Category: Culture

Full response

What Did Ilhan Omar Say? Here’s the Full Transcript of Her Response to a Question about Anti-Semitism

Institute for Policy Studies, March 6, 2019


This is the transcript of the Rep. Ilhan Omar’s full response to the question about anti-Semitism from the Busboys & Poets event. Her response begins around 1:00:00:

Andy Shallal: [ question about dealing with accusations of anti-Semitism]

Rashida Tlaib – […] this conversation is about human rights for everyone, this conversation around what this looks like is not centered around hate, it’s actually centered around love.

Ilhan Omar – I get emotional every time I hear Rashida, and I think I’m just gonna stop hanging out with her, she’s messing with my [style?].

I know that I have a huge Jewish constituency, and you know, every time I meet with them they share stories of [the] safety and sanctuary that they would love for the people of Israel, and most of the time when we’re having the conversation, there is no actual relative that they speak of, and there still is lots of emotion that comes through because it’s family, right? Like my children still speak of Somalia with passion and compassion even though they don’t have a family member there.

But we never really allow space for the stories of Palestinians seeking safety and sanctuary to be uplifted. And to me, it is the dehumanization and the silencing of a particular pain and suffering of people, should not be ok and normal. And you can’t be in the practice of humanizing and uplifting the suffering of one, if you’re not willing to do that for everyone. And so for me I know that when I hear my Jewish constituents or friends or colleagues speak about Palestinians who don’t want safety, or Palestinians who aren’t deserving I stay focused on the actual debate about what that process should look like. I never go to the dark place of saying “here’s a Jewish person, they’re talking about Palestinians, Palestinians are Muslim, maybe they’re Islamophobic.” I never allow myself to go there because I don’t have to.

And what I am fearful of is that because Rashida and I are Muslim, that a lot of Jewish colleagues, a lot of our Jewish constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel, to be anti-Semitic, because we are Muslim. And so to me, it is something that becomes designed to end the debate. Because you get in this space, of like, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says that the words you use Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance. And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if every single time we say something, regardless of what it is we say, that it’s supposed to about foreign policy or engagement, that our advocacy about ending oppression, or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled in something, and that’s the end of the discussion, because we end up defending that, and nobody gets to have the broader debate of “what is happening with Palestine?” [applause]

So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is ok for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby that is influencing policy? [applause] And I want to ask the question, why is it ok for you to push, for you to be… there are so many people… I mean most of us are new, but many members of Congress have been there forever. Some of them have been there before we were born. So I know many of them were fighting for people to be free, for people to live in dignity in South Africa. I know many of them fight for people around the world to have dignity to have self-determination. So I know, I know that they care about these things.

But now that you have two Muslims that are saying “here is a group of people that we want to make sure that they have the dignity that you want everyone else to have!” …we get to be called names, we get to be labeled as hateful. No, we know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. [applause] We have to deal with death threats. I have colleagues who talk about death threats. And sometimes… there are cities in my state where the gas stations have written on their bathrooms “assassinate Ilhan Omar”. I have people driving around my district looking for my home, for my office, causing me harm. I have people every single day on Fox News and everywhere, posting that I am a threat to this country. So I know what fear looks like. The masjid I pray in in Minnesota got bombed by two domestic white terrorists. So I know what it feels to be someone who is of a faith that is vilified. I know what it means to be someone whose ethnicity that is vilified. I know what it feels to be of a race that is, like I am an immigrant, so I don’t have some of the historical drama of some of my sisters and brothers have in this country, but I know what it means for people to just see me as a black person, and to treat me as less than a human.

And so, when people say “you are bringing hate,” I know what their intention is. Their intention is to make sure that our lights are dimmed. That we walk around with our heads bowed. That we lower our face and our voice. But we have news for people. You can call us any kind of name. You can threaten us any kind of way. Rashida and I are not ourselves. Every single day we walk in the halls of Congress and we have people who have never had the opportunity to walk there walking with us. So we’re here, we’re here to stay and represent all the people who have been silenced for many decades and many generations. And we’re here to fight for the people of our district who want to make sure that there is actual prosperity, actual prosperity, being guaranteed. Because there is a direct correlation between not having clean water, and starting endless wars. It’s all about the profit and who gets benefit. There’s a direct correlation between corporations that are getting rich, and the fact that we have students who are shackled with debt. There is a direct correlation between the White House and the people who are benefiting from detention beds that are profitized. So, what people are afraid of is not that there are two Muslims in Congress. What people are afraid of is that there are two Muslims in Congress that have their eyes wide open, that have their feet to the ground, that know what they’re talking about, that are fearless, and that understand that they have the same election certificate that everyone in Congress does. [applause]

Photo of Rep. Ilhan Omar by Tom Williams (CQ Roll Call via Getty Images).

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Titans of journalism

Trump is trying to pay his way to an annihilation of Palestinian statehood, and an erasure of Israel’s crimes

By Robert Fisk, March 7 2019 CE


Palestine” has been compared to many things. The world’s longest colonial war, a “hell-disaster” – Churchill’s memorable epithet – and the site of Israel’s “war on terror”, a conflict in which we are supposed to believe that the Palestinians are playing the role of al-Qaeda or Isis or any other outfit which the west and its allies have helped into existence, and which Israel is going to fight on our behalf.

But there are times when Palestine turns out to have been located in the Bermuda Triangle. The Palestinians disappear. They cease to exist. They are forgotten, irrelevant, outside the landscape of fear, pain, injustice and occupation that we once heard about so often. No one can imagine what has happened to these Palestinians. Like the aircraft and boats which strayed into the mythical triangle, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Sad to see them go. But it’s a mystery.

The last two weeks have been a case in point. Trump’s fey and vain son-in-law Jared Kushner, a supporter of Israel’s colonial expansion on Arab land, set off with Trump’s “special representative to the peace process” Jason Greenblatt (the man who says that “West Bank settlements are not an obstacle to peace”) to work out the economic underpinning of Trump’s “deal of the century” to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Middle East leaders may be murderers with lots of torturers to help them stay in power, but they are not entirely stupid. It’s clear that Kushner and Greenblatt need lots and lots of cash to prop up their plans for the final destruction of Palestinian statehood – we are talking in billions – and the Arab leaders they met did not hear anything about the political “dimension” of Trump’s “deal”. Because presumably there isn’t one. After all, Trump thinks that by moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and declaring it the capital of Israel, he has taken that most holy of cities “off the table”.

Our titans of journalism were silent – maybe they, too, fell into the Bermuda Triangle – and had absolutely nothing to say, absolutely zilch, about Kushner’s march of folly around the Middle East. They called it, inevitably, a “whirlwind tour” in which this foolish young man would – readers will recognise CNN’s equally inevitable clichés – “prep allies for a spring rollout” of the “plan”.

This very vagueness is amazing, because the Kushner-Greenblatt fandango was in fact a very historic event. It was unprecedented as well as bizarre, unequalled in recent Arab history for its temerity as well as its outrageous assumption.

For this was the first time in modern Arab history – indeed modern Muslim history – that America has constructed and prepared a bribe BEFORE the acquiescence of those who are supposed to take the money; before actually telling the Palestinians and other Arabs what they are supposed to do in order to get their hands on the loot.

Usually, the Americans or the EU come up with highfalutin “peace” proposals – two states, security for Israel, viability for Palestinians, talks about a joint capital, an end to Jewish colonies on occupied Arab land, mutual trust-building, refugees, the usual paint-pots – and then gently suggest that it might be financially worthwhile for everyone to start talking.

But now the bank account is being set up before the customers’ agreement. The banks themselves – we have to include Saudi Arabia, do we not? – have not even been told what investments their funds are meant to support. How many times can you fit a South Sea Bubble into a Bermuda Triangle?

It’s not a blank cheque the Americans want from the Arabs. It’s going to be a very big cheque with specific amounts, to be given to a people who have never – as an occupied, repressed, abandoned community – ever demanded cash from anyone. Sure – and this has been a Kushner theme – Palestinians would be happier if they were better off.

But who has ever seen, in all the bloody Palestinians protests, demonstrations and cries of despair and massacres, a single poster – just one demand – for prime business opportunities, new motorways, five-star hotels, hospitals or pre-natal clinics?

Palestinian demands have been uniformly identical: justice, dignity, freedom and – yes – the return of lost lands, if only of those properties thieved from them by Israel in the West Bank. Of the thousands of unarmed innocents eviscerated in the great Gaza wars, which of their families is now going to settle for an American cheque in return for the end of all their ideals, dreams and political demands? But then again, what do we care for any of those families?

For the Bermuda Triangle sucked into its vortex these past few days yet another Palestinian victim: the UN’s preliminary report on the mass killings by Israeli troops and snipers of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza demonstrating since 30 March last year – against their imprisonment in the enclave and their right, under UN General Assembly Resolution 194, to return to their families’ original homes or receive compensation for them.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and around 18,000 wounded. The UN investigated 189 fatalities. Its researchers thought that perhaps on two occasions, armed Palestinian men may have infiltrated the crowds to shoot at the Israeli army, but even the briefest reading of the UN report’s 22 pages makes it perfectly clear that the dead were largely the victims of deliberate and aimed shots. They included journalists, health workers, children. Israel may have committed war crimes, the UN report concluded.

But each new war, each new set of casualties, each new UN report has become normal. Or perhaps the word is “normalised”. None more so than the 25 February UN document. The demonstrators belonged to the “terrorist” Hamas, according to Israel. The investigation was a “theatre of the absurd”, announced Israel’s spokesman, “a report that is hostile, mendacious and biased against Israel”.

But what did we expect? Ever since Israel trashed and demeaned and politically destroyed that great Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone after his devastating critique of the 2008-2009 Israeli bombardment of Gaza – the accusations by Israel and Jewish Americans of his antisemitism and his innate “evil” (the latter from Alan Dershowitz, of course) make even US Democrat Ilhan Omar’s sins look childlike – UN reports have been little more than wallpaper. Yet none of this matters.

The Palestinians are even supposed to be duped by the closure of the US consulate in Jerusalem and its merger with Washington’s embassy in Israel to enhance “the efficiency and effectiveness of [America’s] diplomatic engagements”, according to the ambassador David Friedman, who also, by extraordinary chance, supports Israel’s land expropriations in the West Bank but claims he wants a “two-state solution”.

Hanan Ashrawi simply and eloquently explained that the merging of the consulate with the embassy “is not an administrative decision. It is an act of political assault on Palestinian rights and identity, and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.” She was quite right. And no one paid the slightest attention. The US consulate simply got swallowed up by the Bermuda Triangle.

Is all this because Trump has now steamrolled morality and so indelibly soiled the American flag that we have all, somehow, closed down in the Middle East on ideas like principles, promises and humanity, and accepted everlasting night – even if the latter is referred to as the deal of the century? Is that what happens when you fall into the Bermuda Triangle? Goodbye to the Palestinians. Didn’t they know this was dangerous territory? Hadn’t they heard the stories? It’s all a mystery if you ask me.

Photograph of Lebanese protesting against Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, in Aukar north of Beirut, Lebanon, on Sunday Jan. 18, 2009 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla).

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AIPAC bares its arse

The Long Life of a Racist Smear

By Ashley Reese, March 5, 2019 CE


Cleanliness is next to godliness, and in the imaginations of racists, it is also next to whiteness—the next best thing or maybe even the same thing. In its absence, so the racist lie goes, you will find everyone else: black people, brown people, immigrants of all shades, groups of marginalized people. Dirty. Filthy.

There too, Trump campaign advisor Jeff Ballabon found Representative Ilhan Omar. On Monday, Ballabon called Omar “filthy” during a Fox Business interview while accusing the progressive congresswoman of being an anti-Semite due to her criticisms of Israel and its right-wing leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is by now an old smear, told again and again about the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, but the most recent iteration of the cycle started last week. The New York Times reports that during an event at a Washington, DC bookstore, Omar, responding to accusations of anti-Semitism, “questioned why it was acceptable for her to speak critically about the political influence of the National Rifle Association, fossil fuel industries, and ‘big pharma,’ but not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.”

Soon after, Fox Business host Stuart Varney invited Ballabon to comment on the matter, asking if there was room for both Omar and Jewish voters in the Democratic Party. Ballabon said there isn’t. “The problem is that her beliefs are deeply rooted in hatred and anti-Semitism,” Ballabon said. “She is a hater. I’m going to say it, she is filth.”

Varney noted that “filth” was a very strong word to use.

“Yes,” Ballabon agreed. “She is a filthy, disgusting hater. So what if she’s in Congress? That’s the problem.”

Ballabon did not use such strong language when asked in 2017 about the neo-Nazis who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia in a fascist protest in 2017 that left one woman dead. Instead, he said they were simply “people who play dress up Nazi.” But of course, this isn’t really about anti-Semitism.

In the Fox Business segment, Varney gave Ballabon room to retract his statements given his position as a representative of the president, which is amusing considering his boss also employed the same racist tropes: Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.” This kind of explicit racism is also baked into the vocabulary (and policy) of the administration as a whole: Trump’s former Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017 decrying undocumented immigrants, and at the last minute omitted a line in his prepared remarks that read: “It is here, on this sliver of land, where we first take our stand against this filth.” Invoking yet another racist trope about subhumans and invading hordes, the White House has referred to members of the MS-13 gang as “animals.” The same vocabulary is also familiar enough of Varney’s own network: In December, Tucker Carlson even wondered if immigration makes America dirtier.

Epithets of uncleanliness have long been used to dehumanize nonwhite peoples and groups perceived, at a time, to fall outside of whiteness: In 1911, lynch mob organizer and future governor of Louisiana John Parker said that Italian immigrants were, “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.”

And as Carl A. Zimring, author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States, wrote for the Washington Post, these racist associations were injected into everything from soap advertisements at the turn of the 20th century to politics:

Racism conflating nonwhite immigrants with filth originated in that era — though then, unlike now, the population of immigrants considered “unclean” was more expansive, including Eastern and Southern Europeans, along with peoples originating from the Americas, Africa and Asia. Epithets like “greaser” and “sheenie” became common insults. These terms presupposed that Italians, Mexicans and Jews had greasier, oilier skin and hair, and that this condition was a biological fact and social problem.

It’s impossible to divorce Ballabon’s use of the term “filth” from Omar’s blackness or her identity as an immigrant. In Ballabon’s frame, and the history he invokes, nonwhite people are not just dirty, but less than human.

The smear has also traveled beyond the conservative circles where it first cropped up. This week, House Democrats plan to vote on a resolution in response to Omar’s comments on Israel, a move similar to a resolution taken up over comments made by Iowa’s Steve King, an actual white nationalist. An opinion piece in the Washington Post took the false equivalency a step further, calling Omar the “Steve King of the Left.”

These attacks serve two functions, both of which Omar has named clearly: They intend to shut down conversation about American foreign policy and the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, and to strip her of her personhood and credibility as a lawmaker. Omar has rightly refused to accept these as the terms under which she must speak. Earlier this week, she tweeted: “We must be willing to combat hate of all kinds while also calling out oppression of all kinds. I will do my best to live up to that. I hope my colleagues will join me in doing the same.” Whether they will or not remains an open question.

Photograph of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, speaking during a press conference calling on Congress to cut funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and to defund border detention facilities, outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington Feb. 7 (AFP-JIJI).

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I don’t like cheese

We are better than this

By Bennie Ivory, March 5, 2019 CE


News flash for Mark Meadows: If you are going to play the race card, own it. Don’t try to run away from it.

That’s exactly what the Republican congressman from North Carolina tried to do during the House’s Feb. 26 Michael Cohen hearing after trotting out a black woman in front of the cameras to defend President Donald Trump against charges of racism.

It was an obscenely insulting and surreal scene reminiscent of another place in time when slaves were put on display on the auction block for inspection — a scene devastatingly unbecoming the halls of Congress.

Curiously, the woman, Lynne Patton, stood silently as a smiling Meadows told committee members that she would never work for a racist. We can only assume that he was paraphrasing her sentiments because she didn’t utter a word. (For the record, Ms. Patton has worked for the Trump Organization and now works for the current administration as an official for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In an interview later, she backed up Meadows’ assertion that she was a big fan of Trump and his family. But by then, the damage had been done.)

Of course, this was done in the spirit of proving that Donald Trump isn’t racist. One single black woman versus a mounting body of incontrovertible evidence exposing Mr. Trump’s blatant racist behavior. The math doesn’t work.

When Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., called out Meadows on the tactic, the defiant lawmaker feigned righteous indignation and accused her of calling him a racist, which she didn’t.

News flash: Mr. Meadows, you don’t get to define what racism is and isn’t.

He then resorted to emotional blackmail by invoking his friendship with committee chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is black. There was more. He went on to claim plausible deniability of his own racism by saying that some members of his own family are people of color — a fact he said not many people know.

Two more news flashes:

I’ve got cheese in my refrigerator, but I don’t like cheese.

You don’t get to define what racism is and isn’t.

Mr. Meadows, did it cross your mind that your ploy with Ms. Patton might at least be inappropriate and rub some people the wrong way? Did you ask Ms. Patton or one of your black friends or your family members of color?

Just asking.

And Mr. Meadows, did you consider what you were doing when you bought into the birther movement that questioned the citizenship and legitimacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president? Did you not think that spurious or fake claim might raise its racist head one day? No righteous indignation here, please. It’s on videotape.

Then again, maybe you weren’t feigning righteous indignation at all. Perhaps you really thought you had done nothing wrong and that you indeed had become the victim. Which would make your actions even more egregious. And truly sad in 2019.

If so, you would fall into the ranks of too many Americans who don’t understand the complexities of race and racism. Too many people think a racist is someone who goes around casually spewing the N-word and hiding under white robes and pointy hoods.

For sure, that’s one category of racism. But racism also can be subtle, so subtle that you don’t recognize it even when it’s in plain sight. Or maybe never. It can reside in board rooms and in much, much higher places.

But regardless of the form it takes, there is no place in society for racism on any level. Certainly not in Congress and the highest office in the land.

As Congressman Cummings said at the end of the Cohen hearing, we are better than this.

Yes, we are, but it’s hard to tell some days.

Bennie Ivory is a Hot Springs native. He also is a founder of USA TODAY and, most recently, the retired executive editor and vice president of the Louisville Courier-Journal. He started his career at The Sentinel-Record.


Photograph of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, center, ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, talking with Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, left, and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, right, during testimony by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 (AP Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

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He is their emperor, and they are his political Praetorian Guard

Republicans Sink Further Into Trump’s Cesspool

By Peter Wehner, Feb. 27, 2019


Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday revealed as much about the Republican Party as it did about President Trump and his former lawyer. In the aftermath of Mr. Cohen’s damning testimony, several things stand out.

The first is that unlike John Dean, the former White House counsel who delivered searing testimony against President Richard Nixon in 1973, Mr. Cohen produced documents of Mr. Trump’s ethical and criminal wrongdoing. (Mr. Dean had to wait for the Watergate tapes to prove that what he was saying was true.)

Mr. Cohen’s most explosive evidence included a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, while he was president, to reimburse Mr. Cohen for hush money payments. The purpose of that hush money, of course, was to cover up Mr. Trump’s affair with a pornographic film star in order to prevent damage to his campaign.

Other evidence produced by Mr. Cohen included financial statements, examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his wealth to serve his interests, examples of charity fraud, efforts to intimidate Mr. Cohen and his family and even letters sent by Mr. Cohen to academic institutions threatening legal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades and SAT scores were released. (Mr. Trump hammered President Barack Obama on this front, referring to him as a “terrible student, terrible,” and mocking him for not releasing his grades.)

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.

Instead, in the most transparent and ham-handed way, they saw no evil and heard no evil, unless it involved Mr. Cohen. Republicans on the committee tried to destroy the credibility of his testimony, not because they believe that his testimony is false, but because they fear it is true.

By now Republicans must know, deep in their hearts, that Mr. Cohen’s portrayal of Mr. Trump as a “racist,” “a con man” and “a cheat” is spot on. So it is the truth they fear, and it is the truth — the fundamental reality of the world as it actually is — that they feel compelled to destroy. This is the central organizing principle of the Republican Party now. More than tax cuts. More than trade wars. More even than building a wall on our southern border. Republicans are dedicated to annihilating truth in order to defend Mr. Trump and they will go after anyone, from Mr. Cohen to Robert Mueller, who is a threat to him.

He is their emperor, and they are his political Praetorian Guard.

A second thing that stands out from Mr. Cohen’s testimony is that the Republican Party has been as corrupted by its association with Mr. Trump as Mr. Cohen was by his. As Mr. Cohen told Republican lawmakers, “I did the same thing that you’re doing now. For 10 years. I protected Mr. Trump for 10 years.”

He then issued this warning to them: “The more people that follow Mr. Trump — as I did blindly — are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.” Mr. Cohen later explained the ethos of Trumpworld: “Everybody’s job at the Trump Organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming and we were going to lie for him about something. That became the norm.”

The ethic that became the norm at the Trump Organization — defacing the truth and disfiguring reality in the service of Donald J. Trump — is the ethic that has become the norm of the Republican Party and the American right.

This is what some of us who are conservatives and who have been lifelong Republicans have warned since Mr. Trump began his quest for the presidency — that his corruptions would eventually become theirs.

It didn’t take long.

The way these things happen is simple and insidious. In this case, because Mr. Trump was their party’s nominee, many Republicans felt duty bound to defend him, even though they would from time to time call him out for his worst offenses. They also held out the hope that Mr. Trump would grow in office and become more presidential.

What happened is quite different: As Mr. Trump was elected and then inaugurated, Republicans became more and more reluctant to call him out and more and more vocal in defending him and attacking his critics; rather than weakening, their loyalty to him intensified. And the president, rather than becoming more responsible, has become less restrained, more volatile, more unhinged. The result is the ethical wreckage we saw on display Wednesday.

Republicans should brace for even more damaging revelations. The evidence presented on Wednesday was harmful to the president, but Mr. Cohen quite likely revealed only a small fraction of what the Southern District of New York and the Mueller investigation have amassed. Mr. Cohen did suggest that federal prosecutors are investigating unspecified criminal allegations involving the president that have not been made public.

When this story is finally told — when the sordid details are revealed, the dots finally connected — the Republican Party will be the political and institutional version of Mr. Cohen, who squandered his integrity in the service of a man of borderless corruption.

Peter Wehner (@Peter Wehner), a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, served in the previous three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.


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Going down the road

Why Get Donkey?

By Ben “Swamp Donkey” Brenner, Sunday, November 11, 2018


It’s not even a road, see. No signs, no arrows. Just trees that part briefly, and then a narrow dirt track going low and slow away from the flat top black top. Follow that road down and you’ll pass three trailers settin’ amongst the trees and weeds and camaros. In one of ‘em lives a woman thinner than anything you’ve ever seen. Once she was something to see, she was that kind of country girl, but she ain’t no more. Her eyes are tired, her face is tired, her bones are tired. All the life is at the end of her smoke. Folks say she used to teach school somewhere far away from the sagging trailer. She knows you’re not supposed to mix alcohol with 1500 mg of lithium and methamphetamine. But, she says, “who doesn’t?” Besides, if you knew what she knew, if you’d a heard just what she’d seen…well….

In the middle trailer a young couple are raising their little boy. Of course they ain’t goin’ nowhere, of course they ain’t got shit, of course they got too many dogs, but there’s a pot of flowers near the door that don’t never die, and he’s always smiling, and she’d never let anyone pass without a glass of cold sweet tea. Sometimes, if you drive up after sup, they’ll all be out front. His t-shirt says something snappy like, “When the sun goes down, so does my baby.” The little boy, clad only in a pair of filthy cut-offs, plays on a pile of old tires with one them natty mongrel dogs. That dog loves that boy. And the woman, dressed in something pink and white, her legs brown and tempting in the evening sun, puts her hand over her eyes so she can see who’s goin’ by. Somehow she always has something to call out, some message saved just for this occasion. And don’t matter who’s at the wheel, everybody waves. Even the dog.

The last trailer is home to an old couple who’ve been there since the earth was flat. They got old refrigerators and stoves and tractors and all manner of other projects he was gonna start but never did sitting out in the dirt and scrubby weed grass. These things stake the couples claim to having beaten everyone else to this scrap of land. The old gal? She’s real quiet and spends her time watching reruns of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” periodically exclaiming, “He’s so brave!” as she does the crossword. She knows every Carter Family tune there ever was, and when she sings her eyes are bright and not at all sad. And the old man sits outside, smoking, poking a hose toward the planter commode, poking at his nails with his pocket knife, poking at some idea rattlin’ round his head. His eyes sparkle when he hears his wife sing them old songs, and when he laughs he’s got one of those laughs that will startle the shit out of you if you’re not ready for it. But it can draw you in, too, and usually does. The old folks have hung all kinds of pictures of kids inside the trailer, but nobody’s ever seen the kids themselves. Nobody knows where they came from or what they did before they stuck themselves to that little piece of worn out land, and the man, much as he loves to talk, never says.

Just down the track from their trailer is the flat-top joint — a low slung cinder block deal with some crooked picnic tables outside, and lights that look like big, faded plastic fruits strung from the tree boughs. You can have anything you like, so long as it’s Bud or Bud Lite in a can, but it’s always damn cold. Some nights somebody shows up to play some music, and everybody comes down the road apiece. The rail-thin woman sits at the farthest table drinking her gin and tapping her foot, looking at the road and the boys and her cigarette and the stars. Because night and the music are a sort of tonic, the color has returned to her cheeks and the life to her hands and feet and, don’t you know, this is why she saves it up during the day. And the young couple come and shake it, and the boy runs and yells and hides with all the other children, and the dogs too, and everybody drinks and jives with the old couple, who know ‘em all and the old man has a jibe for everyone there. Sometime during the night the singer will sing “Wildwood Rose” and everyone will watch the old couple dance the way that only old lovers can dance.

And you know what? Tonight Ben “Swamp Donkey” Brenner is playing. All these people are in his songs, just as his songs are in them. And they’re all going down the road and check him out. They’re all going down the road, and they’re all going to Get Donkey. Maybe you should too.


Shared with Ben’s permission, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2019 CE, from his musician persona’s “About” page on Facebook.

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Recent observations


Our porous border

Dear editor:

How does anyone in the current political environment believe that our country will survive the partisan bickering and name calling to ensure the so-called “domestic tranquility?” I think these words were lost long ago when we decided to take care of everyone’s needs according to their abilities. We forgot to ask those who pay for perceived needs to forgo that for which they worked their entire lives. How is it that liberals can determine just what I am allowed to keep and exactly what I need to give? Why is it that those who pay for everything have no voice?

Recent observations disgust me:

The liberal idea is to not build the wall, but to add border security including up to 10,000 new border agents. Even as a liberal, maybe you can understand how a conservative thinks, based on the following example. I am going to make this really simple so you can understand. Let me use roofing to represent our border. Roofing is put on a home to prevent water leakage. This is usually done to keep moisture out and to eliminate rot later. You could wait, build the entire home, furnish it, paint it, move in and then add the roof, but the damage done will be impossible to repair without having to rebuild your dream. If I decide to put the roof on my home in the correct order, I eliminate hiring workers to fix damage. The conservative way is to save money, not pay for unnecessary overhead.

Our border, without a barrier, is porous. We can do it the liberal way and repair the damage later or we can fix it from the start, preventing our dream from being destroyed. We can hire thousands of people to watch our border and hope it does not “rain,” or we can install the “roofing” and stop the problem before it destroys our dream. I understand the conservative view. Unfortunately, I also know the liberal view. I am disgusted with those individuals that would throw away our heritage and make us adapt to another culture. We cannot sustain the influx of immigrants into this country without going broke. The strain on our welfare programs and medical care is unsustainable. I am for anyone bettering themselves legally, not deceptively. This move to cross our border and claim asylum is you telling me what type of “roof” is acceptable. No, you are not! This is my home! I am going to have a say before you “rain” on my home and it rots from within!

Edward K. Cherry
Hot Springs

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