The Ostroy Report

The Ostroy Report is a fresh, aggressive voice for Democrats and a watchdog of the GOP/Tea Party. We support President Obama and the Democratic agenda and seek to preserve the Senate majority while taking back the House. But we're also not afraid to criticize the left when necessary.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Assessing the Trump Phenomenon

One thing's certain: Donald Trump is not going to be America's 45th president. It's a pretty safe bet that he won't even be the Republican Party's nominee. The conventional wisdom is that the Trump phenomenon will soon begin to wane, either organically or from some sort of implosion. Given his penchant for talking first and thinking later, it's not hard to fathom a verbal gaffe so offensive that even his most ardent, loyal supporters will finally throw in the Trump logo-embossed towel.

Oh sure, The Donald's polling continues to surge. And this week he's even polling surprisingly well in a head-to-head match-up against the Democrats' presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, despite several controversial statements about women that make him sound like the party's biggest misogynist, he has a 60% favorable rating among Republican women, prompting CNN's Wolf Blitzer this week to ask, "What does this tell us?" Well, at the very least, Wolf, it tells us that Republican women are incredibly tolerant of their front runner repeatedly making outrageously sexist comments.

"I cherish women," Trump has said in his defense. Of course, by cherish he means calling women fat, ugly, stupid, angry, emotional, hormonal bimbos whenever they disagree with him.

So what does all this tell us? For one thing, firing up the radical fringe 15-20% of the base--while completely alienating moderates and independents, let alone women, blacks and Hispanics--won't get him very far. The lust affair with Trump will, likes those in the past with Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, "the Ricks" (Santorum/Perry), Mike Huckabee and others with sensational, albeit brief celebrity-like moments in the sun, will surely end. But there are some very valuable lessons to be learned here from the rise and ultimate fall of Donald Trump.

Trump's candidacy demonstrates a growing dissatisfaction among voters with politicians' business-as-usual approach. His noteworthy ascendancy is a testament to those who want something different and exciting; someone they deem honest, straightforward and independent. While Jeb Bush pleads "I'm my own man," no one really believes him. He's intravenously connected to the old, rich, white GOP machine (can you say "Paul Wolfowitz"  for craps' sake!?) and, well, there's that little thing like his last name.

But no one for a nanosecond doubts that Trump is his own man. He's got a Fort Knox-like treasure chest of fuck you money and freely speaks accordingly. And despite five deferments which kept him from serving in Vietnam, he's masterfully crafted an enviable tough-guy, take-no-shit-from-anyone personae full of bombast, braggadocio and balls. To his small but clearly outspoken minority of fervent fans, he's a modern day political John Wayne. The man that candidate Bush dreams of being.

But even more interesting is that Trump is the far, far right version of the brassy, truth-telling everyman that Chris Christie was supposed to be. Except that Christie, besides being embroiled in scandal which has tainted that reputation of honesty and integrity, is also an angry, obese bully from New Jersey...not qualities of a credible presidential nominee (his polling is pathetically low).

To be sure, if God is a Democrat, Trump's popularity among Republicans will continue to grow and he will, despite odds of a zillion-1 against it, win the nomination (can you say, "President Hillary Clinton?"). But just imagine if Bush was able to tap into the sentiment fueling Trump's historically loony campaign, and the qualities so beloved of the candidate himself, without all the fiery rhetoric and controversy. Imagine a Bush who can credibly convey that he truly is his own man, not indebted or beholden to anyone. Someone who says what he believes and sticks to it and who dares anyone to challenge him. Imagine that Bush going up against Clinton.  Now that's a match-up that would make the Democrat gods shudder.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Secret Genius of Donald Trump, the Democrat?

What if everything Donald Trump was doing or saying in his "serious" bid for the presidency was just a ruse? What if's just a brilliant, cunning scheme, as a closeted Democrat, to ensure the election of Hillary Clinton in 2016?

What if, at his core, Trump really isn't the flame-throwing, racially-insensitive, sabre-rattling, xenophobic, anti-gay-marriage, narcissistic right-wing blowhard whose comments aimed at President Obama, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry, Mexicans and others have led many to believe he's become mentally unhinged?

What if his bizarre, combative, polarizing behavior is part of an ingenious plot; an act of pure political, public sacrifice and selfless patriotism?

Love him or hate him, Trump is the greatest showman in the world. The P.T Barnum of our time. He's a master manipulator of the media, with so muchfuck you money that he can do or say anything he wants even if it costs him heavily in lost business deals. So when Trump opens his mouth, people listen.

Curiously, Trump's no stranger to Democratic politics. Most of his contributions in the last 10 years have gone to Democrats and Democratic causes, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. She was even front-row at his 2005 wedding to current wife Melania Knauss. So is it possible that all the inflammatory rhetoric is in fact a brilliant secret scheme to hand the election over to Clinton?

It used to be that the right-wing crazies simply attacked their lefty opponents. But with Trump, the party's now eating its own. His incessant attacks on fellow Republicans is sucking all the oxygen out of the campaign and has made it impossible for anyone else, including likely favorites such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker as well as fringe candidates including Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, to gain any traction.

As a result, the only candidate with any momentum is Trump, who maintains an appreciable lead in the polls. (note: in 2012 several Republican candidates including Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry enjoyed brief moments at the top). His name appears in national headlines 22 times a day, about three times that of a perceived favorite like Bush. The media loves him. And why not? He's the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. The embodiment of the old adage, there's no such thing as bad press. 

And now Trump's threatening a possible independent run which would split the party and all but guarantee a Clinton victory given that his support would come from staunchly conservative voters.
To be sure, with Trump in the race, the GOP's been reduced to a dysfunctional, chaotic, fragmented, cannibalistic mess. Which could be Trump's ultimate plan.

Donald Trump, the Democrat? Maybe he's no so dumb or crazy after all...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Super-Quick Implosion of Donald Trump's Campaign

Ya gotta hand it to Donald Trump. Whenever he does something, he does it big. Huge...the biggest and the best!, as the self-aggrandizing Donald himself would say.

So it's no surprise that Trump wasted no time in creating a worldwide stir which imploded his 2016 presidential candidacy. Astonishingly, his ship actually sank during his announcement speech less than two weeks ago at NYC's Trump Tower. He hadn't even left the building and his nascent campaign was, for all intents and purposes, already over. 

So what actually happened at that podium ? Simple. Trump opened his mouth. That's it. Normally, when Trump opens his mouth, a cacophony of ignorant, narrow-minded incendiary rhetoric gets regurgitated. In this case, it was of the xenophobic variety:

"When do we beat Mexico at the border? They're laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. ... When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They are bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

Trump simply can't help himself. His ego is so massive, so rapacious, so wildly out of control that, in needing to be fed, it leads him to say the darnedest things. Things that offend a massive amount of people across the political and racial spectrum. And one thing no candidate should do, especially a Republican looking to occupy the White House, is to summarily offend the entire Latino community.

Trump's shit storm took just 13 days to reach F5 status.  For a beat, polls seemed to indicate that the real estate mogul and television personality was gaining appreciable ground on the Republican Party's apparent front-runner Jeb Bush. But the controversy trailed him like a hunting dog, gaining negative steam every day. His offensive comments about Mexican immigrants were uniformly condemned on both sides of the aisle, and calls mounted for the cancellation of his television program Celebrity Apprentice and the Miss USA and Miss Universe beauty pageants.

And the networks listened. Last week Spanish-language television network Univision cancelled their scheduled broadcasts of the Trump-produced pageants, and on Monday NBC Universal did the same, cutting all ties with him, including stripping him of his role as host of Apprentice, which he claims to have already given up to run for president. 

But Trump doesn't seem to care that he appears to have lost both his television and political fortunes in one fell swoop. Because he loves his fuck-you money more. And even more than that he loves what it gives him: the unbridled freedom to do and say whatever the hell he wants, no matter who he offends in the process. Just as long as the cameras stay focused. An unprecedented media whore, he's the embodiment of the phrase, 'there's no such thing as bad press.' But he found out this week that, yes, there is indeed bad press. And thus his "candidacy" is over, before it even began.

On a side note, in the wake of the Supreme Court's historic ruling on gay marriage, it's been fascinating to watch Trump, a thrice-divorced philanderer, talk of his belief in "traditional marriage."

Friday, May 01, 2015

The Definition of "Thug"

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines thug as "a violent criminal." The word has been used for centuries in India, England, America and other cultures to describe really bad people who do really bad things. Its use is prevalent among law enforcement officials, mobsters, Hollywood, the press and politicians. It's also been used to describe terrorists and foreign enemies. During the War on Terror, President George W. Bush referred to insurgents in Iraq as "thugs and assassins."

Until the late rapper Tupac Shakur popularized the phrase "thug life" in 1994 with an album of the same name, the word's definition, and those who fit its profile, was crystal clear. But over the past twenty years "thug" has become part of the new Urban-American lexicon with, as many contend, an entirely new meaning.

Michael Jeffries writes in Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop that "the concept of the thug underwent a...transformation, from signifying disgust, rebellion, and nihilism to evoking coolness and power...The label was attached to black and brown people, impoverished people, living in urban communities, regardless of their behavior. They adopted the word for subversive and oppositional reasons, and it found its way into the music."

As such, in the past week, "thug" has been thrust squarely into the middle of one of the nation's most incendiary controversies following the death in Baltimore of Freddie Gray, 25, who, after receiving serious injuries while in police custody April 12th, immediately went into a coma and died a week later. His death has ignited cries of police brutality and spawned both peaceful protests and devastating riots.

Monday evening Baltimore erupted with vandalism, looting, raging fires and violence. In response, several elected officials, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (black), the state's Governor Larry Hogan (white) as well as President Obama (black and white) described the rioters as "thugs."

By Tuesday, Rawlings-Blake dialed back her comments: "I wanted to say something that was on my heart ... We don't have thugs in Baltimore. Sometimes my little anger interpreter gets the best of me," she said, pointing to her head. "We have a lot of kids that are acting out, a lot of people in our community that are acting out."

Seriously? These are just "kids acting out?" There are no "thugs" in Baltimore? Those who threw garbage cans through storefronts, looted and then set these businesses on fire are not the very definition of "thug?" What about throwing rocks, bricks, bottles and other dangerous materials at cops and destroying police vehicles? Or destroying senior centers? Or attacking and terrifying innocent bystanders? Why can't we call these violent criminals thugs? Why does Baltimore's mayor have to back-peddle and declare that her city is thug-free? Her retraction seems to be taking racial/political correctness and pandering to embarrassing levels. 

To be sure, there are many people who reject the hypothesis that it's a racist, ad hominem attack to refer to someone breaking the law as a thug...or that it's code for the n-word. Just because the word was adopted and repackaged by the hip hop/rap community, does that mean the rest of society can't use that word in its truest and original form without being labeled a racist?

With all due respect to the late Tupac Shakur  (full disclosure: I'm a 55-year-old white guy with "California Love" blasting in my earbuds at least once a day), I've been using the word "thug" long before rappers have. And I'm not going to be shamed into not using it anymore. To the contrary, I think it's shameful for a mayor of a major American city to kowtow to violent criminals and their apologists. And I think it's a greater offense to be more concerned with what we call these rioters rather than the unconscionable destruction they're causing.

We can't solve society's problems by condoning and enabling violent criminal behavior simply because the underlying issue is just. It's ok for us to condemn police brutality and racial injustice at the same time we call violent criminals thugs. Why must the two be mutually exclusive? Black lives do indeed matter. But so do cops' lives. And police, personal and business property. And personal safety and security. To borrow from popular culture which has become so hashtag-driven, #allofitfuckingmatters.

It should be noted that much public praise (including the accolade #motheroftheyear on Twitter) has been heaped on Toya Graham, the Baltimore mother who was captured on video slapping her son and calling him "motherfucker" as she dragged him from the riots (probably not the first time she's take her hands and fists to him). Look what America is becoming: a place where a mother who beats and verbally abuses her child is a hero, and the criminals who rampage through our cities' streets violently attacking innocent people and destroying property aren't thugs. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton


Dear Hillary...
You can count me as one of your biggest fans, and a huge supporter of your bid for the presidency. You've probably got some of the best, most highly paid political consultants planning your every move, but stop listening to them. I already don't like what I see. So I'm going to give you some valuable advice which I hope and strongly suggest you immediately follow.

For starters, knock off the folksy routine. You don't do folksy well. That's Bubba's territory. This includes talking in corny fake Southern drawls, laughing hysterically for no apparent reason, and stopping off at Chipotle as if a Burrito Bowl and you are best friends. And, for Pete's sake, you and Huma (Abedin) need to take the shades off indoors. You look like Thelma and Louise.

Just be yourself. You're smart, charming and highly accomplished. Besides being a brilliant lawyer, you've been a successful First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. And (and please listen to this very closely), you're a woman. A woman. And it's time for a woman president. A president who will champion women's issues better than any man can. There's 161-million women in the United States, and 102-million of them voted in the last presidential election. See where I'm going here?

Listen to me, Hil. You can get a majority of these women to vote for you, and not just the libs. Oh sure, those red state ladies will appease their small-minded, misogynistic mates and pretend they'll be voting for Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio or some other 1950's-minded, red-blooded Republican male. But when that curtain closes, millions of them will jubilantly yank that lever for you. I promise you. But you have to follow my direction.

So here's the plan: talk about women's issues as much as Herman Cain mentioned "999." The right to choose. The right to top-paying jobs and equal pay. The right to marry another woman. The right to affordable health care. The right to better maternity and family leave. Protection from domestic violence and rape. Better education for children. Constitutional equality. Equality. Say it again: equality. The more you talk about women being equal, in every way, and the more the GOP Boys' Club pushes policies that continue to relegate women to second-class citizenry, the more of a cake-walk this will be for you.

I want you to hammer this theme home so hard that Rand Paul wishes he'd be locked in an NBC green room with Savannah Guthrie and Kelly Evans so he doesn't have to hear it anymore.

To be sure, you won't get the Michelle Bachmann-like crazies on your side. These Stepford Wives will still vote for whichever male candidate the party nominates. But one thing is certain: if given a choice between some rich old sexist white dude and a woman, many millions of moderate Republican and independent women will proudly and emotionally (and secretly) cast their votes for you.

You have a colossal advantage here. Don't try to be like everyone else. You're the only woman in the race. Pounce on that. Own it. It's time to make history again....

Monday, April 13, 2015

LaPierre's Hillary Rant: Since When is Being Cheated On a Character Flaw?

The National Rifle Association (NRA) held its annual leadership forum in Nashville Friday, giving executive vice president Wayne LaPierre an opportunity to feed his rapacious, gun-worshiping Hilary Clinton haters a tasty meal of venomous rhetoric aimed at the likely Democratic nominee for president. (Clinton officially announced her candidacy two days later on Sunday).

LaPierre warned that the former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State "will not bring a new dawn of promise and new opportunity” but rather "a permanent darkness of deceit and despair, forced upon the American people to endure.”

And in what is sure to become the right-wing rallying cry, to be echoed relentlessly between now and the 2016 election, the nation's chief gunslinger went on to list a litany of "gates" in which the Clintons have been involved:

“Whitewater-gate,’ ‘Cattle-gate,’ ‘Jenifer Flowers-gate,’ ‘Nanny-gate,’ ‘Lincoln bedroom-gate,’ ‘Travel-gate,’ ‘Trooper-gate,’ ‘File-gate,’ ‘Paula Jones-gate,’ ‘Vince Foster-gate’, ‘Helicopter-gate,’ ‘White House Coffee-gate,’ ‘Web Hubbell Hush Money-gate,’ ‘Pardon-gate,’ ‘Illegal Gift-Gate,’ ‘Monica-gate,’ ‘Benghazi-gate,’ ‘Email-gate,’ ‘Wiped Server-gate," LaPierre smugly barked. “Hillary Clinton has more ‘gates’ than a South Texas cattle ranch, and Americans know it.”

What's most contemptible in LaPierre's vitriolic rant is that it lists several of Bill Clinton's mistresses--Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky--as if his marital indiscretions are a negative reflection on Hillary's character; reasons why she's ill-equipped to be president. But since when is being cheated on a character flaw? What does Bill's philandering have to do with Hillary's ability to serve?

Most offensive in LaPierre's insensitive, ignorant diatribe is that in these instances Hillary Clinton was the victim. Since when do we ridicule and punish victims for the actions of those who violate them?  In LaPierre's bizarre "guns don't kill people" alternate universe, Hillary's victimhood is no less a target of his bullets--real or symbolic--than a helpless deer or a school full of children.

Following the tragic Sandy Hook school killings in December 2012 LaPierre said: “If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained – armed – good guy.” So why should we expect any more logic or rational, practical thinking from the guy who thinks the solution to our gun problem is to have Wild West-style shootouts in elementary schools?

To be sure, all's fair in politics, especially in what is sure to be a highly polarized, contentious race between Clinton and whatever ideologically backward candidate the Republican Party nominates. So if LaPierre wants to challenge Hillary Clinton's involvement in the Benghazi attack, her Senate record or her email decisions while during and after her term as Secretary of State, that's fair game. But attacking her for being the victim in a humiliatingly public marital crisis is incredibly misguided and an unconscionable disrespect not just to Hillary Clinton, but to women and victims everywhere.     

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

An Open Letter to Phil Jackson: PLAY ME!

Hey Phil, play me. Please. I'm dead serious. I want to play for the Knicks. Like right away. And I promise you the team will do no worse with me than with that miserable overpaid bunch of losers you call a team. That's because you've lost 12 games in a row, 22 of the last 23, and have dropped to 5-32 on the season. The worst you can do with me is win!

Think about it. What do you have to lose? I'm the X-factor you've been looking for to shake things up. I'm 5/8, but I don't jump or shoot like Mugsy Bogues or Nate Robinson. Though 55 and in reasonably good shape, I'll probably need to sit after every three or four minutes. But you'll still do better with me.

Think about it. A small middle-aged Manhattan Jew in orange and blue. The fans will love me, as will the press. We'll start racking up victories. Jewsanity, they'll call it. I'll be like "Rocky." New York loves an underdog, and I'll make the Garden rock like it did when Willis Reed limped out in Game 7 of the '70 Finals. I'll be on ELLEN and JIMMY FALLON. Everyone will be talking about us. And we'll win games. I promise. You've never seen my behind-the-back layup. Just have Calderon keep feeding me.

Think about it. You just gave away JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, two of the team's most colorful personalities. You need me now. I used to do stand-up. I'll be a f'ing hoot in the locker room. Who do you have now for laughs, Samuel Dalembert? I rest my case.

Seriously Jax, this is no joke. You're losing every single damn game, ok? Try me. I guarantee that you can't do any worse with me. I'll even learn that damned triangle offense... and we all know how much you like that...whatever the hell it is. Stop wasting your time on 'Melo. He'll never get it...and you know it.

Think about it, oh great Zenmaster.  I'll be on stand-by with my Payless specials laced and ready to go.