A Glimmer Of Hope For The GOP? Nah, Not So Much

It happened in Delta County, Colorado. Was it a fluke? Was it a misstep by party officials? Did they not get the memo that shame is dead and gone because Donald Drumpf killed it and is hiding the remains in his cantaloupe-colored comb-over?

Delta County’s population is around 30,000 folks, mostly white folks. Uh, mostly white Republican folks—Obama only received 29% of the vote in 2012. You get the idea. But there was something positive that came out of Delta County on Sunday. Let’s start, though, with the negative:

ScreenHunter_4820 May. 30 16.40Republicans in Delta County, Colorado are seemingly scrambling after a racist photo likening President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee was posted on a top official’s Facebook page.

The photo briefly appeared on a Facebook page belonging to Linda Sorenson, who chairs the county Republican Central Committee, and was captured by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

The image was taken from the Ronald Reagan film Bedtime for Bonzo, and shows Reagan bottle-feeding the titular chimpanzee, with a caption saying, “I’ll be damned … Reagan used to babysit Obama.”

We’ve all seen this stuff so many times it doesn’t surprise anymore. Such is how, in the age of The Scary Negro, Republicans make themselves feel better. But what surprised me a little bit was what happened after the Grand Junction newspaper confronted some local GOP officials with the fact that their leader, Linda Sorenson, admitted to a progressive blogger the following about her Facebook post:

I really don’t care if people are offended by it. Un-friend me. Stop looking at me on Facebook.

That is the Drumpf response, right? I mean that’s what the GOP has come to these days. Don’t back down when you’re caught doing or saying something offensive. Own it. Hell, double down on it. But the reaction of two other local party officials was more traditional. According to the newspaper, the vice chairman of the party said,

This whole thing is a hoax. Someone got into the Facebook somehow. It was hacked and somebody got into it, definitely.

The treasurer for the party said,

That whole thing is bogus. Somebody hacked Linda Sorenson’s Facebook page, and posted that out there. We believe it has something to do with Media Matters. They’ve been harassing her the last few weeks.

Now, that is the old GOP right there. Don’t own it. Don’t admit to it. Just say it was the liberal media’s fault. And in that more traditional way of handling things like this we have at least a teensy-weensy slice of hope that Drumpf hasn’t quite finished off the idea of shame in the Republican Party after all. The Grand Junction paper reported that it had asked the local vice chairman why someone would want to hack Ms. Sorenson’s Facebook page. He said,

I have no idea…Just to damage the Republican Party, no doubt. … Just to make us look bad.

You see that? This man is worried that the party will “look bad.” How refreshing is that, after months and months of Drumpf? A Republican Party official is actually out there worried about the image of the Republican Party! Who knew?

A few months ago, Ezra Klein fretted over Drumpf’s “complete lack of shame.” Klein wrote:

It’s easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they’re exposed as liars, when they’re seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn’t. He has the reality television star’s ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won’t, to say what others can’t, to do what others wouldn’t.

Yes. Drumpf is shameless. He is crass. He is unpredictable. He is ignorant. He’s a bigot’s bigot. But his party’s leadership, at least most of them, have embraced his shamelessness and crassness. And the party itself is coming to terms with his unpredictability and his ignorance and his bigotry.

Marco Rubio is the latest enabler. After Drumpf humiliated him in the primary by way of nasty insults, and after Rubio called Drumpf a “con artist” and a “lunatic,” Little Marco recently said he would be “honored” to speak for Drumpf at the convention. Honored. He actually said the word honored. Oh. My.

But once upon a time there was a different Rubio. One who said of Drumpf and the effect he was having on the country:

This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people in the crowd and he’ll pay their legal fees. Someone who’s encouraged people in the audience to rough up anybody who says something he doesn’t like… This is what a culture and society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want. When everybody goes around saying I’m just gonna speak my mind. If I’m angry, it gives me the right to say or do anything I want.

Well, there are other people who are angry too, and if they speak out and say whatever they want, the result is it all breaks down. It’s called chaos. It’s called anarchy. And that’s what we’re careening towards in our political process… And you wonder whether we’re headed in a different direction today, where we’re no longer capable of having differences of opinion but in fact now protests become a license to take violence, to take on your opponents physically.

Forget about the election for a moment, there’s a broader issue in our political culture in this country, and this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration, and I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves: Are we contributing to this?

That was a damned good question. And Rubio has answered it for himself. He has every intention of contributing to “this.” He is willingly contributing to it. He is “honored” to contribute to it. Talk about shamelessness.

Marco Rubio, as well as other Republicans who have stained themselves orange, makes those party officials in Delta County, Colorado—those who actually want to distance themselves from a racist Facebook post because it makes the party “look bad”—appear quaint, makes them look out of step with the new GOP.

Sadly, though, it’s a good bet that those white party officials in Delta County will, like most of the locals they represent, run to the polls in November and vote for Drumpf. Why? Because people like Marco Rubio, John McCain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, and, yes, Paul Ryan, are in the process of telling them it’s okay to do so, telling them that conscientious Republicans no longer have to be conscientious.

They no longer have to be ashamed of shamelessness.

Zika, Climate Change, And The Utter Difference Between Ds and Rs

Bernie Sanders once said that “in reality,” there is only “one party—the party of the ruling class.” You sort of get the idea, by the way he has campaigned and is still campaigning, that he hasn’t changed his mind all that much. I know some of his followers agree with the idea that the “establishment” in both parties is part of one bigger establishment that is out to get us all. Just check out the comment section of any article on Bernie or on Hillary Clinton, if you don’t believe me.

In any case, all Democrats and most Bernie supporters know better. There is a hell of a lot of difference between the two parties. And nothing, on this Memorial Day weekend, demonstrates that more than the following two headlines from today’s news:

two headlines

On just those two issues—one a short-term crisis and the other a long-term one—you can see how dangerous it is to ignore, or to understate, the stark differences between what the Republican Party is, and is becoming, and what the Democratic Party has been for some time now: an institution that, although flawed, has its head—a general trust in science—as well as its heart—people ought not to suffer unnecessarily—in the right place.

Meanwhile.

It’s a character issue. That’s all I keep hearing, on cable news channels and elsewhere, regarding Hillary Clinton’s email controversy. CNN and MSNBC (forget Fox) and other outlets are fixated on the idea that the State Department’s Inspector General report—called “scathing” I don’t know how many times by I don’t know how many people on TV—reveals a deep flaw in her character. It reveals how untrustworthy she is. How dishonest she is.

Meanwhile, with all this hysterical journalistic handwringing going on—handwringing about an issue that doesn’t amount to a damned thing—there stands Drumpf, six feet two and weighing in with about 250 pounds of bad character. Every inch of him, every last cell in his body, is infected with character flaws, most of which he embraces without shame.

It’s like this: A policeman is making his rounds through the neighborhood and notices that a crazed man with a large gas can is pouring gasoline all over a big and beautiful house, a house filled with lots of residents. The cop also notices that the man with the can, who is working furiously, has a BIC in his tiny little hand, ready to burn the thing to the ground. But then the officer notices that a woman is trying to get his attention, trying to get him to do something about the man with the gas can. But the man in blue, instead of pursuing the crazed man with the BIC in is tiny hand, decides that the woman, who has served her neighbors well but has a bad reputation among cops, is disturbing the peace with her rather loud request to do something about the man who is about to burn down the house. So, you guessed it, the cop charges the woman with disturbing the peace and takes the time to write her a ticket and to lecture her about her annoying behavior. Then he goes back to the station and tells his pals how he sure showed that woman a thing or two.

Meanwhile, the man with the can and the tiny hands is still working. Furiously.

 

Science Explains Drumpf

Don’t know if you’ve seen the Vox video below, but you should. You also should check out Amanda Taub’s, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” in which she notes that a couple of political scientists—Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler—had “essentially predicted Trump’s rise back in 2009.” How? Taub explains:

That year, Hetherington and Weiler published a book about the effects of authoritarianism on American politics. Through a series of experiments and careful data analysis, they had come to a surprising conclusion: Much of the polarization dividing American politics was fueled not just by gerrymandering or money in politics or the other oft-cited variables, but by an unnoticed but surprisingly large electoral group — authoritarians.

Their book concluded that the GOP, by positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, had unknowingly attracted what would turn out to be a vast and previously bipartisan population of Americans with authoritarian tendencies.

This trend had been accelerated in recent years by demographic and economic changes such as immigration, which “activated” authoritarian tendencies, leading many Americans to seek out a strongman leader who would preserve a status quo they feel is under threat and impose order on a world they perceive as increasingly alien.

These Americans with authoritarian views, they found, were sorting into the GOP, driving polarization. But they were also creating a divide within the party, at first latent, between traditional Republican voters and this group whose views were simultaneously less orthodox and, often, more extreme.

Over time, Hetherington and Weiler had predicted, that sorting would become more and more pronounced. And so it was all but inevitable that, eventually, authoritarians would gain enough power within the GOP to make themselves heard.

At the time, even Hetherington and Weiler did not realize the explosive implications: that their theory, when followed to its natural conclusion, predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics. But looking back now, the ramifications of their research seem disturbingly clear.

Disturbingly clear, indeed. We know that the authoritarians now control the Republican Party. That fight is over and the surrendering is going on as I write. But it remains to be seen if they will control the entire country. It’s possible they will—and Bernie Sanders is out there flirting with that possibility right now by aiding and abetting Drumpf—but until the time comes to find out, at least we should understand what is happening to our country:

Closer To Home: What’s Happening In Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas

MISSOURI

Democrats in the Missouri legislature, the one or two left there, were successful in stopping an anti-gay measure (oh, excuse me, the “religious freedom” thing), with the help of a few courageous (courage is relative around here) Republicans. Same thing on the anti-union bill (oh, excuse me again, the “paycheck protection” thing). But, no doubt, both of those bills will be back next year and there may not be a Democratic governor to veto them.

Republicans, meanwhile, passed a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood. They passed a law that allows folks to carry concealed weapons. To go along with that gem, they also expanded our self-defense laws, which will now allow you to kill someone in a public place if he orHillary Clinton 2016 Blue Campaign Button (2.25" Round) she is sporting a Hillary for President button. Okay. It’s not quite that bad. But it’s close. All you need do to legally kill someone is believe a “reasonable” threat is present. For some folks around here where I live, a reasonable threat might be a Clinton presidency.

Meanwhile, our right-wing legislators managed not to do anything significant regarding their phony pet project this year: legislative ethics. Oh, they passed a six-month waiting period for legislators who want to become lobbyists after they’re done legislatin’, meaning that instead of instantly going from lawmaker to moneymaker, they’ll have to wait a little longer now. But there are—still—no limits on campaign contributions in Missouri. The rich can give as much as they want to our representatives. As much as they want, with no questions asked. And if any questions are asked, no one has to answer them. Lobbyists can also—still—shower lawmakers with gifts. Heck, a modest proposal to limit the gifts to forty bucks a day for food and drink and tickets to sporting events couldn’t get passed. Cardinal Nation lives on!

In any case, enough of the depressing stuff going on in Missouri. Here’s a little of what’s happening in the states nearest to Hooterville Joplin:

OKLAHOMA

Deciding that the state of Texas didn’t go far enough by enacting gross restrictions on reproductive rights (a case the Supreme’s will consider soon), anti-choice fascists in the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill that would, essentially, outlaw abortion in that state. CNN reported:

According to the language of the bill, anyone who is found to have performed an abortion — except in instances to save the life of the mother — will be found guilty of a felony and can receive up to three years in prison.

Welcome to Drumpf’s world, ladies. Good luck.

ARKANSAS

The United States, according to experts, has the largest hoosegow population in the world, with more than 2.3 million in federal or state prisons. And, effectively, we have the highest incarceration rate. These alarming statistics have even alarmed a few Republicans in Congress, who have sort of tried to get with Democrats to do something about it by reforming our criminal “justice” system.

But not Arkansas’ Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton says the problem isn’t that we have too many folks in jail—we don’t have enough. We need more. Missing the point entirely, he said at a conservative group-think tank:

Law enforcement is able to arrest or identify a likely perpetrator for only 19 percent of property crimes and 47 percent of violent crimes. If anything, we have an under-incarceration problem.

Later on he helped us understand him in, uh, context:

I saw this in Baghdad. We’ve seen it again in Afghanistan. Security has to come first, whether you’re in a war zone or whether you’re in the United States of America.

Well, he has a point. What’s the difference, in the age of Drumpf, between a “war zone” and “America”?

KANSAS

In my old home state, the dive continues. Without sufficient revenues, mostly due to cutting taxes on rich people, we get this headline from the Lawrence Journal-World:

Brownback signs Kansas budget and orders $97 million in allotment cuts, slashing KU funding

Slashing KU funding? Huh? OMG! Will that hurt my favorite basketball program, my beloved Jayhawks? Of course it won’t, but that reminds me:

Why Bill Self doesn’t pay Kansas taxes on about 90 percent of his earnings

I love me some Rock Chalk round ball. I even love me some Coach Self. But come on, peeps:

A report by public radio station KCUR noted that Self for years has had the bulk of his compensation paid into a limited liability company. Since 2012, that arrangement has become a tax perk, as Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature approved a new tax law that exempts Kansas income taxes on LLCs and other pass-through businesses. In total, about 334,000 Kansas business are receiving the tax break.

Get dis:

Self earns a base salary of $230,000 per year, according to a contract extension he and KU agreed upon in 2012.

In addition, Kansas Athletics pays Self’s LLC a minimum of $2.75 million per year for “professional services” rendered by the coach, according to the contract.

Sweet, ain’t it? Self has had his LLC since his coaching days at the University of Illinois in 2000. While I don’t understand the whole LLC thing, when it comes to college coaches and tax liability (I suspect, though, there is a rea$on for it), I do understand that Brownback has made it very easy on Self, when it comes to paying taxes on his compensation—the highest for any state employee in Kansas. The idea is, so goes the economic theory known as voodoo, to let Self keep his tax money and it will, like a cascade of kindness, magically fall down on everyone else in the form of jobs and increased revenue.

But what is falling down on folks in Kansas is pain, pain caused by the Brownbacks of this world:

Gov. Sam Brownback signed a budget bill into law Wednesday while at the same time ordering $97 million in allotment cuts, mostly through cuts to higher education and Medicaid funding.

Schools and poor folks. That’s who gets hit when Republicans hand out tax cuts to the rich. Always happens. That’s why, by the way, we have a crowd-drawing Bernie Sanders.

As noted in the headline previously, a large chunk—$10.7 million—of those “higher education” cuts will fall on KU itself. Maybe next fall, when the faithful students gather at Allen Fieldhouse to watch Kansas play, they can pass the hat to Bill Self and ask him to chip in a little. Who knows, he may have some spare change left over from all that job-creatin’ he’s surely doing with that extra money, right?

Speaking of passing the hat, if Republicans win this November, we will need lots of hats to pass around in order to help teachers, students, the sick, the poor, the working class, and other non-LLC owning folks survive the Browndrumpf's plan for womenbacking and Drumpfing of America.

And women will need lots of hangers.

And gays will need lots of closets.

And, of course, war-torn America will need lots of hoosegows.

America The Sick

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

—Katharine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful

No, this is not about Drumpf, although he, too, is evidence of a sick America. This is about another man, himself sort of a representative of the kind of people who have crowned a certified bigot as the leader of the Party of Lincoln.

George Zimmerman will finally get his big payday for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African-American kid armed with nothing but candy and a drink, who was on his way home from a convenience store in Sanford, Florida. According to USA Today:

George Zimmerman said Wednesday the online auction has ended for the sale of the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin in 2012 and he was immediately notifying the winner.

“The winner.” Let that sink in.

I’ve got nothing much to say about this sad and sick moment in our nation’s history, except to note that Zimmerman wants his “Fellow Patriots” to know that he is still in good with the Almighty:

First and foremost, I would like to thank and give the glory to God for a successful auction that has raised funds for several worthy causes.

zimmermanIn the disturbed and disturbing mind of George Zimmerman, God may get the glory. But Americans, those who think it is okay to shoot unarmed kids, those who think it is okay to shoot unarmed kids and then profit from it, deserve the shame.

America the beautiful? Not today.

More Bernie Buts

My fellow Democrats. Get used to it. Stop kidding yourselves. There will always be a “but” with Bernie. He’s not one of us.

He likes the Democratic Party, but. He likes Obama, but. He will support Hillary Clinton, but. He condemns the nastiness in Nevada, but.

It is clear that Bernie is not in this thing to be president anymore. He’s not in this to win the nomination—for him to continue to say he is amounts to defrauding his donors—and at this point he isn’t in it to defeat Drumpf. He’s in it because he first wants to destroy the Democratic Party as it now is and then become the leader of a revamped party, a party created in his image. That’s it. That’s what he’s doing.

Last night in California, at another big rally, he attacked Democratic leaders. The crowd booed those leaders. Bernie’s okay with that. He doesn’t care. Just like, at first, he didn’t much care that some of his supporters went wild in Nevada, that some of them threatened the chairwoman—a volunteer—of the state Democratic Party. He eventually put out a statement condemning what happened, but it came with a patented Bernie-but.

Last night, after all that had happened in Nevada over the weekend, where his supporters were furious at the “establishment,” Bernie sent out this tweet:

bernie tweet

Yes, Democrats are Bernie’s enemy. He’s running against Democrats. He literally loathes the party. So, why would we expect him to enthusiastically embrace it after this is all over? The most we will get from him, after Hillary Clinton wins the nomination and after he conducts a nasty fight at the convention over the party platform, will be a lukewarm endorsement of her—largely on the grounds that a Drumpf is unacceptable. That will be it.

It’s sad, but that is what it is.

Will Bernie Folks Listen To Van Jones And Noam Chomsky?

CNN contributor Van Jones, you may remember, once worked for President Obama as his Special Advisor for Green Jobs, or as some liked to call it, the “green jobs czar.” You also may remember that Glenn Beck repeatedly attacked him after his appointment in 2009, essentially suggesting he was, like Obama, a left-wing terrorist who hated white people. Other conservatives attacked him, too, including Republican members of Congress. Those ol’ boys were mostly offended because Jones, just before Obama appointed him, attended a lecture at Berkeley, in which he was asked why Democrats couldn’t get that famous stimulus packaged passed in 2009 even though they had 58 votes in the Senate:

QUESTIONER: …how were they, Republicans, able to push things through when they had less than 60 senators, but somehow we cant?

JONES: Well the answer to that is, they’re assholes.

QUESTIONER: I was afraid that was the answer.

JONES: As a technical, political kind of term. And Barack Obama is not an asshole. Now, I will say this: I can be an asshole, and some of us who are not Barack Hussein Obama, are going to have to start getting a little bit uppity.

As you can imagine, since this was pre-Drumpf, everyone on the right was outraged that the Scary Negro’s appointee, himself an even scarier Negro, called lily-white legislators “assholes,” even though it was true and even though he did so before the Scary Negro appointed him. Here’s a screen grab from Fox “News”:

I want to particularly call out one Republican congressman who went after Jones. His name is Mike Pence from Indiana, who is now the governor of that Drumpf-loving state. Back in 2009, Pence was very upset with Jones and demanded his resignation, saying, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.” Yes. Pence said that. He said that extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in government or in public debate. None. Nope. No place.

Except when they do.

Less than a month ago, while meekly endorsing Ted Cruz, Pence said,

I particularly want to commend Donald Trump, who I think has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans with a lack of progress in Washington, D.C.”

Hmm. Things have changed a bit since 2009. Not long after Pence made that statement about Drumpf giving “voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans,” Cruz got shellacked in Indiana’s GOP primary. Shortly after that, Pence endorsed the extremist views and coarse rhetoric approach:

I’m fully supportive of our presumptive nominee, and I do think Donald Trump will do well in the State of Indiana. I’m going to campaign hard for the Republican nominee because Indiana needs a partner in the White House.

He meant, of course, that Indiana needs a partner in the White’s House, even if that partner is really, truly a profane extremist. Apparently, Pence, like other Republicans in bed with Drumpf, don’t mind white folks doin’ all that fussin’ and cussin’; they just don’t like uppity Negroes doin’ it. Ain’t acceptable.

In any case, Van Jones resigned in September of 2009, after it became clear President Obama wasn’t in the mood for a fight. There were important things to get done and Jones was a distraction. That was too bad for the Obama administration but good for Jones. He has enjoyed a pretty good career since then, including a lot of face time on television, where he appears often, these days as a Bernie supporter.

But even though Jones is a Bernie man, he ain’t nuts. He isn’t about to let the Bern get the best of him or his country. I have never seen him badmouth Hillary in the way most Bernie people do when they get in front of a camera. He’s cool about it. That’s why he made a video for van jones videoMoveOn.org, an organization that also went all-in for Bernie, but apparently understands that things are getting out of hand with some Bernie folks. The video is a warning that Drumpf can win the general election if we, liberals and leftists and anyone else who doesn’t like Orange Man, don’t “work together” to make sure the profane extremist doesn’t make the White’s House his home.  (You can watch the video at https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmoveon%2Fvideos%2Fvb.7292655492%2F10153454110680493%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560  and then come back for a word from a leftist’s leftist, Noam Chomsky.)

The comment section accompanying the video is an interesting read. There are some real Hillary haters on there, folks who won’t vote for her no matter what. Even if it means a President Drumpf, they don’t care. They want a “clean conscience.” Which brings me to Noam Chomsky.

Chomsky is a real radical leftist. Over the years he has said some things I agree with and some things I think are ridiculous. No need to go into that here. What I want to do is post something he said to yet another leftist, Amy Goodman, on her fine program, Democracy Now! After raising the point that corporate forces are funding elections and writing legislation and that a “countervailing force” is necessary to defend “popular interests, needs and concerns,” Chomsky said this:

noam chomskyBut now, going back to who should you push the button for, well, my own—in the primaries, I would prefer Bernie Sanders. If Clinton is nominated and it comes to a choice between Clinton and Trump, in a swing state, a state where it’s going to matter which way you vote, I would vote against Trump, and by elementary arithmetic, that means you hold your nose and you vote Democrat. I don’t think there’s any other rational choice. Abstaining from voting or, say, voting for, say, a candidate you prefer, a minority candidate, just amounts to a vote for Donald Trump, which I think is a devastating prospect, for reasons I’ve already mentioned. So—but meanwhile, do the important things.

I have to admit that surprised me. We are, after all, talking about Noam Chomsky. But even though clearly he doesn’t like Hillary Clinton—heck, even Bernie isn’t quite radical enough for him—he still has enough sense to see that even radical leftists should not commit national suicide by voting for a third party candidate or not voting at all.

Now, I say this to all you earnest Bernie folks out there: If Noam Bleeping Chomsky can “push the button” for Hillary, you can too! We can’t afford to let the assholes win! “Do the important things.”

Don’t Miss The Forest For The Sleaze

Because I have watched MSNBC’s Morning Joe for so long now, I guess I have become sort of use to what has been happening. The show has, after all, become a platform for defending, advising, and promoting Drumpf, who is friends with or acquaintances of most of the regulars on the show. They just can’t bring themselves to admit the obvious about him.

Today was no different. Morning Joe’s opening segment at 7:00 am CST was all about that New York Times article (“Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private“) published over the weekend that documented some of Drumpf’s boorish encounters with women, claims of sexual harassment, as well as a few of the good things he has done in promoting women in his business. Morning Joe, though, was all about attacking the Times rather than criticizing Drumpf’s behavior. Panelist Donny Deutsch, who has admitted to being a Friend of Drumpf, even gave him a hint this morning on how to proceed: hit the whole Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton thang. It really was an embarrassment for MSNBC, although it won’t stop. Drumpf = ratings. And insulting Drumpf = boycott. Thus.

I just wanted to remind you of something critically important that may, now, get lost because one of the women in the Times report said her story was misused by the newspaper and that she “did not have a negative experience” with Drumpf. What may get lost has nothing to do with that Times article. Anyone paying attention knows that Drumpf’s problems with women have much more to do with what he has said since he has been a candidate than any revelation that he once had the hots for a model, whom he outfitted in a bikini so he could show off her assets to a group of Drumpf groupies at a Mar-a-Lago pool party, the same model who now says she was flattered by the whole episode.

So, before it gets lost in the storm of nonsense and ugliness that is the Drumpf campaign, before it gets lost in the ADHD-like television coverage of that nonsense and ugliness, let’s look at a weird story, published in The Washington Post on May 13, “Donald Trump masqueraded as publicist to brag about himself.” I know by now you know most of the details—Drumpf posing as publicists “John Miller” and “John Barron”—so I won’t go into them. Suffice it to say that the story, if it weren’t about Drumpf, would, like so many other things he has said and done, doom anyone else. It would disgrace any other presidential candidate, who would slink away with a shame-hung head. But this is Drumpf. His answer to it? Lie. He didn’t do it. The voice that everyone knows was his, on those phone calls to reporters, wasn’t his, he says. And his groupies, both professionals and amateurs, are behind him. If he says it wasn’t him, it wasn’t. Move on. No biggie. There are more important things to talk about.

Surprisingly, the journalists I have seen covering this issue on television, and those paid to be “analysts,” have it all wrong. They are focusing on the lie Drumpf told. They want him to come clean about that. Their coverage goes something like this: “If only Drumpf would simply admit he was ‘John Miller’ or ‘John Barron’ and confess to doing something dumb, a joke really, this would all go away and we’d move on to something else.” I heard CNN’s Chris Cuomo say something like that the other day.

Well, no. That isn’t the point.

We all know Drumpf is a liar. That has been established beyond doubt, just as it has been established beyond doubt that he was John Miller and John Barron (he has actually admitted as much before). So, any revelation that he is currently lying about the fact he was pretending to be his own publicist would not be surprising. It would just be an addition to what we already knew. What we don’t know is what it is that makes a prominent man do something so clumsy and crass. What is it in his brain that makes him want to do it in the first place, but then—most important to mewhat makes him think no one would catch him doing it? That’s what has been lost in all this. There is, truly, something wrong with his mind, with his thought process, with his ability to understand what is going on in other minds.

I’ve said before that since I’m not a medical doctor, I can’t diagnose Drumpf’s problems—although others have done so. We can all see that he acts and talks like a narcissist. We can see that he lies, when telling the truth would be a much easier path to follow. His lying appears to be pathological. We can all see that Tiny Hands is insecure, which also appears to be some kind of disease. All that is troubling enough. But think about it. This man called reporters, reporters who knew his voice, pretending to be someone else. Why couldn’t he figure out in advance that those reporters would know it was his voice? That he would be asked about it? That he would be asked to produce John Miller and John Barron at some point, since they allegedly worked for him? Huh? And why can’t he see that now?

Disturbing stuff. And it isn’t just limited to gossip magazines or tabloids. It has real-world implications. Consider Drumpf’s embrace of Vladimir Putin. In that sorry case, did some kind of pathological disorder get the best of Drumpf? Remember that Putin, a murderous authoriatarian, said the GOP candidate was “a very bright and talented man,” and an “absolute leader.” Rather than responding as any normal American would do, that is, by rejecting the endorsement of a trained and practiced Russian killer, Drump said,

When people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.

“It’s always good.” Always. If Charles Manson calls you brilliant from his prison cell, that’s good. If Kim Jong-un takes time out of his busy day in North Korea and calls you brilliant, that’s good, too. For a Drumpfed-up mind, there are no conditions under which receiving flattery is a negative.

When confronted with the charge that Putin has either ordered the killing of journalists in Russia or created a climate in which they could be essentially killed with impunity, Drumpf has responded in different ways. Once he said, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing, too…” Another time,

Nobody has proven that he’s killed anyone. … He’s always denied it. It’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, at least in our country. It has not been proven that he’s killed reporters.

Now, that comes from a man who, with exactly no evidence to back him up, has questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship and Christianity, who says he sent investigators, perhaps John Miller and John Barron, to Hawaii and “they cannot believe what they’re finding.” It comes from a man who, just last year as a presidential candidate, said of President Obama, “I don’t know if he loves America.” Who said, “I wonder if President Obama would have attended the funeral of Justice Scalia if it were held in a Mosque?”

Giving the benefit of the doubt to a horrific Russian despot who strategically strokes your ego, while trashing the credibility of your own president, is a symptom of some profound personal problem, as far as I’m concerned as an American. It demonstrates that Drumpf’s awareness of himself, that his perception of others, is twisted. It proves that he is unfit to be our commander-in-chief because his judgment about what may be happening in the minds of other people, whether they are reporters or world leaders, is so utterly and hopelessly flawed.

Drumpf’s petty attempt to pass himself off as publicists John Miller and John Barron—and expect that he could get away with it—just adds to the case that he is a very disturbed man. But it is also disturbing that much of the press, at least on television, isn’t that interested in the original disqualifying behavior, but only in getting Drumpf to admit to it so cable news can move on to the next act in this gloomy Gong Show. Perhaps the only thing that can save us all is if Drumpf comes out soon and lets us in on his little joke. And The Washington Post can write a new article, “Donald Trump masqueraded as presidential candidate to brag about himself.”

[Mural image by artist Mindaugas Bonanu]

 

The Devil On Drumpf

Every now and then, the Devil comes by the spacious offices of The Erstwhile Conservative for a short interview. He only had a few minutes, since this is his busy season, but I managed to get in some important questions. Here is the lightly edited interview:

TEC: Thanks for stopping by. I want to quickly ask you what I think is a fairly obvious question, but one I’ll ask anyway: What part have you played in the rise of Drumpf? I can see your fingerprints all over this.

TShutterstockHE DEVIL: Yeah, I know. It is kind of obvious, isn’t it? But that couldn’t be prevented, given what we were working with. Look, I don’t want to give away too much right now because there is still so much to be done, but I can’t help but brag a little bit. This is one of the most brilliant campaigns we have ever run—

TEC: One of the most?

THE DEVIL: Okay, dammit. You got me. It is the most brilliant campaign we have ever run. Okay? And I’m so damned proud of it I can’t barely hide it. 

TEC: How did you get this all started anyway?

THE DEVIL: Oh, this thing has been in the making for years now. It started out with that whole birther thing. Do you know how hard it was to get someone to take that bait? It was damned hard, let me tell you. But we found him! And when I first started getting reports from the field, from our demons assigned to the task, that Drumpf was biting on it, I couldn’t believe it. But I gave orders to keep after it and keep after him and see if there was something more there we could build on. And it turns out there was a lot there we could build on.

TEC: So, what was the next step, after he took the birther bait?

THE DEVIL: This is where it gets good. And this may surprise you. But it came to me one night in hell, as I was thinking—seething, really—about how miserably we have failed to get a majority of Americans to give into their cultural anxieties and put a real hate-generating reactionary in the Oval Office. We’ve been successful in Congress, but we need it all to do our devilish damage.

TEC: And, so, what came to you?

THE DEVIL: Political correctness! We simply had to do away with it. We had to get people to resent it, to will it away. 

TEC: Why?

THE DEVIL: Because by getting rid of political correctness that would allow people to act out their racism and sexism and other forms of anxiety and hatred without fear of retribution.

TEC: Without fear that someone would call them on it.

THE DEVIL: Exactly. If we could get rid of the idea that there are some things Americans shouldn’t say about each other, we could get our foot in the door. So, one of our most promising demons came up with the idea of planting in Drumpf’s head the notion that political correctness had to go. And like the birther stuff, he bit. He went for it. And from there, it was easy to get him to run for president, and the next thing you know, he’s starting out his campaign by talking about Mexican rapists. Brilliant!

TEC: But it didn’t stop there.

THE DEVIL: Of course not. Once the political correctness door got knocked down, no one was immune. Blacks, Muslims, women. Drumpf would say anything. We could literally get him to say anything. He puts up almost no resistance! Heck, just for fun one day, one of our demons told him to say that he could shoot someone on the street and he wouldn’t lose any voters. And he went out and said it! 

TEC: Yeah, I remember that.

THE DEVIL: But we’ve done other things just for the hell of it, just for laughs.

TEC: Like what?

THE DEVIL: We got the Drumpf campaign to put a white nationalist on the delegate ballot in California!

TEC: I heard that.

THE DEVIL: Who could have believed that a year ago? Or who could believe that we could get David Duke to whisper to his racist followers that Drumpf is really one of them? I get chills just thinking about how successful we’ve been with this thing. It’s massive. 

TEC: You mean yoooge.

THE DEVIL: Let’s be serious.

TEC: Okay, okay. What is it you like most about what has happened so far?

THE DEVIL: Without a doubt my favorite part of this effort has been taking those devil-hating evangelicals and turning them into Drumpfkins! They are always talking about how much they love God, the Enemy, and now they’re running to the polls voting for my guy! How sweet is that? Now, I don’t want to brag, but I’ve heard that even God himself is impressed by that feat! And, listen, take it from me, God’s not easy to impress.

TEC: I bet he isn’t. But I want to ask you about Bernie Sanders and how he fits into all this.

THE DEVIL: Well, I hesitate to talk about that too much right now because it’s a subtle operation and it is still ongoing. But just look at what we did last night in West Virginia. Our ground operation there was so good—our dsanders voters not voting for clintonemonic forces in that region are some of the best—that we got Bernie a victory—

TEC: But Bernie has won a lot of states—

THE DEVIL: Sure he has, but what happesanders voters voting for trumpned last night was remarkable. We got him a majority of voters, most of them saying they would never vote for Hillary! And, get this, we got a lot of those who voted for Bernie last night to say they wouldn’t vote for Bernie in November! Now, dammit, that’s a hell of an accomplishment, isn’t it?

TEC: Yeah, I suppose that’s pretty impressive. 

THE DEVIL: You’re damn right it is! But, hey, I have to go. There’s still a lot to do. We’ve got to stop all that damnable talk of a third party out there.

TEC: Okay, but before you head out, where do we go from here? What’s next with the Drumpf campaign?

THE DEVIL: Look, you know I can’t tell you what’s coming next, as much as I want to. Suffice it to say it will be the general election from hell. We intend to see one of our own sitting in the White’s House next January. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now because, dammit, we want this campaign of ours to remain unpredictable!

TEC: Oh, my. Well, thanks for stopping by. 

THE DEVIL: No problem…heck, okay, I can’t help myself. I’ll tell you something we’re working on right now with Drumpf. We’re trying to get Newt Gingrich on the ticket!

TEC: Wow. Are you serious? Newt bleeping Gingrich?

THE DEVIL: I have probably said too much. I gotta go.

[dark image: shutterstock; Drumpf evangelicals: Getty Images]

The Grand Orange Party

This Thursday Drumpf will meet with some of the GOP bigwigs in Congress, including the Speaker of the House, who hasn’t quite got both feet on the crazy train. Their hopes are that they will either find out Drumpf has just been pretending to be a fool on the campaign trail or that he is someone whom they can mold into a real conservative nutjob, as opposed to just a nutjob.

In any case, it’s hard to tell these days whether some conservatives are afraid Drumpf will lose in November or are afraid that he will win. Famous right-winger Bill Kristol, who has correctly pronounced Drumpf as unfit to be president, was on TV this morning all worried about the latest polling—the meat and potatoes of TV journalism these days—in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida that shows the race is really, really close. Drumpf might win! Who’da thunk it? Kristol is doing his best to get someone like Mittens to run as a third party candidate. Good luck with that, Bill. I’m rooting for ya.

Here’s the deal, though. As Kristol suggests, GOP leaders in Congress, along with governors and other politicians with clout, can “normalize” Drumpf. They can do so in several ways. They can fully embrace him and say good things about him. Or they can half embrace him and say he is a work in progress. Or they can sort of slink away without saying anything. No matter how it happens, if they don’t come out and tell the world that Drumpf is not presidential material, they will legitimate him, put their stamp of approval on him, and thereby signal to voters that it is okay to vote for him. But will they do that? Will they normalize someone so obviously unstable and unfit?

You’re damned right they will. There’s no doubt about it. And when they do, they won’t get a mulligan. No do-overs. They’ll have to live with him and what he says and does for the next six months. And, Allah forbid, if Drumpf does win in November, they will be responsible for the considerable damage he will do to the country, and quite possibly, the world.

As many people have remarked, if Paul Ryan and other Republican big shots in Congress and around the country do, explicitly or implicitly, welcome Drumpf into the comfy confines of the establishment, it will then become Drumpf’s party. The Grand Orange Party. He’ll own it and its leaders, and they all will go down in history either as colossal losers or as dangerous winners.

The truth is, though, that Drumpf isn’t just a Republican problem. Sure, he makes Republicans look bigoted and ridiculous and small. But to some extent he also makes the country look that way. None of us can get through this mess, even if Drumpf ultimately loses, without getting a little Orange Stink on us. That’s the way it is with a guy like Drumpf. You see him on TV, you listen to him talk for a couple of minutes, and you feel like you’ve been slimed with orange ordure. You want to run through a car wash. No, that’s not quite right. You want to slowly walk through the car wash to make sure not one drop of Drumpf has stuck to you.

Last December, Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, said about Drumpf, “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.” Well, it is May now.  Republican voters have made him their choice to represent the party. On Thursday, Republican leaders, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt, will ratify that choice, either with sounds or with silence. Either way they will essentially embrace the race-baiter, the xenophobe, the bigot. They will authenticate an ignorant and ill-informed man, a man who is stuck in a strange adolescence, who is unstable and unpredictable and therefore unacceptably dangerous.

And the orange shitstorm that will follow Drumpf’s blessing will touch us all.

The Worst Thing That Could Happen To Hillary Just Happened

No, no, no. She didn’t get arrested by the FBI, for God’s sake. Stop worrying about that email stuff for a minute.

Look at this headline from USA Today this morning, the day after Tiny Hands became the GOP “presumptive” nominee:

Looking to November: Clinton leads Trump by double-digits in new poll

That poll was a CNN/ORC poll released yesterday. If you were listening to any news, especially on CNN and other cable news channels, you are well aware of that poll. CNN promoted it constantly and other outlets frequently mentioned it in connection with their coverage of Drumpf’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party. The poll shows Clinton with a 54-41 advantage, which seems like good news for Democrats.

It ain’t.

What will happen, inevitably, is that the race will tighten up, just like it did between Hillary and Bernie. That tends to be the way these races work. And when it does tighten up, CNN and other outlets will then herald Drumpf’s “dramatic” surge and Hillary’s “dramatic” decline. I promise you it will work that way, even if the numbers move just a little bit Drumpf’s way.

The truth is that the news business needs a big brawl to break out between the two candidates this summer and fall and they need a close race. They are looking for profits and there is no profit in a 54-41 race. Just this morning I heard CNN’s Alisyn Camerota (formerly of Fox) try to get Hillary’s top strategist and pollster, Joel Benenson, to tell us why Hillary refused to call Drumpf a racist yesterday, after she was asked about Elizabeth Warren’s truth-tweet about Tiny Hands:

warren tweet.jpg

For good reason Clinton didn’t take Anderson Cooper’s bait when he asked her, point-blank, whether she thought Drumpf was a racist. Smartly, she said she’d let voters decide that. And she did something else that was smart. After Cooper read that Warren tweet and asked Clinton if she agreed with it, she said,

I think Elizabeth Warren is really smart.

Then she chuckled, letting everyone know that she agrees with Warren but isn’t dumb enough to fall for the trick of outright saying Drumpf is a racist. Such an admission is exactly what Cooper was aiming for and he missed. Clinton is too disciplined to go there. She will let others do that for her because if she comes right out, at least at this point, and calls Short Fingers a racist, that’s all people would be talking about today. And it would only help him because it would make it about that one issue and the rest of his nonsense and ignorance and bigotry would fade away.

So, Democrats, get used to this sort of thing. And realize that Drumpf will rise in the polls, as time passes. And the media business will make a lot out of his rise and so will he. Just don’t panic. Keep telling your friends and neighbors and family members, those who are tempted to vote for Drumpf, that you will never speak to them again, if they vote for a man so utterly unfit for any elected office, much less the most powerful office in the world.

Not A Morality Play, An Amorality Play

Let’s be clear about something.

Republicans now have as their presumptive nominee for the presidency of the United States a man who was called a “pathological liar,” a “narcissist” and “amoral” by the guy who came in second in last night’s Indiana primary. And that guy, Ted Cruz, had every reason to attack Drumpf in that way on Tuesday. After all, Drumpf had embraced earlier that morning the latest crazy conspiracy theory going around: Ted Cruz’s dad was involved in the killing of Johncruz goes ballistic F. Kennedy. “This is nuts,” said Cruz, who is sort of an expert himself on nuttiness, “This is just kooky.”

Of course it is. But for God’s sake, people, what the hell is going on? Have Republicans really lost their collective minds?

Let’s start by looking at what “amoral” means:

a :  being neither moral nor immoral; specifically :  lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply <science as such is completely amoral — W. S. Thompson>

   b :  lacking moral sensibility <infants are amoral>

2:  being outside or beyond the moral order or a particular code of morals <amoral customs>

Think about that. Is calling someone amoral worse than calling them immoral? There is a certain predictability in immorality. But amorality is totally unpredictable. And when you think about it, unpredictable amorality is actually the Drumpf brand. Just look at what Drumpf said this morning:

“Lyin’ Ted” is now — we will now put that aside.

After months of saying he had never “met a person that lies more than Ted Cruz,” or saying how “unstable” Cruz was, it’s all over now. Last night Drumpf said that Cruz was “a tough, smart guy. And he has got an amazing future.” Now that is amoral. That is Drumpf.

As I mentioned, Cruz also called Drumpf a pathological liar and a narcissist. Here’s how he put it:

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen.

I’ll leave the clinical diagnosis to others. Is Drumpf a narcissist? He sounds like one. Is he a pathological liar? He sounds like one. But pathological or not, Drumpf is most definitely a liar. He does lie all the time, as Cruz said. But do Republican voters think he is a liar? We will look at that in a minute, but first:

Exit polling in this country is done by a firm called Edison Research. On its website, the research and surveying company says:

When you hear election projections, results or analysis about who voted for whom, that information comes from Edison Research.

Something called the National Election Pool, which is essentially a collection of all the big news organizations in America—NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox “News,” and the AP—contracts with Edison Research to provide the exit polling data upon which analysis is done and projections are made.

If we wanted to know whether Republicans who cast votes think Drumpf is truthful, it would be Edison Research who would find out for us. So, what did the company find out when it conducted exit polling and asked Republican voters in Indiana yesterday whether Drumpf is “honest and trustworthy”?

We’ll never know.

Edison Research never asked that question. Didn’t bother. Didn’t think it was relevant, I guess. And apparently the big news organizations didn’t either, since they didn’t demand such a question. Maybe it’s because they believe everyone already knows Drumpf is a liar or maybe it’s because they don’t want to know. Beats me.

But what about the other side? What about Democrats? Was the question of honesty brought up by pollsters?

Yep. You guessed it. Edison Research did ask Democrats that question about their candidates. They were asked if they thought Hillary and Bernie are “honest and trustworthy.” Why do you suppose Edison Research would ask that question of Democrats and not of Republicans? Could it have something to do with an institutional bias against Hillary Clinton? Of course it does. It’s painfully obvious. There is never any talk about Bhillary and bernie trustworthy poll in indianaernie being dishonest or untrustworthy. But pollsters had to ask voters about him to cover up the real reason they were asking, which was to find out how deep was the belief that Hillary is not to be trusted, an idea pushed by television pundits and journalists. Talk about dishonesty. (By the way, exit pollsters have asked that question of Democrats since the New Hampshire primary on February 9 but have not asked it of Republicans even though both Drumpf and Cruz have poor ratings with fact-checkers.)

If you watch a lot of TV news, like I do, there are two things you notice right away about the general coverage of the primaries. One is obvious: TV news is wild about Drumpf. He is a boost to the corporate bottom line. The more stupid and nasty and offensive things he says out loud, the better for ratings. That’s pretty easy to see and, unfortunately, easy to understand. The TV news business is in fact a business. Ratings come first, journalism awaiting drumpf rally.jpgsecond, often a distant second. Drumpf can phone in interviews from Trump Tower and many of his rallies are broadcast on cable news television for large chunks of time. They preempt other programming to bring them to us. Why? Because you never know what controversy might erupt right there on “our” network! I’ve even seen, numerous times, a little box on the side of the screen featuring a Drumpf-less podium, indicating that soon, very soon, Drumpf will be speaking! Stay tuned!

The second thing you notice about general TV news coverage of the primaries is that it is quite slanted against Hillary Clinton in an important way. That’s where the “honest and trustworthy” question comes in. Pundits and reporters mention it all the time—but only in connection with Hillary Clinton. Most of what Bernie Sanders says about health care or college tuition or wage inequality is ignored. But when he attacks Clinton’s honesty, it’s all over the place.

But the honest and trustworthy question never comes up in the context of Drumpf. Why? Because there is no ratings price to be paid for questioning Hillary Clinton’s integrity. There is a price to be paid for being too rough with Drumpf. He’ll bully and boycott you. He’ll attack you. He’ll embarrass you. And reporters and pundits do not want to displease their bosses, so they tiptoe around all the lies and amorality. They really do. It’s sort of like when you are around a volatile person who you know is just waiting to go off on someone and you don’t want to be that someone. It’s that bad.

It’s not that journalists on television, at least some of them, don’t point out Drumpf’s lies—well, they don’t use that word; it’s usually put much more delicately—but his lies are never put in a larger context of his “honesty” or “trustworthiness.” It’s more of a “well, that’s just Donald being Donald” critique. It’s almost like Drumpf’s propensity to lie is part of his charm. I remind you of what I posted the other day about pundit Elise Jordan’s remark on MSNBC: “there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” She essentially explained why we see the kind of coverage we see of Drumpf on cable television.

Is it even possible to imagine something similar being said about Hillary Clinton? That she is “kinda likable” despite being allegedly dishonest? Of course it’s not. Hillary Clinton not only has to pay a heavy price for all of her past mistakes and misstatements and policy flips, she is held accountable for Bill’s too. Part of Drumpf’s general election strategy will be to tie her to her husband’s philandering. Another part will be to tie her to her husband’s trade and Wall Street policies. And another part will be to attack her for being dishonest and untrustworthy. That’s pretty much how it will go.

And how will cable news handle all that? All the outlets will be there to cover every insult, every attack, every lie, as if it wasn’t coming from a man who could call Ted Cruz a liar every day for three months and then one night wipe it all away with an “Attaboy, Ted!” As if it weren’t coming from a man who pretends to be a friend of the working class but who thinks their wages are too high. As if it weren’t coming from a man who claims he was against the war in Iraq but was for it before he was against it. As if it weren’t coming from a man who claims to love Hispanics but got the idea for his infamous Mexican rapist rant from a hater named Ann Coulter.

And as if it weren’t coming from a man who wants to change libel laws so journalists can be subject to more lawsuits from politicians, a man who said:

The press is amazingly dishonest. The press is a real problem in this country. I’m dealing with some real sleazebags up here…[but] they’re worse than the politicians.

Thankfully, not all of the press is “amazingly dishonest.” Print and online journalism is doing a pretty good job of covering Drumpf. But, outside of three glorious hours on MSNBC every weeknight, cable television journalism, at least as I have witnessed it for months now, is not. There is a lot of dishonesty involved, but it is not hurting Drumpf, it is helping him. I have already heard talk of how Hillary-Drumpf will be a cage fight, of how the ratings will soar when the two finally debate. It will be a circus, a freak show, made for TV. Well, we shall see. But my fear is that if it is—if it is allowed to be—the amoral Two-Headed Man will steal the show.

Kamikaze Bernie

Hell hath no fury like an ideologue scorned.

After the New York primary on April 19th, in which Hillary Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders 58-42, the pundits on television were using a surprisingly appropriate metaphor. It went something like this: “How will Bernie eventually land the plane” of his losing campaign? bernie planeHmm. I liked that. Bernie has a choice. He is the pilot. He can land his plane safely on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Democratic Party, or he can do something else.

Apparently, he has chosen something else. A kamikaze attack.

Last night, Jane Sanders, earnest and able wife of Bernie, was on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. She made sure we all knew that Bernie was serious about taking his airplane all the way to a “contested convention.” He ain’t goin’ away. “There’s gonna be a fight on the issues, no matter what,” she affirmed. “Everybody knows, anything can happen in politics,” she said later. Bernie’s gassed up and ready to crash.

Well, well. What else should we have expected? He’s been telegraphing his intentions for some time now. It’s not exactly going to be a surprise attack.

In any case, I want to offer another apt metaphor for what Jane Sanders did last night on Chris Hayes’ show. She unceremoniously tossed the great liberal economist Paul Krugman under the Bernie bus. Why? Because it’s the Bernie way. If you don’t subscribe, word-for-word, to Bernie’s world view; if you don’t think Bernie’s ideas are realistic or realizable; if you don’t buy Bernie’s unique mathematical theories about delegates; then you are dead to him and his surrogates. It’s pretty much that simple.

But before I get to Mrs. Sanders running over Paul Krugman with the Bernie bus, I want to first take a quick look at who Krugman is and why most Democrats respect him. Krugman is an op-ed columnist (and a blessed blogger!) for The New York Times. He earned a B.A. in economics (summa cum laude) from Yale in 1974, followed by a PhD in economics from MIT in 1977. He has taught at Yale, MIT, Stanford and Princeton and currently is—let me get this right—the “Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.” He has published around 20 books, from “Market Structure and Foreign Trade” in 1985 to “The Conscience of a Liberal” in 2009, a book I have in my library and from which I learned a lot of liberalology. In 2008 Krugman won a Nobel Prize and, if that ain’t good enough for ya, he holds a John Bates Clark Medal, which he got in 1991 and which The Economist says is “slightly harder to get than a Nobel prize.”

You get the idea. You may not like Krugman. You may think, as some folks do, that he is a left-wing nut. Or, you may think he is a phony progressive sellout and thus a suck-up to Hillary Clinton, as apparently a lot of Bernie fans do, including his wife, who had the following exchange with Chris Hayes on Monday night:

HAYES: I want to give you a chance to respond to critics of yours. Paul Krugman in The New York Times has been really hammering the Sanders campaign, but there are others who basically sasanders on hayesy that the Sanders campaign, by soliciting donations to make Bernie Sanders the nominee, is essentially running a con on its donors. What do you say to those people?

SANDERS: Really? What is John Kasich doing? And what is Ted Cruz been doing? No. We’re running on the issues. You know that. And I don’t take Paul Krugman seriously anymore. I used to. I think there are a lot of other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking. So, that’s a disappointment. But I don’t read him, so I can’t tell you what he says anymore.

She doesn’t take the liberal economist “seriously anymore,” and there are “other, better economists and people who seem to have better critical thinking.” Now you see why I spent some time looking at Krugman’s résumé. It’s just silly for a Democrat to talk about him that way.

So, what has pissed off the Sanders team so much that they now are trashing yet another liberal Democrat, this one a distinguished economist? A blog post. Well, really, more than one blog post, but especially his latest one, “Bernie’s Bad End,” which began:

This is really depressing: Sanders claiming that there will be a contested convention, and suggesting that the nomination fight was rigged. Can someone tell Bernie that he’s in the process of blowing his own chance for a positive legacy?

No, Professor Krugman. No one can tell Bernie anything. He is not tellable. He operates in his own universe where math bends to his will; where the Democratic primary is “rigged” sanders in indianaagainst him despite his receiving a minority of votes; where the superdelegates he once loathed are now his path to victory—if they will only do what he says they should do.

Krugman noted that Bernie could have turned “defeat in the primary into a moral victory.” But, the prize-winning economist said, “he would have had to accept the will of the voters with grace.” Grace? Bernie knows no grace. He is the most graceless loser (and winner, for that matter) since, well, Donald Drumpf. You can’t beat Bernie. You can only hope to contain his Bernie-or-bust ego. You can only hope his metaphorical plane misses the flight deck and lands harmlessly in the sea.

Saint Rachel Maddow, who no one in his or her right mind could accuse of being a squishy liberal, or, Allah forbid, could accuse of being in bed with the right wing (like I have been so accused on this blog), pointed out on her Monday show that what Bernie is proposing— rachel on berniethat because Hillary Clinton can’t wrap up the nomination with pledged delegates by the last primary contest on June 14, he will essentially force a “contested convention”—represents “real radicalism.” Why? Why would Maddow say such a thing?

Because, using Bernie’s logic, Barack Obama—who did not have anywhere near a majority of pledged delegates going into the 2008 convention—would have had to suffer through a nasty floor fight with Hillary Clinton over superdelegates in order to win the nomination, which would have been quite radical, as well as a lasting disaster.

Hillary could have done what Bernie is saying he will do. She could have been a kamikaze. But she chose not to, even though she was much, much closer to Obama in the delegate count than Bernie is to her—Obama had only a 4% lead in pledged delegates and Hillary, right now, has a 11% lead—and she was actually leading the future president in the popular vote. Rachel remembered for us that Hillary went to the convention floor in Denver in August of 2008, not to fight for herself, but to certify Obama’s legitimacy as the nominee. To do anything else, she knew, would have hurt Democrats in the fall.

If only Bernie had that kind of grace, or, really, if only Bernie cared about the Democratic Party enough to be a team player and land his plane on the flight deck, long before the convention in July, rather than deliberately crash into it. But it has become painfully—and as a former fan of Bernie Sanders I mean “painfully”—obvious that Bernie is not a team player, if the team is the Democratic Party trying to defeat a Drumpf-led GOP. There may not be a clichéd “I” in team, but as all observers of this Democratic primary fight now know, there is an “I” in Bernie. A big one.

For her part, the courageous Saint Rachel, who called what Sanders is proposing “fantastical, which is not the same as fantastic,” knew there would be a backlash against her relatively aggressive segment on Bernie’s lack of grace and realism. She sweetly welcomed the “hate mail” she knew was coming. “Your accusations and swear words do hurt my feelings,” said Rachel, “but they also make me stronger.”

Well, I don’t know how much profanity-laced hate mail she has received since last night, but I will end with something posted to her MSNBC.com site, something that sort of reveals a phenomenon that Bernie didn’t necessarily create, but a phenomenon that he is certainly exploiting. Someone named LynneAlex posted:

Rachell – you have become a corporatist in your success and evident in your support of Hillary. You can no longer call your self a progressive. Hillary was a “proud” Goldwater conservative Republican along with her family. The apple has not fallen far from the tree and calls herself democrat in name only. She has a record as a hawk and has strong corporate ties. What is there to support for progressives? Nothing. I have been a very loyal viewer and sad to say you have lost at least one. Back to listening solely to Amy Goodman a true progressive.

My, oh, my. When you turn on St. Rachel, when you boot her out of the progressive tent for telling you the truth, you have to wonder if maybe your affection for Bernie has morphed into something else. But, as Jane Sanders proved, that’s the Bernie way. Paul Krugman tries to tell the truth about Bernie and, poof, he’s gone. Black voters in the South make Hillary a winner and those victories become meaningless and irrelevant. She smashes him in the New York primary and elsewhere and the excuse is that non-Democrats didn’t get to pick the Democratic nominee. The superdelegates side with Hillary and the system is “rigged.”

All of us who once so respected Bernie Sanders and admired his vision for a future America are, or have a right to be, disappointed with the way his story, and possibly the Democratic Party’s November story, looks like it will end. We can only hope, and at this point it is a faint hope, that someone will convince him to abandon his crash-and-Bern approach before it is too late.

The “Likable” Drumpf?

At the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore told some good jokes and some bad jokes, but he got at some real truth when he said this:

…whenever I turn to the TV, I see Trump’s family campaigning for him, gushing all over him. Or as it’s also known as, “Morning Joe.”

Have you seen “Morning Joe”? C’mon, guys, seriously. No, you know it’s true. Guys, “Morning Joe” has their head so far up Trump’s ass they bumped into Chris Christie. You know that’s true. You know I’m not lying. You know that’s true.

Nobody on MSNBC’s Morning Joe had a thing to say about it today. Why? I guess because it’s the awful truth and there isn’t any point in disputing it.

This morning the show actually validated Wilmore’s claim, dancing even deeper into Drumpf’s crowded colon, where not only Chris Christie lives, but so too does other human polyps like player-assaulting Coach Bobby Knight, convicted rapist Mike Tyson, and unrepentant birther and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and many of the other regulars on Morning Joe, which is actually transmitted from Drumpf’s poop chute, are in good company.

In any case, I will only share with you one comment by a Morning Joe panelist this morning. Elise Jordan, who is now a political analyst for MSNBC, but who worked in the Bush II administration and recently was a foreign policy aide to Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, was part of a discussion on how irritating Ted Cruz is—everyone on Morning Joe hates Ted Cruz. Using that as her springboard, Jordan said the following:

I think for Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz is a much better contender to go up against her, from the Democratic perspective, just because he wears so thin so quickly. And Donald Trump, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him. And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

elise jordan.jpgWhere does one start dissecting that stunningly strange analysis? How about with a kind word to Ms. Jordan: You got it right that Cruz would be easier for Hillary to run against. But you got it wrong as to why. It has very little to do with his wearing thin on people. It has a lot to do with the fact that the guy is a religious zealot who abhors compromise and has no sense of where the country is on any of the social issues, not to mention his tax plan would reward the wealthy and hurt the poor, while starving the country of revenues to the tune of nearly $9 trillion over ten years.

But since Cruz is the longest of long shots to win anyway, it ain’t worth discussing him. What is worth discussing it the idea advanced by Jordan that Drumpf’s competitive strength is “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him.”  First of all, we have a good idea of what we’re going to get out of him: more of the same we’ve been getting for months now. Childish insults and incoherent policies—including his own ridiculous tax and tariff policy that would harm ordinary folks—and “two” Corinthians and Tan-ZANE-i-a. He ain’t gonna change that stuff because he can’t change that stuff.

But I’ll grant that there will be some real unpredictability with Drumpf. Why? Because he’s a brilliant strategist? No. Because he’s unstable. His unpredictability is a product of his instability. Period. The man is unhinged, when it comes to the world of facts. He has a love affair with lies. His intellectual boat doesn’t have an anchor. It drifts with the flow of the moment. So, in that sense, there is some, and some dangerous, unpredictability associated with him. But Mrs. Clinton can respond to it by making sure people know that his unpredictability is a sign—a warning—that there is something seriously wrong with the guy’s approach to and understanding of the way the world works, if not something wrong with his mind. The presidency isn’t an office where instability-driven unpredictability is a virtue. At least it shouldn’t be.

In light of that, let’s look at the rest of what Elise Jordan said, something so strange about Drumpf that it bears repeating:

And he’s got a likability factor—yes, he has huge unfavorables and, yes, he offends basically every women [sic], but there’s something kinda likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.

What do we make of this? It came from a female analyst, one with much experience in the world of policy and politics. Is this something only a female analyst could say about a male candidate? Is this an example of the bad boy syndrome? I ain’t going there. But where I will go is to a New York Times article from 2012.

Richard Friedman is professor of clinical psychiatry. He wrote a piece for the Times titled, “I Heart Unpredictable Love.” It’s an interesting read. Dr. Friedman discussed why people are attracted to “unpredictable romantic partners,” but it has application to what Elise Jordan said about Donald Drumpf, who has a weird romance going with no small number of voters.

Friedman focused on a study done using brain scans that attempted to measure what happens to the brain “when people are given rewards under two different conditions: predicted and unpredicted.” Results indicated there is a “greater activation in the brain’s reward circuit when the reward was unanticipated than when it was delivered in a predictable fashion.” More dopamine—an organic chemical that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers—is released when receiving unpredictable rewards than predictable ones, said Dr. Friedman. And he also said:

If you are involved with someone who is unpredictably loving, you might not like it very much — but your reward circuit is sure going to notice the capricious behavior and give you information that might conflict with what you believe consciously is in your best interest.

Does this explain why people, people who should know better, are tempted by Drumpf? Does it explain Elise Jordan’s jaw-dropping remark about Drumpf this morning? Before you are tempted to call me a sexist for implying that her remark is related to her femininity, note that the study Friedman cited, on what happens in the brain regarding unpredictable-predictable rewards, included both women and men. It is clear enough that there are plenty of men who are attracted to Drumpf’s bad boy image and his “you just don’t know what you’re gonna get out of him” unpredictability. Just watch the men react to him both inside and outside of his rallies.

All of this may be loosely connected to another phenomenon that may or may not be something Democrats have to worry about in the upcoming Clinton-Drumpf brawl. It’s called “social desirability bias,” a concept from social psychology that has applicability to the polling numbers we’re all bombarded with every day. The idea is that the results of a poll are dependent on whether a respondent is surveyed online or is asked questions by a live interviewer on the phone. It turns out that it makes a difference in Drumpf’s numbers. From The New York Times last November:

Ever since Mr. Trump rose in the polls, he has fared best in the online ones — sometimes by as much as 10 points better than live-interview telephone surveys conducted over the same period.

There are a number of possible explanations for Mr. Trump’s strength in online polling, which was first noted by Jonathan Robinson, an analyst for Catalist, a data firm associated with the Democratic Party.

One is that voters are likelier to acknowledge their support for Mr. Trump in an anonymous online survey than in an interview with a real person. Plenty of research suggests that the social acceptability of an opinion shapes the willingness of poll respondents to divulge it, and it’s imaginable that voters would be reluctant to acknowledge support for a controversial figure like Mr. Trump.

As Vox points out about his phenomenon,

In the case of Trump…social desirability bias appears alive and well. It seems even Trump’s supporters understand that favoring him is not entirely socially acceptable. But that doesn’t diminish their backing — that Trump is loathed by political elites is part of his appeal.

Elise Jordan, a Republican, may have simply said something out loud this morning that other Republicans, men and women, may only say to themselves or behind closed doors. For them, especially since it appears Drumpf will be their nominee, there is obviously something “likable about the guy even as he’s being kind of terrible.” What these people find likable is beyond my ability to understand. But what they find terrible, and obviously tempting because it is so terrible, is plain to see.

“You Claim To Support Progressive Values”

So, a Bernie supporter, signing with the name “A. Progressive,” wrote in to say the following (among other things) as a response to my second “Dear Bernie” appeal:

You claim to support progressive values, but support a candidate that is no more progressive than Bill Clinton was during his tenure. If the DNC continues with pushing “centrist” candidates, they do so at their own peril. Winning elections at the cost of abandoning the progressive values it espouses is hypocritical.

As I told A. Progressive, such comments annoy me. “You claim to support progressive values….” Claim. Claim. Claim. We know what that means, of course. I’m not really a progressive. I’m only pretending to be. Yeah, well.

Since I’ve said just about all I can, both publicly and privately, to earnest Bernie folks, I thought I would allow the great Kevin Drum take a stab at it. In a piece published today on Mother Jones (“Here’s Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders”), Drum made most of the points that I have been making but, let’s face it, he’s Kevin Drum and I’m not.

Drum starts out by consciously provoking Bernie people by saying the following about their beloved candidate:

I think he’s basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.

The great progressive writer then goes on to make the point that many have made about the lack of a revolution and the lack of conditions to even get one started in the way Bernie keeps describing it from his imagination. Drum cites two examples, and there are only two, where one could plausibly—Drum admits he is “stretching things a bit”—describe historical developments as amounting to an “economic revolution”:

  • The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War.
  • The New Deal.

The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. That’s what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.

Obviously, as Drum points out, “We’re light years away from that right now.” The conditions, relatively speaking, are just too damned good for most folks to get them to buy into a game-changing economic or political revolution. Unemployment is fairly low, wages, though in a stagnant phase, are pretty good for the average family (“close to $70,000”), and “90 percent of the country has insurance coverage.” And finishing this point with a mike-dropper, Drum says:

Dissatisfaction with the system? According to Gallup, even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.

That leads us to the most important point, the point that is hard to get ideologically minded folks, especially young folks committed to the things Bernie talks about, to understand:

Like it or not, you don’t build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you’re going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.

I like that metaphor. “The slow boring of hard wood” is exactly what it takes, in this country, to make real progress. There simply isn’t a substitute for it. That’s the way our political system is designed to work. That is, generally, the way Americans prefer change to come. Americans, except on the fringes, tend to prefer things to move a little slower than the average Bern-Bernie-Bern fan, or the average Ted Cruz or Drumpf fan, would like. Drum:

…if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves—all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment.

That’s a hard message. But it is absolutely true. That’s our system, like it or not. If you want to change it, you first have to get inside of it. You can’t blow it up from the outside. That simply won’t do. You have to get in and work at it.

The problem with all this is that we aren’t just talking about an academic exercise. There can be real harm done by all the loose talk, as Drum points out. He says that rather than telling his people that there is a long slog ahead, Bernie

promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that’s never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?

That’s a damned good question. And like Drum, I fear that some of them will give up:

They’ve been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn’t work, they throw in the towel.

What I have been trying to warn people about, in terms of what Bernie Sanders has done and continues to do, is what Drum hits on toward the end of his piece:

…there’s a decent chance that Bernie’s failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that’s the last thing we need.

Yes, dammit. There is too much cynicism as it is. That’s the kind of environment in which a Drumpf can rise and flourish. And, as progressives, real progressives, we shouldn’t allow such cynicism to creep into our camp. We should fight for our principles, but fight for them knowing the fight is necessarily long and difficult and often frustrating. We should fight for them knowing that there are lots of other Americans who don’t have any affection for our vision of the future. We need to understand that some folks, maybe our neighbors or friends or family, are downright hostile to it. That’s what makes the fight so hard and what makes it so long and frustrating.

And as Drum says, the last thing we need is someone on our side, on the progressive side, generating the kind of cynicism that could put someone like Donald J. Drumpf in the most powerful office in the world. Enough is enough. Let’s get our progressive act together before too much damage is done.

Dear Bernie. Again.

Dear Bernie,

Almost two months ago I wrote to you. You ignored me. Fine. I can live with that. But I want to take this opportunity to remind you of what I said and try again to convince you that if you continue on as you are, you will sort of be, as a pundit on television said this morning, in “an unspoken alliance” with Donald Drumpf. Ouch.

It was evident, even back at the beginning of March, that you would not become the nominee of my—I mean, “our”—party. I urged you back then to accept that fact and not prolong the inevitable and to go out and actually help actualize the political revolution you keep talking about by,

suspending your campaign and taking all those millions of dollars that those earnest, well-meaning Americans have given you and put it to good use, like helping Democrats win competitive House and Senate races, so that a Democratic president can actually get done some of the things that you and I want done.

Well, you didn’t take my advice and here we are today. David Plouffe tweeted after the devastating loss you suffered in the New York primary more than a week ago:

Sanders has run a stunningly strong campaign fueled by passionate supporters. But raising $$ stating you have path to nomination is fraud.

Then you took another pretty good beating this past Tuesday and the “path” you keep talking about has now narrowed so much that only you, apparently possessing preternatural eyesight, can see it. At what point, Bernie, does it really become “fraud” to keep raising money by telling your small-dollar donors that you still have a chance to become the nominee?

Last night in West Lafayette, Indiana, you said,

I am very good in arithmetic, and I can count delegates, and we are behind today. But you know what? Unusual things happen in politics.

You know what would really be unusual? For you to see that instead of laying off hundreds of your campaign staffers around the country, you could give them a new mission: help down-ballot Democrats beat vulnerable Republicans.

You could redeploy some staffers to Illinois to help our U.S. Senate candidate, Tammy Duckworth, beat a very vulnerable Mark Kirk. Others you could send to Wisconsin, where the deplorable teapartier Ron Johnson is ripe for picking off the Senate tree. Wouldn’t it be worth some of your own time and effort to see to it that Russ Feingold—who lost to Johnson in that devastating 2010 election—becomes your colleague in the Senate again? Huh? Feingold, after all, has been trying to get something done on campaign finance reform for a long time. How about putting your money where your mouth is on that issue and help him?

Still other staffers you could send to New Hampshire, where Republican Kelly Ayotte will have to battle with a very popular Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan—she’s won twice statewide, Bernie!—and where you and your folks could really be a big help.

In Florida, Marco Rubio’s seat needs to be filled. Let’s fill it with a Democrat like Patrick Murphy, what do ya say? Granted, Murphy is no Alan Grayson, but that’s sort of the point, you know what I mean? Congressman Murphy disposed of the disposable Allen West, so, dammit, that’s worth giving him some help down there.

There are more Senate races in which you and your supporters could make a big difference. Believe it or not, John McCain can be beaten in Arizona. So can Pat Toomey, a Club for Growth kinda guy, in Pennsylvania. Rob Portman is a little shaky in Ohio. Chuck Grassley could be swept away in a Bernie-led landslide in Iowa. Richard Burr could be knocked off in North Carolina. Maybe you could even send a few devoted staffers to us here in Missouri, where Jason Kander is up against the lobbyist-loving Roy Blunt.

Besides all those vulnerable Republicans currently in the Senate, we have some big shoes to fill in Nevada. Harry Reid is leaving and Democrats could use a Bernie-boost to help Catherine Cortez Masto become the first Hispanic woman to sit in the U.S. Senate. Wouldn’t that be revolutionary?

Senator Michael Bennet needs some love in Colorado, a place where we always struggle to win. And since you talk a lot about goin’ to California, how about weighing in on which Democrat should replace retiring Barbara Boxer? (Hint: Attorney General Kamala Harris is big on the minimum wage and paid family leave!)

Yes, the Democrats could, with your sizable help, take back the Senate. It is quite possible, some say even likely, if our top of the ticket, Hillary Clinton, runs strong with a Bernie-wind at her back. And even though it would be much tougher—this is where we will need your revolution, Bernie—there are dozens of House races you could put your name to, put money into, devote some time to.

Can you see how using your considerable resources to elect down-ballot Democrats would be much better than holding out for some language changes in the party’s platform that nobody really gives a damn about anyway? Or much better than forcing Hillary to become Hillary Sanders by adopting all of  your policy positions in exchange for your and your fans’ support? You said in Indiana,

We are in this campaign to win, but if we do not win, we intend to win every delegate that we can so that when we go to Philadelphia in July, we are going to have the votes to put together the strongest progressive agenda that any political party has ever seen. Our goal, whether we win or we do not win, is to transform the Democratic Party, to open the doors to working people, to senior citizens, to young people, in a way that does not exist today.

Okay, I get that. You want to “transform” my, uh, our party. But that shouldn’t be a priority right now, not when there are so many Republicans we have to beat this November. You really want to help working people? Then help Democrats get rid of as many Republicans in Congress as we can. You really want to take care of our seniors and help young folks? Same thing. Your revolution, and the far-reaching social and political changes you and I both want, will only come, Bernie, if we control all three branches of the government. And although that might seem to some people like a quixotic undertaking, it isn’t nearly as quixotic as your quest to become president.

So, please, suspend your shrinking campaign and really think big. You passively said, “Unusual things happen in politics.” How about making those unusual things happen?

Sincerely,

The Erstwhile Conservative

 

Drumpf Foreign Policy Speech: “Rambling To The Point Of Being Incoherent”

Drumpf’s sophomoric and laughingly “serious” foreign policy speech today was, needless to say, an embarrassment—and an embarrassment of riches for Pinocchio-awarding fact-checkers everywhere. I won’t bore you with the details now, scary as they are, but I will hand you a gift in the form of instant analysis provided on CNN by a very smart guy, Fareed Zakaria. After noting that Drumpf “stuck to his guns” in terms of a “populist, nationalist, protectionist” message, Zakaria then dropped the hammer:

It was sort of rambling to the point of being incoherent. He contradicted himself several times, it struck me. He said we’re gonna get out of nation building, but we are gonna create stability. Well, how do you do that? You get out of nation building in Afghanistan, you’ll get more instability. You got out of nation building in Iraq, you got more instability. He said the allies can rely on us, but we will be completely unpredictable. He said we will spend what it takes to rebuild the military, but we’re gonna pay down the debt. Uh, we’re gonna spread Western civilization, but we’re not gonna spread democracy. And he ended with a truly bizarre statement about the greatest problem in the world is that we have too many weapons, and, once again, a strange place where you might find that he and Bernie Sanders are one.

So, I thought that when he tried to flesh out an actual foreign policy, it was pretty incoherent. He was very strong on his protectionism, anti-trade, American unilateralism. He was very strong on attacking the Obama-Clinton legacy…really that’s mostly the Bush legacy when he talks about the trillions of dollars spent trying to nation build in the Middle East. That’s the Iraq war, that’s the Afghanistan war, both of which were initiated by President Bush. So, I don’t know that it’s gonna convince anyone, certainly it didn’t strike me as a careful, analytic laying out of a Trump foreign policy.

Others on CNN, including Mike Rogers, a former Republican congressman who was Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Zakaria in his critical analysis, Rogers saying, “It was not exactly coherent.”

Who couldn’t have guessed that?

Drumpf’s Vaginal Probe

Once again, Drumpf was allowed to phone it in. His voice appeared on the morning shows today sounding, well, really Drumpfy. He sounded tired. Worn out. Old. Low Energy. No wonder he didn’t want to be seen. But he was energetic enough to continue attacking Hillary Clinton for, essentially, being a woman. The bully is actually afraid of losing to a girl!

And Drumpfy had enough energy to outline his future strategy against Hillary during the general election:

I’m going to be taking a lot of things Bernie said and using them.

I hope Bernie is proud of himself. Apparently, after months and months of attacking Hillary Clinton’s integrity, someone was listening: Donald Drumpf and the Republicans. But of course Bernie will feel no shame, take no blame. After a shellacking last night, he is still on to California!

In any case, Drumpf, who loves to double down, made yet another double-down mistake, as he was responding to reporters after his impressive string of primary victories Tuesday night. And unlike so many others, this mistake he will come to regret. The double-down came when he was asked to respond to the following comment that Hillary Clinton had made during her own victory speech in Philadelphia:

Now, the other day, Mr. Trump accused me of playing the, quote, ‘woman card.’ Well, if fighting for women’s health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!

Using Drumpf’s original “woman card” mistake against him the way she did was a brilliant and effective counterpunch, especially against a man who specializes in unseemly, below-the-belt counterpunching. Hillary’s smooth attack is the way to go after Drumpf. Just keep focusing on his words and using them against him, and Drumpf, being Drumpf, will double down on his mistakes, which he did last night:

Well, I think the only card she has is the women’s card — she’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her, okay? And look how well I did with women tonight.

“If Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get five percent of the vote” was a very dumb thing to say, even for a Drumpf. And, again, the way Hillary drew him out and got him to do that double-down demonstrates how you go after him. You tempt him to sound even more ridiculous, as he attempts to validate his original mistake. He’s a sucker for that kind of bait. Next up, I’d get him to double down on punishing women for what would be, under his wishes, an “illegal” abortion.

In the mean time, poll after poll shows how unpopular Drumpf is among women. Gallup found that 70% of women don’t like the guy, which may be a little high, especially as it is becoming clearer that he will win the nomination. But Drumpf’s gender-based attack on Hillary Clinton is really an attack on women voters. Hillary knows that and will, quite shrewdly, continue to make that clear. If Drumpf wants to make the general election a fight about women and their choices, whether reproductive or electoral, he picked the wrong fight with the wrong woman.

[Composite image of morning shows from Media Matters.]

You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Live In Kansas, But It Helps

I spent my first 30 years living in Kansas. When I left there in 1988, I left there as a right-wing dittohead. It would take another dozen years or so to get the Kansas out of me, to get the ditto out of my head, and to get right with reality. And though I am glad I escaped, I feel sorry for those I left behind, those who still live there, who have to live under Sam Brownback, a Christian extremist and governor whose “experiment”—his word—with supply-side economics has caused real harm to real people.

I’ve gone over the details before on this blog, so no need to do that again. Suffice it to say that yet another round of budget cuts are necessary because the Brownback experiment, which failed years ago, is an experiment that won’t stop giving because the governor won’t stop the experiment. The other day he again nixed the idea of raising taxes on the rich, taxes that he cut in order to make Kansas a thriving place that lots of job-creators would want to come to and create lots of jobs that would bring in lots of revenue and everyone would see how wonderful Republican governance was. It seems like a cruel joke now. But it ain’t a joke.

The practice of giving rich people large tax cuts and then believing that such generosity will increase the state’s revenue is faith-based economics. It really is voodoo, as a critic of Ronald Reagan’s economics, George H. W. Bush, once called it before he became a convert to it out of political necessity. In Brownback’s case, his faith in his economic program is a lot like his right-wing Christian faith: zealous and doctrinaire and unbending in a gale of contrary evidence.

As I said, the governor isn’t interested in debating the tax issue but he does have yet another plan: “Instead, we will focus our support and attention on controlling government spending more efficiently.” When the working class and the poor hear that in Kansas, they know they are about to take another beating. And, as the old saying goes, the beatings will continue into morale improves.

There was some good news coming out of the state, though, believe it or not:

A federal court rejected the argument from a Christian group in Kansas which said that evolution was religious “indoctrination” and should not be taught in schools.

As Ars Technica pointed out,

This case, COPE v. Kansas Board of Education, is a notable victory for science—and a blow to the creationist crowd and its progeny.

Now, if only someone could deliver a similar blow to a similar group of zealots—those who are ruining the state via supply-side superstition—maybe, just maybe, the long and crazy and nightmarish economic experiment in Kansas would finally come to an end.

[Brownback photo: Gage Skidmore]

The State Of Drumpf’s Mind

Finally, someone has, out loud, gone there: What if Donald Drumpf is on the verge of Alzheimer’s?

Sophia McClennen published an article today with the provocative title, “Maybe Donald Trump has really lost his mind: What if the GOP frontrunner isn’t crazy, but simply not well?

McClennen is not a medical doctor. She is a Professor of International Affairs and Comparative Literature at Penn State University. But she has recently co-authored a book on satire called “Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics.” It is from that perch she is examining Drumpf and makes an interesting humanitarian point:

I need to be reassured that Trump is indeed OK so that the jokes about him remain funny. Public mockery has been the only way to stay balanced this election. And, of course, the best jokes about Trump have come from political satirists because satire does more than poke fun. It encourages critical thinking in the face of blind acceptance. It doesn’t just make Trump look silly and stupid; it points out that he’s dangerous to democracy. It’s the difference between jokes about his orange face and jokes about his demagoguery.

She goes on to say:

Satirical humor only works if it is punching up.  Humor that punches down is just mean.  A joke about Trump’s brain is amusing; one about an Alzheimer’s patient is twisted and cruel.

Her article cites examples of Drumpf’s odd behavior and his strange habits of speech and his inability to focus. She uses the recent example of Drumpf’s encounter with The Washington Post’s editorial board, a member of which had asked the candidate about whether he might use nuclear weapons against ISIS:

DRUMPF: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way, he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

POST: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?

DRUMPF: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here.  Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

McClennen writes about this bit of weirdness:

We have become so accustomed to these sorts of ramblings that we don’t really register them as anything more than standard nonsensical Trump-speak—a pattern of speech we have seen crop up across the GOP in recent years, most notably in Palin’s gibberish.  But I urge you to re-read the exchange above and register the range of nonsense—the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question.

The writer then asks whether Drumpf’s campaign gives us a clue that the candidate is more than “a savvy politician channeling Tea Party political rhetoric and reality TV sound bites,” that he might be “an example of someone who doesn’t have full command of his faculties.” She goes on to sort of indict a larger group of folks:

At times it can be very hard to distinguish between extreme right-wing politics and symptoms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that if two of the following core mental functions seem impaired then it is time to seek medical help: Memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, visual perception.  Alzheimer’s carries other symptoms besides memory loss including difficulty remembering newly learned information, disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes.

Does she go too far? And does she go beyond what the evidence suggests when she writes:

Much to the chagrin of the reasonable conservatives who wonder what has happened to their party, it is now often difficult to distinguish Republican rhetoric from the ravings of someone suffering from diminished mental capacity.

Let me start by admitting the obvious. I’m not a doctor of any kind, nor do I know Drumpf in any other way than from his public appearances. Thus, I am not going to say there is something mentally wrong with the guy, other than he acts like there is. Likewise, I am not going to say that extremist right-wingers are literally sick people. I know plenty of them who are quite clearly not mentally impaired in any way but who still believe what I consider to be crazy shit. So, I think it is a little irresponsible to go so far as Sophia McClennen did in her piece. Besides that, there are plenty of people on the left who believe crazy shit, too.

But—you knew there was a but, right?—I will say this: I am worried about the state of mind of people who will believe unbelievable things just because those things fit into the way they model the world, or who won’t take a minute to critically ask whether there is any real evidence for their beliefs. Some people, for instance, believe when bad things happen, like when the AIDS crisis came upon us or when Hurricane Katrina hit, that God is judging us for our sins. Is believing that a form of mental impairment?

Other folks believe that chemtrails may have killed Merle Haggard and Prince. Don’t believe me? Just look at a headline from the right-wing conspiracy site, Infowars:

DID THE CHEMTRAIL FLU KILL PRINCE AND MERLE HAGGARD?

Are folks who believe that nuts? You can go on that website, which is run by a strange and
dangerous man named Alex Jones—who also has a show on which Drumpf has appeared—and find all kinds of stuff that makes you wonder whether folks who take any of that stuff seriously are in their right minds. And you can do the same thing on Facebook or other social media, where many of these ridiculous conspiracy theories get replicated on a massive scale by earnest believers passing them on to friends and family.

But Drumpf isn’t just an ordinary person with a Facebook or Twitter account. He is the front-runner for the presidential nomination handed out by the Republican Party. So, it is natural that we hold him to a higher level of scrutiny than Grandma Orleta passing on some Obama-cancelled-the-National-Day-of-Prayer nonsense as a kindly warning to her fellow Christians. And when we look at Drumpf closely, we do find a man who could be mistaken for someone with a serious mental flaw, someone who often appears to be untethered to reality.

Without even exploring the fact that he has no real understanding of most of the issues of the day—an odd thing itself for someone running for president—the biggest example of his detachment from the way things are is his fondness for, or entertainment of, conspiracy theories. Most famously, of course, is his utter fascination with Obama’s birthplace and the easily falsifiable idea that the president wasn’t born where he obviously was born. The press has nearly forgotten about this weird fascination and I won’t go into the details here. But I can’t remember the last time he was asked to account for it, despite the fact that it should come up again and again because it reveals something important about the way Drumpf’s mind works—or doesn’t work.

I mentioned Alex Jones, the king of kooky conspiracists. As Mother Jones reported, after Antonin Scalia died, Jones speculated on his show that Obama “killed him, and all the intellectual evidence lays it out.” The next day, as it happened, Drumpf appeared on Michael Savage’s radio show—Savage is another conspiracy lover—and was asked about Scalia’s death. Here’s how Mother Jones wrote it up:

Savage raised the possibility that Scalia had been murdered, and asked Trump whether an immediate autopsy was necessary.

“Well, I just heard today and that was just a little while ago actually—you know I just landed and I’m hearing it’s a big topic—that’s the question,” Trump said. “And it’s a horrible topic, but they say they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”

Now, it isn’t just the fact that Scalia was not found with a pillow on his face or that Scalia, for God’s sake, was 79 years old and could easily have passed on quite naturally, as most people lucky enough to live that long or longer do. It is the fact that a man running for president, for leader of the free world, would first go on a thoroughly disreputable show like The Savage Nation and then, without knowing anything about the subject, say something based only on the kind of rumors one would find coming from conspiracy junkies. “I’m hearing it’s a big topic,” Drumpf said. And, as far as I can tell, no one has ever asked him from where he heard such a thing. But it is important. And, again, it says something about the mechanics of his mind.

So, too, does his disturbing refusal to accept real knowledge about vaccinations and autism, around which survives one of those horrible conspiracy theories that some lefties, particularly lefty celebrities, push. We know today that there is no evidence that vaccinations cause autism. One study, from 1998, that argued that there may be a connection was shown to be a massive fraud and it was eventually retracted by the prestigious journal that published it. But despite all the evidence against a connection, Drumpf has continued, as late as a debate in September of last year, to perpetuate the dangerous myth that there is a connection. We have to ask: What kind of mind won’t surrender to the facts?

Finally, there is Drumpf’s less well-known flirtation with another mind-numbing and terribly dangerous conspiracy. Like many Republican politicians and pundits, Drumpf doesn’t believe global warming is real. Last November he tweeted:

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

This theory is a new twist on an old theme, popularized by Rush Limbaugh a long, long time ago, that the entire climate change issue is being used by Democrats and other socialists [sic] to get their hands on and subsequently destroy capitalism. So, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that February and March of this year were the warmest, by far, of any two of those months on record, that doesn’t mean a thing. The conspiracy will live on in the minds of too many people, despite the facts. And in light of that, we are entitled to ask: Does the fact that evidence, real evidence from real climate scientists, has no effect on the brain state of Donald Drumpf mean that there is something inherently wrong with his brain?

Such questions are essential when considering a president. We need someone whose mind, at least eventually, bends to the will of the facts, who won’t persist in a belief that has been proven false or never had plausibility in the first place. And whether one concludes that Drumpf is suffering from some form of dementia or whether one decides, for whatever reason, that Drumpf’s mind is just too unpredictable or unstable to install in the Oval Office, the facts are that he is showing us, day by day, tweet by tweet, that a President Drumpf would be a very dangerous man.

Etch A Drumpf

Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.“—Jeremiah 13:23

almost exactly four years ago, I wrote a piece titled “Etch A Romney.” It played off the admission by Eric Fehrnstrom, who was Mittens’ top aide and senior adviser, that the Romney whom voters were seeing and hearing in the primary election wasn’t the real deal. After he wrapped up the nomination, a better, more palatable, candidate would emerge. Fehrnstrom smugly told CNN:

Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.

Except he couldn’t start over again. Romney had said too much, some of it behind closed doors, to simply take it all back and reinvent himself. And his opponents in that primary campaign had also said too much. It was Texas governor Rick Perry who labeled him a “vulture capitalist.” It was Newt Gingrich who said the business model for Romney’s Bain Capital “undermined capitalism” and was “indefensible,” themes the Obama campaign amplified throughout the spring and summer that year, before Romney could be crowned at his party’s convention.

Thus, one would think, given Romney’s ultimate defeat in 2012, that cynically playing primary voters for fools—shaking it up and starting all over when the nomination is secured—would not be a strategy the 2016 Republican front-runner would want to employ, let alone admit to employing. Except, here we go again.

Paul Manafort—whose campaign experience goes back to Gerald Ford and includes Reagan and Bush I—is now Drumpf’s top aide. Drumpf brought him in to professionally navigate the complicated waters of finally securing enough delegates to win the nomination and then transitioning to the general election campaign. But Manafort may be a little rusty. Thinking he was speaking behind closed doors—why do people these days still think there are closed doors?—Manafort told RNC bigwigs that Drumpf “gets it.” Gets what? Oh:

…the part that he’s been playing is evolving into the part that now you’ve been expecting, but he wasn’t ready for because he had to first feed the first phase.

So, up until now, Drumpf has just been an act? Yep:

When he’s sitting in a room, he’s talking business. He’s talking politics in a private room. It’s a different persona. When he’s out on the stage, when he’s talking about the kinds of things he’s talking about on the stump, he’s projecting an image that’s for that purpose.

etch a drumpfIf I were a fan of the man with the tiny hands, I think I would resent the notion that I was a Drumpkin bumpkin, a simpleton who bought the whole I’m-gonna-build-the-wall-and-Mexico’s-gonna-pay-for-it shtick like it was something real, not something the reality star was “projecting” just to win my simpleton ass over. But I’m not a Drumpkin bumpkin. I don’t really know how such people will process this utter admission of fraud because it’s not like it hasn’t been out there before. It’s not like Drumpf hasn’t hinted at it now and then. It’s not like we didn’t learn in February:

The New York Times is sitting on an audio recording that some of its staff believes could deal a serious blow to Donald Trump, who, in an off-the-record meeting with the newspaper, called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views.

Despite calls from Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for Drumpf to give the paper permission to release the transcript of that interview, Drumpf wouldn’t do it. Yet his throngs kept coming to his rallies and kept salivating over his bigotry and kept punching people who dared to protest him. So, who knows what the Drumpkins will do now, now that they know beyond a doubt that their beloved is a grifter and his campaign has been a hustle. Here’s how “Lyin’ Ted” put it to right-wing radio nut Mark Levin:

Donald is a New York liberal who is pretending to be a conservative, to try to fool Republican primary voters. And, you know, the amazing thing, Mark, all of us are frustrated with politicians lying to us. I’m actually going to give Trump a little bit of credit here. He’s being candid. He’s telling us he’s lying to us.

That’s pretty clever of “Lyin’ Ted” to give Drumpf credit for lying, don’t ya think?

In any case, what other choice does Drumpf have but to change his spots—after he has convinced enough Drumpkins to give him the nomination? An avid poll watcher, Drumpf knows how unpopular he is among non-goobers. He has to pivot toward palatability. And he has the advantage of knowing that some of the press will pivot right along with him, so that they can set up an epic, ratings-rich battle in November.

It’s already happening, as I have previously noted. This morning MSBNC’s Morning Joe, which has been a platform for advising Drumpf on how to be a better candidate, featured a discussion in which the Etch A Drumpf strategy was seen as a good move, one that, in the words of panelist Donnie Deutsch, could make it possible for the bigot to beat Hillary Clinton.

Well, if he does get the nomination, and if he does beat Hillary Clinton in November, it won’t be because people ignored as showbiz all the bigoted buffoonery they have witnessed since last June. It will be because they embraced it. And if they do, that will say a helluva lot more about them than about Drumpf.

Harriet Tubman Is Still Pissing Off Conservatives

It was, of course, quite predictable. Courtesy of Media Matters, let’s explore the damage Harriet Tubman is still doing to reactionaries.

The ISIS of IQ killers, Fox and Friends, featured Brian Kilmeade’s brilliance:

Well, how could you be remaking American history at this rate? It’s incredible.

Whoa, big fella! Remaking history? Who in the hell is remaking history? Oh, never mind. It is Brian Kilmeade.

The same show continued its assault on intelligence by offering us the stunning insights of right-wing commentator Crystal Wright:

I mean this is once again, we have Democrats now using our currency as a political weapon to pander to their constituents. This isn’t about Harriet Tubman, they don’t care about her.

Now, wait a minute. How could Democrats be using her to pander to their constituents if Democratic constituents don’t care about her? Huh? Oh, my bad. Logical consistency is not a hallmark of a show that has issued a fatwā on intelligence.

Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, who sometimes, but not by me, gets credit for being quasi-sensible, chimed in rather energetically:

Don’t you wonder why some people don’t just use their heads? Well, the Obama Administration did it again. Went stupid. And went stupid for no reason…We could put a woman on a bill, Tubman, acknowledge her courage and not stir up the country. But give Tubman her own bill like a $25 bill. We could use a $25 bill. Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate. That’s the smart and easy thing to do. But, no. Some people don’t think, would rather gratuitously stir up conflict in the nation. That is so awful, and yes, dumb.

Nothing like the old $25-bill trick to keep white folks happy!

Former Illinois congressman Crazy Joe Walsh, who got all Drumpfish one time and urged President Obama to fix our immigration problem by constructing moats on the border and stocking them with alligators, is now—who could have guessed it!—a talk show host. Crazy Joe, obviously, had something uplifting to say:

Sorry Andrew Jackson, you’re just a dead white guy. Time to get you off that $20 bill. In the name of progress. Smh

I get the feeling Crazy Joe isn’t too worried about a dead white guy. It’s the live white guys in his radio audience who matter mo$t to him.

The Conservative Review got all mysterious on us:

Because she’s a woman or b/c she deserves it?

Both maybe?

And, finally, one of the nastiest conservatives God ever put on His liberal earth, Michelle Malkin, ignored the history, ignored the greatness of a great American hero, ignored the impact of it all, and simply said something so clever it still makes my brain tingle:

If only we had politicians who cared more about letting us keep our money instead of whose faces are on it.

Yep. For some conservatives it’s all about pissing off white folks. For others it’s all about disrespecting a genocidal slaveholder. And for some, it’s all about the money.

Just another day in conservative punditry.

“Mah People Mus’ Go Free.”

Have you ever heard of Mary Pattison Brodess? Probably not. The only reason anyone ever heard of her today is because she happened to have owned one of the greatest expressions of the often-illusive American spirit ever to take a breath on our shores. Brodess owned, just like she might have owned a horse or a plow or a plot of land, a little woman born with the name Araminta Ross, but who we know as Harriet Tubman.

Harriet Tubman, circa 1900. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)When I first heard that Tubman, finally, would replace the reprehensible Andrew Jackson on the front of the ubiquitous $20 bill (Jackson will, regrettably, remain on the back of the bill for some strange reason), the first thing I thought about were all the cruel and not-so-cruel slave owners, the sadistic and not-so-sadistic masters, and the always greedy slave catchers who are a part of our nation’s history, all of whom once thought that, as white people of privilege, the Harriet Tubmans were theirs to abuse, to work, to trade, to buy and sell like cattle and then be forgotten. I thought about how her face—Harriet Tubman’s face—will stare at all of us as we do our own buying and selling today. If we ever need a reason to avoid transitioning to a cashless society, it would be because that would mean her face would disappear with the currency.

I won’t detail Tubman’s remarkable life here. There are plenty of places you can go to read about her, if you have forgotten her story of sadness and triumph, her heroism, her devotion to liberty for herself and other slaves she helped rescue through the Underground Railroad. As I suggested, her spirit was a true American spirit, an odd thing for someone whose family roots were in Africa.  Her courageous and freedom-loving soul represented that soul of America that our slave-owning Founders described on paper, but so often failed to represent themselves.

I know the Obama administration has accomplished a lot since 2009, but this move by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has to rank way up there. Next to Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration as our nation’s first African-American president, I can’t think of anything so pregnant with symbolism, so fitting as a reminder of who we have been and who we are today. Someday, somewhere, Mr. Obama will take out a Tubman Twenty, look at it, and smile. He will know that for years to come a former slave woman will stare into the eyes of all Americans, including those white Americans who have long resented our black president because his presidency itself has symbolized not just the partial realization of a long-incubating American idealism, but the waning of white privilege, privilege that began with slavery, with the idea that Harriet Tubman had no rights that white people were bound to respect.

The Drumpf Is Still A Drumpf

Much has been made of the “change in tone” of the Republican front-runner’s victory speech last night in New York. He actually got a ton of credit from media personalities for not calling Cruz “Lyin Ted” for a change. And suddenly the nationally unpopular GOP leader has been getting a lot of credit from journalists for being “more disciplined” as a candidate. Well, as Antonin Scalia might say if he weren’t permanently visiting that great hunting ground in the sky, what a load of jiggery-pokery. Once a Drumpf always a Drumpf.

I don’t give a damn if he tidies up his act for the cameras, now that some real professionals are taking over his campaign, replacing the creepy groupies who have helped him get this far in a creepy Republican primary. He can’t un-birth his birtherism. He can’t un-bigot himself. He can’t take back all those nasty things he said about Mexicans and Muslims. He can’t suddenly cast away the David Duke-ish nature of his quasi-racist campaign or slither away from his slimy, misogynistic meanderings. He paladino and trump.jpgcan put on a Mr. Rogers mask, but underneath there will always be a Drumpf peeking out.

Just last night, while trying to sound “presidential,” there stood behind the GOP buffoon one of the most buffoonish characters in New York Republican politics, second only to Drumpf himself. His name is Carl Paladino, a prominent Drumpf surrogate who ran for governor in 2010 and promptly got crushed by Andrew Cuomo because, well, the guy is a weirdo. Oh, and he likes to promote racism, too.

And what I found amazing about all the cable TV coverage of Drumpf’s decisive victory last night, coverage in which he was given too much credit for changing his manners, no one on TV, at least that I saw, mentioned that Carl Paladino was standing right behind him on th20100409-g67jy9ubexh98eptq85jiykxjte stage. Why is that? In all the rush to anoint an allegedly new and improved GOP presidential candidate, why wouldn’t it be relevant to mention that the “more disciplined” Drumpf was sharing the stage with someone who was caught forwarding racist emails, one of which depicted President Obama as a pimp and his wife as a hooker, and another—once all the rage on white supremacist websites—that was titled “Obama Inauguration Rehearsal” and featured a video of African tribesmen dancing? Is this the way the straight media are going to cover a slicker Drumpf from now on? Just ignore shit?

I doubt it. After journalists get over the shock of Drumpf’s slight change in campaign etiquette, Hillary Clinton will be around to remind them all of just how bad even a lipsticked Drumpf really is.

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