Beware of folks – a few quick lessons taught us by the books on the former president

There are many books about the former president, both before, during and after his presidency. Some have been written by excellent authors who have done their homework. There are lessons to be gleaned on how not to act which need to be highlighted.

Beware of folks who claim all criticism is fake news or from sources who just don’t like them. These are a toddler’s response to mom finding her child’s hand in the cookie jar. “Mom, that is fake news.”

Beware of folks who cannot articulate a point of view without name-calling or labeling something. That is like defining the ingredients from the name on the jar. It is a short-cut to arguing and an attempt to mask a lack of understanding.

Beware of folks who take credit for all things good, even if their role was small or nonexistent, and blame others for all things bad, even if they had a heavy hand in things. A leadership consultant used that phrase often to define how to spot a leader.

Beware of folks who need fixers or sycophants to rationalize or make problems go away.

Beware of folks who bully other people into acquiescence. There is a name for people like that. A bully.

Beware of folks who have a hard time with the truth. Start with the base of not believing a word they say and then add back when they actually tell the truth on occasion.

Beware of folks who will blame institutions of people as scapegoats for their failings. Institutions are not perfect, but they tend to be served by hard working people who are more trustworthy than politicians.

Beware of people who refuse to be accountable for their actions. It is my fault or I could have done better will go a long way.

Letter to Editor on persistent election fraud claims

I sent the following letter to my newspaper based on a front page headline of how various Republican Senator candidates are addressing “The Big Lie” of the former president.that way too many Republicans believe. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you concur.

Front page headlines reveal that Pat McCrory (former NC Governor running for Senator) would vote to certify the 2020 election results. Of course he should and I am puzzled that this was and remains an issue in my former party. Several dozens of Republican election officials and governors have audited, certified and confirmed the election results. Further, dozens of Republican judges have ruled in over 60 court cases against the former president’s accusations of election fraud, with him winning one small case.

The US Attorney General William Barr was fired in December for calling the former president’s claims BS, as was the head of election cyber security, Chris Krebs, in November after claiming the election was very secure. Now we learn that Michigan just did an extensive audit led by a Republican state senator that confirmed the results as fair and, this weekend, a former president of Fox News took his network to task for spreading misinformation on the election fraud claims and usage of COVID masks.

People can choose whom they wish to believe – a person who has a well documented history of untruthfulness from multiple people and sources or these many Republican (and other) officials who told this person he is wrong and not telling the truth. People died resulting from the January 6 insurrection because of these untruths and we should never forget that. Full stop.

Bipartisan House group proposes an infrastructure solution

With the latest talks between President Biden and the Republican Senators on an infrastructure bill falling apart, I took some encouragement from a House caucus of 58 members evenly split between the two parties. In an article called “Bipartisan caucus endorses its own proposal after infrastructure talks fizzle” by Jacqui Heinrich and Edmund DeMarche of Fox News, it notes progress from the group.

Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the entire article below.

“Shortly after talks on President Biden’s infrastructure plan fell through on Tuesday when talks between the White House and Republican senators fizzled, there was significant movement on an additional bipartisan effort to come up with a deal.

The House Problem Solvers Caucus voted and endorsed its own proposal: an 8-year package that comes with a $1.249 trillion price tag, including about $500 billion in new spending. (The actual new spending is $761.8 billion over the timeframe, but an aide for Rep. Josh Gottheimer, the Democrat co-chair of the caucus, made an error. It is yet to be seen if the revised number becomes an issue going forward. The error does not affect the total price tag.)

The 58-member group, which consists of 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans, came up with the proposal called, ‘Building Bridges: Bipartisan Physical Infrastructure Framework.’ The bill calls for $587 billion for highway and bridges, $160 billion for transit, $24 billion on electric vehicle infrastructure among other initiatives. The endorsement requires that the group votes as a bloc, should the bill formally take shape and come to the floor.

GOP lawmakers offered a $928 billion infrastructure proposal that included roughly $330 billion in new spending on related projects. Biden had proposed a $1.7 trillion spending plan funded by tax hikes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans. 

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, the Republican co-chair of the caucus, said in a statement that the group worked ‘tirelessly to put together this bipartisan framework that is both responsive to local needs and worthy of the public’s trust. Infrastructure investment can and will deliver real benefits to every American and additionally, has the unique power to unite us as a nation. An investment in our roads, rails, bridges, IT infrastructure, and electrical grid is an investment in our nation, our economy, and our families,’ he said.”

Since I wrote again recently urging legislators to stop worry about keeping their jobs and start doing their jobs, I wanted to report this excellent progress. Collaboration is the way forward in this time of tribal politics. Hopefully, something will happen on this topic as it has been needed for about ten years.

Bipartisan caucus endorses its own proposal after infrastructure talks fizzle | Fox News

Stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job

Too many legislators and elected incumbents focus on trying to keep their job rather than doing their job. As a result, things do not get done, as every issue becomes a wedge issue rather than one that needs to be solved. I have grown long past weary on this lack of leadership and stewardship.

In my career, I have consulted on and actually been a part of several mergers between organizations, both for-profit and non-profit entities. Effective mergers require due diligence, planning and diplomacy. It should not surprise people, but the majority of mergers fail to be as accretive to the cumulative value of the two separate entities as first envisioned. Some actually are dilutive to that combined value – in other words, they fail.

One of the reasons is people involved tend to focus on keeping their jobs or getting good money to leave. They get overly protective of the way their organization does things, even if they do not know why they do it that way. They worry about keeping their job and less about doing their job. One of my favorite examples is two incumbents in a merger zealously vied for the same job verbally undercutting the efforts of the other. The boss decided to hire neither one of them as both showed their true colors.

Politicians in Washington and other capitols around the world and country tend to do this. They are failing to do their jobs and work together to solve problems. If the other side has an idea, its veracity is less important than the fact it must be defeated as the other side raised it. The fact that neither side owns all of the good ideas and both sides own some bad ones should make a difference.

These people in leadership positions are supposed to solve problems, not bark like a a junkyard dog at the other side. We citizens must insist they work together. Name callers need to be criticized and asked what they do not like about the other side’s ideas. If you do not like something, tell us what you propose and avoid barking at the other side? That serves little purpose and it certainly is not governance or rebuttal argument.

We must tell people in leadership positions to stop trying to keep your job and start doing your job. You owe it to us to do so. If you cannot do this, then resign – it matters not what party you belong to. You could start by stop spending 1/3 of your time or more fundraising and use that time to do the people’s work.

Black man talks members of KKK to cede their robes

The following is a repeat of an earlier post written four years ago. It remains relevant today. Our blogging friend Jill highlights weekly a few people who are shining lights in our world. Typically, these folks fly under the radar screen, as they do what they do to help people, not garner publicity. They are all about substance over optics.

Daryl Davis is one of those people. An African-American man, Davis has a mission to reach out and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan. His goal is to change hearts and minds and he has successfully influenced over 200 members of the KKK to give up their robes, which he collects.

Davis grew up mostly outside the US as his father was in the diplomatic corps. He said his school classes included the children of other diplomats from around the world. So, he was gaining a very open-minded education interacting with others. He notes if he grew up here, his education would have been either segregated or pigeonholed limiting interaction with diverse people.

Davis said he did not experience racism until his family moved back to the states. In fact, he did not believe his parents when he learned he was being maltreated because of the color of his skin. He was incredulous that people could be so cruel for such an inane reason.

Davis recognizes that bigotry has to be taught. No one is born hating or demeaning others because they are different from them. Their parents and other adults have to teach kids to be racist or bigoted. So, he would seek to change those learnings by having open conversation. Per the link below, he says how can someone hate me without even knowing me?

He is an overtly friendly and approachable man. Having seen him laugh, I would say he is cherubic in a St. Nick like way. He does not insult, he asks questions and tells folks what he believes. When a KKK person said they burn the cross to light the way for Jesus, he would say you worship a different Jesus than I do. Jesus lights the way for you.

Through these matter-of-fact discussions, he gets people to think. He has studied the KKK and through reverse examples , he can illustrate the absurdity of certain claims. When he appeared on Bill Maher’s show, he astounded the other guests into silence just to listen to what he had to say. For the longest while, even the host remained silent, which is rare for him.

Please check out the attached link to learn more about him. “Bigotry has to be carefully taught” says the famous Oscar Hammerstein song from “South Pacific.” The converse is also true. Let’s teach kids and speak with others about being open-minded. It begins with conversation. Thank you Daryl Davis for showing us how. You are to be commended.

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/20/544861933/how-one-man-convinced-200-ku-klux-klan-members-to-give-up-their-robes

Focus on doing your job, not keeping your job

I think many of us are tired of the gamesmanship that is going on in the halls of government. Both sides do it, but for a long while the former Republican Party has embraced untruths and even conspiracies as talking points. It used to be politicians would run off rhetoric, but govern more off facts. Now, facts are deemed less utile.

I want to say to people like Senator Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, it is OK for us to disagree on policy issues, but you are a Senator of the United States of America. I expect you to tell the truth, nothing less. You do disservice to our country when you do not and abet others who do the same.

Our problems are hard enough to solve when we deal with facts, but nigh impossible when Senators, Governors, Representatives just parrot BS, because someone told them they better. This is especially true when the one telling them to do so has such a fragile ego that painful truths must remain untold or white washed. Or, when truth tellers do share the truth, they need to be respected not vilified for not going along with party political messaging.

We need to hold our legislators (note I avoid the word leaders) to account to address problems and not political gain. We need these legislators to focus more on doing their job than keeping their job. The word leader applies to legislators that can do that and not those who see which way the political winds are blowing. And, it certainly does not apply to a person whose decisions try to protect a fragile, enormous ego.

Would you work for this kind of person?

I have noted before that the most ardent of folks would not work for the kind of person who they hold in high esteem. Let’s entertain a few questions.

Would you work for the kind of person….

who takes credit for anything good that happened in the business, even if it was the result of a team effort?

who would do the same, even if it was due to circumstances outside his control?

who would blame other people or entities for failures, even if the boss had a heavy hand in causing such failure?

who would do the same, even if the failure was outside his control?

who is so short of attention span, efforts to brief him have to include pictures?

who is so mercurial and blows up at people, that staff walks on egg shells around him?

who tends to change decisions based on who got to him last?

who routinely calls people losers, idiots, stupid, et al who dare ask him tough questions?

who berates people who study an issue when their more learned conclusions run counter to a narrative, even if he decided it on a whim?

who does not respect relationships and views every partner through a win/ lose binary lens?

who can be easily swayed when buttered up, especially when he does not know the history or context?

who does not appreciate or take the time to strategize and plan execution of changes, nor communicate them very well?

who makes staff chase their tail to prove an inane comment he made is less inane?

who pits people against each other to promote adversarial behavior?

And, who has a very hard time with the truth?

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and reporter Bob Woodward helped capture the answers to these questions in his book “Fear” after 750 hours of interviews with White House staff. The title “Fear” is based on an interview Trump gave that said he manages by fear. He bullies people into acquiescing to his whims.

The answer to the above questions is not for very long. It should be noted no other White House has had this much turnover and this many open positions. We are at more risk than ever before because of such and further because those who remain are less experienced than those who departed.

From a retired federal employee

In the letters to the editor in my local newspaper was the following letter. It speaks for itself, but I will make one comment following the letter.

“As a retired federal employee with over 34 years of service during the administrations of eight presidents of both political parties, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to the millions of current federal employees across the country and around the world for your work on behalf of all of us.

Never in my experience have I seen such disdain from a president and his administration for federal employees, calling them “idiots,” “a disaster,” and otherwise demeaning service.

Federal employees deserve better than that, and I am here to just say thanks for your service.

Any boss who treats federal employees the way the current president does should not be the boss.”

This is well said. In Michael Lewis’ well researched book “The Fifth Risk” which looks at what these federal employees actually do and how the current administration did not take much time at all to learn what they do and the heightened risks as a result, he noted the following theme. The deep state (as these folks are often called) are the people who actually know what they are talking about.

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.”

The racist incumbent in the White House

In a article by Justin Coleman of The Hill called “Santorum: ‘Huge mistake’ for Trump not to condemn white supremacy at debate,” the former Senator chastised the president for not condemning white supremacism. Per The Hill’s article (a link is below):

“Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) on Wednesday said that it was a ‘huge mistake’ for President Trump not to condemn white supremacy during the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Santorum said in an appearance on CNN’s ‘New Day’ that Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacy was a ‘bad error,’ saying the president has “condemned these groups before.”

‘But for some reason, he didn’t and I think that was a huge gaffe,’ the former senator said. ‘And it’s been typical of the president when he gets backed into a corner he doesn’t like to be forced to say something.’

‘He made a huge mistake, and again you can’t say anything other than disappointed,’ he added.”

This is not the first time the president has failed to condemn white supremacism or has uttered racist remarks.

– Trump’s comment about good people being on both sides in the Charlottesville, VA white nationalist march and reaction that led to one woman mowed down led to his Jewish National Economics Advisor Gary Cohn to decide to leave the White House after he passed a tax bill.
– Trump settled a court case for housing discrimination against African-Americans, and then had to be taken back to court as he did not honor the settlement.
– Trump placed a full page article accusing the Central Park Five (all African-American teens) of a heinous crime. They were convicted, but the conviction was overturned.
– Trump used derogatory terms against Native Americans in public testimony as he was losing casino business to Native Americans.
– Trump for several years continued attacking President Obama for not being born in America, the “Birther Issue.” Would he have done this is Obama was 100% white?
– Trump referenced not wanting immigration from “s**thole countries” when he decided to unwind an agreed to DACA for the Wall funding deal made verbally earlier in the day.
– Trump made reference to the four new Congress members to “go back to where you came from” as they were women of color.
– Trump announced his candidacy referencing the “rapists’ coming in from Mexico
– Trump supported the right for his mostly white followers to protest (with guns) in state capitols to re-open the economies, but references the multi-racial Black Lives Matter protestors as “thugs.”

While I am not perfect, it is pretty clear the president has made many racist remarks, which make him racist. Further, I am hard pressed to not call Trump a white supremacist sympathizer. But, don’t take my word for it. His attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen said under oath to Congress, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” Why did he lead with racist?

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/santorum-huge-mistake-for-trump-not-to-condemn-white-supremacy-at-debate/ar-BB19zId5?ocid=msedgdhp