Friday, October 28, 2016

Question of the Day: Will the New FBI Probe of Clinton's Emails Matter?

The question of the day is: At this late date, 11 days before Election Day, with early voting already underway in many states, will any minds be changed by Friday’s revelation that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails?

Against any candidate other than Donald Trump the answer would be an emphatic, “YES!!!” But these are never-before (and hopefully never-again) political times with a Republican candidate anathema to a larger swath of the American public than the Democratic standard bearer. 

What can be said, without equivocation, is that if, as many polls now say, Clinton will be elected our 45th president, it will be a historic achievement, but one that may ring hollow for at least two possible reasons. 

First, without at least a majority of Democratic senators—it is too wild a dream to expect the House to be flipped to the Democrats— Clinton’s presidency would be stymied even more than President Barack Obama’s last six years. She would be hard pressed to advance any of her legislative agenda. She will be forced to govern by executive action, which will generate lawsuits from Congress and/or affected state and municipal governments.

Moreover, without a Democratic controlled Senate, Clinton will most certainly be tied up with investigation after investigation launched by the GOP House, regardless of the findings of the latest FBI probe. Republican congressmen are itching to file impeachment charges. As it would take 67 Senate votes to ratify impeachment, a conviction is unlikely, but the time spent defending her presidency would take its toll, especially during a period of Russian aggressiveness and the still constant threat from Islamic extremists here and abroad. 

A second reason a Clinton return to the White House would be submarined would transpire if Democrats fail to secure control of the Senate. Already three Republican senators—John McCain of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas—have indicated they would hold up any nominations to the Supreme Court made by Clinton. Can Majority Leader Mitch McConnell be far behind?

Their recalcitrance stems from wanting to deny Clinton the opportunity to recast the Court in a more progressive mode. While Republicans say the Court in the past has functioned for years with fewer than nine justices, they are not so coyly gambling the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. 

It is a lurid tactic waiting for a death or retirement among the liberal leaning justices to secure a conservative majority lost when Antonin Scalia died in his sleep almost a year ago. It goes far beyond loyal opposition and their stated explanation that they haven’t acted on the nomination of Merrick Garland because they wanted to wait until the people chose the next president. 

If they proceed to deny any nominees from a Democratic president, the GOP would have hit the trifecta in undermining the validity of each of our three branches of government. It is a parlay a quarter century in the making.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995 and 1996; Republicans shut it down in 2013, as well. For years Trump led a birther movement that questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. By not even granting hearings to Garland Republicans have shown disdain for the constitutional process of advise and consent.

Is it any wonder, then, public confidence in government is at historic lows?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Observations on the Political Circus

I’m not interested in hearing any more about Donald Trump’s sex drive during Wednesday night’s presidential debate. I don’t need to hear him deny the allegations of some dozen women or dismiss his X-rated talk on the bus with Billy Bush as mere “locker room” banter.

I’m more interested in having moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News press Trump for details and hard evidence as to why he repeatedly is suggesting the election is rigged and that voter fraud will occur, especially in light of a study by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt that only 31 of more than 1 billion votes from 2000 to 2014 were fraudulent. 

Trump’s claims sow doubt into our democratic process, while his call for supporters to monitor polling places in “certain areas,” such as Philadelphia, is a not too subtle reference to minority districts, as well as an inference of voter intimidation. 

Since many states allow “open carry” of firearms (at least until December 3 when a new restriction by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives goes into effect), are we going to see armed men and women patrolling areas outside polling stations? You might recall that in 2008 Black Panthers carrying billy clubs were arrested for allegedly intimidating white voters in Philadelphia.

Trump is arguing that the media is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to win her the election. Instead of focusing on her email leaks, the media is preoccupied with his alleged sexual assaults, he says. 

One would think Trump would be eager to seize an opportunity to communicate directly to some 38 million members of AARP, the lobbying group for those 50 years and older, a cohort that is among the most active voters in any election. 

Yet, Trump largely ignored AARP’s request for responses to 13 questions it would print in the association’s October membership newspaper. It hoped for a face-to-face interview, a request Clinton honored. 

Trump, however, did not meet face-to-face with AARP and responded in writing to just six of the questions. In its October election coverage issue, AARP, in an attempt to be impartial, had to resort to printing information from his website, recent speeches and a response to AARP in June on Social Security. 

Clearly, Trump did not take AARP’s opportunity seriously as his written answers were short and perfunctory compared to Clinton’s more detailed responses and the material AARP culled from his printed material. 

Who’s the Lucky One? It is accepted wisdom that Clinton is lucky she is running against Trump. The corollary also is true: Trump is lucky to be running against Clinton. Such is the state of our flawed choices (let’s not even get started on the trouble with Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and the Green Party’s Jill Stein).  

That said, it is amazing that after more than a year and a half of campaigning there remain some undecided voters. I was surprised to hear on NPR Tuesday an undecided voter wanting to know what type of justice Clinton would nominate to the Supreme Court. Did he not listen to her answer during the second debate? 

“I want to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience, who have not just been in a big law firm and maybe clerked for a judge and then gotten on the bench, but maybe they tried more cases,” Clinton said. 

She wants justices who would preserve Roe v. Wade, would reverse the Citizens United decision on campaign financing, would safeguard voting rights and marriage equality. 

Whether she will get her choices through a Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely given comments by Senators John McCain of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah. They said they would block any of her nominees.

Apparently they are willing to gamble the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. If they should leave the bench and not be replaced, conservative-leaning justices might become the majority (assuming none of them also exit).

Thus, just as Trump has challenged the legitimacy, first of President Barack Obama and, second, of the electoral process of his successor, Republican senators are readying an assault on the Supreme Court and the duties of the Senate to advise and consent presidential nominations. 

The simple solution to this potential attack is to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Speaking of threats to our democracy, anyone who has listened to the rhetoric of the election campaign cannot help but be worried about the future of our republic.

A corollary: Anyone who has not paid attention to the election should give us pause about the future of our democracy. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trump's Locker Rooms: Bastions of the Entitled

At first I thought the locker rooms Donald Trump had in mind in explaining his crude comments about women were those used by sports teams. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think so, as numerous professional athletes and sports journalists rejected Trump’s contention of such offensive locker-room banter (

Then it hit me. The locker rooms Trump had in mind were those at the ritzy, exclusive golf clubs he owns where powerful corporate titans feel empowered to say what they want about women, where their exploits—real and imagined—make them feel superior.

It is in the locker rooms of the entitled where high testosterone men strut their conquests, alleged and real. Trump is a modern day incarnate of Don Draper and his Mad Men cohorts of the 1950s and 1960s, where account executives like Pete could essentially rape and impregnate secretaries like Peggy without consequence. 

Until now, most women who were assaulted by such baseless men reacted as Peggy did. They hid their predicament. If there is any silver lining to Trump’s exposure it is that women are stepping forward to uncover his chronic, abusive behavior ( 

Perhaps they will be examples to women in all walks of life who have had to live with systemic sexual assaults.

Trump has denied all alleged sexual assaults, but as with his denial of support for the invasion of Iraq, a tape from Howard Stern’s radio show trips him up. In 2006, during a  lengthy interview, he did not object when Stern sidekick Robin Quivers called him a “sexual predator.” 

He smiled and shrugged his shoulders in confirmation. All this while daughter Ivanka and son Donald Jr. sat next to him (

False Equivalency: I reject the notion of equal guilt associated with the gutter-level discourse of the presidential campaign.

I’m tired of equal distribution of guilt for the quality and tenor of the campaign. Let’s look at the primary campaigns of both parties: Democrats engaged in dialogue on issues worthy of would-be party nominees. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley didn’t insult each other. They debated policy. They argued about gun control. Trade policy. Health care. Income inequality. Support for student debt and college tuition.

Meanwhile, almost entirely egged on by Trump, Republicans argued about the size of hands and sex organs. Trump labeled his adversaries as “lyin,” “little” and “low energy,” while hardly ever discussing policy differences. For their part they called him a pathological liar, a sniveling coward, the biggest narcissist in American history, a con artist, uninformed, scary, a jerk, a clown, disgusting, a cancer and a barking carnival act, to name just a handful of epithets cast Trump’s way.

The name calling, and worse, have carried over to the main campaign. “Crooked, lyin’ Hillary,” Trump calls her. He’s intimated she should be stopped by gun toting members of the NRA. At last Sunday’s debate he said he wanted her jailed. 

He’s maligned veterans suffering from PTSD. He’s verbally attacked a former Miss Universe. Hillary has characterized his demeanor and temperament as unfit for the presidency. Yet, she has not labeled him with defamatory appellations, as his fellow party members have.

Any attempt to assess equal blame for the sleazy level of discourse in the run to the White House is wrong, misguided and in a very real sense another form of sexual assault on a woman whose only guilty of wanting to break the ultimate glass ceiling. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Judge the Totality of Trump, Says Christie

Chris Christie, one of Donald Trump’s earliest and most vocal Republican establishment supporters, finally weighed in on the sex-talk tape heard round the world last Friday. Though I didn’t catch his comments on the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN sports radio Tuesday morning, a Huffington Post story provided an impression of an obviously pained Christie waffling his way through an uncomfortably thin door of acceptance of an imperfect candidate. 

“I don’t think it’s immaterial, but I don’t think it’s the only way you should make a judgment,” he said, according to HuffPost (

WNYC public radio reported Christie said Trump should be “judged by the totality of his campaign.”

Fair enough. So far this campaign most everything Trump has said confirms and corroborates his despicable behavior, his lack of appropriate temperament for the presidency and his failure to understand basic policies that have been the bulwark of America’s world position: 

He has denigrated Mexicans as well as the entire Muslim world; He has undermined the legitimacy of our democracy, first by questioning the validity of an elected current president through his advocacy of the birther movement, second by questioning the impartiality of a federal judge because of his Mexican heritage, and third by seeding the idea that if he loses the election the results would be tainted by illegal activity; He has lauded dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-un; His actions have encouraged fringe groups to expound their bigoted, racist philosophies while only begrudgingly disavowing their support; He has suggested that America’s response to aggression against any of our treaty allies would be based on a financial assessment of their contribution to our military expense; He has suggested nuclear proliferation in Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia; He has affronted prisoners of war for being captured and has criticized servicemen and veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder for not being tough enough; He has maligned a Gold Star family; He has verbally abused women who have criticized him including ex-primary candidate Carly Fiorina, newscaster Megyn Kelly and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado; He has intimated that Hillary Clinton cheated on her husband; He has mocked a disabled journalist; He has misrepresented Hillary Clinton’s position on the Second Amendment and not so coyly hinted that gun enthusiasts have a way of stopping her; He has deprived the American public of essential information to properly assess his suitability for office by refusing to release his tax returns, a practice all candidates have adhered to for the last 40 years and to which all federal appointees must comply.   

Moreover, as someone who often reminds people of his tenure as a former U.S. Attorney, Christie should know that Trump advocated war crimes by calling for torture of prisoners, the killing of innocent families of terrorists and the taking of oil resources of another sovereign nation (Iraq). On top of those whoppers, Trump also revealed his autocratic, despotic inner self during Sunday’s debate by saying he would jail his political opponent. And he recently challenged the overturned conviction of the Central Park Five. To Trump, the Central Park Five are guilty regardless of DNA findings to the contrary and a confession by the true assailant in the rape and assault case.  

How Christie, or any intelligent voter or politician, could support Trump after all that (and much more) is beyond my comprehension. 

But wait—Trump tweeted Tuesday morning, “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.” 

One can hardly imagine what vile venom will emanate from The Donald in the weeks to come before and most surely after the election.

Buffetted by Buffett: For those who might have missed it, Warren Buffett rebuffed Trump’s claims that he, too, has used the loss carry forward provision of the tax code to reduce his federal tax liability.

Buffett released his 2015 tax file even though he is under audit, as is Trump. 

“I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump — at least he would have no legal problem,” Buffett said in a statement. Trump has claimed he cannot release his returns while under IRS audit.

Just Imagine: Gilda sent me this link of an interesting perspective on the sex-talk tape controversy. Imagine if Barack Obama had said what Trump said …

Movie Metaphor: The movie Denial opens nationwide October 21. Based on the book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, by Deborah E. Lipstadt, it is the story of a trial to expose the truth of the Holocaust denied by a vicious British anti-Semite. 

Denial might well be a movie metaphor for those who fail to see Trump’s misogyny, racism, bigotry, intolerance and lack of political competence and intelligence. 

Seeking Forgiveness: Yom Kippur begins Tuesday evening, ushering in a day of reflection, a time to seek forgiveness for one’s sins and transgressions, not just to God but even more so to one’s fellow human beings.

I will be in synagogue tonight and tomorrow. Given his history, it is too bad Donald Trump won’t be there as well.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Trump's Attack Tactic: What Have I Got to Lose?

A few weeks ago Donald Trump’s closing argument in his appeal to Afro-Americans for their vote was, “What have you got to lose?” After years of not achieving a better life under Democratic presidents, he reasoned, blacks should switch allegiance and vote Republican. “What have you got to lose?” 

Apparently Trump is intent on taking his own counsel when it comes to confronting his latest setback, the release Friday of an inflammatory, sexist, degrading 2005 tape of his comments and behavior toward women. Already lagging in their support, particularly from suburban housewives in key battleground states, Trump seems poised to blast away at Hillary and Bill Clinton for the former president’s infidelities and his wife’s aggressive defense of him and attack on his accusers, some of whom, in the end, proved to be aggrieved parties. 

Trump is casting Hillary as a bully who attacked, shamed and intimidated her husband’s “victims.” He might well level those charges against her during their debate Sunday night.

It’s a risky tactic, given his low ratings among female voters. But Trump might reason he has nothing to lose by sharpening his assault on the moral code of the Clintons at a time when his own compass has been tossed topsy-turvy beyond what he has already said during his campaign about Megyn Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz’s wife, Gold Star mother Ghazala Khan and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. 

Trump might further reason that his Republican base doesn’t want him to retreat. A poll released by Politico Sunday morning found “just 12 percent of Republicans — and 13 percent of female Republicans — agree. 

“As of now, GOP voters largely want the party to stand behind Trump. Nearly three-quarters of Republican voters, 74 percent, surveyed on Saturday said party officials should continue to support Trump. Only 13 percent think the party shouldn’t back him.”

It’s not uncommon for viewership of presidential debates to drop off after the first one (the initial debate was the most-watched in history—some 84 million tuned in). Given the exposure of Trump’s powderkeg tape, which obscured the release by WikiLeaks Friday of troubling Clinton emails, the audience for the second debate could equal, if not top, the first.  

They’ll be tuning in to see how far Trump will go over the line of decency and, equally intriguing, how Clinton will respond. It makes for “must-see TV,” but not on NBC (which originated that phrase back in the 1990s) because the peacock network will be televising the football game between the New York Giants and host Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin, one of the battleground states. For the sake of most marriages, not just among fans of both teams, I hope households have more than one TV or will do as I do—DVR the football game for later viewing. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Millennials Must Decide: Live in a Real World or a Bizarro Alternative Reality

The consensus among pundits, commentators and flash polls is that Mike Pence won his vice presidential debate against Tim Kaine Tuesday night. I don’t agree with that analysis as I found Pence to be smug and disingenuous in his strategic decision to ignore Donald Trump’s and his own records and in his outright deceptions that events and statements by them never transpired. 

Yes, Kaine obnoxiously interrupted Pence way too often. And perhaps Kaine seemed too programmed repeating the same mantra of Trump’s vacuousness. But can you blame him? Pence refused to acknowledge reality. It was as if Pence lives in a bizarro world where left is right and right is left, or put another way, where according to bizarro Trump and Pence, Mexicans are upstanding people and should be welcomed with open arms across our borders, where our prisoners of war like John McCain are respected and not degraded because they were captured, where women are not objectified or derided because of their appearance, where nuclear arms are to be contained, not proliferated, where Russian leader Vladimir Putin is rebuked as a despot, where candidates for president willingly disclose their tax returns to demonstrate they have no potential conflicts of interest should they take office, and where Barack Obama is hailed as the groundbreaking first Afro-American president of the United States.

Pence may have won on style points but on substance he came in second in a two-man field.

I watched the debate on CBS. The commentators praised moderator Elaine Quijano. Naturally. She is a CBS colleague. I liked her questions but she lost control of the debate early on and never really recovered her dominion.

I was more distressed by comments from a focus group of some two dozen undecided voters in Ohio. Recently, Ohio was considered Trump territory rather than a battleground state because its population skews older and whiter. The focus group reflected that demographic composition.

Kaine’s aggressive demeanor turned off the undecideds and apparently obscured Pence’s evasiveness. Pence and the focus group exhibited collective amnesia to Trump’s campaign of the last 15 months. Pence dismissed Trump’s verbal assaults as the pronouncements of a non politician unaccustomed to couching rhetoric in more muted, acceptable tones.

Yet, if we were to accept that explanation how would the public know exactly what Trump stands for? Why would we believe anything he has said? After all, his whole campaign has been based on his telling it like it is, that he is not an establishment politician.

The focus group swallowed the deception almost to a man and woman. Fortunately, for those who care, there is ample video and audio to set the record straight (

No matter, we are being told, the election will not be won or lost based on the undertickets’ performances. The election will turn on how millennials vote and whether they actually do cast a ballot. Millennials, born between 1980 and 1995, number about 80 million.

It is hard for me to understand their antipathy toward Hillary Clinton when compared to Trump and the fringe candidates Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Are they not interested in health care, especially the provision that permits many of them to be covered by their parents’ medical plans up to age 26? Trump and Republicans want to dismantle Obamacare, not amend it as Clinton wants to to correct deficiencies in the program.

Are they not interested in no or lower tuition at colleges and universities, as Clinton has advocated? 

Are they not interested in solving the student debt crisis as Clinton has proposed? 

Are they not interested in equal pay for women, a mainstay of Clinton’s candidacy? 

Are they not interested in addressing climate change as Clinton has advanced, compared to the denial of climate change by Trump and Republicans?

Are they not interested in a higher minimum wage as Clinton has recommended versus Trump’s suggestion to do away with a minimum federal wage?

There comes a time when young adults have to grow up. Idealism is a virtue that can be ill-afforded this election. The choice is stark. Permitting Donald Trump to win the presidency would set the country back decades and insure that the remainder of the years millennials live would be stained by discriminatory legislation legalized by a regressive Supreme Court packed by a chief executive who engages in Twitter wars instead of thoughtful, fact-based discourse.