Point of View Columns

When a Debate is not a Debate

The first and only debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence promised to be more coherent and rational if only because Donald Trump was not in the room. Of course by now most observers understood that Pence was Trump Lite, perhaps more palatable but still with the same message.

That having been said, the debate promised to reveal actual policy concerns instead of personal differences.

Here’s what we learned in real time.

  • The debate rules agreed to by both teams required that all in attendance would wear masks. The Biden-Harris team insisted that there be plexiglass partitions separating Harris and Pence and while the Pence team acceded to this demand they thought it smart to mock Kamala Harris for wanted to be protected from a man who has been in close proximity to a current COVID-19 patient (that would be Trump). But that is what logic looks like in the Land of Trump.
  • From the very beginning Susan Page seemed to be a better moderator than Chris Wallace by taking charge of the proceedings in a fashion that seemed to escape Wallace. Of course, she did not have a raging bull named Trump pawing the ground while panting and sorting and clearly that would make a difference.
  • The first question addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and the way that the Trump administration has responded. Harris immediately drew blood by stating that the incompetence that she outlined meant that the Trump-Pence team had “forfeited the right to reelection”. Ouch.
  • That initial comment left Pence shaking his head and, as it turned out he spent a lot of time shaking his head while Harris was speaking. That is, until a fly seemed to find some kind of fascination with the top of Pence’s head.
  • When Pence was asked about the globally high pandemic death rate in America he pivoted and stated that Trump has put the health of America first. He then went on to blame China and predict that there would be vaccines available before the end of the year. He went on to state that the Biden COVID plan was actually the Trump plan and accused Trump of plagiarism, in the process alluding to a plagiarism incident involving Biden when he was in his early twenties. Once again providing the Trump-Pence team when given a choice, will always go low.
  • Harris retorted with haymakers detailing the incompetence and malpractice of the Trump administration during the pandemic. Pence then wrapped himself in the flag and stated that for Harris to criticize the Trump administration was “an insult to the American people” although it was never clear why that would be the case.
  • When asked about the viability of a vaccine, Harris stated that she would take a vaccine that was endorsed by Dr. Fauci but would not take a vaccine recommended by Trump. Pence, seemingly affixed to his high horse, accused Harris of “playing politics with people’s lives” although again, it was not clear why that would be the case.
  • Notably both Pence and Harris absolutely dodged the question about whether they have had discussions with Trump and Biden respectively regarding 25th Amendment issues given that on January 20th either man would be the oldest person ever inaugurated as president. Interesting duck and dodge.
  • The debate settled into a traditional thrust and parry with neither side drawing blood. Harris claims that the Trump promise of a healthcare plan to replace Obamacare is imaginary, Pence basically pirouettes and doesn’t respond.
  • Pence goes on to introduce a bit of magical thinking by claiming that the environment is better since Trump became president which is simply not true. And when asked about climate change Pence spins again and starts talking about tax cuts.
  • When asked about how the Obama administration handled ISIS Harris deftly ducked and dodged into a conversation about Trump referring to veterans and dead American war heroes as “suckers and losers”. Ouch.
  • Pence starts to look like Trump in try to talk over the moderator but Susan Page is no Chris Wallace.
  • Pence then executes another pirouette from a question about Roe V. Wade to talking about Isis and Iran – the connective tissue being apparent to nobody but Pence. But he does take the time to explicitly embrace a ban on abortion.
  • As should have been expected, Pence denies the existence of systemic racism in America – and why did he do that?
  • Pence walked into a buzz saw named Harris who almost certainly was waiting for this moment, nailing Pence to Trump’s praise of white supremacists with his “good people on both sides” comments after Charlottesville.
  • Pence, pinned against the ropes executes a clever deflection by attacking Harris on the Black incarceration rate in San Francisco while she was District Attorney – nowhere near a mortal blow but certainly on that had to leave a mark.
  • The debate ends with Harris repeatedly lecturing Pence on the fact that she will not be lectured to.
  • Pence waffles on the peaceful transition of power question and it would seem clear that even in the face of an electoral landslide it will be more than a notion to pry Team Orange out of the White House. Of course, by that time many of the White House staff may just be in the final stages of COVID-19 recovery.
  • The debate ends and Harris is greeted by her mask wearing husband and Pence is greeted by his maskless wife, despite the very strict pre-debate guidelines. What is it with masks and these people?

It is clear that this was not your typical college or university debate team type of debate. It was a series of suitable sound bites with the opponent simply being the foil for yet another talking point.

Of course that is why, in 2020, a debate is not a debate.

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Point of View Columns

Impeach Donald Trump – Or – Be Careful What You Ask For

These days it seems that President Trump is close to being permanently adhered to the tar baby called Russia/Collusion/Obstruction of Justice. If a tenth of the allegations that have been leveled against Donald Tinyhands and his henchmen and henchwomen had been cast against the Obama Administration, President Obama would have become an ex-president in the blink of an eye. And yet, Donald Trump appears to be on a bizarre trajectory that will lead to his appearance on the presidential inaugural platform on January 20, 2020.

One need not be a supporter of President Trump to realize that the giant bicameral lapdog that is the Republican Congress would sooner bathe with piranhas than lead any attempt to impeach him. There is already enough stench, stain and suspicion attached to the Trump presidency that there would seem to be no shortage of realists who see that Trump permanently damaging the United States of America is not a good thing. But there will be few martyrs to the cause of justice to be found in the Teapublican cloak room in Congress.

So it would seem that we are to be witness to Donald Tinyhands lurching from one crisis to another, gratuitously insulting over half the planet with his every word and deed. But it is possible to conjure up a scenario where Donald Trump leaves the White House before he has completed his term as the self-styled Disrupter in Chief.

Perhaps President Trump will grow tired of being body slammed in the public arena by the likes of the James Comey – Robert Mueller tag team and simply quit. Perhaps Jared Kutsher will testify against Ivanka and Donald Trump precipitating a must see t.v. family feud. Or perhaps Mike Flynn will be offered a plea deal and send Kelly Ann Conway and Sean Spicer to jail, setting off a chain reaction of betrayals that results in Donald Tinyhands returning to his eponymous tower.

None of these scenarios are even remotely plausible but they are the main feature in the fevered dreams of the American Resistance that foresees the downfall of the Trump presidency. And while there would be some visceral pleasure enjoyed by the witnesses to the downfall of Donald Trump, it would be wise to heed the old adage about watching what you wish for.

Because as bad a Donald Trump has been, Vice President Mike Pence is worse. Even the greatest admirers and sycophants surrounding President Trump will admit that he lacks the discipline to maintain proper focus. Mike Pence has that discipline and that focus.

A former radio talk show host, Vice President Pence believes in the agenda that calls for the dismantling of the federal government, the shredding of the social safety net and a return to that mythical time when men were men and women behaved themselves without complaint. As a Congressman, he led the Tea Party-inspired Freedom Caucus which sees “no” as the only viable political action.

Mike Pence would never degrade women with his words like Donald Trump, but he would not hesitate to degrade Planned Parenthood and substitute his judgment for that of a woman when it comes to matters involving her body. Mike Pence would not spend his time tweeting, he would be focused day and night to dismantle anything in the federal government that he could not simply eliminate. Civil rights, LGBTQI rights and women’s rights would become a relic, found only in the most discrete hiding places.

With his passing knowledge of the judiciary, Mike Spence looks like Oliver Wendell Holmes in comparison to Donald Tinyhands. And President Pence would make the Supreme Court a permanent jurisprudential bastion for the right wing of the right wing rather than shoving the Prime Minister of Montenegro out the way and picking fights with the press.

In many ways, as bad as President Trump has been, his successor could be so much worse. So when it comes to impeaching President Trump it might be good to remember to be careful what you ask for.

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Point of View Columns

A Message to Millennials

As the first presidential debate of 2016 approaches it is now a considered fact that the millennial of America are going to be a key determinant of who is the next President of the United States. To put it another way, millennials have a major say as to whether the previously incomprehensible thought that Donald J. Trump could be president could, in fact, become a reality.

What was previously thought to be a no-brainer is now a toss-up. That a serial foe of racial equality, gender respect and basic decency is the nominee of a national political party is a commentary on the Republican Party, the tone and content of socio-political discourse in this country as well as a damning commentary on each and every one of us.

Somehow, in the give and take of what passes for politics, too many of us have failed to teach the relevance of the past to the present and the future. As a result, too many of our millennial brothers and sisters have grown up insulated from the history of the struggle for civil rights, human rights and gender equity. And so, it is time for a Message to Millennials:

Dear Millennials:

For those of you who were born since 1985, I offer you a sincere apology on behalf of those of us who, in a sincere desire for you to embrace an unfettered future, neglected to provide you with the historical details that have brought you to the threshold of that future. By sanitizing and condensing that history, we have unintentionally diminished the true nature and viciousness and ferocity of the forces that have always opposed civil rights and human rights and gender rights that you rightfully should have been able to take for granted.

So, as the 2016 presidential election approaches you should know some very real facts that have nothing to do with the grossness, obscenity and classless nature of Donald Trump. That you might consider it acceptable under any circumstances that such a man could be the successor to President Barack Obama tells me that you have little faith and respect in the governmental process that has brought you to the threshold of that unlimited future and the belief that you should rightfully take it for granted, but cannot and should not.

So please think about this:

• The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is not a constitutional amendment, it is a law. Laws can be repealed and redefined and must always be enforced in order to be meaningful. The right wing of the right wing of the Republican Party, including the Teapublican wing that has been led by Mike Pence, is committed to diminishing the scope and impact of that historic legislation in the name of states’ rights, religious freedom and private property rights.

• The next President of the United States will appoint at least two Supreme Court justices over the next four years. If Donald Trump is president, those two justices will join the Roberts – Alito – Thomas cabal to establish a right wing majority for at least the next decade and you can kiss the rights afforded by the Civil Rights Act goodbye. – That would include the right to go to any restaurant or hotel regardless of race or sexual orientation…..and, by the way, there goes marriage equality.

• Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate and he is on the record as looking forward to “the day that Roe v. Wade is on the trash heap of history”. So all millennials, especially female millennials, should speak with your mothers and aunts and grandmothers and learn what life was like was like in this country when a woman’s right to choose was the subject of criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

• Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, there have been conservative activists who have dedicated their lives to eviscerating this law which simply protects the rights of black Americans to vote. These banal bigots achieved a huge victory in 2013 when the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision gutted that Voting Rights Act. A Trump presidency will guarantee the end of voting rights equality as a unquestioned goal and we will literally see the slithering serpents of  the ghosts of Jim Crow (I hope that you have heard of Jim Crow) come slithering out of their previously sealed tombs.

I am not trying to scare you, but if the truth is fearsome to you, so be it. Please understand that the franchise that you own was won with the blood and lives of people who you will never know, people of whom you have never heard. Please understand that your vote is worth something more than making a statement.

Please know that the difference between Clinton and Trump is not like the difference between McCain and Obama or even Romney and Obama. This is more like Humphrey and Nixon in 1968.

And I can tell you that, as an 18 year old who thought that there was little difference between Nixon and Humphrey, I was terribly and horribly wrong. Nixon begat Ford who begat Reagan who begat Bush and Bush again, and now Trump is standing at the door like an unwanted suitor with a bouquet of wilted flowers, his tie askew and liquor on his breath.

It is now 2016 and I am asking you to please not make the mistake that was made in 1968. You can’t afford it. This nation cannot afford it.

With much love and respect.

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Point of View Columns

Lock Her Up and Bring Out the Firing Squad – The 2016 Republican National Committee Convention in Real Time

July 21, 2016 – 8:14 P.M. – EST

One week after Bastille Day, the 2016 RNC Convention will be remembered for being the first time that a major American political party seriously called for the imprisonment of the presumptive candidate of the other party. And, not to be out done, a mouth breathing New Hampshire Neanderthal named Al Baldasaro called for Hillary Clinton to also be brought before a firing squad.

As the grand finale of the convention approaches – no doubt as Donald Trump is still seeking to master the intricacies of a teleprompter- a bit of reflection of nights 2 and 3 might be in order.

On Night 2, future federal defendant, Chris Christie, led the primal chant of “Lock Her Up” as he recited his “indictment” of Hillary Clinton. The irony of Christie’s senior aides about to go on trial for blocking the George Washington Bridge was lost on the assembled Republicans. And, by the way, the recent conviction of Christie’s appointee as chairman of the New York New Jersey Port Authority was conveniently swept out of sight and under the rug.

The most interesting part about the “Lock Her Up” chant is that it sounded primal and was on just this side of what a lynch mob must sound like. One can imagine that if Hillary Clinton had easily imagine that if she somehow appeared in the Quicken Loans Arena she would have suffered great bodily damage.

What should be noted, however, is that on the night that the convention was supposed to focus on the economy and jobs, the takeaway for the evening was locking up Hillary Clinton. Unless the new Trump jobs are related to penal institutions, it is hard to see how any new thoughts were presented to the American people regarding how life would be better with The Donald as president.

Night Two mercifully ended an entire day of the Trump campaign denying that Melania Trump lifted even a single word from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. They denied by asking the world to disbelieve their lying eyes and ears. But by the end of the day they had lied themselves into exhaustion and a nonentity from the Trump speechwriting pool was chosen for sacrifice (but she was not fired).

The only other item of note was that two more of the Trump children spoke glowingly of their father. While their presentations may have served to humanize the Human Sound Machine Called Trump, it cannot be a surprise that his children came on national television to say that they admire and love their wealthy father.

Night 3 was supposed to introduce Mike Pence, Indiana governor and Tea Party stalking horse, as the Vice Presidential nominee. And once again the evening was hijacked. First it was hijacked by Ted Cruz and then it was kidnapped by Donald Trump.

To be fair, the real culprit on Wednesday was Ted Cruz. Cruz was the last loser in a line of losers knocked off by Trump like a series of poorly made kewpie dolls. Cruz was still smoldering over being called a “liar” over and over, he certainly didn’t forget Trump threatening to “spill the beans” on his beloved wife Heidi and he will never forgive Trump for accusing his cherished father of being an accomplice in the assassination of President John Kennedy.

So it really should not have been a surprise that Cruz ended his speech without endorsing Trump, advising Republicans to “vote their conscience”. But the assembled Trump partisan howled and bayed at the full moon and seemed to threaten Cruz’ wife with physical harm, to the extent that she had to be escorted out of the arena with guards protecting her.

As that opportunity to demonstrate party unity withered and died, Mike Pence presented himself to the national audience without mentioning his willingness to shut down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood. He also conveniently neglected to mention his classic wish that Roe v. Wade be overturned and relegated to “the trash heap of history”, which is also where the right of women to choose would also reside in the world of Trump and Pence.

Not surprisingly, Pence received workmanlike applause at which time The Donald appeared. Clearly he is unable to allow anyone to reside in the spotlight for too long – and so he came on stage and tried to kiss Pence. Pence gave him the “iron shoulder” and Trump’s attempt at osculation turned into an air kiss.

Night 4 has already been hijacked by the announcement that Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of Fox News resigned effective immediately. What the implosion of the Republican house T.V. channel means remains to be seen. But nobody in Trump Land is cheering.

12:09 A.M. – And finally, finally, Ivanka Trump had her star turn and she was clearly ready for her close up. She introduced her father who then delivered a 75 minute and 15 minute doom and gloom speech with the very clear message that only Donald Trump could save America. He is running for president but perhaps he has something more special in mind.

Indeed, when he speaks of “liberating” the American people from crime Trump sounded like a strong man wannabe. Perhaps he was able find one of Juan Peron’s speechwriters, but however the speech came together, Trump clearly wants to frighten the American people into believing that he is the only person in this country who can save this country………….and we are supposed to wait until he takes the oath of office to find out what the details of his master plan look like.

8:41 A.M. – The balloon and confetti have been swept out of Quicken Loans Arena. The entire Trump Royal Family has now flown out of Cleveland, perhaps doing one last flyover to wow his adoring adherents.

Donald Trump envisions himself as America’s Strong Man. Ivanka Trump tells us that her father will take care of us. The question now is whether Americans want a leader or a strongman/father figure as president.

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