Danger Ahead: First Unfettered Twitter President

by James M. Wallgoogvle

President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in January 20th as the nation’s 45th president, following the most contentious, hate-filled presidential campaign in the nation’s history.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic challenger, won the 2016 popular vote by more than a 2 percent majority. According to the Cook Political Report, Clinton’s final vote was 65,844,610, compared to Donald Trump’s 62,979,636. That is a difference of 2,864,974 in Clinton’s favor. The total number of votes for other candidates was 7,804,213.

How did this happen? History will blame Trump’s victory on the archaic Electoral College. But that will not be accurate. We, the American voting public, did it to ourselves. 

The Electoral College has been the basis of our presidential elections since the Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, arrived at a compromise to keep the smaller states within the newly formed democracy.

There is agitation to change the process, but don’t hold your breath. Those smaller states still demand their place at the election table. It is difficult to tinker with such time-honored procedures. The sole tinkering came in 1804, when electors were instructed to vote twice, once for president and once for vice-president. 

Meanwhile, we have to accept the fact that on Monday, December 19, the 538 Electoral College electors met in their respective state capitals to confirm Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and Mike Pence as vice-president. 

We gave Donald Trump and Mike Pence 304 elector votes, well beyond the 270 needed to win. Their Democratic challengers, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, received 227 elector votes. Seven “faithless electors” defected from the voting majority in their state, two from Trump-Pence states and five from Clinton-Kaine states.

Blogger John Whitbeck produces a daily group email on matters political. He writes that the seven defectors were the most defectors from a living presidential candidate in Electoral College history.

In a small historic irony, Whitbeck also found that one of the seven defectors cast a protest vote, “for Ms. Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation who helped to block (at least for the time being) development of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. She became the first Native American to receive an Electoral College vote for the office of president.”

What exactly did the Founding Fathers send down the chimney this 2016 Christmas season? We have been gifted our first unfettered Twitter President. He will say what he wants to say, full speed ahead.

His actions will be curtailed by our procedures and laws, but his words will go forth from the world’s most important political office, unfettered.

This is a man without a single day’s experience in governance. I have my serious doubts that he has ever walked a precinct. 

If I am wrong about the precinct-walking, should I expect a correction via Twitter, or in one of his rallies before the faithful? Probably not, but many others, including a former president, will be reprimanded. 

Trump communicated with disdain and bar room bluster to a criticism from Bill Clinton. He did so via Twitter, a strange way of relating to one of his twice-elected predecessors.

There are plenty of strange things emanating from Trump’s Twitter world, mostly revelations of hatred, revenge and anger at anyone who questions or challenges him. 

What we should not expect from his Twitter feeds and controlled rallies are the essential planning and policies of a Trump administration. Trump has shown no sign he wants to reach the public through our traditional intermediaries, the media (people who ask questions).

Our new leader has held no press conference since July 27, 2016. He promised one such conference on December 15, but his minions canceled it. Will Trump hold a press conference after he is inaugurated? Don’t count on it. 

win-mcnameegetty-images-north-americaIn an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Robert Reich (left) discussed Trump’s refusal to openly interact with the media.

Goodman noted that the last time Trump met with the media on the third day of the Democratic National Convention, “he famously called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email”. Goodman played a video clip of his comment:

Trump: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.. .

This bantering with a foreign power about an American election, displays an attitude, if continued beyond his inauguration, that will confirm his time in office as uninformed and dangerous.

Goodman reminded Reich he had written that Trump seeks “to turn the public against the media”. She played a clip from a Trump rally when Candidate Trump expressed his disdain for the traveling press corps in the building.

Trump: You know my opinion of the media. It’s very low. … The press are liars. They’re terrible people. … And the media—look at all those people back there: scavengers. They’re like scavengers. … Show ’em the crowd, press. Show ’em the crowd. Show ’em the crowd. Look, they’re not turning the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras, because, you know what, they’re very dishonest people. … Disgusting reporters, horrible people. Sure, some are nice. … They’re scum, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.

Reich, a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, responded further:

Donald Trump’s modus operandi seems to be to communicate directly with followers and with the public through tweets and through rallies. And he’s signaled that he wants to continue to use rallies even after January 20th, when he becomes president.

Tweets and rallies are designed to belittle those he dislikes and remind his followers why they follow him. This is not presidential. It is not leadership and it is not a responsible way for any adult to behave in the White House or on Main Street.

Assuming President Trump maintains his campaign modus operandi, as experience tells us he will, he will communicate through Tweets and rallies while living in his fantasy bubble where what he thinks is supreme, and questions are forbidden. 

He is headed for “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, where

        “The cops have wooden legs
        The bulldogs all have rubber teeth
        And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
        The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
        The barns are full of hay
        I want to go where there ain’t no snow
        Where the sleet don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
        In that Big Rock Candy Mountain”

In a more pragmatic vein, Reich explains:

The fear is that . . .  what Donald Trump wants, [is] to be able to continue to state things that are simply not true,—doubting climate change, for example, or saying that the CIA report on Russian hacking was not true—and have a larger and larger number of his followers, and, indirectly, their friends and their associates and families, believe him and not believe science and not believe the media, not believe policy analysts and not believe people who are investigative reporters and not believe the actual facts out there, believe this counter-universe that is of Donald Trump’s creation.

Will Trump change, once he is inaugurated? Will a man who views the world entirely from his own narrow perspective, who shows no signs of compassion or concern for anyone or anything, outside his own private orbit, would such a man change? 

Short of a Damascus Road experience, such a man does not change. 

The picture of Robert Reich is by Win McNamee for Getty. The Electoral College map is from Google. 

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Which Trump Will We See After January 20?

by James M. Wall636172160474906214-afp-afp-j308h

President-elect Donald J. Trump will soon hold the power of the White House. Any comment on “What Will Trump Do”, depends on which Trump emerges to exercise that power once he is inaugurated.

There is the scripted Trump who does on occasion emerge with a largely-overlooked comment like his recent promise that the time for military Western-managed regime change in the Middle East is over. 

That scripted Trump is running contrary to the American neo cons who want to control the world in the “best interest” of the American empire. In a Wall Street Journal report, Trump appeared to signal: No more foolish neo con-inspired attacks on countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

As the Journal noted, Trump was quite specific when he said, “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

His call for no more regime change through military power, was largely ignored by other media outlets. If Trump holds to that position, he would launch a major shift in American foreign policy.

Will the anti-regime change Trump emerge when unexpected events explode in the Middle East? Or was regime change just his thought for that particular day? 

In addition to the scripted Trump, there is the business-tycoon Trump, the man raised from childhood to view the world as an economic playing field on which to win profits by planting the Trump brand (now the Trump-U.S. brand) through economic power. 

It was the business-tycoon Trump who chose ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State.  The Washington Post looked for an answer to how the decision was reached.

ExxonMobil has a relationship with the consultancy firm run by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, two influential government figures who consulted with the president-elect in Trump Tower after he had spent days entertaining familiar political names like Mitt Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Rice and Gates knew how important the Russian oil industry was to ExxonMobil. Tillerson had become close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, finally developing an agreement for ExxonMobil to provide the oil drilling muscle for Russia to tap into its rich oil resources in the Arctic Sea. 

The two men, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, are shown above talking during the signing of a Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement in Sochi, Russia, on Aug. 30, 2011. 

That agreement was suddenly put on hold when the U.S. responded to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, which began in late February 2014.

That prompted a number of governments, including the U.S., the European Union and other countries and international organizations to apply sanctions against individuals, businesses and officials from Russia and Ukraine. 

These sanctions blocked the Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement. To make his case to ease the sanctions, Tillerson held several meetings with President Obama, arguing that U.S. companies like ExxonMobil were at a disadvantage in competition with European countries more willing to work around the sanctions. 

If, as the CIA insists, the Russian government used cyber warfare to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, it committed an international crime with a motive: Lifting the sanctions.

Now, as Trump’s designated incoming Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will be in a better position to reactivate that ExxonMobil-Russian drilling contract. 

The scripted Trump and the business tycoon Trump, are overwhelmed in the public mind and media spotlight by the outrageous Trump, well-described by Thomas Friedman, who thundered from his influential media pulpit with all the angry fervor of a Baptist preacher leading a revival:

My fellow Americans, whatever mix of motives led us to create an Electoral College majority for Donald Trump to become president — and overlook his lack of preparation, his record of indecent personal behavior, his madcap midnight tweeting, his casual lying about issues like “millions” of people casting illegal votes in this election, the purveying of fake news by his national security adviser, his readiness to appoint climate change deniers without even getting a single briefing from the world’s greatest climate scientists in the government he’ll soon lead and his cavalier dismissal of the C.I.A.’s conclusions about Russian hacking of our election — have no doubt about one thing: We as a country have just done something incredibly reckless.

The Washington Post identified a calmer, and younger take on the outrageous Trump, in a recent Teen Vogue piece, Donald Trump is Gaslighting America.

“Gaslighting” was derived from a 1938 play, Gas Light, which inspired two movies in 1940 and 1944, all telling the story of a husband who tried to drive his young wife crazy by hiding items in dim light from her.

The best-known of the two movies was Gaslight (1944), which starred Charles Boyer as the husband, and Ingrid Bergman as his young wife.

Lauren Duca, Teen Vogue’s weekend editor and an award-winning professional journalist wrote, “Trump won the Presidency by gas light. His rise to power has awakened a force of bigotry by condoning and encouraging hatred, but also by normalizing deception.”

Her piece was a call to arms to her young readers to “regain control of the truth.”

She explained to her audience the origin of the phrase “gaslighting,” derived from a 1938 Victorian thriller. In the original Gas Light drama and two Gaslight movies, the wife

questioned her own mental stability until she noticed, while still under his control, that the items would vanish only after her husband dimmed their gas lights. It was, the wife realized, all a trick.

Duca explained further, “To gas light is to psychologically manipulate a person to the point where they question their own sanity, and that’s precisely what Trump is doing to this country. He gained traction in the election by swearing off the lies of politicians, while constantly contradicting himself, often without bothering to conceal the conflicts within his own sound bites. He lied to us over and over again, then took all accusations of his falsehoods and spun them into evidence of bias.”

Duca listed at least seven examples of Trump statements debunked by the fact-checking website PolitiFact, including comments on the Iraq War, the unemployment rate, U.S. taxes, illegal immigration and the crime rate, then laid out for her readers all the ways they can dodge propaganda and fake news in search of verified, factual information.

Teen Vogue does not usually get involved in matters political, but apparently this piece was deemed important as a way of reaching a young audience, now confused, and like many older readers, stunned, at the outcome of the election.

We are all asking: Where will Trump take this nation? The sad and frightening fact is that Trump has given no sign that he has the slightest understanding of what lies ahead.

We are left with his Twitter outbursts and his staff and cabinet choices to read like so many tea leaves.

Donald J. Trump may be a danger to the entire planet, or he may settle down and find a way to respect the complex reality of his next four years, and act accordingly.

Meanwhile, as the Nobel Prize 2016 literature award winner Bob Dylan, reminds us, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” It was this poem the Nobel Committee chose to include in Dylan’s ceremony.  

Before Swedish royalty, a world audience, and a large assembly, American singer Patti Smith presented Dylan’s poem with all the anguish it originally expressed in the 1960s, and presents to us today in the Trump era:

Lyrics from “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, by Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

The picture at top of  Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, is by Alexey Druzhinin, AFP/Getty Images.

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Focusing on Trump With “A Withering Gaze”

by James M. Wallmatt-dunhamap

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, President-elect Donald Trump met with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.

Times’ columnist Charles Blow  was not at the meeting. The next day he wrote: “I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing.”

Blow spoke for many of us after the president-elect’s comment to the Times‘ journalists, when he wrote: “Let me tell you here where I stand on your ‘I hope we can all get along plea.’ Never.”

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.

Blow concluded with a personal pledge: “I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.”

It is this same “withering gaze” that all Americans should fix on our president-elect, both in this transition period, and for the next four years of his presidency.

When the gaze reveals positive vibes, it should be noted. So far, in Trump’s mixed transitional and political rallies period, the vibes are largely negative.

Our national withering gaze should fix carefully on the decisions the president-elect is making. Does his leadership team, thus far assembled, possess the knowledge and personal skills sufficient to support a president with no prior experience in political leadership?

Trump’s security leadership team up to this point includes three retired military generals, starting with retired Marine General James Mattis as defense secretary (pictured above).

What should be expected from his leadership? His expressed views on the Iraq War should offer some tentative hope that his war experience makes him more of a realist than some of the civilians who launched the Iraq war.  The Intercept’s Mattathias Schwartz wrote:

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense called the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “mistake,” according to a recording obtained by The Intercept.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Mattis said, “we will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake — as a strategic mistake.”

Mattis was one of the Iraq campaign’s most important ground commanders. He led the 1st Marine Division during the invasion and later oversaw the bloody retaking of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004. .  .  .

Mattis’s comments came during a question-and-answer session after a keynote delivered last year at ASIS International, a conference for “global security professionals” held in Anaheim, California. A conference participant provided an audio recording of Mattis’s speech exclusively to The Intercept.

Mattis’s appointment specifically contravenes a law, designed to preserve “civilian control” of the armed forces. The law stipulates that no one who has served on active duty within the last 10 years can serve as Secretary of Defense. Mattis is expected to obtain a waiver from Congress to circumvent that law.

A second general headed for Trump’s security leadership team is retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, named by Trump to direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (right).

The Wall Street Journal reported that Kelly’s appointment “would put a military commander who directly supervised U.S. operations in Central and South America in charge of one of the president-elect’s signature platforms: securing the border between Mexico and the U.S.”

DHS was created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.  The WSJ further notes that DHS has more than 240,000 employees, making it the government’s third-largest cabinet agency. Its duties includes “counterterrorism, disaster response, cybersecurity, and border and immigration controls. The Secret Service, which protects the president, is also part of DHS.

In the Trump administration, “the agency also would be at the forefront of efforts to deport illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S. from Mexico and to block the entry of certain refugees from the Middle East, should Mr. Trump act on pledges he made during his presidential campaign”.

A third general in the security leadership would be Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn, shown here in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. This position does not require Senate approval.

An Associated Press story in Fortune says:

On issues of national security and intelligence, no one is likely to have more influence in Donald Trump’s White House than retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

Yet Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser, has gained prominence in Republican politics by fueling conspiracy theories and Islamophobic rhetoric that critics warn could create serious distractions—or alienate allies and embolden enemies—if it continues.

“His job is to ensure that the White House is focused at all times on all of the threats that the United States faces abroad,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. She said she was “deeply troubled” by a Flynn tendency to promote fake news stories on his Twitter feed.

Three retired generals on the government case, and counting (two of them require Senate confirmation). They are Mattis, Kelly and Flynn. Sounds like a law firm ready to take your case for a very high fee of trust in a time of tension and uncertainty.

President-elect Trump has chosen his generals, who now will help him with security at home and abroad. That is the assignment the voters gave our next president. It is his decision to make, pending, in two instances, Senate approval.

These generals and the President who chose them, will demand close scrutiny at a moment in history which resonates with earlier moments in history, described by Charles Dickens in the opening line of his  A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

The picture of General Mattis is an Associated Press photo. The picture of General Kelly is from the U.S. Defense.gov archives. The picture of General Flynn is by Tom Williams CQ-Roll Call Inc.


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Carter To Obama: Recognize Palestine Now

by James M. Wallobama-in-jer

In his Op-ed column in The New York Times, Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, sent an urgent request to Barack Obama, the 44th President:

“The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20, is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership”.

That column appeared on the morning of November 29, seven weeks and three days before President Obama leaves office.

President-elect Donald Trump’s attitude toward the Palestinian issue is unclear, though an Israeli rightwing minister believes Trump’s election has ended Palestinian hopes for a separate state. 

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Wednesday that the possibility of a Palestinian state being established had ended after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president, calling for an end to the issue that has been at the center of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for years.

“Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” said Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home party.

Jimmy Carter has no way of knowing if what Bennett says may or may not reflect Trump’s future plans. Who does?

In any event, as Slim Pickens (in Dr. Strangelove) said about himself, this is not Carter’s “first rodeo”.  

In his Times piece, Carter recalls that in 1978, midway through his administration, he invited Israel’s prime minister, Menachem Begin, and Egypt’s president, Anwar Sadat, to meet him at Camp David.

He wanted them to reach an agreement that would resolve the conflict between Israel and Egypt and address Israel’s occupation of Palestine. 

Carter had initially planned on a three-day meeting, but starting on September 5, he doggedly spent thirteen days with the two leaders until the three leaders could agree on what became known as the Camp David Accords: First, “A Framework for Peace in the Middle East,” which dealt with the West Bank and Gaza, and second, “A Framework for the Conclusion of a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.”

The first accord was never fully implemented–as the last 37 years have continually made clear–but the second, signed on March 26, 1979, laid the basis for the first peace treaty between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors.

Israel’s ongoing refusal to implement the first accord, which was designed to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, brings us to this moment in the final weeks of Obama’s presidency.

Jimmy Carter strongly believes President Obama needs to act to give Palestinians the security Carter has sought for them since he was President. 

Carter is addressing this issue in his message to Obama: Act now; time is short.  

In his New York Times Op-ed, Carter explains that the Camp David Accords were based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242,

which was passed in the aftermath of the 1967 war. The key words of that resolution were “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every state in the area can live in security,” and the “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”

The state of Israel has continually violated 242. It gives every sign that it will continue to do so. Carter knows this, and Obama knows this. What Trump knows remains unknown, hence Carter’s urgent request to Obama. 

Take action now and join with 137 other members of the United Nations General Assembly and bring the state of Palestine into the body of nations which will offer the Palestinian people an opportunity to “live in security”.

In the world map below, the 137 nations which have recognized the Palestinian state, are in green. 

President Obama has seven weeks remaining to unilaterally move the United States from grey to green. The clock is running.



             The picture at the top is from the Times of Israel by YonatanSindel/Flash90. The map is from  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APalestine_recognition_only.svg

Posted in Jimmy Carter, Middle East, Obama, Palestinians, USA | 11 Comments

“A tragedy in a man, a disaster in a president”

by James M. Walldarren-hauckgetty-images

In the film, The Best Man, written by Gore Vidal, a candidate for president, Joe Cantwell (Cliff Robertson), is arguing with his more principled opponent, William Russell (Henry Fonda).

Exasperated at one point, Cantwell says to Russell, “I don’t understand you”.

Russell responds, “I know you don’t. Because you have no sense of responsibility towards anyone or anything. And that is a tragedy in a man, and a disaster in a president”.

The Best Man first appeared as a play in 1960. The film was released in 1964. More than five decades later, our newly-elected 45th President, Donald J. Trump, may be the disaster Gore Vidal warned us about.

Check the record. Start with Trump’s campaign comment on John McCain (pictured above).

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Rebecca Gordon. the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco.

She has a more nuanced approach to our newly-elected president. 

In her essay, “Life Under Trump”, for TomDispatch.com, she shared stories from her classroom the week Trump was elected.

She reminded her students that Trump voters included a sizable portion of our population which feels maginalized and denigrated by our present public policies.

In due time, many of those Trump voters may find they have been conned by a master con artist who told them what they wanted to hear. Cons most often lead to disaster.

Our media was complicit in Trump’s election, treating his race as a daily horse race with winners and losers. What the media failed to do was to examine seriously the nature of the candidate who won the final race. 

In President-elect Trump’s meeting with The New York Times editorial board, he continued that con. And the Times did what media leaders do, they dutifully reported what he said, even as they certainly knew this is a man who says whatever he feels the audience in the room wants him to say. 

The mistake the Times made in its editorial comment following that meeting was to treat what Trump says, literally. They wrote:

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises, dropping his vow to jail Hillary Clinton, expressing doubt about the value of torturing terrorism suspects and pledging to have an open mind about climate change.

“Tempered”, “dropped”, “expressed doubt”, are the wrong words to use when reporting on Trump. He said what he said in that given moment because he knew the editorial board members wanted to hear that his campaign rhetoric was subject to change in their direction.

I found the ideal way to understand the Trump phenomenon in an Atlantic article by Salena Zito, published September 23, during his campaign against Hillary Clinton.

In her Atlantic article, “Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally”, Zito wrote of Trump’s visit “to a shale-industry gathering”, where he “found a welcoming crowd”.

At one point, Trump promised the shale-industry executives that he had a plan to benefit their industry.

The answer, he told them, is to provide good education and good jobs for black youth. “Fifty-eight percent of black youth cannot get a job, cannot work,” he says. “Fifty-eight percent. If you are not going to bring jobs back, it is just going to continue to get worse and worse.”

Important topic, but the facts are not even close to true, as Zico notes:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 16 and 24 at 20.6 percent. Trump prefers to use its employment-population ratio, a figure that shows only 41.5 percent of blacks in that age bracket are working. But that means he includes full time high-school and college students among the jobless.

It’s a familiar split. When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.

Professor Gordon takes Trump seriously in her TomDispatch essay. What she hears and sees concerns her deeply. 

In Donald Trump, we have a president-elect who has said he will simply ignore the law if it gets in his way. In a primary debate last March, he insisted that the military would follow any order he gave — whether to torture detainees or to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists. When debate moderator Bret Baier pointed out that soldiers are prohibited from obeying an illegal order, Trump answered, “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I’m a leader.

The next day Trump walked back the comments, acknowledging that “the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws.”

Walking back was a standard tactic for Trump as a candidate. Walking back will be a “disaster” for his presidency. 

Gordon continues with her concern about Trump and the law:

There’s so much to worry about with a Trump presidency. Why does contempt for the rule of law stand out for me? Part of the answer is that by making laws we human beings both recognize and secure our need to live together. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas defined a law as “an ordinance of reason for the common good, made by [whoever] has care of the community, and promulgated.”

When Trump tweets or speaks on matters that reflect his non-Aquinas understanding of the law, he speaks of himself alone, the man voters have now elevated to the presidency. 

Think back, pilgrims, to what Trump said about torture in one campaign debate: “They won’t refuse. They’re not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I’m a leader”.

Trump’s response to Senator John McCain’s condemnation  of torture, which McCain experienced during his 5 and one-half years as a prisoner of war, was reported by Politico:

Appearing on Saturday at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, the real estate mogul took his running feud with Arizona Sen. John McCain to a new level.

“He’s not a war hero,” said Trump. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

The remarks, which came after days of back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, were met with scattered boos.

McCain, a former Navy pilot, spent roughly five-and-half years in a notorious North Vietnamese prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was repeatedly tortured. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement.

The Los Angeles Times, reporting on the Times meeting, wrote that Trump “backed off on his commitment to torturing enemies of state, saying a single conversation with a retired Marine general changed his mind”.

In its reference to the torture issue, the LA Times adds:

In another significant turnabout, he backpedaled from his repeated calls for a return to waterboarding and other discredited torture techniques to fight terrorism. Trump indicated he had reversed his view after a discussion with retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, considered a possible pick for secretary of Defense.

“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Trump said of their conversation on torture.

Trump said Mattis explained his view, shared by experts, that proven methods of interrogation, including building a relationship between interviewer and suspect, yield more useful information. “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better,” Mattis said, according to Trump, who said he was “very impressed” with the answer.

Donald Trump appears to change his mind according to the latest person who gains his attention. 

He insulted a U.S. Senator by saying he does like “prisoners”, and he displayed no interest in the 5 and a half-years John McCain spent in a North Vietnamese prison. 

But a general, who talks tough, turned him around with one comment against torture.

Barring an impeachment, Donald Trump will be our president for the next four years.

The media will cover him in detail. It is time for media and the public to take what our President-elect says, very seriously.

Once he assumes the power the voters have given him, both the media and the public must respond wisely and forcefully.

The picture above of then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 is a Getty image by Darren Hauck.

Posted in -Movies and politics, Donald Trump, Media, Politics and Elections | 6 Comments

Trump Transition Begins With Bannon

by James M. Wall

dreew-angerer-for-getthOne week after Donald Trump won the presidency, he is running his transition the way he ran his campaign, like a neophyte circus ringmaster who walks into the center ring with absolutely no idea of what to do next.

The clowns are bolting from their small crowded car, the acrobats are swinging high from their wires. The elephants are standing by quietly, perhaps recalling the plains of Africa.

Lurking over in the far edge of that circus ring is a mysterious figure, maybe a lion, or maybe another being, hungry for power. It is not a presence we expected to see at this circus. The audience pays him no attention. 

What about that audience? It is now living with the consequences of the second presidential election in 16 years in which voters gave the popular vote victory to the loser of the Electoral College race, the one that counts.

The audience mourns or is gleeful. Some, but sadly not all, watch and read to see what happens next.

In Washington, The Los Angeles Times reports President Obama held the traditional courtesy talk with his successor, reporting later he tried to point Trump in the direction of pragmatism.

The president-elect’s new Capitol Hill colleagues try to pull him in a “more ideologically conservative direction”.

Ideology versus pragmatism is a common tension with any new president. Donald J. Trump is however, not cut from the pattern of previous presidents.

He is, without question, the most unqualified candidate ever to assume the office of President.

He has, throughout his improbable campaign, demonstrated in public and in recorded private conversations, that he lacks the temperament and the maturity to become president.

But Donald Trump will become our President on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017, just nine weeks from now. The transition to a new administration is launched in chaos and circus-like disarray.

Suddenly, from the chaos of the transition, comes the news that brings a disturbing clarity to the future.

On Sunday, November 13, Trump named Stephen Bannon (pictured aboveas his chief White House strategist and senior counselor. Trump also named Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff. 

How close will Bannon be to the President? David Alexrod held the Bannon job through the first Obama term and in both Obama presidential campaigns. Chicago’s current Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was Obama’s first Chief of Staff. That close.

Bannon will be the door-keeper for the President. How he thinks and what he feels, will shape the White House agenda. Trump’s first transition decision is a signal for what we should expect from a Trump White House.

The New York Times greeted the news as ominous:

Anyone holding out hope that Donald Trump would govern as a uniter — that the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and nativism of his campaign were just poses to pick up votes — should think again.

In an ominous sign of what the Trump presidency will actually look like, the president-elect on Sunday appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist and senior counselor, an enormously influential post.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza describes Bannon:

The press release from the Trump transition staff said that Bannon and Priebus would be “equal partners.” This is a signal to Washington that Bannon will be the most powerful person in Trump’s White House.

On November 6, 2008, the day after his election, Barack Obama made just one personnel announcement: that Congressman Rahm Emanuel would be his chief of staff. Every staff member in the Obama White House reported to Emanuel, including political advisers such as David Axelrod. 

The Times offers this insight into the most powerful man in Trump’s new White House:

Many if not most Americans had never heard of Mr. Bannon before this weekend, and for good reason: He has kept a low profile, even after taking over Mr. Trump’s campaign in August. Before that, he worked as the executive chairman of the Breitbart News Network, parent company of the far-right website Breitbart News, which under Mr. Bannon became what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “white ethno-nationalist propaganda mill.”

The SPLC has monitored hate groups from its Montgomery, Alabama headquarters since it was launched in 1971 by Morris Dees, an advisor to the 1972 George McGovern campaign.

Bannon does not deny his SPLC description, the Times reports, “telling Mother Jones last summer that Breitbart was now the platform for the alt-right”.

The “alt-right”, the Times elaborates, is “a loosely organized group of mostly young men who believe in white supremacy; oppose immigration, feminism and multiculturalism; and delight in harassing Jews, Muslims and other vulnerable groups by spewing shocking insults on social media”.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who lost to Hillary Clinton in their race for the Democratic presidential nomination, was quick to speak out against Bannon’s appointment. 

The Associated Press reported Wednesday night that Sanders described Bannon as “totally unacceptable”.

He “called on Trump to pull back his recent appointment of a Breitbart News executive, as a top White House strategist”.  Sanders know the position Trump has given Bannon does not require Senate approval, which means it is his decision to make. 

Trump’s choice for cabinet positions, like, Secretary of State, will require a Senate vote. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani has been mentioned for that role.

Guiliani’s extensive financial international dealings with foreign governments should render his nomination highly unlikely. This is however, a highly unlikely presidency; the usual rules of politics no longer apply.  

The selection of  “alt-right” champion Stephen Bannon as senior counselor, is just the beginning. 

The time for election mourning is over. The time for monitoring and resisting destructive appointments, must begin.  As Gail Collins writes, “nine weeks and 3,998 appointments to go”.

The picture above of Stephen Bannon is by Drew Angerer/ Getty, from The New Yorker.

Posted in Donald Trump, Stephen Brannon | Tagged | 4 Comments

That Which We Feared Has Come Upon Us

By James M. Wall

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-8-44-01-amThe early morning after Donald Trump’s shocking upset election victory, the first thought that came to my mind was Job’s dark lament: “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me”. KJV Job 3:25.

My mother seared that verse into my consciousness the moment she quoted it, when my wife and I traveled 45 sad miles to tell my mother of the unexpected death of her son, who was also my oldest brother.

Job’s lament was her immediate reaction, followed by her quoting to me another line from Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him”.

When I recall that exchange that took place in my childhood home in Monroe, Georgia, it is a memory in a different context, consistent with the distress I felt in response to Trump’s victory.

It is a response not shared by more than half of those voters who gave Donald Trump the presidency.

Stunned by that final vote, and yet bolstered by the memory of my mother’s testimony of faith in the midst of her darkness, I turned to John Wesley’s Notes.  

This is how Methodism’s founder understood Job’s lament.:

51kpime7zyl3:25 Feared – Even in the time of my prosperity, I was full of fears, considering the variety of God’s providences, the changeableness of this vain world, God’s justice, and the sinfulness of all mankind. And these fears of mine, were not in vain, but are justified by my present calamities.

“Justified” had a special meaning for Wesley. Each faith tradition has its own way of understanding a believer’s trust in God. In the Methodist tradition:

The justifying dimension of “God’s grace is a gift. God’s grace alone brings us into relationship with God. There are no hoops through which we have to jump in order to please God and to be loved by God. God has acted in Jesus Christ. We need only to respond in faith.

It was her belief, as my mother testified those decades ago, that our “present calamities” will not be permanent. For her, out of darkness comes hope.

Donald Trump’s political victory was a defeat of the political establishment of both political parties which have grown moribund because those parties placed far too much political power in the hands of those who seek power to enrich themselves .

Donald Trump is not the leader I would have chosen to break up that moribund political/financial combine. But Trump it is, Mr. and Mrs. America, the man the majority of you chose to be our 45th President with his finger on the nuclear trigger.

Will Trump be as disastrous as his campaign rhetoric and personal comments would lead us to expect, or is there hope things can change for the better?

For one answer, join Thomas Friedman as he searches for a “silver lining” in his post-election column for The New York Times.

Before I lay out all my fears, is there any silver lining to be found in this vote? I’ve been searching for hours, and the only one I can find is this: I don’t think Trump was truly committed to a single word or policy he offered during the campaign, except one phrase: “I want to win.”

But Donald Trump cannot be a winner unless he undergoes a radical change in personality and politics and becomes everything he was not in this campaign. He has to become a healer instead of a divider; a compulsive truth-teller rather than a compulsive liar; someone ready to study problems and make decisions based on evidence, not someone who just shoots from the hip; someone who tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear; and someone who appreciates that an interdependent world can thrive only on win-win relationships, not zero-sum ones.

Can there be a total make-over for Trump from the racist, misogynist bully he portrayed in his campaign? Is that even possible? This is not a beauty contest, a television show or a hotel complex.

It is the leadership of the free world he has been handed. If he wants his time in office to be one that is consistent with his stated desire to be a unifier and strong president, he must surround himself with builders who know how to shape a post-establishment political nation that unifies and does not divide. 

For the rest of us, we know what we must do: Never despair and never quit working for others in our particular corner of God’s creation.

The image above, of President-elect Trump, is a screen shot taken on election night. 

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections | 10 Comments

Trump’s Racism and Misogyny Exploited Voters

by James M. Wallgettyimages-611690972-1280x720

To make any sense of the presidential election which concludes Tuesday, we must acknowledge that Donald J. Trump seized upon the fears and anger of voters and exploited them like the television con-man he is.

Trump voters, not Trump himself, have understandable fears and angers. Trump preys upon those emotions by promising to be their savior.

Trump is no savior. He is a documented narcissistic abuser of women, minorities, and, let’s face it, all of us within the sound of his voice and the vision of his hand-clapping cheer leader.

In an August 2014 issue in Psychology Today, Carrie Barron, a medical doctor, wrote an essay entitled If You Are the Target of Narcissistic Abuse. Troubled about Trump two years later, that title caught my attention.

We are all targets of Donald Trump’s “narcissistic abuse”. He and his gang of enablers, those Trump-backing Republican politicos and media conservatives who are even now counting their pieces of silver from a future Trump administrations.

This democracy and all its inhabitants are targets of Trump’s abuse.

Dr. Barron’s thoughts are pertinent to understanding what we are experiencing. She writes:

Mental Health professionals used to harbor the notion that narcissists were insecure and frail deep down.  Their trumped up attitude was viewed as off-putting and the job was to help them tone it down so others would like them more. And life would be easier for them. Strangely, narcissists were frequently people who at first glance, did not convey the compelling qualities that might explain extreme self-love.

Things have changed. Current thought challenges the notion that narcissists secretly suffer from low self-esteem or insecurity.  Or that they suffer as much as we thought in the ways that we thought. Recent findings indicate they take pleasure in successful manipulations.

Putting down unsuspecting, soft-hearted souls in their midst is a sport. They truly believe in their superiority even if objective evidence does not back it up. One psychiatry professor of mine did say, “They make everyone around them feel badly but they don’t feel badly themselves.”

We now have Trump and his enablers dangerously close to the nuclear button and the naming of Supreme Court justices.

We are having to accept the gift of Trump from a Tea-Party-weakened Republican Party and a main stream media which first laughed at him as a usurper.

Out of the glare of the media madness and shallow campaigns, we have experienced leaders like Richard Falk, one of the wisest among us, who continues to call for thoughtful public understanding of global problems.

Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, Falk says in a short film, Re-imagining the Future, “[T]he unregulated way the world economy has been operating has contributed to global inequality of a dangerous sort…creating a lack of confidence in the fairness of the way in which politics are organized.”

Trump’s racist credentials have been well-established since he stepped from that escalator and announced he was running for president.

As a candidate, Trump continued to push the widely-discredited Obama birther racist lie, until he dropped it just before entering the hot spotlight of debates with Hillary Clinton.

Racism has served Trump well. He is also an equal-opportunity exploiter, as Todd Gitlin, writing for billmoyers.com, explains.

Gitlin highlights a companion tool in Trump’s anger-hate toolbox by raising the question: How do we account for the hatred and sheer vileness directed at Hillary Clinton by Trump supporters.

Gitlin believes “Sheer, unbridled Hillary Clinton-hatred has to be a big hunk of the answer. Or to put it in one word: misogyny”.

The sad thing about his campaign is the way the Trump voters have had their anxieties and fears exploited. They are right to say the system is not fair.

Donald J. Trump established his racist credentials when he began his presidential campaign appealing to believers of the absurd Barack Obama birther lie.

As a candidate, he continued to push the birther racist lie, popular with his racist fans and conspiracy theorists, until he dropped it before the hot spotlight of his debates with Hillary Clinton.n one word: misogyny.”

With the election a week away, Trump displayed his misogyny in a Miami, Florida, rally where he assailed Clinton and Katie Tur, an MSNBC correspondent assigned to cover his campaign.

Misogyny is not a favorite word in our political conservation or in the media. But Wikipedia offers a quick definition: “hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification”.

Wikipedia’s definition of androcentrism fits Trump’s behavior which has been demonstrated repeatedly: Androcentrism is “the practice, conscious or otherwise, of placing male human beings or a masculine point of view at the centre of one’s world view, culture, and history”.

Katy Tur’s experience with the Trump campaign and with Trump himself,  is a vivid example of a woman encountering androcentrism. In an April essay for Marie Claire, she revealed that the Secret Service had taken steps to protect her after Trump called her out at an event in December.

Finally, our choices Tuesday are Trump, Clinton, two independent candidates for the ideologues, and wasted write-in votes for Colin Powell or someone’s first grade teacher.

Meanwhile, Clinton has been consistently wrong from her side of the political aisle with her pro-Israel, anti-BDS bellicosity. Assuming she will prevail over Trump’s narcissism on November 8, there will be opportunities to call her out for her lack of fairness regarding the Palestinians under an evil occupation.

We will also need to count on progressives like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to help on the Palestinian front and to play leading roles in dislodging Clinton from her Wall Street handlers.

Watch for her early appointments and stay tuned for a progressive reading of who she puts in critical positions in government.

Assuming a Trump loss, at your Thanksgiving dinner with those Trump voters at the table, remember that their anxieties are real and understandable. They were not given much of a champion on whom to place their concerns.

The picture of Hillary Clinton at top is a Getty image.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections | 3 Comments

Sanders Set to Push Clinton Leftward

by James M. Wallbn-pj887_0814cl_p_20160813223720

With two weeks to go before Election Day, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is vigorously campaigning for Hillary Clinton.

Sanders is also making plans to lead his fellow Senate liberals in opposition to any of President Clinton’s efforts to back away from the current Democratic Party platform.

Thanks to the aggressiveness of Sanders’ platform committee delegates, the platform includes strong domestic progressive planks.

Unfortunately, thanks to pressure from Clinton delegates, the platform failed to take any position on the decades-long, illegal, U.S.-funded Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. 

In an interview this week with John Wagner, of the Washington Post, Sanders said he and other senators “have started plotting legislation that would achieve many of the proposals that fueled his insurgent run for president, including a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public college, an end to ‘mass incarceration’ and aggressive steps to fight climate change.” 

Sanders said he and his Senate allies plan to push for the breakup of “too big to fail” banks and to pressure Clinton to appoint liberals to key Cabinet positions, including treasury secretary.

Sanders told Wagner he would not stay silent “if Clinton nominated the ‘same old, same old Wall Street guys’ to regulatory positions that are important in enacting and overseeing the financial policies he supports. ‘I will be vigorously in opposition, and I will make that very clear,’ Sanders said.”

Senators currently working “informally” with Sanders include Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

This “progressive caucus” will need a Democratic controlled Senate to have the impact the Sanders’ progressives seek. In its analysis of crucial senate races, Politico found that for the Senate to return to Democratic control, it will need at least four victories in tight races in six states:

The traditional swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and the newly competitive states of North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana, which historically lean Republican. (Bold face added).

The Democrats need to pick up at least four seats to win the Senate majority if Donald Trump loses [five if he wins]. 

In two mid-west races, Democratic candidates in Wisconsin (Russ Feingold) and Illinois (Tammy Duckworth) are leading their races against Republican incumbents.

Duckworth has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, a conservative newspaper, over incumbent Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL).

In its endorsement of Duckworth, the Chicago Tribune wrote that a stroke suffered by incumbent Republican Mark Kirk, had reduced his ability to serve in the Senate. Kirk’s staff rejects this conclusion, but has thus far refused to provide medical records to refute the Tribune’s conclusion.

In Wisconsin, former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold has held a consistent lead over incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson, the man who unseated him six years ago.

Real Clear Politics reports the latest polling through October 18, showing Feingold holding a five-point lead over Johnson.

In North Carolina, one of Politco’s “newly competitive states”, the Charlotte Observer editorial board has endorsed former state representative Democrat Deborah Ross, over Richard Burr, the Republican incumbent. The endorsement began:

Fifty Republican foreign policy experts have said Donald Trump would be “the most reckless president in American history,” given his lack of experience and rash temperament.

Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, surely knows how dangerous the impulsive, thin-skinned political novice would be in the Oval Office. Burr, perhaps more than any Republican senator, should have taken a principled stand against Trump.

And yet, Burr has not. He has embraced Trump, putting his party and his own political expediency ahead of national security. . . .

Burr insists [his opponent is] too liberal for North Carolina. There aren’t many former ACLU lawyers who wouldn’t qualify for that label.

While the Charlotte Observer endorsement will have the greater impact on North Carolina voters, Wednesday’s endorsement of Ross by The New York Times will add to her growing national recognition. 

Meanwhile, with only two weeks to go, the chances of Clinton returning to the White House as the first female President in the nation’s history, remains virtually certain.

As a result, Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House, has shifted his campaign attention to electing down-ballot Republican U.S. Representatives. With the increasingly strong possibility of a Democratic majority Senate, the House is almost certain to remain Republican, under Ryan’s leadership.

Politico reports that President Obama, who is campaigning for Clinton, is also investing his time, energy and growing popularity, to Democrats running for state senate and assembly. After a careful vetting, the White House says Obama expects to endorse as many as 150 candidates across 20 states.

The endorsements — which will come along with a variety of robocalls, social media posts, mailers, photos of Obama with the candidates taken as he’s been traveling to campaign in recent weeks, and even a few radio ads — are Obama’s biggest investment in state races ever by far, and come as he gears up to make redistricting reform at the state level the political priority of his post-presidency.

After January 20, President Obama will continue to live in Washington as long as he has a daughter in school there.  He will be well-positioned to work to wrest away the power Republican state legislatures have held over redistricting once every ten years.

He has the motive and he has the time.  He will, after all, be only 55 when he enters his post-presidency. It is well to recall that Jimmy Carter was 66 when he began a post-presidency of many significant achievements.

Posted in Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections | 5 Comments

The Atlantic’s 3rd Endorsement in 156 Years

by James M. Wallreutersbrian-snyder

The Atlantic, a magazine in print since 1857, does not hand out a presidential endorsement except when it feels one of the two choices is a serious danger to the nation.

It has made a U.S. presidential endorsement only three times in its history.

The first was in 1860, when James Russell Lowell, the founding editor of The Atlantic, argued that the Republican Party, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee, “represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country”.

That crisis was one of the animating causes of The Atlantic’s formation in 1857, the abolition of slavery.

The Atlantic’s second presidential endorsement came 104 years later, when in 1964 the publication endorsed incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, over his Republican challenger, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Edward Weeks, writing on behalf of the magazine, cited Lowell’s words from 1860, before making his case for the election of President Johnson, who would, The Atlantic believed, “bring to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa.”

The Atlantic’s third endorsement arrived this month, 52 years after its Lyndon B. Johnson endorsement.

The Atlantic’s 2016 choice is Hillary Clinton.

In its Clinton endorsement, the magazine’s current editors refer back to language from the 1964 decision to select Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater, using words that resonate in this current 2016 campaign:

 We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia.

There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.

In 2016, The Atlantic acknowledges that “our position is similar to the one” in which its editors found themselves in 1964.

We are impressed by many of the qualities of the [2016] Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

By calling its Clinton endorsement Against Donald Trump, the magazine makes clear that its major rationale in supporting Clinton is to warn voters of the dangers of a Trump victory on November 8.

This should reassure those Republicans who will, once Trump suffers his almost certain defeat, have a new assignment of rebuilding the GOP after the damage inflicted by Trump.

The Atlantic’s harsh words about Trump should also caution those voters tempted to vote for third-party candidates. Their vote will, ipso facto, be a Trump vote. 

Trump supporters waited anxiously for his performance in the third and final debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Cathleen Decker, writing for the Los Angeles Times, reports that Trump began the debate in a calmer tone than the angry tone he employs on the campaign trail.

It was not long, however, before the troublesome Trump emerged. Decker begins:

Donald Trump needed a compelling victory in Wednesday’s debate to alter the course of a campaign that has increasingly moved toward Hillary Clinton both nationally and in key states.

He did not get it.

The final debate was notable for delving into policy matters more than in two prior meetings, and for a more measured performance by Trump, in what was undeniably his best debate.

But whatever good he might have done for himself was flattened in two moments in which he appeared unable to take responsibility for his actions and unwilling to put aside personal disappointment for the nation’s good.

The Forward site points to Trump’s most damaging statements which are almost certain to harm him with undecided voters: 

When moderator Chris Wallace asked him — twice — whether he would accept the results of the vote on November 8, Trump — twice — refused to say he would. “I will look at it at the time,” he said smugly, as if he alone were the arbiter of what is right and fair about the electoral process. “I will keep you in suspense,” he said, as if this were yet another episode of the TV reality show that is his life.

In 1860The Atlantic founding editor James Russell Lowell, warned about “the perishability of the great American democratic experiment if citizens (at the time, white, male citizens) were to cease taking seriously their franchise”:

In a society like ours, where every man [or woman] may transmute his [or her] private thought into history and destiny by dropping it into the ballot-box, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the individual … For, though during its term of office the government be practically as independent of the popular will as that of Russia, yet every fourth year the people are called upon to pronounce upon the conduct of their affairs.

In less than three weeks, our “every fourth year” event will have its final moment of decision-making, in an election that most certainly is not “rigged”, though Donald Trump wants his die-hard loyalists to believe it is.

Trump has already signaled that he will not accept the election results. It appears almost certain now that he is laying plans for what would be a cult he will build around himself. His son is already talking about developing an independent Trump television network. 

Hillary Clinton’s victory will not be a mandate; it will be a rejection of Trumpism.  

To paraphrase a line from Mission Impossible: “Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to demand that your new President choose the right path toward justice and peace at home and abroad”.

The Hillary Clinton photo above, is by Brian Snyder for Reuters.

Posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections | 5 Comments