Category Archives: Politics

Requiem for a president

I will be turning 67 in a couple of months and appreciate the perspective that experience brings to a person’s life. Thirteen presidents have lived in the White House during my life so far – that’s over 25% of all presidents who have been elected since George Washington. I lived through the Kennedy assassination, Reagan shot and wounded, and Ford shot at (twice). I watched Nixon resign in disgrace and Clinton impeached – both because they obstructed justice during scandals that enveloped their presidencies.¬†But I’ve never seen anything like Donald Trump – the 45th president of the United States. How and when will this presidency end? Soon, and not very well.

With Republicans in control of all branches of government the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers enshrined in our constitution are stretched to the breaking point. We have been counting on the “Freedom of the Press” to hold those in power accountable for their actions. Not since Watergate, and the reporting by Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post, has the press been so essential to the survival of our democracy while politicians try to cover up their mistakes and misdeeds. Legacy media has found its voice once again and investigative reporters are tirelessly working their sources, following leads, and breaking new stories about the Trump administration at a furious pace. The steady drip of new disclosures is now becoming a torrent of breaking news and the sandcastle is starting to crumble. With the appointment of Robert Mueller as a Special Prosecutor the investigation just became even more ominous for the Trump White House. While Trump has only been president for four months, we are already witnessing a tragically unique moment in our nation’s history.

Trump was elected to the highest office in the land by 3 million fewer votes than his opponent. He won the electoral college by a mere 77,000 votes in the 3 states that tipped to Trump in the waning days of the election – after unprecedented announcements by the FBI, and Russian interference with social media stories and leaks about his opponent with the intent of influencing the vote in Trump’s favor. Communication between the Trump campaign staff and Russian officials now suggests possible collusion that is currently being investigated.

My money is on Trump finding a way to resign and claim victory. He will claim he WON by disrupting the “rigged system” and setting the stage for the incoming Pence presidency. His base will see him as a hero and he will fly off the White House lawn in Marine One – all smiles and waves – to start the new conservative Trump TV network to promote his version of the Trump Legacy. He cannot tolerate being seen as a LOSER so I don’t think he will stick around for an impeachment in the House of Representatives much less the removal from office when the Senate convicts him of high crimes and misdemeanors. He will protect his brand and massage his bruised ego.

The Trump presidency will be studied for years to come – how his wealth allowed him to self-fund his way through the primary winnowing process against other candidates who had to grovel and appease the donor class to stay in the race for the nomination. How his simple messaging appealed to, and captured, the support of the disenfranchised older, angry, white population in flyover country – the consumers of Fox News – those who prefer red hats, rallies, and slogans over policies, facts, and details. They still will – which is why an eventual Pence presidency, that tries to color inside the lines of the legislative process, will ultimately be a letdown for frustrated Trump supporters that were energized by bombastic threats and pompous promises. They preferred the CEO that promised to break the rules, drain the swamp, and Make America Great Again. Instead, they got a thin-skinned reality TV star that liked firing people on The Apprentice, but ran into trouble when firing experienced people of stature and reputation in his administration who dared to get in his way by holding dear to their principals and integrity.

Trump’s likeness will never replace Abe on the five dollar bill, or be sculpted next to the greats on Mt. Rushmore. He won’t have the shortest presidency – that will probably always belong to William Henry Harrison after giving the longest inaugural address, catching pneumonia, and dying 32 days later – but I believe it will be short. And his record of accomplishments even shorter. The disastrous Trump presidency will always be remembered for the asterisk after his name and there will be many footnotes in history for this unlikely president and the voters that elected him.


Oh Shit!

It has been an exceptionally mild winter up here in Minnesota. I like motorcycles and boats, not snowmobiles. I like my daily walks at Staring Lake (rather than being forced to walk inside at the local mall when the paths get icy or the temperature plummets). The cross-country skiers are bitching this year. So are the pond hockey enthusiasts. Ice houses were pulled off the lakes early due to thin ice and more than a few vehicles breaking through. Snowmobilers grimace at the extended forecast while their covered sleds sit on trailers in their driveways – weekend plans ruined by trails with more mud and rocks than snow. Resort owners have empty rooms and daily cancellations, bars are quiet, restaurants have immediate seating, and ski areas can’t make enough snow to offset Mother Nature’s winter joke. Yes, this may be another truncated winter for those of us who prefer open roads and calm bays on the lake, but the other half of Minnesotans are a dour bunch these days.

The Masters Golf Tournament is only a month away – a sure sign of spring. Sometimes we have a foot of snow on the ground as we watch with envy the golfers playing on one of the most spectacular courses in the world. Other years the snow has melted, the windows are open, and spring is in the air. Augusta National’s emerald green grass, the brilliant white sand in the dreaded traps, and the beautiful pink Azaleas remind us that spring is just around the corner. But we still have to get through April and any Minnesotan knows that a spring blizzard can bury the colorful crocus flowers in a foot of snow. Oh shit.img_4576

Speaking of shit, even though the winter up here has been mild, my dog, Hershey, seems to be eating quite well and in constant need to go out. We’re not sure if her age has anything to do with her frequent tap dance in the foyer, or the fact that she has trained us in the fashion of Pavlov’s Dog to the stimulus/response paradigm, but I actually log a daily exercise in “MyFitnessPal” on my iPhone for climbing in and out of my leather recliner to repeatedly put her out – and she is definitely salivating, her pink tongue licking her chimg_4572ops, as she runs back to the house expecting a fullsizerender-2cookie. While standing in the doorway to keep an eye on her as she does her business, I am well aware that our front yard has become a minefield to anyone crazy enough to venture off the relative safety of the sidewalk and driveway. I cringe when neighbors take a shortcut through the yard to our front door for a visit – thank God they are also dog owners. However I’m fairly certain they look at the chore of picking up poop as part of owning a dog, whereas I’m not so inclined (preferring to wait for a new blanket of snow to freshen the landscape, or a good spring downpour to beat the recycled cookies and gourmet dog food into fertilizer for our spring lawn). It seems crazy to pick up dog poop and then run out to buy fertilizer (manure) to put on the yard. Hershey and I just streamline the process.

The reason I wrote about shit today is because I was struck by the similarity of standing in my doorway, coffee in hand, keeping an eye on Hershey while she adds to the countless piles in my front yard and watching the president of the Uniteimg_4575d States spew more shit on the morning news. This is a remarkable time we live in – our winters in Minnesota are so mild that it’s hard to get enough snow to cover up Hershey’s crap in the yard, and we have a president who understands the mind of many who elected him and continually tweets like a tempestuous teenager enough bullshit to keep them riled up while misdirecting the press from other things his administration is doing behind the scenes. Unfortunately for the turd in the White House, the free press in this country is waking up and finding it’s soul again. It will keep chasing leads, reporting leaks, and pulling threads until the whole thing unravels. It will melt the snow that is covering up the shit just below the surface and the stench will be unbearable when it’s exposed.

Spring is coming, Donald. Spring is coming.

You get what you pay for…

“Alternative facts” is how Kellyanne Conway (Senior Counselor to the President) reinvented the “truth” with fairy tales and fiction on national TV, all while speaking non-stop during the entire segment without letting CBS’s Face the Nation moderator, John Dickerson, get a word in edgewise. It was painful to watch. John was trying to drink water out of a fire hose.

Over on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd the same gush of bullshit was unleashed a few minutes later by Kellyanne as she tried to defend the Pinocchio president and his press secretary’s assertions that the Trump inauguration crowds were larger than Obama’s even though photographs and metro ridership ticket tallies clearly showed larger crowds for Obama. However, Chuck Todd did not let Kellyanne’s “alternative facts” comment slip by and called her on it. Finally.

“If you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

This was a successful strategy throughout the campaign and it put Trump in the White House. We’ve all been trying to drink water out of a fire hose while the press has focused on the size of Trump’s hands, or pussy grabbing remarks, or building a “yuge” wall, or deporting millions of illegal immigrants, or banning Muslims – all while not holding the campaign responsible for facts, details, specifics, and evidence. Some have tried, but with 24 hour news cycles, and the fundamental need to turn a profit while competing against thousands of alternative “news” sources, and a dumbed down public that prefers their own brand of junk-food manna rather than real food for thought, we get what we pay for and with our smart phone apps we select the “free” ones. Free – no skin in the game. I get what I want, when I want, delivered with a tap on my home screen. Fox News, Breitbart, MSNBC, or Huffington Post – whatever red or blue media source fits your own point of view –  it’s only a click away. Life is good.

In our house we read. A lot. And we discuss what we read. A lot. And we watch the morning news shows, especially on Sunday mornings with coffee and the paper. We listen to panel discussions and Google to fact check claims and information. It takes work to be informed. But we try.

I recently subscribed to the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Guardian (in addition to our local Star Tribune) in order to get some skin in the game. I want to support legacy media players that haveimg_4505 long track records of thorough and fair reporting, but have been struggling in recent years against alternative channels of entertainment (which is what the news industry has become). I want to help pay for the resources and talent that dig deep into stories and are sincere in wanting to get it right. I want more than sound bitfullsizerenderes – I want to learn.

I love the crinkle when I wrestle with the pages and the pile of read sections that spread across the couch and are spilling onto the floor by my slippers. A good Sunday is when my fingertips are smudged with black ink and my mind is churning with new thoughts and ideas spurred on by the good work of journalists and reporters who strive to bring us
the facts – not the alternative facts – just the facts.

Hope follows heartbreak 

Stunned on November 8th is an understatement. Trump’s election cut me to the core. While I respected Hillary Clinton’s intellect, effort, and experience, I was less than enthusiastic about another Clinton (or Bush) back at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I really liked Bernie, but didn’t see him getting to the nomination, much less elected to the presidency. In hindsight, I have to second guess my own assumptions. The tide was turning and a core constituency was going to vote against the status quo – those people had the excitement that I had felt when Barack Obama ran for president and filled many of us with the hope that swept him into office after 8 years of dubya.

Those on the right moved from one candidate to the next as the field was winnowed down – with Trump surviving due to his own wealth circumventing the need to depend on party funding during the primary race, and surviving due to his familiarity with, and ability to manipulate, the media. His years of building gilded towers and as a TV reality star who reveled in pitting tycoon wannabees against each other, only to fire those who didn’t measure up, created a made-for-TV personality that wrapped the press around his very little fingers. His message was clear and concise – he was going to “Make America Great Again” – which played well with a growing group of people, but left others waiting for specifics.

The Democratic party machine saw to it that Hillary got the nomination as per their script – and I felt that Hillary would win – until the FBI bombshell about more emails a week before the election. My heart sank and I had an ache in my stomach. I follow the news, I read, and pay attention. I knew the election would be decided by about 1% of the vote – a few “purple” individuals would tip one way or the other when they went into the voting booth and marked their ballot. The election would not be decided by the red or blue voters. Even though the late breaking “news” got walked back by the FBI just before the election, the damage had been done. Hillary won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes, but Trump won the 3 necessary electoral states by about 70,000 votes – far less than the 1% I had projected. Still, Donald J. Trump would become the 45th president of the United States. I turned off the TV after Florida was called, knowing the election was decided, and went to bed heartbroken and full of despair.

The next 6 weeks were hard for me. President Obama readied his team for the transition and remained positive with his messages as the number of days left in his presidency dwindled down toward Trump’s inauguration. Trump picked his cabinet appointees and talked about his first hundred days in office. His goal was to immediately undo much of the work that Obama had done during his administration – healthcare, trade deals, immigration, nuclear agreements, and appoint a new supreme court justice.

On January 20th I watched the inauguration – and still feel grateful to witness the peaceful transition of power in our country. However, the colorful pageantry of the moment, the tradition and ceremony, quickly faded as the newly sworn in president Trump started his speech. The gray skies slowly transitioned to a drizzle, umbrellas and ponchos appeared, and the mood darkened along with the sky as our new president gave the worst inaugural address I have ever heard – even George Will agrees. Rather than offer words of conciliation and a constructive vision for working with congress (the people WE elect to represent us) to put the country on a new path, he painted a stark picture of a failed nation, conjured images of carnage and tombstones, blamed everyone in Washington for being self-serving, and promised to make everything right. Trust me. We are going to win again. Believe me. It was short, he used his 5th grade vocabulary, and he played to his base – and only his base. It was a recycled campaign stump speech, worthy of a crowd eating fried chicken and potato salad while listening to candidates out-talk each other during the primary season on a farm in Iowa – it was NOT a presidential address that will echo through history with its inspiring themes and articulate resonance. There was no call to action, just the assurance that Donald J. Trump was here to single-handedly solve every problem that Washington in general, and Barack Obama specifically, had created. Trust me. We are going to WIN again. Believe me. He never smiled. He scowled the whole time. Mr. Potter goes to Washington.

Moments later the entourage left their seats and made their way to the east side of the capitol where Marine One waited to fly now “citizen” Obama and the most amazing First Lady, Michelle, off to Andrews Air Force Base for one last flight on what had been called, on every other flight, Air Force One, but today the familiar 747 would simply be called 28000 because it no longer had the president on board for the trip to Palm Springs. Watching a president leave Washington after a new president takes office has always been emotional for me – regardless of who is leaving and who would be moving into the White House. But watching the Obamas fly over the national mall, past the Washington Monument, and over their home for the last 8 years, left a lump in my throat and dread in my heart.

But that was Friday and this is Saturday. What a difference a day makes.

What started out as a Facebook post by a woman in Hawaii, suggesting shortly after Trump’s election that women should march on Washington, went viral. In a short period of time a Women’s March was organized in Washington for the day after the inauguration. It became a movement as more cities organized marches of their own. Pink pussy hats were knitted by the thousands. Signs and placards were made. Speakers and A-Listers that shunned Trump’s festivities signed on. Plane tickets were purchased, buses were filled, vans carried “sisters” heading to Washington to show their support for women’s rights – standing up to power.

This morning in Minneapolis was wet and gray, but warmer than most Januaries in Minnesota. Veloice and I had talked of marching and we were looking forward to making our way to St. Paul to participate. I hoped the weather wouldn’t dampen the enthusiasm for other participants – a good showing would look good on our local 5 o’clock news. We parked the car at St. Paul College (the gathering point) and could see the newly renovated capitol in the distance. The crowd was rather small but we had arrived early and I was more focused on connecting with my oldest daughter, Megan, who had driven down and parked at the capitol. We stood by a row of porta-potties that were highly visible and waited for Megan. The crowd grew. The signs were creative. The pink pussy hats were everywhere. So were guys – husbands, boy friends, partners, dads, and sons. And kids – learning great lessons from caring, engaged parents. There was laughter. There were smiles. And the crowd grew.

We still had 30 minutes before the march got underway when the organizers started getting us warmed up and ready to go. By now we were shoulder to shoulder in the packed parking lot/staging area – there was no room to move. I looked out toward the capitol in the distance and saw people everywhere! The place was alive with an energy of its own. I stood still, and quiet, as I watched and listened to the people around me. I took it all in and felt a peace come over me that I hadn’t felt since the election. I felt hopeful again. Young and old, women and men, black, white, brown, gay and straight, wheelchairs, kids – everybody was here for the same reason and supporting each other. You could feel the excitement. I felt this once before, when, shortly after Kent State happened in 1970, I flew to Washington DC and participated in the student march on Washington that was protesting against the war in Vietnam. Hundreds of thousands of youth spoke truth to power and the tide turned against our involvement in Southeast Asia. I remember seeing the buses parked bumper to bumper around the White House, I remember seeing armored military vehicles parked in the courtyard of a government building, I remember the smell of tear gas in the air, I remember meeting a guy who was watching the crowds – when I asked where he went to school he answered “Harvard Law – I’m watching history get made.” I remember sitting on a bench at the base of the Washington Monument at night and looking out at the lit up capitol building down the mall and wondering what Thomas Jefferson would think of this moment (I still think he would be smiling). I was there (and later served with the Army Security Agency in Vietnam), I saw how taking part can plant the seeds of change, and those memories raced through my mind as we finally set off toward the capitol.

The Women’s March broke all records for participation in Washington, in cities across the country, and even more cities around the world. We stood with 100,000 people in St. Paul. My daughter, Emily, told us they had 1,000 marchers in their little town of Driggs, Idaho. From coast to coast people came out to say “enough!” History was being made. The feelings of heartbreak and despair were nowhere to be found – hope was everywhere. The election of Trump is not the beginning of a new conservative era, it is the beginning of the end for their overreach and empty promises. They can’t make America great again – it already is, and this White House is about to learn what pissing off a lot of women means to their angry, old, white man’s conservative agenda.

The mid-term election of 2018 has just begun. Fired up! Ready to go! Again.