Saturday, January 20, 2018

Who Will Prevail In the Shutdown?


Michael Tomasky makes a good point: The 2013 shutdown, which lasted just over two weeks, was widely blamed on the Republicans. And yet, the following year, the electorate rewarded them with 13 House seats and 9 Senate seats, not to mention a stranglehold on state houses and legislatures. The moral of the story was that most voters have short memories.

But Andrew Sullivan also has good point: Democrats lost the 2016 election partly because of a perception in middle America that they were soft on immigration and shutting down the government over the Dreamers, no matter how noble a cause, won't sit well with them. If anything it feeds the narrative that Democrats have become the party of identity politics.

So who's right? Well, at the risk of playing devil's advocate, both and neither. Yes, Tomasky is right when he says most voters have short memories. I remember thinking while Ted Cruz was pulling his "Green Eggs and Ham" stunt on the floor of the Senate, this is gonna cost the GOP big time.  But it didn't. The sad truth is that in this great U S of A, attention spans are about as long as a rational thought on Fox and Friends.

And, yes, Sullivan is right. A majority of voters in the Midwest do not believe the Democratic Party speaks for them and they made their voices heard loud and clear in 2016. Going to bat for eight hundred thousand people who do not look like them will only reinforce their worst fears that Dems don't care about them, thus giving Trump and the Republicans the ammunition they need to smack them around.

But here's what both are missing. The main reason the GOP scored huge wins in 2014 was because Democrats didn't give their base much of a reason to show up at the polls. Remember the words of President Obama immediately after the midterm results? "To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too."

It was that last sentence that summed up what went wrong. Obama knew something his party didn't. They had run away from the things that had defined who they were. They tried painting themselves as more moderate versions of their Republican opponents, which turned off their base and allowed the GOP to define the election on their terms. In short, Democrats played right into the hands of Republicans and they paid dearly for it.

In 2016, the electorate was again looking for Democrats to come up with a message they could rally around. Instead, the Party nominee had all the political conviction of a used-car salesman. Despite her rather extensive and impressive resume, Hillary never came across as genuine to a majority of voters. Instead, it was Trump who came across as the straight shooter and, just like in 2004, when George Bush beat a far-more qualified John Kerry, voters rewarded the candidate that resonated wth them.

Even in politics, a moral compass goes a long way. Having the courage of one's convictions is a philosophy the Party would do well to embrace as they head into the midterms. The Dreamers are people who were brought to this country as kids by their parents. They're teachers, doctors, cops, they serve in the military, and all of them are in jeopardy of being deported back to a country that none of them know. Republicans may call them "illegals" all they want, but an overwhelming majority of people feel they should be allowed to stay in the country.

Standing up for Dreamers isn't just the morally correct position for Democrats, it sends a clear message to voters that the party that in 2016 nominated someone for president who took a poll for everything from trade policy to what she was having for breakfast, might actually have their own moral compass after all. And they will energize their base in a way that they didn't in 2014 when they lost the Senate.

A look at the returns in the both the Virginia and Alabama elections showed a tremendous uptick in Democratic turnout. No doubt a large part of that was because of Trump, but the rest was because the Party nominated candidates who were authentic and had convictions they weren't afraid to voice. Frankly Ive been impressed by how resolute Democrats seem to be over the last few months and the generic polling seems to be bearing this out. What they need to do is show some spine here and make their case to the voters.

Look, Republicans control both Houses of Congress and the White House. They're the ones who need to show they can govern and so far they've done a piss-poor job of doing it. Democrats are willing to cave on border security and increased defense spending in order to allow almost a million people to legally stay in the country.

That's a winning argument for them if they stay on point and don't waiver.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shut It Down


The news that Senate Democrats will vote “no” on a four-week continuing resolution that the House passed means that in all likelihood the government will shut down Friday at midnight.

And all can say is good. Shut it down!

Enough is enough. There comes a time when you have to draw a line in the sand and take a stand. This is one of those times.

I'm not one to succumb to sentiment. As a businessman, I have always tried my best to remove emotions from the equation. Those who are ruled by their emotions tend to make poor decisions, and I've seen both political parties' bases make that mistake time and time again.

Look, is there a risk that a shut down could backfire on Democrats? Of course there is. But my gut tells me that won't be the case here, because, unlike the shutdown in 2013 over Obamacare, which was one-sided and foolhardy, the main sticking point here is one for which there is broad consensus across the entire political spectrum.

Let’s be clear. The Senate compromise that Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin came up with last week addressed all the Republican concerns: it provided for additional border security and increased defense spending levels. And it addressed the primary concern for Democrats: it allowed the almost eight hundred thousand Dreamers to legally stay in the country. And before President Doofus’s “advisors” got a hold of him and talked him out of it, he appeared to be on board. We were this close to something very rare in Washington: a truly bipartisan bill where both sides got what they wanted and, more to the point, something actually got accomplished.

So now Mitch McConnell is in a pickle. Not only does he not have enough Democrats to get to 60 votes, members of his own caucus appear to be bailing on him. With John McCain unavailable because of his illness, there are approximately four Republicans who are threatening to vote "no." Old turtle face never looked so down in the dumps.

The only question is whether Democrats will hold or fold. My money is on the former. I know that's asking a lot given their track record, but with a very unpopular president in the White House and an energized base making their voices heard loud and clear, leadership knows what the stakes are. Punting another month isn't likely to produce any better outcome and will only embolden the GOP. Dems have the leverage here. Look for Chuck Schumer to hold onto it.

In fact, if I were him, I'd put as much pressure as possible on McConnell to force him to allow a straight up and down vote on the Graham / Durbin compromise, which would likely get way more than the 60 votes needed to pass, then throw it in Paul Ryan's lap and force him to do the same. Once the bill clears the House it would be up to President Shit-for-brains to either sign it or veto it.

Republicans control the House; they control the Senate; they control the White House. And still they've shown no ability to govern. A government shutdown, if it happens, would be squarely on them. Democrats need to drive that point home over the next few days, no matter how many tweets Trump sends out.

Resolve is a word you normally don't associate with Democrats. Now, more than ever, they need it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The "D" Stands for Dumbass

So now Donald Trump is going after Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal. He better be careful or he’s going to run out of “fake news” outlets to berate.

Apparently, the thing that sent little Lord Fauntleroy over the edge this time was an interview the Journal did in which he was quoted saying “I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.” Trump is adamant he said “I’d have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un.” The problem for Trump is that the Journal taped the interview. It later released a statement that read:
We have reviewed the audio from our interview with President Trump, as well as the transcript provided by an external service, and stand by what we reported. Here is audio of the portion the White House disputes.
The New York Times raises a valid point:
Mr. Trump insisted that he had actually started his sentence with the contraction "I’d," not "I," which would change the meaning from a surprising boast of an existing relationship into a prediction that he could have a good relationship with the dictator if he wanted it.
Which of course begs the question, if the latter were actually true - that he could have a good relationship with Kim - why hasn’t he pursued it? Seriously, why hasn’t the great deal maker brokered a deal with the great tyrant?

No pun intended, but if this weren't so tragic, "it'd" be hysterical.

How apropos that on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - a day which saw the 45th president of the United States golfing - King's words should so completely encapsulate this absurdity. "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

Saturday, January 13, 2018

SHIT HOLE!


Micheal Tomasky put it best: "Come on, America. What more evidence do you need?"

I would submit it's been right there under our nose for quite some time. One look at this man's depraved life is all the evidence you need. Google "Donald Trump" and "racism" and the list of examples is longer than most people are tall. From 1973, when he and his father were sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination, to his deeply offensive ads on the Central Park Five in 1989, to his outrageous birthirism claims about then President Barack Obama, to his infamous "Mexicans are rapists" charge that launched his presidential campaign, to his attacks on the character of an Hispanic judge during the campaign, to the insulting "both sides" comments following the Charlottesville attack, the man is the personification of a racist. You could also throw in sexist, homophobe, narcissist, pathological liar, the list goes on. But that's a story for another time.

I keep asking myself, when will enough be enough? With this president, the answer appears to be never. The latest embarrassment for him occurred in a meeting at the White House with various members of Congress who are desperately trying to come up with a solution for eight hundred thousand dreamers and, at the same time, keep the government open. When presented with the details of a bipartisan deal, Trump raged, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here? Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out." What made the remarks particularly hurtful, other than the obvious racist overtones, was that they were said on the eve of the 8th anniversary of an earthquake that killed over a quarter million Haitians.

Of course, der Fuhrer later denied he made the remarks in a series of tweets - what else is new? - but one senator, Democrat Dick Durbin, who was at the meeting and heard them for himself, wasn't having any of it. "He said those hateful things," Durbin said, "and he said them repeatedly." Not unexpectedly, two Republicans who were also at the meeting chose to channel their inner Sgt. Shultz by saying they didn't recall hearing anything.

The complicity didn't end with those two dimwits. Fox News did their best to try and rationalize the vile remarks. Tucker Carlson went so far as to say that what Trump said almost every American agrees with. Even if that were true, and I pray to God it isn't, that's still no excuse for saying it out loud. Presidents are supposed to act presidential, not like the guy at the end of the bar who's had one too many.

I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted. Keeping up with this man's outrageously racist comments has become a full-time job. I've been writing about them since he first declared his candidacy, and not only am I not shocked by them, I've become almost numb to them. Sadly, this is the new normal for this White House.

Think about it: a grown man with the attention span of a gnat, the temperament of a child, the intellectual curiosity of a simpleton, and the racial views of a David Duke, has so debased the presidency that, regardless of what happens in 2020, it will take years to repair the damage. And consider we still have a week to go before the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Astonishing. He hasn't just turned the country into the laughing stock of the world; he's turned the entire GOP into a sniveling bunch of enablers. The Party of Lincoln has now officially become the Party of Trump.

At least Rome burned to the ground. I feel our fate will be a lot more painful and drawn out.

I am deeply concerned about what is happening. It isn't just the policies that have been put into place or even the speed at which he is appointing his judges to the courts. Bush had eight years to do all that and we still survived as a nation. But when a sitting president behaves in such a disgraceful manner, it can have dire consequences at home as well as abroad.

The midterms are ten months away and we still have no way of effectively stopping the Russians from interfering with them. For all we know Vladimir Putin already has a plan in place to steal the election. The Korean Peninsula is this close to erupting; if that happens, millions, if not billions, will perish. Our allies wonder what has happened to America, while our adversaries rush to fill the void created by our lack of leadership. Our isolationism has led to a world that is far more volatile, fragmented and prone to conflict. The last time we were in this position, World War II broke out. A World War III would be game, set and match for the human race.

It is times like these that nations look up to their leaders for answers, but none are forthcoming, at least not from the party currently in power. Republicans have, for the most part, chosen to ignore this president's clear flaws. Worse, some of them are doing everything possible to undermine the investigation into his possible collusion and / or obstruction of justice. Democrats have called for Trump to be censured over his latest remarks. Good luck with that. When two Republican senators who were in the same room with him won't speak up, you'd have a better chance of winning Mega Millions then getting a censure through this Congress.

Face it: we have a racist in the White House and the party that once boasted the likes of Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt among its ranks could give a shit.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Crying Wolff


Let's get something straight. I am no fan of Steve Bannon or his rag of a publication, Breitbart. As far as I'm concerned he and the entire alt-right movement can jump in a lake. But after reading excerpts from Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," in which the former senior advisor, along with a number of other West Wing staffers, were quoted saying some rather disparaging things about Donald Trump, we finally have confirmation on the record of what many have been saying off the record for over a year - that this president is completely unfit for the office he holds.

Now to be fair, Wolff's book hasn't been completely verified, and it's highly likely that, given his history, some of the accounts in it are false. But the way in which Trump and his supporters have overreacted to the excerpts that have been released, particularly those attributed to Bannon, suggests to me that it struck a nerve. I'm guessing having his son called "treasonous" for meeting with a Russian official to get dirt on Hillary Clinton didn't go over well with his royal highness.

But as amusing as it might seem to learn the Padawan screwed his master, the real story here isn't that meeting Junior had at Trump Tower - seriously, I really don't need Bannon to tell me how treasonous that was, and neither does Robert Mueller - it's the revelation that many have suspected but couldn't prove that the Trump campaign, despite all its bluster, didn't expect to win the 2016 election, and was as shocked as anyone - with the possible exception of Clinton herself - at the results.

A piece in New York magazine by Wolff titled "Donald Trump Didn't Want To Be President," finally explains not only the erratic nature of the campaign, but also what Trump's real objective was: to start his own cable network.
As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.
Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” ­Flynn assured them. 
Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.
The only hiccup in the plan was that Trump had underestimated the unrest in the electorate - especially in the Midwest - not to mention the anger and resentment he had helped gin up throughout the campaign.  Those voters didn't think his campaign was a vehicle to better and more profitable ventures; far from it. They thought he was their deliverer, and they did the unimaginable: they delivered him the presidency. And that's where America's nightmare truly began. Wolff writes,
From the moment of victory, the Trump administration became a looking-glass presidency: Every inverse assumption about how to assemble and run a White House was enacted and compounded, many times over. The decisions that Trump and his top advisers made in those first few months — from the slapdash transition to the disarray in the West Wing — set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office. This was a real-life version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, where the mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were.
The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Throughout the piece, Wolff paints a frightening picture of an administration out of its element and, at times, out of its mind. Bannon seized control of the West Wing and the Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, was unable to reign him in. Trump, becoming more and more insular, encouraged the chaos, fearful of anyone who might check his authority.
Nothing contributed to the chaos and dysfunction of the White House as much as Trump’s own behavior. The big deal of being president was just not apparent to him. Most victorious candidates, arriving in the White House from ordinary political life, could not help but be reminded of their transformed circumstances by their sudden elevation to a mansion with palacelike servants and security, a plane at constant readiness, and downstairs a retinue of courtiers and advisers. But this wasn’t that different from Trump’s former life in Trump Tower, which was actually more commodious and to his taste than the White House. 
Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom — the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He ­reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.
And then there was this Captain Queeg moment,
As details of Trump’s personal life leaked out, he became obsessed with identifying the leaker. The source of all the gossip, however, may well have been Trump himself. In his calls throughout the day and at night from his bed, he often spoke to people who had no reason to keep his confidences. He was a river of grievances, which recipients of his calls promptly spread to the ever-attentive media. 
On February 6, in one of his seething, self-pitying, and unsolicited phone calls to a casual acquaintance, Trump detailed his bent-out-of-shape feelings about the relentless contempt of the media and the disloyalty of his staff. The initial subject of his ire was the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, whom he called “a nut job.” Gail Collins, who had written a Times column unfavorably comparing Trump to Vice-President Mike Pence, was “a moron.” Then, continuing under the rubric of media he hated, he veered to CNN and the deep disloyalty of its chief, Jeff Zucker.
Trump was obsessed with the the perception that he was not really in charge. He reportedly threw a fit over a Time magazine cover that showed Steve Bannon with the caption, "The Great Manipulator" at the bottom.  To Trump this demeaned his authority by elevating a member of his cabinet. He lashed out by pointing out that Bannon had "zero" influence over him. Without quite realizing it, Trump confirmed what his harshest critics had been saying: that nothing or nobody was capable of reaching him. The leader of the free world was indeed his own island.

This paranoia had other consequences besides mere ranting and raving; it ostensibly paralyzed the administration. Well into its first year, its agenda, apart from appointing conservative judges to the courts and slashing one regulation after another, was all but stalled. Wolff cites the frustration deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh was having getting the administration to actually govern.
During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became a countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus were simply incomprehensible. In early March, not long before she left, she confronted Kushner with a simple request. “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,” she demanded. “What are the three priorities of this White House?”
It was the most basic question imaginable — one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer.
“Yes,” he said to Walsh. “We should probably have that conversation.”
That conversation, like so many others, never took place. That's because this president has surrounded himself with people who cannot or will not speak truth to power. Far from carrying out his agenda, they seem more interested in staying in the good graces of their boss. The Trump White House has been referred to as a "daycare center" by some; it's really more like an insane asylum where the inmates take their marching orders from the head inmate. And thanks to Michael Wolff, we have first-hand accounts of the dysfunction that permeates every element within it.

A paranoid president who never wanted the office, with no intellectual curiosity to speak of, and the temperament of a toddler, is ill-served by a cabinet completely incapable of getting him to focus on the most rudimentary of objectives. Wolff hasn't just written a tell-all account of an administration in disarray, he's written a chilling tale worthy of being included among Alfred Hitchcock's best thrillers. The only thing missing is the shower scene.

As I stated earlier, we still don't know how much of this book is actually true and how much is the product of Wolff's overactive imagination. Some of it has already been disproven, while some of it has been confirmed by prior reporting.

This much is certain: if even half of "Fire and Fury" is borne out by the facts, then we aren't just in unchartered waters; we're in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle with Captain Ahab at the helm.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Democrats Need To Find Their Own Trump


Now before all of you have me carted away in a straightjacket, let me explain. Imagine for a moment if, instead of being a world-class narcissist who picked fights with the media and his political rivals, Donald Trump behaved like an adult and forged working relationships that furthered his agenda? What if, instead of pandering to the nativist elements within the Republican base, Trump decided to expand his appeal by reaching out to African Americans and Hispanics? What if, instead of passing a trillion dollar tax cut that rewards the very wealthy at the expense of millions of middle-class families, he had spent that money rebuilding the nation's infrastructure? And what if, instead of screwing the people who voted for him, he actually delivered on his populist appeal?

Know what you'd have? You'd have the most popular presidency since FDR, that's what you'd have. For lack of a better explanation, Donald Trump's biggest problem has been Donald Trump. He rode a wave of populism that began in Great Britain all the way to the White House and then wiped out short of the beach. What Democrats need to realize is that sometimes it isn't the message that's the issue, it's the messenger.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, the two candidates that hit a nerve with blue-collar workers were Trump and Bernie Sanders. Bernie wasn't able to close the deal, primarily because his opponent, Hillary Clinton, had a warchest the size of the Vatican and the current occupant of the White House just happened to be very popular AND a Democrat. Trump had no such impediments. If anything, his GOP rivals looked more like a class reunion from Ridgemont High.

But in the general election, Hillary swung and missed in the area of the country Bernie hit a home run in - the Rust Belt states - and, well, you know the rest. And ever since President Shitzenstein was sworn in, Democrats have been scratching their heads trying to come up with a strategy they can employ to retake the White House in 2020. Why? The groundwork's already been laid. Two years from now those very same voters who gave the reigns of power to Trump are going to realize they got screwed. They're still going to be hurting and they're still going to be looking for the candidate who can come to the table with the right solutions. Whether that's Bernie, or Kamala Harris or Tim Ryan, makes no difference. The issues will still be the same: how to revive a sector of the economy that got decimated more than twenty years ago and has never fully recovered. Trump may have been the wrong messenger but that doesn't mean the message wasn't right.

So, with that in mind, let me repeat the title of this piece: Democrats need to find their own Trump. There now, calmer? You should be, because the good news is that every single issue that Trump beat Hillary on used to be a Democratic strength. For decades, blue-collar workers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin voted for the Democrat in almost every election. In fact, Obama cleaned both John McCain's and Mitt Romney's clock in 2008 and 2012 respectively with this demographic. Getting these voters back into the blue column won't be easy. The constant infighting between centrists and progressives threatens the Party's prospects in the upcoming midterms. Even now, Hillary supporters still can't forgive Bernie. For what, losing the nomination?

Look, I'm no fan of the man. He can be an ass, just like he was during the Virginia gubernatorial race when he wouldn't endorse Ralph Northam because his guy didn't win. And his supporters can try the patience of a saint. But it's time to admit the obvious: if Democrats had listened to him back in 2015, Hillary would be in the White House now. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

So how do Democrats take back what they so arrogantly threw away? Three words: humility, empathy and courage. First, they need to acknowledge what everyone already knows: that the Party turned away from the core values that helped define it since the '60s. Eating some humble pie will go a long way towards repairing the bridges that they themselves burned down. Secondly, they need to listen to what their constituents are telling them without the typical condescension that way too many of their candidates have exhibited. A friend of mine has a saying: people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. With few exceptions, Hillary's positions were far superior to Trump's. Yet she lost because the voters felt she didn't care about their needs.

And last, but not least, Democrats have to abandon the game plan they've been employing over the last few elections. They need to deliver on that "big tent" philosophy and, to paraphrase a Star Trek euphemism, go where no Democrat has gone in a while. It wasn't that long ago that Dems held positions of power in states like Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee. Now they're about as popular as a tick on a dog's butt. This was not an accident. The Obama campaign in 2008 scaled back the 50 state strategy that former Vermont governor Howard Dean successfully used to flip the House and Senate in '06. As a result, Dems found themselves boxed in with little room to expand their horizons. While Obama easily won reelection in 2012, the national party suffered major losses in both the 2010 and 2014 midterms. Its infrastructure is now all but nonexistent in the South and many other parts of the country.

Rebuilding that infrastructure will not be easy, but thankfully Doug Jones has given them a path forward. Jones's decision to campaign in areas of Alabama that were clearly conservative was a stroke of genius. No, he didn't win those areas, but he did something almost as good: he deprived Roy Moore of the margins he needed there to carry the state. The DNC needs to pour resources into states like Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and, yes, even Alabama. But more importantly, it needs to craft a message that doesn't drive away 70 to 80 percent of the voters in those states. Relying on identity politics isn't going to expand the electoral map for Dems; if anything, that strategy has shrunken it.

Think about this: if you take away cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and Denver, Trump would've won in a landslide. The Democratic Party has now become, for all intents and purposes, an urban-only party. Drive more than forty or fifty miles away from any major city and you'd have a better shot getting struck by lightning on a sunny day than seeing a Democrat win an election. The sad and painful truth is that Republicans control more than two thirds of the nation's geographical vote. The only reason Democrats are still competitive on a national level is because of the huge population advantage they enjoy in those cities. But as we saw last year in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, that advantage wasn't enough to keep those states from going red; and it won't be enough to flip them back into the blue column in 2020.

That's why whoever ends up getting the Democratic nomination in 2020 should come from the very area of the country Hillary got crushed in. For me, Tim Ryan of Ohio fills the bill quite nicely. Check out the interview he did with Chris Matthews a few months ago and listen to what he had to say about infrastructure and private investment in communities that have been devastated by the global economy. I don't know of a single Democrat who's talking like this, not even Bernie. Ryan's one of the few people in the party that can travel to places like Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia without getting booed because he listens to people's concerns and he comes to the table with solutions that resonate with voters. What he lacks in style he more than makes up for in substance.

He's not a progressive, at least not in the same mold as Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. So what? Neither is Ralph Northam or Doug Jones. While we're at it, Trump isn't a conservative, and yet he not only won the GOP nomination, he won the general. Conservatism vs. liberalism is a tired argument that has come and gone. People don't vote the same way they used to and the quicker Democrats figure this out the better their prospects for 2018 and beyond will be.

Look, I'm not saying that Tim Ryan is going to lead the Democrats back to the Promised Land. At present we don't even know if he intends on running for president. But he makes a lot of sense and the party should listen to what he has to say.

His constituents sure as hell are.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Why 2018 Will Be Worse Than 2017


There's no way to sugarcoat this: The presidency of Donald Trump has cast a pall over everything. His demeaning of the media by calling it fake news is a threat to the very notion of a free and independent press. The way he and his supporters have attacked the integrity of Robert Mueller and the FBI reveals a flagrant contempt for authority and the rule of law that we see only in banana republics headed by dictators. The manner in which he has systematically decimated departments and agencies like State, Justice and the EPA will take years to repair. The provocative rhetoric he has used with respect to North Korea has made a tense situation considerably more precarious and pushed the world closer to the brink of nuclear war. Add in the child-like Twitter rants at all hours of the day and night and you have a pretty convincing case for 2017 being the worst year for the country since the days of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

And while the optimist in me would like to believe that we've reached the bottom of the trough and that happier days are just around the corner, the sad truth is that I don't think we're anywhere near the bottom yet. As bad as 2017 was, 2018 promises to be considerably worse. Here's why.

The so-called "fake news" has done an incredible job uncovering links between the Trump campaign and Russia for over a year, and as those stories continue to get published, this president will ratchet up his attacks. The "alternative" media - which includes everything from Fox News to practically the entire AM radio dial - will fabricate false narratives to counteract the main-stream media's stories. The result will be a completely fractured nation where one part believes the truth, while the other will hunker down in its bubble and cling to an alternative reality. In such a scenario, truth is often divorced from facts and becomes subjective. That's how Democracies become dictatorships, and it's exactly what Trump wants for America.

I am deeply concerned about the Russia investigation; not its integrity, mind you, but the constant barrage of attacks from this White House and Congressional Republicans are starting to gain traction with Trump's supporters. Many people have speculated that this president will attempt to fire Mueller. In fact, just before Christmas I wrote that Trump might take advantage of the Holiday recess to pull the trigger. It now seems more likely that, rather than fire him, Trump and his pack of syncopates will attempt to discredit him so that if he comes back in a few months with evidence of collusion and / or obstruction of justice he will be so weakened by the barrage of attacks, that any attempt to bring impeachment charges will fail. The fact that House Republicans are thinking about "wrapping up" their investigations is very troubling.

When Steve Bannon said the goal of the Trump Administration was to "deconstruct" the administrative state, most had no idea what he meant. Many Republicans took it to mean undoing the regulations of the Obama Administration and, naturally, slashing taxes. That was certainly part of it. But after looking at what's happened at the State Department, Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, it is now all too clear what the real goal is. These departments and agencies are being gutted of career employees and thus rendered almost virtually useless for the sole purpose of eliminating any check on executive overreach.

The unwillingness to fill key positions at State has severely hampered our ability to reach diplomatic solutions and has jeopardized long-standing relationships among our allies. Over at the DOJ, the firing of 46 attorneys in March, including Preet Bharara, and the appointment of partisan hacks sent a signal loud and clear that justice was for sale. With the mass exodus of over two hundred scientists, the EPA has become little more than a rubber stamp for virtually every polluter in the country. And the undermining by this president of our intelligence community has made the United States the laughing stock of the world and left it vulnerable to an attack.

This deconstruction of the administrative state shows no sign of abating in 2018. If anything, it's likely to intensify. Trump seems perfectly willing and able to go to any length to get rid of anyone that challenges his authority. And if he can't eliminate them, he'll settle for destroying their reputations. Small wonder he's infatuated with Putin. These two deserve a private room together.

But that's not the thing that makes me most worried about 2018. If you haven't already read Trump's most recent New York Times interview by Michael Schmidt, you should. But be forewarned, it's the sort of interview that could cause a rapid evacuation of your bowels.. That's because der Fuhrer picked a rather inopportune time to REALLY let his hair down and get a few things off his chest. It wasn't just his rather unusual and unique take on the limits of executive authority, which in Trump's universe is an oxymoron, that was alarming. Nor was it his flirtation with the truth, which occurs about as often as a solar eclipse. It was his complete incoherence. In short, the man was totally off his rocker. Witness these chilling excerpts.
But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.

Yeah, China. … China’s been. … I like very much President Xi. He treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China. You know that. The presentations. … One of the great two days of anybody’s life and memory having to do with China. He’s a friend of mine, he likes me, I like him, we have a great chemistry together. He’s [inaudible] of the United States. …[Inaudible.] China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?

We’re going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we’re being respected again. But another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, “Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.” O.K.
In those three paragraphs we have the essence of Trump: 1. He's the most knowledgeable person in the room; 2. He's desperate for approval; and 3. He's convinced that without him everything would fall apart. He's the consummate narcissist, an egomaniac with an inferiority complex, as a friend of mine put it.

And this narcissist with the impulse control of a six-year old is the commander in chief with access to the nuclear launch codes. The paranoia of Richard Nixon, the intellectual curiosity of George W. Bush and the moral turpitude of Andrew Jackson all rolled into one. Humility is as far from him as Pluto is from the Sun. There is no one - not his daughter, not John Kelly, not anyone - who can speak truth to him. He's a Freudian's wet dream and our worst nightmare. And we're stuck with him for the next three years.

So, buckle up. 2017 is in the books and 2018 is on deck. I wish I had better news, but the cynic in me can't deny the obvious: we're fucked!

Happy New Year.