Monthly Archives: November 2020

SCOTUM

 

The following is an opening paragraph you never expected to see on Deprogramming101.

Believe it or not, Donald Trump’s crack legal team of Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and the recently removed Sydney Powell has more judicial integrity than a sitting member of the Supreme Court of the United States.  While Giuliani and accompany continue to yell “fraud” in front of a crowded strip mall or the ballroom of the Gettysburg Wyndham Hotel, they have not made the same claim in court.  Why?  Because they know making such assertions without any underlying evidence before a judge would violate attorney standards of practice and could result in sanctions by the court and/or possible discipline by a state bar association.

In Caustic Speech at Federalist Society, Alito Takes Gloves Off | National Law JournalIn contrast, Justice Samuel Alito did the exact opposite.  He told the truth during a keynote address to the Federalist Society, where it did not matter, while evading related questions during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  In a November 21, 2020 opinion essay, Austin Sarat, associate provost and professor of jurisprudence at Amherst College, wrote:

Alito at his 2006 confirmation hearings promised his political views would be irrelevant to his work on the high court. Then on a federal appeals court, he contended there is a stark difference between being a judge and an advocate who “has the goal of achieving the result that the client wants within the bounds of professional responsibility.” A judge, he said, “doesn’t have an agenda, and a judge has to follow the law.”

In those same hearings, when asked how he would apply this principle to several Supreme Court decisions past and pending, he declined to answer, insisting it was improper for a justice to comment on issues that might come before the court in the future.  Fourteen years later, Alito now holds himself up to a different code of conduct.  In reference to Alito’s speech to the Federalist Society,  Adam Liptak of the New York Times wrote “in an unusually caustic and politically tinged speech, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. told a conservative legal group that liberals posed a growing threat to religious freedom and free speech.”  Two passages from his remarks are of particular interest.

Just as the COVID restrictions have highlighted the movement toward rule by experts, litigation about those restrictions, has pointed up emerging trends in the assessment of individual rights. This is especially evident with respect to religious liberty. It pains me to say this, but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.

We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020.

Now we know why Alito has no history of playing sports in high school or college.  Someone so prone to telegraphing a play, with the exception of Babe Ruth, has little, if any, future in amateur or professional athletic endeavors.  Therefore, it was no surprise when Alito sided with the majority to vacate restrictions imposed by New York State on gatherings at religious institutions during the recent spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.  So much for one’s responsibility “to follow the law” as Alito argued in 2006.  Perhaps the justice forgot what the First Amendment actually says and why it is called the “Establishment Clause.” To refresh his memory:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

First, CONGRESS did not make a law.  Second, the New York order did not discriminate among religions.  It applied to churches, synagogues and mosques, and if asked, I am sure Governor Andrew Cuomo would have included covens.  Third, the New York order did not prohibit the free exercise of religion. It asked only that religious entities make accommodations to protect the health and safety of the state’s citizenry.

Justice Alito might also take a look at the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.  Again, a reminder.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The last time I looked, there is no language in the Constitution which prohibits a state from taking emergency measures during a health crisis.  If such evidence exists, one would think a legal scholar worthy of a seat on the highest court in the land would have presented it in the 5-4 majority decision.  So rather than herald this victory for individual and religious rights, if the Federalist Society had any grain of intellectual integrity, it would be decrying this violation of “originalist” or “strict construction” of the Constitution, something they claim is a central criterion for the judges they recommend for appointment to federal benches.

Additionally, Alito and his comrades have opened a Pandora’s Box when it comes to public safety and religious freedom.  Alito thinks nine months of limited public gatherings and mask mandates is “severe and prolonged.”  Perhaps he forgot to take his Prevagen that day.  For the past 19 years I have had strangers x-ray my genitals so I can get on an airplane.  Not that I care to, but I have been restricted from smoking in public places beginning with a Surgeon General’s report in 1964.  And since 1968, I can be pulled over and issued a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt while driving.

On his September 14, 2015 broadcast of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the host demonstrated exactly how easy it is to establish a religious entity theoretically protected under Alito, et. al.’s interpretation of the First Amendment.  In a rebuke of churches which promote the prosperity gospel, Oliver legally established and became pastor and CEO of “Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption,” which its website describes as “a tax-exempt organization that you certainly can’t say is not a church.”  In  the same spirit, I am considering forming a similar entity, Our Guardian of Subdermal Privacy, which does not believe humans or animals should be subject to body scans.  If the Supreme Court truly believes religious liberty trumps (I know) public safety, I look forward to arguing my case in front of these custodians of situational conviction.

But I digress.  Why SCOTUM?  Because, in an act of cowardice, not one of the five justices who voted to overturn the New York emergency order, including all three recent appointments–Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, was willing to admit they wrote the majority opinion. So, rather than SCOTUS, we can expect more hypocritical and likely anonymous decisions to be forthcoming from the Supreme Council of Trump’s Unprincipled Magistrates.  Or as Robert Blake might have said on the 1970s detective series about rogue cop Baretta, “If you don’t want to sign, your appointment should not last a lifetime.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

In the Personal Interest

 

Prologue

One of the assignments I gave students in my “Imagination and Entrepreneurship” class at Miami University was to establish a goal for each decade of their lives.  And each semester, I shared my goals during the in-class discussion.  In my 70s, I hoped to publish the great American political novel.

Last week I was searching through an old hard drive to respond to a request for information from a former college.  During that quest I also found the original outline of that story created in 2002, which tells you a lot about my tendency to procrastinate.  The manuscript is now 50 percent completed. And being nine years from turning 80, I am still within reach of fulfilling the goal.

The novel is titled, “In the National Interest.”  If is a fictional account of the Kennedy assassination which focuses not on what happened, but the why it happened.  When the plot is initially presented in the first pages, I fully expect the reader to think my thesis is totally implausible.  Using detailed public and sourced documentation, my goal is to get the reader, by the end, to say, “Maybe this is not as crazy as it first seemed.”  I do have a recurring dream in which, following publication, authorities come to our house to ask, “How did you figure it out?  Who told you this?”

In the Personal Interest

For me, the greatest mystery of the Trump era has been the extent to which so many voters appear to have acted contrary to their own self-interests.  Consider the following.

  • States with the unhealthiest populations cheer the rollback of air and water quality regulations.
  • The attorneys generals of those same states joined the administration’s law suit to nullify the Affordable Care Act.
  • Farm states continued to march lock-step into the red column despite trade policies resulting in a record number of small and family farm bankruptcies.
  • Many blue collar workers bought into Trump’s populist message while he and Mitch McConnell filled the federal court system with judges and justices who regularly rule in favor of big business over labor.
  • And finally, Americans without a college degree, flock to Trump rallies to be told he loves you just the way you are, although education has always been recognized as the gateway to the middle class and a higher standard of living.

Though irrational, the attraction of a Donald Trump is understandable.  Most of these voters are apprehensive about being left behind in a changing world.  And so they grasp for straws.  Trump told them what they wanted to hear.  That they were victims. And they swallowed it whole.

What is more surprising is the number of educated, well-off individuals and interests who also chose to act contrary to their own interests over the last four years.  Let me share just two examples.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported General Motors “will no longer back the Trump administration in its legal battle to strip California’s authority to set its own fuel-efficiency regulations, saying GM’s goals for green cars are aligned with the state and the incoming Biden administration.”  WTF?  GM thinks its long-term profit potential lies in an all-electric automotive future, but joined the administration in a law suit contrary to their own corporate strategy and a $27 billion investment in cars not dependent on fossil fuels.  And simply because a majority of Americans voted for Joe Biden, they have changed their position.

Talk about a lack of conviction.  Biden has made it clear he will direct DOJ to drop the suit leaving the corporate partners to carry on without government backing.  If GM and others carmakers who are reassessing their position honestly believed the legal challenge was in their own interest there is no way they would surrender based on a change in the political winds.  GM is even touting Biden’s job creation numbers as evidenced in their letter announcing their termination of legal action against California.

Yet, the best example of people who have acted against their own personal interest in the Trump era is the namesake himself.  I know I have said this a million times already, but I will say it again.  “Good governance makes good politics.”  It was in Donald Trump’s own interest to grab the pandemic by the horns and demonstrate a level of competence which would have silenced much of the criticism of his management style.  Instead of touting record highs for the Dow Jones industrial average, just imagine if he could have come to the podium and said, “While America has 4.5 percent of the world’s population, we have taken actions and promoted policies which have resulted in the U.S. having a proportionately lower share of cases, hospitalizations and death than would have been expected.”

Imagine if Trump had invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure every hospital and nursing home had MORE than the supplies they needed to protect front-line workers in these facilities.  Instead of media stories about South Dakota nurses in tears talking about the conditions under which they have to operate, medical personnel would be praising the federal government for its exceedingly adequate response.  So, do not be surprised when, GM-like, dozens of American corporations line up to get behind the Biden administration plan for the production and distribution of PPE and vaccine delivery systems next year.

Which, as it always does, brings me back to cinema as art imitating life,  in this case, Aaron Sorkin’s script for The American President (1995).  The relevant message is embedded in an exchange between presidential advisor Lewis Rothschild (Michael J. Fox) and President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas).

Lewis Rothschild:

People want leadership. And in the absence of genuine leadership, they will listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership, Mr. President. They’re so thirsty for it, they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

President Shepherd:

Lewis, we’ve had Presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand, ’cause they’re thirsty, Lewis. They drink it ’cause they don’t know the difference.

Yesterday, GM affirmed they know the difference.  It is a safe guess Donald Trump never will nor cares to understand the difference, and that is why he was never able to expand his voter base enough to ensure re-election.  The challenge for Joe Biden when it comes to re-uniting America is whether, through competent and empathetic governance, he can get more and more people to see that difference.  Only then will they be open to the possibility their own self-interests lie somewhere other than following Donald Trump to an imaginary oasis.

Epilogue

When I first began to draft “In the National Interest,” I was concerned that I still did not have a satisfying conclusion to the story.  That bothered me until I attended a lecture by the author of John Adams David McCullough.  During the question and answer session, a student asked McCullough whether he ever started a book before he knew how it would end.  I was pleasantly surprised when the writer said that was always the case.  He went on to explain there is always an illuminating moment during the process when the ending becomes apparent.  As with most creative moments, it cannot be forced.  If patient, it will come to you.

I had the same experience just a few months ago.  I had just sat down at the computer intent on capturing an idea about how the narrator in my novel would react to his latest discovery, a critical document that might be the “Rosetta Stone” which unlocked the truth about the assassination.  And there it was.  I stopped what I was working on, and by the end of the day, had drafted the final chapter in total.  Now, confident in the ending, I am left with the hard work of getting there.

Which brings me back to this counter-intuitive narrative of whether individuals will pay more attention to their personal interests than tribal loyalties.  I have no idea how this saga will end.  But I can assure you, sometime in the next four years, there will be a moment or event when the outcome is revealed.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

The Ivory and Ebony Tower

 

OR…Is it okay to yell “FIRE” in a crowded classroom?

Nothing happens in isolation.  Perhaps the best and most recent example is the a movement initiated at the University of Chicago to defend freedom of speech and expression on college campuses.  A statement of principles is at the center of this movement, based on a report by the University’s Committee on Freedom of Expression, whose charge was to “draft a statement articulating the University’s overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate and deliberation among all members of the University’s community.”

As someone who spent nine years on the faculty of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and attended lectures and presentations ranging from the Dalai Lama to Christopher Hitchens to Ann Coulter, in principle, I could not agree more.  Students and faculty should be exposed to the broadest range of opinion with certain exceptions, several of which are noted in the statement of principles.

The University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University.

However, as stated above, nothing happens in a vacuum.  Where else is the integrity of higher education under fire?  One prominent example is efforts by conservatives and the Republican party to paint universities as liberal “madrasas.”  Not surprising, Donald Trump, who admits he “loves the undereducated,” is leading this crusade, having Tweeted on July 10, 2020:

Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status…

Perhaps, the most pointed attack came from Bill O’Reilly in a June 2013 essay in the South Florida SunSentinel titled, “Liberal indoctrination poisoning our colleges.”

There is no question that liberal indoctrination is a fact of life on most American college campuses. Tenure means never having to say you’re sorry or you’re wrong. And, overwhelmingly, tenured college teachers are liberal. They dominate and intimidate their students.

If you go up against them, your grade often suffers. There is a tyranny in higher education that is gravely harming this nation.

Of course, O’Reilly did not present evidence of an actual instance in which a specific student was unfairly graded by a liberal professor.

Which brings me back to the “Chicago principles” and what they do not say, in particular the mission of higher education.  In my case, as a professor of entrepreneur, I never believed I had all the answers.  When students came to me with what they thought was a good business idea, my answer was always, “If I was that smart, I would have bought Netflix at $18 a share.”  Instead, we talked about how to assess an opportunity and make a calculated assessment whether the potential reward outweighed the risk.  More generically, the goal was always to train students to explore, seek out information, analyze and assess.

If students are given the opportunity to pursue the truth, maybe it is something other than a liberal conspiracy that educated young men and women tend to be more progressive, liberal or whatever you want to call it.  Consider the following.

  • According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, as of June 2019, the richest 10 percent of Americans hold 69.4 percent of the nation’s total net worth.
  • In August 2019, the Economic Policy Institute reported CEO compensation rose 1,007.5 percent since 1978 compared to 11.9 percent for the average worker.  CEOs now make 278 times the average worker.
  • When compared to the 10 most highly developed western countries, the United States spends twice as much on health care as a share of its economy and has the lowest life expectancy among the 11 nations.
  • In December 2019, the Institution and Economic Policy found 60 Fortune 500 companies with combined 2018 profits of $79 billion paid no federal income tax.

When you look at the data, why would curious, thinking young people NOT ask themselves, “Does this make sense?  Should there not be some balance?”

Yet many who are championing the free speech and expression movement as presented in the “Chicago principles,” simultaneously label this kind of intellectual curiosity as socialism or worse. Instead of engaging in the debate, they demean it.

Which brings me to my final concern, the golden rule.  Not the universal one about treating your neighbor as you want them to treat you, but the one that says, “He who has the gold, makes the rules.”  With the exception of the most heavily endowed universities, higher education in the United States is on the precipice of financial collapse.  And pressure to find new sources of revenue could lead to rescues by benefactors with an agenda, as is now the case with local media.  White knights always seem to have a dark side also.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education - Crunchbase Company Profile & FundingThe Foundation for Individual Rights and Education (FIRE) has taken a lead role in promoting adoption of the “Chicago principles” at other colleges and university.  One activity is the awarding of ratings based on their assessment whether an institution has policies which “seriously infringe on student speech rights.”  Of the two co-founders, one clerked for Justice Samuel Alito and the other is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.  Yet, Alito and Cato are famous for opposing centralized oversight of any other aspects of society.  As Roger Miller might sing, “Hypocrisy swings like a pendulum do.”

This is one more example where we might want to heed then Senator Joe Biden’s 1974 declaration, “When someone says ‘Power to the People,’ they really mean power to MY people.”

POSTSCRIPT

When recently discussing this issue with a colleague, he used the example of a professor at our university who, in class, passed out campaign material for a specific candidate.  I agreed this was improper, but it is completely different from the free speech issue.  Particularly, in the case of a public university, this could easily be addressed with passage of legislation similar to the federal Hatch Act which prohibits political activity by public employees while “on the clock,” including professors at state-supported institutions.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

2020 Loose Ends

 

This is the last in a series of posts related to the 2020 election. It consists of a potpourri of topics which were not worthy of deeper analysis as standalone blog entries.

BUT WHAT ABOUT…

The squatter-in-chief may not be able to control or even fake a response to a pandemic, but when it comes to creating a smokescreen to save his own posterior, he is second to none.  The latest example is his quite brilliant and well-thought out media strategy to discourage the next attorney general from pursuing criminal charges against the future full-time “prince of Mar-a-Lago.”

Two weeks before election day, when his own campaign’s internal polls confirmed there would be no second term, Donald Trump started questioning why Bill Barr had not yet arrested Joe Biden for a plethora of vague crimes.  Most pundits saw this as one last effort to gin up support from his cultist base.  But, I believe the ploy was intentionally designed to get the mainstream media to gasp in disbelief, which they did right on cue.  Instead of taking a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook by simply saying, “There he goes again.”  Newspaper stories, op-ed pieces and television commentators quickly condemned Trump for actions which made him seem even more Putin-esque.  In one form or another, the media’s bottom line was, “How dare he?  America is not a place where presidents try to jail their political opponents.  Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, maybe.  But not here!”

In Trump’s tortured brain, this media pushback became the path to eluding prosecution for federal crimes.  However, to make it work, he needed to be viewed as Joe Biden’s on-going political nemesis.  Which explains both Trump’s unwillingness to concede this election and the rumor he may announce he will run again in 2024 (another clear signal he knows he lost this time).  He has set himself up as the perennial “political opponent.”  And you can be sure he will make that clear at each cult rally or television appearance for the next four years (or at least until the statute of limitations on certain offenses kicks in).  I can hear him now.

The fake news media said I was un-American when I called for investigations and the possible arrest of Obama, Sleepy Joe, Crooked Hillary and members of the deep state who spied on me and spread lies about Russia and Ukraine to undermine my presidency.  Where is the outrage when Joe Biden and his attorney general do exactly that to me, my family, campaign staff and members of my administration?  I only threatened to jail them.  They want to do it for real

ONE LAST DAY TRADE

Thin Ice: The Bizarre Boxing Career of Tonya Harding | Mental FlossNBA superstar Michael Jordan never advanced past AA baseball.  Tonya Harding unsuccessfully traded in her ice skates for boxing gloves.   A lineup of male and female fashion models too long to list never made the transition from the runway to the great white way.  Add Donald Trump to this registry of one-trick ponies.  He is a marketer and grifter supreme.  He presented himself as the ultimate businessman although he had done nothing more than run a family enterprise.  The only surprise is how he was able to continuously find investors and customers for his next venture after so many previous ones had failed.

And now that he is 67 days, 22 hours, 29 minutes and 22 seconds away from either vacating or being dragged out of the White House, he will try and do it one more time.  For months I have preached Trump’s lack of interest in expanding his voter base was never about votes.  He was cultivating his next target market.  And it appears he has tens of millions of potential customers.  And what will be selling them?  The same thing he has always sold.  Bullshit!

Welcome to the next evolutionary stage of media’s decline–the Trump Resistance Network (or some similar appellation), a hybrid of Facebook, Breitbart and NewsMax.  Rumor has it the new face of Trump media will be based on a subscription model, the easier to fleece his adoring fans than a cable station dependent on sponsors like My Pillow and Goya Foods. And like most Trump enterprises, it will be launched with a lot of hype and initially will be a financial whirlwind.  Just do the math.  If only 10 percent of the 72 million Trump voters subscribe at a monthly fee of $9.95, revenues would exceed $850 million annually.

But, even “The Apprentice” could not maintain its initial level of viewership.  Within four years it went from the seventh most watched network show to 51st place.  A similar decline would reduce revenues to less $130 million a year.  But there is one other important difference between “The Apprentice” and this new media experiment.  For the former, all Trump had to do was show up before NBC and Mark Burnett would write him a check.  Plus it was all profit.  He did not have pay for anything.  This time around he would be liable for the expenditure side of the ledger.  And as he has proven more than once, this self-proclaimed “king of commercial debt” will again end up the “the sultan of financial death.”

Once again Trump will prove he is a day-trader, willing to do whatever it takes to make a quick buck while leaving the those he cons holding the bag.

THANK YOU, DONALD

Over the last four years, there has been one exception to Trump’s unpredictable behavior.  You could always rely on him to say out loud those things that had previously only been whispered in back rooms.  Never more so then when it came to voter suppression.  Just imagine if there were a more competent and covert champion of sabotaging an election.  How many of the GOP dirty tricks would have only come to light on election day or as ballots were counted, when it was too late?

As the curtain falls on this election drama, let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the megaphone-in-chief for constantly energizing those who so fervently wanted him ousted from office.  Equally important, Trump gave us time to counter each and every attempt to deny citizens their constitutional right to vote.  Without that advance notice, the “Plan Your Vote” movement would not have been such a deciding factor behind Joe Biden’s victory.

Exclusive: What Trump Really Told Kislyak After Comey Was Canned | Vanity FairDuring a recent appearance on MSNBC, Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director of the FBI for counterintelligence, stated Trump leaves the White House with a trove of intelligence of incalculable value to the nation’s adversaries.  He added, if there is one thing we know about Donald Trump,”… he does not know how to keep a secret.”  As an example, he pointed to the disclosure of classified information during an Oval Office meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

All of which raises the question, “Will Donald Trump become a bullhorn in a China swap?” Does anyone really believe this life-long grifter has not thought about trading state secrets for debt forgiveness?  Maybe the next CIA director should remind Trump (and Rudy for that matter), although the agency by law cannot spy on American citizens, they are subject to intercepts when conducting business with foreign surveillance targets.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Moby Schtick

 

They think me mad–Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and–Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer.

Captain Ahab/Moby Dick

My God, they were frightened of Muskie and look who got destroyed–they wanted to run against McGovern, and look who they’re running against.

Deep Throat/All the President’s Men

Two books, one published in 1851; the other in 1974, written nearly a century and a quarter apart.  Two books, one a metaphor for obsession; the other a documentation of obsession.  Two books, about men, both engaged in pursuing their respective white whales.  And in the end, two books which chronicled these men’s preoccupation with destroying a perceived enemy, only to become the victim of their own vindictiveness.  Two books, in which the protagonists, Captain Ahab and Richard Nixon, are both Quakers.

undefinedWhy is this last factoid relevant?  As suggested in Jimmy Breslin’s chronicle of Nixon’s rise and fall How the Good Guys Finally Won, the author wonders if the 37th president of the United States might have survived Watergate if only he had been raised a Catholic.  Breslin’s thesis is grounded in his subject’s inability to confess his sins.  Breslin’s evidence begins with the disclosure the Watergate burglars are connected to the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP).  Imagine if Nixon had transformed the Oval Office into a pubic confessional following the arrest of G. Gordon Liddy, Howard Hunt, et. al.  “Forgive me fellow citizens for I have sinned.  In my exuberance to continue in office, I may have said things or sent signals to my campaign that led to extra-legal actions.  I take full responsibility for my behavior and assure the American people I have instructed those involved this is unacceptable.”

I would argue Nixon’s own Quaker background, in it’s own way, should have been equally enlightening.  Quakers believe every human represents a somewhat different kind of trinity consisting of body, soul and spirit.  It is the conjoining of these three elements which makes each person whole.  And Moby Dick, perhaps more than any Quaker text, explains how separation of soul and spirit led to Ahab’s madness as he obsessively pursued his white whale.  He recognized the source of his obsession, the loss of part of his body during his initial confrontation with the behemoth.  But was never able to accept it and move on.

Nixon’s losses, the presidency in 1960 and the California governorship in 1962, though not physical left an equally lasting scar.  He would not allow anyone, especially Edmund Muskie, another New England Catholic reminiscent of John Kennedy, reopen the wound.  Like Ahab, the separation of body and mind from spirit prevented him from understanding a tarnished victory was no victory at all, and in the end, would lead to his political self-destruction.

Which brings us to 2019 and Donald Trump.  One might forgive Nixon for not seeing Ahab’s fate was a metaphor for his own.  One was fiction.  The other was real.  What’s more, Moby Dick is a primer on whaling as much as it is about Ahab, much in the same way Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full provides more information about horse breeding than any non-equinophile needs to know.  In contrast, All the President’s Men could easily have been titled What Not to Do When Running for President: A Step-by-Step Manual.

What makes the Trump/Biden narrative more intriguing is the fact the former vice-president was merely a surrogate for Trump’s true white whale (or dare I say orca since the original marine mammal in this saga was only half white).  When he finally presented his long-form birth certificate, Barack Obama humiliated Trump, exposing him for the liar and conspiracy theorist he still is.  From that moment in July 2015 when Trump announced his candidacy he was always running against Obama.  He never talked about Hillary Clinton’s time as first lady or senator from New York.  In fact, those were the days when the Trumps and Clintons socialized and Trump financed her campaigns. All of his attacks related solely to her tenure as Obama’s secretary of state.  The emails.  The conflicts of interest between her cabinet responsibilities and the Clinton Foundation.  And although he prevailed in the electoral college, he railed at the thought another member of Barack Obama’s inner-circle had again humiliated him by winning the popular vote.

Having defeated Obama’s secretary of state, Trump fully expected a victory in 2020, presenting himself as the alternative to the progressive wing of the Democratic party personified by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and AOC.  But Trump was never one to let sleeping dogs lie.  When a dormant Joe Biden emerged from the depths following Charlottesville, Trump no longer thought of 2020 as a chance for more tax cuts, judicial appointments or railing against immigrants.  Although Biden’s name was at the top of the ticket, Trump viewed it as one more chance to chip away at the Obama legacy.  As had been the case with Ahab and Nixon, this obsession separated his body and mind from his spirit resulting in the madness that led to both impeachment and defeat at the ballot box.

At an October 15th rally in Pennsylvania, Trump told the crowd, “Can you imagine if you lose to a guy like this?”  MAGA nation probably thought he meant Joe Biden.  But in Trump’s mind, it was the same white whale it had always been, Barack Obama.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP