Two emails – civil discourse

The following is an email response (to my earlier email) from a friend who I would say is a reasonable person and who has served his community helping folks in need. Following his response to me, I share my response with him.

What I want people to note is the civil tone we both tried to convey, even though there are areas of disagreement. My thrust is not to say what could have been said by each, but to say we can disagree without taking each other’s head off.

My friend’s response to an earlier email

“To say Donald Trump is different is to make an understatement. He’s not conservative, he’s a populist. He doesn’t believe in fiscal constraint, and that’s why he loves tax cuts AND fiscal stimulus as needed this past spring to address the pandemic. Just watch, we will have another fiscal stimulus package (even if it is Speaker Pelosi’s moderate wing that has signed a discharge petition to move forward narrow stimulus items forcing the issue before the election).

Donald Trump has many flaws (which is why I don’t feel the need to list them), but I think he really does care about regular people. I see this in his commitment to fixing the VA, even if stepping on toes. I listened to his caddy of thirty years ago turned personal assistant in his remarks at the RNC convention, and you know he’s not just self-immersed, even if he always talks thru that lens.

He doesn’t pull blue collar voters because he doesn’t listen. And similar with black and Latino voters. For a guy who’s had economic comfort his whole life, he oddly has an ear for their complaints. (A similar wealth comparison is Great Britain’s Prime Minister Clement Attlee; very rich, who after learning of British slums, became a populist Democratic Socialist who advocated for national health care, nationalized businesses, etc.)

Trump’s not different in that way. Just different in the timing of what’s been tried and what’s likely to work now. You see this in his making Obamacare less expensive so more people can afford it. This is where he’s within the fold to repeal Obamacare movement, but also for its streamlining. This is also evidenced in his desire for health care pricing transparency. And his instincts are right here. Any time one is able to price shop, it changes your behavior.

On Joe Biden, I wish he were the Joe Biden I recall from the late 80’s and early 90’s. The way he got his nomination with a consolidation of liberal endorsements doesn’t reinforce his moderation. It underscores it is at risk.

That said, there is much to be thoughtful about. And I do see the election process forcing both sides to moderate…”
************************************************

The following is my response.

“Many thanks for your thoughtful response, which is not a surprise. While he has accomplished some good things (the reduced sentencing, the first COVID-19 stimulus, eg.), I could argue policy decisions on several fronts, but I won’t. What frustrates me most is the divisive rhetoric he uses on a daily basis and the name calling as a substitute for civil discourse. I hold a lot of conservative writers and public servants in high regard and their concerns about the incumbent president are worth noting.

General James Mattis, whose departure as Secretary of Defense was of great concern to Republicans and Democrats, noted a few months ago the president does not even try to unite us. To me, that is mission one, which is a key reason I gravitate to Joe Biden, whose career is one of bipartisanship. He is getting killed by the far left for not being progressive enough and killed by the right for being too progressive. He is a moderate. You are correct, he will get pressure to be more left than he wants, but so did Obama. We should not lose sight that the two most successful Democrat presidents of late have been moderates.

David Brooks, George Will and Michael Gerson are three of my favorite conservative pundits and each are advocating for Biden to win, as are Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters against Trump and The Lincoln Project. While you were watching the Trump convention, these folks held another Republican convention also from Charlotte. I also find of interest Cindy McCain is on Biden’s transition team, should he win. That speaks volumes.

I recognize Biden is imperfect, but we need a galvanizing influence, not a divisive one. Per a Pew survey, trust in America from abroad has fallen significantly, to the extent, Putin and Xi are more trusted than the US president. This concerns me as our allied relationships have been a strength. As for socialism, many in our country do not realize our economy is one of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers Comp, eg. are socialistic programs. As Brooks touts, we need a healthy discussion on what is the proper balance of all of these programs and how do we monitor them.

Thanks again for your thoughtful remarks.”

Take it to the bank – Trump will sue to prevent losing the election

In a Politico article by Anita Kumar called “Trump readies thousands of attorneys for election fight,” it documents what many fear the US president will do to avoid losing an election. The first four paragraphs tell you all you need to know, but the whole article can be linked to below.

“A year before President Donald Trump alarmed Americans with talk of disputing elections last week, his team started building a massive legal network to do just that.

Dozens of lawyers from three major law firms have been hired. Thousands of volunteer attorneys and poll watchers across the country have been recruited. Republicans are preparing pre-written legal pleadings that can be hurried to the courthouse the day after the election, as wrangling begins over close results and a crush of mail-in ballots. Attorneys from non-battleground states, including California, New York and Illinois, are being dispatched to more competitive areas and trained on local election laws.

A 20-person team of lawyers oversees the strategy, which is mainly focused on the election process in the 17 key states the Trump campaign is targeting, like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

In total, it means the Republican Party will have thousands of people on hand to shape every element of voting — both on Election Day and in the days after.”

Let me be frank. Donald Trump has known for some time he is trailing in the election. When the Democrats nominated Joe Biden, that was his worst fear. He knows he is underwater on public satisfaction with his job, so he has to game the system. His modus operandi is to use whatever means necessary to win. And, do not be surprised by anything he does to try to win, because his fragile ego cannot handle criticism or losing.

So, Trump began an unheard of and unsupported effort to claim mail-in votes would be fraudulent, even though Republicans have disagreed with him on that point. Yet, I have noticed Republicans who are in tough campaigns are echoing some of the president’s rhetoric on this. That is shameful. My educated guess is he will get some of his base to make it look like fraud is occurring (or they may just do it on their own, as winning is everything).

So, if he is ahead election night with many uncounted mail-in votes, he will sue to stop or disrupt the count. Or maybe he will just drag it out to make it look like something fishy is going on. The impact on other elections is very secondary to his winning. The impact on our country’s democratic process is irrelevant. He has already shown that process does not matter.

If this sounds cynical, let me add that Donald Trump, per his biographers, was mentored by famous attorney Roy Cohn. Cohn was an advisor to Senator Joseph McCarthy, of the communist witch hunt fame, so we know truth is not a valued attribute of his. Cohn advised the young Trump of two major themes – never apologize and sue everyone. By the time of the 2016 election, Trump was measured as having over 4,000 lawsuits, which averages out to about 1 1/2 per week of his adult life. Litigious does not do justice to describing Trump’s modus operandi. He would sue big and little people and businesses to avoid paying them for services.

So, take it to the bank, Trump will sue to avoid losing. The Democrats need to be prepared for this, but there is one way to make the plan fail. Go to the polls en masse and vote this most corrupt and deceitful president in my lifetime out of office. Trump needs to be soundly defeated to make it not worth his while. People in all of the battleground states need to vote to oust him. And, we all need to make sure he goes away come January.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-has-spent-a-year-building-a-legal-network-to-fight-the-election/ar-BB19te2n?ocid=uxbndlbing

Bob Woodward speaks again about the president

Per an article in The Hill by Joe Concha called “Woodward: Trump rooting for ‘quadruple trainwreck on Nov. 3,'” the following paragraphs reiterate concerns that more than a few of us have.

“Journalist Bob Woodward on Thursday said that President Trump declining to engage in a peaceful transition of power if he loses the election would be ‘putting a dagger in the Constitution,’ adding that he thinks that the president is ‘almost wishing for a quadruple trainwreck on Nov. 3’ in regards to mail-in voting.

‘We have a president who has forsaken his basic duty to protect the country, to tell the truth and organize and plan, have some theory of the case what is he going to do as president,” Woodward said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House.’

‘Time and time again we know, and I’ve got more endless examples of this, of him making decisions on impulse, tweeting, driving people crazy who work for him and then they leave or he fires them by tweet and he says the cruelest things.’

‘I think the president in all of the things he’s doing here has forsaken a larger duty which is a moral duty to do what’s best for the country,’ he added. ‘This is a moral failure and a leadership failure. This idea about the election he’s predicting and almost wishing for a quadruple trainwreck on November 3rd.'”

Quite simply, Trump would rather our democracy suffer than admit he lost. The reason for the cheating claims can be drawn from the narcissistic defense playbook. The term is called “projection” and it means the narcissist will project onto others his faults to lessen scrutiny on himself. He claimed in July, 2016 that the election was unfair at the same time his campaign was routinely dialoguing with a Russian agent to help Trump win. A key reason for him cheating was he was trailing Hillary Clinton.

Trump is using the same playbook because he again is trailing Joe Biden. So, without substance or proof, Trump is claiming voting fraud. To be brutally frank, the only cheating going on is coming from one Donald J. Trump. Trump is an immoral person with no affinity for doing things the right way. It is truly laughable for this corrupt and deceitful person to tout he is a “law and order” president, just as it was for Nixon to do so, when he did illegal things.

So, in my view, Biden needs to not only win, but do so convincingly. Maybe then, this corrupt person named Trump will just leave come January.

Two great talents, two big hearts pass away

Rightfully so, the passing of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a huge loss for our country. Her diminutive stature belied the large intellect and courage to fight battles, first for herself, and then for women and the disenfranchised.

There are several stories whose theme is around the only woman in the room, be it the first female rocket scientist, Mary Sherman Morgan, or the first black female NASA mathematician, Katherine G. Johnson. Ginsburg was often one of only a scant few women in the room, be it Harvard or Columbia law schools or when she first joined the Supreme Court following Sandra Day O’Connor. Being told you do not belong, either directly or implicitly, requires a courageous heart.

Ginsburg was unable to get a job with a law firm since she was a female and a mother. Her husband, Marty was quickly able to gain employment as a tax attorney, but his very learned wife could not. So, she taught law. So, when she finally tried an appellate case regarding gender discrimination, very few knew the constitutional law as well as she. She knew the documented discrimination that existed in the law and what had to be changed. And, her track record on gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court was excellent, losing only one case. The movie “On the basis of sex,” starring Felicity Jones, is an excellent drama telling her story.

Yesterday, another person passed away, who will not be as known to non-football fans, but his supreme talent was only exceeded by his heart. His name was Gale Sayers and for seven years, was one of the most exciting football players to watch as his ability to stop, start, change direction and run kept defenses at bay. He was the youngest player to be inducted in the NFL Hall of Fame at the time. Yet, his heart may be what people will remember most.

When he joined the Chicago Bears in the mid-1960s, the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act had only recently been passed. The African-American Sayers befriended a white ball player named Brian Piccolo. They became friends, teasing each other often while competing for the same position. They both made the team and were roommates on the road.

But, the story unfolds later that Piccolo gets cancer and is dying. Sayers and his wife were by the Piccolos’ side the whole way. When Sayers was given an award for a courageous comeback after an injury, in his speech, he told the audience of the courage of his friend Brian Piccolo. He said “I love Brian Piccolo. And, I hope you will love him, too.” He then asked for their prayers for God to love Brian as well.

The story is captured in the excellent movie “Brian’s Song,” starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams. I wrote a post a while back which I will link to below, which said “Brian’s Song” was the first movie where a man was allowed to openly cry. Truth be told, I am tearing up as a type this.

Let’s remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gale Sayers. Both are national treasures

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/brians-song-the-first-movie-where-men-could-watch-and-cry/

Global view of America and Trump worsens

Earlier this week, Business Insider posted the following article, “Trump is less trusted than Putin and Xi and the US is hitting historic lows of approval from its closest allies.” The full article can be linked to below, but I note several key paragraphs that speak for themselves. I also encourage you to click on the link to Jill’s similar post, which includes quotes from non-Americans, and is an excellent read.

“The United States’ image has soured within the international community, hitting all-time lows among key allies since Pew started polling two decades ago.

Among the 13-countries surveyed include Canada, France, Germany, UK and Japan. The results showed that people have less confidence in Trump as a leader than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping. Majority of the publics also say Trump mishandled the US’s coronavirus response.

President Donald Trump has on average received low approval ratings from Americans during his time in office — and new data shows people around the world continue to view him very negatively.

In Canada, one in five people expressed confidence in Trump, a drastic drop from 51 percent who held that view a year ago.

Similarly, Germans gave the US some of ‘its worst ratings,’ the authors note, with only 10% who said they have confidence in Trump, compared with 13% in 2019 and 86% in 2016 while Barack Obama was president.

Most people across the 13 countries surveyed said they have less trust in Trump to ‘do the right thing’ than they do in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Only an average of 16% said they have confidence in Trump as a leader, versus 19% who said the same for Xi and 23% for Putin.

Overall, the report found that roughly 34% of people expressed a positive view of the US. Pew Research Center conducted its survey to 13,273 respondents from June 10 to Aug. 3.

Though Trump has consistently been rated low by the rest of the world over the past four years, the study released Tuesday depicts a deepening downward trend of the US’ international reputation, likely due to his coronavirus response — the US has the world’s highest reported death toll, which is nearing 200,000.

All 13 countries ranked the US lowest for its handling of the pandemic, averaging a mere 15% who said the country has done a good job.

Germany, on the other hand, gained the highest ratings, as a median of 76% said they have confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been praised internationally for leading an effective coronavirus response in the Western European country.

The Pew poll comes amid renewed criticism nationally against Trump for how he dealt with public health crisis, after damning audio recordings revealed that he publicly downplayed the virus’ severity at the onset of the outbreak.”

In short, America is less trusted because its president is untrustworthy. He is relentless in his disregard for the truth. So, my strong advice is to start from the basis to not believe a word the president says or tweets. The odds are well in your favor.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/trump-is-less-trusted-than-putin-and-xi-and-the-us-is-hitting-historic-lows-of-approval-from-its-closest-allies/ar-BB194Kdq?ocid=msedgdhp

How The World Sees Us Now

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.”

Narcissism and pandemic misleading

The following is a brief letter I sent to my newspaper. Please feel free to adapt and use. Note I softened the last line from the word that I think best defines the actions – sociopathic.

The revelation the president admitted he knew of the pandemic risk, while misleading us, downplaying it and calling it a hoax, is troubling. Epidemiologists and historians have noted mission one in pandemics is tell people the truth, then they are prone to follow healthy safety directions. When we needed leadership, he passed and decided not to create a panic, which is absurd and deadly.

Help me understand, what kind of person holds several rallies without caution, knowing the virus is air borne, putting his most faithful fans at risk just to garner applause? This is beyond narcissism, in my view.

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.

Five minutes of your time – listen to candid wisdom on COVID-19 mishandling

If people want to get a sense of the failure of the president to lead us during the COVID-19 pandemic, following his admission and confirmation he lied to the American people (and continued to do so) about the risk of COVID-19, please click on Scottie’s post which has a five minute commentary by a very smart man who goes by the name Beau of the Fifth Column. Even a few minutes of the commentary will give you the gist.

The fact the president misled Americans on the dangers of COVID-19 is not news. The fact he admitted he knew and lied is. What the president fails to realize then, during his misleading press conferences and tweets, and even today, is too many people believe his BS. And, too many sycophants furthered his lies and downplayed the danger.

Too many Americans have died and more will. Too many Americans have gotten sick and more will. And, putting this in terms the president might understand, dying and sickness is not good for the economy. When people get sick when we reopen stores, schools, rallies, etc. without seriousness of purpose, it is predicted and predictable people will get infected.

I will say this bluntly. This calls for the resignation of the president.

Let’s talk about Trump, Woodward, and bad days….

Ten reasons to believe Trump disparaged the military (per Bill Press of The Hill)

Two letters to my newspaper framed the issue. One from a veteran said it is easy to believe Trump disparaged the troops based on his past actions and words. Another said she felt it was a “smear job” and encouraged the anonymous sources to come forward. Bill Press of The Hill wrote an opinion piece called “Trump gives military middle finger salute.” In it, he cites ten reasons to believe the story by a reputable source and corroborated by four other sources, is true. The highlighting of three reasons is my doing for emphasis.

“Admittedly, it’s hard to imagine any American president, Republican or Democrat, calling our soldiers, especially those killed in battle, ‘losers’ or ‘suckers.’ Still don’t believe it? Let me give you 10 reasons why you should.

One, Trump ducked military service in Vietnam by getting five deferments, including one of them for ‘temporary’ bone spurs – based on a diagnosis written by a New York podiatrist, according to his daughters, as a favor to Trump’s father. Two, this is the same Donald Trump who bragged to radio host Howard Stern in 1997 that his ‘personal Vietnam’ was dating in the ’90s without getting STDs.

Three, New York businessman Donald Trump fought repeatedly to ban disabled vets from selling goods on Fifth Avenue. ‘Whether they are veterans or not,’ he wrote in a 2004 letter to then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ‘they should not be allowed to sell on this most important and prestigious shopping street.’ Four, according to his niece Mary Trump, when Donald Jr. told his father he was considering joining the military, Trump said he would disown him.

Five, as candidate for president, Trump spent a week disparaging Gold Star parents of Army Capt. Humayun Kahn, after his father spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Six, he also insisted that John McCain was no ‘war hero’ because he was captured and later, as president, resisted honoring McCain’s death. ‘We’re not going to support that loser’s funeral,’ he reportedly told his staff.

Seven, he told the widow of slain Army Sgt. La David Johnson ‘he knew what he signed up for.’ Eight, in 2017, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, he told top generals at the Pentagon: ‘I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.’ Nine, he called four-star General and former Defense Secretary James Mattis ‘not tough enough’ and ‘overrated.’ Ten, when our intelligence agencies reported that Russia was paying Taliban terrorists a bounty to kill American soldiers, Donald Trump did – absolutely nothing.

Given that history, no wonder not one military leader has stood up to deny the Atlantic’s report. They know the truth. Donald Trump’s been bad-mouthing the military all his life.

The full editorial is below. The words that Trump have been alleged to have said are entirely in character. The choice of words and the targets are meaningful and consistent.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/press-trump-gives-military-middle-finger-salute/ar-BB18Osjk?ocid=msedgdhp