I spent my entire adult life in service to this country. Military service, then civilian service in two federal agencies – U. S. Customs Service and Homeland Security Investigations. Integrity and honor were the cornerstones of that career. Any evidence that there’s a void of either in public service gives me pause. A residual effectof that intelligence and investigative career is the ability to make perfect sense of fragmented pieces of information. When you put several fragmented pieces of the Trump administration’s near hidden actions together, anyone would be hard pressed to deny being deeply disturbed by the direction the country is being led.
I started writing ten minutes before the President held his campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona but stopped to watch. My intent was to write about how Americans examine redemption, morality, character and fitness. I was prepared to discuss the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee’s refusal to admit Dwayne Betts to the Connecticut Bar stating that he failed to exhibit the character and fitness to practice law in the State of Connecticut. My plan included comparing the Connecticut Bar’s assessment of Betts’ redemption following a terrible mistake – one for which he paid dearly to the assessment of the character and fitness of President Trump’s nominee, John K. Bush, to a seat on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal. But that was all scrapped. I’ll get to that another day.
Then I thought that I would discuss how August 15, 2017 was a low point for President Trump when, during an angry press conference, he lowered the bar on American morality, character and fitness . . . again. I’d planned to talk, at length, about the President of the United States standing before the world proclaiming a moral equivalence between white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Anti-Semitists and domestic terrorists, the likes of former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke, to American citizens who won’t accept racism in their midst. After watching the Phoenix rally and listening to the President double down on his position regarding the deplorable events in Charlottesville, VA, I scrapped that approach also. You can draw your own conclusions about the President and his thoughts on race and fairness.
The media questions that followed that rally simply deepened my fear but strengthened my resolve to talk about character and fitness examinations, redemption following mistakes and moral equivalence. For now, however, I’m simply left thinking about all of those questions.
What was President Trump trying to do at his Phoenix rally? Does the media bashing work? Is the President rational? Is President Trump unfit to hold the highest office in the country? Does President Trump exhibit the stability to be lead the country? Does Donald J. Trump want to continue to be President? What will Republicans do after the Phoenix rally? Will Republicans finally admit that the President is incapable of leading the country?
Here’s my assessment. Why are we asking these questions? These tirades aren’t new. Most of us have become accustomed to them. Needless to say, his base has become energized with each tirade. Nothing about the President’s rally and speech should be surprising to anyone remotely aware of the divisive climate in American politics today. Or the role the President has played, and continues to play, in furthering that division. Nothing about what we’ve seen every day since the day Donald J. Trump announced his candidacy has changed. And finally, a collective proclamation from the Republican Party that President Trump is not performing well doesn’t necessarily mean that suddenly Vice President Pence will ascend to the presidency. We should all be more concerned about the moves made quietly by the administration while everyone focuses on one tragic tirade after the other.
Does anyone believe that the Trump administration is making significant strides with little resistance while we constantly chase the rabbit down the hole? Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rolling back significant criminal justice reforms dealing with sentencing and the failed war on drugs. In a recent memorandum to U. S. Attorneys General, AG Sessions instructions included charging and pursuing “the most serious, readily provable offense”. Those “serious” offenses carry the most substantial sentences under the sentencing guidelines and include mandatory minimum sentencing (translation: longer sentences).
Mandatory minimum sentencing has long been criticized as the federal government’s posture in drug crimes. The ranks of the incarcerated consists of a significant number of people convicted of drug crimes. Many are low-level participants. Many are people of color. Longer sentences will not enhance or increase public safety or promote a higher level of rehabilitation. But what will happen is that private prisons will be the largest benefactors. Sessions has never been a supporter of criminal justice reform. Make no mistake, instructing federal prosecutors to exercise their enormous discretion to roll back reforms set in motion by the Obama administration demands far more analysis than we have gotten so far.
Do we really know what Secretary Devos has been up to in the Department of Education? Are we getting the in-depth analysis of the Secretary’s school choice agenda and what that means for all Americans? Have we seen one pundit after the other analyze the overhaul of the Government’s financial aid program?
Well known for-profit colleges have shut their doors or otherwise ceased operation under a cloud of regulatory scrutiny focusing on allegations of fraud in recent years. Thousands of students were left holding millions of dollars in student loan obligations from these shuttered institutions. In October 2016, the Obama administration sought to remedy that situation through simplification and clarification of existing borrower defense to repay rules. Among other relief, that effort, scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2017, allowed for automatic relief when a college shut its doors leaving large numbers of students in the lurch with loans. The final rule also prevented those institutions from requiring students to enter into arbitration agreements waiving their rights to a class action lawsuit in case of misconduct.
As with other initiatives completed late in the Obama presidency, the Trump administration continues to move the country backwards. By implementing a regulatory reset of the rule, Secretary Devos ensured that students remain on the hook for loans from defunct colleges and halts implementation of any of the provision of the 2016 borrower defense rule. But for a passing report of the 18 states suing the Department of Education following the reset of the rule, we would see little analysis of the impact of this move by what some would say is an embattled Secretary.
For those who say nothing is being done by the Trump administration, I disagree. These measures are not the only things we should question. I don’t hear these questions being asked every day on every television and radio show. Expert analysis of these issues, although not as sexy and salacious as a President unhinged, would cut to the core of who we are and the direction the country is being led. When we put the same energy into these questions we may get answers to those I previously said were unnecessary to ask.