The Voice Of Reason — From A Republican

Of late, I’ve taken to doing something I had not done, but should have, before – reading opinion pieces by conservative writers.  Not all of them, of course, for some I find to be simply too odious to read more than a paragraph, but those conservative writers who take a more moderate stance, who aren’t so far to the right as to be moronic, have something to say and I want to listen.  I want to understand what makes them tick, why they think as they do.  Yesterday, I came across an opinion essay in the New York Times by Stuart Stevens, a long-time Republican political consultant.  Mr. Stevens joined the Lincoln Project earlier this year. This essay resonates, it helps explain some things, maybe answer some questions we’ve been asking, and I think it is worth sharing here.  I hope you’ll take a minute to read Mr. Stevens’ words.


I Hope This Is Not Another Lie About the Republican Party

But it might be lost forever.

stuart-stevensBy Stuart Stevens

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned an internal party study to examine why the party had won the popular vote only once since 1988.

The results of that so-called autopsy were fairly obvious: The party needed to appeal to more people of color, reach out to younger voters, become more welcoming to women. Those conclusions were presented as not only a political necessity but also a moral mandate if the Republican Party were to be a governing party in a rapidly changing America.

Then Donald Trump emerged and the party threw all those conclusions out the window with an almost audible sigh of relief: Thank God we can win without pretending we really care about this stuff. That reaction was sadly predictable.

I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.

I saw the warning signs but ignored them and chose to believe what I wanted to believe: The party wasn’t just a white grievance party; there was still a big tent; the others guys were worse. Many of us in the party saw this dark side and told ourselves it was a recessive gene. We were wrong. It turned out to be the dominant gene.

What is most telling is that the Republican Party actively embraced, supported, defended and now enthusiastically identifies with a man who eagerly exploits the nation’s racial tensions. In our system, political parties should serve a circuit breaker function. The Republican Party never pulled the switch.

Racism is the original sin of the modern Republican Party. While many Republicans today like to mourn the absence of an intellectual voice like William Buckley, it is often overlooked that Mr. Buckley began his career as a racist defending segregation.

In the Richard Nixon White House, Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips wrote a re-election campaign memo headed “Dividing the Democrats” in which they outlined what would come to be known as the Southern Strategy. It assumes there is little Republicans can do to attract Black Americans and details a two-pronged strategy: Utilize Black support of Democrats to alienate white voters while trying to decrease that support by sowing dissension within the Democratic Party.

That strategy has worked so well that it was copied by the Russians in their 2016 efforts to help elect Mr. Trump.

In the 2000 George W. Bush campaign, on which I worked, we acknowledged the failures of Republicans to attract significant nonwhite support. When Mr. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative,” some on the right attacked him, calling it an admission that conservatism had not been compassionate. That was true; it had not been. Many of us believed we could steer the party to that “kinder, gentler” place his father described. We were wrong.

Reading Mr. Bush’s 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention now is like stumbling across a document from a lost civilization, with its calls for humility, service and compassion. That message couldn’t attract 20 percent in a Republican presidential primary today. If there really was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, we lost.

There is a collective blame to be shared by those of us who have created the modern Republican Party that has so egregiously betrayed the principles it claimed to represent. My j’accuse is against us all, not a few individuals who were the most egregious.

How did this happen? How do you abandon deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy and the national debt in a matter of months? You don’t. The obvious answer is those beliefs weren’t deeply held. What others and I thought were bedrock values turned out to be mere marketing slogans easily replaced. I feel like the guy working for Bernie Madoff who thought they were actually beating the market.

Mr. Trump has served a useful purpose by exposing the deep flaws of a major American political party. Like a heavy truck driven over a bridge on the edge of failure, he has made it impossible to ignore the long-developing fault lines of the Republican Party. A party rooted in decency and values does not embrace the anger that Mr. Trump peddles as patriotism.

This collapse of a major political party as a moral governing force is unlike anything we have seen in modern American politics. The closest parallel is the demise of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, when the dissonance between what the party said it stood for and what citizens actually experienced was so great that it was unsustainable.

This election should signal a day of reckoning for the party and all who claim it as a political identity. Will it? I’ve given up hope that there are any lines of decency or normalcy that once crossed would move Republican leaders to act as if they took their oath of office more seriously than their allegiance to party. Only fear will motivate the party to change — the cold fear only defeat can bring.

That defeat is looming. Will it bring desperately needed change to the Republican Party? I’d like to say I’m hopeful. But that would be a lie and there have been too many lies for too long.

No Conscience In This Cabinet!

Never before have so many disgusting lies been uttered in one room in a short few hours’ time.  The scene: Trump’s first full cabinet meeting.  The first lie … a yuge lie indeed … came from Trump himself as he opened the meeting saying, “Never has there been a president, with few exceptions, the case of FDR – he had a major Depression to handle – who’s passed more legislation who’s done more things than what we’ve done.” I wonder if the boys and girls in the meeting actually believed that, or if they merely played along? I’m not sure how anybody could have believed him when he has not managed to pass a single major piece of legislation yet, nor is he likely to any time soon.

But the boys and girls who serve as secretaries, directors and senior staff pandered to his ego and praised him as if he were somebody he is not.  For Trump, the first part of the meeting, while the press was in attendance, it was a stage, an opportunity for him to preen, an opportunity of which he took full advantage.

He said he wanted to go around the table and have everyone introduce themselves, as if the whole world isn’t already familiar with the contingent of clowns.  “I’m going to start with our vice-president. Where is our vice-president?” Trump asked, swiveling his head to look for Mike Pence before spotting him seated in the vice-president’s assigned seat, directly across from the president. “There he is,” Trump said jovially to titters from the others. “We’ll start with Mike and then we’ll just go around, your name, your position,” Trump instructed, like a teacher on the first day of school.

And this is where it goes from ridiculous to bizarre …

Vice President Mike Pence: “This is just the greatest privilege of my life.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It is so great to be here.”

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley: “It’s a new day at the United Nations. I think the international community knows we’re back.”

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry: “My hat’s off to you.”

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “I want to thank you for getting this country moving again.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: “We thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda.”

Secretary of Labour Alexander Costa: “I am privileged to be here. Deeply honored.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privileges you’ve given me and the leadership that you’ve shown.”

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue: “A lot of us just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Are you feeling ill yet? As soon as the adulation was over, Trump dismissed the press from the room.  As I said, it was a stage, an opportunity for all the world to see just how much he is adored and praised by his minions.  Typically, in another administration, this group would be referred to as the “brain trust”, but I cannot bring myself to use that term here, for there seems to be very little in the way of ‘brains’.

The most interesting thing is that at least some of the people who claimed to be so enamoured of Trump have had serious and ongoing disputes with him.  Jeff Sessions, for example, reportedly tendered his resignation a few weeks ago.  Trump declined to accept it, but nonetheless it indicates that there is conflict there.  And just a few days ago, Trump informed Reince Priebus that he had only until July 4th to “clean up the White House” or else lose his job.  Which leads me to believe that this whole little show put on for the press was scripted.  I strongly suspect that these people were told to praise the Idiot-in-Chief effusively, else they might find themselves in the same unemployment line as former FBI Director James Comey.  I would not be surprised to find that Steve Bannon, who was sitting directly behind Trump during the meeting, gave each person a piece of paper with what they were to say written upon it. That they went along shows us just how unreliable, untrustworthy, what a bunch of wusses and liars these people running our country are.

Christopher Lu, who served as Assistant to the President and White House Cabinet Secretary under President Obama, tweeted, “I ran 16 Cabinet meetings during Obama’s 1st term. Our Cabinet was never told to sing Obama’s praises. He wanted candid advice not adulation.”  Well, that is the difference between a president and a thin-skinned clown.  Trump’s own tweet read, “Finally held our first full @Cabinet meeting today. With this great team, we can restore American prosperity and bring real change to D.C.”  The ‘man’ is wearing rose-coloured glasses, apparently.

This is not one of the world’s most earth-shattering news items, but it is telling, I think, of what we have in the Oval Office.  We have a ‘man’ who places far more importance on being praised than on doing the job for which he was hired.  He is far more attuned to what his paid pansies say, whether they are sincere or not, than to what We The People think.  He is still nothing more than an actor playing a role, and doing so very badly.  His minions who praised him ad nauseam traded their collective consciences for their jobs.  When his ship sinks, they will all be on it and we will say, “Good Riddance”.

titanic4

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

“My order is shoot to kill you. I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.” – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte

Last October I wrote a post about Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. At that time, he had been in office just over three months, and already across the globe, human rights groups, world leaders, and the United Nations had concerns about him and his presidency.  He had sanctioned the killing of thousands in his country by vigilante groups, supposedly as a means of eradicating drug dealers, but those killed were only suspected or reported to have ties to the drug world.  There was no documented evidence in most cases, and none were given the benefit of a trial.  Duterte was offering medals and rewards for citizens who killed a person suspected of dealing in drugs, saying, “Do your duty, and if in the process you kill 1,000 persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you. If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful. I don’t care about human rights, believe me.”

Back in December, when the death toll by police and vigilantes had risen to at least 4,500, Trump praised Duterte in a telephone call, telling him he was “ … doing it the right way. I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” claimed Duterte.

Last Saturday, Donald Trump once again called Duterte and they had what Trump described as a “very friendly conversation”. It is reported that the two discussed topics including North Korea and “the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs.” And then Trump invited Duterte for an official state visit to the White House. Human Rights Watch  is urging the United Nations to open an independent investigation into the massive deaths of mostly poor citizens in the Philippines.  They are more than a little concerned over Trump’s praise and invitation.

“Countries with bilateral ties to the Philippines, particularly the United States, have an obligation to urge accountability for the victims of Duterte’s abusive drug war, rather than offer to roll out the red carpet for official state visits by its mastermind,” said Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director, said that “speaking glowingly” of a president who has bragged about the deaths of his own citizens while remaining silent about concerns over human rights violations sends a “terrifying message.” “It says to the world that illegal violence is legitimate and that the rule of law and human rights can be ignored. This is a message in the language of thugs and criminals, not government servants who take an oath to protect their citizens and laws.”

Last year, when President Obama expressed concern about the high number of deaths early in September, Duterte lashed out, calling Obama a “son of a whore”, leading President Obama to cancel a scheduled meeting between the two leaders. In October, Mr. Duterte called for a “separation” between the Philippines and the United States. “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow.” A spokesperson for the White House says that Trump is merely trying to mend fences between the two nations.

trump-duterteOn Sunday, Trump’s aides were scrambling in an effort to justify Trump’s invitation.  Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended Trump’s praise of Duterte on Sunday, saying the president’s top priority is addressing the threat of North Korea and partnering with countries in Southeast Asia:

“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what’s happening in North Korea. If we don’t have all of our folks together — whether they’re good folks, bad folks, people we wish would do better in their country, doesn’t matter, we’ve got to be on the same page”

And then on Monday morning, there was Sean Spicer, in his usual stumbling, bumbling manner, had this to say:

spicer-air-quotes“I mean, the president gets fully briefed on the leaders that he’s speaking to, obviously, but the No. 1 concern of this president is to make sure that we do everything we can to protect our people — and specifically to economically and diplomatically isolate North Korea. And I think when you look at what he is doing in terms of building that coalition of countries in that region to do it, I think this is hopefully gonna have — I mean, I’m not gonna tell you every single thing that’s in his brief, but he’s well aware of when he speaks with a leader, he gets briefed on a lot about what they’re doing, what they’ve done. That’s all part of the brief.”

Some days I really feel sorry for Sean.

According to the New York Times (30 April), “The State Department and National Security Council were “caught off guard” by Trump’s controversial invitation to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte,” though an administration spokesperson later denied this.

duterteAs of April, Philippines police had killed 2,500 people, and vigilantes had killed 3,600 people. These were not murderers, were not convicted of any crime.  Some may have actually been drug users or dealers, most were likely merely innocent civilians.  None were given the benefit of a trial, merely murdered.  The situation in the Philippines is being monitored by human rights groups, the United Nations, and the Interenational Criminal Court (ICC).

Trump’s praise and the invitation are disturbing, to say the least.  One must wonder if Trump plans to get some ‘tips and pointers’ from Duterte.  It is disconcerting and not a move I would have advised, nor one that I like to see.  Thinking about the leaders that Trump has praised, we have the following partial list:

  • Trump has repeatedly praised Putin, a dictator, and as has been discussed at length on this blog, has numerous ties to Putin and the Russian government.
  • Last month, Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate him on the passing of the referendum that greatly increases Erdoğan’s power and jeopardizes the democracy of Turkey.
  • Trump complimented Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has curtailed free speech and locked up political dissidents.
  • Trump has spoken warmly of the Egyptian leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who seized power in a military coup.

Yet he has disparaged and insulted our allies and friends, saying he neither needs nor wants friends abroad. Among those he has offended:

  • Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany
  • Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
  • Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran
  • Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico
  • Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden
  • Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway

duterte-companyTrump’s propensity to embrace more autocratic, despotic leaders while offending allies is gravely concerning.  In addition to the above lists, Trump threw his support behind such recent populist candidates as Norbert Hofer (Austria), Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), and is now supportive of the candidacy of populist French candidate Marine Le Pen.

“Be wary of the company you keep for they are a reflection of who you are, or who you want to be.” – Kenneth G. Ortiz

 

Collusion in the White House

The word for it is ‘collusion’.  When the White House Chief of Staff contacts the Assistant Director of the FBI and asks him to comment in a specific manner about an ongoing investigation into possibly illegal activities by White House officials, that is collusion.  It is illegal, improper, unacceptable behaviour by a government official.

priebus

Reince Priebus

After a 14 February story ran in the New York Times stating that the investigation into the Russian hacking of the DNC last year had turned up conversations between Trump’s campaign aides and Russian officials, Reince Priebus contacted FBI Assistant Director Andrew McCabe, and asked him to de-bunk the Times story.  Allegedly, McCabe told Priebus that the story was inaccurate, at which point Priebus requested that McCabe announce that conclusion publicly.  McCabe later, presumably after speaking with his boss, FBI Director James Comey, contacted Priebus and told him that he could not make a public statement at this time, but that Priebus could cite “senior intelligence officials” as saying there was “nothing to” the Times story.

mccabe

Andrew McCabe

The intelligence community, including the FBI, obviously believes, and has stated, that there is something to the story, else they would not be investigating it.  Congress has launched its own investigation, thus they obviously believe there is something to the story.  Neither Priebus nor McCabe had any right to have that conversation, and both should be terminated.  Priebus took his show on the road on Sunday, when during an interview with Meet the Press, he said that the “top levels of the intelligence community” assured him the Times story was “not only inaccurate” but “grossly overstated” and “wrong.”

If White House officials, including Trump, Bannon, Conway, Spicer and Priebus spent half as much time doing actual work, doing what we, their employers, need them to be doing as they spend worrying about what people are saying about them, then people might not have as much to criticize.  As best I can tell, the entire past month has been a cluster of ‘he said, she said’, the press is the enemy, the Democrats are our enemies, the public is rude to us, and ranting over every perceived slight.

Trump only made matters worse this morning when he tweeted “The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security ‘leakers’ that have permeated our government for a long time. They can’t even find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW.” 

A 2009 memo from then-Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department is to advise the White House on pending criminal or civil investigations “only when it is important for the performance of the president’s duties and appropriate from a law enforcement perspective.” When communication has to occur, the memo said, it should involve only the highest-level officials from the White House and the Justice Department.

The FBI is but one of 17 intelligence agencies in the U.S., all of whom have a role in this investigation.  One would think Director James Comey would have learned a lesson after his ‘October Surprise’ that cost Hillary Clinton her lead, and likely the election.  But apparently, commenting on ongoing investigations is the new normal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and unfortunately, it casts a shadow on their credibility.

CPAC – Circus of Passé Alternative Clowns

CPAC – Conservative Political Action Conference.  It is an annual event attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. Its purpose?  It depends on who you ask, but for the most part, it has none.  It is a networking tool, much the same as business conferences, most of which are events where people go to make connections, to see and be seen.  This is not a policy-making event, nor is it an official GOP event.  It is more a social event, and in 2013, Republican Newt Gingrich said, “I don’t know what the purpose of CPAC is anymore.” The official purpose, stated by the American Conservative Union (ACU) is “combines ideas with action to leverage the strength of grassroots activists to break the resistance of Washington’s elites.”  See … little or no purpose … I told you.

Typically, a non-event such as this would not make it onto my blog, as I have no interest in social meet-and-greets for conservatives.  This year, however, is a bit different.  First, it began with controversy, and second, it may provide an opportunity for some conservatives to voice frustration or opposition to Trump & Co.  So, I have loosely followed the events.

The starting controversy came early this week when one of the scheduled speakers, extreme right-wing idiot Milo Yiannopoulos, was caught on tape “advocating for sexual relationships between ‘younger boys and older men.’”  The poop hit the fan, CPAC quickly backed away from Milo, as did Breitbart, where Milo was a writer/editor … note the use of the word ‘was’, as he was forced to resign his position on Tuesday. Publishing house Simon & Schuster rescinded a book deal with Milo.  But Milo apologized … not for his comments, but he said he was sorry for the way his comments were perceived.  Earlier this month, University of California at Berkeley canceled a speaking engagement of his because of intense protests, prompting Donald Trump to tweet, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”  If you feel so inclined, you can read more about Milo’s troubles here, but for now, let’s move on to CPAC.

CPAC is scheduled to last from 22 February thru 25 February, though for the life of me, I cannot imagine what the entire gaggle of right-wingers could possibly discuss for four days!

The big news of the day seems to have been a joint interview with presidential advisor Steve Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus – two men who have reportedly not exactly gotten along splendidly in the first weeks of the administration. The press has taken to referring to these two as “the odd couple,” while I prefer to think of them as the dysfunctional duo.  At any rate … the interview was conducted with American Conservative Union President Matt Schlapp. Here are a few ‘clippets’, along with Filosofa’s trademark snark:

SCHLAPP: And that’s what Donald Trump has done to so many of us around the country politically. And you guys have put together an amazing operation. You know, I know you all know this, but the last time a president came to CPAC in his first year, it was Ronald Reagan.

(APPLAUSE) St. Ronald in 1981. And you’ve put together this — the president has put together the most conservative Cabinet we’ve ever seen according to our CPAC ratings and I think a few of us are pretty happy about what looks like is going to happen on the Supreme Court too, so it’s a… (shoot me now!)

PRIEBUS: And it’s — it’s actually something that you all have helped build which is, when you bring together — and what this election showed and what President Trump showed, and let’s not kid ourselves, I mean I can talk about data and ground game and Steve can talk about big ideas, but the truth of the matter is Donald Trump — President Trump brought together the party and the conservative movement. (This from the man who did everything in his power as DNC chairman to stop Trump???)

And I’ve got to tell you, if the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can’t be stopped. And President Trump was the one guy — he was the one person and I can say it after overseeing 16 people kill each other (huh???), it was Donald Trump that was able to bring this — this party and this movement together. And Steve and I know that and we live it every day. Our job is to get the agenda of President Trump through the door and on pen and paper. (God save the queen!)

r, attacked me, you can’t spend the money on Trump, go give it to the Senate. (Now wait one cotton-pickin’ minute, Reince!  YOU were, as I recall, dead set against Trump and YOU wanted to more appropriately spend money on the down-ballots!!!  Don’t be a worm!)

SCHLAPP: He’s even — he’s even leaving bathrooms alone, that’s kind of a nice, refreshing thing for a lot of people as well. (No. Comment. From. Fiilosofa.)

Okay, I cannot deal with more, and there are a couple of other issues to cover, but if you wish to read the entire, bullshit transcript, you can do so here.

devos-clownThen there was Betsy DeVos … newly-minted Secretary of Education in the Trumpian regime, who was forced, earlier this week, to support anti-LGBT legislation or else resign.  She toed the line, albeit reluctantly.  At the CPAC, she shifted blame to President Obama, saying, “This issue was a very huge example of Obama administration overreach, one-size-fits-all approach to issues best solved at personal and local level.”  She does a nice job at parroting the party line, don’t you think? And “one size fits all”, Betsy?  Yeah, actually, when it comes to civil rights, one size DOES fit all … the size of full equality for all!

But the really big news concerns white supremacist, Bannon-pal, Richard Spencer, who was kicked out of the convention!!!  Read that last line again … kicked out!  Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and that strongly backed Donald Trump for president, was expelled from the Conservative Political Action Conference after being criticized from its main stage, then giving interviews to a growing crowd of reporters.

“People want to talk to me,” Spencer told NBC News from outside the Gaylord National Harbor complex. “They don’t want to talk to these boring conservatives. They want to learn about ideas whose time has come, not whose time has passed.”  (And those would be ideas akin to … lynching?  slavery?  cotton plantations, white women fanning themselves and sipping lemonaide?  fat white men making the rules under which we should all live?)

Spencer was stopped by JP Sheehan, a CPAC attendee wearing a black-and-gold Make America Great Again baseball cap. “Praise kek!” said Sheehan, posing for a selfie with Spencer and repeating a meme that had been adopted by the alt-right. “He’s the coolest guy.” The growing crowd attracted more nervous attention from security, and after a few more minutes, they arrived to expel Spencer.

“I’m not welcome on the property?” Spencer asked. “I’m not going to debate this,” said the guard. “This is private property. They want you off the property.” After Spencer asked if he could stay if he would simply “stay out of trouble,” he said a hashtag — “Free Spencer” — into the cameras, and posed for another photo as he was taken outside. If ever there was a figure reminiscent of a Hitler-esque rally, it is Spencer.  Even the far right apparently realize he is toxic.

One important part of the CPAC is the annual straw poll vote which traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. I am eager to see the results of this one!

Last, but not least … would you like to attend the conference?  Sorry, you are too late this year, but there’s always next year.  Here is a price list, so you can start saving now:

“We offer several packages, ranging from our Platinum Package to the Day Pass.

Premium – Platinum – Call for Price

Premium – Gold – $5,000

Premium – Silver – $1,600

General Admission – $300

Senior – $150

Veteran – $150

Student – $85

One Day tickets – $150

CPAC is not much more than a convention of conservatives, a social gathering, but I thought it worth at least a single post this year, as this is … well, shall we just say ‘not your average year in politics’?  And now, I move on to topics that actually have relevance …

T R A I T O R !

preiebusThe man who did everything in his power to keep da trumpeter from winning the GOP nomination last summer has now switched his loyalties and is accepting the position of White House Chief of Staff in the Trump administration.  Now, I don’t care much for Priebus, never did, but then, I am not a Republican, so I view him from an outsider’s viewpoint, interested only because I am interested in politics in general.  But, in the grander scheme of things, it seems to me that if one has certain beliefs, certain values, one retains those values.  It seems that Mr. Priebus has, like Chris Christie and Ben Carson before him, sold out his own … soul, for lack of a better word. He is now what I would consider a traitor, not only to the party he headed up for six years, but to the nation.

Perhaps Mr. Priebus is a traitor even to himself, to his own conscience, if indeed he has one.  I think of the causes I strongly support … LGBT rights, Civil Rights, Black Lives Matter, and I try to imagine changing my stance on any of these for a job, even a job as well-paid and powerful as the one Mr. P will assume in January.  Nope, I simply would not do it. I have almost always been comfortable in my own skin, comfortable with my own values.  I am finding in the past several years, however, that I am even more so as I am using my voice to speak up for those values.  I am finding that I am stronger, that I am no longer offended or hurt by those who disagree with me, but that every challenge to my values strengthens my determination to fight for what I believe is right. Sadly, Mr. P seems to have sacrificed whatever values he once had.

It is too bad, as Priebus has a good reputation.  In his six-year tenure as RNC Chairman, Priebus erased a $24 million budget deficit, made huge investments in data, minority outreach and voter-registration efforts in swing states and is routinely hailed as one of the best fundraisers ever to lead the party.  He was once well-respected. Now I wonder if he even has any self-respect left.

So, what are we likely to see from Mr. P next year?  The term “White House Chief of Staff” is rather vague, and I must admit that I wasn’t quite sure exactly what it entailed, so I did some research.  The primary duties that Mr. P will assume next year include:

  • Select and supervise key White House staff
  • Control access to the Oval Office and the president
  • Manage communications and information flow
  • Negotiate with Congress, executive branch agencies, and external political groups to implement the president’s agenda.

The first one is a non-issue, but I see potential problems with the other three.  Controlling access to the president means that Mr. P will have control over who gets in to see the prez, what they can discuss with him, and for how long.  Typically, one wouldn’t see a problem with this, but the Chief of Staff has a tremendous amount of power and the abuse of this power has lead to some Chiefs falling foul of the law – such as Nixon’s Haldeman and Ehrlichman.

Perhaps the most concerning of the four duties listed is the third – ‘Manage communications and information flow.”  I find this disturbing because I remain of the belief that Trump will move quickly to take steps directed at curtailing the freedom of the press.  When I read the word ‘manage’, my mind automatically replaces it with another word:  manipulate.  I imagine that, to a greater or lesser degree, that has been the case in every administration since the creation of the Chief of Staff position in 1939.  But I see tremendous potential for abuse here, and I only hope that there will be enough diligent, honest watchdogs within the White House to ensure that We The People have accurate information coming from the White House.

Additionally, the Chief of Staff oversees and coordinates the efforts of the following offices:

  • Council of Economic Advisers
  • Council on Environmental Quality
  • Executive Residence
  • National Security Staff
  • Office of Administration
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Office of the United States Trade Representative
  • Office of the Vice President
  • Domestic Policy Council
  • National Security Advisor
  • National Economic Council
  • Office of Cabinet Affairs
  • Office of the Chief of Staff
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of Digital Strategy
  • Office of the First Lady
  • Office of Legislative Affairs
  • Office of Management and Administration
  • Oval Office Operations
  • Office of Presidential Personnel
  • Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
  • Office of Scheduling and Advance
  • Office of the Staff Secretary
  • Office of the White House Counsel

I see the traits of integrity, honesty and a conscience as requisites for EVERY position in the federal government, and most important at the highest levels.  (Okay, yes, I am naive, yet not really … I do know that there are always some abuses of power). If anybody, after Reince Priebus’ 180° about face this year, believes that he has any of those qualities, then I would like to talk to you about a bridge I have for sale in Brooklyn (see below).  Any time somebody sacrifices what they once said they believed in simply out of greed for either money or power, that person goes into the swamp, never to return, in my mind.  The president has complete control over the White House staff, as well as the cabinet, and I plan to keep a very close eye on the people chosen for those positions.  While I am disgusted and disturbed by his choices thus far, I am thankful, at least, that he did not select Mr. P for Secretary of State!  My next post will cover Trump’s choice for chief strategist and senior counsellor, none other than America’s #1 Thug, Steve Bannon.  Stay tuned, folks … should be a real riot!

brooklyn bridge.jpg

Ted Cruz … Hypocrite Extraordinaire

cruzIt hurt.  It had to hurt.

In July, I was actually proud of Ted Cruz.  He stood at the Republican National Convention and told voters to “vote your conscience.”  He was the only speaker at the convention who did not endorse Donald Trump.  I thought it took great courage and showed a sense of values to do what he did.  But on Friday, he blew it, once again.  Yes, folks, Mr. Cruz tossed his values, such as they were, to the wind and said “After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word. Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.”

As writer Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station  said, “Which, in point of fact, confirms everything I ever suspected about Ted Cruz’s conscience.”  I would agree.

Now, the question is:  WHY?  There may be a couple of reasons:

  • Cruz will be up for re-election to the Senate in 2018, and some Texas republicans were so disappointed in his refusal to endorse Trump at the RNC that they were considering withdrawing their support.
  • I think, as do a number of republicans, that regardless who wins the November election, Cruz will give it another shot in 2020. Personally, I am not sure that supporting Trump was necessarily a wise move toward success in four years, but if withholding his support for Trump would have cost him the support of the RNC, then perhaps.
  • Last Sunday, 18 September, RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus, threatened Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans who refuse to support presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying the party may take steps to ensure it’s not “that easy for them” to seek the White House again. Since Cruz is obviously not willing to watch his political career go swirling down the drain, perhaps he took Mr. Priebus at his word.

Now, granted, I am neither a conservative nor a Republican, but I am nonetheless able to see what is wrong with this whole scenario, and sum it up in one word:  TRUST.  Cruz is not the first to say that in all good conscience he cannot endorse Trump, then endorse him anyway.  But if you speak out against a candidate, saying that your conscience simply will not let you support him, and then two months (or less, in some other cases) reverse your opinion, I think it is obvious that your values took a backseat to your political career, and thus you have betrayed the trust  If the people who say they are tired of “Washington politics”, sick of the “establishment”, mean what they say, they surely can see that Cruz’ endorsement on Friday is just more of what they say they are sick and tired.

Over the course of the past year, Cruz has endured a significant amount of abuse from Trump:

  • heidi-cruzTrump retweeted an unflattering photo of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, juxtaposed with his wife, Melania.
  • Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz. (Nobody had a clue what this meant, but obviously it led to speculation)
  • Trump suggested that Cruz’s father may have been involved in the Kennedy assassination.
  • Trump suggested strongly early in the primary season that Cruz might not be eligible to serve as president, given his birth in Canada to an American citizen.
  • Trump said he wouldn’t even accept Cruz’s endorsement.
  • Trump attacked Cruz’s faith, saying “How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?”
  • Trump has repeatedly called Cruz “lyin’ Ted”, and said he was “utterly amoral” and a “narcissist” (Talk about the pot calling the kettle …)
  • “Ted is a nasty guy. People don’t like him.”

Those are just a few of Trump’s insults toward Cruz, but I ask you, dear readers:  Would you, could you, endorse and support somebody who had abused you in those ways?  I could not … I would not.  My conscience is apparently more rigid than that of Mr. Cruz.

And there is also the flip side, the insults Cruz has hurled at Trump:

  • Cruz called Trump a “sniveling coward.”
  • “Trump’s tax returns could show a mob connection”
  • He also called Trump a “big, loud New York bully”
  • He called Trump “a small and petty man who is intimidated by strong women”
  • Cruz called one of Trump’s theories “nuts” and “just kooky”
  • And, while he was at it, Cruz accused him of narcissism and being a “serial philanderer”

Okay, now read those again.  Are we likely to endorse and support a man who we believe is a sniveling coward, a small & petty man, nuts, kooky, a narcissist, a bully and …. Well, you get the picture.  No, we are not. But then, we are not huge fans of Cracker Jacks, right?

cracker jackI especially liked Republican strategist Ana Navarro’s Twitter comment, referring to Heidi Cruz: “If after saying he was standing up for my honor, my man endorsed a guy who called me ugly…he’d be sleeping on the damn couch for months.” But then, I became a fan of Navarro a month or so ago when I read that she said Trump was “unfit to be human”!  See, folks … there are some Republicans who haven’t traded their brains for a box of Cracker Jacks!

Okay, Filosofa, what is the point to all this?  The point, at least from my point of view, is not whether or not Ted Cruz came out in support of Donald Trump.  The point is that I think he did so for all the wrong reasons.  I have said for over a year now that every person is entitled to his or her position, his or her political beliefs.  If a person seriously believes that Trump’s views and ideologies are what is best for this nation, and if that person is truly looking at ideas rather than following Trump’s elusive dream of “slaying the dragon” and winning world dominance, then I will respect that person and his/her values.  But when one pledges fealty to Trump simply in order to enhance his/her own agenda, then no, I have no respect.

Cruz, perhaps, had an opportunity in the wake of the stance he took at the RNC, to garner respect of thinkers, of people who place honesty over political rhetoric.  He had the chance to gain the respect of even some Democratic liberals because he was, perhaps for once, honest.  Because he followed his heart, his conscience.  Friday?  He blew it all to shreds.  I, and many like me, now understand what Ted Cruz actually stands for … Ted Cruz.  No, he does not stand for the United States, nor for the American people … he merely stands for himself … Ted Cruz.

A Mad Dog Is Dangerous … A Mad Man Even More So

The man who cannot stand criticism, the man who cannot stand to lose, is losing, and there will be hell to pay.  Try to imagine what it would be like to play a game of Monopoly, or even checkers with Donald Trump … and beat him!  In all likelihood, the winner would be accused of cheating, and the game would be destroyed in a fit of vile temper!  Yes, as of today, the man is losing.  Depending on which poll you look at, he is anywhere between 4% – 15% behind Clinton.  Today, I will refrain from a discussion of why he is losing, but rather turn my thoughts to what will this mean in the coming weeks. For we all know by now that Trump does not take kindly to being anything less than numero uno.

After the Democratic National Convention, Trump said that now he could take the gloves off, and he has certainly done that, which is in part what has turned some of his would-be supporters off.  But how much farther can he go?  I think we have finally come to understand that there are no limits when it comes to his spite and vengefulness, even when the wrongs done to him are figments of his imagination.  This is where I perceive the danger.  The entire election process has gone off-track and at this point is unlikely to regain any modicum of sanity, but vengeance and retaliation seem to be the norm where Trump is concerned.  It is one thing, and perfectly correct, to say that these methods are unacceptable behaviour from a presidential candidate, a man who wishes to govern from the highest level. But wringing our hands and decrying that it is “unacceptable” will not stop the madness. The only thing that will stop the madness is imposing real-world consequences for those unacceptable actions.

With few exceptions, Donald Trump has been able to say just about anything without consequence.  Certainly the dip in his poll numbers is consequence for some of his more recent rhetoric.  However, polls and voters are fickle and can change overnight.  Next week he could just as easily have a lead over Clinton.  The consequences need to be more lasting and more serious than polls, especially in light of the fact that Trump claims the polls are all rigged anyway.  For example, when he made the comment earlier in the week that “Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” most everyone, Democrats and Republicans alike, agreed that it was a highly inappropriate remark.  However, there need to be consequences.  It is reported by a Secret Service official that they have “spoken to the Trump campaign” regarding the remark.  Trump denies that any such conversation took place, and speaking to the “campaign” is not quite the same thing as speaking to the man from whose mouth the comment came.

Granted, the 1st Amendment provides a broad brush with which to colour every citizen’s speech, but there are limits.  Trump blew off his remark about the “2nd Amendment people”, as did his lemmings.  His campaign staff tried to go behind with their broom and dustpan and clean up the mess he left, just as they always do, trying to explain “what he really meant.”  They do that a lot these days.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the remark is that it shows an escalation in Trump’s demeanor, and it should be throwing up red flags to us all.  It says that Trump has decided there are no limits to what he can say, and that even if there are limits, they either don’t apply to him, else his paid minions will come along behind him and clean up the mess.  It also says he is confident that at the end of the day, his lemmings will still be his lemmings.  His goal, therefore, becomes not to try to lure Clinton supporters or those who are as yet ‘undecided’ away by proving himself to be the better candidate, but instead to drive them away by doing whatever it takes to make Clinton appear to be a distasteful choice.  If that fails, well, perhaps there is more way than one to skin a cat, such as planting a seed in the mind of some John Hinckley type that killing his opposition would be a good idea.

What I believe should have happened when he made that remark is that the Secret Service, who were there at the time for his protection, should have escorted him from the venue immediately and taken him for a talk, whereby he should have been told in no uncertain terms that if he made such a statement again he would be considered to be inciting violence and would be disciplined accordingly, just as would be any other citizen.  But Trump, with his thin skin, has made it clear that he is to be handled with kid gloves, lest he turn and attack.  It is reminiscent of a mad dog who cannot be captured because he will attack anyone who tries.  Think Cujo.

Just like a child who will test the limits to see just how much he can get by with, and will stop only when parents step in, Trump will not police his own actions.  He knows no boundaries, as he has never had any.  Knowing the difference between what is appropriate and inappropriate requires the thing that Donald Trump lacks:  a conscience.  So what is the answer?  Cause and effect, actions and consequences.  Where do those consequences come from, since he will scream it is a violation of his 1st Amendment rights if any attempt is made to punish him under the law for his remarks?

The media.  Thus far, the media has given Trump almost unlimited passes on the things he has said, but that needs to stop.  Certainly there are journalists who have taken Trump to task during the past year, but Trump’s supporters do not read Nicholas Kristoff, George Will or Bill Press.  They watch Fox News and MSNBC.  If the right-wing media outlets finally decide that Trump has exceeded the limits of decency and stop making excuses, giving him free passes, and laughing off his excesses, then perhaps at least some of his supporters will finally come to realize that the man they are following is leading them to a very bad place indeed. Even among the liberal media, Ms. Clinton … indeed, any other candidate … would be reviled if she said even half of what Trump has said.  Why the double standard?

The GOP.  Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus reportedly told Donald Trump in a phone call last week that if he doesn’t turn his flailing campaign around, the national party may shift its focus from his candidacy to down-ballot races. Priebus even went so far as to tell Trump that he “would have been better off had he spent the days since the Republican convention at his Mar-a-Lago Club,” according to GOP officials.  Trump, of course, denies the conversation.  Recently a number of prominent Republicans have announced that they do not support and will not vote for Trump.  The officials went on to say that Priebus reminded Trump that his title is RNC chairman, not chairman of the Trump campaign, adding that he would act in the best interests of the Republican Party. It is anybody’s guess whether this conversation actually took place, though I would guess that either this or a similar conversation did, in fact, transpire.  If the GOP switches its focus to the Senate and House races, the result could be more split-ticket voting than we have seen in years past, and would likely further dim any hope Trump has for the Oval Office.

If anything is to convince voters that Trump is highly unqualified for the job of president, I believe it will be a combination of the media and the Republican Party that will need to take the lead and strip him of the power his rhetoric seems to have over the masses.  I once said that if we gave Trump enough rope he would hang himself, but every time he does, his supporters jump up and loosen the rope.  It is going to take some skilled and conscionable people in the media and the GOP to make sure the rope stays in place between now and November.  Who better than the media who helped him rise to this level to begin with and the Party who were too blind to see what was right under their very noses?

Did You Hear? Trump Does Not Like The Debate Schedule! OH NO!

The debate schedule for the presidential election, as I posted a few days ago, is as follows:

  1. Monday, 26 September – 1st Presidential debate – Hampstead, NY
  2. Tuesday, 04 October – Vice Presidential debate – Farmville, VA
  3. Sunday, 09 October – 2nd Presidential debate – St. Louis, MO
  4. Wednesday, 19 October – 3rd Presidential debate – Las Vegas, NV

These dates were set by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) last September, almost eleven months ago.  As you might guess, there is a bit more involved in the process than, say, scheduling an appointment with the dentist, or reserving a hotel room for a family trip.  The venue must be selected and reserved, the media must be notified with adequate time to schedule staff, etc., hotel reservations made, and much more.

Quite surprisingly, since he has been so reasonable about everything else for the past year, presidential candidate Donald Trump does not like the debate schedule and wants it changed, less than two months before the first debate is to take place.  Here is the relevant portion of the transcript from Donnie’s interview with George Stephanopoulos on The Week this morning:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about debates. You can accept the recommendations of the debate commission? Three debates, one VP debate?

TRUMP: Well, I tell you what I don’t like, it’s against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying this is ridiculous, why are the debates against — because the NFL doesn’t want to go against the debates because the debates are going to be pretty massive, from what I understand. 

And I don’t think we should be against the NFL. I don’t know how the dates were picked. I don’t know why those particular dates.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you don’t like the dates that are out there. 

TRUMP: Well, I don’t like dates against — you know, Hillary Clinton wants to be against the NFL. She doesn’t maybe like she did with Bernie Sanders where they were on Saturday nights when nobody’s home. 

But they’re against the NFL. I saw the dates. Two — I think two of the three are against the NFL, so I’m not thrilled with that. But I like three debates. I think that’s fine. I think it’s enough. Somebody said one debate, I would rather have three. I think they will be very interesting.  

As always, Donnie speaks with such intelligence and occasionally even in full sentences.  However, I think this is one time his bluster is not likely to win.  The Commission on Presidential Debates responded as follows:

“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) started working more than 18 months ago to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates. It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles. A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.”

Nonetheless, Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, claims that they will be discussing the debate schedules with CPD “in the next week or so.”  I don’t know about you, but the above statement sounded pretty firm to me.  RNC chairman Reince Priebus said “Certainly we’re not going to agree with anything that our nominee doesn’t agree with. But we’re not going to be having debates on Saturday and Sunday nights, I don’t believe.”  Well, Reince, you can agree or not agree, but I suspect your power to change things at this late date is nil.  At least I would hope that is the case. But hey … perhaps you could talk to National Football Commissioner (NFL). Roger Goodell, about the NFL re-scheduling their games for those nights!  I’m sure that he would do everything in his power to accommodate the “Great and Mighty Trumpeter”!

In 2012, each of the debates fell on football game days, and still, each debate had at least 58 million people watch each, with the first debate drawing nearly 70 million viewers. I think that makes the case that if people want to watch the debate, they will do so.  Others would tune into Downton Abbey or Duck Dynasty, just to watch anything else besides the train wreck that the debate is sure to be.

trump in diaperIt is just one more piece of evidence, if we needed any more, of Trump’s level of maturity and his obsession with having everything his own way.  As I see it, he now has two options:  to do the debates or not.  A simple decision, though I suspect we will hear him rant many more times about how it was all a part of some grand plot to conspire against him.  I can hardly wait.  Sigh.

Joe the Pipefitter Invited to Speak at RNC

My friend Joe, a pipefitter, and a Republican, albeit one who is not planning to vote for Donald Trump in November, received the following letter from GOP Chairman Reince Priebus yesterday:

 

Reince Priebus, Chairman, Republican National Committee

320 First St., SE

Washington, DC  20003


Mr. Joe XXXXXXXX

XXXXX  XXXXXX XX

XXXXXXXXXX, XX  XXXXX

24 June 2016

Dear Mr. XXXXXXXX,

Our records indicate that you have been a loyal supporter of the Republican Party and its’ candidates throughout the years. We are grateful for all your support, and as a small token of our appreciation, we would like to invite you to speak on behalf of our presumptive nominee at the Republican National Convention next month.  The convention will be held in Cleveland, Ohio at the Quicken Loans Arena July 18-21, 2016.  We have an open slot for you to speak on Tuesday, 19 July at 10:30 a.m., though other speaking times are also still available.

We will, of course, reimburse you for travel and lodging expenses, and upon acceptance of this offer, we will send you a copy of the prepared speech we would like you to memorize for the event.  We are having a bit of difficulty garnering enough speakers this year, as GOP leaders around the nation seem to be very busy and have already made other commitments for that week.  We had hoped to feature Dennis Hastert, former Congressman from Illinois and former Speaker of the House, but he is otherwise occupied serving a prison sentence for raping young boys.

If you are interested in this great opportunity, please complete the attached form with your letter of acceptance no later than 30 June, so that we can send your speech to you in order for you to have plenty of time to learn what you are to say.  Also, if you have other friends who might be interested in speaking at the convention, please have them contact me on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/ReincePriebus.

I look forward to seeing you next month, and thank you again for your loyal support.

Sincerely,

reince sig.jpg

Reince Priebus

Chairman, Republican National Committee

My friend Joe will not be attending the convention, as he is pretty sure he will have a sore throat that day and be unable to speak for long periods of time.  Either that, or he will have to fit some pipes somewhere.

I read in Politico yesterday that the RNC is having trouble getting prominent Republicans to even attend the convention, let alone give speeches in favour of Mr. Trump.  Gee … I wonder why that is?  In past years, being invited to speak at the convention was considered to be a great honour among Republicans, but apparently this year, not so much.

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, said he is taking his family to the beach instead.  “I’m not,” said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a former two-term governor. “But hope you have a good Thursday!”  “Don’t know,” said Sean Duffy, a reality-TV-star-turned-Wisconsin congressman. “I haven’t thought about it.”  Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo: “I won’t be there.”  The widespread lack of interest, Republicans say, boils down to one thing: the growing consensus that it’s best to steer clear of Trump.  GASP … do you really think so?  I’m thinking “what if they held a convention and nobody came?”  I do imagine, however, that they can at least count on America’s #1 and #2 Bimbox to be there!  Gonna be a fun show, folks.