If you don’t add value…

Just because someone is in a leadership position does not make them a leader, in and of itself. We are witnessing in real-time what leadership looks like and does not look like.

On the former, the president-elect has been inclusive, hopeful and unifying in his speeches. He said the major issue of the moment is the pandemic noting we cannot recover our economy without addressing the increasing cases and deaths. He has already announced a team to address these issues and given Americans straightforward advice about masks, social distancing and doing what is needed in advance of the vaccine.

On the latter, we have an incumbent president who I have never concluded was a leader, given his self-serving, untruthful, demeaning and bullying actions. After saying we should give him a chance after the 2016 election (as we should do with any president), it took less than a week for him to start burning that misplaced trust. A democratically elected leader does not act that way – an autocratic one does. Long ago I wrote that if the president cannot add value when he talks or tweets, he needs to stop talking or tweeting.

When a person in a leadership position does not add value or is untruthful, they start getting ignored. When you say inane or untruthful things, the speaker turns people off. Since the 2020 election, the incumbent is doing what many (including me) expected him to do – claim victory early on, claim fraud when the votes come in, and contest the election. He has been setting the stage for these actions for many months.

It should be noted that major news networks have cut away twice, once from the president and once from his PR person, when they started saying unsupported claims of wide-scale fraud. Think about what that says. Cutting away may be one of the biggest insults a president could get. In essence, the networks are saying if this is what you are going to talk about, then we have better things to do. It is like the crazy uncle at the Thanksgiving table – you just stop listening to him.

On the night of the election when the president claimed victory, he was vilified by more than several news people saying he cannot make that claim and is inflaming the situation. Chris Wallace of Fox News was one of those people. Even Republican leaders called the president “reckless and irresponsible.” Yet, he still has his sycophants who support this incredibly untruthful narcissist.

Now, I read that foreign leaders are giving the president the cold shoulder. That speaks volumes as well. The difference between these two candidates is staggering. One is being a leader, while the other is being, well whatever he wants. The story on the latter has gotten real tiresome. And, people are voting with their feet.

Even Senior Republicans speak out against Trump’s election claims

Courtesy of the US News article link below as well as other sources like Business Insider, The Guardian and The Hill, here are a few quotes from several senior Republican leaders regarding the election claims of the president.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania “I saw the president’s speech last night and it was very hard to watch. The president’s allegations of large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated. I’m not aware of any significant wrongdoing here,” Toomey said on “TODAY.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah – Per The Hill, Romney, in a statement posted to Twitter, said the president was “right” to “exhaust legal remedies,” including asking for recounts and that alleged voting irregularities be investigated, but “wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen. Doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,” Romney added.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida – Per US News, Rubio, who ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential primaries and campaigned for for the president in recent weeks, tweeted ‘The result of the presidential race will be known after every legally cast vote has been counted. Taking days to count legally cast votes is NOT fraud,” he wrote. “And court challenges to votes cast after the legal voting deadline is NOT suppression.”

Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska –  The Senators echoed the sentiment in the same US News article below, saying the votes should be counted. Lee asked people to “allow the vote counters to do their job.”  We should respect that process and ensure that all ballots cast in accordance with state laws are counted. It’s that simple,’ Portman said, while Murkowski urged “everyone to be patient.’

Congressman Adam Kinzinger of IllinoisPer US News, “We want every vote counted, yes every legal vote (of course). But, if you have legit concerns about fraud present EVIDENCE and take it to court. STOP Spreading debunked misinformation,” tweeted Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Congressman Will Hurd of Texas (and former CIA officer) – Per US News, Hurd of Texas, who is retiring, went further. He accused the president of undermining the foundations of the country. “A sitting president undermining our political process & questioning the legality of the voices of countless Americans without evidence is not only dangerous & wrong, it undermines the very foundation this nation was built upon. Every American should have his or her vote counted,” Hurd tweeted.

German foreign minister Heiko MaasPer The Guardian: The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said: “America is more than a one-man show. Anyone who continues to pour oil on the fire in a situation like this is acting irresponsibly. Now is the time to keep a cool head until an independently determined result is available.”

‘”In order for the result – which has not yet been determined – to be accepted, everyone must first show restraint. Decent losers are more important for the functioning of a democracy than radiant winners.”

These voices are not alone. They speak for many. We need to be patience and trust the people, who appear to take their job with seriousness of purpose and try to get it right, to finish counting the votes. Recounts can occur if warranted per each state law. And, a candidate can bring lawsuit if he or she thinks there was a problem. Yet, disparaging a process before and while it is going on is beyond poor form. The word used a few times above is “irresponsible.”

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/senior-republicans-speak-out-against-donald-trump-s-election-claims/ar-BB1aLkPT?ocid=msedgdhp

Conservative pundit David Brooks – How Democrats Won the War of Ideas

As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat), David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits and authors. He is a regular participant on PBS Newhour’s Friday recap show with the more liberal Mark Shields. Like other key conservative pundits, MIchael Gerson, George Will, Ross Douthat, Eric Erickson and Max Boot, he is hoping that America votes out the incumbent president.

In his usual articulate and even-handed fashion, Brooks penned the following editorial last week called “How Democrats Won the War of Ideas.” The link is below, but I will highlight a few paragraphs for your review and comment.

“Over the last 100 years, Americans have engaged in a long debate about the role of markets and the welfare state. Republicans favored a limited government, fearing that a large nanny state would sap American dynamism and erode personal freedom. Democrats favored a larger state, arguing that giving people a basic economic security would enable them to take more risks and lead dignified lives.

That debate ebbed and flowed over the years, but 2020 has turned out to be a pivotal year in the struggle, and it looks now as if we can declare a winner. The Democrats won the big argument of the 20th century. It’s not that everybody has become a Democrat, but even Republicans are now embracing basic Democratic assumptions. Americans across the board fear economic and physical insecurity more than an overweening state. The era of big government is here.”

Brooks cites a few survey facts from last week’s New York Times/ Siena poll.

2/3 of Americans support allowing people to buy health insurance through the federal government

2/3 support Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase renewable energy and build efficient infrastructure

72% of likely voters and 56% of Republican voters favor another COVID-19 relief package

59% of Americans think government should do more to solve problems

2/3 think government should do more to fight climate change

60% support increasing the minimum wage and providing tax credits to low income workers

82% of voters and 70% of Republicans would like to expand requirements for paid family medical leave

Brooks also cites a study by the Mercatus Center which notes that Republicans are also moving left, just not at the pace of Democrats. This is contrary to what is believed by the media.

I have long said that more than 1/2 of the Republican voters are voting against their economic interests and do not know it. This survey indicates many do favor policies that would help them, but are sold a bill of goods packaged to woo their votes, but mask the purposeful deterioration of rights and opportunities.

A great example is the Affordable Care Act. When people are surveyed about the features of the act, the features receive high marks from all, including Republicans. The only feature that did not was eliminated – the mandate to buy coverage. Ironically, this elimination is the basis for 25 Republican Attorney Generals who have case to declare the ACA unconstitutional in front of the Supreme Court after the election, which should not occur as the case is not solid, but one never knows with these things. Sadly, the White House chose not to defend the law, which affects expanded Medicaid, exchange and employer-provided benefits.

Please read Brooks article below. It is very well done, as per usual.

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

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/

The nonpartisan Concord Coalition on the absent relief package

The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan group that researches and educates on the US deficit and debt problems. The following was in my inbox from that group and it speaks for itself.

“The following is written from the perspective of Concord Coalition Policy Director, Tori Gorman.

Avid readers of The Lookout will notice that my missive today is unlike any of my previous entries. If you are accustomed to the colorful charts and technical policy analyses that usually accompany my posts, my sincerest apologies. Those features will return, but today’s post is from the heart.

Last week I fully anticipated that I would be spending my waking hours prior to publication of this newsletter buried in legislative text, frantically distilling the latest coronavirus relief package from Congress for our readers. Instead, I find myself staring at an empty desk while federal officials jet home for their sacrosanct August recess. Why? Because despite over 160,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, a record-setting decline in economic activity, over 31 million people collecting some form of unemployment, and millions of children unable to return to school, lawmakers refused to compromise.

Unconscionable.

Each side has expressed support for another pandemic relief bill and each side has tendered their initial offer. The House-passed HEROES Act would spend another $3.4 trillion whereas the Senate Republican package of proposals would spend closer to $1.2 trillion. Clearly there is plenty of playing field in between to reach agreement.

On what planet is an acceptable outcome ZERO?

To add insult, on August 8, President Trump announced with great flourish a series of toothless executive memoranda from the ballroom of his eponymous Bedminster golf club – actions that will have virtually no effect except to make any further negotiations more difficult: A payroll tax proposal that neither side in Congress supports, a pseudo-unemployment insurance scheme virtually no state can navigate nor afford, an eviction ‘moratorium’ that isn’t, and student loan action that could have been, and should have been, more robust.

At some point in our political history ‘compromise’ became a dirty word. Somewhere it became acceptable in an election year for Congress to punt the people’s work until the November results were known. In today’s environment, however, where twin crises are leaving a trail of death and destruction, it is imperative that lawmakers rise above the low expectations they champion, return to Washington, and do the work they were elected to do.

Americans deserve no less.”

What the president has fashioned with executive orders is beyond his authority. Congress has the purse strings given to them by the Constitution. What the president has proposed is unworkable in parts and unwieldy in others. But, again we are not an autocracy and Congress needs to do its job.

What I also find interesting is the president’s executive order did not include a price tag on debt impact. I have done some back of the envelope calculations and it is likely nearer the $1.2 trillion GOP figure, if it is not extended, but we just do not know. I also feel that cutting FICA taxes will be harmful to Social Security and Medicare, at a time when they need more funding not less.

Yet, what no one has done is calculate what we need to do, including all three parties, the Senate, the House and White House. The House at least passed a bill on May 15, but the Senate could not bring themselves to debate and vote until the bewitching hour. Frankly, that is poor leadership by Senator Mitch McConnell and the president. Crisis planning is often not the best of planning.

You would think our so-called leaders could take the time to do some homework. But, what do I know?

David Brooks pens an editorial – President Biden’s first day

David Brooks has long been my favorite conservative pundit. I first became aware of him as he teamed with more liberal Mark Shields to do a recap of the week on the Friday show of PBS Newshour. They epitomized the PBS doctrine of civil discourse. I have read two of Brooks’ books – “The Social Animal” and “The Road to Character” – which are excellent reads, and have had the good fortune of hearing him speak.

Like other conservative pundits, George Will, Michael Gerson, Erick Erickson, et al, Brooks is deeply disappointed in the actions, verbiage and temperament of the current US president. So, when he penned the editorial, “President Biden’s first day,” I was intrigued and not surprised. Here are a few quotes that shape the article.

“The first thing you’ll notice is the quiet. If Joe Biden wins this thing, there will be no disgraceful tweets and no furious cable segments reacting to them on Inauguration Day.”

“Republicans will pretend they never heard his (Trump’s) name. Republican politicians are not going to hang around a guy they privately hate and who publicly destroyed their majority.”

“It is very hard for Republicans to demonize Biden because he comes from the sort of background that Trumpian conservatives celebrate.”

“His (Biden’s economic) agenda is more New Deal than New Left. In the two speeches he has delivered so far there are constant references to our manufacturing base – infrastructure, steelworkers, engineers, ironworkers, welders, 500,000 charging stations for electric cars. ‘When I think of climate change, the word I think of is jobs,’ he declared.”

“The agenda pushes enormous resources toward two groups: first, African-Americans, who have been pummeled by deindustrialization for decades; and second, white working class Trump voters.

“Everybody says Biden is a moderate, and in intellectual and temperamental terms that is true. But he has found a way to craft an agenda that could reshape the American economy and the landscape of American politics in fundamental ways.”

The entire piece can be found with the following link. I will not comment on the above here and let Brooks’ thoughts filter in. Let me know your reactions, thoughts, etc.

That Trump anchor

That Trump anchor is getting heavier. Republican Senate candidate are realizing the president’s decline in the polls is impacting their chances as reported in an article by Politico today called “Election forecast: Trump, Senate, GOP in trouble.”
Per the Politico article, 75% of voters think the country is going in the wrong direction as Trump’s approval ratings fall further beneath already underwater averages.

It goes on to say “President Donald Trump is now an underdog to win a second term and Republican majority in the Senate is in serious danger.” RealClear Politics, which averages poll results, reports Arizona Senator Martha McSally is behind in a close race to astronaut Mark Kelly, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis is behind in a close race to state legislator and decorated vet Cal Cunningham, and Senators Joni Ernst (Iowa), Cory Gardner (Colorado), Susan Collins (Maine) are also closely behind in their races to Theresa Greenfield, John Hickenlooper and Sara Gideon, respectively.

With his ongoing misinformation and lack of leadership on COVID-19, with his racist tendencies adding gasoline to racial injustice issues and tensions, with his ongoing corrupt tendencies to punish people who try to protect our country against his deceit and ineptness in doing his job not bothering to read or pay attention, the Trump anchor is pulling others down with him.

And, it is not going to get better. COVID-19 is getting worse in America and he is hoping it goes away. Hope is not a strategy. Although, there was some hopeful news in May and June of some of the unemployed going back to work, the economy is going to continue its malaise into 2021, as more closings occur. The last half of June started to show fall off from the first half results.

After winning in 2016 on fear and a nationalistic campaign, he is doubling down on those themes, at a time when most of the country has left him behind on the problem of racial injustice. He had support when he made a prop out of Colin Kaepernick when he knelt to the national anthem, but Trump chose not to understand the reason why Kaepernick was kneeling. The fact a Vietnam vet knelt with Kaepernick did not register. Trump is shouting in the wind, but fewer are listening.

Now, Democrats, a word of caution. Do not count the seats as won yet. You must get out on and vote. There is an old saying that if you are going to take down the King, you better take him down. As economic advisor to presidents of both parties, Robert Reich said Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and world. If he were to win, America and the planet would be in dire trouble with an uncontrolled Pandora.

A survey phone call in disguise

Every month, I receive written surveys from the Republican Party, ACLU, environmental defense group, etc. that look very familiar. The surveys are the same each time, accompanied by an introductory letter telling me how I should answer the questions. But, the biggest tells are at the bottom of the surveys. That is where the fundraising occurs. Send us your money.

So, in essence, these are marketing and solicitations disguised as surveys. Surveying is hard as the entity must do its best to shave off any bias. Otherwise, the results are not worth the paper they are written on. In the case of these fundraisers, my guess is the survey goes to a lock box and then tossed, once the money is collected and sender codified for future fundraising.

Now, phone surveys are using the same process. Last night, I took a call and decided to participate in the survey. The questions were as expected about national and governor races, but it skipped over the US Senate race. When I was asked about a candidate not on my radar screen, that should have been a signal, as this candidate was apparently funding the survey. In this case it was a Republican state senator candidate.

What tipped me was leading questions which told me of her opponents’ stances on various votes taking those votes out of context or hyper-politicizing the stance. The surveyor was leading me to question why I should vote for the other candidate.

Once I heard about three of these spoon-fed questions, I stopped him and said this is a leading survey as you are telling me why I should not vote for the other person. Plus, you are taking a lot of these votes out of context and feeding me slogans. What you just said is a made up statistic, for example.

I said I am going to hang up now. I told you how I am going to vote. So, you need nothing further. And, you should know I am an Independent and former Republican voter. But, I am not voting for this Republican candidate.

Saturday in the park – a few wandering comments

It is a good day for a walkabout, so let’s head to the park, allowing for social distancing. As we wander, here are few thoughts to ponder.

I saw where Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, sold one of his several Super Bowl rings for charity, garnering $1.1 million. Very nice. It reminded me of an interesting accusation Kraft made on a visit to Moscow. He accused Vladimir Putin of pocketing his ring after he asked to see it. Putin said Kraft gave it to him – Kraft said he did not.

I received a letter from one of my Senators in response to my emsil on my concern the president is firing Inspectors General. He said it was the president’s right to fire the IGs. I called and left a message thanking him for the letter, saying I understood his point, but strongly disagree. Firing IGs is like firing the umpire and should be of concern to all senators, regardless of who is president. We must have governance over any president, but especially this one who is not known for telling the truth. By the way, commentators Mark Shield and David Brooks echoed these concerns last night on their PBS Newshour recap of the week.

I read in my newsfeed the fuss about mail-in voting is a lot of hot air about nothing. Five states currently use mail-in voting to a heavy extent – Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington. It seems people don’t like to drive a long way to a voting precinct and prefer to mail it in. Having lived in a state that saw a Republican super majority plow through ALEC based cookie cutter language on Voter ID Laws, one party is trying to limit voting for their own benefit. Voter fraud is very miniscule, but you would think it is rampant. Fortunately, the judges saw the NC law as “precision-like” discrimination and ruled it unconstitutional. The problem in America is we need to encourage more voting, not less.

China is not the only one who tried to cover up what was happening with COVID-19. After being briefed in January on the pandemic risk, the US president chose to naysay the risk and misinform per his modus operandi. The misinformation continues to this day. On the good side, Americans are coming together. We see the more strident folks beat on their chest and say “I am invincible,” but most Americans are doing what they can, observing social distancing, and helping each other. To be brutally frank, we deserve a better leader than the one who is misinforming us routinely. We need people in leadership positions to shoot straight with us and not try to do things to win an election, first and foremost. Ironically, if the president had chosen to be presidential beginning in January, he could have helped Americans and helped his chances of winning.

Joe Biden had another slip up. Joe screwed up presuming black votes were his. That was wrong. Yet, later in the day, Biden did something that is very un-Trump like, he apologized for his remarks to an important audience. This is not unusual for Biden to say things he may want to check and it will happen again. Yet, it is very important to note biographers have said Trump was taught by his mentor Roy Cohn to “never apologize and sue everyone.” Having watched Trump for years, I must confess I cannot recall him apologizing. He is more inclined to blame someone else than be accountable. Biden was accountable for his screw-up. Yet, no one should take voters for granted, including Joe

Well that is enough to chew on while you walk. Have a great weekend. Be safe.