Who We Are
I think we would all agree that all of us are a product of our upbringing and our family circumstances. Many adults who reflect on their lives can always point to events in their childhoods that shaped their view of the world. Those events might be as simple as the death of a pet at a vulnerable age to the complex relationships they had with their parents and siblings. These events and relationships certainly do not define us in total but have lasting effects on our outlook and our being.
I don’t know how many of you saw the Frontline special this past Tuesday night on PBS but if you missed it, I would highly recommend you make a point to watch it before this year’s election. It is a compare and contrast look at both candidates for President. I believe it to be a fairly accurate portrayal of the candidates and tries not to take sides.
comfortable life for his family and like many post war fathers was not overtly demonstrative with his children. Fred Trump taught his children that there were only two kinds of people in this world, winners and losers and if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser. I believe young Donald took that lesson to heart.
As a young man, Trump became close with Cohen and learned a very important lesson from his storied attorney. Cohen taught Trump that you never admit to failure and no matter the outcome, always claim victory.
Why is all this important, you may ask. It is important because we saw those very attributes on display on Monday night during the Presidential debate. When Trump was questioned about the birther controversy as he has been several times, he stuck to the same story. Trump is clearly in the wrong on this issue but continues to claim victory by shaming President Obama into releasing his birth certificate and continuing to question its validity for the next five years. Never admit a mistake and always claim victory. In the days since the debates, the Trump campaign has insisted their candidate won the debate despite every scientific poll and objective account of the debate. Trump clearly did not fare well and obviously lost but never admit a mistake and always claim victory.
I don’t know about you but I suspect most rational people look back at their lives and are not afraid or ashamed to admit their mistakes and point out things they would do differently throughout the course of their lives and I am greatly concerned about someone who won’t. If Trump never admits defeat and always claims victory, The morning of November 9th ought to be interesting.
It has been said on a number of occasions that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Frankly, I am not so sure that that is true. The mainstream media I think reflects the mood and the values of the country as a whole. Reporters speak to people of all walks of life in all kinds of situations and I think they have a pretty good sense of the pulse of the country. If the media had such a liberal bias, they would not have been talking all week about what Trump did wrong at the debates and how best to fix it. I have been listening all week to the “liberal media” actually giving the Trump campaign very good advice about what went wrong and how to improve the performance at the next debate. I am sure that the advice will fall on deaf ears but it is good advice all the same. Why in the world, if the media is biased to the left, would they be trying to help the conservative candidate for President.
Perhaps it is all a trap. Challenge the Trump surrogates to admit that their campaign is on the right track so they will continue to disintegrate. Nice idea but playing that psychological game with such high stakes is a dangerous undertaking. I think it is more a question of self interest. If the race suddenly became lopsided, the press would have very little to cover so it is in their own best self interest to keep both candidates competitive. I do think it is that simple and there is very little bias that goes into it. The Trump campaign would do well to get out of their echo chambers and listen to a little of what the “liberal media” is trying to tell them.
Let The Spin Begin
Or as I like to say, the death of objectivity. I, along with about 100 million others watched the first Presidential debate last night. I also watched with great interest the post-debate punditry. Let’s get real. If you are a Trump supporter, nothing that happened is likely to change your mind. The same is true for Clinton supporters. However, there is such a thing as objectivity and no reasonable person who truly watched that debate with an open mind can think that Donald Trump got the best of Secretary Clinton. It’s OK to say that your candidate did not do very well but that you still believe in him and his candidacy. One of the lasting effects of the Trump campaign will be that people now refuse to admit the truth or say anything that might be construed as weakness. It is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Donald Trump seems to have an inability to admit that he was wrong about anything. When confronted about any of these statements, his knee jerk reaction is to deny they ever occurred. Does he not realize that we now live in a digital world and that past statements and comments can be retrieved with a simple google search? Ms. Clinton called him out on several past statements and instead of trying to explain his thinking, he just flat out denied them. I am troubled by a man who cannot or will not take ownership of what he has said in the past. History is a linear phenomenon not a slice in time as Mr. Trump would have us believe. Things said in the past must either be defended or explained, not dismissed. This is the problem with a candidate with no set of values or moral compass. Facts are facts and no one can argue the fact that he discounted past statements and obfuscated others.
his business. He never recovered. My take away from the debates are this: it is perfectly justified and in many cases commendable to admit that you are wrong and either embrace your mistake or defend your position. A man who never makes a mistake never learns anything.
A Brazen Political Move
In anticipation of tonight’s big debate, I was going to stay quiet today. But I thought about this all weekend and to me it represents, in a microcosm, what is wrong with politics these days. And more specifically what is wrong with Republicans: opportunistic, unprincipled cowards. All through the primary season, Donald Trump lambasted his top opponent, Ted Cruz, the junior Texas Senator and darling of the extreme right wing of the party.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, on Friday, Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump for President. Well, well, well. Senator Cruz said that after the Convention he did not think Trump had a chance to win so he did not endorse. Now that it appears that Trump may have an outside shot at getting elected, he jumped on the bandwagon. Talk about your opportunistic, spineless moves, this ranks as one of the best. It is why the American electorate does not trust politicians. No convictions, no principles, just blatant political expediency. Perhaps it was Reince Priebus’ threats of being black balled in the next election cycle or the fact that Cruz’s own political future may be in jeopardy or the possibility of him being a pariah in a Trump administration (dream on). What ever the reason, Cruz now looks like a typical political hack and if I ever hear him or anyone refer to him as a “principled conservative” again, I think I will vomit. There is nothing principled concerning his “about face” on Trump and as far as I am concerned he is damaged goods from here on out. So Ted, take your bow and exit stage right.
I think I have decided that I will play a drinking game tonight during the debate. Every time Donald Trump says something about “making good deals”, I will take a shot. I suspect that will be his mantra this evening. He will have to be on his best behavior and won’t be able to call out “crooked Hillary” and we know he can’t speak intelligently about policy for long so he will have to fall back on something and I suspect it will be his illusion that he is some great business genius who can make great deals for the country. I will probably get hammered tonight. Cheers.
On What Basis?
Those who have read this blog know my opinion of Donald Trump. What you may not know, however, is that early on, I thought Mr. Trump might not be able to hurt us too much if he did become President. After all, outwardly he appears to be a successful business man who, by his own admission has built a great company. Successful business people tend to put highly qualified, competent people in key positions and I guess I thought the same would be true if he were elected. Now, however I am not so sure.
I have watched carefully who Mr. Trump surrounds himself with and for the most part, I am underwhelmed. Steve Bannon, Roger Ailes and Chris Christie are a veritable rogues gallery of individuals I want nowhere near the seat of power in this country. Furthermore, many of the issues that have come up in the course of the campaign such as the donation to the Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and the donation to certain groups from the Trump Foundation, for charity but for the purpose of settling lawsuits have been explained as “book keeping” errors or mistaken checks written out of the wrong accounts, etc. Now these discrepancies make me wonder. Is Trump a liar or does he hire incompetent people. Which ever is the answer to that question does not bode well for his chances to prevail in this election. I don’t care how much money you are worth, if someone I hired wrote a $100,000 check out of the wrong bank account, or sent a $25,000 check to the wrong organization, that would reflect badly on me. So I ask you good readers, on what basis exactly should I oppose Trump’s candidacy?
Transparency is a word that has been bandied about quite a bit in the past few weeks. Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1916 -1939 said that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” What Justice Brandeis, who, a hundred years ago, championed the right to privacy, the rights of free speech and fought against monopolies, big banks, public corruption and mass consumerism (sound familiar?) meant was that in order for a free society to function efficiently their leaders, in particular, had to be open and honest with the public when it comes to divisive issues. The American people as a whole are fairly intelligent when it comes to drawing the proper conclusions when confronted with evidence. The problem becomes exacerbated when government obfuscates and tries to cover up the very evidence to which the public wants access.
We see the issue playing out in real time this week in Charlotte, NC. After the shooting of Keith Scott on Tuesday the police department confirmed that they do indeed have video evidence from one of the officers’ dash cams and video from at least one of the officers’ body cams that depict the events leading up to and including the shooting of Mr. Scott. So far, the police department has refused to release that video footage to the public. Mr. Scott’s family has now been afforded the opportunity to see the video with their attorneys and the reports from the family’s attorneys seem to indicate that at no time was Mr. Scott threatening or aggressive and as a matter of fact, seemed to be backing up when he was shot. It sounds as though there is no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Scott was pointing a gun at anybody at any time.
unrest in Charlotte. By contrast, there was another shooting of an unarmed black man on Friday of last week in Tulsa, OK. Tulsa police immediately released video from dash cams, body cams and video from a helicopter hovering overhead. It appears that the shooting in Tulsa was unjustified and charges of manslaughter have been filed against the officer involved. To my knowledge the protests in Tulsa have been relatively small and generally peaceful.
I do hate to bring these topics into the political realm but I do believe the central issue can be instructive. How can we expect our local civic leaders to abide by the rules of transparency when we have a candidate for President who refuses to be transparent about his tax returns, his charitable giving and his business practices. Donald Trump needs to learn that just saying “believe me” is not leadership. True leaders lead by example so it is not surprising that we are seeing state and local officials balking at transparency. Politicians all over the country are watching Presidential politics very closely and the lack of transparency at the top tends to filter down through state and local governments everywhere.
I am a white guy born and raised in South Carolina. Based on that fact alone, you might think that my racial prejudices run deep. You would be wrong. My father was the head of the Civil Rights Division of the FBI from 1948-1951 and my mother was a crusading journalist exposing Klan members for the bigoted bullies they were in south Georgia in the late 1940’s. These are the values with which I was raised in the 1960’s. As far as I am concerned, there is only one race; the human race.
I will be the first to say that there are a lot of things in this world that I don’t understand. For example, I don’t understand why the situation in many parts of this country have escalated between police and black males in our society. Is it a systemic racist thread running through police departments? Or is it truly that police feel threatened by men of color in the US. My suspicion is that these incidents have been ongoing for many years but now with the advancement of technology, communities are more acutely aware of these events. I wish I could say that the shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte on Tuesday will be the last of these incidents but you know as well as I do that they will continue to occur.
I don’t understand why police feel the need to use deadly force when it does not seem to be justified. It is interesting to note that if you are a white suspect, the police tend to try and subdue a criminal and take him alive but if you are black, deadly force seems to be the immediate reaction. I know this is an anecdotal observation but how many seemingly innocent black men have to be shot dead before real change is implemented. I also don’t understand why anyone of any color would not comply with instructions from a police officer. If a cop is telling you to stop or put your hands on your vehicle or get on the ground, you do it. I might think that would reduce the incidences of deadly violence but that did not seem to be the case last week in Tulsa when Terence Crutcher was shot by police while he had his hands up and was clearly unarmed.
Granted, there are some unknowns in both these cases and I understand the tension on both sides of the issue. The unknowns are exactly why these police departments must strive for total transparency and complete disclosure before protests are allowed to escalate. Until police departments around the country can come to grips with the racial undertones surrounding these needless police shootings I fear these communities will continue to grieve and must be allowed to vent their anger without putting more people at risk.
Tied in Knots
My favorite pastime here lately is to watch the Trump surrogates on the cable news channels wrap themselves up into knots trying to speak for the Trump campaign. At the outset, the moderators of these shows were deferential even polite to the surrogate corps but here lately, the press is catching on. It is a surrogates job to paint your candidate in the best possible light but in Trump’s case, there are so many unanswered questions, the only thing a Trump surrogate is able to do is immediately start to attack Ms. Clinton and her long history in public service. Many, but not all of the moderators are beginning to hold these surrogates accountable and demanding they answer the questions posed to them. Case in point:
I suspect that Trump surrogates are not always getting timely information from the campaign and are left to ad-lib and riff much like their candidate is prone to do. Their talking points are, 1) attack Hillary Clinton and her tenure at the State Department 2) attack Hillary Clinton on the basis of her e-mail scandal 3) attack Hillary Clinton on the basis of alleged, unproved and unsubstantiated corruption at the Clinton Foundation and 4) attack Clinton and the Obama administration on their policies regarding ISIS. Watch carefully when a Trump surrogate is asked a question about anything, they repeat the question in some form then launch directly into one of the aforementioned attacks. Then when they are pressed on specifics, they tie themselves into knots trying to give a coherent answer without sounding completely uninformed. I suspect that in many cases, they know the answers but cannot dare to speak the truth.
In most cases, when an issue comes to a boil, within twenty-four hours campaign manager Kellyanne Conway addresses the issue. Her game plan is clear. First, deflect and attack then when boxed into a corner as she always is, then simply say you’ll have to ask the candidate which she knows is not a possibility since press access to Trump is very limited. If you don’t believe me, click the photo above for confirmation. I, for one will be looking forward to the end of this campaign so these seemingly intelligent, misguided people will get off of my TV screen.
Wrong Is Never Right
When I was a kid, and I wanted to have permission to do something, I would say that everybody else is doing it. My mother, God bless her, would say, “If everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do that too?” I think everyone growing up has heard that trope. The point is, wrong is wrong even if everybody else is doing it. The one person I would not like to trade places with these days is Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican Party. Since the fall of 2015 Mr. Priebus has had to sit by and watch his party torn asunder in the name of winning. He has watched the soul of his party ripped to shreds. When Donald Trump finally captured the Republican nomination after a grueling seven month debate schedule and an even more divisive primary season, Priebus did not immediately endorse or support the Trump campaign. At the beginning of the process, Priebus was concerned that if the GOP did not play fairly with Trump, he would take his supporters and make a third party bid but once it appeared that Trump was going to indeed capture the nomination, Priebus and the GOP were stuck with Trump.
Many of the Republican establishment figures balked at this notion and quite a large number of Republicans are still withholding their support for their nominee. The Trump campaign says it has over 90% of Republicans supporting them now but I do not see how that is possible. If that were true, Reince Priebus would not have appeared on the Sunday talk shows threatening establishment candidates with sanctions if they did not get behind the Trump ticket. Much of the support he does enjoy is either grudging at best or is support for the party and not the man. Many Republicans seem fine to abandon their principals and their soul for the sake of winning. To my mind that is opportunistic in the worst way and a complete abdication of the principals the Republican party holds so dear. Today, there are rumors that even former President George HW Bush (41) is voting for Hillary Clinton. Rumors which he has neither confirmed or denied.
Mr. Priebus would do well to remember that more Republicans voted against Donald Trump in the primaries than voted for him. And just because a certain faction of the neo-Republican party thinks it is OK to be racist and bigoted and hate foreigners and want to cut America off from it’s allies and neighbors doesn’t make it right. It will never be right, but go ahead, jump off the cliff.
The Enthusiasm Gap
Since the polls tightened last week, I heard a lot of speculation about “the enthusiasm gap” and I just…(sigh). I understand that people want to feel connected to the political process and they need to feel engaged by a candidate but what about your right and duty as an American citizen to vote in free and fair elections? There is much buzz about Hillary Clinton’s inability to rally the Obama coalition to her camp and that is why we are seeing the Obamas and Joe Biden out on the campaign trail in support of Sec. Clinton.
My message to anyone who supported Obama for President In 2008 and 2012, and is now having a difficult time supporting Ms. Clinton, is “get over yourself”. Hillary Clinton is a policy wonk. She will be fantastic at developing and implementing policies that will create real meaning in the lives of Americans. But, she is not a good politician. When it comes right down to it, I think she dislikes campaigning and in a way, I find that refreshing. There is no pretense and very little pandering to the electorate. She would much rather have a meaningful discussion about issues than slinging mud and insulting the other candidate. I am reminded of a line from the TV show “The West Wing” when President Bartlett is running for re-election and press secretary CJ Cregg is complaining about going on a campaign trip and Toby Ziegler makes the point that CJ doesn’t like campaigning because it takes time away from helping.
The last point I will make on this issue is this, if the Republican candidate for President does not make you enthusiastic to get to the polls to vote for someone else, I just don’t know what to think. I guess you get what you deserve.