Point of View Columns

A Fighting Chance – The 2020 Matchup

As the Democrats finish up their 2018 Midterm Election Happy Dance, it is not too early to remember that November of 2020 moves closer every day. And if the 2016 presidential election turned out to be a battle for the soul of America, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that the foreseeable future and well-being of the nation will be at stake. The question, of course, is who is the man or woman who can defeat a lying, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, studiously ignorant incumbent with historically low approval ratings?

Any student of recent American political history might answer this question with a simple response – anybody. And that would not only be a simple response, it is simplistic….and wrong.  Of course, there is a school of thought which holds that but for the fact that Hillary Clinton ran what might arguably be called the worst presidential campaign in modern history, she would be finishing up her second year as the 44th President and this country’s first woman president. But common knowledge turned out to be not so common and she lost and this nation has been hijacked by a man who could not be more destructive of the people and institutions of this country if he was actually trying to do so.

The real problem with this particular line of thinking is that it leads to the conclusion that just about anybody can beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, as long as the Democratic base turns out. And while it is true that voter suppression is at an historic high in the post- Shelby v. Holder era, anyone who thinks that there will be less voter suppression in 2020 is spitting into the wind.

There is a very real possibility that by 2020  Trump and his Teapublican enablers will see that their accumulated misdeeds, corruption, dishonesty and incompetence are so overwhelming that threats of impeachment and indictment and ensuing humiliation might be the least of his worries. And it is at this point we will see Trump wrapped up in his most vicious and nasty persona and the presidential election campaign will sink to a no-holds-barred mud and slime fight.

How will Democrats respond? There is an old saying that if you get in the mud with a pig you will certainly get dirty – and this pig is already dirty. The 35% of the American electorate that support Trump mindlessly would love to watch a mud fight featuring their hero and champion. And Trump has already proven that with the combination of the antiquated Electoral College and his ability to hoodwink and bamboozle another 15% of the American people, he can win a second term and most assuredly wreak more havoc on the American people and the world.

From the perspective of the Democrats, if the successful nominee is not going to out vicious/nasty Trump, then that man or woman will have to truly inspire the electorate. It is doubtful that an “I am not Trump” campaign theme will lead to victory. And as the current field of wannabe’s, liketobe’s and neverwillbe’s line up at the 2019 starting line, the question will be who that truly inspirational candidate is?

It was not that long ago that in 2004 the prevailing wisdom  was that there was no way that George W. Bush could be re-elected. With an unpopular war in Iraq and a very vivid aura of incompetence surrounding him, his re-election prospects resided somewhere between impossible and improbable. And you can ask President John Kerry how that turned out.

And now, John Kerry is one of the wannabe’s lining up to take on Trump. And with all due respect to John Kerry, the Democrats better focus on inspiration and not just aspiration. Otherwise we will be in for Act II of the Trump Apocalypse – and that is a thought that should make the blood run cold.

This is one time when country matters. America cannot afford the reelection of Donald Trump.

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Point of View Columns

Battling for Tomorrow Today

By now there should be no doubt that the extreme conservative/regressive movement in this country has assumed the upper hand in all matters political in this country. The Supreme Court, the United States Congress and the Presidency are all in the hands of those who would turn back the hands of time. And there is a very good reason why the right wing of the right wing is in the ascendancy – it is because they have planned for the future and, for American regressives, the future is now.

It is hard to remember, and for some Americans of a certain age it is almost impossible to realize, that a few decades ago issues such a woman’s right to privacy, basic affirmative action measures to insure equity in education and in the work place were not on the verge of evaporating into the neoconservative atmosphere.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Republican and Democratic presidential administrations may have differed over the extent to which government should assist those Americans who needed assistance but certainly it was a settled fact that the environment – air, land and water – needed to be protected and preserved since they belong to everyone.

This is not an ode to days gone past. For there was a time not too long ago when the criminal justice system was hell bent on sending as many black and Latino men to prison hell. Mass incarceration was seen as the antidote to urban crime and the predicate to urban renewal which was the precursor of the national gentrification phenomenon. And there was a time not too long ago that invading countries from Iraq to Grenada to Panama to Afghanistan also seemed like really good ideas.

But while many were concerned with the big picture or just a few pixels of the little pictures, there were men and women, many of them possessed of great wealth, who wished to impose their vision of America into the lives of all Americans, whether they were persuaded of that vision or not. And so, the right wing of the right wing focused on boring stuff like school board elections, and city council and state legislative elections.

While many watched presidential debates spellbound as if they were all that really mattered, the right wing of the right wing focused on local and state elections because ultimately that is how the Electoral College can be a tool for electing the unelectable (see George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, for example). And of course, the right wing of the right wing focused on the Supreme Court of the United States where 5 to 6 judges with lifetime appointments can decide the future of a nation for decades to come.

There can only be a few progressives left who will argue that it is better to have a proto-conservative Congress and President in order to highlight the hypocrisy that pervades so much of chasm between American ideals and American reality. And, of course, it is that kind of thinking that left Hillary Clinton in a heap of electoral ashes and elevated Donald Trump into the fulfillment of all of his crazed megalomaniacal dreams.

As November 2018 elections approach it is going to be critical that progressives and proponents of positive change in America vote – certainly. But it is also important that these same progressives start battling for tomorrow, today. That means not only focusing on the bright shiny objects of a few high profile elections. It also means focusing on the long term journey to reclaim the high ground in American politics and to cease adopting an eternally defensive stance.

For example, if that means that if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for perjury as being possessed of a demeanor and temperament that makes him unfit for the position of Supreme Court justice, then that course of action should be pursued.

Trump and his enablers cannot spell “moderation” or “compromise” and progressives should finally recognize that we are in a battle for tomorrow today and that there is no longer any time left to find a middle ground with men and women who believe that their way is not only the right way, but that it is the only way.

One more march is not the answer. One more rally will not bring about change. Petitions will not change the mind of a single right wing ideologue. The only answer to this daytime nightmare is direct action, resistance and the focus on a long term vision.

And of these, the long term vision is the most important.

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Point of View Columns

The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind

For those who care to see, it should be clear that with the possible exceptions of Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump is the worst President of the United States in the past 100 years. The lies, the classless attacks on enemies – real and imagined, the ignorance, the racism, the sexism, the mindlessness and then there are the lies, all of which qualify the 45th President of the United States for all the vilification that could possibly rain down on him. And yet, Donald Trump will be president until 2025 unless Democrats and Progressives decide that rope-a-dope tactics will never defeat the monstrosity that is the Trump presidency.

The sad truth is that despite the appalling and inhumane Make America Great cruelty that is playing out at the nation’s border with Mexico, literally ripping children out of the arms of their mothers, if the presidential election was held tomorrow, Donald Trump wins. The truth is that despite the concerted and strategic efforts of his administration to despoil and befoul the environment of this country and the planet, Donald Trump is reelected president in the imaginary election of tomorrow.

The truth is that despite draconian cuts to social service programs, the frontal assault on a half-century of civil rights gains, denial of women’s rights, barely tacit support of racists and misogynists, Pyrrhic trade wars against allies and adversaries alike and the degradation of the American presidency tweet by venomous tweet – despite all of this, Donald Trump would be re-elected President of the United States tomorrow.

Donald Trump is not an enigma. He is a racist, sexist, xenophobic self-aggrandizing egotist, and he confirms this to the world every day. The mystery is what has happened to the Democratic Party and unaffiliated progressives. Having seen the damage that Donald Trump has wreaked on this country and its future in less than 18 months – did we mention the Supreme Court? – one would think that the men and women who fear for the future and despise the Trumpian present would have realized that the internecine warfare that took place between the Clinton and Sanders camps in 2016 is unsustainable given who is president.

Yet, as these words are written, there is no presumptive Democratic/progressive opponent to Donald Trump anywhere on the political horizon. Donald Trump may salivate at the notion of a Biden/Warren/Clinton (??)/Harris/Booker candidacy, but are any of the aforementioned doing what is needed to rescue American in 2020? Are Democrats waiting for Robert Mueller to rescue this country? Are they going to find out that Mueller is no more a friend than James Comey was?

And in the meantime, who is going to decide to get off the sidelines and take on this president who is only getting stronger every day as his Kool-Aid swilling supporters continue to believe in his invincibility despite the evidence that as a country we are careening towards domestic disarray and international maelstroms from which there may be no recovery. But Donald Trump cannot be defeated by Nobody, and right now Nobody is running against him.

There may be some Master Plan that is being crafted by the same Democratic geniuses that were certain that Hillary Clinton could not lose, but those who fear for this country should also fear those so-called geniuses who could not recognize disaster even when it looked them in the eye. And meantime children are held in cages, federal drug law enforcement and mass incarceration has been revived and this country is on the brink of trade wars and shooting wars around the world.

One need not be a political genius to know that right now Donald Trump has 40% of the general electorate locked up. It is clear that he is capable of cajoling, browbeating and deceiving another 11% of the electorate. Where is the Democrat/progressive who can claim even 25% if the election were held today?

That noted Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan wrote “….the answer is blowin’ in the wind”. It is not clear what that answer is, but right now the hopes and dreams of too many Americans are indeed blowin’ in the wind.

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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

The Final Debate – What Hillary Should Say

On October 19, 2016 we will be witness to the denouement of the strangest presidential campaign in the modern era. The candidacy of Donald Trump has in turn degraded, disgusted and utterly confounded most Americans. Nevertheless, Donald Trump stands more than a puncher’s chance of becoming the successor to Barack Obama and the 45th President of the United States of America. And while it is clear that Hillary Clinton left some money on the table after the first two debates, she now has one more chance to take a direct shot at a target that is as slippery as an eel in an oil spill.

So here are a few things that she should say during this third and final Showdown in Las Vegas:

1. Hillary Clinton’s E-mails
Recent Wikileaks disclosures have revealed ambivalent comments by Hillary Clinton during private speeches. Other e-mails from the Clinton Trove indicate that her political operatives are…….surprise, surprise…………political operatives. Hillary should say:

The U.S. government has determined that your Russian friends are responsible for the hacking – hacking that you encouraged several months ago – that has revealed a number of my private e-mails and that of my private operatives. As usual you have lied, misrepresented and misled with respect to the contents of these emails.

I will just say three things. First, the American people can go online and read the e-mails and see that there is nothing, wrong, illegal, immoral or dishonest in any of the e-mails – the business of politics is a complicated business, but it is a lot more honest than the real estate dealings in which you have engaged during your spotty business career – just ask your unemployed former workers in Atlantic City.

Second, as you well know, actions speak louder than words. And I will not take second place to you – ever – when it comes to my dedication and commitment to progress and prosperity of the American people.

Third, and most importantly, Donald, thanks to your Russian friends we now know about the contents of my e-mails. But Donald, it is up to you to let the American people know about the contents of your tax returns. Thirty years of my tax returns are a matter of public record.

The American people want to know what you have to hide. Are you not as rich as you say you are? Are you less generous than you claim? With whom are you doing business? Russians? Saudis? Chinese? Inquiring minds in America want to know.

2. Temperament
Donald, by now everyone in America knows that when you don’t like the truth your natural response is to attack and distract and lie. Your sordid record with Trump University demonstrates that you have a very low estimation of the intelligence of the American people and that you have very real tendency to seek out the weakest and most vulnerable of us to feed your seemingly insatiable desire for wealth and power.

You are clearly prepared to dredge up the past when you think that it is to your advantage. But the misdeeds and misbehavior of my husband, which are well known and for which he has apologized and paid a heavy price, pale in comparison to bald-faced embrace of sexual assault and degradation of women on your part.

What is worse is that you attack your accusers and deny the words that have come out of your own mouth. In your heart of hearts, if you have a heart Donald, you know that the American people will not swallow your lies and false denials and canned apologies. Perhaps your language has become so desperate because you know that for you, judgment day is not that far away….indeed, your personal judgment day will be November 8th, and on that day not many people will want to be Donald Trump.

3. The Election is Rigged
Donald, what is clear to me and to the American people is that you just don’t understand how dangerous your language can be – indeed you are as dangerous as a small child with a match and a stick of dynamite. You are now on record as saying that the American electoral system is rigged and crooked and dishonest. You continue to say this in spite of the fact that there is literally no statistical proof to back up your claims.

But here is something for you to think about Donald. The electoral system that you now seem to despise is the same one that elected Ronald Reagan – twice, and George H.W. Bush – once, and George W. Bush –twice. Are you now saying that these three Republican presidents were illegitimate?

And what is worse, is that the zealots among your supporters are taking you seriously and are claiming that they will start some kind of revolution or try to kill me if you lose. Are you willing to at least disassociate yourself from this most extreme and dangerous view of American politics?

This is what Hillary should say…and may still say during the third debate.

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Point of View Columns

The World According to Trump

It is a matter of bizarre curiosity and obvious fact that upon becoming the official presidential nominee of the Republican Party, Donald Trump is even less restrained and is now totally devoid of anything resembling self-control. While questions regarding Trump’s fitness for the office of President of the United States sprout like bewildered weeds, there are even more questions being asked about the tens of millions of American men and women who think that he should be elected?

The litany of Trump gaffes, blunders and blatant acts of indecency are taking on the stuff of legend. Indeed, if Donald Trump wanted to lose the presidential election, he would be doing exactly what he has been doing since the conclusion of the DNC Convention in Philadelphia last week.

Case in Point 1 – On the last night of the DNC Convention Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Pakistani-American parents of Humayun Khan, appeared on the podium. Humayun Khan was a posthumous recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart as a result of his death protecting his fellow American soldiers in Afghanistan in 2004.

Mr. and Mrs. Khan, still bent by the unknowable grief of losing a child, were on stage to attack Donald Trump’s stated plan to ban all Muslims from entering America “until we figure out what’s going on”. Mr. Khan, a lawyer from Minnesota, eloquently expressed his family’s hopes and dreams in coming to America as well as their tear stained pride in the ultimate sacrifice made by their son.

Mr. Khan concluded by pointing out that Donald Trump ignored the Constitution with his proposed Muslim ban. He also correctly pointed out that Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one” for this country.

True to form, Donald Trump attacked this Gold Star family, speculating that Mrs. Khan did not speak on the podium because her Muslim religion prevented her from doing so (not true). He also provided us with a quick glimpse of the World According to Trump when he actually equated Humayun Khan’s death and the sacrifice of his parents with his business accomplishments (conveniently mentioning that he received and accepted five draft deferments during the Vietnam War). The obscenity of his analogy was presented in full view of the entire nation.

Case in Point 2 – At a campaign rally a military veteran gave Trump his own Purple Heart – an award granted to members of the military who are wounded in action. Rather than graciously demurring, Trump accepted the medal, as unworthy as he is, and stated “I always wanted a Purple Heart, getting it this way is much easier”.

One wonders what the thousands of Purple Heart recipients must think. And what do the families of the wounded veterans think when they hear such words?

Case in Point 3 – Responding to President Obama’s characterization of him as being “unfit” to be president, Trump stated that Barack Obama is the worst president in the history of the United States. Aside from the fact that this country’s recovery from the Great Crash of 2008, the passage of the Dodd Frank Act, the creation of 10 million jobs and the passage of the Affordable Care Act all occurred during the Obama presidency and make Trump’s statement beyond ridiculous, he continued to put his belief in fact free rhetoric on display.

It is hard to believe that even the most acidic critics of President Obama would think that he was worst than Richard Nixon, who resigned prior to his inevitable indictment and impeachment and who, quite likely would have gone to prison but for his pardon by President Gerald Ford. And is Trump seriously suggesting that George W. Bush was a better president than Barack Obama even though Bush misled this country into two seemingly endless wars, watched thousands of Americans die and was at the helm when the American economy almost evaporated?

Of course, by now, it is clear that fact free is the way to go in the World According to Trump.

Case in Point 4 – When questioned about how he would advise his daughter, Ivanka Trump, if she were sexually harassed in the workplace, he actually said that he would advise her to go to another company or find another career. One can only wonder how any adult woman or man would support a man who would countenance sexual harassment and counsel retreat and defeat rather than standing up for basic human rights.

As Donald Trump reveals his true self one is reminded of House Committee on UnAmerican Activites counsel Joseph Welch’s comment to Joseph McCarthy in the midst of the communist witch hunt of the 1950’s – “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

When it comes to Donald Trump, the answer is quite clear.

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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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