When a heart is empty – words from conservative pundit David Brooks

I have shared before David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits. I read his columns and have read two of his books, “The Road to Character” and “The Social Animal.” I even went to hear him speak when he came to town, as he focused on remembering community and community gathering places. Monday’s editorial column by Brooks is called “When a heart is empty.”

Brooks highlights how an unfeeling, self-absorbed author named Emmanuel Carrere is forever altered by a crisis, when he loses his granddaughter to a horrible tsunami. Per Brooks, Carrere “develops a deep and perceptive capacity to see the struggles of others” and he writes about the change in “Lives Other Than My Own.”

Brooks uses this change to contrast it being “opposite of the blindness Donald Trump displayed in quotes reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic and Bob Woodward in his latest book about the administration, ‘Rage’

Brooks goes on to say “Trump can’t seem to fathom the emotional experience of their lives (the deceased soldiers he called ‘losers’ and ‘suckers’) – their love for those they fought for, the fears they faced down, the resolve to risk their lives nonetheless.

If he can’t see that, he can’t understand the men and women in uniform serving around him. He can’t understand the inner devotion that drives people to public service, which is supposed to be the core of his job.

The same sort of blindness is on display in the Woodward quotes. It was stupid of Trump to think he could downplay COVID-19 when he already knew it had the power of a pandemic. It was stupid to think the American people would panic if he told the truth. It was stupid to talk to Woodward in the first place…

It is moral and emotional stupidity. He blunders so often and so badly because he has a narcissist’s inability to get inside the hearts and minds of other people.”

There is more, but the gist of the piece can be gleaned from these quotes. Brooks said earlier this year, “Donald Trump does not have a sense of decency or empathy.” He reiterates this theme above. And, there is a line from one of my favorite political movies “The American President” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. “Being president is entirely about character.”

A sad party run by sad people

As a fiscal conservative and social progressive, I left the Republican Party about twelve years ago. My main reasons for becoming an independent were the Republican stance on climate change, an unhealthy focus on evangelicals and guns, and a tendency to make things up. These reasons still exist twelve years later.

The Grand Old Party is no longer grand and it really is no longer Republican. At the recent RNC convention, they did not vote on a platform, so as one reporter said, “the platform is whatever Donald Trump says it is.” In and of itself, this is the final takedown of the old flag and raising of the new Trump Party banner.

Further, evidence of the dissolution, is an Alternate Republican convention was held the same week. This convention brought together several groups of Republicans bent on the defeat of Trump in November. They include The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters against Trump. Two additional groups of former Republican governors and intelligence leaders have also come out against Trump.

The Trump Party is a sad group led by sad people. Here are a few things that seem to be the major tenets in of the Trump Party:

– Truth, decency and empathy are not valued
– Protecting Americans against the COVID-19 pandemic is less important than winning the election. Not informing Americans of known risks is inexcusable.
– Civil rights of non-whites is less important and protestors of all races seeking equality for blacks are “thugs.”
– Soldiers who fight for America are “losers” and “suckers” and if captured, not heroes. It is OK that a country can put bounties on our soldiers without pushback.
– Using the presidency for profit is acceptable and it is OK to extort and use other countries for personal gain.
– Any Inspectors General, whistleblowers or those who testify under oath over legitimate concerns about wrongdoing can be removed without questions.
– Finally, it is OK to say absolutely anything to further the cause. It is OK to malign the voting process without doing a darn thing to make it secure. It is OK to blame any person or group for things that are caused by the president. It is OK to name call any critic. Trump called two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward a “wack job,” but it was the president’s own words that are causing the furor.

These words make me sad for our country. It makes me more sad to know sycophants, rationalizers, and enablers have allowed this to happen. Names like McConnell, Graham, Cotton, Johnson, Nunes, Cruz, Jordan, McCarthy, Meadows, Miller, Kushner, et al should be remembered along with the Trump name as people who led to the demise of the Republican Party, our democracy and our planet. If this corrupt and deceitful person wins again, America will move even more toward an autocracy run by a sad person.

Former Republican Chair is committed to seeing Trump lose

Michael Steele, a long-time Republican and former Chair of the Republican Party, has had enough. Steele is actively working to assure the current president loses in November. Wny? David Smith writes in The Guardian about his interview with Steele, an African-American, in the following piece entitled “‘They capitulated to Trump’: Michael Steele on the fight for the Republican party’s soul.”

Here a few paragraphs from the article, which can be linked to in full below.

“’I asked myself, what are the things that matter to you? It mattered that this president has openly said to us, I’m not going to accept the outcome of this election if I don’t win. It matters to me what he’s done with the Postal Service to prevent Americans from accessing the ballot box. I see this is the time for choosing, and the choice that unfortunately many in my party, particularly in the party leadership, have made is that they choose Trump. They choose winning an election at all costs over the country and I think, as an American, I should be bigger than that.’

‘Out of the gate, he starts, ‘Mexicans are murderers and rapists, I’m gonna build a wall, they’re coming after you’, creating this other narrative about the very people, the very voters that the party had just spent over a million dollars putting on paper that they wanted to attract. What was the party response? Capitulation.

‘I can’t explain it because it damn sure wouldn’t have happened if I were chairman, I can tell you that, and people in this party know that’s true. So the fact of the matter is they need to explain why they allowed Donald Trump to crap all over their plans to build out the party after they lost the 2012 election.’

He goes on: ‘They have to explain why they capitulated on Russia and deficit spending and allowed Donald Trump to put children in cages and they remained silent. They have to explain why a party that stood with the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor and promoted legal immigration and promoted the ideals of this country suddenly was interested in building a wall. I can’t explain that. That goes against my values.’”

I have watched Steele be interviewed or participate in panel discussions multiple times. While I may not always agree with what he says, I find him to be reasonable and articulate in his views. He shows a willingness to listen. His history, his service and his character support someone who has thought about what he says and believes. So, his stance against the president speaks volumes.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/06/michael-steele-donald-trump-republican-party-interview

Biden garners more Republican endorsements, this time from ex-governors

Yet one more group of Republicans has committed support for Joe Biden, per a Reuters article by Tim Reid called “Biden garners more Republican endorsements, this time from ex-governors.” Here are the first three paragraphs:

“Nearly 100 Republican and independent leaders will endorse Democrat Joe Biden for president on Thursday, including one-time 2020 Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld and the former Republican governors of Michigan and New Jersey, people involved in the effort told Reuters.

The latest Republican-led effort to oppose the re-election of President Donald Trump also includes current and former Republicans in the key battleground state of Michigan that will help decide the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, the group’s members said.

Called ‘Republicans and Independents for Biden’, the group is headed by Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey who has become one of Trump’s fiercest critics and who spoke at the recent Democratic National Convention in support of Biden.”

Trump supporters need to know that the number of Republican groups and former national security groups that support Biden continues to grow. Top of mind, The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, Former National Security Officials for Biden and Republicans Voters against Trump are just four of the groups.

I also learned per The Military Times, a survey of members of the military rate Trump more unfavorably than favorably by 12 points and favor Biden by 4 points over Trump. And, this is before the corroborated story (by four news agencies including Fox News) of Trump calling soldiers MIA and KIA “losers and suckers.”

What may also be a surprise is an Alternate Republican Convention against the reelection of Donald Trump occurred in Charlotte at the same time the national RNC occurred. Why is that? I would love to hear Trump followers respond, as it is not just Democrats and left-leaning independents that do not want Trump elected. Trump, of course, has called these folks “losers” and “just-Trump haters.” Yet, it takes a lot of courage to stand up against such a vindictive person, especially in your own party.

Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind – a few thoughts

With all due respect to “Ruby Tuesday” and “Tuesday Afternoon,” I chose this song title for my random Tuesday thoughts. “Tuesday’s Gone with the Wind” has the right melancholy feel.

Starting with the last part of the title “Gone with the Wind,” it reminds me that the entertainment world has finally figured out the famous movie and book are racist and poor renditions of the events surrounding the Civil War. We actually discussed this misrepresentation by the movie and book in my World Literature class in 1977. But, propaganda about the war has been around since white slaveowners got poor whites to fight for a more righteous cause of states’ rights than the real one to let them keep slaves.

Remember how states’ rights were cited by the president for delegating his responsibility to fight COVID-19. Yet, states’ rights are less important if he must flex his law and order muscles. Both the Kenosha mayor and Wisconsin governor asked the president not to come to Kenosha as he would not help calm the situation. Well, he is coming to get his photo shoot, but he should not be surprised if he is not well-received. Uniting people is not the mission of this president as noted by General James Mattis, his former Secretary of Defense.

The president’s actions and words concern me on so many levels. One is his fanning the flames of racial unrest to win an election. He offers it is not his doing, but he is the one walking around with a gasoline can. All lives and Blue lives, of course, matter, but those mantras denigrate the message of Black Lives Matters. What this white washing misdirection does is ignores that too many Americans do not feel Black lives matter or that Blacks are overstating their strife. And, the president is catering to these groups with his divisive rhetoric and gasoline.

The vast majority of BLM protests are peaceful and civil. They are also well attended by multiple racial groups. But, the smaller few need to cease the violence. It devalues the message. Violence also feeds directly into the hands of the president who looks for wedge issues. In three and half years, many have become weary of this me, me, me focus of the president who cares more about his perception than solving problems. These things are happening on his watch and he is making things worse, not better.

On the Blue side, the police must better police themselves. They need to weed out any bad actors and recognize, address and train-to-minimize bad actions. A former FBI domestic terrorism expert said she shared with the Justice Department that a few police officers are sympathetic with white nationalists. But, the police union and management must stop doing what the Catholic Church did for decades and ignore bad apples. They do spoil the impression of the whole bunch. Just like only a few priests were pedophiles, only a few police are overly racist.

Fixing problems requires leaders to acknowledge them. And, understand them. As I noted earlier, using problems to be a wedge issue to win does not solve the problems. It makes them worse.

Bipartisan effort in Kentucky

Courtesy of fellow blogger, Kentucky Angel (see link below) comes the following good news story.

Kentucky Democrat Governor Andy Beshear and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams jointly developed a plan for the General Election that puts the “health and safety of Kentuckians first,” per Beshear, providing more time and options to vote than ever before.

This bipartisanship is refreshing and much needed on this issue. Rather than malign the voting process, they are taking efforts to make sure it works for their citizens. The folks in the White House and Capitol building could learn from this bipartisan focus to help people understanding the challenges they face.

This post is necessarily brief, as I sent a variation into my newspaper because of its bipartisanship. I hope they print it. This represents the kind of collaboration we need to solve problems. Please feel free to spread the word. Thanks Kentucky Angel.

https://kentuckyangelfliesagain.wordpress.com/2020/08/29/message-from-gov-andy-beshear/

Alternate Republican Convention of anti-Trump Republicans goes on

Per a Wednesday, August 26 article in The Charlotte Observer by Jim Morrill called “From Charlotte, anti-Trump Republicans offer their own message in a counter-convention” , the alternate Republican convention convened online. It was scheduled to be in Charlotte, but COVID-19 caused the social media only session from a Charlotte TV studio.

The convention brought together the efforts of The Lincoln Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters against Trump and other groups. Below are some excerpts from the article. As context, it is important to note what I heard on NPR today. The RNC did NOT vote on a platform at the national convention. One reporter said the platform is whatever Donald Trump comes up with.

‘Today’s Republican Party is the Trump party,’ said Mindy Finn, one of the organizers. ‘And they make it very clear in their rhetoric that you either support Trump wholeheartedly or you’re not one of them.’

From its Charlotte studio, the programming features virtual panel discussions and speeches by more than two dozen people. They include former FBI Director Jim Comey, former Republican national Chairman Michael Steele, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci and Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer who ran an independent campaign for president in 2016.

Tuesday night’s lineup included former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, a longtime Republican Trump critic, addressing what he called the growing politicization of federal courts. ‘I have no confidence that Donald Trump can move beyond his disregard and disdain for the rule of law and the constitutional underpinnings of our judiciary,’ Orr said.

The Religion News Service ran a story about the convention’s appeal to evangelicals through speakers such as Mark Galli, the former editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. The Washington Post headlined an opinion column, ‘Republicans are putting on two conventions this week. One of them will be sane.’

Organizers say the first night’s livestream reached 23,000 viewers on YouTube and 10,000 on Facebook. Adding all the social media ‘shares,’ they say, makes for a total reach of hundreds of thousands.”

Now, this convention was dwarfed by the national RNC convention viewership, but it is incumbent on its members and people who care about truth, to make sure folks are aware that these voices are active and should be heard.

What has impressed me is the people behind this effort. Several of the groups are running effective ads that speak to the corrupt and deceitful bent of the president. The Republican Voters against Trump is particularly effective as people tell why they can no longer support Trump as they did before. As Joe Biden said in a rebuttal speech to Trump’s, this is happening on your watch.

The entire article is below.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/article245262280.html

The biggest lie – “I created this economy”

The incumbent president likes to take credit for all things good and blame others for all things bad. This is true regardless of the extent of his role in the outcome. He boasts that he created this great economy before the pandemic and will help us get back to it. Although the economy continued to do well, to say he created it is not truthful. Given his loud chest beating on this one issue, it qualifies as his biggest lie, although other lies are further afield from the truth.

When he took the oath to his office in January, 2017, the US was on its third longest economic growth period in its history at 91 consecutive months of GDP growth. That translates into just longer than 7 1/2 years. It should also be noted for the six previous years, we had 2 million plus in annual job growth and the stock market more than doubled under his predecessor. To Donald Trump’s credit, the economy continued to grow for 36 more months, the stock market continued to climb and job growth continued until it fell with the pandemic. The recession officially started in February of this year.

Now, I wrote during Barack Obama’s presidency that presidents get too much credit and too much blame for the economy. They can provide headwinds and tailwinds, but that is about it. The “headwinds and tailwinds” remark is courtesy of conservative pundit David Brooks. The same goes with the current president. But, if people want to lay wreaths at Trump’s feet for the economy before the pandemic, they must also do the same for Obama. Obama actually inherited an economy in recession due to the housing crisis in late 2007 through mid 2009. He was sworn in January, 2009.

The incumbent president has provided some headwinds and tailwinds to help keep it going, sometimes at the same time. Here is a look at a few of these wind currents:

Tailwinds

The economy got a temporary boost from the December, 2017 tax cut that increased the debt by $1.5 trillion over the next ten years. At a time when we should have been decreasing the deficit, we increased it. So, in essence, we borrowed from our future to make our economy a little better for a little while. One economist referred to it as a sugar rush. Before the pandemic, we fell back to growth at the same level as before the election. Overall, this growth period has been the longest, but the rate of growth under both presidents has lagged other periods. It has been a slow and steady climb, again before the recession caused by the pandemic.

Cutting through some regulations also provided some stimulus for businesses, but as noted below, these will cause future headwinds. People often mix bureaucracy with regulations. We need to constantly review regulations to see if they are working and how they can be improved or rescinded, if need be. So, regulations are not necessarily bad. Bloating bureaucracy is what we must guard against. I recall a story of Erskine Bowles, who eventually became Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. When Bowles headed the Small Business Administration, he reduced the application from 42 pages to one.

Headwinds

We must guard against debt. Dipping into debt to stimulate the economy dragging from COVID-19 is one thing, but the 2017 tax cut needed not be so severe that it increased debt. Note, many said this before it was passed, not just now. By the end of this decade, we should be beyond $40 trillion in debt on an annual revenue budget (during 10/18 – 9/19 FY) that is currently just less than $3.5 trillion, with expenses around $4.5 trillion. With the pandemic stimulus, the annual 2019-20 deficit will be around $3.7 trillion. Eventually, interest cost will rival the biggest budget items if we do not remedy this growing problem. Some poor president and congress will have to make some hard decisions as revenue is too low and costs are too high.

Letting polluting industries skate on fewer regulations will come back to haunt us. Chemical spills, polluted water and nuclear waste causes major environment concerns to people, animals, carbon eating trees/ plants and food crops. Even the best of developers and manufacturers would like someone else to pay for their shortcuts. Industries go to great pains to hide their dirty laundry. The laundry is there, it just needs to be more cleaned up. Relying on a company’s altruism is not an effective means of controlling pollution.

Tariffs on all partners cause echo tariffs from our trading partners. And, no one wins a tariff war, regardless of what the president might say. As we have become harder to deal with, buyers and sellers find other markets. The increase in farmer bankruptcies has been significant since the tariff wars started, increasing dramatically over previous levels. One farmer said, other countries sought out other sources of farm goods, so we lost a future pipeline for sales. And, just today, I read in conservative George Will’s editorial that trust in America to do the right thing has fallen to 24% and preference to America as a trading partner has fallen.

One of the business lessons I learned over the years, is if you become difficult to work with, your customers and clients will be forced to find other providers of services and products. It does not get any plainer than that. One of the best things a president can do is create new markets – Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, and Obama all were good at creating new avenues for trade. It is not surprising that Clinton had the most jobs created on his watch, with Reagan having the most jobs as a Republican president. And, Nixon for all his corruption, should be remembered well for opening up relationships with China. Trump should get credit for renewing a refined NAFTA agreement, but he hindered his efforts to compete with China when he pulled the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership which went on without us and backtracking on deals with Cuba, Iran and the Paris Climate Change Accord, has placed the US at odds with others.

Global trade builds revenue. A country cannot shrink to greatness. And, what we are seeing today is other countries not wanting the hassles of dealing with the US as much as before. And, this is before the mishandling of the pandemic that has left the world aghast.

Freedom Summer Project – a needed revisit with a voter suppression and racism afoot

With a president who attacks the voting process (without dearly protecting it) and does not speak out against racism in our country, this past post on a terrible time in history is relevant of what we must not become again. The only change is adding six years to the time elapsed.

Fifty-six years ago this summer, over 700 students from across the country, joined in the Civil Rights battle in Mississippi, where African-Americans had been demonstratively and, at times, violently denied their basic civil rights, especially the right to vote. These students joined together with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNNC) under the guidance of Bob Moses, who had been slowly organizing SNNC since 1960. These students, were predominantly white, but included all races and ethnic groups.

The fact that many were white helped bring further attention to the ongoing tragedy going on Mississippi, perpetuated by those in power as the young students lived within the African-American community, taught through Freedom Schools young students about African-American history, literature and rights, items that had been absent from their curriculum. The Freedom Summer project can be viewed up close with an excellent documentary shown on the PBS American Experience. A link is provided below.* I would encourage you to watch the two-hour film as it can tell a story that requires footages of violence, overt racism, and brave people who spoke up, like Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rita Schwerner and countless others.

Hamer is the face of the effort as evidenced by her speaking passionately in front of the 1964 Democratic Convention committee about how she was arrested, beaten, and tormented when she and others tried to register vote. Schwerner is the widow of one the three Civil Rights workers, Michael Schwerner, who along with James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, were abducted and killed by the KKK who came to abet the efforts of those in power in Mississippi. The widow rightfully pointed out the fact that two of the abducted (at the time) were white, was the only reason people in America started paying attention. She noted it is a shame that many African-Americans had died or were injured merely trying to exercise their right as citizens. Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act, less than 7% of African-Americans in Mississippi were allowed to register due to ostracization, intimidation, and complex constitutional literacy tests.

Since I cannot begin to do justice to this subject, I encourage you to watch the documentary. It will make you ashamed that this could happen in America, while at the same time making you applaud the magnificent courage of all involved, especially those African-Americans who had lived and would continue to live in this Apartheid like state once the freedom summer students went home. Yet, it took the deaths of these three young folks to galvanize and empower people.

It also took the organization of a more representative Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party of whites and blacks that went to the national convention to unseat the representatives sent by the state party, who were all white. Since morality was on their side, they almost succeeded, but they ran into the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson, who used his power to squelch the effort for a greater good – he could not help in matters if he did not get elected and he saw this as a means to interfere with that mission, no matter how noble the cause. LBJ accomplished great things for African-Americans, but politics is an ugly thing to watch up close and he looks manipulative in the process.

While their efforts fell short at the convention, their efforts were huge contributors to the passage of the Voting Rights Act the next year. But, one of the young folks who went to the Freedom Schools and is now a PhD., noted that learning about their African-American culture and civil rights that had been denied them, may have been the greatest achievement. I applaud their efforts and bravery. We still have a way to go and are seeing some battles having to be refought with several states passing restrictive Voter ID Laws. Three states have had their new laws ruled unconstitutional, while others are in court now. Yet, just because our President is multi-racial does not mean we are there yet. So, let’s keep in mind the battles these brave folks fought and not let their civil rights be stepped on again, no matter how cleverly masked those efforts.

* http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/freedomsummer/

The president has said “without proof”

Seemingly, a phrase frequently being used by more legitimate news sources is the modifier “without proof.” Without proof is being added to news coverage of the latest assertion made by the president.

It may become the successor to “fake news” as it accompanies reporting of the many untruthful statements or conspiracy theories said or tweeted by the president. Using a mathematical expression, it is “causally related” to the frequency of the president’s blathering, not just correlated.

Without proof. The Washington Post has tracked over 20,000 lies by the president in about three and a half years. That is staggering. Plus, from biographers to reputable authors to attorneys to staff to military leaders to relatives, including his sister the judge, there are many sources who note the president’s untruthful nature. His sister the judge says her brother “lacks credibility.”

So, do yourself a favor and do what I do. Do not believe a word Donald Trump says. The odds are well in your favor. But, if you feel I am all wet, let me share as Examples A and B, two recurring lies the president has used. These are not one time lies – he has uttered or tweeted these two lies multiple times.

Example A – China is paying for the tariffs on US goods. This is simply untrue and each time he says it, economists point out the importers pay the tariiffs and usually pass along the cost to consumers. This means we shoppers pay the tariffs.

Example B – Trump passed the VA Health Care Choice bill to help veterans. He has said this multiple times, but the bill was passed in 2014. He was not inaugurated until 2017. This is the issue Paula Reid, a CBS reporter raised the other day when Trump again said it in a press conference.

I can share top of mind lies the president has uttered or throw in a few unproven conspiracy theories he has espoused. But, these two examples are recurring lies that he will likely use again. Right now, he is on a warpath to convince Americans mail-in voting is subject to significant fraud, again “without proof.” What should be more known is fellow Republicans are advocating mail-in voting as it used exclusively in five states and consequentially in thirty five more. Why would they be doing that if fraud was a concern.

As for fraud, it should be noted, last week. the Republican led Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed the overall veracity of the Mueller report, saying the Russian involvement in the Trump campaign was even more intrusive. So, this confirms, with proof, the president’s campaign was guilty of fraud.