Point of View Columns

Lock Her Up and Bring Out the Firing Squad – The 2016 Republican National Committee Convention in Real Time

July 21, 2016 – 8:14 P.M. – EST

One week after Bastille Day, the 2016 RNC Convention will be remembered for being the first time that a major American political party seriously called for the imprisonment of the presumptive candidate of the other party. And, not to be out done, a mouth breathing New Hampshire Neanderthal named Al Baldasaro called for Hillary Clinton to also be brought before a firing squad.

As the grand finale of the convention approaches – no doubt as Donald Trump is still seeking to master the intricacies of a teleprompter- a bit of reflection of nights 2 and 3 might be in order.

On Night 2, future federal defendant, Chris Christie, led the primal chant of “Lock Her Up” as he recited his “indictment” of Hillary Clinton. The irony of Christie’s senior aides about to go on trial for blocking the George Washington Bridge was lost on the assembled Republicans. And, by the way, the recent conviction of Christie’s appointee as chairman of the New York New Jersey Port Authority was conveniently swept out of sight and under the rug.

The most interesting part about the “Lock Her Up” chant is that it sounded primal and was on just this side of what a lynch mob must sound like. One can imagine that if Hillary Clinton had easily imagine that if she somehow appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena she would have suffered great bodily damage.

What should be noted, however, is that on the night that the convention was supposed to focus on the economy and jobs, the takeaway for the evening was locking up Hillary Clinton. Unless the new Trump jobs are related to penal institutions, it is hard to see how any new thoughts were presented to the American people regarding how life would be better with The Donald as president.

Night Two mercifully ended an entire day of the Trump campaign denying that Melania Trump lifted even a single word from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. They denied by asking the world to disbelieve their lying eyes and ears. But by the end of the day they had lied themselves into exhaustion and a nonentity from the Trump speechwriting pool was chosen for sacrifice (but she was not fired).

The only other item of note was that two more of the Trump children spoke glowingly of their father. While their presentations may have served to humanize the Human Sound Machine Called Trump, it cannot be a surprise that his children came on national television to say that they admire and love their wealthy father.

Night 3 was supposed to introduce Mike Pence, Indiana governor and Tea Party stalking horse, as the Vice Presidential nominee. And once again the evening was hijacked. First it was hijacked by Ted Cruz and then it was kidnapped by Donald Trump.

To be fair, the real culprit on Wednesday was Ted Cruz. Cruz was the last loser in a line of losers knocked off by Trump like a series of poorly made kewpie dolls. Cruz was still smoldering over being called a “liar” over and over, he certainly didn’t forget Trump threatening to “spill the beans” on his beloved wife Heidi and he will never forgive Trump for accusing his cherished father of being an accomplice in the assassination of President John Kennedy.

So it really should not have been a surprise that Cruz ended his speech without endorsing Trump, advising Republicans to “vote their conscience”. But the assembled Trump partisan howled and bayed at the full moon and seemed to threaten Cruz’ wife with physical harm, to the extent that she had to be escorted out of the arena with guards protecting her.

As that opportunity to demonstrate party unity withered and died, Mike Pence presented himself to the national audience without mentioning his willingness to shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He also conveniently neglected to mention his classic wish that Roe v. Wade be overturned and relegated to “the trash heap of history”, which is also where the right of women to choose would also reside in the world of Trump and Pence.

Not surprisingly, Pence received workmanlike applause at which time The Donald appeared. Clearly he is unable to allow anyone to reside in the spotlight for too long – and so he came on stage and tried to kiss Pence. Pence gave him the “iron shoulder” and Trump’s attempt at osculation turned into an air kiss.

Night 4 has already been hijacked by the announcement that Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of Fox News resigned effective immediately. What the implosion of the Republican house T.V. channel means remains to be seen. But nobody in Trump Land is cheering.

12:09 A.M. – And finally, finally, Ivanka Trump had her star turn and she was clearly ready for her close up. She introduced her father who then delivered a 75 minute and 15 minute doom and gloom speech with the very clear message that only Donald Trump could save America. He is running for president but perhaps he has something more special in mind.

Indeed, when he speaks of “liberating” the American people from crime Trump sounded like a strong man wannabe. Perhaps he was able find one of Juan Peron’s speechwriters, but however the speech came together, Trump clearly wants to frighten the American people into believing that he is the only person in this country who can save this country………….and we are supposed to wait until he takes the oath of office to find out what the details of his master plan look like.

8:41 A.M. – The balloon and confetti have been swept out of Quicken Loans Arena. The entire Trump Royal Family has now flown out of Cleveland, perhaps doing one last flyover to wow his adoring adherents.

Donald Trump envisions himself as America’s Strong Man. Ivanka Trump tells us that her father will take care of us. The question now is whether Americans want a leader or a strongman/father figure as president.

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Point of View Columns

No Tennis Balls – But You Can Bring Your Gun – The 2016 Republican National Committee Convention in Real Time

July 18, 2016 – 6:00 a.m. – EST
As the July sun begins to sear the Northeast once more, the RNC Convention is about to begin in Cleveland. The outcome is already known, we will soon witness the improbable coronation of Donald J. Trump as the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, also known as the Teapublican Party in some circles.

The Republican Party has not always been this way. After all this is the same party that nominated Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan as president. One might not embrace all aspects of the legacy of these men – but one can say that all of these men became president in a context that made sense and fit the concept of what a president should be.

When he announced his campaign for president in June of 2015, many people saw this as another self-promotion ploy by the orange-haired egotist, right up there with his “Apprentice” television show, his factually doomed “birther” campaign against President Obama and his fraudulent scam known as Trump University. Even to this day, there are Trump insiders who claim that Trump’s goal was only to make a good showing so that he could burnish his pseudo fame and glory before he moved on to make some more money somewhere else.

But something happened along the way. Trump gave a voice to the disaffected poorly educated, economically devastated and truly angry white men in this country. With that base he was able to devastate a truly unimpressive array of primary opponents – remember Bobby Jindal?, Chris Christie?, Scott Walker?, Carly Fiorina?

No matter how vile or profane or preposterous or insulting or outrageous or fact-free his pronouncements, Trump was able to steam roll presumptive favorites like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and all of a sudden he was in mano a mano battles with Ted Cruz and John Kasich. It was hardly a fair fight.

Since Trump amassed enough primary votes to claim the presidential nomination, the Republican hierarchy has searched for some way to “Stop Trump”, and they simply could not. And now the RNC is about to reap the harvest of hate which grew out of the seeds of hate that have been sown by the mindless and race-based opposition to the presidency of Barack Obama. The RNC blew the dog-whistle loud and long enough. And now the hate dogs have come running to Cleveland.

Donald Trump has brought steaming, stinking, heaping truckloads of misogyny, racism, nastiness and just plain bad taste to the national political discourse. He has turned the presidential campaign into some kind of MMA steel cage match. And now he is king of the steel cage and, by the way, in a few days he will be the Republican presidential nominee.

There is a certain apocalyptic aroma to this convention. The recent killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philandro Castile in St. Paul by police guns were all too familiar sad scenarios in modern America. And then five police officers were murdered in Dallas and all of the people in this country were looking into the abyss that hate and injustice and unrequited wrongs can create.

But as the funerals of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile and the five Dallas police officers were beginning 84 men, women and children were murdered in Nice in yet another insane terrorist attack. And as the body count grew in France a coup began in Turkey and over 200 people were killed. And as the bodies were counted in Ankara and Istanbul three police officers were assassinated in Baton Rouge. No one wants to imagine what could be next.

The apocalyptic aroma is unmistakable and we have Donald Trump to thank for adding to the stench.

There is a schedule of speakers for the Monday convention agenda, including the Mayor of Hate, Rudy Giuliani and Melania Trump, the implausible Bride of Trump along with other Trump children. The reason for Giuliani on the agenda is that it is necessary to keep the volume up on the dog whistle message that has been the thinly disguised theme of the Trump campaign. Mrs. Trump and four of the five Trump children will be there, presumably to prove to the world that Donald Trump might be a human being.

July 18, 2016 – 7:52 PM EST – you can’t make this stuff up!
Before the convention begins the appearance of the Trump/Pence ticket on “Sixty Minutes” makes it clear that Mike Pence is not even the caboose on the Trump Train. Trump also makes an interesting distinction – Mike Pence voted for the Iraq War in 2013 which he forgives as a mistake. When pressed, Trump says that Hillary Clinton is not entitled to make a mistake.

And, as the convention begins, it is interesting to note that the two living Republican ex-presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, are not in attendance. Also missing are Mitt Romney, John McCain (the most recent Republican candidates for president), former candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich and Sarah Palin who is known as never having met a microphone or camera that she didn’t love.

These are facts from the convention that are presented without elaboration (well, not much)
• Before the convention begins the Iowa and Colorado delegations walk out – presumably expressing some protest regarding the candidacy of Donald Trump.
• The angriest recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance ever kicks off the convention.
• A blind, crippled girl is brought out to sing the National Anthem. The irony of Donald Trump having publicly mocked differently abled individuals is conveniently forgotten.
• News commentators are speculating on how Melania Trump will be able to “humanize” Donald Trump. Although it is useful to point out that historians confirm that Attila the Hun was a loving husband and a caring father.
• A “Duck Dynasty” star is kicking off the convention. This can get more bizarre as the evening goes on………….you will remember that the “Duck Dynasty” cast is proud to be “rednecks” and the “N” word is just a part of every day speech……………….time to buckle the seatbelts.
• Two-time failed presidential candidate and former Texas governor Rick Perry appears, still rocking the glasses that were meant to portray faux intelligence….working about the same now as then.
• And now the mother of a Benghazi victim……nothing like turning the death of an American into a political football……continuing the “Hate Hillary” monologue….truth and facts be damned.
• Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke claimed the role of the black attack dog, savaging Black Lives Matter and President Obama in a blistering speech. Presumably Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Zip Coon and Herman Cain were not available.
• Senator Tom Cotton, who led an unconstitutional effort that resulted in an unconstitutional letter from 47 senators to the Ayatollah of Iran lectured as to how Donald Trump would be better.
• In an unexpected moment, N.J. Governor Chris Christie, while discussing how he was overlooked as the Trump vice presidential nominee reminded the nation that he chaired the Trump Transition Committee thereby giving America one more reason to vote against Donald Trump.
• Rudy Giuliani, America’s Mayor of Hate, was put on the list of speakers, presumably to make sure that Donald Trump’s dog whistle kept blowing loud and clear…..and that he did. Indeed it was amazing to see his uninterrupted primal scream last for five whole minutes.
• After being borne onstage on the clouds of his own ego, anti-immigrant Donald Trump introduces his immigrant wife who proceeds to exceed all expectations by not lapsing into Slovenian in the middle of her speech. She does make the slightest error by shamelessly quoting Michelle Obama (she of the hated Obamas) on several occasions. The Trump camp tells us not to believe our lying ears – there was no plagiarism.

July 19, 2016 – 4:05 P.M. EST – Just can’t take it anymore…
• As we prepare for the second night of the Republican Conventionalooza, Melania Trump doesn’t have to worry about her nocturnal plagiarizing from the night before. It turns out that the convention program states that she received a degree from the University of Slovenia. Only one problem – she didn’t.
• The list of prominent Republicans not attending is growing faster than Pinocchio’s nose – Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, George Will, Nikki Haley………….and the list goes on.
• Meanwhile, Don King was disinvited as a convention speaker, although he was previously invited by Donald Trump. Presumably the RNC was queasy over having a speaker who had gone to prison for stomping a man to death. Don King has promptly announced at a press conference that RNC Chair Rance Priebus doesn’t like black people.
• …..and this is only Day 2.

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Point of View Columns

Of Course Black Lives Matter

Not enough people remember that on September 10, 2011 Rudy Giuliani was a textbook failure. His health was failing, his marriage had failed and his soon to end New York City mayoralty was marked by scandal and turmoil. Indeed, Michael Bloomberg, the Republican nominee for mayor did not even want his endorsement. And then, out of the ashes and heartbreak of 9/11, Giuliani arose as a faux hero who has been able to monetize the myth of his bravery. And now this living, breathing illustration of the upward mobility of failure chooses to attack the Black Lives Matter movement with language that would warm the heart of a Klansman.

Somehow he has gathered to himself a few random scraps of  fake credibility which presumably empower him to spew his peculiar brand of bigotry and racism at a national audience. Most recently, playing the role of The Last Angry White Man, Giuliani saw fit to brand the Black Lives Matter movement as racist because it excludes white people. Of course, this misdirection feint is believed by too many Americans and that it is too sad and too bad.

It should go without saying that all lives matter. But in these lifeless days and death filled times, it needs to be said – all lives matter. But in these United States it is not clear that the lives of black Americans are valued to the same degree as those of white Americans.
Consider that the unemployment rate for black youth was 393% higher than the national average in 2015. Imagine if the unemployment rate of white youth was 37% instead of 15.7% and then imagine the hue and cry and the calls for emergency programs that would ensue.

Consider that black infant mortality rates are more than twice as high as white infant mortality rates. Imagine what energy (and dollars) would be expended if white American infant mortality rates were at the Third World levels that are the norm in the national black community.

The fact that encounters between black citizens and white police officers seem to have a lethal haze hovering, regardless of the nature of the encounter, are not always understood through statistics. The very real fear that black parents have that their sons and daughters could die for no reason except their blackness and their interaction with the police is not calculated by data – perception cannot be accounted for that way.

But there is no doubt that black families carry satchels of fear that do not exist in a white American households. And until that fear is eliminated it will be necessary to proclaim that Black Lives Matter – also. And it is the unspoken “also” that eludes the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Rush Limbaugh. It is the unspoken “also” that should not need to be shouted because it is so obvious that the ultimate concern of the BLM movement and its supporters is to include black humanity in the perception and thinking of the national American community.

When black lives truly matter in the United States disparate death rates, race based incarceration statistics and quality of life concerns will become national issues, not “black” issues. When black lives truly matter in this country high crime rates in the black community will not be a “black” problem, it will be a national concern. And when black lives truly matter in this country it will not be necessary to state that Black Lives Matter, because then they will.

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The Eternal Requiem

The crime of “Living While Black” has been part of the American criminal justice system since colonial times. Every black man, woman and child in this country is subject to indictment. The punishment for this crime has taken the form of housing discrimination, employment bias and all too many times death. Sometimes it is a slow death occasioned by factors such as environmental racism (see Flint, Michigan) and sometimes the death sentence is carried out by a policeman’s gun.

The recent roll call of Americans of African descent that have died at the hands of police or while in police custody seems never ending because it is never ending. The names of men, women and children who could have been famous for their good deeds, who could have remained anonymous in the ordinary pursuit of ordinary happiness, are known to us because they are dead.

Children like Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, women like Eleanor Bumphurs and Sandra Bland and men like Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Sean Bell are known to us only because they suffered the death sentence imposed for the crime of “Living While Black”. And just now, two more names are added to the eternal requiem roll call – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile should be alive as this column is being read. They are dead because white police officers murdered them. We know that they were murdered and not killed incidental to some criminal act because there is real time video that undeniably reveals those Baton Rouge and St. Paul police officers to be murderers.

And we also know that without the real time video evidence Alton Sterling and Philando Castile would join the countless anonymous men, women and children who have been killed by the police without witness. And we have to wonder what the real body count is in the reign of terror that targets black Americans everywhere in America?

There are the predictable calls for quiet and restraint in the national black community – and there is simply no reason for black Americans to kill each other and burn down their own homes – or anyone else’s home – upon the commission of another outrage. But we wait, not so quietly and definitely impatiently for calls for quiet and restraint to be exercised by police officers. We wait not so quietly and definitely impatiently for members of the criminal justice system – police officers, district attorneys, prosecutors – to righteously and vociferously condemn this Blue Carnage which afflicts the national black community.

The tears of the parents of the dead, the orphans of the dead, the lovers and spouses and partners of the dead drench the earth of this nation. Justice delayed is no justice at all. And in the case of Blue Carnage, the justice that is called for is not simply convicting the police officers who pulled the trigger. True justice will include transformation of the criminal justice system so that “Living While Black” is no longer a capital crime and every black, woman and child is not an automatic suspect and potential victim.

True justice will mean an end to mass incarceration, but it will also mean an end to the state sanctioned dehumanization of the black community. True justice will mean that black parents will not have to teach their nine year old boys and girls how to avoid being killed by the police. True justice will mean that black teenagers should be able to be as silly and outrageous on 125th Street as white teenagers on Spring Break in Florida without silly and outrageous becoming death defying acts.

And finally, true justice will be known to all of us when the foul heritage of the Black Codes and race-based slavery and Jim Crow and state sponsored segregation and serial lynching is finally and absolutely condemned by every sentient being in this country. It when that true justice is made known that this nation can begin to actually aspire to the high ideals and aspirations that were so eloquently stated at the inception of the Republic.

These high ideals and aspirations have become museum pieces instead of being the living, breathing heritage and culture of all Americans.

Only True Justice and change that.

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Preview of a Nightmare

Donald Trump provided the American people with a preview of what “make America great” really means when he announced his short list for his first Supreme Court nominee. There were seventeen judges – all were white, 3 were female. There was not an Asian, Latino or African American candidate to be found. Clearly, “making America great” to Donald Trump means making America (more) white. And now, he has provided us another preview of the nightmare that would be the Trump presidency by revealing a couple of potential Vice Presidents – Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich.

The Constitution of the United States is quite clear on the point – the Vice President succeeds the President if the President is unable to serve. Yet, over the past half century, Republicans have shown a combination of ignorance or disregard for the importance of the office of the Vice President given their choices for the person who would be a “heartbeat away from the presidency”. Consider some of the choices that have been made and imagine the unimaginable – if one of these Republican Vice Presidential candidates had become President of the United States:
• Spiro Agnew – Former governor of Maryland – Indicted and convicted of bribery while serving as governor.
• Dan Quayle – United States Senator from Indiana famous for his malapropisms and his incredible inability to even spell the word “potato” correctly
• Dick Cheney – A neocon hawk who famously dodged the draft five times. Became very wealthy as the CEO of Halliburton, a charter member of the military industrial complex.
• Sarah Palin – Former governor of Alaska whose foreign policy credentials included her claim that she could see Russia from her kitchen window. Perhaps the most unqualified person ever nominated for vice president in the modern era.

While Donald Trump is not known as a traditionalist, he is hewing to the G.O.P. tradition of dangerous and/or preposterous vice presidential nominees by seemingly giving serious consideration to Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie. Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. And Newt Gingrich left that office in disgrace, cast out by members of his own party. Since that career debacle, he has managed to earn a living by offering his opinions, supported by a gossamer foundation of facts and truth, and getting paid for it.

Newt Gingrich proclaimed his adoration of “Anglo-Saxon values” during the Trump inspired “birther” disgrace that targeted President Obama. A true dog whistler, his personal skeleton closet is virtually overflowing and his Vice Presidential candidacy would be an early Christmas gift to Gawker, TMZ, the National Enquirer and every other gossip monger. The vision of a Gingrich presidency could actually be more nightmarish than a Trump presidency.

Trump’s possible choice of Chris Christie would be the consummate narcissistic act on his part. Chris Christie was Trump in politics before Trump got into politics. Christie has been a vulgar bully who seemingly abhors any facts that do not crown him with glory.

Some of those facts include the collapse of Atlantic City while he has been governor (another point of commonality with Trump’s failures in that benighted city, cursed by the presence of both Trump and Christie), his horrific battles with the teachers of the Garden State and his as yet to be resolved involvement in the closing down of the George Washington Bridge seemingly for political revenge. That last item, by the way, has already cost New Jersey taxpayers over $10 million in legal fees, all to protect Chris Christie’s enormous posterior.

Perhaps Donald Trump sees himself when he looks at Chris Christie. Perhaps he believes that Newt Gingrich would actually “make America great again” in the Anglo Saxon tradition that countenanced slavery and genocide.

Or, perhaps Donald Trump is so convinced of his immortality he doesn’t really need a Vice President – he just needs someone to reflect his self-proclaimed glory.

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