Point of View Columns

Another Five Days in the Life of America

September 7, 2020

6,277,005–188,941 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

It is almost impossible to fully comprehend the daily rising of the pandemic infection and death toll – translating numbers into the suffering of actual human beings is an overwhelming task. But being overwhelmed is not an option for leadership during a pandemic and that is exactly what Team Trump is – overwhelmed. As Barack Obama so aptly stated, “he’s not up to the job”.

Reflecting on the spate of Trump reveal books that have been and are coming out, one can be reminded of the 1950’s movie, “A Face in the Crowd” featuring a soon to be television megastar by the name of Andy Griffith. Griffith plays the role of a drifter who improbably becomes a wildly popular radio talk show with the name of Lonesome Rhodes.

Rhodes portrays himself as the Common Man even though he soon begins to flaunt a lavish lifestyle with a penthouse, butlers and everything. All is well however, and he continues to be wildly popular until he is taped when he thinks the studio microphone is off. And that is when he goes into a rather unpleasant spiel regarding his absolute disdain for his great unwashed followers. Needless to say, that marked the beginning of the end of Mr. Rhodes.

Similarly, those who know Trump best and see him at his worst, are keenly aware of his absolute disdain for anyone not named Donald J. Trump. And now, in book after book and interview after interview, the True Trump is finally coming too light. The question is now whether, or when, MAGA Nation will turn on him.

We will see if life imitates art.

Yesterday, in a Sunday morning interview Kamala Harris was asked if she would take a vaccine that comes out of the accelerated testing scheduled promoted by Trump. She honestly said no. She also said that she would only take a vaccine that was approved by the scientists and medical personnel who know about such things.

It should not be odd that she would not want a vaccine by the man who brought you the fake Trump University, the failed Trump Airlines and a “miraculous” disappearance of the pandemic by April – which would be five months ago. What is odd is that today Trump accused her and Joe Biden of being “anti-vaxxers” when what they are is justifiably skeptical of anything that Trump says.

And in another day of rants – Trump has the amazing ability to amaze. This time in trying to detach himself from the Tar Baby of his reportedly calling dead and injured American military personnel “losers” and “suckers” he falsely claimed that the soldiers love him but the generals don’t. His reason was that generals disliked him because they like to start wars in order to please arms industry corporations who get to sell more planes, missiles and weapons.

There is no doubt that there is a military-industrial complex, Dwight Eisenhower stated that quite clearly over a half a century ago. And there also no doubt that said military-industrial complex has grown exponentially through the Cold War and even afterwards with the infusion of trillions of dollars in the name of national security.

But there is also no doubt that there are very few generals and admirals who relish the thought of sending men and women into battle to possibly get injured or die. Command in the time of war requires acknowledgement that loss of life is always a probability. For Trump to suggest that any military commander would willingly send men and women to their death in the service of the military-industrial complex is to only reveal his craven and damaged inner self.

September 8, 2020

6,301,451–189,221 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day begins with the rather amazing story that the Trump presidential campaign is running out of money having begun the campaign with a billion dollars. It appears that, in true Trump fashion, the management and staff of the campaign engaged in a profligate spending spree where limousines, lavish salaries and sumptuous offices were more of a priority than actual re-election work.

What is even more amazing is that Trump has said that he would put some of “his own money” into the campaign if necessary. He pointed out that he put $50 million “of his own money” into his 2016 primary campaign although there is no proof of that and it is clear that no Trump money went into the general campaign.

The truth is that New Yorkers who have been following Trump for the past four decades know that he has always been cash poor. There is the flash and the fake glamor but, when it comes time for real money to be put on the table Trump is rarely the one who puts up the cash.

Think about what would be the case if a true billionaire like Michael Bloomberg was facing a situation like this. He wouldn’t talk about putting up some “of his own money”, implicitly soliciting contributions, Bloomberg would just put up the cash.

Think about the fact that a true billionaire would not be trying to nickel and dime the federal government by having military flights routed through his golf course in Scotland just so that he could pocket several thousands of dollars. And a true billionaire would not be billing the American taxpayer for his personal protection at Trump Tower in New York City or at Mar a Lago, his Florida hideaway. A true billionaire would just consider it his contribution to the American people.

But Trump is a true billionaire. And when, and if, Trump claims to put some “of his own money” into this 2020 campaign it would be a good idea to ask for the receipts – along with his tax returns.

September 9, 2020

6,328,054–189,698 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Trump was in North Carolina yesterday at another one of those rallies that he loves so much because he gets what he believes as adulation which he needs as much oxygen and Big Macs. He rambles and he rants and he literally preens before MAGA Nation thinking that this is what being President of the United States is all about. When he is at a rally he couldn’t be happier unless he was in a House of Mirrors by himself.

During his rants he somehow focused for a moment, this time he managed to turn to Kamala Harris. He actually said that if she became the first woman President of the United States it would be “an insult to America”. With that singular statement he made it clear to all who needed clarity that he is no longer using a dog whistle when it comes to race, racism and racist comments.

George Wallace used a dog whistle in comparison to Trump. Trump is using a foghorn.

Trump may have inadvertently done the Biden-Harris campaign a favor. In an effort to distract, distraction being his go-to trick in his bag of tricks, he announced from the White House lawn the appointment of twenty new federal court judges. He made sure to be clear that these were all very conservative, right wing of the right wing judges, most of whom are young, who will be interpreting the Constitution in a manner that endangers civil rights, voting rights, immigration, a woman’s right to choose, the environment…. the list goes on.

And, as if this horror movie scene wasn’t enough to further energize the Biden-Harris campaign, Trump also mentioned that the 2020 presidential election would be the most important in history because in the coming presidential term there will most probably be two, if not four, vacancies to fill on the United States Supreme Court.

The specter of SIX TRUMP JUDGES on the Supreme Court for the next twenty years has to be more than enough to make the blood of the supporters of the Biden-Harris team and for those supporters to make sure that every eligible voter does actually vote. It would appear that it is far from an exaggeration to state that the future of the United States is on the line.

No matter the Trump Fan Dance of Distraction, there was no way he can divert the exhausted American attention span away from the shocking and disgusting revelations in Bob Woodward’s new White House book, “Rage”. The distillation of Woodward’s eighteen interviews with Trump is that he is a narcissistic megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur.

But what we didn’t know until Trump told Woodward is that he knew how deadly and contagious the COVID-19 virus was for many weeks before he even acknowledged that was the case. In the meantime he derided the coming pandemic as a “hoax” (there’s that word again) or that it would disappear miraculously while all the time he knew that this was not true.

His excuse? He was showing good leadership along the order of Churchill or Roosevelt by hiding the truth of the imminent fatal danger in order to avoid a panic. Of course Churchill and Roosevelt told the unpleasant truths to their nations so that they could be prepared for adversity and have the hope that they would prevail.

September 10, 2020

6,362,440–190,872 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day opens and closes with Team Trump trying to (a) say he didn’t say what he said, (b) that he was being presidential in lying to the American people and (c) forget about the lying, by shutting down flights from Europe and China he kept the pandemic death toll at a mere 190,000 American lives instead of 2,000,000.

And when that didn’t work Trump tried a couple more distraction curveballs. First he said that Woodward – the universally acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning author – misrepresented what he said on tape, even though Woodward played the actual tape. Curveball two was that Woodward should have said something when he, Trump, revealed to him how deadly the virus was if he was so concerned.

There is clearly nothing so pitiful as a con man who can’t con anymore.

September 11, 2020

6,397,547–191,802 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

September 11, 2001, commonly known as 9/11 has taken on iconic status – the 21st century version of December 7, 1941. Yet another day that will live in infamy.

It was expected that the Biden-Harris team would refrain from any politicizing this solemn day that exposed the vulnerability – and mortality – of all Americans. And they were true to form today.

But with Trump, one can never be too sure. He did read a teleprompter speech in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where 40 Americans battled the terrorist hijackers and diverted a 757 jetliner from the intended target of the Capitol building and instead crashed the plane into a field killing all on board.

Trump read as if he were anesthetized, which is how he sounds when he reads from a teleprompter. There was no emotion or compassion or true expression of sympathy. But thankfully there were no impromptu comments and we should be grateful for the small things.

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Four Days in the Life of America

August 20, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Barack Obama took the gloves off and repaid Trump for a decade’s worth of lies, accusations, more lies, misrepresentation and attacks. Up until recently Obama did not think it was worthy of his own self-image to give Trump the recognition that he so clearly craves.

Up until now his most personal attack on Trump came at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 when he virtually barbecued Trump for all the world to see. Indeed, he stripped Trump naked with a smile on his face. And there are more than a few people who believe that it was on that night that Trump swore to run for president and erase and/or degrade Obama’s legacy.

Last night was different. In reciting the many crimes and sins of Trump, Obama concluded that Trump was “treating the presidency like another reality show in order to get the attention that he craves”. That had to leave a mark.

The day progresses after last night’s Trump Twitterstorm when he responded to Obama’s takedown. Certainly, for a committed racist and an absolute white supremacist like Trump, being termed incompetent by not one, but three Black people – two of them Black women (!!!!) had to get under his remarkably thin skin.

But, since wit is not one of Trump’s few attributes (another being the ability to walk upright and not drag his knuckles), the best rejoinder he could summon could be summarized as “I know you are but what am I?” which certainly taxed Trump’s capacity for creativity to its limit.

Later in the day a story burst on to the news cycle that could have been written by Mel Brooks or the Coen brothers or Monty Python. Former presidential advisory Steve Bannon was indicted and arrested for being a central player in a $25 million scheme to raise money for the “Build the Wall Foundation” and then pocketing the proceeds for his personal life style and that of his coconspirators (Bannon was arrested on a yacht off the shores of Connecticut- cannot make this stuff up).

This scam is made all the more implausible when we learned that Donald Trump, Jr. was one of the promoters of this scheme and that one of the other promoters assured the public that Donald Trump the Elder supported this initiative. And these basic facts raise all kinds of questions.

First and foremost, wasn’t one of the foundational principles of the Trump Movement that Mexico was going to pay for the wall? And then, even the most modest wall budget estimates were in the billions, so how did ordinary citizens, even well to do ordinary citizens, imagine that the princely sum of $25 million was going to build more than a few yards of wall? Perhaps a 1000-mile velvet rope, but

Then there is the issue of the venal nature of Bannon and his cohorts. Whatever their many flaws, the population of MAGA nation truly believes in Trump. To take advantage of these people is beyond crass, it is cruel. And it is truly sad that they would take advantage of the people that truly believe, no matter how misguided they might be.

And then there is this:

 Nine former Trump administration or campaign officials have been indicted or convicted of a catalogue of crimes which now includes Steve Bannon being indicted for masterminding a “Build the Wall” scheme (soliciting funds from the MAGA faithful, keeping in mind that it used to be that Mexico was going to pay for the wall) and using the proceeds to support the lifestyle to which he believes he deserves. However, if he is convicted of these crimes, his lifestyle will change radically for a very long time.

Either Trump is the worst judge of character of any president with the possible exception of Ulysses Grant and Warren G. Harding who presided over epic scandals or……. he chooses to be closest with people who are just like him – kind of an Ocean’s 45 instead of Ocean’s 11. I am going with Door Number 2.

August 21, 2020

5,530,247–173,193 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Last night Joe Biden did his very best to draw the inevitable contrast between Trump and himself. So last night he was everything that Trump is not. He was compassionate, empathetic, insightful and most of all, intelligent.

Meanwhile Trump seems to moving closer and closer to fully embracing the QAnon movement. That would be QAnon that preaches a gospel that speaks to the existence of a cabal of Satan-worshipping, blood drinking pedophiles who are embedded in the Deep State. QAnon followers who also believe that George Soros and Bill Gates have conspired to utilize 5G technology for mind control purposes.

Several QAnon followers have been successful in Republican primaries in deeply red districts. That means that in all likelihood several QAnon followers will be in the United States Congress in January of next year. It will be like the Tea Party of steroids (and acid) coming to D.C. with the sole aim of disrupting.

If Trump is still president, this country will be in worse trouble than it already is. It will certainly be helpful to pray….it will also be important to vote.

August 22, 2020

5,624,721–175,416 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

The day spins around the axis of the release by Trump niece Mary Trump of comments by Trump sister Judge Maryanne Trump Barry. You will recall that Mary Trump wrote a book, “Too Much and Never Enough”, that was released several weeks ago. Mary Trump revealed the not too surprising fact that the egotistical megalomaniac that we have come to know is an egotistical megalomaniac in private.

Clearly, Mary Trump was not through barbecuing her uncle. Last night she released an audio tape of Trump’s sister referring to her infamous brother in the most unflattering terms, unconsciously echoing Barack and Michelle Obama in saying that Trump just doesn’t want to do the work. And that was probably the best thing that she had to say about him – as a distillation of her taped comments was that she was appalled, dismayed and disgusted – but in no way surprised – by Trump’s behavior as president as the office has not changed him – it simply revealed him to the rest of the world.

 August 23, 2020

5,668,564–176,371 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans the beginning of the day)

Yesterday Trump accused the leadership of the FDA as being part of the “Deep State”, malevolently delaying vaccine approvals in order to favor the Democrats in November. Today Trump announced that the FDA is approving the use of convalescent plasma as a therapeutic treatment of COVID-19 virus victims.

This is all coming from the man who brought you Trump University. This is coming from the man who recommended bleach, the internal use of ultraviolet rays and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the pandemic. And now, this accelerated conditional approval of the use of convalescent plasma. And it is certainly far, far away from being a “cure” for pandemic.

It is important to realize that having scientists defer to political considerations at the Environmental Protection Agency (degrading environmental issues) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (degrading climate change). And we know that in those two instances that Americans and citizens of the world are already suffering the consequences.

Watching FDA officials fawn and grovel at the feet of Trump will serve to vitiate and deteriorate the credibility of FDA in the near future and in years to come. Hearing the FDA officials and other members of the administration almost reflexively referring to “your leadership” with Trump hovering nearby, looks like something out of a press conference in Pyongyang today or Berlin circa 1936. And clearly, politicizing the FDA is as dangerous a Trump move as anything that he has done since January 20, 2017.

And it is important to note that Trump dragged FDA officials in front of cameras to announce a faux historic achievement with respect to battling the pandemic. One need not even read the fine print on this one – the second paragraph of the announcement makes it very clear that this is not a great achievement and will do next to nothing to ease the pain, suffering and misery of the American people.

But it will make a great sound bite at the opening of the Republican National convention tomorrow.

And then there is the matter of the RNC Convention which begins tomorrow. It is scheduled to be a four-day affair, and guess which egomaniac president has decided that he should be a featured speaker for all four days? It was going to be difficult to watch this Trump extravaganza, now it may require hypnosis or very strong sedatives to endure the next 96 hours.

At the DNC convention Barack Obama spoke of Trump using the presidency to get the attention that he craves. This coming week Trump is providing all the evidence necessary to prove Obama’s point – appearing on stage on all four days of the convention not only has never been done by a party nominee, it is so far over the top that no one could see the benefit of going there.

But Trump craves attention, if not affection. Trump does not care. In the canyons and caverns of his mind all eyes will be on him, and for Trump that is more than enough.

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A Day in the Life of America

July 30, 2020

4,427,493 –150, 716 (number of confirmed COVID-19 cases – the number of dead Americans at the beginning of the day)

Sometime early this morning Trump decided to do yet one more thing that no president has ever seriously considered. Tweeting his concern about the fable of potential fraud in mail in voting in November, he mused that it might be useful to postpone the election. The fact that no president has even suggested that elections should be moved even during the Civil War or World War I or World War II should be reason enough to consider Trump to be uttering pure madness.

But that would be a mistake. Dismissing Trump as mad, an idiot, an ignorant Neanderthal. He may be all of these things, but he is clearly high functioning and tens of millions of MAGA hat wearing/bleach drinking/no mask wearing supporters will follow him lemming-like over the cliff toward authoritarianism. The message from his message – do not ignore or dismiss him, consider the danger and prepare to defend the system.

And of course, it may be that this particular mud ball was hurled in order to distract Americans from the worst economic news – the largest decline in the GDP of the United States in history. And we once again realize that Trumpadamus was looking into the future when, on January 20, 2017, Trump declared that when he looked at the United States he saw “American carnage”.

Of course there was no carnage then, but there is now. Fifty million Americans have lost their jobs, over 4 million Americans are infected with the COVID-19 pandemic and ov150,000 Americans have died and by Election Day the number is trending towards at least a quarter of a million. Discontent and protest is surging through the country in response to the systemic racism that Trump so eloquently represents and the status of this country abroad is at its lowest point since some time in the 19th century.

So yes – “American carnage” it is.

And then there was the sublime aspect of the day. The funeral of John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the pastoral home of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. There could be no more fitting venue for the home going celebration of the life of a great man. Three former presidents were there – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – Jimmy Carter, who is 95, did not attend for obvious health concerns but he did send a message. It goes without saying that Trump did not attend.

If he had, it would have been as if a disheveled drunken uncle showed up at a wedding celebration. He would have been admitted, but he would not have been welcome.

To his credit, Trump’s prejudice and bigotry guided him to make the right choice and let the world know what he thought of John Lewis and the ideals which guided his life. Trump could have sent Vice President Pence, or Ben Carson, the only Black member of his cabinet, or at least a faux letter of condolences in the fashion of the inimitable Senator Marco Rubio who posted a photograph of Elijah Cummings when “mourning” the death of John Lewis on Twitter.

But true to his racist heart he did nothing – not even a passing mention at his press conference later in the day.

And, to say that Barack Obama’s eulogy was eloquent would be beyond understatement. In addition to honoring John Lewis he also reaffirmed the commitment to dignity and justice that has been obscured by the orange clouds emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And in honoring John Lewis he also honored the movement towards racial justice which existed before John Lewis was born and continues after his death.

Obama clearly enumerated the epic levels of injustice including police brutality and the suppression of Black votes. He pulled no rhetorical punches and his call to action was loud and clear. John Lewis would have been proud to know that his legacy, and that of so many others, would continue and prevail.

And last but not certainly not least, Obama reminded us of what a President looks like. He reminded us of what presidential leadership looks like. And he made America how far we have fallen during the Trump regime.

During his press conference Trump recited a series of statistics to make us ignore that although this country has 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the global COVID-19 cases. He spoke about PPE’s in the hundreds of thousands when that might be the requirement for a single major U.S. city in a single week.

Indeed, the more he spoke, disjointedly and scarily detached, the more concerned we should be that the ship of state is being steered by a captain who is totally incapable of getting the ship to safe harbor.

November 3rd. cannot come soon enough.

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When Nightmares Come True

First, will someone please tell Trump and Mike Pompeo that the one million Iranians gathered in the streets of Tehran are not “dancing in the streets” after the U.S. assassinated Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani. We should remember that Pompeo opined that the people of Iran would be “dancing in the streets” after the rogue president flexed his ego and proved yet again that he is a disaster waiting to happen.

Prior to November of 2016 one of the worst nightmare was that the pompous blowhard named Trump might come close to being elected president and that his disgruntled constituency would have to be reintroduced to sanity. Of course, the undreamable nightmare of Trump being elected did come true and has been the source of countless sleepless nights for countless men, women and children who care about……………….just about anything.

Some observers took solace in the belief that the sheer gravity of the office of the presidency would ease Trump towards a path that at least resembled sanity and that wise advisors would do their best to make sure that this orange-hued bull in the American china shop would not destroy the planet. And we see now how that worked out.

Impeachment may have unleashed the very few emotions over which Trump had any control. It is clear that he is not concerned about his legacy or the consequences of his actions. The fact is that Trump’s immediate predecessors – George W. Bush (who will never be found on anybody’s Mensa membership list) and Barack Obama (a Nobel Peace Prize winner) both understood that  while assassinating Suleimani provided no long term advantage to the United States it would almost certainly be viewed as an act of war by Iran. And there was one other fact, despite the overwhelming military power of the United States, the vulnerability of the United States – and its citizens – was also overwhelming.

There is no reason to believe that Trump ever thought about the consequences of his actions which is why we now live in the nightmare scenario avoided by two presidents when they walked up to this potentially disastrous precipice. We know that Iran has already walked away from the nuclear treaty which had curtailed its production of nuclear weapons. We know that Iraq now wants all U.S. troops out of Iraq. We know that the U.S. military has put its pursuit of ISIS on hold. And we know that we should worry about what we don’t know – and given the viciously mendacious nature of the Trump administration we can be sure that there is more bad news coming.

And because it should be beyond clear that elections matter, it is beyond baffling that there are Democratic operatives who think that it is a good thing that multiple candidates are spending millions of dollars attacking each other for the honor of being the bloody but unbowed winner in Milwaukee in June, somehow believing that this Training Camp episode will end up with a Democratic victor in November.

Someone please tell the Democratic Party leadership that nightmares really do come true….sometimes more than once.

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Time to Thin the Herd

This is how bizarre the Democratic presidential race has become – if you added up your eyes, fingers, nose and toes – you would barely, just barely, exceed the number of Democratic candidates who are presuming to run for office. How anyone in authority at the Democratic National Committee –are you even listening Tom Perez? – can think that totally exhausting the limited attention span of the American public is a good way to find someone who can drive Donald Tinyhands from office is simply beyond comprehension.

People who consider themselves “political junkies” are finding that watching 6 hours of twenty candidates debating on consecutive nights is just too much. The notion that be putting a pride of candidates, or a gaggle of candidates or a murder of candidates in front of American voters would demonstrate the strength and depth and diversity of the Democratic party must have been a conclusion that was arrived at when bright ideas were in short supply.

There is no doubt that all of the candidates are good men and women. But there has to be higher bar – like demonstrated potential for electability (see Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention) or undeniable celebrity (see Donald Trump in 2015). Using these rather basic metrics perhaps there are six of the candidates who need to be battling for the right to go up against Trump. Instead, there are twenty (!!!!) and it is hard to make the case that most Americans, or even most Democrats, believe that the other fourteen could somehow win the nomination and then beat Trump.

And, at the end of the day, Trump provides clear reasons for the need to defeat him virtually every day – whether it is relaxing the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act or mugging for the cameras with the infant of two of the El Paso murder victims in his arms or providing the El Paso killer with the psychic ammunition that ultimately killed Latinos who Trump has called invaders on numerous occasions.

At the end of the day, this is not the time for vanity campaigns or tryouts for the 2024 election cycle. Anything and everything that distracts or detracts from the movement to remove Trump from office poses a danger for the American people who could be victimized by Trump for another four years.

Some of these Democratic candidates would do well to run for Congress or the Senate in their home states and provide the platform for eradicating some of the more egregious actions of the Trump administration. But all of the candidates would do well to remember that Donald Trump has already appointed two right wing of the right wing Supreme Court justices. If he were to be reelected he could end up giving lifetime appointments to a proto-conservative Supreme Court majority that would last for decades (!!!!!) no matter who was elected in 2024.

There is another round of debates coming up in September…..one can only hope that after that it will be clear to one and all that it is time to thin the herd. American cannot afford this circus called the Democratic Party presidential campaign.

 

 

 

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College Admissions in America – The Tip of the Iceberg

The series of revelations describing a veritable cesspool of corruption, cheating, bribery and betrayals in the admissions process at prestigious schools of higher education including Georgetown, Stanford, the University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Austin, Wake Forest and Yale leaves one spectacular question swinging in the air like a rotting corpse of lies – what is it that we don’t know? In other words, in the jet-propelled world of high stakes college admissions, are we to believe that only the nine schools mentioned are the bad actors? Or are we looking at the tip of the iceberg?

In a country where a fake billionaire can lie his way into the presidency, why should we be surprised when anyone with $50,000 to $4,000,000 can lie and cheat to get their son or daughter into the college of their choice, instead of their child being chosen by the college on the basis of something resembling merit? The audacity of the half a hundred otherwise wealthy and respectable defendants is breathtaking in that whatever concerns that they might have about equity, fairness or….wait for it…..setting a good example for their children, were outweighed by their desire to be able to say that their child was a student at Yale, UCLA, Georgetown, etc.

In a culture where imagined success literally trumps actual success, we cannot be surprised to find out that there are privileged young men and women are at this very moment students in colleges and schools that they are not qualified to attend. And it is tragic that students who might actually benefit from having a cherished once in a lifetime opportunity to attend these schools are not attending because their place has been taken by someone who already has access to every opportunity that life has to offer.

But we should not be deceived into thinking that this is simply a matter of a few (fifty???) bad actors trying to game the college admissions system with several millions of dollars and some photo shopped applications. This is not the only way that the United Privileged Parents of America are gaming the college admissions system.

We should understand that even reasonably bright and capable young men and women are being asked to compete for seats in universities and colleges all over America with young men and women (who may or may not be reasonably bright and capable) who have the advantage of having SAT “coaches” and college admissions consultants which can cost their parents tens of thousands of dollars a year – not to mention the fact that attendance a prestigious (and therefore brutally expensive) private prep schools and “special” public schools. In other words, the system is so rigged that the notion of equal access and success based on merit are simply wisps of words that need not even be spoken.

The magnitude of these crimes are almost too profound to comprehend as we will never know how many truly qualified students are being denied admission to colleges. The magnitude of the crime of rigging the entire college admissions system to solely benefit the children of the rich and privileged not only deprives the children of everyone else, it also deprives this country of its best talent and its best chance for a successful future.

John D. Rockefeller, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Michelle Obama, Reginald Lewis, Mario Cuomo, Mark Cuban, Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are just a few of the contemporary prominent achievers who would never have been able to compete in the high stakes college admissions racket – their parents simply didn’t have enough money to “buy” opportunity through SAT coaches, college consultants, etc., much less be able to buy their children’s admissions at schools where the price only needs to be right.

We may never find out the scope and breadth of the outright bribery that is taking place in the college admissions universe. There are prosecutors and judges and juries and prisons that can address this kind of bad behavior. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The iceberg is the entire imbalance in the K-12 and college/university environment where power plus money equals college admission. And this situation makes it all the more problematic when conservative foundations and their attack lawyers seek to eliminate the few programs that seek to successfully level the playing field for those whose parents are not rich and powerful. Because some day, sooner than later, those without power and money will simply need not apply.

And that is the real tragedy for these United States.

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Trump – The Eternal Minor League Player

As the avalanche of indictments, resignations and revelations threaten to wash away the Trump presidency like a bug on a windshield in a car wash; it is becoming clear to the entire world that Donald Trump was never ready for prime time. As long as he could live in the minor league universe of pretense, lies, fraud and more pretenses, he could escape the kind of scrutiny that he now encounters. If he were anyone else, he would be the subject of pity. But not this time. And it is time for The Donald to find out what it means to move from the minor leagues to the major leagues.

A bit of history – until 2009, most Americans had only known Donald Trump, if they knew him at all, as the raucous host of the “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show. Because he lived in the media capital of the world, Trump garnered more attention than most mid-level legacy real estate developers and failed hotel casino owners might have received. And so Trump always received points for self-promotion if not for stunning insight or superior intelligence.

And so, whether as an indifferent college student at Fordham University and then at the University of Pennsylvania, or as a headline chasing New York City businessman who employed questionable practices, he could hide in the herd of men and women who hustle and outrageously self promote that make up a significant part of the population of New York City. But not satisfied with being the impresario of the Miss Universe contest (a bit of business that seemed tailor-made for a self-proclaimed misogynist and groper) and not being satisfied with a stint as a torch and pitchfork leader of a would-be lynch mob that would have, if given the chance, wrongfully executed the innocent Central Park Five, Trump decided that he actually had something to offer to the American people aside from his “You’re Fired” tagline.

He began by being the self-proclaimed leader of the proto-racist “birther” movement, claiming that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, not the United States. His fruitless efforts to delegitimize the first black President of the United States obviously made Trump feel that he could be president. The fact that President Obama absolutely barbequed him over the birther issue at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner was almost certainly a motivating factor for America’s Supreme Megalomaniac.

Running a haphazard, seat of the pants campaign with, it appears, the assistance of the Russian government, Donald Trump became president. And that is when reality started to enter his fantasy world. Indeed, Trump is reminiscent of one of those cartoon characters who runs off a cliff and keeps on running and running…..until he looks down.

And now Trump finds himself and his enablers and minions the subject of multiple Congressional and criminal investigations. He is finding out that it is one thing to set up a bogus college (see “Trump University”), or a bogus foundation (see “Trump Foundation”) or failed hotels and casinos. The lesson that he is learning the hard way is that money laundering, collusion with the Russians and playing fast and loose with federal campaign laws as President of the United States can end up with him wearing a federally issued orange jumpsuit that will quite poetically almost match his hair.

If Trump had just stayed in his lane as an ignorant, blowhard huckster, he probably would have escaped any significant law enforcement scrutiny. His desire to move from the minor leagues to the big leagues clearly has consequences that never occurred to him. And now he is learning that lesson the hard way.

It is said that pride goes before the fall. And in the case of Donald J. Trump, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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Point of View Columns

Still in Search of Obama

It just may be true that every blessing is mixed. There is the joy and pleasure when something good and great happens. But there is also the remorse and dismay when that something good and great doesn’t last forever. And so it may be that when the history books are written decades from now the phenomenon known as Barack Obama may be viewed as a mixed blessing for black Americans in particular and for Americans of good will, whatever their hue. And if those far off history books turn out to be correct, it will be due to the memory of the remorse and dismay that were experienced by the many who embraced and supported the Obama phenomenon.

Many historians and political observers agree that Barack Obama was an extraordinary president who came to office during extraordinary times. His successful leadership during the worst economic times since the Great Depression of the 20th century are Rushmore-worthy. His effort to fundamentally reform the delivery of health care in this country is a worthy legacy. The reform of the financial services industry just may have rescued this country from the self-inflicted wounds of Wall Street. Progressive movement regarding gender equality and gender preference and commitment to environmental salvation are all hallmarks of a remarkable presidency.

The list goes on. But the takeaway is that Barack Obama has a place in history for more than being the first black President of the United States. A lot more.

But historians from the future, visiting us now, may tell us that because Barack Obama was the first black President of the United States, and a progressive president to boot, the cauldron of racism that still bubbles in too many communities without color boiled over, in the process merging and melting racist sentiments with anti-women sentiments, anti-gay sentiments, anti-regulation sentiments and run of the mill Ayn Rand right wing of the right wing sentiments.

This amalgam fueled by the pure hatred of that Kenyan in the White House, solidified a bloc of Americans who not only hated Obama, but hated anything and everything that he supported. And that is one of the key reasons that we now have Donald Trump as president.

Granting that hindsight vision is invariably 20/20, the election of Donald Trump as president was at least probable, if not predictable. The meanness, the ignorance and the dedication to the impossible task of reconfiguring history are not surprising considering the whiplash of a backlash that affected too many Americans upon the election (and reelection of Barack Obama).

But what could not have been predicted is the virtually sphinx like silence of the now former President Obama as he witnesses the rampant and raging attempts at the destruction of his legacy as well as the possibly irreversible harm that Trump is visiting upon all Americans. While it is true that tradition has dictated that former presidents are silent former presidents when it comes to criticizing their successors, it is clear that these are not traditional times – and Barack Obama is not a traditional ex-president.

While there is nothing in his personal history – both prior to and during his presidency – to indicate that former President Obama would be the vocal leader of resistance to epic systemic harm that is the hallmark of the Trump Era, it is now shocking that Barack Obama has been virtually silent when it comes to criticizing Trump and articulating all that is wrong with this demon of a president.

The people who are being harmed the most by Trump are the people who supported Barack Obama, marched for Barack Obama and waited in line for hours to vote for Barack Obama. The America that is in jeopardy of ruination is the America that Barack Obama swore to protect, and it is impossible to believe that that oath expired on January 20, 2017.

Yet Barack Obama maintains virtual silence – with the exception of a few tepid Delphic comments that are subject to the interpretation of whatever audience has paid to hear him speak. His most vocal, but still veiled comments that might have referred to Donald Trump were spoken in South Africa, 7000 miles away from the Trump crime scene.

It is simply not enough for the man who electrified a nation and a generation with the promise of Hope and Change to stand quietly on the sidelines working on his library and a Netflix production deal while this country and its people go to Hell in the Trump hand basket.

For better or for worse, Barack Obama’s voice is the only progressive voice that commands national attention and it is Barack Obama who can mobilize and energize the resistance that can possibly turn the Trump tide.

It is time for Barack Obama to shed his cloak of invisibility and to renounce his vow of silence. The time is now – we can only hope that this is the change that we will see in the 44th President. Destiny led him to the presidency. Destiny now leads him to be a vocal ex-president.

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Point of View Columns

In Search of Obama

There is no doubt that history will refer to Barack Obama as a U.S. President Like No Other. There is the obvious aspect of his being the first African American president. But he was also the president who led this country out of a backbreaking economic disaster while easing the United States out of two unwinnable wars. There is also the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) which transformed the American vision of healthcare and the Dodd Frank Act which was the first major reform of the American financial services industry in almost 80 years. And now, it is time for Barack Obama to be an Ex-President of the United States Like No Other.

Donald Trump is on a daily voyage between tragedy and travesty. His sense of the presidency is informed only by his massive lack of knowledge and his disdain for even the most basic precepts of American government. But his incompetence, ignorance and ill-will are distractions from the real damage he is doing to this country by empowering right wing ideologues and conservative fanatics to wreak havoc upon the American people.

Sadly, the list of harmful acts courtesy of Trump is virtually endless. The exit from the Paris Climate Accords is but one example of the kind of endless global damage that this man is capable of causing. The return to criminalizing low-level non-nonviolent drug offenses guarantees that the Incarceration State will be alive and well in this country for years to come. The elimination of labor safety laws and the all-out assault on voting rights, civil rights and women’s rights are also signs of the messy handiwork of the Man Called Trump.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has largely observed the unwritten rule that ex-presidents do not criticize their successors, at least for the first year. But now the first year is up and the President Like No Other has to become the Ex-President Like No Other. Because the reality is that Barack Obama, perhaps unintentionally, became the leader of a progressive surge that countered a quarter of a century of conservative ascendancy.

While no one would ever confuse the 44th President of the United States with being a radical progressive, his presence on the national political landscape empowered progressive men and women to envision an America where the meanest and least civil aspects of the conservative movement were no longer inevitable. And indeed, there are options to the fevered dreams and wishes of the Ayn Rand acolytes who would transform political and policy dialogue into a Maker-Taker Texas death match.

And this is where Barack Obama comes in. While Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker and who knows who else position themselves for a possible presidential run in 2020, there is real work to be done right now. This country cannot afford three more years of Democratic rope-a-dope and because he cannot run for president in 2020, Barack Obama can be the honest and true voice of progressive concerns, in the process concentrating constant and withering criticism of the man who challenged his citizenship, his college degree and his law school credentials.

When Barack Obama points out that Donald Trump has managed to denigrate black Americans with his dog whistle call to Make America Great (White) again while treating women like disposable accessories and demeaning and insulting the American immigrant community and the international community of color, people will listen and listen differently.

We have heard President Obama say that he has run the race and many would agree that he deserves time to be himself. But the mantle of leadership is not an easy one to cast aside and in these dangerous days and times he simply cannot observe and occasionally comment.

Barack Obama became President of the United States carrying a message of “Hope and Change”. If there was ever a time for Hope, it is now. If there was ever a time for Change, it is now. In 2008 this country was ready for that message.

And now, a decade later, America is ready for that message – again. And Barack Obama needs to be that messenger.

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Point of View Columns

The Shame of it All

The New Year has begun as last year ended. Shameful, disgraceful, embarrassing, horrific and pitiful are just some of the words that come to mind when the words “Donald Tinyhands” are written or spoken. Indeed, it really should come as no surprise that, on the exact anniversary of the inauguration of Donald Trump, the entire government of the United States shut down. The poetic symbolism is inescapable.

If the Russians, the Chinese or the Martians wanted to come up with a way to destabilize the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the planet, they could not have come up with a better Trojan horse that Donald J. Trump. While some commentators will point to continued improvement in the economy – rising stock market, plunging unemployment rates – these same commentators seem to willfully ignore the fact that Trump is riding the crest of an economic wave that began eight years ago during the administration of President Barack Obama. Indeed, Trump reminds us of the rooster that takes credit for the sun coming up, when all he really does is making joyful noises over something which is totally irrelevant to his efforts, policies, programs and rhetoric.

But, while too many of us are transfixed by the numbers, this draft-dodging, megalomaniacal misogynist is doing everything within his power to take a wrecking ball to this country. He has legitimized racism, sexism and basic bad behavior. While his legal team pays off porn stars and his press team pretends that he doesn’t say the words that he says that he says, huge portions of this country have not only lost any respect that they might have for Trump, they are also losing respect for the men and women in the governmental institutions who are either mute or muted in the presence of this awful man who somehow has managed to become President of the United States.

Here is a president who refers to African “shithole” countries the day before reading a proclamation commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King and three days before he goes golfing on national day of observance – Dr. King’s birthday. And while there are voices of outrage, they seem muted in the face of the Trump sound machine – or perhaps there is simply too many people who are too afraid of the Wrath of Trump.

Here is a president who after firing the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, now casts doubt on the integrity of the FBI, the Department of Justice and any other law enforcement institution that might dare to think that Donald Trump, he of the thousands of settled lawsuits, might have engaged in wrongful conduct. And yet the voices in the Senate and the House are muted.

One wonders what would have happened if all the Trump stories of his first year in office had the name “Obama” instead. Actually we don’t need to wonder as it is sure as the gravity that binds us to this earth that impeachment would have been the least of Barack Obama’s worries and that a moving van would have been leaving the White House with everything Obama a long time ago. But, of course, the first African American President of the United States was held to a much higher standard than the standard that is applied to Donald Tinyhands.

And so, in this New Year, with a shut down government, and a President who can’t shut up, we know now that the standard for presidential behavior has been lowered – we can only hope that this is not a permanent condition.

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