Point of View Columns

The Madness of King Trump

Ever since he exploded onto the national stage as a serious presidential candidate, Donald Trump has redefined the concept of who should be considered “serious”. There have been small armies of psychologists and psychiatrists who have tried to tell us that Donald Tinyhands is a man with serious mental problems. But even his most vehement opponents seem to be content to accept that, while Trump may have serious mental issues, he is high-functioning and further discussion of the matter will just degenerate into useless name calling. But that was then and this is now.

During the first eleven months of his presidency, Donald Trump has normalized erratic behavior to the point that the media, his opponents and the American public are seemingly anesthetized. Insulting heads of state are just part of another day in Trump World. Ethnic and racial taunts are just part of the normal language employed by the President of the United States. Speaking and tweeting in fact-free fractured syntax has taken a little getting used to, but all of the above might just be quirky or indicative of the fact that Donald Trump just takes some getting used to. But that was then and this is now.

As you are reading this column, during last 48 hours the President of the United States has given clear indications that his mental issues may be something more than just a collection of his personal idiosyncrasies. Four recent examples of the erratic conduct of Donald Tinyhands have to give even his most ardent supporters a reason to pause, and question and wonder.

Exhibit A – Early in the morning of November 29th Trump posted a series of anti-Muslim video tweets should make everyone worry. Why is the President of the United States up in the middle of the night trolling alt-right sites in the United Kingdom? Why does Donald Tinyhands think that it is a good thing to inflame the already tense planet by posting anti-Muslim videos? And, by the way, there is no way of knowing if these videos are real or fake.

What we know is that if Donald Trump were the employee of any decent publicly traded entity or private company he would be sanctioned if not fired on the spot. Why the President can distribute hate videos without consequence is a question for which the Congress and the American people need an answer.

Exhibit B – Early in the morning of November 29th, the 45th President of the United States decided that it would be a good time to unearth the totally false and debunked birther controversy that he tried to attach to the 44th President of the United States. Aside from the fact that birtherism is a fake, false, infantile, racist and bizarre attack on Barack Obama, one has to question the mental balance of Donald Tinyhands to do a birther replay now. Why now?

Exhibit C – During the day of November 28th, Donald Trump decided to try to make the American public believe that his voice was dubbed in the now infamous, and always vile, Access Hollywood tapes. Rolling out a dusty and worthless version of “don’t believe your lying eyes”, Trump clearly believes that the Bigger the Lie, the more likely it will be believed. And somewhere, in the bunker that is his brain, the Big Lie is the truth, because he says so.

Exhibit D – During the evening of November 28th Donald Tinyhands decided to resurrect his claim that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election (which he won, by the way) due to voter fraud. That would be the voter fraud that not a single Secretary of State of any of the fifty states has claimed. That would be the voter fraud that simply does not exist except in the fever swamp that is the Trump thought process.

Unfortunately there will be more instances of inappropriate, dangerous and mindless words and deeds by this President. And while the prospect of a President Mike Pence makes the blood run cold, the thought of 3 more years of President Donald Trump should make everyone on this planet afraid. Very afraid.

And for all the Americans who didn’t vote in 2016, for the Americans who thought that Donald Trump as president might be entertaining, for the Americans who thought that a protest vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders (as a write in) was a good idea, this is why elections matter.

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Point of View Columns

The Congressional Black Caucus – MIA

Begun as the Democratic Select Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus was founded in February of 1971 with twelve members. At the time, it was the only voice of black elected officials with a national platform. The CBC, as it came to be known, was a voice of opposition to the Nixon presidency and supported what became the successful liberation movement in South Africa. Now that the CBC has 49 members, one should expect that it would be a strong and mighty voice in the face of the storm that is the Trump Administration. But that is clearly not the case. The CBC is MIA – Missing in Action.

Over the years, the CBC has spoken out on a number of issues that affected black America. Every American President since 1971 has met with the CBC and on many occasions, listened to the CBC. And, although most CBC members did not initially support the candidacy of the man who became the first black President of the United States, it continued to elicit the perspective that it was important, influential and relevant.

And now, when this unofficial of voice of Black America needs to stand up to President Trump and his minions, the CBC is curiously muted, and many times it seems that it has joined the ranks of the Silent Minority. And this is not a matter of opinion. Recent news proves that this is a fact.

Consider that just three weeks ago, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, a CBC member from Florida along with the widow of a slain black serviceman were called a liars by not only the Liar-In-Chief, President Trump, but also by his Chief of Staff, John Kelly. And after it was absolutely proven that Trump and Kelly had lied about Representative Wilson, Mr. Kelly went on to lie about her public record and insulted her in a most base and common manner.

If the CBC took a position on this outrageous incident, if the CBC called out Donald Tinyhands and his minion Kelly, it must have been hidden on the back page of a shopping mall handout. If the CBC took to the steps of the United States Congress to denounce the President for treating Congresswoman Wilson like the field hand he thinks she is, they must have done it in the dead of night when no one was watching. Obviously, the CBC was MIA.

And it gets worse. Earlier this week, Mr. Kelly reiterated his lies about Congresswoman Wilson and virtually pledged never to apologize to her. And then………..Kelly claimed that the Civil War came about because of a failure to compromise. He stated that there were men and women of “good faith on both sides” and that Robert E. Lee, was a heroic figure even though he led a rebellion that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who were fighting for the United States of America. And in the face of these horrific and demonic lies and distortion of history the CBC has been silent. Once again the CBC is MIA.

The notion that the enslavement of black Americans could be the subject of compromise is a vile notion. It is the dehumanization of black lives that permits someone like John Kelly to say something like that. To suggest that there are people of “good faith” on the side of slavery is to offer a view of the speaker’s mind that does not believe that black people are as human as white people. And to suggest that Robert E. Lee was a hero is more unpatriotic and insulting to the stated ideals of this country than all of the kneeling NFL players put together.

And yet, the CBC is MIA. And what is so ironic is that when the CBC consisted of only twelve members it was more vocal than now, when the CBC consists of forty nine members. That is more than a tenth of the entire   House of Representatives, almost a third of the Democratic members of Congress and close to double the number of the Freedom Caucus, aka Tea Party. Nevertheless, with that kind of clout, the CBC remains the Silent Minority even as black Americans suffer insults and true degradation by reason of the policies of the Trump Administration.

Why is the CBC not standing on the steps of the U.S. Congress every day denouncing the Trump Administration as it attempts to shred the social safety net? Why is the CBC not speaking out on the floor of Congress at every opportunity, reading into the Congressional Record the litany of terrible deeds that are defining the Trump Administration?

Ironically, the CBC was more vocal about criticizing what President Obama wasn’t doing for the black community than it is in attacking President Trump for what he doing to black people. A most curious double standard indeed.

To put it most simply, why is the CBC MIA silent or muted at just that moment in history when it is needed the most? Unless and until the CBC finds its voice, it will be judged very harshly by history – and that would be a shame.

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Point of View Columns

Has Donald Trump (Finally) Gone Too Far?

Unless the United States has contracted a case of pandemic amnesia, there should be no reason for the collective shock and awe occasioned by the attack of Donald Tinyhands on NFL and NBA players. It is amazing that anyone should be amazed that the President of the United States who has proven himself to be a liar, a bully and an inveterate hatemonger, would harangue and insult young black men who do not support the status quo.

Donald Trump is who he is and has always been who he is. What is odd is that there are politicians, media commentators and journalists and ordinary citizens who keep waiting for him to – mature – evolve – transform – or all of the above and then are shocked when he proves time and again that he will never change.

What is even more interesting is that the current shock and awe at his crude antics and attacks are treated as if President Trump has somehow crossed an invisible line of decency by attacking professional athletes. The considered opinion of many is that now he has gone too far. And that is truly amazing.

Obviously Donald Trump did not go too far when he serially and constantly insulted, demeaned and degraded the first black President of the United States by leading the so-called birther movement, calling into question the citizenship and legitimacy of President Barack Obama. And he did not go too far in refusing to ever apologize and own up to spewing a torrent of lies about President Obama for years.

Clearly he did not go too far when he publicly announced that it was just fine to sexually assault women and then excused his self-described behavior as just “locker room talk” for which he has never apologized. This, despite the multiple charges of sexual assault that have been directed at him by seeming busloads of women.

And it appears that President Trump did not go too far when he hung up on the Prime Minister of Australia, insulted the leader of North Korea, the craziest head of state to be in possession of nuclear weapons, or when he pushed the President of Montenegro aside in a photo shoot, or when he tried to arm wrestle the President of France. And there is nothing that has been reported to believe that he thinks that there is any aspect of his behavior that he needs to change.

The point is that Donald Trump has been who he is for decades. It is improbable that at the age of 70 he would change, even upon his election as President of the United States. He remains the crass, obscene, self-absorbed, narcissistic and childishly cruel individual that New Yorkers have always known.

So while it is a good thing that Trump’s attacks on NBA players, NFL players and NFL owners has brought about a certain level of outrage, it is still odd that these attacks may turn out to be the tipping point in helping Americans know what we should have known all along. This country has placed an irredeemable miscreant in the White House and provided the entire world with a textbook example of why elections matter.

Hopefully we have learned our lesson.

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Point of View Columns

Statues and Flags and Sanity

When the Trump legacy is written, it may be that the only good thing that was done by Donald Tinyhands was to help make it clear that the notion of America being in a post-racial status has always been a myth. It is useful to recall that when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, accompanied by post-racial anthems, the skinheads, Klansmen, Aryans and assorted white supremacist mouth breathing Neanderthals were already deeply imbedded in America – everywhere.

Clear evidence of the virulent racism in this country, accompanied by the more insidious passive aggressive dehumanization of black Americans, are the scores of statues, busts and plaques throughout the country that honor the leaders of the Confederate States of America. These celebrations of traitors should not be seen as some kind of limp effort at reconciliation.

The CSA was founded on the principles of slavery as just, white supremacy and black inferiority. Any and every Confederate honoree – Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, etc. – believed absolutely in these principles, principles that were way ahead of more esoteric notions of states’ rights and constitutional interpretations.

This is not a subjective perspective; it is a matter of fact that the first article of the constitution of the Confederate States of America upheld the eternal preservation of slavery. It is a matter of fact that the leadership of the Confederacy was wedded to an unshakeable belief in white superiority and black inferiority. And it is a matter of fact that Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest were absolutely complicit in the unconscionable wholesale slaughter of black Union troops who had the misfortune of surrendering to CSA soldiers.

All of this has been known since the end of the Civil War. Yet white Americans have stood by silently while these villains and war criminals were honored, all in the name of intimidating and bullying black America. The fact that there is even a conversation about depopulating this nation’s public spaces of such obscenities is itself obscene and it is a telling commentary as to the status of black Americans. It is more than fair to ask – do black lives really matter?

Consider that it is simply against the law to honor Adolf Hitler in Germany. Wearing a swastika or giving the Nazi salute on the streets of Berlin can land you in jail. The same is generally true in France. And consider that these proscriptions on honoring Nazis came about not because of pressure from the Jewish people. Indeed,  the banning of Nazi celebrations came from German and French men and women of good will who understood that the horror of the Nazis not only should never be repeated, it should also not be honored, celebrated or even exist in the public space.

It 152 years have passed since the end of the Civil War. It is astounding that there is even a conversation about celebrating Southern “heritage”, when that “heritage” encompasses the enslavement and degradation of human beings. It is shameful that there are public officials that refer to some beautiful past that should be celebrated when that past includes the wholesale slaughter, rape and exploitation of black Americans for the better part of two centuries.

It is well past time for conversation or debate. The Confederate statues, flags, busts and plaques are wrong – they have always been wrong – and any American who supports their existence is wrong. The descendants of slaves have endured this ongoing insult for too long and white Americans who accept the humanity of black Americans will understand this. And white Americans who do not accept the humanity of black Americans will not and should be adjudged as racist as the most vile skinhead goose stepping down the street.

When it comes to the Confederacy and its moldering and vile relics, there is simply no middle ground.

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Point of View Columns

100 Days of Trump – or – 1362 Days to Go

The designation of the first hundred days of an American presidency as being of singular importance began with the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Since then, the first one hundred days have been seen as a window on the extent to which the new president is on a path to success, mediocrity or failure. Using that basic set of demarcations, it is time to seriously take stock of the Trump administration to date.

One thing that any president has needed to do is to staff an administration. Aside from the Reagan cabinet in 1981, President Trump is presiding over the largest congregation of white men as senior cabinet officials in almost four decades. But aside from giving the cabinet a retro-ivory glow, he has not done much.

Consider that, after one hundred days Barack Obama had appointed 69 officials, George W. Bush had brought 35 people on board, Bill Clinton had appointed 49 men and women and George Herbert Walker Bush had appointed 50. As this is being read, President Trump has appointed on 26, outdueling George W. Bush in a race to the bottom of the presidential mediocre barrel.

It should be clear that there are 1028 positions requiring Presidential appointment and Donald Trump has only nominated 37 individuals for those positions. Indeed, President Trump has publicly stated he may not fill many of these vacancies because he does not see the need to have that many people staffing the government of a country with a multitrillion dollar economy and interests literally all over the planet.

In actuality it may be that Donald Trump simply does not want to go through the trouble of actually working like a real executive instead of a reality-show imposter and that it is easier to just keep kicking the can down the road. After all, he has freely admitted that he thought that the job of President of the United States was “easy” and amazingly, it has turned out to be harder than he thought.

Whatever the case, the desultory approach to executive staffing by the Trump Administration may turn out to be the first halting baby steps down the road of inevitable mediocrity (see George W. Bush) or epic and historic failure (see Warren G. Harding). And of course, the true tragedy would be the demolition of the hopes and dreams of the American people, hopes and dreams that he has pretended to cherish, not realizing that even his most ardent supporters want something more than a speech and a slogan.

The First Hundred Days of Trump has given the nation a collective case of whiplash as the Administration has lurched from one firestorm – failed immigration reform measure – to another maelstrom – picking petty fights with the leaders of Australia, Mexico and Germany for starters.

And all the while the sickly sweet stench of Trump-Russian involvement never leaves the room – and continues to linger as a ticking time bomb for President Trump. He may just find out that there is a limit to how far his lies may take him.

The blatant hypocrisy of the Teapublicans in Congress has also been revealed for all to see. There has to be universal agreement that if President Hillary Clinton had appointed Chelsea Clinton to do anything in an official governmental role, the Teapublican hounds would be baying for immediate impeachment.

But when President Trump appoint his oldest daughter Ivanka Trump to be some kind of aide without portfolio, representing the United States around the world while her personal brand of clothing and accessories gets a billion dollars’ worth of exposure, those same Teapublican hounds are as quiet as the lap dogs that you see carried around in the designer purses of celebrity models and movie stars.

What is clear and certainly more important than the Marxist (as in Marx Brothers) antics of the Trump administration, is the clear intent of this president to try to erase every bit of evidence that Barack Obama was President of the United States.

Most presidents during their first one hundred days have sought to establish their own vision for the country and then have tried to transform that vision into reality. Donald Trump has spent the most time issuing a raft of executive orders designed to erase the Obama legacy in areas ranging from protection of the environment to the rights of women.

Interestingly, what President Trump will learn over time is that Barack Obama’s place in history is engraved in the granite of time. And at some point he might try to focus on coming up with a coherent vision for this country that would actually make things better in this country for someone other than himself.

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Point of View Columns

A Message for November 9th

As Election Day in America dawns in just a few hours, just about everything that can be said has been said – but not everything. That is because after Donald Trump loses on November 8th, America will be at yet another crossroads in its conflicted history.

Historians will one day ask how was it that the same country that elected as President Barack Obama, an African American progressive Democrat, could four years later come uncomfortably close to electing a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic Know-Nothing. The historians of the future will wrestle with the implications of the phenomenon known as American Schizophrenia but in the meantime we have to address the very real implications of the Trump candidacy and the massive vein of distaste for the present America and hate for the future American that it revealed.

By now, there are very few people who doubt that “Make America Great Again” is a thinly-coded dog whistle for a return to a time when white American males strode this land like entitled lords without having to take the time to consider racial, gender or immigration issues except in passing. And just in case someone did not hear that whistle, the very last Trump campaign commercials refer to a global conspiracy headed by shady bankers, all of whom just happen to be Jewish (one has to assume that reference to the Protocols of Zion was just too complicated for a two minute commercial).

There is no reason to expect that the sheetless Klansmen and the Breibart refugees and the birthers and the nativists and the resurrected America Firsters are going anywhere anytime soon. The sad and true fact is that in going down to an historic defeat, Donald Trump will have been able to attract tens of millions of American voters to his doomed candidacy.

What is also sad and true is that there are truly deplorable people who supported candidacy who are not going anywhere. They will continue to hate and continue to vote. They will elect members of Congress and governors and mayors who will cater to their deepest hate and their visceral fears.

What is also sad and true is that not all of Trump’s supporters are deplorable. There are certainly millions of men and women who are afraid for their jobs, for their way of life and for the future of their children. These are men and women who listened to the sounds of the Pestilent Pied Piper Named Trump and who believed that the simplistic, fact-free and mythical solutions that he offered with the cult of His personality would indeed solve all of their problems and make their dreams come true.

Donald Tinyhands will fade into deserved obscurity. But there is an America that not only needs a voice, there are men and women who need to be listened to – and we ignore them and belittle them at the peril of the Republic itself.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton should celebrate and then they should listen – there are unheard voices that need to be heard.

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The Election of 2016 – America in Wonderland

As Election Day 2016 looms on the horizon, it is quite clear that when historians and political scientists reflect on this stranger than strange campaign, this question will be asked. How could the country that elected Barack Obama president in consecutive elections even consider electing as president a proto-fascist P.T. Barnum impersonator and charlatan named Trump less than four years later? The answer will not be comforting.

There is no doubt that there was a yawning ideological canyon separating Barack Obama from John McCain and Mitt Romney. There is also no doubt that all three of these men comported themselves within the bounds of what passes for decency in the political universe of 21st century America. And finally, there is no doubt that the basic skill set of any of these three men to serve as President of the United States was never a real campaign issue.

But now, when faced the prospect of Donald Trump being the next President, millions of Americans are comfortable with his misogyny, able to ignore his racism and willing to rationalize his stunning record of disgrace, fraud, deception and disregard for the basic principles of decency. It is a matter of public record that Trump has lied about his unsavory business practices and generally uses lies as a defense even when there are videotapes, audiotapes and living human beings who set forth a reality that he simply denies.

It is now clear that as election lurches to what will be the political demise of Donald Trump there is a far larger issue than Trump that will remain when his political carcass is hosed down the drain of the public arena. The larger problem is that there will still be millions of Americans who are still prepared to believe the racist canard that Barack Obama (1) was not born in the United States and (2) is therefore an illegitimate President and (3) he is a Muslim and (4) is the anti-Christ.

The larger problem is that there will still be millions of voting Americans who seriously believe that walling off this country is a useful 21st century solution. There are millions of American who think that dismantling the Affordable Care Act (eliminating the health care coverage for over 20 million Americans) and the Dodd-Frank Act protocols (thereby removing the controls that preventing the cataclysmic collapse of the American financial system) are good ideas.

At some point after Donald Trump slithers back to the his own warped universe, there will need to be a serious discussion regarding how so many Americans became separated from reality and decency, in the process forgetting the responsibilities that come with their rights as citizens. It is clear that to the extent a Trump presidency has even been discussed in 2016 there needs to be a national civics awakening – with rights come responsibilities. Presidential elections are not a time to carelessly cast votes without regard or consideration of the consequences.

Fortunately, Donald Trump will not win. Unfortunately, the fact that he even has come this close means that we have a lot of work to do if the best aspects of this republic and its democracy are to be preserved and improved upon.

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