Tag Archives: President Trump

Trump Trial: The Westport Connection

I know you’ve been waiting for an “06880” link to President Trump’s 2nd impeachment trial.

Here it is: defense attorney Michael van der Veen grew up on Lamplight Lane, off Hillspoint Road near Old Mill Beach.

Michael van der Veen, in the 1978 Long Lots Junior High School yearbook, “Lion’s Clause.”

After Long Lots Junior High, he — like his siblings — headed to Choate Rosemary Hall. He graduated from the private school in 1981, then went on to Ohio Wesleyan University, Quinnipiac School of Law and Temple University School of Law.

He’s a founding partner of van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn and Levin in Philadelphia.

Which you or I might pronounce, well, “Philadelphia.” When van der Veen called it “Philly-delphia” earlier today, senators from both parties laughed.

The Philadelphia lawyer had no idea why. But he sure had some words for them.

(Hat tip: Kathleen Fazio)

Marc Selverstone: Presidential Scholar Looks Back, And Ahead

Our country is deeply divided. We’ll remain so for some time.

The Biden administration will move quickly to get things done. It only has a year to do so, before the mid-term elections move into high gear.

We’ll continue to reel from assaults on both truth and an array of institutions vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy.

Those are not novel concepts. But they — and others, much more in depth and nuanced — have particular resonance, on this inauguration day.

They come from Marc Selverstone. The 1980 Staples High School graduate is an associate professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s famed Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Marc Selverstone

With a doctorate in American history, he also chairs the center’s Presidential Recordings Program; teaches courses on foreign relations, and consults with filmmakers, authors and educators.

Over the last 4 years, Selverstone says, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to avoid using the word “unprecedented.”

Beyond trying to understand policy choices, he’s tried to understand President Trump’s appeal to “a durable segment of the population, and an extraordinary percentage of the Republican Party.”

“His most dramatic departures had less to do with policy than with his approach to norms and conventions, to personnel and institutions and, most consequentially, to truth and fact-based reality,” the scholar says.

Selverstone calls the Biden transition “one of the most professional in memory. That augurs well for a country reeling from intersecting health and economic crises, and against the backdrop of really seismic and fundamental challenges in our politics, in social and race relations, and with respect to the environment.

“Whether or not the Capitol insurrection functions as a modern-day Beer Hall Putsch remains to be seen,” he adds. “1923 is a far cry from 1933, let alone what came after. But reporting seems to indicate that the assault has galvanized groups of well-armed violent extremists who are fanatically loyal to the outgoing president and all he represents.”

Until January 6, the Confederate flag had never been paraded through the US Capitol.

Selverstone’s looks ahead are informed by his study of the past. The Recordings Program transcribes and analyzes White House tapes that 6 consecutive presidents of both parties — from Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 to Richard Nixon in 1973 — made in secret.

Most of the work focuses on the period between 1962 and ’73. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were the most active in taping aides, journalists, cabinet officials, legislators, family members and private individuals.

In 2005, Selverstone was part of a Brown University-led oral history research project, exploring the Kennedy/Johnson transition and its impact on Vietnam policy.

Intrigued, Selverstone began exploring Kennedy’s thoughts on withdrawal planning (“real and extensive”), and his Vietnam policy overall — cut short, of course, by his assassination.

President John F. Kennedy and the primary architect of his Vietnam policy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

That led to a book, due to his publisher March 1: “The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam.”

Selverstone has become impressed with how much the president was souring on the war. He had always been wary of deep involvement, the professor says, though he went to Dallas still committed to fighting it.

The question of withdrawal deadlines — at least, their public announcements – is relevant today. “Calendars factored into the Bush , Obama and Trump policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan,” Selverstone says.

Such deadlines “don’t have a very good track record,” he notes. “They rarely served the political or military objectives they were designed to achieve.”

Meanwhile, Selverstone, the Miller Center and the US prepare for a new administration.

He’ll continue to work on the presidential tapes, then undertake new projects beyond the election of 1964 and Vietnam.

“With the Kennedy book in the rear view mirror,” he says, “I’ll join my colleagues in thinking about what this turbulent era of American public life means for us, as well as what it means in the stream of time.”

Mark Mathias: Mixed Reactions At Trump’s Boy Scout Speech

Mark Mathias is many things. He’s the founder and president of Remarkable STEAM, a statewide organization promoting innovation and creativity in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. He founded Westport’s Maker Faire, has served on the Board of Education for 14 years, and volunteers with the Boy Scouts.

In that last capacity, he’s attending this week’s National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. He’s joined by 35,000 Scouts from around the world (120 from Connecticut, including Westporters), and 5,000 adult support staff. Mathias’ role is radio communications.

Mark Mathias and his son Nick, at the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Yesterday was a special one at the sprawling camp. Here’s his report:

This year, we were honored to have President Trump address the Jamboree.

Scheduled to speak at 6 p.m., preparations for his visit started well over a week ago. The venue opened at 2:30, and numerous restrictions were in place. It took nearly 2 hours from the time I got in line and snaked down the pathways until I reached one of 2 entrances.

Restrictions in place for President Trump’s visit to the Boy Scout Jamboree.

All day long, and particularly in line, lots of Scouts and adults wore red “Make America Great Again” hats.

Once inside the venue, box lunches were given to each person. Free bottles of water were handed out to every attendee, since it was very hot and muggy.  Luckily there was some light cloud cover and a brief sprinkle of rain to keep people cool while we waited on the grass.

The scouting organization was good at keeping the crowd entertained, as the Scouts stayed in their troop areas.  Many patches were traded, and ice cream vendors did a land office business.

By 6 p.m. the stage was set. A man placed the presidential seal on the podium.

Around 6:20 we saw the presidential motorcade arrive, winding down the hill to the rear of the stage.  The crowd frequently chanted: “We want Trump!” and “U! S! A!”

Mark Mathias’ view of the presidential stage.

When Mr. Trump came on stage, he received a very warm welcome from the assembled Scouts.  Thunderous applause and chanting of his name was a marvel to hear.

As he started his speech, Mr. Trump indicated he would set aside political differences for the evening, and instead talk about how to be successful.  He mentioned that 10 of the members of his cabinet were Scouts, and brought on stage Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.

Other than the time I went to Washington to see a presidential inauguration with my family, I have not attended a live event where the President of the United States has spoken. I believe that the opportunity to see and hear the president is something everyone in our country should have.  I also believe in respecting the office of the president.

President Trump addresses the Boy Scouts.

Speaking to other scoutmasters in the audience as we waited for the president, I heard that some troops had talked seriously about not attending. Luckily, the scoutmasters I spoke to did not let this opportunity pass by. As I left the venue after the speech however, I saw a handful of troops that elected to not attend.

With a great start to President Trump’s speech, I had high hopes he would use it as an opportunity to inspire this largest collection of Scouts in the United States to do great things, and have scouting be a way to give them the skills they need.

Unfortunately, President Trump moved to subjects of repealing Obamacare, “fake news,” and how well the economy and stock market are doing since his election.

The crowd welcomed most of President Trump’s comments with great cheers, although there was the occasional boo — in particular when President Trump mentioned that President Obama did not address a Jamboree. (Click below for the entire speech.)

I stood in the audience, trying to absorb what was going on around me. Was the crowd responding to the fact that they had the President of the United States speaking to them? Were they truly supportive of the policies being presented to them? A combination of these and other reasons? Am I out of touch with America?

On the walk home and in talking with the people with whom I’m working, the conversations were muted. A few people said they thought Trump did a great job. Others were more critical of his speech. But adults on both sides of the subject were remarkably unenthusiastic. It was almost as though the speech didn’t happen. It surprised me that there was not a great desire to talk about what we had just witnessed.

Mark Mathias, at the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.

The experience for me was somewhat surreal. Being in the audience as the president addressed us is a great honor. Feeling the energy of the crowd — but not the motivation — made me feel out of place. Then, after having experienced what for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the president in person not be ebullient about it, was downright odd.

I hope to have more opportunities to participate in events of this nature, and hear leaders in their own words. I hope to be able to share these experiences with my family and friends. Most of all, I hope that we all grow as a result of these experiences.

Candlelight Climate Vigil Set For Sunday

Two months ago Darcy Hicks, Lauren Soloff, Lisa Bowman and Nita Prasad organized a “Democracy on Display” rally in downtown Westport.

Nearly 1,000 citizens marched from Jesup Green to Veterans Green. Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, and Congressman Jim Himes, all spoke.

The 4 women have just begun.

Furious and heartbroken over President Trump’s decision on the Paris Agreement, they texted furiously with each other on Thursday night.

They agree they needed to do something to show how many Westporters stand against what Hicks calls “this callous and isolationist approach.”

In April, millions demonstrated around the world to bring attention to climate change.

Hicks created a Facebook page: “CTontheMove Candlelight Vigil for Climate Protection.”

The women are putting their words into action: The vigil is set for this Sunday (June 4), 7:30 p.m. at the Compo Beach cannons.

“We need to show the world that we are with them when it comes to environmental protection, global prosperity, and world participation,” organizers say.

“And we need to show our children that we are on the front lines, fighting for their future. This will be a peaceful but powerful protest.”

There will be 200 votive candles available. Respiratory masks too.

Sunday’s weather is not predicted to be great.

But the forecast for the planet is worse.

Organizers of Sunday’s vigil at the Compo Beach cannons hope to ensure a bright future for their children and grandchildren.

Democracy On Display In Westport

They came from all over Westport, and Redding and Roxbury. There were, by some estimates, 800 of them. But crowd estimates, as we all know now, are less important than the message the crowd sends.

They were Democrats, Republicans and independents. They were moms, dads, tweens and teens, and folks who marched in the ’60s and are now beyond that age.

The English translation of this Russian sign is: “Treason leads to impeachment.”

All 3 selectmen were there, with town officials, state legislators, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Julia Belaga. The first President Bush appointed her regional director of the EPA, an agency that President Trump wants to scrap.

Past and present town officials — Republicans and Democrats — at the march included (from left) Steve and Rosemary Halstead, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, State Representative Gail Lavielle and 3rd selectman Helen Garten.

They were there for the environment, women’s rights, immigration and education. They were there against authoritarianism, murky Russian ties and the countless whack-a-mole controversies that have sprung up ever since January 20.

Westporter Susan Terry led the crowd in a rousing, singalong “Star Spangled Banner.” Car horns honked in solidarity. (One car passed by with a counter-protest. “Make America great again!” the driver shouted.)

Suzanne Sherman Propp wore her favorite hat.

The music included upbeat songs like the Beatles’ “Here Comes the  Sun,” and protest anthems like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.”

And when today’s “Connecticut: One Small State, One Big Voice” march from Jesup Green to Veterans Green was over — after Senators Chris Murphy and Dick Blumenthal, Congressman Jim Himes and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had spoken — there was one last song.

“These boots are made for walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra sang. “And one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

Are you ready?

March organizers (from left) Darcy Hicks, Lauren Soloff and Lisa Bowman show off the message of the day.

Today’s march attracted demonstrators of all ages…

… including this future voter. (Photo/Cathy Siroka)

Congressman Jim Himes gets ready to speak.

Congressman Jim Himes said that President Trump has catered to “the worst elements of extremists.” But he hasn’t succeeded, because “all over America — in unlikely states like Oklahoma and Alabama — people came together. Reasonable Republicans heard from people like you.

“People have used fear to move decent Americans behind bad instincts,” Himes added. “But this is America. We don’t do fear well. Whatever your party, stand up.

“To all the Democrats and Republicans here: You are the best of America. Thanks to you, our shared values will prevail.”

The crowd responded with a heartfelt chant: “Thank you Jim!”

Senator Dick Blumenthal (Photo/Diane Lowman)

Senator Dick Blumenthal told the crowd at Veterans Green: “This is what democracy looks like!” It’s because of crowds like this, he said, that Trump’s “cartoonishly incompetent” healthcare plan went down to defeat.

The Judiciary Committee member pledged to push an independent investigation of the president.

He noted that his father fled Germany for the US in 1935. He was 17, and spoke no English. “This country gave him a chance to succeed. He would be so ashamed now, to see the Statue of Liberty’s lamp extinguished.”

Senator Chris Murphy (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Senator Chris Murphy energized the crowd, saying: “There is no fear that can’t be cured by political activism.” And though he sometimes goes to bed fearing the movement will lose strength, he wakes up in the morning to find it bigger than ever.

He said that he, Blumenthal and Himes “are trying to raise our game to equal this moment. Democracy is inefficient, but no one has invented a better system yet.” However, he noted, “democracy is not inevitable. We have to keep fighting for it.”

Senator Murphy on Veterans Green. (Photo/Diane Lowman)

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Yesterday, I put out a call asking for photos of Westporters at today’s inauguration, and tomorrow women’s march on Washington.

So far, only 1 reader answered the call. Erik Tamm sent this shot of himself at the Capitol:

erik-tamm-at-trump-inauguration

The night before, he and Leho Poldmae of Hunt Valley, Maryland attended the Texas Black Tie and Boots Ball. Erik wrote: “Celebrating Obama’s exit and Trump’s arrival with 12,000 other Republicans.”

erik-tamm-and-leho-poldmae-at-texas-ball-trump-inauguration

Meanwhile, here’s a photo I stole from Facebook. It shows Staples graduate Alexandra O’Kane (right) working as the lead Georgetown University EMT. She’s been stationed at the Capitol since 4:30 this morning:

alexandra-okane-ems-at-inauguration

In Westport last November, Hillary Clinton outpolled President Trump 10,655 to 4,169 — a greater than 2-to-1 margin.

Perhaps we’ll see more photos from Washington tomorrow.