Saturday, November 19, 2016

It's up to Trump himself to repair the damage he has caused. It's not our job to "normalize" him.

Oh, the wringing of hands among politicians and news media about whether we are "normalizing" Donald Trump.   That is the wrong question, but I'm afraid it's the one that people are focused on.

It should be this:  Will Trump, can he, repair the damage he has caused?   It should be up to him to at least try to reassure all those he has denigrated and threatened.   No one can do that for him.   If he truly wants to be the president for all Americans, as he said in his victory speech, then only he can make that happen.

With the appointments he has made thus far, he hasn't shown that this is his aim.  It's well known that Donald Trump values and rewards loyalty.   So we can say that Sen. Jeff Sessions, Stephen Bannon, Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, and Reince Priebus all helped Trump get elected;  in part, their appointments may be out of loyalty.

But, except for Priebus, they all bring heavy baggage, in addition to ultraconservative ideology.  Sessions has a racist past that led to the Senate rejecting his nomination for a federal judgeship back in the 1980s.   Bannon is the champion purveyor of the Alt-Right, White Supremacy movement through Breitbart News.   Flynn was forced out of his position as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency because of his extreme views on Islam, his advocacy of bringing back waterboarding and killing families of accused terrorists -- both considered international war crimes.   He also has close ties with the Russian state television, giving a paid speech there at their anniversary gala, sitting next to Vladimir Putin.

Sessions is the only one of the four that will require Senate confirmation.  The others are considered part of the president's personal advisory or administration teams.  Sessions may have a hard time but will probably be confirmed.   

Trump has made one other appointment, someone who was not part of his campaign:   Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KA) is nominated to head the CIA.    He also will need Senate confirmation.  From my perspective, his ideology is horrific:   claiming that torture does work and should be reinstated, wanting  to continue the NSA's sweeping domestic surveillance programs.  Aside from ideology, specifically as it affects the intelligence community, he does seem qualified for the job.  He graduated first in his class at West Point and later founded a successful aerospace company.   He was elected to the House with the Tea Party group in 2010, where he has been a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.   

Here's what I'm getting to, talking about the appointments Trump has already made.  So far, he has mostly appointed people who were part of his campaign -- or, in Priebus' case as RNC Chair, helped get him elected once he won the nomination.   The one who was not, Pompeo, is someone who, by resume, seems qualified for the job.   And, as far as we know yet, does not have any baggage other than -- from my perspective -- unacceptable ideology regarding our intelligence policies.  But then so does Trump.

The next big appointment will likely be Secretary of State.  That should tell us a lot.   If he appoints John Bolton -- who wants to scuttle the Iran nuclear agreement and go to war with them -- then Trump is solidifying his position that I find totally unacceptable.    But if he appoints someone, like Mitt Romney or Gov. Nicki Haley -- both of whom he is reportedly considering -- then that's a more hopeful picture.

It's not what he needs to do to undo the damage, but it would be better than it might be.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Clinton's first speech since conceding

© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC

On Wednesday night, Hillary Clinton kept a previously scheduled speech before the Children's Defense Fund, where she was honored with an award for "a lifetime of service."  She herself began her activism career just out of Yale Law School with a job working at the Defense Fund.

Acknowledging that the past week had been very painful, she said:  "There were a few times this week that I wanted to curl up with a good book or the dogs and never get back up again."

She did not dwell further on the negative, but urged those in attendance at the charity gala to "remain engaged in progressive politics."   She quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying that: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Emphasizing the value of service, she said:  "Service is the rent we pay for living.  You don't get to stop paying rent just because things didn't go your way."

Attempting to inspire continued action, she reminded her supporters that:  "America is worth it. Our children are worth it. . . . Believe in our country, fight for our values and never, ever give up."

Marian Wright Edelson, president and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund, introduced Clinton.   Referring to her being the first woman nominated for president by a major party, as well as her having won the popular vote, Edelson called her "our president for the people."


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Another view: "The silver lining to Trump's victory"

One of the contributors to the progressive news blog Daily Kos, who goes by the name "Scandalous One," has emerged from mourning Trump's victory with a different view:   that there is a long-range silver lining.   I'm afraid I'm not there yet, but I re-post this as something to consider.

*     *     *     *     *
    "After mourning Trump's victory, I took the opportunity to think things through and I suddenly saw a big silver lining for Democrats. Politics is like a game of chess. Trump's victory . . . may have put the Democrats in a stronger position going forward than if Hillary had won. Here's why I'm saying this:

    "If Hillary had become president on the heels of Obama's two terms, the Democrats would be in a very vulnerable position in the next two major elections: the 2018 midterms and the 2020 general election. Democrats would likely suffer heavy losses in the 2018 midterms due to historical precedent (the party that wins the White House usually does poorly in the following midterm elections) and sheer voter fatigue. However, with Donald Trump in the White House the tables are turned and Republicans are the ones who will be in a defensive position in 2018 as they now control both the White House and Congress and will have to give full account of their agenda and results to voters. In this scenario, Democrats are likely to make significant gains in the 2018 midterm elections.

    "Then building on that, Republicans will again be on the defensive in the 2020 general election with Trump in the White House. The core of Republican policy is set up to hurt the working and middle classes and benefit the rich and powerful. Ironically, these are the same working class people who voted for Trump. They will inevitably feel disappointed over the next four years as they realize that Trump can't magically solve their problems.

    "Going into 2020 Republicans will face die-hard opposition from Democrats, a likely disillusioned white working class GOP base (the manufacturing jobs are never coming back)  and an even more diverse electorate than today. All these factors will put them in a very weak position in that election. If Hillary had won this year, Democrats would be the ones on the defensive.

    "2020 is just the year that Democrats need to win. The next US census takes place that year and that is also when the next congressional districts will be redrawn. Democrats can use their electoral gains in 2020 to Gerrymander Republicans out of the House of Representatives and regain full control of Congress, and lock in their majority for a decade or more.

    "Also a Democratic President elected in 2020 is more likely to serve two terms, than if Hillary had won this year (one of my biggest concerns with Hillary winning this year is that she would not be re-elected in 2020 due to voter fatigue; it's unlikely Americans would allow one party to control the White House for 4 terms).

    "With a Democratic President elected in 2020 serving two potential terms (and a Democratic Congress behind him/her), Democrats would have wide sway to reshape the Supreme Court,  and neutralize most of the destruction that would come with Trump's one term in office. All this would be less likely if Democrats had retained the White House in this election.

    "Sometimes the biggest disappointments in life can turn out to be the biggest opportunity."

*     *     *     *     *
Well, maybe.   I'll grant that a Clinton presidency, with this Congress, would have met the same obstructionism that Obama faced.   And winning reelection in 2020 would have the added weight of a 4th term for Democrats in the White House.

Still, four years of Trump and Trumpism is hard to stomach.   I'm losing the slim hope I had that the better Trump may emerge as the responsibility awakens something in him.    Giving Steve Bannon such a prominent role was bad enough.   But now we're hearing about the prominent transition role that Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach is having in planning immigration policy.   Kobach has been the leading power among state governments in anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion voices, as well as the leader in devising voter suppression laws among states.  He's also being rumored as a possible U.S. Attorney General.   That would be worse than Rudi Giuliani by far.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sen. Harry Reid's challenge to Donald Trump

This is from a statement released by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).  For the full transcript, go to:
“I have personally been on the ballot in Nevada for 26 elections and I have never seen anything like the reaction to the election completed last Tuesday. The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America. 
White nationalists, Vladimir Putin and ISIS are celebrating Donald Trump’s victory, while innocent, law-abiding Americans are wracked with fear – especially African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT Americans and Asian Americans. 
Watching white nationalists celebrate while innocent Americans cry tears of fear does not feel like America.
And he continued:
If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"Don't ask us to congratulate him" - Connie Schultz

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist/columnist, teaching at the Kent State School of Journalism.   She is married to Senator Sherrod Brown who represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate and was on short lists as a possible VP nominee for Hillary Clinton.   This moving message was circulated on the Creator's Syndicate web site    It is just too good to add any words of mine.   She speaks for us.

*     *     *     *     *
"Don't ask us to congratulate him.

"Not today. Not this week. Not ever, probably.

"He stands for so much of what we'd dared to hope was behind us as a country. Bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia. He spewed it with reckless abandon, and now he is going to be our next president. . . .

"This is not a sporting event. This is not about good manners. Sometimes there is no deliverance in the fake smile, the phony congratulations.

"This would be one of those times.

"We are exhausted but wide-awake aware. We have no choice, because we are his targets — a diverse group, which, in his view, qualifies us as the collective enemy. We are women. We are immigrants. We are black and Latino. We are Muslims and Jews. We are gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender. We are the people on the margins, the ones invisible in plain sight.

"We have listened to him talk about us for months. We know him.

"We know whom he threatened and whom he bullied. . . . and that he mocked a gold star family . . . . We know he lied. Over and over, he lied. And he got away with it.

"This new job title will not change who he is.

"So we are hyper-vigilant. We know the list of what he promised to do and whom he promised to harm if he became our next president. We are watching and waiting. . . .

"We are not sore losers. We just don't have the luxury of indifference. We don't benefit from pretending that all will be fine.

"As it was for millions of other Americans — the plurality of voters, it appears — this election was personal for me. In the wee hours of the morning when election results were still coming in, I kept thinking about my two Latino grandsons. These sweet boys I love — our "bad hombres," our family tried to joke. I look into their bright eyes and see the reflection of my growing fear, one that I can no longer rationalize away. In rhetoric and deed, our next president has made clear that they and millions like them are "the other."

"How could so many Americans vote for this man?

"That is the question on so many minds, including those of the many millennials who reached out to me Wednesday — through email and Facebook and taps on my office door at Kent State.

"Where's the hope now? they asked. What's the point?

"We must not give up, I tell them. We must not surrender to this despair threatening to claw our hearts into pieces.

"Had my generation given up, we would never have seen the passage of civil rights, marriage equality or President Barack Obama. For starters. Had the women generations before me given up, I would not have the right to vote.

"Every morning, we are faced with a decision before our feet hit the floor. Will we join the defeated, the ones who finally caved? Or will we continue to fight? I know from long experience which answer will rouse us from our beds with our character intact.

"First, though, we acknowledge our sadness and disbelief, lest that darkness feast on us. As for grief, well, there's a stubborn monster. The longer we ignore it the harder it pounds on the door. Only after we let it in do we discover its temporary hold.

"So, let's get on with it. Let's invite our grief to sit with us until we get bored with each other — and then watch that monster march out the door.

*     *     *     *     *

Monday, November 14, 2016

President not required to have security clearance

All during the campaign I wondered, vis a vis Donald Trump, at what point do presidential candidates get vetted for security clearance?   Or do they at all?

Clinton, of course, has had top security clearance, despite the attempts to smear her politically as a big risk to our national security with her emails.  The truth is that there is no evidence that her private, home-based server was ever hacked -- while many official government agencies were hacked, including the Homeland Security and the Pentagon.

I didn't really pursue it, because I didn't think it would come to this:   Donald Trump as president.   Donald Trump, as far as we know, has never been given a security vetting, even when they began giving him national security briefings, even after all the rumors about his connections and possible big debts to Russian oligarchs.

So I was wondering aloud about this the other night at a dinner meeting.   My colleague Jackie decided to check it out and emailed me a link to   This turns out to be a web site for people seeking jobs or contracts with the federal government;  and it has all the information one needs to know, including what security clearances are needed for what jobs.

Here's their answer, which was updated on July 25, 2016:

"The president of the United States is not subject to a security screening and does not hold a security clearance. . . .   Election to the nation’s highest office is the ultimate conferral of trust upon an American citizen by the body politic. Moreover, classification policy largely stems from executive orders, which originate from the president’s pen. He or she makes the rules for classification and the treatment of classified material. As commander-in-chief, all military secrets and secret-keepers serve at the whim of the president. If a president so chooses, he or she can more or less learn everything there is to know about anything there is to know. . . ."

There are certain areas that access to the president is denied, however.   The identity of our undercover intelligence officers abroad is one category.    Individual census records is another;   although not classified as national security, they are protected by the courts under privacy rights.    The same is true for FBI, Welfare, and Immigration records;   it is also true for individual IRS records, although a president may request in writing and sign the request in order to view an individual record -- sort of like getting a warrant, I suppose.

The article then concludes:

"Should the president have to submit to a security screening? Of course not. Aside from the basic unworkability of such a scheme, the total access of America’s secrets by the elected chief executive is an important check on the power of the nation’s military and entrenched secrecy apparatus. One hopes, however, that the awesome responsibility of safeguarding our secrets is fully imparted on whomever occupies the Oval Office. It perhaps falls to those around the president—the men and women who have been subjected to some of the the most rigorous security screenings in government—to suggest to the president the reason and urgency of the classification of any files that might be handled, and to fulfill humbly, and by example, the duty that comes in dealing with them.

Logically, this makes sense.   But I had in mind security vetting before even being a major party's nominee, much less being sworn into office.    I suppose others might argue that this would open the process up to political shenanigans if the party in power was about to lose control to an opposition party.   Ultimately, yes, the people do decide in our elections, which are the sacrosanct bedrock of democracy.

The weak leg that supports democracy, in our case, is not one of the branches of government but the "informed electorate."    We are in an age where there is a tsunami of data, very little check on what's true or not, and a low level consumption of real journalistic analysis and erudite punditry that presents sound arguments rather than sound bites originating from a divisive sea of words.

Just a thought:   I wonder how many of the "Republicans voters coming home," who cast their ballot for Trump, might have not done so if they knew that he does not have, and will not have, a security clearance.   Can we count on him sufficiently awed by the responsibility he will now hold?    I certainly hope so.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Millennial's reaction to the Trump election

For the past few days, I've been expressing my hope that a President Trump may be a better man than candidate Trump, that there is a better self in there somewhere;   and I suggested that we give him room to be that better self, instead of continuing to throw his past remarks in his face, provoking his retaliation.

But there is a difference between wanting to give him a chance to "be presidential" and wanting him to have his way with policies.   Today, I want to repeat my vehement opposition to most of the policies that he says he stands for -- and that the Republican party stands for.  While recognizing that the people have elected him and he is the next president, we still need to oppose them on policies and regulations -- and hold them accountable, now that they will control all branches of government.

My grandson, Adam Reed, expresses this in his own blog in a way that is refreshingly on target, better than I could.   He has given me permission to quote from it.   At 27 Adam brings the perspective of his generation and the future of our country.

He did not catch the family disease of obsession with the game of politics.   He cares about the issues and outcomes, but not the minutia of the process or the mass media's three-ring circus.   

So he spent election night watching  the Hawks/Cavaliers game, then went to bed, he says, "knowing that staying up for the results would in no way affect the outcome of the election.  Like many others I woke up in shock and disbelief this morning to the news that Donald Trump had won an upset victory in the race for the office of President of the United States of America."

Adam then reasons that, although Trump has said many, many things with which he disagrees, some 60 million people voted for him.  He thinks they are wrong, but they are entitled to their opinion and their vote.   And he realizes anew that it's not enough just to believe in something, you have to fight for it.   Here's his summary quote:

"Those that know me well know that I try to keep my political thoughts to myself and avoid affiliation with either major party. Unfortunately I think this morning some things need to be said. The Republican party has been shouting that the last 8 years have been some of the worst in American history. I disagree, but obviously a large majority of the American people didn't so here we are. You have control of both legislative bodies and the executive branch. You're the dog that finally caught the bicycle. It's time to put your money where your mouth is and make this country better. I didn't vote for you, but I am 100% counting on you to prove me wrong by doing good for the American people. Don't fuck this up."

Thanks, Adam.   Well, said.   Please keep writing.