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.”

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

He approves this message

Although we try to mute most campaign commercials, some do sneak through. When the president comes on at the end of a highly dubious commercial saying “I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message,” it really does not have the impact he thinks it might.

Now, Trump fanatics will trust his word as the gospel truth. Most people, though, do not feel that way. They realize the president has a hard time with that truth thing. The Washington Post has tracked more than 20,000 lies uttered or tweeted by the president.

So, when the president says he approves of this message, it really does not add gravatas. It actually makes you look closer. One commercial the president approves says Joe Biden supports the defunding of police. Yet, this claim was refuted in real time during an interview between Chris Wallace and the president.

We have serious concerns in our country and we need people in leadership positions to tell us the truth. That usually is the opposite of whatever the president or his sycophants say.

The so-called Lion does not sleep at night

In an article posted yesterday called “Donald Trump just broke the most basic rule of politics” by Chris Cillizza of CNN, it notes the president has increased the visibility of The Lincoln Project. The Lincoln Project is a group of Republicans committed to defeating Donald Trump in the election.

Trump is none to happy with this group and its commercial called “Mourning in America” and has taken his favorite attack ploy – name calling. Per Trump, they are “losers” and “RINOs” and are ignoring his many successes, which he embellishes.

The article, whose link is below, says the lion should not worry about what his prey thinks. He should just be a lion. Calling Trump a lion is generous, but it is a good metaphor of how the president does not handle criticism very well. When directed at him, he attacks roaring with spite, fervor and truth-be-damned spin.

From the article, below is a paragraph from the ad “Mourning in America,” followed by the words of Cillizzo.

“‘Under the leadership of Donald Trump our country is weaker and sicker and poorer,” says the ad’s narrator. ‘If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?’

Its message is dark, foreboding and harsh. And it’s very likely that almost no one would have even seen that message had it not been for Donald Trump.”

Americans who care about what has been done to our democracy, our global standing, our relationships and a sense of decency and empathy, need to help make more people aware of The Lincoln Project. When the inevitable push back comes from Trump supporters, the correct rebuttal is “these are Republican voices, not mine.” The Trump wall is starting to show a few cracks with a gradual few who are starting to criticize actions, as Sean Hannity did about too zealous of protestors the other night.

Yet, there are several certainties. As the COVID-19 pandemic does not go away and increases in areas that opened up without enough precautions and the economy continues to struggle as people watch their dollars and don’t rush out of their homes, the president will be prone to even more criticism than he currently has earned. As criticism mounts, he will strike out like a cornered animal. Yet, this lion’s roar will sound more like that of Scar than Mufasa. And, even Scar’s hyenas will have a hard time defending this lion.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/05/politics/lincoln-project-ad-donald-trump/index.html

That truth stuff has never been his thing

This COVID-19 is serious stuff and we can no longer mess around. We missed six weeks when we should have been investing in things we would need rather than naysaying it and selling stocks like my Senator did. As for the whitewashing now going on that the president never did downplay the pandemic, we should not forget that the president has long had a problem with that truth stuff. So, even when it appears he is being more truthful than before, it is a deep hole to climb out of. And, one truth does not make up for an ocean of lies.

Per his biographers, Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn told him to never apologize and sue everyone. This is yet one more example of too many. Trump cannot say he was caught with his shorts down and downplayed the pandemic. He even denies saying he called it a hoax, when there he is on camera calling it a hoax.

But, on the latter Cohn teaching, Trump’s campaign has sued TV stations to not air the truthful ad that shows him downplaying the pandemic. This is modus operandi. Lie. Lie about the lie when the lie does not work. Sue anyone who says you are lying.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s attorney and fixer, said many egregious things under oath, which simply have been ignored by Trump sycophants. I quote often the main theme that he said “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con artist and he is a cheat.” But, what Cohen also said under oath is he was instructed on more than 500 occasions to send cease and desist orders to entities that had less flattering information in its possession. They ranged from unflattering footage of “The Apprentice” to colleges or prep schools with bad grades to sexual assault accusations, etc.

But, the most egregious thing Trump attorneys did is sue people to avoid paying them for services rendered to his properties. This man of the people has screwed contractors, sheet rockers, painters, electricians, plumbers, etc. on countless occasions. Before the election, out of over 4000 lawsuits, over 200 were to screw the common worker. These folks had to take less money or file for bankruptcy.

Thomas Wells, another attorney who worked for Trump also said many things in an op-ed piece before the election. My favorite is “Donald Trump lies everyday, even about things of no consequence.” But, he also said Trump “always” claimed bad service to avoid paying people. To me, that shows Trump is a cheap SOB. But, don’t take my word or Wells’ word on this. I watched a contractor in a voter panel in 2016 tell the facilitator about working with Trump companies, “The word on the street is get your money up front.”

So, taking the president at his word is a fool’s errand. And, if you do work for him, get your money in advance.

A weekend at Bernie’s

Yesterday, I spoke of the value proposition of Joe Biden. While I need not tell this to those “who feel the Bern,” Bernie Sanders value proposition needs more selling to those who may not be so enthralled. But, what is missing from a true evaluation is needed context.

The US economy is not a pure capitalistic system and, has been much less of one, since the changes required by the Robber Baron period. To be frank, this is the period Donald Trump wants America to return to and with the tax cuts and vast deregulation, we have come closer than before to this oligarchy period. Since that time, we have added several “governors” on capitalism and layered in some socialistic underpinnings to protect those in need. On the former, think interlocking boards, collusion, monopolies, insider trading, and bankruptcy restrictions and protection. On the latter, think Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers Compensation, food stamps, etc.

So, the US is a fettered capitalistic economic system with socialistic protections. And, to make this even more obvious, if we did not have bankruptcy protection, Donald Trump would not have any money as his companies have declared bankruptcy six times. This context is needed, as the debate we should be having is what is the right balance?

Bernie is pushing for several changes that would add more socialistic protections for people. He has also discussed the government taking over the quasi-governmental, but publicly traded utility industry, to address climate change. Addressing climate change is key, but is that the preferred path forward? As an independent and former Republican and Democrat, I would much prefer the argument to be shaped with the context I note above.

As an example, Medicare for All is something to consider, but it should be evaluated with detailed cost projections on what it means for various groups of people and taxpayers. There are many considerations such as should it be obligatory, should it be an option, should it be an extended version of the current system to younger retirees, etc.? As this will take time to evaluate, shoring up the ACA is needed. I mention this as if Democrats don’t keep the House and get 60 senators, Medicare for All will have difficulty getting considered. But, if framed as something to study, it may get consideration.

While Bernie is much scarier to some as much as he is appealing to his base, it would behoove us to consider the following. Bernie is a decent person with integrity and compassion. None of these three words could be legitimately used to define the current president. It is all about Donald Trump. It is that simple.

I believe Bernie is not as scary as portrayed by the right and he should not be as aspirational beyond what he can deliver. Just like tax cuts, free stuff sells. But, everything has a price tag. The better answer is what makes the most sense to do, based on impact and cost, and the fact we have $23 trillion in debt, expected to grow to $35 trillion. If Bernie is the nominee, I would prefer him to offer needed context to his discussions. Otherwise, he is getting people wound up for disappointment.

Don’t rankle the new king

In a speech in Charlotte on Friday, the new king of America acknowledged the presence of junior Republican Senator Thom Tillis. While Tillis voted for acquittal, he got a lot of GOP flak for criticizing the new king for closing the government last year. He quickly fell in line.

Yet, what made his subservient role telling is what the new king said Friday according to The Charlotte Observer. He acknowledged, “(Tillis) as a great friend except for a couple of minor disagreements. Of course, I won’t put up with it for long, Thom Tillis.”

The new king put Tillis in a corner telling him not to slight the king. It should be noted this was the same day the new king fired two witnesses (Alex Vindeman and Gordon Sondland) who told the truth under oath at the risk of knowing this reckoning would come. For good measure, the new king fired Vindeman’s brother. This is on the heels of Marie Yovanovitch deciding to retire after she became persona non grata by standing up to the king’s corruption and telling the truth.

The GOP led Senate opened Pandora’s Box and annointed the new king. My guess is many knew better, but had to acquiesce to a person who one Republican said keeps a list of those who criticize him in word or deed.

The evidence of Trump’s Ukraine corruptive behavior is overwhelming. By choosing to look the other way, the GOP has far damaged its party and country. The egregious vindictive actions of just this week, are only the first of many.

A fable about a mistreated woman

Once upon a time, there was a woman who represented her employer in client relations. She had been doing her job well for about thirty years and was now working to assist a growing, but fragile client.

Unbeknownst to her, her boss’ boss had been told she was not doing what he wanted, which was actually corrupt. She stood in the way of her boss’ boss accomplishing is illicit task. The big boss even hired an attorney to dig up dirt and bad mouth her to the client and others.

Sadly, her boss did nothing to support her. He actually participated in the process. Her long time good service did not matter. When the bad-mouthing hit the press, she was chagrined.

She was eventually fired. Yet, what puzzled her is why did they not just fire her? They did not need to drag her name through the mud. They could have simply replaced her.

This is not a fable. The woman’s name is Marie Yovanovitch and she was the US ambassador to Ukraine. Her boss is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his boss is Donald Trump. The attorney is Rudy Giuliani.

Let’s set all the machinations aside. Of course, the president has the right to fire anyone. But, why did he have to run down Yovanovitch’s name and sully her reputation? That is a damn shame. It also speaks volumes about the relative character of those involved.

Letter to editor – as a Republican, I won’t follow blindly

A letter to the editor in my paper today was entitled “As a Republican, I won’t follow blindly.” The following are his first two paragraphs:

“Why are American citizens turning a deaf ear to the obvious wrongdoings of the president of the United States.

As a registered Republican, I am appalled that my fellow American citizens aren’t ashamed of the total disregard for the truth that is being emitted from Washington.”

This emperor has no clothes. He is also a national security risk as he belittles and embarasses an ally in need of our help for personal gain.

Former pastor on concerns over Trump for Christianity

A concern that evangelicals should have is casting a person who does not exhibit their ideals as a Godsend. For too many evangelicals, the ends justify the means. Yet, when the means pervert your religious doctrine, the ends are not realized. They are bastardized.

The attached link is from a former pastor who lost his faith because of this. As a Christian, the overarching message in the bible is called the Golden Rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. It is pretty basic.

So, when the Godsend does not act or speak this way, it damages credibility. When the Godsend is not living up to those ten other rules, it makes it worse.

In short, the ends do not justify the means. How we act is important. How we treat people is paramount.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/ex-evangelical-pastor-says-supporting-trump-has-been-damaging-to-church/ar-AAJP9v0?ocid=spartandhp