Sunday, February 18, 2024

20 Questions for Biden and Trump

Like it or not it appears increasingly likely our top choices for president of the United States will be phlegmatic old men, both bent on burnishing their respective image as the only person who can save our republic. 

With that in mind, here are 20 questions each candidate—Joe Biden and Donald Trump—should be required to answer, without equivocation or bluster, either during a televised debate or during a vetting by the combined editorial boards of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the answers to be published by both newspapers:

What is America’s greatest international challenge?

What is America’s greatest domestic challenge?

What is America’s global role, if any?

Are there any treaties or global organizations you would pull back from or any you would like to enter or foster?

Which foreign leaders, past and present, do you admire and why?

Which of our presidents do you admire and why?

What if any censorship should public libraries have on the books and periodicals they house?

What role should the federal government have over the distribution of water among the states?

Should we change any policy in regard to federal lands, parks, monuments?

Should there be any limitations on development along coastlines threatened by flooding?

What do you believe are the root causes for illegal migration to America and how would you correct those issues?

What obligations, if any does the United States have toward Taiwan?

Are there any federal departments you would eliminate or sharply curtail their functions, institutions such as the FDA, CDC, OSHA, FBI, FTC, IRS?

Are there any new departments or services you would initiate?

Do you support the principle of separation of church and state?

What concerns do you have about the environment in America and the world and, if any, what are the best ways to mitigate them?

What is your assessment of race relations in America, and if needed, how would you improve it?

Do you support the Affordable Care Act? If not, how specifically would you guarantee health care?

Explain in detail your position on reproductive rights, the role of government, judges, doctors in determining a woman’s options during pregnancy? 

Should the Constitution be amended to require mandatory retirement at 75 of all elected federal politicians, appointed federal judges and federal/military positions requiring Senate confirmation?

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Solicitations Abound in My Bundled Mail

When did Gilda and I become Holy Rollers? Must have been during the last three weeks, based on the accumulated mail I picked up Friday after our three week stay in Tucson.

Among the letters, magazines and travel brochures were six solicitations from organizations and people we never before had correspondence with. 

The first one I saw shocked me from my complacency. A red panel on the exterior envelope carried the following question: “Have you and I fought hard enough to defend God’s role in America?” 

It came with a return address of “In God We Trust, 1701 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C. 20006.” For those not familiar with our nation’s capital, that’s just a few blocks west of the White House. 

I couldn’t resist peering inside the envelope. A letter from Michael Chartrand, founder of In God We Trust, complained that “donations … are way down from last year. As a result, I have incurred a significant amount of debt.”

He was downright sensible in his ask—just “$25, $35, $50, or even $100 would be a big help.” 

Two pages later came the anguished plea: “Without your support, In God We Trust won’t be able to get out of debt, and I won’t be able to carry on this important work,” which, I should explain, Chartrand said he has been “working very hard to stop the atheists and God-haters campaign to remove religion from American life.” 

Getting back to that office address, turns out Suite 200 at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue is a virtual office location run by DaVinci Virtual, landlord to many seeking Washington cache for their exploits. 

Michael Chartrand was unknown to Gilda and me. Not so Mike Huckabee and Mike Pence. (As an aside, what’s with all these Mike/Michaels? Does the Bible-thumping network believe that name is saintly when it comes to pulling in dollars from the devout and gullible?)

Huckabee addressed Gilda as “my fellow American of faith.” He’s seeking money and affirmation that she stands with Israel and is full-throated in support of Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. 

Mike Pence had no comment on Israel. He focused on abortion, specifically his condemnation of “chemical abortions,” the use of two mail-order pills that can terminate a pregnancy. It is an issue before the Supreme Court this year. He asked for money to fund his organization.

Kathy Branzell, president of National Day of Prayer Task Force, wants Gilda to “commit to spend 5 minutes in prayer each day throughout the rest of 2024” so that God will begin “to change and heal the hearts of our leaders.” And, oh, by the way, after pledging to pray, “please send along a one-time gift of $100.”

This National Day of Prayer crusade is really pushing the envelope. Not one, but two letters came from Pat Boone. Yes, the Pat Boone of bobby-soxer 1950s music fame. Still flashing his bright white smile, Pat wanted Gilda to know May 2 is the day “tens of millions of believers” will gather again. With Gilda’s financial support, of course. 

Now, Gilda and I contribute thousands of dollars each year to worthwhile causes that support a woman’s right to choose, feed the hungry and homeless, expand cultural institutions, to name a few. Did any of those organizations sell their mailing lists to her new-found pen pals? 

You can unsubscribe from an email list, but how do you stop old fashioned solicitations by mail? 

Do you think prayer is the answer? 

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Ask Me If I Care Biden Misspoke

Ask me if I care that during a tempestuous news conference Thursday Joe Biden had a mental lapse when he wrongly identified the president of Egypt as the head of Mexico. Has it given me pause in my support of his reelection?

Go ahead, ask me! 

Not really. Anyone, no matter their age or intellect, may make a mistake in the heat of an argument, in the glare of TV cameras. Recall that President Gerald Ford is thought by some to have lost his 1976 election bid when he mistakenly said during a televised debate that Poland, then part of the Soviet bloc, was a free country. 

I’m willing to give Biden a pass given his understandable outrage at the unprofessional characterization made by special counsel Robert Hur that Biden was a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Hur was chosen to investigate whether Biden had broken any laws by keeping secret government documents long after he left office as vice president in 2017. He was picked to do the investigation by Biden’s attorney general, but he was appointed a federal attorney by Donald Trump. Hur might have failed to find grounds to charge Biden with any crime, but he wielded a partisan skewer for Trump by repeatedly harping on Biden’s alleged physical and mental vulnerabilities, clearly political, not legal, or even medically qualified, assessments. 

Biden might have conflated Egypt with Mexico because both countries have had border closing issues, Mexico with our migrant crisis and Egypt with the ongoing war in Gaza. 

Who among us has not misspoken? Surely almost every politician, from Trump to Nikki Haley, has had a speech slippage. My bottom line is that I can accept a minor bit of forgetfulness by a president, but I cannot accept a candidate’s rejection of America’s role as a superpower to protect and even expand democracy at home and abroad. Donald Trump is a grifter, an autocrat-in-waiting, bent on seeking revenge against any and all he perceives have offended him. 

Do I wish Biden was sprier? Walked less stiffly? Not talk so corny? Sure. But compared to Trump he is competent, caring, compassionate, collegial, considerate. And, …

Unlike Trump, Biden will not hand any part of Ukraine to Vladimir Putin. Unlike Trump, Biden will not denigrate NATO. Unlike Trump, Biden will not pardon insurrectionists imprisoned for their actions January 6, 2021. Unlike Trump, Biden has embarked on a modernizing infrastructure program. Unlike Trump, Biden has rejected ultra right extremists. Unlike Trump, Biden seeks to work with allies. Unlike Trump, Biden favors affordable health care for all. Unlike Trump, Biden believes reproductive decisions should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and medical team, not by politicians or judges. Unlike Trump, Biden believes in the positive power of labor unions to build a stronger middle class. 

So, no, given the choice between a blowhard and a real president, I choose Joe Biden. He’s not perfect, but he’s beyond doubt the better choice.  

Monday, February 5, 2024

Moments in Time for Vergara, Biden, King Charles

Sofia Vergara is having a Sophia-Loren-“Two Women” moment. Her tour-de-force portrayal of Miami cocaine drug godmother Griselda Blanco in Netflix’s “Griselda” mini series is sure to amass for her streams of accolades and nominations, if not awards, for her dynamic, intense, captivating, and, to be honest, unexpected, performance. 

Just as “Two Women” propelled Loren beyond buxom women roles, “Griselda” highlights Vergara’s acting chops beyond the sexy, comic housewife caricature she portrayed for 11 seasons on ABC’s “Modern Family” sitcom.

Loren won a best actress Academy Award for “Two Women.” It’s too early to say which awards Vergara might take home (“Griselda” is not a film so an Oscar is not possible), though her bravura acting might open up for her roles she previously would not have been considered for.

Her age might work against her ascendancy to more meaty engagements. Loren was 25 when “Two Women” debuted in 1960. Vargara is 51. Though other actresses her age and older, such as “Nyad’s” Jodie Foster (61) and Annette Bening (65), and “May December’s” Julianne Moore (63) have secured prime roles this past year, they have enjoyed decades as leading ladies. 

“Griselda” is an intense, six-part series, more compact but just as deadly as the multi-year “Gomorrah,” an Italian series centered on the drug trade in Naples. “Gomorrah” was fictitious. “Griselda” is based on a real-life character who transformed the Miami drug experience. 

As long as we’re on the subject of a “moment” that can change perception of an individual, President Biden is having a “Barbary Coast Pirate” moment. 

Just as President Thomas Jefferson in 1804 sent the navy and marines to “the shores of Tripoli” to deal with Muslim pirates interfering with commercial seafare in the Mediterranean, Biden has unleashed our military to thwart southern Yemen Houthi rebels/pirates from attacking shipping in the Red Sea. 

Stifling piracy from nearby Somalia in the early 21st century required international cooperation from America, Russia, China, India and other nations. Biden similarly has enlisted allies, but the Houthis pose a more dangerous foe as they are not so much interested in booty but rather in disrupting, even destroying, shipping as a means of forcing Israel to stop its war in Gaza. The Houthis mostly operate from their territory adjacent to a critical passage way leading into and out of the Red Sea. 

The mobility of modern missile warfare complicates Biden’s moment. It is difficult to imagine permanently stopping the Houthis, just as Israel is finding it nearly impossible to end rockets from the Gaza Strip being launched from areas supposedly secured by its military. 

Having waited so long to ascend the throne, King Charles III is in a moment hardly anyone is ever prepared to face. Cancer has invaded his body. 

Though the palace has declined to specify the type of cancer, it almost certainly is one that emerges suddenly without prior warning, such as pancreatic, bladder or liver cancer. 

No matter what one feels about Charles from his relationship with Diana, a degree of sympathy for his predicament is in order. He has always been an outspoken conservationist and more public than his mother, Queen Elizabeth, on matters of state. To be king for less than two years is disheartening. 

One also has to feel sorry for William, the heir apparent Prince of Wales, who already was contending with an undisclosed medical matter that hospitalized his wife for two weeks. 

It is during times like these that health issues reinforce the shared humanity of the royals, their subjects and their followers around the world.