Point of View Columns

Thelma and Louise All Over Again

Last week already seems like such a long time ago. But it was only last week that it seemed that a zephyr of common sense and common purpose had visited the Democratic Candidate Carnival. And that was when the sainted Beto O’Rourke demonstrated some real common sense, and hopefully some sense of purpose, by withdrawing as a candidate. And it was certainly the hope of many that another 10-12 of the remaining twenty candidates might take the hint and gracefully withdraw and pursue their dreams of sitting behind the Resolution desk in the Oval Office some other day.

But those hopes were dashed upon the jagged rocks of disappointment and despair when later in that same long ago last week, former New York City Mayor and billionaire and Stop and Frisk Super Fan announced that he was seriously entertaining a plan to run for president as……..a Democrat, of course.

And in the following few days we began to hear that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick are now, less than 100 days before the Iowa primary, making a decision as to whether to make the Democratic Candidate Carnival a metastasizing monster that will swallow the hopes and dreams of the many who believe that the re-election of Donald Trump will create a real opportunity for autocracy to replace democracy in America.

According to Forbes Magazine there are only six or seven people in the world wealthier than Michael Bloomberg. And so it isn’t possible that someone is paying him to enter the most bizarre presidential candidate selection process since the Teapublican Clown Car in 2012.

While you will not find the names of Eric Holder and Deval Patrick on any Forbes list of the wealthiest individuals, they are both known to be honorable men with stellar reputations for public service and probity. But eliminating nefarious motives does not provide the hint of a clue as to the reasoning that does motivate these men.

What has to be clear to all who would see, is that this Democratic internecine battle on steroids is a recipe for the disaster that would be a second Trump term. What has to be clear to all who would see is that fractionating the Democratic constituency into twenty pieces and then hoping to glue them all together in Milwaukee next July is a fool’s errand.

What we know is that somewhere the right wing of the right wing billionaire backers of Trump – Adelson, the Mercer family, the Koch family, ET. Al. – are chortling and rubbing their hands with glee as they watch the Democrats hurtle down this road to perdition and inevitable defeat. And all of this is happening without them having to spend any of their own virtually infinite coffers of cash.

There is something to be said for the advocacy of principle over comfort and convenience. And there is also something to be said for employing real world vision in a real world where the advocacy of principle over comfort and convenience can lead to catastrophic results for millions of men, women and children for whom the political process is their last best hope for some gossamer glimmer of hope for a better future.

It should be all who care to watch this self-inflicted carnage in the Democratic Party that, as the actual primary voting and caucuses begin all of the candidates will be using live campaign rhetorical ammunition as all of the candidates seek to be the last one standing. But in such a scenario, the last one standing in Milwaukee next year will be bruised and bloodied and battered, surrounded by disgruntled and grumpy supporters of their opponents. These supporters will say the right things in front of the cameras and then sulk their way back home to half-heartedly support the so-called “winner”.

And meanwhile, Trump and his supporters will be sitting fat and happy, waiting to take on whomever this wounded warrior might be…..and it won’t be a fair fight.

Maybe Tom Perez can send a short video clip to all of the Democratic candidates – the clip can contain the last scene from the movie “Thelma and Louise” as they drive their car off the cliff in one last glorious gesture of defiance and independence. Which, of course, is just before they crash, burn and die.

Maybe, just maybe, some of the participants in the Democratic Candidate Carnival will get the hint —–before it gets too late……and it is getting late early.

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Point of View Columns

Diogenes – Meet Beto O’Rourke

It is said that in Ancient Greece the philosopher Diogenes walked the streets of Athens with a lantern during the day looking, he said, for an honest man. Well, if Diogenes were alive today he would have to look no further than El Paso, Texas, where Beto O’Rourke resides. For it appears that Beto O’Rourke is honest enough to realize that he was never going to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 and that therefore, it made since to exit gracefully and find other ways to contribute something positive to the less than positive political universe in which we find ourselves today.

The hope is that at least another 8-12 current candidates will have a “Beto Moment” and realize that they are not going to be the victorious candidate. And further (and we can only hope that this was part of Beto’s thought process), we can hope that these other 8-12 candidates that every day that this latter day ideological civil war is waged in the Democratic Party, is another day that isn’t being spent in explaining why a second Trump presidential term is an existential threat to this country.

There is too much magical thinking to the effect that when the dust clears in Milwaukee on July 16, 2020, that there will be this surge of unification that will bring together the disparate factions of the Democratic Party and that the self-inflicted wounds will somehow heal overnight. And the magical thinking goes further so as to imagine that the eventual nominee, as bruised and battered as he/she might be, will be ready to take on a fat and happy Donald Trump who will be getting to attend his coronation as the nominee of a Republican Party that will be united by fear and adoration of “their President”.

If there is some mastermind in the Democratic Party hierarchy who truly believes that any candidate of this Party can beat Trump, they should seriously consider another profession – like astrology or alchemy. Because the latest polls indicate that in six so-called battleground states – North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – Trump is leading or is virtually tied with several of the presumptive winners of the Democratic nomination.

While in a very sad and depressing way these poll results are not surprising, it is also terrifying. Because if after all of the slime and graft and obscenity and corruption and incompetence and incoherence displayed by Trump he is still in a position to win a second, totally unfettered term, then the Democrats are playing with existential fire by continuing the travesty of this traveling circular firing squad called the Democratic Party presidential nomination process.

We can be glad that Beto O’Rourke was honest enough to realize that he was not going to be the Democratic nominee. We can guess as to what was his analysis. What we do know if that there are still too many men and women who are wannabees and are never bees still in the Democratic nomination process. And what we do know is that underestimating Donald Trump’s electability is a loser’s game.

We can continue to hope that Tom Perez and the other leaders of the Democratic Party step up and become the adults in the room. And we can continue to pray that 8-12 remaining Democratic Party candidates will have their own “Beto Moment” and be honest with themselves.

We know that it would certainly make Diogenes happy.

 

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Point of View Columns

How to Re-Elect Donald Trump

As we near the three year mark in the national water torture called the Trump presidency, it would seem to be a matter of common knowledge that “tragedy”, “disaster” and “catastrophe” would be useful adjectives. It clear to most people who care about the present and future of this country that one more year of the Trump presidency will be an almost unbearable ordeal for this nation’s institutions. Further, it is almost a settled fact that five more years of the Trump presidency are likely to produce institutional catastrophes that could actually prove to have terminal effects.

Which makes the current state of the Democratic presidential candidacies such a mystery. The men and women who run the Democratic Party and the men and women who are candidates are behaving as if in 2019 it is time for political business as usual. We see candidates descending upon Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and anyplace else that airplanes fly to advance their candidacies even though only a handful have any hope of securing the nomination.

We see candidates raising tens of millions of dollars to support their cause, in the process dividing the limited pool of Democratic donors with the hope that their cause will prevail. And, of course, these same candidates are bombarding local, state and national constituencies into a state that lurches for catatonic to platonic, in the process exhausting the attention span of the constituencies that need to be motivated and energized so that they will be present and accounted for on November 3, 2020.

It is as if the Democrats are so sure that whoever is their candidate will be the awful mess that is the Trump presidency that it simply doesn’t matter who that candidate might be. The delusion continues with the accompanying belief that the eventual successful candidate will be able to knit together a coalition of over twenty disgruntled constituencies (supports of the eventual unsuccessful candidates) as well as attract the underwhelmed independents who may just stop caring what ten to twelve people on a stage have to say and will therefore continue to stop caring when there is only one.

The Democrats are playing with existential fire. Trump has been called a plague on the American presidency. But even a cursory glance at history reveals that plagues are very difficult to dislodge and eradicate and that plagues are, if nothing else, resilient.

There is no column long enough to recount Trump’s faults, failings and transgressions. But there should be no doubt that Trump is resilient. There is not an epithet that has not been hurled at him – to no effect. There is no shaming a shameless person, and Donald Trump is not only shameless, he is incapable of being embarrassed.

And……true to the plague analogy, Donald Trump is relentless when he is in attack mode. His attacks do not have to be logical, fact-based or rational. His attacks contain energy that would make the Energizer Bunny envious. And when the Democrats finally come out of this super scrum and a bloodied but unbowed “winner” gets ready to take on Trump, his/her chances at victory will be dangerously diminished.

Consider that Tom Steyer alone has spent $46 million on television ads. Consider that Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have already raised over $100 million between them. And then consider that Trump has already raised over $300 million, spending very little on media to date. And then consider who will have the advantage in September 2020 if these trends continue.

So, if the Democratic Party wants to begin conducting seminars on “How Donald Trump Got Re-elected” in the spring of 2021, they are doing a great job at preparing the syllabus. One would hope that the sheer terror that accompanies the contemplation of the pure horror of a second term for Trump would motivate the leadership of the party to recast and reboot and rethink before it gets too late.

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It gets late early around here”.

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Point of View Columns

Stop the Madness – Stop the Blindness

During all of the turmoil and controversy swirling around the Trump presidency like the last tsunami on Earth, it would not be expected that a quote from Malcolm X would be in order. But sometimes the greatest value is in the unexpected. Consider that Malcolm X wrote:

 “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

 He could have been addressing the preternaturally mute Republican majority in the Senate. Or he could have been referring to the abnormally silent Republican minority in the House of Representatives.

Or, his voice from the grave could have been directed toward the right wing evangelicals who have found a way to ignore or explain away the vicissitudes that are Trump. And they have sought to do this by creating a false narrative that Trump is God’s imperfect vessel destined to good and holy things just like Moses and Paul and David. And one must note that this must be one of the few times that the words “good”, “holy” and “Trump” are found in the same sentence.

In recent American political history the right wing of the right wing has sought to claim the high ground when it comes to patriotism. Conservative Republicans have sought to wrap themselves in the American flag in an effort to create the binary perspective that if the conservatives are patriots then liberals and progressives cannot be patriots. For too long and too often conservatives have been able to coopt the label of “patriot” even when engaged in distinctly unpatriotic acts related to racism, sexism and dismantling to the social service safety net which provides some measure of shelter and comfort in what should be a compassionate society but too often is not.

But one has to inquire as to what has become of these so-called patriots when they see this miserable excuse for a president demean and degrade the office that he holds, in the process treating his oath of office as nothing more than a mouthful of syllables, verbs and nouns that mean nothing more to him than a five dollar tip to the doorman. And what kind of patriot watches their president commit crimes (asking China to investigate Democratic presidential candidates), admit to crimes (asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic candidates) and try to commit a crime by attempting to have the G-7 Summit at his Doral hotel property in an effort obtain a cash windfall for yet another one of his failing investments.

If the Republicans were truly patriots, they would heed the words of Malcolm X – “…….wrong is wrong no matter who does it or says it.” If the Republicans were truly patriots they would treat Trump like they would have treated Barack Obama if he engaged in the exact type of despicable behavior which has now become virtually a daily trademark of the Trump administration. If the Republicans were truly patriots they would stop trying to imitate pretzels as they twist and contort themselves and the truth in an effort to make us not believe our eyes and ears.

Consider the times in which we live when Utah Senator Mitt Romney is considered a brave man for hiding behind his fake Pierre Delecto Twitter account as he tosses a few modest puffballs of criticism at Trump. Consider the times in which we live when the President of the United States can consign an ally in the battle against ISIS – in this case the Kurds in Syria – to death and destruction at the hands of Turkey without even consulting with Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Director of National Intelligence.

Because the Democrats have taken the laboring oar in bringing this mad dog of a president to heel, the timid and frightened Republicans cower in the shadows, afraid of the political Frankenstein that they helped to create and have certainly enabled. The Republicans shake in their boots at the thought that they might be the target of a tweet launched by those tiny hands that they fear so much and instead of standing up to Trump, like trained sheep they bleat “partisanship” every time the Democrats discover/uncover yet another obscenity in Trump’s record-setting abuse of power.

Malcolm X was a great man for many reasons. One of them was that he endeavored to speak the truth even when it was uncomfortable. And it is because he endeavored to speak the truth Malcolm X is remembered and will be remembered.

Certainly it is difficult to believe that the blind and spineless Republican Enablers of Trump will be remembered as anything other than cowards and traitors to their own core beliefs and to this country – not patriots.

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Point of View Columns

Time to End Columbus Day

Columbus Day celebrations have taken place in the United States for over a century. The original celebration took place in response to the lynching of Italian immigrants in New Orleans and was seen as a kind of a national mea culpa as well as a way to affirm the citizenship. Parenthetically, one might ask how many black people need to be lynched and killed by police before the citizenship of black Americans will be affirmed – but we digress.

It is not clear why Christopher Columbus was chosen as the focus of celebration by our Italian American brothers and sisters. At the latter part of the 19th century other subjects of pride were widely known – men such as Giuseppe Garibaldi, thought to be the father of modern Italy, or Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor and pioneer of wireless transmission or the legendary opera composer Giuseppe Verdi.

Instead, Christopher Columbus was chosen, a man around whom a myth would literally be invented. This is a myth that serves to mask the race-based conquest and genocide that is the true legacy of all residents of the Western Hemisphere. This is a myth that serves to distract from the crimes against humanity that haunt all of this to this very day.

Consider the breathtaking scope of the lies and untruths that surround the Christopher Columbus myth. First and foremost, there is no logic, except a racist perversion of the facts that Columbus “discovered” America. How is it possible to discover a land where tens of millions of people had been living for thousands of years? Only a Eurocentric white supremacist vision of history could sustain the logic that Columbus “discovered” anything in the Western Hemisphere.

If one wishes to put a fig leaf on this non-myth and state that he was the first European to arrive in the Western Hemisphere —- that would be untrue as well. Historians agree that the Viking settlements in what is now Newfoundland predate the arrival of Columbus by several centuries.

And then, there is the larger issue as to what is being celebrated. The arrival of Columbus was the vanguard of a virtual deluge of European invasion of the Western Hemisphere bringing disease, death and cultural annihilation to the indigenous people. Celebrating Columbus means celebrating the beginning of genocide so vast and so profound that it is literally beyond calculation – there are no more Arawaks, or Tainos, or Aztecs or Incas or Caribs, the list is sadly endless – thanks to the invasion begun by Columbus.

And let us not forget that Columbus was also the vanguard of the most massive slave empire in the history of the planet. Beginning in 1492, Europeans who not satisfied with conquering and killing and stealing the land of the indigenous people began the African slave trade which devastated the African continent and established a race-based society and mindset that has lasted to this very day.

So when it comes to Christopher Columbus, there really is nothing to celebrate. Again, if the day is to be about the celebration of Italian heritage, there are many candidates, any of whom have a more glorious legacy and have left a more honorable heritage than Columbus.

Sad to say, there will be many who will wish to cling to this myth, just as they cling to the myth that the leaders of the slaveholding Confederacy were good and honorable men. Just as there are those who will cling to the myth that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe were honorable men even though they owned and bought and sold human being during their entire adult lives.

There is no way to change the past. There is no way to forget the past. There is no way to forgive the past. But there should be no way that we should countenance the celebration of myths and fairy tales that disguise and mythologize the past. Participation in the desecration of the memory of the victims is also a great crime – but one that can be corrected.

It is time to end Columbus Day.

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Point of View Columns

Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes

It is a crystal clear fact that by now the question is no longer could or should Donald Trump be impeached. The only question is whether he will be impeached as the known facts give a sufficient basis for impeachment, even in this highly partisan political universe in which we live.

We have heard Trump supporters such as Senator Marco Rubio proclaim that Trump was just joking when he publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Joe Biden and his son. And the only response that might even be remotely useful is to ask those supporters to turn back the hands of time to 2015 and to consider their response if President Barack Obama had publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Mitt Romney and his many sons.

Not that logic has a place at the table these days, but it is simply impossible to imagine any president of the United States, from the hapless Warren G. Harding to the racist and hate-soaked Andrew Johnson to the venal Richard Nixon, who on their worst day would not have asked a foreign nation to assist them in their reelection efforts – much less to “find dirt” on them. And it is a sad but true commentary on the times in which we live that there is even a conversation as to whether Trump’s ham handed attempts at international electoral intrigue are objectionable and impeachable – of course they are.

The real question now is whether institutions established over two centuries ago will withstand the stress test of a President of the United States – and his enablers – who simply refuses to accept or respect the legitimacy of these institutions. The further test is whether norms and protocols of conduct not necessarily set forth in the Constitution will have any future meaning or value if Trump can simply wipe his considerable feet and tiny hands on them without any consequence.

It is clear that at this point in time that Trump feels that he need not treat Congress as a branch of government co-equal to that of the Executive branch. If he can ignore a valid subpoena from Congress without obtaining some kind of judicial approbation, then he is literally declaring the supremacy of the presidency over both the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government. And this, it should be pointed out, is exactly what the framers of the Constitution sought to avoid.

But we are now long past the time for debating how many so-called Founding Fathers can stand on the head of a pin. Now that Trump has defied Congress and will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, Congress really has no way to enforce any aspect of its impeachment inquiry except by going to the Supreme Court.

If the majority of the Supreme Court – including recent Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – stay true to their political DNA Congress and the people who elected its members will continue to be stonewalled by the Trump White House and any subsequent impeachment action will be diminished. If the Supreme Court supports Congress the question still stands – how will the Constitution and the norms and protocols of the American government be enforced when the president simply refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Constitution and those norms and protocols?

We are literally at the precipice of an unprecedented constitutional crisis that, if not resolved soon, can end very badly for this country.

The danger is clear and present.

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Point of View Columns

Trump and the Unreality of Reality

If you are not a resident of the New York City metroplex, it is quite possible that you knew very little about one Donald J. Trump except that he was the host of a reality show. Of course, typical of the life of Trump, there was nothing real about that show, just as there was nothing real about Trump University or the his vision of successful casinos….you get the idea. So it should not be surprising that the reality of the Trump presidency is swathed in unreality.

As soon as he was inaugurated in January of 2017, he began his presidency by lying about the size of the crowd that attended his swearing in. In ensuing two and half years the Washington Post has recording him lying over 12,000 times. There has literally never been a president who has lied as much as Trump – his mendacity is unreal……except that it is real.

We have never had a president who has treated misogyny and racism as ordinary aspects of his daily language. And while it would seem to be unreal that his defamatory, inflammatory and plain disgusting daily tweets are being issued by the President of the United States……..they are real.

And now, as we learn more about the muck and mud of Trump’s attempt to strong arm the president of Ukraine to help him smear his political enemy, we realize that there is nothing unreal about Trump’s behavior. Indeed, in some bizarre and unreal way he seems to have no shame, and indeed has misplaced pride, that he has behaved in such a nefarious fashion.

He has not even given us the decency of lying about his now infamous phone call – freely releasing the transcript of the call and then telling us not to believe our lying eyes as we read the words that can only be interpreted and threatening, bullying and clearly seeking to damage Joe Biden with the assistance of the Ukrainian government.

The water torture-like drip of revelations of Trump’s dishonest, misleading and obscene behavior coupled with his incredible disregard of presidential norms and the Constitution should be enough to warrant his impeachment several times overs. But Trump has become a master of misdirection and distraction. Even as the evidence mounts that he used the foreign policy powers of the presidency to attempt to advance his own personal political interests, Trump is the one hurling words like “treason” as if they were toxic manhole covers that will obliterate his opponents and the mounting opposition to his presidency.

And now it appears that more and more members of the Executive Branch are coming to understand how dangerous Trump is, and how much the system of government that we know is in trouble. And when we learn that Trump seriously proposed that, instead of building a wall at the Mexican border, a canal should be installed complete with snakes and alligators, we can understand that deranged would be an improved condition for this man.

Asking the Australian Prime Minister to dig up dirt on Hilary Clinton so that Trump can follow through on his “Lock Her Up” chant is not some fevered dream out of the right wing echo chamber, it is the confirmed conversation of the Donald Trump in his role as president of the United States. And it is clear that we are long past the time to be worried – we should be alarmed.

Things have gotten so bad that it is not even clear that Trump would leave the White House if he were impeached and convicted or even if he lost the election in November of 2020. The transition of presidential power, no matter how bitter the political differences has never been at question — until now — and it can only be hoped that responsible men and women on both sides of the aisle and throughout the federal government have a plan.

When the history of the Trump presidency is told years from now, we can only hope that the courage and intelligence of all three branches of government will be the heroes in limiting the damage that this man is doing to the United States government and to the people that he so falsely swore to serve and protect.

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