Point of View Columns

The Triumph of the Law of Unintended Consequences

As we continue to have the feeling that we are in the cast of a bad sci-fi movie, this badly written script continues to take twists and turns that are barely moored to reality. We awaken to the news that the Republican governor of Ohio, taking his cue from the Republican governor of Georgia, has postponed its presidential primary vote.

Of course this is virtually meaningless to Republican voters, but it means a hell of a lot to Democrats, not only in Georgia and Ohio, but throughout the country. This was supposed to be the third Super Tuesday, the one that would virtually settle the Sanders or Biden question, if not once and for all at least pretty definitively.

Instead, there is even more concern that the 2020 electoral process is going to be fundamentally different than at any time in the history of this country and that includes elections that were held during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II. Clearly the Law of Unintended Consequences is hard at work.

We all need to keep in mind that a mere 17 days ago what had been the most competitive and diverse presidential primary race in the history of the republic morphed into a race between two elderly white men. And then the Biden-Sanders race has been elbowed into a barely lit corner of the national consciousness due to the coronavirus and the spectacular mismanagement of the ensuing pandemic by the Trump administration, starting with Donald (“I give myself a ten”) Trump.

And so, by tomorrow, these questions will be in the forefront of political observers before everyone rushes back for the latest news regarding the pandemic that some fear might kill two million Americans:

  1. Will Joe Biden seize the definitive lead as the likely Democratic candidate?
  2. If that is case will Bernie Sanders concede or will he follow a scorched earth path to Milwaukee thereby insuring a debacle that will warm the heart of Republicans from coast to coast?
  3. And finally, will there even be a convention in July if the coronavirus pandemic is still raging throughout the country, as many epidemiologists predict?
  4. And if there cannot be a convention in Milwaukee, then what?
  5. And last, but certainly not least, will Trump use his presidential powers during this declared State of National Emergency to impact the election. Delaying the November 3rd election, for example? And if that seems improbable please note that the Republican governors of Ohio and Florida have already given him the playbook.
  6. One hopes that the statement Joe Biden made in what may have been the last Democratic debate to the effect that he will choose a woman as his running mate portends the very real prospect of him choosing a Black woman. If he believes that an all-white ticket will inspire the Black base of the Democratic Party he should ask President Hillary Clinton how that worked out when she chose Tim Kaine in 2016 instead of a Black or Latino man.

It is more than ironic that the only woman ever to be a vice presidential candidate for a major national party was the blessedly and thankfully forgotten Sarah Palin. Hopefully Biden and the Democrats can do better than that.

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Point of View Columns

A View From the Maelstrom

Considering the existential importance of the 2020 presidential election an eerie quiet has settled over the Democratic campaigns. It may be due to the fact that Joe Biden has delivered everything but the coup de grace to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and that now the only question will be whether Sanders can be less graceless than he was in 2016. But somehow it feels that there is something more.

Perhaps it is the fact that Sanders still has a puncher’s chance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat if…….if Elizabeth Warren endorses him. If Joe Biden has a total meltdown in the debate on Sunday. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gives an epic campaign speech that finally mobilizes the seemingly somnolent youth vote that Bernie Sanders swears is waiting to carry him to the nomination in Milwaukee. But somehow it feels as if there is something more.

And, of course there is. The fact that we are now living in a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has cast a pall over everything from the NBA to upcoming nuptials. From Harvard to Harlem and from Rome to Singapore, there is fear in the air –everywhere.

And as bad as the threat of what a 21st century plague might look like, the stunning stupidity and inimitable ignorance of Donald Trump justifies all fears. His performance and that of his administration finally illustrates how incompetent this man is – and always has been.

There has always been a concern as to what would happen to this country, and this planet, if a real crisis occurred while Donald Trump was president. There have been crises of his own creation – see North Korea and the Mexican border as exhibits A & B. But now there is a real world disaster looming and Trump is being exposed for the hapless hack that he is.

Consider the fact that he falsely claimed that the coronavirus would just disappear miraculously. And the fact that even now, with millions of Americans at risk from the virus that is fully embedded in the United States, Trump seeks to deflect by referring the “Chinese” coronavirus and by banning flights from Europe which does nothing but enable the travel sector of the economy to crater just a bit more.

And, of course, it should be noted that since he has been in office the Trump administration has sought to reduce the budget of the Centers for Disease Control by 16% (this did not happen only because Congress restored those cuts in the final federal budget – but the fact that the cuts were even proposed tells you a lot about the priorities of one Donald J. Trump).

And now, the pure stench of Trump’s Panglossian incompetence has caused the economy to teeter on the brink of something worse than the crash of 2008 or the crash of 1987. The clear lack of basic intelligence that accompanies virtually every word that Trump spews gives reason for panic and fear not only across this country, but also around the world.

And all the while Biden and Sanders and the Democrats can comment on the obvious but there is not much that they can do except state the obvious, either of them would do a far better job in this situation than Trump on his best day. But right now that is thin gruel for the men and women and children who fear for their lives and for their future.

Senior citizens are now even lonelier than ever as no one can come visit them in nursing homes everywhere. Schools and colleges and universities and Disneyland are all closed because Trump doesn’t have the sense to listen to anyone who knows anything about how to deal with this pandemic.

And we can only hope and pray that the evangelists and 2nd Amendment zealots and conservative judge crusaders and the anti-abortion fanatics will not find out that they and their families are not immune from the pandemic disaster that is being artlessly orchestrated by their Chosen One.

Meanwhile Biden and Sanders are preparing to debate each other. And one can only hope that they can find a way to train their attacks on Trump instead of each other. A Septuagenarian Super Brawl on Sunday will only help Trump because it will serve to distract people from the hot, stinking mess that he has created.

And Trump has always been the master of distraction.

 

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

The Day After Super Tuesday 2020

And now the cage match begins. Joe Biden ran the table yesterday, winning in so many states that all of a sudden he is starting to look like Joe Inevitable, except in Bernie Land. Bernie Sanders will have a formidable position in the race once the California returns come in, but with Biden winning literally all over the country, the prospect of a Sanders presidency has dimmed more than a little bit.

And then, of course, with Michael Bloomberg not only quitting the presidential race, but also announcing his support of Joe Biden, the idea of Biden being the Democratic nominee in Milwaukee in July is looking more and more realistic, which cannot be good news for Sanders. And Trump cannot be too happy either.

And, it would appear that someplace along the line, some reality was slipped into the coffee mugs of the various Democratic candidates and they suddenly realized that they were all a part of the Democratic Party Circular Firing Squad – perhaps someone at DNC headquarters read this column of mine from January 14th

And a word about Michael Bloomberg. There are a number of things that can be said about the former mayor of the City of New York, but one that is very true is that he is a pragmatic realist. He entered the presidential primaries because he was concerned that the Circular Firing Squad was going to leave Sanders as the last man standing. Standing until he became a sacrificial lamb at Trump’s altar.

Clearly, the rising Biden tide was going to make it virtually impossible for him to win the nomination, Bloomberg made up his mind to make what had to be a hard decision – but the right decision. By ending his campaign and supporting Biden, not only rhetorically but also with the mega dollars that only he can wield, the prospect of a Biden nomination becomes more real by the moment.

Questions remain, however. Will Sanders prioritize defeating Trump over advancing his revolution? Or will Sanders provide a 21st century illustration of what the word “Pyrrhic” means.

And in the near future we may all look back and realize the enormous role that Congressman Jim Clyburn played in the Biden imitation of Lazarus. Congressman Clyburn was probably always going to endorse Biden, if he was going to endorse anybody, but he held on that endorsement until the precise moment when it could do the most good for Biden, leaving the other candidates bereft of any chance to counter that endorsement.

The result was obviously not only a massive victory in South Carolina, but Clyburn also provided Biden with an unrebuttable boost going into Super Tuesday, and we see how that worked out. Clearly, when it comes to political timing Jim Clyburn may have no equal.

And one more thing, when Biden starts thinking about a running mate will he remember that the earliest iteration of potential Democratic nominees was the most diverse in the history of the party, and in the history of the nation. Now, we are soon to be left with two white men from which to choose. As one of those white men, Biden is in a position to insure that the first non-white Vice President will be elected on November 3rd.

Biden made history once as the Vice President to the first Black president in the history of the United States. Let’s see if he can do it again.

 

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Point of View Columns

21st Century Circular Firing Squad

Read it in the papers,

And you’ll see,

Just exactly what is worrying me,

The world is in an uproar,

The danger zone is everywhere

                           ………..Ray Charles

The fact that Trump did not precipitate the immediate start of World War III with the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qasim Suleimani (does anyone remember Sarajevo in 1914?) passes for a cause for celebration in this first year of the third decade of the twenty first century. Which is just one indication of how madness has become as normalized as having a pathological compulsive liar as President of the United States.

And it just may be that the most profound impact of the Trump presidency may be the normalization of fraud, lying, misogyny, xenophobia and racism – in no particular order. And it is this normalization that may be the reason why on November 4, 2020 we may be appalled at Trump’s re-election with a very clear understanding that this country will truly be slipping into darkness.

Reference is made to the normalization of the bizarre and the awful and the dangerous, because it must be the only explanation for why the Democratic Party is going through a “normal” process selecting its presidential candidate while Australia-like wildfires of confusion and chaos threaten the present and future of this nation.

While the “process” has finally begun to whittle the number of announced and active candidates from twenty to a dozen – which on the Planet DNC must be viewed as a reasonable number with less than six months to go before the Milwaukee convention – the damage may have already been done. And there may not be enough time to repair the leaks on the sinking Democratic ship prior to November 3rd.

With a dozen candidates come a dozen sets of constituents and zealots who have already contributed huge amounts of their time, emotional energy, personal commitment and many millions of dollars. It defies logic that these multiple constituencies will somehow magically coalesce behind someone other than their candidate with the same level of enthusiasm that they currently possess.

And let there be no doubt, come November 3rd the Democrats are going to need every bit of enthusiasm to overcome the Trump tidal waves of lies, falsehoods, dog whistles and lunatic rhetoric amplified by Russian bots, Iranian trolls and Chinese hackers. Indeed the greatest obstacle to a Democratic victory may be the voter suppression minefields planted by the Republicans since the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

What we now see is outright hostility between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. The clear distaste between these two leading candidates was palpable at the last debate. Even if Warren and Sanders kiss and make up, what about their supporters? We know from 2016 that many Sanders supporters stay cranky when their man doesn’t win (one more reason why we now have President Donald Trump instead of President Hilary Clinton).

We know that by spending $100 million dollars or more, Michael Bloomberg will be a force to be reckoned with after the first round of primaries. How many voters will be reluctant to vote for the Democratic nominee who is perceived to have “bought” the nomination? And, by the way, how many slings and arrows need to be aimed at Joe Biden before he becomes irreparably damaged goods after Milwaukee?

The normalization of the gross, of the stupid and of illogic seems to have afflicted the leadership of the DNC. If anyone believes that this is a “normal” election year, they should go to an opioid rehabilitation center immediately. There has been nothing “normal” in this country’s politics or policies since Trump was elected and traditional strategies and echo chamber group-think among the Democrats and their supporters have resulted in the very real possibility of a Trump re-election.

While it already may be too late, as the great New York Yankees philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Let’s hope (and pray) that it’s not over yet.

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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

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 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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