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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Point of View Columns

Is Bernie Sanders Ralph Nader on Steroids?

Historical comparisons are often a dangerous game. Every time is different. Every era is different. But there is something about the potential worst case scenario impact of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign that is eerily reminiscent of Ralph Nader’s quixotic/kamikaze presidential campaign in 2000 which launched the Bush-Cheney era into the 21st century. The entire planet is still paying the price for Nader’s exercise in self-indulgence. The question may be what will be the ultimate cost of Sanders’ windmill tilting.

To be clear, on his best day Bernie Sanders will never have the resume of accomplishment that defines Ralph Nader. Being the avatar of the modern era of consumer advocacy, Nader literally changed lives and saved lives that were at risk of being the victim of various corporate cost-benefit analyses in which human lives were just another cost factor.

And just as clearly, on his best day Ralph Nader was never able to harness the energy born of frustration and the hunger for sociopolitical change that will be the ultimate legacy of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Whether Sanders will be able to ride the whirlwind that he has sown is a completely different story.

What we do know is that against all odds, logic and laws of American political nature, Donald J. Trump is one election away from being President of the United States. What we also know is that President Trump will not only bring bombast, braggadocio and free-style insulting to the White House, he will also bring racism, sexism and white nationalism out of the collective American closet. Not just America, but the entire world will be thrust into the perfect storm of America First crashing into every other competing world view.

This apocalyptic view of a Trump presidency should be enough for even the most progressive advocates for change and political revolution to think long and hard about the risk of eschewing pragmatic politics. The fact that Hillary Clinton has mastered a system which has created insuperable obstacles to the Sanders campaign means that the system is in need of a serious overhaul.

But if that overhaul comes at the expense of degrading and ultimately derailing not only the Clinton candidacy, but the entire Democratic Party, then Donald Trump, not Bernie Sanders, will be the winner. And the moral and political desolation that would be the inheritance of over a third of a billion Americans is simply not worth making political points.

Ralph Nader was warned on multiple occasions that by taking votes away from Al Gore he was enabling the election of the Bush-Cheney tag team. Nader ignored those warnings and many of his supporters felt that there wasn’t enough difference between Gore and Bush-Cheney to matter in any event.

It should be apparent that the difference between President Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump is stark and stunning. It should be apparent to Bernie Sanders that, in continuing to attack Hillary Clinton he is contributing to the corrosive vitriol that has been spewed her way by Republicans for over twenty years.

On November 9th Bernie Sanders will still be a United States Senator and can live a very comfortable life in Vermont. He will be able to live his life just as Ralph Nader continues to live a very comfortable life after being complicit in the election of George W. Bush.

One can only hope that Bernie Sanders and his supporters will mix political pragmatism with their revolutionary vigor. There is simply too much at stake this time around.

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Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable, indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes written in italics in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, a Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another living breathing footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes?

The answer is a matter of race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing to the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak an egg.

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Point of View Columns

Obama in Africa and Unfinished Business

When President Obama visited Africa he took the opportunity of being in Africa to speak to the truths about Africa. He correctly stated that the African continent is overflowing with potential for progress and growth. He also correctly stated that until Africa confronts its challenges with respect to women, governance and human rights that it will never reach that potential. In other words, there is unfinished business in Africa.

When he spoke before the leadership of the African Union, President Obama said things that it would have been difficult for an African leader to say. As President of the United States he is cloaked with the power and prestige of his office. As the son of an African, as the grandson of Africans, as the brother of African brothers and sisters, Barack Hussein Obama has family ties that remove the possibility of him being considered a disinterested outsider lecturing the “natives”.

It is difficult to imagine President Mitt Romney giving Barack Obama’s speech in front of the African Union. It is virtually impossible to envision President John McCain, or President Donald Trump or President Scott Walker at the podium delivering that message. For that matter, it is difficult to envision President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders standing in that place – it had to be Obama.

And President Obama told the truth about the role and status of women in Africa – it must change. He said that the African traditions that oppress women and mutilate the genitals of girls and bind women with the chains of ignorance are bad traditions. He told the truth when he said that Africa will never, can never, reach anywhere near its true potential while half of its population is entrapped in the rickety cages of “tradition”.

President Obama was faithful to the truth when he pointed out that in a democracy there can be no “presidents for life”. He told the leaders of the fifty four countries on the continent that the peaceful transfer of power ensures peace just as holding on to power indefinitely ensures that there will never be peace. And, just as importantly, the peaceful transfer of power guarantees that the energy and genius of the youth of Africa will be encouraged to stay in Africa rather than taking their talents elsewhere.

President Obama also took the occasion to point out that respect for the human rights and dignity of all persons is necessary, otherwise no one will have their human rights and dignity respected. Marginalizing or imprisoning or murdering someone because they are from a different country or a different tribe, or because they love a man instead of a woman or a woman instead of a man are practices that keep Africa mired in the past. And marginalizing, imprisoning or murdering in the name of tradition can only mean that the tradition is wrong – as President Obama put it, “it is a bad tradition”.

What was so interesting about his address is that President Obama ultimately spoke in terms of unfinished business in Africa. But he alluded to the fact that there is also unfinished business in the United States. He could have pointed out that while American women have made major strides during the past fifty years, women still earn less than men and women are the majority population of the poor in this country.

He could have said that while this country has been governed by a democracy for over two hundred years, and at this very moment there are cadres of lawyers and activists all over this country who celebrated the demolition of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. He could have mentioned that voter suppression has now become a political tactic and that thanks to the Citizens United and McCullough Supreme Court decisions, obscene amounts of money flood and pollute the political process like never before.

President Obama could have mentioned that while there have been major advances in respecting the rights of individuals in this country, there are still states that fly the Confederate flag and there are legislatures considering bills that will somehow outlaw same sex marriage and constrain a woman’s right to choose.

He could have said all of those things. There is unfinished business in Africa. And there is also unfinished business in these United States.

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