I’ll Have Three, Please
When you think of a curmudgeon what image comes to mind? Perhaps it is an old man with greying hair pointing and complaining about the state of the world. To the casual observer, Bernie Sanders might be the picture perfect definition of a curmudgeon. Do not be fooled. Senator Bernie Sanders emerged this past year on the political landscape, seemingly from nowhere. Bernie Sanders was first elected to Congress in 1990 and was elected to the US Senate in 2006. He has tirelessly worked for progressive causes since 1990 as the first “socialist” elected to the US Congress. While I don’t like that label, his politics really don’t fall within the Democratic Party with whom he caucuses in Congress. Sanders has been true to his political compass since the very beginning of his political career advocating issues like income equality, parental leave, access to healthcare, student loan debt, Wall Street greed and corruption and LGBTQ rights. Sander’s ideas may not yet be main stream but if nothing else, they are just a few years ahead of their time. Sander’s bid for the Democratic nomination for President fell just short so I don’t think it is a stretch to say that by the next election, many of those ideas will be in the main stream and will receive serious debate.
We live in a country with a binary political system. Democrat or Republican; that’s pretty much it. Yes, we have had third party candidates but none have really challenged for the Presidency. If you are paying close attention, that may be about to change. Bernie Sanders is an exceptionally bright guy and he knows that the only way to challenge our political system is from the bottom up, not from the top down and that is exactly where his efforts are headed. This year especially when the voters have the choice between bad and worse, the time is right for the emergence of a viable third party in this country.
If you have not year heard of “Our Revolution” chances are you soon will. Our Revolution is a 501(c)(4) organization started by Sen. Sanders and launched on August 24 of this year. Our Revolution is an organization set up to educate voters on political issues, encourage people to get involved in the political process and identify and recruit individuals to run for office at all levels of government from school board right up to US Senate. It sounds exactly like the way a new political party would begin in this country. Our Revolution will initially focus on supporting progressive ballot issues all over the country and begin to identify individuals to run for office on the progressive agenda. If the initiative is successful, by the next Presidential election cycle, a third party progressive candidate might just be a force to be reckoned with.
To see what Bernie is up to these days or better yet, to get involved, visit the website at www.ourrevolution.com
Do Campaign Ads Really Help?
The Trump campaign has finally decided to put some of their war chest to work with television ads in ten crucial swing states. The first ad out of the gate is a surprisingly upbeat ad with a positive economic message from the Trump brain trust. I hate to admit it but we may look back on the Trump campaign as the model of how to run for President in the modern age. Research suggests that spending big dollars on campaign ads before Labor Day is a waste of money. Experts in politics and communications point out that only the hardened political junkies are paying attention and the vast majority of them have already made up their minds. But then again, political ads aren’t for the cheerleaders or the party faithful. Ads tend to target the undecideds and those voters who aren’t invested either way. This election is like no other in history so perhaps the way the campaigns approach it should be similarly ground breaking.
In the early years of television, it can be argued that campaign ads played a much larger role. You might even say that television ads swung the 1960 election in favor of John Kennedy who was much more “telegenic” than Richard Nixon. With the advent of cable television and the proliferation of stations, not to mention the 24 hour cable news networks, television’s role in deciding elections has diminished. Now with the advent of the digital age and the internet, there are even more ways to reach voters.
It is difficult to go on to any website these days without seeing a Trump ad and to a lesser extent a Clinton ad. The Trump campaign has been very active on digital media and on social networks like facebook and twitter throughout the summer and now gearing up to the election they are beginning to target middle America through their idiot boxes. It’s a strategy that just might work. It certainly has been cost effective and let’s face it Donald Trump has always known how to get free media coverage. Two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton had a double digit lead in the polls. The only problem with that is the election is not held in mid-August. The polls are now starting to tighten and if Mr. Trump’s staff can wrangle him and he does not show his true colors at the debates, that with an effective TV commercial or two could make this a horse race.
Let me say at the outset, I am not an investigative journalist nor am I a tax attorney so many of the assumptions I make in this post are based on common sense and pure speculation. If there are any factual mistakes, please contact me and I will be happy to correct the record.
Famous and wealthy people have great advantages in this wonderful country of ours. One of the great advantages is the fact that famous people have the ability and the contacts to raise large amounts of money for charitable purposes. Ever since Andrew Carnegie decided to bequeath much of his wealth to his private foundation back in 1905, the wealthy, with conscience, have started charitable organizations to advance the public good. With the tax reform act of 1969, charitable foundations became a popular vehicle for wealthy individuals to get tax breaks and to help society as a whole. It also provides an important vessel for estate planning purposes.
In this day and age, the fact of the matter is former Presidents of the United States have become very recognizable and very famous. Most Presidents when they retire from office do start charitable foundations for several purposes. First and foremost, they use the foundations as a way to raise funds to build and support their Presidential libraries. In addition, they use the funds to further their policy goals and to support public organizations that do good works. Former Presidents Carter, and Reagan have such foundations and who can forget George HW Bush’s Thousand Points of Light Foundation. President Bill Clinton is no different than his predecessors. He started the Clinton Foundation in 2001 after leaving office. The problem with the Clinton Foundation is the fact that one of the Clinton’s was just beginning her career in public office. Should we deny a former President of the U.S. the ability to start a foundation to raise money for a Presidential library and carry on the works he feels passionately about just because his wife is still in public office? The situation is unprecedented I grant you and with the kind of money we are talking about the possibility of ethics violations is a real concern. There is no doubt that the works of the Foundation and Ms. Clinton’s work as the Secretary of State did overlap on occasion and the appearance of impropriety did exist, there has been no credible evidence to date suggesting there was any improper activities afoot. The Clinton Foundation has a robust presence on the internet and their site is packed with information about the good works they do and their total financial disclosures. Total transparency.
Donald Trump has recently been banging the drum about how corrupt the relationship between Ms. Clinton’s work at the state department and her role at the Foundation has been but has offered nothing in the way of proof that anything took place that wasn’t within the bounds of her involvement in either organization. Foreign donors? Yes, some foreign entities did give money to the Foundation and some of those donors possibly expected special treatment from the Secretary of State but no evidence has been offered that they were given any. After all, if you have a Foundation and are actively soliciting funds to promote the greater good, one shouldn’t be picky about who gives or question their motives for giving. The responsibility for moral action was on Hillary alone and it appears that she acted accordingly. Mr. Trump has gone so far as to call for the dissolution of the Foundation without any thought to the thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands or millions of people that might be adversely affected by such a move.
Then I got to thinking. Trump is awfully good at turning criticism of him around on his opponent and perhaps this attack was just a pre-emptive strike. I then wondered if Donald Trump even had a charitable foundation and what I discovered is in keeping with Trump and the Trump Organization.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation was established in 1988. It is currently being managed by the WeiserMazars accounting firm, the 24th largest firm in the US. Strangely enough, the man who heads the firm, a Victor Wahba, was sanctioned by the SEC in 2004 and only regained his ability to practice as a CPA in 2010. The Trump Foundation does not have any digital presence except for a landing page with no links claiming over $1.6 million was raised online for veterans.
That’s a fine claim but the Trump Foundation only reports $1.2 million in assets. A deeper investigation talks about a donation from the Trump Foundation to the Susan G. Komen charity for an celebrity auction in which Mr. Trump bought a Denver Broncos jersey and helmet autographed by Tim Tebow. Presumably he took a tax write off for a personal purchase that was made by his foundation. Seems awfully convoluted. Then another story talks about a campaign donation from the foundation to the attorney general of Florida who, at the time was considering charges against Trump University. Talk about trying to buy influence! That donation by the way which is expressly forbidden by IRS rules was explained away as a mistake, but we wonder.
Perhaps Mr. Trump wants the press to focus on the Clinton Foundation so they won’t look into his own foundation and reveal that once again Mr. Trump surrounds himself with questionable characters and plays fast and loose with the rules.
Finally I had the opportunity to look into some of the Foundations started by politicos and then looked into some of the foundations started by real estate and hotel moguls and the only conclusion I can draw is that either Donald Trump is not as famous and influential as he claims or he doesn’t really care about philanthropy. I suspect both are true.
By in large, I have great respect for the political press. Many, if not most, are hard working individuals who are very good at discerning the truth and calling b.s. when they hear it. Throughout this political process of 2016, the press has never been quite sure what to make of Donald Trump, the republican nominee for President. Part of that equation is the fact that Donald Trump is like no other candidate they have ever covered. The other part of that equation is the fact that Mr. Trump has no track record in politics or public service. None. Donald Trump is the only man to run for President since World War II who has no record of public service and has never held elected office. Some may argue that Eisenhower had never held elected office either but he had a record of public service to this country dating back some 40 years.
Why does this matter? It matters because as a private citizen your opinions are just that, your opinions. You never have to go on the record publicly and you can change your opinions without consequence. For politicians, their opinions, in the form of votes on public policy are a matter of public record and voters can then decide where a candidates moral compass is and predict what their stance on issues might be.
Within the past 24 hours, I have heard two Trump surrogates make statements that startled me. The first was by Kayleigh McEneny on CNN when the question came up about hiring Steve Bannon of Breitbart news as CEO of the Trump campaign. She said that Bannon was hired because he is in a position to help Trump win. She then went on to say that they (the Trump campaign) would reach out to anyone who could help them win. Extrapolate this and what she means is that the Trump campaign is prepared to hire anyone and say anything to win this election. Winning is everything. It’s not about serving the public, nor about instituting thoughtful public policy to help Americans, it’s about winning.
The second statement was from Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager in her interview with MSNBC’s Rachael Madow. Conway said she would rather lose the election based on style than on substance. I was so shocked I had to watch it again. Style rather than substance. Think about that for a beat. I wrote in this blog last week, “that a true leader does not fear defeat as long as their moral compass is in tact and that they are defeated on principal and not personality.” Politics is not a game show. It deals with issues that affects real people and their lives and their families. Our government works and has worked for two centuries because noble people feel the need to get involved and to put their own interests aside and serve the public good. The office of the Presidency has become such a high profile position and those who serve tend to do alright in private life after the fact. That is not their fault and that is not why they devote their lives to government service.
The problem here is twofold. Trump really has no idea whatsoever what the meaning of public service is and only sees the power and the prestige and, yes, the money that is attached to being the most powerful person in the world. The second problem is Donald Trump does not have a moral compass or a deeply held set of core beliefs. He tends to change positions depending on who is whispering in his ear at the time or what group he is speaking to. Without that record of public service, we cannot be sure how he will come down on any given issue. I suppose it will depend on which way the wind is blowing that day. This is why when Trump aligns himself, even tacitly, with fringes of the far far right wing of the republican party, the press goes ape shit and the electorate should be very wary of the influences acting on candidate Trump.
I Am Rubber, You Are Glue…
Three nights ago, Hillary Clinton appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel Show and spoke about her health, the email scandal and talked about preparing for the upcoming debates with Donald Trump. She said that in preparation, she was falling back on her elementary school experience. It got a laugh and I am sure the line was pre-planned for laughs. However, there may be a grain of truth to that statement. Here lately, Donald Trump and his campaign is sounding more and more like an elementary school bully
Hillary Clinton and her campaign has been somewhat careful to only respond to direct attacks from Trump and his surrogates. Rarely has she come right out and attacked Donald Trump when unprovoked. Much of the criticism of Trump has been through the main stream media. Donald Trump’s ego is such that every time the scrutiny gets too great, he turns it right around on his opponent and accuses her of exactly what he is being questioned about. Case in point: a few weeks ago, the din was increasing about Trump’s failure to release his tax returns and he then came out and called for a special prosecutor to investigate her financial dealings connected with The Clinton Foundation even though there has not been any evidence of impropriety. Then, when the press focused on Trump’s mental stability and fitness, he and his surrogates began attacking Hillary on her health, saying she does not have the mental or physical stamina to do the job as President. Then, after Paul Manafort left the campaign and Steve Bannon, the editor in chief of Breitbart news came on board, Trump was rightly tagged with association with the alt-right movement, a quasi right wing hate group believing in white supremacy, intolerance and extreme right wing populism. By the way, Breitbart news has stated publicly that they want to be the platform for the alt-right movement. Then last night, in a speech in Jackson Mississippi, in the prepared text, Trump comes right out and calls Hillary Clinton a bigot. Hillary Clinton may be a lot of things but bigotry has never been a charge leveled against her.
Trump has devolved into the grade school adage of “I am rubber, you are glue; whatever bounces off of me will stick to you”. It is time for Mr. Trump to get out of the sandbox and join the big boy world of national politics.
Rudy Giuliani: America’s Grandpa
Rudy Giuliani: America’s Grandpa. That’s what he reminds me of. The Grandpa you look kindly on becasuse he is fun to be around and has such great stories from the past. You know, the grandpa who still lives alone and seems to be self-sufficient. A real man’s man. Until you get a call at three o’clock in the morning and grandpa is in the front yard wearing only his boxer shorts and shooting off his 12 gauge. Then it’s time for grandpa to go to a home. I fear that is the point at which we are at with America’s Grandpa.
Giuliani has had a distinguished career in public service first as a US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the 1980’s to the Mayor of New York City in the 1990’s and a failed Presidential Candidate in 2008 and 2012. In the 2016 campaign, he was an early supporter of Donald Trump and has been one of his most vocal surrogates on the campaign trail. Who can forget his passionate speech at the Republican Convention in Cleveland where he spoke about fear and reminded us that Islamic terrorists are coming to kill us all. Lately, on the campaign trail, in support of Trump, Rudy has been talking about Hillary Clinton’s health and wondering aloud if she might not be too ill to carry out the duties of the Presidency. Of course his assumptions are based on “things he reads on the internet”. And the internet is never wrong. I think it’s time for Rudy, America’s Grandpa, to go to a home.
Last week, Rudy was stumping for candidate Trump in Ohio where he was about to make a speech on national security. In Rudy’s speech, he actually said, and I quote, “Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office”. Now I don’t know about you but I seem to remember a day back in the fall of 2001 when Islamic terrorists had a pretty successful attack on America. In fact, it was the worst terrorist attack in US history. On that fateful morning, 19 Islamic terrorists carried out four coordinated attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York, the Pentagon and one attack was thwarted by passengers on United Airlines flight 93. The tragedy of 9/11 which killed almost 3,000 people and injured over 6,000 and caused as much as $3 trillion in damages cannot and should not ever be forgotten. Especially by the man who was the Mayor of New York City at the time; that’s right Rudy Giuliani, America’s Grandpa.
I sincerely hope that Rudy is just getting old and senile and not speaking out of turn about things Americans know nothing about. Hmmmmm. I’m not sure which would be worse: Rudy losing his mind or finding out that all those conspiracy theorists who float these ridiculous stories about who was really behind the 9/11 attacks were right.
He Loves the Poorly Educated
Remember back in February at Donald Trump’s victory speech in Nevada? He said and I quote, “We won the evangelicals, we won with young, we won with old, we won with highly educated, we won with poorly educated, I love the poorly educated.” That slip of the tongue may have made the rounds and been the butt of some late night jokes but I heard something last week that brought it into focus
Michael Cohen, an attorney for the Trump Organization and a campaign surrogate on many of the cable news shows said something last week that I find interesting. And no, I am not referring to his uncomfortable exchange with Brianna Keilar on CNN when she said the Trump campaign was down and he shot back “Says who” and she replied, “the polls, all of them.” No this comment was made on Fox news when they were discussing the polls in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and he agreed that the campaign was down in those states and lamented the fact that those states have had an influx of educated voters with good jobs and the fact that the minority population of those states has grown. What are we to take away from those statements?
He seems to be saying that if you are educated and have a good job or if you are a minority, you are not supporting Donald Trump for President. It was an innocent oversight on his part but I have to wonder what the Trump campaign really thinks of the people who support them. From this comment, I tend to believe that the Trump campaign thinks that only poor, stupid white people are supporting them. That is troubling on so many levels, I can’t begin to comment. All in all, Michael Cohen has hypnotized himself into believing that Donald Trump will indeed be our next President and has a hard time acknowledging the truth of the current state of affairs. He had a bad week and if I were running the Trump campaign, I would sit Mr. Cohen down for a time. The perception that the campaign is talking down to its supporters and is unable to grasp reality speaks volumes as to what kind of leader Mr. Trump would be.
What Were They Thinking?
The power brokers inside the republican party must be about to jump out the windows of the tallest building in Washington about now. Never have the republicans had a better chance to win back the White House as this year as Hillary Clinton comes across as an insincere politician and the scandals that plague her would be enough to derail anyone. All through the primaries and into the general election campaign, Donald Trump has been complaining that the electoral system is rigged. I would point out to Mr. Trump that cannot be true for if it were, he would not be the nominee of the republican party. The best chance to defeat a democratic candidate and possibly pull off a trifecta with the White House and the Congress and they nominate Donald Trump. One of the few men in the republican party (and I use that characterization with generosity) with lower approval ratings and more negative appeal than Hillary Clinton. Compared to Trump, Ms. Clinton is starting to look like the second coming of FDR
One has to wonder about the republicans these days. In all honesty, of the 17 candidates who actually ran for President this year I believe 14 of them would be beating Hillary in the polls at this point. The only ones who, I think, would not be beating her are Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson. Let’s see now, who were the last three standing in the republican race? That’s right Trump, Cruz and Carson. If I didn’t know better, I would think there was a conspiracy afoot in the republican party to purposely lose this election. Or perhaps it speaks to the fact that the republican electorate is so far out of touch with the pulse of the nation, it took a candidate like Trump to expose its ugly nature. I do think republicans now are realizing their error as almost every republican running for office is trying to distance themselves from the Trump campaign to avoid the democratic trifecta that is staring them in the face. I for one will be very surprised if the democrats don’t win the White House and the Senate. The house might still be a toss up unless Trump continues to be Trump through the debates and on in to late October. If he keeps up his antics and his unfocused campaign strategy the GOP could be looking at a defeat from which they may never recover.
Do Politicians Never Sleep?
As with most news junkies, I get notifications on my smart phone of breaking news alerts. Shortly after 10 am this morning, I got an alert that Paul Manafort had tendered his resignation to the Trump campaign which was accepted. Although this move was not necessarily a surprise after his “demotion” on Wednesday, I found one thing very curious. If you are following the Trump campaign, you know that this past Wednesday Donald Trump appointed republican pollster and strategist Kellyanne Conway to the position of campaign manager and Stephen Bannon the former chief at Breitbart news service as the CEO of his campaign. The line at the time was that Paul Manafort was not being demoted or pushed aside, the campaign was just adding more talent at the top. Manafort would retain the title of campaign chairman.
As I sad before, Manafort’s resignation was not a total surprise but I have the suspicion that the “fix” was in long before it was reported. Why do I make that assumption? Look at the image below. This google search was done at 10:25 this morning. As you can see, Politico, Bloomberg News and the AP wire were just picking up the story which broke shortly before 10 this morning. If you continue looking down the list, Breitbart News reported the story at about 3 o’clock this morning. I wonder how they knew 7 hours before anyone else? Good reporting? I doubt it. As I said, the “fix” was in.
Money and Politics
Fifty years ago, California politician Jesse Unruh said that money was the mother’s milk of politics. Never has that been more true. It is estimated that in this day and age, a Presidential campaign costs upwards of $1 billion dollars. A staggering amount of money for sure. Politicians must appeal to the rank and file of their particular parties for smaller donations and they must rely on uber wealthy campaign donors to reach their financial goals. Recent court rulings have only opened the doors to more money in politics so why should it concern the voters? It is important in the society in which we live and especially in our political process to have a certain transparency as to how and where a candidate gets his or her money. Are wealthy donors expecting a quid pro quo situation? Are lobbyists and special interest groups trying to exert influence on the candidate? Are foreign governments trying to influence an American election? These are questions the American people should be asking
The recent allegations of Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort’s financial windfall from his time in the Ukraine are not particularly troubling to me. He was a private citizen at the time and worked as a political consultant and was apparently paid for his services. Nice work if you can get it but not illegal. What is of concern is the fact that he helped rehabilitate a pro-Russian politician and got him elected in a region trying desperately to hold on to democratic ideals. I think it does merit a small amount of concern that a man who is one of Donald Trump’s closest advisers has had such close ties to pro-Russian entities. That, however is an issue for the American people do decide.
What is more troubling to me is the fact that Donald Trump has not released his tax returns and at this point probably won’t before the election. Now a lot of people are saying that we won’t learn much from Trump’s tax returns anyway but apart from the tax rate he pays and the amount of his charitable contributions, other facts that could possibly come out in the tax returns might be the “bombshell” Mitt Romney referred to back in June. It might tell us, for example, who Trump owes money to, which banks and financial institutions might have influence over him and it might reveal that Donald Trump is not as wealthy as he has claimed. We know from the recent past that everything Mr. Trump says is subject to change and he has no loyalty, except to himself. He has said that his tax return is under audit and therefore he won’t release it but what about prior year returns? Surely they are not all under audit. I would have more respect for him if he just said no, he does not think it is any of our business to know his financial matters and leave it at that. But this constant will he or won’t he is getting old. Release the tax returns or tell the press to go to hell. Then let the American people decide if that is how we want our leaders to behave.