More Trumpster Diving

* All politicians love props. From kids to military to minorities. From selfies to framed, campaign-rally backdrops. President Donald Trump is, obviously, no exception. He just ups the ante on hypocrisy and self-service. As a result, no one is precluding the possibility that a campaign rally could very well include, if not feature, Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who had been incarcerated for violating the military’s rules of conduct before being pardoned by Trump. A rally warrior-prop in exchange for a pardon? There is quid pro quo precedent.

* Republicans for the Rule of Law–remember them?–is running an ad about the impeachment hearings that slams the White House for not allowing key witnesses to testify. “These witnesses must testify,” it says. “What is Trump afraid of?”  How about the rule of law?

* During his NATO visit to London this week, President Trump attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. This has all the trappings of a “Saturday Night Live” cold opening.

* So who does President Trump nominate–after a three-year vacancy–to be undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights? Marshall Billingslea, an official involved in the Pentagon’s post-9/11 use of harsh interrogation techniques. The controversial choice of Billingslea might not matter much to the Republican Party or the Trump base, but whoever holds the top human rights post in the State Department is well noted by those assessing America’s commitment to human rights abroad.

* Food for thought: Used to be that price supports for farmers were the domain of Congress. No longer. Trump just sent some $20 billion in aid to farmers. It’s what happens when a trade war wreaks havoc and the wreaker-in-chief  believes in the usurpation of powers.

* “I believe the only check on government power in real time is a free and independent press. A free press ensures the flow of information to the public … ensuring the vitality of a free and independent press is more important than ever.” That’s not some idealized progressive rhetoric. That was VP Mike Pence’s take on the role of the press vis a vis government a few, pre-Trump years ago.

* It had to be awkward when “Triggered,” the anti-left screed by Donald Trump Jr., debuted at No.1 on the New York Times Best Seller non-fiction list. It was a PR coup at the expense of the “failing New York Times.” Ironically, it has since dropped back to No. 2, replaced by “A Warning” by Anonymous, whose sales were not ginned up by campaign-related bulk sales.

* How dare Republicans still claim that theirs is the “Party of Lincoln,” unless they’re referring to George Lincoln Rockwell.

Dem Notes

* “At the end of the day, we are going to need everybody. We will not win just by increasing the turnout of people who already agree with us completely on everything.”–Former President Barack Obama.

* It’s no secret that the now-suspended campaign of Kamala Harris, 55, had been tanking after a promising start. Personnel layoffs, financial straits and factions bickering over strategy were making more news than Harris sound bites. And it hardly helped that Harris’ younger sister, Maya, 52, was the unchallenged campaign chairwoman who reportedly played dual roles as sister and adviser. A family member, even one who has been a political analyst on MSNBC and a policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016, calling too many shots does not make for a winning campaign. RFK and JFK were the exception.  

* “Every older person was a younger person once. And maybe it demystifies a little bit the extent to which age represents readiness.”–Pete Buttigieg, 37.

* “In a state like Florida … Trump effectively has had the field to himself, running ads and starting his reelection effort. Mike has begun challenging him already, and is the only candidate doing so.”–Michael Bloomberg campaign spokesperson Marc LaVorgna, on Bloomberg’s focus on Florida, which includes a $3.5-million ad blitz in every major media market through Dec. 3.

* Ironic–and maybe telling–that Bernie Sanders, who would be the oldest person ever elected president, does better, according to polls, with younger voters than with the Social Security set.

* Still too many Democratic candidates? For sure. Maybe the possibility of a brokered convention keeps it turbulent, counterproductive and oversized.

* Joe Biden, as we know, continues to do well with African American voters. This was underscored again when he was endorsed by Florida’s top Democrat, Senate minority leader Audrey Gipson, who is also Florida’s most tenured black lawmaker. While acknowledging that a white candidate can’t “out-African American an African American candidate,” she’s committed to Biden for civil rights stands and for being the vice president chosen by America’s first black president.

* Imagine a Democratic primary with candidates ranging from a socialist to billionaires. It’s yet another reminder of the Democrats’ challenge: The critical need to unite behind one candidate out of this demographic and ideological stew to take down the menace in the White House and pivot to Democratic values and democratic norms.

Ballot Order

A federal judge has struck down a Florida law that needed striking. It’s the one that requires candidates from the party that occupies the governor’s mansion to be placed first on the ballot. It’s been on the books since 1951, when Democrat Fuller Warren was governor. (Yes, I looked that up.) The judge wrote that such ballot placement has given Republicans over the last 20 years a roughly 5 percent advantage–the so-called “primacy effect”–at the polls. The judge offered suggestions, including alphabetizing–but not decrees–as ways to undo the advantage.

A couple of takeaways: We should all be able to agree that a fairer ballot is a better ballot. It’s also worth pondering how a serious, properly prepared voter could mismark a ballot belying that voter’s intention. Some onus has to be on the electorate. Now more than ever.

Sports Shorts

* The one impactful person that the USF Bulls football program still misses above all others: QB Quinton Flowers. He helped make the transition from Willie Taggert to Charley Strong seamless. Taggert leveraged his last (11-2) USF year into the Oregon job. Strong inherited the catalytic Flowers for his first (10-2) season. Then the seams began to unravel, and Strong was fired. Now “buyout” and next-coach speculation are back in the Bulls’ grid conversation. Speaking of the latter, don’t even think about Lane Kiffin.

* There was a time when USF wasn’t keen on playing UCF. As in, an up-and-coming Big East program didn’t need to step down to play a lesser-aligned (Conference USA) UCF. Those were the days.

* We know how professional sports franchises keep upping the ante on amenities, including the interactive ones, at games to heighten the fan experience and rationalize ratcheting ticket prices. But, arguably, nobody saw this one coming at Philadelphia’s Well Fargo Center, home of the NHL Flyers. Fans can now relieve frustration and stress by scheduling time in the facility’s “Disassembly Room.” More commonly known as the “Rage Room,” it’s where fans can take a hammer and smash away at plates, glasses, even televisions. But it’s not free. It’s $35 per fan, and reservations–if not misgivings–are required. I know this is Philly, and Philly fans are known for, uh, unleashing rage, including at their own–but, yo!–an actual Rage Room!

* Thanks to the NFL and show-bizzy, network enablers, look-at-me player antics have filtered down to the college game and at times to the high schools. “Celebrations” morph into juvenile, boorish–or worse–choreography. The most recent Exhibit A: A University of Mississippi player scored a potential tying TD with seconds left in the Rebels’ game against Mississippi State. Then he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for simulating a urinating dog as his end zone TD “celebration.” The 15-yard penalty made the point-after kick longer than it would have been and the kicker missed and Ole *iss lost. Maybe it will become a teachable lesson. Find better ways to celebrate and show some class for the game, the opposition and your school, if that still matters.


* “I would say that the North Koreans do one thing a lot, and that’s bluff.”–David R. Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

* “Russia’s successful attempt to co-opt the Republican Party closely parallels its broad campaign to compromise right-wing populist politicians in Europe with offers of cooperation, loans, propaganda and disinformation campaigns. … It is highly likely that Russian money played a significant role in the successful pro-Brexit campaign to withdraw the U.K. from the European Union.”–Kenneth F. McCallion, author of “Treason & Betrayal: The Rise and Fall of Individual-1.”

* “We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly.”–President Donald Trump, in his unannounced visit to American troops in Afghanistan.

* “The Republicans in the Senate and in the House think they’re in a Parliament, and their responsibility is to a prime minister to whom they owe party loyalty.”–Stuart Gerson, a member of the conservative group Checks & Balances and a former campaign adviser to President George H.W. Bush.

*”Salem witches got a better deal than this.”–South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in denouncing the House impeachment inquiry.

* “Our separation of powers, the guard rail of our Constitution, fails when half the legislative branch abdicates its duty to hold the executive branch accountable. The cost of this failure will endure long beyond this presidency and is already signaling that our democracy is not only diminished but also increasingly dysfunctional.”–Susan Rice, the national security adviser under President Barack Obama.

* “(Trump’s) performance as president has confirmed my worst fears: trade wars, denial of climate change, huge budget deficits, attacks on the Federal Reserve, a chaotic White House and betrayal of our allies abroad. Worse yet, Congressional Republicans have done little to check Mr. Trump’s egregious behavior.”–Harvard economics Professor N. Gregory Mankiw.

* “A Moscow-loving grifter is on the loose in the White House. Shame on the Vichy Republicans who constantly enable (Trump).”–Republican consultant Michael Murphy.

* “I think sometimes the populist left is overrepresented in places where reporters sometimes spend a lot of time. Like on Twitter.”–David Axelrod, Democratic strategist and former White House aide to President Obama.

* “Undecideds almost always break toward the challenger. It happened in 2016 to Trump.”–Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report.

* “Any scenario where an impeached president is trying to jam through a Supreme Court pick in an election year, in direct defiance of the precedent Mitch McConnell set with Merrick Garland in 2016, would rightly spark a war.”–Brian Fallon, the co-founder and executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial nominee advocacy group.

* “It’s time to put term limits on the Supreme Court.”–John Fund, the National Review.

* “The ugliness my jokes help reveal is why I’m so worried about our pluralistic democracies. … Social media platforms make it easier for people who share the same false premises to find one another, and then the technology acts as an accelerant for toxic thinking. … Fake news outperforms real news on social media; studies show that lies spread faster than truth.”–Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen in an Anti-Defamation League speech.

* “He’s the intellectuals’ James Bond.”–How James Baldwin once referred to William F. Buckley Jr.

* “We’re in a race right now to save the Florida citrus industry.”–Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center.

* “That was an unintended consequence. I don’t think any of us saw that coming.”–Former Florida Republican minority leader Curt Kiser, on how term limits resulted in the process of picking the leaders of the two chambers years in advance.

* “The most powerful man in the state.”–That’s what U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fl., may be, according to Rep. Gus Bilirakis, because of Gaetz’s friendships with Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump.

* “Just because Ron DeSantis is no longer the tip of the (Fox) spear on impeachment doesn’t mean he’s not advancing the Trump agenda in Florida.”–Rep. Matt Gaetz.

* “Our obligation to the public is to put this into context and make them realize this could affect you, your children, your grandchildren, if we don’t start now, becoming more adaptive and mitigated through sustainability and resiliency process.”–John Bennett, Mayor Jane Castor’s chief of staff, on climate-change impact. Tampa is currently in the midst of a national search for a chief resiliency officer.

* “The market demand in Tampa has been strong from the start. Ybor City is also home to a budding film and creative industry, which makes it the perfect place for this unique movie theater conversion.”–Industrious Florida manager Jen Reilly Kelmer, on the conversion of the Centro Ybor AMC movie theater into 45,000 square feet of flexible working space. Industrious, which has 90 locations nationwide, is partnering with the investment firm Third Lake Capital.

* “I’ve always said that the only way to be successful in politics is to compromise, and right now we’re not there. I’m going to try my best, with the Lord’s help and prayers, to try to bring some collegiality back to this board and back to this county before I leave. Our success depends on that.”–Outgoing Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller.

* “I fully support the decision to reorient our football program in a new direction.”–New USF President Steven C. Currall, on the firing of head football coach Charlie Strong.

Impeach Mints: A Sampling

* “Frankly, I want a trial.” That’s President Donald Trump’s acknowledged trump card, the one that is reliant on embarrassingly sycophantic Republicans in the Senate voting against impeachment conviction. Loathsome Lindsey & Co. will vote their party, Trump fealty and their political self interest. Then comes the rally-’round,  re-election rhetoric of “witch hunt,” “hoax,” “fake news” and then the figurative spiking of the campaign football: “Exoneration!” As if.

The Trump-channeling base will drink the exoneration Kool Aid and ask for seconds. The rest of the electorate, which outnumbers the base, will have to be the ultimate jury after the Senate acquittal. Surely there are enough American voters, regardless of party or no-party affiliation, who have seen enough of Trump–both before and as president–to know that four more years of his unhinged, unethical faux populism and fraught authoritarianism is really, really bad for America. Surely.

* Arguably, the best response to defensive taunts of “hearsay” testimony is first-hand testimony. But the White House hasn’t cooperated–(no direct, under-oath input from Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton et al)–and knows it could run the clock out on subpoena appeals. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff confirmed as much. “What we’re not prepared to do,” said Schiff, “is wait months and months while the administration plays a game of rope-a-dope in an effort to try to stall.”

* The impeachment process, although rare and sometimes misunderstood, will come down to a familiar legal scenario: Indictment (impeachment hearings), Trial (Senate vote), Appeal (2020 election vote).

* “I’ve seen things written like he’s going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say he isn’t. But I have insurance.”–That was Rudy Giuliani. Maybe he has photos.

* “If you don’t want liberal extremists to run your lives, then today we say welcome to the Republican Party. … We’ve done more for African-Americans in three years than the broken Washington establishment has done in 30 years.” That was Trump, possibly with a straightface, at a “Black Voices for Trump” rally in Atlanta.

* What you just heard may have been the sound of MLK turning over in his grave as his niece, Alveda King, acts increasingly like someone who is, preposterously, among Trump’s most loyal African-American supporters. Perhaps being “judged by the content of their character” just doesn’t resonate as it used to.

* “The time has come to investigate the investigators.” No, that wasn’t a Trump tweet–but the defiant response of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to formal charges of corruption. The two have more in common than we would like to admit.

* Fiona Hill for secretary of state.

* So there was President Trump last week in Austin, Texas touring a plant that makes high-end Apple computers. He was accompanied by the ultimate Apple prop, Timothy Cook, its chief executive. Trump was there, the president cluelessly suggested, for the grand opening–that very day. Only one problem: the plant that he was taking credit for had opened six years earlier. Cook, of course, didn’t correct him; he’s still lobbying Trump on trade and tax issues.

Trump then doubled down a little later by tweeting: “Today, I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America.” Talk about “fake news.”

* “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi.” Whatever.

* Pre-President Trump Lindsey Graham: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed. And we will deserve it.” Alas, the destruction–in the form of constitutional crises and non-white targeting to planet endangerment and foreign-policy chaos–should never have been about a political party. And while the solicitous, sycophantic Republican Party deserves its Trump-inflicted fractures and behind-the-scenes paranoia, the rest of us sure in hell don’t.

Dem Notes

* Black voters are expected to comprise a quarter of all Democratic primary voters next year. That’s a higher percentage than ever before. Among those notably impacted: Joe Biden, who remains popular among African-American voters, minority candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who haven’t moved the black needle very much, and Pete Buttigieg, who hasn’t moved the needle at all.

* Not that it’s equivalent to anything that Trump did, but it’s still fair to ask: When Hunter Biden took that seat on the board of Ukraine’s Burisma Group in 2014–in a geopolitical-hotspot country notorious for corruption–what was the response of Hunter’s father and Hunter’s president? Raised brows?

* “I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead.” That was Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, in announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. The environment, gun laws and medical research will be top Bloomberg priorities. And did we mention that he’s one of the richest guys in the world?

Bloomberg also has enough cachet and cred to make it to the “Saturday Night Live” debate parodies. Former SNL cast member Fred Armisen returns to play the part. It’s not as high-profile as Woody Harrelson as Joe Biden or Kate MacKinnon as Elizabeth Warren, but it’s a good send-up and well-timed exposure, especially for someone not actually participating in the primary-prepping debates.

Media Matters

* Can only imagine how the last season of “The Crown” will treat Trump, Brexit, Boris Johnson, Harry and Megan and the Prince Andrew-Jeffrey Epstein connection. Just when we might have thought it was all behind us.

* The “Joker” has already passed the $1 billion mark in revenues worldwide. And, yes, “Joker 2” is already a given.

*  “A movie has to feel like an event. Otherwise, people say, ‘Ehh, let’s just watch Netflix.'”  That was Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, giving new meaning to “cinema verite.”

Tampa Bay Tidbits

* Scientists have been pointing to out-of-sync circadian rhythms–humans’ 24-hour biological clocks–as the cause of jet lag. Now airlines, airports and hotels are actively addressing it. That includes downtown’s Tampa Marriott Water Street hotel, which has nearly three dozen rooms with circadian mood lighting that changes hues to simulate the solar cycle from bright to soft light. No, lava lamps are not nearly as effective.

* You just know that in certain political and developmental circles the project to remake Clearwater’s waterfront is referred blissfully as “Imagine Clearwater–Without Scientology.”

Sports Shorts

* If I’m a Rays’ fan, I’m a lot more concerned about Major League Baseball scenarios in Orlando, the “Dreamers,” than in Montreal, the “ExRays.” Orlando wanted in back in the 1990s, when expansion franchises were awarded to Miami and Tampa Bay. They still do, and Miami and Tampa Bay now have track records to sigh for. They rank last and next-to-last, respectively, in attendance. Meanwhile Orlando, with NBA and MLS franchises, continues to morph as a market with 80 million tourists annually and a TV market now ranked 18th nationally. If I’m Rays’ management, I’m even more concerned.

The Orlando Schemers say expansion is more likely than relocation. For now. But they would be hard pressed to convince anyone that MLB would chance putting a third franchise in Florida, especially when one of the underperforming incumbents is right down the I-4 road.

* It still seems ironic–and weird–that the most popular spectator sport in this major southwest Florida market is hockey–not football or baseball. We know the reasons, but it still seems weird.