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I am frustrated with both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have handled their long primary campaign poorly, and the Iowa caucuses will not fix that. And the Republican party has been reduced to “the party of Trump.”

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander rightly stated that the democrats produced so much factual content that there is little need for witnesses. Other Senators are now agreeing with him. But where they are wrong about acquittal is their assertion that it will properly allow the matter to be decided by the people in an election.

This is wrong because the president has already been attacking and making fun of adversaries, declaring that he alone can fix things, and asking foreign nations to help him get re-elected. This is the behavior of an autocrat, and acquitting him now will only allow this behavior to continue.

I have asked colleagues why they think the Republican Party has become the party of Trump. Fear of him they think is the reason. They listed fear of Trump’s Twitter attacks; fear that voters in their home districts will turn on them; fear that McConnell will take them off his list for PAC and lobby money; and in some cases even fear of physical harm. Maybe some Senate leaders even see a safe and powerful place for themselves in an autocracy.

When watching the State of the Union address, I suggest that you look for and evaluate details. How clearly does he give real substance to his claims? Also compare the tone of this “written for him” speech to his off-the-cuff and rambling pronouncements as president. Who is the real Trump?

This much is clear: With this acquittal the checks and balances system that our founding fathers designed to save us from a dictatorship could be coming to an end.

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Here is a list of comments from an interesting conversation with two lifelong Republicans:

  1. Many of Trump’s actions have helped business: Eliminating environmental restrictions and reduced taxes.
  2. An increase in overall number of jobs happened on his watch.
  3. The economy is doing well overall.
  4. He reduced the number of immigrants, who have been taking our jobs.
  5. He also increased what NATO allies pay for their membership.
  6. As lifelong Republicans, we see no reason to change now.
  7. As for ethical issues, every president has carried lots of baggage. This one is no different.
  8. Every politician that made it to the presidency did so because God had a plan for them. This president supports “right to life,” and speaks in support of Evangelical groups.
  9. But, admittedly, we hate his tweets.

For the above reasons, these Republicans found it easy to overlook:

  1. Asking foreign countries to help with his re-election.
  2. Treating his staff as a dictator would.
  3. Delaying aid to a foreign country that was specifically approved by Congress.
  4. Lying constantly, even when it is not necessary.
  5. Making comments every day that further divide the country.
  6. Increasing the country’s deficit without concern.
  7. Personally profiting from the presidency.
  8. Denying scientific findings about the ravages of climate change.
  9. Declaring that only he can fix the world.  

After winning a hard-fought revolution against a monarch the last thing our founding fathers would want is an autocrat in the White House.  So no matter your politics… and even more than agreeing on impeachment, maybe what we all really need right now is a president who will make good things happen at home and abroad, and never cozy up to dictators.

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When you get right down to it, the U.S. Constitution reminds us that when it comes to leadership, morality is what provides America’s best guiding principles. Even when some leaders have faltered over the years, morality-based ideas are what best define who we are.

For example, moral principles are why citizens and nations alike have always looked to U.S. leaders to find the ideals and ideas that best bring people together. Policy matters such as race, climate change, immigration, healthcare, and even poverty, are important… but they still require fundamental guiding principles. Our talk should therefore always begin with big constitutional values such as equal opportunity, human rights, freedom, or justice.

Morality really does matter. It is the essential ingredient of our precious and universally admired, “American experiment.” It’s what always made it work at home. And it’s what also makes it so appealing to much of the rest of the world.

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In a digital media world, a steady stream of tweeted lies and personal attacks can quickly add up to a mindless universe of make-believe. Once people become immersed in their own digital clutter they can quickly lose touch with the real world.

It appears that our president’s non-stop erratic behavior, especially over the past several weeks, has put him in such a state.

It’s a scary thought, but in today’s new media ecosystem, combining social media, 24/7 news cycles, and information overload, with a self-centered personality, can enable immoral leaders to create imaginary and dangerous worlds.

This might explain how so many politicians have come to see lying incessantly, attacking adversaries, snubbing longtime allies, and accepting questionable characters as admired colleagues… as normal professional practice.

Someone better step up and stop this nonsense soon! Make-believe leaders are very likely to do stupid things!

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Fifty years of trying to make communication work teaches that you can’t have genuine communication without having credibility. And being credible equates with being believable.

While it might be possible to lead for a limited period of time by generating chaos and uncertainty, experience clearly teaches that it is impossible to lead any cause, institution, or government for a sustained period of time without being both credible and believable.

So what establishes leader credibility? Here are some of the essential factors:

Credible leaders are not perfect, but are generally seen as honest, reliable, and extremely well informed…

They also ask for and use expert advice… collaborate every day with competent team associates… behave in a manner that earns respect in all settings… have clear goals that benefit most all constituents… and communicate clearly and concisely.

In the final analysis, history honors the leaders who endure as both credible and believable. The others are quickly exposed for who they really were…

 

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The original purpose behind the European Union was simply to keep member countries from starting wars with each other. At the time, competing economically as a unified entity was seen as a secondary bonus.

But now the recent spread of populist nationalism, presidents emerging with autocratic ambitions, the Brexit blow-up in the UK, and Trump’s affection for dictators and daily generated chaos, are all coming together to threaten the existence of the EU… and much more.

Add to this U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a new Trump dictated military relationship with nationalistic Poland, an unstable Israeli government, a provoked and dangerous Iran, a nuclear-loaded maniac in North Korea, a festering and disintegrating Venezuela, an energized and politically meddling Russia, a determined and aggressive China, a still very frightening Syria, and more… and suddenly you have a world literally on the edge of destroying itself.

All this has been analyzed in past posts. So all I can say now is someone better do something… and quick.

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Admittedly a good speech was read by the U.S. president at the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.  But…

BUT this speech was written for him. And he read it against the backdrop of a UK visit marked by ego-flexing, politics meddling, and confusion-generating remarks… a behavior that produced an all time low point in the relationship with our most loyal ally. All the while the Queen was doing everything possible to be gracious and classy.

And then later in a Fox News interview, with Normandy tombstones as his backdrop, the president aimed his most vindictive and cruel name-calling rampage yet at the highest ranking woman in the American government. This craziness simply needs to stop.

 

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Recent media revolutions created a daily diet of confusing message patterns, processes, and change-producing forces. It requires a big picture perspective to see how these undercurrents of disconcerting messages are changing what is socially acceptable, and how making daily bold pronouncements has become a tactic for gaining and maintaining power.

For example, Mr. Trump’s success is because he unknowingly stumbled into this new media environment. I am sure he was surprised to discover how outlandish promises, lies, cruelty, chaotic disruptions, and “wannabe” dictator demands, could work exactly as his reality TV programs had worked in the past. Even better, he could now change the tone and content of public discourse, while also experiencing “bully pulpit power.” All he would have to do is dominate the media agenda every day by saying things that are outlandish and irritating.

For example, he is making new border control pronouncements almost every day. Since there are no real policy guidelines, he adds irritation simply by contradicting himself. Lacking both confidence and sophistication, he ignores criticisms and just makes more demands and threats. The resulting confusion and chaos is what enables bully pulpit power to emerge.

But the consequence is a seriously divided nation. Significant portions of the general public are experiencing disturbing psychological reactions to these ongoing disruptions. First, people become emotionally and mentally exhausted. Then, they become anesthetized, and simply look away. Many describe deep feelings of depression. All this, while many extremists are actually becoming encouraged and emboldened.

In this new digital media world, would-be autocrats with little substance can dominate the media agenda and gain power. But they also divide us. My goal is to use 50 years of lessons-learned about media dynamics to make you care. Then, I hope you will examine your lessons-learned, and do whatever you can to bring back the United States of America.

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We simply cannot ignore what words can do. When divisive words become the norm, they inevitably incite anger… and eventually produce violence. The fact is… Social media are creating an international vocabulary of copycat words, with the power to unite extremists and incite violence.

“Immigrant invasion” emergencies. When any emergency is explained as an “invasion of immigrants,” it must be recognized that this is a code phrase being used by white supremacists who have already staged killings in New Zealand, Charleston, Pittsburg, Charlottesville, and many other places around the world.  Today, social media has become its own ecosystem with an incredible international bonding power for lost and angry souls.

Contempt for adversaries. When constructive conversations in search of imaginative solutions degenerate into widespread contempt and hatred for adversaries, violence is close at hand.

Populism, nationalism, and autocracy.  When populism and nationalism force citizens to take sides, an autocracy is in the making. Fueled by social media, and encouraged by autocrats, dangerous divisions have already appeared in Russia, China, Philippines, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and a number of countries in eastern and central Europe.

The dividing power of wealth. History teaches that widening class divisions can eventually destroy entire civilizations. In the U.S., huge tax cuts mostly benefiting the rich, unfair job advantages, easy elite college access, plus arrogance… and more, might be early indications of a possible middle class and poor people’s rebellion.

The seriousness of climate change. Willingness to ignore modern science by too many of those invested in polluting industries, is inspiring a growing and dangerous youth rebellion. Such generational divisions have a history of turning into worldwide, peace-threatening, demonstrations.

Code words and phrases. Fear mongering on social media every day exacerbates, unites, and incites. And when leaders suggest that their followers might get out of control on their own, a kind of permission for violence is felt by those who only need a little encouragement.

Autocracies can actually become attractive. In countries threatened by division, a gradual belief can emerge that the control promised by an autocrat is necessary to bring about stability. Inevitably, however, autocracies backfire into cruel dictatorships.

“With me, or against me” are words that produce dangerous divisions, no matter the political ideology. Ironically, they are both the dividing and uniting words of terrorists, autocrats, and dictators all over the world.

Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, has a new Book: Love Your Enemies. It is an alarming warning of how violence results when constructive debating grows into contempt and hatred for your adversaries.

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The real crisis is not the U.S. southern border. Rather, my ongoing study of media, politics and social change has yielded a list of much more serious concerns. Here are a few:

Most policy decisions are now being made by one person, the President… whose behavior is consistently autocratic, and who is most comfortable in the company of other autocrats.

Social media is being used as a weapon… individuals and governments are using new media to generate chaos, create confusion, attack enemies, and bring about social unrest.

Growing widespread anger is causing dangerous social division… in congress, political extremism is causing the parties to focus on battling each other. At the same time, virtually all areas of the executive branch are issuing directives that create social division and disrupt whole communities.

Institutions important to a democracy are under daily assault… rather than setting up nonpartisan study commissions, members of the administration and their partisan supporters are focused on discrediting the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, the office of the attorney general, education institutions, and more.  A republic is only as strong as its institutions, and leadership must be about making them stronger.

Deregulation has been extreme … public health and the overall environment are being threatened every day. Business leaders are encouraged to ignore interest group pressures… thereby maximizing corporate profits at the expense of public health.

Allies have become confused about U.S.policies… presidential attacks on NATO allies damage U.S. and European security, and advance the causes of our adversaries.

Scientific findings about the impact of climate change have been rejected by our partisan leaders… thereby insuring that weather catastrophes will multiply, that natural landscapes will be destroyed, and lives will be upended.

Media revolutions are changing everything… a new media ecosystem is creating information clutter and confusion, making it almost impossible to separate facts from fiction. Digital media has also changed the way politics, families, and even religion function. Resulting individual isolation is also beginning to reveal behavior and mental health issues. More media and civic literacy education in schools and elsewhere is urgently needed.

The constitution-protected role of the press has been upended… a proliferation of competing broadcast channels, print organizations, and social media platforms, has created problems related to commercial influences, intended biases, and unintended mistakes.

Generally accepted morality is being lost… leaders without moral character, or qualifications for the office they hold, or personal ethics, or capacity for empathy, are initiating reforms based on the belief that “ends by any means” are now acceptable. Simply put, when their “means” are filled with lies, deceptions, and gross exaggerations, our values-based American culture is being corrupted. This is the real American crisis.

 

 

 

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