A Simple Analogy
JFK:Nixon = Obama:Trump
We know “everything old is new again” is an old adage and it’s one that particularly applies to our current “President” as he tries to un-do the legacy of his predecessor. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a President obsessed with a former inhabitant of the White House. Richard Nixon clearly had “difficulty” dealing with the legacy of Jack Kennedy back in the late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s. While that’s the most obvious parallel between Nixon and Trump, we should also remember Trump’s Tweet back in February: “in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media ‘is the enemy of the American people.’” (NY Times, February 17, 2017) As reported in The Guardian in December of 2008:
"Never forget," he (Nixon) tells national security advisers Henry Kissinger and Alexander Haig in a conversation on December 14 1972, "the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times."
Sounds just like Steve Bannon’s playbook for Donald Trump, doesn’t it? The press, the “establishment?” While that's a blatant connection on this issue the larger, overriding connection between Nixon and Trump is their obsession with a former president.
In Nixon’s case, of course, the charismatic, charming Irish-Catholic (the only one we’ve ever elected) was the target and, for Trump, it’s the charismatic, charming African-American (the only one we’ve ever elected). According to an online essay by Rio Bauce of Pitzer College:
Nixon believed that JFK had stolen the election with the help of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Through stuffing ballot boxes, Daley and JFK supposedly rigged the Illinois vote. Daley even did not allow certain wards to vote as the race seemed that it would be close. Although this is possible, it is unlikely that it would have reversed the outcome. The official results were that Kennedy had 303 electoral votes against Nixon’s 219 votes. Had Nixon won Illinois, JFK would still have had 276 votes against Nixon with 246 votes. Also, Nixon thought that Kennedy harassed him and his family in the early 1960s, using the IRS and the Justice Department. This belief stuck with Nixon into his White House years. In a conversation with John Ehrlichman, he suggested that it would be rough justice to audit Democrats.
The Guardian’s December, 2008 edition also noted:
But Nixon was also obsessed with his predecessor, instructing his chief of staff Bob Haldeman in July 1971 to organize a covert raid of a Washington thinktank to uncover information it might have about John F Kennedy.
An office belonging to a junior civil servant in which he had seen two photographs of Kennedy, one bearing a personal inscription, particularly offended Nixon. "On January 14," wrote White House staffer Alexander Butterfield in a 1970 memo, "the project was completed and all 35 offices displayed only your photograph."
Literally, obliterating any trace of JFK was a focus of Nixon throughout his years in office. In a 1996 NY Times (scathing) review of Christopher Matthews's (yes, that Chris Matthews of MSNBC) book Kennedy & Nixon Michico Kakutani notes:
Once in the White House, Mr. Matthews writes, Nixon began exhorting his aides to get him "the goods on John F. Kennedy himself, on how he had botched and betrayed the Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs." Apparently, Nixon also began looking for dirt on Edward M. Kennedy (and Chappaquiddick) that might undermine him as a credible rival in the 1972 elections. One result was an expanding department of "dirty tricks" that would eventually lead to the Watergate break-in.
As Mr. Matthews tells it, the Kennedy ghost would continue to play a pivotal role in the Watergate fallout. Nixon's fatal decision to initiate a cover-up involved telling the F.B.I. that the break-in was a C.I.A.-related operation. "A firm believer that the C.I.A. was hiding facts about the Bay of Pigs," Mr. Matthews writes, "Nixon decided to hide Watergate behind the same protective shell that had been guarding the legacy of President Kennedy from taint."
Nixon’s obsession with Kennedy, then, was always lurking in the background of his Administration.
As we know, Barack Obama looms large in Donald Trump’s consciousness. Just last month, Harriet Sinclair reported in Newsweek (Oct. 14, 2017):
Political analyst David Gergen told (CNN’s Don) Lemon he believed the recent announcement on the Iran deal, as well as Trump killing Obamacare subsidies, was “more about blowing up the former president’s legacy than anybody wants to admit.”
“Anything which has the name Obama on it automatically becomes a target for Donald Trump and he’s trying to reverse as much of that as possible,” he added, warning that the tendency of presidents to reverse domestic policy set by their predecessors was now rolling into foreign policy.
Indeed, back in August, a European diplomat reportedly told BuzzFeed anonymously that in his dealings with President Trump, he had noticed the Republican was driven more by a desire to scrap Obama’s policies than to enact his own.
“It’s his only real position,” the diplomat told BuzzFeed. “He will ask: ‘Did Obama approve this?’ And if the answer is affirmative, he will say: ‘We don’t.’ He won’t even want to listen to the arguments or have a debate. He is obsessed with Obama.”
And now the Trump administration, like Nixon’s, is immersed in a Special Prosecutor’s investigation and we could well be watching the unfurling of a vast cover-up (note the recent Jared Kushner news), not unlike Watergate. Whether the Russia investigation will morph into “RussiaGate” remains to be seen, of course, but it’s hard not to see the simple analogy:
JFK:Nixon as Obama: Trump.
What goes around, comes around.
Friday Quick Takes
Well, it’s been a crazy week (as usual) in TrumpWorld and today’s Blast is going to be random commentary on some of the “Breaking News” we find ourselves inundated with day after day.
Our Chief Executive’s Response to the Al Franken Sexual Misconduct
While managing to say nothing about the Roy Moore imbroglio, “President” Locker-Room-Talk managed to Tweet about Al Franken, revealing as much about himself as his supposed “disgust” with Franken. Here’s the “President’s” tweet:
The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? .....
10:06 PM - Nov 16, 2017
Consider this: what kind of mind immediately begins thinking about “pictures 2,3,4,5 & 6?” Seriously, while misspelling "Frankenstein," the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief sounds like he wants to see those photographs, doesn’t he? Apparently he has amnesia about the 16 claims about his own alleged sexual misconduct, not to mention three cases of rape (see Chris Riotta in the November 16, 2017 Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-rape-sexual-assault-minor-wife-business-victims-roy-moore-713531). The sexual harassment/misconduct genie is out of the bottle and we will, undoubtedly, see more “Breaking News” on this front every day.
Jared’s Faulty Memory?
You may have noticed the story about the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting more documents from the Presidential In-Law-Advisor. According to CBS News (November 16, 2017):
The top members on the Senate Judiciary Committee say that the documents that Jared Kushner's lawyer submitted to the panel are "incomplete." The senators said that the documents from Kushner's lawyer failed to include "several documents that are known to exist" concerning September 2016 email communications to Kushner about WikiLeaks. "Such documents should have been produced in response to the third request but were not. Likewise, other parties have produced documents concerning a "Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite" which Mr. Kushner also forwarded. And still others have produced communications with Sergei Millian, copied to Mr. Kushner. Again, these do not appear in Mr. Kushner's production despite being responsive to the second request. You also have not produced any phone records that we presume exist and would relate to Mr. Kushner's communications regarding several requests," they wrote.
Now, it might be natural for folks to assume Kushner is being evasive and trying to avoid revealing his connections to Russians during the 2016 Presidential campaign. However, while I’d be the last person to defend Jared, I’m guessing his highly-paid lawyers will present this defense. I think they will go to Daniel Golden’s ProPublica article from a year ago (November 16, 2016), which was focused on Kushner’s admission to Harvard (based on his father’s $2.5 gift to the University). Golden quoted an administrator from Jared’s high school.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me (Golden). “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not.”
Clearly, Jared is someone who simply doesn’t do his homework and his lawyers will contend: Jared’s dog ate it! It reminds me of the students I taught who would do no work for an entire quarter and then ask if there was something they could do for “extra credit" at the end of the marking period. I would point out that there was no way one could get “extra” credit when, in fact, you had not earned ANY credit! I’m pretty sure Jared’s going to find out that Bob Mueller feels the same way.
The Baseball MVP’s
I know there’s a big TAX story out there but that can wait until tomorrow. I’m going to go to that “happy place” I love dearly: baseball. Last night the Baseball Writers of America Association announced the winners of their Most Valuable Player awards in the American and National Leagues. In the American League, five-foot-six, 165 pound Jose Altuve of the World Champion Houston Astros won. In the National League the six-foot-six, 245 pound Giancarlo Stanton won. (Altuve’s runner-up in the American League was my NY Yankee, Rookie-of-the-Year hometown hero, 6’7”, 282 lb. Aaron Judge). I include the sizes of these gentlemen because it puts, in very high relief, the beauty of baseball. While you occasionally have a freakishly small player in the NFL or NBA, that is hardly the case in baseball. The 2008 American League Most Valuable Player was Dustin Pedroia, a 5’9”, 180 pound Boston Red Sox second baseman (like Altuve). I’ve written before about the fact that the dimensions of a baseball field (90 feet between the bases, 60’6” from the pitcher's rubber to home plate) have never changed. In football, goal posts have been moved, hash marks are changed and the sport reacts to bigger, stronger, faster athletes. In basketball, the width of the foul lane increases and the insertion of the 3-point line has radically changed the sport. But baseball can produce a genuine “Mutt and Jeff” MVP selection like this year's.
I know I’ve used this before but, reflecting on this year’s MVP’s, I have to, once again, quote the brilliant Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams:
The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
Only 87 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training!
Trump’s Clown Posse
Assuming you are following the news, you are aware of the Republican “Tax Reform” bill moving its way through the House of Representatives today. It is, of course, not a “reform” bill at all but a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthiest 1% of our population. There are a number of odious features to this legislative charade but we should also note that the Republicans “gerrymandered” their budget bill to insure they could institute their tax legerdemain. As noted in the July 18, 2017 The Atlantic, reported by Priscilla Alvarez:
The proposal calls for more than $200 billion in cuts to mandatory programs. It also serves “as a vehicle for changing taxes,” CNN reports, which is “the primary legislative focus of the 2018 budget.”
And what might those “mandatory programs” be? Well, according to Aida Chavez, in the October 4, 2017 The Intercept, wrote:
Their 2018 budget proposal paves the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut to be offset by massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, according to Senate Democrats who are sounding the alarm. The proposed fiscal 2018 budget resolution Senate Republicans announced last week would lead to a $1 trillion cut to Medicaid and $473 billion cut to Medicare over the next decade, along with slashing other programs low-income individuals rely on. (bold, italics mine)
The Republicans, for years, have wanted to decimate “entitlement programs” (remember George W.’s attempt at “privatizing” Social Security) and it looks like they’ve put their foot in the door with this measure. As Steven Benen noted on November 15, 2017, for MSNBC:
The scope of this vision is pretty extraordinary: GOP officials have a vision of overhauling the federal tax code, redistributing wealth to the top, scrapping health care benefits for millions, and then targeting social-insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare. If you start hearing chatter that the GOP tax plan would lead to billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, it’s not a political scare tactic. Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s own numbers, that’s a likely outcome of the Republican proposal.
That’s the starting point for this “tax reform.” And now, of course, the Senate version of this “reform” bill is looking to eliminate the Obamacare Individual Mandate --- cutting off insurance for 13 million Americans!
Trump’s key economic advisors, Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin, have proven themselves to be an Insane Clown Posse when it comes to the 2017 “Tax Reform” bill. Cohn, as reported in Vox by Matthew Iglesias on November 9th:
In his interview with John Harwood, Gary “Cohn ends up basically surrendering and admitting the plain truth about the Republican tax plan: that it’s a bonanza for big businesses and the rich, whose main benefit for normal people is a vague hope that prosperity will trickle down from those at the top.”
As Yglesias notes: “experienced political operatives know you’re supposed to say your plans are all about the middle class. Cohn, by contrast, is so new at this that he winds up actually saying ‘the most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.’” Not exactly news to those who have been following this “plan” as it has moved through the House. But Ygelsias points out exactly why big CEO’s love this Republican tax plan.
The Republican tax plan offers multiple benefits to Cohn’s “big CEOs”:
What makes this all the more embarrassing --- and gives substance to what the lie that this “reform” will “trickle down” and result in wage increases. According to Cohn:
We create wage inflation, which means the workers get paid more; the workers have more disposable income, the workers spend more. And we see the whole trickle-down through the economy, and that's good for the economy. So our biggest supporters are really the Business Roundtable. When you talk to all the CEOs — they're the most excited about this.
Yet, several days later, when Cohn met with the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council on Monday, this is what happened (as reported by Heather Long in the Washington Post):
President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, looked out from the stage at a sea of CEOs and top executives in the audience Tuesday for The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council meeting. As Cohn sat comfortably on stage, a Journal editor asked the crowd to raise their hands if their company plans to invest more if the tax reform bill passes. Very few hands went up. Cohn looked surprised. “Why aren’t the other hands up?” he said. He laughed a little to lighten the mood, but it didn’t cause many more hands to rise. Maybe the CEOs were tired. Maybe they didn’t hear the question. It was a casual poll, but the lukewarm response seemed in tension with the much of the public enthusiasm among corporations for a tax overhaul.
(If you want to see that exchange, go to: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/15/ceos-raise-doubts-about-gary-cohns-top-argument-for-cutting-the-corporate-tax-rate-right-in-front-of-him.html)
The fact is, when a similar tax windfall was given to corporations in 2004, during the W. Bush administration, “U.S. companies spent the majority of their money coming back home from overseas on stock buybacks. It was a payday for Wall Street investors that generated little benefit to the middle class and wider economy.” (Long, WaPo) If you want a more detailed explanation of why and how corporations will not re-invest to improve jobs and wages, I recommend you read Tyler Durden’s piece in the November 16, 2017 zerohedge.com website.
But enough about Cohn. The other half of the Clown Posse is, of course, Steve Mnuchin. Another Blast will go into detail about his “work.” Let’s just end this Blast with a photograph released yesterday with Mnuchin proudly presenting the first dollar bills that bear his signature as Secretary of the Treasury. He, of course, brought his (3rd) wife for the photo-op --- who wore elbow length leather opera gloves for the occasion. Here’s the photo and here are my captions for it.
"This is exactly how much middle-class taxpayers will get back with our tax cut."
"How do you like our new dinner place mats?"
The “Best People”
You may recall, during the 2016 Presidential campaign, “When asked how he will handle complicated matters of economics, diplomacy, and national security, Trump has answered that he knows how to hire ‘the best people’ to assist him with these issues.” (www.cheatsheet.com, Aug. 29, 2016) It’s November 15, 2017, Donald Trump has been in office for almost 300 days, and we've had some time to see how he’s done, as regards hiring “the best people.” Starting in January, with the dismissal of Michael Flynn as NSA Director, we got an inkling of just how good these “best people” are. The indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as the guilty plea of George Papadopoulous also reflect on Trump’s claim that he hires “the best people.” But let’s dig a little deeper.
Trump has nominated 58 people for appointment as judges on Federal Court benches around the country. 91% of those nominees are white and 81% are male. That does not mean these are not the “best people” but, if we look at some of those nominated, we may see there is cause for concern.
On November 8, 2017 the Washington Post editorial board published a story about the Trump Administration's rush to appoint judges. According to the Post:
in the president’s rush to appoint nominees and the Senate’s rush to confirm them, lawmakers risk giving too little scrutiny to potential judges whom the American Bar Association has rated unqualified for the job. With the exception of the George W. Bush administration, previous presidents have used recommendations by the nation’s largest professional association of lawyers to screen out potentially problematic nominees before seeking Senate approval. Mr. Trump, following in Mr. Bush’s footsteps, departed from that process by cutting the ABA out of the loop. The ABA instead has provided its views on nominees’ qualifications after candidates have been unveiled.
Historically, conservative Republicans have been “wary,” to say the least, of the American Bar Association, believing it to be a “left-leaning” organization. Nonetheless, it is the professional organization that represents lawyers across the United States that rates lawyers, as to whether they are “qualified” to practice law or not. Given that, it’s interesting to note:
At issue are three candidates for federal district judgeships in Oklahoma, Kansas and Alabama, along with Leonard Steven Grasz, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. The ABA found all four unqualified, unanimously in the cases of Mr. Grasz and Brett Talley, the Alabama nominee. In Mr. Talley’s case and that of Holly Lou Teeter, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings before the ABA had announced its ratings. Now, only days after receiving the ABA’s vote of no confidence in Mr. Talley and Ms. Teeter, the committee is still planning to move forward briskly with their nominations.
This should, of course, raise concerns about “the best people” Trump is nominating to lifetime judgeships! In Mr. Talley’s case he failed to mention on his disclosure form that he is married to a White House lawyer --- a clear conflict-of-interest. Beyond his “unqualified” rating from the ABA, Mr. Talley has only been practicing law for three years and has never tried a case! He has, however, “published three horror novels and two ‘true ghost’ stories, according to his website.” (New York Daily News, Nov. 14, 2017) The “best people,” indeed.
On November 1, 2017 Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, provided information on a number of other of Trump’s “best people.” The first was Sam Clovis, whom we may all be familiar with because of his name being withdrawn for “chief scientist” for the Department of Agriculture --- due to his connection to the Papadopoulos dust-up. But, beyond being a talk-show host, what were Clovis’s qualifications for being the “chief scientist?” According to Milbank:
And, as scientists go, Clovis is an excellent talk-show host. Among his scientific breakthroughs: being “extremely skeptical” of climate change, calling homosexuality “a choice,” suggesting gay rights would lead to legalized pedophilia, pushing the Obama birther allegation, and calling Eric Holder a “racist bigot” and Tom Perez a “racist Latino.”
Almost as well qualified as Clovis was Sid Bowdidge, who was nominated as an assistant Secretary of Energy --- for energy efficiency and renewable energy. What were Mr. Bowdidge’s qualifications?
Before working for the Trump campaign, Bowdidge, from 2013 to 2015, was manager of the Meineke Car Care branch in Seabrook, N.H. He previously was service and branch manager for tire shops.
Bowdidge was also a massage therapist. His nomination was withdrawn when it was discovered he had tweeted:
In one tweet, he commented on a CNN article about the San Bernardino shooters, saying “exterminate them all." In another ” he had called Muslims 'maggots.’”
Here are some of the other “best people” nominees Milbank discovered:
Finally, doing some Blast research, I discovered the following about Dan Scavino, Jr. , who is the White House Director of Social Media & Assistant to the President. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Mr. Scavino, Jr.:
At age 16, he started working at the Briar Hall Country Club golf course. Trump bought the course in 1996 and renamed it the Trump National Golf Club. Scavino became Trump’s personal caddie and, over time, worked his way up through the ranks to become an Executive VP of Trump National Golf Club. Over the July 4, 2016 weekend, controversy arose when Trump's Twitter account posted an image selected by Scavino of Hillary Clinton with a text in the shape of a Star of David calling her the "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever"; said image had originally appeared on an anti-Semitic, white supremacist message board. (italics, bold mine)
As we watch this "President" complete his first year, it is important to note whom he believes are “the best people” as we continue to organize resistance against this misguided and destructive administration.
Biden His Time?
If you happened to have seen Saturday Night Live this past weekend you probably caught the skit about the Democratic Party. Excited about their victories in last Tuesday’s elections an array of Party “leaders” played up their bright future. The problem, of course, was that their “fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces” featured Diane Feinstein (84), Bernie Sanders (76), Nancy Pelosi (77), Chuck Schumer (66), Tim Kaine (59), Elizabeth Warren (68) and Joe Biden (74). So, while there was good news for Democrats on Tuesday, SNL brought one of their most serious problems into high relief: where are the new ideas (simply being “anti-Trump” is not a platform/program) and who are the new faces of the party? The person we have seen the most of this week has been Joe Biden, who is on all the talk shows promoting his new book (a memoir; Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose) who said, on the Today Show, that he was not “closing the door” on a possible 2020 Presidential bid. Biden will be 77 in 2020, of course, but given what we’ve seen in the last two years, who knows what might happen by 2020.
As we watch the Roy Moore car wreck transpire right before our eyes, including testimony about his actions 40 years ago, we may want to remember Joe Biden before he was in Barack Obama’s considerable shadow and became everybody's favorite Grandpa. Biden’s career began in the early 1970’s:
At age 30 (the minimum age required to hold the office), Biden became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history, and one of only 18 senators who took office before reaching the age of 31 Biden began the practice of commuting every day by Amtrak train for 1½ hours each way from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continued to do throughout his Senate career.
Biden was, indeed, one of the “fresh faces” of the Democratic Party back then.
By 1987 Biden had Presidential aspirations and threw his hat in the ring. He discovered the intense scrutiny a candidate endures in these circumstances. What emerged in the 1987 was a history of plagiarism. As noted in Wikipedia:
In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech that had been made earlier that year by Neil Kinnock, leader of the British Labour Party. Biden's use came under more scrutiny because he fabricated aspects of his own family's background in order to match Kinnock's.
Biden was soon found to have earlier that year lifted passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy (for which his aides took the blame), and a short phrase from the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy; and in two prior years to have done the same with a 1976 passage from Hubert H. Humphrey.
A few days later, Biden's plagiarism incident in law school came to public light. Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, he had stated that he had graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college each of which was untrue or exaggerations of his actual record. (Later in 1987, the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Biden of the law school plagiarism charges regarding his standing as a lawyer, saying Biden had "not violated any rules")
Needless to say, Biden’s campaign ran aground and Michael Dukakis became the Democratic nominee for President.
Biden was next in the public spotlight in 1991 as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee when Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court and Anita Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her. While Biden voted against Thomas’s appointment (Thomas was granted the seat with a 52-48 vote), as Chair of the Committee he may have facilitated Thomas’s appointment because:
In part due to his own bad experiences in 1987 with his presidential campaign, Biden was reluctant to let personal matters enter into the hearings. Biden said he was striving to preserve Thomas's right to privacy and the decency of the hearings. (wikipedia)
So, Biden’s reluctance “to let personal matters enter into the hearings” probably allowed Thomas to win just enough support to sit on the Supreme Court.
Biden voted against H.W.'s Gulf War in 1991 but did support the W. Bush Iraq War in 2002. More damning was his spearheading the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that led to the massive incarceration rates we now live with. What we also know about Joe Biden, again as noted in Wikipedia, is:
he has shown "a persistent tendency to say silly, offensive, and off-putting things . . . Biden's weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything. . . Biden's vanity and his regard for his own gifts seem considerable even by the rarefied standards of the U.S. Senate.
This was most evident in 2007 when Biden decided to throw his hat in the Presidential ring and, when asked about Barack Obama’s candidacy, said:
I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man.
Open mouth, insert foot. Needless to say, he had to walk that comment back --- and what it led to, ironically, was a close relationship with Obama, resulting in Biden gaining the Vice Presidency.
If you know Biden's history you are aware that he has overcome enormous personal tragedy (losing his wife & daughter in a car crash in the early 70's and his son to a brain tumor in 2015). Yet, it’s pretty clear Joe is already running for the 2020 nomination, something the Democratic Party will have to wrestle with over the next few years. What the Party may want to do is actually look around for genuine “fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces.”
I’m just sayin’.
Trying to avoid the burnout that following U.S. politics engenders (Trump’s groveling Asia trip, Roy Moore’s pedophilia, Michael Flynn’s shenanigans, Louis C.K. “issues,” etc.) I was struck this morning, when perusing the New York Daily News sports page, by the 2017-2018 College Football Bowl Game schedule. Starting on December 16th we will be inundated with 41 Bowl games. Earlier this year I wrote a Blast at the end of the last round of Bowl Games (Blast #111, January 3, 2017 --- Bread & Circuses? Nope, Bowl Games & Pizza --- you can find it in the Blast archives). That was a history of the whole Bowl Game phenomena and traced how advancing technology (air travel, cable television) brought corporate dollar$ with it and made Bowl Games an “investment” for sponsors. As a result, we get ESPN’s “Capital One Bowl Week” (which lasts about 10 days) and 41 games.
What struck me, as I looked over this year’s schedule, was not the sheer number of games (which is stunning!) but how many athletic conferences have their tentacles in assured Bowl Game appearances. And there’s an interesting historical/sociological commentary buried in it, too. A quick glance at the schedule reveals the following conferences that are guaranteed multiple “invitations” to Bowl Games include: The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with at least nine (and possibly 11!); the Southeastern Conference with 9 (and possibly a 10th); the Big 10 with 4 to 6 bids; the Pacific Coast Conference (PAC-12) with 6 to 8 invitations; and the Big-12 (which only has 10 schools) with 6 or 7 games. Given the high profile of these conferences, one might be disturbed, but not shocked, by the multiple bids they receive. It probably means their lower ranked schools, with .500 records (or just below .500), will get a bid for Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl or the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl in Phoenix.
More interesting, when closely examining the schedule, though, is that the American Athletic Conference (AAC) has EIGHT bowl bids for its schools. No one would fault you if you couldn’t rattle off the name of AAC teams. Currently, it appears the conference will send Memphis, Houston, SMU, Navy, UCF, USF, Temple (currently 4-5) and one of the following (3-6 record)teams: UConn, Tulane, or Cincinnati. Similarly, Conference-USA has SIX Bowl Game slots already lined up. These will go to North Texas State, University of Alabama-Birmingham, Florida Atlantic, Florida International University, Marshall, Western Kentucky State, and either Middle Tennessee State or Louisiana Tech (both 4-5 at the moment). Just to clarify, these two conferences have their designated slots in the following Bowl Games: the New Orleans Bowl, the Cure Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl, the Frisco (Texas) Bowl, the Bahamas Bowl, the Birmingham Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl, the Military Bowl, and that Heart of Dallas Bowl. The two conferences face off against each other in the Boca Raton Bowl and the Gaspirilla Bowl (St. Petersburg). All the games occur between December 16th and December 28th. You may want to start marking your calendar. (The complete schedule is listed at the end of this Blast)
You might also note that the Mid-American Conference will send FIVE teams to Bowl Games (probably Ohio, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Central Michigan) and the Mountain West Conference is guaranteed SIX Bowl bids (Fresno State, San Diego State, Boise State, Wyoming, Colorado State, and Utah State—5-5, or Air Force, 4-5). The Sun Belt will send FIVE teams to Bowls (Troy State, Arkansas State, Georgia State, Appalachia State, and Louisiana-Lafayette). That’s a lot of football, of course, but there’s one other Bowl Game that we should take note of and it’s played on December 16th, the first day of the Bowl Game schedule.
This year the Celebration Bowl will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta featuring the winners of the MEAC and the SWAC. Not familiar with those conferences by their initials/acronyms? That’s probably because, as noted in Wikipedia:
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is a collegiate athletic conference whose full members are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Southeastern and the Mid-Atlantic United States. It participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I, and in football, in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) is a collegiate athletic conference headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, which is made up of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the Southern United States. It participates in the NCAA's Division I for all sports; in football, it participates in the Football Championship Subdivision(FCS), still frequently referred to by its former designation of Division I-AA.
Because they are in the Football Championship Subdivision --- a 13 conference group that includes the (abstaining to play) Ivy League --- they are eligible to participate in a Subdivision playoff and championship that is not sanctioned by the NCAA. Since there is little or no coverage of the FCS (formerly Division 1-AA), playing in the Celebration Bowl can be seen as an accomplishment, of sorts, I guess.
I became a college football fan starting in 1962, when Oregon State's left-handed quarterback Terry Baker won the Heisman Trophy (and then went on to play on the school’s Final Four basketball team!). During those years there was still controversy over Black players (“Negroes”) playing in post-season college games in Alabama. I clearly remember controversy over the entire concept of letting a Black man play quarterback on a football team. So, televising the Celebration Bowl as part of the Capital One Bowl week probably reflects some sort of “progress” for our sports society, right? I think ESPN (2 & 3) broadcast the Division 2 and Division 3 championship series but it seems the subdivision only gets the Celebration Bowl. I guess that’s what the “celebration” is about?
That's where we stand. Start stocking up on chips and dip and enjoy the games!
(Starting December 16th)
See you on January 9th.
(When it's finally over)
Bowl Game Schedule (with sponsors noted)
Saturday, Dec. 16
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Las Vegas Bowl
Gildan New Mexico Bowl
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl
Tuesday, Dec. 19
Boca Raton Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 21
St. Petersburg Bowl
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Saturday, Dec. 23
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Dollar General Bowl
Sunday, Dec. 24
Tuesday, Dec. 26
Quick Lane Bowl
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl
Wednesday, Dec. 27
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Thursday, Dec. 28
Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman
Camping World Bowl
Valero Alamo Bowl
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic*
Saturday, Dec. 30
AutoZone Liberty Bowl
PlayStation Fiesta Bowl*
Capital One Orange Bowl*
Monday, Jan. 1
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl*
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual*
College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl*
Monday, Jan. 8
College Football Playoff National Championship Presented By AT&T
The “New America?”
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear . . .
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs . . .
Everybody look what's going down
While Democrats are cheering Tuesday’s election results around the country, we should consider who won and how they won to not only appreciate the victory but to carefully plan how to win in 2018 and 2020. If we survey the landscape of the winners, across the country, we may get some insight into what made Tuesday so successful for the Democrats.
Virginia was the big story, of course. Not only because of Ralph (could I be more Bland?) Northam’s substantial (9%) victory over Ed (I’ll do anything to win!) Gillespie. As in New Jersey, a Black lieutenant governor was elected (only the second time in Virginia history), and the Democrats won the Attorney General position as well. But it was the Virginia House of Delegates that became the big story. Entering Tuesday’s election, the Republicans held a 66-34 advantage in the Virginia House. As reported in the Huffinton Post (Daniel Marans, November 8, 2017):
But the more stunning news came down ballot in the Virginia House of Delegates, where Democrats flipped 16 Republican seats ― nearly seizing control of the chamber.
The final results are in flux. In five races, the victor won by a margin of 1 percentage point or less, which is the threshold for a candidate to request a recount. Democrats won two of those races, while Republicans won three.
If the current count of 16 Democratic pickups sticks ― an effective 32-seat swing ― the parties would be tied 50-50 in the House, prompting an unusual power-sharing arrangement in which they divide committee chairmanships and other key posts.
This was not only “stunning news” because of the number of “upsets” but also because of who was elected in Virginia. The “big” story, of course, was the election of Danica Roem, a transgender candidate, over Bob Marshall, a 26-year incumbent who self-identified as Virginia’s “Chief Homophobe,” introduced a “bathroom bill” last year, and insisted on using the pronoun “he” when referring to Ms. Roem. Fending off attacks from “Bigot Bob,” Roem pushed a program focusing on improving Route 28 and expanding Medicare to defeat her opponent. Elizabeth Guzman and Hala Ayala are the first Latinas elected to the Virginia House. Ayala, who quit her job in cybersecurity with the Coast Guard to run (after attending the Women’s March last January), is a single mother who was impressed by “lines at polls on Tuesday (that) were the most racially and ethnically diverse” (NY Times, Nov. 8, 2017) she had ever seen. And that was the case across the board. As the Huffington Post noted:
They were teachers, lawyers, techies, veterans, civil servants and at least one former TV news anchor; they were black, white, Latino and Asian; they were cisgender and transgender; and they hailed from all corners of the state, rural, suburban and urban alike.
In the end, 11 more Democratic women were elected to House seats, bringing the total number of House Democratic women to 23, or nearly half.
And that was the theme we saw across the country. Minneapolis saw a black transgender activist, Andrea Jenkins, elected to the City Council. Hoboken, New Jersey, right next to Jersey City, where “President” Trump claimed he saw “thousands of Muslims cheering” on 9/11, elected a Sikh mayor, Ravi Ballah, turban and all. In other mayoral elections, the citizens of Topeka, Kansas, elected Michelle De La Isla, a woman born in New York and raised in Puerto Rico who went to Wichita State University. De La Isla is a single mother who had been “homeless at 17 and pregnant at 19” (NY times, Nov. 8, 2017) and had worked for Habitat for Humanity in Topeka who won a City Council seat four years ago. Seattle elected its first openly lesbian mayor, Jenny Durkan, whose family has been involved in Washington State politics for decades (her father ran for Governor twice) is a former Obama appointed U.S. attorney and a specialist in cybercrime, who has promised two years of free community college for Seattle high school graduates (a la Bernie). And in Helena, Montana, the voters chose their first Black mayor since 1873. Wilmot Collins was inspired by the negative remarks about refugees being criminals & terrorists he saw on Facebook. Mr. Collins arrived from Liberia in 1994 and unseated 16-year incumbent, James E. Smith. According to the NY Times, Mr. Collins “said that some of his major platform planks included providing funding for essential services like the fire and police departments, and creating more affordable housing in part because of the large populations of homeless veterans and teenagers in Helena. Mr. Collins, who is married with two adult children, came to the United States after fleeing the civil war in Liberia. He works for the state as a child protection investigator and has been a member of the Navy Reserve for two decades."
Finally, closer to home here in the New York metropolitan area, two Republican bastions --- Westchester and Nassau Counties --- bounced their County Executives in favor of Democrats! As noted in the New York Times (Lisa W. Foderaro, Nov. 8, 2017):
Many Democrats said they decided to get involved at the local level as the best strategy of resisting the Trump presidency. That movement helped overcome decades of history: In each county, only two Democrats have held the office of county executive since the 1930s.
So, while much of Tuesday’s Democratic victory can be attributed to the resistance to the Trump presidency, it should be noted that mobilizing diverse groups of local people, particularly women, while promoting issues that are important --- roads, housing, funding police and fire departments --- issues that used to be called “kitchen table” issues --- are at the core of the successful Democratic campaigns.
And that’s the lesson that needs to be named if the Democrats hope to be successful with a New America agenda for 2018 and 2020.
All This President’s Men
The Robert Redford-Dustin Hoffman All the President’s Men was on one of the HBO channels on Saturday night and any time that movie is shown it’s hard not to flash back to that period of U.S. history. If you lived through it you will remember how America was consumed by the scandal. An event the Nixon administration tried to shrug off as a “third rate burglary” morphed into the greatest Presidential scandal in American history, resulting in the resignation of the 37th President of the United States. What is forgotten amid the drama and the cover-up is that what Nixon and his henchmen were trying to do was fix the 1972 election --- and they did! Most people, when they hear “Watergate,” think about Nixon’s resignation and the cover-up, Woodward & Bernstein (as played by Redford & Hoffman). But the far more serious issue beneath the Watergate scandal was a serious attack on the electoral process and, essentially, fixing the Democratic nominating process to produce the weakest candidate to run against Nixon. And it worked! Look at the results of the 1972 Presidential election: Nixon 520, McGovern 17. McGovern only carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, failing to take his home state of South Dakota! Could Nixon have run against a weaker candidate?
If we look at the current investigation of the Donald Trump campaign for President in 2016 we see that the Robert Mueller investigation is, like Watergate, about the election being fixed (or “rigged,” as Trump himself claimed). In this case, there is a possibility that Trump surrogates, if not the “President” himself, worked with agents of the Russian oligarchy to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. While there are not “shocking” parallels between the two scandals, we might want to take a look who the Nixon operatives were and compare them to the Trump “surrogates” under scrutiny today.
The Nixon line-up included the following (wikipedia):
· John N. Mitchell – former United States Attorney General and director of Nixon's 1968 and 1972 election campaigns; faced a maximum of 30 years in prison and $42,000 in fines; on February 21, 1975, Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison, which was later reduced to one to four years; Mitchell actually served 19 months.
· H. R. Haldeman – White House chief of staff, considered the second most powerful man in the government during Nixon's first term; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $16,000 in fines; in 1975, he was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice and received an 18-month prison sentence.
· John Ehrlichman – former assistant to Nixon in charge of domestic affairs; faced a maximum of 25 years in prison and $40,000 in fines. Ehrlichman was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury and other charges; he served 18 months in prison.
· Charles Colson – former White House counsel specializing in political affairs; plead nolo contendere on June 3, 1974 to one charge of obstruction of justice, having persuaded prosecution to change the charge from one of which he believed himself innocent to another of which he believed himself guilty, in order to testify freely. he was sentenced to 1 to 3 years of prison and fined $5,000; Colson served seven months.
* Jeb Stuart Magruder, Deputy Director of Committee to Re-elect the President pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to the burglary, and was sentenced to 10 months to four years in prison, of which he served 7 months before being paroled.
* John W. Dean III, counsel to Nixon, convicted of obstruction of justice, later reduced to felony offenses and sentenced to time already served, which totaled 4 months.
* Dwight L. Chapin, deputy assistant to Nixon, convicted of perjury.
* Herbert W. Kalmbach, personal attorney to Nixon, convicted of illegal campaigning.
What we see in that list are people very close to the President --- as well as people Nixon probably didn't even know. His former Attorney General (think Jefferson Beauregard Sessions), John Mitchell, was the Campaign Director (think Paul Manafort) and a driving force behind the break-in and other “dirty tricks.” We also see a number of lawyers (Colson Dean, Kalmbach) who advised the President in a variety of roles --- which we certainly see with the Trump investigation (Michael Cohen, Ty Cobb, John Dowd, Don McGahn, et al). Those people may not be swept up in the Mueller probe but the parallels are, at least, interesting.
Now, who are the “major players” in the Trump-Russia investigation? Here’s a brief list (courtesy of CNN Politics):
Paul Manafort -- A Republican strategist and longtime Washington operator, Manafort joined Trump's campaign team last spring and was elevated after campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June. But with just under three months to go until the presidential election, Manafort resigned amid questions over his campaign role and extensive lobbying history overseas, particularly in Ukraine, where he represented pro-Russian interests. Manafort and Rick Gates, long-time business associates who served together on the Trump campaign, were indicted in connection with Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on 12 counts that included conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal. The charges do not cover any activities related to the campaign, though it's possible Mueller could add additional charges.
Rick Gates -- Gates' fate has long been tied to the fortunes of Paul Manafort. Manafort served as Trump's campaign chairman, and he ran the Trump campaign for several months with Gates serving as his deputy. Gates stayed on the campaign after Manafort was ousted amid questions about his work in Ukraine. But Gates was ousted from a pro-Trump advocacy group earlier this year amid mounting questions about Manafort. Gates has denied any wrongdoing. "Everything was done legally and with the approval of our lawyers," Gates said in a June interview with The New York Times. "Nothing to my knowledge was ever done inappropriately."
George Papadopoulos -- A former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI after he lied about his interactions with Russians who had close ties to the Kremlin.
A former Trump campaign official said Papadopoulos interacted with the campaign "a significant amount" during the 2016 election cycle. When asked about Papadopoulos' role in the campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters his role was "extremely limited" and called it a "volunteer position."
Michael Flynn -- Flynn has courted controversy since before he became an early supporter of Trump's campaign. Trump tapped him as national security adviser. His tenure in any case didn't last long, as he resigned after acknowledging that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. His financial ties with Russia and other foreign countries have also attracted attention, including the emails obtained by Cummings showing that he was paid by a state-run Russian TV outlet from which he had originally denied receiving funds.
Jared Kushner -- The 36-year-old businessman-turned-political operative played a crucial role in his father-in-law's presidential campaign and has carved out a role for himself as one of Trump's key White House aides.
Carter Page -- Trump last year listed him as a foreign policy adviser in response to a question from The Washington Post. His reported meeting with Kislyak during the Republican convention in Cleveland is one of his interactions with Russian officials that has caught the attention of the FBI.
Roger Stone -- The eccentric former Trump adviser and self-described, master of political dark arts has been labeled as the "dirty trickster" of delegate fights. He has worked with the campaigns of Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
Michael Cohen -- Trump's personal lawyer has been a staunch defender of his client, often serving as a media surrogate during the campaign. During a CNN interview in February, Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko said he had discussed a pro-Russian peace plan for Ukraine with Cohen over dinner in January.
Remembering the Watergate timeline may prove helpful in watching the Trump investigation unfold.
Guns, Election Day,
Wherefore the Democrats?
Tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Virginia is being heralded as some kind of crucial bellwether regarding the future of the Democratic Party as well as the ominous specter of “Trumpism” completing its hostile takeover of the Republican Party. The momentum, we’re being told, is shifting toward the newly minted “save our statues” Ed Gillespie and away from Ralph “could I be more Bland?” Northam. The bigger story, of course, is this week’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which at least 26 people (many of them children) were killed. And, in the background, is the “President’s” visit to Asia, with Air Force One touching down in Seoul just this evening. Thank god for that 24/7 news cycle and all the cable/streaming outlets we can plug into, eh?
I’d like to use this space and time to focus on two particular items: a) the shooting with the renewed “debate” about gun laws and b) the morass that is the Democratic Party in 2017. As far as the gun “debate” goes --- there is no debate! Watching the news, we once again hear the arguments about the man having “mental problems” (thereby possibly making him ineligible to purchase firearms) and an outcry, particularly from coastal Blue states, for “stricter” gun laws. This just in: it’s not going to happen. And, even if it did, would it make any difference?
Here’s the point I’ve reached about “gun laws.” Much to the chagrin of my left-leaning friends, I will say that I agree with the NRA, to an extent, that there are plenty of “gun laws” on the books. The fact is, “gun laws” are the bailiwick of the states and, even if there are Federal laws passed (unlikely as that may be) a majority of states will find ways to skirt or negate them. A Pew Research study in 2013 found:
More than a third of Americans say they or someone in their household owns a gun. There are by various estimates anywhere from 270 million to 310 million guns in the United States — close to one firearm for every man, woman and child.
How and where, at this point in history, do we even begin to “control” guns in this country? As with issues of race, we live in a country where a significant percentage of our population is not invested in even entertaining the notion of progressive reform or change. Gun owners are not a monolithic bloc, though it’s easy to simply say “the NRA,” picture Wayne LaPierre, and see them as such.
There are a significant percentage of gun owners who are hunters and quite responsible regarding their firearms. As of 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified 276 “militia” groups in the United States, most of which are composed of heavily armed and strongly anti-government members. These are the people who believe the government is “interfering” in their lives and “wants to take our guns away.” While there is no substance to that charge, the conspiracy-believing and paranoid members of these groups are staunch NRA supporters. There is also a percentage of the population who own guns for target shooting at the range, home protection, or are “collectors” of one stripe or another. 270 to 310 million gun owners! We also see that the majority of these gun owners apparently accept that the “trade-off” for having a Second Amendment is mass shootings --- and they can “live with that” (unless they’re in the wrong place/wrong time, of course).
So, while I am not at all satisfied with the state of guns & gun laws --- their ownership, sale, background checks, concealed carry permits, etc. etc. etc. --- we’ve reached a point where we need to honestly look at our fellow citizens and simply recognize that we are living in a dangerous world. Like our fellow citizens in much of the nation, “liberals” need to accept that going to nightclubs, concerts, churches --- from this time forward --- will not insure the safety of you or your loved ones. And that leads to the state of the Democratic Party.
The Democrats. What a mess. Even before Donna Brazile started hawking her book and throwing Hillary and the DNC under the bus this week, the Democrats have been satisfied to simply be “that Anti-Trump” group. You may recall Chuck & Nancy’s attempt at a “program” (remember “A Better Deal?” No? That’s okay, neither does anyone else). Mass shootings let the Dems roll out their “stricter gun laws” chorus and reinforces the notion they are a bi-coastal Elite who “don’t get” the folks in the flyover states --- and that appears to be true. Jeffrey Toobin, in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker, has written “Is Tom Cotton the Future of Trumpism?, a profile of the Arkansas junior Senator. There is a quote from Cotton that strikes me as the heart of the problem Democrats face moving toward the 2018 and 2020 elections. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, last August, Toobin observed this Cotton speech:
“Go home tonight and turn on one of the nighttime comedy shows. Tomorrow morning, turn on one of the cable morning-news shows. This Saturday, watch ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” he said. “All the high wardens of popular culture in this country, they love to make fun of Donald Trump, to mock him, to ridicule him. They make fun of his hair, they make fun of the color of his skin, they make fun of the way he talks—he’s from Queens, not from Manhattan. They make fun of that long tie he wears, they make fun of his taste for McDonald’s.” He went on, “What I don’t think they realize is that out here in Arkansas and the heartland and the places that made a difference in that election, like Michigan and Wisconsin, when we hear that kind of ridicule, we hear them making fun of the way we look, and the way we talk, and the way we think.”
Tom Cotton was speaking in what used to be “Clinton Country.” But the country has changed since Slick Willy ran for President in 1992 and the Democratic Party seems to have lost its ability to speak to “those people,” the ones who used to be the core of the Democratic Party. It doesn’t seem that Tom Perez or Keith Ellison know how to begin a dialogue with those voters, either. And we have to recognize, too, that the flight from the Democratic Party was a slow leak that started with Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 and the rejection of (and audacity of the party to nominate) a Black President.
Trump’s white backlash has its solid 35% but surely the Democrats can find a way to “re-patriate” that white working class, the old New Deal heart and soul. The issues are there: health care, infrastructure, reasonable immigration policies, and so on. But presently the embers of Hillary’s defeat are still hot and the Bernie Bro’s are still chafing, particularly with Donna Brazile’s ill-timed bookselling. The Democrats need to figure out a way to re-group, articulate a clear platform that speaks to the voters who deserted the party for Trump in 2016 --- and they need to become a vibrant, exciting political party that has important things to say to all Americans, breaking away from the “culture warrior” persona and remember what a “people’s party” looks like.
The Trump Trifecta:
the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.
Some people were shocked by Donald Trump’s Presidential candidacy announcement in June, 2015, when he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” If you were not clear, before this statement, that Donald J. Trump may have a racist streak, leaning toward white supremacy, you were certainly put on notice. For the best analysis of Trump’s white supremacy I would recommend reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay in October's Atlantic, entitled The First White President. The thesis of Coates’s argument is simple: while all but one of our Presidents before Obama were white, none was elected because his primary qualification was only that they were white. As Coates says:
It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.
Indeed, Trump’s “platform,” in his run-up to the Presidency, was based on the “hot buttons” of the anger and grievance in white male voters, in particular. A border wall, a Muslim ban, the “carnage” in “inner cities” --- all assertions that are provably false, nonetheless carried the day. And there was also the unspoken element of the Trump campaign and that was the exorcism of the legacy of Barack Obama. Let’s remember how Trump’s “political” career began. As Coates documents that genesis:
His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against “lazy” black employees. “Black guys counting my money! I hate it,” Trump was once quoted as saying. “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.
De-legitimatizing all that was Obama --- the man who, along with Seth Myers, had publicly humiliated Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner --- was always central to Trump’s campaign. The stolen Reagan campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was clear code for “Make America WHITE Again” and particularly designed to appeal to Nixon’s old “silent majority” demographic. Obama had to be purged from White America’s memory. Again, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:
Essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
If we simply start by looking at Trump’s 18 Cabinet appointments we find 12 white men, one black man, and five women (one of whom is Mitch McConnell’s wife). By way of comparison, Obama’s initial Cabinet was comprised of 8 white men (including one Republican), 3 white females, one black male, two Latino males, one Latino female, and one Japanese American male. Quite a contrast. Trump’s Cabinet and policies reinforce another of Coates’s statements: the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification.
If one is not yet convinced that Trump’s “inclinations” are leaning toward white supremacy, let’s look at what “policies and programs” have preoccupied this “Presidency” since January 20th. The first big legislative fail, “repealing and replacing” Obamacare, was a direct assault on the 44th President. Watching Trump’s reaction to the Charlottesville demonstrations, we saw white supremacists take to social media, lauding the “President’s” support. His attempts at “Muslim travel bans,” struck down in the courts, was another attack on non-white people, as was his cancellation of DACA (which he has now left to Congress to resurrect). Watching his lukewarm reaction to Puerto Rico’s hurricane crisis (as opposed to Florida & Texas), as well as his pardon of Joe Arpaio, clearly reveals Trump’s white supremacist core. His reaction to a white shooter’s killing spree (“too soon to politicize”) as opposed to a Muslim terror attack (“Death Penalty!”) is just another reflection of Trump’s orientation. Need we even discuss the attack on NFL players and his perversion of the issues at the heart of that protest?
As Bob Burnett (the co-founder of Cisco Systems) summed up in commondreams.org in September, 2017:
Donald is a white supremacist. His reaction to Charlottesville made that clear. Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobe, classist, and anti-Semite. If we had any lingering doubts, Trump's handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico has made his bigotry abundantly clear. Rather than focus on the desperate straits of the island's 3.4 million inhabitants—primarily people of color—Trump picked a fight with the National Football League. As a result, Puerto Rican relief was delayed, turning a tragedy into a catastrophe. Trump's slogan, "Make America great again," is a call to reinforce white male privilege, a larger and less distinct concept than "white supremacy" that incorporates racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, anti-Semitism and dominionism. (In essence, white male privilege is the notion that straight white Anglo-Saxon men should dominate the social order because that is the "natural" hierarchy.)
One last statistic, from the Southern Policy Law Center(SPLC): in the first 34 days of the Trump administration there were 1,094 bias incidents reported. The SPLC spring magazine issue is entitled The Year in Hate --- it notes:
Without a doubt, Trump appealed to garden-variety racists, xenophobes, religious bigots and misogynists — people not necessarily in any hate or related kind of group, but who still were antagonistic toward multiculturalism. And the numbers of those people have been rising, with studies showing anti-black racism among whites increasing during the Obama years. But bigotry was certainly not the only factor motivating Trump supporters; the Times post-mortem found that many saw in their candidate “their best chance to dampen the most painful blows of globalization and trade, to fight special interests, and to be heard and protected.” None of this is to say that whites have it worse than most minority groups, particularly African Americans and Latinos. But as numerous sociological studies have shown, a person’s objective economic condition is less important in fostering anger than how that person is faring compared to expectations. Whites have long had it better than other groups, but that advantage is slowly being whittled away.
Remember, white supremacy is grounded in the notion that “white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society.” The Prime Directive of this “presidency” is focused on assuring, in no uncertain terms, that white men resume their “rightful” place in U.S. society, keeping the “rightful order” in place --- and all "others" in their place.