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Posts published in “Richardson”

The right questions


No one should be impressed that the president has vowed not to ask prospective Supreme Court nominees their positions on Roe v. Wade.

First, his vows -- marital and otherwise -- are worthless.

Second, he doesn't need to ask the question because the Federalist Society has vetted the candidates. Only those who received the Federalist Society's stamp of approval made Trump's short list, and a candidate wouldn't be on the short list if they hadn't answered the question in the "right" -- make that the "far-right" -- way.

We can also be sure that the Federalist Society knows where their approved candidates stand on issues pertaining to voting rights, dark money in politics, environmental regulation, consumer protection, workers' rights, and every other topic important to the Koch Brothers. No one on the president's short list is about to vote to overrule Citizens United.

Undoubtedly, the folks Trump is interviewing are cut from the same ideological cloth as Thomas and Alito and, most recently, Gorsuch. They are predictable votes for repeal of the 20th Century, at least everything from the New Deal forward.

That being the case, journalists might want to focus on whether the president is asking some questions which the Federalist Society may have overlooked in its pre-election vetting. Such questions would include:

"Must a president respond to a subpoena?"

"Can a president be indicted?""

"Can a president pardon himself?"

"If a president pardons his alleged co-conspirators is that obstruction of justice?"

"If I appoint you to the Court and a case raising any one of these issues comes before you, will you recuse yourself -- or will you have my back?" This one is likely to be asked in a less direct manner – perhaps with a subtle nod and a knowing wink. But however the question is asked, it comes down to the president’s insistence on loyalty, not to the United States Constitution, but to Donald J. Trump.

I'm betting the president, as always focused on his own welfare, is especially eager to know where the finalists stand on these questions. I want to know if asking these questions is part of his interview process, either formally or informally. And if it is, we — the American people — need to know the candidates’ answers.

Suffer the children


The National Lampoon was a humor magazine popular through the 1970s and most of the 1980s. Occasionally, the humor was rather dark as when, in January, 1973, the magazine’s cover featured a picture of an adorable dog with a gun pointed to its head. The caption read: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

That supposed joke was not a serious attempt at extortion, but it illustrates, rather literally, what the practice of extortion looks like. One committing extortion attempts to obtain something, most commonly – but not necessarily – money, through force or threats.

With his inhumane policy of separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at our southern border, Trump is serious as a heart attack. And he is attempting to procure congressional funding for his precious, porous wall by not only threatening to forcibly take children from their parents, but actually doing so – and in the cruelest manner possible.

Trump is an accomplished shakedown artist. His means of persuasion are straight out of Tony Soprano’s playbook. Two months ago, he threatened nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, and two weeks ago, he got his pay-off with wall-to-wall coverage of his historic meeting with the world’s most oppressive dictator. He has imposed tariffs – and threatened to impose additional tariffs – to much the same effect. It seems he will burn down the house to get his way.

But this horrible business at the southern border is uniquely revolting. He is using, and most certainly scarring, innocent children for leverage. He has said, “They’re not so innocent.” I have to believe the vast majority of Americans know better.

One of the most horrifying things we have learned in recent days is that those charged with watching over the children warehoused in cages are not allowed to comfort the children grieving the loss of their mothers and fathers. They cannot hold them, or stroke their hair, or hug them. After all, there could be liability issues.


The number of lawsuits that will be filed as a result of the harm wrongfully done to these children by the U.S. government will be astronomical. And, God forbid, that a child be raped, or maimed, or dies in a Trump Concentration Camp.

These children of desperate parents coming to our border begging for asylum have something in common with other children, who Trump has treated badly. The children of Flint, Michigan, and Puerto Rico are also children of color, and all of these children are suffering. Those forcibly taken from their parents will, almost certainly, be damaged most of all.

But Mr. “Art of the Deal,” treats these children as if they were pawns on a chessboard or, in his words – “a negotiating tool.”

It’s almost as if he thinks they are less than human.



When our ethically bankrupt president declared that Kim Jong Un “loves his people,” and that “his people love him,” I was reminded of a Party slogan in George Orwell’s novel “1984” – “War is peace/freedom is slavery/ignorance is strength.”

In “1984,” the Party manipulated people by conditioning them to believe it possible to accept two mutually opposing, contradictory beliefs.

This is exactly what Trump now asks of us. He would have us accept the proposition that total repression and violence is love, that people who have been cowed into complete submission love the man who terrorizes them.

Is it an act of love to rape? Is it an act of love to torture? Is it an act of love to force a woman against her will to have an abortion? Is it an act of love to imprison and enslave? Is it an act of love to exterminate? Is it an act of love to starve people to death?

Is mass murder of hundreds of thousands of people an act of love?

Of course none of these atrocities are acts of love. They are the very opposite. And these are the acts by which Kim Jong Un terrorizes his people and demands absolute and unquestioning devotion. Loyalty born of fear isn’t real. It’s a twisted terror-stricken distortion of loyalty, and it certainly isn’t love.

“Double-speak” is a form of propaganda that is both illogical and irrational; it contradicts empirical evidence and buries the truth. It enables a dictator to control the people by stripping them of their humanity, to maintain power in perpetuity by destroying the capacity for independent thought.

If Trump can sell us the absurd notion that Kim Jong Un loves his people when his regime routinely oppresses, tortures, and murders them, then he can sell us anything.

For instance, he can make us believe that he, Trump, “loves” the children forcibly taken from their parents’ arms at our southern border and warehoused like animals in cages; or he can make us believe that he “loves” the victims of gun violence even as his policies ensure that there will be many more such victims.

He wants us to disbelieve the evidence of our own senses – from the trivial (e.g. the size of the crowd at his Inauguration) to the critical (the collective consensus of the scientific community on climate change).

Many of our fellow citizens have succumbed to Trump’s unrelenting propaganda campaign. They believe the lies. And the more lies they hear, the bigger the lies they are told, the more they believe.

Resistance requires mental toughness. Every time you hear a Trump lie, register it as a lie. Call it by its name. Accept the fact that this battle for truth, for norms, for our country’s very soul is not a 50 yard sprint; it’s a marathon.

We must remain mentally tough. We must never acquiesce to double-speak. And we must never conflate hate with love.

Fan boy in chief


There’s an old saying that goes “show me who your friends are, and I’ll show you who you are.” Increasingly, our president is showing us who his friends are – and aren’t. And in the process, we’re learning ever more about the infantile narcissist who occupies the Oval Office.

In the aftermath of the Singapore summit between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, I envisioned the follow-up letter Mr. Trump might send the dictator of the most oppressive regime on the planet. It might read something like this:
Dear Mr. Chairman,

I was so honored to meet you!

Some of my nervous Nelly advisors told me we would have little in common, but – boy – were they ever wrong.

I was especially impressed to learn of your execution of your Deputy Premier for Education for having a disrespectful posture in a meeting. The NFL owners sure could learn something from you.

And you rightly consider Christianity a threat to your regime. You are wise to bar its practice in North Korea. (Let’s keep this between us. Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson might not understand.)

To your great credit you have set new standards for sexual violence. (I’m embarrassed to say that my compulsion to “grab ‘em by the pussy,” pales in comparison.)

You might be a rough guy, but you are the very model of an inclusive leader. Your willingness to torture, enslave, starve and murder hundreds of thousands of your countrymen on political, religious, racial and gender grounds is really something, top drawer all the way.

And it turns out we're both anti-choice. I don't think women should have control over their bodies and neither do you. We're sort of on different sides of the same coin. I think we should punish women who have abortions. You force women to have abortions. Either way, we get to tell women what to do with their bodies.

And talk about the rule of law. You’re as ruthless with children as you are with adults. Why cut them any slack? I’ll see if we can send some ICE agents to Pyongyang to pick up a few pointers.

Yes, I was so honored to meet you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to welcoming you with open arms to the White House.

In the meantime, I just want to reiterate my view that “there’s a special place in hell” for that whiner from Canada.

Your biggest fan boy,

Donald J. Trump

It’s torture


When I was a little girl growing up in the Orchards of Lewiston, Idaho, in the 1950s, it was a wonderful adventure to take the bus downtown with my mom, something we did perhaps once a month. I remember passing under the canopy of trees on Eleventh Avenue, the thrill I got from pulling the string that signaled the driver that ours was the next stop and the joy of sitting at the soda fountain inside Newberry's on Main Street enjoying a burger and shake.

But one day when I was four, the adventure turned into a nightmare.

Somehow, I had gotten separated from my mom. I remember the shock of suddenly realizing she was nowhere near. I ran frantically from aisle to aisle, the store suddenly becoming a terrifying maze, my heart pounding. I called out loudly, repeatedly, urgently, "Mama! Mama! Where are you, Mama?!" I was desperately frightened and remembered thinking, "What if I can't find her? What if I never see her again?"

Maybe only a few minutes passed before Mom found me and gave me an earful for wandering off. But it seemed like an eternity. The fact that I remember this incident with painful clarity all these years later is significant because it speaks to the inevitable trauma being experienced by little children, some as young as 18 months, who are forcibly taken from their mothers at the U.S. border.

I imagine the terror these children experience, which multiplies my short-lived anxiety many times over, and fear the imprint of anguish will stay with them all their lives. They cannot understand why they are being taken away from their mothers; they cannot be sure they will ever see their mothers again. And their mothers must be no less terrified to lose their children to nameless, faceless bureaucrats who, in the indifferent words of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will see to it that “the children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever.”

In a recent guest opinion in the Washington Post, Jaana Juvonen, a professor of development psychology at UCLA, and Jennifer Silvers, an assistant professor of developmental neuroscience at UCLA, make a compelling case for the proposition that separating vulnerable children from their parents is not only inhumane, but torture. They write:

“Children arriving at the U.S. border in search of asylum are frequently a particularly vulnerable population. In many cases fleeing violence and persecution, they also encounter hunger, illness and threats of physical harm along their hazardous journey to the border. This combination of experiences puts migrant children at high risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Such anxiety and mood disorders can be debilitating and intractable, particularly when they start in childhood. . . . The practice of separating families at the border is reprehensible and – based on science – goes against international and U.S. law, because the suffering it inflicts constitutes torture of children.”

Now imagine the exponential damage done to children who were not only taken from their parents at the border but are now unaccounted for. Credible news services tell us that as many as 1,500 children seized from their mothers at the border are now "lost.” For those children and their parents, the question of reunification may not be one of “When?” but “Whether?” There is no certainty that they will see one another again. Happy reunions– or reunions of any type – are not a given.

Several people familiar with the failed bureaucratic response to protecting migrant children taken from their parents express concern that the children could be subjected to various forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, and even human trafficking.

There is no time to waste. Our nation has a moral obligation to find these missing children and reunite them with their parents. This is a national imperative because for these children, every minute of separation from their mothers is not just painful, it’s torture.

Dear Brad Little:


Congratulations on winning the Republican nomination for governor. After begging Democratic voters to register as Republicans to help you defeat Raul Labrador – and getting quite a few takers – you hustled so far to the right that you became a pathetic echo of your opponents.

One of your most repugnant commercials, an ad attacking Raul Labrador, repeatedly referred to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.” You claimed Labrador had voted for welfare for “illegals,” defended criminal “illegals,” and supported amnesty for “illegals.” By my count, you used the term “illegals,” six times in a 30 second ad.

Your incessant use of this pejorative and divisive term was unconscionable. When you refer to people as “illegals,” you use the term as a noun, implying that the person’s very existence – as opposed to their actions – is criminal. Writing for the Huffington Post, Robert Stribley observed that “[t]he term seems especially egregious when the undocumented immigrants are typically coming here because American businesses are actively courting them.”

During the run-up to the primary election, it often appeared that you and Raul and Tommy couldn’t cozy up close enough to Trump; your ad might have been taken straight from Trump’s playbook of innuendo and slurs. Earlier this week, the president ranted, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals . . . “

A day after making this sweeping comment, Trump “clarified” that his remark was meant to be directed at members of MS-13, an especially vicious and brutal gang. But that’s not what he said. Unmistakably, his initial statement conflated MS-13 gang members with all immigrants, implying they were less than human.

Where have we heard this before – this crass characterization of a group of people as something less than human, as “animals?” Of course, you know the answer. We heard it from Adolph Hitler who said, “Jews are not people; they are animals.” It is so much easier to exterminate people when one does not see them as human. Calling them “animals” serves that purpose. So does labeling them “illegals.” It’s a slippery slope.

The language we use in our public discourse matters. Other law-breakers are not referred to as “illegals.” So why apply this polarizing and demeaning term to people unlawfully in the country? One need not condone illegal immigration to treat others with dignity. One need not approve of open borders to refrain from dehumanizing others.

You won your party’s nomination, Brad, and you won it, in part, with this despicable ad. Now grow up and start acting like a thoughtful, decent human being. And remember – in the words of Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel – “No human being is illegal.”

Making people think


There has been a disturbance in the force. Bill Hall has passed away.

The first time I met Bill Hall I was an impressionable 13-year-old in the company of my dad, a force of nature whose esteem was not easily earned. Pointing to a gentleman some way from us on the sidewalk, Dad said, “There’s Bill Hall. I want you to meet him. He’s the editorial page editor for the Lewiston Morning Tribune.”

I could tell by Dad’s tone of voice that he held this Bill Hall fellow in high regard.

As he saw us approaching, Bill greeted my Dad with mingled wariness and respect, no doubt bracing for Dad to hold forth, as he was wont to do, on the latest issue of the day. But that day Dad wanted only to introduce Bill to his young daughter and to impress upon her his belief that journalists were important members of the community and political writers had tremendous ability to influence public opinion.

Bill was gracious and greeted me warmly. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, we went on our way, and I remember Dad saying, “I don’t always agree with Bill Hall, but he does what an opinion writer ought to do – he makes people think.”

Indeed he did.

I was a nerdy kid, one who read the editorial page before I read the funny page. I cut my teeth on politics reading Bill’s columns. It was the late 60s and there was no dearth of fodder for a decidedly independent-minded political writer. With the support and encouragement of publisher Bud Alford and later his son Butch, Bill pulled no punches. His hard-hitting commentary was frequently punctuated with humor.

Bill delighted in hoisting self-satisfied office-holders on their own smug petards. And though his world view was most often left of center, he did not hesitate to hold to account those he admired when he thought they fell short.

In my senior year in high school, I was among a group of students who had somehow come to understand that Bill enjoyed our company and would welcome us to his home. He loved to share his thinking about contemporary issues, and was eager to hear our take on the topics of the day.

Bill could be provocative, both in print and in person, and occasionally he would say something a bit outrageous to elicit a response. If you didn't catch the twinkle in his eye, you might think he meant it.

Once, when a group of us was visiting, Bill said something with which I disagreed, and I offered another perspective. He forcefully rebutted, and I was quick to concede my point. Bill wouldn’t have it. “Betty, defend your position. Don’t just accept mine.” And so I did. He could not have been prouder.

Two decades later, in my bid for Congress, Bill was in the room when the Lewiston Tribune staff grilled me on any number of issues. I stated my positions without hesitation and, when pressed, defended them with vigor. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Bill remembered, as I did, his early instruction.

The last time I saw Bill Hall was at the memorial service for another north Idaho statesman, Mike Mitchell. Several months earlier, with the help of his beloved wife Sharon, Bill had penned a column letting his readers know that the column would be his last, explaining he had been diagnosed not only with cancer, but with progressive cognitive impairment.

Yet, as I visited with Bill after the service, he seemed his old self – bright-eyed, quick-witted, and, though the circumstances were sad, delighted to see old friends. We had a warm reunion, and I was about to thank him for having a profound impact on my thinking and writing, for encouraging a shy, but civic-minded high school student to express herself well and stay true to her convictions.

But then he and I were both drawn into conversations with others, and the moment passed. Later, I thought to myself, “I will see Bill Hall again before long and thank him then.”

Death has a way of bringing one up short.

When I learned yesterday afternoon that Bill had passed away, my first thought was profound regret that I had not explicitly thanked him for his mentorship and told him how much his friendship had meant to me. But believing, as I do, that our departed loved ones know our hearts, I thank him now.

I thank Bill Hall for years of informed and influential prose that stimulated civic discussion, making his readers wiser and our communities better. I thank him for his tutorials, often impromptu, on rhetoric, argument, and logic. And I thank him for modeling excellence in punditry.

Finally, I thank Bill for his many years of friendship and for seeing some potential in a teenager with strong opinions who wanted to make a difference in the world and encouraging her to do so. I expect I speak for many in noting that Bill was, quite simply, an extraordinary mentor. As my Dad rightly noted so many years ago, he made people think.

Indeed, there has been a disturbance in the force.

No joke


White House aide Kelly Sadler recently responded to Sen. John McCain's principled opposition to Gina Haspel, President Trump's nominee for CIA director. In an offensive remark that she later called a “joke,” Sadler dismissed McCain’s concerns saying "he's dying anyway.”

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, McCain was almost killed during the Vietnam War when he was shot down over Hanoi. Over his five and a half years as a prisoner of war, despite episodes of torture, McCain refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation. He chose to stay with other imprisoned Americans, soldiers whose fathers – unlike his – could not pull strings.

The serious injuries McCain sustained during the war left him with lifelong physical disabilities. He cannot raise his arms above his shoulders and walks with an off-kilter gait. Now he has been diagnosed with a truly horrible brain cancer. He is indeed dying.

Against this backdrop, it is impossible to construe Ms. Sadler’s utterly insensitive and cruel statement as a “joke.” But we shouldn’t be surprised at this latest display of incivility. Vicious, ignorant rhetoric has become a hallmark of this White House. It started with the president, who set the tone for vile personal attacks from the outset of his presidential campaign. He has been the very model of a crude school-yard bully. It is not remarkable that his staff emulates him.

Trump, who repeatedly avoided military service due to supposed bone spurs, famously denied that McCain was a hero, sneering, “I like people that weren't captured." This hateful barb came from a man who never donned our nation’s uniform, who called himself a “brave soldier” for avoiding STDs and who compared the risks occasioned by his promiscuous sex life with the dangers of serving in Vietnam.

McCain’s politics, more often than not, are at odds with my own; but I would never, not for a second, deny that he is a hero and a patriot.

Trump and those in his administration who belittle Sen. McCain, and who, like General Kelly, approve the disparagement by their silence, have come to define what it means to be a Republican.

Somewhere, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ike Eisenhower are weeping.

President’s lapdog


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence recently released its Report on its purported investigation into Russian meddling in our nation’s 2016 election. The Report found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, coordinated, or conspired with the Russian government.”

That finding is breathtakingly premature and almost certainly wrong. It reveals that the Report, like the inquiry itself, is a sham.

At the outset of the Committee’s investigation, the Chairman Devin Nunes and Ranking Member Adam Schiff promised that the Committee would fully investigate all the evidence it would collect and to follow that evidence wherever it might lead. Schiff and the minority members of the Committee did their utmost to keep that promise. Nunes and his fellow Republicans broke that promise at every turn.

Thorough and credible investigations take time and a genuine desire on the part of investigators to uncover the truth. This investigation was a rushed job, focused on concealing and distorting the truth, all in an effort to give the president cover. It appeared a partisan charade from the outset. Now, Nunes and his GOP colleagues may be accessories after-the-fact to the Administration’s ever more apparent obstruction of justice.

In response to the Committee’s Report, the Democratic members of the Committee issued a Minority Report addressing with chilling specificity the Committee’s failures. It provides a litany of the ways in which the Majority actually obstructed the investigation by refusing to call in key witnesses, refusing to request pertinent documents, and refusing to compel and enforce witness cooperation and answers to key questions.

The Minority Report also called out the Majority’s conduct as undermining Congress’ independent investigative authority: “Their repeated deferrals to the White House allowed witnesses to refuse cooperation, and permitted the Administration to dictate the terms of their interaction with Congress, or evade congressional oversight altogether, setting a damaging precedent for future non-cooperation by this President and, possibly, by his successors.”

Immediately after the Committee released its Report, the president predictably renewed his calls for an end to the Special Counsel’s investigation, as if the House Republicans’ spurious findings should be the final word. But former CIA Director John Brennan rightly rebuked the president saying, “A highly partisan, incomplete and deeply flawed report by a broken House Committee means nothing. The Special Counsel’s work is being carried out by professional investigators – not political staffers. SC’s findings will be comprehensive & authoritative. Stay tuned, Mr. Trump.”

Now that the Russian lawyer who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Kushner, Manafort, and Don. Jr. has revealed herself to be a Kremlin informant, which is to say a Russian spy, the haste with which Nunes closed up shop is even more jarring.

It’s hard to see that which is in plain sight when one is wearing a partisan blindfold. It’s easy to miss the truth when you don’t really want to find it.

Long after this Administration is gone, the Committee’s response to an attack on our country will live on as a sorry reminder of the damage done when one branch of government surrenders its independence to another, when — as the Minority Report makes clear — Congress becomes the President’s complicit lapdog.