Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Art of the Mis-Deal, A Senate Quid Pro Quo, Media Values and Lessons from Frederick

The Art of the Mis-Deal: What a thoughtful Christmas gift Donald Trump gave the world: Turmoil in the Middle East and anywhere else Islamic extremists operate. I do not envy pilgrims to Bethlehem during this holiday season, or tourists walking the maze-like corridors of the Old City of Jerusalem. Nor did the tumulter-in-chief do any favors to Jews the world over by sanctifying Jerusalem as Israel’s capital Wednesday. Jews already considered Jerusalem that way, but by caring more for fulfilling a campaign pledge to evangelical Christians than the safety of Israelis and Americans traveling abroad and here in the United States, the provocateur-in-chief has imperiled any hope for a substantive restart of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution. 

Maybe that was his intention all along, a stealth strategy in support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lip service endorsement of a two-state plan while all along enacting and enabling actions that undermine such a solution ever having viability.

Let’s not mince words—Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Judaism. But under Netanyahu’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox political parties the city has lost much of its religious appeal to Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews who are accorded second class status there. 

Trump cared not what leaders around the world cautioned him not to do. It is not too outlandish to presume that if he does not see positive movement by Palestinians toward the negotiating table Trump will radicalize them even more by first recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, followed by a declaration that the entire West Bank captured in the Six Day War is to be considered part of Israel.

Here’s a Trade—Al for Roy: Is it too outlandish to ask the U.S. Senate to operate under a quid pro quo system? If Democrats require Al Franken to resign because of alleged sexual harassments, Roy Moore should, in turn, be denied the seat he covets from Alabama. Such a tit-for-tat arrangement would not upset the balance of power as Franken would be replaced by a Democrat appointed by the Democratic governor of Minnesota and Moore (assuming he wins next week’s special election) would be replaced by a Republican chosen by a Republican governor.

Here’s a message my friend Linda sent along that bears consideration:

“Seriously! If baking a cake for a gay wedding is endorsing homosexuality, then voting for a pedophile is endorsing pedophilia.” 

Now that the twitter-in-chief was not named Person of the Year by Time, how long before he tweets an attack on the magazine and the women it recognized for their courage in speaking out against harassment?

If you’re an All in the Family fan, you might remember a Christmastime episode about a vacuum cleaner present Edith Bunker did not receive from Archie. The poor fellow had to fess up that the Christmas bonus money he would have used to buy the vacuum was docked because of a shipping mistake he made at work. He sent a package to London, England, instead of London, Ontario. 

I was reminded of that faux pas by the recent mistake ABC News chief investigative reporter Brian Ross made that earned him a four week suspension without pay. Ross had erroneously reported “candidate” Trump had asked Michael Flynn to contact Russians. He corrected his report to say “president-elect” Trump had made the request (

It was a big mistake, made all the more grievous by the extraordinary times we live in, when a president and his surrogates berate legitimate news media for delivering “fake news” and when a president and his surrogates repeatedly lie to the public. 

Mistakes in reporting happen. That’s why newspapers and magazines, and electronic media, print or air corrections. No one is infallible. But the Ross snafu transpired during a time when the credibility of the media has taken some extraordinary hits, not because of errors in reporting but rather because of character flaws. 

Charlie Rose. Matt Lauer. Roger Ailes. Bill O’Reilly. Glenn Thrush. Eric Bolling. Bob Beckel. The list of prominent journalists and TV hosts accused of sexual or racial improprieties undermines the credibility of the fourth estate at a juncture in our nation’s history when the value of a free, independent and credible press cannot be overestimated.

Frederick the Great: One of the favorite books Gilda and I read to our children and now to their children is Frederick by Leo Lionni. While his four fellow field mice gather food for the coming winter, Frederick spends his days seemingly shirking any communal responsibilities. He sits on rocks admiring flowers. He absorbs the warmth of the sun as the other mice scurry about collecting grain and tasty foodstuffs for the desolate months ahead.

The other mice chastise him for not collecting winter provisions. To which Frederick responds he is indeed doing his fair share. He is collecting sun rays for the cold, dark winter days, colors for winter is grey, and words for winter days are long and many.

Inside their home once winter arrives the mice munch away until they are almost out of food. They ask  Frederick to talk about his supplies. His words warm them with memories of summer days. 

Frederick is a charming book with a strong message that work is not just physical labor, that poetry, appreciation of nature and the transmission of culture are just as  important to sustain life. (For those not familiar with Frederick, click on this link for an animated reading: 

I was reminded of Frederick’s message by Trump’s decision Monday to reduce by millions of square feet the footprints of two national monuments in Utah. Ostensibly a move to give local officials more control over land in their backyard, Trump’s action was portrayed as a job creator as it will open the areas to drilling, mining and other activities. 

Coupled with antipathy for funding for the arts and other cultural programs, Trump and his acolytes demonstrate a philosophy that focuses solely on the muscular. Even in his dedication to jobs, Trump supports fossil fuels versus clean energy alternatives, despite the fact that more workers are employed in the solar power segment than in coal mining. 

I wonder if Trump reads books to his grandchildren. I wonder if he ever gets the messages behind those books.