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

Nightmares Come True. Fairy Tales Don’t.

Four years ago, the unthinkable (and barely plausible) notion that Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States was considered a bad joke that would soon dissipate of its own accord. The idea of Trump as president was considered to be a nightmare for America that couldn’t possible come true – until it did. And now, the only nightmare worse than the election of Trump is the re-election of Trump for four more accursed years.

And now, after more than three years of the Nightmare Called Trump, there is a very real possibility that Trump will be re-elected. The Democrats seem to be operating on a strategy that is based on the fairy tale that sounds something like – after a series of internecine slash and burn primary campaigns with each candidate taking and giving body blows, all the losing candidates and their losing constituencies will forgive and forget all those body blows and come together in pure and eternal unity in support of the eventual Democratic Party candidate.

While we are living in the proof that nightmares do come true, the Democrats seem welded to the notion that this fairy tale of unity after hand to hand campaign combat will come true. Somehow, too many people are reading the dog-eared memoranda pulled out of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign trash bin. Those would be the memoranda that spoke of the inevitability of a Clinton victory due to the obvious flaws and outrageous deficiencies of one Donald Trump. And we know how that worked out – ask for President Hillary Clinton at the White House switchboard and you will get the answer.

Democrats are writing the campaign themes for Trump’s reelection campaign – Sanders is a socialist – Buttigieg is out of his league – Bloomberg is a misogynistic sack of cash – Biden is too old – Klobuchar can’t beat an egg – Warren can’t inspire – and what the hell is Tom Steyer doing here, anyway? Somehow we are supposed to believe that at the conclusion of this rhetorical food fight, everyone is going to wipe off the spaghetti sauce from their faces and join in a chorus of “God Bless America” before going out to slay the Trump dragon.

A more likely scenario is that the supporters of Sanders will pull a reprise of their 2016 electoral temper tantrum and either stay home or vote for Trump. If Sanders is the nominee it will be quite a show watching Bloomberg and Biden and Warren and Buttigieg twist themselves like pretzels as they speak out in support of Sanders while video clips of their attacks on Sanders go viral courtesy of the Trump campaign and Fox News and the Russians.

The Democrats seem to be wishing on a star for those long ago halcyon days when hatchets were buried in the ground and not in the back of the victorious candidate and party took priority over the individual. Trump blew up the playbook for that scenario in 2016 and it is doubtful that those mythical times will return from the mists of the past.

Every attack by every Democrat on the other Democrats has already gone viral and they are all embedded in the cloud and can never be deleted. And all the while Trump is mangling yet another language – this time in India – and salivating at the thought of feasting on the remains of the Democratic primary battle.

It bears repeating….these are not ordinary times. These are times of extreme danger and jeopardy for the norms and institutions that have kept this country, as profoundly flawed as it is, functioning and operating in an orderly and relatively reliable fashion. Trump is the antithesis of order – he is Chaos with bad hair.

But Trump can win on November 3, 2020. Especially if the Democrats continue to believe in fairy tales and help make the American nightmare of another four years of Trump come true.

 

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Point of View Columns

When Evil is Less Than Evil

Like Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 driver whose car crashed over the finish line upside down, almost killing Newman in the process, the Democratic Party is careening down some unmarked highway leading to Milwaukee in July. And perhaps, like Newman, the Democrats will emerge from this crash of a presidential selection process without burning and dying.

Which brings us to this seemingly novel and unknowable dilemma about whether, in selecting a president or any other office holder, voters should ever “settle” for the lesser of two evils. Seemingly, there is a presumption that somehow, somewhere, there is a gaggle of perfect candidates that obviate the need for choosing between evils.

And it is that angst that seems to be accompanying the discussion regarding a possible match up between Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg in November of this year. The flaws, errors, faults and multiple disgraces that are Trump are so numerous that they would exhaust the storage space on most commercially available flash drives.

Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has allotted close to $10 billion dollars of his personal fortune to a vast multitude of good works ranging from global environmental protection to motorcycle helmets in Vietnam to gun control in the United States (it should be noted that in his lifetime Trump may have given away $10 of his personal fortune for some cause, but because he won’t release his tax records we may never know the truth). But, as is the case with Trump there are flaws, errors, faults and multiple disgraces that are part of the Bloomberg narrative.

And while these negatives could never approach the magnitude of the hot mess that is Trump, one cannot easily overlook the human wreckage occasioned by Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk policy in New York City. The Bloomberg’s company has sealed up stories of sexual discrimination and gender abuse with ironclad nondisclosure agreements – but clearly there is something that Bloomberg would rather not disclose and it can’t be very good. One point should be kept in mind however – Bloomberg is not Trump.

Bloomberg’s misguided and stunningly ignorant explanation of the cause of the Great Recession being connected to the elimination of race-based redlining practices by banks is at the very least unbecoming an otherwise intelligent and well-informed man. At worst he is giving voice to racist tendencies which would give him something in common with many Americans. But, one point should be kept in mind – Bloomberg is not Trump.

The fact that Bloomberg is clearly prepared to spend a billion dollars in order to get elected and/or defeat Trump (he has committed resources to the eventual nominee, even if it is not him – which is something the other leading candidates should say – and soon). This colossal and brazen attempt to literally buy an election will transform this country’s electoral process – either paving the way for the eventual repeal of Citizens United or turning the White House into an Airbnb for billionaires. But, one point should be kept in mind – Bloomberg is not Trump.

There seems to be a growing tendency for there to be some kind of purity test in the Democratic Party in choosing the eventual presidential candidate. And so we are witness to all kinds of revelations which should derail the candidacy of:

  • Sanders – After all he isn’t even a Democrat and he voted against gun control measures and he has a barely discernible record when it comes to the issues and challenges facing Black America. But Sanders isn’t Trump.
  • Buttigieg – Every one of the five borough presidents in New York City presides over a larger government than Buttigieg in South Bend, Indiana. And Buttigieg wouldn’t know anything about issues facing Latinos or Black Americans unless someone hit in the head with a “Black Lives Matter” placard. But Buttigieg isn’t Trump.
  • Klobuchar – While Minneapolis-St. Paul is a major American city, it is difficult to conjure up an argument that would convince anyone that she is ready to tackle the issues facing a rapidly urbanizing America. And her record as a prosecutor certainly indicates some complicity in the race-based problems that are characteristic of the United States of Jail. But Klobuchar isn’t Trump.
  • Biden – His conduct of the Clarence Thomas hearings, his sponsorship of the Omnibus Crime Bill which established the foundation for the New Jim Crow are hardly shining stars on his record. But Biden isn’t Trump.
  • Warren – The idea that her record as a law school professor and a U.S. Senator with a plan for everything qualifies her to be President of the United States might be a stretch for many voters. But Warren isn’t Trump.
  • Bloomberg – Bloomberg isn’t Trump

Without belaboring the point any further, it is amazing that given the very clear and present danger that another four years of Trump as president represents, there are too many Democrats and independents concerning themselves with choosing the perfect candidate – when the only criteria worth considering is who is the best man or woman to beat Trump on November 3, 2020.

It is a dangerous myth that there are, or ever will be, perfect candidates. Those who bemoan having to make a choice between “the lesser of two evils” seem to forget that true evil occupies the White House right now and cleaning out the White House should be the only priority right now.

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Point of View Columns

Thelma and Louise All Over Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Point of View Columns

Diogenes – Meet Beto O’Rourke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We know that it would certainly make Diogenes happy.

 

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Point of View Columns

It’s All Fun and Games Until It’s Not

One can imagine that there are significant numbers of Donald Trump worshipers who took great pleasure in watching him dismantle the norms of propriety along with the protocols of American government from the moment that he took the oath of office. His refusal to be guided by common sense or good advice must have been refreshing to those who felt stifled by the so-called Deep State.

Trump’s adoration of Vladimir Putin might have given some members of the Trump Base pause. But like their leader, they like strong leaders who don’t respect convention.

The false equivalency between neo-Nazi nationalists and civil rights advocates was clearly not a problem and even Trump’s servile posture at the altar of the National Rifle Association was o.k. Even as the American body count from mass shootings and random gun killings continued to mount, the Trump Nation was clearly willing to Stand by Their Man.

Insulting foreign leaders and entire countries was just Trump being Strong. And besides, these leaders and countries were FOREIGN and not American and therefore not worthy of even basic respect.

Railing against black Americans, Latino Americans, Mexicans and “others” was not only not a problem for Trumpistas, it was what they wanted, indeed needed. Validation that the American that was going to Great Again was also going to be White Again washed away any and all missteps, misspeaks and misdeeds when it came to Donald J. Trump.

Indeed it was all fun and games until Trump found a toy that should have been put in a shoe box in the back of a top shelf of a closet, the way dangerous items are kept hidden from children. Because when Trump discovered that he could engage in trade wars with the world without the consent or approval of Congress, the Supreme Court or any other aspect of government, he found his ultimate toy.

Trump found that he could threaten allies and enemies at will, with his tariff pen in hand he could roil the financial markets of the planet and be assured that everyone would care about what he might do next. Indeed, tariffs turned out the be the ultimate toy for a bully like Trump in that he discovered he could threaten without fear of any serious harm – at least that’s what he thought.

And then Harley-Davidson decided to build its next plant abroad in the wake of yet another tariff tsunami. Other U.S. companies reduced or shut down operations, and the entire auto industry and its millions of direct and indirect employees tried to tell Trump that he was playing with their livelihoods.

And then the bully decided it was time to punch up in class and go after China. The thing is that not being a student of history, or anything else for that matter, Trump did not realize that China would be more than sensitive to being bullied by foreign powers, the era of European-American neo-colonialism in the 19th century not being that far away. And so when Trump punched, China punched back. And then Trump nation got punched in the nose.

Farmers, manufacturers who literally earned a living selling to China found themselves on the outside looking in. Trump has been providing bailouts to some farmers, but those “farmers” are typically corporate behemoths and the MAGA hat-wearing tractor drivers are weeping in their beer.

What is tragic about all of this is that the carnage that will soon hit American consumers in a very real way could have been easily predicted and just as easily avoided. Trump minions keep saying that the harm to the American public will be “minimal”, but when people are already earning “minimal” paychecks, even “minimal” harm will hurt.

It remains to be seen whether Trump nation will turn on its hero because of the pain of the tariff wars. Keep in mind that racism, stupidity, coarseness, ignorance, misogyny and lies have not moved the needle. But economic pain has a way of drawing attention and the weeks and months to come we will learn whether Trump has overplayed his hand —–again.

 

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Point of View Columns

Justice Too Long Delayed is Justice Denied

In 1963, in a Birmingham, Alabama jail cell, Martin Luther King, speaking of the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights by black Americans, wrote “Just too long delayed is justice denied”. Those words were true in 1963 and they still ring true in 2019.

Eric Garner was killed by a New York City police officer on July 17, 2014. His murder was captured in real time on video by multiple cellphones and his desperate cry of “I can’t breathe” was heard all over the world although his words fell on deaf NYPD ears. The fact that Mr. Garner’s encounter with the police was connected to the infinitely minor and absolutely nonviolent crime of his selling loose cigarettes (or “loosies”) made this particular blue on black crime even more tragic.

What we know is that several New York City police officers witnessed the murder of Eric Garner and did nothing to restrain Officer Daniel Pantaleo even as he was choking Mr. Garner to death. What we know is that the racist DNA of the American law enforcement system was on full display as the District Attorney of Staten Island, where the murder occurred, did not to seek to indict Pantaleo or any of the police officers for any offenses.

And what we know is that the Obama Administration Department of Justice, headed at the time of Garner’s murder by Eric Holder, and then in 2015 by Loretta Lynch, engaged in a civil rights investigation. Amazingly, this investigation could not come to a conclusion regarding the violation of the civil rights of the deceased Eric Garner, even though his murder was captured on videotape.

And what we know is that on November 9, 2016, then Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew that Donald Trump would be inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20, 2017 and that an Attorney General in the Trump administration would almost certainly put the Garner case into a bureaucratic dustbin. That meant that she had 73 days to make sure that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice took some concrete steps to ensure that justice would be done in the Garner case. And nothing was done.

What we know is that the Department of Justice under the aegis of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III slow walked the Garner case. What we know is that under the administration of Attorney General William Barr the Garner case was permanently buried in 2019, defying logic and common sense in concluding that there was not sufficient evidence that Eric Garner’s civil rights were violated.

What we do know is that throughout all of these meandering delays justice was too long delayed. And what we do know is that when Daniel Pantaleo was finally fired from his position in the NYPD justice had been denied to the Garner family. Mr. Pantaleo will never have to face criminal charges. He will spend the rest of his life as a free man – free to laugh and love and be with his family while Eric Garner remains in his grave and Mr. Garner’s family continues to grieve.

The conclusion must be that the firing of Daniel Pantaleo by the NYPD after five years of delay is that justice has not been served. And what we do know is that the Garner case is another sad illustration of the fact that black lives do not matter in these United States of America. And unless and until there is a basic commitment by governmental authorities and the citizens of this country to acknowledge and recognize the basic humanity of black Americans, it will be impossible to come to any other conclusion but that black lives do not matter.

There has been no justice in the Garner case. Indeed, justice has been too long delayed and justice has been denied.

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