Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Day 205 Nat'l Emergency: 10 Ways to Control Trump

 Ten ways the Commission on Presidential Debates could control Donald Trump’s interruptions while Joe Biden is speaking:

  1. Have a voice like his mother’s say, “Donny, behave yourself. Let Joe speak;” 
  2. Cut off his mic (though he would continue to speak and possibly annoy Biden and those trying to listen to Biden);
  3. Zap him with electronic impulses built into his lectern;
  4. Taser him if his bulk shields him from being affected by the electronic impulses;
  5. Shine strobe lights at him to disorient him;
  6. As he is standing at his lectern, open a trap door if he interrupts;
  7. Drop a cone of silence on him;
  8. To distract him, build into his lectern a tray with KFC drumsticks that pops up with each interruption;
  9. Warn him that each interruption will cost him five Electoral College votes;
  10.  If he continues to interrupt, proclaim Biden the election winner by forfeit. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Day 204 Nat'l Emergency: Questions to Expose Amy Coney Barrett's Judicial Character

As controversial as Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to succeed Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is, it is a certainty to be approved by the Trumpian Party-controlled Senate. Nevertheless, Democrats should use the confirmation hearing process to vet Barrett about her judicial temperament, thereby exposing to the public how some hard-fought rights might be curtailed by a more conservative court that includes her. The following are questions the nominee should be asked during her confirmation hearing:

A judge, in particular a justice of the Supreme Court, is someone who should represent personal and professional integrity, someone who, as the saying goes, not only “talks the talk, but walks the walk.” In 2016 you said President Obama should not nominate a liberal judge to succeed conservative Justice Antonin Scalia because it would “flip the balance of power on the court” and that placing a liberal in a conservative seat would not be a “lateral“ move. By that reasoning shouldn’t you decline the nomination, or be rejected by the Senate, because Justice Ginsburg was a liberal and you are a conservative and your selection would even more greatly flip the balance of power on the court than the moment you spoke of four years ago? 

Can you cite Supreme Court decisions championed by Justice Ginsburg, from before or after she sat on the Supreme Court, from which you have benefitted? Do you agree with those decisions?

Can you cite any of her majority decisions from which you have personally been adversely affected?

Is the Constitution a religious or secular document?

What is settled law? Can you give an example of settled law? Can it be overturned by the Supreme Court?

What is your opinion of precedent?

What type of factors would go into your consideration of overturning precedent or settled law?

Have you in public comments or in writing identified Supreme Court decisions that were improperly decided? If yes, which ones, and would you explain your reasons for disagreement?

During your confirmation hearing in 2017 you indicated your faith would not supersede your devotion to the law. Do you believe Lawrence v. Texas was decided correctly, that all men and women are entitled to privacy within their own homes?

Do you believe Obergeffel v. Hodges was decided correctly, that same-sex marriage was a legitimate protected right of all men and women?

Does the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law cover sex discrimination?

Does a woman have an unassailable right to keep her maiden name after marriage on all legal documents including her voter registration?

As a matter of law do you accept same-sex marriage? Adoption by same-sex couples? Marriage between races? 

Do you accept the decisions that affirmed those rights or may they be reversed by subsequent courts? 

Should employers have the legal right to pay a woman a lower wage than a man for the exact same work?

Is the Social Security Act settled law? If challenged could it be declared unconstitutional? Would you support such a move?

What are the oversight powers of Congress as they relate to the executive branch? 

Is the president above the law?

If an aide acts illegally under orders from the president, is that aide shielded from prosecution?

Does a president have the power to withhold monies appropriated by Congress for specific purposes? May a president redirect funds Congress has approved to areas Congress did not authorize and appropriate?

May the executive branch ignore congressional subpoenas? May the White House withhold documents or prohibit administration officials from testifying before Congress except on top secret national security matters?

Is foreign involvement or interference in our electoral process legal?

Under our Constitution and economic system does the government have the authority to determine if a company is too big and therefore may order that company to divest part of itself?

You are on record as being opposed to abortion. This implies an individual does not have final control over medical treatment of her body in the case of a pregnancy, no doubt based on your belief that a fetus would be killed by an abortion. Does your judicial philosophy also presume that the government can mandate that an individual be inoculated against Covid-19 or other communicable illnesses such as the flu that, if transmitted to another, has the potential to kill?

If, in the opinion of medical professionals, a pregnancy endangers the life of a woman, whose life has supremacy, that of the pregnant woman or the fetus? 

When does life begin? Is a fetus a person? If a fetus has personhood, can an individual or company be charged with murder if their actions, such as drunk driving or environmental pollution, contribute to the termination of a fetus? If a doctor performs an abortion could he or she be charged with murder? Could a pregnant woman be charged as an accessory to murder if she has an abortion?

Aside from abstinence and the rhythm method are any methods of contraception legal in your opinion?

Do states or the federal government retain the authority to set voting laws pertaining to legal voting age, voting by mail, times and locations for voting?

Do state legislatures have the right and power to throw out election results and appoint their own Electoral College electors to vote contrary to the will expressed by the voters of their state? 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Day 202 Nat'l Emergency: Scalia's Legacy Looms Large Over Barrett's Selection to Replace Ginsburg

 Of course the national right to an abortion is threatened if Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor on the Supreme Court. Any nominee put forward by Donald Trump would carry that same executioner’s ax liberal minded people fear, so let’s not tarnish Barrett with undue objections because she was the chosen one.

But as a disciple of Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett will surely bring to the Court a fervor to revisit some of her mentor’s most provocative dissents. Coupled with the two other Trump appointments—Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh—plus Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, she would make a solid five justice conservative majority even if Chief Justice John Roberts does not join a movement to overturn precedents.

Here’s some of what’s at stake beyond a woman’s right to control her own body’s reproductive process: 

the Affordable Care Act; 

the privacy rights of consenting adults; 

same sex marriage and possibly the right of adoption; 

the separation of religion from public institutions;

and the primacy of the presidency as being above the law.

Scalia cast dissenting votes in cases that could easily be reversed by the current Supreme Court composition if Barrett, or anyone nominated by Trump, is confirmed. 

The shredding of Obamacare with its mandate for insurers to cover pre-existing conditions would be first to tumble. Roberts saved it last time the Court considered its constitutionality, but Barrett would provide a decisive fifth vote to throw the Affordable Care Act into the ash bin of history. Her vote would strip some 135 million Americans of coverage protection for pre-existing conditions. Some 20 million would lose all their insurance. 

Oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act are scheduled for November 10.

In 2003, Scalia, along with Roberts and Thomas, dissented when the Court ruled against the anti-sodomy laws of Texas. In Lawrence v. Texas, a 6-3 Court majority said consenting adults, in this case homosexuals, enjoyed a right of privacy protected by the Constitution. But two of those six votes, Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, are no longer on the Court. It is easy to visualize a 5-4 or 6-3 vote to reverse that protection.

In 2015, by a 5-4 vote, the Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage. Kennedy was the swing vote. A 5-4 or 6-3 reversal is easily visualized. With the loss of same-sex marriage, the ability for same-sex couples to adopt might also be in jeopardy.

The separation of church and state may tumble beyond repair. Scalia dissented in the 5-4 decision to prohibit prayer led by clergy at a high school graduation in the 1992 case Lee. v. Weisman. Barrett is deeply religious and  could be expected to resist any efforts to limit the introduction of religion onto secular government properties and functions.

Scalia was the lone dissenter in Morrison v. Olson back in 1988 that could have far-reaching impact for the future of our nation. In a dispute involving the constitutionality of the Independent Counsel Act, Scalia suggested in his dissent that a president is above the law. 

It is an argument that Trump has repeatedly put forward. 

Think about that.

Whether it’s Barrett or some other jurist, the Trumpian Party will place another conservative on the Court before or after the election and before January 20, 2021. They’ve got the numbers and sufficient time to execute their plan. 

The only remedy to such misfortune is electing Joe Biden as president with a Democratically controlled Senate and then adding four liberal justices. The court packing must be done immediately, before the 2022 elections that could deprive Democrats their Senate majority. 

Biden might be reluctant to move forward on such a program based on his decades-long collegial view of Senate norms. Those days, however, are long gone. Learn from Barack Obama’s mistake. Strike when you have the power, before you lose it. That’s what the Trumpians are doing. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Day 200 Nat'l Emergency: My Hope for Biden's Opening Remarks at Tuesday Night's Debate

Joe Biden and Donald Trump will debate for the first time Tuesday night, September 29. Both have said they are looking forward to the verbal duel. It’s time for Biden to really speak out. Herewith a suggestion for Mr. Biden’s opening remarks:

Let me begin by thanking the Commission on Presidential Debates for sponsoring this debate. Voting is our most important right. It is paramount that we do everything in our power to have an informed public willing and able to cast their votes either in person or by mail-in ballot, just like Donald Trump and his family do without any aspersions being cast as to the integrity of their mailed-in ballots.  

For months Donald Trump has spewed vile untruths about me and the Democratic platform upon which I am running. Tonight, to my face, let him cite evidence to back up his claims, or shut up. 

Tonight we should not forget that more than 200,000 of our fellow Americans have died because Donald Trump failed to heed the advice of his medical experts and national security professionals. They warned him that COVID-19 is a killer. He knew that back in February. But he was more interested in seeing stock market gains than focusing on the death toll of our loved ones. 

His advisors told him it would be his presidency’s greatest challenge. He ignored their advice and set a bad example by not wearing a mask in public and by urging his supporters to congregate close together at his rallies where many of them did not wear masks. Even when one of his key supporters, Herman Cain, died after attending one of his rallies without a mask, Donald Trump refused to listen to medical experts. 

200,000 deaths. With hardly a word of compassion or consolation from our president. He said he was a “wartime president” fighting the pandemic. Under his command we have lost more Americans than in the wars we fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined! He should be relieved of duty. 

Tonight we’re going to demand specifics. He says he has a great health care plan. Let’s hear specifics. What will it cost each family to be covered at least as well as under the Affordable Care Act. He says he would keep coverage on pre-existing conditions. Then why is he supporting a Republican lawsuit to throw out Obamacare and its pre-existing conditions mandate? Can he by executive order dictate that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions? Perhaps in Fascist or Communist countries that could happen, but here in the United States we don’t rule by executive fiat. We ended that form of tyranny in 1776. 

Tonight we’re going to demand specifics from the person The Washington Post says has fabricated reality more than 20,000 times in speeches and tweets. From the man who decries unnamed sources we will demand names of those “many people” he claims tell him things that he turns into innuendos and assaults on other people’s character. Let’s judge him by the credibility of his sources. 

Tonight, there will be no hiding behind vague bromides. Tonight, Donny, there will be no one else to take your test.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Day 197 Nat'l Emergency: The RBG Effect

 Pity the poor independent and anti-Trump Republican voter (“poor” being a state of mind rather than a descriptor of their financial status).

Now that another vacant seat has opened on the Supreme Court, they are in a quandary. They would like Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be replaced by a conservative. The sooner the better. That’s what Donald Trump seeks to have in place before election day.

Such action could free them to abandon Trump November 3rd, as their top priority of tilting the court to the right would have been been accomplished with a 6-3 majority. They would no longer need to rely on what they consider Chief Justice John Roberts’ lagging commitment to conservative principles. 

They aren’t enamored with Trump’s governing style and many of his policies, including his handling of the coronavirus coupled with his dismissal of mail-in voting so necessary during the pandemic, his rejection of climate change, his disparagement of anyone, especially women, who disagree with him, his anti-immigrant stance, his rollback of environmental protections, his coddling up to Putin and rejection of our own intelligence agencies. Trump’s public demeanor also troubles them as he is not a figure children look up to as a role model.

They’re also of mixed views on a central question the Supreme Court will face, the future of Roe v. Wade that established nationally a woman’s right to an abortion. Surveys have found more than half of suburban women favor retention of Roe v. Wade. 

But if abandoning Trump sweeps in Democratic control of the Senate and White House the election could lead to threatened court packing with a decidedly leftward tilt. That wouldn’t make those suburbanites happy, either. 

Trump’s pick will be anti-abortion. Of that there is no doubt. But her (he’s vowed to select a woman) views on civil rights, voting rights, the environment, executive power and a host of other issues may be the tip of the fulcrum that will determine if suburban women swing toward Trump or Joe Biden and if the Senate remains Trumpian or turns Democratic.  

Oh, what a dilemma they face. 

Four Degrees of Separation: Not six, but just four degrees of separation linked me with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sort of.

Let me explain. Upon RBG’s death Friday my cousin Michael shared the connection his wife Mary had with the late Supreme Court justice. 

During her first marriage in the early 1970s, Mary sought to retain her maiden name, Mary Stuart (for those conversant with 16th century English and Scottish history, yes, Mary is believed to be a descendant of the family of Mary, Queen of Scots. Reason enough to want to keep that name alive.)

The state of Maryland, however, was not amenable. For Mary Stuart to register to vote, Maryland required she enroll with her spouse’s last name. The state also revoked her driver’s license.

Mary sued. She lost. On appeal to the Maryland Court of Appeals, she won. 

As the Baltimore Sun reported May 11, 2017, “(Ruth) Bader Ginsberg, who co-founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, was the lead attorney on an amicus brief the ACLU filed in support of Stuart.”

Mary never met RBG. Indeed, until 2017 she did not know RBG had been involved with her hearing.

No matter. I’m still claiming four degrees of separation from the diminutive-in-size but supersize-in-stature women’s rights pioneer and advocate for the oppressed. 

Here’s a link to the Sun article on Mary’s precedent-setting lawsuit:

Monday, September 21, 2020

Day 196 Nat'l Emergency: Truth in Labeling

 Isn’t it time we invoked a version of the Truth in Labeling standard for the Republican Party? We should call it what it is—the Trumpian Party.   

Ingredients:  Racism. Xenophobia. Bigotry. Egotism. Sexism. Lying. Hypocrisy. Nastiness. Homophobia. Misogyny. Repression. Oppression. Denial. White Supremacy. Fear-mongering. Intolerance. Arrogance. Disloyalty. Narcissism. Anti-science.

Common Uses: Obstruction of voting rights. Obstruction of asylum rights. Obstruction of equal opportunity laws. Rejection of scientific and medical knowledge. Removal of environmental protections laws. Removal of worker protection laws. Denial of climate change. Accelerating income inequality. Rejection of allies. Rejection of professionalism. Acceptance of despots. 

Warnings: Autocratic tendencies. Hazardous to the preservation of democratic values and democracy itself. 

Antidote: Vote Democratic November 3.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Day 193 Nat'l Emergency: PTSD Worries

 I am suffering from PTSD—Pandemic Trump Stress Disorder.

Seriously. When I go to bed my mind cannot help but wander into the terrible wonderland of Trump. Within a minute or two I develop a heart arrhythmia. 

I’m okay during the daytime because I try to avoid reading news about the latest polls. I’m not a CNN, MSNBC or Fox News junkie. I watch the CBS Evening News. I do read articles from web sites and from links sent by friends and family. 

My heart doesn’t skip a beat during the daytime. 

But before I can drift off to sleep I get agitated. and I wonder …

With nearly 200,000 deaths attributed to the pandemic from more than six and a half million cases, how can any sane observer not hold Trump accountable for mismanaging our country’s response to the virus? 

Didn’t they hear him say he was a “wartime president” waging a battle against the virus? More Americans died under his COVID-19 command than in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan combined!

Didn’t they hear him admit to Bob Woodward he knew about the severity of the virus in February but he kept it secret from the American people so as not to panic them. Americans don’t panic when they know their adversary. They take appropriate action, like wearing a face mask if their president asks them to.

How can millions of people ignore medical advice and refuse to wear a mask to help stem the spread of the virus?

How can millions trust Trump’s pronouncements over medical experts who have spent their professional lives studying infectious diseases? 

With millions unemployed, their savings being depleted, how could anyone find succor in Trump’s trumpeting stock market gains when 50% of the population is not invested in the stock market?

How can millions trust Trump when he says he favors a health plan that covers pre-existing conditions when he is supporting repeal of Obamacare with its coverage of pre-existing conditions? 

For four years Trump has said he has a better plan than Obamacare. He has yet to reveal his plan. How can anyone believe him?

I cannot comprehend how millions who believed in Republican elected officials and thought leaders like John McCain, Bill Kristol, John Kasich, Colin Powell and Jim Mattis, now believe in Trump, a man who lacks core Republican principles and, unlike George Washington, cannot tell the truth. 

I wonder how any LBGTQ community member can vote for Trump when he repeatedly proposes actions to diminish their equality of opportunity?

I wonder how anyone who expects to receive social security benefits can support Trump when he proposes elimination of the payroll deduction tax that underpins the solvency of the retirement plan? 

I wonder how people can believe Trump’s rants against Democratic governors’ handling of Western wildfires when most of the forests on fire are located on federal land that is managed by the Trump administration? 

I wonder why Trump supporters don’t believe our own intelligence services who say Russia meddled in the last election on his behalf and is meddling again? 

I wonder why Trump has never criticized Vladimir Putin but has badmouthed leaders of our allies in Germany, France, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain?

I don’t want my arrhythmia to kickstart in, so I’ll close here with a prayer that with the start of the Jewish New Year in a couple of hours we will all be blessed with a good, healthy and sweet year. 

Shana Tova Umetuka!

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Day 191 Nat'l Emergency: Pre-Rosh Hashana Reflections

 In a few days Jews will gather physically or virtually to celebrate the beginning of a new year, 5781. Rosh Hashana ushers in 10 days of introspection culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. During those 10 days one is expected to repent and seek forgiveness, not just from God, but, equally if not more importantly, from those one might have offended in deed or word during the past year.

It is customary for rabbinic sermons to avoid politics. It would be naive, however, to think thoughts about the current state of our nation, inflicted upon us by the actions or failure to act of our fellow Americans, would not filter through remarks from the pulpit. 

Regular readers know my biases. I believe in climate change. I believe systemic racism exists and must be erased. I believe police routinely treat Blacks rougher than Whites. I believe women should receive equal pay for equal work. I believe women should have control over their own bodies. I believe in gender equality. I believe teachers, nurses, firemen, policemen, EMTs, sanitation workers, child care and nursing home workers should be compensated commensurate with the important functions they perform keeping our country safe and prepared for the future. I believe the coronavirus pandemic should have been treated as a national challenge and not left to 50 states to forge individual, at times conflicting, responses. I believe Israel has a right to exist. I believe Palestinians should have their own demilitarized state. 

I believe a president leads, as much if not more than by policies, by example, by temperament, by character, by empathy, by integrity, by the willingness to accept criticism and learn from it, by the quality of appointments, by the respect accorded allies, subordinates and opponents. In all these traits of leadership I find Donald Trump lacking. 

With my biases before you, here are two recent commentaries I came across on Facebook. Though long, they’re worth your time. The first is from a rabbi. The second is from a secular, retired leader of the Jewish community. 

A rabbi’s response to our President calling Jews “lacking knowledge and disloyal” if they vote Democratic:

Rabbi Danny Maseng writes:

As a Jew …

Since you called me out as a Jew, Mr. President, since you thought to call me disloyal or lacking knowledge by not voting for you, I’d like to respond to you personally, even though I have no illusions you will read this.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I am commanded to love the stranger who dwells among us no less than thirty-six times in the Bible you claim to treasure. I am commanded to have one law for the stranger and the citizen. No exceptions.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I am commanded to pay my employees on time, including undocumented workers at casinos, construction sites, or golf courses. 

As a Jew, I am commanded to repay bank loans and investors. 

As a Jew, I am commanded to never bear false witness.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I am commanded to guard my tongue and speak no evil.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I am commanded to never embarrass my fellow human being in public, lest I be accused of spilling their blood—including Ted Cruz or the late Senator and war hero, John McCain.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I take great offense in my president attacking Denmark, a country that gallantly saved its Jews from the Nazis, while most of Europe fell asleep.

As a Jew, Mr. President, I take umbrage in my Grandfather, the sainted Dr. Rabbi Harry S. Davidowitz, who inhaled poison gas in the trenches of WWI as a U.S. Army chaplain, being called disloyal because he voted Democrat.

As a Jew, born and raised in Israel, I take offense at you calling me disloyal to America AND to Israel because I oppose your inept, ghoulish, uncouth, deceitful, inhumane farce of leadership. How many tours of duty have you performed for Israel during wartime? Or, for that sake, the USA?

As a Jew, Mr. President, I reserve the right to oppose Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (neither of whom called upon the help of a former KGB operative to help them in their election to office), while simultaneously condemning your divisive, racist rants and policies. 

As a Jew who has proud Republican family members who I love and cherish, I am ashamed of what you have done to the Republican party; to conservative ideals—even if I do not share all of those ideals.

As a Jew whose Christian uncle fought heroically at the Battle of the Bulge for our country and for the salvation of Europe—I am ashamed by the mockery you visit upon his sacrifice.

As the son of a Christian pilot, later converted to Judaism, who led American pilots to glorious victory over Nazi Germany, I am outraged by your embrace of neo-Nazi’s and racists in America (that same pilot, who became a squadron commander in the Israeli Air Force, and fought for Israel’s independence).

As a Jew, I am disgraced by your fawning adoration of the worst dictators of our century—you violate Christian and Jewish values by doing so.

As a Jew; as a well-informed Jew who loves and cares deeply for Israel and for America, I condemn you and call you out for the divisive fool, the ogre, the ghoul that you are.

May my soul not enter your council, let me not join your assembly.

From a spiritual commentary to the thoughts of Abraham Foxman, the director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman served 28 years as ADL’s national director. 

Nothing pains me more than to speak up with anguish in the face of this presidential election. But silence is not an option. American Jewry confronts a fateful choice. Another four years of Donald Trump will be nothing less than a body blow for our country and our community.

I must acknowledge the unexpected nature of this statement. For more than half a century, I avoided public positions on electoral politics. When I chose a career working for the Jewish people, I took on a sacred obligation, like so many other professionals, to avoid taking sides in partisan contests—an obligation I carried into retirement.

But there is more than enough evidence Trump is a demagogue and his presidency threatens American democracy.

When our democracy is weakened, and when nativism is stoked, the rights of Jews and other minorities will be diminished too. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen, and Jews know this well from bitter experience.

I respect any American, and any Jewish American, who continues to identify with and support the Republican party, which has made significant and lasting contributions to the Jewish community. And I understand why some of these voters are struggling with their decision.

In my mind, the case is closed. His leadership endangers our democracy, and therefore our community.

My reasoning is simple and stark: Trump’s presidency—in spirit and in deed—has given succor to bigots, supremacists, and those seeking to divide our society. He and his administration dehumanize immigrants, demonize the most vulnerable, and undermine the civility and enlightened political culture that have allowed Jews to achieve what no Diaspora community outside Israel can claim in two millennia.

What’s more, American Jews look beyond our own parochial interests, for we know that our future is inextricably tied to the welfare of others. Promoting tolerance, inclusion, and equality is non-negotiable. Defending immigrants and refugees is an inseparable part of our collective story—and my own, as a Holocaust survivor and a refugee.

We must ask ourselves: Is America stronger, more stable and more caring, than it was before Trump entered office?

For me, the answer is clear. No. I know I am not alone.

Talk to Jewish community leaders in private and read surveys of the Jewish public. After decades of progress, following successive generations of rising metrics of safety and security, Jews are filled with fear and anxiety. President Trump shoulders a good measure of the blame.

Is the president of the United States an anti-Semite?

No. But that’s not the right question.

Has his leadership lifted America? Has it made Jews feel more secure? Is he our best hope for healing our nation and addressing the twin crises of a pandemic and a reckoning with racism?

If anyone needs another reason, look beyond our borders. A stable, credible, influential, revered—and sometimes feared—America has been a force multiplier for world Jewry for decades, often in ways that are most clearly visible to those of us working behind the scenes on behalf of global Jewish causes. Remember freedom for Soviet, Ethiopian, and Syrian Jewry.

Here, too, there is no doubt in my mind that Trump’s failings of character and America’s dismal global standing have hurt Jewish interests.

It is true that Trump has made decisions that many in our community have waited for, including his decision on Jerusalem, which I support. But these decisions have come at the cost of Trump’s frontal assault on bipartisan support for Israel, and some have been clothed in deeply offensive stereotypes about Jews and their ties to the Jewish state.

Our community has an enormous stake in bipartisanship. It is the only way to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry. It is how we built a strong US-Israel alliance.

Indeed, I grew up in an America where Jews were not fully integrated and Washington’s support for Israel was wafer thin. Yet the reality is different now, in large part because leaders of conscience have cultivated and sustained the broadest possible base of support for this agenda.

Trump has damaged that necessary consensus, and we cannot permit Jews and Israel to be weaponized for anyone’s narrow political interests.

We do have reason for hope. I have known Joe Biden for many years, and I have confidence he will restore the equilibrium that has been lost. He has been an ally, and he has repeatedly pledged to aggressively fight anti-Semitism. I am confident he and Kamala Harris will not back down from confronting Israel’s enemies and detractors, even if they emerge within their own party.

I am old enough to remember a world where illiberalism ran amok and dictators held vast numbers of our brothers and sisters hostage, behind Iron Curtains and worse.

And I am old enough to recall a style of Jewish American politics that was more quietist, more hesitant, a politics of a minority too accustomed to keeping its head down.

But thankfully, American Jews left this behind—yet another reason I cannot be silent at this inflection point in history.

Nor can any of us, for the sake of our nation, our people and our world.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Day 189 Nat'l Emergency: Is Peace Really Here?

 As leaders of Israel and the United Arab Emirates sign a normalization agreement under the watchful eye of Donald Trump at the White House Tuesday, I, like many, will salute the growing acceptance of Israel by Arab potentates. Took them only seven decades.

I wonder, though, how long it will take the Arab street to forget 70 years (probably closer to 100 years) of Jew-hating impressed upon them by these very same class of rulers? Will they now see positive propaganda about Israel, how it has transformed the desert into a garden of produce? How it is a leader in technology, water management, science, medicine, the arts? Will maps now show Israel as a recognized state? Will schools change their curricula to erase anti-Semitic tropes? 

Am I being too cynical? Too realistic when optimism should be my effusive state?

Perhaps my less than euphoric emotion stems from my concern that the wondrous news about the Israeli-Arab rapprochement has masked the fact that when the ink dries on all these new diplomatic relationships, Israel will still be challenged by the Palestinian question.

While Arab governments might have backburnered the Palestinians, it would be irresponsible to think the Palestinians have suddenly resolved to bury their animosity toward Israel. Their leadership—in the PLO, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and numerous offshoots—continues to reject Israel. Moreover, they continue to educate their children that Israel and Jews are evil.

More to the point of my dissonance to the jubilation over the normalization agreements, Israel has yet to come to terms with how it sees the future of the Palestinian people.

I doubt they can be granted full Israeli citizenship. No way Israelis can enfranchise them for fear their votes would undermine the Jewish state’s raison d’ĂȘtre. 

If Israel extends second class citizenship to the Palestinians it would reinforce the argument that it is becoming an apartheid state. 

To secure the UAE’s public acceptance, Israel had to shelve annexation of land in the West Bank captured 53 years ago during the Six Day War. Annexation has been postponed, not rejected, by Bibi Netanyahu, and surely not by those to the right of the prime minister. It will inevitably come up again.

The cause of the Palestinians no longer inflames Arab leaders. I suspect the average Mohammed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cares more about having a well paying job to be able to put food on his table, to educate his children, to live in sanitary conditions, to have a credible healthcare network. To live in dignity without threat of war.  

Of course, the seven decades long intransigence of Palestinian leaders to accept Israel, coupled with a willingness to accept terrorism as a central tool, has left Israel with no viable negotiating partner and an as yet unseen path to normalcy.   

Israelis may be forgiven if they think, “If my enemy treats me as subhuman, am I free to treat my enemy as subhuman? Having survived historic persecution, may I treat my enemy as I please if they vow to destroy me?”

Forgiven, but not acceptable. Twenty-first century Western civilization cannot accept apartheid. Can Palestinians reorient their thinking to 21st century realities? 

The national interests of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and other like-minded Arab countries coalesced into diplomatic breakthroughs. However, until Palestinians pass from the realm of pawns of Arab and Islamic governments into potent realistic pursuers of their own destiny, there is little reason to be exceedingly jubilant at Tuesday’s signing ceremony. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Day 185 Nat'l Emergency: He Knew in February

 “What did the president know, and when did he know it.” 

For those old enough to remember living through the Watergate era, how exquisitely ironic is it that one of the Pulitzer Prize winning journalists who helped bring down a president after his secret tapes were revealed to corroborate their independent reporting is now centerstage with authorized tapes of another president admitting he misled the American people? 

During the Senate Watergate break-in hearings almost 40 years ago, Senator Howard Baker, Republican of Tennessee, famously asked former White House counsel John Dean, “What did the president know, and when did he know it” ( 

It turned out, based on Richard Nixon’s secret tape recordings, the president knew almost from the get-go about the botched burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate complex. From the start he was involved in the illegal coverup, the reporting of which earned Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward the Pulitzer Prize and enduring fame for muckraking journalism. 

A prolific biographer of presidents, Woodward now has audio tapes, made with the full knowledge and compliance of Donald Trump, that conclusively reveal Trump knew the explosive potential impact of the pending pandemic months before its devastation became widespread. Furthermore, he admitted on tape that he purposely misled the American people about its potential severity in what he claimed was a strategy to keep them from panicking. 

Not only did he downplay the affliction, he actively encouraged behaviors that would accelerate its spread, including mocking the wearing of masks and holding large rallies with no social distancing or masks. By telling the public COVID-19 was no worse than the annual flu and would vanish on its own when the weather warmed, Trump lulled masses into a false sense of security. 

Some people are predicting Woodward’s revelations of Trump’s culpability in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans would again result in the removal of a president from office, this time through the ballot box rather than by abdication.   

Don’t bet the family farm on it. Trump is a master in spin control and he has one asset Nixon never had—a base that adheres to him like glue no matter what impropriety he might have done. 

It doesn’t matter to them that nearly 200,000 have died, that more than six million have been infected. It doesn’t matter to them that Trump failed to engage a national response and chose instead to push responsibility onto each state, thus assuring a less than cohesive, coordinated defense. It doesn’t matter to them that millions lost their jobs as the economy tanked, that in-school learning closed down, that millions may lose their residences because they cannot pay the mortgage or rent. 

To Trump’s legions he is immune from criticism, from responsibility. 

Let’s be clear: Trump committed no crime. Failing to marshal the country’s resources to fight the coronavirus is not a crime. Incompetency is not a crime. Belligerency is not a crime. Lying to the American people is not a crime. 

Whether such behavior may ultimately cost Trump his current job awaits the public’s collective action November 3. 

In all but a few instances Republicans and Democrats have engaged over the years in political combat over policy issues such as the national debt, environmental protections, minimum wage levels.  

But when it came to attacks on our mainland the country advanced a unified response with only the slimmest of opposition.

When we were attacked on September 11 the nation did not shrug its shoulders and dismiss it as a New York-Washington-Pennsylvania problem. When the Boston Marathon was bombed the rest of the country didn’t shrug its shoulders in an “it is what it is” way and pass it off as a deserved Eastern establishment comeuppance. When the Murrah Federal Office building was blown up by right wing extremists in Oklahoma City the rest of the country didn’t shrug its shoulders and say, “Those Middle Americans thought they were immune from attack. That’ll show ‘em nobody is safe from extremism.”

Trump chose to divide the country. He disdained one of the key roles a president can take on, that of national reconciler. No “fireside” chats to ease the concerns of a people scared about their health and worried about their elderly family members in nursing homes. No leveling with the American public. Just a belligerent attitude blaming China and pushing responsibility onto the states for what clearly should have been a national response. Instead of setting an example by wearing a mask in public Trump disparaged the practice. He took the posture of a snake oil salesman hyping unproven and possibly dangerous remedies. He talked over critical medical advice proffered by professionals.

For unveiling Trump’s culpability months after he had uncovered it and just days before his new book comes out, Woodward has had to answer questions about his ethics. Yes, the messenger might well deserve to be “shot,” but the debate over Woodward’s professionalism is a distraction from the real revelations that affect us all.

Our president lied to us. More people, many more people, died unnecessarily. We are months behind other countries in recovering from the pandemic. All because one man, one man!, didn’t want his leadership to be tainted by exposure to the virus. 

What did the president know? He knew COVID-19 was horrifically deadly. 

When did he know it? As early as last February. 

What did he do about it? Not enough. 

According to Worldometer, as of Thursday, September 10, COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of 196,090 in the United States. Cases topped 6,583,575.