Point of View Columns

Howard Schultz – Spoiler in Waiting

What most Americans know about Howard Schultz, if they know his name at all, is that he became a billionaire by figuring out a way to make people want to buy really expensive coffee – all the time. It is fair to say that not many people cared about his political beliefs one way or the other, and there has literally been less than zero public interest in the possibility of his becoming President of the United States. And what we now know is that, based on these facts, Howard Schultz has decided that he should seriously consider running for President of the United States as a self-funded independent.

In any other time, Mr. Schultz might be seen as another billionaire seeking to enhance his monetarily certified illusions of grandeur by aspiring to the presidency. And, of course, we are all witness to the fact that, given the right set of circumstances, a self-absorbed and self-impressed billionaire can actually be elected President of the United States.

But these are especially dangerous times. Trump in the White House has jeopardized just about every aspect of what is important in this country. His denigration of the judiciary, his attacks on the press, his absolute disregard for international alliances and the environment have secured for him the title of the worst president in history in just two short years. His historic shutdown of the federal government should prove to everyone that he is just getting warmed up when it comes to nation-destroying temper tantrums.

It is hoped that the search for the perfect candidate will not result in the organization of a circular firing squad that leaves all candidates ruined or wounded. Assuming that the Democrats do maintain some semblance unity, it is hoped that a candidate from that party will unseat the Destroyer in Chief before he does any more damage.

But all of the planning and attempts at unity by the Democrats will go for naught if Howard Schultz, or some other delusional billionaire, actually runs for president as an independent. All anyone has to do is to look at the election of 2000 when Ralph Nader ran as an ideologically pure Green Party candidate with the result that George W. Bush was elected president – with the thumb prints of the conservative Supreme Court justices on the scale (can you say “Scalia”?).

It is fair to say that George W. Bush was never as bad as Donald Trump has been. It is also fair to say that if Al Gore had been elected president the United States would never have invaded Iraq and the crash of the U.S. economy in 2008 probably wouldn’t have occurred. Of course, hindsight is by definition 20/20, but many observers and commentators in 2000 sounded the alarm that a Nader candidacy could spell victory for Bush. And they were right. The self-indulgent candidacy of Ralph Nader damaged this country in so many ways.

And now a coffee-salesman with buckets of money seems to think that his running for president as an independent will not result in Trump being re-elected. As a billionaire he can afford to take that chance. Most of us cannot afford six more years of Donald Trump.

One can only hope that philanthropy or probiotics or ventriloquism will distract Schultz because if he persists in running for president as an independent he will make Trump’s dream of re-election come true and will create a nightmare for the rest of us.

Point of View Columns

And It All Came Tumbling Down

According to the American governmental protocols, barring impeachment or being kidnapped by Martians and held for ransom, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until noon on January 20, 2021. That is a long time for Americans to hold their noses and pray for relief at the same time.

That is also a long time for the Tweeter in Chief to continue to wreak havoc in this country and literally all over the world. There are already serious questions as to how the population of this planet will survive climate change. Now there is a more immediate concern as to how we will survive Trump. And that is now a real question.

The history of the great civilizations of this planet – The Ming Dynasty in China, the Roman Empire, the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai, the Greek Empire, the Egyptian dynasties – all have something in common. The common cause of their demise came from within. Complacency, belief in their own inevitability, an unwillingness to adapt to change – all of these flaws multiplied and metastasized until each and every one of these landmark achievements of human accomplishment were relegated to the dusty pages of history.

One could never imagine this happening to the United States, and certainly not after only 230 years. But then one could never imagine a President of the United States who revels in the notion that the federal government might be shut down for weeks, months or even years, in the process bringing about the degradation of the daily lives of over a third of a billion Americans. And one could never imagine a President who has been the serious target of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the possibility that the President could be an asset for the Russian government. And what can be said about a President who meets with the head of America’s greatest adversary and then confiscates the notes of that meeting?

The Era of Trump has exhausted the American vocabulary – the worst, the most ignorant, the most immoral, the most amoral, the most ignorant, the most callous, the most racist, the most sexist, the most careless, the most ignorant – these words lose their meaning due to overuse and in any event mean nothing to Trump because he has heard these words used to describe him for his entire adult life. And the reality is that, barring those aforementioned Martians coming to take him away, he will continue to be President for two more years. Because even if Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives his feckless Republican enablers in the Senate will simply never convict him and remove him from office.

And so we watch the national parks and monuments drown in garbage. We watch airline safety degrade by the moment. An epic outbreak of E-coli killing thousands is only an unwashed hand away. And if a blizzard or a reprise of 9-11 were to occur, this country would be staggered if not down for the count.

And yet, the unindicted domestic terrorist in the White House thinks that his Wall Complex is worth all of this damage. Just as he thinks that threatening to withdraw the U.S. from NATO, or bailing out on the Paris Climate Accords is making America great. But what he is really doing is making America a lesser country every day. It is a hard thing to do, but clearly Trump is the man for that job.

There is this assumption that once the federal government shutdown ends that within a few days or weeks America will be back to normal. But ask the 800,000 federal workers and their families what “normal” feels like. Ask the men, women, children, veterans and disabled who rely on the federal government every day what “normal” will look like. And as Americans lose faith in their government and in the leadership of that government, it is only a matter of time before the assumption of the Inevitable America isn’t so inevitable any more.

There is no clear proof that Trump is a Russian asset. And there probably never will be clear proof. But is clear that Trump as President of the United States is the greatest gift that Vladimir Putin could have ever hoped for, and that truth should make every American very afraid. And we should remember the common cause of the death of every great empire has always come from within.

Point of View Columns

A Clear and Present Danger

Until very recently, the notion of applying the 25th Amendment as a strategy to oust Donald Trump as president on the grounds of his being psychologically unfit to serve seemed to be just the fevered dream of the most rabid Trump haters. But now, it seems that times have changed.

Before he was elected most Americans who cared knew that he was vulgar, mercurial, sexist and racist. Since he has been inaugurated, Trump has demonstrated a stunning disregard for the truth and a total embrace of ignorance even in the face of overwhelming and indisputable facts.

That he has translated his mendacity and his ignorance into policy is undeniable. But if the truth be told, he is not the first president to lie, although he has set an Olympian-level record for lying that will be difficult to surpass. And Trump is not the first president to be careless about what he knows, or doesn’t know.

The difference with Trump is that his behavior would make most six year olds ashamed as he insults the world, bullies and threatens any opposition and brutalizes anyone foolish enough to think that they can actually work with this man. The further difference is that his character flaws have been converted into damaging policies that literally put this country at risk.

Getting into useless brawls with NATO, the European Union and Iran make it possible that his next tweet could result in the loss of American lives. His denial of climate change and pulling this country out of the Paris Climate Agreement has resulted in the very real possibility that a child born today may not reach adulthood with clean air and clean water being readily available during his/her lifetime.

But now, in shutting down the federal government, and threatening to extend the shutdown for months or years, Trump has shown himself to either be dangerously unstable or possessed of a very real desire to damage this country if he doesn’t get his way over a wall.  A wall.

Even if he knows nothing about the unseen work of the federal government and its multiple agencies and multitudes of public servants, someone in the White House must have explained to him that millions of Americans are being damaged every day. And to even threaten “months or years” of a government shutdown is to bring joyful hope to every enemy of this country.

If a terrorist were to wear a bomb vest and walk into Grand Central Station in New York City and threaten to blow up that iconic landmark, no responsible law enforcement officer would wait to see if the threat was real. The mere utterance of that threat combined with the perceived capability to carry out that threat would be enough cause to neutralize that terrorist.

What we are now seeing is Donald Trump playing the role of a domestic terrorist. His office gives him the ability to carry out his threat to cripple the government of the United States. His threats to have to be taken seriously. And therefore, it is clearly the responsibility of the Congress to neutralize this individual before he actually carries out threats that will bring about unspeakable damage to the men, women and children of this country.

And that is where the 25th Amendment which allows for the removal of a president who is unfit to serve. And if there was ever a man who has demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as president for even another day, it is Donald J. Trump. Playing with the lives of Americans and the future of this country as if were just another one of his mediocre reality shows is all the evidence that anyone needs to realize that he simply should not be president.

One has to wonder if Republicans are so enamored of tax cuts and conservative judges that they are willing to risk the fate of this nation. One has to also wonder if Democrats are so fearful of Fox News and being seen as partisan extremists that they will not act to save this country before it is too late.

To paraphrase the late Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of the survival of this country is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of purely partisan goals is no virtue.

Even if the shutdown ends sooner than later, Trump has told everyone who will listen that he only cares about Trump and the rest of us can either act or suffer the consequences of inaction.

Point of View Columns

The Greatest Generation – A Point of Personal Privilege

As the New Year begins, I am reminded that my father, Wallace Ford Sr., was born on January 2, 1922. Had he lived past his 73rd year, he would be 97 years old. He was one of the unheralded members of the so-called Greatest Generation. And the word “so-called” is used intentionally because of the virtually monochromatic description of that generation employed by Tom Brokaw and so many others who purposefully and intentionally chose to ignore the black men and women who were in many ways the reason that Generation was great.

My father’s parents left North Carolina as teenagers to seek the very obvious better opportunity in New York than in a state where the Ku Klux Klan and lynching and Jim Crow oppression was simply a way of life. And the parents of the brothers and sisters of my father’s generation also journeyed to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh and anyplace but the former Confederate states. And my father and his generational brothers and sisters did not simply endure the ubiquitous discrimination and prejudice outside and within the South, they prevailed.

The almost (but not) forgotten black members of the Greatest Generation went into the military and made history as they helped America win World War II. Their sisters went to work in shops and stores and factories and changed the face of the American workforce. And in the times after the Great Depression and World War II at Tuskegee and Montford Point and so many other places that are hidden in the shadows of history, they made a way for themselves even though the racism in America’s DNA did not surrender opportunity easily. And in making a way in this brave new world they endorsed and supported and joined the next phase of the civil rights movement that had begun one hundred years earlier. And in revealing the determination and persistence and sheer will of their fathers and grandmothers and ancestors, they were able to see the obvious signs of prejudice fade and in some ways, disappear. And all this while their little girls and boys were cursed and spat upon for daring to go to grade school. And all this while their icons and heroes and heroines were killed before their very eyes. And all this while the likes of Faubus and Wallace and Stennis and Bilbo paraded their hate in full view of the world.

And these black members of the Greatest Generation also raised a generation of sons and daughters who were taught and trained and encouraged to seize opportunities that never existed. These sons and daughters went to colleges and universities. These sons and daughters became lawyers and bankers and doctors and entrepreneurs and governors and mayors – and most importantly they became mothers and fathers determined to fulfill the dreams of all who came before and those who would come after.

Those dreams have yet to be totally fulfilled. They continue the battle, they continue to struggle and they struggle to make the dreams of that Greatest Generation come true.

And as this New Year begins it is important to keep those dreams alive and to remember as it was for the Greatest Generation, it is true for us – dreams can come true.

Happy Birthday Dad.