Gore And Nixon: No Model For Trump

Al Gore and Richard Nixon don’t have much in common beyond having served as vice presidents. Except for this easily overlooked historical note. Both were involved in presidential races that were closely contested–with results marked by controversy and intimations of ignominy.

Gore, of course, won the 2000 popular vote but lost in the Electoral College when a Supreme Court decision conceded Florida to George W. Bush by less than 600 votes.

Nixon lost a popular-vote squeaker in 1960 to John F. Kennedy by a little more than 100,000. Percentage wise, it was 49.7-49.5. Nixon won 26 states to Kennedy’s 22. It had been the narrowest presidential-election margin in nearly half a century.

When the 2000 and 1960 elections were over, the losers had to make a call–besides a concession formality. They had to decide whether to appeal. They had their reasons–and their determined, emotional advocates.

Florida, of course, had featured the “hanging chads” debacle that has become part of political lore. Gore had topped his opponent at the national ballot box, but came up short in the Supreme Court. He didn’t want to risk “partisan rancor” that would have ill-served a country divided politically. No appeal.

For Nixon, it had come down to Illinois and Texas, the difference-makers in the Electoral College. Kennedy won Illinois by 0.19 percent, Texas by 2 percent. Nixon’s partisans saw conspiracy in the Dailey Machine of Chicago and Cook County as well as the cronyism and corruption in Texas on behalf of “Landslide” Lyndon Johnson. Nixon was also concerned about divisiveness scenarios and took one for the team. No appeal.

Both did the country-first, honorable thing–however naive that sounds right now–even though campaign insiders pushed for vindication and victory.

Contrast that with what could happen in a post Clinton-Trump America.

A Trump presidency is unconscionable, if not unimaginable. But by most accounts, unlikely. But a Clinton presidency likely comes with this grim reality. A runner-up, soundly-defeated Trump would not be a dodged bullet.

The chaos candidate would not reprise Nixon and Gore by showing some class and taking one for his country to avoid a societal schism.

* Not when his incendiary rant-filled campaign is fueled by scapegoating–using economic frustrations to ignite ethnic animus.

* Not when his fan base is one that ranges from Duck Dynasty followers and evangelical hypocrites to chronic Hillary haters and spineless GOPster pols.

* Not when the nominee regales in polarizing, conspiratorial rhetoric that is anathema to any kind of compromise and national healing.

* Not when he has already equated a loss with a rigged election. This serves to delegitimize the results–as well as provide a pre-packaged excuse for being a loser.

* Not when he has committed to “locking up” his opponent as if America were some authoritarian banana republic.

* Not when his narcissistic, misogynistic character prioritizes his own celebrity over the public good.

* Not when there’s no good reason to expect that Trump, ranting about global cabals, won’t keep the rabble frothing as it vents its frustrations by continuing to channel its under-informed, over-indulged, pop-culture icon.

Imagine, a candidate to prompt Nixon nostalgia.

Campaign Trail Mix

* Whether it’s provided by WikiLeaks or a slaughter house, it’s still sausagemaking. Whether it’s John Podesta campaign scheming or Hillary Clinton acknowledging the public/personal dichotomy of elected officials, it’s all sausage-making. It’s not about character flaws–more like political process flaws.

Just as nobody wants to see the compromise process that leads to passed laws. Just as nobody wants to see the cutting-room floor in the news business. It’s the final product that matters much more than the sausage making. It is what it is. But we’re not exactly talking experience, intelligence and temperament here.

* It was ironic seeing Hillary Clinton and Al Gore campaigning in Miami. You didn’t see that surname combo on the hustings in 2000 when Bill Clinton was Gore’s presidential albatross. But now it’s all Dem hands on deck–from Barack and Michelle Obama to Joe Biden, erstwhile rival Bernie Sanders and ass-kicking populist Elizabeth Warren.

* Has it dawned yet on Republicans how it happened that it was their party–the one of  Limbaugh not Lincoln–that Donald Trump chose to pursue his ultimate ego-gratification goal? Call it political karma.

Death Penalty Update

While it’s not exactly on life support, the death penalty has been scrutinized again–in the media and in the courts–with Florida, of course, in the cross hairs. It happens when a state’s death row has nearly 400 residents.

First, it was a Harvard University study that labeled Hillsborough and Pinellas counties as national “outliers” in their use of the death penalty. The two counties–along with Duval and Miami-Dade–comprise a quarter of the 16-county list. The criteria: five or more defendants receiving death sentences from 2010-15.

The report took State Attorney Mark Ober to task for being quick to pursue the death penalty even when there were significant mitigating factors, such as intellectual disability. Racial disparities were also noted. And more often than not, juries were not unanimous in their death-sentence recommendations.

Ober, not surprisingly, dismissed the report. “The group releasing the report opposes the death penalty, and its report is nothing more than a position paper to support its cause,” said Ober. “It makes no attempt to be fair and balanced.” Bill O’Reilly couldn’t have said it better.

Two days later the Florida Supreme Court tossed out the way death sentences are imposed throughout the state, in effect, forcing the Legislature to require a unanimous jury decision for the death penalty. Previously legislators had rewritten the majority law with a 10-2 death-vote requirement. That came in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding that Florida’s simple-majority requirement would no longer stand.

Florida will now join the majority of states in requiring unanimous verdicts in death penalty cases.

What’s disturbing is that this is what it took to get this state to make the common-sense, manifestly fair move to unanimous verdicts.

It’s beyond daunting that fallible human beings, operating in an imperfect judicial system–from questionable witnesses to DNA evidence and periodic exonerations–can make the ultimate, irrevocable decision to put someone to death. That a 7-5 jury vote was sufficient was an abomination.

We’ll give the last word to Rep. Darryl Rouson, the St. Petersburg Democrat. “If it’s unanimous guilty,” noted Rouson, “then why not let it be unanimous death recommendation?”


* “We’re sending a message. We have the capacity to do it. And it will be at the time of our choosing. And under the circumstances that have the greatest impact. He’ll know it.”–Vice President Joe Biden, on a retaliatory cyberstrike scenario against Russia and a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* “The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton president. But we are going to stop it. We are not going to back down.”–Donald Trump.

* “I believe the statements that Donald Trump says are disgusting. Disgusting, period. I have spoken to him multiple times, (and) he believes what he said was disgusting. … As Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, said … I believe in forgiveness. I also believe in the Constitution of the United States.”–Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

* “Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women for themselves to feel powerful. … Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.”–Michele Obama.

* “(Michelle Obama) has honed a talent–rare in Washington–for rising above pettiness.”–Frank Bruni, New York Times.

* “It seems fair to say that, if Trump loses the election, it will be because women voted against him.”–Statistician and election analyst Nate Silver.

* “I will tell you that if the Republican Party does not evolve, the Republican Party is going to die.”–Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

* “Your vote really, really, really counts. You can consider me as an Exhibit A for that.”--Al Gore, at a Clinton campaign rally in Miami.

* “Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They don’t know how to win–I will teach them.”–Donald Trump.

* “Watched ‘Saturday Night Live’ hit job on me. … Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election.”–Donald Trump.

* “There is no getting around it: Donald Trump is cheering on a Russian attempt to influence our election through a crime reminiscent of Watergate, but on a more massive scale.”–Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin.

* “A presidential nominee is largely responsible for his own fate, and circumstances were set up this year for a GOP victory. The Trumpians got the candidate and campaign they wanted, and now they have to own the result.”–Wall Street Journal editorial.

* “Donald Trump’s closing argument is, ‘What do you have to lose?’ The answer is, everything.”–President Barack Obama at a rally in Cleveland.

* “Whatever one may think of the relative merits of the two parties, at least this much can be said: In this election cycle, it has been the Republicans, not their opponents, who have worked, and are still working, to hand the country over to someone who they know in their hearts would be a disaster for the nation’s security.”–Robert Kagan, Brookings Institution senior fellow.

* “Donald J. Trump might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.”–Atlantic magazine.

* “For the first time in our history, the Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president. The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.”–Arizona Republic editorial.

* “It would be better for everybody down ballot if the Republican nominee for president were bringing folks, rather than shedding them like hair on a German shepherd.”–Florida Republican strategist and lobbyist Mac Stipanovich.

* “I am ecstatic that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel. A great and good thing in a season of sleaze and sadness.”–Stephen King.

* “I’m going to serve six years in the Senate, God willing, and I’m looking forward to it.”–Sen. Marco Rubio in his debate against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

* “As a woman and the mother of two teenage daughters, I find Mr. Trump’s comments disgusting. … I am voting for Donald Trump because he is a better choice over Hillary Clinton, but I will admit, he is making it harder and harder for me to continue to do so.”–State Senate candidate Dana Young, R-Tampa.

* “The Legislature has already passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law, multiple bills declaring that marijuana should be available to certain patients here in Florida. The debate now focuses on how medical marijuana should be regulated and which patients should be eligible to receive this treatment.”–Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

* “Production of our state’s signature crop is down 70 percent from 20 years ago, and the future of Florida citrus depends on a break-through in the fight against greening.”–Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

* “The synergy is perfectly lined up between Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco … if we combine them, we’ll have a win-win.”–Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, in calling for a “visionary” plan to consolidate Bay Area transportation agencies.

* “There is politics and there are elections. We run elections.”–Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

* “The message we’re sending is so convoluted. I don’t think anybody has any idea what’s going on.”–Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, on the DOT’s lack of economic-impact projections regarding Tampa Bay Express.

* “At this time we’re simply not going to expand.”–University of Oklahoma President David Boren, on the Big 12’s expansion decision. USF was among 11 finalists.

* “Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.”–Joe Maddon.

Town Hall Takeaways

* A debate to help determine the leader of the Free World: Too bad it’s more show than  showdown. Why not a chair for Hillary Clinton and a bar stool for the smirking Donald (“You’d be in jail.”) Trump. His unpresidential body language fit his celebrity-buffoon caricature, but the hulking, stalking style that had him intruding into the Clinton-response TV frame was downright creepy at times. And the sniffling and snorting was weird.

Remember how Al Gore was criticized for trying to upstage and intimidate George W. Bush in their 2000 debate by leaving his chair and sauntering over into Bush’s space while “W” answered a question? However highlighted over the years, it was a one-time, Candid Camera misstep–hardly a character extension.

* It takes two to have a debate. It takes one to have a show. When the accused pivots to ISIS beheadings 15 seconds into a robotic apology about being a sexual predator, you know the diversionary tactics have already kicked in.

* The bar is low, possibly subterranean, for Trump in debates. He dropped in “carried interest” and “Mosul” and got credit for strong moments.

* The intimate live audience, which included Bill Clinton accusers Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Wiley, was largely comprised of “undecideds.” How, frankly, is that possible three weeks out from an election featuring the most polarizing pairing in the history of presidential races? Or maybe it’s a way of working your way into a network focus group or televised town hall.

* The debate format still needs work. An audible, wrap-it-up signal with, say, 15-seconds remaining for a response would be helpful. As would an automatic mic shut-off. A candidate shouldn’t be able to bully his way into extra time, especially when it’s likely to result in more bar stool samples aimed at the opponent, the moderators or the media in general.

* Whatever Trump does or doesn’t do in a debate–or anywhere anytime–will not change anything with his deplorable, “Lock her up!” base. Fortunately, that’s not enough to win an election–especially with Trump already underperforming with college-educated GOPsters, most notably women.

* Trump is Trump. But is nothing beneath Rudy Giuliani, who keeps doubling down on being Trump’s pimp?

Presidential Campaign Trailmix

* Wasn’t there a time when Republicans thought of themselves as the party of family values?

* Imagine, there’s a Bush still impacting the presidential race in its last three weeks–and it’s Billy Bush, Jeb’s cousin.

* When the presidential-campaign focus is not on something salacious and scandalous, the issue of future Supreme Court appointees is readily raised. Well it should. From Roe vs. Wade to Citizens United, a lot is at stake.

And here’s a prime example from back in the SCOTUS day. In 1935, the Supreme Court upheld the “whites only” Democratic primary in Texas. Nine years later, with an infusion of new justices, the court reversed that decision. In short, Supreme Court appointees matter big time. No exception this time on an 8-member Court.

* Yes, it’s a Kellyanne Conway cheap shot, but it’s spot-on funny–and it wasn’t delivered by a Clinton campaign staffer: “She looks like the last 10 minutes of prom.”

* It’s the longest of long shots, but if Mike Pence were to withdraw from his VP slot, here’s hoping it would open the way for a Trump-Scott or Trump-Bondi ticket. They all deserve each other–as well as future political oblivion. And Florida would be rid of one of them right away.

* How can it be that someone as politically pragmatic and savvy as Bill Clinton can still be a liability to Hillary Clinton on the stump? His recent “crazy system” comment regarding the Affordable Care Act was manna for Conway & Co. And recall he was a problematic presence for Hillary Clinton in 2008 against Barack Obama.

* Most Florida Republican leaders have expressed “outrage” over Donald Trump’s ongoing character revelations–that now include the prurient and predatory. But few are withdrawing support. That, to be sure, is outrageous.

* At the national level, contextually-principled House Speaker Paul Ryan has, in effect, declared: “Enough is enough. I can no longer defend the candidacy of Donald Trump. I will not campaign for him. But, no, I’m not withdrawing my endorsement. Get real.”

* A perverse benefit of being in traffic gridlock on I-275 North the other day was a panoramic view of both sides of the interstate. And there they were: two gigantic, complementary billboards promoting something called “Scream-A-Geddon, a horror theme park in Dade City. The actual wording: “Scream-A-Geddon: Scarier Than…” One depicted Donald Trump, the other, Hillary Clinton.

Two points. First, not funny, even for billboard humor. Second, it’s really unconscionable, whatever the context, whatever the party affiliation, to equate Trump and Clinton.

Fence Foes For Former Fort

We can all probably agree on this: The ongoing $30 million renovation of the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory is a welcome revitalization project along North Howard Avenue. We can all probably agree on this too: It’s not aesthetically improved with the Tampa Jewish Community Center’s plans to add a six-foot high fence across the front of the Art Deco structure.

However, we should all be able to agree on this: The reality is we live in a world where a high-profile Jewish Community Center project can also be a vulnerable target. Anti-Semitic terrorists and lone-wolf crazies exist. No one around here knows that better than JCC officials.

“You need to create environments that you’re able to control and protect,” explains Jack Ross, the JCC’s executive director. Of course, who could argue with that?

Well, three city council members, Frank Reddick, Charlie Miranda and Yolie Capin, in effect, could–and did. They were the minority in a 4-3 vote that ultimately signed off on the inclusion of the fence. They objected that it was inconsistent with the building’s historic character and could look less than welcoming to the public.

Legitimate points, but the same could be said of the White House. It doesn’t look better with a fence, it just looks–and is–safer in an increasingly unsafe world.

The JCC will now be working with the Architectural Review Commission to determine the final look, one that shouldn’t appear uninviting to those who want to visit and also understand the necessary balance between convenience and safety. As for Reddick, Miranda and Capin, their concerns are understandable, but maybe they should check back with council vice chairman Harry Cohen for further reassurance.

Higher Ed Gem Reminder

We know that as a city and a region we’re fortunate to have a major research university in our midst. But unless we’re talking about a re-locating medical school or a revived football program, it can be easy to take USF for granted. The other night I was privy to the benefits of having a university with a Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies on its campus. Executive Director Mohsen Milani hosted Christopher Hill, former ambassador to, among others, South Korea and Iraq. A few outtakes:

* Chinese vested interest in North Korea: “The problem is deeper than refugee (scenarios). Many in their government see it in zero-sum terms. An American victory and a Chinese defeat (if the Koreas unite under South Korean aegis). We must deal with the Chinese and alleviate their concerns.”

* Iraq: “Will be seen historically as an enormous mistake.”

* Syria: “No victory parade in Damascus. (Look for) negotiations among exhausted parties.”

* ISIS: “There’s no negotiating with ISIS.”

Sports Shorts

* At the end of ESPN’s telecast of USF’s win over East Carolina, one of the booth commentators said, “There is something going on that we don’t know.” He left it at that and signed off. He was referring to the fact that USF, with the game in hand, 38-22, still had its key players on the field and was airing it out trying to score again with only a few seconds left.

Most observers thought it was a classic case of trying to run up the score on a defeated opponent. Bulls head coach Willie Taggert said there was no bad blood or pay-back going on with ECU, it was simply a matter of “trying to score points. … We needed to finish the ballgame.”

I get the point where it’s the defense’s job to stop the offense, not the offense’s job to stop itself, to paraphrase Steve Spurrier. But with only a few seconds left, it’s time for the game’s unwritten rule to kick in. Show some class in victory.  Or is sportsmanship as old school as tossing the football to the ref after a touchdown without a hint of lounge-act prep. The Bulls opted for swagger, as if we need any more on our athletic fields and courts.

* Another sign of U.S.-Cuban rapprochement: The U.S. national men’s soccer team recently played an exhibition (appropriately called “friendlies” in international soccer parlance) in Havana against their Cuban counterparts. It was the first such Cuban-American exhibition since 1947. BTW, the U.S. won, 2-0, and one of the goals was scored by Tampa native Julian Green, 21, who was born into a military family at MacDill AFB.

* The Lightning will retire Marty St. Louis’ number–26–on Jan. 13. It’s a classy move by the Bolts. St. Louis was the face–and heart–of the franchise for years, most notably 2004 when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup. The Lightning is saying all is forgiven for that classless divorce orchestrated by St. Louis to finish out his career in New York. He scapegoated Bolts’ general manager Steve Yzerman, undermined team morale while his soap opera scenario played out and then finished up with the Rangers.

The Lightning are doing the right thing: Honoring a gritty, great player who always gave his best on the ice. They have forgiven. But nobody is forgetting what they are forgiving.


* “Russia and the (Syrian) regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities, and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.”–Secretary of State John Kerry.

* “It’s pretty hard for (prominent Republican leaders) to publicly say ‘Obama’s a perfectly reasonable guy, but we just can’t work with him because our base thinks he’s the anti-Christ.'”–President Barack Obama.

* “Trump’s zest for self-sabotage, his wild swings, his inability to delegate or take advice, are not mere flaws; they are defining characteristics. The burdens of the presidency will leave him permanently maddened, perpetually undone.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”–Donald Trump.

* “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Whatever you want. Grab them by the p—y.”–Donald Trump.

* “The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault.”–Vice President Joe Biden.

* “It’s over. The only good news is that in 30 days Trump will be back to being just a former reality TV star like the Kardashians, and Republican candidates across America will no longer be asked to respond to his stupid remarks.”–Terry Sullivan, Republican strategist and former campaign adviser to Marco Rubio.

* “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly–I will never drop out of the race. … I think a lot of people underestimate how loyal my supporters are.”–Donald Trump.

* “Conservatives who are sticking with this guy at this point have made a deal with the devil.”–Republican consultant Rick Wilson.

* “…This is who Donald Trump is and the question for us, the question our country must answer is that this is not who we are.”–Hillary Clinton.

* “In the spirit of patriotism … let’s make Election Day a federal holiday (or at least a company holiday). In the spirit of nouns over verbs, call it Voter Day.”–Adam Grant, author and professor of management and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

* “I am not going to extend it. Everybody has had a lot of time to register. On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote: early voting, absentee voting, Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”–Gov. Rick Scott.

* “The warmer ocean temperatures surely helped fuel Mathew.”–David Zierden, Florida’s state climatologist.

* “The truth is, this is not about Iceland. This is about the connectivity Iceland has to Europe and on to Florida.”–Pinellas County tourism director David Downing, on the impact of TIA adding IcelandAir to its overseas lineup.

* “From a transit perspective, the streetcar’s a gem. Not because it’s cute, but because it’s an instant sense of place. You have a track, you have a station. You have a somewhere.”–HART CEO Katharine Eagan.

* “Every large urban school district I’ve ever worked in–Charlotte, Orlando, Chicago–it’s been a challenge to get experienced teachers at your high-needs schools.”–Harrison Peters, Hillsborough County School District’s new chief of schools.

* “Pressure lives in the future, not the present tense. If you can live in the moment, then you can enjoy the pleasure of it.”–Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon.