The Border Patrol obviously has a fascist problem. As is usually the case, this rot spreads from the top, by cynical politicians who know how to mine the treasure trove of grievance, resentment, and scapegoating which is the source of the power of this malign movement. Americans who look upon the horrible mistreatment of the immigrants from Central America as nothing which should concern them, ought to realize that there are many other groups who would be targets of attack and persecution by a fascist government. Socialists, liberals, Democrats, “bleeding heart do-gooders,” ‘Never Trump’ Republicans, intellectuals, experts-in short, anyone or any group which runs afoul the new “truth,” or shows insufficient enthusiasm for the great leader, may find themselves a despised minority, defined by the leaders of the government as enemies of the people. I hope I’m wrong, but the signs are dire. And in any event, the mess Trump has made cannot be cleaned-up by the next congress or Democratic president. Trump has energized fascists who were already in government, and has brought a lot of new fascists into government.
Donald Trump is more friendly and warm with Kim than any other world leader at the G20. He doesn’t know what American freedom is. He doesn’t respect the history of the Korean war. He doesn’t respect our allies. It is time for our allies to recall their ambassadors and cut all diplomatic ties with the US. There need to be serious consequences for this betrayal. Today, Donald Trump betrayed every free person on earth. Fuck this. Fuck him. And fuck us.
Trump’s supporters love it when he breaks things, is contrarian, or causes retired generals and pundits to condemn his actions. If he bombed New York, they would praise him. They will love what he did today, but it was an attack on our freedom and an insult to every US citizen. Full stop. And frankly, fuck what they think or like.
Congress has no way to end the federal government shutdown, now in its second month. This shutdown is going to start to kill Americans.
Meanwhie, Trump has no agenda, no ideology, and no conscience. All he has is the reality television show that his farcical "administration" has become. From here, it will only get worse, as the country descends into farce
However, despite the doom and gloom, this presidency is over. It’s been over since Christmas Eve 2018. The criminals in this administration are simply not aware of that yet. besides, they are jut a little out of touch. And they don’t ever want to acknowledge their failures.
The only thing that can end this is a TSA strike. Please stop reporting to work, now. It’s time to strike.
At last, it happened. Trump stopped winning. The day was December 20 2018. On that day, Trump committed to a meaningless government shutdown. And since that day, his presidency has been collapsing. It has been dramatic. If we weren’t already numb to Trump’s madness, this would be a shocking, unforgettable Christmastime collapse of a presidency. But nothing shocks us anymore. However, we should step back and look at what has happened since December 23. Trump is sinking fast. I said that his presidency is not sustainable. It finally broke.
It was time to pass a stop-gap bill to keep the government running another two months. However, with a new Congress beginning January 3, it was Trump’s last chance to demand his biggest campaign promise - a tall wall along the southern border, from the Pacific to the Rio Grande. Ann Colter and Rush Limbaugh demanded that he do it, just like they did 11 months before. So he did it. And he wouldn’t sign a spending bill unless he got his wall. The Senate said no, and the government has been closed since Christmas.
Rather than acknowledge and try to correct his mistake, Trump sulked in the White House and descended further and further into madness. Even a surprise campaign trip to Iraq fell flat and was immediately forgotten.
On his way down, he blamed Democrats for the still-unknown number of children who died in CBP custody in 2018. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. He kidnapped children, separated them from their parents, and now, inevitably, immigrant children have died in American custody, while Trump desperately blames everyone but himself for his disgrace.
But Trump has only just begun his relentless blaming as he spirals down. For example, he made the claim that the most people being harmed by the Federal government shutdown are Democrats. Sure. And American Indians.
And then there were his own talking points over the reasons for the shutdown, which were always shifting. Why does the White House have communications office? They don’t write the talking points and tweets. Trump runs the White House his way, on his own. Only when he was left all alone this past Christmas, did he prove that he didn’t need anyone there. The press laments that he has no friends in the White House, and the “adults” are gone. That’s right. It’s just Trump now. Anyone paying attention since February 2017 knew it was leading to this.
When he finally got back to work on January 2, his madness was on full display. And just in case hosting an incoherent, 90-minute cabinet meeting in front of the press while displaying a dorm room poster of himself wasn’t a sign of his madness, he went on to deliver a completely incorrect history lesson on the Soviet invasion and war in Afghanistan.
My blog partner, Uncle Tim has been reading, studying, writing, thinking and teaching history since grammar school, which, in his case, began in 1945. Trump's comments on Russia in Afghanistan is the single stupidest thing he has ever heard a national leader say on any historical subject. It's only because he has lied so often, and been wrong so frequently on so many topics, that we simply shrug when we hear nonsense like this. You could be the most leftist, revolutionary scholar like me, and even you would agree that the president condoning the Soviet invasion by repeating Russian revisionist history talking points was completely wrong and completely mad.
While historians and national security experts picked apart the first ever approval of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by any US president, Trump went back to work 48 hours later, and he was much angrier. He had made his decision. He couldn’t reverse himself after he was provoked by the far right media to trigger a shutdown. Trump appeared ready to make this the longest Federal government shutdown ever. Or, as he called it, a strike.
He then stormed out to the Rose Garden and did this.
It is now day 15 of the shutdown. The madness continues. And the Trump presidency is finished. It has crumbled before our eyes. We know the Democrats don’t have the spine nor drive to impeach Trump (their deadline is this summer. Robert Mueller has uncovered so many crimes and cooperating witnesses, his report won’t be released until August (because that is the month that shit goes down). But Trump has decided to blow it all up now. His presidency will die on this hill. The wall never had a chance of being built at all, let alone in his first term. So he is sacrificing himself for the entertainment and rage of his racist, violent base.
Uncle Tim contributed to this post.
The House will almost surely swing back to the Democrats. But our criminal president Trump is still in charge, and winning at everything. And his last victory, the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is his biggest yet. He has broken the judiciary branch, just as he has broken the executive branch. The House is currently broken, so at the moment, Trump controls all three branches of government through the end of 2018.
We have already forgotten about the GOP resistance to Trump. There is none. Instead, we have a GOP that has been completely remade in Trump’s image, while the GOP base serves as the "anti-anti Trump". His supporters don't really care about policies or issues so much, but they love driving those who despise Trump crazy. They see liberal sophisticates as their contemptuous enemies, and anything or anyone who upsets them must be good. That makes Trump their hero.
The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh served three purposes. It stacked the Supreme Court, 6-3 in favor of Corporate plaintiffs. It gives Trump a chance to avoid being subject to subpoena or indictment while in office. And it served as the ultimate insult to American women. The message is load and clear. If a woman tries to hold a powerful white man responsible for criminal behavior, she will be annihilated.
If there was any doubt that the Right Wing has any sense of shame or decency in them, that too is annihilated. Here were are, in 2018, and credible character witnesses that would have sunk an Associate Justice nomination 10 years ago are totally ignored now. Hell, 13 years ago Republicans called out an unqualified nominee from their own party. We’re in a new era now.
Don't you just love the arguments these right wingers make today? We love the life-time appointment of judges who will faithfully complete the task of handing what's left of our democracy to the corporations, and of course we applaud the destruction of the environment and the wrecking of employee's health in the name of untaxed profits. And isn't the bloated and grotesquely out of control military budget wonderful? The rich and powerful have gotten richer beyond the dreams of avarice, and the plutocrats who fund the Republican Party run the economy and the nation to suit themselves. To these anonymous right wingers, all of this is unalloyed good. Unfortunately, the president who has delivered all of these wonderful goodies is so boorish, so vulgar, so embarrassing! If only he would stop tweeting, and become more presidential. Then, life for the Republicans would be perfect!
Some sort of backlash is coming now. But I fear it won’t be powerful or angry enough. The loss of the judicial branch out to send thousands of people into the streets in protest. I fear the majority of Americans, while opposed to Trump, are demoralized and deflated. A new period of national malaise is settling in as our big problems -both economic and environmental- become much worse.
There's a really good line in the underrated Brian De Palma movie, Casualties of War (1989). Following a big, emotional, confession scene for Michael J. Fox, the movie quickly shifts to an army court martial. De Palma and his trusty cameraman, Stephen H. Burum, know they have to present information quickly, as the movie is wrapping-up. But they avoid television courtroom lensing and framing. There's no panning to the bench or the counsel. They keep us staring at the witness chair, as each of the accused offer their versions of the atrocities that have taken place. The prosecutor grilling them is the versatile character actor, Gregg Henry. His character is based on a real Army prosecutor, but also reminds me of trial lawyer Richard Scruggs, who also served in the military and would be about the same age as the Army prosecutor. Henry delivers one of the best lines of David Rabe's script. He shouts the sequence of events in the case to prime defendant Sargent Meserve (the incredible Sean Penn), followed by, "DOES THAT ABOUT SUM IT UP!" I think that's a strong scene. Go see the movie if you can endure the intensity. De Palma's work is consistent. Almost all of his movies are good. Even Phantom of the Paradise (1974) is now being recognized as a good movie.
So to borrow that line, how is this sequence of events?
1973: Americans begin working longer hours while wages start to grow a little more slowly. Double income families become all but mandatory.
2000: Bush v. Gore reveals Supreme Court to be deeply partisan, and also protecting of GOP minority rule.
2001: The Enron accounting scandal ushers a swift recession and a new era of stagnant wages. Corporations realize they were foolish to throw raises at people in the 1990s. Salaries to remain flat for decades. The ‘gig’ economy slowly begins.
2010: Court rules in favor of Citizens United. Again, solidifying GOP minority rule.
2013: Shelby County decision guts the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Again, tightening the GOPs grip as a ruling minority. Several red states enact voter suppression laws and policies the day after the decision.
2015/16: GOP robs a sitting president of a Justice pick, setting off a quiet constitutional crisis.
2017/18: Constitutional crisis deepens as new president, assisted by at least five foreign governments, wins office despite losing popular vote. he then installs two justices to swing the court to the right for the next 20-40 years.
Does that about sum it up?
2018 has brought the chaos and instability that Trump couldn’t quite get started in 2017 (aside from the turmoil within his White House and the white nationalist invasion of Charlottesville VA). But now Trump is entrenched, strongly supported, and about to get away with the biggest political conspiracy in world history.
Think about it: Russia, Israel and the UAE (and probably also Saudi Arabia and Turkey) assisted in whatever way they could to get their preferred candidate into the White House. Aside from Russia, all of those nations didn’t stand to lose anything with Clinton. But with Trump, they stood to get more than Clinton was willing to give (such as an embassy in Jerusalem). They got greedy and preferred Trump because they correctly thought that Trump likes oppressive regimes, and hates the European Union.
Mueller will release a report that will detail how Trump is the head of a criminal enterprise, involved with money laundering, using his office to raise much-needed cash, selling access to the Oval Office, and partnering with foreign agents during the 2016 campaign without anyone reporting it. But he won’t be removed. He won’t be indicted (although his children might). No, Trump will survive. Considering that his approval rating with Republicans and Mormons is on the increase, there’s an excellent chance he will be re-elected in 2020. He will run a nasty campaign and motivate 60 Million people to vote fro him. The Democrats will have a tough time getting 60 Million votes, especially if they run a conservative candidate like Mark Warner or Eric Holder.
It finally dawned on smart journalists and scholars in June 2018. Trump is keeping the Republican minority rule alive. Led by Mitch McConnell, the Republicans have stolen two Supreme Court seats and a presidential election. 2016 should have been a definitive defeat for the GOP at the national level. Instead, they are going to remain in power for at least another generation (30 years). And locally, they have an iron grip on power thanks to dirty politics, voter suppression and gerrymandering. The Republicans are a ruling minority. And only a few of us noticed that this ruling minority began in 1994, with Newt Gingrich and the GOP's "Contract With America." The impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 was cynical, but it sent a message. The GOP was never going to play nice again. It was always going to remind the coastal Democrats that they, the corporations, the millionaires and the billionaires are in charge.
From what I can tell, hundreds of millions of US citizens don’t care about this destructive minority rule. They don't think about it, just as they didn't think about the temporary DHS policy to separate migrant children from their parents, creating up to hundreds of orphans. If they thought about it, they thought, “That won’t be me. I’m not a migrant.” That mural of Trump in one of the boys detention centers is somehow not surprising. Federal departments reflect the president at the time. And the sitting president is a fascist dictator, who looks to other dictators -friends and foes alike - as role models on how to appear strong. He likes them all. From Egypt and Saudi Arabia to China and Russia. In his first week in office, he lashed out at the Prime Minister of Australia. What did we think he was going to do in the 8 years to follow?
During Trump's time in office, Republicans have gone from distancing themselves from his conduct, to fully embracing him. Again, he is doing a fine job maintaining the GOP's minority rule. His Gallup approval rating among Republicans is now at an all-time high of 90%. Trump knows he’s going to get away with the illegal campaign assistance he received from Israel, Russia and the UAE in 2016. Trump is about to set up the Supreme Court to protect him and the party that put 5 Justices in their seats. Trump knows that his dirty tactics and white nationalist dog whistles will win him re-election in 2020. And I wonder if he thinks he can make himself a president for life. At the very least, he won’t move out of the White House on the day he’s supposed to move out. He’ll be in his bathrobe tweeting away while the next president is being inaugurated.
But now, we must acknowledge that Trump has already destroyed what's left of this republic for the lower 90%. No future administration can repair the damage that he has caused in just 18 months. And with a Supreme Court repeal of Roe v. Wade looming sometime in the 2020s, I'd say the USA is over. It's finished. And we liberals let it happen. We underestimated the anti-abortion movement to remain strong for over 40 years. We underestimated Newt Gingrich's platform. We let partisan politics infect the Supreme Court and steal an election for Bush 43. And we underestimated Trump and let him turn the presidency into a authoritarian platform. We didn't challenge him while he weakened our republic, or legal protections, the WTO, NAFTA, NATO, and our positive relationships with our allies. All we did was march on his first day on the job. And now it is all over.
When Rage Against The Machine debuted their first album in 1992, on the eve of Bill Clinton's election, I thought why all the anger and warnings about the government? Why all the calls for a revolution just as awareness of white privilege, the value of diversity, and the evils of sexual harassment were just being adopted by college-educated Americans? Now I know why. When citizens miss their chance to revolt, the next chance can be decades away, or never. I am leaning towards never in the case of the USA after Trump.
My head is still spinning from the news this past weekend. I consider myself someone who can keep up with all the big stories surrounding the corruption of the Trump administration and the criminal conspiracies of the Trump 2016 campaign. But I can no longer keep up. A conspiracy wall the size of a soccer field couldn't hold it all. My brain hurts.
So what happened this weekend? Trump and his legal team got angrier, sillier and more bold in their use of limited hangouts. At this stage, it appears that Trump is on the verge of torpedoing the Mueller investigation and claiming that anything less than shooting someone is a not a crime.
But this latest development is unfolding in a most terrifying way. First, let's accept the fact that most Americans don't care. That's terrifying in itself. Bush v. Gore shattered the republic. The endless war on "terror," the permanent state of fear, and the Patriot Act shattered it some more. The Republican-led Senate preventing a sitting president from filling a Supreme Court vacancy set fire to the house. Now, while the fire spreads to all the rooms under president Trump, most Americans are either too broken or simply not engaged to care. The disengaged post-Watergate future scholars warned us about is here. That sets the stage for even more, permanent oppression.
This weekend, we reached the stage where the president declared himself to be above the law. It took nearly two years for Richard Nixon to reach that stage. It took Donald Trump less than 15 months (since the Mueller investigation began). And just in case it wasn't clear, the president himself tweeted it on Monday morning as a kind of limited hangout that maybe he did commit a crime, but take it from him, he didn't! And as if that wasn't enough, he tweeted 90 minutes later that the Mueller probe is unconstitutional.
In 2017, tweets like this were met with some eye rolling and some gasps from Mika Brzezinski. It seems to me that this past weekend a large portion of the news media finally woke up and realized that these tweets are official presidential statements, and need to be taken seriously. Despite typos, misspellings and occasional humor, Trump has followed through on most topics he has tweeted about. From his "travel ban," to exiting the Iran deal, to starting trade wars, Trump eventually remembers what he's angry about and acts on it. And so, we have to assume that he is going to try to end the Special Counsel's investigation again soon. His staff might talk him away from the ledge, or he might take the dive, but as Trump always says before he does something big, "we'll see what happens."
We've reached the totalitarian stage of the Trump presidency. It was always there, beginning with the lie about the inauguration crowd size, but now it is fully out, 500 days into his first term.
In 2017, Trump reserved his angriest tweets for Saturday mornings. Now his manic, angry, desperate tweets are sent almost every morning - usually before 07:00 DC time.
Trump's tweets are bad enough. But Trump has found the recipe for motivating his base of 60 Million white supremacist supporters. His blistering, endless condemnation of NFL players who do not stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games is white nationalism wrapped in public patriotism, and it stirs his base into a frenzy. It is Trump's most successful tactic as president. No president has ever succeeded in doing this. Reagan came close, launching his 1980 campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Mississippi, the same county where three civil rights activists were murdered in 1964. Ronald Reagan gave his base white nationalism packaged as an argument for "states rights." He demonized the poor and anyone who collected public benefits of any kind, claiming that they were a burden on working people, and that government, by aiding the poor, was too big and too intrusive. That was terrible at the time, coming on the heels of a dark but progressive era that brought bipartisan support for legal abortion, some equal rights, and even some environmental protection polices and causes (think Superfund sites and No Nukes). Reagan represented a right wing backlash to all that.
Trump represents an even stronger backlash to that, as well as all the social and economic changes that have come since the early 1990s. The USA is more Hispanic. The USA has many more people living in poverty. Our local law enforcement agencies are more militarized and use even more force against young black men and women. And the US has a furious white population, fueled by 22 years of Fox News, ready to go out as loudly and with as much violence and destruction as they can muster. If there ever is a serious attempt to remove Trump from office, there will be civil unrest.
Last September, Trump found this winning formula, and today, he deployed more furious tweets about black athletes, rallying his base. Trump's big ego has always been ridiculed. But now, with his more identifiable totalitarian posture, his inflated ego is finally being recognized as part of his 'strong man' style of leadership. It needs to be taken seriously.
It's a shame and embarrassing that one of the only public officials to condemn Trump's tweets today is the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenny. Kenny was correct to speak out, of course. And his words were very apt:
2018 is beginning to look a lot like 1968. You don't need this little blog to tell you that. Look outside.
The Democratic base flared up for a couple of weeks after Trump's inauguration. But where is the base now? Any why aren't they consistently mad? Why are the most newsworthy congressional town hall meetings occurring in heavily Republican states?
For quite a long time now, Democrats have behaved as if they didn't have a base of supporters whose views they needed to consider when casting votes in Congress. And even after Trump's first month, I sense a lack of commitment from Democrats to fire-up their base. Believe me, Republicans NEVER forget their base! The one thing they always fear is being challenged, from the right, by an ever more radical, anti-government crank. Democrats, like Obama, often take a perverse view of their political situation. Some are actually PROUD of disappointing the most loyal party members, as if that proved their bipartisan credibility. And when the Democratic base rebels, these people seem genuinely puzzled by the outrage they've provoked.
Democrats have enormous decisions to make this month. They can choose to help or impede the House in raising the Federal debt ceiling. They could fight to delay the Judge Gorsuch confirmation hearings, or let them move forward.
Each week of the Trump presidency has brought bad news, often at night as major newspapers print stories on the administration. The Democrats can't fight every breaking news story. But they lack a messaging machine to tell their base what to fight against. There's no motivation or organization at the top. It's all been from the bottom. When this happens, the top gets overthrown. Time will tell.
And yet, here we are, a nation controlled by white people in landlocked states.
63% of white men voted for Trump
53% of white women voted for Trump
What was Clinton's mantra? Love Trumps hate? Well apparently not. Hate is an immensely powerful motivator. Trump didn't need a sophisticated ground game to get his supporters to vote. All the intensity, and all the enthusiasm was on the Republican side this time. And in politics, intensity matters. As for the Democrats, it's astounding that Hillary, with all her negatives, turned out to be the party's default choice. In any event, we'll all pay for it now.
And Trumps personality and pattern is well established. He will never really work at anything. He is unwilling or unable to work harder to be presidential. He doesn't have to work hard to motivate his supporters. He already has a slogan for the red hat in 2020. And he win again, so long as his presidency doesn't fall apart. His base of 40% appears to be rock solid. But his presidency is showing way too many cracks to last one year, let alone three more.
Uncle Tim is a historian. He told me a few times about how Barcelona resisted Franco, the murderous Spanish dictator, from 1939 to 1975. It was a marathon resistance that helped give us generations of artists and actors - from Joan Miró to Javier Bardem. People in Barcelona were able to live in a mild state of panic but they persevered. Now I know New York has a history of being different. It is a safer place to be gay or transgender, for example. But New York also has a history of being a place where resistance is not tolerated. The British were never kicked out of New York. Kids protesting the Vietnam War in 1970 were savagely beaten by cops and construction workers because their march was an insult to real, working men who weren't fighting the war or something.
So let me say right now that I have zero faith that New York will resist Trump. I don't think New York is a safe space from Trump. And I think quite a few New Yorkers are going to find themselves in prison or on no fly lists or under constant government surveillance during the eight years we will have under Trump. Trump is a New Yorker. I live just nine miles from Trump Tower. Aside from occasional protests, there is no resistance here.
Good luck, everyone. These eight years will be hard. And we still have the continued destruction of our planet and our species to look forward to.
In a groundbreaking study, published in September 2016, The Guardian found that about half the nation's firearns are owned by 3% of the population. In addition, the number of handguns in the US has skyrocketed since Bill Clinton's first term. Our nation is being held hostage by a 3℅ gun crazy minority. The US population has increased, and overall gun ownership has declined since Clinton took office. But we have seen the rise of the "super owners."
A gun crazy three percent, and a craven, virtually worthless Republican party. I knew we were in serious trouble if the Democrats collapsed in November. And they did. And now we are at the mercy of the gun lobby and the GOP.
Gun-related news is part of the background noise in the US. Just this week, Smith and Wesson released the long-awaited second version of their M&P pistol. And in Fort Lauderdale, a possibly schizophrenic young man emptied his magazine in an airport's baggage claim area, killing 5 and wounding 8. Just a normal, acceptable mass shooting. In almost any other nation, there would be a quick reexamination of flight rules and gun policy. Not here. Rampages are perfectly normal and acceptable. New guns need to be sold.
I am over elites telling me what sucks. I was over it in 2005. Does anyone think that Stephen Colbert, Lin Manuel Miranda or Beyoncé lose any sleep over who controls the Federal government? No. We little people are the ones who lose sleep. Trump and Republicans are going to impose a Federal parental notification requirement for abortion. They will pass a Federal 20-week limit on abortion. They will roll back car emissions standards 30 years. They will try to kill off the food stamp program. They will cut funding to most cities (except maybe NYC, where Trump still has his stuff). They will launch a ground war somewhere in the middle east. They will kill the ACA. All together, they will make it more difficult than ever before for poor people to break out of poverty and despair. That has been their end game since 1980.
The differences between the Democratic party and the GOP continue to dwindle. The Democrats are sponsored by Wall Street, have abandoned the idea of taxing the rich, and have even abandoned questioning the size of the military-security complex. Meanwhile, Republicans are embracing marijuana legalization and marriage equality. The biggest differences left are really Social Security, science, and medicine (the GOP is against all three). Otherwise, that's pretty much it, folks. We can summarize this nation like this: declare war on the world, give every break and perk to the rich people, spy on everyone, and ignore the man-made environmental catastrophe. The longer we keep these two parties in power, the further this nation is ruined. Considering it has been this way for nearly 20 years, it is probably too late to save the USA.
The GOP lost the 2016 presidential election in a single day. Here's how:
1. Marco Rubio voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
2. On the same day, he delivered an incoherent speech that recycled Mitt Romney talking points. The speech even made the insane claims that Obama is anti-business and has borrowed more cash than Bush. The speech was clearly not written by Rubio. It even mentioned "Solyndra."
3. In that same speech, Rubio made a bizarre lunge for a bottle of water and chugged it on camera.
Folks, I don't like the Democratic party, either. But Hillary has a red carpet to the Oval Office in 2016. She would have to bite off the heads of kittens to blow this one.
Rick Perry is on his way out. Michelle Bachmann is on her way out. Herman Cain is likely out. Chris Christie is not running. Donald Trump played the role of creepy seducer for about two weeks. And the most sane men in the GOP 2012 presidential nominee field, Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Buddy Roemer, the latter I could actually vote for in another era, never had a chance in this field of wingnuts and freedom hating millionaires.
That leaves just two men. Two men who happen to be the veterans of the pack. They are the ones who have spent the most years trying to earn a GOP presidential nomination, and therefore, should have been the front runners all along. And those two men are Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Romney should still be the favorite, based on the history of these things. However this installment of the GOP presidential nomination race has broken the pattern set over the last 40 years. It has been fascinating to watch. Simply the record number of debates has been fascinating. There will be more GOP primary debates than any NFL team has games this season, including the eventual Super Bowl participants.
I think we might have finally put infidelity behind us as a destroyer of men's political careers. How else can we explain the return of Newt Gingritch? Here's a man who cheated on two wives and is thrice married. It should be pointed out that Gingrich left his first two wives not only in the middle of extramarital affairs, but while they were stricken with a long term illness. Here's a man who shamelessly had an affair with the woman who became his current wife while prosecuting Bill Clinton for having an affair with a White House intern. Then, just a few months ago, he spun the story in a unique way when he explained that his affairs were driven by his passion to serve the nation. Newt is a passionate guy. And passionate guys will scamble to replace their wives as they walk the long road to the White House.
Cheating on one's wife and divorcing her when she's in the hospital is the sort of behavior that destroyed Gary Hart and John Edwards, respectively. But not Newt. He has gone from former House Speaker with no elected future 13 years ago, to having about a 45% chance of becoming the star of the 2012 GOP ticket today. He has spent most of the last decade as a lobbiest and paid speaker at Republican conferences and events. He had no chance of being elected to public office ever again. He wasn't seriously considered as a presidential candidate between 1998 and 2008, when George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were the big three ticket condenters. And does anyone remember this video from 2003?
Newt being punked by Sacha Baron Cohen was confirmation that he was done as a politician, yes? How incorrect I was, with a lot of other, more qualified people who appear on television to analyize politics.
While I took a look at Newt's growing web site, I couldn't help but notice this text in Callista Gingrich's blog within site (which is called Callista's Canvas!):
Acquaintances admit that Callista Gingrich’s stiff smile and crisp uniform make it easier for detractors to portray her as cold and manipulative, a characterization they say is not accurate, though she has apparently resisted internal campaign efforts to soften her edges. Those sources also say it is hard to overstate her ever-growing involvement in the Gingrich empire and her husband’s campaign, for better or for worse.
Actually, go and read that entire blog post. It is incredibly frank and revealing. Could you imagine any presidential candidate's wife not only allowing her cold personality to be acknowledged by the campaign writers, but also acknowledging just how much of the family's K Street lobbying income is diverted to her favorite private institutions? Yes, it's public information, available to those who seek it out. But I have never seen it disclosed so clearly on a candidate's web site. Expect Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews to pick up on Callista and the "five Gingrich firms on K Street," or, as Callista calls it above, "the Gingrich empire."
Herman Cain opened himself up to uncomfortable, personal questions when he went on a tour to promote his new book, which promotes his run for president. In the book, he explains in detail why he chose not to get involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, depite being a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta between 1963-1967.
I want to make it very clear that it involvement in the civil rights movement should never be a litmus test for office, much in the same way military service in Vietnam used to be a litmus test for national, male politicians. No black man or woman who was an adult between 1955 and 1970 should be required to reveal their involvement in the civil rights movement, nor should it be expected or assumed that they were involved simply on the basis of their skin color. Everyone had reasons for speaking out or remaining silent, and a lot of it had to do with geographic location and income.
No one should have to be interrogated about what they did in the 1960s. That is, unless they are running for president and bring it up themselves.
Lawrence O'Donnell went straight for the jugluar in his interview with Herman Cain last week. Mr. Cain, in his book, tells the story that while he was in high school, his father advised him not to get involved in civil rights rallies, marches, petitions, or other public events. For everyone who lived through that era in the south, getting involved was assuming at least some risk, be it legal, professional, or in some case, physical. I would agree that a black teenager being arrested in 1962 or 1963 Atlanta would not have been easy to shake off. I don't judge Herman Cain's reasons for not getting involved.
But I do think it is appropriate to ask Mr. Cain about 1963 if he himself brings it up. In his book, Mr. Cain writes:
On a day-to-day basis, because the civil rights movement was a few years in front of me, I was too young to participate when they first started the Freedom Rides, and the sit-ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it didn't have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was supposed to do, and stayed out of trouble--I didn't go downtown and try to participate in sit-ins. But I well remember, as a young teenager, seeing signs printed in large black letters at the fronts of buses: "White seat from front, colored seat from rear." One day when I was thirteen, my friends and I were riding home from school in a half-empty bus--this was at the time when the civil rights movement was just getting off the ground and some police officers were just looking for a reason to shoot a black person who "got out of line." So, counter to our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the bus when the driver told us to. By that time, the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides had kind of broken the ice, even though things hadn't fully changed. So we saw it every day on TV and read about it in the news. Dad always said, "Stay out of trouble," and we did.
That passage almost makes it seem as if Mr. Cain would have gotten involved in sit ins and protests if he wasn't so young at the time. However, Mr. Cain was 19 years old and in college during Freedom Summer. He must have been surrounded by fellow students who were involved. So if he agreed with ending segregation and discrimination, why didn't he step forward just a little when history came knocking on his door in Atlanta in the mid 1960s? He wasn't in a northern city. He wasn't overseas. He was living near the epicenter of a movement that changed this country and opened the door for him to run for national office.
Now if I were interviewing Herman Cain here, I might start the line of questioning with something gentle like, "Did you ever consider participating in a civil rights event while at Morehouse?" Or I might ask if he had friends who did. Or I might ask if he ever regreetted not getting involved, especually after the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was a media breakthrough for the movement. But that's why I am not an aggressive journalist. That's why I don't have Lawrence O'Donnell's job. Civil rights era questions at 07:20:And if you thought O'Donnell was blunt and to the point, check out Martin Bashir laying a massive smackdown on CNN International (H/T We Are Respectable Negroes).
For all the shit Democrats have had to go through after volunteering their service and putting their asses on the line (both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and skipped the draft lottery process), should the news media be giving a pass to candidates who almost boast about sitting out opportunities to put themselves on the line?
It is obvious that the book passage (which seems very random, sandwiched betweeen other little stories from Cain's teenage years) was meant to reassure the GOP and potential voters that he is not a rebellous black man. He's no community organizer. He never flirted with liberation theology or black power. He's a corporate manager. And he is runnign to protect corporate interests. The GOP need not fear the color of his skin. They'll just have to put up with his volunteer peanut gallery (which can be heard in the O'Donnell interview videos).
There is an old tradition in GOP presidential politics: the tradition of 'waiting your turn' at a presidential nomination. It's a little like the Oscars. Some actors and actresses get their first Oscar after several tries, until the majority of the Academy members agree that it is his or her turn. Well the same rule seems to apply to the GOP, except with more rigidity.
Nixon had his turn in 1960, but was awarded a second chance in 1968. After that, every GOP presidential nominee, except George W. Bush, has been an older career party leader with GOP presidential primary experience, whose turn had come up. We had Reagan, followed by George H.W. Bush, then Bob Dole, then George W. Bush (who sucker-punched John McCain), and then John McCain was awarded his chance. It seems there is a structure in which these men have to earn their nomination. Three of the five names above won the party nomination on their second try. The GOP seems to like this dues-paying exercise.
And next in the batting order seems to be Mitt Romney. It isn't going to be Sarah Palin. It isn't going to be Bobby Jindal. And it isn't going to be another newcomer like John Ensign of Arizona or Scott Brown of Massachusetts. It's Romney. You can see him coming a mile away.
Although I do admit, the VP list for the GOP will be interesting. Not only would John Ensign and Scott Brown be acceptable choices, but there is a small number of GOP leaders who want Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño on the ticket. He would not only be the first Latino on a presidential ticket, but also be the first national candidate born in the future state of Puerto Rico.