Category Archives: opinion

A Disturbing Possibility in November

You may have heard about this — the possibility that Donald Trump will lose the election to Joe Biden by a narrow margin, and try to block certification of results in key swing states . To the extent that he can offer a plausible counter narrative that he actually won in those states, the election may be thrown to the US Supreme Court (as it was in Bush v. Gore).

Max Boot writes about this in WP.

No one knows if this will happen. But as Max points out, it  is not unlikely that Donald Trump (1) knows his chances of an outright election win are not that great, and (2) is preparing to max out his chances of staying in the White House by any means possible. Alleging voter fraud and contesting certifications  is the most likely “any means” that he might have at his disposal.

Bottom line: to avoid this, Joe Biden needs to win by a convincing if not overwhelming margin. There can be no doubt of the outcome. And so, if you live in a swing state, especially Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan VOTE! Not just that, get your friends to register and vote.

The key first step is to be sure you are properly registered. Learn the requirements and meet them. Then vote.

Don’t wait until the last minute to register! The registration offices will likely be overloaded and your registration may not be handled correctly. DO IT EARLY!!!

This is the single most important election in our generation. It is not time to “assume” everything will be ok. We need to make sure Biden gets enough votes to win!

Go for it!

 

Which Way Does the Wind Blow, Captain Trump?

Vox is running an interesting post on Donald Trump’s re-election strategy. The key point is that the Donald is “doubling down” on his 2016 strategy to divide and conquer, but that times have changed. Thus, the strategy probably won’t work this time around.

Why not?

… a Washington Post-Schar School poll in June found that most Republicans supported (the black lives matter) protests that emerged after (George) Floyd’s death. And Trump is losing the support of crucial parts of his political base, like older voters and white voters, as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on people’s health, mobility, income, and wealth. These factors likely explain much of why Trump is the worst-polling presidential incumbent at this point in the race in nearly three decades.

While I agree that the above trends evidence likely defeat for Mr. Trump this November, I think the analysis is a bit myopic. Have we already forgotten the historic dem victory in the 2018 mid term elections?  Since then, the factors that created the “blue wave” have not diminished in importance. To the contrary, there has been a steady, smokey exhaust of political calamity wafting from the White House that culminated in the impeachment melodrama.  And it will be difficult to forget how GOP senators refused to see what was staring us in the face: no matter what one’s political views may be, Donald Trump does not belong in the White House.

When you add all of this up,  it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Donald Trump has never really had a strategy for governing at all. He is a “one act pony”, and the act was wearing thin even before he was elected in 2016. As Howard Stern said, the dude will say anything in order to get attention. So as not to be “boring”, Trump concocts and delivers his daily fantasy laden diatribes, totally oblivious to truth, impact or whatever. The only thing he pays attention to is whether he is front page news. And using that criteria, Donald Trump can rightfully claim that his presidency has been a success — for him.

The good news is that fears that some folks had back in 2016 (me included) that Trump had some sort of nefarious plan to subvert democracy were overblown. Trump is not capable of that sort of strategic thinking, though Bill Barr may be.

The bad news is that Trump has proven himself to be both venal and woefully incompetent. and as Susan Rice points out, he has surrounded himself with sycophants. Out of that stink pot, we got disasters like the botched hurricane relief for Puerto Rico (remember that one?) and now the non-existent Covid response. Need we mention that Donald Trump has eroded confidence among our allies that the USA can be trusted to lead the free world? And sadly, Trump has given confidence to others that they can act with relative impunity as the Trump led Untied States is not likely to respond. Not only that, we now have a strutting gaggle of Trump “wannabe’s” who think being like Trump is a smart way to gain power.

Boiling this all down, we are likely to remember Trump as the personification of a very stupid idea. That stupid idea is that politics is just a form of entertainment, like a sporting event. With that mindset, it doesn’t matter which team you support, and “truth” and “good governance” are whatever politicians say they are in order to win elections. And so political journalism is about whether a given “tactic” will be successful rather than whether it is remotely reasonable.  Even the rather sober Vox article linked above falls prey to this mentality. I call this the era of “politainment” (the fusion of politics and entertainment) — and it has had a peculiar sort of logic for the most overly entertained people since the Romans. Game on, dude!

One hopes that we have found out the hard way that politics does matter, and that if we take politics as a form of entertainment, we are, as they say, riding in “a canoe without a paddle”. Now is the time to remind ourselves that reality has a way of barging into the party sooner or later, and when it does, we cannot save ourselves by repeating “It’s only a movie!” Yes, I am saying that things could get even worse if we do not learn from the last four years. So it will be interesting to see if after November, a somewhat more sober sort of national politics emerges in the United States. I do not ask for a 21st century Gladstone, but I do hope we can avoid a Boulanger or even worse a Nicky II.

One can dream, right?

Good Old Dr. Johnson and The Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

I write this after watching snippets of the president of the United States make the outrageous claim that the country is in danger from left wing fascism.  He sounded the alarm! La Patrie en danger!  He is assuming the role of lead “patriot”.

According to Boswell, Dr. Samuel Johnson commented  in 1775 that“Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” BTW, we know from Boswell that Johnson was not referring to patriotism in general, but of a certain use of patriotism by persons for their own less than honorable purposes. Dr. Johnson’s point is more about what scoundrels do than about patriotism itself as a value.

And there is an underlying truth here. Patriotism is an intoxicating brew. Scoundrels know that, and use it to their advantage, riling up the masses to distract them from “other things” and weaponize them for political gain.

In France, this was encapsulated in the famous phrase “la patrie en danger!” According to Wikipedia

(This) was the start of a declaration by the French Assembly on 11 July 1792 in response to Prussia joining Austria against France. Along with the Levée en masse declared the next year, it was part of the growing idea of “people’s war” which developed during the French Revolution, where ideology “not only conscripted manpower for the regular armies, but also inspired ordinary people to fight on their own account.”

This galvanized the people to fight the coalition of nations that sought to end the revolution, and of course, eventually the French people got “the man on a white horse”. This dude

Napoleon's Legendary Steed Finds His Footing - HISTORY

Napoleon’s legacy was so strong that for many decades after his demise, some still craved “the man on the white horse” to come back “save” the country.  To get a sense of how this can turn into farce, you might check out this post on the “Boulanger Affair”.

In the 20th century, we get more extreme examples of scoundrels firing up the masses with calls to patriotism – for example,  we got this guy

ADOLF HITLER AT NUREMBERG, 1934 - 1935 | Imperial War Museums

My point here — by now, we should know that when any politician relies heavily on patriotism and makes the clarion call that  “La Patrie en danger!” we should ask ourselves, “just what is the threat”?  “Who are the enemies?”

If we don’t do that, we may have to accept the wisdom of the line from Pogo “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Ho Hum, Trump is Furious Yet Again

I don’t know about you, but I have about had it with headlines like this one

Trump is Furious About (fill in the blank)

This time it is about Joe Biden’s lead in the polls.

How about this one from just the other day?

Trump flew into a rage every time US intelligence warned him about Russia, so officials gave up briefing him on it, report says

Yikes! And before that, there was this one

Brad Parscale faces Trump ‘fury’ after Tulsa comeback rally flops

Here is good old Brad, apparently with his fair on fire

Brad Parscale - Wikipedia

No doubt, you get the point. Based on the news, the dude has a serious anger management problem. Next thing you know, we will see headlines like this

Trump is Apoplectic About Not Finding his Slippers

Or

Trump has Gone Bonkers about  the Stain on His Favorite Tie

Or

Trump Enraged that Melania Ate His Cheeseburger!

One could not be blamed for wondering whether the Trumpster will make it through the July 4th holiday without losing it … four or five times. Quick Melania, lock the door Redrum! Man the fire hoses!

Apparently, Trump’s emotional instability is not enough to raise eyebrows among GOP Senators. Perhaps they have the same sort of problem? One can imagine the raucous howling from their Senate offices when they read that Trump is furious yet again! Their version of the “Me Too” movement?

Governance by rage! Has it come to that?

 

Donald Trump as the Duke of Death

You might recall the title “Duke of Death” from”The Unforgiven”  a rather tough western starring Clint Eastwood and some notable others. Here is a scene

According to Chris Hayes, we have our own “Duke of Death” these days. A man who is responsible for a lot more deaths than the characters in The Unforgiven could dream of.

It is our president. A man who has from the beginning failed to protect the American people from the Covid pandemic that is now registering over 50,000 infections per day. You might think the president would be working overtime to figure out ways to get this under control. Nope.

The Duke of Death doesn’t worry about stuff like that.

Who is Bill Barr Really?

When William Bar first appeared before the Senate to be confirmed as Donald Trump’s new AG,. the press reports were not overly hostile. Barr was, after all, a man with a record. He was respected.

But as time has gone by, perceptions of Barr have changed. So it is fair to ask, who is this dude?

This interview comes as close as anything that I have read to explaining this. Barr  entertains radical views about the power of the presidency. He does not believe in checks and balances.  Along with that, he has a peculiar “culture warrior” attitude about law and order.

And in my view, that makes him at least as dangerous as Donald Trump.

Foreign Affairs – Russia, Mon Amor, is Still a Mess

A quick reminder:

  • Russian back separatists in Eastern Ukraine are still engaged in a war (now in stalemate) with Ukrainian forces. There is no sign of this conflict ending
  • Russia still occupies Crimea and is not likely to leave any time soon.
  • Russia was found to have  interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to assist Donald Trump
  • Russian agents have murdered persons they consider to be unfriendly in the UK and elsewhere.  Anyone remember this dude?

Alexander Litvinenko death: Inquiry to be held - BBC News

And the father and daughter who were poisoned?

Russia spy poisoning: Chemical weapons watchdog backs Britain ...

And recently, the Russian Duma is considering whether to retract its earlier denunciation of the old Mototov Ribbentrop Pact –— the agreement that led to the invasion of Poland and the Second World War (along with its horrific secret protocols that split up Eastern Europe and the Baltics between the two powers).

WTF!

In other words, one does not need to reflect for long before reaching the conclusion that under Mr. Putin, Russia is a rogue state. Its leaders thumb their noses at international legal norms and at the west in general.

And what has been the response from the west? A newly released book suggests that the UK government ignored warnings about Russian intentions so as not to anger Donald Trump.

So as not to anger Donald Trump? Yet more reasons to fear another four years of this person as president.

Yes, there is a world out there, and the US under Donald Trump is losing its influence with friends and helping its adversaries.

Food for thought.