Monday, October 15, 2018

Elizabeth Warren Falls Into the Rabbit Hole

When are people going to get it? Throughout the 2016 primary campaign, Republican after Republican thought they could go toe to toe with Donald Trump, and Republican after Republican was rudely awakened. Remember Marco Rubio's "small hands" slight? Neither did Republicans in Florida who overwhelmingly voted for Trump in that state's primary.

Hillary Clinton, likewise, thought she could go into the mud pit with Trump during the general and come out unscathed. Instead, all she got was slimed. What she didn't understand is that people like Trump live in the mud pit; their modus operandi is to drag others down to their level. The reason Trump won the presidency, in large part, is because his opponents couldn't resist the temptation to try and out Trump him.

The latest victim to fall into Trump's trap is Elizabeth Warren, darling of the Left and - unless the mothership beams her up - future Democratic presidential nominee. Warren, it seems, went to all the trouble of getting a DNA test to confirm she is part Native American. Why? Because Trump keeps calling her Pocahontas and it's obviously gotten under her skin. And that whole thing about Trump supposedly betting her that if she could prove she was part Native American he'd donate a million bucks to a charity was worth about as much as every other guarantee he's ever made; which is to say nothing.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in Warren. I thought she had more common sense than this. I was obviously wrong. Not only did she tarnish an otherwise spotless reputation, she somehow managed to offend the very people she claims a connection to. The Cherokee Nation has publicly called her out for the stunt, and deservedly so. And here's the rub: Warren didn't need to do this. She's an outstanding senator with a track record most politicians would be jealous of. Why on earth she would take Trump's bait is beyond me.

Look, in about three weeks, millions of people are going to go to the polls and vote in the midterms. And about 10 microseconds after the last results are known, the 2020 presidential campaign will officially commence. Warren will be one of what I fear will be a very large field of candidates vying to win the Democratic nomination. We all saw what happened in 2016 when the clown car that was the Republican field humiliated itself in front of the nation. My fear is that the Democrats will make the same mistake and turn what should be the opportunity of a lifetime into the political equivalent of the RMS Titanic.

Warren's inability to ignore Trump's slings and arrows - no pun intended - is an ominous sign. It means that the party hasn't learned a damned thing since its epic loss in 2016. Democrats may indeed wind up taking the House next month, perhaps even the Senate, but unless they can muster the strength to stay out of the flames, like the proverbial moth, they will be consumed.

And with them, the fucking country.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What Impact, If Any, Will the Kavanaugh Vote Have on the Midterms?

It's been one week since Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court and it's clear that Republicans did get a bump in the polls. The enthusiasm gap between both parties has narrowed considerably; In July, the gap was 10 points, now it's down to 2 points.

So what does this mean for the midterms? Well, that depends on which house of Congress you're looking at. While the RCP generic ballot lead for Democrats has gone from 9.5 points on September 4th to 6.9 points as of October 10th, according to Politico, Dems are now favored in 209 of the 218 seats needed to win the majority. It's hard imagining even the party of FDR screwing up that kind of advantage, though I still wouldn't put it past them.

Over in the Senate, however, what was shaping up as a fairly decent path to a 51-seat majority only a month ago, has now turned into mission improbable. That's because Tennessee, which looked like a pickup for Dems, will now likely remain in the red column, along with Texas, which, contrary to what many on the Left were saying, was always a long shot; while Arizona and Nevada are no better than tossups. If the polling out of North Dakota is accurate, Dems will be lucky to only be tied 50 - 50 in 2019, which means Mitch McConnell will have an additional two years to ram through a lot more of Trump's judges.

How much of this is due to the Kavanaugh effect and how much of it is due to the worst Senate map in over a century we may never fully know. What we do know is that Republican enthusiasm went up as it looked like his confirmation was in jeopardy. With Trump doing what he does best - grievance politics - Republicans rallied to Kavanaugh's defense. However, now that he is on the bench, it remains to be seen how many of those "aggrieved" voters actually show up to vote next month.

It could be that getting Kavanaugh confirmed won't be the silver bullet Republicans were looking for to save their hides this November. As Nate Silver pointed out, whichever side lost this battle "will have more reason to feel aggrieved — and perhaps more motivation to turn out to vote." If that's the case, the Blue wave that pundits are predicting could still develop into a tsunami.

But what impresses me the most are the gubernatorial races. With all the attention being focused on Congress, Democrats could conceivably pick up as many as 10 state houses, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan. If that happens, they would wind up with their first majority in eight years. It cannot be overstated enough that Democrats didn't just take a beating at the federal level in the midterms of 2010 and 2014; at the state level they were decimated. According to Larry Sabato, Dems "lost 11 governorships, 913 state legislative seats and 30 state legislative chambers." That's one helluva ass whoopin'. If they somehow manage to win back the ground they lost during the Obama years, they will be well positioned in 2020 to retake the White House and become the political force they once were.

In the end, I think the Kavanaugh confirmation battle will end up helping Democrats in the House, especially in suburban districts that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In the Senate, however, it'll likely be what bookies call a push. It'll help Republicans in red states, while bolstering Democrats in blue ones. The fact that Democrats are likely to keep all but one or two of their seats is nothing short of astonishing. At the state level, where real America resides, the impact will be negligible.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Don't Get Mad, Get Even!

I've learned many lessons over my 23 years in sales. The biggest is never let your emotions get the better of you. Once that happens it's over. You not only lose the sale, you lose the customer. It's a lesson, sadly, I've had to learn over and over.

The news that Susan Collins and Joe Manchin have decided to vote for Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court is certainly sad but hardly shocking. I fully expected both to vote Yes. The real surprise was Republican Lisa Murkowski and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp voting No. Murkowski was facing a lot of pressure from her home state of Alaska, where both the governor and lieutenant governor were on record as being against Kavanaugh's confirmation. Heitkamp was already trailing her Republican opponent in this year's midterm. Her decision will likely cost her the election. If you want a real profile in courage, look no further.

But now that it's over, now that Kavanaugh is but a few precious hours away from being the next justice on the Supreme Court, what should Democrats and progressives do? Well, for starter, they can't afford to lose do their composure. To do that would be to play right into the hands of Trump and his supporters. They want this fight; Democrats cannot give them one, at least not this one. Democrats have already lost this battle; they cannot lose the war.

Look, I realize that emotions are high. This was a gut punch, but one we should have seen coming. The whole second hearing was a set up from the beginning. Christine Blasey Ford was never going to get a fair hearing. We knew that going in, and I suspect do did Dr. Ford. Her courage was nonetheless inspiring. What all of us need to do is channel our emotions into a positive energy. As the saying goes, don't get mad, get even. And here's how we and the Democrats can get even.

1. Change back the narrative. Trump was able to galvanize support for Kavanaugh by reframing the debate from Dr. Ford being the victim to Kavanaugh being the victim. All of a sudden, instead of the story being about women who have been sexually abused and attacked, all we heard was what it must be like to be a "son" or "husband" and be falsely accused of a crime. The image of Trump mocking Ford at a rally, sickening though it may have been, struck a nerve with many men and, sadly, even a few women. Just one look at the recent polling indicates that the strategy was successful, if disturbing.

The statistics, however, belie the claims Trump is touting. The fact is one in three women have been the victim of sexual discrimination, abuse or assault. By comparison, only a few dozen men - most of them celebrities, journalists or politicians - have been accused of sexual misconduct or assault over the past eighteen months. The simple truth is that a man has a greater chance of drowning in his own bathtub than being accused of sexual misconduct.

It is essential that Democrats drive this fact home and remind voters that what Trump is doing is nothing more than a scare tactic designed to illicit fear among men that women are somehow out to get them. It's not their sons they should be worried about, it's their daughters. How many of those one in three women will have the courage to come forward and tell their stories after watching how Dr. Ford was treated? Democrats must be both disciplined and relentless in their messaging here. There can be no room for error.

2. Organize. There are barely four weeks left before the midterms, so time is of the essence. Democrats must get their act together. For the last year and a half, most of the energy on the Democratic side has been simply anti Trump. This has allowed Democrats to build a rather healthy lead in the enthusiasm gap against their Republican counterparts. That gap is all but gone. Republican voters are now energized, perhaps not as much as Democrats, but they're within striking distance. The difference will come down to suburban voters, specifically women suburban voters.

But even though they key is getting women organized, Democrats should not forget that while the female vote is not monolithic, neither is the male vote. Many men saw Dr. Ford's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and they were moved by it. While Trump's tribalism tactics will no doubt galvanize a majority of men  - especially older, white men - to vote Republican this November, it could also have the unintended consequence of backfiring. Many men will rightly be repulsed by how Trump and the GOP treated Ford and will look for alternatives when they go to the polls. Democrats must make it clear to them that this is not about exacting revenge. If women are ever to be afforded equal status in this society, men will have to be a part of that discussion.

3. Enough with the impeachment talk. Whether you think Kavanaugh belongs on the bench or in a jail cell, it is absolutely imperative that Democrats - particularly progressive Democrats - get it through their heads that impeachment of a sitting Supreme Court justice is about as rare as getting a suntan on a moonless night. It just doesn't happen, and it won't happen here. For one thing, while Kavanaugh's hearing was indeed a job interview, meaning the burden of proof was on him to account for any issues or concerns regarding his past, once confirmed, the burden of proof for removing him will be on his accusers. Much as it pains me to admit, the prosecutor Republicans hired to question Ford was correct when she said she wouldn't have enough evidence to bring an indictment against Kavanaugh in a criminal proceeding. In an actual court of law, he would have the presumption of innocence and more than likely would prevail in any impeachment trial involving him.

The only purpose that can be served by talk of impeachment is to energize the Republican base, the very thing Democrats don't want. If the goal is preventing Trump from nominating any more justices to both the lower and Supreme courts, the best way to ensure that is by winning the Senate. Revenge tactics will only help the other side. It is one thing to lose a battle; it is quite another to lose the war. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Lay off of Manchin and other Red-state Democrats. Yes, Heidi Keitkamp took the high ground and voted her conscience, a rare commodity in politics these days, or anywhere for that matter. And for her efforts, she will likely lose. But Democrats do not need martyrs right now, they need survivors, and Joe Manchin's survival in West Virginia, along with that of Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Jon Tester in Montana, is crucial to any hopes the party has of regaining its Senate majority. Like it or not, there is no path to 51 seats without Blue Dog Dems prevailing this fall.

If progressives, rightly outraged by how Dr. Ford was treated, take their revenge out on Manchin, et al, they will consign the Democratic Party to permanent minority status. And if that happens, the courts of this country will be populated by judges who will eradicate the last hundred years of jurisprudence and turn back the clock to the 1800s. And those judges, unlike the politicians who appointed them, will be on the bench for life. Think about that the next time you contemplate fixing some "phony" Democrat's wagon. The nose you cut off might well be your own. And last, but not least.

5. VOTE. We've been down this path before. With the exception of the 2006 midterms, Democrats have had problems turning out their base. If that happens again this year, it's game, set and match. All the energy and enthusiasm in the world will mean nothing if people stay home.

Last month, MSNBC's Chris Hayes went to Michigan to interview some young people as to why they didn't vote in the 2016 election. One man said Hillary didn't "inspire" him. I have never thrown anything at a TV before, but that night I gave it some serious consideration. Clinton lost the state of Michigan by 15,000 votes, and it was due in no small part to people like this who felt that they had to be "inspired" to get off their ass and do their civic duty. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two states that were decided by a combined total of 65,000 votes, other likeminded individuals decided they weren't "inspired" enough and chose to stay home. And that's how Trump became president.

Progressives must abandon this immature and self-defeating mindset that every candidate that runs for office must be pure or "inspiring." The Bernie wing of the party is by no means the only wing. Nor does it necessarily represent the majority of Democrats. There's a reason Hillary Clinton won the nomination in 2016, and no it wasn't because the DNC stole it from Bernie; it was because a majority of Democrats thought she was the better choice to lead the party. She may have run the worst campaign in modern history, but that doesn't change the fact that her positions resonated with more voters than Bernie's.

If a center-left Democrat like Tim Ryan should emerge from the pack of candidates running in 2020 to win the nomination, progressives will need to bite down hard and swallow, just like they did in '92 when Bill Clinton was the nominee. It won't be the end of the world if Ryan becomes the next president. Donald Trump winning a second term in office, now that would be the end of the world.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

How Does This All End?

I keep waiting for the elevator to stop, but it never does. It keeps on descending. How many sub-basements can there be in one building? How low can one man go? Has he no shred of decency, I ask rhetorically, knowing full well what the answer is. We've seen this president mock a war hero, a disabled reporter and the parents of a gold-star soldier. I thought nothing could top that, and then last night, at one of his cult gatherings, he mocked a survivor of sexual assault. The word scumbag doesn't begin to describe who and what he is.

I struggle to find the words that can adequately describe what is going on in this country, but I am left wanting. The truth is there are no parallels in our history for this. None. If the Founders intended for someone like Trump to one day rise to power, they sure as hell didn't tell anyone about it. Not even the Federalist Papers can account for him. Oh they speak to what Madison called the "tyranny of the majority" in Federalist 51, which underscores both his and his fellow founders fear of a pure democracy that would enable the mob to overrun the nation, but a character like Trump seizing power seems not to have deeply concerned them in the least.

Maybe that's because they, like historian Jon Meacham, were optimists who believed in the resiliency of the Republic. In his book, "The Soul of America," Meacham writes, "If history is any guide — and, however imperfect, it’s the only guide we have — then the right number of Americans at the right time will decide to heed what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature’ and realize that we’ve been happiest and strongest in the hours when we have most generously interpreted the Jeffersonian assertion that we’re all created equal."

In an August piece he did for The Atlantic, Eliot Cohen believes Trump will suffer the same fate that befell Shakespeare's Macbeth. He writes, "A tyrant is unloved, and although the laws and institutions of the United States have proven a brake on Trump, his spirit remains tyrannical—that is, utterly self-absorbed and self-concerned, indifferent to the suffering of others, knowing no moral restraint. He expects fealty and gives none. Such people can exert power for a long time, by playing on the fear and cupidity, the gullibility and the hatreds of those around them. Ideological fervor can substitute for personal affection and attachment for a time, and so too can blind terror and sheer stupidity, but in the end, these fall away as well."

Those are certainly encouraging words to be sure. And I want to believe them, I really do. The problem with Meacham's optimism is that it's misplaced. Counting on "the better angels of our nature" to save us from a man who feeds the demons in our collective souls is a fool's errand. Ask Barack Obama how many better angels came to his rescue when he lost both houses of Congress. How many of those "angels" who voted for him in 2008 and 2012 decided to cast a vote for Trump in 2016? Take it from a salesperson: the line between angelic and demonic is a lot thinner than you realize. As they say in Florida, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.

And with respect to Cohen's "Macbeth" analogy, he neglects to factor in the very differences between both men that he, himself, noted: Macbeth is "apparently faithful to his wife, has a conscience (that he overcomes), knows guilt and remorse, and has self-knowledge. He also has a pretty good command of the English language." By contrast, Trump has cheated on all three of his wives, has no moral compass to speak of, is devoid of even a trace of empathy, lacks the intellectual curiosity necessary for growth, openly flaunts his contempt for the rule of law, and talks like a fifth grader.

Trump is the sum total of the very worst character traits we find in humanity. Not even Shakespeare could've anticipated his rise to power. The closest we come to someone like Trump is in Freudian psychology. His definition of the id personifies Trump to a T. He cares nothing for the needs of others. All he cares about is his own instant gratification. Like a baby, he wants what he wants when he wants it. And equally like a baby, he is incapable of remorse. This is why he never apologizes for his remarks or actions. He truly believes he has done nothing wrong. Like a dog who wags his tail after he defecates on his master's carpet, he is oblivious to the pain he has caused others. He not only can look at himself in the mirror at night, but I'll bet when he does, it's with a grin on his face. My God, even Satan knows the depths of his evil.

Cohen might be correct when he opines that those Trump commands "move only in command", not out of love for him. Perhaps if the GOP suffers a crushing defeat this November, Republicans might find the resolve to say enough is enough. Certainly when it was obvious that Nixon was finished and had to go, his own party abandoned him. Maybe history will repeat itself. Or maybe Trump will survive by rallying his troops to his defense. He has an innate ability to turn what for many would be a lethal injury into a sword with which to pierce the hearts of his opponents. Look at how he is reframing the debate over Kavanaugh's assault accusations. The assailant is now the victim. Such guile can only come from someone unfettered by any sense of right and wrong.

Sorry, but I am not overly optimistic about the future of this nation. Yes, the system of checks and balances has, for the moment, thwarted Trump in his attempt to seize absolute power. But even in a Republic such as this, there are limits to the abuse that system can withstand before it eventually succumbs. Kavanaugh is on record as opposing restraints on presidential overreach. It is not inconceivable that with him on the bench, a 5 to 4 decision could rubber-stamp Trump's "legitimate" takeover of the United States.

If you think that's being histrionic, consider this: On September 11, 2001, two planes crashed into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center. The towers were built to withstand either of two scenarios: a direct hit by a plane or a raging inferno, but not both. The combination of the explosions of both planes and the searing heat given off by the ensuing fires was too much for the steel beams of both towers to withstand. Under their own weight they collapsed into piles of dust and rubble, taking with them the lives of three thousand people who were trapped inside.

There is a tipping point for any democracy, an inflection point if you will. We have arrived at that point. The plane has already struck the building. The damage is considerable and the fire is even now weakening the support structures. We know who the culprit is and what his intentions are. What we do not yet know is how much longer the building will remain standing, or how many of its occupants will be able to escape to safety.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

One Hundred Percent

Thursday's spectacle in the Senate Judiciary Committee represented a new low for this nation. In all my 57 years, I've never been so embarrassed to be an American. I will not pretend to be objective, because I'm not. What we saw was a tale of two people: one deferential, graceful, composed, humble; the other belligerent, entitled, disrespectful and contemptuous. One made a credible and persuasive case for herself; the other scapegoated virtually everyone in the room except himself. But they were not the only central players in this tragedy. What I thought I'd do is write each a short letter expressing my feelings. This comes from my gut and I make no apologies for how it may come out.

Christine Blasey Ford: Thank you, Dr. Ford, for your courage and your strength. I was deeply moved by your testimony. I must confess: prior to your appearance before the Committee, I wasn't a hundred percent sure of the validity of your claim. The journalist in me was somewhat skeptical. However, after having listened to you, any lingering doubts I might have had have been thoroughly removed. I can now say unequivocally that I believe you 100 percent.

And on behalf of this country and the eleven Republican senators who hid behind a female prosecutor they hired to do their bidding, I wish to apologize for the manner in which you were treated. Twice in your life you have been assaulted: the first was by Brett Kavanaugh 36 years ago; the second was by a bunch of old, white men who apparently haven't learned a damned thing since the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991.

From the moment you agreed to testify, the process was rigged. Chairman Chuck Grassley had already scheduled a vote for the very next day. THE VERY NEXT DAY! They never had any intention of giving you a fair hearing. This was nothing but a front to prove to voters they actually cared, when in fact they didn't. Once more they proved to the nation that when push comes to shove, a man will always get the benefit of the doubt over a woman.

I cannot begin to imagine the feelings that must be going on inside you. As a survivor of incest I have had to tell my story, but I had the comfort of doing it in the privacy of a trained therapist's office. You told your story on live TV in front of a captive audience. Please know that your efforts were not in vain. You touched the lives millions of women, and, yes, men too. Men heard you; this man heard you. And this man thanks you from the bottom of his heart. No matter what happens with this confirmation hearing, there is no turning back. Your bravery has seen to that. May God bless you and keep you, make His face shine upon you and give you peace.

Lindsey Graham: Bravo, bravo, bravo. That was quite a show you put on. It's a shame the Academy Awards were already handed out because you, sir, would've won best actor in a supporting role for the performance you put on Thursday afternoon. I say supporting role, because for the first five hours of the hearing you, along with your band of cohorts, behaved like a troupe of mimes. There wasn't a peep out of you during Dr. Ford's testimony. Your hired hand was doing all the heavy lifting while you sat there pretending to give a shit.

But then once the "preliminary" round was over and your boy was fighting for his miserable life, you suddenly found both your voice and your balls. That little temper tantrum you threw was quite impressive, even if you did pull it out of your ass. Now I know why they call you a drama queen. And I must admit you have quite the knack for irony. I mean calling this hearing a sham, that really takes the cake. I don't suppose it crossed your mind while you were lecturing Democrats on their tactics that for 400 days your party didn't so much as grant Merrick Garland the courtesy of a meeting, much less a hearing. He and not Neil Gorsuch should be sitting on the Supreme Court.

But let's leave all that aside for the moment. Here's the problem with your logic. You're going to bat for the wrong judge. "This guy," as you referred to Kavanaugh, isn't Gorsuch; he isn't Sotomayor or Kagan, both of whom you made damn sure everyone knew you voted for; he isn't Roberts or Kennedy, either. Not one of those justices had a charge of sexual assault hurled at them. NOT ONE! In fact, over the last 30 years, only two Supreme Court nominees have been accused of sexual misconduct: Clarence Thomas and "This Guy." Democrats aren't destroying his reputation; he's doing that all by himself, both by his past deeds which are coming back to haunt him and his belligerence during the hearing. Innocent "guys" don't behave like that; guilty "guys" do.

So spare me your righteous indignation, Senator. I'm sure it played well over at the White House with your golf buddy, the Predator in Chief. The next time you're on the course with him, you should try to get a bigger handicap. It's the least he can do for you given you've forfeited every bit of what was left of your self respect. You may have once called John McCain a friend, but know this: there's no way in hell McCain would've voted for Kavanaugh, not without a thorough FBI investigation into the allegations. That's because he had more integrity in his pinky than you have in your whole fucking body.

Jeff Flake: Boy are you lucky I didn't write this letter Friday morning. I was all set to excoriate you because you were about to vote yes with the other ten Republicans on the Committee and send this nomination to a floor vote in the full Senate. But then Providence intervened and you were cornered in an elevator by a couple of women who shamed you into doing something decent. So you joined with your Democratic friend Chris Coons and fellow "moderate" Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to call for a one week delay to allow for an FBI investigation. Since I believe in giving credit where credit is due, I'll give you an E for effort. Your heart was in the right place and that's what counts.

And that brings me back to the one question you still haven't answer: Why are you leaving the Senate? If you truly care about this institution and what it used to stand for, why not stay and fight for it? Why turn tail and run? If you don't like what Donald Trump has done to your party and to the country then make a stand? You could've made a credible case for sanity to the voters back home. Even better, while serving as senator, you could've decided not to embrace any legislation that might be perceived as advancing Trump's agenda, including his massive tax cut that as a supposed fiscal conservative you have to know is blowing a hole in the debt. Long after you and members of your generation are dust, future generations will be paying for this tax cut.

So, yes, kudos to you for putting up something of a road block in this nomination, but shame on you for abandoning ship while the passengers are still on board.

Brett Kavanaugh: And now we come to the pièce de résistance. Congratulations, judge. I've always wondered what a privileged, entitled, snot-nosed, bitter white man would look like, and boy you did not disappoint. In fact, you put on quite a clinic. That lecture you gave - and let's just call it that - was pure Trump. I'd say he wrote it for you, but we both know the man isn't capable of writing a complete sentence, much less an entire speech. But whoever authored it, it was clearly intended for an audience of one.

Admit it, you were this close to having Trump pull the nomination from you and that prospect frightened you more than any accusation from Christine Ford. I've been on enough job interviews to know when someone is sweating it out. And those facial expressions were so over the top. Whoever coached you should team up with Lindsey Graham to do a movie. Of course the tears would've meant more if you could've summoned some for your victim. Did you see her testimony, judge? DID YOU? When asked, you said no. Assuming that was the truth - and I doubt it was - you missed a golden opportunity to see what genuine emotion and vulnerability look like. And temperament? Dr. Ford was the model of restraint, while your outbursts of anger exposed you as someone who is clearly unfit to be on the highest court of the land.

There was one moment during your testimony where you provided some badly needed comic relief. That was the point where you blamed the Clintons for your plight. I guess it was only a matter of time before you and your supporters got around to that. Frankly, I'm disappointed you didn't blame Obama. Your sugar daddy Trump has been trying for the last eighteen months to eradicate every policy of his. If Trump ever discovered Obama invented, say, oxygen, he'd suffocate the whole planet.

There's just one question I have for you, and it was one that was asked repeatedly by Democrats on the Committee: why on earth wouldn't you submit to a polygraph and ask the White House to open up an investigation into the allegations against you? Why wouldn't you want to do everything possible to clear your supposed good reputation? The reputation you keep insisting has been destroyed by this conspiracy against you. I know if it were me up there and I was innocent of the charges against me, I'd move heaven and earth to get at the truth.

But then who are we kidding? We both know what the truth is, don't we? You're guilty as sin and you know it. As I wrote in my last piece, I've been to enough 12-step meetings to know a bullshit artist when I see one. You don't want to take a polygraph test because you know full well that you'd fail it. And you sure as shit don't want to be interviewed by the FBI on the allegations against you because you also know that if you lie to the FBI, agents will show up at your door with handcuffs. People lie all the time to Congress and nothing happens; people who lie to the FBI wind up in jail. Just ask Paul Manafort.

As of now no one knows what the FBI will turn up over the next few days. Maybe you'll catch a break and nothing more damaging will be revealed. Or maybe the roof will fall in on you. If it's the latter, then justice would've been served and Trump will simply appoint another conservative jurist to the Supreme Court, one who hopefully isn't a sexual predator. If it's the former, do not think for a moment that this is over. Dr. Ford will be vindicated eventually.

I'll leave you with this one tidbit to chew on: there is no statute of limitations on sexual assault in Maryland. Trump may not be able to be indicted while in office; but that protection does not extend to members of the Judiciary. Not even members of the Supreme Court. I look forward to seeing your ass hauled out of that building in cuffs. A good many people will shed tears of joy on that day, sir, I can assure you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

My Personal Story

It was late in the summer of 2007 and I was watching an episode of Law and Order in which a woman is accused of murdering someone and has to rely on her son, who as it turns out has been in an incestuous relationship with her, to lie on her behalf to get her acquitted. I had seen this episode at least a dozen times. This time, however, something was very different. I suddenly felt nauseous and sick to my stomach.

Over the next few weeks I went through what was inarguably the worst period in my life. I grew distant from my wife, unable to adequately put into words what was going on inside me. I assumed it was a midlife crisis. Being 46, it seemed logical. There was just one problem: what I was going through didn't quite jive with what I had read and heard about midlife crises. I was emotionally shut down and depressed; I had an aversion to any music that reminded me of my past; I couldn't look at, much less touch, my wife; and I moved into the guest bedroom upstairs.

On the recommendation of an associate pastor at my church I entered into therapy. Over a period of several weeks, she and I hit upon the real problem. I was an incest survivor. That realization was the single most difficult thing I had ever had to come to grips with. The shame that came up for me was more than I could bare. The flashbacks were humiliating. I can't tell you how many times she had to remind me that I was not to blame. If you've ever watched Good Will Hunting, in which Robin Williams repeatedly tells Matt Damon "It's not your fault, Will," you know exactly what I'm talking about. Only in my case, my therapist had to keep reinforcing it in virtually every session I attended for at least a year.

I would spend the better part of six years coming to grips with a part of my life I had all but buried. I can tell you what year the abuse took place. It was 1979, but I cannot remember the month or the day. It was definitely in the afternoon. My sister was out of the house and my father had not yet come home from work. I remember there was a song on the radio by Gloria Gaynor. It was, oddly enough, "I Will Survive." I have always wondered why, whenever that song came on the radio, I would change the station. Now I know why. It was subconsciously triggering a visceral reaction in me. Today, it's on my oldies playlist and I am quite fond of it. Ironic, don't you think?

My mother did not physically touch my genitals, nor did she undress herself or me. What happened was more emotional than physical, but there was no denying the fact that she crossed a line no parent has the right to cross. I will not disclose the exact details of what transpired, but suffice to say, it took a trained professional months to help me reassemble those details.

When Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez say they can't remember every single detail of their assault, it's important to know this is quite normal. Victims of abuse frequently blot out certain details of the event. When their critics ask why it took them so long to come forward, it took me 28 years to admit I had been abused. We are not machines; we're human beings. And human beings have survival instincts which allow them to cope with the unthinkable.

And make no mistake about it, it is unthinkable, not to mention unconscionable. Who wants to admit that their parent - the person charged with protecting them from harm - harmed them? The very thought of it is anathema. Even now, eleven years after I entered therapy, part of me still can't believe it happened. I'm sure it was no less so for both these women.

The idea that Christine Ford and Deborah Ramirez have nothing to lose by accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault is insulting. They have already lost more than any woman should be required to lose: namely their dignity and their self worth, both of which were stripped away by this man's reckless behavior. It is not so much that I believe them as I do NOT believe him. I have been to enough 12-step meetings to know a bullshit artist when I see one. The manner in which he keeps insisting he's innocent is reminiscent of that famous Shakespearean line, "Me thinks he dost protest too much."

I am writing this not out of any need for self-aggrandizement. Far from it. I want there to be no doubt as to my motives here. My last piece dealt with the politics of the Kavanaugh hearing; this one is far more personal to me. I believe there is a special place in hell for those who victimize the helpless. And while my faith informs me that I am not fit to consign anyone to that ghastly place, the part of me that was robbed and cries out for justice cannot help but feel contempt for the damage that was done.

I have come to a certain peace, if you can call it that, over what my mother did. She was a sick woman who, hopefully, is in a much better place. But the scars she left behind will be with me all my remaining days.

Dems Should Tread Lightly With Kavanaugh

Now that it looks like we are finally going to get a hearing Thursday regarding Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's allegation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, I have a few words of advice for Democrats on the Committee: tread lightly.

Let me repeat myself: Democrats should tread lightly here. Why, you ask? Because there's a real strong possibility that they could overplay their hand and give the Republicans the gift of a lifetime six weeks before the most critical midterm election in over a generation. Let me explain.

With the story in The New Yorker about a second woman, Deborah Ramirez, who has now come forward and accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct against her, Republicans have closed ranks. They are proceeding full speed ahead on this confirmation. Yes, there will be a hearing Thursday, but the very next day there will be a Committee vote, followed by a full Senate vote. In other words, Ford's testimony is superfluous as far as they are concerned. They've already made up their minds. Like Lindsey Graham, they're not going to "ruin this guy's life based on an accusation." So much for hearing Ford out.

And then there's the latest bombshell from Michael Avenatti that on Wednesday he will reveal the identity of a third woman who was a victim of Kavanaugh. The manner in which Avenatti is turning what should be a serious matter into a freak show is deeply disturbing, but if the allegations are true, Mitch McConnell's pledge to "plow through" with the confirmation just became considerably more difficult.

Think about it: without asking Kavanaugh one single question, Democrats have been dealt a winning hand here. The optics for Republicans over this nomination could not be worse.  As I wrote in an earlier piece,
Do not be fooled by the bravado coming from Senate Republicans and the White House. They're sweating bullets over this confirmation. Mitch McConnell would rather have a tooth pulled without Novocaine than have this on his plate. His party wasn't all that popular with women voters before this story broke; the specter of seeing a repeat of the Anita Hill debacle would only drive those anemic poll numbers further south. Most Republicans are resigned to the House flipping; if they lose the Senate as well, you can kiss goodbye any future Supreme Court confirmations.
The polling on Kavanaugh is problematic for Republicans, as well. A majority of Americans do not approve of his nomination and a majority of them want the confirmation vote delayed until all the facts are known. There's an old saying in football that goes like this: when your opponent fumbles the ball, don't give it back to them.

Democrats have every right to probe Kavanaugh on his past; it is more than relevant. And they should NOT let him get away with the same kind of evasive, lame-ass answers to legitimate questions like he did the first time around. Kamala Harris clearly got under his skin; she will no doubt try to do so again. Good, that's her job.

But while most people, sadly, don't pay much attention to issues like abortion or even the limits of executive power, sexual assault is an issue that resonates with many people across the political spectrum. And even though women pay particular attention to how these issues are dealt with, not all women are progressive. For Democrats, the road to regaining their majority goes through the suburbs, hardly a bastion of liberalism.

As one who lives in one of the largest suburban areas of the country - Long Island - I can tell you that while a majority of these people may not be happy with the way Trump is conducting himself in office, that doesn't automatically mean they like Democrats or that they would. if push came to shove, pull the lever for them. If these voters get the impression that Democrats are simply grandstanding just to delay the appointment of a conservative justice till after the midterms, any hope they have of taking the House in November - much less the Senate - will go up in smoke.

I'm serious. There's a fine line between doing your job and being a dick. Republicans have given a text-book example of the latter over the last nine years, particularly so the last two. That's the biggest reason why the generic ballot polling shows them trailing Democrats by 8 points. It would be the height of political malpractice for Democrats to look the gift horse they've been given in the mouth.