The Strange Logic Of Anti-Choicers

The coverage of Drumpf’s punish-the-women comment has been fairly extensive. And from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz and John Kasich, condemnation has come from both political parties and from both sides of the debate over abortion.

What I find fascinating, though, is the reaction of those who hold the anti-choice position. Cruz—who would force a woman to have a rapist’s baby—said, “Of course we shouldn’t be talking about punishing women; we should affirm their dignity and the incredible gift they have to bring life into the world.” Kasich, who proudly says he has “exceptions” to his anti-choice stance, said, “Of course women shouldn’t be punished.” Oh, yeah? Why not?

8 cell zygoteIf it came to pass that aborting a zygote became the legal equivalent of murdering a “child,” then why wouldn’t the mother, who presented herself to an abortionist in order to have her zygote-child killed, be guilty of a crime? The standard response from anti-choicers is that such women are “victims.” It is the doctors who are the real criminals. Really? Let’s take a closer look at the issues involved. Keeping in mind that those in the anti-choice movement believe there should be no legal distinction between a zygote and a child, let’s examine this controversy by way of an analogy:

Imagine there is a business across town that, legally and for a fee, would kill unwanted toddlers, kids between one and three years old—but only if their mothers brought them in. And imagine a woman bringing her child to the business, paying the fee, and leaving behind a dead kid. Now, imagine that you object, and object strongly and passionately, to this practice. You don’t believe such a business should be allowed to operate. You believe it is immoral to kill toddlers. What would you do?

Here are some of your options:

1. Fight for a law that forbids such a business, except in cases in which the toddler is a product of rape, incest, or is a danger to the mother. In those cases, you would have no objection to the practice. We’ll call this the Kasich Option.

2. Fight for a law that completely forbids such a business. We’ll call this the Cruz Option.

3. Protest in front of the business and encourage women not to bring their kids there to be killed.

4. Burn down or blow up the business.

5. Kill the business owner, who you think is a murderer.

6. Stop the woman before she can deliver her child to the business, either by kidnapping her or killing her.

Now suppose you reject the options that involve violence. Even though you “know” that just across town there are toddlers being murdered each and every day, for some reason your passions aren’t aroused enough to actually try to physically stop it. And if someone came along who did resort to violence, whose passions couldn’t be tamed and either bombed the business or killed its owner, you would condemn such a person. You would argue that people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. This position happens to be the position of most of those who call themselves “pro-life.”

Let’s stop here to think about what we have learned so far about most anti-choicers in this analogy. They are convinced that killing toddlers is morally wrong. And they know that toddlers are actually being killed across town. Yet, their position is to let it continue and fight to stop it through the law. Doesn’t that sound a little strange? Especially if killing toddlers legally has been going on since 1973? That’s a lot of murdered kids.

In any case, let us now examine those whose approach to stopping toddler-killing involves changing the law. First, there is the Kasich Option. Those who adopt this method will tolerate exceptions. Under their proposed law, a business could kill only a certain class of toddlers, those who were products of rape or incest or who presented a danger to the life of their mothers. Let’s think about what this tells us about anti-choicers who embrace the Kasich Option. They believe that it is wrong to kill a toddler, but it is not always wrong to kill one. Some toddlers don’t deserve the protection of the law and their mothers are free to bring them across town and have them killed. Again, doesn’t that sound a little strange?

That brings us to the Cruz Option. After rejecting violence and thereby tolerating murder across town, suppose these anti-choicers were successful in getting a law passed that made killing toddlers completely illegal. No exceptions. (This is the position of about 20% of Americans, by the way.) We can quickly see this position is at least logically consistent. If it is wrong to kill toddlers, it is wrong to kill all toddlers. Even those who came into existence by way of rape, by way of a violent act against a woman’s will, deserve equal protection under the law.

Now let’s plug Drumpf’s original abortion remarks and his subsequent reversal into this analogy. Drumpf said “we have to ban” toddler-killing. The conversation he then had with Chris Matthews assumed that toddler-killing was illegal. That’s when Drumpf said, “There has to be some form of punishment” for the woman who has her toddler killed outside the law. You could see his mind slowly and painfully grasp the logic of his position: If we criminalize the practice, then the woman involved has to be a criminal. But Drumpf, under intense pressure, retreated and later offered us the standard anti-choice rhetoric:

If Congress were to pass legislation making [toddler-killing] illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban [toddler-killing] under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a [woman’s toddler] would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the [toddler]. My position has not changed — like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.

Now we can clearly see how ridiculous all this is. If abortion is tantamount to toddler-killing, as the anti-choice movement insists it is, and if Drumpf or Kasich or Cruz had their way and abortions were outlawed, then it is absurd to claim the woman who has an illegal abortion is a victim. She would obviously be a criminal. The only question left is the one that perplexed Drumpf: what should the punishment be for the crime of having your child killed?

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time that this exact issue has come up in a presidential campaign. Back in 1988, Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush and Governor Michael Dukakis discussed penalizing women during their first debate. Mr. Bush had been pro-choice, until Republican orthodoxy required him to “evolve” on the issue. Here is part of that discussion:

ANN GROER of The Orlando Sentinel: Mr. Vice President, I’d like to stay with abortion for just a moment if I might. Over the years you have expressed several positions, while opposing nearly all forms of government payment for it. You now say that you support abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or threat to a mother’s life, and you also support a constitutional amendment that if ratified would outlaw most abortions. But if abortions were to become illegal again, do you think that the women who defy the law and have them anyway, as they did before it was okayed by the Supreme Court, and the doctors who perform them should go to jail?

BUSH: I haven’t sorted out the penalties. But I do know, I do know that I oppose abortion. And I favor adoption. And if we can get this law changed, everybody should make the extraordinary effort to take these kids that are unwanted and sometimes aborted, take the – let them come to birth, and then put them in a family where they will be loved. And you see, yes, my position has evolved. And it’s continuing to evolve, and it’s evolving in favor of life. And I have had a couple of exceptions that I support – rape, incest and the life of the mother. Sometimes people feel a little uncomfortable talking about this, but it’s much clearer for me now. As I’ve seen abortions sometimes used as a birth control device, for heavens sakes. See the millions of these killings accumulate, and this is one where you can have an honest difference of opinion. We certainly do. But no, I’m for the sanctity of life, and once that illegality is established, then we can come to grips with the penalty side, and of course there’s got to be some penalties to enforce the law, whatever they may be.

JIM LEHRER: Governor.

DUKAKIS: Well, I think what the vice president is saying is that he’s prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making this decision. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think it’s enough to come before the American people who are watching us tonight and say, well, I haven’t sorted it out. This is a very, very difficult and fundamental decision that all of us have to make. And what he is saying, if I understand him correctly, is that he’s prepared to brand a woman a criminal for making this choice.

BUSH: I just –

DUKAKIS: Let me finish. Let me simply say that I think it has to be the woman in the exercise of her own conscience and religious beliefs that makes that decision, and I think that’s the right approach, the right decision, and I would hope by this time that Mr. Bush had sorted out this issue and come to terms with it as I have. I respect his right to disagree with me. But I think it’s important that we have a position, that we take it, and we state it to the American people.

The elder Bush went on to win that election, of course. But so many years later the issue of criminalizing abortion is still packed with inconsistencies and contradictions. And for all the harm Donald Drumpf has done to the electoral process this season, he has done some good by inadvertently exposing those inconsistencies and contradictions.

Women Love Drumpf. Especially Now.

Drumpf says he cherishes women. Says he wants to help women. That he will be great for women. Women love him.

Today, Drumpf said something so remarkable about women, so unbelievably appealing, that he should have no problem winning them over in the general election. In an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, as reported by BloombergPolitics, here’s how he has officially locked up the female vote:

At a taping of an MSNBC town hall to be aired later, host Chris Matthews pressed Trump on his anti-abortion position, repeatedly asking him whether abortion should be punished if it is outlawed. “This is not something you can dodge.”

“Look, people in certain parts of the Republican Party, conservative Republicans, would say, ‘Yes, it should,’” Trump answered.

“How about you?” Matthews asked.

“I would say it’s a very serious problem and it’s a problem we have to decide on. Are you going to send them to jail?” Trump said.

“I’m asking you,” Matthews said.

“I am pro-life,” Trump said. Asked how a ban would actually work, Trump said, “Well, you go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places but we have to ban it,” Trump said.

Matthews then pressed Trump on whether he believes there should be punishment for abortion if it were illegal

“There has to be some form of punishment,” Trump said. “For the woman?” Matthews asked. “Yeah,” Trump said, nodding.

Trump said the punishment would “have to be determined.”

Yes. The punishment will have to be determined. Jail? Maybe. Flogging? Who knows. Stoning? Could be. How about the death penalty? To be determined.

Republicans should be very, very proud of their leader. As Drumpf says, he will be great for women. He loves women. Women love him.

The saddest thing about this whole thing is that Drumpf is only following the logic of the anti-choice position. He is actually being morally consistent. If abortion is intentionally killing a constitutionally-protected human being, then punishment should follow. Women seeking abortions aren’t victims, but accessories to murder. Hooray for Drumpf for making that ridiculous position clear to each and every woman out there: if you have ever had an abortion, or if you ever do, you are a murderer who should be punished.

If this doesn’t do in the Donald, nothing—nothing—ever will.

The Bernie Cult

It was disgusting.

At first I thought I had dozed off watching television last night and was having a bad dream. But it was no dream. Actress Susan Sarandon, showing herself not to be a Democrat but only a Bernie groupie, did actually tell MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that she wasn’t sure she could vote for Hillary Clinton, should her beloved Bernie fail to win the nomination. Sarandon claimed that because Bernie-ites were “passionate and principled,” there was “a good possibility” that they might not be able to support Clinton’s candidacy because the Democratic front-runner doesn’t believe what Bernie believes.

sarandonWhat nauseating nonsense. What depressing drivel. Sarandon sounded exactly like your average Tea Party nut. At one point, the prominent Bernie supporter said she had talked to people who will write Bernie’s name on the ballot in November because they feel Hillary is “not authentic, that she’s a liar, that they don’t trust her, so what difference does it make?” By now, that line of attack should sound familiar coming from Bernie’s side. After all, his supporters learned it from his campaign.

Hayes suggested to Sarandon that when faced with the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Drumpf, even Bernie Sanders would “probably” have to support Hillary—there is some doubt about that because Bernie has hinted he won’t support her unless she and the “Democratic establishment” meet his demands. Responding to Hayes’ suggestion, the star-struck actress responded:

I think Bernie would probably encourage people, because he doesn’t have any ego in this thing. But I think a lot of people are, ‘Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do that.’

“Probably”? Are you kidding me? Sanders would probably encourage people to vote for the Democrat in the general election? Jesus. Susan Sarandon isn’t part of a political campaign, she is part of a cult. There is the evidence right there in her statement about Bernie: “he doesn’t have any ego in this thing.” Oh. My. God. No ego? All politicians have ego and Bernie Sanders is no different. Someone who wants to be the most powerful person in the world definitely has an ego.

In fact, one could argue that it is Bernie’s rather large ego that prevents him from acknowledging the reality that his quest for the presidency is increasingly quixotic. And one could argue that it is his rather large ego that prevents him from productively sanders on young turkschanneling the amazing energy of his younger followers into a movement to win back control of Congress. If Bernie had no “ego in this thing,” he would start attacking Republicans in vulnerable districts and spend his resources and his political capital in support of Democratic candidates who can actually help bring about some needed change. But he won’t. Like almost all politicians, his ego won’t let him.

Sarandon didn’t limit her fantasizing last night to Bernie-worship and Hillary-bashing. As bad as it was that she said she couldn’t be sure she personally, or Bernie-ites in general, would support Hillary Clinton in a race against Drumpf, what she said subsequently was worse. Chris Hayes, rather emphatically, said he couldn’t believe that faced with a choice between Clinton and Drumpf that folks like her would sit it out. Sarandon then said,

Some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately. If he gets in, then things will really, you know, explode.

Huh? Was she really saying that there are Bernie devotees out there who think it would be best if Drumpf actually wins in November because the much-awaited revolution will then come—after the country explodes? Yes. She really said that. And, again, she sounded just like a strange member of a strange cult. Chris Hayes even suggested to her that such an idea was “the Leninist model,” which she did not deny. Oh, my.

Susan Sarandon was co-chair of Ralph Nader’s National Steering Committee in 2000, the year that Nader and his cult following helped make George W. Bush president by taking votes away from Al Gore in Florida. Sarandon has a history of being blind to reality. We can only hope, those of us who don’t want to see America Drumpfed or Cruzed, that there aren’t a lot of Bernie-cultists out there wearing revolution-at-any-cost blinders.

And, my God, at this point we can only hope—we can no longer be sure—that Bernie himself won’t get caught up in the cultic atmosphere that is starting to define his campaign.


Hillary Clinton And The Purity Test

During a segment this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Hillary Clinton was all but convicted of “crimes” related to her never-ending email “scandal.” Now, for those of us condemned to watching this daily Drumpf-drumming, Hillary-hating nonsense on MSNBC, the ugly discussion about Clinton’s emails and server was nothing new. The host of the show, Republican Joe Scarborough, makes no secret of his opinion that Hillary Clinton is guilty of something, and she is especially guilty of lying about whatever that something is.

In any case, today’s excuse for yet another Hillary-is-guilty segment was a story published yesterday by the Los Angeles Times (“Clinton email probe enters new phase as FBI interviews loom“) that began this way:

Federal prosecutors investigating the possible mishandling of classified materials on Hillary Clinton’s private email server have begun the process of setting up formal interviews with some of her longtime and closest aides…

Notice something about that intro: “the possible mishandling of classified materials.” What’s so hard to understand about that word “possible”? Here’s some help from Merriam-Webster: “something that may or may not be true or actual.” You see? It may or not be true that Mrs. Clinton “mishandled” classified materials, let alone did anything that could remotely be considered criminal. That’s why the FBI is, uh, investigating the matter. And normally when there is an investigation, there are interviews. That’s the way it works. What’s the jaw-dropping news in that? It would be jaw-dropping news if the FBI didn’t interview anyone, wouldn’t it?

In fact, the same L.A. Times article notes that “a person familiar with the investigation” said that FBI agents “have interviewed a number of former aides so they could better understand how the system was used and why Clinton chose to use it.” And now the FBI is moving further up the chain of people involved, just as we should expect them to do. Is that a big deal? No. It’s not a big deal. But this is Hillary Clinton we are talking about. She is judged by a different standard. Many pundits, especially those working on television, are quick to turn even the smallest trickle of information about the FBI’s investigation into a Niagara Falls of accusations. Why? Because she is presumed to be so damned dishonest. A liar. Everyone knows that, right? Just look at the polls!

But it’s not just right-wingers like Joe Scarborough who make such outrageous claims about Clinton. As I have argued, the not-so-subtle attacks on her integrity are part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign to beat her. She is not to be trusted. She is a liar. And then there are the zany left-wing columnists out there who back Bernie. Let me give you an example of something one of those zany columnists published this morning on HuffPo:

It’s Time for Hillary Clinton to Concede the Democratic Nomination to Bernie Sanders

Yes. That is really the headline. This strange opinion piece, also generated by that L. A. Times article, was written by H. A. Goodman. He’s a real winner. Some of his past gems include “Bernie Sanders Will Become President. The FBI and 67 Percent of Americans Distrust Hillary Clinton” and “The FBI’s Investigation of Clinton’s Emails Makes Bernie Sanders the True Democratic Front-Runner” and “Bernie Sanders Won the Debate Because Jorge Ramos Is Right, Clinton Could Get Indicted” and “33 Percent of Bernie Sanders Supporters Will Not Vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s Why” and, my personal favorite from just last week, The Case for Writing-In Bernie Sanders If Hillary Clinton Is the Democratic Nominee.” Get the idea? These creeps would rather lose the election than vote for Hillary Clinton.

Goodman, as well as other Bernie-loving leftists, are as sure as Joe Scarborough that Clinton is guilty of something. Goodman’s piece referenced some critics of Clinton who think “a criminal charge is justified” and that if it were anyone else but her, jail would probably await. But none of these people, on the left or the right, apparently bothered to read the entire L.A. Times article that left them all aglow with Hillary-hate. Here is what they missed:

Many legal experts believe that Clinton faces little risk of being prosecuted for using the private email system to conduct official business when she served as secretary of State, though that decision has raised questions among some about her judgment. They noted that using a private email system was not banned at the time, and others in government had used personal email to transact official business.

The bigger question is whether she or her aides distributed classified material in email systems that fell outside of the department’s secure classified system. But even if prosecutors determine that she did, chances she will be found criminally liable are low. U.S. law makes it a crime for someone to knowingly or willfully retain classified information, handle it in a grossly negligent manner or to pass it to someone not entitled to see it.

Once you read those two paragraphs, once you realize that the hysteria surrounding this issue mostly involves the weird and unruly classification of material handled by various agencies in the federal government (blogger Jim Wheeler has an excellent post on that mess), then you see why there is “little risk” of a prosecution for Hillary Clinton. But even so, there remains the issue of her trustworthiness, which is always raised as a liability for her in the general election. And fortunately, someone—someone important in the world of journalism—has addressed the issue in a straightforward manner.

If you follow politics religiously, you no doubt have heard of Jill Abramson. Right now she is a columnist for the Guardian, but for nearly two decades she worked for The New York Times, serving as its Washington bureau chief and then its managing editor and then its first female executive editor. That’s a big deal. That’s a lot of journalistic cred. Today, Abramson published a piece for the Guardian that should be read by every single reporter and pundit:

This may shock you: Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest

“Shock you”? Abramson explains:

I would be “dead rich”, to adapt an infamous Clinton phrase, if I could bill for all the hours I’ve spent covering just about every “scandal” that has enveloped the Clintons. As an editor I’ve launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I’m not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising.

Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy.

Abramson, without starry-eyed admiration—she points out that Clinton’s biggest fault is her reluctance to disclose even harmless information—tells us why she thinks her “honest and trustworthy” conclusion is justified:

jill abramsonThe yardsticks I use for measuring a politician’s honesty are pretty simple. Ever since I was an investigative reporter covering the nexus of money and politics, I’ve looked for connections between money (including campaign donations, loans, Super Pac funds, speaking fees, foundation ties) and official actions. I’m on the lookout for lies, scrutinizing statements candidates make in the heat of an election.

The connection between money and action is often fuzzy. Many investigative articles about Clinton end up “raising serious questions” about “potential” conflicts of interest or lapses in her judgment. Of course, she should be held accountable. It was bad judgment, as she has said, to use a private email server. It was colossally stupid to take those hefty speaking fees, but not corrupt. There are no instances I know of where Clinton was doing the bidding of a donor or benefactor…

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates…

Clinton has mainly been constant on issues and changing positions over time is not dishonest.

“Fundamental to understanding her,” Abramson writes, is this:

Clinton distrusts the press more than any politician I have covered. In her view, journalists breach the perimeter and echo scurrilous claims about her circulated by unreliable rightwing foes.

As a once-reluctant Clinton supporter myself, I have come to see why, especially after what Republicans and some in the press did to her in the 1990s, she has tended to insist on maintaining what Abramson referenced as a “zone of privacy,” a space for breathing air not polluted by partisan politics. I’m convinced that is what led her to make that dumb decision to have her own private server, a decision that dogs her each and every day.

But I want to be clear about something. Clinton’s past fights with right-wingers and her distrust of some journalists who made those fights more difficult doesn’t excuse her from the demands of democracy. It sounds tautologically trite, but we need information to make informed decisions, and the job of the press is to get that information. Having said that, though, Hillary shouldn’t be subjected to higher scrutiny than other candidates. As Abramson put it:

It’s fair to expect more transparency. But it’s a double standard to insist on her purity.

Insisting on Hillary Clinton’s purity is not only a right-wing standard of measuring her integrity, but, sadly, in too many cases it has also become a left-wing standard for measuring her integrity.

And the only beneficiary of such unrealistic nonsense is the Republican Party.

Like A Rolling Stone?

My days of reading Rolling Stone magazine go back to the early 1970s, when the undergroundish magazine was using newsprint and was full of strange and stimulating stuff about music and politics that a boy from southeast Kansas couldn’t easily find anywhere else.

Today, the now slicked-up version, still published by its co-founder Jann Wenner, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The editorial endorsing her was authored by Wenner, and I found it not only well-written, but well-reasoned.

Wenner compliments Bernie Sanders for proving “to be a gifted and eloquent politician,” who “has articulated the raw and deep anger about the damage the big banks did to the economy and to so many people’s lives.” He praised him for making it clear “how punishing and egregious income inequality has become in this country.” Wenner says his “heart is with him.”


it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern. I believe that extreme economic inequality, the vast redistribution of wealth to the top one percent — indeed, to the top one percent of the one percent — is the defining issue of our times. Within that issue, almost all issues of social injustice can be seen, none more so than climate change, which can be boiled down to the rights of mankind against the oligarchy that owns oil, coal and vast holdings of dirty energy, and those who profit rolling stone header.jpgfrom their use.

Hillary Clinton has an impressive command of policy, the details, trade-offs and how it gets done. It’s easy to blame billionaires for everything, but quite another to know what to do about it. During his 25 years in Congress, Sanders has stuck to uncompromising ideals, but his outsider stance has not attracted supporters among the Democrats. Paul Krugman writes that the Sanders movement has a “contempt for compromise.”

Every time Sanders is challenged on how he plans to get his agenda through Congress and past the special interests, he responds that the “political revolution” that sweeps him into office will somehow be the magical instrument of the monumental changes he describes. This is a vague, deeply disingenuous idea that ignores the reality of modern America. With the narrow power base and limited political alliances that Sanders had built in his years as the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, how does he possibly have a chance of fighting such entrenched power?

I have been to the revolution before. It ain’t happening.

Noting that Clinton “is one of the most qualified candidates for the presidency in modern times,” Wenner reminds us about that infamous 2000 Bush v. Gore election and how, “The votes cast for the fantasy of Ralph Nader were enough to cost Gore the presidency,” a sin of the left for which we are all still paying. And as I have tried to do, Wenner compared this moment to a similar one and came to the same conclusion I have:

Rolling Stone has championed the “youth vote” since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. But those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings. We are faced with that decision again.

After pointing out that this election is “a tipping point like none since before the Civil War”—because “We are at the culmination of a decades-long effort by the right wing to take over the government”—Wenner writes:

When I consider what’s in their hearts, I think both Clinton and Sanders come out on the side of the angels; but when I compare their achievements in the past decades, the choice is clear. This is not the time in history for a “protest vote.”

No. It’s not the time merely to register one’s anger. As I have said and will keep saying, there is too much to lose. Look around you. Out there in the darkness of an easily-frightened, overly-anxious,  often ill-informed electorate, there lurks a Drumpf. Or possibly an even more dangerous beast: Cruz, The Christian Crusader.

Why John Kasich Shouldn’t Be President Either

It is fairly obvious why Donald Drumpf shouldn’t be president. If you don’t yet know why, just go read the transcript of an interview he did with the editorial board of The Washington Post. A more dangerously uninformed, pathetically sophomoric view of everything from libel laws to NATO you will not find.

And we all know what a dangerous Christian demagogue Ted Cruz is. This morning on Fox “News,” Cruz essentially blamed Obama for the terrorist attacks in Brussels. “This administration refuses to protect us,” he said.

But fewer of us know how temperamentally unqualified for high office is John Kasich. Not only is he nearly as politically reactionary as most of the right-wing zealots in his party, but his emotions seem to be out of control. I know some folks have said he is “arrogant” and “condescending” and “manipulative.” That’s bad enough. But he has a reputation of responding with anger to things he doesn’t like. A conservative activist from Ohio said of Kasich:

When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.

Even his friends say strange things about his behavior. Take Newt Gingrich, who said:

I never knew Kasich to have anger issues. He has intensity, urgency and passion issues.

No doubt he does. I’ve seen it on the campaign trail this primary season. But what Kasich said today, in response to the massacre of civilians in Belgium, is why he shouldn’t be in the White’s House. Here is the way the AP reported it at 1:30pm:

Speaking to reporters in Minneapolis Tuesday, Kasich says Obama should return to the United States to call European heads of state and assemble intelligence experts at home. He’s suggesting the president is being “too lax” in facing the growing threat of what he calls radical Islamic terrorism.

Now, think about what that means. Exactly what is it that President Obama is supposed to do about terrorists in Belgium? Does Kasich think it is within our power to not only police the Middle East, but to police individual countries in Europe, too? And doesn’t Kasich know that Mr. Obama has access to a phone with which he can “call European heads of state”? Huh?

Kasich thinks that yet another terrorist attack on the other side of the world is enough to completely wash out President Obama’s trip to Cuba and Latin America. Really? There is no imminent threat to Americans on American soil that didn’t exist before the president left on his trip. Terrorists don’t want to kill us more today than they did yesterday.

What terrorists want is an overreaction. That is the point of terrorism. It is to get us to abandon our values, to do what Drumpf and Cruz and most Republicans have done. Terrorists want us to change our lives. They want us to fear them. They want to control us. And John Kasich, who wants to be commander-in-chief, is playing right into their hands.

Kasich told reporters:

If I were in Cuba right now, the last thing I would be doing is going to a baseball game.

Oh, yeah? Why not? What better way to demonstrate that a few terrorists in Belgium are not in charge of the world’s most powerful leader?

If John Kasich had his way, there would be no presidential trips. If his way of dealing with every act of terrorism in the world was to hunker down in the Situation Room and “assemble intelligence experts,” that’s all a president would ever get done. Terrorism would paralyze us.

If there were an attack on American soil or against an American target abroad, that would be one thing. That would require a different response. But, unfortunately, terrorist attacks are happening rather regularly these days all over the world. And President Obama and the administration are dealing with them through intelligence gathering and policing—and through unmistakable acts of war. They can do that and still tend to other business.

What they shouldn’t do is what John Kasich apparently would do when terrorists strike somewhere in the world: drop everything and frantically run back to Washington.

Advice To The Left: Leave The Paranoia To The Experts

On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, host Brian Stelter began the program with a segment on the “troubling behavior by Donald Trump’s right hand man, campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski.” It was almost as if CNN just now discovered that there reliable sourceswas anything “troubling” about Drumpf’s campaign at all, let alone what his gangsterish groupies, including those working for him, have been doing at his hateful rallies for months now. But at least, you may have noticed, CNN and MSNBC have lately been critical of some aspects of Drumpf’s effort to become con man-in-chief. That’s a good thing. But.

A guest on the segment, Jeff Greenfield—a television journalist whose political experience goes back to 1960s—made the point that “an appetite for the ratings” has turned much of cable news into Castro-like “state TV” on behalf of Drumpf. Greenfield also made an additional point about the kind of journalism we have been seeing since the GOP front-runner hit the stage with his bigoted act:

I think the desire to have him on—and the unpreparedness of so many of the people interviewing him—will stand for a long time as a serious black mark on the American press.

That indictment is true enough and bad enough. But perhaps Greenfield’s most important point was something else he noted, what he called “one of the essential questions.” He explained:

reliable sources and greenfieldAs the media, some of it, had gotten critical about Trump, it has had no effect on his support, and one of the really central questions we’re going to have to face is whether a chunk of the American electorate has been taught to distrust the media so long and so completely that even when the media zeroes in on some of Trump’s blatant falsehoods or the dangerous rhetoric, his supporters say, “Oh, that’s coming from The New York Times or CNN or in some cases even FOX. We don’t believe it.”

And the whole theory about what the press is supposed to do in a free society, to put spotlights on political people seeking power…we may be in a situation where a fairly large chunk of the United States electorate is saying, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true.”

And that’s a real problem. I don’t know how we deal with that.

Yes. It’s a real problem. And I don’t know how we deal with it either. For years, going at least back to William F. Buckley’s dominance of the movement, conservatives have always distrusted journalists who weren’t conservative. Beginning in the 1980s, right-wing radio made a fetish out of attacking mainstream journalism, with Rush Limbaugh calling it the “drive-by media” because it was, in his paranoid, ideological mind, completely biased in favor of liberals. In fact, there was so much distrust of the press, so much of a market for niche journalism that would tell conservatives what they wanted to hear, that a new cable channel, masquerading as a news channel, was born. And now, ironically, many conservatives, as Greenfield noted, don’t even trust Fox to bring them “the truth.”

But, sadly, it’s not just conservatives these days who are sowing seeds of distrust by attacking the press. Some liberals are doing it too. And such liberal attacks would be okay, if they were actually making specific, valid claims of bias—for instance, lefty Amy Goodman was also on “Reliable Sources” and she made the point that, in 2015, Drumpf “got 23 times the coverage of Bernie Sanders”—rather than just blanket statements that, like what conservatives do, sow general distrust of mainstream journalism. If journalistic malpractice is going on, liberals (or conservatives) should point it out, but they should be specific and not generalize. A general distrust of the mainstream press hurts the country by making us collectively dumber.

Let me give you just one example of such a harmful generalization coming from a liberal, an example from this morning. Robert Reich—a man whose opinion I normally greatly respect—tweeted the following:

reich tweet on bernie

Now, I listened to right-wing talk radio religiously for almost two decades, mostly as a right-winger myself, and I can say that the phrase, “Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think” is exactly the kind of phrase that would, day after day, slide off the lips of Limbaugh, Hannity, and all the other conservative zealots on the air. And it’s the kind of claim that goes to what Greenfield was talking about when he said a “large chunk” of the electorate so distrusts the press that they simply refuse to believe even basic facts.

delegate count march 21 2016I realize Robert Reich is a fierce Bernie Sanders supporter. Fine and dandy. He can say all kinds of nice things about Bernie and even tell people the race is not yet over if he wants to. But come on. Just because journalists are, quite accurately, reporting how exceedingly difficult the math is for a Bernie comeback, that doesn’t mean Bernie supporters should undermine the role of journalism by resorting to that old Limbaughesque “they want you to think” nonsense. I see no difference between saying, as Greenfield put it, “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Trump says it, it’s true,” and “We don’t care what you say. We don’t believe you. If Bernie says it, it’s true.”

The press, particularly television journalism, has a lot to answer for regarding the Drumpfing of America, that’s for sure. The CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, did really say that Drumpf’s presidential run was a “good thing,” mostly, I am sure, because of what he also said: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Thus, it is completely fair to criticize on-air journalists and their producers and their corporate bosses for specific cases of malpractice, like the way coverage of Drumpf has been handled since last summer. But the conspiratorial rubbish—“Pay no attention to the national media, who want you to think”—is the kind of paranoia that belongs on the right, not on the left.

We should be better than that.

[Delegate graph: AP]

Donald Drumpf And The Three Shtarkers

shtarker: “a Yiddish word  defined by the lexicographer Sol Steinmetz as ‘a strong- minded person willing to wield power.'”William Safire

first of all, if you don’t like the Rolling Stones, you should. But even if you don’t like them or their music, you have to like a story about them involving Donald Drumpf, a story I somehow missed when it came out last summer. The Los Angeles Times, just three days ago, picked up the old story and it is so cool, so revealing of just who Drumpf really is even in real life, that it will give you great joy to read.

A little background: Michael Cohl is a big-time concert promoter who, as the Times pointed out, “has worked on massive tours by Michael Jackson, U2 and Barbra Streisand.” Back in 1989, the Rolling Stones began touring again after several years off-road. The band had just released its latest album, Steel Wheels. Michael Cohl hooked up with the Stones and, as the Times noted, “concocted an idea for a boxing-style pay-per-view event that, if marketed properly, would yield huge profits.” Cohl said, “I thought, geez, if I can separate the Stones from their own gig, and just concentrate on the pay-per-view, then I might pull it off.”

The problem was that he couldn’t get any takers for his big idea. Except one. Drumpf. Cohl explained:

…unfortunately, the only person I could get to kind of agree to the site fee we needed and to work it through was Donald Trump. Now I had one of those, “Oh God, how am I going to do this?” moments.

And I opened my big mouth in the meeting with The Rolling Stones where they go, “This is all great, but we’re not going to be affiliated with Donald Trump. At all. Screw you.” And I go, “I will control Donald Trump! Don’t you worry!”

At this point you already have to admire the Rolling Stones. They wanted nothing to do with Drumpf. But it gets better, and I will let Cohl explain it in full, as he did last summer:

So, we signed the contract. Donald agrees that he will not be in any of the promotion except in Atlantic City, and he will not show up at the gig! Holy shit! Well, the quick version is we go on sale. Eric Clapton was there, Axl Rose, Slash, John Lee Hooker – we had a fantastic show; sell out three shows.

Are you ready for the punchline? Three-hundred dollar tickets. That’s where they originated — $300, $250, $150 and it worked. It was spectacular. And that’s how it happened.

The Stones agreed to that ticket pricing in Atlantic City. It didn’t have the happiest of endings, though. It’s the night of the show.

The Stones had such power in those days that the 6:40 p.m. slot on the national evening news was going to be an interview with the Stones to talk about and promote the pay-per-view. At about 5:50 p.m. I get word that I have to come to the press room in the next building. I run to the press room in the next building and what do you think is happening? There’s Donald Trump giving a press conference, in our room!

I give him the [come here gesture]. “Come on, Donald, what are you doing? A) You promised us you wouldn’t even be here and, B) you promised you would never do this.” He says, “But they begged me to go up, Michael! They begged me to go up!” I say, “Stop it. Stop it. This could be crazy. Do what you said you would. Don’t make a liar of yourself.”

I go back to the dressing room. Five minutes later, he’s back up. They call me back over there. Holy shit. I call him out (again). Same thing happens. I say, “Donald. I don’t know if I can control this. Stop it.” I go back to the dressing room. And I leave my walkie-talkie on in the dressing room. Moronic, on my part.

They call me back, at which point Keith [Richards, the Stones’ great guitarist and co-writer with Mick Jagger] pulls out his knife and slams it on the table and says, “What the hell do I have you for? Do I have to go over there and fire him myself? One of us is leaving the building – either him, or us.” I said, “No. I’ll go do it. Don’t you worry.”

I run over. He’s up there again! I go [gives the come here gesture]. We go into the hallway. I said, “Donald. You lied. You broke your promise. One of two things is going to happen. You’re going to leave the building and, at 6:40, The Rolling Stones are going to speak on CBS News, or you’re not going to leave the building and I’m going to go on and do an interview to explain to the world why the pay-per-view was canceled. I know it’s your building and…” – and in my head I’m going, this is so crazy, right? I’m trying to throw Donald Trump out of his own building.

But, anyway, the bottom line is I look at Donald and said, “You and Marla (Maples) have to go. You’re fired.” He looks at me and goes berserk.

“You don’t know anything! Your guys suck! I promote Mike Tyson! I promote heavyweight fights!” And I notice the three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles. I go on the walkie-talkie and I call for Jim Callahan, who was head of our security, and I go, “Jim, I think I’m in a bit of trouble.” And he says, “Just turn around.”

I turn around. He’s got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers.

“And now, are you gonna go, Donald?”

And off he went.

And that was the night I fired Donald Trump.

Now, go out and by a Stones album, if not because of the music, because of this story about the night Donald Drumpf was thrown out of his own place, as he would say, just like a dog.

“This Man Scares Me.”

On Thursday night on CNN I finally saw the viral video that has been fascinating people for some time now. Bill Bogert, a Republican actor who turned away from the Republican Party because of the candidacy of an unpredictable extremist named Barry Goldwater in 1964, made an ad for Lyndon Johnson’s campaign. It’s strangely relevant to what is happening today. Here it is:

Vox: “Proof Of Evolution That You Can Find On Your Body”

One of the questions that should be, but almost never is, asked of all candidates during any election is my old favorite: How old is the earth? Or I’d settle for this one: Did mankind evolve by way of a natural process over a long, long, long time? I want to know if a candidate for office is among those 42% or so who think God created human beings as they are now, some ten thousand years ago or less. I think that’s important information.

As sort of a respite from the nonsense we have been seeing in our politics, like discussion of Drumpf’s teenie weenie hands or Hillary’s intonation, below is a video Vox published today that is worth the four minutes it takes to watch it. So, watch it and marvel:

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