Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What If This Is Actually What Donald Trump's Campaign Is All About?

Thanks to Donald Trump, the 2016 presidential campaign is like no other in the history of American politics. It's certain to be studied in colleges and universities, and analyzed by consultants and pundits, for decades to come.

The old rules, as well as conventional wisdom, have been tossed aside for a whole new fascinatingly despicable play book. Now all a candidate needs to do to become the front runner of a major political party is be angry, insulting, confrontational and totally lacking substance. To hell with being "politically correct;" just fire up blue collar white folks with ignorant racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic rhetoric. 

Which brings us back to Trump, the man who put the "ad" in ad hominem attacks. The buffoonish bully blowhard who's turned the Republican Party on its head in the biggest feeding frenzy in the history of Ids. But what if instead of being an unprecedentedly mean-spirited political campaign it was actually a pioneering, praiseworthy research project that would turn Trump from goat to hero overnight?

How genius would it be if Trump were to announce, just as he started to drop in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, that his campaign was in fact not a legitimate quest for the presidency, but rather to conduct the world's greatest social experiment? That is was a brilliantly crafted scheme designed to expose the bigotry, ignorance and ugliness that's prevalent in American culture. A test

Trump would explain that in his "experiment" he set out to prove that he could do or say anything, no matter how outrageous or offensive, without consequence... because it would tap the raging anger and bigotry in so many Americans. That in his attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator, he'd push the envelope so far until it would draw these bigots out into the open like scattering cockroaches. That the more inflammatory and racist his rhetoric, the more people would like him. And that just when he'd say something so irresponsible and reprehensible that it should finally kill his campaign, it actually would propel it even further.

Trump's initial plan would be to offend Mexicans, immigrants and refugees. He'd call them terrorists and rapists, and threaten to build walls to keep them out. If that didn't turn voters off he'd move on to gays and women. Then he'd attack war heroes and people with disabilities. He'd call his detractors "stupid, "losers" and "bimbos"... and insinuate that female reporters were treating him badly because they were 'menstruating.' He'd lie about 9/11. And when, despite all that, he'd incredulously find himself pulling ahead by 20+ points, he'd call for an all out ban on Muslims.

And this phenomenon would continue unabated. The more despicable Trump's words and actions, the more popular he'd become. Until one day, in typical Trump megalomaniacal grandiosity, he'd step before the cameras for the big reveal:

"I'm leaving the race. I don't want to be president. I never wanted to be president. I just wanted to hold a mirror up to the ignorance and bigotry that lurks dangerously beneath the surface. And you shocked me. The more vile and racist I became, the more you loved me! No matter what I did, I'd go up in the polls! I'd say to Melania, what do I have to do turn these people against me, kill someone?! I pulled off the greatest social experiment in American history. In the end, it wasn't Donald Trump whose behavior was shameful, it was yours. I was merely pretending, but you weren't. You've got a lot to work on, America. And you can thank Trump for exposing it."

Talk about redemption. The last laugh would surely be Trump's...

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Reason Why Trump Gets Away with Saying Whatever He Wants

Ever since he entered the presidential race in June, Donald Trump has offended women, gays, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants and just about every ethnic and religious group in the world. He's recently called for an all out ban on Muslims from entering the United States. He's mocked people with disabilities. He's lied about 9/11. He's attacked the war hero status of John McCain. He's sucked up to Russia's President Vladimir Putin. He's called President Obama "stupid" and continues to question his citizenship.  And he's relentlessly spewed ignorant, incendiary, racist rhetoric to incite his rapacious devotees. Yet he continues to rise in the polls. Why?

The answer is simple: because no one, not even his most loyal "supporters," take him or his candidacy seriously. He's simply entertainment. A show. A modern day Morton Downey Jr., whose pugnacious, hockey-fight persona appeals to the lowest common denominator; the "angry" folks with a voracious appetite for reality television-style confrontation. And Trump's giving them one helluva brawl.

To be sure, Trump's candidacy is unprecedented in the annals of political history. He defies conventional wisdom at every turn. Every time you think he's finally done himself in, his popularity grows. He appears untouchable. Teflon Don. But that would only be worrisome if he was a legitimate candidate.

Trump's base is addicted to his bombastic bluster. They lap it up like a stray cat with a bowl of milk. And that's why they don't seem to care that he somehow manages to reach new heights of loathsome and un-presidential behavior each day. Because these Trumpsters know that, while they adore the spectacle that has become his speeches and rallies, they will never actually vote for him. He's their fun party girl, but he's not the one they'll be bringing home to mama.

Trump appeals to the disaffected and disenfranchised because he's the Larry David of politics, speaking much of what they think and feel, but could never say out loud themselves. But even these loyalists know that he's woefully unprepared and ill-equipped to be president. And they know he could never win. But they like that he's stirring up some serious shit. That, at least for now, he's serving as their advocate. "He's my mouthpiece," one fired up Trumpite said at a recent rally.

But winning presidential nominations requires a lot more than bluster and bravado, as the New York Times reported over the weekend, citing Trump's anemic ground game in the critical early caucus state of Iowa. And it refers to one Trump volunteer who's "sipping white wine" while she's canvassing for votes by phone. The way things are going for Trump in her home state, it's likely his volunteers will be switching to hard liquor pretty soon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What a Debate!

Ok, America, you now have a clear choice between the party of hope and optimism and the party of gloom, doom and fear. The most surprising thing at Tuesday's night's 5th Republican presidential debate was the absence of Chicken Little himself. This event could've been called The Sky is Falling Show.

For over two hours, the overriding message from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and, to a lesser degree, Chris Christie, Ben Carson and Rand Paul was that the United States is unsafe, unrespected and a disaster. Only Jeb Bush and John Kasich presented a positive message about America's standing and the expectation of a greater future. It was all fear, fear, fear...

The biggest takeaway, as in all the previous debates, is how woefully unprepared and ill-equipped Donald Trump is to be president and commander-in-chief. His inability to answer a question about which components of the nuclear triad need the most attention should be an immediate disqualifier in and of itself:

"Well first of all, I think we absolutely need someone we can trust who is total responsibility who knows what he or she is doing that is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was against going into Iraq because you are going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it, I called it very strongly and it was very important. But we have to be extremely vigilant and careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. I would have said get out of Syria, get out. If we didn't have the power of weaponry today, the power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn't care, it was hand-to-hand combat. The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have today is nuclear proliferation anding are some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. In my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now....For me, nuclear, the power, the devastation, is very important to me.

Jibberish! The way I tried to blabber-bluff my way out of tough 8th grade science questions. He might as well have thrown up his hands and said, "Hell if I know!"

When you toss in Trump's incessant sighing, eye-rolling, mocking and scornful faces, dismissive hand-waving, bullying and audience-berating, it's truly hard to fathom how anyone with even a half a brain can support the candidacy of this empty-suited blowhard fraud. He is without question the most unqualified presidential candidate in the nation's history.

We witnessed Trump's implosion last night. While I suspect his poll numbers will drop as a result, they may for a blip even rise first. But make no mistake: Republican voters saw a man who, as Bush recently claimed, is unhinged. And there's nothing uglier and more embarrassing than an old, angry, insulting megalomaniac pathetically vying to utter an intelligent thought without sounding like a nasty junior high schooler. As I've been saying for a couple of months, it's over. Forget the polls. His reality show primary campaign popularity will not translate to actual votes when it's time to pull the curtain. And he'll likely not even be around by then to find out.

So who won the debate? Bush finally demonstrated some impressive cajones as he battled Trump on foreign policy and personal qualifications, calling the bloviating businessman "a chaos candidate." For the first time since Trump entered the race with his infamous "Mexican rapists" speech, it was Bush who quite visibly got under The Donald's skin, not the other way around.

It won't be a surprise to start seeing Bush's heretofore anemic 3-5% numbers begin climbing appreciably. I disagree with almost everything he stands for, but he's an adult. Mature. Respectful. Smart. Knowledgeable. And get this...presidential. Honestly, the way Trump acts like a whiny, petulant, belligerent narcissistic buffoon I wouldn't want him on my kid's PTA let alone sit in the Oval Office.

Cruz? He'll probably win Iowa, but like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum before him he'll disappear after that. Keep an eye on Chris Christie, whose likable 'every man' persona, reputation as a 'straight shooter' and reasonably moderate positions keeps him in the running as the dark horse. But despite what the polls say, it's still Jeb's race to lose.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Open Letter to Jeb Bush

Dear Jeb:

Tuesday night could be the biggest night of your political career. The fifth Republican debate, live from Las Vegas, will likely be the moment you either reignite your comatose presidential campaign or you fade into the sunset. So if you truly wish to maintain the Bush family's dynastic hold on the White House, I have some advice for you. It's going to sound aggressive, especially for a mild-mannered softy like you, but if I were you I'd take my anemic 5% and roll the dice. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain:

Go after Trump. Hard. Like your life depended on it (which, politically, it does). Attack him right out of the box. Birthers, Mexican rapists, Muslims...make him own his reprehensible  comments. Challenge the American public to reject his incendiary racist rhetoric. At some point early on you need to ask Americans if they believe that intolerance, hatred and fear is their idea of "America's greatness," because that's what Trump's America looks like.  

You must tell them that they are better than that. That these are not the principles on which America was built, nor are they what we stand for today. Remind them that there's no need to to be "great again" because we are already great. The greatest nation in the world, in fact. The land of opportunity. Where people of all faiths and cultures are welcomed, especially if they're escaping religious and ethnic persecution. A nation governed by the rule of law, not by the divisive, scapegoating demagoguery of flame-throwing, self-aggrandizing fear-mongers like Trump.

You must pointedly declare that Trump's America is not a great America. It's an ugly America. An America filled with ignorance, anger and vitriol, where entire faiths are mocked, condemned and banned. Where walls are built, both on U.S. soil and on the world stage, and humiliating registries are created. Where immigrants are rounded up, ripped from their families, and deported.

You must then tell voters why you are the right choice to make America even greater. How you will fight for them and protect their interests while upholding the Constitution. While respecting our fellow citizens and helping those in need around the globe. That we just need to look within our own families to know we're a nation of immigrants. And that keeping America safe and secure from terrorists does not require us to abandon our principles.

You must ask voters if they want an America which is lead by someone who resorts to juvenile ad hominem attacks on opponents. Who disparages women and the way they look. Who threatens to "bomb the shit out of" sovereign nations. Whose inflammatory remarks makes him a walking recruitment video for ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Who's alienating us from every single ally, including Israel, who just this week told him to take a hike.

Oh, and, please, no hand slappin' or high fivin' Trump for Pete's sake. Look at him like you detest him, which we all know you do. Don't show even an ounce of respect or reverence. I know it's hard, but try to look and sound like a tough guy. Someone with balls. Someone who can not only stand up to Trump, but to our enemies.

And here's your line of the night. In a strong voice, look into the camera and say to voters: "He's bankrupted marriages, he's bankrupted companies and his divisive, bigoted rhetoric is going to bankrupt America."

And then watch your poll numbers rise...

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Donald Trump Projects Recklessness, Not Strength

The conventional wisdom among the political punditry is that Donald Trump is popular because he "projects strength." When Americans fear terrorism, especially in the wake of the recent Paris attacks, the perception of foreign policy and homeland security weakness is a campaign killer. Just ask Ben Carson.

But Trump's macho reputation among his 25% rabidly loyal base is incredibly misguided, counter-intuitive and, worse, actually a threat to America. Trump is not "tough." He is not "strong." And he most certainly does not have the qualifications, or the temperament, to be president and commander in chief. Rather, his inflammatory, divisive, hate-filled racist rhetoric demonstrates unprecedented recklessness. His "character" is therefore not an asset in these globally challenging times. It's a severe liability.

In his bid for the White House, Trump has grossly offended just about every ethnic and religious group, women, gays, immigrants, refugees, war heroes, people with disabilities and anyone who's raised his ire. He is angry, petulant, belittling, demeaning, polarizing, patronizing, dismissive and a blatant propagandist and liar. A delusional narcissist. Imagine that these are the qualities of the man sitting in the Oval Office. The leader of the free world, whose job is not just to protect America's interests and security, but its respect, integrity, principles and reputation in doing so.

Are we to accept Trump's empty promise that if elected he'd suddenly, after decades of being a nasty, condescending, confrontational, self-aggrandizing, verbal-diarrhea-inflicted, my-way-or-the-highway buffoon, become a consensus and coalition-building diplomat? A statesman who commands respect at home and abroad?

Trump's "strength" is confused with bullying, intimidation and rabble-rousing bluster.  This is not presidential behavior. Is this what we could expect from President Trump when he's dealing with difficult heads of state, or U.S. enemies, including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Bashir al-Assad? His "bomb-the-shit out of-them" cowboy rhetoric could greatly hinder our ability to engage our allies in the fight against terrorism.

And let's remember something about Mr. Tough Guy: when other American young men and women enlisted or were drafted to fight in Vietnam, Trump received multiple student deferments and a medical exemption which kept him from serving. There are many people who believe he was nothing more than a draft dodger. And he has the audacity to attack Sen. John McCain's highly decorated war record? 

Sorry, Trump "fans." Your hero is no tough guy. And he's not strong. Don't let him fool you. He's an Ivory Tower-living billionaire whose rich, connected daddy kept him safely at home while your loved ones fought and died in Vietnam. He's a self-serving coward who lies through his teeth and mocks the military service of heroic prisoners of war like McCain. His dangerous 'bring it on' demagoguing would likely alienate our allies, incite terrorists and provoke our enemies.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Trump and Hitler

Donald Trump's incendiary, racist, scapegoating rhetoric is frighteningly reminiscent of the hate-filled rantings of Adolph Hitler.

This comparison is not intended to be insensitive or disrespectful to, or trivializing, the Holocaust and the many millions whose lives were savagely extinguished at the merciless hands of Hitler and his brutal Nazi regime. Rather, it's to draw chilling foundational parallels between this genocidal behavior, the hateful propaganda that preceded it, and the kind of dangerous demagoguery that spews from Trump's mouth daily. We cannot be afraid to make such comparisons, because doing so gives the hate-mongers a free pass.

Since announcing his candidacy in June, Trump has dominated the polls, the media and the public's attention. Despite several outrageously offensive controversial statements about women, gays, Muslims, blacks, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants, Sen. John McCain, 9/11, his opponents and people with disabilities, Trump continues to defy conventional wisdom in maintaining a commanding lead.

Trump's blistering, irrational, ad hominem attacks on his detractors have drawn massive crowds at his rallies, have sucked the air out of the Republican primary season and have made it virtually impossible for any other candidate to gain meaningful traction. Prior to 2015, Trump's logic-defying gaffes surely would have killed a campaign. But in the current toxic political climate, his unprecedented missteps have incredulously served to fuel his reality-show bid for the presidency.

The real Trump phenomenon is that there simply doesn't seem to be anything he can do or say that will turn his rabidly loyally supporters against him. He's touched a raw nerve; pushed a very emotionally powerful button. He's given legitimacy to their ignorance and misguided vitriol. And that's where the similarities with Hitler become even more apparent.

Like Hitler, Trump has seized the opportunity to turn an "angry, fed up" segment of the population into his personal mob. They're rapaciously devouring his racially charged, divisive antics. The Trump mob has even resorted to physically attacking protesters who show up at his rallies, as they did recently in Alabama. Others have been pushed, threatened and intimidated. And if he passed out brown shirt uniforms, the kind Hitler's SS wore, many of these Trumpists would likely wear 'em as they fight "to take back America."

These angry citizens, like those in pre-World War II Germany, are looking for a scapegoat. Someone to blame for their frustration. Their poverty. For threatening their security. For destroying "America's greatness." In Nazi Germany it was fear, ignorance and seething underlying ethnic animus that gave rise to Hitler. The same ugly witches' brew that Trump is masterfully manipulating and exploiting as he stokes the flames of prejudice and hatred.

Listen to Trump's fiery attacks and lies about Mexicans, Muslims and refugees and it's not such a leap to Hitler's manic rantings about Jews. And what should we make of his rabble-rousing about walls, registries and the rounding up and deportation of millions of immigrants? While he's not talking of internment or concentration camps per se, he is without question dipping his toes in those ugly waters. This is a man who proudly endorses "Operation Wetback," the unconscionable immigration law enforcement initiative in 1954, which was not only inhumane but deadly.

At his rallies, Trump gesticulates wildly and manically mocks and ridicules anyone who's dared to cross him.  Listen to the cadence and rhythms of his speech. The sarcastic, disparaging tones. The high-pitch ranting. The intense levels of incitement. The narcissism. And yes, the scapegoating, the most chilling element of all. Then watch clips of Hitler's speeches. They're not terribly dissimilar.

Perhaps even more disturbing than Trump himself are the reactions from his "fans" seated behind him, whose nodding, approving, laughing faces you clearly see no matter how outrageously insulting and un-American his comments. The more outlandish and hateful his rhetoric, the more engaged and excited they appear.

Imagine that 2015 America was not enjoying a robust economic recovery, with appreciable growth in jobs, GDP, stocks and housing prices; flowing credit; low inflation; and low interest rates. Imagine instead that in was the Fall of 2008, when the nation's economy was on the verge of collapse. When financial institutions were failing, and savings were being pulled out of banks and stuffed under mattresses. When panic and fear ruled the day.

Now image Donald Trump coming along during this period with his toxic, polarizing, xenophobic, isolationist rhetoric pitting citizen against citizen, "real Americans" against immigrants, Christians against Muslims, whites against blacks and Hispanics. Imagine for a second how easily these "fans" could be provoked into widespread violence and persecution of certain minorities they seem to despise. You think 1930's Germany is so different?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Trump's 9/11 Lies Will Bring Him Down

It's here. The moment we've all been waiting for. That highly anticipated point in the presidential primary season when Republican front runner Donald Trump presumably has gone too far. This time his target was not Sen. John McCain, Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mexicans, gays or any of the countless other people and groups he's offended since he launched his campaign last June.

No. This time Trump committed the unthinkable in shamefully exploiting the September 11 tragedy for his personal political benefit. Worse, he's lied about it. Blatantly. And he's been doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on his lies.

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," Trump said last weekend at a rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."

When challenged the next day by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump doubled-down:

"It was on television. I saw it. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."

As the non-partisan fact-checking organization Politifact concluded, Trump's claim "defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence."

As usual, rather than apologize for his outrageous behavior, Trump's been repeating his "thousands and thousands" lie ad nauseam, despite a complete lack of evidence.

"Trump is plain wrong, and he is shamefully politicizing an emotionally charged issue. No one in Jersey City cheered on September 11," said  Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.

Trump's claims have also been summarily repudiated by Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and John Farmer, Jr, the state's Attorney General at the time of the attacks.

To be sure, there are lots of reasons to utterly despise Trump. The litany of unconscionable racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic comments, as well as his buffoonish, un-presidential behavior, is more than enough. But now he's trampled on sacred ground. In one fell swoop he's shown unprecedented disrespect for the 3000 dead and their still-grieving families while offending the entire Muslim and Arab population of Jersey City. It's the apex of his ignorance-fueled, hate-filled campaign.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump will not be able to recover from this latest controversy. It will follow him everywhere he goes. He'll be asked relentlessly to explain how he was the only witness in America to "thousands and thousands" of Muslims celebrating in the streets of Jersey City. It'll dominate his rallies, upcoming debates, tv and radio interviews and press conferences. He will be forced to defend himself from charges of lying. Of not being trustworthy. Of not being worthy of the Office of the United States Presidency.  

Trump's 9/11 lies will accomplish the one thing that's heretofore seemed impossible: it will unite both his detractors and supporters. Because there's one thing on which all Americans can agree: you don't exploit the horrific 9/11 tragedy for personal political gain.

Monday, November 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters ("Fans")

To Supporters of Donald Trump:

Firstly, what the hell is wrong with you people!? Have you, like your hero, completely lost your minds?! Have you forgotten what America stands for and the principles it was founded on? Or have you, like your hero, turned into a vessel for bigotry, hatred and intolerance? Do you really not see the unprecedented ugliness of his campaign and your role in perpetuating it?

When you look at Trump, and you listen to his fiery, rabble-rousing, incendiary rhetoric, do you really see a United States president standing before you?  Someone who can handle the intense pressures of the job both domestically and globally? Someone with the diplomatic skills to succeed in difficult negotiations with world leaders? With our enemies? Someone who possesses the character and qualifications to engage, not alienate? To unite, not divide? Do you really see a statesman? A role model for your children? Someone who will make Americans proud on the world stage?

What do you truly think when you hear him talk of Mexican rapists? Or when he calls women ugly, fat pigs and bimbos? How about when he suggests that women who criticize him are menstruating? Or that decorated soldiers like Sen. John McCain are not war heroes because they were captured? Or when he says we should "bomb the shit" out of Syria? Or that we should round up and deport 11-million undocumented immigrants, ripping them away from their children? Or that we should register Muslims. Or that his "fans" were justified in beating a black protester at his rally?

Do you believe that a United States president should make outrageously offensive statements that suggest he's a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe? Should he act like an ignorant buffoon?

Does it not concern you greatly that he offers zero substance and cannot substantiate, with facts and specifics, his outlandish positions? Do you not worry that he speaks in empty, grandiose superficial language? That he believes he can accomplish anything, simply because "I'm Donald Trump, and I'll make it happen." Is this enough for you? Do you not expect more from your candidate? Do you not demand logic, rational thinking and intellectual curiosity?

Have you closed your eyes and contemplated what a Trump presidency would actually look like?  How it would grossly cheapen the Oval Office? Is it acceptable to you that a serious presidential contender has no political experience, curses like a sailor, offends everyone who isn't male and white, and incessantly reminds you how rich he is as he tells you that $15 an hour is too much for you? Does it worry and offend you that he boasts of using bankruptcy laws to screw his creditors while he promises to "make America great again." And most importantly, doesn't it bother you that he thinks America isn't great now? That's not very patriotic, is it?

I know you find him entertaining. You probably loved him on The Apprentice. So he's a tv star to you.  A celebrity. And Americans are obsessed with celebrity. That's why you flock to his rallies and watch the debates in record numbers. But that's not a reason to elect him leader of the free world, or for him to be commander in chief of the world's greatest military. Especially during such difficult, challenging times at home and abroad.

To be sure, what I've asked you above is rhetorical. I know that you think Trump is amazing and would be a terrific president. Thankfully, you are in a very small minority. Anyone who understands political math knows that The Donald will never win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency. And no one knows this more than Trump himself. Which is why, after he's done teasing, manipulating and exploiting you, he will break your hearts and abandon you. One thing we know for sure: Trump hates losers. He'll be gone from the race before he is one.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Here's How/Why Jeb Bush Will Win the GOP Nomination

A new poll out of New Hampshire shows front runner Donald Trump gaining momentum while Dr. Ben Carson is losing ground. And herein lies the makings of Jeb Bush's path to the Republican presidential nomination.

The current GOP primary campaign is like no other in political history. A pattern has emerged whereby anyone who gets too close to Trump gets eaten alive by the billionaire businessman. He's been a game-changing phenomenon, with an overstuffed arsenal of personal cash and outrageous bombast which affords him unprecedented levels of freedom to do or say anything he wants, no matter how offensive or counter-intuitive it may be according to conventional wisdom. And his rapacious fans eat it all up like funnel cakes at a state fair.

Make the mistake of attacking Trump and you'll soon find yourself on the outside looking in. He'll turn the tables on you through a ruthless, relentless barrage of insults, ad hominem attacks, expletive-laced rhetoric and generally unpresidential behavior. Seems the more he jumps the shark, the more the shark says, "F**k it, I'm outta here!"

Despite Trump's impressive domination of the race so far, there's still much uncertainty and a lack of consensus among party insiders over leadership and who's most electable. Let's face it: the ride's been fascinating in that 20-car pile-up kind of way, but the likelihood is that Trump will not be the party's nominee, no matter how much of a rock star he may appear to be right now. The math just doesn't add up. His 20+% support among the GOP's radical fringe is not enough to carry him to the convention next Summer (besides the fact that he's lately appeared mentally unhinged). So then who takes the mantle?

Carson, a truth-challenged empty suit with an impressive scalpel, is beginning to implode, and he will soon exit. The next in line candidates don't fare any better. Ted Cruz, like Trump, is too much of a crazy ideologue to garner widespread national support. And Marco Rubio is too young, too inexperienced and too obvious a choice for a solid vice presidential appointment. It's simply not his time to be president.

So who's left? Chris Christie? Too brash, too unpopular and too much baggage. No one wants an angry, obese, scandal-plagued president... especially one who's cut his teeth in New Jersey. That leaves a crop of zero-chance, almost-gone candidates including Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich (also a great VP choice) and Mike Huckabee. And then there's Bush.

Bush has the cash and, more importantly, the moderate-enough positions (and sanity) to wait patiently for the clown show to end. He's been Mr. Steady with his roughly 6%, and stands the best chance of winning the war of attrition with Trump. Bush's plan is for Trump to take down all the others and then begin imploding himself. One might argue that Trump's implosion is already underway, the same way volcanoes erupt: you can't really see how bad it is until the lava starts violently spewing from the top.  And then guess who's the last man standing?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

An Open Letter to Jeb Bush


Dear Jeb:

Let me establish for the record that I am a passionate, loyal, card-carrying Democrat. As such, you and I differ on virtually every political, economic and social issue imaginable. Furthermore, I consider your brother George one of the worst presidents in American history, and I can't fathom having another Bush in the White House. But ya know what? I desperately want you to win the Republican nomination.

It's not because I like you or think you're truly deserving of the job. It's because you are the only adult in a room full of buffoonish clowns. As un-moderate as I believe you to be, you're practically Barney Frank compared to the radical loons you're running against.

It's astounding, beyond inexplicable, that your party's front runners, with over 50% of voters' support, are Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. These two embarrassingly empty suits have made your party, and America's political system, the butt of jokes all over the world. And that's precisely why you must win the nomination.

The Trump/Carson freak show--replete with Mexican rapists, bimbos and stabbings--might be deliciously entertaining to some at this point in the primary season, but this frightening spectacle must come to an end soon. We need you to restore legitimacy, credibility and respectability to our election process and to the presidency. You cannot allow Trump and Carson, or Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Carly Fiorina for that matter, to hijack our political system and cause it irreparable harm. You may be a staunch conservative, but you're not nuts.

So you have to start getting yourself out of the single-digits. You have to start appealing to voters. Put forth policies that resonate with the middle class. You have to become likable. You have to show some balls and demonstrate that you're not the weak, low-energy wimp that Trump has defined. And most important, you must take Trump on, head on. Aggressively. Like in a street fight. Look, you're a smart guy, and he's an ignorant, offensive fool. This should be easy (I have lots of ideas if you're interested). Polling at around 4%, you have absolutely nothing to lose. Your candidacy is on life support. If you don't step up quickly, you'll be gone before Christmas.

We live in the United States of America, for Pete's sake. The greatest nation in the world. We deserve better than Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and the other GOP crazies. They are tarnishing everything we stand for as the land of freedom, tolerance and opportunity. The greatest act of patriotism you could ever commit is to win that damn nomination....

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

An Open Letter to Ben Carson

Dear Mr. Carson:
It's certainly been a busy week for you, hasn't it? I bet you never thought you'd be on the proverbial hot seat like you've been. Questions coming at you from the media in rapid succession over several controversial statements you've made about your personal life over the past fifty years. It's been a deluge. Requests for clarification. Demands for the truth. Elaboration. Affirmation. Substantiation. Confirmation. No wonder you seem exhausted, frustrated and just plain fed up.

I'd be too if I were you. Except I'm not you. I'm not running for president, but more importantly, I haven't boasted that I tried to slam a hammer into my mother's head, or that I stabbed someone in the "abdomen." Or that I met Gen. William Westmoreland in 1969 and was offered a full scholarship to West Point (it's a free school). Or that I saved a bunch of white kids during the riots after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Or that I was the only "honest" kid in a Yale classroom.  

I also never suggested that millions of Jews in Nazi Germany could've escaped the Holocaust had they been armed with guns. I've never said that people go to prison straight and come out gay. I've also never said that Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery. Or that Muslims should not be president. Or that rape babies shouldn't be aborted. Or that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. But you have.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "Crazy is as crazy does. Mama always said you can't outgrow crazy." Yeah, and you can't run away from it either. Or blame your crazy on the media. No, Dr. Carson, the shitstorm you now find yourself sailing in is completely self-inflicted. It's your outlandish comments, your bizarre behavior, your apparent pathology that's inviting this piercing scrutiny. But in an effort to gain sympathy and raise funds, you stood before the news cameras last week and chastised the media for "piling on" and perpetrating a "witch hunt." And you're continuing to play the victim card.

You're running for President of The United States of America. Leader of the free world. Commander in Chief of the world's greatest militia.  Yet you have no political experience whatsoever. Just a very compelling personal narrative of humble beginnings marred by violence; followed by intense ambition; tremendous career achievement; and all made possible by divine intervention. You brag of hurting people with bricks, bats and hammers, and that you stabbed someone. Yet your position is that the media is not supposed to question any of this absurdity. And if they do it's a witch hunt!? Can it be a witch hunt if it was you who brought up all this kooky stuff? And since it was you who brought it all up, isn't it therefore fair game for the media?

Oh how I long for the good old days, when the one thing we could all agree on, whether Democrat or Republican, was that our presidential candidates should never have stabbed anyone. But not you, Dr. Carson. You wear this alleged incident like a badge of courage. In fact, you seem upset that people are doubting the truthfulness of this story. One thing's for sure: should you be elected, thanks to America's racial progress, you won't be the nation's first black president. But you'd definitely be the first to have ever knifed someone in the gut! 

The fact that you're now getting battered in the press is no one's fault but your own. I'm sorry Doc, but lies matter. And they matter big time when you're running for president. You're on the hot seat now for sure, but it's not because, as you claim, you're a "threat" to progressives. Or because "there is a desperation, on behalf of some, to try and find a way to tarnish" you. Even the venerable Wall Street Journal, certainly no bastion of the 'liberal media', has questioned the accuracy and legitimacy of several major elements of your biography.

To be sure, you're woefully ill-prepared to run for the highest office in the land. You lack the necessary experience, and worse, you've been sounding like a loon. That press conference last week? You were whining and ranting and appearing unhinged. You think the kitchen is too hot now? I can assure you, Mr. Frontrunner, that it's only gonna get hotter.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

GOP Candidates and "Gotcha": 'Please Don't Hold Us Accountable For Our Outrageous Behavior!'

Wah, wah, wah! That's the collective whining of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and several GOP presidential candidates complaining of unfair, biased, mean-spirited debate moderators and their "gotcha" questions. 

But President Obama has it right. How on Earth can we expect these malcontents to firmly and effectively handle a complicated global nemesis like Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un when NBC's John Harwood makes 'em cry?! If the last GOP debate was a litmus test for leadership, well then, there doesn't seem to be a whole lotta litmus here.

What a bunch of petulant little babies! They need to put on their big boy pants for Pete's sake and act like they're qualified to be leaders of the free world. Why the heck should voters make candidates like Ben Carson, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio Commander in Chief when they can't even go toe-to-with CNBC's Rick Santelli and Becky Quick?!

It's time these White House wannabes stop all the disingenuous gotcha nonsense. You can't 'gotcha' someone if they haven't said or done anything 'gotcha.' It's as if the candidates are saying, "We're fed up with how the media makes us accountable for our ignorant, homophobic, xenophobic, sexist, racist behavior!"

And it reprises the deliciousness of Tina Fey's brilliant Sarah Palin: "I just hope the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeatin' em verbatim."

Instead, perhaps Carson should stop making exploitative Holocaust references or saying that convicts go into prison straight and come out gay. And Trump should stop calling people ugly, stupid bimbos. And Rubio should stop saying women should be forced to carry rapists' babies. And Fiorina should stop lying about non-existent Planned Parenthood videos. And Cruz should stop saying Obama's foreign policy has left the world on fire. And Rand Paul should stop telling women reporters to "Ssshhh." I could go on, but the sheer tonnage of mind-numbing verbal diarrhea is simply too voluminous to recount here.

Those in the Republican clown posse need to appreciate that they're running for President of the United States of America, not checkout clerk at Target (although some folks would argue this crew is not even qualified for that job either). And so they need to demonstrate a level of resolve and character worthy of the office. To be able to explain and defend their statements and behavior in a dignified, respectful manner without mercilessly attacking the proverbial messenger.

It shouldn't matter if they believe the questions are unfair, petty and rude. Will they throw similar hissy fits when it's Bashar, Putin or Kim Jong ruffling their feathers? Is their thin-skinned peevishness a window into how poorly they'd handle a tough, challenging, even threatening opponent on the world stage? Having the right temperament is a valid, unconditionally required qualification for the presidency of the greatest nation in the world.

For the record, it's not like the Democratic candidates have gotten a free pass from debate moderators. For example, consider what CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Bernie Sanders: "A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?"

Or what he said to Lincoln Chafee regarding his early votes as a Congressman:..."what does that say about you that you're casting a vote for something you weren't really sure about?" To which Chafee replied, "I think you're being a little rough."

Or how he challenged Hillary Clinton: "Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.You were against same-sex marriage, now you’re for it; you defended President Obama’s immigration policies, now you say they’re too harsh; you supported his trade deal dozens of times – you even called it the gold standard. Now, suddenly last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?"


Monday, October 26, 2015

Explaining the Ben Carson Phenomenon

There can only be one reason why Ben Carson is now at the top of three new Iowa polls and a new national poll: Republican voters might be in desperate need of some of the good doctor's brain surgery!

How else do you explain his impressive double-digit surge past the front runner Donald Trump? (or, for that matter, how Trump is the front runner in the first place). It certainly can't be because Carson's put forth innovative, substantive policy proposals. To the contrary, his growing supporter base cites his 'calm, soft-spoken and reassuring' demeanor as the qualities they find most attractive...despite his multiple controversial gaffes.

So here's a little tip for the remaining 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls as they head into the primary homestretch: your party's voters will love you no matter what craziness comes out of your mouth as long as you say it with your eyes half closed and sounding like the anesthesia's kicking in.

German Jews would've fared better against the Nazi's had they all been armed with guns? No problem! Muslims should not be president of the United States? Absolutely! Obamacare is as bad as slavery? Of course! Abortions should be illegal even in cases of rape or if the mother's life is at stake? Yes! Yes! That's why we love you, Ben! Because you make ridiculous, absurd, narrow-minded, outrageously offensive comments like these in such a 'mild-mannered, gentlemanly, user-friendly' fashion!

To be sure, gone are the days when Republican voters demanded logic and reason from their candidates. Or meaningful policy proposals. Or an ability to satisfactorily articulate them. Carson, on Fox News Sunday defending his position on Medicare, sounded like a disingenuous 14-year-old trying to explain why he smells like cigarettes.

Pressed by host Chris Wallace over his desire to eliminate the huge government entitlement program, Carson's feeble response conjured up images of Herman Cain trying to explain his "999" tax plan during the 2012 campaign. Except Carson's Medicare/health care plan is more like "CCC": complicated, confusing, crazy.

So maybe there's hope for Jeb Bush yet. Or Chris Christie. Perhaps one of them will win the war of attrition against the extremists including Carson, Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. Maybe the successful strategy is to lie in wait as the clown car careens off the cliff, leaving one of them the last man, the sane man, standing.

If that's the case, Bush, who lately looks and sounds like he'd rather be getting his chest waxed than be on the campaign trail, better start showing some serious moxie and passion before it's too late. And Christie needs to get out of the 'quiet car' and start making the kind of noise that resonates with voters. As inept as the crazies are, these two "mainstream" candidates have been even more inept. The election always has been theirs to lose.

Monday, October 19, 2015

"He Kept Us Safe" (before he kept us safe)

It began with the last Republican debate, where presidential hopeful Jeb Bush attempted to defend his brother's war in Iraq by stating, "He kept us safe."

Then there was the GOP front runner Donald Trump subsequently saying in an interview with Bloomberg that "When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time...he was President, OK? Don't blame him or don't blame him, but he was President. The World Trade Center came down during his reign."  

Then, over Twitter like a couple of 12-year-olds, Bush and Trump called each other "pathetic."

Of course, if you're a Republican like Jeb Bush, and your brother also happens to be responsible for the worst military blunder in American history, the subject of the September 11 attacks can be very confusing and complicated, and certainly a tragedy with a hazy timeline and dubious and disputable blame.

Which is why it would be best for Bush, and extremely helpful to voters, if he would issue a statement of clarification on the subject:

'He kept us of September 12...which is the day after the day something really bad happened when, technically, he was president, but you can't blame him because he had no idea it was for the August 6th 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing whose headline declared, verbatim, "bin Laden determined to strike in US"...ya know, the memo that also referred to bin Laden hijacking airplanes and which also mentions the use of explosives...just the sort of really bad stuff that happened on that really bad day...but that was just a teeny little run-of-the-mill warning that no one took seriously...and it was only a month before that really bad thing happened, so there really wouldn't have been much time to do anything...and besides, no president could've prevented it...except maybe one who maybe paid a little more attention to that August 6 which case a month could've been a pretty long time to possibly prepare and prevent...but HEY....even Rudy Giuliani said that no terrorist attacks occurred on George's watch, so THERE! Now can we please stop obsessing over the the worst, most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history which killed 3000 and get back to what really matters....those four people who died in Benghazi because of Hillary???!!!'

Friday, October 09, 2015

A Challenge to the Media in Reducing Mass Shootings

It's time to take some action in reducing mass murders in the United States, and it can simply start with the media. I challenge broadcast and cable news networks, local tv and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, and news websites to immediately agree to no longer make public the names and photos of these brutal killers.

In the wake of yet another deadly shooting Friday morning at a university in Arizona, the second mass shooting in a week, a news blackout could be implemented immediately. No gun lobby pushback, no political wrangling, no legislation required, just a simple act that everyone--I repeat, everyone--could easily and quickly get behind. We could begin to take action tomorrow.

A common theory among psychologists and academics is that a primary motivation of these mass murderers in shooting up a school, church, synagogue, movie theater, mall or workplace is simply to attain notoriety. That it's an opportunity for a loner or social outcast, someone who feels rejected and abandoned by society, to achieve in death what they could not in life. 'Now they'll remember who I am.' 

Consider, for example, what the Oregon shooter, who killed nine people in a community college October 1, posted on a website August 31, expressing sympathy for the killer of two Virginia journalists on live TV in August:

"People like him have nothing left to live for, and the only thing left to do is lash out at a society that has abandoned them. His family described him as alone, no partner/lover. On an interesting note, I have noted that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the limelight."

So it would seem that those in the media have the power to strip these deranged animals the one thing they often seek: attention and fame. I understand that there are journalistic principles here. That the media believes it has an obligation to report the news, no matter how graphic or horrific, including identifying the psychos who kill. But to them I say, get over yourselves. No one gives a shit about that but you. Americans don't care who shoots up a school. We don't need to see their soulless, demonic faces. You can still report the news. You can simply refer to them as "Killer A" or "Killer B." This sequential identity, like how we name hurricanes, would remind everyone how many mass shootings there are. Yet it would deprive these murderers the national glory they seek.

Perhaps if these killers knew that their heinous deeds would go 'un-celebrated,' that could possibly be the difference in preventing at least one of these tragedies. Is it not worth trying?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Donald Trump Tweets Like a Catty Middle Schooler

The 2016 presidential campaign has been a real eye-opener for sure, with the Republican Party's effort to recapture the White House hijacked by flavor-of-the-moment "outsiders" like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, who've dominated the polls, the press and the public's attention.

And how the campaign's been waged is also a paradigm shifter. For example, there's been lots of chatter about how Trump's use of Twitter has radically altered the political landscape (see Monday's NY Times article). And not necessarily for the better. His relentless tweeting more resembles the behavior of a catty middle-school drama queen than a grown man.

Which is why I took actual Trump tweets, changed the names from real people to fake school kid names, and changed political situations to sound more school-like. The results are stunning. The conclusion? There's a 13-year-old girl trapped in Donald Trump's head. Remember, these are actual Trump tweets except for the names and one or two places/situations:

"Fiona is no bargain but I don't like Henry--he dates and tells--be careful Fiona! (just watch!)"

"Kim is truly one of the dumbest of the school paper people - he doesn't have a clue!"

"Do you ever notice that lightweight Max constantly goes after me but when I hit back it is totally sexist. He is highly overrated!"

"Ethan is trying to hit back at me because I'm saying that he let the class down w/his loss to Bastion. Should've won--he choked!"

"Anna and Emily are finally attacking each other, as I knew they would, in order to be the last "cheerleading" girls standing against me. Great"

"Sarah was very disloyal to Darby, her friend, when she decided to run against her. Both said they "love" each other.They don't - word is hate!"

"Jack is, without question, the WORST EVER president. I predict he will now do something really bad and totally stupid to show manhood!"

Griffin should not take back Sophie. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again--just watch. He can do much better!"

"Everyone knows I am right that Griffin should dump Sophie. In a couple of years, he will thank me. Be smart, Griffin."

"Everyone is asking me to speak more on Griffin & Sophie. I don't have time except to say "Griffin, drop her, she cheated on you & will again!"

"Everybody wants me to talk about Sean and not Noah--I guess people just don't care about Noah!"

"Lucy, what the hell were you thinking when you went out with that loser Malcolm. There is a guy who has got nothing going, a waste!"

"Charley is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her old boyfriend left her for a boy- he made a good decision."

"Pervert alert. Gus is back on twitter. All girls under the age of 18, block him immediately."

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Here's How/When Trump's Campaign Ends

One thing we know for sure about Donald Trump: he doesn't like to lose. He hates losers. He even has varying degrees of loserdom in his verbal arsenal: "major," "proven," "total" and "disgruntled" losers, to name a few. So how will his ginormous ego ultimately handle losing the Republican nomination for president? We'll never know, because he won't be in the race long enough for us to find out.

You heard it here first: Trump will soon be exiting the campaign, going out, as I'm sure we'll hear from him incessantly and insufferably, a winner. He will wait for the perfect time, maybe a week, 2 weeks, a month or two months from now. But he'll surely be gone, and while he still maintains a commanding lead in the polls. His announcement will go a little something like this:

"I'm going back to my business. I'm a business guy. I did the math. Look, I will make a ton of money running my company. More money than ever before. Politics? It's a crazy game. Honestly, you have to be crazy to be in it! I'm not crazy. I'm smart, incredibly successful. You know, I ran a historic campaign, and I'm way ahead in the polls. Beating everyone. I did something no one else has ever done. It was so amazing they'll be studying this campaign in college classes. It's obvious I'd have won the nomination. And trust me, I'd be elected president too if I stayed in. This was fun, but I'm gonna leave politics to the politicians and go back to running my phenomenally successful business. I'm leaving on my terms, on top. A winner. Trump always wins (wink!)..."

To be sure, Trump is not going to sit idly by watching his lead appreciably slip until Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio pulls ahead. That sort of public humiliation is not in The Donald's playbook. He won't wait long enough for them to get even remotely close. But given his recent decline in the polls--5 and 7 points respectively in Iowa and New Hampshire since September--he's most likely already contemplating his grandiose, hyperbolic, reality-twisting send-off.

Trump doesn't really care about "making America great again." He doesn't care about politics, and he surely doesn't care about becoming president. What he cares about, what he's always cared about, is Donald J. Trump. This whole campaign charade has been about him. How successful he is, how rich he is, that his toys are the biggest and best, and that he can do anything. And now that he's "proven" (at least in his megalomaniacal mind) that he can win at politics too, he's achieved the only goal that's ever existed here, which is to feed his insatiable id and further build his brand.   

The bigger question is, when Trump finally does leave the race, who'll pick up the Muslim-hating, Mexican race-baiting birther block? Where will his 25% crazybase go? Maybe by that time Republicans will be so soured by the colossal disappointment and wastefulness of Trumpalooza that they'll start moving towards the center and support Bush, Rubio or Carly Fiorina. And that's when the Republican Party and its chairman Reince Priebus will start to breathe a collective sigh of relief that this "historic" circus is finally over. But will the GOP's brand, which has suffered through chaos and dysfunction, be able to recover by then?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Time for Bloomberg?

A look at the current Republican presidential polling shows more than half of voters' support going to political "outsiders" Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Clearly, at least within the GOP, voters are fed up with career politicians and the status quo. So is the landscape finally fertile enough for former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg? 

Bloomberg is Trump without the crazy. Without the pomp and petulance. Without the ad hominem attacks and the inflammatory, race-baiting rhetoric. Without the catty teenage girl-like incessant Tweeting. No walls, no Mexican rapists, no birthing. Just a smart, savvy, mega-rich chief executive (in business and politics) who can appeal to the "no bullshit, owes no one, he's his own man" crowd who's heretofore fallen in lust with Trump and his "message." Is 2016 America ready for a self-funded independent candidate with class, credentials and credibility? An outsider who could actually win? If you're Bloomberg you must be asking these same questions.

Unlike Trump, Bloomberg actually has a brain when it comes to politics and policy. He's an intellectual. A substantive thinker who's been on the populist side of a variety of national-interest issues such as the environment, illegal immigration, gun control, stem-cell research, intelligent design and gay marriage. And while Trump's bombast and bragodiccio has captured the over-excited loins of GOP extremists, Bloomberg could, more importantly, capture the hearts and votes of a much broader coalition within the party's disillusioned and disenchanted. Oh sure, Trump's the fun party girl. But Bloomberg's the one they could bring home to mama. 

With voters' anger and frustration with Washington never greater, and with Hillary Clinton's campaign awash in distrust, disappointment and 'truthiness,' the time has never been better for a socially moderate, fiscally conservative 3rd party candidate to capture the disenfranchised on both sides. However, such independent candidates have never fared well in American politics.

But Bloomberg could say, "I've been a Democrat, a Republican, and can give you the best of both parties and the fresh perspective of a Washington outsider--a successful chief executive, who's not beholden to any special interests." He could run on a bi-partisan platform that promises to bring the nation together after decades of gridlock and toxicity. Perhaps we're finally at that moment in American politics where this unique message could resonate with a majority of voters and change history.

Unlike the empty suit that is Donald Trump, Bloomberg has impeccable credentials from which he could mount a potent campaign. After twelve years as mayor he left NYC with a $2.5-billion budget surplus; a declining crime rate; an overhauled public education system with rising test scores; cleaner streets and environment; more efficient public transportation; and booming tourism. He's also responsible for the 311 info line; CitiBikes; public plazas; and the High Line park. And if you consider his smoking and trans fat bans, as well as required calorie counts, the city's a much healthier place.

And when it comes to business, he's the real deal. A self-made, no-help-from-daddy visionary who's amassed a $40-billion fortune, making him America's 10th richest individual and the 13th in the world. He's no self-serving, carnival barking, megalomaniacal media whore whose businesses have filed for bankruptcy four times. Bloomberg is Goliath to Trump's Lilliputian.

President Bloomberg? The sound of that could be extremely appealing to many on both sides of the aisle.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Will Republicans Heed the Words of Pope Francis?

One thing's become abundantly clear with Pope Francis's visit to America this week:  God is most definitely not a Republican. As the human embodiment of God herself, Francis, in his historic address Thursday before a joint session of Congress, spoke plainly, passionately and with unfettered moral leadership on myriad hot-button issues with positions that contrast those of many staunch conservatives.

For decades Republicans have been hijacking God and religion, twisting and redefining the teachings of Jesus to fit their ideological dogma of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion. Remember, this is a party that threatens to shut down the U.S. government next week because of its rabid obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood and denying women a range of critical health and reproductive services.

But ever since he was elected in 2013, Francis has been vocally progressive and thought-provoking, often times arousing disappointment and ire among many conservatives who oppose what they consider his "liberal" statements and positions. And Thursday's speech in the nation's Capital was no different.

The Pontiff stepped squarely into Americans' difficult national dialogue on gay marriage, immigration, refugees, poverty, income inequality, "unbridled capitalism," capital punishment, gun violence and climate change. He spoke of "humility and devotion," and implored Christians and people of all faiths to help the poor, the sick, the hungry and the homeless. "Be kind to strangers," he said. And, "we know that Jesus wanted to show solidarity with every person."

It was touching to see politicians including House Speaker John Boehner shed tears listening to the Pope's sermon. But it's unlikely the Pontiff's stirring words will be taken to heart by the Speaker and his fellow narrow-minded conservatives, who for years have hid under the cloak of God in perpetrating a self-serving, elitist and decidedly unchristian-like extremist political agenda. 

To be sure, Francis is the people's Pope. His warmth, compassion, energy, accessibility and somewhat populist views on at least a few controversial subjects have given him rock-star status among the masses. But the adulation for Francis doesn't come without a measure of residual disappointment in him and the Church on issues, for example, relating to women, homosexuality and birth control. That said, Francis indeed deserves major praise for taking the controversial steps to move the church and the Papacy into the 21st century. Rome wasn't built in a day.

"Let us remember the golden rule," the Pontiff told his Congressional audience. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

That may be easier said than done in today's highly toxic, polarized, partisan landscape.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The GOP Nomination: It's Still Jeb Bush

Back in April of 2014, when everyone was still riding the Chris Christie bandwagon (despite the BridgeGate and Sandygate scandals), I wrote why Jeb Bush will win the 2016 presidential nomination. Eight months later I wrote "Here Comes Bush v Clinton 2.0". Almost a year later it's still Jeb Bush.

Scott Walker and Rick Perry are already gone. For all intents and purposes, Ben Carson "Muslim-ed" his way out of the race last weekend. And it's just a matter of time before the hope and money dries up for Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee and the rest of the 2nd string clowns. That leaves Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Bush. Rest assured, the whorish, sycophantic lust affair that extremist troglodytes have with Trump will soon end, as will Fiorina's revisionist history campaign designed to botox away the deep scars of her dreadful corporate record (read Joe Nocera's excellent Tuesday NY Times op-ed on Trump and Fiorina's "Snake Oil Sales"). Stick a fork in Cinderella and Shrek.

Watching last week's second Republican debate made it clear that Bush was the only adult in the room (except when he seemed a little too sophomorically excited about receiving Trump's adulation with that awkward hand slap). And while the other candidates' poll numbers are gyrating all over the place like a cheap stripper, Bush is holding steady near 10%. As more candidates implode and drop out, his numbers will steadily rise. And with over $100-million raised to-date, he's got nothing but time in this war of attrition. Take it to the bank: Gen. Jeb Custer will be the right's last man standing.

And what about the Democrats? A new CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton dealing with her Bernie Sanders "problem" by taking a commanding 42%-24% lead. Joe Biden's a likable guy with a  stellar public service record, but if he enters the race his chances of beating Hil are about as good as mine. Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb? Yawn. Nationally, Clinton has the support of an overwhelming majority of Democrats, especially women. No one's beating her. Period. End of story.

So yes, it will be Bush v. Clinton, again. Just another dynastic retread, right? Wrong. Hillary Clinton stands to make history as the first woman president of the United States. That makes this next election not only different, but incredibly exciting, inspiring and a proud moment for all Americans, even Republicans, even if they don't understand and appreciate the monumental significance of it all.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Stick a Fork in Trump

Since the beginning of the campaign I've said the time will come when voters, even the narrow-minded hateful troglodytes who've heretofore propelled Donald Trump's Cinderella campaign to the top of the polls, will tire of his shallow speeches, empty promises and incendiary rhetoric. Simultaneously, Republican voters with brains will rise up off the couch and begin to take a serious interest in the election. And that's when Trump turns back into a pumpkin. That time is now. 

The second Republican debate is where history will point to the official end of Trumpalooza, a circus-like campaign that actually died the moment it began, with the candidate's controversial "Mexican rapists" speech. Wednesday's contest served as a real eye-opener to voters, in particular, the sane ones who've finally realized, 'Holy shit, if I don't get behind someone else right now this hateful racist misogynist could be nominated!'

Trump faced three solid hours of substantive challenges on everything from his lack of expertise on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues to his ad hominem attacks on everyone from Carly Fiorina to Jeb Bush's wife. When the discussion turned to Iran, Russia and Syria, Trump looked like a pathetic deer in the headlights. "I'd give Putin a call..." is all he could offer when asked about how'd he'd address the Russian president's support of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. That's his answer for everything: 'I'll give 'em a call, and because I'm the amazing Trump, they'll listen." Goodbye war, terrorism and world hunger!

And now The Donald is embroiled in yet another foot-in-mouth controversy, this time for failing, unlike John McCain in the 2008 campaign, to correct a supporter at a New Hampshire town hall rally Thursday who said: "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American." Trump, instead of pulling a McCain--"No sir, he's not, he's a good Christian and an American"--turned to the crowd, chuckled and mocked, "We need this question? This is the first question!"

Glossing over the racist comment entirely, Trump responded with a typically superficial assurance: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things.

Stick a fork in Trump. He's about as done as piece of burnt coffee shop toast. His debate performance, or lack thereof, put on high-def display his myriad failings, from his persistent combativeness, race-baiting and misogyny to his utter lack of substance, policy positions and moral authority. 

Next week polls will surely indicate a reversal in momentum for Trump. From this point forward it's all downhill, and just a matter of time before he's out of the race.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The GOP's Real Problem With Trumpalooza


It was just a few short months ago that it seemed likely that Republicans would put forth mainstream presidential candidates for 2016 who, more than ever, mirrored the overall opinions of a majority of Americans on a range of social and domestic issues such as gay marriage, abortion, women's rights, religion and immigration.

It appeared that, finally, the GOP and its leading candidates would focus on the pressing issues of the day that matter greatly to voters: the economy, jobs, wages, education, healthcare, energy and the environment.

To most pundits and strategists on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party's only hope to win the White House in '16 would be to focus on substantive policy while vastly broadening its tent to include gays, women, young people, blacks and Hispanics. And then came Donald Trump.

Welcome to Trumpalooza. Just when the party appeared headed towards the 21st century, Trump entered the race and sent the GOP clown car speeding back to Crazytown. Curiously, though his regressive behavior has been outrageous and offensive, his popularity and polling keep rising, as does his clear front-runner status. While pandering to the party's lowest common denominator, he's become the biggest political story in decades, just not the one the GOP wants.

The real Trump problem for Republicans is that, just as the party was seemingly on the precipice of meaningful evolution and change, he's single-handedly transporting it back to its ugly, dark, losing days of ignorance and intolerance. The Trumpnado that blasted ashore this Summer consists of fiery race-baiting, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic rhetoric and ad hominem attacks on anything and anyone that gets in his way. And his small, frothing-at-the-mouth radical fringe base is eatin' it up like blood-thirsty zombies on The Walking Dead.

To be sure, Trump's been dominating the liberal and conservative media, sucking all the energy out of the campaign and forcing the more "mainstream" candidates like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker to swing far right in order to avoid irrelevance, or worse, extinction. It's been fascinating to watch them tripping over themselves to out-Trump The Donald. But at some point soon all that will end when Republican voters tire of the one they're fucking and start pursuing the one they'll marry.

Until then, rather than expanding its tent by appealing to a broad base of voters, the GOP's limply watching Trump shrink it to feed just the rapacious, red meat-starved extremists. And in the process, no other candidate has been able to break out and gain any traction, especially by discussing what's really important. Jobs? The economy? Education? Healthcare? The environment? Fat chance. It's all 'fat, ugly, disgusting bimbos' and 'Mexican rapists' until the "Orange Clown," as the rock band REM calls him, finally gets out of the GOP's way. But by that time it may be too late.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Where Do We Draw the Line with "Religious Freedom" in the Workplace?

Imagine you're approaching the counter at Walmart. The cashier looks in your wagon and politely informs you that as a Catholic she can't ring up your condoms. Another cashier, a Christian Scientist, says he's refusing to ring up your aspirin. An Orthodox Jew tells you she can't ring up your bacon. A Muslim says he won't touch the bikini you have in your wagon. And then there's other Kim Davis wannabes who, as strict bible-interpreting devout Christians, won't serve you because you're gay, or have been divorced.

These cashiers would claim to be acting under the "authority of God" in their pursuit of "religious freedom." Are these plausible scenarios? You betchya, especially if someone like Davis isn't forced to follow the rule of law and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. You think shopping at Walmart is crazy now? Just wait till the God Squad's in charge.

It may be 2015, but in many ways when it comes to race, religion, gender and sex it feels like the '50's. To be sure, tremendous progress has been made in not just tolerating but accepting people of all shapes, sizes, colors, faiths and sexual orientation. But there remains a (thankfully) small and ignorant minority that wishes to turn the clock back to when white, christian, heterosexual males were in charge.  The good old days, according to these narrow-minded, backward oppressors. 

And yet here we are still, incredulous that we're actually debating whether the definition of an individual's religious rights and freedoms should be mangled in a heaping pile of dogma crap to mean the right to persecute others. I suppose discrimination is ok as long as it's done under the cloak of God, right? But what would Jesus actually do, I wonder? Well, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be telling his followers to persecute someone in his name because she was poor, sick, gay, a woman, an immigrant or of a different faith. And I'm also sure as shit that he wouldn't have race-baiting homophobes like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz as his spokesmen.

So I have a suggestion to those whose lives are ruled by their religious beliefs: if gay marriage violates those beliefs, then don't marry someone gay. That's where your "rights" end. Period.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Typical Trump Press Conference

Donald Trump continues to maintain his front runner status in the campaign for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. That simple fact in and of itself is fascinating, but is even more intriguing given how Trump has not offered voters one single comprehensive policy plan relating to the economy, taxes, jobs, the environment, education, foreign affairs, defense and, yes, even immigration.

To the contrary, Trump's interviews, press conferences and campaign speeches utterly lack substance, and instead are filled with empty promises built on bumper-sticker slogans and superlatives, unparalleled in their superficiality, grandiosity and bombast. 

The man who's captivated his party is a master at actually saying nothing of substance.  A typical Trump press conference goes like this:

Reporter 1: Mr. Trump, you keep talking about how bad the economy is doing. What facts can you provide to support that contention, and what specifically would you do to fix it?

Trump: First, Jack, let me say that's a nice suit you're wearing. And by the way, Trump makes great suits. You've seen my suits? They're incredible. Worn by very, very important people. Your suit is ok. Normally you look like a putz but today you look, well, ok. The economy? It's in horrible shape. Horrible. Just look at the numbers. The statistics. You're a smart guy. Do your homework. want me to do your job for you? If I were president I'll put everyone to work who wants a job. I'll bring manufacturing, good jobs, back to America. The economy will explode. Next question....Ellen...

Reporter 2: What will you do to improve the nation's education system?

Trump: Thank you Ellen for asking that. Normally you ask stupid questions. But I like this one. I'm gonna make our educational system number one in the world. We're gonna hire the best teachers and pay them well. Test scores will go through the roof. Every kid who wants to go to college will under my plan.

Reporter 2: And what exactly is that plan?

Trump: Ok Ellen, now you're asking stupid questions again. If I wanted a bimbo in the room I'd have invited Megyn Kelly. Next question...Alejandro....

Reporter 3: You've been saying that you'll build a wall to keep Mexicans from illegally entering the U.S. This is estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars. How exactly will you pay for this?

Trump: Alejandro, did you get the "Let's be stupid" email that Ellen apparently got today?! Look, I'm a builder...and by the way, Trump's building are the biggest and best in the world. Some very rich, very important people live and work in my buildings. Hugely important people. I know how to build things. And I make deals. I'll go to President Prieto, Nato, Noriega, whatever his name is down there and tell him he's gotta pay for it.  He'll do what I say. Next question...Angela...

Reporter 4: What do you say to those who believe you have a huge uphill battle in the African American and Latino communities?

Trump: I don't have any problem with the Blacks. The Blacks love me. I cherish Blacks. They're good, decent, hard working people. I'm gonna do more for the Blacks than Lincoln. Than Martin Luther King Jr. They'll be rich and happy under Trump! And by the way, I have more Blacks working for me than anyone. In my hotels. They clean rooms really well...better than the Mexicans. Yeah, the Blacks love me. And do I really have to explain how much the Mexicans love me? Next question...Todd...

Reporter 5: What will you do to ensure a clean, healthy environment?

Trump: That's easy. Trump will make the air fresher than ever. The water cleaner and more delicious. And I'll end pollution. Who likes pollution, right!? It's gonna be amazing. Next question...Alex...

Reporter 6: Republicans want to outlaw abortion. They also seek to defund Planned Parenthood, which is a major source of contraception for women. They also would like to stop insurance companies from covering contraception. These are utterly convoluted, contradicting positions. The number one way to lower abortions is through greater contraception. What is your position on abortion and contraception?

Trump: Another easy one. I know how to influence people. I'm Trump. All day I get people to do things for me. I don't mess around. I'll say to the kids, to the sexually promiscuous..."Hey, stop having sex!" They'll listen. And we'll have no more abortions. And we won't need contraception. Next question...Drew...

Reporter 7: You say you'll lower taxes. Not a popular stand for a Republican. How do you propose to do that?

Trump: Hedge fund guys...many of whom are my friends...I love 'em. And by the way, they buy massive apartments in my incredible buildings. Have I told you that Trump's building's are the biggest and best in the world? These guys will do favors for me. So if I tell 'em to pay more taxes so I can give the little guy a break, they will. Trust me. It's a great, great plan. There'll be plenty of tax money for everything. Next question....Farouk...

Reporter 8: Your campaign slogan is "Make America Great Again." This implies America is not great right now? How do you plan to improve America's standing abroad? Particularly in the Middle East?

Trump: The Arabs love me too. I cherish Arabs. Just not when they're blowin' things ups. Look, some of my best friends are Arabs. They come to Trump's clubs to play golf. I golf with them. And by the way, I have the most gorgeous golf courses in the world. So I'll settle the whole damn Arab/Israeli problem by the time we get to the 15th hole. I'll get all these guys out there together and be like, "Bibi, Mahmoud, Bashar, Abdel, Abdulaziz...just get your shit together and stop all this fighting, ok?!" And ya know what? They'll listen to Trump. Because they love my hotels and want to keep playing at my clubs. Ok, one last question...Jan...

Reporter 9: I'd like to do a little word association with you. I'll name a few of your Republican opponents and you give me a few words to describe them. Jeb Bush...

Trump: Like watching paint dry...

Reporter 9: Marco Rubio...

Trump: Adolescent Mexican... Ok, I'm kidding. He's not that young....

Reporter 9: Ben Carson...

Trump: Pretty smart and articulate for a Black guy...

Reporter 9: Carly Fiorina...

Trump: Look, I could call her a miserable, job-killing corporate loser, but I won't...

Reporter 9: Chris Christie...

Trump: Hey, great segue...when's lunch...I'm starving!

Friday, September 04, 2015

An Open Letter to Kim Davis


Dear Ms. Davis:

As you occupy your jail cell, contemplating your next move, let's set the record straight: you are a public official, paid by taxpayers and therefore your personal religious beliefs are completely irrelevant and insignificant as relating to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. America's Founding Fathers took great pains to ensure that America would be governed under the rule of law, not by the authority of God.

You have no inalienable rights here under the United States Constitution. In fact, the Constitution protects the very people you are discriminating against, not you. The Supreme Court has affirmed that fact, despite your ignorance, intolerance and ill-advised protestations.

We have laws in America which we all must abide by. We can't arbitrarily decide which laws to follow and which ones to ignore. That's called chaos. Let me ask you this, Kim: in a country founded on the principle of separation of church and state and religious pluralism, would any of the following situations be acceptable to you?:

-can an Orthodox Jew refuse to issue marriage licenses to reform and conservative Jews because, according to his religious belief, these are not "real Jews?"

-can a radical Mormon insist on issuing licenses to polygamists?

-can a devout Catholic county clerk refuse to issue you a marriage license after your next (4th) divorce because he believes that marriage is sacred and considers you a sinner? 

-can an Atheist refuse to issue licenses to Christians because her religious belief is that organized religion is the root of all evil?

These situations are as absurdly unconstitutional as your attempt to deny gays their legal right to marry because of your personal religious beliefs. The irony is, as a thrice divorced "traditional marriage" proponent, you have degraded this institution more than any gay couple likely ever will. No one's stood in the way of your choice to marry four times. How dare you prevent others from marrying?

To be sure, we will never allow people like you to ram your extremist dogma down our throats or deny us our inalienable rights. So if that's unacceptable to you...if you feel you can't perform your job because of your devout religious beliefs... then quit and find another job. Or, as U.S. District Court Judge David L. Bunning ordered Thursday, you can defiantly rot in jail in contempt.

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.