Civility and frankness are not mutually exclusive

I find it interesting when I get push back as folks ask why should we be civil when the other side is not? Often I respond with the simple retort – civility and frankness are not mutually exclusive. One can push back without taking the other person’a head off.

I am reminded of the story of a black man who has been able to change the mindset of more than 200 KKK members. In so doing, he collects their robes. Now, the KKK is as extreme a white supremacist group as there is. How did he do it? He spoke civilly toward them asking a few questions. He listened to their answers. Then, he asked pertinent follow-up questions. Eventually, the KKK members saw the logic of his argument. He says people just want to be heard.

Diplomacy is an art. It is a way of understanding people, but being forthright with what you believe and want. In essence, it is precisely what this black man did in speaking with the KKK members. He did not shout. He did not tell them they were wrong or bad people. He started conversations and listened to them. Then, he asked questions in follow-up. He heard them which allowed them to hear him.

A few diplomatic phrases might be beneficial. You might ask, “Help me understand why you would say that?” Or, you could use a more unnerving statement like, “I understand your points, but I do not find them to be entirely true.” Or, you could say, “I have not heard that before; tell me where did you read that?” Or, you might say, “that used to be true, but is no longer.”

Tone matters. The more measured you are, the better chance your points will be heeded. If you raise your voice, expect it in return. Avoid the use of labels and name-calling. When I hear labels, it means the other person’s arguments are not as well-grounded. Labels are short cuts to convey a derogatory meaning to less informed people. As with shouting, name-calling begets name-calling.

In today’s America, we are less civil. The current President did not invent uncivil behavior nor did he invent stretching the truth. A way to convey a position without attacking one of his fans might be “I wish the President would not tweet as much as he is hurting his message.” Another is “I wish the President would not demean people when they are critical of his efforts.” I wish the President would reconsider the tariffs he placed on our allies.” Or, “I wish he would not stretch the truth like he does.”

I am far from perfect and my poor wife hears the more unvarnished version of what I type and say. But, I will leave with one final thought I have noted before. If you want your children to really hear you, whisper.

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This, that and another thing

Now that the state of the union and Democrat rebuttal are behind us, it would be nice if an independent voter had a turn. On the talk (and some shouting) shows, the independent views do not get heard enough and that is disappointing. For once, it would be illuminating for a member of neither party to share their thoughts.

For example, we might learn:

  • Global warming really is a concern and we should be doing something about it. On Bill Maher’s Friday show,  he noted that Senator Marco Rubio used the argument against the President for declaring a national emergency to build the wall, as what would stop President Kamala Harris from doing so to address climate change? Maher correctly pointed out the latter is becoming a national emergency, while the wall is not even a top ten issue and is overblown as a solution. He also noted, with the very real concerns over Miami, Rubio may become the Senator of Atlantis.
  •  A growing debt which is around $22 trillion with an annual deficit about to hit $1 trillion is a problem, especially with the deficit in a good economy. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget models the debt to be around $34 trillion at the end of the 2027 fiscal year. We must have spending cuts and revenue increases both. The math will not otherwise work. If a politician tells you differently, he or she is lying to you. Don’t let them.
  • The Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. So is KyNect in Kentucky. Too many people still don’t realize this in the GOP. But, don’t look to politicians to solve this, as they really do not understand how our complex healthcare system works. We need to stabilize the ACA and stop sabotaging it, as the GOP has done.  My recommendation as a retired benefits consultant, actuary and manager is to fund money promised to insurance companies to pay for adverse selection and committed to deductibles, copays for people beneath 2 1/2 times the poverty limit. I would also expand Medicare as a pilot, measured effort to retirees below age 65, such as 60 or 62. This will reduce the cost rate in the exchanges and Medicare. The remaining states need to get off the dime and expand Medicaid – it is a no brainer per GOP Governor John Kasich.
  •  Addressing America’s crumbling infrastructure would help rebuild assets and provide good jobs. We also need to build on the community college system with some added funding to retrain people to do the jobs of the future, as technology claims even more (this is the major threat, not immigration or trade). Also, building on the bipartisan idea pitched to the President last year by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman from Ohio, we should co-invest with car manufacturers to retool plants to make the cars in demand and keep the factories open. This idea was ignored and the President was offended when GM announced some plant closings.
  •  There are so many more ideas around rethinking ill-conceived tariffs and trade fights, poverty issues, and gun governance, but let me make a general statement that is important. Start treating our allies and citizens with fairness and dignity. Stop the adversarial BS. A country and business makes more money long term by having a productive long term relationship. We need to stop measuring success on short-term transactions. Listen to your advisors as they actually study our problems. And, stop beating up on a free press. From where I sit, they are not perfect, but the true journalists try to get it right. The main source of fake news in the country sits in the oval office and he only cares about looking good.

Well, that is enough for now. I would love to hear your thoughts.

When your friends begin to leave

It is amusing to me that the Republican National Committee is doing its darnedest to prevent another candidate running in a primary against the current US President. This is very premature in my view and is not reading the tea leaves very well. This will be a year when the you-know-what hits the fan, which has already started to build.

There are many dregs in the tea leaves that the RNC should pay attention to, but here are a few they may want to consider.

First, as of today, two separate polls – The Washington Post/ ABC poll and the Marist College poll have very similar figures that might be worth considering about the President. When asked whether you would vote for Donald Trump, the two polls said the following:

  • No – 56% and 57%
  • Yes – 28% and 30%
  • Undecided – 14% and 13%

Granted, he won with 46% of the vote and it depends on where these folks are located, but this should give the RNC pause. It should be noted the Texas Republican leaders told the RNC they are worried about Trump carrying their state. If someone is going to run against him, they need to start fundraising now.

Second, he has been yet again berating journalists, but this time he picked on two reporters on the news side of Fox News. An anchor named Julie Banderas at Fox took issue with Trump’s condemnation as she tweeted, “@realDonaldTrump This is NOT right. I stand by my colleagues @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner They don’t deserve this. No reporter does. They are doing their jobs and reporting the facts. They are not opinion journalists and deserve the respect from the @WhiteHouse they cover.” 

Third, he has unfriended Ann Coulter returning her attacks with her disillusionment over his backing down calling him “weak.”  Personally, I am not a fan of Coulter’s as she tends to be mean-spirited, flippant and loose with facts. She and Trump are very similar in how they treat others. Yet, no one is safe from criticism in Trump’s world. As an attorney who worked with him for years said, if you are on Trump’s good side, you won’t be there for long.

To be brutally frank, shutting down the government is not a very good business decision by the boss. Usually, the boss wants his employees at work serving customers. In this case, the boss called the strike not others. People are harmed by his decision. Plus, he further harmed his reputation by once again reneging on a deal, the second time around immigration and the wall. If you deal with Trump, get it in writing. A contractor who has worked with Trump said it plainly, when you deal with the Trump organization, get your money upfront.

With Roger Stone being indicted with strong evidence, with Rudy Guiliani saying people on the Trump campaign had interactions with Russia, with The New York Times reporting over 100 contacts with the campaign and Russian officials and surrogates, and with the concern by Politifacts, five biographers and staff members with his difficulty with the truth, this should give the RNC concerns. This is without even mentioning the economy may have headwinds due to the tariffs, trade challenges and slowing global economy, nor does it recognize the House will be doing more investigations into Trump.

So, when your friends start to leave, that does not help with your popularity. At this point, the President needs all the friends he can get. Yet, there is the rub. He tends to value loyalty through a one way lens.

 

 

Be careful with your reputation

A caution for all parents is to get to know your children’s friends. The lesson that parents must impart is your name or reputation is the dearest thing you have. This lesson continues throughout life.

I mention this today as so many stories have come to a head in the past twenty-four hours that drive this point home. Here is a thumbnail sketch of a few of these stories:

Getting overshadowed by national news, the new Secretary of State of Florida, Mike Ertel, has resigned over past photos of him dressed in blackface mocking Hurricane Katrina victims. New Governor Ron DeSantis, who made Ertel one of his first hires, has been under fire since the campaign for his racist past. It is important for political parties to fully vet candidates, as it may be better for all concerned for your candidate not to win. Contrasting this, the same party dodged a bullet when their candidate did not win the recent Senate race in Alabama.

The President has agreed to temporarily end the shutdown. Yay for the federal workers and those dependent on their services, which is all of us. The President was playing a bad hand. Yet, what we should not lose sight of is he reneged on a deal with Senate leadership back in December after agreeing to do what he did yesterday. This is not the first time he has reneged on a deal as President. Senators learned what they should have already known, if you deal with the President, get it in writing.

Part of me says the President caved in due to trying to draw attention away from the morning news bombshell. His close friend and confident, Roger Stone, was arrested and indicted on a number of fronts, but in particular lying to Congress. In a documentary on Netflix, Paul Manafort (former Trump campaign manager who is in jail) said Stone’s fingerprints are all over the President’s modus operandi, in particular never admit failure and attack, attack, attack. Stone is renowned for  political dirty tricks dating back to working for Richard Nixon. The one common theme around the people who have been found guilty, pleaded guilty or awaiting trial is lying under oath. Call me crazy, but there is too much lying going on for this to be a witch hunt.

CNN host Chris Cuomo made an interesting comment on “The View” earlier in the week. He often has Trump’s staff or attorneys on his show. He said the reason is these are people who the President said represent him. When they are not forthcoming or truthful, it is a reflection on the man they serve.

Your reputation is dear. The question I have asked Senators on multiple occasions after yet another breach of good faith dealing by the President is simple. “Is this the man on whom you want to spend your dear reputation?” One thing that seems more consistent than not is people who exit a relationship with Trump are tainted by the relationship.

Another shoe has dropped – letter to GOP Senators

Another long time associate of the President has been indicted for lying to Congress. It is also painfully clear the President has difficulty with being truthful, which is unfortunate. Again, I ask you is this the man you want to spend your dear reputation on?

Your first step must be to reopen the government and, if he vetoes it, override such veto. Like other issues, immigration concerns have been oversold on fear and misinformation, and deserve due diligence and debate.

People are hurting, so please reopen the government and take everything the President says with a grain of salt. It truly saddens me to say that about our country’s President.

Letter to Democrat Members of Congress

All, please consider sending the following to select Democrat Senators and representatives. Please feel free to reshape it to suit your needs and style. I feel the opportunity exists to make a deal to reopen the government.
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As an independent voter who has belonged to both parties, I have been critical of the President for his lack of good faith bargaining and use of fear and misinformation to sell over-simplified solutions. I have also been critical of GOP Congressional members for not governing acquiescing to the President’s commands.

With this context, I ask you to use this opportunity with the packaged offer of the President to gain acceptable terms and re-open the government. I recognize fully this attempt by the President is more to deflect blame, but people are being hurt by the shutdown and it is time to act.

So, I beseech you to find terms that will be acceptable and make a deal. Tell Senator McConnell what could be added to make it acceptable. It is time. As this lingers further, more of the mud from this shutdown will rightfully get on on Democrats. Yes, the President caused this shutdown, but it takes two sides to have a communication problem.

And now, a word from George Will

I have noted before the significant number of respected conservative pundits and editorialists who have shared concerns over the President. George Will, a long time conservative, is among those who see the damage being done by the man in the White House. Like other conservative critics, his voice should be one that is heeded by those conservatives who are not totally in lock-step with the President.

In his most recent column called “Trump’s misery is also country’s,” Will is hypercritical of both the policies and behavior of the current President. He is also not too keen on the current Senate leadership for not doing their job to govern, being too interested in acquiescing to the President’s commands.

As for policy, he cited several examples, but two jump out. He is critical of the Trump and the GOP leadership as he notes, “Except that after two years of unified government under the party that formerly claimed to care about fiscal facts and rectitude, the nation faces a $1 trillion deficit during brisk growth and full employment.”

Will also notes concern over the US getting out of a trade deal designed to compete with China. He said, “The President’s most consequential exercise of power has been the abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, opening the way for China to fill the void of US involvement.” It should be noted the agreement went forward without the US and has become effective for six countries at the beginning of this year, with five others coming online later this year.

But, Will leaves his harshest criticism for the President’s behavior which has been destabilizing. He writes “Still the ubiquity of his (Trump’s) outpourings in the media’s outpourings gives American life its current claustrophobic feel.”  Will goes on to note that “He (Trump) is an inexpressibly sad specimen…He seems to have as many friends as his self-centeredness allows, and as he has earned in an entirely transactional life.”

As a result of Trump, Will notes the “GOP needs an entirely new vocabulary. Pending that, the party is resorting to crybaby conservatism: We are being victimized by ‘elites, markets, Wall Street, foreigners, etc.'”  This is what unfolds when fear is used as the key selling point. Principles are thrown aside, as exaggerations, over-simplifications, misinformation and lies paint others as bogeymen and the reason for any problems you might have.

As noted earlier, Will does not stand alone among conservative writers. My friends in the GOP and who have more conservative leanings need to pay more attention to people like him, Erik Erickson, Steve Schmidt, David Brooks, Michael Gerson, Ross Douthat and others, and less to those who the President seems to hold in high cotton. These are not Democrats who are raising concerns. These are people whose opinion used to matter more to Republicans and conservatives. They still should.