Saturday, July 30, 2016

A hu-u-u-ge night for Hillary and for all women

What a finish for the Democratic National Convention, for women, and for Hillary Clinton ! ! !   Well, actually, for our nation.

The expertly planned and executed program covered a lot of themes -- in addition to the overall slogan:   "Stronger Together."   Honoring our service men and women and first responders was tied in with a heavy dose of presenting Hillary Clinton as a capable and strong commander-in-chief -- but also the softer, nurturing side of her caring and lifetime commitment to helping others.  Daughter Chelsea painted that picture very lovingly.

We also got a good dose of "who we are as Americans," upholding our democratic ideals, our fairness and inclusiveness.   We even got a strong dose of national security from the powerful speakers endorsing Clinton as commander-in-chief.   These included former CIA Director/Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, plus an admiral and a four-star general who declared her ready and trustworthy for the job of keeping us safe at home and strong in a dangerous world.

Clinton even addressed her deficit as a speech-giver -- and then proceeded to give perhaps her best performance yet.   Some of her other speeches -- a recent one on race, for example, have been great in content.    But for this speech, she has almost mastered control of her voice.   You could see it happening:   her pitch would start to rise and take on a harsh tone -- and then she would modulate to a lower tone and more conversational pitch.   She's got the idea exactly right . . . just needs some more practice.

But, I quibble in the face of such an historic moment.   I'd say she more than met my expectations and came close to meeting my fondest hopes.    She very wisely recognized and thanked Bernie Sanders for what he has contributed to make the party and its platform more responsive.   In truth, both the party platform and Clinton herself are presenting the most progressive policy ideas we have ever adopted, and that is directly the result of what Bernie Sanders and his enthusiastic supporters have brought to the process.

Beyond Clinton herself, there were two standout speakers for me.    First came the Rev. William Barber II, who is a gratudate of Duke University School of Theology, president of the North Carolina NAACP, and leader of their Moral Mondays rallies in the state capital to protest the policies of the current state Republican political establishment.    In stentorian tones reminiscent of the late, great Barbara Jordan, Barber's moral authority boomed down upon the crowd like Martin Luther King, Jr. himself.   He is the current epitome of liberal religious patriotism, and he set out to "shock and resuscitate the heart of the nation," analogizing the medical procedure seen in TV emergency room dramas. 
"We are being called like our forefathers and foremothers to be the moral defibrillators of our time. . . . 

"Jesus, a brown-skin Palestinian Jew, called us to preach good news to the poor, the broken and the bruised and all those who are made to feel unaccepted. . . .   

"Some issues are not left or right or liberal versus conservative.   They are right versus wrong. . . .  We need to embrace our deepest moral values for revival at the heart of our democracy. . . .   

"When we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child. the Muslim and the Christian and the Hindu and the Buddhist and those who have no faith but they love this nation, we are reviving the heart of our democracy." 
Other than Clinton herself, of course, the Rev. Barber would have been the big news of the night.   But he has rarely been mentioned because of another speaker who came later in the program.   Both had a moral message of great power and eloquence, but the second speaker touched the audience with such emotional impact because of such a personal loss -- which became a loss for us all.

Khizr Khan was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the U.S. 36 years ago with nothing and eventually studied law at Harvard.   He was the father of a Muslim U.S. Army war hero, Capt. Humayum Khan, 27, who died in Iraq trying to protect his fellow solders from a suicide bomber.  With his wife Ghazala standing at his side, the elder Khan gave a devastating, shaming rebuke to Donald Trump and his anti-Muslim rhetoric and plans.
"Like many immigrants, we came to this country empty-handed.  We believed in  American democracy -- that with hard work and the goodness of this country, we could share in and contribute to its blessings. . . . [We are] patriotic American Muslims with undivided loyalty to our country."

"Our son had dreams of being a military lawyer.  But he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.   Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son 'the best of America.'   If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.

"Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims;  he disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership.  He loves to build walls and ban us from this country.

"Donald Trump, you're asking Americans to trust you with their future.  Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?   I will gladly lend you my copy.  [He pulled out of his pocket a copy and held it up.]  In this document look for the words liberty and equal protection of law.

"Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetary?   Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America.   You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.  You have sacrificed nothing -- and no one.

"We cannot solve our problems by building walls, sowing divisionWe are stronger together.   And we will keep getting stronger when Hillary Clinton becomes our president.   In conclusion, I ask every patriotic American, all Muslim immigrants, and all immigrants to not take this election lightly.  This is a historic election and I request you to honor the sacrifice of my son and on election day take the time to get out and vote."
And thus, by the words and the moral authority of these two speakers, Donald Trump was reduced in stature to the smallness that he is, no matter how tall his buildings.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Comments about Clinton's speech to come later

I will be out of town watching, with my 85 year old sister and long-time Clinton enthusiast, the final night of Hillary Clinton's convention and her acceptance of the nomination to be the first woman president of the United States.

So my comments about the final night of the convention will be a bit delayed, since I don't have access to my computer in Sandersville, GA.


"Loose lips sink ships" -- Trump and the Russians

I'm old enough to remember World War II in the 1940s.   Movies about the war, patriotic posters everywhere, learning to identify the various US Air Force planes that flew overhead with the idea to be on the lookout for an unidentified German plane.   We saved our nickles and quarters to buy $25 war bonds.

One of the slogans that was a prominent reminder from war flims about spies and what today we would call counterintelligence was:  "Loose lips sink ships."    The meaning was obvious to us:   Be careful what you say because the spies are always listening and you might say something that gives away  information about where the Nazi U-boats might torpedo our ships.

Of course, we ordinary people didn't have that kind of information.  But part of patriotism at the time was feeling that we were all in it together;  nobody wanted to do anything to harm our fellow Americans.  That slogan suddenly surfaced in my mind Wednesday on hearing about Donald Trump's loose talk, actually encouraging the Russians to hack into private email accounts in the U.S. to find, and share with us, the 33,000 emails they claim that Hillary Clinton deleted from her private server.

You might say that was just loose talk.   Yeah, right.   It seems even more serious, however, when you put it in the context of these known facts:

1.  Donald Trump has expressed admiration for the kind of leadership that Vladimir Putin exerts in Russia.  And Trump likes to boast that Putin likes him and has complimented him.  Trump said, if elected president, he "will look into" having the U.S. recognize Putin's illegal annexation of Crimea.

2.  Trump has made negative comments about NATO -- our most important mutual defense alliance -- and about Europe, pitting it as a competitor rather than a vital trading partner and diplomatic and military ally.    There is no question that Putin would like nothing better than to undermine NATO and to weaken our ties with Europe so that he can increase his sphere of control over Eastern Europe and the Balkans.   At the least, Trump is unwittingly playing into Putin's hands.

3.  Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, has spent much of the past decade on the payroll of the deposed president of Ukraine, who is living in exile under Putin's protection and has close connection with Russian oligarchs who are close to Putin.   In addition, I can't confirm this, but I read a credible source that said Manafort is working for Trump without pay.   Why would he do that, unless he expects to get something in return? . . . perhaps from the Russians?

4.  Reports document Trump's own financial ties to Russian oligarchs.   He claims that he has no investments in Russia.   The important issue is how much these Russians have invested in Trump enterprises?   The question is:   is he in debt to them?    Have they been lenders for his projects?   We know that U.S. banks will no longer lend to the Trump Corporation, because he is a known poor credit risk;  so he has to turn to foreign lenders.

5.   Trump refuses to release his tax returns, which might reveal his financial involvement with Russians, especially any indebtedness to them.    That would be an unacceptable position for a U.S. president -- to be subject to financial ruin by a foreign adversary, who he is now cozying up to.

Wake up, people.   This man could be dangerous, on so many counts, as our commander-in-chief.   Yes, I am questioning Trump's patriotism, because he always thinks first of his own interests before U.S. interests.   I am questioning the security risk of him being briefed on sensitive intelligence -- which he will start receiving this Friday, as all candidates for the presidency do once the conventions are completed.   Even if he didn't intend to, his "loose lips" could spill sensitive intelligence to our enemies.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Dem Convention: Day 3. OBAMA !!!

Despite Day 1's drama with protests from a small percent of Sanders' supporters, the wonderful speeches that night saved the day.   Day 2 was another triumph, with Bill Clinton's wonderfully humanizing portrait of his wife, along with her obvious governing skills and caring heart.

As Day 3 started, Donald Trump managed, as he usually does, to make headlines by saying something outrageous, this time leading to near-universal condemnation of his remarks that bordered on treason, in that he was seemingly encouraging a foreign adversary, Russia, to breach cybersecurity in our country.   Even his vice president nominee issue a distancing statement.

But now I have just finished listening to three plus hours of speeches -- especially those by Joe Biden, Tim Kaine, and then Barack Obama.   It was a night to remember, one for the ages.

I am at a loss to describe this evening.   Some predicted that Michelle Obama's speech on Monday night would not be surpassed as the best one of the week.   It takes nothing away from it to say that she was not alone on that pinnacle of moving eloquence.   Joe Biden roused the crowd with a powerful speech reminding us of who we are as Americans.   Tim Kaine needed to tell us who our new vice president is, since he is not well known.  I'll just say that a new political star gained national attention tonight.   He was everything he needed to be -- and so much more.   Hillary Clinton's first job as president was to choose a vice president.   She chose the right one.

But then Barack Obama !!!!!     It was his valedictory;   but he thanked US and celebrated what We have accomplished together.   And made the case for, and passed the baton to, Hillary Clinton.

He said:  "This election is about who we are as a people."   In the words of Republican political strategist Steve Schmidt, Obama's speech was "one the most extraordinary political speeches ever given anywhere by anybodyIt was a master class in American character, in American optimism."    Lawrence O'Donnell said, "The four best political speeches I have ever heard were all given here at Democratic conventions;  and they were all given by Barack Obama," starting with his keynote address in 2004, then as presidential candidate in 2008, as president in 2012, and for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I am full to overflowing with pride to be an American, because that's what speaker after speaker has emphasized:   our American, inclusive moral values, our American character, and our American spirit.   And I am proud to be a Democrat, as we see this week the vast gulf that separates us from the doom, gloom, fear, and hatred we heard last week from the Republicans and from their chosen candidate.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Donald's utter ignorance

Big issues looming about Donald Trump's connections with Putin and debt to Russian oligarchs (they've financed a lot of his projects, because US banks won't lend to him any more) -- but more about that later.

He made news this morning by a display of his utter igrnoance.  Here's what he said about Hillary's VP choice:
“Her running mate, Tim Kaine, who by the way did a terrible job in New Jersey ― first act he did in New Jersey was ask for a $4 billion tax increase and he was not very popular in New Jersey and he still isn’t.”
Oopsie !!!   Tim Kaine was governor of Virginia, never New Jersey.   That was Tom Kean, a Republican, who was governor of NJ from 1982 to 1990.     Just another example of how facts don't have much of a place in Donald Trump's rhetoric.


Idealism vs pragmatism -- the walkout

According to reports, several hundred of Sanders' "Bernie or Bust" supporters walked out of the convention in protest when Hillary Clinton formally became the Democratic nominee for president.  Watching the CNN broadcast, this was not apparent, nor was it picked up by the camera mics.   So it clearly did not disrupt the joyous proceedings on that historic occasion.

Just wanted to report this to correct my earlier statement that having their voices heard by recording the vote for Sanders had assuaged the anger among those supporters.   It apparently was not enough;   nor was the forced exit of DNC chair Debbi Wasserman-Schultz;  nor was Sanders getting 90% of what he wanted in the platform -- all of that was not enough for some.  It seems nothing less than the nomination of Sanders as the Democratic candidate for president  would have been enough.

I'm sorry to lose those votes.   But they made their choice, and they left.   I'm with the woman from Oklahomo interviewed on MSNBC who voted for Ralph Nader in the Bush-Gore election -- and has regretted it ever since.    Idealism is a great aspirationbut making a practical choice is better than losing the presidency -- and enduring eight years of George W. Bush or Donald J. Trump.


Diversity in the Democratic convention

Clinton supporter, actress Eva Longoria, gave a short speech on Monday night, schooling Donald Trump on his attitude toward Mexicans.  This Latina woman from Texas spoke about being an 11th generation American.   "I’m from a small town in South Texas and if you know your history, Texas used to be part of Mexico.  Now, I’m ninth generation American. My family never crossed a border, the border crossed us.”  In other words, her family lived in what is now Texas when it was still part of Mexico.   Doesn't that put a little different perspective to all the protectionism and isolationism and denigrating of our neighbors in Mexico?

Longoria then introduced Sen. Corey Booker, pointing out the Democratic diversity:   a Latina woman from Texas introducing the first black senator from New Jersey, to speak on behalf of the first woman for president.    We could add: "who will be replacing the first black president."  And the person who introduced Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday night was the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).    Such a difference from the sea of white faces we saw at last week's Republican convention.


Dem Convention Day 2: Presenting the real Hillary

Bernie Sanders and the convention planners made the wise choice to let small percentage of Sanders voters, who weren't ready to shift their support to Clinton, have their voices heard.   Sanders did some behind the scenes work, but the important thing was having the roll call vote.   This allowed each state to place their actual votes in the record -- so many votes for Bernie Sanders, so many votes for Hillary Clinton.

The Vermont delegation passed, letting the few remaining alphabetical states record their votes.   Then it came back to Vermont.   After their votes were recorded, then Sanders took the mic and asked that the votes be entered into the record.  And then he moved that Hillary Clinton be nominated by acclamation.   And they did, loudly and spiritedly.

In describing what the evening was like after that, Nicole Wallace, Republican campaign manager from the John McCain campaign and now MSNBC commentator, responded to Rachel Maddow's question:  "Is the mood in the hall completely transformed from what we saw last nightAbsolutely."   The hall felt united, and it didn't feel like suppression of dissent as much as final acceptance.

The evening speeches were many and varied, but they were all personal accounts of people whose lives had been touched and changed for the better by Hillary Clinton.   This ranged from kids who had benefited from her work for family, educational, health care and disabilities programs -- to a group of mothers of young black people who have died from encounters with police officers or in jail.  We began to see a side of Hillary Clinton that is not known if you only watch TV news or listen to Republican politicians.    I learned many things that I didn't know she had done, even though I follow politics and the Clintons pretty closely.

And then Bill Clinton gave an even more fulsome picture of Hillary and her dedication to helping make people's lives better -- from rural America to taking on the sexual trafficking of women and girls around the world.    He also painted the picture of his and Hillary's early life in a very personal way -- their first house in Arkansas that was "1100 square feet, with an attic fan and no air conditioning -- to show that they had humble beginnings too."

We saw the warm, human, caring side.   Not just the work she did to start programs to help people with disabilities, but the personal account by a young man she met while working on this, who she has kept up with for 15 years and how she remembers to ask about some detail of his life from when she talked with him years before.

Bill summed up with the major question:   Which is the real Hillary?   What we've been hearing today and what I've told you?   Or the "cartoon" Hillary painted by her opponents last week?   You the audience have the choice.   And by your vote to nominate her, you have chosen the real Hillary.   And you have made the right choice.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Day 1. Major speakers: Michelle stole the show; but Bernie owned the night

If he had been the only major speaker of the evening, Sen. Corey Booker's rousing delivery would be remembered, like Barack Obama was after his home-run speech at the 2004 convention, as the arrival of a new political talent on the national stage.   He will be remembered, but he was followed by the First Lady Michelle Obama, then Elizabeth Warren, and finally by Bernie Sanders.   So he was not the star of the night;  but, with his soaring rhetoric and his intellect, combined with the firey delivery of the gospel preacher, Booker has a bright future in Democratic politics.

But Michelle Obama . . . was perfection.   Her theme:   our children, how she and Barack have parented their two girls growing up in the unusual situation of the White House;  and what we need to do to ensure the future for all of our children  For me, her two most effective lines were an optimistic message about how far we have come and where we need to go.  She spoke, as the wife of the first black president, how she "wakes up every morning in a house that was built by slaves."   The other:  "Who do you want in the White House as a role model for our children?"    She had the crowd in the palm of her hand, on their feet.   By any metric, she was the high point of the convention so far.   She could have a bright future in Democratic politics, if she wants it.

Elizabeth Warren came next;   and, great as we knew she would be, we've been seeing her in that role for some time now, so there was no surprise.   She was good, as we expected she would be.   Nothing more -- but that's a lot.

Bernie Sanders then closed out the evening.   This was the day to emphasize the progressive wing of the party and to honor what Sanders has achieved in this campaign, which seemed so improbable at the beginning.   He reminded his delegates that they will have an opportunity on Tuesday to cast their votes in a roll call vote;   they will be heard.  He ticked off issue after issue (increase the minimum wage, break up the too-big banks, guarantee debt-free college education, universal health care, immigration reform and criminal justice reform, and others) and turned to say what his campaign and the Clinton campaign have worked out together to make the party platform the most progressive one in its history.

Sanders spoke directly to supporters about their disappointment, saying "I'm probably the most disappointed of all."  But he said the best way forward is to elect Hillary Clinton president in November.    But make no mistake.   The revolution his campaign started is bigger than one candidate or one election;  it will go on.

Day 1 of the Democratic Convention got off to a rocky start -- with the necessary, forced departure of the party chairwoman, Debbi Wasserman-Schultz who, by the end of the day had given up her fight to hold on and returned to her home in Florida.   And there were Sanders' protesters who made some noise from time to time;   but they never disrupted the proceedings.   And, honestly, even my own favorite news people at MSNBC over-reacted to it.    They selectively picked people to talk to on the floor who were unconverted Sanders' supporters, because that's where the news was.   But the overwhelming majority of the crowd were "With Her."

Comparing this to last week:   the Dem's Day 1 was far more united than the Repubs were on Night 4 after the chosen one spoke.   We have a lot to look forward to in the next three days:  Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, and then Hillary Clinton herself as the first woman to be the presidential nominee of a major political party in U.S. history.


Dem Convention: Day 1

Is this really only the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia?   If feels like it's already been going on for days.    The reports of the Rules Committee and of the Platform Committee were accepted by acclimation during the afternoon session.

In all fairness, Bernie Sanders got 90% of what he wanted in the platform, according to one insider, as well as a commitment to reduce the number of pledged superdelegates in future elections.  But the revelations from the DNC email leak ignited the smoldering anger of die-hard Bernie supporters, and they spent a good bit of the day loudly booing speakers who mentioned "unity" or "Hillary Clinton."    They even booed during Nancy Pelosi's speech.

But as the day worse on, and perhaps partly due to Bernie Sanders' personal plea that they not disrupt the convention with protests, partly with knowledge that Wasserman-Schultz had given up her fight and left to go home to Florida -- the mood began to calm down.  Throughout the evening, there were a few verbal protests shouted out and lots of Bernie sign-waving -- but overall the convention was not disrupted further.

There were a few more short speeches by politicians, then a young woman with cerebral palsy, talking about how Hillary Clinton cares about someone like her.  The audience was moved and gave her a standing ovation.  Then former comedian, now Senator Al Franken, lightened the mood -- leading to the most effective speaker thus far:   comedienne Sarah Silverman, who has been an ardent Sanders supporter.   She talked about how Bernie had inspired her with his message and the movement he had galvanized.    But, she said, "Now I am With Her. . . .  I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, with gusto."    There was cheering from the audience, but apparently some Sanders' supporters still waving their signs and giving a thumbs down sign.

Sarah leaned back into the microphone, in an unscripted moment, and said:   "I just want to say to the Bernie-or-Bust people:   You're being ridiculous."   And the crowd went wild.    Al Franken came back to the podium -- they had been asked to ad lib a bit longer because the next moment was not quite ready.   So they began a riff on how the two of them, Franken (a Clinton supporter) and Silverman (a Bernie supporter) were a .  . . bridge.

And then Paul Simon . . . yes, the 74 year old Paul Simon who has just released another hit album . . . came out and sang the old hit "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."    It was a magical moment.   The dynamic in the room had changedWhat had seemed to be shaping up as a fraught Day 1, with plenty of ammunition for the opposition, suddenly seemed like a . . . well, a bridge over troubled waters.

And that was even before the heavy hitters, Corey Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders spoke.    As I love saying leave it to the comedians.   They always get it right.