Category Archives: Politics

QED II

 

WARNING: If your ears are a bit tender, you might want to skip today’s post.

During the hiatus between his two marriages, comedian Ron White discovered that stand-up comics also have groupies.  He tells the story about an experience in Austin, Texas when a woman approached him after the concert and offered to spend the night with him.  He asks, “Why me?”  Her reply.  “I’ve f***ed hundreds of guys and not one of them has ever satisfied me.  I’m hoping you’ll be different.”  To which White conjectures, “Have you ever thought, MAYBE IT’S YOU?”

Image result for warren sandersWhite’s routine came to mind this morning when the consensus among the hosts and guests on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was none of the six participants in last night’s Democratic debate in Des Moines had what might be called a break-out moment.  At which point, they next started to question whether any of them demonstrated an ability to take on Donald Trump in the fall.  So, to paraphrase White, if you’ve watched two dozen candidates debate and none has left you satisfied, maybe it’s not the candidates, maybe it’s the debate itself.

If you wonder why I’ve stopped watching Chuck Todd, Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, or CNN in general in favor of Joe Scarborough and Nicolle Wallace, today is the perfect example.  They get it.  The six people on the Des Moines stage last night are not running against each other, they want to replace Donald Trump.  And yet they continue to let debate moderators frame the format and discussion.  The most obvious example was the following exchange between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren about a reported conversation in which Sanders allegedly told Warren a woman could not win in 2020.

MODERATOR ABBY PHILLIP: So Sen. Sanders — Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?

SANDERS: That is correct.

PHILLIP: Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

(LAUGHTER)

WARREN: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on.

WTF. Talk about gender bias.  I know women often complain, rightfully, that men don’t listen to what they have to say, but this proves the offense is not a one-way street.  Sanders says, “I didn’t say it.”  Yet, Phillip proceeds as though Bernie had admitted it.  If you’re going to raise the issue, at least ask an appropriate follow-up such as, “Sen. Warren, how do you feel about Sen. Sanders denying he ever said that?”

How is the Democratic Party permitting this?  Trump is in Milwaukee saying whatever he wants for hours on end, and Democratic contenders are given 90 seconds to talk about things that do not matter.

Now listen to how Scarborough assessed the situation.  He suggested both Warren and Sanders ignore the question.  And shared his experience when he first ran for Congress in 1994. Every time he was asked about one of his primary opponents, he made the question about why the district needed to have someone in D.C. to keep Bill Clinton in check.  And by the way, he ended up with 61 percent of the general election vote, flipping the district from blue to red for the first time in 35 years.  He went on to say if he had been on the stage, he would have brushed the question aside by stating, “This election is not about any of us.  It’s about replacing Donald Trump who in the last 48 hours thought it was okay to retweet a racist PhotoShopped picture of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in Muslim clothing.  I do not.”

If you’ve not seen TV advertisements produced by Republicans for the Rule of Law (RRL) or by the Lincoln Project, they are examples of how former Republican strategists deliver clear and powerful messages.  And fortunately, this year they agree another four years of Trumpism would be a national tragedy.

In “Send a Message to the Senate,” RRL shames Republicans who would dare support Mitch McConnell’s efforts to conduct a sham impeachment trial.  Or the Lincoln Project spot titled, “Cory Gardner-Do Your Job,”  reminding Colorado voters their Senator would rather defend Trump than the Constitution.  McConnell’s admission there is no Republican appetite for a dismissal of the charges without a trial, something that was being floated only days ago, suggests these hard-hitting commercials are having an impact on public opinion and a few Republican senators.

Digging deeper into campaign strategy always seems to bring me be back to the idea that political contests are no different than any entrepreneurial venture except the currency is votes, not monetary profits.  And as we tell any student who asks how is the best way to make money as an entrepreneur, there is only one answer, “Create value first and the money will follow. You don’t need to destroy the competition, you just need to create more value than they offer.”  In 2020, for me, value is defined as mounting a campaign that brings an end to the Trump presidency.  You do not do that by wasting time worrying about the competition or waiting until you win the nomination.  You start TODAY if you haven’t already, and primary victories and the nomination will be the natural by-products of that value creation.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

EUGENEics

 

Campaigns generally end because they run out of money. Candidates fail to garner support and donations for a variety of reasons. But I seem to recall that last summer, when the debates began, Democratic Party pooh-bahs congratulated themselves on how the rainbow array of candidates reflected the racial and ethnic diversity of the party’s base. The debate scheduled for Jan. 14 in Des Moines, however, promises to be an all-white affair.

~Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, January 2, 2020

Image result for eugene robinson

Far be it from me to question the perspective of a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, but when I read Robinson’s op-ed titled, “Democrats are starting to look like a ‘Whites only’ party,” I could not believe he had joined the circular firing squad by which Democrats seem to do everything they can to pull defeat from the jaws of victory in November.  And I understand one of the nation’s preeminent African-American journalists thinks the party should take a second look at the rules which determine who participates in each debate and who does not.  But the issue is much bigger than debate rules.

Let me start by reminding readers, I think presidential debates, by their very nature, are a disservice to voters.  They are not part of a chief executive’s job description.  As I have said before, I would prefer the equivalent of moot court.  Provide each candidate a situation likely to arise during his/her administration.  Then give each 10 minutes to both explain the issue and propose a course of action a la a presidential address to the nation.  Being president is not improvisation; it is about well thought out and articulated actions.

But if you are going to have debates, equating the ethnic makeup of the last five Democratic contenders to qualify for the January event as backtracking on diversity seems a stretch.  At risk of opening some old wounds in the the struggle for civil rights and social justice, Robinson’s words remind me a lot of the debate over quotas versus affirmative action.  I hope he is not suggesting the Democratic Party is not committed to diversity unless it requires a person of color be a finalist for its nomination for president.  Even he admits that the first debates included several non-Caucasian aspirants.  These entrants in the presidential sweepstakes had the opportunity to make their cases.  However,  for whatever reason, none appear to have “garnered the support and donations” to sustain their viability prior to primary season.  There is a difference between a chance and a guarantee.

Yet, I am more bothered by Robinson’s implicit definition of diversity.  The final five include a self-proclaimed socialist, a progressive and three centrists.  There are two women and three males.  There is a gay man.  They all have different life narratives.  And while they may share overarching policy goals, they have presented diverse options by which to achieve the desired ends.

Likewise, assessing commitment to diversity based solely on one person, the president, overlooks what might be a more relevant factor.  I doubt Robinson would be satisfied with an African-American or Hispanic chief executive whose cabinet and White House staff consisted mostly of white males (you know, like the one we have now).  What if the initial 20-person debate stage was a platform for identifying potential cabinet members and policy advisors?  For me, a commitment to diversity means replacing Bill Barr with someone like Kamala Harris (although color is not the only thing that would change).  Or Stephen Miller with Julian Castro.

If you believe, as I do, what used to be the Republican Party is now a cult dependent on the whims of one person, Robinson may be right.  However, if the goal is a presidency that is representative of the country as a whole the color, gender or sexual orientation of the person at the top becomes less important than the team he or she assembles to govern the nation.  The only other option to satisfy everyone is a sexually fluid individual of multiple ethnic origin. Good luck finding one.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Latter Day Aints

 

Related imageFor those of you holding your breath waiting for Mitt Romney to emerge as the “great white hope” who can bring down the reigning heavyweight (literally and figuratively) champion Donald J. Trump, I hope purple is a good color for you.  The accompanying picture comes from the third 2012 debate between Romney and Barack Obama, when the former staked his foreign policy chops on the proposition that Russia was the greatest threat to United States security.  Whether he was right or wrong at the time is a debate I will leave to foreign policy experts and historians.  However, if you look at the flood of media responses to Russian interference in the 2016 election documented in the indictments of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies as well as the Mueller report, one might think it is a settled issue.  Consider the following examples.

The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” That, of course, was President Barack Obama’s rather lame joke, delivered during the third presidential debate of 2012. He was ridiculing Mitt Romney’s assertion that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” The former president has received just derision for his quip, but it was the gullibility of his outlook—and, indeed, that of his fellow progressives—that now appears so foolish and damaging. (Washington Examiner/February 19, 2019)

Madeleine Albright, who served as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of state and supported President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, apologized to Romney, then Obama’s Republican opponent and now Utah’s junior senator, for her repeated criticism of his claim that Russia was the country’s “number one geopolitical foe,” as he said during the campaign. (ABC News/February 26, 2019)

Romney described Russia as the greatest US geopolitical foe in his 2012 presidential campaign, and was broadly mocked. I was among reporters who should have given it more weight. (Maggie Haberman/NY Times/April 19, 2019)

For argument’s sake, assume this revisionist perspective on the 2012 debate exchange is valid.  Why does it matter now?  Because it raises other important questions.  Did Romney’s concerns about Russia represent a deeply held concern Vladimir Putin was trying to reassert his nation’s Cold War status to the detriment of the USA?  Was Romney’s pivot away from the ISIS threat merely an attempt to differentiate his global assessment of national security threats from that of the incumbent?  Or was it a signal to Republican voters, skeptical of his conservative credentials, that he shared the GOP’s then hawkish approach to the successor to the Soviet Union?

Those three question are enigmatic of attempts to figure out who is the real Mitt Romney.  In an October 20, 2019 article in The Atlantic titled, “The Liberation of Mitt Romney, McKay Coppins writes of his subject’s disagreements with Trump:

These confrontations have turned Romney into one of the most closely watched figures in the impeachment battle now consuming Washington. While his fellow Republicans rail against “partisan witch hunts” and “fake whistle-blowers,” Romney is taking the prospect of a Senate trial seriously—he’s reviewing The Federalist Papers, brushing up on parliamentary procedure, and staying open to the idea that the president may need to be evicted from the Oval Office.

Oh, really!  The presidential contender who once pinned his White House aspirations on his belief Putin and Russia posed an existential threat to America is focused on the Federalist Papers and parliamentary procedure.  The man who chastised Obama for IGNORING Russia’s global incursions now reserves a harsher condemnation of the current White House occupant, someone who SUPPORTS and ENABLES Russian geopolitical goals by siding with the Putin over the American intelligence community, verbally attacking allies and echoing Russian conspiracy theories.

Mitt, forget procedures and the Federalist Papers.  If you still believe Russia is the greatest national security to the United States, you cannot have it both ways.  In 2012 you argued Obama’s response to the Russian menace disqualified him for a second term.  Yet you withhold judgment on Trump.  In The Atlantic interview, you tell Coppins, “I don’t look at myself as being a historical figure, but I do think these are critical times. And I hope that what I’m doing will open the way for people to take a different path.”

Mitt, historical figures do not have the luxury of deciding how they see themselves.  In critical times, they do not spend time and energy on self-assessments.  They act and others decide their place in the annuls of time.  You have a choice.  You can either be included among American profiles in courage or worship at the altar of Latter Day Aints.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

CT, Call Home

Call it a seasonal epiphany four and a half years in the making, but late is always better than never.  As you are already aware, on December 19, Christianity Today editor Mark Galli declared, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.”  And right on cue, the modern day Judases–Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr.–exacted another down payment on their souls in exchange for proximity to power and past donations from the Trump Foundation.  (NOTE: As some commentators have pointed out, Galli’s major concern was not the fate of American democracy and values, but the credibility of the evangelical movement.  Even if it was self-serving, I learned a long time ago, never criticize someone for doing the right thing, even if their motives are suspect.)

Image result for evangelical preachers lay hands on trumpAs welcomed as Galli’s denunciation of Donald Trump as an immoral human might be, I am afraid his salvo was misdirected.  In the age of social media influencers, Galli would have been better served by addressing his remarks, not to the flock, but to the shepherds.  How do you expect the minions to understand what they have become when members of the clergy, who weekly preach the gospel to them, remain silent or fail to draw on their own training as pastoral counselors to point out the hypocrisy of evangelical devotion to Trump.

Imagine if Galli had chosen a different tack in which he does not humble the masses, but shames the messengers for abdicating their role as moral influencers.  Consider the following as an alternative to the December 19 editorial.

The dilemma of reconciling one’s political support and Donald Trump’s lack of a moral compass is not a collective one for the evangelical movement, but a personal one for each and every member of your congregation.  And one that demands the clergy provide pastoral counseling as we are taught “to mirror the way Jesus cared for people and taught his disciples to do the same.”

Make it personal.  Ask your congregants, “Would any of you be okay if you came to me for spiritual renewal and I told you Christ is okay with …

  • satisfying one’s lust by committing adultery?
  • constantly comparing your accomplishments and possessions to others?
  • expressing anger at anyone who disagrees with you?
  • equating success with net worth?
  • indifference to the suffering of others?
  • bearing false witness to justify your actions?
  • overindulgence or excessive desire for material goods?
  • the ends justifying the means?”

Would you call someone who lived their life based on such advice a true Christian?  Would you look to that person for leadership or as a role model?  I would hope not.  But you have.

As Jesus says in Matthew 22:21, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”  You can leave governance to our political leaders, but you must never let them become the arbiters of your values.  And when they try, you must reject them.

But the evangelical community is not alone.  Every day we watch professionals in every walk of life excuse Trump for behavior they know is wrong.  The latest example emerged in this morning’s edition of our local paper which includes a regular op-ed column titled, “Coach’s Corner.”  The author Howard Pines is a local resident who presents his credentials as follows.

…has more than 30 years experience as CEO, chairman and founder of BeamPines, a premier firm in the executive coaching business.

Today’s edition with the title, “Presidential Tantrums,” compares Trump to other commanders-in-chief who were known to let off a little steam on occasion.  These include (drum roll) George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.  Can you say “moral equivalency?”  I knew you could.   But the icing on the cake comes in the final paragraphs which include the following two sentences.

I believe that Trump’s mannerisms are not unique, and if history remains true, his actions to date do not threaten our democracy.

My sense is the real question with President Trump is will he retain a first rate team, and does he have the objectivity and clarity of judgment to not let his emotions color his decisions.

Let’s take these one at a time.  I do not know what history books Mr. Pines reads but they must not include the evolution of any nation in which fascism emerged as a viable ideological alternative.  My history books document how none were more democratic when the dictator who led the movement left office voluntarily or involuntarily.

As for sentence #2, remember Mr. Pines is an executive management coach.  Imagine him telling any corporate client, “Don’t worry if you’ve gone through several chiefs of staff, communications directors, department heads.  Give it more time.  Let’s see if it works out.  Just keep doing what you’re doing.”  Or after observing the CEO’s behavior for three years, making the following report to the board of directors, “I know the boss is a little thin-skinned and sometimes it hurts the bottom line, but he’s only been CEO for three years.  Maybe he’ll grow into the office.  And I know you’re concerned he hasn’t shown you the books in three years.  I’m sure he’s not hiding anything.”

“Galli” gee, I “Pines” for the day when we hold the president of the United States to the same standard we hold the person who sits next to us in a house of worship, the CEO of a major corporation or just the people we call friends.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

All You Need to Know, Redux

 

The following post contains the actual transcript from testimony during Tuesday’s meeting of the House Rules Committee at which the committee established procedures and time limits for Wednesday’s debate on HR 755, Articles of Impeachment against Donald Trump.  It is the clearest evidence  even Trump’s staunchest defenders cannot and will not answer the only question that matters.

House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, Democrat from Massachusetts:

Was the president’s call with President Zelensky perfect, as the president has said, and was it appropriate for him to ask another country to investigate an American citizen?

Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee Doug Collins, Trumpist from Georgia:

Image result for doug collins rules committee testimonyI find, there was nothing I, as I said before there’s nothing wrong with the call, and when you look at it, and again I frankly, the last…

[extended pause]

The problem we’re having right now is exactly the last 15 minutes of this, great oratory on a lot of things that mean nothing to this actual impeachment.  I mean we get down to the bottom line here, and and I’ll just leave it at that, let him answer that question, I’ll get back to it later, because everything has been thrown out here is exactly what the problem we’ve had in the discussion, I mean this idea of throwing law in fact, we’ve disproven the fact, we’ve talked about the law, law didn’t broken, it didn’t put it in the Constitution so I’m, I can yell on both of them, I can talk about both of them, but the problem we have here is, is this is the very problem we have, and I’ll just address one thing before I let it by, or if you want to let me switch right now, I will. I’ll give it to him.

In their book All the President’s Men, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein referred to similar gibberish as “a non-denial denial.”  But the more appropriate description comes from Elaine Benes (Julie Louis Dreyfus) of Seinfeld fame, who would have called this “the yada-yada-yada defense.”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP