Revenge

Alexander Vindman is a decorated war hero.  In addition to overseas deployments to South Korea and Germany, Vindman is a combat veteran of the Iraq War, and he served in Iraq from September 2004 to September 2005. In October 2004, he sustained an injury from a roadside bomb in Iraq, for which he received a Purple Heart. He was promoted to the rank of major in 2008, and to lieutenant colonel in September 2015.

Donald Trump is, in essence, a draft dodger who, while men were dying in Vietnam, had his father pay a doctor to say he couldn’t serve because he had blisters on his feet (too much time in golf shoes?)  Donald Trump does not like war heroes … perhaps they make him uncomfortable because they did their duty while he languished in the lap of luxury.  Remember his remarks about John McCain, who received daily beatings at the hands of the North Vietnamese for nearly six years, refusing early release unless every man taken before him was also released?  Trump said he didn’t like people who were captured.  McCain’s plane was shot down … not much he could have done to prevent that.  While Trump was schmoozing with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, playing with whatever woman he chose on any given night, John McCain was suffering unimaginable pain and horror, yet Trump didn’t like him.  Just as he doesn’t like Alexander Vindman.

Vindman, as you recall, testified under oath before the House impeachment hearings in October.  Vindman told the truth, and for his courage, his honesty, he was punished with the loss of his job.  His twin brother, also a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and ethics lawyer for the National Security Council, was also fired … presumably only because his last name is Vindman.  Bad enough … but it doesn’t end there.  Now, Trump is calling for Alexander Vindman’s head, as well.

Trump has expressed his desire for the military to investigate and invoke “disciplinary action” against Alexander Vindman.  Disciplinary action???  So, is it a crime now to tell the truth in the dis-United States of America?

In a press conference, Trump said of Vindman …

“The military can handle him any way they want.”

When asked what he meant by that, he replied …

“That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that.”

Would somebody please teach this man to construct a sentence that makes sense?

With not one shred of evidence, Trump claims that what Vindman reported about Trump’s criminal phone call, the one that Trump says was a “perfect” call, is different than what he actually said.  Of course he says that … he’s the liar in chief, the ‘man’ who wouldn’t know the truth if it smacked him in the ass!

We expect such from Donald Trump, the fat man with a very slim mind, but what’s worse is that others are supporting and defending his actions.  The ignoble Senator Lindsey Graham said, in an interview on Fox News’ American Newsroom …

“I think FBI agents had a political agenda during the investigation of President Trump and they acted on it. I think CIA operatives have been out to try to get the president since he was elected. I think there are people in uniform that can’t accept this result. Because you wear the uniform doesn’t mean you’re exempt from being asked questions. When a military officer engages in a political bias in uniform, they need to be held accountable.”

Political bias???  Lieutenant Colonel Vindman reported, under oath, what he had seen and heard.  Period.  Where’s the ‘political bias’?  Graham, like so many other republicans in Congress, has stopped doing his job and instead is following the Trump agenda.

The Vindmans and Gordon Sondland weren’t the only ones Trump has gone after since the Senate gave him carte blanche last Wednesday.

Jesse K. Liu was, until recently, a U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.  As such, she inherited certain cases from the Robert Mueller investigation, including those of Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and … Roger Stone.  Last December, Ms. Liu stepped down from her position, as Trump nominated her for a high-ranking position in the U.S. Treasury Department.  Yesterday, after Trump learned that prosecutors were recommending a sentence of 7-9 years for the facinorous Roger Stone, threw a fit, and caused the “Justice” Department to lower their recommendation, Trump withdrew Ms. Liu’s nomination.

The Vindmans, Sondland, Liu … all cases of pure petty revenge on the part of the person who holds the highest office of the land.  These are only the beginning.  Last Wednesday, 53 U.S. Senators handed Mr. Trump the keys to the kingdom.  They told him that whatever he does, they “have his back”.  This is only the beginning of what will likely become the darkest period in the history of this nation.revenge-4

How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

On occasion, I share with you the work of Robert Reich.  Mr. Reich has served under three U.S. presidents of both parties and is a wise man who sees things as they are and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade.  In the following essay, he analyzes the ways in which McConnell is changing not only the Senate, but the whole of the U.S. system.  I think his words are worth sharing …

 

Robert Reich-4How Mitch McConnell Killed The Senate

by Robert Reich

Congress has recessed for two weeks without passing a desperately-needed disaster relief bill. Why not? Because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t want to anger Donald Trump by adding money for Puerto Rico that Democrats have sought but Trump doesn’t want.

America used to have a Senate. But under McConnell, what was once known as the world’s greatest deliberative body has become a partisan lap dog.

Recently McConnell used his Republican majority to cut the time for debating Trump’s court appointees from 30 hours to two – thereby enabling Republicans to ram through even more Trump judges.

In truth, McConnell doesn’t give a fig about the Senate, or about democracy. He cares only about partisan wins.

On the eve of the 2010 midterm elections he famously declared that his top priority was for Barack Obama “to be a one-term president.”

Between 2009 and 2013, McConnell’s Senate Republicans blocked 79 Obama nominees. In the entire history of the United States until that point, only 68 presidential nominees had been blocked.

This unprecedented use of the filibuster finally led Senate Democrats in 2013 to change the rules on some presidential nominees (but not the Supreme Court) to require simple majorities.

In response, McConnell fumed that “breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American.” If so, McConnell is about as un-American as they come. Once back in control of the Senate he buried Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court by refusing even to hold hearings.

Then, in 2017, McConnell and his Republicans changed the rules again, ending the use of the filibuster even for Supreme Court nominees and clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Trump’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Step by step, McConnell has sacrificed the Senate as an institution to partisan political victories.

There is a vast difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms of our democracy, and winning by subverting those norms.

To Abraham Lincoln, democracy was a covenant linking past and future. Political institutions, in his view, were “the legacy bequeathed to us.”

On the eve of the Senate’s final vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act in July 2017, the late John McCain returned to Washington from his home in Arizona, where he was being treated for brain cancer, to cast the deciding vote against repeal.

Knowing he would be criticized by other Republicans, McCain noted that over his career he had known senators who seriously disagreed with each other but nonetheless understood “they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively.”

In words that have even greater relevance today, McCain added that “it is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning’.”

In politics, success should never be measured solely by partisan victories. It must also be judged by the institutional legacy passed onward. The purpose of political leadership is not merely to win. It is to serve.

In any social or political system it’s always possible to extract benefits by being among the first to break widely accepted norms. In a small town where people don’t lock their doors or windows, the first thief can effortlessly get into anyone’s house. But once broken, the system is never the same. Everyone has to buy locks. Trust deteriorates.

Those, like Mitch McConnell, who break institutional norms for selfish or partisan gains are bequeathing future generations a weakened democracy.

The difference between winning at politics by playing according to the norms and rules of our democracy, and winning by subverting them, could not be greater. Political victories that undermine the integrity of our system are net losses for society.

Great athletes play by the rules because the rules make the game. Unprincipled athletes cheat or change the rules in order to win. Their victories ultimately destroy the game.

In terms of shaping the federal courts, McConnell has played “the long game”, which, incidentally, is the title of his 2016 memoir. Decades from now, McConnell will still be shaping the nation through judges he rammed through the Senate.

But McConnell’s long game is destroying the Senate.

He is longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in history but Mitch McConnell is no leader. He is the epitome of unprincipled power. History will not treat him kindly.

Two Men of Principles — Barack Obama and John McCain

Very rarely do I post anything over 1,200 words, and typically I try to stay around the 800-word mark.  I tried to find parts of this eulogy to cut out, to shorten it, but in the end, every word seemed relevant.  And so, in it’s entirety, this is the poignant eulogy given earlier today by President Barack Obama for Senator John McCain:

To John’s beloved family, Mrs. McCain, to Cindy and the McCain children, President and Mrs. Bush, President and Secretary Clinton, Vice President and Mrs. Biden, Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, Vice President Gore, and as John would say, my friends. We come to celebrate an extraordinary man. A statesman, a patriot who embodied so much that is best in America.

President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better presidents just as he made the senate better, just as he makes this country better.

For someone like John to ask you while he is still alive to stand and speak of him when he is gone is a precious and singular honor. Now, when John called me with that request earlier this year, I’ll admit sadness and also a certain surprise. After our conversation ended, I realized how well it captured some of John’s essential qualities.

To start with, John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some prepackaged version of what a senator should be and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be prepackaged either. It also showed John’s disdain for self pity. He had been to hell and back and yet somehow never lost his energy or his optimism or his zest for life. So cancer did not scare him. And he would maintain that buoyant spirit to the very end, too stubborn to sit still, as ever, fiercely devoted to his friends and most of all to his family. It showed his irreverence, his sense of humor, a little bit of a mischievous streak. what better way to get a last laugh than make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience? And most of all it showed a largeness of spirit. An ability to see past differences in search of common ground.

And in fact on the surface, John and i could not have been more different. We’re of different generations. I came from a broken home and never knew my father. John was the stein of one of America’s most distinguished military families. I have a reputation for keeping cool, John not so much. We were standard bearers of different American political traditions and throughout my presidency John never hesitated to tell me when he thought I was screwing up, which by his calculation was about once a day. But for all our differences, for all of the times we sparred, I never tried to hide, and I think John came to understand the long-standing admiration that I had for him.

By his own account John was a rebellious young man. In his case, what’s faster way to distinguish yourself when you’re the son and grandson of admirals than to mutiny. Eventually, though, he concluded that the only way to really make his mark on the world is to commit to something bigger than yourself. For John, that meant answering the highest of callings, serving his country in a time of war.

Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel. And it brings to mind something that Hemingway wrote, a book that Meghan referred to, his favorite book. “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today.”

In captivity John learned in ways that few of us ever will the meaning of those words, how each moment, each day, each choice is a test. And John McCain passed that test again and again and again. And that’s why when John spoke of virtues like service and valor they weren’t just words to him, it was a truth that he had lived and for which he was prepared to die. And it forced even the most cynical to consider what were we doing for our country? What might we risk everything for?

Much has been said this week about what a maverick John was. In fact, John was a pretty conservative guy. Trust me, I was on the receiving end of some of those votes. But he did understand that some principles transcend politics. Some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.

John cared about the institutions of self government, our constitution, our bill of rights, rule of law. Separation of powers. Even the arcane rules and procedures of the senate. He knew that in a nation as big and boisterous and diverse as ours, those institutions, those rules, those norms are what bind us together. Give shape and order to our common life. Even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.

John believed in honest argument and hearing our views. He understood that if we get in the habit of bending the truth to suit political expediency or party orthodoxy, our democracy will not work. That’s why he was willing to buck his own party at times. occasionally work across the aisle on campaign finance reform and immigration reform. That’s why he championed a free and independent press as vital to our democratic debate. And the fact it earned him good coverage didn’t hurt either.

John understood as JFK understood, as Ronald Reagan understood that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our blood line, not on what we look like, what our last names are, not based on where our parents or grandparents came from or how recently they arrived, but on adherence to a common creed that all of us are created equal. Endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.

It has been mentioned today, seen footage this week, John pushing back against supporters that challenged my patriotism during the 2008 campaign. I was grateful but I wasn’t surprised. As Joe Lieberman said, that was John’s instinct. I never saw John treat anyone differently because of their race or religion or gender. That in those moments that have been referred to during the campaign he saw himself as defending America’s character, not just mine. He considered it the imperative of every citizen that loves this country to treat all people fairly.

And finally while John and I disagreed on all kinds of foreign policy issues, we stood together on America’s role as the one nation, believing that with great power and great blessings comes great responsibility. That burden is borne most heavily by our men and women in uniform. Service members like Doug, Jimmy, Jack who followed their father’s footsteps, as well as families that serve alongside our troops. But John understood that our security and our influence was won not just by our military might, not just by our wealth, not just by our ability to bend others to our will, but from our capacity to inspire others with our adherence to a set of universal values. Like rule of law and human rights and insistence on the god-given dignity of every human being.

Of course John was the first to tell us he was not perfect. Like all of us that go into public service, he did have an ego. Like all of us there was no doubt some votes he cast, some compromises he struck, some decisions he made that he wished he could have back.

It is no secret, it has been mentioned that he had a temper, and when it flared up, it was a force of nature, a wonder to behold. His jaw grinding, his face reddening, his eyes boring a hole right through you. Not that I ever experienced it firsthand, mind you. But to know john was to know that as quick as his passions might flare, he was just as quick to forgive and ask for forgiveness. He knew more than most his own flaws, his blind spots, and he knew how to laugh at himself. And that self awareness made him all the more compelling.

We didn’t advertise it, but every so often over the course of my presidency John would come over to the White House and we’d just sit and talk in the oval office, just the two of us. We would talk about policy and we’d talk about family and we’d talk about the state of our politics. And our disagreements didn’t go away during these private conversations. Those were real and they were often deep. but we enjoyed the time we shared away from the bright lights and we laughed with each other and we learned from each other and we never doubted the other man’s sincerity or the other patriotism or that when all was said and done, we were on the same team. We never doubted we were on the same team.

For all of our differences, we shared a fidelity to the ideals for which generations of Americans have marched and fought and sacrificed and given their lives. We considered our political battles a privilege, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those ideals at home and do our best to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible. and citizenship as an obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.

More than once during his career John drew comparisons to Teddy Roosevelt. I am sure it has been noted that Roosevelt’s men in the arena seems tailored to John. most of you know it. Roosevelt speaks of those who strive, who dare to do great things, who sometimes win and sometimes come up short but always relish a good fight. A contrast to those cold, timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Isn’t that the spirit we celebrate this week? That striving to be better, to do better, worthy of the great inheritance that our founders bestowed. So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty. Trafficking in bombastic manufactured outrage, it’s politics that pretends to be brave and tough, but in fact is born of fear. John called on us to be bigger than that. He called on us to be better than that.

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. but what will happen in all the other days that will ever come can depend on what you do today. What better way to honor John McCain’s life of service than as best we can follow his example to prove that the willingness to get in the arena and fight for this country is not reserved for the few, it is open to all of us, and in fact it is demanded of all of us as citizens of this great republic. That’s perhaps how we honor him best, by recognizing that there are some things bigger than party or ambition or money or fame or power, that the things that are worth risking everything for, principles that are eternal, truths that are abiding. At his best, John showed us what that means. For that, we are all deeply in his debt.

May God bless John McCain. May God bless this country he served so well.

A Tale Of Two Evil People — Part II

Senator John McCain died last Saturday, August 25th.  I already wrote a tribute, sans politics, but today I let other voices speak of their thoughts on Senator McCain.  Every former living president offered a tribute …

“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means.” – President Barack Obama, 25 August 2018

“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.” – President George W. Bush, 25 August 2018

“Senator John McCain believed that every citizen has a responsibility to make something of the freedoms given by our Constitution, and from his heroic service in the Navy to his 35 years in Congress, he lived by his creed every day.  He frequently put partisanship aside to do what he thought was best for the country, and was never afraid to break the mold if it was the right thing to do.  I will always be especially grateful for his leadership in our successful efforts to normalize relations with Vietnam.” – President Bill Clinton & Secretary Hillary Clinton, 25 August 2018

“John McCain was a patriot of the highest order, a public servant of the rarest courage. Few sacrificed more for, or contributed more to, the welfare of his fellow citizens – and indeed freedom loving peoples around the world.” — President George HW Bush

And across the globe, world leaders memorialized Senator McCain …

“John McCain was a great statesman, who embodied the idea of service over self.” – UK Prime Minister Theresa May

“He embodied everything that we respect and value and love about our American friends.” – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

“Senator John McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions.” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of John McCain, a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel. I will always treasure the constant friendship he showed to the people of Israel and to me personally.” – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“John McCain was led by the firm conviction that the sense of all political work lies in service to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. His death is a loss to all those who share this conviction.” – German Chancellor Angela Merkel

“The world has lost a great defender of liberty. RIP Senator John McCain. Prayers and love to your family.” – Former British Prime Minister David Cameron

“Senator John McCain had an illustrious military and public service career and was admired across the spectrum of US politics as a man of integrity and a champion of civility.” – Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi

McCain-Germany

Seen in Germany …

And there were many, many more … but the one that was missing speaks volumes about the monster in the Oval Office, Donald Trump.  He said not a single word about Senator McCain, though he did interrupt his rant about “Crooked Hillary” long enough to offer pseudo condolences to the family:

“My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!” – Donald J. Trump

Not a single word about John McCain, not a single word of praise or compassion. But even that is not the worst.  The worst was yet to come.  Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Chief of Staff John Kelly and other aides in the administration wrote a statement, praising McCain for both his military service and service to his country as a long-term member of Congress.  The statement also referred to him as a ‘hero’, which is appropriate and true.

But Trump refused to allow the statement to be issued, instead insisting that his brief, vacuous Tweet (see above) would serve as the official statement from the administration.  This, my friends, is unacceptable.  This is NOT the way we expect the president to behave!!!  It is the way we expect a five-year-old child who didn’t get his way, who has to be the center of attention to behave.

Other White House officials, instead, released their own statements in tribute to Senator McCain. By Sunday afternoon, the vice president, secretary of state, homeland security secretary, defense secretary, national security adviser, White House press secretary, counselor to the president, education secretary, interior secretary and others had posted statements lauding Senator McCain.

Although President Obama ordered flags to fly at half-mast for five days after the death of Senator Ted Kennedy in 2009, Trump ordered the flags returned to full staff this morning.  The flag at the Capitol Building remains at half-mast. A few days ago, I used this quote:  “Those who want respect, give respect”. Need I say more?

Author Stephen King summed it up nicely, I think …

“John McCain: American patriot, war hero. Donald Trump: Draft-dodging weasel.”

Former Presidents and World leaders are paying tribute to John McCain today, but the son-of-a-bitch who calls himself “president” cannot be bothered, and not only that, but he won’t allow anybody else to, either.  Every person in this nation should be crying tears of shame that we have no person of conscience, no person with an ounce of humility or compassion in the highest office of the nation.  I hang my head in shame and sorrow.

A Tale Of Two Evil People — Part I

Let me start off by saying that this is a rant.  I am beyond infuriated as I write this post, and while I generally believe it is better to be well-modulated and rise above the throng, there is a time when white-hot rage needs an outlet.  This is one such time.  I initially intended this to be a single post, but it went past the limits of what I consider optimal length, so I broke it into two parts.  This is Part I, and Part II will follow later this afternoon.

Two stories came to my attention last night, as I was trying to find fun things for my Jolly Monday post (at which I failed miserably).  Both stories concern the late John McCain, and I think you will agree that he deserved much better than this.


An ugly person, inside and out …

Conservatives Rally Together At Annual CPAC Gathering

The Face of Evil — Kelli Ward

Take a look at that face, folks, for that is the face of ugly.  That is the face of evil.  That is a face I hope never to see sitting in the U.S. Senate.  Allow me to introduce Ms. Kelli Ward of Arizona, a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake.  This is not the first time Ms. Ward has tripped across my radar, but it is the first time that prodded my mind with a hot poker. In July 2017, when John McCain first announced that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer, Ms. Ward made the following public statement:

“I hope that Senator McCain is going to look long and hard at this, that his family and his advisers are going to look at this, and they’re going to advise him to step away as quickly as possible. So that the business of the country and the business of Arizona being represented at the federal level can move forward… We can’t have until the 2018 election, waiting around to accomplish the Trump agenda, to secure the border and stop illegal immigration and repeal Obamacare and fix the economy and fix the veterans administration, all those things need to be done and we can’t be at a standstill while we wait for John McCain to determine what he’s going to do.” [Emphasis added]

She said she hoped that Arizona’s governor would consider appointing her to fill McCain’s seat. But on Friday, it got even better …

Last Friday, Senator John McCain’s family announced that he would stop treatment for his brain cancer, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer and McCain’s advanced age, 81.  He would, as we now know, die the very next day.  However, Ms. Kelli Ward took McCain’s announcement on Friday as an attempt on McCain’s part to undermine her senatorial campaign!  His timing was inconvenient for her!  A staffer, apparently with Ward’s knowledge and consent, tweeted the following …

“I wonder if it were just a coincidence that Sen McCain released his statement on the kickoff day of Kelli Ward’s bus tour or if it was a plan to take media attention off her campaign. I’m not saying it was on purpose but it’s quite interesting.”

And Ward herself chimed in with …

“I think they wanted to have a particular narrative that they hope is negative to me.”

Yo, bitch … life does not revolve around you!!!  This man has been suffering from this devastating illness for more than a year, and you expected him to coordinate his death with you, so that it would not interfere with your campaign???  What rock did you crawl out from under???

I hope that Arizonans have a heart, a conscience, and respect for the man who has represented the State of Arizona in Congress since 1983 and will cast their votes anywhere but for Ms. Ward.  Her words are unconscionable and show a lack of empathy on a par with that of Donald Trump.

How can people be so unkind, so uncaring, so self-centered?  Stay tuned for the next installment …

The Ultimate Hypocrisy

It’s rather like an arsonist being invited to speak at a convention of fire-fighters, or a murderer speaking to a cadre of police officers.  Like a cat at a gathering of canines, or a 6th grade dropout giving a talk to college grads.  It simply doesn’t make sense that a 5-time draft dodger is giving a graduation commencement address at the United States Naval Academy!  And yet, Donald Trump was, indeed, invited to do just that.  Two 2001 graduates from the Naval Academy wrote an OpEd that was published on Tuesday, 22 May in the Baltimore Sun, contrasting the virtues of former Naval Academy graduates with the debauchery Trump was engaging in at the same time.  I think the article is worth sharing here, for it sums the contrast better than I could.

Trump Has Little Advice To Offer Naval Academy Graduates

By Daniel Barkhuff, William Burke

In 1969, after having already been held hostage for four years, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy faced a lonely choice in a North Vietnamese prison camp: how to prevent his captors from using him in a propaganda piece. James Stockdale chose to smash his own face in with a stool rather than give “aid and comfort” to the enemy.

In the early years of Stockdale’s seven-year imprisonment, the current president of the United States was enjoying the comforts of Wharton Business School, having received four draft deferments to attend college (he received another after graduation for supposedly having bone spurs in his heels). He would later go on to make fun of POWs of that era, claiming John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured.

In 1972, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy named John Ripley low-crawled and pulled himself along the underside of the Dong Ha bridge for over three hours, making multiple trips with explosives. His actions, all done under fire from the North Vietnamese Army, earned him the Navy Cross for valor. In 1972, Donald Trump, who took over his father’s apartment rental business, was a year away from being sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments in one of his buildings to black people.

On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy steeled themselves for a mission to bring violence to our enemies. After the World Trade Center Towers fell, Donald Trump bragged on TV that a building he owned was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan.

On Feb. 1, 2003, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy named William McCool was at the helm of the space shuttle Columbia when it broke up during reentry. The current president was then gearing up to become the host of a reality TV show called “The Apprentice.”

In late June of 2005, two USNA graduates named Erik Kristensen and Mike McGreevy insisted on being in the lead aircraft riding into a hot landing zone in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley to come to the aid of their wounded, outnumbered and about to be overrun team of SEALs. The helicopter was shot down, and they and more than a dozen others lost their lives. A few months later in that same year, the current president of the United States was captured in a recording bragging about assaulting women: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ‘em by the [crotch]. You can do anything.”

These are just a few of many examples of graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy making big choices laden with courage and self-sacrifice that come from a history of countless small choices: to be truthful, to stay committed to a code of honor and duty, and to choose a harder right over the easier wrong — even if the choice is contrary to their own short-term personal interests. These are the choices that make one fit to lead.

Contrast this to the personal and professional honor of the sitting president of the United States, who time and again makes small choices guided by self-interest, ego, impulse and immediate self-gratification. He could never do what we ask our U.S. Naval Academy graduates to do. He is a physical coward, a liar and no leader at all.

It is right and fitting that the president of the United States give a commencement address to a service academy’s graduating class. It is also right and fitting that citizens of the democracy for which these graduates will soon be charged with protecting point out the personal cowardice, narcissism and incompetency of the current president.

Those of us who have served in this nation’s wars owe it to our new graduates to point out how better served we would all be if in 2020 our small choices as citizens added up to one big choice — one that will deliver us a leader whose personal choices and conduct are more in keeping with the honorable traditions of our alma mater.

Dr. Daniel Barkhuff (daniel.barkhuff@vfrl.org) is president of Veterans For Responsible Leadership, a 2001 U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a former Navy SEAL. William Burke is the general counsel for VFRL; he was also a 2001 graduate of USNA and served as a submariner from 2001-2006.

The New Normal …

We are all aware that class is not Donald Trump’s strong suit.  In fact, I think it’s a fair statement to say that the man has none at all.  But in today’s administration, there appear to be many more who have no class, no dignity, no sense of propriety.  Perhaps the ‘man’ at the top has set the tone for all, or perhaps it is simply that he has surrounded himself with people just like himself – crass and vulgar.McCain Holds Townhall Meeting In York, PennsylvaniaSenator John McCain is dying of a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.  For his entire life, he has served his country well.  McCain is a genuine American hero – one who fought and suffered for his country in the theater of war and has dedicated the better part of the last four decades of his life to public service as a House member, a senator and a two-time presidential candidate.  He is not a man who deserves to be derided, and this certainly is not the time for derision.

McCain has not been able to return to Washington for several months, but nonetheless on Wednesday, he felt compelled to issue a statement calling on his fellow-senators to reject Trump’s nominee for Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel.  Haspel, as an undercover operative, was directly responsible for much of the torture that took place in the years following 9/11, and during her confirmation hearings, she refused to admit that such torture methods are inhumane and morally wrong.   McCain was captured, held and tortured for years (1967-1973) during the Vietnam War.mccain-pow

“However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”

The next day, special assistant Kelly Sadler made the derisive comments during a closed-door White House meeting of about two-dozen communications staffers.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway.”

Ms. Sadler wasn’t the only one who had something snide and rude to say.  Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, appearing on a Fox Business program, said …

“Well she can’t use it anymore because we have determined in Congress that it’s not legal. The fact is, is John McCain — it worked on John. That’s why they call him ‘Songbird John,’”

McInerney’s comment is false.

McCain has already begun planning his funeral and has requested both Presidents Obama and George W. Bush to give eulogies, but has indicated that he does not wish Donald Trump to be at his funeral.  This is understandable in light of an ongoing contentious relationship between the two, starting in 2016 during the presidential campaign when Trump claimed that in his book, McCain was not a hero because he was captured.  I would not, under any circumstances, want Trump within 5,000 miles of my funeral!  But Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had to say …

“I think that’s ridiculous. He’s the President of the United States. He’s a very good man. But it’s up to John. I think John should have his wishes fulfilled with regard to who attends his funeral.”

A ‘good man’?  Seriously???  I think not.

I concur fully with former Vice President Joe Biden, who said …

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday. Given this White House’s trail of disrespect toward John and others, this staffer is not the exception to the rule; she is the epitome of it.”

And there were others who shared his outrage:

“Our nation should be grateful for the exemplary service and sacrifice of [McCain], and treat this war hero and his family with the civility and respect they deserve.” – Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa

“It’s a sad day in this country when White House officials are mocking a man who was tortured as a prisoner of war. He’s more than earned the right to speak out on these matters. A public apology should be issued immediately.” – Representative Walter Jones, North Carolina

“Whatever one’s differences with John, he’s a patriot who has served our nation selflessly and honorably and deserves our respect.” – Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas

“Look, John McCain is a hero. No two ways about it. John McCain, I mean he gave his entire adult life for this country. John McCain fought for us in Vietnam, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, came home and dedicated his life to public service. His vocation in life was making life better for people and better for the country. There are so many accolades I could heap on a John McCain.” – Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan

“I spend a lot of time trashing politicians. This [John McCain]  is about the one I’ve admired above all others over the last quarter century.” – Dana Milbank, OpEd columnist, The Washington Post

mccain-2There have been many times that I disagreed with John McCain’s position on certain issues, but he has, I have always believed, had the best interest of the nation and the people in mind.  I have never heard him speak disrespectfully to anyone.  I have the utmost respect for this man.  Perhaps he is among the last of a dying breed, people who believe in dignity, in civil discourse, and in respect for others.  I’m sorry to say that those things have gone by the wayside in our government since January 20, 2017.

Happy Dancin’ and Mud Fightin’

Arizona … home to Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake – both republicans, but of the lovable sort, if there is such a thing.  And I just discovered another Arizonian to love, based on a single sentence.   His name is Ruben Gallego (think of it as ‘guy-eggo’ for pronunciation) and he is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona.  The sentence that won me over?

“I will gladly work with the president when his ideas aren’t stupid and detrimental to the United States. Unfortunately this is what this plan is.”

I was just trolling various news outlets, half asleep in the warm afternoon sunshine when I saw that and immediately felt Snoopy doing a bit of a happy dance in my heart!We all know the backstory … Trump has signed an order to send the National Guard to ‘guard the Mexican border’ until such time as his wall can be built.  We also all know that, despite Trump’s rants, there is no immediate threat on the border, there are no ‘caravans of evil’ threatening to cross the border with the intent of raping and pillaging, and it is all a big hoax on the part of Trump.  A potentially costly hoax for a number of reasons.

While many republicans were busy licking the Donald’s boots, praising his ‘strength’ in this matter, most democrats were less over-joyed, but perhaps none so outspoken as Mr. Gallego.  Of course, the mouthpiece, Ms. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had to speak:

“If that congressman’s so concerned, maybe he ought to show up and actually support legislation that would fix these problems instead of blaming the president that’s actually doing something about it.”

To which Gallego responded with a tweet:

“Hey @PressSec – Unlike your boss, I did show up and served my country in the Marines. Now, I show up in Congress to serve my country again and act as a check to some of your boss’s worst plans.”

Okay, okay … it’s mud-slinging at its finest, accomplishes little if anything and is beneath us.  But …

 

I’m the kid who got kicked out of kindergarten for fighting … I can get down & dirty with the best of them sometimes!

But now, let me just wipe some of this mud off and let us take a closer look at Ruben Gallego.

Gallego has been in office since 2014, when he won 74% of the vote in Arizona’s 7th district, a district that is heavily democratic and majority Latino.  In his first year, he earned a B+ rating from the NRA, but ever since has an ‘F’ rating … a plus, in my book.  He has the endorsement of Mayday PAC, a super PAC that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics.  Another score, in my book. On February 28, 2013 Gallego voted against an amendment that sought to raise campaign finance limits for federal candidates and abolish all limits for state candidates.

Gallego is a relative newbie, but so far, I like what I see.  I see no barriers to him winning re-election in his district in November, so no real need to highlight him, other than that he ‘walked the walk’ in standing firm against Trump’s ludicrous waste of our resources to combat his fairy-tale threat on our southern border.

Arizona seems to turn out people with good sense, on both sides of the political aisle.  I wonder … is it something in the water?

Roy Moore — The ‘Values’ Candidate

In just over a month, December 12th, the people of Alabama will go to the polls to elect a senator to replace former Senator Jeff Sessions who is now the U.S. Attorney General.  There are two major candidates, former Judge Roy Moore, who was twice thrown off the bench for failing to uphold the law, and Democratic candidate Doug Jones.  Now, if you are not familiar with Mr. Moore’s history, please take a look at my last post about him, written last month.

Roy Moore’s boat, once again, should have just sunk, but I am not so sure.  The details, according to The Washington Post

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

It was early 1979 and Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.

“He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,’ ” says Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71. “I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl.”

I will not repeat the details here, in the interest of time, space, and decency, (click the above link if you’re interested) but suffice it to say that twice thereafter, Moore behaved very inappropriately, according to Miss Corfman.  Her account is supported by her mother and two people who were friends at that time. There are three other similar accusations against Moore.

Now, ten years ago this would have been a death knell for Moore’s candidacy and he would have hung his head in shame and slithered, like the snake he is, off the campaign trail.  But this is the year 2017, the year that people in the U.S. decided this sort of behaviour in a politician is alright in their book, for the man they elected to the highest office in the U.S. has been accused multiple times of sexual harassment and was even captured on tape admitting to groping women without their consent.

So … what is the reaction to this accusation against Moore?  Let us hear first from Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler …

“Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!

Even two of the biggest idiots in the upper echelons of the federal government have better sense than Mr. Ziegler …

“If these allegations are true, he must step aside.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

“Like most Americans, the president does not believe we can allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person’s life. However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.” – Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking on behalf of Trump

“The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of.” – Arizona Senator John McCain

“I think it was already perfectly well stated that no one in Alabama gives a s— what Mitch McConnell or John McCain thinks we should do.” – Republican consultant Jonathan P. Gray

And what, you might ask, is Roy Moore’s response?

“Our children and grandchildren’s futures are on the line. So rest assured — I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight! I believe you and I have a duty to stand up and fight back against the forces of evil waging an all-out war on our conservative values.”

Prior to this story in the Post, Moore was polling an average of six percentage points above the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones.  Today?  He is polling an average of six percentage points above Jones.  It may simply be that it is too soon for the polls to reflect a shift based on the latest news, and it bears watching over the coming week or two.

The deadline has passed to take his name off the ballot. The Alabama state party could disqualify him from the election, but down in Alabama there are no signs that they wish to do so.

Roy Moore and Doug Jones were invited to a debate by a local television station, WHNT. Jones accepted the invitation, but the Moore campaign declined, saying …

While we appreciate the invitation from WHNT, the differences between the two candidates are crystal clear. Judge Roy Moore believes in cutting taxes. Doug Jones wants to raise your taxes. Judge Moore believes we should cut spending and balance the budget. Doug Jones believes in putting America in more debt. Judge Moore wants Obamacare repealed. Doug Jones wants to expand it. Judge Moore wants to rebuild the military. Doug Jones supported an administration that slashed our defense spending and put American security at risk. Judge Moore wants to secure our borders. Doug Jones wants open borders and supports amnesty. Judge Moore wants to protect our most vulnerable like our seniors and the unborn, but Doug Jones has spent his career defending violent criminals and he supports partial-birth abortion. There has never been a clearer choice: one candidate will stand up for Alabama and the other candidate will expand federal tyranny. Judge Moore will continue to take his message directly to the voters of Alabama.

Moore-1Roy Moore claims to be the candidate who stands for ‘values’.  Perhaps he defines values differently than I do.