Sunday, December 20, 2020

Trump’s Future – It Ain’t Looking Good

November 20, 2020 – 1:15 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Palm Springs, California (

Why is Trump so adamant about refusing to concede the election? On some level he knows he will leave the White House by January 20th, so why continue the charade? Does he genuinely think he can still perpetuate his election fraud narrative, or engage in a martial law coup, or manage to keep his base’s adoration at heightened levels after his presidency, or even run for the office again in four years (there are rumors that he may announce his candidacy on the day of Biden’s inauguration; there are other rumors that Ivanka may run, and other rumors that Lara may run for Congress)? If so, this would be a good time to appear calm and forward-thinking, not to be seen as a rabid, foaming at the mouth, incalcitrant sore loser.

What may be behind all this? Let’s deconstruct and get into Trump’s head ...

First, he knows that on January 20th there are dozens of serious criminal indictments waiting for him in New York, from tax evasion, bank fraud, rape and other sexual offenses, to a plethora of engagements in syndicated crime-like activities. Of equal importance is that they will come from a variety of courts, where he will be shuttling across court jurisdictions. He cannot pardon himself out of these, nor ignore them. Who knows how indictments on the federal level might unfold, but the New York State and the New York City cases alone have the potential to put him away for the remainder of his lifetime, not to mention potential D.C. and Maryland cases. Interesting, Michael Cohen recently said that Trump will not pardon his children because such pardons would negate their ability to plead the 5th as subpoenaed witnesses in court cases against Trump, and they would be forced to testify (and Cohen noted that Trump doesn’t care about his children’s legal battles, only his own).

Second, he has few attorneys left in which to engage in a serious defense. His top, middle and even low tiered firms and individual lawyers have abandoned him in an effort to keep themselves from further disgrace, and he is, at best, scraping the bottom of the barrel with the craziness of Sidney Powell and Ian Northon. Rudy is a buffoon (and may be disbarred), and Trump can no longer utilize the U.S. Attorney General and DOJ for help. Not only can these cases result in prison, but also repossession of Trump financial assets for back taxes, fees, penalties, etc. Even at the New York State and New York City levels, these could be significant, where a self or Pence pardon would have no standing, and Trump would desperately be searching for legal representation.

Third, detailed information about Russian hacking and cyberattacks, bounties and the use of Trump as a tool for the Russians will most likely surface in the Biden administration. There may be access to detailed information as department staff and others may speak out publicly once Trump leaves. This will further discredit Trump and his administration, and a new understanding of Trump as a Russian asset may become clearer with potential confessions, tape recordings, files, etc. that may surface. Once Trump is out of office, there may be an abundance of people coming forward. In addition, people may come forward on other fronts, demonstrating ways in which Trump acted to harm the American people while in office which are not yet know by the media. Such a narrative with supporting evidence would further erode Trump’s plans for a come-back, and he may be overwhelmed with worry that these kinds of connections will surface with genuine supporting documentation and witnesses, and not just conjecture.

Fourth, Deutsche Bank, through whom Trump accessed Russian banks (at a premium cost, because reputable U.S., European, Asian or Mid-Eastern bank would not loan to him), will be made to appear in court, and soon will be calling on his loans as they come due within the next two years. Deutsche Bank recently made it clear that no further lending facilities or assistance will be provided to Trump. And there are other separate lenders in line for additional loans that are coming due as well. Forbes estimates that there are over a billion U.S. dollars Trump owes in upcoming loan payments. Trump does not have that kind of cash available, which will require him to liquidate real estate or the bank/lender to repossess properties, depending on the amounts due and the current valuations of those properties (and he won’t be able to fudge the valuations as he has in the past - these will be conducted by independent 3rd parties). In any event, it will become a battle of Trump vs. the lenders (spoiler alert: usually the bankers win).

Fifth, he finds himself in a conundrum relative to housing. He’s afraid to go back to NYC and the charges that await him there. Yet, he will soon be involved in another lawsuit, now with the city of Palm Beach if he attempts to live at Mar-a-Lago, which is zoned (Trump did this to create his private Mar-a-Lago social club) as a private club and not as a place for primary residency, with strict limits on the number of days one can stay at the club. The city has long tried to restrict Trump’s use of the property as a city nuisance. Sure, he owns many properties elsewhere, but they are not in locations he prefers, and they lack the culture of sycophancy and the sheer square footage that Mar-a-Lago offers and that Trump needs for his ego. He will no longer be on the social A-list, and in many places he will be treated as a pariah, no longer the darling of the jet-set world of the glitterati he once commanded. He and his family may soon become socially ignored has-beens.    

Sixth, he may soon find himself served with divorce papers. We know that Melania re-wrote her prenup as a condition for moving to D.C. after a long period of remaining in NYC after Trump’s inauguration in 2017. This document may soon surface and she, along with Baron and Melania’s parents, might part from Trump and his family. If so, Trump will have no-one at his side, even for the optics. Interestingly, it appears that Trump’s adult children may not be living with him in Mar-a-Lago (we know that Ivanka and Jared are not going back to their NYC home, but moving to Bedminster in New Jersey; they also bought land on an island an hour from Mar-a-Lago for a future building site, keeping their distance). For whatever reason, his family may not want to be part of Trump’s household or the legal battles with the city of Palm Beach. Trump may be living alone.

Seventh, he is of no value to foreign governments once he leaves office. There is no reason for them to take his calls, stay at his properties, invite him to events, or provide him with financial support. He can comb through his contact list on his cell phone of foreign dignitaries, but there will be little reason for them to talk with him. Biden and Antony Blinken now act as their contact points, and Trump has nothing further to offer foreign leaders. He will soon learn that those who showed interest in him were not because of their adoration of Trump, but because of his title, and without that title he has no worth on the international stage. 

Eighth, Trump will lose many media outlets for his daily barrage of messaging. His presidency was based on his social media, press conferences, a cadre of communications spokespeople, his regular appearances and call-ins on Fox News, and his coverage in mainstream media based on the incessant drivel he would blather minute-by-minute, typically but not restricted to Twitter. On January 20th, he will no longer be able to use Twitter as he had, He will not have an in-house, on-call national media audience at the Rose Garden with communications staff to speak on his behalf. He is currently at war with Fox News, and who knows how that will resolve itself. Will he become a regular on Fox or other cable outlets? Will there be a split among the viewers on the far-right who will leave Fox and join other further far-right nascent outlets? Will Parler become a vehicle for Trump? Who knows, but in any event Trump’s presence in the mainstream media will diminish, and he will lack the ability to have a broad national audience and presence as he has been accustomed. Certainly, daily Trump news and interviews with Trump staff will no longer abound on CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, etc., and in the written media of the NYT, WP, WSJ, HuffPost, Bloomberg, Newsweek, Time, etc. Most of the nation will no longer be interested in what he has to say. He may, ultimately, become ignored and irrelevant by most of the media, which for Trump translates into a special kind of prison.

Ninth, the empty and decaying Trump Plaza hotel in Atlantic City is to be dynamited by the city on January 29, 2021. It is Trump’s last casino of the four he owned in Atlantic City. All declared bankruptcy over the years. Atlantic City is holding a charity auction for the “joy” of pressing the button to activate the explosion (the auction will end on January 19, 2021). Trump left the city with a wake of unpaid bills, and the city holds no allegiance to him. All funds go to the Boys and Girls Club, and they expect it to raise over $1 million for the button-pushing event. This should be quite the national media event next month and further humiliation for Trump.    

Finally, all of the above may leave him in a very different financial situation, and without the U.S. government, foreign governments, the GOP and the mainstream GOP donor base, and other funding sources, he may find that his lifestyle diminishes. Sure, he raised $200 million for his special PAC from his core supporters, and we are now learning that he has skimmed large sums from the GOP and other conduits while in the White House. We are now learning that Jared had much of these contributions and funds laundered into Trump family personal accounts. He may be able to continue to extract funds from his cult base through paid rallies and other initiatives, but the use of all this money may come under scrutiny. These sources may provide some relief, but with potential cases facing him, Ivanka, Jared and Don Jr., the entire family may find themselves in a financial squeeze (along with the legal peril his children may face as well). Certainly, the Trump brand as a high-end marketing device has tarnished (perhaps a K-Mart Trump clothing line at their few remaining stores, or Ivanka handbags/jewelry at the Dollar Store).

Most Presidents and their families leave office respectfully and with dignity, not worried about legal, financial and personal ruin. They hand over the reins to the next group, and go on to write their memoirs, give speeches, engage in charity and education work, build a presidential library, and understand their new role as a former President. They focus on their legacy. This kind of thinking is simply not part of the Trump psyche. It requires maturity, perspective and self-assuredness, something Trump lacks. He’s like a child who can’t stop pushing the balloon until it explodes, and then cries that the balloon has been taken from him. His history is clear: his endeavors consistently result in bankruptcies, lawsuits, divorce, shame and ultimately anger. He doesn’t know how to end things gracefully, and that pattern won’t change as he exits the White House.

These are all reasons for Trump to feel isolated and panicked. They all based on potential upcoming disasters for him, and demonstrate that he is indeed a “loser,” a depiction he despises. For Trump, these are humiliations that go against everything he believes in himself. Above all, Trump is a narcissist and a sociopath who operates on a childish level of intellect and emotion. He only cares about his image and the power he can brandish, and he lacks any sense of introspection and resolve. He deludes himself and lives in a fantasy world of mythological greatness, and he believes it. For him, it’s not a political game; no, for him, his narrative is real, and he is incapable of seeing himself otherwise. Losing the election is horrific enough for him, but to add to that disgrace and shame are the potential indignities noted above that, unlike most Presidents before, he will start to face in just one month, and they may each unfold, one-by-one, over the next two years. He is unable to accept anything but a perfect self-image (“I am the smartest person in the world”; “I have the best brain”, “I can do anything”), and he does not have the psychological character to face his new reality. He is a deeply disturbed and damaged person, with severe and dangerous psychiatric issues, and unable to accept his fate of personal, legal and economic humiliations and other challenges that may lie ahead. 

So he denies and clings to his cult base that remains faithful. It’s all he has now. And he watches, one-by-one, as the GOP appointed judges provide no relief, and as the GOP leadership ultimately accepts the humiliation of the countless and baseless lawsuits denied, and as they come to accept Biden as the new President. Some of them are simply done with the Donald. And the demons in his head cannot deal with what is unfolding. Trump is terrified and psychologically in an unbridled rage.

What will Trump do? To quote Rhett Butler, “Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I think it will be highly unlikely (but not impossible) for him to seriously run in 2024. He may try, but he would need to start that effort soon. It would take a lot of money and ground support, and the barriers that the above potential hurdles present over the next four years may be too much for him to overcome. He’s not an outsider anymore; he’s a failed insider. Sure his core cult base still adores him, and many in the GOP are unwilling to disengage from him, but “build that wall” and “lock her up” have long lost their MAGA luster. He has shown himself to be a humiliated loser on many fronts, and that’s not the narrative that gave him the 2016 win. And, others want the crown jewel, such as Pence, Cotton, Rubio, Haley, etc. For sure, Trump will be divisive, and the GOP may fracture into the pro-Trump camp (his cult and the emerging “Patriot Party”) and the non-Trump camp. Unifying that party may become a serious barrier. I’m hoping that along with the implosion of the Trump Plaza hotel next month, there will be a concurrent implosion of the GOP. It may not come to be, but the seeds are there. 

In any event, the path for another Trump presidency diminishes with time, and I am looking forward to a fantasy day when we all say, “Whatever happened to Trump after his divorce and after he lost all that money and was sent to jail? Haven’t heard much about him lately.” A day when we have to google his name to see if he hasn’t already died.

CAVEAT: The Democrats need to make sure that they remain unified and don’t allow fractions within the party and base to distract from the Biden/Harris presidency. This is not a time for in-fighting among the Democrats. Picking apart Biden/Harris, their administration and programs will not serve the nation. Biden/Harris need support in order to undo and move forward from the broken nation Trump leaves behind.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Anit-Vaxxers and Anti-Semitism - A Long History Together

December 16, 2020 – 5:00 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Palm Springs, California (

Western pandemic conspiracy movements are not new. Their origins are to be found in the anti-Semitism of the “poisoning of the well” narrative, which developed as a Christian trope at the time of the bubonic plague in Europe in the 1300’s, when Jews did not typically succumb to the disease. Jews were usually physically isolated from the non-Jewish world, with strict Kosher laws forbidding the contact or consumption of many kinds of animals that spread disease, rules for maintaining clean and separate food chains from the general population, and having strong religious demands for daily personal washing and household cleanliness (from cleanliness requirements of bodily functions and sex, to how dishes and other cooking/eating utensils are cleaned and stored, to how farm animals are separately housed and managed outside of the home, to a ban on hunting as animals in the wild might contain disease, etc.). These rules and customs, which were quite different from the rest of Europe at that time, and they allowed the Jews to survive the plague when others did not. And so the Christian world blamed the Jews for the pandemic and committed atrocities against them in the name of this conspiracy.

The narrative has continued throughout the centuries and is still alive in modern times and poses conflict with many important vaccines and medicines that have been discovered by Jewish scientists, including, in part, today’s COVID-19 vaccines. Although the world has generally adopted a science-friendly set of values, the conspiracy theories of the “poisoning the well” trope continue as anti-Semitism continues to be an unspoken foundation of the current anti-science and anti-vaxxer movement (see the British government report findings below, in which they found 79% of all anti-vaxxer networks world-wide advocate anti-Semitism as a basis for rejecting vaccines). Most of us don’t read the postings, articles and discussions among the anti-science and anti-vaxxer networks, so many of us are unaware of these insidious conversations.

In addition, Jews have traditionally played a critical role in the science of discovering vaccines and medicines, including Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine, who discovered the vaccines for cholera and the plague in France and India in the late 1800’s, through Jonas Salk who developed the polio vaccine in the U.S. in the mid 1900’s. Over the past two centuries, Jewish scientists have helped discover and develop vaccines and methods for inoculation of smallpox, measles, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, bacterial meningitis, and many others, including the ground-breaking discovery of penicillin. Jerome Horwitz discovered AZT antiretroviral medication, which became the nascent foundation for combatting AIDS, a field in which many Jewish scientists worked. It was Jewish scientists who discovered the mammogram, leukemia pharmaceuticals, infant exchange transfusion for Rh hemolytic disease, fluid flow drip method for intravenous injection (invented by Dean Kamen, someone I personally knew in my childhood on Long Island, and who has 440+ patents for his work, many in the medical field, but also including inventing the Segway), and many other critical disease-fighting discoveries. (Henry Judah Heimlich himself was Jewish – he discovered the Heimlich maneuver). The list goes on, and while it may evoke pride within the Jewish community, it evokes a different sentiment among the Christian right – a distrust of “Jewish science.”

This role of anti-Semitism in the anti-vaxxer movement was recently studied in-depth by the British government who released a detailed report in October 2020 (“From anti-vaxxers to antisemitism: conspiracy theory in the COVID-19 pandemic” by John Mann, Britain’s independent government adviser on anti-Semitism), which began with an historic overview of blaming the Jews for the great plague through other epidemics up to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This study of anti-vaxxers across the globe concluded, “Most people are desperate for a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, as are governments across the world. Once a vaccine becomes available it will be essential to quickly sideline the conspiracy theories and misinformation of the antivaxxers. Exposing their links to antisemitism and age-old conspiracy theories can only assist the public health message, but in doing so government and civil society organisations must also combat the resurgence of antisemitism that, as this report evidences, is present in 79% of antivaxxer networks. Exposing the level of antisemitism amongst the anti-vaxxer movement now is therefore of the utmost importance.” The report noted one of the current anti-vaxxer movement’s symbols is the Nazi yellow Star of David used to identify Jews during Hitler’s time, only now replacing the term “Jude” (German for “Jew”) with the term “no vax” in the center made to look like Hebrew letters (see below).

ADL (Anti-Defamation League, the American organization focused on anti-Semitism) in their April 2020 report analyzed the underlying anti-Semitism of the anti-vaxxer movement. They, too, noted that the basis of the current anti-vaxxer movement is the idea that COVID-19 is seen as a tool for Jews to expand their global influence,” where “Jews will not only profit from a vaccine but will also exploit desperation by overcharging for it and limiting availability.” The report states that, “As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, virus-related conspiracy theories are proliferating online. These antisemitic, xenophobic, hateful messages spread misplaced blame and misinformation, making it more difficult to access accurate information while elevating fear and anxiety. While some of these messages are new, many are simply old tropes repackaged for a modern pandemic.” They noted the use of the “greedy ugly Jew” meme pushing the sale of COVID-19 vaccine (see below).

These kinds of beliefs and symbols further perpetuate the abundance of centuries of historically Christian conspiracy theories about the dangers of “the Jew,” such as the age-old “blood libel” conspiracies about Jews murdering Christian children, the conspiracies about Passover where Jews were believed to need Christian bodies for ceremonies, the Good Friday “perfidious Jews” conspiracies, and many others, all aimed at a distrust of the Jews and their nefarious motives against the Christian world. These conspiracies formed the foundation for atrocities throughout the centuries, including giving permission to the Nazis for the Holocaust.

What is behind this? Judaism, as its core, is not a religion of belief, but one of debate. Over the centuries, the Talmud teaches Jews to question everything and to propose alternative hypotheses through thoughtful examination and discussion. Education and intellectual discipline are pervasive Jewish values. And these values have inspired Jews to seek scientific methodology as a mechanism for understanding the universe, the world and humankind. In addition, Judaism is a religion that focuses on the key concept of “tikun olam” (Hebrew for “fix the world”). Judaism demands that each Jewish person is obliged to improve the world in a meaningful way during their lifetimes; legacy is the Jewish concept of life ever-after. And so, Jews are disproportionately attracted to the pursuit of scientific research and development, including the area of medicine. Over 22% of all Nobel Prizes have been awarded to Jewish people, including such names as Albert Einstein for creating the discipline of modern physics, Emmy Noether for creating the discipline of abstract algebra, to name a few. And yet, Jews only represent 0.2% of the world’s population (and only 2.5% of all people in the U.S.). Intellectual analysis is simply a crucial part of the Jewish experience, psyche and aspiration.

As a result, Jews are often equated with scientific and mathematical thinking and are viewed as the enemy by the anti-science and anti-vaxxers, throughout history and now during the COVID-19 pandemic, questioning the legitimacy of the vaccines that can eradicate the disease. It is important to understand the role of bigotry in this movement. It is real and it is based on centuries of distrust of the “other,” particularly of the Jews.

For COVID-19, the two key players in the vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are heavily Jewish, and include Muslim, people of color, and immigrants. Albert Bourla is Jewish and the CEO of Pfizer and the son of Holocaust survivors. Mikael Dolsten, the head scientist at Pfizer, is Jewish. They are working with Ugur Sahin and his spouse Ozlem Tureci who are Muslim and founded BioNTech in Britain and they developed the BioNTech’s vaccine, which is now part of Pfizer. For Moderna, Kizzmekia Corbet, a black American scientist is the key scientist behind their vaccine. She works with the Israeli Jewish scientist Tal Zaks who is Chief Medical Officer at Moderna. And, the scientists responsible for the groundbreaking work in creating the new mRNA vaccine technology (which is the basis of the COVID-19 vaccines) is Jewish scientist Drew Weissman (no known relation) who worked under Anthony Fauci at the National Institutes of Health, and at the world-renowned Weizmann Institute of Science outside of Tel Aviv for his Ph.D. work, along with Katalin Kariko, an immigrant from Eastern Europe. Both of them worked at University of Pennsylvania in the research and development of new vaccine methods.

The COVID-19 vaccines are the works of a diverse and brilliant group of scientists in the U.S., Europe and Israel, with many Jews and other minorities among them, who are often viewed by the Christian right as people who are undeserving of trust, even though these people are heroes saving the human race from this horrific pandemic.

Yet, the anti-science and anti-vaxxers continue, and we all need to understand that much of their call to conspiracies is based on centuries of anti-Semitism, and for these people, that kind of hatred continues and expands to include other minorities whom they view as deceitful as well. We must uncover these ugly truths if we are to inoculate the nation and squash these dangerous conspiracists. We must embrace a culture of medical progress based on scientific analysis, and not age-old tropes of fear and prejudice.


Embrace Biden’s New Cabinet – It’s the Anti-Trump Team

November 25, 2020 – 3:00 pm ET
By Rich Weissman, Palm Springs, California (

 To anyone who is displeased that their Democratic primary candidate or other favorite politician isn’t included in the Biden administration: We voted to end Trumpism and its politics of cronyism, grifters and political payoffs. Biden is the anti-Trump (and that’s why he won), and he is assembling a thoughtful, professional (yes, professional) cabinet and group of advisors based on expertise, experience and ability to implement change. He has many issues to immediately tackle (COVID, economy, climate change, racism, women and LGBTQ equality, immigration reform, American leadership in world affairs, voter suppression and election reform, Supreme Court reform, electoral college reform, undoing all of the horrific executive and other orders introduced by Trump, etc.). He needs to have people on his team who can day-one take on the job and quickly effectuate change in the U.S. and on the world stage. He doesn’t have time, and he needs to immediately operate and win on multiple fronts concurrently and have an administration that can within months can clean house.

For the past four years we have been screaming that Trump’s team was one of pure kleptocracy and personal gain, and that we needed a President and team who focused on moving the nation forward, not padding their pockets or furthering their political careers. And we won, and we now have a President who embraces a future without political cronyism. Hooray! Sure, there are people we would each personally love to see in the administration but who won’t necessarily be offered a position because they are not the foremost professional fit for a job based on hiring the best and the brightest with demonstrable leading expertise and experience in a particular field.

As an example, Janet Yellen has a Ph.D. in economics from Yale, taught at Harvard and other institutions throughout the world, and was head of the Federal Reserve. Clearly, she’s most qualified to head up the Treasury. Antony Blinken, who will be Secretary of State, served as Deputy Secretary of State, Special Assistant to the President and Sr. Director for Strategic Planning, NSC Senior Director, to name just a few foreign affairs positions this Harvard alum has held. The bios of others named Biden cabinet members thus far are equally impressive and show depth in their fields of professional expertise.

In addition, there are considerations for moving people from the Senate to the cabinet, particularly in states with Republican governors (e.g. Massachusetts and Vermont). This could further undermine Biden’s ability to move legislation forward. We need to see the big picture and support Biden in his efforts to create a cabinet that has the experience and expertise to tackle the job at hand, while growing the Democrats in Congress, hoping for wins in the upcoming Georgia election, so that Biden has a friendly House and Senate. That is more important than egos or self-promotion.

So, proponents for the cast of the primary runners and other political supporters of Biden may be disappointed. I understand, but they (and we) supported Biden not to get a job offer (that’s a strategy of the likes of Betsy DeVos), but because Biden could move the nation away from the evils of Trumpism. Executive positions shouldn’t be pay-back jobs and they shouldn’t be currency (that would be Trumpism); they are professional jobs for the most qualified. Hats off to Biden for doing just that, and hats off to those who have supported Biden’s initial choices. If some Democrats complain, then they are no different from the cronies of Trump.