Wednesday, December 28, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump: WTF Happened to the Liberal You?

Dear Mr. Trump:

I'm at a huge loss. Perhaps you can help me figure out the precise moment when you went from being a promiscuous, socially-liberal Manhattan playboy to a promiscuous uber-conservative Manhattan playboy. Or more importantly, why.

Did something happen in your life which gave rise to the born-again Trump? Was there a specific incident that made you stop believing in personal social freedoms and start subscribing to the moral standards of evangelicals? What exactly was this come-to-Jesus moment?

Sorry, but this sudden values-transfusion is a bit suspect. New Trump is such a stark contrast from old Trump. Here's a sampling of your liberal musings over the years:

-Regarding abortion: "I'm very pro-choice. I am pro-choice in every respect."

-Regarding gun control: "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun. With today's internet technology we should be able to tell within 72 hours if a potential gun owner has a record." (2000)

-Regarding same-sex marriage: "These cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They've been settled. And I'm -- I'm fine with that." (2015)

-Regarding transgenders and bathrooms: "There's a big move to create new bathrooms. First of all, I think that would be discriminatory in a certain way. It would be unbelievably expensive for businesses and for the country. Leave it the way it is." (2016)

-Regarding universal healthcare: "Everybody's got to be covered, this is an un-Republican thing I'm going to say, I'm going to take care of everybody....Who pays for it? The government's going to pay for it." (2015) 

-Regarding the war on drugs: "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars." (1990)

-Regarding President Obama's economic stimulus: "I thought he did a terrific job...I thought he was strong and smart, and it looks like we have somebody that knows what he is doing finally in office, and he did inherit a tremendous problem. He really stepped into a mess...." (2009)

-Regarding the economy: "It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.... we've had some pretty bad disasters under the Republicans." (2004)

-Regarding immigration: "For people that have been here for years, that have been hard workers, have good jobs, are supporting a family, it's very, very tough to just say 'you have to leave, get out.' How do you throw someone out that's lived in this country for 20 years, you just can't throw everybody out." (2012)

-Regrading climate change: It's "scientifically irrefutable." (2009)

-Regarding his politics: "In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat." (2004)

-Regarding the Republican Party: "I really believe Republicans are just too crazy...I mean, hey, I lived in New York City, Manhattan all my life, okay? So my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa, perhaps." (1999)

-Regarding Hillary Clinton: "I know her and she'd make a good president or good vice president." (2008)

So, where'd that guy go? Is he still inside you, placed in hibernation during the election so you could appeal to the lowest common denominator of intolerance, bigotry and hatred in order to win? Will he resurface, perhaps when we liberals need him most, like when it's time to name your Supreme Court nominee?

To be honest, I'm really not buying the whole church-Trump thing. Just like hanging out with all those generals doesn't make you any tougher, sidling up to staunch conservatives like Mike Pence, Newt Gingrich and Jeff Sessions doesn't make you a right-winger. You better be careful, because I think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell agree with me.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Goodbye Camelot, Hello Dystopia

I was 4-years-old when President John F. Kennnedy was assassinated. I remember arriving home with my mother. She was visibly distraught as she fidgeted with her keys, pausing to catch her breath while hastily explaining that the president's death was going to preempt my favorite tv show, The Little Rascals. I was of course too young to understand the magnitude of what was happening, and to appreciate the mythical ideal of Camelot that Jacqueline Kennedy created for the grieving nation in the days following her husband's horrific murder.
"There will be great presidents again," Jackie told journalist Theodore White, "but there will never be another Camelot." White, who'd given favorable treatment to JFK in his book The Making of the President, 1960, had been invited by the First Lady to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis to write a feature for Life Magazine. In an extremely rare ceding of control, she demanded and was given final editing rights.

The legend of Camelot has lived on for the five decades since the assassination despite the truth that's emerged of the First Couple's less-than-idyllic life together. But Americans still cling to the legend, preferring to remember Jack and Jackie as having it all: beauty, charm, health and fairy tale happiness. America's royalty.

In just one month my Camelot will disappear. It is with profound sadness that I mourn the imminent departure of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama. For eight years I've been awed and inspired by the President and First Lady. They've been exemplary role models, demonstrating grace, dignity, integrity, class, humility, compassion, empathy, diplomacy and respectability. They are the personification of decency and goodness, possessing a supremely intelligent world view and the highest moral and ethical standards. They are flawless and unassailable.

Now think about the First Family that will be taking the Obamas' place. Donald Trump has demonstrated behavior that's been characterized as sexist, racist, xenophobic and intellectually and morally bankrupt. He's an admitted sexual predator. A tax-evader. A draft-dodger. Someone who's attacked the disabled, veterans, war heroes and the Pope. And whose bromance with Vladimir Putin, and blind eye to Russian hacking of our election, is making Joe McCarthy turn over in his grave.

Trump's wife Melania is a former model who's posed for sexually-suggestive nude photos; who may have immigrated to the Unites States illegally; and who plagiarized a Michelle Obama speech.

His sons Eric and Donald Jr., when not killing large animals for sport, have perfected the art of coattail riding, and are currently at the center of a controversial pay-for-play fundraising scheme designed to sell unprecedented access to their president-elect father. They are also at the center of an extraordinary conflicts-of-interest shit storm given their plans to run daddy's business and serve among his closest advisors.  

And then there's Ivanka, who'll be moving to Washington, D.C. with her husband (Trump's de facto consigliere Jared Kushner) and three children, and who intends to continue running her own business empire while perched in her father's inner circle, blurring the ethical lines so much it's making our heads spin.

To be sure, the Trump administration will be like no other in history. We're going from a president who's worthy of being etched into Mt. Rushmore to one who could end up on a post office wall. Thanks to Trump and his kids we now understand Kleptocracy and the Emoluments Clause. We fear the First family's personal financial enrichment of the presidency and White House, and how it threatens our national security.

In just 28 days we'll be going from Camelot to Dystopia. So strap yourselves in kids, we're in for the most wild roller-coaster ride imaginable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Another Open Letter to "Mr." Trump: WTF's With All the Tweeting!?

Full disclosure: I love your Tweets. I mean, I really, really love them. Please don't stop. In the sea of madness and sadness you've created by your victory I find them a delicious comedic oasis. And I actually think they're the paving on the road to impeachment. So don't listen to Kellyanne Conway or anyone else who's trying to silence your 140-character profundity. You're the boss, man, Tweet away!

But I have to ask yet again: what the fuck is wrong with you!? Hasn't Kellyanne told you you've won? That you don't have to keep fighting? That you don't have to keep counter-punching every puppy, child, woman, disabled person, beauty queen, Pope, or enemy-state every time your Kleenex-thin epidermis is punctured? You're like the worst, most vile internet troll, except you're not anonymous and you're about to become leader of the free world for fuck's sake!

I'm no psychologist, but your narcissistic personality disorder seems to be spiraling you into a pathological vortex of self-sabotage. You're an orange man-baby with digital diaper rash. Perhaps Melania can smear some Desitin all over your keypad. Alec Baldwin's impersonation of you, while genius, falls short of capturing your true essence. He should dress in a high school cheerleader's outfit, because you Tweet like a 16-year-old mean girl.

I'm embarrassed for you. Actually, I'm really embarrassed for your children and grandkids, because I suspect they're thinking, "Jeez, why does dad/grandpa have to be such a juvenile asshat who's likely to set America back 240 years and quite possibly destroy our world in the process?" And of course, this is a very disturbing contemplation for a bunch of nepo-phants who depend on your sexist, racist, self-serving, corrupt, Kleptocratic coattails for their very survival.

So what's with the Tweeting? Are you really this sensitive? Does your emotional world get so earthquakingly rocked every time someone, anyone, says something, anything, you don't like? Ya know what they say about a man with tiny hands: outsize sensitivity. I've seen 5-year-olds who handle criticism better than you.

And now your Tweeting is showing yet another YUGE insecurity, this one pertaining to the election. In the face of the findings of 17 U.S. national security agencies, your summary dismissal of a Russian hack has nothing to do with your creepy bromance with Vladimir Putin and everything to do with you desperately trying to defend the legitimacy of your victory. You got your ass handed to you by Hillary Clinton with a 3-million popular vote drubbing (the first major deficit of your administration), and you managed to snag a historically low 306 electoral votes with the likely help of election fraud, voter suppression and tampering by your BFF Vlad (in Trumpish this is referred to as a "massive landslide").

To be sure, something very fishy occurred in this election. We all know it, and you know it. You hit the big one alright, but you're forever a 'roided-up asterisk, just like Barry Bonds. And it's killing you. You hate the outcry that you didn't win fair and square. Unfortunately, you can legitimize yourself through Twitter rants. It only shows us just how threatened you really are by...the truth?

Friday, December 16, 2016

An Open Letter to "Mr." Trump: WTF Is Wrong With You!?

Dear Mr. Trump:
I refer to you as "Mr" because I do not recognize you as my president. Or anyone's president for that matter. You lost the popular vote by almost 3-million votes, more than any president in United States history. And with the likely help of Russian hacks, oppressive voter ID laws, other acts of voter suppression and election fraud, and an embarrassingly neutered media, you squeaked out a measly 306 electoral votes, placing you in the bottom fifth of all presidents ever.

But in true Trumpian fashion, you've boasted of a "massive landslide victory." Sorry, pal. The only "landslide" was Hillary Clinton's, as she received more votes than any president in history except for Barack Obama in 2008. One thing's for sure though: you were right about the election being "rigged." For you.

Now that we've gotten the niceties out of the way, let me ask the most obvious question: what the fuck is wrong with you!? Seriously, do you not give a shit about your legacy, if not for yourself, at least for your kids, grandkids and future generations of Trumps? If your goal is to beat James Buchanan as the worst president in history, well then Mazel Tov, as you're halfway there and you've still got five weeks till inauguration day!

Let's start with your cabinet picks. You were supposed to drain the swamp, not restock it with self-serving corporate billionaires and other uber-rich insiders and cronies. You've appointed a banana-republic-worthy gaggle of unqualified, inexperienced, intellectually un-curious sexists/misogynists, racists, stabbers (ok, just one knifer, Ben Carson), fake-news-spreaders and Russian sympathizers. And your alt-right white nationalist advisor Steve Bannon sits atop this basket of deplorables. This is your idea of populism!?

And what's with all the generals? You know, those guys you claim to be smarter than. Are you planning some kind of military coup? Besides, hanging around with generals doesn't make you any tougher. You could hang around real-men in uniform all you want and you're still a draft-dodging coward.

Now about that Russian hack. That you're summarily dismissing the validity of the findings of 17 national security agencies is shameful and treasonous. You should be saying, "Yes, a Russian hack into our election process, a cyber-attack, is a major threat to our Democracy and must be subject to a full bi-partisan investigation." Instead, you've disparaged our intelligence community. You blame President Obama. Or some 400-lb fat guy in his mother's basement. What kind of message does it send to our enemies that our President-elect attacks our national security experts while defending Vladimir Putin?

Next, the conflicts of interests are not just mind-numbingly unethical, but perhaps illegal and impeachable. You've refused to release your tax returns and have bailed on your big press conference this week to explain how you're going to separate yourself and your family from your business... leaving the American people with zero transparency for the first time in modern presidential history. Between your foreign investments and debt, and your domestic properties (DC hotel, for example), your conflicts are staggering. You're blatantly putting your personal financial interests before the safety and security of the nation. Oh, and because of you I now have to add the word "emoluments" to my vocabulary. 

Lastly, your utter disdain for America's free and open press is perhaps the biggest threat to our democracy of all. Your administration's hinted at making drastic, unprecedented changes to the media's access to information including limiting or eliminating daily White House briefings, the Saturday morning presidential address, press conferences and the press pool. You've also threatened to expand our libel laws which would allow you greater ability to sue reporters and media outlets who are critical of you and your administration.

This is what fascism smells like.

Your words and actions are a constant attack on our freedoms and the progress we've made in  our 240 year history. You've taken those tiny little hands, whipped out your micro-dick, and are pissing all over the Oval Office and the U.S. Constitution. Shame on you. And Shame on everyone who voted for you.

So no, Mr. Trump, I will never refer to you as "President." You are not worthy of that title.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Media in the Trump Age: Why We Should be Terrified

Get ready America, we're about to enter unchartered waters in our 241-year history. Instead of a democracy with a free and open press, the United States in 36 days is going to more resemble a propaganda-driven fascist dictatorship. Goodbye facts and reality. Hello 'post-truth' era.

While America won't have state-run television, radio and newspapers per se, the overall messaging will be controlled by the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump just the same. Trump and his Steve Bannon/KellyAnne Conway-led propaganda machine will twist, manipulate and conflate the truth so much like Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin and Baghdad Bob that it'll make your heads spin, believe me....believe me.

Forget the truth. That's so old-school. This is the Trump Age. The new administration will tell us what we want to hear or, more so, what it thinks we need to hear. No more, no less. And it won't matter whether the information will be rooted in reality or in Trump's alternate universe. Everything will be "great." Everything will be "successful." Everything will be the "biggest" and the "best." There will be no losses. No failures. No mistakes.

For the first time in U.S. history we will no longer be able to trust anything that comes out of the White House. Nothing. Not a single damn word. Oh how we'll long for the good old days of simple creative spin. Trump will be the most dishonest, disingenuous, duplicitous president ever. Our only hope for facts and the truth will be the media. But given how poorly the press did its job during the campaign in both vetting and challenging Trump and his endless lies, we should be gravely concerned.

In the Trump Age, fact-checkers are "liars." The media is "unbelievably dishonest." Journalists have been bullied and neutered. Trump's utter disdain for the media is palpable. It's a visceral hatred which stems in part by his confusion in thinking the Fourth Estate is merely an extension of his PR team. He lacks the respect and appreciation for a free and open press that is the bedrock of a democracy. Pathologically in perpetual search of acceptance and affirmation, Trump summarily rejects anything and anyone who fails to show him love. Challenge him, question him, show him no intrinsic loyalty and Trump the "counter-puncher" will pummel you. And therein explains his dysfunctional, hostile relationship with the press.

In Trump's administration the media will be mocked, excoriated and limited in its access to the White House and the president. It will be sued for libel. Trump, the master self-promoter, will be our primary source of information. It'll be Trump's truth and nothing else. He'll shield us from those pesky little reporters who conspire against him.

To be sure, the truth will be in scarce supply these next four years. A great example of that occurred Wednesday when Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, the union which represents workers at Indiana's Carrier plant, challenged Trump's claims about the much-hyped deal he made to save jobs from being outsourced to Mexico.

"He's lying his ass off," Jones said about Trump's claim of saving 1,100 jobs. "That's not just my feeling. The numbers prove he's lying his ass off. It's a damn shame when you come in and make a false statements like that." 

The result was a series of belligerent Tweets from Trump. Personal attacks about Jones' character and the performance of his union's workers. Courtesy of our first Twitter-Troll-in-Chief.

Consider for a second that we're about to inaugurate a president we cannot trust. Whose words mean nothing, whether he's speaking about the economy, foreign policy or military affairs. Imagine if when President Obama announced Osama bin Laden's killing we didn't believe it was true. Kind of like Trump's announcement this week that Japan's SoftBank will invest $50-billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 new jobs. No details. Just hype. And likely not true. That's our America in 36 days.

Trump hates the truth. Hates reality. Hates facts. He much prefers hyperbole and grandiosity. He's a self-aggrandizing showman. PT Barnum on steroids. But truth and facts matter. Especially in the Oval Office.

To quote the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts."

Donald Trump disagrees.

So will the media do its job in keeping the American public informed, countering Trump's propaganda machine? Will Congress serve in its oversight capacity and ensure our system of checks and balances, holding Trump accountable? Will voters demand the truth and punish Trump and Republicans if they don't get it?

Strap yourself in, because it's going to be a very, very bumpy ride...

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Am Not Afraid of "President Trump"

The cancer that was the 2016 presidential election is finally over. Hillary Clinton was dealt a devastating defeat. Donald Trump defied conventional wisdom on every conceivable level and will soon occupy the Oval Office for at least the next four years. Republicans are euphoric. Democrats are stunned, depressed and feeling despair. There's panic and protest in the streets.

While I joined half the country last Wednesday morning in wishing it was all just a bad dream, I believe the zombie-apocalypse-like Trump presidency that Democrats viscerally fear may never materialize. In fact, I suspect the left may ultimately end up pleasantly surprised and appreciably happier with Trump than the almost 60-million mostly angry white conservatives who voted for him.

To understand what a Trump presidency might be like is to take a deep breath, strip away the anger and emotion and truly understand the man himself. What motivates him. What he craves. But more so, what's in his heart (yes, even Trump has a heart) and how his core values (or lack thereof) will dictate the direction in which he takes the country.

To be sure, I remain as disgusted with Trump's unprecedented insolence as any of my fellow Democrats. I loathe his bombast and bullying. I deplore his sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist comments. I cringed at his incendiary rhetoric and ridicule of POW's, the disabled, the media and the principles of the U.S. Constitution, to name a few of his targets. Which is why my 12-year-old daughter and I were front and center in Saturday's massive protest outside Trump Tower.

I am mystified that his voters could not see through his incessant, audacious lying. That evangelicals supported someone who violated every principle they stand for. I feel physically ill that our president-elect boasted of sexually assaulting women because his power and celebrity gave him that 'right.' I'm unnerved and appalled that we wouldn't want to leave our 16-year-old daughters alone with the President of the United States. I mourn for the office, and that we've lost such a precious role model for our children in Barack Obama.

It's shocking that Trump was able to win without releasing his tax returns, that he faces imminent trial for fraud, that he bankrupted multiple businesses, that he's found bromance with brutal dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Hun Sen and Robert Mugabe. It's unsettling that he never served a day in office or the military, got trounced in the debates by a Clinton hat-trick, and is woefully deficient in not just experience, but intellectual curiosity and a sophisticated world view. But all of that is irrelevant at this point. The bigger question is, what happens now?

Will Trump cause the destruction of American civilization as we know it? Hardly. I am not ready to accept that this lifelong pro-choice, pro-gay marriage New York social liberal and fiscal conservative has suddenly morphed into Attila the Hun or David Duke-on-steroids just because his narcissistic personality disorder drove him to do and say anything to get elected, no matter how irresponsible or reprehensible.

Throughout his career Trump's been consumed by an insatiable hunger for attention that he obsessively feeds regardless of the personal, business or political cost. He lacks impulse control and has a childlike attention span, resulting in missives that are less attributable to any great conviction over a particular subject, like healthcare or immigration, than they are to bluster, braggadocio and a pathological need for acceptance.

I don't accept that Trump truly believes most of the outrageous positions on which he's aggressively campaigned. Rather, unlike his former opponent Sen. Ted Cruz or his vice presidential running mate Gov. Mike Pence who are unapologetic ideologues, Trump is simply addicted to the love in whatever room he happens to be playing. His "fans" wanted the hockey fight, not the actual game, and Trump was all too happy to oblige. ("And who's gonna pay for that wall!?")

But these misguided supporters will soon find out that it's one thing for Trump to declare for example that 'We're gonna bring back the coal, steel and manufacturing industries and create so many new jobs your heads will spin' and another for him to actually execute.

Trump's already reneging on his promise to immediately repeal Obamacare, and it appears he's also planning to dial back his vows to "jail" Hillary; "tear up the Iran deal;" move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; and build that "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall." And he's not even President-elect for a week yet. 

Trump will ultimately deliver a crushing blow to those who put their hearts and souls into his campaign because he was going to improve their economic standing and make their America "great" again. Imagine their disappointment and anger when the factory jobs don't magically reappear. When the rich, not the poor and middle classes, receive the tax cuts. When the little guy doesn't get his minimum wage increase because Trump thinks it's too much. When Trump abandons them and leaves them scratching their heads wondering how the heck they could've been so duped by a Manhattan playboy billionaire who lives in a gold-covered mansion in the sky, travels on private jumbo jets and limos, and who convinced them that because he so masterfully gamed the "rigged" system he's best suited to fix it.

Let's face it, when the ugly outer layer is stripped away, Trump does not support the KKK. He will not ban Muslims. There will not be a Mexican wall. He won't be killing the families of terrorists. The U.S. will not abandon NATO. NAFTA's not going away. There will be no immediate repeal and replacement of Obamacare. He will not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton. Women won't be "punished" for abortions. And he will not appoint ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, especially those who will overturn Roe v Wade.

So what will we see from President Trump? To be sure, we'll continue to witness erratic, petulant, bullying behavior from the most thin-skinned president in history. The Tweets will continue (read: impulse control problem and the hunger for attention) as will his blatant, unethical self-enrichment. The only wall he's going to be building is the one around his business and finances, which will be managed in a laughable albeit contemptuous "blind trust" by his children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.

Bolstered by a Republican-controlled Congress, we'll experience a shift back to conservatism relating to foreign policy, the economy, the environment and education. We'll likely see, for example, a repeal of Dodd-Frank. Big tax breaks for the wealthy, and an easing of corporate taxes and regulation; changes to the estate tax; a passage of the Keystone Pipeline; a scrapping of the Paris Agreement on climate change; a neutering of the EPA; the institution of school vouchers.  But these changes are rooted in classic Republican policy ideals, not a tectonic shift to the alt-right, despite his appointment Sunday of Breitbart's Steve Bannon as senior strategist (who's likely to become a pariah in the West Wing, on Capitol Hill and among the media). The more telling appointment is that of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff. It'll ultimately be his administration not Bannon's.

Donald Trump is indeed a bully, but like all bullies he's also a coward. We've seen how the impersonal and seductive perch of Twitter empowers him; how safe and easy his 3am penthouse attacks can be. We know he's most comfortable spewing hateful tough-guy rhetoric to thousands of love-struck fans at his rallies, but when face-to-face with his adversaries he folds like a $2 lawn chair (see: Mexican President Pena Nieto and Carly Fiorina). This is the Trump we'll likely see in the Oval Office. When confronted with vehement opposition, as we've already started to witness, he flips like an insecure Russian acrobat.

I believe the real Donald Trump is not the rabble-rouser who deceptively fed blood-dripping sexist, racist red meat to his rapacious base. Instead, he's more likely the Trump who surprised his base, and Democrats, by saying transgender people should be able to "use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate." Once the shock of the election wears off and the proverbial dust settles and the overpowering sense of fear subsides, Democrats may just realize that it is the right who should've feared "President Trump" the most.

Friday, October 14, 2016

They Never Cringed: Republicans, PussyGate & the October Non-Surprise

With just 25 days left before the presidential election, it appears that the candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump is in utter freefall...driven off a cliff in no small part by the "Access Hollywood" bus. But why did it take so long for Republicans to be "outraged?"

They didn't cringe when Trump delegitimized President Obama w/birtherism.

They didn't cringe when Trump called Mexicans Rapists.

They didn't cringe when Trump said Sen. John McCain wasn't a war hero.

They didn't cringe when Trump mocked a disabled reporter.

They didn't cringe when Trump said he'd ban Muslims from America.

They didn't cringe when Trump said Megyn Kelly was bleeding "from wherever..."

They didn't cringe when Trump attacked Carly Fiorina's looks.

They didn't cringe when Trump attacked Heidi Cruz's wife.

They didn't cringe when Trump called women "pigs," "dogs," "slobs," "disgusting."

They didn't cringe when Trump said flat-chested women can't be "`10's."

They didn't cringe when Trump said he'd date Ivanka if she wasn't his daughter.

They didn't cringe when he bragged about his penis size.

They didn't cringe when Trump agreed that Ivanka is a "piece of ass."

They didn't cringe when Trump was previously accused of rape(s) and sexual assaults.

They didn't cringe when Trump said women should be punished for abortions.

They didn't cringe when Trump re-Tweeted white supremacy groups.

They didn't cringe when Trump re-Tweeted anti-Semitic symbols. 

They didn't cringe when Trump said he was a 'good negotiator' like Jews.

They didn't cringe when Trump refused to disavow David Duke & the KKK.

They didn't cringe when Trump said "Look at my African American over here!"

They didn't cringe when Trump said blacks are "living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?"

They didn't cringe when Trump linked Ted Cruz's father to JFK's assassination. 

They didn't cringe when Trump called for killing terrorists' families.

They didn't cringe when Trump defended and praised Vladimir Putin.

They didn't cringe when Trump asked Russia to hack our State Department.

They didn't cringe when Trump attacked the Pope.

They didn't cringe when Trump incited violence at his rallies.

They didn't cringe when Trump said enemies like N. Korea should get nukes.

They didn't cringe when Trump attacked the judge with Mexican heritage.

They didn't cringe when Trump attacked the Gold Star Khan family.

They didn't cringe when Trump stiffed veterans out of the $5-million he promised.

They didn't cringe when Trump said he knows "more about ISIS than the generals."

They didn't cringe when Trump suggested gun owners assassinate Hillary Clinton.

They didn't cringe when Trump called Obama/Hillary Clinton "the founders of ISIS."

They didn't cringe when Trump reneged on the Mexican wall.

They didn't cringe when Trump reneged on the Muslim ban.

They didn't cringe when Trump reneged on his "self-funding" promise.

They didn't cringe at all the lies.

And then that now-infamous 2005 video tape burst onto the public stage last Friday in which Trump bragged to the most pathetic Bush since George W--Billy, a former "Access Hollywood" host--that he uses his celebrity and power to sexually assault women. That he could even "grab them by the pussy"  and they let him because he was a "star."

And suddenly everyone cringed.  The "October surprise" had arrived, right on schedule.

But was it really a surprise? Had the last 40+ years of Donald Trump's behavior really caught anyone off-guard?

So why is PussyGate the tipping point? Why is this particular offense the one that appears to finally be bringing down the most controversial, most reprehensible candidate in American presidential history? It's a question that political science professors will be studying for the next 1000 years.

And so they finally cringed. But they still supported.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Donald Trump's 2050 Wikipedia Page

Here's what Donald Trump's Wikipedia bio might look like in 2050:

Donald Trump lost the bizarre 2016 presidential election to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in the biggest landslide in American political history. Clinton won all 538 electoral college votes in an incredible political accomplishment, besting Ronald Reagan, who crushed Walter Mondale in 1984 with 525 electoral votes. Clinton won with 87% of the popular vote, also a record.

The election was looking bleak for Trump prior to the public release of his now-infamous vagina monologues, the vulgar statements made on that fateful 2005 "Access Hollywood" bus ride with Billy Bush in which he admitted to sexually assaulting women. But his  polling and support plummeted even more in the ensuing days. Further, his campaign manager Kellyann Conway was fired. His running-mate Mike Pence left the ticket. But Trump himself refused to quit, insisting on continuing the race with Ted Cruz as his new running mate. They campaigned over the final three weeks under the slogan, Trump/Cruz: Bloated & Promoted.

Two days before the election Julian Assange WikiLeaked Trump's much sought-after tax returns, which dealt a devastating final blow to an already-dead campaign. The returns showed that Trump paid zero income taxes for 20 years; had average personal income of just $250,000 from 2003-2015; was partners in several questionable businesses with Russian President Vladimir Putin; made just $20,000 per year in charitable contributions; donated to the political campaigns of liberals Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders and Barney Frank; contributed to progressive causes including Planned Parenthood, Gay Men's Health Crisis and the National Abortion Federation; and made multiple donations to Islamic Relief USA. Even his most rabidly loyal supporters abandoned him in the campaign's final days.

One month after the election Trump's wife Melania announced their separation and that she had filed for divorce. She apparently was extremely upset that Trump and his minty-fresh Tic Tac breath wanted to kiss another woman while she was pregnant with their son Barron. It was a bitter legal battle resulting in a one-time payment of $250-million and $500,000 per month in child support. Melania went on to create her own fashion line which, like many of her ex-husband's businesses, ultimately failed. She married media magnate and Democratic supporter Summer Redstone, 96, three years later. Their daughter Viacoma was born later that year.

The fallout from Trump's sexist, racist behavior throughout the campaign also led to humiliating financial hardship following the election. The Trump Organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 due to staggering losses from a boycott of his hotels and an abandonment of licensing deals using the tarnished Trump brand.

The business's failure took a huge toll on Trump's children, who were forced to go out in the world and attempt to make it on their own. Don Jr. and Eric started and folded several unsuccessful businesses, including a hair-gel company (Trump Pomade). Don Jr. ran for Mayor of New York City in 2030 and lost to Dante de Blasio, former Mayor Bill de Blasio's son. He retired soon after, living off Social Security and some income that trickled in from his book "Why Did Dad Have to Be Such a Douche and Screw Up a Really Good Thing?"Eric became a manager of a Walmart store in upstate New York. Ivanka chose to be a stay-at-home mom raising her eleven children with Jared Kushner.

Tiffany, who was raised in California by her mother, Trump's second wife Marla Maples, spent years as an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles before her election to Congress in 2036 as a Democrat from California's 34th District. Barron, just 10 at the time of the presidential election, was so embarrassed by his father's behavior that he changed his last name to Redstone in 2019 and disowned Trump. He became an independent filmmaker (financed by his stepfather). His first two films,"Daddy Dearest" and a remake of "Lies My Father Told Me," won back-to-back Best Picture Oscars in 2033 and 2034.

As for Donald Trump himself, he lived to be 100 years old, dying in 2046 of natural causes. Following the election he spent his remaining years a virtual pariah. A broken man socially, emotionally and financially. Alone and alienated from family and the few friends he had. And, he never apologized...for anything.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Assessing the Donald Trump Debate Implosion

It was a beautiful thing to watch. There's nothing sweeter than witnessing a Donald Trump implosion in front of 100-million people. I suspect the first presidential debate will likely go down as the modern-day Kennedy-Nixon contest for its ultimate impact on the election.   

The debate could be summed up against a singular backdrop: the candidates each had one critical mission to accomplish. Trump needed to demonstrate a temperament that's presidential. Clinton needed to be likeable. That's it. Because when it comes to substance and policy, there's no contest. So what happened?

Trump showed up as he always does: cocky, brash and, unfortunately for him, winging it. And to borrow from Trump and his surrogates, she came "over-prepared." By the end of the night Trump appeared scared, ensnared and woefully unprepared...while Clinton was composed, disciplined, engaging, endearing and affable (as an aside, I don't think Team-Trump will be accusing her of "not smiling enough" anymore). And while she took the high road, he snaked along the curb.

The big question leading up to Monday's debate was "which Trump will show up?" Would it be boring Trump? Toned-down Trump? Old Trump? New Trump? But it was much simpler than that. Just Trump showed up. The one and only Trump. The same smug, belittling, thin-skinned egomaniacal Trump the world has known since his rich pappy gave him that "small" $1-million loan and put him on the New York real estate map.

The Trump we saw was the familiar bloviating empty-suited bully. He was loud, angry, belligerent, combative, nasty, demeaning, dismissive, disrespectful and dishonest. He sighed, sniffled repeatedly, nervously guzzled water, made juvenile mocking faces, interrupted Clinton 30 times and was disrespectful to the moderator Lester Holt. It was not pretty. Like Nixon's performanace in 1960 against the calm, cool, polished, telegenic John F. Kennedy, it was awkward and unattractive. The only thing missing was Nixon's sweaty 5 o'clock shadow and dark-circled darting eyes.   

I'm not going to get into the weeds of Trump's pathology except to say that his lying, narcissism, sexism and racism took center stage. He was consistently offensive when the subjects were the birther movement, black communities, Clinton's appearance and health,  women and his "deserved" attacks on Rosie O'donnell. He justified his racial discrimination charges from the 1970's by saying other real estate developers had also been sued by the Justice Department. In Trump's convoluted world, every despicable act is justified if someone else has also done it...or done it first.

Yes, Just Trump showed up alright, and voters got a solid glimpse of the man who insisted he has the right temperament to be president even as he made that claim while seeming totally unhinged.

Trump appeared to admit that he pays zero federal income taxes ("Because I'm smart") . He seemed to admit that he could release his tax returns at any time (said he'd do it, despite his lawyers' counsel, if Clinton releases "the 33,000 emails.").

One of the most bizarre moments came during the subject of cyber attacks and hacking, and whether the United States government is being targeted by Russia. He defended Russia, his praise of Vladimir Putin, and his challenge for the former Soviet Union to "find the missing emails," claiming that it could be anyone doing the hacking, including China or "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." Give him credit. Just when you think he can't offend any other voter group he goes ahead and loses the overweight block.

But the knockout punch of the debate came when Trump suggested Clinton was 'over-prepared.'

"I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing."

The argument can be made that Trump's decision to forego the typical debate prep in and of itself is a unequivocal disqualifier. That if he doesn't think the job requires an investment in time and preparedness, then he's not fit for office. To be sure, for ninety minutes Monday night Trump drove that point home masterfully.

It's the temperament, stupid...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Donald Trump's Confusion Over the Media's Role in the Election

The bedrock of a Democracy is free speech and an open, independent, free press. The media's fundamental role in a free society is to (a) report, analyze and investigate the news in a timely, factual and objective manner; (b) hold government leaders accountable to its citizens; (c) educate and inform relating to key issues and news; and (d) connect citizens with each other. In doing so, it is supposed to have unfettered access to those people and situations on which it reports.

But Donald Trump, his campaign officials and surrogates appear to have a different definition of the media's role not just in a Democracy like America, but within his very campaign. To Team Trump, the media is an extension of the campaign itself, much in the same way that publicists and surrogates function.

To understand Trump's relationship with the media is to start with his basic disdain for journalists. He sees them as the enemy. He neither understands their role in American society or appreciates the critical fact that without them we'd live in a fascist dictatorship (though the latter appears increasingly more attractive to him). With his incredibly thin-skin, Trump views challenges from the media as "vicious" criticism. An attack. A "ganging up" on him for which he responds, as a self-described "counter-puncher," with often ruthless, incendiary return-fire, public insults and/or, as in the case of the Washington Post, a ban from campaign events and rallies.

As a self-consumed, self-aggrandizing narcissist, Trump believes everyone else in the world exists to serve him. Even as he runs for president of the Unites States, Trump fails to understand and accept journalists' role, especially on the campaign trail. The press is viewed as an extension of his promotion, marketing and PR team. Rather than respect the media's watchdog role, Trump genuinely expects them to reinforce and help spread his message, and gets deeply shocked and offended when they don't. And when they don't they're mocked, ridiculed, called "disgusting" and accused of "rigging" the system.

When Trump makes ignorant, inflammatory, sexist, racist and ill-advised comments, he gets mad at the press for covering it as news. And when his unconscionable behavior impacts his campaign -- miring it in controversy and sagging polls, for example -- he then blames the media for his misfortunes. He's living the old Tina Fey parody of Sarah Palin: "I hope the lamestream media won't twist my words by repeatin' 'em verbatim!"

It's an incredibly dangerous state of being when a candidate for the highest office in the freest nation on the planet loathes and impedes its free press because of personal animus. This Constitutionally-bankrupt behavior on Trump's part should be an automatic disqualifier in the race. But bankruptcy seems to be a calling-card in this unprecedentedly bizarre election.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Donald Trump's Problem with "The Blacks"

Donald Trump has a major problem with African American voters. The latest national polls show him with just 1% support among blacks. That's virtually zero. Think about that for a second. A 2016 presidential nominee has zero support within a community that represents 14% of the total U.S. population, or about 46-million voters. Even the utterly elitist, tone-deaf Mitt Romney received 6% of the black vote in 2012.

To achieve this astounding near-zero standing, Trump's campaign appears to have masterfully executed a unique 3-point plan: (1) disengagement (absolutely no outreach to blacks); (2) indifference (no substantive policy proposals to help blacks on any socio-economic level); and (3) insults (a consistent pattern of making outrageously offensive, racist statements).

Trump's racist campaign began in 2011 when he led a racially-charged Birther movement designed to delegitimize Barack Obama's presidency (although many would argue that it started about 45 years ago when the U.S. Justice Department sued Trump twice for refusing to rent apartments to blacks). He's also reportedly claimed that blacks are "lazy." There are accusations that black workers were routinely removed from the floor of his Atlantic City casinos before his arrival. And he's been criticized for stoking the flames of bigotry in 1989 with his media campaign against the Central Park Five; black youths accused, convicted and ultimately exonerated in the brutal rape attack of a female jogger.

Since officially becoming a candidate for president in June 2015, Trump has ratcheted up his racist behavior to unthinkable levels. He refers to African-Americans as "the blacks." Asked "Where's my African American?" at a rally. Encouraged violence against a black protestor at another rally. Offered to pay legal expenses for a white supporter who sucker-punched a black protestor. Lied about knowing the KKK's David Duke and refused to disavow the racist organization or its former Grand Wizard. And frequently re-Tweeted white supremacy

The black community doesn't exist in Trump's elitist, billionaire purview. Blacks are not his equals and aren't worthy of his time. He's refused to attend the annual NAACP convention and turned down countless other invites to meet with black voters in their neighborhoods, at churches, at historically black colleges and universities or at scheduled town halls where he can address their comments, complaints and questions face-to-face. 

Trump's insensitivity towards the black community was on full display yet again during a rally Friday in Dimondale, Michigan, a predominantly white suburb of Lansing. Speaking before a typically all-white audience, Trump urged blacks to vote for him:

"You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed -- what the hell do you have to lose?"

Trump's latest comment is outrageously offensive for a couple of reasons. He provided no substantive basis for blacks to vote for him, offering no economic, education, health or environmental policy proposals. And more so, his remarks encapsulate his overall view of blacks as poor, unemployed, violent 'hood-living idiots who'd believe that their lives are so dreary that they can't possibly do any worse with him as president. It proved yet again that when it comes to understanding African-Americans, Trump is utterly tone-deaf and out of touch. 

Whenever Trump speaks of blacks it's limited to those afflicted by poverty and the judicial system. The struggling underclass (in Trumpspeak, that means 'lazy, shiftless, welfare criminals'). In his speech Friday he didn't speak to the systemic, institutional racism that affects blacks from all walks of life. He didn't acknowledge the challenges faced by black students applying to Ivy League universities. Or those faced by black lawyers trying to get hired by or make partner at the country's most prestigious law firms. He didn't offer any solutions for fighting discrimination against blacks seeking to buy homes in elite white neighborhoods. Nor did he lament that no African-American has been nominated for an Academy Award in two years.

To be sure, there's no 'America' to Trump. There's white America and black America. And black America is clearly something he knows nothing about, and appears to care about even less. Which is why he can lump an entire race of people into one sorry-ass stereotypical bucket and then claim they "have nothing to lose" by voting for him. It's precisely this ignorant, myopic view of African-Americans that's responsible for his staggering, unprecedented unpopularity among them. The truth is, he'd do better with blacks if he simply stopped talking about them.

Trump's overall "Make America Great Again" message appears to only be resonating with voters who long for the good old days when white men controlled America's wealth and power. His core support comes exclusively from angry old white blue-collar males. Trump can't win in November with just this narrow group of uneducated, disaffected, bigoted voters. And while the candidate himself knows it, he can't control his worst impulses, which keep pushing the Oval Office further and further away. Lately, Trump appears exhausted, frustrated and desperate, which is why this week he made his third leadership change in the past sixty days and only gives interviews to Fox News "surrogates" like Sean Hannity.

This week's major shake-up saw campaign manager Paul Manafort replaced by consultant and pollster Kellyann Conway (Manafort took the new title of campaign "chair," but resigned a day later). Machiavellian bully Stephen Bannon, head of hyper-conservative Breitbart News, was brought in as campaign "CEO." The Trump "pivot" was promised, and it appeared for a day that maybe it had finally arrived. But then Trump once again went off script in Michigan and did what he does best: insult people.

Conway certainly has her hands full. She's a woman co-captaining a sinking ship with a bunch of sexists (including Fox News' former Sexual-Harasser-in-Chief Roger Ailes) who likely respect her opinions as much as they do those of any other female. And with Trump she has the unenviable task of trying to reverse decades of colossal douchebaggery. I don't think at this point in the campaign homestretch that anyone believes anymore that "Let Trump Be Trump" is a winning strategy.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Here's Why You Can Stick a Fork in Trump. It's Over.

Donald Trump's unprecedented, bizarre candidacy appears to have finally driven off the proverbial cliff. And it's only August. Now before folks remind me that I've been wrong about him in the past--naively predicting his political demise countless times--let me assure you, this time it's different.

For starters, there's a major distinction between the realities of the Republican primaries, through which only about 16% of Americans vote, and the general election. Yes, I was wrong about Trump. Many times. Shame on me. I gave Republicans way too much credit than they deserved. Turns out they were way more ignorant and racist than I could ever imagine. But that was then. This is now.

Since last June, Trump's consistently defied conventional wisdom by re-writing the How-to-Win-a-Nomination playbook and getting much further than anyone (except maybe MSNBC's Joe Scarborough) ever imagined, especially the candidate himself. If there was a book titled "100 Things Never, Ever to Do or Say When Running for President," he'd be guilty of committing every single sin. And he gives no indication of ever changing, even when implored to by the Republican establishment, big donors, his advisors and after being subjected to a rumored 'intervention' by his family. The biggest proponent of "Let Trump Be Trump" is the man himself. His much anticipated, sorely needed 'pivot' has yet to arrive and likely never will.  

If Trump is to win the presidency, he needs to be expanding his base. He cannot and will not win with just angry blue-collar white men. His support among women, blacks, Hispanics and the college educated is almost non-existent. His latest gaffes over the Gold Star Khan family, his "2nd Amendment people" threat, and claiming President Obama is the "founder of Isis" appear to have crossed a very critical non-partisan line, offending not just liberals and Democrats, but military families, patriots and decent people of both parties. In short, at this late stage in the race, he's doing the exact opposite of what he should be doing.

Despite the enthusiastic cable-news spin coming from advisors and surrogates, the campaign is clearly in a state of chaos. Trump's been dropping precipitously in the polls (double-digits). He's trailing Hillary Clinton badly in many key battleground states (leads that will be hard to reverse). He's being abandoned by moderate, mainstream, influential Republicans (including 50 major national security experts). He's doing poorly with independent voters (who prefer substantive policy over whining about the media). His staff's in turmoil (they can't control their candidate, and he's blaming them for his misgivings). He lacks a meaningful ground game (impossible to win without one). And he can't stay on message (wasting time counter-punching every perceived slight).

But what's most telling is that Trump himself appears to be throwing in the towel, an ominous sign from a normally carnival-barking, poll-obsessed, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic "winner." He's all but conceded the key state of Pennsylvania, claiming it will be "rigged" for Clinton: "The only way we can lose, in my if cheating goes on." And he's acknowledged a big problem in the heavily Mormon, red state of Utah:  "I'm having a tremendous problem in Utah."

According to a scathing front page inside account of Trump's campaign in Sunday's NY Times, he's become "exhausted, frustrated and still bewildered by fine points of the political process and why his incendiary approach seems to be sputtering." 

And as reported in Politico on Monday, no presidential candidate since 1952 in Trump’s low polling position at this stage of the campaign has won the popular vote.

To be sure, Trump's demeanor is changing, demonstrating behavior of a loser-in-waiting, apparently setting himself up for a face-saving exit from the most outlandish, unconventional, mean-spirited, divisive presidential election in American history.

"At the end, it's either going to work or I'm going to have a very, very nice long vacation," Trump said last week. Adding, "You know, I go back to a very good way of life."

Friday, August 12, 2016

Trump Attacks Baby (Satire)

Donald Trump, facing harsh criticism over his recent attacks on the Gold Star Khan family and what many believe is a call for Hillary Clinton's assassination if she became president, is now again embroiled in controversy over yet another unconscionable act: attacking a baby.

After catching flack at a Virginia rally two weeks ago for suggesting a crying baby should be removed, Trump this week got into a heated shouting match with a 9-month infant at Orlando Airport while en route to a speech before evangelical leaders. As supporters and protestors gathered in the terminal, the baby began hysterically crying, interrupting Trump's impromptu press conference:

"Shut up, baby!" Trump yelled.

The baby continued crying.

"What's with you babies, lately!? You're acting like little babies. Nasty, spoiled, mean little babies! Who sent you, Crooked Hillary!?"

But the baby just kept looking at Trump and crying.

"Get him outta here!" Trump barked at security. "Get that ugly, stupid, baby outta here! We're not gonna let any babies hijack this press conference! You're a stupid baby! Wah, wah, wah...what is that? You, you can't even speak English. Where ya from, Mexico? I'm gonna build a wall around your crib, now get outta here! We don't want any stupid babies here, am I right!?"

As supporters chanted "Lock up the baby!," the child's mother shouted an expletive at Trump and abruptly left.

Speaking on Fox News' Sean Hannity show later that evening Trump defended his actions at the airport.

"The baby started it. He was being a very, very disruptive mean little baby. Many people said I was right to do what I did. Look, I'm a counter-puncher. You hit me, I hit you back 100 times harder...and I don't care if you're a 9-month old baby. The baby deserved it. And he owes me an apology."

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Will Trump's Gun Gaffe Be the Last Straw?

Donald Trump was right about one thing: his red-meat-eating base would still likely support him even if he shot someone in the middle of Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. But the not-so-thinly-veiled suggestion that someone else shoot Hillary Clinton just might be the final nail in the coffin in what has certainly been the most bizarre, incendiary, polarizing presidential campaign in American history. 

At a rally Tuesday, Trump warned his fans that Hillary Clinton will abolish the 2nd Amendment if she's elected president and stacks the Supreme Court with liberal judges. On its own, that sort of fear-mongering would be taken as just a typical Trump lie. But then he did the unthinkable: suggesting violence towards Clinton as a way to preserve and protect gun owners' rights.

"If she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."

So many words come to mind regarding Trump's latest diatribe: despicable, irresponsible, reprehensible, unconscionable, dangerous, unfit, un-American, treasonous, disqualifying.  Let's be clear here so that we know exactly what we're talking about: the Republican nominee for president of the United States has (wink-wink) advocated the assassination of a would-be sitting president. Which is why both the Secret Service and FBI are appear to be investigating.

To be sure, since he entered the race in June 2015, Teflon Don has defied the odds in surviving harsh criticism over sexist and racist comments; attacks on the Pope, war heroes, judges and the disabled; cursing; lies; business fraud; and inciting violence at rallies, to name a few offenses. But now he's entered new, uncharted waters, even for him.

Trump's super-amped-up, potentially campaign-killing rhetoric began after the Democratic convention, when he thought it wise to wage war with the Gold Star Khan family, whose son Humayun was killed in Iraq in 2004. That controversy has spilled into this week, accompanied by his 2nd Amendement comments and threat against Clinton.

The question now is the obvious one: will Trump's latest episode of narcissistic personality disorder, tone-deafness and unpatriotic, possibly criminal behavior finally do him in? Will his persistent heartless attacks on the Khans and his craven call for presidential assassination (even if said "jokingly") finally convince everyone but his most rabid supporters that he's not qualified to be Leader of the Free World and commander-in-chief of the greatest military on Earth?

Has Trump just convinced independents--the majority of whom he needs in order to win--that Hillary Clinton, while not the perfect candidate, is best suited for the job? Did he finally demonstrate that his temperament makes him dangerous and a threat to our national security? In the game of political survival, it would appear that Khizr Khan delivered a crushing blow to Trump, and the candidate's remarks this week about the "2nd Amendment people" is the fatal shot.

As the post-convention polls are indicating, Clinton appears to be pulling away as the race enters the homestretch. One thing's certain: the "Trump pivot" is not happening. He simply can't help himself. While he may try for a day or two to read from a teleprompter and not insult anyone as he attempts sounding "presidential" (it's astounding how low the bar is for him), the even-money's on him quickly lapsing back into vintage Trumpian. With almost three months left of campaigning, it's impossible to fathom how this pathological leopard can realistically change any of his self-destructive spots.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Khazr Khan: The Unassailable Voice of Reason

It was a horrible week for Donald Trump. He invited Russia to hack into the U.S. State Department, he disparaged a decorated 4-Star General, he was woefully unprepared to discuss Crimea and Ukraine, he lied about the NFL and the debate process, his wife Melania apparently lied about her college education, new nude photos of her surfaced, and he did the unthinkable: he attacked and has re-attacked the grieving parents of an American Muslim soldier killed in action.

By now you'd have to be living under a rock not to know Khazr Khan, father of Humayun Khan, a U.S. army captain who received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. Khan's emotional, impassioned speech at the Democratic Convention last week ignited a firestorm of harsh criticism of Trump after he disparaged Khan's wife, Ghazala, who stood silently by her husband's side as he issued a stern rebuke of the Republican candidate's comments and positions involving Muslims.

"If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me," Trump said in an interview with ABC's "This Week." (not for nothing, but how many speeches has Trump himself given where Melania stands beside him without speaking?)

Since the convention, Trump has double, triple and quadrupled-down on his attacks on the Khans as his loyal legion of surrogates have embarrassingly attempted to spin his comments into something less than despicable and un-American. Through it all, Trump's been Tweeting up a storm, ranting like the super-thin-skinned petulant narcissist he is:

"Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same - Nice!"

And ever since the convention, Khan has quite effectively used the media to wage a moral war with Trump, issuing scathing criticisms shrouded in a heartfelt call for decency, dignity and empathy. He's been citing the U.S. Constitution (also a crowning moment of his convention speech, where he pulled out his personal copy and offered it to Trump, suggesting he read it) and the principles for which it stands.

To be sure, Trump has met his match. Khazr Khan is an accomplished, worldly, intelligent, articulate, dignified man who exudes grace, compassion and a strong moral compass. In what is a sea of campaign madness he has become an unassailable voice of reason. He has absolute honor, integrity and righteousness on his side. And Ghazala has become a quiet symbol of purity and virtue, earning not just our compassion and respect, but our tears as a Gold Star mother. They are both a shining example of America's greatness.

The Khan controversy may just be the tipping point that decent people on both sides of the political spectrum have been waiting for. It's hard to imagine how Trump can spin his way out of this disaster. Rather, it appears this unfortunate episode will haunt him throughout the remainder of the campaign, even growing in significance because it's probable that when threatened, he'll continue to strike back even harder.

The conventional wisdom is that Trump's unconscionable attacks on the Khans, together with his disparaging remarks towards Gen. John Allen, Sen. John McCain and the military in general (a "disaster") will hurt him with military families. Let's remember that it's families like those of Trump's blue-collar white base that generously serve up their sons and daughters to protect America. It's their children, not those of the rich and privileged (like Trump, who received four deferments and an exemption, or his two sons, neither of whom have served their country) who comprise the military's ranks. I'm sure almost every one of them has a loved one currently serving, or have perhaps experienced the ultimate sacrifice of losing them to war.

The Khans, who have generously allowed their hero son's tragic death to be a vessel for American exceptionalism, may just be this campaign's true change-agents.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

An Open Letter to Veterans, Active Military and Law Enforcement: What Do You Believe?

I first want to thank you for your patriotism, heroism and your brave service to America. You do what few others won't, which is to put your own lives on the line to protect ours. You place yourselves at grave risk every single day abroad, nationally and locally. For that we are forever grateful and in your debt.

It's no great secret that many of you, if not a majority, are Republicans. And as Republicans, I must ask you, how can you support Donald Trump?  How can you support someone who has such utter disdain for the principles on which our nation was founded, and who has no respect for those courageous individuals like you who's job it is to uphold the law and defend our Constitution and homeland?

When Trump incessantly bellows that we must "make America great again," what he's actually saying is that she is not great now. Is that what you believe? Do you believe that America is not the greatest nation on the planet right now?

When Trump says that we are "losing the war against terror," is that what you believe? Do you believe that the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS and other vicious enemies are beating you? That you are losers?

When Trump says that America's military is a "disaster," is that what you believe? Do you believe that our armed forces are in a state of chaos?

When Trump says that crime in America is "out of control and rapidly getting worse," is that what you believe? Do you believe there's lawlessness in our cities and local communities?

Because if you believe all of this gloom and doom you're admitting colossal personal failure. You're letting Trump accuse you of not doing your jobs. With each and every one of these statements he's disrespecting you and everything you stand for and risk your lives for.

When Trump mocks decorated veterans like Sen. John McCain because he was "captured" and is therefore not a "real" war hero, is that what you believe? Do you believe that our soldiers who are captured, tortured and imprisoned for years are not heroes?

How do you feel when you hear Trump threaten not to support our NATO allies (who, for example, valiantly and loyally stood with us post-911), acting instead like some two-bit mobster holding out for protection money? Do you believe we should waiver in our support of our allies and hold an economic gun to their heads?

How do you feel when Trump talks of murdering the families of terrorists, and of torturing prisoners despite clear violations of the Geneva Conventions? Do you believe this is the sort of American exceptionalism you're fighting for? That these actions will make America great again?

How do you feel when Trump arrogantly boasts that he gets his military advice and foreign policy experience from watching tv shows and through hosting the Miss Universe pageant? Do you believe these are qualifications for Leader of the Free World?

How do you feel when you hear Trump compliment brutal dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein? How do you feel when he unconscionably invites Russia to hack into our State Department because he "hopes" they "find" the missing Clinton emails, a request so bizarre and not just ethically irresponsible and reprehensible but, more so, a grave threat to our national security. Treasonous, in fact, as many believe. How about when he back-peddled the next day and said he was joking and being "sarcastic:" do you think it's funny to suggest that one of our biggest enemies commit espionage against our government and its citizens for Trump's personal political gain?

Trump's claims of catastrophe can only be translated to one thing: If America's not great, if America is a disaster, if crime is out of control, if terrorists are winning, then our military, homeland security, FBI, CIA, police and prosecutors are doing a horrible job.  I don't think that's what you believe, do you? Then I ask again, how could you vote for someone who so disrespects the job you do and is calling you a failure? Think about it. It simply doesn't make any sense.

Trump is counting on your support to usher him into the Oval Office. But do you really believe his behavior is worthy of being president of the greatest nation on Earth and commander-in-chief of the world's greatest military?

When you go into that voting booth on November 8th please remember Trump's dark, dystopian, doomsday view of America, and his obvious opinion that your dreadful performance is responsible for it. Also remember that when Trump had a chance to serve side by side with you in Vietnam, he chose instead to hide behind the cashmere coattails of his wealthy daddy, who secured four deferments and an exemption for him through the kind of "personal rewards" afforded the "rich, powerful and well-connected." The kind of elitism which Trump blasted Democrats for on Wednesday.

You are dutifully suiting up and proudly and bravely serving. You're fighting and bleeding on the battlefields of war and on the streets of our cities and small towns. You are heroes and you are selfless. You deserve better than someone who deems America and you, it's protectors, a failure.

We all deserve better than Donald Trump.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dear Bernie-or-Bust'ers

Dear Bernie-or-Busters...

Judging from the first day of the Democratic convention, it seems that there is still a lot of anger, resentment, frustration and obvious disunity. The boos at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton's name were loud and forceful. And at this point in time, they were quite surprising and unsettling. Whether they are deserved or not is another question.

Look, we get it. You're pissed off. Your guy lost, you think the system was rigged (the DNC email scandal certainly stokes those flames) and you hate Clinton's choice of Tim Kaine for vp. But what we don't get is your continued inability to see the stark differences between Clinton and Donald Trump. The liberal/progressive vs. fascist contrast between them, and more so, how your overall interests are clearly best served by Hillary....while Trump stands for everything you don't.

Not even after last week's substance-bankrupt dystopian shit-show called the Republican convention have you been able to see the bigger picture. Not even after several rousing speeches by Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders at the opening night of the Democratic convention drew you a picture of these differences, and the gravity of the situation. Not after they all implored you to lay down the gloves and join the freedom vs. tyranny fight against Trump.

You're still pissed, and you seem hellbent on being pissed. Almost as if you're enjoying the rebellious, contrarian ride. Do you really want to throw this country's future away by handing the election over to an ignorant, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist dictator-in-training? Do you really want Trump as the role model for your children? Can you ever see his mug etched on Mt. Rushmore? Seriously, people, are we really having this conversation at this critical juncture?

Your inspirational leader, Sanders, is practically begging you to move past your emotions and your disappointment to help him ensure that Trump is never elected president. If he is able to move on past the acrimony and disappointment of his campaign against Hillary, and put his heart and soul behind her, why can't you? What makes you more knowledgeable about Bernie, more committed to his message, and his view of America than the revolutionary-in-chief himself?

With all due respect, you're beginning to sound like a bunch of petulant children who kick and scream whenever they don't get everything they want. You're the equivalent of the sandlot brat who whines "it's my ball" and quits the game because he doesn't like the way it's being played or because he's not winning. This is not behavior of revolutionaries. A revolution doesn't happen overnight, which is why Sanders is pleading with you to continue the fight with him well beyond the convention and the election. Real revolutionaries fight to the death and put the cause before themselves. You're not doing that. You're making this all about you.

If you fail to show up for Hillary in November, and Trump wins, then your revolution will prove to be nothing more than a faddish exercise in futility by privileged white millennials who shamefully cut off their noses to spite their faces...while destroying everything that Sanders worked to achieve for you. Because President Trump will toss it all in the trash. The gains made on minimum wage, income inequality, free college, Wall Street/big banks, criminal injustice, the death penalty, Citizen's United, climate change, super delegates and more will have been in vain. They'll end up like sad bullet casings on the failed battleground of your ill-fought, prematurely ended revolution.

The Rolling Stones wrote "You Can't Always get What You Want." And they also suggested, "But if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need." With Hillary, you may not get everything you want, but you'll definitely get most of what you need. With Trump you'll get a big fat sweaty middle-finger shoved in your face.

The comedian Sarah Silverman, who fought long and hard for Bernie this past year, astutely opined Monday night on the convention floor that your behavior is "ridiculous." Which, given everything that's at stake, it most definitely is. How about proving her wrong. I bet she'd love that...

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Speech Bernie Sanders Must Deliver Tonight

Dear Bernie...
We recognize and appreciate that there's a lot of baggage you're carrying around on the heels of your loss to Hillary Clinton. And we can also appreciate that the current DNC email scandal has likely poured salt on a very open wound. Which is why your support of Clinton, in an effort to help unify the Democratic Party, is extremely admirable. 

You will be delivering an incredibly important, historic speech tonight at the Democratic Convention. Judging from the boos you received at an address to delegates in Philly Monday morning, you'll have your work cut out for you. As such, you have one very critical task tonight: to deliver unequivocally a very clear message to your supporters, the essence of which is the following:

"Our voices have been heard, we have achieved so much to change a broken system, and we are so close to the finish line. But our revolution will end up a colossal waste of time, energy, money and opportunity if you do not support Hillary Clinton for president. All the major concessions we fought long and hard for...all the changes to the Democratic Party's platform...will have been for nothing. If Donald Trump is elected, everything we stood for for the past 15 months will be lost. Which is why you must, I repeat you must, put aside emotions and vote for Hillary.

If you truly believe in me and my message, then you must stand with me as I stand with Hillary. Because a Donald Trump presidency not only will result in a 100% undoing of the goals we achieved together in our campaign, it will set America back 200 years. The progress we've made will be gone, and the great progress still to come will never materialize.

A Trump presidency poses a tremendous danger to America, it's guiding principles and life as we know it. At home, civil liberties, workers' rights, criminal justice, income equality and the environment will be threatened beyond anything we've ever experienced. Our safety and security will also be at grave risk because Trump will destroy our critical alliances abroad. His incendiary rhetoric and race-baiting behavior will isolate us from the rest of the world and will further serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists.

We need to stand together, united, and ensure that Donald Trump never gets anywhere near the Oval Office...unless its at the invitation of President Hillary Clinton! It's time to harness our anger and frustration and direct it to Donald Trump. Its time to mend fences and heal for the greater good of our great nation. It's time to join together and not throw away everything we accomplished.

Do not view your vote as merely a vote for Hillary Clinton, but more so as a vote for what you and I fought so hard to achieve these past 15 months. If you quit on us now we lose everything we've gained. There's simply too much at stake on November 8th.

Don't quit! Keep fighting! Please continue our political revolution with me as I stand with Hillary to make sure that Donald Trump will never be president!

Please join me....Hillary! Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!....." (Here's where you need to get the crowd chanting...enthusiastically...passionately...)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

An Open Letter on Brexit to Trump's Angry Old Working-Class White Male Supporters

First off, I want to say for the record that I truly understand your frustration, your anger, your general discontent with income inequality, your fears of terrorism and your desire for secure borders, homeland security, and real change. The poor and middle classes should share in America's wealth and prosperity by having good jobs, rising wages, affordable health care, housing and education, and a chance to live out the American dream that our parents and grandparents--most of them immigrants--experienced. I get all of that. But what I don't get is your support for Donald Trump and your belief that he is the answer to your problems.

Also for the record, I am not the product of a wealthy real estate family...or any wealthy family. My father drove a New York City taxi for 35 years. The job took such a toll on him physically that he would often come home bent over in a 90° angle from sitting behind the wheel 15 hours a day. Nobody handed him anything. I shared a room with two brothers, and when I was old enough to work (14) my parents had me pay room and board. I paid my way through college, holding down two jobs while squeezing in my studies, racking up thousands in student loan debt that took me a decade to pay off.

Just to be clear, and regardless of my current political/socioeconomic status, what I've earned, and what I've saved, like you, is all I have. There is no inheritance waiting in the wings. As the years quickly pass, I've excitedly looked forward to the day when I can retire, sit on a park bench, read the paper, feed some pigeons, and live out my remaining days in peace, tranquility and relative financial comfort and security. Which is why I need to issue you a very serious warning. A grave warning for all of us.

Take a look at the fallout from Brexit, the United Kingdom's controversial and, to many, shocking exit from the European Union, thus ending a 40-year relationship with this giant economic and political bloc. The referendum, which ended in a 52-48 vote, was largely fueled by the same type of voter anger, frustration and disenchantment that you feel. But there's a tremendous cost to voting out of anger and emotion. Of sending "protest" votes. The consequences can be devastating and irreversible, as the Brits are now experiencing. The political system collapses, the currency craters, financial markets tank, and the economy risks falling into a protracted tailspin, wiping out trillions in savings and wealth in the blink of an eye.

The parallels between the intense economic concerns and nationalistic motives behind the Brexit vote, and the sentiment that's fueling Trump's incendiary campaign, are more than worth noting. To be sure, what happened across the Atlantic could very well happen here. Think about that for a second. Think about your retirement, your savings, the plans you hatched decades ago and how quickly it all could disappear if the American economy and political system is turned on its head and thrown into chaos with the election of Trump, a divisive, polarizing figure with zero political experience, and with rapidly dwindling faith and trust within the Republican Party, in the financial community and on Wall Street, and on the global stage.

In just the past two trading sessions alone the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped almost 900 points and 5%. And we may not be done with the carnage yet. Keep in mind these losses are merely the impact of what's taking place in England which, by the way, is not even among our top five trading partners. Think about what would happen to the U.S. markets if this was our political and economic system that was thrown into complete disorder and confusion. The Brits are already having serious buyers' remorse, evidenced by the over 4-million citizens who've signed a petition calling for a new referendum. The Leave movement's leaders are already backing off their promises regarding key issues such as health care and immigration, realizing that the lies which fueled their hate-filled campaign can't realistically result in policy or change. Don't make the same horrible mistake British voters now know they've made.

I know you're not terribly fond of Hillary Clinton. Ok, some of you despite and hate her and can't fathom her back in the White House, this time sitting in the Oval Office as president and commander-in-chief. But let me assure you this: a Clinton presidency will not cause an upheaval in our political and economic system. The dollar will not plunge to 30-year lows. The stock markets will not devolve into crisis, triggering massive selloffs domestically and from investors abroad. America's credit ratings will not be lowered. There will not be a run on banks by terrified small investors like you. You will not lose everything you've worked hard for your whole life because we have an "un-PC" self-serving racist maniac in charge. You may not like Hillary or her politics, but you will be able to sleep at night with Madam President at the helm.

But I will promise you this: "President Trump" will make you regret the day you ever pulled the lever for him. He'll renege on his wild promises, just as he's already backing off the Muslim ban. The anger you feel now will be nothing like the anger you'll feel when you see your retirement account cut in half, or worse. America won't feel so great again. You know the old adage, be careful what you wish for. Because as John Oliver so aptly put it, "there are no fucking do-overs."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What Broadway Can Teach Hollywood About Diversity

Hollywood has a problem. It's largely run by rich straight white men who, for the most part, champion the work of other straight white men. According to well publicized statistics, if you're a black, Hispanic, female or LBGT actor of director you've not been invited to the party. Getting jobs, good jobs, Oscar potential jobs, is nearly impossible.

In the last twenty years there have been twelve black Oscar winners. Only five have been in the acting category. There were two directors, one for documentary feature and one for documentary short subject. Four winners were in the music and writing categories, and there was one producer.  In the last ten years, just ten black actors received Oscar nominations, while two black directors were nominated (in the feature category). Shockingly, not one black actor has been nominated in the past two years, spawning the #oscarssowhite social media backlash and calls for a boycott of the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony.

The last woman to win an Oscar for Best Director was Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for THE HURT LOCKER. She is also the last woman to be nominated in that category. Prior to her, Sofia Coppola was nominated in 2003 for LOST IN TRANSLATION.

In the Best Picture category, in the last ten years, just five films with a mostly black cast and/or central theme have been nominated. Overall, the stats for Hispanics are pretty dismal as well.

(For a more in depth look at the statistics of "Hollywood's Diversity Problem" please check out the results of research performed by The Adrienne Shelly Foundation)

Contrast that with Broadway in just the last year alone and you get a starkly different picture, one that screams of diversity and inclusion. One of the four best plays was written and performed exclusively by black women. Two of the five Best Musical nominees were black productions, as was one of the four nominated best musical revivals. And all four musical acting awards went to to black actors. The overall nominees list was quite diverse as well; seven other individual nominees were actors of color, as were two directors in the Best Play and Musical categories.

Women fared well as well across many categories, most notably in a production like WAITRESS, with its ground-breaking all-female creative team (full disclosure: my late wife Adrienne Shelly, who was killed in 2006, wrote and directed the film on which this musical is based).

The obvious question is, how can the two communities be such polar opposites when it comes to diversity? The answer isn't clear. But what is clear is there's a desperate need for the power brokers in Hollywood to own up to the fact that there's a shameful dearth of black, Hispanic, female and LBGT talent in front of and behind the klieg lights. And that needs to change.

“Think of tonight as the Oscars, but with diversity," host James Corden said in his opening monologue. "It is so diverse that Donald Trump has threatened to build a wall around this theatre.”

When it comes to race and inclusion, it's not a good sign when your industry is compared with Donald Trump, even in jest.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Donald Trump is America's Gift to bin Laden

Somewhere, somehow, amidst his decadent cavorting with 72 virgins, Osama bin Laden must be smiling. Smiling like a man who's finally seeing his master plan come to fruition.

In the wake of the horrific mass killing at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, where 50 people died in the the deadliest shooting in United States history, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been spewing newly amped up nativist racist rhetoric against refugees, immigrants and Muslims in particular.

Trump early Monday disingenuously attempted to conflate the attack by 29-year-old American Omar Mateen with what he called the threat from Syrian refugees entering the country, going so far as to lie in his claim than Mateen was "born in Afghan." Hours later in a speech in Cleveland, Trump offered an even more outrageously offensive line of attack:

"The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here."

Mateen's parents are immigrants from Afghanistan. Mateen was born in New York.

Trump also reiterated his plan to temporarily ban Muslim immigration, specifically from countries where he believes the threat of terrorism was greatest.

"We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer," Trump said, promising to only lift the ban "when we as a nation are in a position to properly and perfectly screen these people coming into our country."

He continued, "Many of the principles of Radical Islam are incompatible with Western values and institutions... Radical Islam is anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-American" (many, by the way, would argue this could also be said about Trump himself).

When bin Laden masterminded the horrific September 11 attacks which killed 3000 people on U.S. soil, he of course sought to kill Americans and cause catastrophic destruction in the process. But there was a more likely goal: to forever change America. To turn American against American. American against immigrant. American against Muslim. bin Laden's aim was to prove to the Muslim world that America was in fact as ugly, ignorant, racist and anti-Islam as he preached to his jihadis. Give America time, he believed, and everything it stands for, everything it believes in, its core tenets, its morality, its free press and even its precious rule of law, will be turned on its big fat arrogant head by scapegoating, hatred and violence. The bullies and fascists will take over, and democracy as we know it would be corrupted forever.

And now, fifteen years later, comes Donald Trump, the rabble-rousing, wall-building anti-Muslim isolationist gift-wrapped in a bloated orange box. The birthday present bin Laden always wished for but never lived to receive. Trump is the perfect vessel to realize bin Laden's ultimate dream of destroying America. He's everything the brutal monster hoped for and wished upon "The Great Satan." If Trump were to become president, America loses, but more tragically, bin Laden finally wins as he always planned.