Author Archives: palleyje

Tapping Trump?

The White House and, to be very specific, Donald J. Trump, is not organized nor methodical in its approach to just about anything. Recent examples include:

  • The administration’s decision to (re)consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Obama era initiative the current President excoriated while on the campaign trail,  after withdrawing from negotiations shortly after taking office.
  • The administration’s press statement on Barbara Bush’s passing, which listed the  date as April 17, 2017. I will assume that, if asked, President Trump would not say he was wrong, but particularly clairvoyant last year.
  • A CNN report released today (April 23, 2018) that the President uses his cellphone a lot more in recent days. The move undercuts his Chief of Staff’s ability to restrict access to the President. In other words, President Trump talks to whomever he wants, about whatever he wants.

Of particular interest to me is this: given that the FBI recently raided the President’s personal fixer lawyer’s office and removed a cache of electronic and paper documents, and if the documents reveal serious misdeeds,

Can the US government legally justify wiretapping the President’s phone?



Do the impossible and ignore Donald J. Trump for a minute. Instead, focus on the other story lines coming out of 2017.

Americans will not abide by the Trump administration. Doug Jones pulled off an improbable victory in Georgia. With that win, Georgia did the right thing and rejected a known child predator in Judge Roy Moore. Virginia and New Jersey voters also chose correctly, seeing their respective Democratic gubernatorial candidates to victory.

The unpopular tax cut and the Republican Party’s unwillingness to resolve core social issues (creating a legal framework for Dreamers, funding the Child Health Insurance Program) will continue to drive voters to the polls in November 2018. Similarly, the #metoo campaign places tremendous pressure on key politicians (i.e. Franken), and will be a wedge issue for the 2018 election. Meanwhile, 24 Republican Representatives will retire, along with Senators Hatch, Corker, and Flake. These unresolved social issues, combined with retirements and outrage at the Trump administration, create new openings for Democrats nationwide.

Americans seeking a fair approach to tax reform, an appreciation for foreign diplomacy, and a return to common decency, are many. If 2017 is an inflection point, 2018 midterm elections is cause for optimism.

Be active. Get informed. Go canvass. Most importantly, GO VOTE. For as Virginia’s state elections reveal, every single vote matters.

On Trump

My friend asked me earlier this week if President Trump knows what he is doing. My friend meant it sarcastically, but within a certain context, the answer is markedly different. The answer is, yes.

Donald runs off of one thing: himself. Donald boasts about his wealth, his ability to get deals done, his own name. Donald is worth billions. On the campaign trail Donald claimed that the repeal & replace of the Affordable Care Act would be unbelievably easy, as he could strike a deal that would lower premiums and expand coverage to everyone. His name is his wealth, and he can slap his name on to anything – building, steak, vodka, casino – and mint money. Anybody tarnishing his wealth gets sued or, in the case of Trump University, defended the sh*t out of it…until he was forced to settle out of court.

Donald is doing in the presidency what he has always done in business, which is to use his personality to intimidate, bully, insult, and take advantage. That is Donald’s capital, and he leverages it to make money. He and his family are getting rich off of his new title as President – Trump leased space in Trump Tower to the RNC, and the Secret Service stayed at Trump’s own hotels during business trips (i.e. Mar a Lago). Trump’s International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave. has done well after Trump’s surprise victory; foreign government officials reportedly like to stay there.

Trump’s brand has done well, insofar as it generates wealth and prestige for him and his family. Look outside of that window, however, and there are more fires than he can put out. Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jeff Sessions all had contacts with Russians who jointly conspired to sway the election. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Trump warned the FBI not to look into his finances. Trump is now exploring ways to use the power of the pardon for his family members and – unbelievably – himself. Donald desperately wants to keep his brand untarnished.

For Trump to think that the American people believe his version of truth over concrete facts, he must live in his own reality. In fact, he does. Donald thinks he is worth billions more than he is actually worth, with the difference between actual and perceived worth depending on how he feels that day. Donald believes that more people attended his inauguration than any other. His hotels sport Time Magazine covers of him which boast of his hit show, The Apprentice. Except those covers are fake and Time Magazine asked Trump to remove them. Donald believes that health insurance should cost twelve dollars per year.

Is he joking? No, but the joke is on us. Donald has no grasp of policy, no nuance, no other thought than doing whatever it takes to win, which was to (unknowingly) coordinate with Russia to win an election and, in its latest iteration, to seek the outright repeal the Affordable Care Act with no viable replacement in hand.

The man’s depth of character is as solid as his eponymous University. Donald serves Donald well. The only problem is that President Trump does not know how to serve the public. We are in big trouble.



Picture Diplomacy

Syria launched a chemical attack on its own people, and the world saw the twisted and outright sickening pictures outlining the aftermath. The pictures moved President Trump, too.

The difference is that the pictures moved the man to launch a missile strike against one of Syria’s airbases, and he probably did so simply because he could. That is a chilling thought, because behind his actions lie no real foreign policy or vision. Instead, it is a simple reaction to an alarming provocation and reveals a simple truth – the man does not have a coherent vision when it comes to foreign policy. Examples include: naming China a currency manipulator on day 1 in office, but never did; and, calling NATO obsolete, but now calling it essential.

Going forward, foreign policy decisions will be a reaction to a provocation, which may be real, perceived, or simply something President Trump happens to see while watching Fox News or reading Breitbart. We simply do not know, and neither does the world. An unpredictable man with little respect for critical thinking, let alone facts, can do a lot of damage. At best, it is hard to see how his temperament will bring tangible benefits, and the next round of pictures hitting the airwaves may result in a runaway reaction that brings about something far worse.

March on Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. felt like a ghost town yesterday. Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America yesterday, and the 92.8% of Washington, D.C. that voted for Hillary Clinton could not be found.

Today the city burst into a sea of pink, a vibe of feminism, and tsunami of liberalism. An estimated 500,000 people went to the National Mall, easily doubling Donald supporters’ presence the day before. What a difference a day makes.


Photograph by author. January21, 2017

Nobody should be fooled; dark days are ahead. Traditionally strong alliances will be sorely tested. Canada and Mexico would suffer economically if Trump scraps NAFTA outright. Donald just last week lashed out at Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, which no doubt emboldens nationalists in Germany who want to keep Germany for themselves. If that makes people shudder from echoes of Germany’s not too recent past, it should. New alliances with unsavory characters like Russia’s Vladimir Putin will likely be forged in a mutual pursuit of petrodollars and utter contempt of criticism. On the domestic side, a newly constructed wall and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) appear to be the priorities for the administration. An ultraconservative Supreme Court nominee is in the works, and whose decisions will try to place the brakes on an increasingly-progressive America.

Today the city bled pink, and cities all over the United States of America did the same. It is reassuring to find Americans uniting around a common set of progressive ideas, and uplifting to find Americans rejecting the newly minted President Trump not through hate, but by bonding with love. President Trump may have won the election, but he lost the popular vote, and he sure did not win the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans.

Once again there is hope. Not because the road is short, or easy, or at times outright terrifying. Rather, there is hope because my fellow Americans will stand up for what is right. Today is the start of the resistance. Today is a reminder that love trumps hate.

Donald, good luck enacting your agenda. For come tomorrow, we are here to stop you.

Politico provided the information on Merkel and voting data for Washington, DC




A New World Order?

Writing this post is no easy task because it means recognizing the reality we are now in. Donald Trump is the President Elect, and even writing these words should be a reminder that – even six weeks removed from the election – we should never feel fully comfortable with a President Trump nor his administration. Here are some reflections on Donald so far.

Words matter. Donald’s promises throughout the campaign hinged on the inane to the insane, and were above all provocative. Donald used his words to invoke racism, misogyny, jingoism, and in doing so harnessed a groundswell of anger in his most devoted followers. Donald appealed to the worst characteristics we have as a nation, and used that as a vehicle for victory.

Actions matter more. So far, Donald’s picks for key cabinet positions and national security reflect a desire to convert his words into actionable policy. Two examples:

  • Under a Department of Justice led by a racist senator so vile even a Republican-controlled congress under Reagan would not appoint him to a federal judgeship, mass deportations could become a reality.
  • An Environmental Protection Agency led by a man who sued the Obama administration for its pro-environmental positions, will be redesigned to protect business interests at the expense of environment.

Whether or not his words become actions will depend on those who carry them out. Congress bending to Donald’s will will become the biggest story to follow in 2017.


A disregard for the current world order. Since World War II, the United States has worked with allies to expand trade and lower barriers. Secretary Clinton failed to adequately defend NAFTA and other free trade agreements during the debates. Like them or not, free trade ensures cheap goods arrive at our shores, at the expense of some jobs at home. More importantly, free trade binds nations and economies together. The chances for war decrease proportionally. By contrast, Donald targeted NAFTA consistently through his campaign, with a vow to renegotiate NAFTA on more favorable terms, or leave NAFTA entirely. “Build the Wall” became a rallying cry and, frankly, will become a symbol for the new U.S. style of diplomacy. Trade wars with key partners (i.e. China) will usher in a new era of protectionism, higher prices, and mutual distrust. The chances for war increase proportionally.

Other actions point to a new way of doing business and, by extension, a new world order. Assuming Donald reinstates Bush-era torture, the United States will lose further standing, especially amongst its key allies. Meanwhile, Donald’s warm relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin suggests an era of cooperation between the superpowers, wherein economic sanctions are lifted, oil and gas flow freely, and the two countries cooperate on defeating ISIS. The price of cooperation could easily be a tacit agreement to let Eastern Europe fall back into the Russian orbit.


Facts matter not. Donald lied his way to the presidency by making outlandish remarks, and continues to do so. That Mexicans are rapists and murderers, that the inner cities are crumbling, that millions of people somehow voted illegally in the presidential election. Global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Today, Donald takes very few national security briefings, reaffirming the idea that Donald operates not by fact, but on his gut.


What the future beholds. Working with a U.S. President that cares not for facts or data will be, in short, a challenge.

What should concern every citizen is that a foreign power or an interested party can plant fake news in a story or in a headline that will grab Donald’s attention. Seems outlandish? If Donald has already dismissed factual reports that Russia swayed the U.S. election, then little would keep Russia or the alt-right from spoon feeding news into Donald’s worldview.

Will those who have been elected or appointed to key positions in the U.S. government have the strength, will, conscience, and/or ability to counter Donald? U.S. institutions are indeed resilient. Yet we have failed so many times already. Nobody could stop Donald from winning the primary, nor the presidency. An Electoral College, whose very mission is to stop a potential tyrant from taking power, failed miserably.


Does the average citizen even care? The split in the United States is real, be it republicans vs. democrats, or distinguishing fact from fiction. Did people really believe that Pope Francis endorsed Donald? Did people really believe that Clinton ran a secret child sex ring from the basement of a pizza shop? The answer to both questions is, yes, and both stories got thousands upon thousands of views thanks to social media, even though both stories are unequivocally fake.

Enemies foreign and domestic now have a blueprint and a vehicle for causing unprecedented disruption to domestic and foreign policies they deem unacceptable to their own interests. I count Donald as one of them, as he is a wedge that he will use throughout his presidency to divide us.


In short, until and unless we can even agree upon a common set of facts and rules for human decency, Donald, his appointees, his supporters, and foreign powers can and will exploit this divide.

Those opposed to Donald need to stand up and unite. Failure to do so will cause tremendous damage to democracy and peace, and will usher in a new and dangerous world order.