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THIS ONE’S PERSONAL: I’m the People’s Enemy?

By Richard Hébert

Excuse me, Mr. Trumpster. Are you accusing me of being an “enemy of the American people”? You have done it over and over again this past week or so, seemingly seizing every public opportunity to heap scorn on what I always considered a noble profession dedicated to the public good.

For me, sir, this is personal. I take great umbrage at your flippant scorn. But more than that, we of the press are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We are the “Fourth Estate.” Our mission as the eyes and ears of the public watching every step you make is protected by the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the First Amendment of that founding document. That, sir, is no small matter. When you malign and attack us, you malign and attack the U.S. Constitution.

Yes, I confess: I’m a member of the news media you so enjoy maligning. At least I was for most of my career, in one fashion or another. Although mostly retired now, I still consider myself a journalist-for-life. Still reporting – yes, and commenting – but always based on demonstrable facts.

I was an active newspaper reporter for the decade of the 1960s with the then Atlanta Constitution (now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). Back then, we dealt only in facts, not opinionating, as seems so common these days in some media circles.

But, methinks thou doth protest too much, painting the media with far too broad a brush. I know and follow far too many fine reporters today who still confine themselves to known, provable facts, even if they must get them from “anonymous sources,” some of whom you yourself dispatch to “leak” facts to the media, others of whom work “for” you but are stressfully uncomfortable about the facts they see in your government. Indeed, you yourself engaged in anonymous sourcing in the past.

“Fake news?” You, Mr. POTUS, are the most egregious purveyor of fake news – “alternative facts,” your chief adviser calls them – on the scene today in the Western World.

Another confession. Once – I stress, only once – early in my career as a newspaper reporter, I committed false news. Unknowingly. At a contentious county commission hearing I was covering, a member kept repeating that a “Mr. Big” would not be pleased by a decision that was being contemplated.

I thought I knew that said unnamed “Mr. Big” was a certain local businessman, and I said so in print. When I arrived for work the next day, I was summoned into the managing editor’s office and told in no uncertain terms that I would have to write a retraction. Said businessman had called and denied he was “Mr. Big,” and that information was corroborated by the commission chair.

Shamed, even mortified, I wrote the retraction and apologized – immediately. It never happened again.

When, Mr. POTUS, have you ever – ever – apologized for any of the too-numerous-to-count demonstrably fictitious public statements by you and the minions around you? The size of your inaugural crowd in the face of contrary video evidence, the “record” size of your electoral college victory, and the “3 to 5 million” illegal votes you claim were cast for your opponent: all “fake news” in the service of pure self-aggrandizement.

Those “thousands” dancing on rooftops in New Jersey as the Twin Towers came down – a lie. The “terrorist attacks” in Atlanta, in Sweden, in Bowling Green – all lies. The 30 million illegals – rapists and drug dealers, all – in the U.S. from Mexico – just another “alternative fact”?

In my career at the newspaper, neither I nor my fellow journalists ever engaged in “alternative facts.” I investigated the rise of the racist John Birch Society. I witnessed civil rights demonstrations and, yes, race riots, and probed their origins. I used my investigative skills to defend the weak and un-served – police harassment of prostitutes; police harassment of gays; police nightly round-ups of the city’s destitute. homeless “Skid Row” men and women to be herded into a prison farm that could only be described as a concentration camp, forced to work on chain gangs, to eat food crawling with maggots, with no medical attention at all.

In those days, if you were a well-dressed lawyer on your way home inebriated, the police would escort you home. Not so the denizens of the street. What they desperately needed was attention to their chronic health problems. I joined them on the streets, in the prison, and on the chain gangs. And yes, I reported what I saw.

Before writing about such matters, I always witnessed them firsthand. What have you witnessed firsthand, Mr. POTUS? Other than those non-existent cheering thousands in New Jersey on 9/11?

No sir, I am quite proud of my chosen profession. We aren’t the purveyors of “fake news.” Look around you, sir. You are surrounded by the real liars. Heck, look in the mirror. Exaggeration, of the kind you specialize in, especially vilification of anyone who dares cross or defy you. Your chief strategist earned his stripes running Breitbart, the “platform for the alt right.” That platform, I should point out, is manufactured of racist and xenophobic lies, exaggerations and stereotypes as bold as any propagated by the Nazis.

Yes, at the end of the 1960s, I crossed over, with a little help, I might add, from what was considered Atlanta’s “establishment elite” at the time, those behind-the-scene power brokers of the business world who, I believed were meddling in the newspaper’s journalistic mission.

Without looking back, I moved to Washington, D.C., and became an “activist.” Instead of observing the ills and foibles of society, I joined forces with those seeking to ameliorate them. So, yes, I traded in my badge of objectivity for one of change-agent, using my journalistic and investigatory skills to help the Urban Coalition counter the “long hot summers” of race riots; reporting on and assisting the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety design and promote safer cars and highways; promoting behavioral health sciences with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the American Psychological Society, and the Center for the Advancement of Health, among others.

Me, the enemy? Gimme a break!

The hole you are digging for yourself with such accusations, Mr. POTUS, is only getting deeper by the day. More and more frequently we hear the “I” word – Impeachment – bandied about. That, of course, would require a vote by a simple majority of the House of Representatives followed by a trial in the Senate and a vote of two-thirds of the senators, a challenging course of action, to be sure.

But there’s another route: the 25th amendment to the Constitution, enacted after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It states:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [i.e., the Cabinet] or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. [Emphasis mine.]

And, if the President objects? He must submit a “written declaration that no inability exists.” And if the vice president and Cabinet insist that he (or she) is incapable of serving, for whatever reason? Then, “Congress shall decide the issue…by two-thirds vote of both Houses.” A high bar, to be sure, but probably more likely to be crossed than the “high crimes and misdemeanors” bar of impeachment.

George Will, a true conservative voice at Fox News, left Fox the day after the inauguration. He also publicly quit the Republican Party last June when even House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) endorsed the Trumpster’s presidential candidacy. Here are just some of the things Will has said recently about the Trumpster on Fox News, as aired on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell: the POTUS believes “apoplexy is a substitute for arguments…,” that “he’s a one-trick pony…,” “he’s a con artist…,” “a clown act….”

But, of course, Will is just another “enemy of the American people,” a purveyor of “fake news,” so let’s ask the experts whether the Trumpster is fit to be President.

It turns out, psychologists and psychiatrists are speaking out about Trump en masse because of what is called their “duty to warn.” O’Donnell interviewed two such specialists on MSNBC’s The Last Word.

First up, John Gartner, PhD, a widely-published Baltimore psychologist whose online petition of mental health professionals had more than 26,000 signatures at last report:

“If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not construct a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump. This paranoid, psychopathic narcissist is divorced from reality and lashed out impulsively at his imagined enemies, and this is someone who is…handling the nuclear codes.… I would argue to my colleagues that those who don’t speak out are being unethical, that if we have some knowledge and understanding about the unique danger that Donald presents…and we don’t say something about it, history is not going to judge us kindly.”

Next up, Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired analyst with the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. O’Donnell asked him about the Trumpster’s debate claim that he had lost “hundreds” of friends on 9/11, when in fact he had lost none.

He lies because of his sociopathic tendencies,…he scams people that he’s trying to sell an idea.… He has a loose grip on reality. We can say that because he lies about things that aren’t even that important to him, like the electoral college majority. And he’s been told that it’s not true, but he keeps doing it…. He can’t stand an aspect of reality that he doesn’t want. So, he rejects it. His grasp of reality, his attention to reality is loose, an extremely dangerous trait in a president, and (which) actually makes him unqualified.”

Gartner again:

“This is literally the worst-case scenario…. You have someone who handles the nuclear codes who is not in touch with reality and who’s paranoid, who has actually imagined that he’s under attack by people who are not actually attacking him. Then what you have is a very dangerous combination of someone who can act on his paranoid fantasies in a way that can have catastrophic consequences.”

Please, Donald. Next time you go in search of “enemies of the American people,” do the world a favor: go and consult a mirror. As for me, can an everyday news guy like myself sign Dr. Gartner’s petition? If so, where do I sign?

Related Reading:

Steve Bannon: A Not-So-Subtle Threat to the Media

Meet Some ‘Enemies of the American People’

Are Cabinet Members Now White House Janitors?

‘Fake News” – Political Strategy or Cop-Out…or Both?

Showtime or Governing: Does It Matter to POTUS?

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Richard Hébert, Donald Trump, POTUS, George Will, Lawrence O’Donnell, John Gartner, Lance Dodes, Fake News, Steve Bannon, Atlanta Constitution, civil rights,


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March of the Resistance!

I’ve never believed in protest marches. Too often, a march seems only a physical manifestation of an idea of which we are already aware. More often than participants want to admit, it’s simply a ragtag group of fringe activists shouting at the moon, holding up traffic, or occupying street corners that would be better used for public conveyance. The marches themselves seem disorganized, rambling, and end with rhetoric that does nothing but allow participants to vent built-up frustrations and schedule another protest. They are great for getting mom, uncle Bob, and your freaky aunt Matilda out of the house so we can catch up on some “honey-do list” projects. That they return home refreshed with a lot of positive energy is a bonus, I suppose, but I have seen little more beneficial effect than that.

Not that I am against marches or protests. Believe me, I like a good walk, when I can. Nice fresh air, good friends, and the occasion to look at scenery you just whiz past every day in your car. Unfortunately, until the docs and I resolve my physical issues, a forty-yard mosey to pet the neighbor’s dog is all I can muster in the way of a march for now.

Still, marches in protest seem useless and often counter-productive. The protestors are often labeled as freaks, activists and malcontents. The message is often lost in the visuals of the march itself as television stations focus on the video and individuals post constant selfies of themselves and their friends on social media, forgetting to mention the substance of the event. As for the objects of their discontent – usually an individual, frequently a politician – they are unmoved by these actions. Typically, more than 50 years of protest marches on one issue or another has hardened and polished their responses. Even local and state law enforcement agencies have procedure manuals on how to handle protests and protestors, from permitted to unpermitted. Basically, it’s all been done before.

Protest marches are particularly ineffective against politicians. Computer-generated gerrymandering has made all but a few congressional, state, and county seats immune to change, whether of party or politician. So, ensconced in their safe seats, politicians are free to stick to ideological instead of pragmatic positions. Plus, any politician worth his or her salt has already had more protest marches dropped at his doorstep, for and against an issue, often the same issue, than they care to track. They have developed a patter so innocuous and generic for these events, they can inject them into whatever is being protested at the moment without offending any protestor or issue.

But there is something familiar with the recent protest marches, something remembered, something good. On a black-and-white television set many moons ago, I watched as black men and women marched and spoke and resisted their treatment by our country. Citizens they were, but apart, second-class. I again watched closely as young men and women, white, black and all other skin tones, protested in the streets against a war that killed 50,000 of their friends, brothers and sisters. Being part of the “silent majority” at the time, my family firmly attached to conservative values, I abhorred these malcontents who refused to live by our rules. Our guys won the elections. We were right; they were wrong. Why didn’t they understand? Why didn’t they accept what was? They weren’t going to change anything. They were just dirty, filthy hippies, communists, long-hairs that should be run out of the country. Send them back to the continent whence they came! Does any of this rhetoric sound familiar?

In spite of our opposition, these groups continued to protest. Against overwhelming odds, against injury and even death they protested. I saw the news reports of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, not on YouTube, but in real time. Then I saw the actual news videos of the protest at Kent State. I saw our own National Guard kill my fellow citizens. And then, I saw what could never happen, happen. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were passed by a solidly entrenched and ideologically divided Congress. I saw and lived through a President cancelling the military draft and ending a disastrous and questionable foreign war. I saw him do it against the wishes of those entrenched industries and wealthy businessmen and women who were profiting greatly from its continuation.

I watched this all play out on that little black-and-white TV screen, through Look magazine, and the local evening newspaper. I watched as each group marched and protested, first by themselves, then gradually with others, until it seemed the whole country was marching. They never backed down. Some gave their lives to the cause. Their principles and ideas were that important to them. They protested and marched against what many believed were the wishes of the majority. But they protested and marched so much their voices were eventually heard, above all the opposition, against all the entrenched powers. Politics as usual stopped until their issues were addressed, and addressed with the significance of law.

What I learned and finally saw was that protests work. Protest marches do work. But for that to happen, those who march and protest must have the determination and belief for the long haul, the long run. You have to be willing to sacrifice and bring others to your calling. This cannot be a whim or a fad. The powers that be, your fellow citizens, and above all your politicians, need to know that this, this right now, is important. This we need to fix. You need to march the march of the resistance!

So, for those of you out there walking and protesting, good for you. This is where it begins. Now I have to go find that doc’s phone number. Maybe I can get in 45 yards today! Just need to find the right sign to hoist.

 

Link to Relevant Topic

What I’ll Do Next“The Washington Post”

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FAKE NEWS: ‘Alternative Facts’ from Trumplandia

By Richard Hébert

I heard a rumor recently from an anonymous acquaintance: That the Donald is not really 70 years old. He’s more like 74 or 73. Maybe 75. And he wasn’t born in the U.S.A. He was born in Nazi Germany — in 1942 or 1943, or maybe 1941. And his real name, like that of his grandfather, is Drumpf.

So, Mr. Drumpf, which is it? You could resolve all this confusion quite simply by showing us your long-form birth certificate. While you’re at it, how about adding those tax returns? The past 10 years or so would do nicely. The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for them to help you along. Contrary to your alternative universe, we all would very much like to see them.

No one is accusing you of lying, of course. But still, we’re learning from you that facts are not as stubborn as they used to be, they are quite malleable. And you’ve helped immensely in making sure we know that there are “facts” and then there are “alternative facts,” not to be confused with each other.

You’ve successfully turned Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s maxim on its head. No more can we admonish, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Now you – and all of us, I presume – are allowed to cite our own facts however we wish.

Back to the “facts” of the rumor at hand. Rumors can be facts, too, can’t they? You insisted as much some years ago when you were manning the barricades demanding that then President Barrack Obama produce his birth certificate. You said you even had sent your minions – excuse me, your investigators – to Hawaii and Kenya and they were turning up some surprising new facts about the President’s origin.

Of course, you never did say what those new “facts” were, did you. Do they continue to be facts even if never disclosed? Maybe you should now at last disclose what your private investigators learned over there, even though you more recently admitted that Obama was indeed born in America – which is to say you admitted you had been lying. Or am I getting my facts wrong?

Your birth certificate (long-form, please, dated and stamped with official seals) would help clear up an awful lot of confusion, especially if accompanied by a boat-load of tax returns. Because, if you were indeed born in Germany in, say, 1941 or 1942 or 1943, and your granddad was a member of the National Socialist Party there, well that would explain an awful lot of your present-day tendencies, wouldn’t it?

Mind you, I’m not calling you a Nazi. I’m simply opining that you might well have spent your formative years over there, being primed with ideas that were running that country at the time. It might explain your tendency to belittle anyone who opposes you as a “loser” or “crooked.” It might explain those nativist tendencies of yours as well. After all, what’s the difference between “Deutschland über alles” and “America First”? Just saying.

The tax returns, in turn, could answer a whole cascade of other questions, about your international financial ties, dealings and debts, your affection for plutocrats and dictators worldwide (especially in Russia), your penchant for exaggerating your own worth, the size of your crowds, the size of your popular vote, those 5 million “illegals” you say voted in the recent election, obviously a clarion call to governors and state legislatures from sea-to-shining-sea to clamp down with more restrictive voter-ID and other anti-minority tactics, and so on.

I mean, if you were prone to exaggerate on your tax returns and get away with it, it would explain how you expect to get away with all your other “alternative facts,” right?

And while we’re at it, how about those whatchamacallits – the E-Molly-Mints you might collect from sycophants around the world eager to curry your favor by staying in one of your (ivory?) towers now that you are top dog in the world’s biggest, strongest and richest kennel?

I recently caught an interesting interview by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell with Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, one of a panel of attorneys suing you for violating the U.S. Constitution because your hotels may already be accepting payments from foreign governments – in effect, bribes, more politely referred to as “emoluments.” Check it out yourself here, by searching for the Laurence Tribe segment on O’Donnell’s “The Last Word.”

Sir, if you don’t mind my saying so, you seem to be on a very slippery slope.

First came delusion – believing what you wanted to believe, like those “thousands and thousands” of people you “saw” dancing on rooftops in New Jersey as New York’s Twin Towers came crashing down on 9/11, despite zero evidence it ever happened.

Then came distortions, slight alterations and exaggerations of the known facts at first, a little nip-and-tuck here and there, then more serious alterations to make the imperial garb more impressive, even if the emperor still had no clothes.

When that succeeded, you went for the brass ring of what I suppose Stephen Colbert would call un-truthiness, “alternative facts,” as your partner in fabrication, Kellyanne Conway, phrased it. Once elected to office, your popularity plummeted. Enraged, you dispatched your flacks to give us your “alternative facts” – the polls were rigged, your inaugural crowd was the largest in history, etc.

But forget crowd size and nonexistent “illegals” voting. We have far more serious “alternative facts” to weigh. Combining your penchant for hyperbolic self-aggrandizement with your penchant for governing like a bull in a china shop, we get:

The environment, for one glaring example. During the campaign, you boasted you were a great friend of the environment, thusly: I’ve won many environmental awards, by the way. I’ve actually been called an environmentalist, if you can believe that. (None of this was true, of course.)

Then you named as Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who petitioned the U.S. government to stop interfering with his state’s desire to keep fracking, the primary cause of Oklahoma’s record-setting number of earthquakes.

Then, with a few strokes of your pen, you gave approval to both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines and put the EPA in deep freeze, shutting down its grants program and forbidding its scientists to speak publicly about or publish any information, on official channels or personal devices. No tweets, no press releases, no interviews. Nothing, nada, zilch. Similar directives were given to the Agriculture and Interior departments, whose research also touches on climate change.

Continuing your first-week’s rampage through the china shop, you ordered all regulatory agencies to stop funding any research that underpins the regulations they issue, because that would be a “conflict of interest.” After all, who would know a conflict of interest when he saw one better than you?

So, your love of the environment appears to be just another “alternative fact.” By the way, have you noticed how this and other aspects of the Drumpf method of governance have their roots in George Orwell’s brilliant novel, “1984,” in which, to quote Wikipedia:

…(T)yranny is ostensibly overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality…. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power.”

Sound familiar? The entire premise of the novel is a dire warning that ahead lies the dystopian world of “alternative facts” and megalomania. Orwell conceived the thesis of his novel in 1944, as World War II raged on. Clearly, he had Adolf Hitler in mind. As he peered down the dark tunnel into the future, you must admit he was pretty accurate, even though he fell some 33 years short on its timing. In 2017, Orwell must be leaping for joy in his grave.

Which brings us back where we started. “Alternative facts” are lies. There’s no way around it. Mr. Drumpf, do you think I’m dealing in “alternative facts” – lies – as well? Prove them wrong, Drumpfie: show us your long-form birth certificate and your tax returns for at least the past 10 years.

Maybe then we’ll begin believing what you say.

 

Related reading:

Trump’s disregard for the truth threatens his ability to govern

America-first slogan was popularized by Nazi sympathizers.

Rachel Maddow on the EPA crackdown by Trump.

 

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Twit-in-Chief

Let’s be honest. He wasn’t what the majority in the U.S. wanted, not even among Republicans. He bullied his way through the Republican primaries, barely getting 40% of the vote when faced with any opposition by two or more candidates, and usually receiving much less than 40%. But a technicality of Republican voting allowed his accession to Republican presidential candidate by virtue of the winner-take-all primary voting system. Sixty percent or more of Republican activists wanted someone, anyone, other than Donald Trump. Even a majority of the Republican leadership wanted someone, anyone, else. Many of that leadership denounced the man during and after the Republican primary, often publicly endorsing his opponent.

His ascension to President was dependent on the same primary voting technicality that was in force in most states when awarding electoral votes: winner-take-all. So, even in the face of an overwhelming majority of U.S. Citizens voting for and supporting the opposition, Donald J. Trump, the unlikeliest of candidates and one of the most reviled by even those who supported him, becomes President of the United States. President on a technicality. Still, they were our rules, those each state created. They were not the rules intended by the Founders or ensconced in our Constitution, but the rules by which everyone played the game. And President Trump played it better than anyone before him.

Let’s give him his due in achieving this goal. In the process, let’s also applaud and recognize Kellyanne Conway for her achievement. I doubt President Trump ever believed he would achieve this goal. When he entered the race for the Republican presidential candidacy, it was at most a publicity stunt or, more likely, an ego trip. As he won state after state with less than 20% or 30% of the votes in a field of 17 candidates, the race evolved into a serious effort, not by design but by chance. The strategy, the path to ultimate victory, was determined by other more intellectually informed individuals, those who had researched the chinks and flaws in our electoral system for years and were just waiting for this unique opportunity to strike, men such as Steven Bannon. But even he couldn’t have pulled it off had it not been for Kellyanne Conway.

Most on the left, and many on the right, deride and loathe Kellyanne. More than a few of her sex feel she betrayed their gender. But, I admire her. Sure, her pronouncements are often no more plausible than Baghdad Bob’s of Iraq War fame, but look at the mess she is trying to disguise. You have got to know how to apply a lot of plaster to make that pile smell sweet. It is a serious skill showing technical expertise as well as intelligence.

Kellyanne knows her job is public relations. She doesn’t have to like the person she works with, she just has to promote that person while concealing all the warts and flaws. And Kellyanne did her job so well that voters that didn’t want Trump could hold their nose and steady their stomachs just enough to cast a vote for him. It was a fantastic job of public relations. When many get over the fact that she derailed the election of the first female candidate for President of the United States, they might take time to note that she was the first female to successfully lead a presidential election. No small feat, especially considering with whom she had to work as well as whom and what she had to work against. Maybe it takes a woman to beat a woman. Truly one of the most impressive things she did was take Trump’s phone away from him long enough to allow him to climb in the polls. My God, she actually got the man to shut up!

But winning doesn’t confer competency or capability, and government is not a business. You can’t file bankruptcy and run from your obligations and creditors when things get rough. You have to solve these problems and you have to let the people know how you are going to do it. There is a reason press secretaries and public relations personnel such as Kellyanne have their jobs. Too often, when a client, or in this case a President, speaks off the cuff directly to the people, they create a crisis, especially when restricted to Twitter’s 140 characters.

Uninformed, initial, knee-jerk reactions publicized over social media can affect real lives and change well-established and needed policies, conservative as well as liberal. Incompetent authors with limited vocabulary are particularly dangerous, especially when they believe they’re competent.

That said, Twitter is an excellent way to get past bureaucracy and bring your ideas directly to the people. It allows you to be heard and rally the masses. In the case of a Presidency, it can revive a currently moribund but vital tool of the Presidency, the bully pulpit.

But it is also the problem. When an uninformed and intellectually challenged person tweets an insensitive, erroneous statement or an outright lie, the tweeter becomes a twit, derided and mocked. The communication tool no longer serves as a platform for reaching out, but an object of derision and ridicule. It does not promote the status of the office or win the support of the people, but propels the author toward ridicule.

If President Trump truly wants to succeed in his new surprise role of President, rise above his election based on technical manipulations, forge his legitimacy and win the adoration he so clearly craves, he needs to start by not being the Twit-in-Chief. For the sake of the country and his presidency, Kellyanne needs to hide his phone once again.