The ways he dealt with crises in his business, real estate and even his personal life prove jarring as he leads the government’s response to a pandemic.
WASHINGTON — During his campaign for the White House in 2016, President Trump’s advisers briefly tried to run through with him how he would address a large-scale disaster if he won. What, for instance, would he have done during Hurricane Katrina?
“I would have fixed that,” Mr. Trump replied with certitude, referring to the government’s bungled rescue and recovery efforts, according to a campaign official who was present for the exchange. “I would have come up with a much better response.” How? He did not say. He just asserted it would have been better and advisers did not press him to elaborate.
Mr. Trump is no stranger to crisis. He has spent a lifetime grappling with bankruptcy, fending off creditors, evading tax collectors, defending lawsuits, deflecting regulators, spinning reporters and dueling with estranged wives, usually coming out ahead, at least as he defines it. But these were crises of his own creation involving human adversaries he knew how to confront. Nothing in his background in business, entertainment or multiple marriages prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic now threatening America’s health and wealth.
Mr. Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring — the profound
- need for personal praise, the
- propensity to blame others, the
- lack of human empathy, the
- penchant for rewriting history, the
- disregard for expertise, the
- distortion of facts, the
- impatience with scrutiny or criticism.
For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis threatening the nation, and now they know.
“When he’s faced a problem, he has sought to somehow cheat or fix the outcome ahead of time so that he could construct a narrative that showed him to be the winner,” said Michael D’Antonio, a Trump biographer. “And when it was all about feuds with other celebrities or contests over ratings or hotel branding, he could do that and no one cared enough to really check. And the bluster and bragging worked.”
“But in this case,” Mr. D’Antonio added, “he tried that in the beginning and you can’t brag or bluster your way out of people dying. And I think more than the suffering, the human suffering, it’s been the inexorable quality of the data that’s forced him to change.”
Only after viral projections grew more dire and markets began to tank did Mr. Trump shift tone and appear to take the threat more seriously, finally adopting a more aggressive set of policies to compel Americans to stay away from one another while trying to mitigate the economic damage.
Some in the public seem to have responded. Fifty-five percent of Americans approved of his handling of the crisis in a poll by ABC News and Ipsos released on Friday, up from 43 percent the previous week. A Reuters poll, also conducted with Ipsos, put approval of his handling of the pandemic at 48 percent, up from 38 percent a couple weeks earlier, while surveys by The Economist and YouGov showed a smaller rise, from 41 percent to 45 percent.
But even as he has seemed to take the crisis more seriously, Mr. Trump has continued to make statements that conflicted with the government’s own public health experts and focused energy on blaming China, quarreling with reporters, claiming he knew that the coronavirus would be a pandemic even when he was minimizing its threat only a few weeks ago and congratulating himself for how he has managed a crisis he only recently acknowledged.
“We’ve done a fantastic job from just about every standpoint,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve done a great job,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve done a phenomenal job on this,” he said Thursday.
The next day he grew irritated when Peter Alexander of NBC News asked if he was giving Americans a “false sense of hope” by promising immediate delivery of a drug that experts said is not proven. Mr. Trump said he disagreed with them. “Just a feeling,” he said. “You know, I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it.”
Mr. Alexander moved onto his next question, a “softball” by his own reckoning, asking what Mr. Trump would say to Americans who were at home watching and scared. Most presidents would use the opportunity to offer reassuring words. But Mr. Trump was still steamed and snapped, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say.”
Later in the same briefing, Yamiche Alcindor of PBS’s “NewsHour” asked when everyone who needed a coronavirus test would be able to get one, as he asserted two weeks ago that every person already could. “Nobody is even talking about it except for you, which doesn’t surprise me,” he said dismissively. How about people with symptoms who could not get a test, he was asked. “I’m not hearing it,” he replied.
The White House rejects any criticism of the president as illegitimate. “This great country has been faced with an unprecedented crisis, and while the Democrats and the media shamelessly try and destroy this president with a coordinated, relentless, biased political assault, President Trump has risen to fight this crisis head-on by taking aggressive historic action to protect the health, wealth and well-being of the American people,” Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.
Mr. Trump acted at the end of January to restrict travel from China, where the outbreak was first detected, and repeatedly points back to that decision, arguing that he saved lives as a result. But he resisted stronger action for weeks. Even as governors, mayors and businesses decided on their own to curb large gatherings and eventually close down schools, restaurants and workplaces, the president at first offered no guidance about whether to take such action.
He has repeatedly misrepresented the state of the response — promising a vaccine “soon” that will actually take at least a year to develop, insisting that tests were available while patients struggled to find any, boasting about the availability of millions of masks while health care workers took to stitching together homemade versions. And dismissing the threat for weeks may have led to complacency among some Americans who could have acted much sooner to take precautions.
Mr. Trump’s defensiveness over the pandemic has become a central dynamic inside the White House as officials wrestle with difficult policy choices. Aides have long understood that Mr. Trump needs to hear support for his decisions, preferably described in superlatives. He often second-guesses himself, prompting advisers to ask allies to tell him he made the right call or go on Fox News to make that point in case he might be watching.
Over the last week, as Mr. Trump has faced ever more draconian and expensive options, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, sought to coax him into action by using bits of praise in news coverage or from other officials as a motivator, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Officials have learned that the president craves a constant diet of flattery, which they serve up during daily televised briefings. Vice President Mike Pence makes a point of repeating it day after day, sometimes repeatedly in the course of a single briefing. “Mr. President, from early on, you took decisive action,” he said during one.
Other advisers have followed suit. “Thank you, Mr. President, for gathering your public health experts here today and for your strong leadership in keeping America safe,” Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, told him at one point. “I want to thank you for your leadership during this coronavirus outbreak,” Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told him at another.
Even Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the veteran infectious diseases expert known for his just-the-facts style, has sometimes joined in praise of the president, at one point referring to Mr. Trump’s “proactive, leaning-forward, aggressive, trying to stay ahead of the curve” approach. While Dr. Fauci does not hesitate to correct the president’s facts, as he did on Friday over the unproven drug, he does so politely, careful to maintain his viability within a political team. Still, many noticed that he put his hand to his face in seeming disbelief when Mr. Trump referred to his diplomats as the “Deep State Department.”
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said Mr. Trump had been unfairly criticized for his handling of the virus. “The media virtually ignore the president’s massive effort mobilizing the federal government, our industrial base and the scientific and medical community to combat this pandemic, rivaling F.D.R.’s arsenal of democracy,” he said.
Mr. King said that Mr. Trump was working with Democrats but the news media “prefer to dwell on initial failure of C.D.C. test kits and low inventory of masks and ventilators going back two administrations.” Still, he said of Mr. Trump, “He too often takes the bait.”
None of which comes as a surprise to those who dealt with Mr. Trump or studied his life before he became president. In real estate, he found he could overcome crises by bluffing his way past regulators, bullying the bankers and bamboozling the tabloids.
When banks came after him for overdue loans, he pushed back, arguing that it was in their interest that his brand not be harmed by calling him out. When contractors demanded to be paid, he found complaints about their work and refused, leading in part to more than 3,500 lawsuits. When his first two marriages fell apart, he took a scorched-earth approach against his wives, leaking to New York’s gossip columnists even if it meant his children watched ugly divorces play out in public.
“The typical modus operandi from him is to bluff, is to fake, is to deny,” said Jack O’Donnell, the former president of Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
When Mr. Trump prepared to open the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City in 1990 and ran into trouble with the authorities, he summoned Mr. O’Donnell. “He told them I was an expert in operations and I could fix this,” Mr. O’Donnell recalled. “And they believed him. I was dumbfounded. He was completely bluffing them.”
To Mr. Trump, most of his crises were about paper and money, not people. The self-described “king of debt” treated loan repayments almost as if they were optional and made it a mantra never to back down. “I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine,” he wrote in one of his books. “What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, ‘I told you, you shouldn’t have loaned me that money.’”
Perhaps the only time before his presidency that the human toll of a crisis really struck Mr. Trump in a personal way came when three of his executives died in a helicopter crash heading to Atlantic City. He seemed genuinely shaken, visiting the widows to share in their grief.
“I actually think he handled that situation about as well as you could expect from him,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “It was such a shock to him. It was the first time I heard fear in his voice. It was the first time I saw empathy, that I saw emotion from him, because he realized the human loss there.”
Even then, Mr. Trump could not help inserting himself into the story, suggesting falsely that he almost boarded the helicopter himself. And within months, with his Taj project flailing, Mr. Trump began publicly attributing problems to the dead executives. In a crisis, “he always was more focused on who he could blame versus fixing the problem,” said Mr. O’Donnell, who quit in disgust.
Nor did Mr. Trump exhibit much empathy for the workers who lost their jobs when his casinos went bust. Instead, when asked about his failed Atlantic City ventures, he emphasizes his own ability to escape unharmed. “The money I took out of there was incredible,” he once told The New York Times.
The closest analogue to the current situation may be the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, another national trauma. Mr. Trump tried to thrust himself into the news coverage, telling an interviewer by phone that day that with the destruction of the World Trade Center he now had the tallest building in New York City, a claim that was not even true. He also has said he spent extensive time around the site trying to help the cleanup, a claim that has never been verified.
With the airports closed at the time, Mr. Trump was asked to provide his private plane to fly Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George E. Pataki to Washington for President George W. Bush’s address to Congress. Mr. Trump agreed — but in return asked for help getting permission to travel from Washington to another destination when others were grounded.
By his own account, Mr. Trump never imagined that he would be facing a pandemic, an invisible killer immune to bluster. “In every previous occasion, he was facing a human being or groups of human beings,” said Gwenda Blair, the author of a biography of the Trump family. “And obviously the coronavirus, it’s not a person, can’t be bullied.”
So Mr. Trump, with his recent descriptions of a war to be won over a “foreign enemy,” is seeking a dynamic that he is familiar with, personifying the virus as an opponent to be beaten, framing it as the kind of crisis he knows how to tackle. “He’s trying to make it into a win-lose situation,” she said. “That’s how he sees the world — winners, him, losers everybody else. He’s trying to make the coronavirus into a loser and himself the winner.”
The prime minister is effectively at war with the Parliament for which he once promised to “take back control.”
LONDON — Boris Johnson has begun with defeat.
Legislators voted last night to seize control of Parliament, alarmed by the prime minister’s insistence that he will take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31, even if no deal with the bloc has been reached. On Wednesday, opposition legislators and rebels from Mr. Johnson’s own party will try to pass a law mandating the prime minister to ask for an extension to the deadline if he still has no deal.
It promises to be a week of high political drama in Westminster — and the culmination of over two years of intricate tactical maneuvers and procedural minutiae that have marked British politics.
Time is so short because Mr. Johnson last Wednesday “prorogued” parliament, mothballing it for five weeks from next week: If the bill fails to become law by that point, it automatically falls. The unusual length of the suspension has already occasioned protests across Britain. Demonstrators called it a “coup,” and the speaker of the House of Commons called it a “constitutional outrage.”
Yet on Tuesday night, with Parliament having again flexed its long dormant democratic muscle, it was Mr. Johnson who looked isolated. Furious, he vowed to seek new elections, and stripped the whip from all his rebels — including prominent party grandees — effectively barring them from running again as Conservative candidates.
The conflict has laid bare deep tensions in Britain’s democracy — between the prime minister and Parliament, and between the people and the politics that claims to represent them.
Britain’s Parliament is anomalous. Having failed to sustain its 17th-century deposition of the monarchy, and having been the imperial power rather than the colonized one, Britain has never had a founding constitutional moment. Instead its democracy has evolved within an accreted mass of archaic institutions, including an unelected upper chamber that was until the late 20th century composed of hereditary aristocrats. This grandeur itself has sometimes been thought to be a powerful conservative influence: The Labour politician Nye Bevan once wrote it “lies like an Alp” on the mind of a new member of Parliament.
Under its ritual pomp, Parliament’s curious evolution has made it unusually powerful. A prime minister with a substantial majority has broad latitude to remake the country, as Margaret Thatcher and to a lesser extent Tony Blair did. But without a solid majority, Parliament has great power to resist even the most ambitious leader.
Legislators’ tactics this week are not entirely new: A similar procedure was used to take control and force Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, to seek an extension in April. But the complexity of the new bill — which intends to prescribe Mr. Johnson’s approach to the European Union in exacting detail — reflects the total breakdown in trust between executive and legislature.
April’s version of the bill passed partly because Mrs. May recognized she had lost; Mr. Johnson will use every means at his disposal to frustrate the new bill, including attempts to filibuster its progress in the unelected upper house. Promising a scorched earth, the prime minister is effectively at war with the Parliament for which he once promised to “take back control.”
Despite the throng of demonstrators outside Parliament — roared slogans and vast European Union flags are a daily backdrop to news broadcasts — the political progress of Brexit has been a markedly institutional affair, conducted through arcane procedural instruments and prominent court battles. The alien language of parliamentary procedure — “prorogation,” “humble addresses,” “paving motions” — is parsed for an unfamiliar public by constitutional experts who have rarely been in such demand.
The interviews with members of the public that dot the news vary from bafflement to outright loathing of politics; enthusiasm is a rare beast. According to Hansard Society research, civic trust is threadbare: Only a third of people trust politicians to act in the public interest, and just under half feel they have no influence at all on decision-making.
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union was always likely to be a vastly complex technical matter, and the bloc’s tendency to conduct politics through intricate sequencing lends itself to squabbles over procedural minutiae. But the cause of the proliferating conflict in British politics has always been domestic: Despite losing her majority in 2017, Mrs. May’s conduct of Brexit was distinguished by her autocratic instincts and determination to avoid parliamentary consultation.
The same highhanded conduct saw her first dragged to the Supreme Court to assert Parliament’s right of a “meaningful vote,” and then locked in a battle with Parliament over the disclosure of the attorney general’s legal advice. That battle saw her censured for “contempt of Parliament.” The phrase epitomizes her successor’s entire attitude.
One consequence of the prominence of procedural conflicts since the Brexit referendum has been to transfer the political questions which drove it into arguments about legal permissibility. Questions about
- the kind of state the Britain wishes to be,
- relations among its constituent nations, its
- draconian attitudes to migrants, its
- vexed history in Ireland,
- how it makes domestic political choices and
- how far it wishes economic integration with other European states —
all are folded into, and sometimes disappear in, conflicts over parliamentary rights and legal obligations.
It is then no wonder that apparently arid matters suddenly take on intense but displaced political energy — the kind that saw High Court judges branded “enemies of the people” on the front pages of the tabloid press and that turned usually pacific sections of society into ardent protesters.
The institutional confinement of the Brexit process has been seized on by Dominic Cummings, the former director of Vote Leave, now Mr. Johnson’s chief adviser and architect of his hard-line strategy. Mr. Cummings recognizes a fault line in Britain’s democratic structure: between an exercise conducted by plebiscite — the Brexit referendum — and the conventional, deliberative methods used to interpret and deliver the consequences of that vote.
By painting the referendum as the sole truly democratic exercise, with all subsequent debates and concerns over rights a matter of cynical pettifogging and anti-Brexit trickery, he believes he can deliver a reconfigured political landscape, straddled by Mr. Johnson as a flaxen-haired avatar of the popular will.
Perhaps Mr. Cummings has in mind that half the people surveyed by Hansard claimed they longed for a strong leader to “break the rules” of politics. Yet the strongman has feet of clay. If suspending Parliament was intended to demonstrate Mr. Johnson’s credentials as a champion of the people, it managed to unite only 27 percent of them. Further overreach as the prime minister attempts to break Parliament to his will is unlikely to improve that number.
Nobody doubts new elections are on the horizon, the central issues of which will be shaped in the next weeks. It will be an election that Mr. Johnson intends to fight on a narrow Brexit question. To beat him, the Labour Party, which has been as troubled by division between the two Brexit camps as the country as a whole, will not only need a clear message on Brexit but also some means of bridging its divide. Democracy could be a powerful theme: not just its defense in Parliament but its extension beyond Parliament’s feudal residues and monarchical hangovers, into Britain’s regions and its antiquated electoral system.
It is widely known that Mr. Johnson wants a “people versus politicians” election. Perhaps it is time for the opposition to push for “the country versus Boris Johnson.”
What the crisis called for, then, were policies to boost spending, to offset the effects of the housing bust. But the normal response, cutting interest rates, wasn’t available, because rates were already near zero. What we needed, instead, was fiscal stimulus: increased government outlays and tax cuts for lower- and middle-income families, who would be likely to spend them.
And we did indeed get substantial stimulus. But it wasn’t big enough, and even more important, it faded out much too fast. By 2013, with unemployment still above 7 percent, government at all levels was providing barely more economic support than it had in 2007, when the housing boom was still running strong... But the most important reason the great slump went on so long was scorched-earth Republican opposition to anything and everything that might have helped offset the fallout from the housing bust.
When I say “scorched earth,” I’m not being hyperbolic. Let’s not forget that in the summer of 2011 Republicans in Congress threatened to provoke a new financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit. Their goal was to blackmail President Barack Obama into cutting spending at a time when unemployment was still 9 percent and U.S. real borrowing costs were close to zero.
.. The very same politicians who piously declared that America couldn’t afford to spend money supporting jobs in the face of a deep, prolonged slump just rammed through a huge, deficit-explodingtax cut for corporations and the wealthy even though the economy is currently near full employment. No, they haven’t abandoned their commitment to fiscal responsibility; they never cared about deficits in the first place.
.. So if you want to understand why the great slump that began in 2008 went on so long, blighting so many American lives, the answer is politics. Specifically, policy failed because cynical, bad-faith Republicans were willing to sacrifice millions of jobs rather than let anything good happen to the economy while a Democrat sat in the White House.
Murder of Archbishop Romero
In February 1980 Archbishop Óscar Romero published an open letter to US President Jimmy Carter in which he pleaded with him to suspend the United States’ ongoing program of military aid to the Salvadoran regime. He advised Carter that “Political power is in the hands of the armed forces. They know only how to repress the people and defend the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy.” Romero warned that US support would only “sharpen the injustice and repression against the organizations of the people which repeatedly have been struggling to gain respect for their fundamental human rights.” On 24 March 1980, the Archbishop was assassinated while celebrating mass, the day after he called upon Salvadoran soldiers and security force members to not follow their orders to kill Salvadoran civilians. President Jimmy Carter stated this was a “shocking and unconscionable act”. At his funeral a week later, government-sponsored snipers in the National Palace and on the periphery of the Gerardo Barrios Plaza were responsible for the shooting of 42 mourners.
.. Murder and rape of US nuns
.. On December 2, 1980, members of the Salvadoran National Guard were suspected to have raped and murdered four American nuns and a laywoman. Maryknoll missionary nuns Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel, and laywoman Jean Donovan were on a Catholic relief mission providing food, shelter, transport, medical care, and burial to death squad victims. U.S. military aid was briefly cut off in response to the murders but would be renewed within six weeks. The outgoing Carter administration increased military aid to the Salvadoran armed forces to $10 million which included $5 million in rifles, ammunition, grenades and helicopters.
“Draining the Sea”
.. In its effort to defeat the insurgency, the Salvadoran Armed Forces carried out a “scorched earth” strategy, adopting tactics similar to those being employed by the counterinsurgency in neighboring Guatemala. These tactics were primarily derived and adapted from U.S. strategy during the Vietnam War and taught by American military advisors.
.. An integral part of the Salvadoran Army’s counterinsurgency strategy entailed “draining the sea” or “drying up the ocean,” that is, eliminating the insurgency by eradicating its support base in the countryside. The primary target was the civilian population – displacing or killing them in order to remove any possible base of support for the rebels. The concept of “draining the sea” had its basis in a doctrine by Mao Zedong which emphasized that “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.”
.. “This may be an effective strategy for winning the war. It is, however, a strategy that involves the use of terror tactics—bombings, strafings, shellings and, occasionally, massacres of civilians.”
.. On 18 March, three days after the sweep in Cabañas began, 4-8,000 survivors of the sweep (mostly women and children) attempted to cross the Rio Lempa into Honduras to flee violence. There, they were caught between Salvadoran and Honduran troops. The Salvadoran Air Force, subsequently bombed and strafed the fleeing civilians with machine gun fire, killing hundreds
.. Atlacatl soldiers were equipped and directed by U.S. military advisers operating in El Salvador and were described as “the pride of the United States military team in San Salvador. Trained in antiguerrilla operations, the battalion was intended to turn a losing war around.”
.. The November 1981 operation was commanded by Lt. Col. Sigifredo Ochoa, a former Treasury Police chief with a reputation for brutality. Ochoa was close associate of Major Roberto D’Aubuisson and was alleged to have been involved in the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.
.. Col. Ochoa claimed that hundreds of guerrillas had been killed but was able to show journalists only fifteen captured weapons, half of them virtual antiques, suggesting that most of those killed in the sweep were unarmed.
.. he field commander said they were under orders to kill everyone, including the children, who he asserted would just grow up to become guerrillas if they let them live. “We were going to make an example of these people,” he said.[90
.. El Mozote Massacre
.. The US steadfastly denied the existence of the El Mozote massacre, dismissing reports of it as leftist “propaganda,” until secret US cables were declassified in the 1990s.[91
.. The army and death squads forced many of them to flee to the United States, but most were denied asylum.
.. A US congressional delegation that on January 17–18, 1981, visited the refugee camps in El Salvador on a fact finding mission submitted a report to Congress which found that: “the Salvadoran method of ‘drying up the ocean’ is to eliminate entire villages from the map, to isolate the guerrillas, and deny them any rural base off which they can feed.”
.. El Salvador’s National Federation of Lawyers, which represented all of the country’s bar associations, refused to participate in drafting the 1982 electoral law. The lawyers said that the elections couldn’t possibly be free and fair during a state of siege that suspended all basic rights and freedoms.
.. Fearful of a d’Aubuisson presidency for public relations purposes, the CIA financed Duarte’s campaign with some two million dollars.
.. Nearly two weeks earlier, US Vice President Dan Quayle on a visit to San Salvador told army leaders that human rights abuses committed by the military had to stop. Sources associated with the military said afterword that Quayle’s warning was dismissed as propaganda for American consumption aimed at the US Congress and the U.S. public. At the same time, U.S. advisers were sending a different message to the Salvadoran military – “do what you need to do to stop the commies, just don’t get caught“. A former U.S. intelligence officer suggested the death squads needed to leave less visual evidence, that they should stop dumping bodies on the side of the road because “they have an ocean and they ought to use it“.
.. After 10 years of war, more than one million people had been displaced out of a population of 5,389,000. 40% of the homes of newly displaced people were completely destroyed and another 25% were in need of major repairs
.. At war’s end, the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador registered more than 22,000 complaints of political violence in El Salvador, between January 1980 and July 1991, 60 percent about summary killing, 25 percent about kidnapping, and 20 percent about torture. These complaints attributed almost 85 percent of the violence to the Salvadoran Army and security forces alone.
- The Salvadoran Armed Forces, which were massively supported by the United States (4.6 billion euros), were accused in 60 percent of the complaints,
- the security forces (i.e. the National Guard, Treasury Police and the National Police) in 25 percent,
- military escorts and civil defense units in 20 percent of complaints,
- the death squads in approximately 10 percent, and
- the FMLN in 5 percent.
.. The report concluded that more than 70,000 people were killed, many in the course of gross violation of their human rights. More than 25 per cent of the populace was displaced as refugees before the U.N. peace treaty in 1992
.. The State’s terrorism was affected by the security forces, the Army, the National Guard, and the Treasury Police;:308 yet it was the paramilitary death squads who gave the Government plausible deniability of, and accountability for, the political killings. Typically, a death squad dressed in civilian clothes and traveled in anonymous vehicles (dark windows, blank license plates). Their terrorism consisted of publishing future-victim death lists, delivering coffins to said future victims, and sending the target-person an invitation to his/her own funeral.[169
.. the objective of death-squad-terror seemed not only to eliminate opponents, but also, through torture and the gruesome disfigurement of bodies, to terrorize the population.[170
.. the FMLN continuously violated the human rights of many Salvadorans and other individuals identified as right-wing supporters,
- military targets,
- pro-government politicians,
- public officials, and
These violations included
kidnapping, bombings, rape, and killing.
.. the constitution was amended to prohibit the military from playing an internal security role except under extraordinary circumstances
.. By 1993—nine months ahead of schedule—the military had cut personnel from a wartime high of 63,000 to the level of 32,000 required by the peace accords. By 1999, ESAF’s strength stood at less than 15,000
Human Rights Commission of El Salvador
.. On 26 October 1987, Herbert Ernesto Anaya, head of the CDHES, was assassinated
.. Many of the documents, from the CIA and the Defense Department, are not available
Does the president really know what he’s getting into?.. The United States could pursue a limited strategy focused on one-off strikes in response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. In that case, the strike on the air base from which this week’s chemical attack was launched will probably be enough. President Bashar al-Assad and his generals will get the message and stop using those types of weapons... The regime will continue to terrorize civilians through airstrikes, artillery and surface-to-surface missiles against densely populated areas. It will continue to employ tactics such as starvation sieges and population transfers to tear communities apart... And Assad’s forces and their Russian allies may up the scale of attacks to humiliate Trump and demonstrate the fecklessness of American military force. Thus, the pressure may grow on the United States to respond, and it may be hard for Trump to resist.. The United States could target a wide array of facilities to compel Assad, such as weapons factories, major military bases, even ministries in Damascus responsible for the war effort. Using the threat of missile strikes instead of flying in manned aircraft to drop bombs is much less dangerous. The United States would not have to first destroy all of Syria’s air defenses.. the United States would then work with moderate armed groups in opposition areas to marginalize extremists and stabilize this territory... If the U.S. military inadvertently kills a significant number of Russians, tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear weapons states could skyrocket... The regime would probably respond with the same scorched-earth tactics it has used elsewhere.. The most viable political goal is a Syria that remains whole as one nation, but with a governance model that would feature power devolved away from the central government to local actors who hold the territory in six different zones of control that now divide the country.. Such an outcome would require a major diplomatic lift to mediate an arrangement between the Turks and Kurds in the north. The United States would have to come to a settlement with Russia and Iran on who retakes the territory currently held by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. And we would need to assure Israel and Saudi Arabia that Iranian influence in Syria will be contained.Unfortunately, it is this final and most important part of any plan for Syria — the political plan — which we are most concerned about when viewing the Trump administration’s approach.
.. most concerning of all — they have de-emphasized diplomacy, aid and reconstruction as tools of American foreign policy by calling for dramatic financial cuts for all these efforts and making clear to the international community that the United States is stepping back from coordinating these efforts.
.. If the United States is to turn the limited tactical strikes in Syria into a real strategic gain, the Trump team will have to change its approach, and focus not only on winning the war but also on winning the peace.
In a conference call on Monday with Barrett, Blair, D’Antonio and O’Brien, the biographers were unanimous in their assessment of what we are seeing: They are not surprised. Trump is who they thought he was. This, they said, is not a show. It is not an act. This is the man they wrote about.
.. He is, the biographers said, “profoundly narcissistic,” “willing to go to lengths we’ve never seen before in order to satisfy his ego”—and “a very dangerous man for the next three or four weeks.” And after that? “This time, it’s going to be a straight‑out loss on the biggest stage he’s ever been on,” one biographer predicted. And yet: “As long as he’s remembered, maybe it won’t matter to him.”
.. I think he’s always been a skirt chaser. I guess, you know, in that context, it didn’t surprise me. I think he’s always boasted about the things that he’s the most insecure about, which is his wealth, his intellect and his sex appeal.
.. They talk about this as if this is locker room bragging, and really, I was in a lot of locker rooms and I never heard anything like this. Men don’t brag about forcing themselves on women. They want to paint themselves as desirable, and, you know, he doesn’t look like a stud here. He looks like a predator.
.. This is boasting of something that shows your own weakness. It shows, you know, that a woman doesn’t want you; whereas, most boasts in these kind of scenarios are about women who do want you.
.. I did interview women who confirmed some pretty aggressive, if not violent—actually, I considered it violent sexual behavior—but no one will go on the record with this.
.. But it’s a very parallel circumstance with the tape because Melania is pregnant at the time of this tape, and Trump is talking about this kind of activity. And Marla Maples was pregnant when this incident, the first incident happened between Ms. Harth and Donald. And so it’s regardless of what his own home circumstances are, regardless of what’s going on in his personal life. In both instances, his wife‑to‑be in one case and actual wife in the other, was pregnant with his child, and he’s walking around either talking this way or actually behaving this way.
.. Erin Burnett went on CNN and told a very similar story, at least about the kissing part of it and the Tic Tacs, about a friend of hers.
.. But the problem with reporting all of these things is that the women involved often are afraid to go on the record. I know that his ex‑wives, when I was reporting, were very wary of being interviewed and running afoul of him by doing so, at least when they spoke with me.
.. Kruse: Do you all think he is driven more by lust or by fame?
Barrett: I think this is almost nothing to do with lust. This is subjugation.
O’Brien: Right. It’s acquisition.
Barrett: This has almost nothing to do with sex. This is a total power move if you’re talking about “I can plunge my tongue down any mouth I see. I just make my move quickly.”
.. he is popping Tic Tacs all the time, but it’s just the analog behavior to how he is with men in any room—looking to dominate, being competitive, looking for a way to be in charge. And for women, I think for him, there’s really only one way to be in charge, and that is to dominate, and if possible, you know, some physical aggression isn’t off the table.
O’Brien: I think he is just going to wage a scorch‑the‑earth campaign for the next three weeks. And if he loses, which I think he’s going to—I think he’s going to lose badly—he’s then going to come up with a scenario in which it was stolen from him, that the election was rigged, because he’s survived by creating alternate realities. And he’ll never say to himself he lost because he had a skeletal campaign operation, which he did; that he lost because he’s unappealing to a large swath of the voters; that he lost because he’s willfully ignorant about public policy; that he lost because he’s a nasty and unappealing bigot. He’ll never, ever acknowledge any of that. He’ll just come up with an alternate reality that said, “It was rigged against me.”
.. who would proceed knowing that he has all of these problems in his background, knowing how much audio and video exists, having been on “Howard Stern” and said horrible things? He just doesn’t seem to recognize his own issues and problems and how he’s perceived.
.. for the next three weeks, he’s going to be trying out, you know, Breitbart TV and proving to the masses that follow him that he’s as red in tooth and claw as he seems to be.
.. I was always kind of uncertain that he would really go for it, running for president, because he would have to do financial disclosures. What I didn’t realize was that he wouldn’t do the financial disclosures and would barrel ahead, and at least up until very recently, that he would seem to be getting away with it. So that all those tapes that are out there, he knew that, but he would just barrel over them—I think that has been his M.O. that we’ve seen in every other realm, so why wouldn’t it work in this one?
.. I think he didn’t enter into guaranteeing $900 million in personal loans in order to engineer a write‑off six or seven years later. I think he ended up getting a boost from the tax code, but that $916 million write‑off is an emblem of how abysmal his judgment is and what a bad deal‑maker he is.
.. And from the moment he got out there, he played the role of a victim. He now considers himself a victim of the national media, primarily, and a bit of the Republican establishment that abandoned him overnight
.. So I think that what is really dangerous is, over the course of the next few weeks, he’s going to push every button he can, and the primary button that he can push is racism.
.. he said he’s be quite happy to use the Department of Justice to settle scores with Hillary Clinton and, you know, by inference, anyone else who he would regard as a political opponent, and that gets back to an old kind of way of politicking
.. D’Antonio: Well, don’t you think this is a kind of thuggery, that this is a guy who is playing to a mob when he talks about how he can say these things, because he goes before crowds and they’re out for blood, and their anger and rage is the justification he has for saying these thuggish things? And now he’s going to plunge the whole country into an authoritarian dynamic because the mob is telling him to do so?
.. imagine if this was an African-American leader who is saying these kinds of things. I think that the Republican Party would be screaming for the man or woman’s arrest, but he gets cheered for saying these things.
.. the kind of rage he’s stoking is regional rage. And I think we’re going to live with that well beyond this election. He’s really served to solidify the divisions regionally and ideologically in the country, and I think he’s blown up the GOP.
.. he thought of himself as a victim in the downfall of 1990 and playing the victim card and being as angry at others as he was in the ’90s in the way in which he dealt with the bankers. It was very strikingly similar to that period of time.
.. He managed to survive in almost an unbelievable way when his empire collapsed, but managed to survive with the aid of the bankers.
.. during the primaries, with so many different people on the stage, that same M.O. worked. But only one other person on the stage for 90 minutes, it’s a totally different thing.
.. But because of his myriad flaws—you know, he’s financially undisciplined, he’s emotionally and intellectually undisciplined, and he’s incapable of building teams and leading other people, profoundly incapable of those things
.. I feel like I’ve learned more about the country by virtue of this exposure to the Trump virus than I’ve learned about Trump himself.
.. he’s truly the offspring of Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy. He’s more violent in his way of thinking than I understood him to be. He’s less attached to reality than I thought he was.
.. But the real thing that I’m taking away is that he’s actually been telling us the truth about himself all along, and that this is not a character he’s been playing. It’s the real Trump. And I think a lot of times, people have wasted lots of effort trying to figure out: Is he serious, does he really mean this, is this all just one big joke? And I don’t think it’s a big joke. I think that he really is this horrible creature, and he has no regard for anything but himself, and he’s willing to go to lengths we’ve never seen before in order to satisfy his ego.
.. we’ve learned about the country are that racism is still a deeply troubling and embedded feature of American life, and he’s exploited that. I think we’ve learned that American voters don’t really care if they have a leader who is wildly ignorant about foreign affairs and spins tales about foreign policy that don’t correlate with facts or reality. I think we’ve learned that sexism and chauvinism are alive and well
.. we’ve learned that the leadership of the GOP lacks courage
.. It’s not Stephen Colbert. This is not a persona that’s adopted for a performance. That’s really him. He thinks that’s still a winning possibility for him, that he is a success. I think he deeply believes that.
.. After the birther controversy, after he went after Mexico and Mexicans in his announcement speech and he didn’t get called on it, he only heard cheers—I think that was the, you know, that was the liftoff.
.. I don’t think he thinks. I don’t think that he is a guy who reflects on a long‑term goal. As Tim was saying, he doesn’t lead groups of people. He doesn’t know how to organize something complex.
.. If you look at some things that he says, a lot of them are the same things he said in the 1980s, and there’s this crazy language about race and “they’re laughing at us.” He’s used these terms since 1987,
.. He openly contradicted his own running mate about Putin. It’s the only issue on which he would do that, and it has everything to do with the WikiLeaks revelations, which is still, in my judgment, his hope for the remaining several weeks, that there is more power in that.
.. Alex Jones, Roger Stone’s sidekick. Roger had predicted that the WikiLeaks stuff would come out last Wednesday, and when it didn’t, Alex Jones went on his show and absolutely denounced WikiLeaks and Assange in the vilest terms. And then the next day, he went out—and you can see the video—and apologized profoundly to Assange and said Assange was a hero to all of the world.
.. I’ve been wondering who Trump’s brain is, whether it’s Roger Stone or Alex Jones, but it’s a pretty dark personality that’s driving all of this.
Barrett: It’s Roger.
.. when you saw him do the number with the four Clinton‑associated women last night, that is Roy Cohn orchestrated through Roger. Roger has been talking about this forever. What is so interesting about what happened in the debate last night with these women is that Roger is back running the show in the person of those four women, and this is exactly what Roger has wanted him to do.
.. I don’t think you can discount Ann Coulter’s role as an influence on his thinking in this either. You know, his language when he rolled down the escalator at Trump Tower, when he first announced, and his descriptions of the evils of immigration closely paralleled things Ann Coulter had written in the past. I think she had a big influence on themes and images that he used.
.. he never had a real relationship with him. And the people in the Kremlin are laughing at this guy because all of them are far more sophisticated and shrewd than he is, and they would love for him to become president, not because they have deep lending relationships with him and not because he’s got a deep relationship with Putin, but because they know that he could be their sock puppet because he’s ignorant and overconfident.
.. he hit millions of themes in that thing last night that appealed to the Breitbart coalition, and I think it’s a measure of what you’re going to see in months and years to come from him and that part of the Republican populous faction, that he’s channeling their anger and their imagery.
.. Well, don’t you kind of think that the media promoted this for ratings, especially—I mean, I’m talking almost exclusively about broadcasts and almost exclusively about CNN, that Jeff Zucker made a ton of money putting this guy on the air. And I actually think that people scared themselves, that at some point, they said, “Oh, wait a minute. We’re journalists. We better start reporting on this guy.”
.. I think broadcast media was, for the most part, an enabler for most of his run, and I think early on, both broadcast and print didn’t know how to handle him. I think they mistakenly took him for a zoo curiosity when the campaign began last year. I think by the time—it took almost him getting nominated for most of the media to take him seriously.
.. once big institutions like the Times and the Washington Post got their engines going, they really brought a lot of force to bear on him.
.. there were people like Brian Stelter and Jake Tapper and Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper who took strong shots and strong looks at him, even if CNN was an enabler, you know, and that went along with, I think, a really egregious mistake on CNN’s part to bring Corey Lewandowski in
.. I think his ability to harness attention through Twitter is a big piece.
And not just harness attention but demolish his opponents. He really used Twitter much more effectively during the primary season
.. he’s certainly used it during the primary season to label, diminish and then expel political opponents like Jeb Bush and then Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio with labeling and name‑calling.
.. I’m a big sports nut, and they basically have covered the campaign the same way they cover the NFL season, you know, promoting the game at all times to encourage ratings and advertisers.
.. Michael Kruse just wrote one about how Trump on 9/11, 15 years ago, started talking about how he now had the biggest building in downtown Manhattan, the very day that the bodies were still lying in the streets, and no one on television even mentioned the story. And so these great pieces of print journalism got no airtime and died
.. I think he’s going to start a media company, despite the fact that he said he won’t. I think he and Sean Hannity and the Breitbart crew and Roger Ailes will figure in that in some way, although Ailes has a non‑compete with Fox.
.. I think it’s going to be impossible for him to get advertising for it, except for maybe Viagra ads
.. But business people do not want to stay in a hotel and have someone call and hear the word “Trump” when they answer the phone. It’s really poisonous right now.
.. if he hadn’t run, he would have had a legacy of master promoter and a guy who pioneered publicity and converting publicity into cash. But now he may go down as the thing that he doesn’t want to be remembered for at all, and that is as a loser in a landslide election.
.. somebody who is likely to go down in history as having unleashed some very hateful forces in American life, and I think that’s what’s going to end up defining him.
.. I don’t think he realizes probably how badly it taints him and his family—I mean legacy. I think if he did realize it, he still wouldn’t feel ashamed of it because I think he’s incapable of feeling shame.
.. he’ll go on to have influence through his kids. You know, Don Jr. is an aggressive extremist, I think, who sees political aspirations of his own, and Ivanka is a budding entrepreneur and has her own businesses.
.. Jared Kushner. I think Kushner has launched on what is going to be a life worth tracking. News accounts from yesterday indicate that he helped put together the Clinton women thing last night, so he’s way out there.
.. He’s polished. He’s driven, and, you know, I think he’s a serious player.
.. Department of Justice action against the Trump organization in 1973 about not renting to African Americans, Roy Cohn filing the $100 million lawsuit the next day? I mean that aggressive counterpunch—all about racism.
.. he reaffirmed, as we all know, the guilt of the Central Park Five.
.. in the Apprentice tapes is that, supposedly, he uses the N-word. You know, that’s been hinted at in stories.
.. If Trump loses badly, it will be a repudiation by maybe even the majority of white Americans of that strategy. It could be a good day in America.