Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Have We Finally Reached the Trump Tipping Point?

So now we have Donald Trump equating Nazis with those who fight against them. Apparently Trump never got the memo that it’s never, ever ok to defend Nazis. Never. Ever. Under no circumstances. There’s simply no justification. Ever. Period. It’s political suicide. But will it be with Trump? Can the teflon president, who’s so far survived just about every political sin imaginable, overcome what will surely go down as the most bizarre, erratic, outlandish, un-American press conference in history?

Just days following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Trump took to a podium at Trump Tower to discuss infrastructure. But when he took reporters’ questions, they pounced, asking why it took two days for him single out neo-Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists while pressing him to explain his seeming defense of these hate groups and the moral equivalency he’s created between them and the anti-fascists protesting them. 

For about the next 15 minutes Trump went off the rails. We got to see the real Trump, not the duplicitous, tone-deaf, empathy-bankrupt huckster who on Monday, without any emotion or sincerity whatsoever, read a revised version of his controversial anti-racism statement. The Racist-in-Chief, who failed to specifically mention white supremacists in his comments Saturday, did so under massive pressure two days later, only to dial it all back Tuesday, blatantly doubling-down on his “many sides” equivocation. 

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump reasserted in a heated exchange with reporters. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.” 

Perhaps “nobody wants to say that” because it’s an incomprehensibly ignorant, unconscionable comparison. Yes, there was violence on both sides. But Trump apparently has forgotten that America violently fought the Nazis during WWII. That American soldiers took up arms and bravely defended Democracy and freedom against these genocidal maniacs who posed a grave threat to world order. Did they die in vain? Did they give their lives only to have a U.S. president 70 years later turn the White House into the Reich House? 

Let’s be clear: this was a rally organized by white supremacists who came draped in shields, helmets and brandishing weapons. Only one “side” marched in the streets carrying lit torches while angrily chanting racist, anti-Semitic Nazi slogans (i.e. ”blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us”). Only one “side” of cowardly mobs were beating black men. And only one “side” heaped praise on Trump following his Nazi-enabling comments.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville,” former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke tweeted. 

And in an unprecedented display of either denial, duplicity and/or political expediency, Trump added “You also had some very fine people on both sides.”

Sorry. There are no “very fine” Nazis. No “very fine” white supremacists. No “very fine” KKK members. They belong to hate groups who who seek to annihilate Jews, gays and people of color. There’s no ambiguity. No equivocating. No moral equivalencies. That the United States president believes there is proves yet again that he is unfit for the job. 

Key questions loom larger than ever: Will House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ever act to remove Trump from office? Will vice president Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet ever agree to invoke the 25th Amendment? Are they all hoping special prosecutor Robert Mueller ends up doing their dirty work for them? Will the public finally turn against him? Has Trump finally crossed an uncrossable line?

It’s the Nazis, stupid...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump and Hitler, Part 2

“Trump and Hitler.” I wrote this piece almost two years ago. I saw the handwriting on the wall. It was crystal clear. But it wasn’t a popular comparison back then. Maybe it was denial. Who could think that America could actually be overtaken by a president who by his words and deeds appears to not merely support white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK but, worse, instigates them and covets their votes. But here we are, America. And the concern of two years ago has turned deadly.

Heather Heyer, 32, lost her life this past weekend. She was murdered by a white nationalist sociopath who sped his car into a crowd of anti-fascist protestors at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. She was protesting against angry, hate-filled, shield-wearing, weapons-brandishing white supremacists who’d organized a “Unite the Right” rally, marching through the streets carrying lit torches while chanting anti-Semitic, racist slogans including “white lives matter,” “you will not replace us,” “one people, one nation, end immigration” and “blood and soil,” (a Nazi Germany hate slogan) while violently attacking anyone who got in their way. It was a terrifying spectacle. Heyer was killed in a clear act of domestic terrorism shrouded in images which invoked the horrors of Nazi Germany and the deep South 50+ years ago.

Trump spoke out hours later, but not without generating controversy, and bi-partisan criticism, with his choice of equivocating language:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

It didn’t take long for hate-groups to respond favorably:

“We are determined to take our country back,” said former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke at the Virginia rally. Calling it a “turning point,” Duke vowed to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

For extra measure, Duke later tweeted the following reminder:

“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

This would’ve been the perfect moment for Trump to not only denounce Duke, the KKK and white supremacists, but to clearly state that he neither wants, seeks or will accept their support. But he does. And he thrives on their adulation.

A clear example is the praise heaped on Trump by the the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer:

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the website’s founder. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” (for the record, I suspect Jesus would be outraged by this despicable racist behavior).

Donald Trump is no stranger to racism. His father was a KKK sympathizer. His father’s real estate business, as well as his own, were investigated and charged with racial discrimination. He was a public agitator during the racial tension of NYC’s infamous Central Park Five rape case. He gave birth to the racist birther movement against Barack Obama. As a presidential candidate he launched his campaign with an unconscionable attack on Mexicans and ran on a “Make America Great Again” theme (code for make America “white” again). He’s re-tweeted hate groups. He’s incited violence at his rallies and made outrageous comments like “Look at my African-American over here!” 

And now Trump, who relentlessly attacked President Obama for failing to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” cannot or will not himself specifically call out and condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the KKK and Duke. Because he likes what they’re doing and needs and wants their continued support. Trump is creating racial animus and then exploiting the turmoil for personal political reasons. He’s ripping apart the nation, stoking the flames of hatred to feed and preserve his 33% base.

As we’ve seen countless times, Trump, who’s so capable of clear condemnation of anyone he feels threatened by—including Rosie O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Megyn Kelly, Khizr Khan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions and even the Pope—is verbally neutered when it comes to white supremacists. This is a simple binary choice: he’s either with or against racists. Period. No equivocating. But yet again, Trump is making his choice clear.

The irony of Trump’s presidency is that the phrase “Make America Great Again” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The land of hope and dreams has become the land of intolerance and hatred. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is now “Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, Immigrants, gays... get the fuck out.” And against the backdrop of this past weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, the White House is starting to resemble the New Reich Chancellery... a racist headquarters for Trump and his alt-right nationalists Steve Bannon, Sebastion Gorka and Stephen Miller.

Trump’s view of himself, and his vision for America, runs counter to everything we stand for. The damage he’s causing the presidency and the nation may now be irreparable. At the very least, it will take many years to undo.

To be sure, Trump is woefully unfit for the job and poses a grave threat to the Constitution and our national security. Whether through impeachment, the 25th Amendment and/or indictment, Trump must be removed from office before the situation worsens. Before there’s more violence and death. Before America devolves into a banana republic. That responsibility largely belongs to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Vice President Mike Pence and special counsel Robert Mueller. But it’s also incumbent upon journalists to report the facts and expose the lies. And the public must become more engaged, outraged and demanding of a change in leadership. Only then can America achieve greatness again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Presidency Under Siege

The presidency of Donald J. Trump is under siege. It is being held captive by the megalomaniac, pathologically-lying, self-destructive president himself. It’s not the ‘sore-losing obstructionist Democrats’ who are undermining Trump. It’s not the ‘enemy of the people fake-news media’ who is out to get him. It’s not “crooked Hillary, cryin’ Chuck Schumer or sleazy Adam Schiff.” No one but Trump has doomed his colossally failed presidency. 

To borrow from Trump’s dishonest, manipulative rhetoric about Obamacare, the U.S. presidency is collapsing under the sexist, racist, hate-filled, do-nothing weight of the bloviating maniac at the top of the shit pile. The “I alone” president has fulfilled his biggest campaign promise: he’s totally fucked things up all by himself. 

While Trump loves bragging about his massive accomplishments during his first six months in office, reality is quite the opposite. His is a presidency mired in controversy and scandal. A presidency under House, Senate, FBI and special counsel investigation. A presidency with not one single major piece of legislation passed (by contrast Barack Obama had the economic stimulus; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; and was creating what would soon be the Affordable Care Act). A presidency paralyzed by internal leaks and staff infighting, defections and shake-ups. A presidency facing possible impeachment and indictment. A presidency already reviewing the legality of pardons, even for Trump himself. A presidency with a dreadful 36% approval rating, the lowest in history. 

We have a president driven by an insatiable need for attention, praise and loyalty even at the expense of the United States and its citizens. Who chooses to demean and undermine his cabinet members, staff and surrogates publicly. A no-character coward who hides behind 140 characters on Twitter when attacking his opponents instead of facing them like a real man. An impulse-challenged Manchurian Manbaby who surrounds himself with yes-men and sycophants like his new mini-manbaby communications director Anthony Scaramucci. A president with a disdain for the rule of law. Who thinks he’s above the law. Who may be guilty of obstruction of justice, collusion, treason and who knows what else. 

And now we have a president who, amid several ongoing investigations into the campaign’s possible role in Russia’s hacking of last year’s election, is contemplating firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions after having fired FBI Director James Comey. Unconscionable actions which make Richard Nixon’s Watergate crimes pale in comparison. 

To be sure, Trump’s main priority is his unrelenting Tweet’nado to deny, distract, deflect, demean, disrespect and discredit RussiaGate and the investigations. He’s become increasingly paranoid, desperate and emotionally unglued. It’s as if he knows the Feds are closing in. The presidency is spinning out of control and paralyzing not just Trump, but is keeping the Republican-controlled Congress from pushing its agenda through as well. 

“He’s a chaos candidate and he’ll be a chaos president,” Jeb Bush famously predicted during the campaign. 

The big question now is, how much longer Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan will ride Trump’s reckless roller-coaster before it jumps the track and destroys them all...

Monday, July 17, 2017

Republicans Voting Against Their Own Interests: It's the Hatred, Stupid...

In his recent NY Times op-ed (”What's the Matter with Republicans?”) David Brooks asked, "Why do working-class conservatives seem to vote so often against their own economic interests?" It's an excellent question relating to a truly inexplicable phenomenon. But I disagree with Brooks' thesis that it's primarily attributable to anti-government fervor. The truth is much uglier than that. 

The Republican party, and most recently Donald Trump, have perfected the art of playing to the lowest common denominator of the GOP's base which, over the past several decades, has fully succumbed to a toxic cocktail of ignorance, intolerance and hate. 

Just as Trump's perfected the art of demagoguery—scapegoating immigrants, Mexicans, women, the judiciary, the intelligence community and the media—to brainwash his followers while stoking their anger, sexism and racial animus, the GOP has also historically used abortion, religion, guns and gay marriage as smokescreens to deceive those who voted for them and who most need their economic help. 

The party has succeeded in diverting these voters' collective attention away from the issues that should matter most to them—jobs, education, healthcare and the environment, for example—instead harnessing their most basic, primal fears and insecurities and converting them into invaluable political capital. 

In Trump’s 2017 America, the media is “the enemy of the people” while a brutal dictator-wannabe from a hostile nation like Russian President Vladimir Putin is a revered world leader who’s allowed to hack into and influence our elections. It’s an America where an attack on our Democracy is more tolerable than an attack on our megalomaniacal president. Where anger, fear and hatred trumps facts and the truth. 

Republican voters claimed to want change. More jobs, better education, affordable healthcare and housing and to ‘make America great again.’ But instead they’ve allowed themselves to be exploited and dragged into Trump’s self-destructive rabbit hole. 

The likelihood is that this bait and switch will continue until poor and middle class Republican voters realize that their fear and hatred has made them complicit in the longest-running con game in political history. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

I Lost My Wife Too, Patton Oswalt

3901 days, 15 hours and 10 minutes ago I found my wife, the actor and filmmaker Adrienne Shelly (WAITRESS), dead in her office. Murdered. Her killer staged it to appear as a suicide. She was 40. Young, beautiful, vibrant and the love of my life. She had so much to live for, yet was so easily, senselessly and violently yanked from the world, from me and from the toddler daughter she adored. Adrienne’s death left me devastated, heartbroken and unable to fathom a future without her.

In April of 2016 the actor and comedian Patton Oswalt dropped off his 7-year-old daughter Alice at school, picked up coffee and went home. He immediately discovered that his wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, 46, had died in her sleep. He emotionally described his tragic ordeal in a moving New York Times story last October.

Fifteen months later, Oswalt is now the target of ridicule and harsh criticism after he announced his engagement to actor Meredith Salenger. Because it’s “too soon.” Because he’s still grieving. Because it can’t be real love. Because people are cruel and judgmental. And because many of them are inherently miserable and would rather see this dude drown in his fucking sorrow than be happy again. And misery loves company, right?

I remember missing Adrienne so much and craving the scent, touch, closeness of a woman. I missed her incredible brain, her ferocious wit and humor, and her intense love for me. But I also missed her body. Her skin. I was so distraught, broken and frightened. Empty. Alone. I just wanted to be held. To be comforted. And so I fell into the nurturing arms of a couple of understanding, compassionate women very soon after Adrienne was gone. While they couldn’t fulfill the deep emotional crater that had swallowed me, they did have bodies. And skin. And they could hold me. And for a moment make me feel good. And safe. And could let me drift and forget that a nuke had been dropped on my world.

Those early times spent with other women didn’t mean that I wasn’t grief-struck. Didn’t mean I didn’t love Adrienne. The truth is, I traversed the Earth in a coma. I was lucky I could put one foot in front of the other and simply walk. These women filled a primal need. Kept me from sinking further into the abyss. I had a daughter to take care of. And I had to take care of me. And so I was with them, unapologetically. My life. My horror. My decisions.

From those early physical involvements to removing my wedding ring to subsequently dating to eventually meeting someone and falling in love again, it all happened on my timeline. I didn’t give a shit what the peanut gallery thought. Why should I? Were they with me on the closet floor curled in a fetal position as I cried my eyes out? Were they helping me understand the cruelty in being the happiest schmuck on the planet one minute and a lifeless zombie the next? Were they raising Sophie with me? Did they share in any of the responsibility, the work, of putting this shit show back on track?

Oswalt’s wife is dead. My wife is dead. And ya know what? Only we have a say in what we do and when we do it. No one else gets a vote. Until you excitedly rush to see your wife or husband and find them dead instead, spare us your judgement and wisdom. Our pain and sorrow never goes away. And when it does subside, even temporarily, we just grieve all over again the minute we see our motherless children.

So please just fucking leave Patton Oswalt alone. Be happy for him. He’s a survivor.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mika and the Manbaby


Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” made the colossal mistake this week of reporting on the self-aggrandizing fake Time Magazine cover that President Donald Trump has hanging in several of his golf resorts. Trump, the self-described “counter-puncher,” decided that an appropriate response would be to criticize her face:

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Apparently someone forgot to tell Trump that being president of the United States is the toughest, most scrutinized job on the planet, and that criticism of his performance is often fast and furious. It simply comes with the proverbial territory. Especially when he lies and manufactures magazine covers. 

Trump has intense disdain and disgust for our free and open press. He believes the media is an extension of his PR team, and when they fail to perform and instead do their jobs as independent journalists, as did Brzezinski, they reap the merciless wrath of the Manbaby-in-Chief. And his vengeful behavior is particularly savage towards women.

Trump clearly has a serious issue with women and, in particular, their physical appearance. His history of viciously attacking women on personal attributes goes backs decades. Victims of his sexist/misogynist rants include Meryl Streep, Megyn Kelly, Cher, Rosie O’Donnell, Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, 1996 Miss Universe Alicia Machado, Heidi Klum, Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carly Fiorina, Elizabeth Warren, Arianna Huffington and, of course, Hillary Clinton.

During unhinged fits of insecurity and anger Trump’s referred to women in the most derogatory terms. Fat, pig, slob, bimbo, dog are just a sampling of the unconscionable insults he’s hurled their way when he’s felt challenged, criticized and threatened on policy matters. And it doesn’t take much to set him off. 

“Trump is so easily played,” Brzezinski said Friday morning. 

That’s a ginormous understatement. But it raises the question of just how Trump will react if, rather than a morning cable TV host, his buttons get pushed by a dangerous enemy such as Kim Jong Un, Bashir al-Assad or Vladimir Putin. Will he use the bully pulpit, and U.S. military, to start a deadly war of words or worse? Will the unfiltered, unfit, unglued, undisciplined Trump put the safety and lives of Americans in peril because his rapacious, out-of-control raging ego is again bruised? 

Brzezinski’s co-host and fiance Joe Scarborough described a phone call he received from a top Republican congressman who, in a meeting with Trump, felt “scared” by the aggressive manner in which he had described the pair:

"He was vicious when he turned from you (Scarborough) to Mika. His face was red. He started talking about blood coming out of her ears, out of her eyes."

In their Washington Post column published early Friday, Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote "we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show.

Let me take this conclusion further: Donald Trump is not mentally equipped to be president.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Say it Loud, I'm 'Blocked' and I'm Proud!


I’ve arrived. I am part of an incredibly small minority of Americans who I call “The Blocked.” I share this badge of honor with other folks who go to sleep every night with a huge smile on our faces knowing that we got under the extremely thin skin of the President of the United States. That our words matter. That they matter so much that Donald Trump can no longer fathom seeing them anymore. So he blocked us. 

As personally gratifying as being blocked by Trump is, is he violating our Constitutional right of free speech and dissent? According to a recent story in Forbes:

Because the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is open to the public through which a public official discusses official public policy, Trump should not be able to limit public access to this forum in which vital information is disclosed and discussed. Legally, the president cannot exclude certain people from such a public forum simply for expressing conflicting viewpoints or criticism that he dislikes.

In a letter sent to the Trump Administration earlier this month, the Knight First Amendment Institute, which is representing some members of The Blocked, stated:

“This Twitter account operates as a 'designated public forum’ for First Amendment purposes, and accordingly the viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional. We ask that you unblock them and any others who have been blocked for similar reasons.”

The letter hinted at a possible lawsuit if Trump does not comply and continues blocking detractors.

There’s even a new web app, TrumpBlocks.me, which catalogs The Blocked, tracks the newly shunned and could be an important element in future First Amendment protection litigation. The definitive collection of those whose Constitutional rights have been violated by the president. 

As for The Blocked, rumor has it that there are only about three dozen of us. That’s a very exclusive club if true. But I suspect there’s more. But no matter the tally, we hold our heads high with pride and deep, deep satisfaction. We’re the people who’ve relentlessly fired off 140-character missives at the Manbaby-in-Chief in response to his draconian policies, sexist and racist behavior, and general campaign to make America really ugly again. 

Trump’s great at dishing, but he can’t take it. Targets of his merciless online and offline bullying have included women, gays, beauty pageant contestants, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, war heroes, Gold Star families, protestors, union presidents, the UN, NATO, generals, the intelligence community, the media, Amazon, Boeing, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Saturday Night Live, the cast of Hamilton and even the Pope. 

But he can’t handle my tweets, which apparently riled him so much that they became the subject of discussion in his social media war room. Either that or Trump himself, during one of his late-night/early morning Twitter rants, got so pissed at my prolific digested smackdowns that in a fit of rage he banged his tiny little finger on the “block” button. Either way, I’m quite flattered. 

To be sure, the self-styled “counter-puncher” emotionally crumbles like a petulant toddler at the slightest challenge, criticism or perceived attack. He thinks the world revolves around him. He believes everything he says and does is so colossally amazing. And he so desperately needs the rest of us to agree with him. He’s a spoiled manchild who viciously retaliates when we don’t. 

It’s all a facade though, as in actuality, I think Trump hates himself. I think he knows what a bigly douche he is more than we do. That’s why he blocks us. We’ve forced him to face who he really is: the most ignorant, unqualified, illegitimate president in history. It’s also why he can’t stop re-litigating the election; refuses to acknowledge what everyone else in the world accepts as Russian hacking of that election; and why he can’t stop bashing Barack Obama, a man who has more intelligence, class, dignity, grace, humility and diplomacy in one strand of hair than Trump has in his entire being.

Trump the candidate presented himself as the big, tough, terrorist-fighting, crime-busting he-man. A commander-in-chief who’ll rid the world of ISIS, battle brutal dictators such as Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. But in truth, the admitted pussy-grabber is himself just a pussy who can’t even handle the Twitter musings of a snarky liberal blogger. 

And by the way, the thin-skinned apples don’t fall far from that sensitive tree. Don Jr, Eric and Ivanka have blocked me too...