Thursday, July 11, 2024

After Biden's Presser, No Sure Answer

As I listened to CNN analysts parse Joe Biden’s performance during his press conference Thursday evening it became obvious that sizzle not substance has become the determining factor in U.S. political discourse. 


Comparisons by analysts to Donald Trump’s governing acuity were virtually non existent. Biden displayed 59 minutes of in depth understanding of real world and domestic issues. Could anyone seriously imagine Trump would be equally capable without numerous exaggerations, fabrications and manipulations of the truth? 


Biden is the most qualified to be president. From either party. 


Optics. Yes, Biden made some blunders (once calling Trump, not Kamala Harris, his vice president). And he will continue to be the Norm Crosby of politicians (Google him if you have no idea who Norm Crosby was). But who among us doesn’t fumble words and names at times? For sure, Trump does it lots of times, but hardly anyone makes a mountain out of his molehills because of all the lies he tells before and after his verbal gaffes. 


Why do we require perfection from Biden? 


Bottom line: Biden did nothing to advance calls for abandonment of his pursuit of a second term, other than give long-winded, detailed answers that only policy wonks would appreciate. Those hoping for fire-in-his-eyes were disappointed. Biden said he was in it for the long haul of saving America and the world from Trump, not the glory. 


So, were minds, including mine, changed? Should Biden give up the quest? 


Based on Thursday night, no. Can Biden maintain rebound momentum? Only time will tell. Democrats hope what we saw during the debate with Trump was the aberration. They have to hope the time clock stops ticking before their August convention so there’s enough time to unite behind the party nominee, no matter who it is.   

Thursday, July 4, 2024

If He Wins, Trump's Name Will be Everywhere

 If he wins election to a second term, Donald Trump, or at least his name, will be front and center for decades, if not eternity. 


No, I am not talking about a plan to keep him president beyond the next four years, as per the limit as to what is constitutionally permitted. Trump, of course, is not always in sync with the Constitution, bending it to his will and a compliant Supreme Court, but staying beyond January 20, 2029, may be more chutzpah than even he can muster.


Rather, I am referring to pliable Republican House and Senate majorities in Congress that would slap his name on existing and new buildings, monuments, stamps, parks and infrastructure projects such as airports. Look for similar expressions of fealty from state and local governments.


Unlike residents of apartments along the West Side Highway in Manhattan who successfully removed his name from their private buildings, the cult of Trump will eagerly display their fawning admiration. 


Doubtful his visage would fit on Mount Rushmore. But cult members throughout the land no doubt would be eager to slap his name on any number of federal, state and local roadways, buildings, schools, and new monuments.


If you’re wondering if all this toadying up can happen while Trump is still alive, it can. U.S. Senate Rule 7(d) of the Environment and Public Works Committee states, “The committee may not name a building for any living person, except … a former President or Vice President of the United States.” (I don’t think there’s any chance Mike Pence would be so memorialized.) 


If all this Trumpism isn’t enough to scare you into voting for Joe Biden or whomever is the Democratic presidential nominee, I am at a loss for words. 

Monday, July 1, 2024

Presidential Immunity May Be Decided Today

Now I know how a ping pong ball must feel, if it was more than an inanimate object propelled generally by human, not mechanical, force back and forth until finally one player makes a decisive or clumsy return. 


With each passing hour, argument and counterargument flood my inbox: Biden should stay the course. Biden should pass the torch to the next generation. A vote for Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris as the next president. Replacing Biden without anointing Harris would destroy Black support for Democrats (unless Biden is replaced by Corey Booker or Wes Moore).


The Biden watch has taken the focus off what may be the single most important Supreme Court decision in history, whether presidents enjoy absolute immunity for all of their actions in office, up to and including ordering the assassination of Americans, even their political rivals.  


A decision on presidential immunity is expected Monday.


Will the justices find a president is not above the law, or will they find a president has impunity to do whatever he or she wants? In this particular case, acting to overturn results of an election that scores of courts ruled were legal and without fraud, resulting in what should have been the orderly transfer of power. 


Heaven help us if the Supremes grant blanket presidential immunity.  


Given the conservative leanings of more than half the court, and their abhorrence of many restraints on the actions of executive and business power, a carte blanche presidential rule is not beyond possibility. 


The conservative justices have been steadily working to erode laws that govern actions by industries. They are eroding marital freedoms and healthcare choices and erasing the separation of church and state. 


Last week’s reversal of the Chevron Deference Principle, in effect for four decades, will catastrophically dilute the ability of government agencies to rein in corporate malfeasance and environmental abuses. 


Long-standing and new regulations and approvals issued by government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration will have their actions challenged, often to be thrown out in court. 


A most contentious possibility is that FDA approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone will be rejected by the judiciary once the pro-life community finds plaintiffs who can meet the court’s requirement for “standing,” the missing element in the recent attempt to block the distribution of Mifepristone. 


What Joe Biden decides will not change Supreme Court decisions in the near term, but it should be clear to any voter paying attention that electing a president has consequences that affect the nomination of future justices and the rights currently enjoyed by the LGBTQ+ community, reproductive rights including IVF treatments and contraceptives, marital rights, religious freedoms, voting rights and election integrity. 


Monday will be a momentous day.  

Sunday, June 30, 2024

A Hasty Decision or Realistic Assessment?

Did I overreact to Joe Biden’s pathetic performance during Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump by calling on him to end his bid for reelection?


Did I hastily pull the plug on a campaign after one terrible night without giving it time to resuscitate? Was I too quick to decide, not relying on America’s capacity for sympathy and support for truth and compassion over bluster and lies? 


Post-debate depression keeping me awake, I wrote my blog around 2 am Friday. I posted it about 10 am, hours before The New York Times published the same conclusion. 


So, was my ejection premature? 


I don’t think so, even after Joe pumped up for a campaign stop in North Carolina on Friday. Keep in mind, it’s one thing to read with gusto from a teleprompter at a rally; it’s another to broadcast incapacity while the whole nation and world are watching. Timing in life, it has been said, is everything. Biden’s time to shine was Thursday night. He missed the spotlight. 


A second debate is scheduled for September 10. But there is no guarantee Biden will get a chance to right his mulligan. Trump would be foolish to attend a second debate. He has lots to lose, little to gain. 


From the first debate Trump media spots will use clips ad nauseum of a befuddled Biden. 


Biden, meanwhile, will need to rely on videos to accomplish what he couldn’t, what he didn’t, in real time. He never sufficiently corrected the lies and exaggerations Trump was making. Biden’s advertising must now air Trump’s bragging about his accomplishments with a stamp of “Liar. Liar. Pants on Fire” across Trump’s picture, with the true facts printed beneath it. 


Rallies with teleprompter speeches won’t be enough. Biden needs to press the flesh as much as possible. Needs to do town halls. Needs to connect with voters one on one, in ice cream shops, in supermarkets, in automobile plants. 


One million. 


That’s the estimated number of undecided voters in six key battleground states who will determine the next president and the direction of the country for the next four years and possibly beyond. 


I doubt any reasonable Biden supporter viewing the debate switched allegiance. 


The unknown fallout from the debate is how many of those one million will give Biden another chance. 


Biden would not be the first politician or public figure to stay beyond their capacity to perform exceptionally without marring their legacy. Think Ruth Bader Ginsburg clinging to a Supreme Court seat President Obama could have filled. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s last months in office and his attendance at the Yalta conference with Churchill and Stalin. Willie Mays as a NY Met stumbling on the grass of Shea Stadium. 


Central to the argument to keep Biden atop the Democratic ticket is the complexity of replacing him. Read Robert Reich’s analysis (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/article/2024/jun/30/should-democrats-replace-biden?CMP=share_btn_url ). Reich is a former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. 


Democrats face a Sophie’s Choice. Neither option guarantees victory. Nor defeat. Perhaps Reich is right in suggesting a 10-day cooling off period to reassess the situation. 


A week ago The Times profiled three men who are “at the core of Biden’s brain trust”—Ron Klain, Ted Kaufman and Mike Donilon (https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/22/us/politics/klain-kaufman-biden-campaign-election.html?pvid=Dbbf8CGsQ5kzTgXmVXu-tLU4&smid=url-share).  


How will they, and Jill Biden, counsel the president, for it is Biden himself who must decide? Are his three confidantes and wife ready to give up their access to the ultimate seat of power? Is Biden?


Friday, June 28, 2024

An Open Letter to Jill Biden

 (Written with extreme anguish)  


Jill, 


For the sake of the country, for the sake of your husband’s legacy, please, please prevail upon Joe Biden to abandon his campaign to seek a second term as president of the United States. 


Thursday night’s debate was a debacle. From the moment he stepped onto the stage appearing ghostly, wane and fragile Joe was unable to counterpunch the tanned, motor-mouthed Donald Trump. He tried to refute Trump’s exaggerations and outright lies but was stymied by poor preparation, difficulty controlling his stutter, and a failure to aggressively attack his opponent. 


Trump took advantage. Repeatedly he ignored moderator questions on topics including child care support, climate mitigation and acceptance of election results to simply pummel your husband’s record. Joe never pointed out Trump evaded because he has no plans. He never compared Trump’s ineffective “infrastructure week” bluster with his own deservedly effective infrastructure legislation. 


From the opening question Joe seemed to confirm Special counsel Robert Hur’s assessment of him as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Biden provided no visible assurances he would be able to perform presidential duties for the next four years. 


It may be too late to change horses in this race. But for Democrats to have any chance to stave off a second Trump term decisive immediate action must be taken. That can only happen if you, Jill, talk him down from the narrow ledge on which he and the nation precariously stand. Don’t worry about who should run in his stead. There are abundant possibilities—Kamala, Amy, Gavin, Corey, Phil, Jay, Pete. Let the Democratic Party National Convention in August decide. The old fashioned way. 


I never accepted comparisons to Ruth Bader Ginsburg overstaying her time on the Supreme Court. Until what I saw Thursday night. 


Perhaps in private Joe can command a discussion and formulate legislation, executive orders and foreign affairs. But the presidency requires and demands a public persona he can no longer convey.  


Do the merciful, patriotic thing, Jill. Convince Joe not to run anymore. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Delivering Food to the Greatest Generation

I figure that since 2010 I have made more than 1,600 deliveries of weekly kosher meals to elderly residents of Yonkers, Scarsdale, Mount Vernon, White Plains and Hartsdale through a senior food program run by Westchester Jewish Community Services. Today I made my last deliveries. (Grant and government funding for the program ran out several years ago. WJCS could no longer afford to continue carrying the service.)


Several months after retiring in mid-2009 I read a short announcement in our temple’s weekly bulletin advising WJCS was seeking drivers to deliver frozen and fresh food to county residents who by and large were homebound. They didn’t have to be Jewish to qualify, though most were.


With few exceptions my clients were widowed women. About 40% lived in the single family houses they had shared with their husbands, in which they had raised their children. The remainder resided in apartments, for decades as well. Perhaps 20% were bedridden, tended to by aides, usually Caribbean immigrants.


I was a few months shy of 61 when I started. I’m 75 now, younger than almost all of the seniors I served over the years. Only recently did someone younger than I become part of my delivery rounds. It was not unusual to lose a client, to entry into a senior housing facility, a move closer to a child, or their passing. I rarely had a chance to say goodbye. Their absence on my distribution list was the only clue to their disappearance from my route. 


Part of the food delivery program enabled me to engage with the seniors, at least the ones that wanted to converse. Despite leg and vision issues that inhibited her mobility, Sally craved her independence, refusing her son’s entreaties to move from her apartment into a senior facility. He was an eye doctor. With her vision increasingly narrowing, he finally prevailed. 


Unlike most of the women, Rita never permitted me entry into her Tudor-style home. She’d meet me at the door to carry the two bags no matter how heavy they were. She was feisty, full of energy. She only agreed to relocate after a friend convinced her to join her in a senior living complex.


Living across the street from her son, 92-year-old Sarah would say she had lived long enough. Covid travel restrictions ended our weekly chats. 


Most of the women were part of the Greatest Generation, contributing to the World War II war effort when they were barely out of their teenage years.


Gertrude was 19 when she listened to radio reports of the Pearl Harbor bombings. A high school graduate who eventually became a full charge bookkeeper, she hadn’t been able to secure a job before the war, but some time thereafter obtained one at the Wright Aeronautical plant in Woodridge, NJ. 


Each morning another worker would pick her up at her home in Inwood in upper Manhattan. They’d drive across the George Washington Bridge to work. Because of her mathematical bent she was chosen to be a precision inspector for assembled impeller shafts, a critical part of the engine of B-29 Superfortress bombers.


After several B-29s crashed, the cause was determined to be faulty impeller shafts. Assembly of the plane engines halted until re-inspection of all impeller shafts could be conducted. As each impeller shaft bore the mark of the inspector who processed it, it was not difficult to pinpoint who had approved faulty production. 


Over the loudspeaker of the plant, Gertrude was summoned to the manager’s office high above the assembly plant. While she climbed the metal steps to his office, co-workers whispered she was the guilty inspector. Not a comfortable moment for a young woman not yet 20. Gertrude was told that of all the impeller shafts re-inspected, hers alone were perfect. Henceforth, only she would inspect impeller shafts. The other precision inspectors would be reassigned. She would work six days a week. When she wasn’t there, production would stop.


It was that way for about 18 months, until the Japanese surrendered. That day, Gertrude recalled, Wright Aeronautical announced that the 17,000 employees who had worked three shifts at the Woodridge plant need not come back anymore. Their jobs, the nation’s job of defeating Japan, and before that Germany and Italy, had ended. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Francesco's Is a Part My NY Rangers' History

 One of my almost weekly rituals during the first decade and a half of the 21st century was going to Francesco’s Restaurant in White Plains after Wednesday night indoor tennis season with three of my friends. A local institution  for about half a century, Francesco’s was the type of neighborhood bar and restaurant inhabited by locals in fictional and nonfictional settings. The Italian food and pizza was not fancy. It was just good. Really good. 


Francesco’s will close at the end of the month. Its namesake owner and cook is 80. His children who worked in the establishment will not keep it open. 


I wouldn’t say I was a Francesco’s regular. After I stopped playing tennis about eight years ago I probably ate there no more than half a dozen times. 


But Francesco’s always will retain a special place in my  heart and memory. Not for the food or the camaraderie with friends.  


Rather, it was for an unplanned event during the summer of 1994 as I was driving home past Francesco’s on Mamaroneck Avenue. Back then Francesco’s enjoyed a clientele that included several players and staff of the New York Rangers. 


Spring 1994 was a magical time for the Rangers. A drought of 40 years since the team’s last Stanley Cup championship ended with a nail-biting seventh game 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks. 


Captain Mark Messier hoisted the cup above his head as he skated around Madison Square Garden, the first of many Rangers to share that honor. 


But the hockey tradition of sharing the cup does not end on the ice. It is customary that each player and key organization member has the privilege of caring for the silver cup for a day, a privilege that permits them to take the symbol of excellence wherever and to whomever they choose. 


On that sunny spring afternoon, an assistant trainer for the Rangers brought the cup to his regular watering hole—Francesco’s.  


I was not inside Francesco’s that afternoon. But as I was about to drive by I spotted a young man trying to stuff a 37-pound, three-foot round piece of silver into the back seat of his sedan. I immediately recognized what I was witnessing. I slammed on the brakes, double parked and raced over to touch the cup. 


I was not alone. From next door to Francesco’s women wearing protective smocks with curlers in their hair scurried out of a beauty parlor to get their hands on the trophy. 


It was an exhilarating moment. 


A few years later I had a more sedate encounter with Lord Stanley’s memento. The National Hockey League sponsored a public viewing of the cup in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall. 


I was awed by its stature but nowhere near as thrilled as I had been that magical moment 30 years ago.  


Tonight, the Stanley Cup will be raised overhead once more. The deciding seventh game between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers will be played in Sunrise, Fla. The Oilers last won the Stanley Cup in 1990. The Panthers have never won the league title since the team joined the NHL in the 1993-94 season. 


Memories of a lifetime will be made tonight.