Monday, December 5, 2016

Bright Shiny Objects

Courtesy of
Buzz has a cat named Mnuchin, pronounced Munchkin, like the little characters from the Wizard of Oz, but spelled like Donald Trump's new Secretary of Treasury nominee, Steve Mnuchin.  

When Buzz is not crunching numbers on the Univac 3000, he's playing with Mnuchin, either using his red laser pointer or using some other bright shiny object to get Mnuchin to run around the room chasing the distraction.

While Buzz was getting Mnuchin to climb the walls, it reminded me how Trump has played the press and the American public with "bright shiny objects."  Whenever the press cycle has moved away from him, or more importantly, has moved to scrutinize one of his many questionable statements or positions, Trump gets out his laser pointer -- an off-the-wall tweet.

Conflicts of Interest

The perfect example is when the New York Times published a lengthy article about Trump's plethora of business interests throughout the world, many of which raise troubling conflicts of interest with being President.

The Times reported, among other things, as we all know, Trump has repeatedly said he is under audit from the Internal Revenue Service.   The IRS will be under direct supervision of the Trump administration.  The Trump International Hotel has a contract with the General Services Administration, whose operation again will be under the direct supervision of the Trump Administration.  Deutsche Bank is in negotiations with the Attorney General's office over mortgage abuses, which may result in a $14 billion penalty. Trump owes millions of dollars to Deutsche Bank.  The list goes on and on.

Richard Nixon on the law

Trump initially responded to the conflicts by taking a page from the book of Richard Nixon stating basically "when the President does it, that means it is not illegal."  He has since told us that he will hold a news conference sometime in mid-December with his children, where he will address the issue, but not before he tweeted about flag burning.

Flag Burning

"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag -- if they do there must be consequences -- perhaps loss of citizenship or a year in jail," Trump tweeted.

Despite the fact that the issue of criminal punishment for flag burning was settled by the United States Supreme Court in 1989 (Texas v. Johnson) and in the subsequent failed attempt to pass a Constitutional amendment, the question is still a third rail issue.  The Supreme Court decision, joined by conservatives the late Justice Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, held that flag burning was constitutionally protected free speech, and the proposed Constitutional Amendment didn't make it out of Congress.

For the next day or so, no one was talking about the conflicts of interest.  The buzz was over Trump's flag burning tweet.

In fact Buzz just received an email from the American Legion reviving the Constitutional Amendment prohibiting flag burning.  As of the time of posting, 83 percent supported an amendment in the American Legion survey.

So the bright shiny object worked again.  The conflict of interest story was pushed to the back burner.  This wasn't the first time we chased Trump's bright shiny object, and Buzz and I are afraid it won't be the last.