Resistance Rallies: Finally, It’s Time

Later this month the Democrats will have themselves a new DNC chairperson. Nobody will be nostalgic for the divisive Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the pinch-hitting Donna Brazile. The various candidates have been sharing rationales in recapping what happened in November. It ranges from the flawed candidacy of Hillary Clinton to grass roots oversights and a lack of a 50-state strategy.

True, but there is also this.

Despite eight years of Republican obstructionism, it was still the Democrats’ race to lose–against a “populist” pop-culture charlatan–and they lost in 2016. Not bigly, but shockingly. And alarmingly. And embarrassingly.

Sure, there was the unforced error of Private-serverGate, the unlikely Vlad Putin-Julian Assange nexus and the meddlesome James Comey intrusion. But there was unassailably this: A Democratic electorate that somehow didn’t find the possibility of an outrageous, dangerously unprepared candidate assuming the presidency reason sufficient to get their progressive asses to the polls and vote for the alternative.

Hillary wasn’t Bernie. Hillary wasn’t Barack. Hillary wasn’t Elizabeth. Hell, Hillary wasn’t Bill back in the day. Yada, yada. So what? She wasn’t the existential threat that Trump was, is and will continue to be.

Trump has hit the ground stumbling–from staffing and nominee questions to constitutional farce and foreign-leader alienation. And it won’t get better because he can’t change his temperament, his values, his ethics, his aversion to briefings or his ALL-CAPS modus operandi.

For what it’s worth, I like the Dems’ and their somewhat-discredited “demographics-as-destiny” chances in 2020, but only as a visceral reaction to the unconscionable that never should have happened in the first place.

We now have the Resistance. Marches. Town hall push back. Emotion. Outrage. Moral high ground. And a provoked, motivated mainstream media. May we dodge the low-caliber, Trump bullet until the next election.

Trumpster Diving

* How ironic that the South American leader with the friendliest relationship with Donald Trump also has the most notable immigration issue on his continent. Argentina President Mauricio Macri, who has known Trump since the 1980s and called him shortly after his presidential triumph, has issued his own immigration-curbing decree. Something about those arriving from poorer Latin American countries that can’t help bringing crime with them. Opinion polls have been supportive.

But the Macri government has taken pains to underscore that they don’t plan–as some right-wing politicians are advocating–on building any walls. That includes, most notably, along the Argentina-Bolivia border.

* Word has been leaking that President Trump is not overly comfortable with his White House life. As in, well, it’s a step down and kind of confining–especially for a non-reader. No surprise. The goal of a narcissistic billionaire celebrity was not to become president, but to win the presidency. Big difference. As we’ve been seeing.

* Every time I look in on a Sean Spicer–or is that Melissa McCarthy?–press conference, I’m reminded of a historical quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”

* Now that there’s Steve Bannon sitting at the alt-right hand of the president, there could be some revisionist thinking about previous White House influentials. Imagine, Dick Cheney never looking so good.

* By all accounts–straightforward and alternate–the largely unread, under-briefed president got through his extended visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe practically incident free. Just that flap over talking out of school at a Mar-a-Lago dinner about that North Korean missile launch. But we can imagine staff holding its collective breath about a transposition gaffe right out of a “Saturday Night Live” script. As in every time Trump referenced–especially when media lurked–the Japanese prime minister, whose name is not Honest Abe Shinzo.

* For obvious reasons we’ve been seeing allusions to dystopian novels such as “1984,” “It Can’t Happen Here” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “Citizen Kane,” understandably, has also been referenced. But if you want a tale–that isn’t dark, let alone dystopian–about a (spoiler alert) successful candidate utterly unprepared for his Washington role as a U.S. senator, rent “The Candidate.” It’s a comedy-drama from 1972 that stars Robert Redford as a long-shot California candidate during the Nixon years.

After a campaign against an establishment figure that provides insight into strategy and political machinations, the Redford candidate wins and then waxes reflective with a key handler at a victory party at the movie’s conclusion. It literally ends with: “Marvin, what do we do now?”

It’s not a rhetorical question.

Snitch Culture

This Florida Legislative session will feature another confrontation between a sacrosanct constitutional amendment–and common sense. But, no, this one has nothing to do with the Second Amendment and the Marion Hammer fan club.

This is about the First Amendment and a bill (HB 111) designed to break the so-called “no-snitch” culture that prevails in too many black communities. State lawmakers want to protect murder witnesses by shielding their identities in public records for two years after the crime. The public-records exemption would address the all-too-prevalent “no-snitch” mindset that discourages witnesses from cooperating with police primarily because of intimidation from the murderers. It’s a vicious cycle.

Among those backing the proposed legislation: Florida Police Chiefs and county sheriffs. The opponent: the First Amendment Foundation, which advocates for open government.

This is as baffling as it is frustrating. The public good of open records is beyond question. But not doing enough to help break the cycle of inner city murder begs the question of priorities. Protecting the integrity of the criminal justice system should not be at cross purposes with a common-sense measure that could literally save lives.

This should be a no-brainer, unless it’s being deliberated by the brainless. A similar bill was filed last year but stalled in both chambers.

One other point. Before there are witnesses, there have to be murderers. That’s the overriding problem–not a “snitch culture.” Perhaps “Black Lives Matter” can also get involved.

Mayoral Musing

As expected, speculation is well underway about those who might succeed Bob Buckhorn as Tampa mayor.  He’ll be term limited in about two years. There is, of course, no lack of potential candidates, but realpolitik has a way of shaping scenarios.

I can recall when Bob Morrison, the politically-savvy, high-profile, executive assistant to former Mayor Bob Martinez, was a consensus pick as Tampa’s first black mayor. That was in the 1980s. It never happened, although Morrison has gone on to be a formidable regional player as co-founder of TOBA (Tampa Organization of Black Affairs Inc.) and long-time executive director of the Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association.

Quoteworthy

* “We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance.”– President Donald Trump’s pledge during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

* “We stand with Japan and we stand with our allies in the region to address the North Korean menace.”–Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief policy adviser.

* “Trumpism is a posture that leads to the now familiar cycle of threat perception, insult, enemy-making, aggrievement, self-pity, assault and counterassault.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “The news media’s spectacular failure to get the election right has made it only easier for many conservatives to ignore anything that happens outside the right’s bubble and for the Trump White House to fabricate facts with little fear of alienating its base.”–Charles J. Sykes, author of “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”

* “In Trump we trust.”–Ann Coulter.

* “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate the truth.”–Garry Kasparov, Russian dissident and chess grandmaster.

* “I would like to say by the end of the year, at least the rudiments, but we should have something within the year and the following year.”–Donald Trump, on plans to enact a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.

* “(MacDill AFB) is quite a place. We will be loading it up with beautiful new planes and new equipment. You’ve been lacking equipment, and we will load it up.”–Donald Trump during his recent visit to MacDill to meet with CentCom and SOCom.

* “Trump’s analysis of people and situations hinges on whether they exalt him. A news organization that challenges him is inevitably “failing.” A politician who pushes back at him is invariably a loser. Middle school cliques have more moral discernment.”–Frank Bruni, New York Times.

* “Given the foreign policy damage and widespread protest Trump’s travel ban is creating and the negligible impact of walls on stopping migration, why is he so fixated on walls and bans? U.S. immigration history suggests one answer. Walls and anti-immigrant decrees succeed as symbolic acts, as forms of theater.”–Gunther Peck, associate professor of American history at Duke University.

* “America has learned difficult lessons in the past that fear and emotion alone should not drive policy. … Instead, facts and evidence should drive decision-making, consistent with the U.S. Constitution. America’s national security deserves no less.”–U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

* “These raids have struck fear in the hearts of the immigrant community as many fear that President Trump’s promised ‘deportation force’ is now in full-swing.”–Excerpt from statement by members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress after a series of actions by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

* “ICE does not use checkpoints, nor do we use sweeping raids. We use target enforcement actions against specific individuals to make these arrests.”–ICE spokeswoman Sarah Rodriguez.

* “If you’re a really smart person and you want to immigrate to a great country that will welcome you, come to Canada! And if you’re Muslim, you’re very, very welcome here, as are people of every faith–and atheists too.”–Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

* “A carbon tax is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. … A sensibly priced, gradually rising tax would send a powerful market signal to businesses that want certainty when planning for the future.”–Former Secretary of State and Treasury Secretary George Shultz and former Secretary of State and Treasury Secretary James Baker.

* “It feels like what investors had signed up to was fiscal stimulus and downplaying of protectionism, and what we’ve got is a playing up of protectionism.”–Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

* “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”–Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.

* “There’s a lot of interest regarding airport infrastructure and generating funding to modernize U.S. airports. Our president is very supportive of this.”–TIA CEO Joe Lopano.

* “The reality is, that this is not corporate welfare. It is corporate competition.”–Craig Richard, CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., on the use of state incentives to recruit corporations and jobs.

* “Parental leave, child care and the like are not women’s issues–they are economic issues. The progress we make on this front will directly impact our competitiveness on the global stage.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “The West Shore area has become much more than a business district over the last few years and is now a vibrant, live-work-play community.”–Jay Curran, senior vice president of Nashville-based developer Crescent Communities.

* “This is what success looks like. Today, Hillsborough is safer.”–State Attorney Andrew Warren, on a recent undercover operation by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office that netted 51 arrests, 66 seized guns and nearly four pounds of drugs.

* “Tech is alive and well in the Tampa Bay area, and we’re doing what we can to help jump-start the tech ecosystem here. It’s companies like ReliaQuest that are bringing high-paying jobs to Tampa.”–Jeff Vinik, reacting to the announcement that Tampa data security company ReliaQuest will create at least 150 jobs at its new headquarters on Harbour Island this year.

* “We used to be a donor city where young people would leave to find jobs in Austin or Raleigh or Boston. But now we’re a city that’s growing every day and becoming that place in America that we always thought we could be.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “Byrne loved Tampa, and he left it better than he found it.”–Former Mayor Dick Greco, reflecting on the life of the late Byrne Litschgi.

Trumpster Diving Update

* He’s an author, an academic and a resident scholar at the (conservative) American Enterprise Institute. In an era of over-the-top rhetoric and in-your-face attitudes, Norman Ornstein is a well-informed, evenly-modulated, respected centrist who knows enough not to need alternate facts. He’s nobody’s partisan puppet. Foreign Policy magazine named him to its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.

So when he says something that sounds like a line out of “The Manchurian Candidate” or “It Can’t Happen Here,” discerning readers take note. Ornstein is now advocating for Democrats to go obstructionist in their Congressional response to controversial Trump Administration moves not seen as in this country’s best interest–both at home and overseas.

“We don’t have a conventional president,” explains Ornstein. “We’re seeing behavior that could lead us right down the path to martial law or authoritarian rule.”

* As befits a belittling, hair-trigger Tweeter, President Donald Trump called federal Judge James Robart, the one who imposed that temporary restraining order on the targeted-immigrant ban, a “so-called judge.”  How classless. Meryl Streep, Sen. John McCain, Chief Justice John Roberts and the New York Times, among others, can identify with the insult-Tweet syndrome. But if anyone should be expected to traffic in such sophomoric put-downs, it should be a so-called president.

* Media relations, as we’ve all been witnessing, have been a cluster Trump so far.  But it’s not entirely fair to roll out those John F. Kennedy comparisons, where the lionized JFK could be disarmingly witty in response to unfriendly fire from the press corps.

True enough, Kennedy was articulate, quick and charismatic. And to his credit, he always acknowledged the primacy of the press in its free-society role. But let’s not forget: The rules–as well as the “media”–were different then. In pre-Watergate, pre-Gary Hart-Donna Rice America, there were untouchable areas of presidential scrutiny. Had the media been asking about the girlfriend, Judy Exner, that Kennedy shared with Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, Kennedy’s relationship with the media would have not been the same–inherent wit and charisma notwithstanding.

Comparing the disparate media eras is like comparing the benignly humorous JFK impressionist Vaughn Meader with the biting, spot-on Trump parody by Alec Baldwin.

* Speaking of, anyone else find watching SNL a bittersweet experience these days? There’s certainly a plethora of material–courtesy of Trump, Pence, Bannon, Spicer, Conway & Co.–and the skits are generally funny, especially Baldwin’s channeling of Trump. But at a certain point, we’re again reminded that beneath the satire is the real world of worrisome, embarrassing leadership. Going for the LOL jocular–without the geopolitical, national-security jugular–would be more fun.

* President Trump was at MacDill AFB on Monday to receive briefings from Central Command and Special Operations Command. He was notably accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. No less notably, he wasn’t accompanied by alt-right wingman Steve Bannon, who now has a full seat on the National Security Council’s “principals committee,” its primary policy-making mechanism. Bannon, unconscionably, has the seat vacated by Gen. Dunford, who was downgraded. It could have been worse, but it still had to be an awkward day for Dunford.

* For those who seemed indifferent to–or enamored of–the concept of a billionaire populist, two words: Dodd-Frank.

* Should the Great Mexican Border Wall be built–a formidable, concrete one, not something overly reliant on fencing, drones, cameras and sensors–there could be some bigly irony involved. “If this wall gets built in Texas, there is a high likelihood that a significant bit of the work force will be undocumented,” notes Jose P. Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project, which supports low-income workers.

* I recently re-read an op-ed piece penned by USF St. Petersburg history professor Raymond Arsenault a couple of days before the election. He was reflecting on Orson Welles’ 1941 classic “Citizen Kane.” He compared the hubris and megalomania of Charles Foster Kane–a thinly fictionalized send-up of William Hearst–to Donald Trump.

The parallels, Arsenault reminded, are eerie. The president didn’t fare well. “Kane,” he noted, “is arrogant without being ignorant.”

Is there hope? Maybe, speculated Arsenault, if Trump has his own “Rosebud,” available for retrieval before it’s too late.

I ran into Arsenault at a Super Bowl party. He’s no longer speculating.

Good Mayoral Move

The right thing is usually the smart thing.

We saw it the other day when Mayor Bob Buckhorn, in response to an invitation, paid a high-profile visit to the Islamic Society of  Tampa Bay. Its executive director, Mahmoud Elkasaby, had invited Buckhorn out of concern for those in his community who were “living in fear for nothing that they had done or caused.”

Buckhorn, sans shoes but not sound bites, spoke to a packed mosque about Tampa’s demographic mosaic and the infamous executive order that is an unacceptable, Islam-targeting “ban.” He underscored that it is “an attack on Islam as a religion.” He told the congregation that “This city has your back. … You are us.”

In a way, this was right in Buckhorn’s wheelhouse. Mayors can make a difference, a key reason why he likes his job. Whether it’s recruiting businesses and events, lobbying state and federal governments, rallying residents about transit and social issues or having a vision for tomorrow and the day after. He likes the theater; he likes the crowds; and he dislikes anything that would tear at the fabric of his city.

Major-city mayors are CEO-cheerleader types. They do retail politics and get out among the people. They are hands on.

Buckhorn knows what a visceral issue like this can do. It can harass and scare and stigmatize a segment of Tampa’s residents. It’s not morally right. It’s not our values. It’s not who we are as Tampa–or America. He also knows that it makes security more problematic if you, in effect, insult and intimidate a class of society that is uniquely positioned to help–as only American Muslims can.

Name Dropping

Fifth Third Bank has been around the Sunshine State for the last 25 years. The Cincinnati-based bank has grown with the state–especially the recent post-recession period–and now has more than 150 branches throughout Florida. It’s a major player in the Tampa Bay market. Life is good.

Despite that head-scratching name.

It’s the amalgam product of the 1908 merger of the Third National Bank of Cincinnati and the Fifth National Bank of Cincinnati. And it’s a reminder that you don’t need to bring in public relations and image-enhancing specialists to focus group a marketable name.

And it could be a lot worse: It’s not the 1-800-Ask Gary Bank.

Quoteworthy

* “Europe has never needed a strong (Angela) Merkel more. In 2017, she’ll be unavailable for the role.”–Ian Bremmer, founder and president of the Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultant firm.

* “It isn’t the clash of civilizations so much as the clash of artificially reconstructed civilizations that is taking place.”–Robert D. Kaplan, author of “Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America’s Role in the World.”

* “Iran is playing with fire. They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me.”–President Donald Trump.

* “The world’s on fire. We have more challenges than any time in the last 70 years. Whatever influence I have, I need to exercise it.”–Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

* “If there is to be any kind of loyal Republican opposition on Capitol Hill, (McCain’s) already its de facto leader.”–Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times.

* “The real benefit of TPP went beyond trade. It was about leadership in Asia.”–Rice University economist Russell Green.

* “Two words: Vladimir Putin.”–Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, explaining why he opposed the nomination of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

* “We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank because, frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine that had nice businesses, they can’t borrow money. They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow it because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank.”–President Donald Trump.

* “There is unprecedented citizen engagement right now. Phone calls to the office are in the thousands. Social media is on fire. People are protesting. They’re in a way leading the charge. These engaged citizens understand what’s at stake.”–U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

* “The bedrock of this country are immigration and really a great separation between church and state.”–Shahid Khan, the Muslim, immigrant owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

* “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”–President Donald Trump, in criticizing federal Judge James Robart, who imposed a temporary nationwide halt to the president’s order barring refugees and those from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering this country.

* “The president’s hostility toward the rule of law is not just embarrassing, it is dangerous.”–Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

* “If the last president was too above the fray, this one is the fray.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “This is not business as usual. At the risk of being melodramatic, I feel like we are at a pivotal moment in the history of the country.”–Tallahassee-based Republican strategist–and Trump critic–J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich.

* “For the last several years, whenever Congress would concoct some way to roll back a rule protecting clean air or clean water or undermine the fight against climate change, we always felt confident as we had an adult in charge at the White House. Now, what used to be a wish list of the oil and coal and gas industry has become the to-do list for Congress and the White House.”–Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

* “Most candidates want to win the election so that they can become president, but it seems like Donald Trump wanted to become president so that he could win the election. It’s all about winning.”–Dan P. McAdams, the Atlantic.

* “Something changed after Nov. 8. I don’t think people saw how fragile our democracy is.”–Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democrats.

* “It is the rule of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge.”–Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

* “I don’t think government should spend money on tourism and marketing at all.”–Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

* “A medical tourist is like a regular tourist on steroids. They spend more, they stay longer, and it’s a much more solid economic boost to our state.”–State Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

* “I remain confident that there’s no better place for the Rays than at the Trop site. But, because they are a regional asset, I will do what I can to help them succeed no matter where they are, as long as they’re in the Tampa Bay region.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

* “A one-county approach does very little to solve the regional challenge–the real challenge.”–Tampa Bay Partnership CEO Rick Homans, a major proponent of a regional approach to transportation in the Tampa Bay region.

* “The future of transportation isn’t just metal on wheels. It’s tech. We need to have as many vehicles on the road as possible that aren’t privately owned.”–Mark Sharpe, executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance.

* “Some people think rail is a U.N. plot.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “They say that if you can sell it or source it in Tampa Bay, you can send it by plane, train or truck anywhere on the planet. As a result, Tampa Bay is increasingly becoming the point of departure or arrival for goods and materials.”–Ryan Kratz, Colliers International regional president.

* “We’re trying to draw people downtown regardless of the elephant in the room. If you put the right project down there, people are going to come no matter what.”–Hoyt Hamilton, Clearwater City Council member, alluding to Scientology in the context of downtown revitalization plans.