Sunday, January 19, 2020


In covering the first US Democratic Party Presidential Debate of 2020, held last Tuesday evening, the mass media tended to gloss over most of the major issues and political philosophies discussed and to focus instead on a petty spat between the two most progressive candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. This focus is part of a “reality TV” trend that has been accentuated in news coverage over the past three years as an outgrowth of the mentality generated by the administration of President Donald Trump—himself the former host of a TV reality show called The Apprentice, in which his signature line was, “You’re fired!”
The debate, held on the campus of Iowa’s Drake University and hosted by the CNN cable news network and The Des Moines Register, delved into numerous pressing issues, but CNN had already been pushing the supposed rift between Sanders and Warren as a talking point in its news and commentary broadcasts since the day before when the story broke. And in hosting the event, CNN moderators continued to pick at it during the debate. According to reports from CNN and The New York Times that quoted anonymous sources, Warren had claimed on Monday night that Sanders had told her in a private one-on-one meeting in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win the presidency. Sanders reacted to the reports accusing Warren’s campaign staff of lying about what had happened in that meeting.
Elizabeth and Bernie, old friends
The reports clearly took Sanders by surprise, particularly since, until now, he and Warren have been drawing on their long-time friendship and their similar liberal values to maintain a kind of political honeymoon, while other Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race have increasingly indulged in eating their own. Former Democratic hopeful Kamala Harris’s attack on former Vice-President Joe Biden for consorting with racists in Congress during the civil rights era and Warren and Amy Klobuchar’s attempts to portray former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg as inexperienced, sold out to the rich and talking from a kind of script rather than from experience have been among some of the most damning of these assaults.
Until now, Sanders and Warren have managed to remain above the fray and have not only shown restraint but also great respect for each other. But with Sanders increasingly trending as the number one challenger to Biden’s lead among Democratic candidates and with Bernie’s rise coming at the expense of both Biden and Warren, it appears likely that the rift was indeed engineered by Warren’s campaign as a means of differentiating her from Sanders. Instead of doing so based on the broader issues, however, Warren’s campaign strategists seem to have decided to play the gender card by seeking to show Sanders as somehow misogynistic, when, by all accounts, he is probably the male candidate from either party who least deserves the term.
Perhaps the idea was to create hostility between Sanders and women voters. A study in The Economist last September showed that women under 45 made up a larger share of  Bernie’s base than men in their same age group did, running counter to the previous idea that Sanders’ supporters were overwhelmingly white and male, to the virtual exclusion of other groups. This has to have worried Elizabeth Warren’s strategists, and it seems clear that they felt it was important to come out of their corner throwing haymakers from the start in the first month of the election year. But the fact that, when the story first broke, Warren refused to comment might point to ambivalence on the senator’s part about going the route her campaign was marking. In the end, however, she did. She later appeared to be toning down the language of the initial claim, saying that Sanders had said he didn’t think a woman could win and she had “disagreed”.
At the debate, although both Sanders and Warren must both have suspected that it was inevitable, the question came out of the blue about halfway through the event. That was when CNN's Abby Philip—one of the first journalists to report the rift and now a debate moderator—addressed Sanders saying, “...Senator Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018, you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?” To which Sanders replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it, and I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want.
“Anybody that knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. Go to YouTube today. There’s a video of me 30 years ago, talking about how a woman could become President of the United States. In 2015, I deferred, in fact, to Senator Warren. There was a movement to draft Senator Warren to run for President, and you know what? I stayed back. Senator Warren decided not to run, and I did run afterwards.
“Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become President of the United States? Let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination … I hope that’s not the case. I hope it’s me. But if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous President in the history of our country.”
Abby Philip insisted then, “So, Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?”
“That is correct,” Sanders replied.
What the CNN moderator did next showed quite clearly that she was trying to bait the two liberal senators into a “he said/she said” argument. Totally disregarding the denial that she had just asked Sanders to confirm, she turned to Elizabeth Warren and said, “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”
The bias in her question was so ludicrously obvious that there was a ripple of laughter in the audience. It was a question that seemed to say, “He’s lying.” Despite the opening Abby Philip was giving her, however, Warren was measured in her answer. She said, “I disagreed,” going on to add, “Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But look. This question about whether or not a woman can be President has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on...I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record...Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. The only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me, and here’s what I know. The real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency.”
But it wasn’t until the debate ended that the real fireworks erupted, unfortunately on camera and with an open mic. That was when Warren walked over to Sanders and, when Sanders extended his hand and smiled, she refused to shake it and kept her own hands tightly clasped in front of her chest. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she said.
Tense moment...
Taken aback, Sanders said, “What?”
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren said again.
 Visibly irritated, Sanders said, “You know, let’s not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”
 “Anytime,” Warren said.
Sanders responded, “You called me a liar. You told me...” but then he thought better of continuing the discussion to the delight of the media and said again, “All right, let’s not do it now,” before rushing off the stage.
Encompassed within the answer that Senator Warren gave to Abby Philip was the key to why Warren’s campaign might have decided to allege the content of a private 2018 conversation at this particular time. It was because it appeared to be a convenient response to a question that isn’t being asked aloud, but which is arising among many of those who want to make sure the Democratic candidate, whoever it might be, can indeed beat Donald Trump, because the thought of another four years of Trumpism is terrifying and repugnant to them.
And here too might well be where the 2018 private discussion between two old friends and Senate colleagues came up. As Sanders said, it is practically impossible to imagine him saying that a woman could not be president of the United States, but perhaps what he wondered aloud was whether, in the misogynistic, discriminatory, white-male-privileged, un-politically-correct climate generated by the Trump regime, would a woman, indeed, be able to win a presidential election in 2020 for the first time in US history? (Well, second if you count Hillary Clinton’s having the last election plundered from her by the Electoral College). It’s an honest question that, despite its honesty, certainly doesn’t preclude a female-led Democratic ticket, no matter what the odds against her might be, since the two women on that debate stage last Tuesday are nothing if not competent to serve.
So perhaps it’s not that either of the senators involved is lying. But that they’ve allowed the media and their political rivals to buffalo them into a public spat over what is very likely a complete misunderstanding based on words taken out of context.
In the end we’ll never know. Since it would appear that the only people who really know what was said in that private meeting are Elizabeth and Bernie. And we can only hope that they will mend their fences soon since there has never been a moment when a united liberal front has been more vital to American democracy.   

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


US President Donald Trump's retweeting this week of an atrociously photo-shopped meme of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Middle Eastern garb with the Iranian flag behind them does little to harm his intended political targets. In fact, they can use it to their advantage in pointing to just how immature, unhinged, unethical and clueless the president really is.

But the problem with this is that Trump no longer represents just the bad-boy Donald of New York real estate infamy, but the presidency (and, hence, the people) of the United States. And the problem with the retweeted meme itself is this: It is racist. It is a racial and religious hate tweet for which other Twitter users might be thrown off the platform. It suggests that all Iranians and all followers of Islam are terrorists. It reinforces his mad-dog base's prejudice against Muslims and it subliminally encourages them to take action against non-Christians and Middle Eastern peoples in general, as well as against Democrats, who Trump surrogates are seeking to link with fanatical Islamist terrorism.
This sort of thing is par for the course for Bigot-in-Chief Donald Trump, but it is totally unworthy and completely inappropriate for the office of the presidency, whose job it is to govern for and to protect all Americans equally. 
The meme's message makes already threatened Muslims still less safe than they were before in the Era of Trump, by clearly demonstrating the president's prejudice against them.If a common citizen were to do something like this at school he or she would be expelled. And if they did it at work, they would be fired. But when this sort of blatant race-baiting comes from the White House (this White House), it's just "Trump being Trump" and gets a pass. Why? Because, over the last three years in the Era of Trump, we have, unfortunately, become all too accustomed to a scandalously low bar that has been set for the presidency. 
There has never been a president like Trump before, a man in the Oval Office who appears to be completely bereft of humanity, of social propriety, of racial, religious and political tolerance, of democratic fervor and of human empathy. The problem is twofold and projects a long shadow, because it sets a precedent for the behavior of future leaders, who, in accordance with the principle of "whataboutism", will always be able to point to "what Trump got away with" in order to justify their own crass disregard for political correctness, for democracy and for the Constitution, and to exonerate them for their own general misdeeds. 
When they do, we will no longer be able to use the argument that this was just "Trump being Trump", because whoever the future bad-actor president might be can always say, "Yes, and this is just me being me. Get used to it!" 
Perhaps this should be one of numerous pieces of evidence on which to base another article of impeachment: Conspiring to incite racial, religious and political violence among Americans.

Friday, December 27, 2019


For the first time in US history, the 400 wealthiest people are paying less in taxes than any other group in the US. It is estimated that the tax cuts that most benefit the top one percent will cost the Treasury at least 1.3 trillion dollars in the medium term.
The US military budget, nearly 700 billion dollars, is roughly equivalent to the combined military budgets for the seven next most militarized countries in the world and dwarfs the budget of its next-in-line rival, China.
When banks and insurers hit the skids under George W. Bush, the US came up with 700 billion dollars to bail them out.
But when it comes to funding affordable health care, US government pockets are always empty, it seems.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
When you save the bacon of banks and insurers who defrauded the country in cahoots with the government, it's called "a bailout" and they're "too big to fail" despite their shoddy business practices. When you seek to ensure that every American gets the excellent health care that they deserve and should be able to expect in the richest nation on earth, it's called "socialism" and it is hissed as if it were a dirty word.
Maybe that's the real meaning of "affluent society"—a place where only the rich and powerful benefit, and where what is morally and ethically correct is just too expensive.

In the link below, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz takes on Cris Cuomo on this very subject.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Used to be that the GOP would have frothed at the mouth if anyone in any party had suggested that the FBI was anything but the world's premier police force.
Now they nod in agreement with the madman in the White House when he and his pocket-attorney general rail against "FBI spying" and call that organization's agents "scum".

Back when liberals suggested that J. Edgar Hoover's anti-communist zeal was going beyond the limits of acceptable investigation and becoming a new Salem witch-hunt, Republicans said that they were commie pinkos who were a threat to the country and needed to be jail. Now, anything that is not in obsequious agreement with the Party of Trump narrative is a seditious conspiracy.
Amnesiac hypocrisy at its most ludicrous.

Read more about Trump's latest bizarre antics at the Real Clear Politics link below.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


If there was any doubt in anyone's mind about whether the current occupant of the White House thinks he's above the law, his administration’s manifesto saying that it would not cooperate (not uphold the rule of law, in other words) with an impeachment inquiry  should make this fact all too clear. During the run-up to the 2016 election, many clear thinkers and insiders who knew the candidate better than the average voter did—including numerous Republicans, who have since pivoted, after it became clear that Donald Trump had managed to hijack the GOP—warned that he was not a man who would respect the law and that he would want to be a power unto himself.
Like the despot that he set out to be and like the tyrants for whom he has expressed such admiration, Trump is seeking to supersede the powers of Congress and the spirit and letter of the Constitution of the United States. Latest polls show that even from twelve to eighteen percent of Republicans are now calling for his removal from office and twenty-four to twenty-eight percent of them now believe that an impeachment inquiry should be carried out. The polls show, over all, that three out of five Americans support the impeachment inquiry being ordered in the House.
Finally, it seems, Americans are beginning to wake up to the fact that Trump is not just any president. He is a man with truly dangerous delusions of grandeur. And, potentially, an even greater threat than Richard Nixon was when he was threatened with impeachment and, instead, resigned in disgrace.
The Trump White House, rather than cooperate in getting to the bottom of charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, which it claims are false (“fake news”), is ratcheting up its rhetoric, saying that it is “declaring war” on any and all impeachment proceedings. Had the president or anyone on his staff even summarily  read the Constitution of the United States, they would know by now that the presidency is not an all-powerful, autocratic entity—or, at least, it is not meant to be—and that it is subject to congressional oversight and accountable to the investigative power of the House of Representatives.
Under the Constitution of the United States, the Executive doesn't get to make the rules for what the House or Senate can or can't do. It's only under dictatorships that the head of state can get away with dispensing with legislative oversight whenever it doesn't agree with his or her personal or political interests. The three branches are carefully, constitutionally designed to act as near perfect checks and balances on each other. But that only works when all branches respect the rule of law.  And the current executive is not doing that. Nor is he taking seriously his vast responsibilities as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, as witnessed by his stunningly capricious, unilateral and inadvisable weekend order to remove US troops from Syria, taking America’s allies by surprise and leaving friendly Kurdish troops open to immediate attack by the Turkish military.  
The founders of the United States wrote the book on the three-branch balance of power under representative Western democracy. Trump apparently wants to re-write the rules according to his own convenience. He seems to want to re-write history as well, and to turn America’s democratic republic into an autocratic state. It is self-evident that he yearns to re-write the Constitution, or at least to ignore it.
As such, he is a clear and present danger to US democracy, and Congress has a duty to the American people, and to the system of checks and balances, to bring him into line.