law of the nation over justice for the nation’s African-American people. While other prominent politicians ardently denounced the actions of these white supremacists, Trump defended his moderate response by accusing “fake media” of never being satisfied. Even with backlash from his initial remarks, Trump insisted that “not all of [these protestors] were white supremacists.”  Despite their Confederate flags and “You will not replace us” posters, Trump concluded that these individuals were simply protesting “the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” later questioning “whether the movement to pull down [these] Confederate statues would lead to the desecration of memorials to George Washington.” If Trump were to denounce the cruelties of these white-supremacists, he would legitimize the anger of African-Americans and inspire more individuals to protest these injustices.

However, rather than recognizing the prejudiced truth behind their opposition, Trump justified their protests by dismissing the relevance of counter-protestors concerns. Rationalizing the issue of racial discrimination, Trump subverted all efforts toward social progress. Instead of using his platform to promote change, Trump exploited his power to undermine progressive movements and, in effect, prevent racial equality in America. Trump’s inability to condemn the evident acts of terror in Charlottesville perpetuated the culture of unspoken racism permeating in American society, denying justice to the African American community.

To obtain rightful justice, individuals must disregard the order which infiltrates their surroundings. By opting for social order when justice was required, Trump engaged in a form of covert racism which trivialized the problems of the black community under a false pretense of sustaining “order”. It is this “order” which prevented those silenced in Charlottesville from complete freedom.

Thus, disregard the institution. Renounce the plagued loyalties. Condemn the acts of racism. Equality can only be realized by transcending civility, shouting against the cruelties executed by the moderate, yelling and screaming, deafening the oppressor of justice.

*On August 12, 2017, while protesting the decided removal of a confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, a supporter of the Alt-Right white-supremacist group rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, killing one young woman and injuring dozens.
Graphic Design by Frederique Fyhr
www.cnn.com/2017/08/12/politics/trump-fails-to-condemn-the-alt-right-white-supremacists/index.html
theestablishment.co/white-people-its-time-to-prioritize-justice-over-civility-bfd90b80012e
www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/us/politics/trump-press-conference-charlottesville.html
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