Posts Tagged ‘trump’

Trump Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles with other leaders, including Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional "ASEAN handshake" in the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Donald Trump “smiles” with other leaders, including Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional “ASEAN handshake.” REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It was almost painful to look at. That handshake. The apparently traditional one in which the world leaders attending the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference line up side-by-side, reach their arms across their bodies and shake hands with the persons next to them. Right hand to left side, left hand to right side. A little unorthodox, but heavy on symbolism.

The dotard-in-chief at first couldn’t figure out the logistics of where his hands should go and whose hand to shake. After flailing around for a few seconds, he finally got it. Then came the painful part. As he reached across his body for the hands of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phu and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump grimaced as if in serious pain.

It’s obvious as you look at the photo that all the other participants are relaxed and smiling. Trump is straining, trying desperately as photographers continue to snap to look as if he’s smiling. The man can barely manage to hang on to Nguyen and Duterte.

All the stories I saw on the handshake called it “awkward.” Well, sure it was awkward. We’re used to awkward from dotard. But it was only the photographers who reported that he was grimacing, not smiling, as if it were a reach too far across a flabby, out-of-shape body.

Look, as far as I’m concerned the question of whether Trump is fit mentally, emotionally, intellectually, morally or ethically to be president was answered convincingly during the 2016 campaign and has been reinforced every day he has been in office. He’s not. Yet for some reason we’re still debating this. I’m tired of restating the obvious, which is why, I think, the handshake photo struck me.

In addition to all the above, the man is also physically unfit to be president. He actually winced as he reached for Duterte’s hand, which ought to be a fairly unchallenging physical feat.

Trump is obviously overweight. During the campaign his “doctor” reported Trump’s weight as 236 and height as 6 foot 3. A lot of people say he’s really 6 feet 2 inches tall, but that would change his Body Mass Index, moving him from merely overweight to obese and, well, that would simply be unacceptable.

Like exercise. Trump has famously said he doesn’t exercise because he believes everyone has a “finite” supply of energy and exercising uses it up. What can you expect from a guy who stared at the sun during an eclipse.

This is not nit-picking, people. The man is 71 years old and lives on a diet of fast food and red meat. He sleeps three to four hours a night. He watches a lot of television. He prefers to skip breakfast, but does wash his hair and check Twitter. He has one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the world, yet, unlike other presidents, he has not had a physical exam since taking office, at least not that we know of.

His only physical activity is golf, which is not particularly strenuous, especially since he rides his golf cart everywhere, including onto the green. (He also used a golf cart in Saudi Arabia while other dignitaries walked because he was “exhausted.”)

In a sense, Trump’s blithe disregard for his physical health is in the same vein as his demonstrated lack of interest in history, geography, economics, science, the Constitution, diplomacy, appropriate social behavior, the truth, business ethics, common courtesy and how government actually works. Add your own to the list.

The point is — and his loyal supporters who see the emperor well-clothed ought to really care about this — if he can’t manage his own personal health with all the imaginable resources in the world at his call, how can he be relied on to manage America?

Let me be clear. With Pence and Ryan in the bullpen, I’m not especially eager to have some physical ailment remove Trump from the Oval Office. (Again, one wonders why his supporters don’t care.) Actually, I see his denial of his basic health needs — and his secrecy about his physical condition — as just another symptom of his emotional unfitness for office. That should disqualify him. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t care as it is that he doesn’t seem to realize he should care, at least for himself and his supporters and family.

If he really wanted to make America great again, the dotard would set an example of something positive he’s doing. Take a walk. Eat some vegetables. But he’s got nothing. He body shames people, especially women, as if he has never looked in a mirror. Or, psychiatrists would say, maybe because he has looked in a mirror. One way or another, it’s always about him and whatever the subject is he alway thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. It’s the kind of attitude people like Vladimir Putin thrive on. That Republicans have allowed it to continue and sought to exploit it will be to their everlasting shame.

Here’s just a small example of how Trump’s disregard for his health and his responsibilities does not make America great again: A couple in Jacksonville, Fla., went to their elementary school to see their son receive a National Physical Fitness Award. Being bright as well as fit (he could probably handle the ASEAN handshake blindfolded), the boy immediately noticed the certificate was signed by former President Barack Obama, not Trump, even though it was dated May 23, 2017.

The family was upset, not over politics, but at the apparent lack of, well, attention to detail. Can’t the “best people” a president can hire get a simple certificate right? All things Trump being connected, it may well have something to do with the fact that the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which provides the coveted awards, still has no members and no chairperson after nearly 10 months under Trump.

Because, well heck, there’s only so much energy to go around.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Facebook Has an Algorithm Problem

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

facebook thumb downAlgorithms are cool. I get it. I mean, I get that they’re cool, not how they work. I like to think that, if I had to, I could probably work really hard to understand them, but I dropped out of engineering school to do this. No regrets.

In fact, writing about life in all its complexities has given me an appreciation for what people — real people, not some numbers-crunched algorithm people — have to deal with on a daily basis. It has exposed me to the value of compassion, compromise and common sense.

Our universal dictionary, Wikipedia, defines an algorithm as “an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.”

But they can’t, obviously, do ambiguous.

I’m thinking about algorithms because Facebook, an Internet empire built on them, recently said it was going to hire 1,000 people to review ads in response to the embarrassing revelation that users’ news feeds during the 2016 U.S. presidential election were awash in political ads run by Russians, undoubtedly using their own algorithms to target various groups in an effort to influence the outcome. Facebook said Russians bought about $100,000 in ads — with rubles — but apparently the social media giant’s algorithms detected no ambiguity afoot with Russians arguing to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights or stirring up anti-gay feelings, not in Moscow, but in the American heartland.

Congress is investigating. That’s good. It should do something this year. But Facebook has more than a Russia problem. It has become the major source of news for millions of Americans, yet its news feeds have been shown to be awash in fake news. Lots of really fake news, not Trump “fake news,” which is real news.

Facebook — actually Mark Zuckerberg — is talking about becoming a more responsible source of reliable news information and hiring “content moderators” to review, well, content, and a lot of additional people to look out for violent content on the site. Swell. 

If you will permit me a self-serving observation, he’s talking about hiring people to exercise judgment over what appears publicly on Facebook because: (1) algorithms can’t think or feel like people and (2) this is how responsible newspapers have operated forever. Just saying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also will say I have had my own personal experiences with Facebook algorithms. Recently, I received an e-mail telling me that an ad I wanted to run boosting a column on a Facebook page I administer was rejected because it had too much copy. It didn’t say the copy was boring or poorly written or even offensive. Just too much of it.

OK, I’ve had editors tell me the same thing, but I was also never prepared to give an editor ten bucks just to run the column. Oh yeah, the ad in question was proposed in July. I got the rejection e-mail on Halloween.

Then there’s the friendly way Facebook greets me every day with news of the weather in Phillipsport. “Rain is in the forecast today, Robert.” Thank you. If I Iived in Phillipsport it would matter a lot more, but it’s a half hour drive and there’s a big mountain range between us and my page unambiguously says where I live. Can’t the algorithm read?

But the incident that really convinced me that Facebook had an algorithm problem was its response to a complaint I filed regarding a post that was being sarcastic about the dotard-in-chief. I am guilty as charged of leveling (much-deserved) sarcasm at the Trump, but this cartoon had him in a coffin with a bystander saying to Melania, “‘Sorry about the assassination, Mrs.Trump, but he knew what he signed up for.”

As a “content moderator” for newspapers for several decades, I would never let such a tasteless, provocative, potentially dangerous item to be published. I told Facebook the same thing. I said they should delete it. It encouraged violence at a violent time in our history.

The algorithm replied that the post did not violate Facebook’s standard of, I don’t know: Acceptability? Appropriateness? Decency? Who sets this pathetic standard?

I use Facebook a lot. It has many wonderful benefits. But “automated reasoning” is not a substitute for good old, gut-instinct common sense. It’s the best way to connect people with people. Maybe people cost a little more than algorithms, but I think Zuck can afford it and there are a lot of laid off editors looking for work. If it’s not fake news that he’s serious about running for president some day, he’ll be glad he did it.

I’m also curious to know what Facebook says if I decide I want to pay to boost this post. I wonder if they’ll let me run a picture of Zuck. Can I even call him Zuck?

Stay tuned.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Positive Vibes for Negative Times

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

good news jpgTrump to Puerto Rico: Drop Dead!

Trump to Americans struggling to afford health insurance: Drop dead!

Trump to North Korea: Drop dead!

Trump to the free press: Drop dead!

Trump to the LGBT community: Drop dead:

Trump to immigrants: Drop dead!

Trump to NFL players: Drop dead!

Trump to Iran: Drop dead!

Trump to pregnant war widow: He knew what he signed up for.

Trump to anyone who will listen: I am not a moron!

                                                         ***

In reply to my recent column on the Nibiru planet hoax and efforts to contact intelligent life elsewhere in the universe — maybe even set up a colony on Mars — my friend Ernie Miller commented: “It is nice you can maintain a positive outlook amidst the carnage and cacophony that is daily life.”

“Ernie,” I replied,“it ain’t easy.”

In truth, it has never been harder in the half century I have been writing about “daily life,” as it were.

As it is, today it is sometimes unbelievably depressing and infuriating to reflect upon the “carnage and cacophony” in which we are seemingly enmeshed. And writing about it? Everyone is writing about it. Social media is awash in it. Yes, actual factual information is vital, but that steady drumbeat of ignorance and arrogance at the center of most news stories today only seems to add to the great wall of negative energy engulfing our universal consciousness, making us act, if you will, as if we were all collectively unconscious.

Thank you, Carl Jung, for allowing me to misappropriate and mangle your theory for my own personal benefit. In my defense, my hope is that whatever bits of positive energy I can contribute to the greater consciousness can only be for the good of the collective universe.

So, here goes:

  • I’m getting a 2 percent raise in my Social Security check next year. That’s good news not only for me, but for millions of others who receive monthly checks (thank you, FDR) and who have not had a raise since 2012 because the government figured inflation wasn’t bad enough and the cost of living wasn’t going up so’s you’d notice. Some of us noticed. I could feel the vibe of 66 million recipients ripple across America when I read the story. It’s the first substantial raise in years. Most recipients are seniors over age 65, but some payments also go to the severely disabled and orphans. The average check is currently $1,377 a month, meaning next year’s increase will raise the typical payment by $27 a month. Listen, it’s a start.
  • We also learned that, despite the devastation Hurricane Maria visited on Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory, made famous in the films “Contact” (Jodie Foster) and “GoldenEye” (Sean Connery), survived with what was called “fixable” damage and no casualties. This is positive news because Arecibo is a star in the search-for-life-in-the-universe universe. The radio telescope,  built in 1963, was the first to find planets around other stars, the first to provide an image of an asteroid and — back to Carl Sagan’s “Contact” — sent the famous Arecibo Message to M13, a cluster of bodies 25,000 light years away. The message informs any sentient beings who receive it who we are and where we live. Send us a text message. Of course, it’ll be at least 50,000 years before we get an answer, but it’s the sending that contributes hope to the universal consciousness. Arecibo’s radar has been called “by far the most sensitive planetary radar in the world” and the folks who fund it — the National Science Foundation — say it does “excellent science.” Alas, in this era of anti-science, an official at NSF says, what with the damage Arecibo did incur, “If you look at the overall sweep of things that we’re funding, we do have to make choices and we can’t keep funding everything that’s excellent.” Perish the thought. So, here’s looking at you, Arecibo, and here’s sending some positive vibes about you into the nearby universe.
  • Staying in Puerto Rico and the notion of doing what you can for the collective good, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, an alternative energy company, made the initial installment of his promise to restore the island’s power grid with solar energy. San Juan’s Hospital del Niño – a children’s hospital with 3,000 patients — has power again, supplied by a collection of Tesla solar panels in the parking lot. The Tesla Twitter account posted: “Hospital del Niño is first of many solar-storage projects going live. Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with (Gov.) Ricardo Rossello.” All kinds of positive energy here. Musk, of course, is also the one talking about establishing a colony on Mars and who’s willing to bet against him?
  • In an extraordinary example of quantum positive energy, a  hand-written note by Albert Einstein sold at auction in Jerusalem for $1.56 million. The note was written in November 1922, when Einstein, then 43, was in Japan for a lecture series. While in Tokyo, he learned he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. When a courier came to his hotel room to make a delivery, Einstein did not have any money to tip him, so he handed the messenger a signed note, written in German: “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.” A kind of e=mc2 for a peaceful universe. The message was obviously paid forward several times before someone realized what Einstein clearly knew at the time — a bird in the hand (a signed note from a Nobel laureate, say) is worth two (or even more) in the bush.
  • Chris Long, who plays defensive end for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, is donating his entire year’s salary to improve educational opportunities in the United States. Long used his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Va., his hometown. He’s dedicating the remaining 10 to launch the “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” campaign. “I believe that education is the best gateway to a better tomorrow for EVERYONE in America,” he wrote on Pledge It.  “I’m encouraging fans, businesses and every person with a desire to join in my pursuit of equal education opportunities for all students to make their own pledge.’ He hopes to double his pledge with this collective effort.
  • In a somewhat desperate effort to find some positive news, I typed “good news” in the Google search bar. Voila! The web is awash in other folks looking to add positive energy to the collective consciousness. Duh. Some of the above came from that search. It’s good to remember: We are not alone, even in the private universe of our anxious minds.
  • Speaking of synchronicity, hurry it up, Mueller.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Fly Me to the Moon, Please!

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors. Nibiru was a no-show again.

Trump thinks he’s an emperor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and about 70 percent of the country think the president is a moron.

Of that remaining 30 percent, a sizable portion believe Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the earthquakes that rocked Mexico were god’s vengeance on humankind for (a) the mere existence of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons and (b) the idea that such persons should be allowed the same rights as “normal” people. Others in this group take it as fact that there were a pair of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

This is by way of reporting, in case you missed it, that Nibiru once again failed to live up to its hype. This is not disappointing, but it is getting old.

If you somehow missed it, Nibiru is a “giant planet,” supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, which, according to one translation of ancient Babylonian texts, passes by Earth every 3,600 years to allows its inhabitants to interact with earthlings. NASA says it’s a hoax, but the prediction has evolved (or mutated) into Nibiru (also called Planet X), flying into or close by Earth, causing cataclysmic problems. That was supposed to happen in May 2003 and again in December of 2012. 

Also, Sept. 23 just passed. Missed again, although the “end of times” had been predicted by David Meade, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “Christian numerologist” who must have miscalculated, as did all those web sites dedicated to Nibiru.

It’s the interactive fly-by of Nibiru that caught my attention, though, not the hellfire and brimstone and rising tides theory. One would have to think that any celestial visitors these days would only have to slow down enough to take a peek at the headlines and decide to come back in another 3600 years when maybe we had our stuff a little better together.

Some people, however, are not willing to wait that long for contact with beings from elsewhere in the universe. Doug Vakoch is one of those. The president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is moving along with announced plans to send messages to stars with planets thought to be capable of sustaining life. First transmissions are scheduled for next year, despite warnings from some noted scientists that in sending messages rather than just listening for them he may be inviting trouble in the form of nasty aliens, as portrayed in many science-fiction movies.

Vakoch and his crew of serious scientists dismiss those portrayals as the result of active imaginations and a situation for which we have no actual data. “One of the reasons people are so afraid of METI is that it seems riskier to do something than to do nothing,” he says.

Ironically, one of those who have voiced warnings about METI is Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. Musk is not the sit-around-and-wait -for-things-to-happen type.

Last month, as earthlings were breathing a sigh of relief at having been spared the wrath of Nibiru once more, Musk was in Australia at the annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress moving up the deadline on his intent (some say pipe dream) to launch a manned mission to Mars. He’s talking 2024. Yes, seven years. Employing a really big rocket with lots of powerful engines, his plan is to launch two cargo missions to Mars in 2022 and four missions in 2024, two cargo and two with crews. Eventually, the goal is to create a colony, with the rockets transporting 100 people per trip.

Paying for his grand plans is always a question with Musk. He says he figures on building lots of rockets (smaller than his original plan) which can also be used to fly people to Paris or London or Tokyo instead of just Mars. He says his system could move people between any two cities on this planet in less than an hour, for an appropriate fee of course. People would be the payload on the Mars rockets, also. Investors welcome.

Closer to home, Musk says the really big rocket could be used to take people to the Moon. “It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” he said in Australia. “What the hell is going on?”

Well, sir, as stated above, the president (whose business advisory councils you quit and who named a climate-denier to head NASA) thinks he’s an emperor, the secretary of state thinks he’s a moron and 30 percent of Americans — some of whom think dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark — are apparently still OK with all that.

So, Messrs. Musk and Vakoch, if you don’t mind, let’s get those rockets and inter-planetary messages going quickly, before the emperor declares war on Nibiru.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Musk, Killer Robots, Trump, the Eclipse

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Elon Musk and Donald Trump made significant scientific statements this week. Digest that sentence for a second. …

OK, it’s not as strange as it sounds because each man was true to himself. That is, neither message was surprising, considering the source, but each was important, also considering the source.

Monday, Musk and 115 other prominent scientists in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence attending a conference in Melbourne, Australia, delivered a letter to the United Nations urging a ban on development and use of killer robots. This is not science fiction.

Responding to previous urging by members of the group of AI and robotics specialists, the UN had recently voted to hold formal discussions on so-called autonomous weapons. With their open letter, Musk and the others, coming from 26 countries, wanted the UN to be clear about their position — these are uniquely dangerous weapons and not so far off in the future.

Also on Monday, on the other side of the planet, as millions of Americans, equipped with special glasses or cardboard box viewers,  marveled at the rare site of a solar eclipse, Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, walked out onto a balcony at the White House and stared directly at the sun. No glasses. No cardboard box. No problem. I’m Trump. Watch me give the middle finger to science.

Of course, the only reason Trump shows up in the same sentence as Musk in a scientific discussion is that the man with the orange hair holds the title of president of the United States and, as such, has the power to decide what kind of weapons this nation employs and when to use them. Also, the president — any president — has the power, through words and actions, to exert profound influence on the beliefs, attitudes and opinions of people used to looking to the holder of the office to set an example. Hey, if it’s good enough for the president, it’s good enough for me. This is science fiction.

Please, fellow Americans, don’t stare at the sun during the next eclipse.

Trump’s disdain for science (for knowledge of any kind, really) and his apparently pathological need to do the opposite of what more knowledgeable people recommend, regardless of the topic, are a dangerous combination. When you’re talking about killer robots, it’s a potentially deadly one.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

How deadly? Here’s a quote from the letter the AI specialists wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.

“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

In fact, it’s already opened. On the Korean peninsula — brimming with diplomatic tension, the rattling of nuclear weapons by the North Koreans and the corresponding threats of “fire and fury” from Trump — a fixed-place sentry gun, reportedly capable of firing autonomously, is in place along the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.

Developed by Samsung for South Korea, the gun reportedly has an autonomous system capable of surveillance up to two miles, voice-recognition, tracking and firing with mounted machine gun or grenade launcher. There is disagreement over whether the weapon is actually deployed to operate on its own, but it can. Currently, the gun and other autonomous weapons being developed by the U.S., Russia, Germany, China, the United Kingdom and others require a human to approve their actions, but usually in a split-second decision. There is little time to weigh the consequences and the human will likely assume the robot is correct rather than risk the consequences of an incorrect second-guess.

But it is precisely the removal of the human element from warfare that Musk and the other AI developers are worried about. Removing the calculation of deaths on “our side” makes deciding to use a killer robot against humans on the other side much easier. Too easy perhaps. And robots that can actually make that decision remove the human factor entirely. A machine will not agonize over causing the deaths of thousands of “enemies.”

And make no mistake, the robots will be used to kill humans as well as destroy enemy machines. Imagine a commander-in-chief who talks cavalierly about using nuclear weapons against a nation also being able to deploy robots that will think for themselves about who and what to attack. No second-guessing generals.

Musk, a pioneer in the AI field, has also been consistent with regard to his respect for the potential danger posed to humans by machines that think for themselves or by intelligences — artificial or otherwise — that are infinitely superior to ours. The Tesla CEO has regularly spoken out, for example, against earthlings sending messages into space to try to contact other societies, lest they deploy their technology to destroy us. One may take issue with him on solar energy, space exploration, driverless cars, but one dismisses his warnings on killer robots at one’s own risk. He knows whereof he speaks.

Trump is another matter. His showboating stunt of a brief look at the sun, sans glasses, will probably not harm his eyes. But the image lingers and the warnings, including one from his own daughter, Ivanka, were explicit: Staring directly at the sun during the eclipse can damage your retina and damage your vision. Considering the blind faith some of his followers display in his words and actions, it was yet another incredibly irresponsible display of ego and another insult to science.

Artificial intelligence is not going away. It has the potential for enormous benefit. If you want an example of its effect on daily life just look at the impact autonomous computer programs have on the financial markets. Having weapons that can think for themselves may also sound like a good idea, especially when a commander-in-chief displays erratic judgment, but their own creators — and several human rights groups — urge the U.N. to ban their use as weapons, in the same way chemical weapons and land mines are banned.

It may be one of the few remaining autonomous decisions humans can make in this area, and the most important one. We dare not wait until the next eclipse to make it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A One-sided Story: Trump Must Go

Friday, August 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white supremacist carries a Nazi flag into the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday, Aug. 12. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Apparently a lot of people in this country are under the impression that the news media are obliged to present both — indeed, all — sides of a story equally, which is to suggest, fairly, and which is to imply, inevitably, that both (or all) sides have equal legitimacy.

This is nonsense. In the first place, a free and unfettered press as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution is under no obligation to be fair, unbiased or even factual. You just can’t make stuff up with the intent to hurt someone. That’s why there are so many unreliable sources of information in this country making money while posing as responsible journalism. Take Fox News, as Henny Youngman said, please.

The idea of the press being responsible and reliable as a source of useful information has evolved over time with the most responsible sources establishing themselves with readers and listeners through dedication to one thing overall — truth. Not truth as a publisher sees it. Not truth as a big advertiser sees it. Not truth as a politician, even a president, sees it. And not necessarily truth as everyone on all sides of an issue would like it to be seen.

Just the plain and simple facts of the matter. Here’s what happened. Here’s what people did. Here’s what people said. And yes, here’s what we think based on all those facts.

The United States and its Allies fought a worldwide war to defeat Naziism, anti-semitism and the belief that certain fair-haired, light-skinned people were born superior to others and that millions of those “others” had to be murdered to protect the so-called super race. The U.S. and it Allies won that war, at great cost. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to defeat Nazis, white supremacists, fascists, anti-Semites. Fact.

There is no “other” side. Those who sought to subjugate and slaughter others because of their religion, nationality, or race were rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Those who defended or sought to appease them were rejected. Some were sent to prison.

The United States also fought a bloody Civil War to defeat white supremacists who believed they were born superior to people with dark skin and, thus, could use and treat those “other” people as property, as slaves. Many Americans, including President Abraham Lincoln, disagreed. Some people in the South tried to argue — still do — that the “other,” legitimate, side of the story was that the war was over states’ rights. That’s only if you consider that the “right” the Southern states sought to protect in seceding from the Union and starting a war (treason) was to own and treat people of color as slaves. The South lost. Fact.

Hate was rejected. White supremacy was rejected. Slavery was rejected. Nazis and fascists were rejected. Anti-semites were rejected.  Case closed. We did not agree to disagree. In words the current president of the United States might understand, Americans agreed that bigotry and racism were “bad.” That the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups were “evil.” That there were no “fine people” who support such groups and their hateful messages. That America stands for inclusiveness. That our differences make us stronger. That it is the primary job of the president to spread that message and to make sure it is enforced.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — “alt-right” is a bogus word created to give a veneer of legitimacy to white supremacists, Nazi sympathizers and wannabe fascist bullies. These are hate groups parading under the absurd banner that white men have been somehow denied their due because of the color of their skin. To deny this absurdity or to remain silent about it is to give these groups a false standing. It suggests a moral legitimacy that hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to deny.

This is a time of serious unrest in America, stoked by the divisive language and actions of Donald Trump and those who advise and enable him. There is no other side to that story either. He was elected on a campaign built on lies, bigotry and bullying. The Republican Party allowed it. They continue to allow him to shred the fabric of this nation. They own him even though he is not and never has been one of them. That is the price of silence in the face of fascism.

There was never any chance that Trump was going to “grow into the job” of president. He has not grown emotionally in his 71 years. Regressed, more likely. He must be removed from office, by Republicans or Robert Mueller, the special counsel. More likely the latter.

But ultimately every American has a stake in this fight against authoritarianism. Trump has disgraced the Office of the President. He has failed at every opportunity to display moral leadership. Congress, world leaders, his own staff do not respect him. At most, the white supremacists in his circle use him for their own agenda.

This is not a theoretical exercise. It is personal. The question for every American is: Do you support the statements from the president that “both sides” bear responsibility for what happened in Charlottesville, Va.? In sum, do you grant neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Klansmen moral standing to the point that you create words like “anti-Nazi” and “antifa” (anti-fascist) when all that used to be necessary was “them” and the rest of us. Evil. Good.

I have spent more than half a century in journalism, three decades writing editorials about every possible topic. This is simply by way of saying that I am programmed to look for both sides of any story and then write about it. For this, because he is uncomfortable with any straight reporting of the things he says and does — including pointing out inconsistencies and lies as well as insults — the wholly unqualified president has declared me and my colleagues to be an “enemy of the people.” That’s a line used by every fascist in history about the press.

Trump should not be president. Those who voted for him were wrong. Many have had the honesty to admit it. Some, for their own reasons, never will. History will remember those who allowed him to disgrace this nation. It will not be a pretty tale. There’s only one side to this story.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump, Korea, the Marines and a Photo

Friday, August 11th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The photo that inspired a nation ... in spite of the facts.

The photo that inspired a nation … in spite of the facts.

“Well, that’s good,” I said to myself with a tension-reducing sigh. Congress is taking August off and the Senate actually took steps to keep Trump from making any recess appointments should he decide to, say, fire the attorney general or anyone else. That probably didn’t sit well with the Donald, but what the heck, I figured, he’s going on another vacation, so what trouble could he possibly get us into?

 Yeah, I know. A momentary lapse of judgment on my part, perhaps prompted by a need for some relief from the constant drumbeat of incoherent, inarticulate, insensitive, insulting, indecent and incredibly embarrassing flow of bigotry and B.S. coming from the White House. A vocabulary-challenging administration.

I guess he figured a man can’t play golf and tweet all the time, so why not go mano-a-mano with North Korea over nuclear war. Ramp up the language and fire up the still-remaining base of support who don’t want to think about Russia or losing their health insurance because, after all, the Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming. And Kim what’s-his-name, too!

It has come to this: Trump’s own staff members are telling us to ignore what he says. Don’t worry, says the secretary of state. Senators and generals are ignoring what he says. But the world is not ignoring what he says because, like it or not, he speaks for this nation.

I don’t like it.

Not when he talks so cavalierly about taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people because of his ego. Not when he shows no awareness of the devastating power of nuclear weapons. Not when he displays no comprehension of the wisdom of trying to avoid war through frank and honest diplomacy: You have weapons; we have more weapons. We will suffer greatly. You will be destroyed. No one wins. What do you want to allow your people to see what a magnificent leader you are by giving up your nuclear weapons and giving your people a better life? Let’s talk.

What gets lost in this frenetic, theoretical talk about war is the simple fact of the individual lives that will be ended. Even efforts by some politicians to lower the threat level to Americans by saying any war with North Korea will not be nuclear and will be fought on the Korean peninsula ignore this fact. It is obviously intended to relieve Americans’ fears of war on their homeland, but conveniently overlooks the fact that, in addition to Koreans, it will be young American men and women fighting and dying on the Korean peninsula, which they have already done once before. Failure to negotiate a peace settlement after that war has led to a divided nation and well-armed ceasefire for more than half a century.

Trump’s ”fire and fury” remarks regarding North Korea coincided with the anniversary of the U.S. dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, to hasten the end of World War II with Japan in 1945. The reasoning by President Harry S Truman and his advisers at the time was that a traditional military invasion of Japan with a million or so troops would cost  hundreds of thousands of Allied deaths given the Japanese strategy of everyone, soldier or not, fighting to the death.

Whether or not one agrees with Truman’s decision, he and his advisers were undoubtedly correct in their assessment of a traditional invasion. Not long before the bomb was dropped, U.S. Marines fought their bloodiest, most courageous, most decorated battle on Iwo Jima, an island fortress defending the Japanese homeland. As recounted in often painful detail in the book, “Flags Of Our Fathers,” by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the conquest of Iwo, commemorated with the planting of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, was the result of sending wave after wave of young American men, with no cover, to attack a heavily armed, entrenched, literally underground, Japanese army and eventually overwhelming the enemy by determination, incredible bravery, and sheer numbers.

That is a strategy. A terribly costly one as it turned out for thousands of American families who lost sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, friends on the beaches of Iwo and on the slopes of Suribachi. It was thought to be necessary by some, at the time, in order to defeat an enemy that didn’t recognize any so-called rules of warfare. Maybe it was, but a nation that respects and cherishes its young people still ought not casually consider sending them off to die or be wounded in any war, however justified it may sound.

That’s what I hate most about Trump’s and others’ flippant remarks about war. They ignore the cost in lives, in futures, in dreams, by wrapping everything in a flag of patriotism. Duty. Honor. Courage.

In addition to being a chilling account of combat, “Flags Of Our Fathers,” which I’m reading as part of a stash of used books I recently bought at the library, provides a perfect example of Americans refusing to take an event at face value and, instead, repackaging it to fit their preconceived notions. It is about one of the most famous photographs ever taken — six Marines raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The photo brought hope to a war-weary nation, became a famous monument, propelled a successful bond tour to support the war effort, inspired a John Wayne movie. Today, it remains a stirring symbol of American courage.

But the photo itself was not of a heroic moment. As the authors recount, it was a lucky shot by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal at a second flag-raising, after the heroic one following an assault up Suribachi a day earlier. The Marine commander wanted a larger flag flying over Iwo. The men who planted the second flag happened to be there. Photos were taken. One was dramatic. They became heroes back home, sought after everywhere for much of their lives. As often as the three flag-raisers who survived Iwo Jima tried to tell the real story of the flag, they were ignored. The photo was too powerful. It said so much of what Americans wanted it to say. Needed it to say.

Bradley’s father, Jack “Doc” Bradley, was identified as one of the six flag-raisers, but even that remains questioned today. A medical corpsman who was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on Iwo, all he and the others ever said was that the real heroes were the Marines and Navy corpsmen who died on the island — 6,800 of them. The Japanese suffered 22,000 casualties, mostly deaths. American casualties exceeded 26,000. One battle. One island. Two flags.

As a nation, we have a tendency to try to make things — flag-raisings, presidents — fit our perceptions (our hopes and wishes perhaps), so that we don’t have to face reality. War is brutal. Talk is cheap.

The Iwo Jima photo, while it does not represent an actual heroic moment in combat, has come to symbolize the heroism of U.S. Marines, especially at Iwo Jima. It has obtained true, lasting value because it represents something real — the courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, and brotherhood the Marines demonstrated on Iwo Jima and, indeed, have demonstrated throughout their proud history. If you need to raise a flag, they are there. They are the real deal.

Take as many photos of Donald Trump as you want. Wearing that silly Make America Great Again cap if you want. Wrap him in flags and give him tough-sounding words if you want. Gild the lily all you want. It doesn’t matter. The image will never match the reality of the man’s history. Gutless and callous and phony to the core.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Republican Party: Mean to the Bone

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of Alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

In much the same way that a broken clock is correct twice a day, so did our narcissist-in-chief (NIC) stumble into a truism the other day when he described a “health-care” bill approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives as “mean.”

Why did our clueless leader suddenly think a bill he had only recently pushed for and extravagantly celebrated at the White House was “mean”? Surely not because almost everyone who knew anything about it except for Tea Party Republicans thought it was mean. That’s never bothered him before.

I suspect it had more to do with the fact that he needed the Senate, also run by Republicans, to also pass a health-care bill so he could brag about it again and he just happened to be in the room, sitting there like a broken clock, when someone said if there was any hope of getting a bill through the Senate it had to be different from the House bill, which was, as he subsequently repeated, “too mean.”

Those are the kind of simple words the NIC understands. Big. Great. Best. Bad. Fat. Lousy, Mean. He likes to use them. A lot. Mean is not good. It’s bad. People don’t like mean things. How is the bill “mean”? Nuance is another matter.

Well, the bill that was presented to the Senate by a 13-member, all-white, all-male, Republican-only task force was apparently only a tad less mean than the GOP House bill, which means most of the country still thinks it’s awful policy, as do a handful of Senate Republicans. Actually, a lot of Senate Republicans think it’s not mean enough. In fact, not enough Republicans like it for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to a vote that would carry, so he put it off to allow for arm-twisting and bribing.

As he apparently demonstrated at a ballyhooed arm-twisting meeting with all the Senate Republicans at the White House, the NIC doesn’t know — or even care — how the bill works. He’s apparently confused about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, stuff like that. No matter. Mean or not, he just wants a health care bill passed so he can have another Rose Garden celebration and thumb his nose at Barack Obama. That’s pretty much the entire Trump policy.

McConnell, for his part, resorted to his favorite weapon — bribery — to try to get 50 Republicans to buy in to the bill. That comes in the form of billions of dollars in local projects for Republican senators who might face difficult reelection if they vote for the still-mean health care bill.

Tell me that’s not an awfully mean way to conduct public policy. And to no purpose other than to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans so they will continue to fund campaigns and vote for Republican candidates who promise to cut taxes even more, to eliminate pesky regulations that force businesses to be accountable for any harm they do, and to remove all those “deadbeats” Rush Limbaugh rails about from the Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and welfare rolls.

In other words, Republicans have totally lost the concept of governing for the public good. They have been against everything for so long they don’t know how — or seem to even care to try — to work with Democrats on creating useful legislation. I’ve been trying to figure out when “mean” became the Republican go-to word in policy. Maybe it was Ronald Reagan’s phony trickle-down spiel. The middle class and poor are still waiting for the first nourishing drops. A lot of them — many Trump supporters — are those supposed “deadbeats” of Limbaugh’s. Of course, they did have to suffer through a major economic disaster brought on by those rich individuals and corporations, who apparently didn’t have enough stashed away from the tax breaks so they had to simply cheat people out of their money. And they got away with it.

By the way, Republicans just voted to do away with an Obama regulation that required people dealing with other people’s money — brokers — to tell their clients what was in their best financial interests, not the brokers’. Bad idea, according to Republicans. Mean, I say.

Mean is slashing hundreds of millions from Medicaid, which pays for health care for 20 percent of Americans, including seniors in nursing homes, simply to cut taxes for those who don’t need it — the one percent. The very wealthiest Americans. Mean is cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and food stamps. Mean is promising coal workers that their dying industry will be revived while creating no jobs for them, but allowing coal companies to dump their waste into streams from which the workers get their drinking water. Mean is putting the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects Americans from such things as water pollution, under the direction of someone who wants to eliminate the agency.

Mean is looking to do away with hundreds of regulations that protect people from health and safety risks posed by unscrupulous cost-cutting minded corporations looking to improve their standing with shareholders. If Republicans want to take an object lesson about such short-sighted governing, they need only to look at the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 79 people.

The fire is believed to have been started by a faulty refrigerator and spread rapidly up the high-rise, fueled by a highly flammable exterior wrapping, called cladding, that is banned for use on high-rises in the United States, but which its maker is allowed to sell in places where regulations aren’t as stringent. In the aftermath of the deadly blaze, Arconic — formerly Alcoa — said it would no longer sell the cladding, which has a polyethylene core, for high rise projects anywhere in the world. The company makes a more-expensive, fire-resistant cladding. Grenfell is a public housing project whose residents had complained for years that there were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no safety tests and only one stairwell.

Public housing. No safety features. Total disregard for safety regulations. Cheaper construction material. Years of complaining with no response from British politicians more concerned with helping businesses save money rather than protecting people’s lives. Mean.

Since Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they have eagerly worked to erase safety regulations issued late in the Obama administration, including rules to keep coal companies from dumping waste in streams and denying federal contracts to dangerous companies. And it’s not just people who are the target of Republican callousness. The NIC recently signed a bill to allow the shooting of bears and wolves — including cubs — as they hibernate. Heartless.

This list could go on and on and undoubtedly will so long as Republicans, once the proud party of Lincoln, now seemingly a collection of mean-spirited individuals lacking in compassion and tolerance, have access to power. Trump is not really even a Republican, but party leaders have been cynical enough to try to use him to advance their cruel agenda.

It is an utterly depressing state of affairs that calls for new Republican leadership or a new party entirely. If you’re a Republican and are offended by any of this, that’s your problem. The rest of us are appalled. It’s your party. You are responsible for what is being promulgated and promoted in the seats of power in Washington. Your silence is tacit approval.

Like the clueless one said, “Mean.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

‘Daddy Is an Idiot, but We Love Him’

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump and his happy family.

Donald Trump and his happy family.

“Daddy, to be honest, is an idiot. A lying SOB, too. A nasty drunk. As long as you praise him, he’s all smiles and charm. Disagree with him and he’s a bully, or worse. He likes to act like a big shot — ‘I’m the smartest guy at the office …,’ ‘the fastest runner …,’ ‘no one knows as much as me …’ ‘I really showed them …’ Yes, he’s somehow always late paying the bills, if he pays them at all, and he seems to owe a lot of people money. He’s not around much lately — busy I guess — but when he is he’s always telling us about how great it’s gonna be when we: a) get a bigger house; b) buy a new car; c) go on vacation; d) move away from this lousy neighborhood.

“We’re still waiting, but we know he’ll figure it out eventually because he’s Daddy and he said so. We love him.”

Welcome to another day in the life of a typical American family locked in the grip of massive dysfunction bordering on delusion. Actually, maybe they’ve already gone across the border.

Of course I’m talking about Trump. You know I’m talking about Trump. The only ones who don’t know I’m talking about Trump are members of the aforementioned family. The delusionals. They stuck with him before and they’re sticking with him now. He’s family. They’re stuck with each other. Hey, nobody’s perfect. “We gotta stick together or they’re gonna take away our jobs. Then our schools. Then our church. Then our kids. Then our guns. Then what’ll we do?”

“Don’t worry. Daddy will know.”

(But remember? Daddy’s an idiot.)

How do you survive in life when all your tools — morals, knowledge, social skills, sense of self, pride, compassion, ethics, economics, tolerance, honor, curiosity, courage, ambition, faith — have been conceived, nurtured and twisted in such a fashion that, although you know instinctively that up is not down, you agree with the head of the family anyway when he says otherwise and you defend him vigorously when others says he’s an idiot? To do otherwise, after all, is to admit your significant shortcomings in those areas and to invite the shame and ridicule you imagine you’ll receive for not recognizing reality. For not kicking Daddy out or leaving yourself.

That’s life with an abusive (often alcoholic) parent. Donald Trump’s America. The drug of choice in this case is applause, not alcohol, but the behavior is the same. Me, me, me. Predictably unpredictable. Trump’s diehard supporters are stuck with each other and with him — one, big, dysfunctional family, lies and betrayals notwithstanding. Indeed, to question Daddy is disloyal, to leave, a betrayal. And where would you go anyway? It is, after all, a scary world out there. Daddy said so. Many times.

Breaking away from any such family is no easy task. It’s who you are, after all, isn’t it? You and your brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and … Heck, it’s like daddy told you — it’s your brand. “Us against the world.”

Breaking away from the family of Trump — acknowledging that he is a fraud, rejecting the brand — would take enormous courage. First of all, it would mean admitting you have been wrong all this time to have placed your trust in a man with no moral compass, no sense of duty, no trace of compassion for the less fortunate, no regard for the truth and a total lack of interest in anything that does not feed his ego. (Get him a beer!) To admit that, one would have to be a fool, right?

Secondly, it would mean learning an entirely new set of life skills and placing your trust in people who believe pretty much the opposite of everything Daddy has told you. Talk about scary. Besides, how can you be sure those people aren’t lying, too.

“Everybody lies. Don’t believe what the media say. They all lie to make money. Daddy knows. He used to be on TV. He was great. At least Daddy has the guts to stand up to the liars and fight to get what we deserve. Maybe he hasn’t gotten it yet, but at least he’s trying. He’ll come through for us eventually. He has to, doesn’t he?”

Of course, there are 12-Step programs for people who grow up in this kind of ill-functioning, mis-functioning, dysfunctioning household with an unpredictable, abusive, addictive parent at the head. But one has to first admit there’s a problem before those programs can help. Then, one has to be willing to change — to break the chains of denial and dependence on the parent and learn to live one’s own life. To be honest with oneself.

Rather than being the act of a fool, it takes a lot of courage to say, “Daddy’s an idiot and if I keep depending on him, excusing his behavior, I’m going to wind up an idiot, too. I have to face reality.” Sometimes, it take an intervention or a profound spiritual experience, a moment of clarity, for this to happen. Both have been known to work miracles and either one would be acceptable right now.

In the meantime, the key for the rest of the more-functional families in the neighborhood is to continue to recognize that the family down the block has an addictive idiot for a Daddy and that to try to tell them so is to invite insanity into your home.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A 70-year-Old Rookie in the White House

Monday, June 12th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump says it ... Ryan excuses it: "He's new."

Trump says it … Ryan excuses it: “He’s new.”

“Give the kid a break; he’s new on the job.”

Of all the excuses Republicans have come up with for the words and actions of Donald Trump, leave it to feckless Paul Ryan to come up with the dumbest. And Ryan is two heartbeats from the presidency.

Ryan’s excuse (I paraphrased for emphasis) came, of course in response to questions about his reaction to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC’s) pressuring former FBI DIrector James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn, whom Trump had just fired as his national security adviser. “He’s a good guy,” Comey said the NIC told him in a private meeting. Testifying to a Senate committee, Comey said he agreed with Trump. But he also knew Flynn had neglected to mention several meetings with Russian officials while he was part of the Trump transition team. So, no, Comey, said, he could not “let it go.”

More to the point, Comey told the senators he was uncomfortable that the NIC had even asked the then-FBI director — traditionally an independent official — to drop an investigation and, furthermore, asked for a pledge of “loyalty” from him. All in private conversations. Inappropriate in spades. Possibly illegal.

Rookie mistake, as far as Ryan is concerned. To quote him precisely: “He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Is that an appropriate excuse for the president of the United States? Ryan was asked. Perhaps not, he acknowledged, adding, “It’s just my observation.”

FIne. Here’s my observation, Mr. Speaker of the House. I like to know that the person widely regarded as leader of the free world has at least some working familiarity with the rules of the road — the protocols of the office, diplomacy, a sense of history, the basic do’s and don’ts of the job. Also, respect for the law of the land. Stuff like that.

“Let’s Make a Deal’’ was a TV show, not a meeting of NATO countries. “The Godfather” was a novel, then a movie in which Marlon Brando asked a bunch of people for “loyalty,” but they weren’t in an Oval Office darkened by closed blue curtains, which, on other occasions, might afford a wary FBI director a place to try to hide from the NIC.

There are certain times when “he’s new on the job” doesn’t cut it. I recently underwent surgery for fractures of my left knee and right wrist. Same accident. The surgeons said they were going to perform the operations simultaneously, since they were on opposite sides of the body and they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. Only one anesthesia that way, they said.

Sounds good, I said. You guys ever do this before? I asked. Sure, the knee guy reassured me. Is he any good? I asked the nurses. He operates on the Mets’ pitchers, they said. OK, I said. No rookie. Knee and wrist are mending well.

A little more personal history from the other side of the issue. As a new court reporter early in my career I made what could have been a serious rookie mistake. After talking to the local district attorney about his most recent grand jury, I wrote an article about the indictments, including someone who was named in a sealed indictment. Sealed indictments are not made public so the people don’t know they have been charged with a crime. (For example, some reports have suggested the NIC himself has been named in a sealed indictment.)

“I think you may have broken the law,” the DA told me after he read the article in the paper. He was smiling, but I was mortified. My inexperience might have tipped someone off, blown the DA’s case … put me before a grand jury?

I was lucky. The DA had his guy and was understanding. He knew I was “new on the job” and had no malicious intent. Still, I was embarrassed and apologized profusely and paid close attention to the rules of the road from thereon. I did not deny or excuse what I had done. I learned a lesson.

This was in a small town in upstate New York, not in the White House. I was maybe 25 years old, fresh out of college, six months of infantry training and a year as a police reporter. Trump is 70 years old and, to hear him tell it, a successful man of the world. The artist of the deal. A brand name. President of the @#$%# United States!

His response to the Comey meetings? He went to Twitter to accuse Comey simultaneously of being a liar and leaking classified information, meaning the conversations. Apparently he’s not sure which desperate excuse would work. Mea culpa? Trump doesn’t speak Latin. Learn from a mistake? Trump was relentless in stalking Comey for ‘loyalty.”

That whole learning the ropes argument is, of course, just a way for Republicans to avoid admitting the man in the Oval Office is not only frighteningly unqualified for the job, but doesn’t seem to regard learning about it as especially important. And consequences? Not his concern.

The rookie president went to Europe to meet with our NATO allies. He figured he could shame them into spending more for defense. After much debate, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other advisers managed to get a sentence included in Trump’s speech reaffirming the United States’ commitment to mutual defense — the core function of NATO. Trump left it out. On purpose. Out of spite.

Several days later, at a press conference with the president of Romania, which can’t afford to spend any more money on its military, the NIC said the U.S., of course, remains committed to NATO. But he had another surprise for Tillerson.

Just 90 minutes earlier, Tillerson had said the United States was willing to help negotiate in the escalating conflict in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several other Arab nations closing borders and setting up blockades on Qatar, accusing their neighbor of supporting terrorist groups. Tensions in the region had become heightened after Trump, who is fond of dealing with the Saudis, also blamed Qatar for supporting terrorists, thereby taking sides, encouraging the Saudis to get more aggressive and, by the way, ignoring the presence of 11,000 American troops in Qatar, which is a major launch site for U.S. military activity in the region.

Tillerson’s comments about negotiating thus were seen as an effort to cool things off. Cover up for the rookie. Yet less than two hours later, Trump was again pointing the finger at Qatar.

I happen to think the Middle East is no place for a president to be learning the ropes. Yes, all new presidents have to learn things, especially in the area of diplomacy where blurting out whatever is on your mind is generally not a good idea. But, again, presidents’ words and actions have wide-reaching consequences. At the very least, someone who was serious about learning the job would seek — and take — advice from those with more experience. It’s a sign of maturity. He would admit misstatements. It’s a sign of humility.

If you’re a reporter, you don’t publish the names of people named in sealed indictments. If you’re a president, you don’t repeatedly ask the FBI director to “let go” of an investigation and ask for a pledge of loyalty and you don’t keep throwing your secretary of state under the bus. At some point, if you’re serious about the job, and especially if you’re a rookie, you study and read and discuss and learn. Maybe you don’t play golf every weekend — unless you’re really more interested in just playing at being the president, rather than doing the work.

Kind of like Paul Ryan playing at being speaker of the House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com