Bobo and Collins

Bobo has decided to ponder the “Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump” and tells us that it took generations to evolve to Donald Jr.’s lack of ethics.  “Socrates” from Verona, NJ will have something to say.  Ms. Collins plaintively asks “Couldn’t We Just Trade Presidents?”  She says American citizens watching Trump’s visit to Paris must have wondered how we got the wrong guy.  “Economic Anxiety” and ohmygod her emails…  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump’s grandfather Friedrich emigrated to the United States when he was 16, in 1885. He ventured west to seek his riches and finally settled in Seattle, where he opened a restaurant that, according to family historian Gwenda Blair, likely included a section for a bordello.

Gold fever hit the Pacific Northwest, and Grandfather Trump moved up to Bennett, British Columbia. It was a fast, raucous, money-grabbing atmosphere and Trump opened the Arctic Hotel, which had a bar, a restaurant and, according to an advertisement in the Dec. 9, 1899, edition of The Bennett Sun newspaper, “private boxes for ladies and parties.” Each box apparently came equipped with a bed and a scale to weigh the gold dust that was used to pay for the services offered in it.

Friedrich returned to Germany, married and was sent back to the U.S. by German authorities (he hadn’t fulfilled his military service requirement) and amassed a modest fortune.

Frederick, Donald’s father, began building middle-class housing. Profiles describe an intense, success-obsessed man who worked seven days a week and encouraged those around him to be killers in their field. “He didn’t like wimps,” his nephew told Philip Weiss of The Times. “He thought competition made you sharper.”

He cared deeply about appearances. “Freddy was always very neat, a Beau Brummell,” Sam LeFrak told Weiss. “He had a mustache, and that mustache was always right, perfect.” He was also remorseless. In an interview with Michael D’Antonio, Donald Trump described his father as “very tough” and “very difficult” and someone who “would never let anything go.”

Biographies describe a man intent on making his fortune and not afraid of skating near the edge to do so. At one point, according to Politico, federal investigators found that Frederick used various accounting measures to collect an extra $15 million in rent (in today’s dollars) from a government housing program, on top of paying himself a large “architect’s fee.” He was hauled before investigating committees on at least two occasions, apparently was arrested at a K.K.K. rally in Queens (though it’s not clear he was a member), got involved in a slush fund scandal with Robert Wagner and faced discrimination allegations.

I repeat this history because I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing; to take the normal human yearning to be good and replace it with a single-minded desire for material conquest; to take the normal human instinct for kindness and replace it with a law-of-the-jungle mentality.

It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr.

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life. When the Russian government offer came across his email, there doesn’t seem to have been a flicker of concern. Instead, he replied with that tone of simple bro glee that we remember from other scandals.

“Can you smell money?!?!?!?!” Jack Abramoff emailed a co-conspirator during his lobbying and casino fraud shenanigans. That’s the same tone as Don Jr.’s “I love it” when offered a chance to conspire with a hostile power. A person capable of this instant joy and enthusiasm isn’t overcoming any internal ethical hurdles. It’s just a greedy boy grabbing sweets.

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

Successful business people, like successful politicians, are very ambitious, but they generally have some complementary moral code that checks their greed and channels their drive. The House of Trump has sprayed an insecticide on any possible complementary code, and so they are continually trampling basic decency. Their scandals may not build to anything impeachable, but the scandals will never end.

But I’ll bet you voted for him, Bobo…  Here’s what “Socrates” has to say:

“The modern Republican party’s great-grandfathers produced Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, two Presidents who fought for human decency, adored the common good and spoke truth to ugly moneyed power.

That same party then got hooked on 0.1% cash and millionaire public policy camouflaged by the smokescreens of religious fundamentalism, white supremacy, patriotism and Guns R Us anarchy.

This political party produced Ronald Reagan in 1980, a B-movie actor great at reading his script who introduced tax-cut dementia to America, demonized government, eliminated the Fairness Doctrine, and tripled the national debt by implementing the intellectual, moral and economic bankruptcy of right-wing tax cuts while eviscerating the safety net, good government and balanced budgets.

America has yet to recover from this immoral charlatan and right-wing stage actor.

Ever since the Reign of Reckless Reagan, the ethically dead Republican Party has pressed down hard on the ‘no new tax’ and ‘government is the problem’ accelerators and destroyed the common good while gilding the rich in tax cuts, free-market nihilism, and a refusal to engage in honest debate.

I repeat this history because I don’t think Republican moral bankruptcy was built in a day; it took 35 years of mindless Reaganism to produce the morally bankrupt Donald Trump and bankrupt Republican Congress.

It took a generation of Republican hacks to produce the Russian-Republican Party, but they finally succeeded.

Congratulations.”

Now here’s Ms. Collins:

Why can’t Emmanuel Macron be our president?

American citizens watching Donald Trump’s visit to Paris must have wondered how we got the wrong guy. Macron seemed so smart, so charming. The fact that he didn’t father any children would not normally be a big selling point, but right now we are yearning for a president with no offspring.

Speaking of which, the Paris journey was dogged by questions about that meeting Donald Trump Jr. took during the presidential campaign. The one at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who was advertised as the bearer of “information that would incriminate Hillary.”

Every day the meeting guest list grows larger. First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner was there. Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager, was there. Rob Goldstone, the British P.R. guy who likes to post pictures of himself in funny hats was there — representing a Russian pop singer whose dad is besties with Vladimir Putin.

Latest addition: Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer who’s currently a lobbyist in Washington. Akhmetshin is rather well known in our nation’s capital, where he was recently mentioned by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter complaining about people who register as lobbyists when they really ought to be registering as foreign agents.

And Akhmetshin might have brought somebody else along. Possibly an interpreter. Or something. This information came from Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, who is not to be confused with Jared Kushner’s lawyer or President Trump’s lawyer.

Pop Quiz: Who else do you think might have been present for that Trump Tower meeting?

A) Ivanka

B) Tiffany

C) Ryan Seacrest

D) Boris and Natasha

Donald Trump was not at the meeting. Didn’t even know about it. Until later. Even then only barely. Lately, when he’s defending his son, Trump has taken to using terms that suggest Junior was accused of cheating on a Boy Scout swim test. Talking with reporters on his flight to Paris, Trump called his eldest “a good boy. He’s a good kid.” This was, as many people observed, while he was on his way to a meeting with the president of France, who is, at 39, exactly the same age as Donald Trump Jr.

On that plane ride, the president also took a question about whether he was really serious about building a Mexican wall with solar panels on top. The answer is, totally. Also, the wall is going to be transparent.

You heard me. This administration is very committed to transparency in everything from releasing Junior’s emails 10 minutes before The New York Times was going to publish them to the border barrier.

“You have to be able to see through it,” the president of the United States explained, because otherwise “when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff. It’s over.”

Once he was back on the ground, Trump had a great time in Paris. Macron pulled out all the stops. Dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Big parade with lots of guns and airplanes. Although the French were celebrating Bastille Day, they added in the 100th anniversary of American troops’ entry into World War I. So you got the impression everything was really all about Trump, which is the best way to our president’s heart.

Trump was so touched he grabbed Macron in a handshake that evolved through so many expressions of affection it could have been featured on a dating site. He also attempted to compliment Macron’s glamorous 64-year-old wife by saying, “You’re in such good shape.”

We should note here that Melania Trump did fine. The Parisian press praised her wardrobe. Unlike her husband, she didn’t say anything weird. Nobody accused her of having sinister meetings with Russians. Give the woman some credit.

Macron was such a successful host that Trump seemed to develop second thoughts on the global warming thing. “And yeah, I mean, something could happen with respect to the Paris Accord. … And if it happens, that’ll be wonderful. …” Trump also took back his previous blasts at Paris, a city he’d claimed wasn’t safe because of the terrorists they’d let come in.

“You know what, it’s going to be just fine, because you have a great president,” he said. The sun rises and sets, and then a new reality is born.

The matter of Junior and the Russian meeting did come up during a brief press conference Trump and Macron held. (Trump, who was supposed to call on two American journalists, called on one American and one Chinese TV reporter.) “I will not interfere in U.S. domestic policy,” said Macron. Trump, who liked that answer a lot, said his son was “a great young man” who did something “a lot of people would do.”

It’s beginning to sound like a lot of people did do it. Of course, they were all either Russians and their associates or top members of the Trump inner circle. If only they’d met in a transparent room.

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