Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What Jennifer Rubin Still Doesn't Get About the 2016 Election


"Most Republicans in Congress would prefer a stable, very conservative president who once served in the House and governed a red state. All they have to do is get Trump out of there and the Pence presidency can begin. Well, sure, but how is that going to happen?"

Ever since last November, I've written at great length about the unwillingness of Democrats and liberals to accept the election results. Their fixation on a meaningless popular vote count and James Comey's October surprise, along with the typical finger-pointing that always accompanies such an epic defeat, is proof positive that the party still has no idea what really happened and, more to the point, is ill prepared to keep it from happening again in 2020.

Well, it's somewhat comforting that liberals and Democrats aren't the only ones who either haven't gotten the memo on the 2016 election, or if they did, have refused to read it. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, is a conservative writer whose recent piece "They Could Have Pence as President, for Heaven's Sake" underscores just how deep the denial is on both sides of the political spectrum.

Let me just say straight up that I admire Rubin's courage, along with that of her fellow cohorts David Frum, David Brooks, Michael Gleason, Ross Douthat, and a handful of others I have read over the course of the last several months since il Duce assumed the title of dictator in waiting. And I can only imagine what they must be going through knowing that someone as repulsive as Trump not only won their party's nomination but the presidency as well. The ghosts of Lincoln and Reagan must be spinning in their graves.

But you see, here's what Rubin, et al don't quite get about the 2016 election. The voters did NOT elect a Republican for president. Yes, I understand, there was an R next to Trump's name. I clearly saw it on the ballot when I went to vote that day. And, yes, I'm painfully aware that Republicans retained their majorities in both Houses of Congress and still control two thirds of the state legislatures in the country.

But here's the thing: despite the most inept campaign in modern history, Democrats still netted six House seats and two Senate seats. And then there's Clinton's popular vote margin - I swear the only time you'll ever hear me tout this as a positive - along with a several state ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage and legalize pot. It's not an unreasonable argument to make that without gerrymandering, Dems might well have taken back the House in 2012 and solidified their hold in 2016.

Anyone who could objectively look at the political landscape of this country and say that it is conservative just isn't paying attention. I'm not saying it's liberal, mind you. There are clearly parts of the country where Bernie Sanders' message not only wouldn't have resonated with voters, it would've been soundly defeated, and I'm not just talking about the deep South or Plain states.

What happened last November had virtually nothing to do with either the Democrats or the Republicans, nor was it about liberal vs. conservative ideology. Had Trump run as a Romulan he would've won the election. What we witnessed was, quite simply, a populist wave, very similar to the one that led to the Brexit vote in Great Britain. It was an uprising of the working class against the elitists in both parties. And Trump not only rode that wave, he was primarily responsible for its cresting.

To suggest, as Rubin does, that a President Mike Pence would somehow be the answer to all the Republican's woes is to imagine a set of facts that is at odds with reality. Yes, Pence is more stable than Trump, I'll give Rubin that. But then Charles Cheswick would be more stable than Trump. But the simple truth is that Pence, despite his conservative bonafides, is a slightly more charming version of Ted Cruz. Had he gone up against Clinton she would've routed him.

In fact, the only Republican candidate, apart from Trump, that had any chance of beating Clinton last November was Ohio governor John Kasich. Take away Trump's populism and Kasich's centrism - or what passes for centrism in the GOP these days - and Hillary wins going away. Indeed, the fact that polls still show Trump beating her even with all the scandals that have rocked his administration should tell you that this populist movement is hardly a passing fancy. Why else do you think Republicans haven't gotten rid of him? It's not Trump they fear; it's his base.

But I'm not the only one who thinks this idea of a post-Trump Pence presidency is a fairy tale. Ronald Klain, also of The Washington Post, points out that "in the 213 years since the 12th Amendment created our system of joint presidential-vice-presidential tickets, no vice president has been elected to the highest office after serving with a president who declined to seek, or was defeated in seeking, a second elected term. And as for coming to office via the president’s ouster, the only vice president to follow that path, Gerald Ford, lost when he campaigned to retain the office — and he had far less to do with President Richard M. Nixon’s scandals than Pence does with the mess around Trump."

Put succinctly, Pence's fate is tied to Trump's. If Trump goes down, so does Pence. Whether he is forced out via impeachment (the odds are less than 50/50), resigns (highly unlikely), or decides not to run in 2020 (a distinct possibility), the odds of Pence winning a general election against what will hopefully be a much stronger Democratic nominee is remote at best. Consider that since the end of World War II, only once has a sitting vice president won the White House. And Donald Trump is NO Ronald Reagan.

Maybe Congressional Republicans, along with a majority of conservatives, would prefer a President Mike Pence, as Rubin suggested, but that sentiment is most assuredly not shared by the majority of the voters. Trump's ascendancy is a sign that the political institutions of this country have failed to do the jobs they were tasked to do. This breakdown did not happen overnight; it was decades in the making.

Until both major political parties get that, come up with a strategy to fix what's broken in Washington and develop a message that will resonate with the electorate, Trump, or perhaps someone even worse, will remain in power.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Even David Duke Knows Who and What You Are, Mr. President


Let me be as blunt as I can here, Mr. President. You are a coward. There, I said it. I could've chosen any noun or adjective to describe you: ignorant, stupid, incompetent, childish, conman, opportunist, fraud, sexist, racist, they all apply, especially the last one. But coward suits you best.

You can run, sir, but you cannot hide. Your tweets give you away. They reveal your true heart. You are as transparent as a wooden nickel. You have all the moral courage of Judas Iscariot, except that at least Judas had the good taste to kill himself. You would never be so selfless.

At your rallies last year - and even at some this year - you encouraged the kind of attack that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. Oh, maybe not in so many words, you're much too clever to do that. But the dog whistles you employed came through loud and clear.

In an interview on CNN last year you were asked to disavow David Duke and instead you replied that you didn't even know who he was. Really? You don't know who David Duke is? Well, Mr. President, he apparently knows who you are, and so do his supporters. They were the neo-Nazis and Klansmen who showed up and proudly proclaimed they were there to fulfill a promise you made to them during the campaign: that they would get their country back. They were there to collect, Mr. President.

Your response to the attack and the tragic murder of Heather Heyer and the dozen or more who were injured - some critically - at the hands of James Fields was depraved, even for you. First you had this to say from your golf club:

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides ― on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America."

Then, after learning someone had been murdered, you tweeted this:

"Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"

Okay, two things: First off, best regards? Are you shitting me? Best regards? These people aren't contestants on one of your fucking reality TV shows. They were mowed down in cold blood by a white supremacist who took his cue from your hate-filled rhetoric. You might as well've paid for the gas in his car, you malevolent piece of trash.

Secondly, and most importantly, there aren't "many sides" here. There is only one side that is responsible for what happened, and what's more, you know it. That's why I'm calling you a coward. These scum bags didn't vote for Hillary Clinton, or Bernie, or Jill Stein or even Captain Video himself, Gary Johnson. They voted for you because you spoke their lingo. They see you as their one true deliverer; that's why they ventured out of the rabbit holes and caves they dwell in to pull the lever for you last November. You are their bitch. They know it and you know it. So stop pretending.

Jesus, man, your own wife responded before you did. What kind of president lets his first lady take the lead in such a moment? Maybe if the attack had occurred in Guam, you could've said something truly inspiring like, "I bet tourism goes through the roof as a result of this attack." Or maybe had it occurred on a golf course, we might've gotten a more empathetic response. After all, we all know you love to golf. Apart from tweeting demeaning and offensive comments, it's your favorite pastime. Of course, had the attacker been a Muslim, I'm sure you would've found the courage to condemn him. You did, after all, claim you saw thousands of them cheering and celebrating on 9/11.

You've attacked journalists, you've attacked world leaders - with the exception of Vladimir Putin [but then that's another story altogether, isn't it?], now you're going after Mitch McConnell, the one man in the Senate standing between you and a possible impeachment conviction. But when it comes to calling out white nationalists the best you can summon is this phony false equivalence bullshit.

Even Marco Rubio had the courage to call this what it was. Marco Rubio, for Christ's sake! The last time he took a stand on anything it was to put his name on an immigration bill, only to fold like a two-dollar bill once he caught flack for it from the Right. Time will tell if history repeats itself, but for now, he has you beat in the integrity department. Then again, most of humanity has you beat there.

You are a disgrace to the office and to this country. There is only one thing left for you to do, and it would be, by far, the bravest thing you've ever done quite possibly in your entire life: resign. But knowing you the way I think I do, I sincerely doubt it would ever come to pass. You're far too arrogant and vain to admit defeat. If you had been the captain of the Titanic you would've dragged everyone on board down with you. On second thought, you'd have saved your own sorry ass and left everyone else behind to drown.

But just in case you have a change of heart - assuming you have one - and some shred of decency manages to penetrate that skull of yours, you should be comforted in knowing that the following words would fit very nicely in a tweet:

I hereby resign the office of the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. 

Sincerely, Donald J. Trump.

I'll even send you a nice thank you along with a dozen roses to Ivanka.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid


As tensions continue to mount between the United States and North Korea, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a showdown is imminent. The only question that remains is who will throw the first punch? Based on the rhetoric that has come from Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, it's anybody's guess.

And now China has entered the picture - as if they were ever out of it in the first place - by announcing that if North Korea strikes first it will stay neutral, but if the U.S. or South Korea should launch a preemptive strike, it "will prevent them from doing so."

In case you were wondering what the word "prevent" means, google this: How many nukes does China have? The answer is approximately 260. Puny by international standards - for instance, the U.S. has about 4500 warheads - but considerably more than the 64 at Kim's disposal.

I have gone over ever possibly scenario in my head and none of them have ended well. It is clear that Kim is determined to provoke Trump by threatening to launch a missile towards Guam. At present, North Korea has the ability to strike the mainland of the U.S. with an ICBM. And as if that wasn't bad enough, they also appear to have the ability to attach a miniature warhead to an ICBM, meaning North Korea now has the capacity to start a nuclear war.

Trump, sadly, is taking Kim's bait and ratcheting it up several notches. From his resort at Berchtesgaden, President Shitenstein said the following: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, or they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

He then followed that gem up with this tweet: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"

And to calm the residents of Guam, he actually said this to its governor: "I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you. And when it comes to tourism, I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money."

Right, because nothing attracts tourists more than the prospect of being able to glow in the dark.

OMFG!!!

Forget everything else: the EPA war on the environment; the gutting of every single regulation on the books; the pandering of the most racist elements in the country; the voter fraud commission whose real goal is to strike from the rolls potentially millions of eligible Democratic voters; the recent impaneled grand jury that is investigating Trump's associates and his business dealings. We are now at DEFCON 2. Next stop is DEFCON 1 and oblivion.

I'm not being hyperbolic here. If you are not afraid, you should be. In fact, you should be very afraid. We could be days, if not hours, away from nuclear war and the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people. The last time the world came this close to an all-out nuclear exchange was the Cuban-Missile Crisis of 1962. Back then, though, we had two responsible leaders in John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, both of whom knew that if either side pressed the button, both would perish. It was called MAD, mutually assured destruction.

Looking at the current clowns who preside over the U.S. and North Korea, the term MAD has a considerably different and quite literal meaning. The combined temperament of Kim and Trump wouldn't qualify for adolescent status. In fact, the only difference between the two is that Kim seems better informed about the situation than his counterpart, who treats daily briefings like they were dentist appointments.

And in case you were wondering what our defensive capability is, I have some bad news for you. If Kim launches, say, four ICBMs loaded with miniature warheads towards the U.S. mainland, we don't have the capacity to knock all of them down with any degree of certainty. The likelihood is that one or more will reach their targets. Yes, the U.S. will respond and North Korea will be wiped off the face of the Earth, but millions of Americans will die in the exchange. Los Angeles? San Francisco? Seattle? Portland? Who knows which or how many of these cities will be hit. Even the destruction of one of them would effectively cripple the U.S. economy as we know it. California, by itself, qualifies as the world's sixth largest economy. You don't replace that much GDP overnight.

If you're a deeply religious person, now would be a good time to get on your knees and pray to the God of your understanding that we make it through this. If you're a moderately religious person, pray as hard as you can for clearer heads to prevail. And even if you're a card-carrying member of the American Atheist Society, pray anyway. You can make up your own god if you like. Just do something, anything. Shitting your pants shouldn't be your only option, especially since I've already shit mine.

In my 56 years on this planet, I have never once gone to bed wondering if the world would still be there in the morning. The last few nights, though, I have done just that.

As a species, we have flirted with our own mortality several times and, by the grace of God, we have managed to survive. Funny thing about grace: it is NOT an entitlement.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why Dems Should Take RAISE Act Seriously


Back in 2013, I had the honor of attending the graduation of my nephew from Texas A&M. I flew down to Houston the day before and rented a car to make the hour and a half trek towards College Station. Because all the hotels in town were booked, I was forced to find accommodations 10 miles to the south.

Traveling north on Route 6, I inadvertently exited too soon and found myself in a town that would've made Mayberry look like Midtown Manhattan. I pride myself on being an acute observer - something I developed during my retail days - and took notice of the cars in town. A couple of sedans, no minivans and a shitload of pickups - I lost count at about twenty. I didn't recall seeing a single "import." Mostly Fords and Chevys. There was one traffic light in the town, along with a stop sign, which I made damn certain to come to a complete stop at. No way in hell I was gonna end up in a jail cell in Texas.

I finally arrived at my destination; an inn that would've made Motel 6 look like Club Med. I remember the TV worked and the shower was functional, even if the bathroom door wouldn't close, and the next-door neighbors - I assumed they were living there - would occasionally get into, shall we say, a few "heated" arguments.

The image of that town is something I've never been quite able to shake from my memory, which is strange because in so many ways it is the town that most of the country never sees, unless, like me, they get lost on the way to their true destination. Rural America has thousands of towns just like the one I found myself in that afternoon: small, insular, and inconsequential. In the grand scheme of things, they matter about as much as a flea on a donkey's ass.

But while those of us in the cities and suburbs may have ignored their presence, in the rural parts of the country, where none of us dared to go, their dander was just starting to rise. Decades of being pissed on and made fun of by the "elites" can do funny things to people. The term flyover states refers to areas of the country that have either gone unnoticed or been taken for granted; places where going out to a Papa John's is a major event. To say they did not appreciated being looked down upon would be an understatement. You can cut the resentment in these towns with a machete, that's how thick it is and how deep it runs.

Most of us never saw the political tsunami of 2016 I suspect because most of us didn't want to. Like me, they had "better" things to do than pay attention to what we flippantly referred to as the armpit of America. They were hicks without hope, backwards and innocuous. They mattered as much to us as those industrial towns in places like Ohio and Michigan, where plants that once employed thousands of workers had been shut down for years, resulting in massive unemployment and a seething anger.

Well, a funny thing happened on November 8: those small hick towns in rural America joined forces with those industrial towns in the Rust-Belt states and gave the rest of us a giant middle finger. Almost as if on cue, they rose up and made their voices heard loud and clear. They were done being pissed on; now they would finally get the respect they deserved.

It's difficult for us to imagine, but for these people Donald Trump has become something of a folk hero. He was the candidate who told them the system was rigged and that they were being screwed, as if anyone there needed to be reminded. But Trump did more than just channel their rage; he told them he could help them. Politicians had promised them the moon before, only to fail miserably. But the difference between those past politicians and Trump was that Trump didn't just tell them he could fix things; he told them who was to blame for the mess: corrupt politicians and, of course, outsiders, e.g., illegal immigrants.

The former is an argument that, admittedly, has been used before, sometimes successfully. Every party paints the other as corrupt and responsible for the problems that beset the country. The last two wave elections - one Republican, the other Democrat - is proof that the electorate can often fall for this strategy. But Trump, despite running as a Republican, threw his own party under the bus as well as the Democrats. He was relentless in his assault of the entire political system; a variation on the old "a pox on both your houses" theme. And it worked brilliantly. To his supporters, he was not only authentic, but incorruptible. The GOP hated him, the Democrats hated him, therefore, he must be the real deal.

But it was his successful deployment of the latter that won him the White House. The constant blaming of foreigners who come to this country to steal jobs away from hard-working Americans. Whether the result of "terrible" trade deals or bad immigration policy, Trump pledged to end what he called the "carnage." America first, by extension, meant Americans only. Anyone who was considered an outsider had to leave. It was a form of nationalism and xenophobia on a scale never before seen in this country and, for Trump, it proved to be his meal ticket. From his "Mexicans are rapists" charge to his proposed ban of all Muslims entering the country, an astounding number of people bought in and voted for him on election day.

And despite the controversies that have ensnared his administration over the last six months, most of these voters have stuck with him. These are not people who read The New York Times or The Washington Post. Nor are they likely to watch CNN. Indeed, for many of them, Fox News is too mainstream. So when Trump says that the Russia scandal is fake news, they believe him, and no amount of evidence to the contrary is likely to persuade them otherwise. They aren't just supporters, they're disciples of a strange cult. And like all cults, the light of day never enters. Reason and reality are shunned for deception and lies. There is one simple rule: the leader speaks, the followers listen. In a rare moment of candor, Trump was correct when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any of his supporters. If that isn't the definition of a cult, I don't know what is.

But cults can only succeed where there is a breakdown in traditional institutions; be they religious or political. Trump saw an opportunity and cashed in. He knew that neither party had paid much attention to what was happening in both rural and industrial America. Republicans were fixated on maximizing corporate profits and expanding trade which led to the slashing of countless jobs at home and depressed salaries in the ones that remained. The result was that employees worked longer hours for less pay. Whole communities were torn apart and faced massive unemployment.

Democrats should have seized on the opportunity afforded them and used it as a rallying cry, but instead they too bedded down with Wall Street and became co-consiprators with Republicans. Both parties became obsessed with "soft" money and pandered to their respective bases. Republicans, the top 1 percent of wage earners; Democrats, the big cities and special interests, e.g., minorities. The once big tent party was all but estranged from two thirds of the country's geography.

If you don't believe me, that a good look at the election results from last November. Clinton won all the big cities: Boston, New York, Philly, D.C., Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Denver, L.A., San Fran and Seattle. Trump won most of the rest. And he won by appealing to voters who felt left behind by this modern, culturally diverse, pluralistic economy. Many of them were blue-collar workers who longed for a return to the good old days when they were richly rewarded for their labor and everybody looked and sounded alike. They saw the influx of immigrants into the country as a threat, not just to their livelihoods, but to the neighborhoods they lived in and the very culture they grew up with. TV shows that catered to a demographic which no longer represented their values, along with once beloved radio stations that switched to more popular music formats, only served to reinforce their resentments.

So these people, egged on by Trump's rhetoric, in fear voted for a past that will never return, and against a future they cannot wrap their heads around. It wasn't just a case of revisionist history gone amuck, this was nothing less than a total rejection of the direction the country was heading in; a direction they view as inimical to their best interests.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment or RAISE Act that was recently introduced by GOP Senators Tom Cotton and David Purdue - and subsequently endorsed by Trump and the Far Right - would seek to cut in half the number of legal immigrants that can come into this country legally, and those immigrants that do gain legal status would have to pass a merit test to determine their worthiness. This isn't the first time the nation has attempted to place a litmus test on immigrants. Lyndon Johnson tried and failed in 1965.

Thankfully, this bill will suffer the same fate, and for one very important reason: its underlining premise is a fraud and everyone knows it. The bill claims that low-skilled immigrants take jobs away from hard-working Americans. There is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, just the opposite; many of these low-skilled immigrants end up taking jobs that would otherwise go unfilled. Ask any farmer in the South or the Midwest. The overwhelming majority of workers who tend to their crops come from Latin America. They can't get Americans to endure the back-breaking work that these jobs demand regardless of the pay rate. Hell, in my neck of the woods you can't even find enough of them to fill the vacancies at fast-food joints. The idea that immigrants are the reason Americans can't find enough low-paying jobs is laughable. Besides, the goal shouldn't be filling low-paying jobs; it should be creating more high-paying ones, and this bill doesn't do a damn thing to address that.

As for the provision in the bill requiring any and all immigrants to be fluent in English, had this been the law a century ago, the vast majority of immigrants from Italy, Germany, Poland and China would never have been allowed to settle here. Virtually none of them spoke English, fluent or otherwise. It wasn't until the second generation that the sons and daughters of these immigrants became fluent in English and began to make significant contributions to this country by becoming doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, plumbers, electricians, construction workers and, yes, even politicians.

I suspect that what's really going on here has more to do with where these immigrants are coming from rather than whether they can speak the language. Notice how the Cotton-Purdue bill failed to mention immigrants from, say, Slovenia. No sense telling the current occupant of the White House that his wife wouldn't "merit" being in the country. Not unless you think "My husband vould make very good president" constitutes fluent English. If that's the case, the guy who takes my order at Wendy's is a fucking Rhodes scholar.

But this is why I think Democrats should take this bill seriously: not because it will address any of the real problems that beset our economy, but because an awful lot of people who live in the states Trump won think it will. Let's be clear here: the RAISE Act will not lead to an increase in high-paying jobs, nor will it bring relief to employers looking to fill low-paying ones. All it does is pander to the fears that people have about their future prospects. When they see a Hispanic working at a fast-food restaurant, especially one who struggles with the English language, it just reinforces the belief that their jobs are being stolen from them by immigrants. It matters not that many of them wouldn't want those jobs anyway. All that matters is the image that worker saying, "Welcome to Burger King, may I take your order?"

Some lies are tough, if not impossible, to break. But the first rule shouldn't be to deny that there's a reason the lie exists. My fear is that Democrats will do what they typically do: dismiss this ridiculous excuse for a bill, and with it the very legitimate fears of the people it was designed to appease. In politics this is called throwing the baby out with the bathwater, something Democrats do exceedingly well.

The way to win back the people who voted for Trump is to find out what makes them tick. Take their concerns seriously and come up with real solutions that actually work. Sensible immigration policy should be more than just granting unfettered access to immigrants who want to be a part of this great experiment we call democracy; it's about reassuring those who were born here that you give a shit about their needs.

Think about it this way: if you adopted a child and brought them into a home where you already had one, and then treated that adopted child better, how long would it be before your older child felt neglected and became resentful? If you think that's an overly simplistic way of looking at the issue of immigration, I suggest that the next time you go out for a drive, you take a detour through a small town and take a good look around.

Who knows, maybe, like me, you might learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do Not Shed A Tear for This West Wing


One of the more amusing aspects of this travesty we call an administration has been watching the media and Democrats fell sorry for Jeff Sessions over the way Donald Trump has been treating him. Sessions, they rightly point out, from the beginning was one of his most loyal supporters. How could he humiliate him like that?

Huh?

Are these people serious? Have they not been paying attention the last six months; indeed the last two years? This is standard operating procedure for Trump. In his world, loyalty flows upward never downward. Just look at the recent "resignation" of Anthony Scaramucci. First Trump hires him, supposedly to force out Reince Priebus, and then, after he does the heavy lifting for him, Trump brings in John Kelly as new White House Chief of Staff, who then boots Scaramucci. I swear you can't make this shit up.

Let me just say unequivocally right here and now. I have absolutely no pity whatsoever for anyone who was stupid enough to work for this man. Not Jeff Sessions, not Sean Spicer, not Kellyanne Conway, certainly not Scaramucci, and, yes, not even Kelly. The press and the media are all tripping over one another saying that Kelly will finally bring some order to the West Wing. Meanwhile Ivanka Trump, the First Lady pro temp, tweeted that she's "looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly as we work for the American people. General Kelly is a true American hero."

WTF?

Serving alongside?

Things like this simply do NOT happen in normal White Houses. But in the Trump White House, it's just another day at the office. In fact, you could call this White House AB-normal, to borrow a phrase from the movie Young Frankenstein. That's why I give Kelly a month at Comedy Central before he either tenders his resignation or it gets tendered for him. Knowing Trump's track record, it'll probably be the latter.

This is a man who, while he was a candidate, shrugged off a tape of him bragging about grabbing women's pussies as mere locker room talk; who openly encouraged violence at his rallies; who mocked a disabled journalist and issued threats against the media in general for publishing unflattering but true stories about him; who, time and again, made derogatory comments about Hispanics and said that African American communities were war zones.

And, since becoming president, he has done everything possible to thwart a criminal investigation into possible collusion between the Russians and his campaign, including firing the FBI director for not stopping it and belittling his attorney general for having the good sense to recuse himself from any involvement in it. He has lied so often over the last six months, it is actually easier to count the number of times he has told the truth.

He has zero integrity, zero accountability, zero couth and zero respect for the law. Just last week, at a rally on Long Island, he actually gave permission to the police to slam the heads of suspects into the doors of their cars while they were being apprehended. That same week, he spoke in front of the Boy Scouts of America and used some of the most reprehensible language any president has used in public. It was so offensive that the Boy Scouts of America issued an apology. The mind boggles.

So, you'll forgive me if I don't shed any tears for his staff. When you enter into a contract with the devil you shouldn't be surprised when you get stuck with the horns. The real victims here are the rule of law, the Constitution of the United States, indeed the very institutions that keep the country from descending into a Banana Republic. And they have been under constant assault ever since Trump took office.

The staff of this White House has bent over backwards trying to justify the unjustifiable and coddling a man who sees himself not as a president but as a dictator. You don't pity such people; you hold them in the contempt they were meant to be held in.

To hell with Jeff Sessions; to hell with them all.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins Are the Real Heroes in GOP Repeal Fail


Yes, technically speaking, John McCain was the senator who cast the deciding vote that torpedoed Mitch McConnell's "skinny" repeal bill, the one that supposedly no Republican, save for maybe Ted Cruz, wanted to pass and that, for some peculiar reason, all of them seemed to believe Paul Ryan would prevent from going to a vote on the floor of the House, which only goes to show that they are as gullible as they are uncaring.

But here's the thing: had it not been for Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine senator Susan Collins, McCain's vote would've been meaningless. That's because their two "no" votes brought the whole thing to a head early Friday morning and set the stage for McCain's dramatic moment of truth. If either of them had succumbed to the pressures exerted by their colleagues - and in the case of Murkowski, to the threats by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke towards her entire state - then the House at this very moment would be attempting to reconcile the Senate and House bills and we would be days, perhaps hours, away from the Affordable Care Act being history.

I won't mince words here [do I ever?]: there aren't a lot of "moderate" Republicans left in the Senate, and even fewer in the House. And those that are left choose their spots very carefully, lest they feel the wrath of their colleagues. For instance, when both Collins and Murkowski joined forces with West Virginia senator Shelley Moore Capito a week ago to prevent a GOP repeal bill from even making it to the floor for debate, all three were viciously attacked by conservative pundits who called their action traitorous.

One of that harshest attacks came from Texas congressman Blake Farenthold, who said he'd like to challenge all three to a duel. "Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are female senators from the Northeast ... If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style." Apparently, Farenthold doesn't know that a) dueling is illegal, and b) West Virginia and Alaska are not in the Northeast. At least not the last time I checked a map.

But Collins and Murkowski, to me, are more than just "moderates"; they are the last of a dying breed. While both are Republicans, neither has been all that shy about challenging their party's orthodoxy when they felt it needed challenging. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the states they represent. Maine has always been something of square peg in a round hole. It has elected Republicans, Democrats and Independents. It's even elected aliens - e.g., Paul LePage. Sorry, I just couldn't resist. I've vacationed in the state several times and it defies categorization, which means that conservative attempts at intimidating Collins are likely to fail. If anything, her courage, in the face of stiff opposition, has probably earned her more, not less, respect among her constituents.

As for Alaska, while it is most assuredly a conservative state - Trump won it by 15 points - by no means is it an ideologically driven one. Let's remember, Murkowski won a three-way race as an independent after losing the Republican primary to Joe Miller in 2010. Also, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson got almost 6 percent of the vote last year, a considerably higher percentage than he got in most other states. It appears Alaskans also don't like being bullied around.

Not only do they not take kindly to intimidation tactics, when threatened they respond in kind. After Zinke's little stunt failed to force Murkowski to change her vote, she reciprocated by announcing that, as Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, she would be "delaying" hearings for several Trump Administration appointees to the Department of the Interior. A spokesperson for the Committee said the delay was "due to uncertainty of the Senate schedule." Yeah, that's it: uncertainty. I'm going with that. Ain't payback a bitch? Put that in your pipe, Ryan, and smoke it.

Bottom line is this: while I applaud John McCain for having the cajones to stand up to Mitch and the gang, the real heroes of the GOP Senate are two women from opposite ends of the continent, who courageously put country ahead of party, and who did so knowing what the costs would be. And it would behove Democrats to reach out to both and come up with a bi-partisan healthcare plan that will hopefully preempt yet another GOP scheme to kill Obamacare.

And make no mistake about it, we haven't seen the last of Republican efforts at repealing this law.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We're All Fucked!


In the grand scheme of things, my little blog amounts to a couple of grains of sand in a vast desert. No matter how much importance I and the few brave souls who bother to read its words attach to it, the fact is it's one of millions of other blogs out there. Thanks to the internet and social media, there is no limit to the number of people whose opinions are now available to the viewing public.

But that hasn't stopped me from passionately presenting my views; nor has it shielded me from those whose views I might but heads with. When it comes to politics, I'm often reminded of what a bartender once told me years ago. The reason, he said, that I don't talk about religion and politics is that the moment I open my mouth I lose half the bar.

A salient point, if ever there was one. And one which I have adopted in my sales career. No sense needlessly pissing off a potential customer over which candidate they like or may have voted for; not when there's a mortgage to pay and food to buy.

But this isn't sales, nor am I a bartender. And, as anyone who knows me all too well will tell you, I am not shy in the last bit about sharing my thoughts with any and all who have the misfortune of getting within earshot. And when push comes to shove, I throw down with the best of them. I seriously believe I could make the Pope curse if I put the effort in.

There are two kinds of stupid people when it comes to politics. Those who naively fall for the bullshit of evil politicians who promise them the world; and those who arrogantly believe they are somehow better or superior to those people. The former earns my pity; the latter my contempt.

Ever since November 8, I have tried to wrap my head around what happened and why. For the most part, all I've gotten is a headache. But there have been moments of clarity when things started to fall into place. There are things I know now that I didn't then, and I have done my best to write about them with as much zeal as I can muster.

The most frustrating thing about the last seven months has been the reluctance of certain people I know to accept some very painful facts that I feel are self evident. I am no stranger to words like denial; I have spent the better part of my adult life, along with a considerable amount of my money, breaking through various stages of it. But when it comes to the fate of this nation and the planet, I confess I have no more patience to spend on people who are not only in denial but have decided to drown themselves in a pool of self pity.

Of course by now, if you've been paying attention to my blog postings, you know full well where I'm going with this. And let me prepare you in advance: this isn't going to be pretty. In fact, I'm willing to bet that after reading this some of you might very well unfriend me. Unfriend away. I have, at last count, about 250 friends on Facebook. I assure you the sun will still rise in the east and set in the west if that number goes down, say, 200. Or lower!

I have heard about enough from Hillary supporters who simply won't bring themselves to accept that, though qualified in every way for the office of president, she did everything humanly possible not to win it. She was a lousy candidate with no message worth a damn, who arrogantly presumed she could spend the entire campaign talking about what a repugnant pig Trump was (no shit, Sherlock), and that somehow the electorate would reward her with a victory. I have been following politics since I was a teenager. To the best of my knowledge not one successful candidate has ever employed that strategy.

From Nixon, to Carter, to Reagan, to Bush 41, to Bill Clinton, to Bush 43, to Obama, you can go up and down the list and everyone of them ran a campaign that stood for something. The losers, by comparison, didn't. In my 21 years in sales, I know of no instance in which a successful company ever increased its market share by simply bashing its competition. In sales, as in politics, the way to succeed is by satisfying a need, be it a flat-panel TV or hope for a better tomorrow.

Not only didn't Hillary Clinton inspire hope, when she did get the opportunity to "satisfy a need" she would often direct people to her website to check out her policy proposals. Are you fucking kidding me? You get the chance to make your case to the American people and you punt like that? In a debate, no less? She might as well have gift-wrapped the presidency for Trump. To quote Andrew Sullivan: "I find myself wondering at odd times of the day and night: Why is Trump in the White House? And then I remember. Hillary Clinton put him there."

Oh, yes, I know I'm being so cruel to her. I outta be ashamed of myself. After all, she did get three million more votes than Trump. Doesn't that count for something? Yeah, it counts about as much as a losing hockey team whining that they outshot their opponent, therefore they should've won. Hey, snapper heads, it's the final score that counts! I'm so done with this popular vote bullshit. Get over it. We have an electoral college system in this country. Yes, it sucks; yes, it's embarrassing; yes, the rest of the fee world - and a good chuck of the unfree world - is laughing at us. Guess what? It ain't going anywhere. Al Gore won the popular vote. So did Hillary. They both lost. Deal with it.

But James Comey and Vladimir Putin. Let me ask you a few questions. Did the whole country get a chance to listen in on Jimbo's October surprise? Do they have access to cable news channels in Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia? I'm guessing they do. I'm also guessing that when the Russians did their hacking job they pretty much went after everyone who owned a computer, which would include people in the above-mentioned states. So, how is it that Hillary won those states, yet managed to lose Ohio by almost half a million votes and Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a mere 82 thousand votes?

As Judge Smails would say, "Well? We're waiting!"

Oh yeah, those 82 thousand votes. That sticks in one's craw don't it? Hillary supporters can't let that one go, either. As I was rudely reminded by yet another of her apologists, Trump won by only one percent in those three states. Another went even further by pointing out the election came down to three counties in those states with known voter suppression. Of course, the monkey wrench in both these arguments is that Obama, four years earlier, had not only won all three states, but did so impressively, along with Ohio, Iowa and Florida. Was there no voter suppression in 2012? Or in '08?

To another apologist who thought it necessary to point out the distinction between blue-collar workers and white blue-collar workers, I would remind him Obama won both demographics convincingly in both of his elections. And while I'm sure racism played a role in the 2016 election, the sad fact is that we've had racism in this country since its inception. There's been no solid evidence that it was the decisive factor in this or any other presidential election. Sorry people, these excuses are the very definition of lame if ever there was one. And I, for one, will not dignify them any further. The truth is that Clinton received 1 million fewer votes than Obama in the all-important swing states. To reiterate what I commented on earlier in that Facebook post, SHE GOT HER CLOCK CLEANED BY TRUMP. PERIOD!

But lest you think I'm giving Bernie a free pass, I'm not. I was tough on him during the campaign and with good reason. I felt and still feel that he had no tangible plan for how to implement his agenda once in office. And his supporters often acted like spoiled brats who didn't get everything they wanted under the Christmas tree. Their insistence that the DNC somehow stole the nomination from him and gave it to Hillary ranks up there with the 9/11 Truthers for most outlandish conspiracy theory ever. And while it's impossible to know whether he would've beaten Trump in the general, my gut tells me that his past would've come back to haunt him. I think Kurt Eichenwald is right: "the Republicans would've torn him apart."

But this much I will give him and his supporters. In hindsight, they were right and the rest of us were wrong. Long before that toxic waste dump of a human being we now call president ever threw his hat into the ring, Sanders was on to something. He knew there was trouble brewing in the Rust-Belt states and he tried to warn us. He accurately predicted that Democrats would pay a price for ignoring the concerns and frustrations of working-class people in this region. The loss of manufacturing jobs and the decline in middle-income wages would force these people to do the unthinkable: vote for a charlatan. And they did just that last November.

Give Trump credit. He saw an opening and he took it. I don't believe for a moment that he never wanted to win. There's a difference between not thinking you're going to win and not playing to win. Trump and his team may not have thought they were going to win the election, but they most assuredly acted as if they wanted to. Do you honestly believe that someone as tight as Trump is with money would spend even a nickel of it if he didn't want the presidency? Of course not. He knew - as did everyone else - that Clinton was going to be the Democratic nominee and, like Bernie, he knew she was vulnerable. The difference between Sanders and Trump - apart from the xenophobia, sexism, racism, etc - is that Trump went after her jugular, whereas Bernie refused to. For all the talk about how personal and bitter the Democratic primaries were, they were nothing compared to the Republican primaries.

But I would be remiss if I didn't go after the one group of people who are truly beneath contempt: the "Both candidates are equally bad" contingent of morons and buffoons who barely have the capacity to walk and chew gum at the same time, yet somehow managed to fuck up the layup election of their lifetimes. All throughout the campaign they shot their mouths off as though they were the political guardians of moral turpitude. I can still hear them in my mind's ear: "Hillary's just as corrupt as Trump, therefore I'm not voting for either of them." Here, I'll defer to Eichenwald:
A certain kind of liberal makes me sick. These people traffic in false equivalencies, always pretending that both nominees are the same, justifying their apathy and not voting or preening about their narcissistic purity as they cast their ballot for a person they know cannot win. I have no problem with anyone who voted for Trump, because they wanted a Trump presidency. I have an enormous problem with anyone who voted for Trump or Stein or Johnson—or who didn’t vote at all—and who now expresses horror about the outcome of this election. If you don’t like the consequences of your own actions, shut the hell up.
Later on in the piece, Eichenwald invites these people to "go have sex with themselves." He is a gentleman; I am not. So let me put it in much blunter terms: Go fuck yourselves! And not just you but the boat you sailed in on. Thanks to your gross negligence and ignorance you have saddled this nation with the most incompetent, dangerous president it has ever had. Next to him, Clinton would've been a combination of FDR, Lincoln and Truman.

I'm not joking around here. There's a vast difference between someone who is flawed and arrogant and someone who is unhinged. What we have witnessed over these last six months has no parallel in American history. If you still believe that a Clinton presidency would've been no different than the current one, you are smoking some strange shit that I'm certain is illegal even in Colorado.

As for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, don't make me laugh. Johnson didn't know what or where Aleppo was and Stein doesn't even know what planet she's on. Put the two of them together and you still don't have enough gray matter to form a sentient being. If you are one of those people who actually thought that either of these two asshats was a legitimate alternative to Clinton, I pray that you never reproduce. The thought of your offspring populating this planet makes me ill.

And last, but not least, the Democratic Party. It goes without saying that this is a party in disarray. Sadly, it also goes without saying that its leadership, or lack thereof, still hasn't come to grips about what happened last November, anymore than Hillary's supporters or Clinton herself. It's as though they're all locked in a time warp and they can't get out.

I suspect that deep down they probably know they fucked up; they just can't or won't admit it to themselves. After all, they put all their eggs in the basket of identity politics and it boomeranged on them. And by doing so, they wrote off two thirds of the country. So instead of correcting course, they are doubling down. All they need, they maintain, is greater turnout in the cities to offset their losses in the suburbs and the sticks. As if a few more black and Hispanic votes would've changed the outcome of the election.

It's a double edged sword that they can't extricate themselves from. On the one hand, their base is in the cities, so they don't want to alienate any of them. On the other hand, the votes they need to avoid a repeat performance in 2020 are outside of those cities. The trick is to not lose the former while pursuing the latter. And right now, that is a task that appears to be well beyond their reach.

So, to sum up:

Hillary supporters: The election is over. Grow up and change your diapers. You're stinking up the joint.

Bernie supporters: You were right, we were wrong. Now quit the "I told you so" platitudes. Nobody likes a spoiled sport.

False equivalency nutjobs: Feel free to depart the planet on the next mother ship.

Democratic Party: Find a message that resonates with a majority of voters; then find a messenger worthy of carrying it.

You can now start unfriending me if you like, but know this: If things don't start fundamentally changing soon, I've got some bad news.

We are all fucked. Each and everyone of us.