How the Hell is this Normal?
As I watch hundreds of heads talking as if we are living through some normal Presidential administration, I keep yelling at them: “How the hell is this normal?”
Is this, at last, a “pivot”? Doesn’t the Afghanistan speech show that Generals Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly are indeed “adults in the room”? Hasn’t Chief-of-Staff Kelly finally restored some order and discipline to the West Wing? Why does the press keep quoting the lies of press secretary Sarah Hucksterabee Sanders? Why do they even keep going to the daily briefings—when no questions are ever answered? Why do they ask “normal” questions of the President when he doesn’t know any details of the legislation he’s advocating—or just blatantly lies, notwithstanding all the “normal” fact-checking? Wow, he’s finally “acting Presidential” because he’s reading off the teleprompter! He’s working with “Chuck and Nancy”! He’s become the Consoler-in-Chief with a photo-op after Hurricane Irma! He even goes to the United Nations! And what a funny bromance with Vladimir Putin?
This ordinary treatment of a deranged President is dangerous! He threatens “complete destruction” of North Korea. This was not merely, as a European foreign minister said, “the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience.” He is actually threatening to unleash nuclear war on our planet!
His original abolition of the DACA program was not merely a change in immigration policy. He has brought existential fear to millions of young people in America—and threatens to use a national police force to deport all the disgusting scum in our midst. California Governor, Jerry Brown, in supporting state “sanctuary” legislation, brought some needed language to the nation: “We’re not soldiers of Donald Trump or the federal immigration service.”
He insults people of color, women, disabled persons, immigrants, judges, reporters—and it’s just “locker room” chatter. Hey guys, he’s attacking all the fundamental values and institutions of our nation. Let’s say it!
He is never going to “pivot”, or “act Presidential”, or demonstrate empathy, or understand complex domestic and foreign policy, or tell the truth, or put national interest ahead of the Trump brand. He’s on a fast track to destroying the nation we love. Talking heads: Let’s develop the language and tactics to make this clear to all Americans.
How do we deal with the threat to DACA, brought about by Donald Trump?
Let’s look back at the sit-ins, Freedom Rides, and voting rights efforts in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Faced with the immorality of segregation, thousands of people put their bodies out front and, in many cases, their lives on the line and undertook DIRECT action. Breaking immoral laws (but, as Dr. King insisted, taking the consequences and going to jail), they forced all of America to look at the distance between a Jim Crow legal structure and historical American values. And we triumphed!
With that history in mind, I think we should confront the DACA situation with two steps:
- Bring every possible public and private institution into a “sanctuary” status. Every individual church, school, University, NGO headquarters, big-box store, community center, hospital should declare themselves open to PHYSICALLY protect our Dreamers. It follow that every single one of us has a local focus to organize our own organization, church, University, place of work, city government, condo building to designate a PHYSICAL space to house 1, 10, or 50 (a college dormitory) Dreamers as deportation threatens.
- And then comes the hard part: Again, with a local focus, organize our own organization members, church parishioners, campus, co-workers, government officials, and neighbors to be prepared to PHYSICALLY surround the sanctuary to “prevent” arrests of Dreamers and, if necessary, be willing to be arrested themselves. As with the sit-ins and Freedom Riders, imagine the media and political impact of ICE agents arresting all those PHYSICALLY protecting our Dreamers! The movement would spread and go viral/spiral!
Millions of hard-working and (now) American neighbors are incredibly fearful of the threatened deportations. Junior high and high school students don’t walk out of school to join (or lead) protest marches without having been brought to a crisis point. They need our help—and need it NOW!
All progressive Americans and organizations must join together to protect our Dreamers. Even, and especially, those of us that who are not specifically threatened with any deportation. And when we are successful, imagine the impact of such a coalition on other ongoing struggles (single payer health care, Black Lives Matter, climate change, education equality, LGBT rights, campaign finance reform, good paying jobs for all, and on and on and on! The DACA crisis is today’s fight—and joining together to protect our American Dreamers will make us all stronger tomorrow.
It wasn’t enough to call Mexicans “criminals” and “rapists”. It wasn’t enough to go after the grieving parents of a U.S. Muslim soldier killed in action. It wasn’t enough to question the impartiality of a Federal judge because he was a “Mexican”. It wasn’t enough to go after the transgender community. It wasn’t enough to try to mandate a Muslim ban. It wasn’t even enough to give comfort to Nazis and Klan members. No, our President had to go further.
In pardoning “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio, he created fear in every Latino family in America. Here was a man, under the color of law, who terrorized the Latino community in his county. Arrests without cause, police brutality, unexplained deaths, instilling fear—these were the reasons he was convicted for contempt by a Federal court. “He was just doing his job,” explained the President. And thus giving cover to every law enforcement agent in this country to violate any citizen’s civil liberties with impunity. Driving while black? OK to stop. Walking while brown? OK to turn over to immigration officials. Reaching for his driver’s license? OK to shoot. Selling cigarettes on the corner? OK to kill.
The President has turned in his dog whistle for a blaring stereo sound system. No respect for law or the basic concepts of humanity and compassion. Racism is the explicit policy of this Administration.
And what does this pardon say to Donnie, Jr., Jared, Paul, Michael, and all the rest: It’s gonna be OK to lie to the FBI, to Congress, to a Grand Jury. Daddy will take care of you.
Hey, Daddy: Pardon ME.
WHERE ARE THE DEMOCRATS?
#3 in a Series: Program? What Program?
Notwithstanding the moral cowardice of elected Republican officials (see previous Blog), Democrats cannot advance by just hoping that the Republicans will self-destruct. We need a program, a vision, a guide to our future action if we ever regain the Congressional majority. For starters, let’s address the following issues:
- Foreign affairs. The President is threatening nuclear war over North Korea. Do we have an alternative diplomatic plan? What do we think about Syria, Afghanistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
- Medical care for all. Should we lay out a specific single-payer plan? How about a transition to Medicare for All, starting with lowering the age of eligibility to 55?
- REAL tax reform. We cannot let them label their plan as “reform”: it’s simply and starkly a colossal tax cut for the wealthiest 1% (not to mention a personal windfall for our greedy President). Let’s get rid of the billions in tax loopholes. Let’s have wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share. Let’s give the middle class a REAL tax cut. And let’s be bold—and adopt the Tobin Tax. This would put a miniscule tax on all the casino gambling in the financial markets (such as currency and commodity bets)—which amounts to trillions of dollars PER DAY! We could become the Party of NO TAXES for the middle class!
- Community Policing. The answer to crime is to have REAL relationships between police officers and communities. Walking and bicycle patrols. Text numbers and e-mail addresses for the community to contact THEIR neighborhood cops. The police really getting to know the local businesses and local schools. I did much of this when I was a City Councilman in San Diego—and I was probably the only urban councilman in America who could walk into a meeting of black and brown community members with the Police Chief and his neighborhood patrols and get a standing ovation!
- Climate change. Let’s put together a national speakers bureau and go into denial communities and speak their language. Let’s aggressively confront this potentially planet-ending disaster.
- Cabinet Departments that are being hollowed out. We all know that the Secretaries of Housing, Energy, and Education and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency are Republican ideologues who want to destroy the missions of their respective agencies. We must demonstrate their true relevancy to the people of America.
- — (10) Fill in the blanks. And let’s get started! The 2018 elections are just around the corner.
Where is the Red Line for Republicans?
Where is their moral sense? Where is their love of country? Where is their thought of legacy—how will History judge them? Where is their Red Line for criticizing (or impeaching or invoking the 25th Amendment) President Donald J. Trump?
The trashing of immigrants as murderers and rapists?
The Hollywood Access tape, where he admits sexual assault of women?
The criticism of John McCain as a soldier who was captured?
The complete disregard of the rule of law?
The lack of any empathy or sadness for the Gold Star parents who lost their child in Afghanistan?
The ban on Muslims from entering this nation?
The complete denial of climate change and withdrawal from the Paris climate accord?
The trashing of the Voting Rights Act?
The threatening of nuclear war over Korea?
The overt defense and enabling of Nazis and white supremacists?
REPUBLICANS, WHERE IS YOUR RED LINE?
Irony, Irony, Irony
Leave it to Donald Trump to create situations of profound irony—for both parties. He’s led the Republican Party to abandon free trade, support Vladimir Putin, and allow a President to abandon the principles of Party founder, Abraham Lincoln.
And what about the Democrats? The protection of the Republic requires us to also abandon long-held positions and values.
First, we are forced to rely on military generals to be the “adults in the room” to contain an erratic, delusional “Commander-in-Chief”. The country is hanging on the rationality of Kelly, McMaster, and Mad Dog. In our supposedly civilian government, it’s the military that has to clean up the messes: NATO, Korea, Mexico, and God knows where else. And it was the Joint Chiefs of Staff that publicly acted to ignore the tweeted ban on transgender soldiers—and forcefully defended the anti-Nazi and anti-white supremacist needs of today’s military.
Second, we were forced to rely on the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to defend the rule of law challenged by the White House. Poor J. Edgar Hoover! An agency originally trained to stifle political dissent and support racist officials throughout the country is NOW our best hope for a fair investigation that could topple a lawless President.
Third, we have to demonize the leader of Russia, in language reminiscent of the worst Cold Warriors of our past. Liberals, who for decades argued for a more rational relationship with Russia, now have to use the evil of Putin to contain the evil of Trump. For whatever reason (money? blackmail?), besides white supremacists, the only individual exempt from an enraged tweet-storm is Putin. Surely there is fire behind all the Trump, Jr., Manafort, and Flynn Russian smoke. And Mueller (another former Director of the FBI!) knows how to “follow the money”.
Let’s hope we never have to seriously confront the implications of irony, irony, irony.
A Goodbye Smooch to the Mooch
A few days ago, I had started this blog with the title “Who did the Mooch Smooch”, referring to Anthony Scaramucci’s farewell kiss as he left his introductory press conference (only ten days ago?). I think it was aimed at his lover, President Trump, rather to the press corps or the American people. And why did Trump deserve such adoration? His incredibly insulting speech to the Boy Scouts? His edict on kicking out transgender service members from the military? His threats to Congress? To the Senator from Alaska? To the Senator from Nevada? His humiliation of his Attorney General? Of the Special Counsel? His firing of his press secretary and chief-of-staff? His encouraging of increased police brutality? Or his criminal intention to let Obamacare “implode”?
Personally, I was much more offended by a little-noticed statement in that same press conference than Mooch’s vulgar interview with The New Yorker. In his cynical expression of good wishes to the resigned Sean Spicer, what was his fondest hope? That he would “make alot of money”. Not that he could use his experience to help the American people better understand the political system—but that he could do the only thing that matters to Trumpeteers, cash in. What a crew!
So the Mooch barely outlasted his nemeses (I had to look up the plural of nemesis!) Spicer and Priebus. Live by the sword, die by the sword, Anthony. You accomplished your suicide mission.
And, once again, the pundits are predicting: The White House chaos will NOW be reined in by the military disciplined Marine Corps general, John Kelly. No one else could: Lewandowski, Manafort, Bannon, Priebus, Jared, Ivanka, Melania. But NOW, the domestic agenda would be orderly, the foreign policy would be rational, normality would return.
There were NO meetings—ever–honest—cross my heart—with the Russians. Oh yeah, there was that one meeting with some lawyer about adoptions. Oh—and I invited Jared and Manafort. I almost forgot—it was a Russian government attorney who promised dirt on Hillary dug up by a government effort to help elect Donald Trump. But Jared left early, it only lasted 20 minutes, it was a “nothing burger”. That’s everything, EVERYTHING—honest. Holy mackerel, I just realized that another Russian was there, someone who had vague connections with Russian intelligence. But he didn’t say anything. Wow, I must have early Alzheimer’s—there was this other Russian guy, some representative of the guys we worked with in Moscow on a Trump Tower. But that’s everything, EVERYTHING!
Any meetings or calls before this meeting? Any information obtained at the meeting (did you forget the envelope left by the attorney)? Any explicit or implicit quid pro quo? Any follow-up calls, meetings, actions? Did you ever tell the President anything about any of this? No, no, no—of course not! How can you ever ask these questions? Don’t you believe us?
My son is a quality person—and always transparent (you can see right through him). Anyone would have taken that meeting. And besides, nothing happened. (Sean: tell them that adoption story again.)
And, if you want to learn more about the tree from which the apple fell so closely to Jr., you must get the July 13 issue of the New Republic. There you will find Craig Unger’s “Trump’s Russian Laundromat: How to use Trump Tower and other luxury high-rises to clean dirty money, run an international crime syndicate, and propel a failed real estate developer into the White House.”
The very definition of “thuggery”.
Whatever happens to Trumpcare, tax “reform” seems to be next on the Trump and Ryan/McConnell agenda. Are the Democrats doing anything to prepare for the upcoming national debate?
First and foremost: We CANNOT let this continue to be labeled “reform”. Newt Gingrich carried out a political revolution based on language. The Republicans succeeded in getting everyone, including Obama himself, to turn the Affordable Care Act into Obamacare. We know that they want a Massive Tax Subsidy For the Already Rich…and By the Way, Severe Cuts in Public Services. Surely, our Democratic wordsmiths can come up with a suitable name or acronym. And then get the pundits and public to constantly use our terminology.
We CAN have an alternative vision. The easiest element is elimination of outrageous tax subsidies to very special interests. The oil industry—which has had historical profits in recent years. Other elements of the fossil fuel industry—which has damaged our move to an alternative energy and climate friendly policy. Pharmaceutical companies—which have greatly increased medical costs. Insurance companies, the sugar industry, and on and on and on.
Of course, there are other elements we have supported in the past. A truly progressive system. Surtaxes on the !%. Earned income tax credits. But we should have a new, innovative, and attention-grabbing set of ideas—ideas which might change the very conception of the Democratic Party.
In my recent book, Trumping Trump: Making Democrats Progressive Again, I argue for making the “Tobin Tax” the central idea for the Democratic alternative. Put forward by a late, Nobel Laureate in economics, it argues for a rather miniscule tax (1% or less) on financial transactions not based on a real asset, like a mortgage. There is an incredibly massive (trillions of dollars per DAY) casino economy involving currency bets, commodity prices, derivatives and other arcane financial schemes which helped cause the financial disaster of 2008. Depending on the tax rate, we can supplant the total income tax (and possibly a part of sales and property taxes). Democrats can become the Party of NO taxes!
Clearly, much legislative and political work needs to be done on such proposals. So let’s get to work—and have a Democratic ALTERNATIVE. Let’s SEE you, Democrats!
Number 1 in a Series
Trump, Trump, Jr., Kushner, healthcare, deregulation, travel bans, tax “reform”, Trump, Trump, Trump. Where are the Democrats???
Are we watching the assumed self-destruction of Trump with glee–and waiting to win in 2018 and 2020? Are we watching the assumed self-destruction of Trumpcare with glee—and waiting to win in 2018 and 2020? Are we watching the loss of American prestige in the world—and waiting for what? Are we trying to figure out the path to win the Trump voters in 2018 and 2020? What ARE we doing?
Let’s remember: we were watching the assumed self-destruction of Trump in the Presidential campaign with glee—and waiting for Hillary to win in 2016. Have we already forgotten?
We cannot win waiting for them to lose. We have to win with an agenda, a program, a vision for the future. Yes, a multi-racial, inclusive agenda—but one with which the white working class can identify. Yes, a program to deal with the reality of climate change—but one in which those trained and educated for the 20th century can realistically see a role for themselves. Yes, healthcare for all—but presented in a way which does not scare those who worship the “market”. Yes, an end to economic and political inequalities—but with a truly convincing argument, path, and role for the white working and middle class. Yes, a world with less crime—with the police viewed honorably as true community protectors.
We’ve only got a little time left—let’s SEE you, Democrats!