SILING LABUYO: The audacity of lies
President Donald Trump got rave reviews on his first address at the joint session of Congress last Tuesday. The public gave him thumbs up for the tone and boldness of his proposals – from the pro-defense budget to the repeal of Obamacare to which he got a standing ovation. Trump simply was a different person – not the tweeting type, but a more presidential person. The betting now goes to how long he will be able to carry-on or maintain such persona. Trump, after all, is a product of Hollywood and an expert when it comes to television’s make believe images. Many thought that it was impossible for him to possibly recover from those video revelations that captured Trump’s bragging on a live microphone about how he was able to gain access to Miss Universe candidates’ dressing rooms unexpectedly and seeing naked beautiful women unable to cover themselves from the unexpected visitor. On the video, he bragged that he could do so because he owns the company running the show. Furthermore, that he grab women by their genitals and get away with it because of his fame. But when exposed during the presidential campaign, he out rightly branded the video as fake and that the women who surfaced making similar allegations were lying. Just like that, without even flinching that he could lie through his face and not give away the lie. There were other examples during the campaign that a statement was attributed to Trump with a clip to boot but Trump would easily call it a lie despite himself being captured on camera making the statement. During his speech at the joint sessions, networks were fact-checking him left and right on some of his claims. Classic campaign rhetoric on immigration, fiscal matters, criminality, and fight with the media were delivered but with a better tone. The thing is, the speech’s better tone does not make a lie true. He cited for example that he was deporting undocumented immigrants who were criminals and have committed atrocious crimes against Americans despite evidence to the contrary. He also demonized Obamacare as “imploding” because of unbelieve rise in premiums and that the Affordable Care Act was a disaster. Trump of course was oblivious of the fact that throughout the country, many Americans are confronting their congressmen and senators regarding the very subject and their concerns about such repeal. One notable word that was not mentioned during Trump’s 60 plus minutes speech was “Russia.” Not a peep. People were expecting him to say something about Russian relations especially after his vice president, secretary of defense, and secretary of homeland security delivering some tough words for Russia at the recent NATO conference in Munich, Germany. Or at the very least, mention his old refrain about how the United States can be friends with Russia. Nada! Was it because the word “Russia” is toxic nowadays in Washington? That congressional leaders are running out of excuses on how to prevent an investigation on the Russian interference in the last election? The Russian connection has already claimed the job of then National Security Adviser Mike Flynn who lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time when the Obama administration was about to announce additional sanctions on Russia and declaring some Russian embassy personnel persona non grata as punishment for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, John Podesta. The uncharacteristic response from Russian President Vladimir Putin of not retaliating to the Obama actions lent credence to the allegations that Mike Flynn might have violated the Logan Act that prohibits citizens from inferring with the affairs of the state relevant to an adversarial government. Now comes another bombshell regarding the Russian matter that the Attorney General himself, Jeff Sessions made also two contacts with Russia’s top spy in the US during the campaign. The contacts or conversations themselves could be legal but the fact that then Senator S essions denied knowing anyone from the Trump campaign was involved in such activities might open him charges of perjury or misleading congress – charges that could cost him his job. More than that, a more independent investigation now is more proper than confining them at the committee level. One of the hardest things for Trump to deliver is the notion that he could bring back old manufacturing jobs that are now overseas. Add to that is his promise of a beautiful wall fronting the southern hemisphere that borders Mexico. His famous oratory that the Mexicans will pay for it has now become illusory given Mexico’s defiance of not paying for the wall. Trump’s gambit is either abrogating NAFTA or renegotiating it. These options are rather self-serving because Canada and Mexico are parts of it too and they are not keen on either of two options because neither is acceptable, even if it results in a trade war. The latest from the Trump administration now is that a border tax will be imposed on products coming Mexico. If so, Mexico still does not pay for it but instead the American consumers are the one who will be paying for it. Even if the cost of constructing the wall is included in the FY-18 budget, Conservative Republicans will not go for it unless it is paid for through other means like cutting domes tic budgetary outlays involving entitlement reform and messing around with social security. Clearly, Trump is always talking to his supporters when he talks about these things. His supporters believe in alternative facts that Trump and others in his administration believes them to be true. As congressman Elias Cummings said, “Alternative facts are falsehood!” yes indeed. But it does not mean that Trump will stop because after all, he is just delivering on his campaign promises. When Trump rolled out the travel ban affecting seven countries in the Middle East, chaotic scenes in airports throughout the US ensued along with demonstrations against the travel ban for being “discriminatory.” The courts agreed and Trump’s executive order was sent to the freezer. Despite such setback, Trump promised to issue another travel ban because “this is a matter of national interest.” Thus the urgency was because of such terrorist threat. Weeks later, the administration is still tweaking it and would probably drop Iraq from the seven Muslim countries affected by the ban. The delaying tactics have not becomes so obvious that there was no such urgency in the first place but only an effort to deliver on a campaign promise. Donald Trump is clearly unsuitable for the job of the presidency given his bad temperament, lack of experience and basic requisite skill to comprehend the complexity of the presidency. He came to the job without a plan and it showed. His administration is in disarray and lacking the needed manpower to run an efficient government because many critical jobs are still not filled. Clearly the reason for such vacancy is not because of the hiring freeze that Trump ordered but perhaps not a lot of people wants to work under his administration or just plain incompetence that his major player really are clueless about their jobs. Trump’s incompetence is obvious but many of the Republican leaders would rather have him thinking that they could manipulate him into adopting a conservative agenda but they risking at their own peril comes the next election. Trump is destroying the Republican brand right before their eyes and they are not even blinking!