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Pitts: In Trump they trust

So apparently this is now Republican Party doctrine:

You can’t trust the news media. They’re biased.

You can’t trust the CIA. They’re hacks.

You can’t trust the Justice Department. It’s unfair.

You can’t trust the FBI. It’s disgraceful.

But you can trust Donald Trump.

Notwithstanding the bankruptcies, the fraud settlement, the admitted sexual assaults, the litany of lies about everything from crowd size to approval ratings to Inauguration Day weather, his word is golden. From Rep. Devin Nunes’ pathetically transparent attempts to save Trump from himself in the Russia probe to poll numbers indicating GOP voters would, indeed, support him even if he stood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shot somebody, the party implicitly insists this self-interested con artist is a good man.

In Trump they trust. But the FBI is another matter.

The bizarreness of this cannot be overstated. Nor can the hypocrisy and the gutlessness. But we are here to talk about the danger.

For almost 50 years, Americans have fretted over the erosion of trust in our government. Well, erosion has now become destruction.

This has been a long time coming, of course. For years, Americans lived in blissful assurance that if the government said it, it must be true. Then came a watershed called Watergate. Following hard on the heels of the Pentagon Papers’ revelations that the government lied us into a war it knew to be unwinnable, this tale of dirty tricks, lies and cover-ups in the Nixon White House shredded the nation’s faith in its leaders in ways that have reverberated down the intervening decades.

A little skepticism toward government is probably not a bad thing. But we have far more than a little.

In 1958, 73 percent of us trusted the government to do the right thing all or most of the time, according to a Pew Research Center Poll. Last year, 18 percent did.

Similarly, it is not the worst thing in the world if people are a little dubious of the news business. But a national news media approval rate of 11 percent among Republicans—this, also, from the folks at Pew—goes far beyond dubiousness.

The point is that there was already a surplus of ill will toward government and news media. Now, here comes Trump, pushing ill will toward critical mass with daily tirades against career spies, lawyers, cops and reporters. He doesn’t do it to help the country. He doesn’t even do it to help his party.

No, as with most things Trump does, he does it to help himself. Knock down media credibility, and his partisans find it easier to overlook reports of his incompetence and sleaze. Knock down CIA credibility, and you no longer have to justify kowtowing to Vladimir Putin. Knock down FBI and DOJ credibility, and there goes the Russia investigation.

And never mind that in knocking down media, law enforcement and intelligence gathering, Trump topples pillars of American democracy.

Never mind that democracy is something we considered sacred not too long ago.

Never mind. Republicans acquiesce in these acts of intellectual vandalism. And they should be ashamed.

Yes, there will inevitably come moments when institutions disappoint and yes, one is obligated to challenge them when they do. But this is not that. This is dangerous distrust sown for political gain by an opportunistic narcissist. And it’s working. Already a new Reuters poll says that 73 percent of Republicans now think the FBI is unfair to Trump—73 percent.

Is this country in trouble now?

You’d better believe it.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Reach him at lpitts@

Your Views: Milton has a lot going for it, despite growing pains

Like in many cities large and small today, the costs of progress on the quality of life in Milton cause much controversy. The city council, school board and citizens debate and decide the details of road repairs, public school facilities and new housing developments throughout the urban area. As growing pains and demands bring inevitable changes, residents will gradually adapt and come to accept the taxes that pay for it all.

In the world of business, Milton has also experienced pain and losses due to the Highway 26 bypass. But there have also been gains, including the recent opening of a full-service restaurant at the Piggly Wiggly mall property. The city is currently well represented by small food-service enterprises on both west and east sides.

The new Tasty Bites family style restaurant in the old Burger King building offers generous business hours and equally generous food portions on their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus seven days a week. The Zekiri family who owns and operates this restaurant provides an impressive mixture of tradition (emigration to America) and diversity (new generations in our melting-pot society). Everyone is invited to enjoy a warm welcome from this hard-working family and to savor the good quality meals served from their busy kitchen by delightful, cheerful waitresses.

Even better, invite your friends and neighbors to join you!



Our Views: Fire department drama symptomatic of larger problems

If the drama surrounding the exit of Clinton’s fire chief seems oddly familiar, that’s because it is.

Two years ago, Edgerton also experienced a leadership shakeup with three chiefs departing in quick succession.

Our biggest concern isn’t the official reason for each chief’s departure but the broader, underlying problems plaguing rural fire departments throughout the state. Towns and villages will likely continue losing good leaders until they figure out how to retain and attract more volunteers—the men and women who extinguish blazes when called to homes and buildings.

The Clinton Fire Department has temporarily filled its chief post by turning to town of Beloit Fire Chief Gene Wright. He will replace interim Chief Jeff London, who replaced longtime Chief John Rindfleisch.

That Clinton is the second Rock County municipality to struggle mightily to find a quality leader is alarming. Both Clinton’s and Edgerton’s cases act as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, signaling that rural fire departments may be near their breaking points without additional financial and personnel support.

Most people don’t appreciate their fire departments until they have a problem and call 911. We hope it doesn’t take a prolonged response to a 911 call—or a tragic death—for officials and residents alike to realize they must work together to make their departments stronger.

They should seek to avoid blaming each other and recognize the state government should also help solve the rural fire department problem.

As we’ve stated in a previous editorial, a legislative committee has studied challenges facing rural fire departments and made recommendations targeting volunteer departments in 2016. Those recommendations include:

Extending the length of some training certifications from two to four years.

Increasing contributions to volunteers’ retirement accounts and lowering the required number of years, from 20 to 15, to become fully vested.

Giving tax credits to volunteers both for their time at work and in training and for non-reimbursable expenses.

The biggest problem facing most rural fire departments is they’re losing volunteers and cannot easily fill leadership vacancies. For the Clinton Fire Department to call on the town of Beloit for assistance speaks to the thinness of the department’s ranks.

Wright said he’s focused on getting the “membership of the department ready for the future,” and that’s a good thing, but he has a difficult task without reforms to assist rural departments.

Infighting among Clinton officials, and previously in Edgerton, hasn’t helped the situation, either. Officials are pointing fingers over a problem that isn’t—to a great degree—their own creation. Demographics and lifestyle changes have conspired against the rural fire department, and political squabbling promises to make matters only worse.

We hope Clinton’s situation calms down over the next several months, but these types of conflicts will likely continue to play out until political leaders unify to address trends and challenges hampering rural departments.

Sound Off for Sunday, Feb. 11

On St. Patrick’s School planning to close: This message is for those people who are so concerned about St. Patrick’s closing their school. They must be new to the area because I’ve been around for a long time, and for over 40 years there’s been talk of closing the school. Those of you who are so concerned, have you volunteered when volunteers were called for? Have you been contributing to the support of the school to help keep it open?

On an open letter to Rep. Paul Ryan: Enclosed, please find a check for $1.50 to be used for your campaign. I am sure that will pay for part of your expenses while running your campaign to keep the United States of America a joke like it is now.

On the stock market correction: Trump’s actions recently prove just how wrong one can be. His expressed credit for his role in the past two months for the stock market’s growth, but the tanking and rebound of the Dow show how little effect his office has. But his comments calling Democratic congress members ‘un-American’ and ‘treasonous’ generate total disgust.

  • Trump’s policies are actually growing the economy. This makes interest rates go up, and the stock market is no longer the only place to grow your money. So the president’s policies can have a very significant effect on what the stock market does.

On Trump’s proposed military parade: A real billionaire sends a rocket into space and inspires a new generation to reach for the stars. A fake billionaire needs a military parade and inspires old people to think the world is flat.

  • He has done nothing to deserve any kind of military recognition of respect. I had relatives who died in Vietnam, and while they were fighting for his backside, he was searching for more bone spurs to keep him home.
  • Trump wants a big military parade so he can be like his idol, Little Rocket Man. Having a parade like this would do nothing but waste taxpayer money. If Trump wanted to see the military up close, he shouldn’t have gotten five deferments. Way to go, Capt. Bone Spurs.
  • If our president wants to honor our military, he should take care of their homelessness, their physical and mental health and adequately supply and support our troops. While our troops are fighting in unforgiving conflicts all over the globe, they don’t need to have representatives marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to satisfy his ego.

On the Devin Nunes memo: That so-called House Intelligence Committee is under complete Republican control; it’s just a diversionary attack on the Mueller investigation. This is a textbook attack the very same Republicans used in their attempt to clear Richard Nixon, and it will be the very same outcome.

  • Every single Democrat on the intelligence committee voted against releasing it and the people’s right to know. Now the Democrats want to release a rebuttal memo, which is basically to spin the other memo and make it look not so devastating, and every single Republican votes in favor of releasing it. When it comes to the people’s right to know and transparency, it’s pretty obvious which party is in favor of that and which party is against that.

On proposed tax credits for Kimberly-Clark: Hey, Gov. Scott Walker, don’t spend all of our hard-earned tax money. It’s hard to believe Kimberly-Clark and Foxconn need all the help. Kimberly-Clark is very wealthy. Save some help for the mom-and-pop businesses.

On the downtown Monterey Hotel: It’s not worth saving, and it should be torn down.

On factory farms: Family dairy farming is one of the vertebrae of this state. It’s one of the businesses that built this state. When large dairy factory farms come into play, it only hurts our state and pollutes our air, water, land and beautiful scenery. What a shame to displace our family dairy farms and destroy our land for factory dairy farming.

On snow plowing: Some streets get plowed in my neighborhood and then five hours later, our street gets plowed. Wouldn’t they all be plowed at the same time?