Trumpster Diving

* The tax bill that the Senate finally sneaked through the legislative transom has led to  predictable takeaways. It’s an end zone-celebrating “win” for the Trump Administration and the do-something-anything Senate. A big tax cut for the wealthy. Hardly the case for the lower-priority middle -and lower-classes. Much more added to an obscene deficit.

And how do you square all of this? The economy will be supply-sided and energized and corporate tax breaks will trickle down to the masses.

Somewhere Arthur Laffer is rearranging his napkins.

* We know–for obvious reasons–that Trump doesn’t exactly surround himself with the best and the brightest. And obviously that has carried over to personal attorney John Dowd. We now know that it was Dowd who drafted the president’s tweet acknowledging that he had fired Michael Flynn because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence–but also to the FBI. Oops. Dowd has since apologized for not being more careful with his language and, presumably, the truth.

Say what? You are the personal attorney to a president who is temperamentally unhinged, ham-handed linguistically and a serial tweeter and you can’t be more precise with your language?

But this is beyond mere embarrassment and chaos, which would normally be just another day at the Oval Office. This edges Trump ever closer to the Robert Mueller inquiry. When you include the FBI, you pave the way for obstruction of justice scenarios–let alone the big collusion piñata.

* Call it Karma. There was Michael Flynn leaving court, having pled guilty to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts. He was swiftly escorted to a black perp SUV–but not before awaiting activists could break out into a “Lock him up” chorus.

* At some point soon, we’ll likely be hearing that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is, uh, “stepping down.” A White House statement will say the president accepted the resignation with regret and gratitude for T Rex’s patriotic service. It will note that Tillerson was great in a demanding job, and that the American people and American interests were well served. Whatever. And that CIA Director Mike Pompeo–remember his Hillary-hammering prosecution at the House Select Committee Benghazi Hearings?–will take over.

The following day, White House spokes-harlot Sarah Huckabee-Sanders will deny that Tillerson was fired, but that he really, really wanted to spend more time with his family as well as all those folks at ExxonMobil who used to treat him like a really, really, important, smart person. And Steve Bannon will weigh in with hard-line approval of Pompeo’s appointment.

However it’s couched–including how Tillerson and Trump differed on North Korea, Iran and the Saudi Arabia-Qatar feud–the real reason will be obvious. The Narcissist-in-chief never got over the “moron” remark attributed to–and not denied by–Tillerson. Rather than stop behaving as a moron, Trump effectively fired the guy who pointed it out.

* Here’s a disingenuous quote, more revealing than intended, from a new book, “Let Trump Be Trump,” by Corey Lewandowski, former Trump campaign manager, and David Bossie, former top Trump aide. “Sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of him that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place,” they wrote. Mainly they were referring to his wrathful temperament. As in loud, insulting, expletive-filled tirades. What a guy.

They wanted to convey insider gravitas and a provide an attention-getting, publicist’s pull quote. It obviously worked. They also wanted to exploit the insider experience. We get all that. But Trump traits that make you “wonder why” you came on board? As if.

Lewandowski and Bossie were hardly A-listers among the political-operative community. They were marginal characters sniffing around the political gravy train hoping for a career break. Had this not been such a deplorably flawed candidate, they would not have been considered. But this was Trump; better people weren’t interested. In the case of  Lewandowski, he whored out until he was ultimately fired. And CNN brought him on for panel opining.

That’s how it works. If it requires the enabling of the candidacy of someone who will be an existential threat, it doesn’t matter. You’re a player. You can even write about it later.

Monumental Additions

All cities value and revere their histories. But it’s especially noteworthy and relevant for a city such as Tampa, a city where most people are not from here. Where locals’ roots are as likely to be Chicago or Philadelphia as Seminole Heights or Hyde Park. Where knowing the history of where you live can be both a learning and a bonding experience.

That’s why Tampa’s Historical Monument Trail along the Riverwalk is so important. With the recent addition of six more busts, honoring noteworthy individuals who have helped shape the history of Tampa and Hillsborough County, there are now 30 such monuments. They are diverse–Anglo, Black, Hispanic, female and male–reminders of who we are and who came before us. In short, how we got here.

“The Trail allows us to remember and honor those who were so committed and dedicated  to moving our community forward,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at the unveiling ceremony. “It is a place where our citizens not only connect along this incredible Riverwalk, but they will also be able to connect to one another through shared history that brought them to it.”

Indeed, cities can’t realize their potential unless they have an understanding and appreciation of their past, their identity. Tampa, more than most, needs such a venue. Tampa, more than most, has a fascinating back story to share–from historic Ybor City to an ever-evolving, new-urbanism downtown.

And for the record, the six historical additions include a certain Ybor City lector/tri-lingual newspaper founder who continues to leave his mark on this city. For readers of La Gaceta, the name and legacy of Victoriano Manteiga are familiar.

Well Rewarded

It was only fitting that Delonda Walker, the McDonald’s worker who turned in a gun that led to the arrest of the Seminole Heights serial-killer suspect, be given all of the ($110,000) reward money. Forget about the technicalities of calling a hotline number. Without her acting on suspicion, Seminole Heights is arguably still a tense community with possibly a fifth victim adding to the gut fear and paranoia.

It’s also significant that Walker is African-American. For those who still champion the “no-snitch” culture in the black community, this is a rebuke. This is what involved residents do when they act in communal self interest. And it doesn’t happen without the police and city hall having earned the confidence and respect of a community under siege.

Media Matters

* After the outing of, among other notables, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, CBS’s Charlie Rose, political journalist Mark Halperin and now NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brian Williams doesn’t look too bad. Imagine, exaggerating and fabricating some news-coverage experiences. What an age of innocence.

To his credit, Williams has forged on from the embarrassment and demotion from NBC anchor. He now hosts the best political talk show on the air, CNBC’s “The 11th Hour.”

* There’s something else we’ve also come to realize–as outed predators range from news, entertainment and political personalities to opera icons. Sexual harassment and worse–and let’s not kid ourselves, we know it when we see it and experience it–is embedded in the culture, if not the human condition. It’s not entirely impossible that there weren’t Fondling Fathers back in the day. It’s as much a bottom-up as it is a top-down issue. It’s as likely in a faculty lounge as it is in a corporate suite.

We need a society-wide, come-to-Jesus conversation about sexual-harassment–and worse. It must underscore this reality: It’s not just sleazy predators, who will, alas, always be with us. No, it must also be about conscience-avoiding enablers who help make it happen. Without them and their unconscionable code of workplace silence, this wouldn’t be so pervasive an issue.

This isn’t about political correctness. Just common-sense, common-good correctness. “If you see something, say something” has myriad applications.

Sports Shorts

* It’s that time of year in college football: coaching changes and bowl bids.

As for the former, imagine–for now–Gainesville, Tallahassee and Orlando impacted in the same year. And what a contrast between FSU and UCF. Jimbo Fisher is going to Texas A&M for more money and less prestige. His grumpy exit, which did not include coaching FSU’s last regular season game, was less than classy.

Scott Frost leaving UCF for Nebraska is understandable. He grew up there, went to high school there and quarterbacked the Huskers to a national championship in 1997. Plus, he handled the awkward situation with his players, president and media with class while leading his team to an undefeated season and a major bowl bid. In two years, UCF went from 0-12 to 12-0. UCF is as grateful as it is disappointed.

* The final College Football Playoff rankings have UCF at 12. The 11 teams ranked higher include five two-loss teams and one (Auburn) three-loss team. The Knights deserve better.

* We’re reminded again that there are too many (38) bowls and, thus, too many (76) participants who shouldn’t be rewarded for lackluster seasons. FSU, for example. The 6-6 Seminoles have to beat Southern Mississippi in Shreveport, Louisiana’s Independence Bowl to avoid a losing season. Ridiculous.

* We know Oregon’s Willie Taggart, formerly of Western Kentucky and USF, is still a hot commodity. He has a track record of turning around programs. At USF, the Bulls went 8-5 and 10-2 in his last two seasons. Only one anomaly. Has there ever been a hot commodity coach with a losing record?  Overall, he’s 47-50, including 24-25 at USF.

* Whenever prominent college coaches get fired, there’s often an issue about a “buy out” clause  and whether somebody was fired for “cause.” Let’s get real, at the highest level, college coaching–reflected in often obscene salaries–is all about winning and its economic ripple effects. Coaches are bought to win. Shouldn’t not winning enough be sufficient “cause” for firing?


* “It is a situation that we will handle.”–President Donald Trump’s response to North Korea’s ICBM launch.

* “America’s diplomatic power is being weakened internally as complex global crises are growing externally.”–Excerpt from a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

* “It’s time to stop tweeting and start leading.”–Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

* “Of all the ways Donald Trump has damaged this country, arguably the most subtle yet insidious is that he’s taught us not to expect the chief executive to say anything of value. It is not just that he is ineloquent, though he is. … No, Trump’s problem is that he has nothing to say. And the more he says, the more obvious that becomes.”–Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald.

* “A year after his election, Trump continues to lie about his commitment to saving jobs at Carrier or anywhere else. And workers are taking note.”–Chuck Jones, former president of Indiana-based United Steel Workers Local 1999.

* “If we’ve learned anything in the past few decades (and it’s not clear that we have), it’s that major economic and social legislation should have at least some bipartisan support. Otherwise, we get caught in a game of ceaseless interruption.”–Robert Samuelson, Washington Post.

* “I don’t think our message should be any different than it was when F.D.R. was president or J.F.K. was president. If you work hard and play by the rules, we’ve got your back.”–California Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

* “Democrats have to get back in the habit of talking about freedom. Your freedom very much depends on whether you can start a business and know you have access to health care, whether you can marry someone you love or sue a bank that is cheating you.”–Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.

* “The message here is clear: Republicans aren’t going to defy their mad king over anything as mushy and amorphous as democratic norms, rationality or national honor.”–Michele Goldberg, New York Times.

* “Outside of highly-educated suburbs and racially-diverse cities, Democrats still do not have an effective response to Trumpism. … Democrats  have to do better in whiter, more rural areas. … Without the white working class, Democrats will need everything else to go spectacularly well to retake the House of Representatives next year.”–David Leonhardt, New York Times.

* “It is imperative that we become much better in educating students not just to take good jobs but to create good jobs.”–Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg.


* “We wake up every morning to a new tweet (from Trump) and as long as that keeps going, I think the electorate will wake up.”–Ione Townsend, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Hillsborough County.

* “As critical as economic growth is, conservation will not happen in a free-market society.”–Lindsay Cross, executive director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, in underscoring the need to keep pushing for the implementation of Amendment 1 that set aside money to preserve wild Florida.

* “With the inventory available, we’re all kind of captive in our homes right now. … The demand for apartments is just as high.”–David Bennett, president of the Pinellas Realtor Organization.

* “I assure you, this is the man who did this.”–TPD Chief Brian Dugan on the arrest of Seminole Heights serial-killer suspect Howell Donaldson III.

* “I trust our teachers are doing right by kids today.”–Hillsborough School Superintendent Jeff Eakins.

* “We’re seeing a resurgence of cocaine, a resurgence of heroin.”–Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

* “It’s part of it, but it’s not what they’ll need.”–Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, saying it will take more than $150 million from the Rays to build a ballpark in Ybor City.

Morgan Opts Out

Why would he? John Morgan, that is. Run for governor, that is.

As we’ve seen, Morgan, 61, has formally announced that he will not be a candidate for Florida governor next year. Even though he was polling best among Democrats. Even though Democrats really, really need somebody like him to get the vote out and even the score statewide.

Morgan has his reasons. Ours not to quibble.

He’s independently wealthy. He doesn’t owe anybody. He’s free to pick and choose his issues and weigh in where he wants with serious-dollar impact. That’s a helluva place to be.

He can also pick and choose where he goes, who he drinks with and what he says about anyone and anything that crosses his mind. If he decides to buy last round, he will. He’ll joke with bartenders as well as budtenders.

He doesn’t need to outsource his values and opinions to marketers, strategists and focus groups. He is his own man–and would never be caught pandering to those who might not agree with him. He’d rather talk at a Tiger Bay luncheon than a political debate.

He’s used to winning and being surrounded by winners. He doesn’t suffer fools because he doesn’t have to. And Tallahassee is hardly a fool-free zone.

He  belongs on the left-hand side of the spectrum, and the righteous hypocrites of the Florida Legislature remain prominent among the GOPster majority. Who needs that element in your life?

There’s a gut reason why John “For the People” Morgan has gone this long without running for office. And nothing has changed except he has more money, more autonomy–and partisan politics keeps getting more poisonous.

Trumpster Diving

* Donald Trump is supporting Alabama’s embattled Roy Moore for the Senate. “We don’t need a liberal” in there, explains the president. Plus, Moore denies being a creepy, serial stalker and molester. So there.

In other words, it’s better for Alabama voters to elect an accused child molester than a Democrat. That’s where we are. It gives obscenely partisan politics a bad name. It gives fundamentalist Christian/Moore voter an oxymoronic definition. It keeps the Alabama stereotype alive and, well, unfair to those who deserve better.

To date, the approach of Moore’s campaign has basically been three-fold. First, keep playing up his anti-gay bias, Second Amendment reverence and high-profile history of support for at least nine of the 10 commandments. Second, a strategy where Moore says, “I didn’t do stuff like that, any other questions?” And third, it’s all “fake news” anyhow.

Now add this ploy, as noted by Moore adviser Brett Doster. “We’re going to make it clear to the voters of Alabama that Roy Moore is the candidate to help President Trump get a conservative Supreme Court and cut taxes. That will be included in our ads, definitely.”

* This just in. “Women are very special,” says Donald Trump. “I think it’s a very special time, a lot of things are coming out, and I think that’s good for our society, and I think it’s very, very good for women, and I’m very happy these things are coming out.” No, Billy Bush was not standing next to him.

* Beyond blunt: “I have children and grandchildren to answer to.”–Retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, in underscoring his opposition to Trump.

* Beyond biblical: “No, I don’t understand it. I really, genuinely do not understand where that is coming from.”–The Most Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in response to a question about why American fundamentalist Christians are so supportive of Trump.

Media Matters

* These are, to say the least, challenging times for print journalism and its business model. Internet scenarios, generational taste, the recruiting of investors, etc. Another sign of the times, most prominently the New York Times, is having high-profile wordsmiths pitch their employers’ product with more than their writing acumen. Exhibit A: Nicholas Kristof, the well-regarded, NYT Op-Ed columnist.

Subscribers recently received an unsolicited letter from Kristof, acknowledging the business challenges and the continued need for serious societal watchdogs. It had a good, if spoiler-alert, lede. “Look, I’m not a marketer” … .

* Last Wednesday the Lightning hosted the Chicago Blackhawks in a big, raucous game at Tampa’s Amalie Arena. The Bolts won 3-2 in overtime. But for various reasons the results of a home game were not available for publication in the following morning’s Tampa Bay Times. It was a special edition, the game went to overtime, etc.

Holidays and the new normal notwithstanding, it seemed weird to see work-around features because final results were not available at press time. Only online. Hardly helps the print media’s credibility at its darkest hour.

Speaking of the TBT, those half pages are annoying and distracting, and what’s up with regularly going from the front page to 4A. No 2A or 3A. Is that to delude readers into thinking that it’s a bigger paper than it is?

* Doesn’t it speak volumes when one of the private sessions at this month’s Republican Governor’s Association meeting was “Disrupting the Mainstream Media”?

* We know the ultimate motivation for Big Tobacco to run anti-smoking, prime-time TV ads was something other than pure public health concern. A court order–after too many years of misleading the public–had everything to do with it. But it can still take you aback to hear these Big Tobacco ads about the dangers of smoking.

While the ads are not as hard-hitting as public health advocates preferred, they don’t exactly pull punches. Among the messages: “There is no safe cigarette.” That should say it all. There’s also: “More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes and alcohol, combined.” The only thing missing is the ultimate peer-pressure put down. Perhaps: “If you’re still smoking, man are you a dumb ass.”

Spartans Shout-out

What with news-making USF in our backyard, we don’t hear as much about the University of Tampa as we should. It’s more than ever-ratcheting growth and baseball championships. Case in point: UT was one of only two (UF is the other) Florida universities to have its graduate business school programs make the Bloomberg Businessweek top 100. UT’s Sykes School of Business was ranked 78th. Go, Spartans.