Another Note: Over the weekend since this was posted the crisis over Russian interference got deeper and deeper with another early morning tweet storm from #45 accusing his predecessor with wiretapping him during the election.
Note: Several years ago the Durham Rotary Club in an effort for members to get to know each other better, began what are still called Rotary Minutes. Each week a Rotarian would have a few minutes at the podium to tell their life story. These often stretch out more than a few minutes and my own may have set a record, which was somewhat embarrassing since I often rail against those who hog the podium and jam up our speakers. The most hard and fast rule in Rotary is that the meeting cannot go past 1:30. Nobody seemed to mind though because, my theme, how my ability to BS had influenced my life… yes, that type of BS… turned out to be more humorous than I had really intended.
Anyway, I’ve always liked to write and it got me through an English degree despite being a slow reader and a lot of time at football practice. I’ve written literally hundreds of articles for the Rotary Club’s website (usually about the programs or other Rotarians’ “Minutes.”) I’ve also been published a few times in the Herald-Sun on the feature page or the opinion page. The first time was when, on a bet, I wrote a review of the movie Rudy and submitted it. I thought I had lost the bet when I got a call from then feature editor and Durham historian, Jim Wise, who said that they wanted to publish my review as a feature and asked if I had any publicity photos from my days at Notre Dame in the mid-sixties. I did and the picture was used with the review, the one and only time it had been used in the 27 years since it had been shot.
I submitted the write-up below to the Herald-Sun and was somewhat disappointed that it was rejected by editor Bob Ashley with a polite suggestion that I turn it turn it into a 250 word or less Letter to the Editor. I was a little annoyed because I thought it was pretty good and well documented and even if I wanted to edit it down to 250 words, I didn’t want to be in with the crazies that populate the letters to the editor. So I’m a snob, but I do understand his reasoning.
I don’t really have any credentials to pontificate about the topic that I covered, i.e., the current Russian crisis. Everything else of mine that the paper has printed as a “guest columnist” has either been as a has been-jock or as a Rotarian. I did take one International Relations course in college but that was the same year as the publicity picture was taken. I missed that class more than any other class I ever took because I was in a leg cast, on crutches and had to go across campus in the snow and up two flights of stairs with a notebook tucked in my pants. When I got there, usually late, by the time I was seated at a desk I was soaking wet from sweat under my jacket and…didn’t learn much.
Anyway, this site was originally supposed to be about Durham and real estate but I am taking this stuff more seriously than I’ve taken anything in a long time and I almost can’t help myself. The process of writing about it helps me sort out the whole situation and who knows, posting it here and on Facebook, might get it in front of more eyes than if it was in the failing Herald-Sun… no, no, I’m not going to fall into that trap even if I’m piqued at the paper a little now. I hope they survive and prosper as a strong voice for Durham. Here’s what I had to say:
Whatever you think of our 45th president, you have to acknowledge he is either an expert or well coached in the art of framing his messages. During the campaign, all his serious opponents were given sobriquets that he repeated over and over again even when the condemning adjective was more accurately applied to him. He gave us “Crooked Hillary,” “Lying Ted” and “Little Marco.” Heard enough times many people are inclined to believe it without question.
However, his characterization of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “strong leader of his people” is revealing on several levels besides his propaganda skills. This attempt to re-frame Putin’s prevailing image as a dictatorial thug, may be the least important of these levels. The real problem is that #45 isn’t lying this time. He really does admire Putin and has been saying so for a long time. This is from the Larry King Show on CNN in 2007:
“Look at Putin…what he’s doing with Russia…I mean, you know, what’s going on over there. I mean this guy has done…whether you like him…he’s doing a great job in rebuilding the image of Russia and also rebuilding Russia period.”
In September of last year during the campaign DT and his running mate were both saying that Putin is a “stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country.” Never mind that while Obama was being held in check by the two other branches of government, especially an obstructionist Congress, Putin was not.
In spite of that, while the United States and Europe were recovering slowly from the recession and a 2% decline in GDP, Russia’s GDP dropped a staggering 40% between 2013 and 2015.
So it is unlikely that #45 is looking to Putin as a model for building the economy, increasing jobs or decreasing the poverty rate here in the United States.
Even if #45 has never articulated in public what he sees as Putin’s strength, it is clear from two other re-framings that he is attempting. The most obvious is his disdain for the press that criticizes or opposes him.
This is not just peevishness because virtually every major newspaper in the country endorsed Hillary Clinton or refused to endorse him. When he talks about “fake news” at CNN or the “failing New York Times,” or, more recently, the press as the “enemy of the American people,” he’s taking his cue from Putin whose control of the media in Russia has been well documented by Freedom House and is widely believed to include the assassination of recalcitrant journalists. What’s left is a highly nationalistic press, which, not coincidentally, we also see emerging here. The objective of this re-framing is to begin delegitimizing the free and independent press that has been one of the pillars of our democracy.
The second re-framing #45 is attempting is of the judicial system. Again, he is not just reacting emotionally to a rebuff when he talks about a “so-called judge.” This is a man that has lived on the edge of legality all his life and is familiar with our judicial system through the thousands of lawsuits he or his companies have been involved in. Re-framing our image of the Judiciary is just the first step in dominating our Judicial system. If he follows Putin’s lead, the next steps to look for are politicizing and corrupting the Judicial system through his appointment power.
For these reasons, the rapidly expanding Indivisible movement and other progressive organizations, are strongly recommending that our representatives in the U.S. House and Senate insist on an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the links between Russia and #45’s campaign, transition team, and evolving administration, with special focus on the sabotage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and #45’s tax returns.
Best case, the investigation will reveal nothing more than a desire on #45’s part to open doors for his sons to build hotels in Russia. The worst case might be found in the dystopian fears that have sent many to re-read and study George Orwell’s 1984.
Sources of Data:
- CNN http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin-quotes/
- Freedom House https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/russia
- CNBC http://www.cnbc.com/2016/09/09/vladimir-putin-is-not-strong-when-it-comes-to-russias-economy.html
- PBS http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/interviews/professor-cognitive-science-george-lakoff/
- USA Today http://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/trump-lawsuits/