Sunday, May 29, 2016

I Lost My Job to an Immigrant Way Before Trump Came Along

Three decades before Donald Trump began his presidential campaign by railing against a foreign invasion of workers, I lost my job to an immigrant. He was legal, from Puerto Rico. Doesn’t matter. It wasn’t my real job, but it was one I cared about. It was my position as starting pitcher on my company’s corporate softball team.

Teammates from the mailroom and maintenance department—Carlos and Efrain—brought Jose to one of our games. We had a strict rule that only company employees could play. After watching him warm up on the sidelines before a game in Central Park, our president immediately hired him for the mailroom and put him on the mound. 

Truth be told, and it always is on, Jose was the better pitcher. He could spin the ball, make it curve or rise. I just had a fastball, which he had also, though, again to be honest, his clocked in faster than mine. 

I still pitched some of the games, but Jose was our ace. He remained that way until we stopped playing in the corporate softball league a few years later. And then Jose was gone from the mailroom. I, on the other hand, stayed with the company for 32 years until I retired.

Speaking of retirement and softball, it looks like my playing days on the temple softball team are a vision of the past. Between intermittent back issues and no desire to get up early Sunday mornings, plus trips to visit the grandchildren, I have yet to put feet inside my cleats this season. I can’t say I don’t miss the competition, but unless I’m needed in an emergency, after more than 30 years pitching for the team I’m content to let the younger generation play ball.

Do you watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS? Gilda and I do. We’re constantly amazed by the serendipitous finds, particularly paintings, uncovered at tag sales or obscure antique shops. For a few dollars treasure hunters have brought home artwork valued at thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. So I was a little excited to find a Renoir among the junk at a recent tag sale.

Alas, Pierre Auguste Renoir’s La Grenouillère (The Frog Pond), painted in 1869, still hangs in the Stockholm National Museum. Ah well, for only $5 ($7 before bargaining) my bonanza still represents a treasure, though at 8.5” x 10” my print is a fraction of the size of the original 26” x 32” Impressionist masterpiece.

Guerilla Marketing: Along the Henry Hudson Parkway on Manhattan’s upper West Side, in the shadow of New York Presbyterian Hospital, an Adopt a Highway sign proclaims the roadway’s upkeep is sponsored by NYU Langone Medical Center, an East Side institution. 

Ross Douthat is a conservative columnist for The New York Times Op-Ed page. I usually don’t agree with his opinions but his latest piece on a mock Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump debate may be one of the most prescient, spot-on satires I’ve come across. It’s painful to read because it might well come true. Read it and weep?

Your electoral witticism of the day, as compiled by

If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it. —Mark Twain

Friday, May 27, 2016

By Making Us Relive 1968 Sanders Could Propel Trump Into the Oval Office

Full disclosure: I’m not a Bernie Sanders fan. Perhaps it’s because my memories don’t stop at the year 2000 when some believe Ralph Nader’s third party candidacy cost Al Gore the presidency. Those people have to look further back in time—Bernie Sanders is making us relive 1968. His determined bid to radicalize the Democratic Party, and the zealotry of his supporters, could well propel Donald Trump into the Oval Office, much the same way Richard Nixon squeaked by Hubert H. Humphrey because disaffected Democrats and Independents reluctantly rallied behind The Happy Warrior too late to carry the election.

That indeed would be a radical achievement for Sanders, not one to be proud of, however.

One of the first politicians to openly fight to end segregation, Humphrey was a true progressive from a state, Minnesota, that was truly progressive back then. His loyalty as vice president to Lyndon Baines Johnson kept him from breaking off support for the war in Vietnam until late in the election campaign. 

The anti-war activists never forgave him. By the time some fell in line behind him, Nixon could not be stopped. Instead of burying the Republican Party under 12-16 consecutive years of Democratic presidencies, the disaffected Democrats and Independents provided Nixon and the GOP a life line which ultimately gave us Watergate.

Now Sanders and his supporters could very well be handing the keys to the White House to Trump. Donald Trump!!! Are they so crazed for revolution that they would send our country back in time by enabling a Republican president to be elected to work with a Republican Senate, a Republican House and a Republican-stacked judiciary? Apparently so, as quotes from The New York Times show (

Enough already! Sanders must stop attacking Hillary and focus all his vitriol at Trump.

Bernie Sanders is Jewish, as am I. He grew up in Brooklyn, as I did. He went to Brooklyn College. Me, too. But there is no joy, no pride in seeing Sanders succeed any more than he has because it would harm, perhaps fatally, Clinton’s election as the first woman president. He is damaging the Democratic Party he just recently joined. He is building a wall his supporters will not cross in November to vote for Clinton if she is the party nominee.

I often wonder how Afro-Americans feel about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. How could they feel any pride when he consistently turns his back on his heritage. Earlier this week he was the lone dissenter on a case that overturned the conviction and death sentence of an alleged killer because Georgia prosecutors had systematically excluded blacks from his trial jury. This was no bleeding heart liberal decision. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote the opinion and fellow conservatives Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy concurred. (

Thomas repeatedly fails to see the recurring discrimination Afro-Americans suffered and continue to endure. Bernie Sanders is the Jewish American version of Clarence Thomas.

Perhaps Sanders, and for that matter any politician who wants to speak authoritatively about the Arab-Israeli conflict, should live in and not just visit Israel. Yes, Sanders spent time on a kibbutz some 50 years ago. Today Israel is much different, as are its neighbors. 

Let him live next to the Gaza Strip for a month. Live with the constant threat of missile and mortar bombardments and the uncertainty that attack tunnels are being dug under your very back yard. Then, spend a month in Gaza and see how Hamas has transformed the land into a military zone among residential communities, how Hamas has diverted home building material into tunnel construction, how Hamas indoctrinates children to hate Israelis and Jews. 

Perhaps then Sanders et al would understand why Israel is justified in retaliating not just in kind but in force when Hamas or its surrogates strikes. Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the map. Wants to kill Jews. Israel just wants to live in peace. 

By his choices for representatives on the Democratic Party platform committee Sanders has displayed no love for Israel. 

Let’s be clear. I abhor actions that Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has taken. It is appropriate and acceptable to criticize Israeli policy. But it is neither appropriate nor acceptable to question Israel’s response when its enemy is sworn to its destruction. Survival trumps a proportional response to terror. Only a fool engages in combat hoping for a stalemate.

I am not a one-issue candidate, but Bernie Sanders’ position on Israel has made me more sympathetic to many of my co-religionists who vote Israel right or wrong. In a close election, Jewish voters in New York, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and other states who are repulsed by the influence Sanders is trying to wield could pull the Trump lever and send our country into an abyss we could be in for generations. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Along the Border With Gaza Life Is Anything But Routine

It’s been a little more than a week since they returned home to a mostly quiet border. They’re back in their gardens, their kitchens, their places of work. The routine and the out of the ordinary are known to them. Muffled noises from beneath the ground very likely come from another tunnel from the Gaza Strip being built by Hamas. The pounding sound at night is the exchange of artillery fire between ISIS and the Egyptian army. A red alert means you have 15 seconds, or less, to seek shelter before a rocket launched from Gaza may land in your backyard, or worse.

“They” are eight women from the Eshkol Regional Council of Israel who spent two weeks in the New York metropolitan area and Washington, DC. The Eshkol district encompasses 32 communities housing 14,000 residents on 190,000 acres east of the southernmost 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip and seven miles along the northern Sinai border with Egypt. 

They came from kibbutzim and moshavim as guests of Shalom Yisrael, a Westchester, NY-based organization celebrating its 30th year of bridging connections between Israeli citizens and their American counterparts. During the first 23 years of its existence, Shalom Yisrael (then known as Zahal Shalom) sponsored wounded veterans and civilians. For the last seven years guests of the organization have been women who serve as trauma care first responders and security officials in their respective home towns.

How do you react when a door slams shut? If you’re like most people, you’re startled. You turn toward the sound, quickly ascertain the origin of the noise, and go on with your life.

If you lived in the Eshkol region, the bang of a sharply closed door might engage a condition we in the United States have come to recognize as PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder. Years of rocket barrages from mortars and missiles launched from the adjacent Gaza Strip, coupled with almost nightly artillery clashes between the Egyptian army and ISIS in the nearby Sinai Peninsula trigger rapid heart beats and feelings of “we’ve been here before.” 

“Before” means a time of war, last experienced full time two summers ago. 

“In the first morning that I woke (in Westchester),” said Yehudit, a 46-yer-old responsible for the administration and security of her moshav, Yated, “I heard strange sounds, sounds that I had forgotten, sounds that I had forgotten from my past. And when I paid attention I understood that these were the sounds of the tree leaves and the sounds of birds. And I heard the sounds of silence and tranquility.

“Suddenly I was really frightened because I understood that I am already used to waking up to the sounds of explosions. And that’s a bad sign.”

Their everyday life has been transformed. Truck traffic has vastly increased on the region’s roads from deliveries of building material to Gaza, though the flow recently has been tightened because of Hamas’ tunnel building activity (

No one wants to be caught in an embarrassing situation in case of a rocket attack, so short showers are taken. Before entering the bathroom a towel and robe are laid out just in case a quick exit is required. 

Nira’s 13-year-old son chooses to sleep in the family’s safe room rather than his own bedroom. Not every residence has a safe room. The government supplies a safe room for homes within four and a half kilometers of Gaza. Those living further away have safe rooms only if they pay for them on their own, at a cost of roughly $10,000. In those areas, the only government-provided security is a shelter for kindergarten children. 

Safe rooms are needed because the heralded Iron Dome missile defense system, jointly developed by Israel and the United States, cannot protect them. They live too close to Gaza, so close, in fact, they can see Hamas training exercises. 

They long for a return to a time when they interacted freely with the citizens of Gaza. They are convinced Gaza residents want to live in peace as well, but Hamas does not let them. Before Hamas took control of the strip, many Palestinians worked on their farms—60% of Israel’s produce is grown in the region. Israelis had their cars repaired in Gaza and bathed on its beaches. 

Israelis have a reputation of being a stubborn people. Even during the 2014 conflict, when one-third of all the rockets that landed in Israel fell in the Eshkol region, elderly citizens in the district refused to abandon their homes. Instead, every day they came to the senior center. 

The Shalom Yisrael guests displayed their own mettle. 

“When I landed in New York two weeks ago,” said 58-year-old Yael of Kibbutz Urim, the head of occupational therapy at the senior center, “the weather was pretty cloudy, raining, and I thought to myself, if I can get used to missiles I can get used to rain. 

“But to missiles and noise of war you never get used to, and you get used to rain because the rain grows a future, and noise of war destroys the future for peace.”

Wherever they went, from visiting high schools to meeting with U.S. Representatives Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel and Susan Davis, the same question kept surfacing: “Why do you continue to live there?”

The answer, Yehudit said on her last night in Westchester, could be found in a poem written by Ehud Manor:

I have no other country
even if my land is aflame
Just a word in Hebrew
pierces my vein and my soul—
With a painful body, with a hungry heart, 
Here is my home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Trump Wins If He Is Allowed to Speak Without Accountability

There’s an old adage attributed to many pundits that aptly applies to Donald Trump’s campaign to become our next president: I don’t care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right.”

To Trump, any publicity is good publicity. It’s like a bad commercial repeated ad nauseum. Sooner or later you start singing along with the Kars4Kids jingle. 

And the media is compliant. Instead of pressing him for details, the media simply regurgitates his mouthings. Over the weekend, Trump called Hillary Clinton “weak.” The press didn’t ask for any proof; they merely and freely publicized this unfounded and clearly misogynist allegation. (To be fair, the media haven’t treated Hillary any differently than Trump’s Republican primary opponents. The press simply repeated over and over his unsubstantiated slurs and insults.)

Given the choice of showing a plodding Clinton artfully explaining why she is better qualified to be president, or Trump popping out a new absurdity that on the surface reinforces her argument, the media become his co-conspirator in co-opting the electoral dialogue. To the media, both old and new, both print and electronic, Trump is the sexier story. It’s an eyeball economics game they are playing, so naturally they go with Trump, the future of the republic be damned.

With each passing day we are treated to a new version of Donald Trump. After the massacre at the Sandy Hook School he praised President Obama for taking a strong stance against gun violence. “President Obama spoke for me and every American in his remarks in #Newtown Connecticut,” Trump tweeted. Last Friday he told the National Rifle Association annual convention he would do away with gun-free zones, even in schools ( Over the weekend, he appeared to reverse fields yet again (

How did he go from gun control to gun proliferation? He doesn’t tell us. It’s okay to change positions if the reasons for the change are carefully, logically explained. But Trump just spouts positions based on the audience before him. 

He has reversed stands on a woman’s right to control her own body, on immigration, Planned Parenthood and a host of other issues ( 

Moving from position to position makes it difficult to effectively attack him. Even in the face of video tape proof he denies contradiction. And the public seemingly does not care about his inconsistencies. 

He is the political equivalent of Cassius Clay’s boxing bravado before his 1964 title bout against Sonny Liston: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Hard to hit but adept at striking sharply at his opponent. 

After vanquishing Liston, Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Trump won’t change his name, but his title could become Mr. President if Hillary and the media let him enjoy free publicity without accountability through November.

Friday, May 20, 2016

2016 Mantra: It's the Supreme Court, Stupid

The reason establishment, conservative Republicans have swallowed their pride, eaten their words, and have held their noses at the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency can be summed up in one acronym: SCOTUS. Supreme Court of the United States.

Forget about the wall and making Mexico pay for it. Or deporting 11 million illegal aliens. Or meeting with North Korean strong man Kim Jong-Un. Or scrapping Obamacare. Or permitting Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons. Or by sheer force of his personality making America great again. However bad Trump might be as the leader of the free world, as the next president he might pick one to three, or even four, Supreme Court justices, jurists who could guide the nation back to a time when prejudice and bias dominated employment, housing, electoral and education standards, while environmental, labor and safety safeguards were secondary to corporate profits.

In releasing his list of potential nominees last week Trump cunningly calculated the correct connection his candidacy posed to conservatives and the Republican establishment. The elites know a president has temporary powers, four to eight years, but a properly picked Supreme Court justice can wield influence and power for decades, for a generation or longer. So they are all in on their Faustian deal with The Donald. Even if Democrats unseat Trump in 2020 they wouldn’t be able to unseat picks he made for the court in the next four years.

Did you ever stop to analyze why Hillary Clinton is so hated by Republicans? She did, after all, vote with George W. Bush for the Iraq war. She’s generally as hawkish as they are. They blame her for the deaths of four Americans in Libya, but they say hardly a word about the thousands who have died and the billions of dollars squandered in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan based on lies by Bush and Dick Cheney. She is a capitalist, as her speaking fees clearly show. She is liberal, but less so than Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. She showed strong family values by standing by her man when he was accused of sexual indiscretions. She hasn’t been accused of sexual infidelities as have numerous Republican politicians. She hasn’t been proven to be corrupt and criminal as have some GOP leaders, such as former Speakers of the House Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay.

No, the reason they hate her so is the threat she represents to their way of life. Hillary would place progressive justices on the Supreme Court.

Which brings up the most important theme Hillary and other Democrats must repeat over and over: the future of the Supreme Court and that of our country is at stake in this election. They need to draw stark contrasts from today’s rights and protections versus the rollbacks a conservative majority would impose.

Barack Obama must become the campaigner-in-chief for his legacy. This is no time to be an above-the-fray president. 

To paraphrase the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign mantra, the drumbeat for 2016 should be, “It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.” 

Your election witticism of the day, as provided by

George Washington is the only president who didn’t blame the previous administration for his troubles. —Author Unknown

Reacting to a Death Notice, Legal Irony, Zika Politics

The day we moved into our current home 32 years ago I took a break from unpacking to shoot a few baskets. Our former home had a steeply sloped single car driveway so a hoop would have been impractical. The new abode, on the other hand, had a metal pole with backboard and basket next to a flat, two car driveway. The former owners had left a basketball. After pumping in some air, five-year-old Dan and I started shooting some shots. 

Perhaps the boing, boing, boing of the bouncing ball attracted a father wearing a Columbia University sweatshirt and his six-year-old son from down the block. The father was tall, as was his son. Every shot Jim took went in. Clearly I was not going to challenge him to a game of H-O-R-S-E. 

Then it dawned on me. Columbia. Jim. Tall black man. I asked him if he ever played for the Knicks. Yes, for two seasons, though that was not his claim to basketball fame. Jim McMillian had excelled at Columbia. Chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers, he was the 13th pick in the first round of the NBA draft in 1970. He was part of the 1972 championship the Lakers won with a team that included Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Pat Riley.

And here I was shooting hoops with an NBA star. Finally, maybe, if I was lucky, I would learn how to play basketball from someone who had been there, done that. 

Alas, it was not to be. Shortly after we moved in the McMillians relocated to New Jersey. Jim McMillian died Monday in Winston-Salem, NC, from complications of heart failure. He was 68 (

My encounter with Jim McMillian wasn’t the only association our family had with members of the NY Knicks. When our children were young, Gilda used to take them to health food store Manna Foods in downtown White Plains where they’d see several Knicks, including Marvin “Bad News” Barnes. It’s amazing to believe that was 30 or more years ago.

Legal Irony: Did anyone else see the delicious irony in the name of the judge who ruled within the last week that Cleveland, MS, middle and high schools must be desegregated? 

Her last name was Brown. As in the 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs (Topeka) Board of Education, that declared separate is not equal when it comes to schooling.

This time it was Judge Debra M. Brown of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi who made the ruling. In the Topeka case, Oliver L. Brown was one of 13 plaintiffs to seek relief on behalf of their 20 children (

Bug Bites: Republicans in Congress so far are refusing to provide all the funding requested to counter the inevitable invasion of the Zika virus onto U.S. soil. It seems crazy given that the prime landing spot for the mosquitoes that carry the disease would be southern and Bible belt states which have dominant Republican representation in Washington.

So why are they being so stingy? I have no proof but I suspect racism and income bias are behind it, much as they were factors in the decision by Michigan officials to ignore reports that the water in Flint was harming residents in the once vibrant industrial city.

In Brazil, poor neighborhoods were found to be prime mosquito-breeding areas. The same can be expected here. Simply put, GOP politicians in Washington won’t provide sufficient money to fight Zika until middle and upper class white enclaves are threatened. By then, however, it will be too late to stem the epidemic. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Random Thoughts From Recent Trips, Then Off to My 50th H.S. Reunion

Random thoughts for a May day without rain in the forecast:

Just returned last week from a three day trip to Washington, DC. During a visit to the Capitol, I watched the film about Congress in the visitor center. Imagine my surprise when Dennis Hastert showed up in the film in his role as Speaker of the House. You’d think that a disgraced politician would have been expunged from a film meant to impart the sanctity and importance of our legislative branch of government. Hmmm…..

By the way, the same film showed a cameo of Barak Obama as a senator from Illinois….

Coming back from a visit to our son and his family last weekend, the electronic sign on the Connecticut Turnpike read, “8 miles to next exit, 8 minutes,” which computes out to an average speed of 60 miles per hour. But the posted speed limit was 55 mph. Is the Nutmeg State suggesting drivers violate the law? Hmmm….

Last week I listened to an NPR segment on paid family care leave. The United States is one of but two countries without a paid family care leave program, according to the broadcast. Indeed, many mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth because their jobs demand it or they need the money, it continued. One of the more interesting comments during the discussion was that in 28 states it was said to be illegal to take a puppy away from its mother before eight weeks. What’s that say about our government’s parenting priorities? Hmmm…..

Sometime around my late 20’s or early 30’s my brother Bernie observed that my front hairline was receding. As my father and my maternal grandfather sported shiny scalps, I was not too thrilled with his not-too-subtle tease for which there was no comparable retort as his head was and is to this day a repository of thick hair. 

As traumatized as I was by his observation, I was comforted by my wife’s assurance she would love me with or without hair. Yul Brynner, after all, was her major heartthrob, she said. 

Not to worry, my hairline has not receded these last 30 or 40 years. And, until recently, all of it has remained true to its original brown color. My beard, on the other hand, has plenty of grey and albino strands. A few months ago I noticed greying along my temples. And last week I spotted streaks of grey at the top of my head.

I bring this up because Sunday Gilda and I will attend my 50th high school graduation reunion. Not that I’m in any visual competition with my classmates, but I see no point in ceding any aging effects to any of them. (If you believed that last sentence, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying. Who’s kidding whom? Of course everyone, including moi, will be checking out how our classmates have, um, fared over the years—corporations above and behind the belt, jowls where fresh cheeks used to shine, bald pates where swept back locks once ruled. And why not? we’re 67 or 68, after all.)

I’ve gained some 50 pounds since high school. But on my six-foot frame I’m still gaunt. What of those whose body types were, shall we say, less forgiving than mine? What if they gained 20, 30, 40 pounds or more? I’ll find out in a few hours.

While on the subject of hair, did you see The New York Times article “In Praise of Naturally Curly Hair”?

It was written from a female perspective but I can tell you that having naturally curly hair generally is not an asset when you’re a man. It works well if you grow an Afro, as I did in the 1970’s. Before then I had a daily bout with unruly hair which I blame on my sister Lee. One of my earliest memories is Lee talking me into letting her do my hair. I must have been around three years old. I remember crying to our mother that Lee ruined my hair and made it curly. Forever. I’ve never forgiven her. 

Time for a new, albeit temporary, feature. During this electoral season, I’ll try to end blogs with a pithy quote about elections, culled from the Web site. Here’s your first witticism: 

The problem with political jokes is they get elected. —Henry Cate, VII

No doubt loyal readers know of whom I would target that quote. 

For those who can’t wait to see all of the quotes, here’s a link:

Friday, May 13, 2016

Trump Channels Nation's Founders

A recent article by Politico’s national editor Michael Hirsh argued that far from being a boorish yahoo with extreme un-American views Donald Trump really is channeling the thoughts of the nation’s founders and some of its greatest presidents in their advocacy of few if any foreign entanglements ( 

It’s a piece replete with citations quoting Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, John Adams and John Quincy Adams to buttress the idea that foreign ventures would ensnare the country in affairs best left to people on the other side of the Atlantic, the Pacific, of course, being no point of reference to their late 18th and early 19th century minds.

Since the start of World War II, however, the United States has been globally engaged, first fighting the Axis Powers, then confronting Communist Soviet Union, China and Cuba in a Cold War, followed by a patchwork of alliances and adventures in the Middle East, the most recent being our tragic years-upon-years involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and our arms-length position vis-a-vis Syria.  

“But it is fair to ask, as Trump is, why we are simply continuing, through inertia and with little change, a system that was built up to thwart a set of threats that no longer exist,” wrote Hirsh. “Maybe this vast, expensive global order was necessary against Hitler, and later Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev—the very real threats of tyranny, totalitarianism and international communism in the 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s—but is Putin’s Russia, or Xi Jinping's China, really enough of a threat to justify the same expense and effort? It’s also fair to ask—as Trump does, in his blunt way—whether U.S. allies have grown a bit spoiled and barely notice any longer who’s holding that defense umbrella over their heads, allowing them to continue massive spending on their welfare states.”

Trump’s advocacy of a reimagined United States relationship with our allies, and by extension our adversaries, has tapped a reservoir of innate American isolationism made all the more potent by a failed war in Vietnam (though the feared Domino Effect never transpired) and the twin disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

In the end, though, it should come down not to the electorate’s knowledge of historical admonitions but rather to the confidence Americans have in the knowledge, leadership and diplomatic skills they want in their next president. Trump has displayed little of those skills as he has rampaged through the Republican primary process, flipping positions as quickly as one changes gears in a sports car. He is not thought highly of in most foreign capitals. If he’s elected, heads of state will have to deal with him but they might never be confident his word would be his bond.

The closest we have to a Republican head of state is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the second in line to be president should tragedy strike the chief executive and the vice president. Ryan has yet to endorse the presumptive nominee of his party, but with each passing day Republican office holders appear to be swallowing their scruples and lining up, however reluctantly, behind Trump. It’s only a matter of time before Ryan caves, and without extracting any implementable concessions.

It seems they are all more interested in winning than in protecting the principles of the republic and their party. Their professed animosity toward Hillary Clinton trumps (pun intended) the reality that The Donald is unfit to be president of the mightiest country in the world, a country that has been a symbol of equality and decency throughout the world but under Trump would be willing to discriminate against Muslims and would sanction torture. The damage to American prestige would be incalculable.

No criticism is more pointed than from within one’s family, so here’s an excerpt from Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist of The New York Times, describing the factionalism of the Republican party that led to Trump’s rise and his own failure to foresee his appeal: 

“So to catalog my wrongness: I overestimated the real commitment of both factions’ leaders to their stated principles and favored policies. (Even though I didn’t agree with many of those policies myself, I assumed from the party’s longstanding resistance to change that someone did!) I overestimated their ability to put those principles ahead of personal resentments. And yes, since to acquiesce to Donald Trump as the Republican nominee is to gamble recklessly with the party’s responsibilities to the republic, I overestimated their basic sense of honor.” (

Saturday, May 7, 2016

2016 Election Will Test Voter Intelligence

Whither America? Whither the conscience and soul of America? 

A campaign based on negativity leavened with bombastic claims without details of how we are going to fix our problems and how we would pay for any fix, yet all will be terrific, has all but officially captured the nomination of a once proud and revered Republican Party. Voters in GOP primaries and caucuses, including many independents and disaffected Democrats, have latched onto the proverbial “pig in a poke.” 

Most reality shows last about four months. The danger this election cycle is that Americans, so used to viewing The Bachelor/Bachelorette or The Amazing Race, might think they are watching a season of Survivor or The Biggest Loser while the true reality is that the United States would be the biggest loser if Donald Trump ascends to the presidency. The founding principles of the country might not survive his term of office.

To many, Trump is a candidate to be scorned and derided, to be ridiculed, but mostly, to be feared, not because he is so unqualified and peripatetic in his views and opinions,  but rather because of what it says about the American public’s willingness to support someone who appeals not to their hopes and aspirations but to their prejudices, anger and resentments. 

Instead of a nation of laws and equal opportunity, we are descending into a nation that reviles any institution that differs with our individual views. The misogynists among us have been emboldened by Trump’s attacks on women. Those opposed to marriage between the races have blasted Old Navy’s use of a photo of an interracial family in an ad ( Religious extremists of varied faiths decry the Supreme Court decision permitting same-sex marriage. They believe the Bible supersedes the Constitution. Unless you are descended from Native Americans, you are the progeny of immigrants. Yet Trump has stoked xenophobia. Respect for our military suffered a blow when Trump demeaned Sen. John McCain and other prisoners of war for being captured. Trump has questioned long-standing alliances such as NATO and raised doubts about the supremacy of civilian control over the military (according to The New York Times, he would empower “military leaders over foreign affairs specialists in national security debates” (  

It is indisputable we have bifurcated into a nation of haves and have nots. Equally true is that the population has segmented into groups with no memory or historical context for the evil demagogues, both foreign and domestic, can perpetuate and those who recall or remember the history of the not too distant past. 

This campaign will test the intelligence of the electorate. It will pit against each other stark differences in tone and substance. Will the public vote to roll back decades of progress in equality and economic opportunity, environmental and product protection, American leadership in the world, or will we opt for barriers and repeal based on a demagogue’s populist rantings?

Sadly, our nation has a history of turning its back on the future. Jim Crow laws followed emancipation. Isolationism and anti-Semitism stoked by the likes of Father Coughlin’s radio broadcasts followed victory in World War I. McCarthyism followed our ascendancy as the premiere power in the world after the second world war. 

The central question of the November election will be, which group of Americans will tip the balance—those who reject the last 80 years of American leadership, or those who continue to believe the United States can be an example for all nations?