“Country First” Doesn’t Trump Candidate Support

For those who seemingly traffic in all-politics-all-the-time, this will seem heretical–or naive. So be it.

But is there no place in a presidential cycle dominated by an uninformed national and global menace for the usual suspects to shed politically partisan priorities and upgrade to “Country First” mode?

And if it takes GOP delegates making last-minute, but legal, (“conscience clause”) changes to the national convention rules to bring back Mitt Romney, draft Jon Huntsman, elevate John Kasich or exhume Harold Stassen, then so be it.

In theory, this shouldn’t be the ultimate, existential anguish, no matter how Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell couch it after being told to “be quiet.” Not falling in behind a clinically narcissistic, manifestly unqualified nominee for president with mob appeal shouldn’t be such an agonizing call, let alone a perceived political suicide pill. Nor even an exercise in “walking a thin line.”

In its hour of obvious need, why not take one for your country, if not for self-respect? Call it, say, “American exceptionalism.”

And there is this: Doing the right thing for America will be with the acknowledgement of all those non (primary) Donald Trump supporters–and that’s a majority of the electorate–who get it. Who understand that the United States and the world deserve better than a celebrity-grifter building immigrant walls, alarming allies and pondering nuclear codes.

It doesn’t mean that the small-government, socially-conservative, gun-cultured, militarily-hawkish, constitutional cherry-picking party is headed for Whig demise, but it does mean it could now put more than a disingenuous spin on “patriot.”

Sen. John McCain is a prime example. His patriotism is grounded in a POW crucible. But it was also embedded in a war that never needed fighting. He never got it, then or now. And he is supporting his Republican Party’s presidential nominee, presumably Donald Trump, no matter what.

And no matter what, in this case, includes Trump’s derisive put down of McCain’s integrity and time in a Hanoi prison cell. It doesn’t get much more visceral, personal and “unpatriotic” than that.

And, yet, McCain, a five-term incumbent who’s nearly 80 years old, will support presumptive nominee Trump because–well, because, he’s in a tough re-election race with a credible Democratic challenger, and Arizona looked upon Trump favorably (47 percent) in the state’s March  Republican primary. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, doesn’t want to alienate any Trump supporters.

He is, we are reminded, more political pragmatist than “maverick,” the one who actually put Sarah Palin on a presidential ticket. And the one who said President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the mass shooting in Orlando because of the rise of ISIS on the president’s watch.

So, even though Trump personally insulted him and every Latino–17 percent of Arizona’s registered electorate–he will, if unenthusiastically, back Trump in November. Obviously nothing is more important than a sixth term for this Republican.

Would that John McCain were an exception in such a self-serving, careerist, Party-first reaction to the Trump candidacy.

“Country first?” Let’s not get carried away with patriotism.

Street Wise

Amid the hoopla of Riverwalk’s completion, updates on Jeff Vinik’s live-work-play-stay makeover, the upcoming start of the Heights project and the usual spin about what trendy list Tampa just made, it was well worth noting what the city is doing for kids this summer. Especially kids who are most vulnerable.

The city has expanded its Stay & Play summer program that provides extended nighttime hours at nine recreation centers and five city pools. This is year two of the program that was launched last summer after a surge in shooting deaths in poor neighborhoods.

“We had to do something, because I didn’t want to lose these kids to the streets,” explained Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “These are places where they can come and just be kids. … This saves lives, this builds lives, this shapes lives.”

And this speaks volumes about a priority that has nothing to do with downtown redevelopment.

Point Of View

Speaking of Riverwalk, when you’re down around the Water Works Park area, you can’t help but notice the juxtaposition of what’s across from you. Before too long, it will be the revitalized, catalytic Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park. But there’s also the less-than-aesthetic presence of Howard W. Blake High School. It’s brick and functionally contemporary.

We are constantly reminded that while it was built on the Hillsborough River (in 1997), it faces North Boulevard. The back fronts the river.

Unless you’re nostalgic for the era of insensitivity to the Hillsborough, having a major structure turning its back on the river now seems a stupid affront. It is not only sans architectural elements, it’s also lacking windows.

How ironic that a magnet school for visual, communication and performing arts should be so starkly indifferent to the river that personifies our 21st century aspirations. It looks, inexplicably, like a maximum-security facility from the Riverwalk side.

A suggestion, if not a solution: murals.

Media Matters

* Like a lot of folks, I was lured into watching the ESPN documentary “OJ: Made in America.” Some have said it may be the best thing–all seven hours worth–that ESPN’s ever done. I wouldn’t disagree.

A couple of quick takeaways.

Some things are learned for the first time. To wit, the incarcerated Simpson’s hands swelled after he stopped taking his arthritis meds. An obvious factor in trying on “you-must-acquit” gloves–in addition to wearing disposable, latex gloves underneath. And in addition to leather shrinkage caused by blood saturation.

The de facto verdict rendered by the jury: The Los Angeles Police Department was found guilty of racism. Simpson and Rodney King were forever linked.

* While I understand why President Barack Obama goes on late-night talk shows–he’s really good at it and it puts him in front of an alternate demographic–I wish he wouldn’t. The office of the presidency–no matter who occupies it–deserves better than co-billing with Madonna and “slow-jamming the news” with Jimmy Fallon.

Best presidential lines from the recent Fallon appearance.

>On Hillary Clinton: “Whip-smart and tough.”

>On being succeeded by Donald Trump: “Orange is not the new black.”


* “While we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy, we now have enough information to conclude that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history.”–University of Rochester astrophysicist and author Adam Frank.

* “Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”–President Barack Obama.

* “We will no longer take funds from the EU and its member states in protest at their shameful deterrence policies and their intensification of efforts to push people back from European shores.”–Doctors Without Borders.

* “(Donald Trump) wants Americans to think about global affairs in terms of financial transactions that net America money rather than relationships that promote security, freedom and order.”–Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

* “Trump assumes that the Republican electorate is representative of the national electorate. It’s not.”–Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post.

* “Mr. Trump has found his place at last, and it is with the mob.”–Kevin Baker, essayist and author of the historical novel “The Big Crowd.”

* “He appeals to our fears, preys on our anxieties and exploits our ignorance. A worse candidate to sit in the Oval Office for the next four years cannot be imagined.”–Republican consultant and analyst Mac Stipanovich.

* “The problem is Trump. You can fire all the yes men want, but the campaign reflects on the candidate, and the candidate is hopelessly flawed.”–Republican strategist Mike Murphy.

* “Sure, there will be a roll call eventually. My plan until then is to help the senator do whatever he wants to do to further the political revolution.”–Jeff Weaver, campaign manager for Bernie Sanders.

* “We need common sense gun laws, common sense gender equality and religious pluralism and common sense privacy laws. But that takes common sense leaders, not ones who think the complexities of this age can be bombed away, walled away, willed away or insulted away.”–Thomas Friedman, New York Times.

* “Keeping military-grade combat weapons out of the hands of maniacs should not be a controversial idea.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “Today, some of our politicians and the people who back them seem to promote a culture of gun ownership that does not conform with what I learned in the military.”–Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan.

* “If there’s a glimmer of hope in the massacre of dozens of patrons at a gay nightclub in Orlando, it’s this. It has firmly established gay Americans as an ‘us,’ rather than a ‘them.'”–Frank Cerabino, Cox Newspapers.

* “The guilt of being alive is heavy.”–Patience Carter, a wounded survivor of the Orlando mass shooting.

* “For decades, the world has come to Orlando to have fun. And, now, when we needed it most, the world came to Orlando’s aid.”–Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

* “Sadly, it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. … Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears.”–Bishop Robert Lynch of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg.

* “For the religious person, it is about God. For the terrorist, it is about himself. When Omar Mateen was in the midst of his rampage, he was posting on Facebook and calling a TV station. His audience was us, not the Divine.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

“Martyrdom, sir, is what these people like: It is the only way in which a man can become famous without ability.”–George Bernard Shaw in “The Devil’s Disciple.”

* “This is a much harder to kill mosquito than normal. This is the cockroach of mosquitoes. … It’s very difficult to control.”–Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in referencing the Zika virus.

* “In a year when politicians traffic in anti-immigrant rhetoric, there is also a Broadway musical reminding us that a broke, orphan immigrant from the West Indies built our financial system. A story that reminds us that since the beginning of the great unfinished symphony that is our American experiment, time and time again, immigrants get the job done.”–Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton.”

* “The last thing you want to do as an elected official is raise people’s fees for anything, but I said, ‘We have a choice. You either want to live in Atlantis or you want to live in Miami Beach.'”–Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine, on why he’s leading a $400 million campaign to build pumping stations, raise roads and sea walls and upgrade the city’s stormwater system.

* “One of the factors for remaining in the Senate was to entertain the prospect of running statewide again.”–Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.

* “The irony is the U.S. may be more of a threat to Cuba as a friend than as an enemy.”–David Guggenheim, president of Ocean Doctor, a joint rescue project with Cuban scientists, on the possibility of overdevelopment endangering coral reefs.

* “I can’t think of any other city that is quite like Tampa. It’s an easy place to live and very friendly.”–James Nozar, the new CEO of Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners.

* “We watched and waited, got our hopes up and dashed. But we’re on the verge of something very special here.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the announcement that construction will begin this summer on the first phase of the mixed-used (Tampa) Heights project.

Reflections On The Worst-Ever Mass Shooting

First, let’s call what happened in Orlando what it was: an act of pure evil and a mass execution that left 49 dead and more than 50 hospitalized. And thematically familiar. An incongruously calm pledge of allegiance to ISIS and fealty to the Boston-bombing Tsarnaev Brothers–via 911 calls–underscored the mass-murderer’s mindset. That it was perpetrated against the LGBT community also makes it the ultimate hate crime, perhaps with a self-loathing subplot.

Second, let’s not get caught up in the syllogistic fallacy of having to choose between tougher gun laws and an all-out war on terrorism. They are not mutually exclusive, but both require ample elements of common sense.

As Hillary Clinton noted this week, the horror in Orlando “reminds us once more that weapons of war have no place on our streets.”

This is not about rescinding the Second Amendment. This is about revisiting assault weapons, which had been under a federal ban until 2004, and high-capacity magazines being in the hands of private citizens–let alone suspicious ones–instead of police forces, SWAT teams and the national guard. Yes, the Second Amendment is here to stay, but, no, it is not synonymous with an absolute right.

Donald Trump, however, saw the terrorist scenario, predictably enough, through his newly customized lens: the one with cross hairs.

“If people in that room had guns, with the bullets flying in the opposite direction at (attacker Omar Mateen), right at his head,” said Trump, “you wouldn’t have had the same tragedy that you ended up having.”

We’ve heard this flawed argument before. For it to hold up, you can’t just cite the horrific Exhibit A of the moment. To be applicable, it would mean Americans by the millions packing at every soft target all the time: movies, restaurants, nightclubs, concerts, wedding receptions, block parties, parades, carnivals, graduations, high school sports. And more. Because, well, you never know.

All that does is set the stage for the law of unintended consequences to kick in. And as we know, it always does.

As for that all-out war on terrorism, Clinton didn’t pull any strategic punches and didn’t traffic in “political correctness.” It’s a lot more than banning Muslims and it’s being a lot more security savvy than advocating a carpet-bombing punch out of ISIS. “(It) means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home,” she stated.

Third, what does it really mean to have a terror watchlist?

Omar Mateen was on it–for a while–and was worthy of interviews, monitoring, and undercover surveillance by the FBI after co-workers’ complaints about his anti-social, terrorist-group name-dropping rants and confrontations. In 2014 he was seen in the company of Moner Abusalha, who then went on to become the first American suicide bomber in Syria. But nothing, seemingly, incriminating enough to even impact his purchase of a semi-automatic AR-15. Background-check disconnects happen.

Fourth, we’ve now established a disturbing pattern of ever-ratcheting mass shootings in this country. The majority have involved the generically unhinged–from would-be anarchists to the emotionally disturbed to racial bigots. But the worst are religious fanatics. Muslim jihadists, typically self-radicalized “lone wolves,” leave no room for leverage when martyrdom and the afterlife of perverted paradise beckon. It’s everybody’s existential nightmare.

Fifth, it’s also the existential nightmare of fellow-American Muslims. They deserve better than to be Napoleon coded: Guilty of looking different until proven innocent. They are part of our American mosaic, including our armed forces.

But the onus, like never before, is now on the American Muslim community to demonstrably rally around this country. Marches, rallies, political activism like never before. See-something, say-something like never before.

As Dan Marcou, a retired SWAT officer, wrote for the Police One website: “In the case of every active shooter before one shot is fired they dream, draw, write, discuss, Twitter, plan, gather, purchase, steal, construct, case, practice, dress, pack, load, transport and approach. … Many lives have been saved, because someone saw something and said something … to the police.”

It has to be the new normal. American Muslims must also be domestic allies.

Sixth, you go, Orlando and its LBGT community.

They’ve shown solidarity and won’t be defined by mass murder and fear. Blood donations, especially in the Muslim community, have been impressive. It’s a literal–and symbolic–sign of coming together, the life blood of American democracy.

GOP Soul-Searching

Remember the Growth & Opportunity Project? It was also called “the autopsy.”

It was the Republican National Committee’s exercise in self criticism–involving the polling and focus-grouping of voters, officeholders and Party operatives–that dissected the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama. It was done weeks after the election and was characterized as a soul-searching effort to get right with the American electorate. Put more bluntly, how had the Party screwed up a winnable election?

Among the forthright findings: The Republican Party had turned off women and, most notably, minorities. The harsh talk on immigration–and the clueless call for “self-deportation” were beyond counterproductive. The resultant report offered one specific policy recommendation: “Embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If not, our Party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies.”

For context: George W. Bush received 44 percent of the Latino vote in 2004. Mitt Romney got 27 percent. The trend is obviously ongoing and accelerating.

“You can’t call someone ugly and expect them to go to the prom with you,” memorably observed Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader from Texas.

So, fast forward more than 3 1/2 years. Beyond ironic. The GOP’s official presidential nominee will soon be Donald Trump–of Mexican wall, Judge Gonzalo Curiel heritage and misogynistic-insult infamy.

No, no one’s expecting RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to order up a 2016 post mortem.

More Ali

Amid the cascade of commentary and celebration-of-life retrospectives about Muhammad Ali, I’ve been reminded of a candid interview I had with Ali’s former trainer, the late Angelo Dundee. Some notes you keep. Here are a few outtakes from the iconic corner man who was also the on-set adviser to Will Smith, who played Ali on the big screen.

* “You know all that ‘poetry’ that Ali was famous for? It was mostly mine. And it stunk.”

* “What did I teach Ali? How to move in the ring. But I made him think it was his idea.”

* “What did he lose after being out of boxing in his prime? He lost his edge. He never regained it.”

* “The greatest boxer ever? Willie Pepp. The greatest impact on the sport? Ali.”

* “The Muslims really didn’t affect me. I did my job. I don’t get involved with things like a person’s religion.”


* “This was an act of terror and an act of hate.”–President Barack Obama, on the mass shooting in Orlando.

* “If China were eating America’s lunch, its people would not be rushing to buy safe-haven apartments in New York or San Francisco.”–Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

* “The Puerto Rican people are our fellow Americans. They pay our taxes, they fight in our wars. We cannot allow this to happen.”–House Speaker Paul Ryan, in imploring lawmakers to pass a rescue package for debt-stricken Puerto Rico.

* “… I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office. She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get this job done.”–President Barack Obama, in endorsing Hillary Clinton for president.

* “She won because she’s a fighter.”–Sen. Elizabeth Warren, in her endorsement of Hillary Clinton.

* “It never feels good to put our heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in and come up short. I know that feeling well. But as we look ahead to the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that unites us.”–Hillary Clinton.

* “Needless to say, I’m going to do everything in my power, and I’m going to work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States.”–Bernie Sanders.

* “I’ll be here so much … Seriously, we need Florida. It’s absolutely imperative. They say if you don’t win Florida, it’s over.”–Donald Trump at his Tampa rally.

* “I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president.”–Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

* “During the circus-like years of Silvio Berlusconi, Italians grew flinchingly accustomed to being the butts of the world’s jokes. Will they have the last laugh? They look toward America and wonder. In Donald Trump, we have a version of their buffoonish former prime minister–a clown all our own. He baffles and appalls much of Europe.”–Frank Bruni, New York Times.

* “You win the pennant and now you’re in the World Series–you gonna change?”–Donald Trump.

* “A party’s rules are not a suicide pact.”–Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt.

* “One day, we shall all have to account for what we did and what we said in this scoundrel year. For now, we each have our conscience to attend to.”–Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post.

* “(Paul Ryan) spent the first eight months of his speakership shepherding a policy agenda that is already being eclipsed by the rhetoric of a GOP nominee whom Ryan loathes yet feels obligated to support because of the office he holds.”–Tim Alberta, National Review.

* “Republicans have not changed Mr. Trump for the better; he has changed them for the worse.”–Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

* “We hold that the Second Amendment does not preserve or protect a right of a member of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public.”–9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William A. Fletcher, writing for the majority.

* “We are dealing with a crisis situation in our city right now. Look, the sky really is falling.”–Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who is pushing a sales tax to help pay down the city’s $2.8 billion pension debt.

* “If you want to try to defend (Attorney General Pam) Bondi’s actions, try finishing this sentence for me: ‘I think it is perfectly appropriate for a prosecutor to take big chunks of money from someone she has been asked to investigate because …'”–Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel.

* “I’d rather build a Riverwalk than talk about building a wall.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “About 1.3 million people live in Hillsborough County, with that number expected to double within the next 20 years. Without significant investments in transportation options, we are setting ourselves up for a future of traffic jams.”–Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

* “Unfortunately, the commission’s majority continues to lack the courage to let voters decide the way we move forward. Any plan that does not incorporate the needs of the three cities is not a plan and is merely a failed effort by politicians more concerned about the next election rather than the next generation.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on the Hillsborough  County Commission’s rejection of a half-cent sales tax hike of 20 years on a 4-3 vote.

* “The main issue in Tampa in 2015 wasn’t the bike stops. It was black youth killing black youth. … We can argue bike stops all night long. I want to argue how we can keep our youth safe … .”–Tampa Police Captain Calvin Johnson, at a recent community forum on racial disparities in the city’s issuance of bicycle citations.

* “Obviously, we’ve got an aging (sewer) system. We’re trying to invest in that system. We need City Council to approve those types of investments.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “I agree with the people that don’t want this and they don’t think they should have this in the neighborhood without a complete study done. People just feel like it’s going to destroy their neighborhood. Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights. Even though they’re older, they’re transforming into vibrant communities.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, on objections to Tampa Bay Express.

* “TBX will not solve congestion. In most universes that should be enough to kill it.”–Tampa Heights Civic Association president Rick Fernandez.