The Clinton Factor

I watched Bill Clinton’s interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin the other day and was transported.

I recalled that former Clinton adviser Paul Begala once talked of what it was like to be at a summit-like setting and knowing that “the smartest guy in the room was your guy.” Imagine.

I remembered Dick Greco telling me that he spent a few minutes in the back of the presidential limo with Clinton after he had flown to Tampa to make an address at Jefferson High School. Clinton asked Greco what was happening in Tampa, and the former mayor told him about the passing of the Community Investment Tax. Greco was later blown away by how Clinton lauded him in impressive, free-flowing, Clintonian detail for his pragmatic approach that included a football stadium as an inducement to get tax support for schools, police and fire departments. Vintage performance.

I wondered why he was submitting to a network interview until it became apparent that he was hustling a book. He even brought along his co-writer, James Patterson. Then he got combative and self-righteous in an exchange with Melvin when he was asked–inevitably–about his impeachment and the #MeToo movement. He wasn’t apologetic, he was arrogant. He turned a dialogue into a diatribe and ranted about sloppy journalism. He rhetorically asked Melvin if he thought JFK should have resigned. Etc.

Then I was reminded why Hillary Clinton isn’t president.

Yes, she had those email issues, Benghazi, Wall Street speaking fees and a flawed campaign strategy. But she still won the popular vote. But she was unable to rally enough women, including Bernie Sanders’ women, to make history that was there for the making against the most vulgar, vile, misogynistic presidential candidate in American history. That could only have happened if her background included being a disingenuous enabler for a predator of women, a predator who arguably still doesn’t get it.

Trumpster Diving

* Trump and Kim arguably deserve each other. The rest of the world deserves better.

* Not that we didn’t know optics was a major part of Trump’s summit “preparation,” but Larry Kudlow underscored that fraught reality when he acknowledged that the president was using the Group of 7 summit for North Korean signal-sending. Apparently counterproductive signals sent to fellow “allies” was not an issue.

Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said Trump was “not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around on the eve of this ( NOKO summit).” That’s why Trump didn’t sign off on the joint communiqué that formally wraps up a summit. It would have made him look weak was the rationale.

* “Fellow Republicans, this is not who we are. This cannot be our party.” That statement was from Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. Too bad the few GOPsters, such as Flake, who speak out against Trump and his egomaniacal priorities are leaving public office. Real guts–and real “America First” values–are obviously not enough for the sycophantic, enabling cowards who maintain their compromised careers and don’t want to get “primaried” by Trump’s deplorable base.

* When it comes to illegal border crossings and the separation of children, it’s more than the usual political partisans who are weighing in against the Trump Administration. Exhibit A: the United Nations. “The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles,” pointedly noted–OK, scolded–Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights. For the record, Nikki Haley was not pleased.

* “F*** Trump.” That was Robert DeNiro at the recent Tony Awards. Yes, it’s come to that. We get it. It’s almost too tempting to resist. It’s a high-profile, friendly forum. But it’s not helpful. No more than Michelle Wolf and Samantha Bee. It’s another unsettling, embarrassing reminder that we used to be better than this. This is what a devolving society looks like.

Media Matters

* As we’ve been noticing, a number of politicians have been decreasingly relying on traditional mass media to get their message out. Why submit to unpredictable and sometimes unfriendly media fire when there are ways to control those messages? Indeed, when there are increasingly popular ways to bypass mainstream media.

Here’s the sobering take of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, a major Facebook video fan. “For those of you who want to truly see what is happening, follow along through social media. With all due respect to what now passes for traditional media, it’s dying for a reason.”

Ouch.

BTW, when was the last time “with all due respect” presaged anything remotely respectful?

* When it comes to political debates, I miss the old-school, one well-versed moderator, every-candidate-gets-a-shot-at-the-same-question format. Case in point, the recent Democratic gubernatorial debate at Pinellas Park High School. The toughest questions were asked by the Tampa Bay Times’ Adam Smith. Politics is what he does. He knows this stuff and these candidates. He’s not a TV talking-head anchor, maybe not the second coming of Tim Russert, but he’s TV savvy. Let him moderate by himself and hold candidates accountable.

No surprise Smith was the one questioning Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum about the ongoing FBI corruption investigation into his city’s government, and he was the one bringing up Phillip Levine’s donation to Marco Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign.

* Out-of-the-mouths-of-(Fox News) babes: “Regardless of what happens in that meeting between the two dictators, what we are seeing right now–this is history.” And this was from “Fox & Friends” co-host Abby Huntsman. Some faux pax are more politically discomfiting–and more, ironically, accurate–than others.

* I’m not on the same ideological page as long-time Fox News commentator and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. But his recent (final) note, published on WAPO’s website was as moving as it was classy. Krauthammer, a trained psychiatrist who made his mark in geopolitical analysis, revealed that his cancer had returned, and he was out of hope–and time. He has but a few weeks to live. But he wasn’t bitter or self-pitying. He leaves, he emphasized, “with no regrets. It was a wonderful life.”

Krauthammer, 68, thanked his doctors and caregivers and friends and colleagues and readers and viewers. All those, he said, “who have made my career possible and given consequence to my life’s work.” He underscored the continued need for “honest debate and rigorous argument” to guide “this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”

His final note was a reminder of what we have in common–our mortality and fellow-man responsibility–rather than in conflict–our zero-sum politics.

It would only be fitting if, in his memory, others of prominence on the Fox side of the spectrum dial down the vitriol, the show-business antics and the Trump sycophancy and aspire to a higher ground. And it would be fitting if we all, regardless of political affiliation, could leave this world knowing we honestly did our best in “the pursuit of truth”–not in the pursuit of power and ego gratification.

God speed, Dr. Krauthammer.

* On a personal note, I met Krauthammer once. It was at the GOP National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000. I was in the press tent with my lunch tray and looking frustratingly around for a place to plop down. A guy waved me over to some makeshift table for barely two. I recognized him from political commentary, but I had forgotten his name. He introduced himself, he was gracious, and we made small talk about tent humidity and humility as well as what George W. Bush’s chances were against Al Gore. Then he excused himself and wheeled away.

I hadn’t realized he was wheelchair bound. I had only seen him from the waist up. From the neck down he was paralyzed from a diving accident in his 20s while at Harvard Medical School. He never let it affect his life’s work, itself a major accomplishment he never made a big deal out of. It spoke volumes.

Sports Short

* It’s still surprising that the MLB draft is before the college baseball regionals and the College World Series. Inevitably, the competition is rife with draftable talent. For teams investing millions, it could make a difference to see how a targeted player handles it all–including the pressure.  Case in point, Auburn pitcher Casey Mize was the number one overall draft pick by the Detroit Tigers. He’ll be a millionaire shortly. But after he was drafted he pitched against Florida in the Super Regionals. It didn’t go well. He gave up six runs and lasted five innings. If I’m Tigers management, I would have wanted to see how Mize performed in his biggest college game before I made a seven-figure investment and drafted him before everybody else.

Quoteworthy

* “To the president, ‘duck and cover’ and the Cuban missile crisis were formative experiences. He knows the Korean War hasn’t ended, and he can accomplish what destroyed his idol, Gen. Douglas MacArthur.”–Former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon.

* “As soon as the American side is ready.”–Russian President Vladimir Putin’s take on when he would be meeting with Donald Trump.

* “Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”–Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in announcing that Canada will be taking retaliatory measures in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

* “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing. And that ends.”–Donald Trump.

* “International multilateral organizations are not going to determine American policy. I think the president’s made that very clear.”–Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, when asked if the administration will respect decisions of the World Trade Organization on tariffs.

* “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.”–White House trade adviser Peter Navarro.

* “Europe United is the answer to America First.”–German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

* “If President Trump really wants businesses to stay in America, he’s going to have to reconsider his hostility to immigration.”–Wall Street Journal.

* “While international security is complicated, here’s a rule of thumb: When you find yourself on the same side as (National Security Adviser) John Bolton, go back and re-examine your position.”–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times.

* “(Immigration raids are) not really about stolen American jobs or evil immigrants. … It’s about a reality show president’s desperate attempt to keep his base worked into the frenzy of fear and rage he needs to feel special.”–Connie Schultz, Creators.com.

* “… It’s a question of getting in-tuned with a new environment. Eventually, I suspect the Puerto Rican population residing here in Florida and the rest of the nation will attain those high levels of participation that we see election after election in Puerto Rico.”–Former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, who is endorsing Sen. Bill Nelson for re-election.

* “Starting a trade war with our closest allies is the last thing we should be doing. No one wins in a trade war, especially hard-working families who may have to pay more for the goods they buy every day.”–Sen. Bill Nelson.

* “I think we’re watching the “Art of the Deal” unfold in real time.”–Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.

* “One of Trump’s most corrosive  effects is to have destroyed the appeal of moderation.”–Financial author Roger Lowenstein.

* “The increasing prospect of a trade war could put Florida’s economy at risk and negatively impact consumers, families and jobs.”–The Florida Chamber of Commerce.

* “It sure is fun to be the front-runner!”–Phillip Levine at the recent Democratic gubernatorial debate.

* “I want to make Tampa a global city.”–Tucker Hall president Bill Carlson, a candidate to succeed term-limited Harry Cohen representing District 4 on Tampa City Council.

* “It’s exactly the environment I want my students in.”–Dr. Charles Lockwood, dean of USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, on the impact of the med school relocating to downtown Tampa as part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa makeover.

* “While we are working diligently with the team and the private sector regarding the Rays new ballpark, it is unlikely that an agreement will be reached and approved by necessary legislative bodies by the end of the year.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan.

* “If the partnership doesn’t happen, the ferry doesn’t happen.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, pointing out that for the St. Petersburg-Tampa ferry to return, all partners–St. Pete, Tampa and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties–will have to be on board and chip in.

* “How do we get the best, most equitable use out of those 85 acres that will pay back dividends for decades to come.”–Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch on the possibility of future scenarios for St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field site.

* “The role of the CEO is think strategically and deliver tactically.”–Bob Dutkowsky, who recently stepped down as CEO of Clearwater-based Tech Data, Florida’s largest public company by revenue.

Trumpster Diving For Tariffs

Call it the perfect geopolitical storm: where protectionism meets isolationism.

The most frustrating and counterproductive aspect of the Trump Administration’s controversial tariff policies is that those countries most impacted are allies. Those we need for all kinds of reasons–from U.S. export markets to foreign-policy leverage. How weird that we seem to be getting along better with the renegade Kim Jong-un than with the respected Justin Trudeau.

Not nearly as affected, ironically, is China, which is no ally and no ethical trade partner. But it’s a de facto player in the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit. North Korean exports to China account for more than 90 percent of NK’s international trade, and China is known to have employed a wink-and-nod approach on refined petroleum products finding their way into NK. China matters as much as China wants to. And Trump knows it.

* Some traditional, American-export related jobs will inevitably be impacted by tariff retaliation. It’s unfortunate, but practically karmic, that Kentucky bourbon will be among them. Spin that one to the base, Mitch McConnell.

* You can tell a lot about a government policy by its opponents. It’s typically the usual, partisan crowd. This, to be sure, is not typical. From the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to GOP Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker to the Wall Street Journal, they stand in opposition to the Trump tariffs. They recognize the artifice of the deal.

* It hardly helps the FBI’s efforts to rally sentiment against Trump ridicule when one of their own makes headlines by accidentally shooting someone at a nightclub. The agent was dancing and doing a back flip when his service revolver fell from its holster, went off and wounded a patron at a Denver night spot. But, yes, he was off duty.

James Comey misses his old job less and less each day.

Senatorial Opportunist

You can’t blame Rick Scott for running for a U.S. Senate seat as an “outsider.” You can only blame an electorate that would fall for such mislabeling. There’s precedent for the con-jobs governor exceeding expectations.

He’s a two-term governor known for opaqueness, cronyism and veneration of Donald Trump. When not bankrolling himself, he has become a magnet for special-interest cash. He doesn’t drain swamps, he complements them.

Just because Scott remains awkward and poorly spoken doesn’t make him an “outsider.” Any more than walking away from the HCA fraud with (settlement) millions makes him an honest broker. Scott is an unpolished, geeky, opportunist version of all we loathe about insiders. And he could very well win. Again.

Media Matters

* Such a tragedy that a TV news reporter and a photographer were killed in North Carolina while covering the effects of heavy rain from sub-tropical storm Alberto. It’s a reminder that field-reporting journalists–in an optics are everything era–can run serious, on-site risks. It ‘s also a reminder to media outlets that viewers don’t really require an elements-battling, on-camera, human presence to underscore how really awful a given weather condition might be.

* Samantha Bee, she of the “feckless c-word,” Ivanka Trump insult, has picked up where Michelle Wolf left off at the White House Correspondents Dinner. While unfunny crudeness that would get blipped on The Daily Show is off-putting enough, the harm lies in Trump-era politics. Call it an unforced error that makes a certain element of the media look classless and subject to stereotyping. It’s more fodder for the media-demeaning, Trump “witch hunt” machine.

* No you can’t make this up. The American computer-video-game marketplace has a niche for “Active Shooter.” It’s a game that allows players to re-create school shootings by stalking hallways to rack up kills. It’s sick–but there is a disclaimer: “Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else. If you feel like hurting someone … please seek help from local psychiatrists or dial 911.” Yeah, Nikolas Cruz would have taken that advice.

“Active Shooter” isn’t merely sick. It is unconscionably, disgustingly, disingenuously sick.

* ABC canceled Roseanne because it had to. Roseanne Barr’s blatantly racist tweet did it. PR damage-control mode kicked in with the demise of the top-rated show. The tweet was “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values” glibly explained ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey.

Interestingly, two years ago Dungey became the first black entertainment president of a major broadcast TV network. Too bad good conscience–if not taste–didn’t kick in instead of an agreement to bring back the “abhorrent, repugnant” actress in the first place. Ratings in the age of Trump obviously mattered more than Barr’s well-established, polarizing values–until the tweet from hell made it untenable to keep her on.

* These can be challenging times for pollsters. Cell phones, busy would-be respondents, a protean electorate and surveyors who aren’t exactly old-school Gallup clones are part of today’s political landscape. It didn’t help when StPetePolls, in assessing the Dana Young-Janet Cruz District 18 Senate-seat race, referenced Cruz as “Janet Cruz Rifkin.” It had her trailing Young by nine points. She will be on the ballot–and probably future polls–as Janet Cruz. And likely not down by nine points.

* I don’t always agree with Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts. But recently one of his observations really resonated. It has to do with Trump and race and partisan appeal. It has to do with pandering to the lowest common denominator among us. No, we’re not living in “post-racial” America as many had hoped–more like post-overreaction America. Check out the Quoteworthy.

Sports Shorts

* Just when big-time college athletics thought it couldn’t get more challenging than recruiting scandals, “one-and-done” fallout and high-profile, criminal investigations, along comes the Supreme Court. It has signed off on legalized sports betting. Not just in Las Vegas. But everywhere. Easily.

“There’s a lot of touch points,” concedes SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. As in myriad opportunities for gamblers to get some inside info–as in links to players. As in integrity under further siege. From ever-ratcheting insider access to point spreads to point shaving: hardly a quantum leap.

As we know, the Supreme Court doesn’t always get it right, from Plessy v. Ferguson to Citizens United v. FEC. In fact, bet on it.

* So President Trump formally canceled the White House visit of the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a face-saving gesture, because most players were going to be no-shows anyhow. It’s also a reminder that when it comes to White House invitations to athletes, they should only apply to those on Olympic or World Cup teams. For those who actually represented their country–not their employers.

* Brittany Lincicome, the local veteran of the LPGA circuit, made headlines recently when she was invited to play a PGA Tour event. She will become the fifth female pro golfer–going back to Babe Zaharias–to play in a men’s tournament. She’ll receive a sponsor’s exemption and compete next month in the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky. It’s a big deal, but likely nothing that shocks anyone who recalls her golfing days at Seminole High School. She was the star player–on the boys’ team.

Quoteworthy

* “Kim has perfected the most dramatic makeover within a few months. He’s gone from pariah to statesman, from mad-man to gracious, well-prepared leader who knows his brief.”–Lee Sung-yoon, professor of Korean studies at Tufts University.

* “North Korea can still survive under sanctions, especially if China helps it. But as long as sanctions are there, Kim Jong-un can never deliver the kind of rapid economic growth he has promised for his people.”–Shin Beom-chul, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

* “This is protectionism, pure and simple.”–Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, in response to the Trump Administration’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum from Europe, Mexico and Canada.

* “We’ve been down this road before–blanket protectionism is a big part of why America had a Great Depression. ‘Make America Great Again’ shouldn’t mean ‘Make America 1929 again.'”–Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

* “You don’t sign a trade deal that automatically expires every five years.”–Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

* “Is this really who we are? As a parent, as the son of a refugee myself, I find that in this (border-immigration) case, Trump’s policy has veered from merely abhorrent to truly evil.”–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times.

* “I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Informants are used all day, every day by law enforcement.”–Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, in stating that there is no evidence that the FBI planted a “spy” on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

* “(The president) has shown highly abnormal behavior by lying routinely to the American people without compunction, intentionally fueling divisions in our country and actively working to degrade the imperfect but critical institutions that serve us.”–Former CIA Director John Brennan.

* “Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment. And he has no need to do it; he’s done nothing wrong.”–Rudy Giuliani.  

* “Everything about the intersection of sports and race relations and the Trump presidency is simply toxic, and expecting free speech to flourish where those rivers meet is like suggesting that a Superfund site cleanup begin by planting daffodils in the most polluted stretch.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “There is no mystery here. Trump is president because Obama was.”–Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald.

* “Sometimes I wonder whether I was 10 or 20 years too early.”–Former President Barack Obama.

* “The fear mongering that has taken place from 2008 until today has created a direct and present danger to our democracy.”–National NAACP President Derrick Johnson, at his recent Ruth Eckerd Hall speech.

* “As far as the Trump presidency, I wouldn’t even call it a presidency. It’s an asterisk. It’s a typo. I mean, every day it’s worse.”–Comedian Martin Short.

* “The May jobs report revealed impressive strength and breadth in U.S. job creation that blew away most economists’ expectations.”–Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, noting that the report (of employers adding 233,000 jobs last month) shows that the nearly 9-year-old economic expansion remains on track.

* “Taking into account inflation, the federal minimum ($7.25) is actually worth less than what it was worth 50 years ago.”–Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., who supports a $15 minimum wage.

* “Elections have consequences, and we’ve already seen the consequences of the last one.”–Sen. Bill Nelson.

* “The future is female.”–Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

* “Don’t let anyone stop you.”–Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, in his commencement speech to graduates of Parkland High School.

* “Grow some brass ones.”–John Morgan’s advice to Rick Scott to drop his support for a state ban on smokeable medical marijuana.

* “I’ll tell you one thing, and feel free to quote me. I’m sure the people of Atlantis wish they would have raised their roads.”–Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine, whose campaign highlights his sea-rise agenda as mayor of Miami Beach.

* “If you are drawing attention to your campaign right now, it likely isn’t because of something you are doing right, but for something you have (done) or are doing wrong.”–Republican consultant Ryan Wiggins, on Florida’s gubernatorial campaigns.

* “Pent-up demand continues to put upward pressure on sales.”–Christine Hansen, president of Florida Realtors.

* “A cyberattack is like a hurricane. It’s always brewing out there.”–U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyber expert Klint Walker.

* “Your vote is safe and secure. We’ve got redundancies in place. You can’t hack paper.”–Craig Latimer, Hillsborough County’s supervisor of elections.

* “The Tampa Bay region has a unique geography, and the Ybor City site represents an opportunity to maximize our accessibility to the region’s existing and growing residential and business community. Its location allows us to leverage a come-early, stay-late culture in a dynamic, urban neighborhood.”–Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld.