Wednesday wanders and wonders

With the backdrop of Del Shannon’s “The Wanderer,” let me wander a little as I wonder. In no particular order:

HBO is running a movie called “Brexit,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the lead of the “Vote Leave” campaign. I would ask my British friends to comment, but it is interesting as much as it is scary. There are several takeaways – the slow realization by the “Vote Remain” campaign that the leave movement was playing off fears and insecurities that had been festering over time. The others are how targeted the analytics and persuasion technologies are and how poorly thought of the faces of the leave campaign – Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson – are by their own side. One thing is for certain, the leave campaign glossed over how long and complex leaving the EU would be, per the words of the man who led the campaign in later testimony.

On a related, but scarier front, it was reported today that Russia and China are filling the global void being left open by a retrenching US and a very distracted UK. This is not a surprise as it is part of a presumed strategy to disrupt the west. The elegance of Putin’s strategy is not just helping promote the election of a mercurial US President, the leave vote with Brexit or the disruption of Syrian refugees in Europe, it is the divisiveness in each of the affected countries that continue to this day. To Putin, social media is like shooting fish in a barrel, as that is what he was trained to do.

Tomorrow, the US Senate is having two base appeasing votes to reopen the government, neither one standing a chance of passing. The hope is they will get down to business afterwards and come up with an acceptable compromise. To be frank, I am long passed tired of legislators governing off the extremes. If the President continues to be influenced by entertainers and personalities rather than sober, sound data-driven advice, then good governance will prove difficult. It is equally imperative for the Democrats to govern less from the extreme. A closed government is hurting people. It matters not which party is to blame.

I want these three items in your mind as you think of this last thought. As the US and UK chase their tails at home, the leaders of these two countries are absent from a global economic forum in Davos. To me, that speaks volumes.

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Voters say reopen the government – another note to Senators

A NPR/ Ipsos poll last week noted 75% of Americans and the majority of Republicans feel embarassed by the shutdown. It is time to make a deal and reopen the government. If the man who caused the shutdown vetoes it, override it.

The wall has been oversold as a solution based on fear and lies. Please check out the real time fact checking by Chris Wallace in an interview with Sarah Sanders where she was caught in three lies the President has been using to support the wall. We deserve better than this.

Dear Mr. President

Below is a slight variation of a letter I posted on the White House website. To be heard, my message is not accusational. It is an earnest, forthright plea for help. Please feel free to use any elements you like.

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Dear Mr. President,

Please reopen the government as American people are being harmed by the closure, especially federal workers. As a former Republican, I feel the wall issue is overstated. We should not hold people hostage on this and should discuss immigration in a data driven, compassionate and diligent manner. Please work with Congress to make this happen. I feel what the House proposed will allow some time to do this and let people get back to work to serve our citizens.

What surprises me

What does not surprise me is that people who have worked with the US President are going to jail. It does not surprise me that the US President has a hard time recruiting good people and keeping the ones he did.

It does not surprise me that the US President is mercurial and flies off the handle when he does not get his way. It does not surprise me the US President cannot take criticism well and bullies and berates others who dare to do so.

Nor does it surprise me the US President has a very hard time telling the truth. Even when he is on the kitchen counter with his hand in the cookie jar, this man-child says it is not his fault. What is defined above has been reported over the years by five biographers and financial reporters as a modus operandi of behavior. All of the above was amply reported before the election, so it is not news.

What surprises me is how his followers and sycophants have either swallowed his marketing schtick hook, line and sinker or are choosing to look the other way. I think the sycophants are the worst of the bunch as they know better. People like Senator Mitch McConnell know the US President is a cancer on America, yet are spineless and choose not to overly say this is wrong.

The cult-like base is another thing. Many people have left the Republican Party, but that is not telling enough. Conservative pundits have left the GOP and/ or are critical of how the US President is acting, but that is not telling enough. People who voted for him are not seeing the gains other parts of the country are and farmers are punished by the tariffs, but that is not telling enough.

What will it take? As a candidate, he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his followers would still support him. To me, that is an obvious insult and reveals his disdain for the people he has taken advantage of all his life through thousands of lawsuits and refusing to pay hard-working contractors.

Maybe, just maybe, as the lies become more apparent and cannot be hidden by the blinders, the sycophants and cult will act. His fixer just pled guilty and is going to jail for three years. An entertainment news periodical that revels in trashy gossip, pled guilty to buying a negative story and burying it as well as paying hush money to protect the candidate, is now cooperating.

What is becoming increasingly apparent is those folks who said the US President has a problem with the truth, are dead on accurate. The US President is very likely guilty of all the things he said he did not do. Why? In the words of another legal counsel who resigned after it was apparent the President was not heeding his caution, he said the biggest concern he had is his boss was a “f**king liar.”

What should we stand for?

The United States is far from perfect. Its construct and stated ideals are enviable. But, we imperfect citizens challenge those ideals, even when we stumble into doing the right thing. It is the aspiration to live up to those ideals that make us better than we are at times.

Right now, a populist leader has painted a different kind of America. Our ideals are being frittered away in the name of searching for greatness, which is puzzling in itself. With this in mind, my question is what do we stand for? And, are we living up to that ideal under this President.

We stand for equal rights for all Americans. Groups whose rights have been denied or challenged over time are once again feeling uncertain of their equality. This is occurring at the same time white supremacists groups are feeling more empowered,

We stand as a beacon of opportunity which has led to a diverse country with diverse thinking and idea-creation. Yet, legal immigration has retrenched at the same time illegal immigration has come under attack. Plus, immigration or travel from some stated countries has been stalled or threatened.

We have stood by our allies valuing our relationships which is a strength. Yet, the populist leader has a nationalistic bent and has questioned the veracity of NATO, the EU, World Bank, WTO, UN, multilateral trade deals, and the presence of US troops. He has also placed tariffs on our allies which has caused them to reciprocate. Our diplomatic and military leaders are dismayed by these actions.

We have stood for human rights around the globe, even when we could pay more attention in our own backyard. Yet, this populist leader has white-washed human rights abuses missing chances to raise concerns and penalties.

We have valued the role of the media as an important check on power. Yet, the media is under attack in this country by an untruthful and bullying President. These attacks have deteriorated the trust in our media, which is a shame

What do we stand for? Are we missing the mark on key ideals? What should we do about it? What are your thoughts?

Imperfections

We humans are an imperfect lot. We do our best to hide our imperfections, but we all have them. No race has any more or less than others. Yet, one of our imperfections is as old as time. Jesus warned us against this with the Golden Rule. The imperfection is to think we are better than another group of people that may look, worship, vote, or love differently than we do. Too often, we feel a group or person is beneath us and should not be given the same rights.

The US Constitution and its various amendments has also tried to provide a set of rules that say we are all created equal. Quite simply, my rights are no important than that of another. The converse is also true. Like Jesus’ words, it is an ideal that we should strive for. And, when we fail, we should feel remorse and do better. Our leaders must represent our better angels. When they don’t, we lose the benefit of their example.

Unfortunately, examples can work in the opposite direction. Bigotry has to be carefully taught. And, when leaders look the other way or grease the skids on bigotry, it festers and becomes more pervasive. Under the guise of populism, we are seeing a greater degree and more pervasive bigotry in the US, Hungary, Poland, Germany to name a few countries. At the heart of this populism is a bigotry that betrays the Golden Rule.

With the current US President, America can no longer claim to be a beacon of democracy. The traits of lying, bullying, demeaning the media and allies, and thinking me first are not conducive to leadership. The current US President occupies the seat of leadership, but I would not use that term to define what he does. A leader unites. A leader accepts responsibility. A leader is accountable. This President could do better in each of these areas.

We must hold him accountable. When he lies, we must say that is unacceptable. When he demeans, we need to let him know children our watching. We are all imperfect, but imperfect people should not throw stones. Jesus said something about that as well. I hope and pray he will do better. We need him to. The same goes for other leaders. And, for us.

 

A simple example of accountability that speaks volumes

The following is a brief example, but speaks volumes as a window into the US President. At one of his pep rallies the past few days, the President ridiculed the former Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, who resigned after accusations of sexual harassment. But, the President was not ridiculing the allegations, he was mocking him for resigning.

Let me be clear on this. The President of the United States was mocking a Senator who did the right thing accepting accountability for his actions. He screwed up, acknowledged it and resigned. The President saw this as weakness. The crowd cheered, but why?

I have written before how the President is not accountable. He rarely accepts blame for anything he does that goes awry. According to his biographers, he was taught by his mentor Roy Cohn to do two things – never say you are sorry and sue everyone. Think about this. He sues everyone or threatens to any time he perceives maltreatment. Before the election, his company lawsuits averaged 1 1/2 per week.

Now, he may have said he is sorry, but I can’t think of one top of mind, in spite of many opportunities. Typically, he changes what he said or backs off, then comes back later to double down. My favorite story to illustrate Trump at his worst is arranging a press conference before the election with the sole purpose to say that he was wrong about Obama’s birth certificate issue.

We need to be reminded that Trump had been raising the birther issue for several years increasing his notoriety appealing to his future base. Yet, when it came time to accept accountability, he blamed Hillary Clinton. Her campaign in 2008 made up the birther issue was his rationale. The idea may have come from them, but they did not execute on it. Trump did for several years, repeatedly. This avoidance of accountability was vintage Trump.

We teach our kids to be truthful, be civil, be responsible and be accountable. Trump is only responsible to himself and his base, everything else is secondary. He tells the truth only 31% of the time and even less when at a pep rally. He certainly is not routinely civil. From several sources, his tirades are legendary indoors as well as out. But, accountability is a trait he severely lacks. Why did people clap at his rally? Because he was ragging on a Democrat. But, that Democrat did the right thing. He was accountable.