D-Day to Dem Debates

Trumpster Diving

* D-Day commemorations are about honored heroics and shared values. President Trump, ironically and outrageously, represents the antithesis of valuing allies with his arrogant “America First” mantra.

* No poorly-read Teleprompter speech (Even one with the line: “Our bond is unbreakable.”) can alter what’s at the core of Trump priorities. That was underscored when he gave his Fox interview–with a Normandy backdrop of American gravestones–that spewed partisan political animus. What would Sam Gibbons have said?

* We know the Cold War and 21st-century, geopolitical realities, but it still seems odd that a D-Day ceremony (in Portsmouth) would include the leader, Angela Merkel, of what was then the enemy (Germany), but not the leader, Vladimir Putin, of what was then an ally (Soviet Union).

* On his way to check out his golf course in the Irish village of Doonbeg, the president found time to meet up with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. They met at the VIP Lounge at Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland’s County Clare. Such a venue may have been a first for two heads of state, but somehow it seemed appropriate as well as logistically convenient. Trump, by many measures, is, well, a lounge act.     

* If nothing else, Trump may be helping the British transition to their next prime minister, if it turns out to be the brash Brexiteer Boris Johnson, now looming as the leading, however polarizing, candidate to succeed Theresa May. BTW, Johnson was born to English parents in New York City. “The Boris and Donald Show”? Only HBO, “SNL” and late-night comedians should be pleased.

* Military Industrial Complex update: Anyone surprised that Army Secretary Mark T. Esper is the Raytheon Company’s former vice  president for government relations? Raytheon is an important player as the U.S. fast-tracks the sale of increased American arms to Saudi Arabia.

* Hardly encouraging to hear those DOJ critiques that ominously compare William Barr to Dick Cheney.

* Unofficially, the consensus takeaway from the Mexican-tariff threat is that it is not gone–but “suspended.” That’s the ephemeral reality in the era of policy by presidential tweet.

* Isn’t it sobering how often we have to lament that “we’re better than this”? But, well, are we?

* You knew it was coming. Those “Dr. Biden and Mr. Hyde” references that zing Joe Biden for his past Hyde Amendment position regarding Medicaid and abortion.

* Elizabeth Warren has positioned herself as the outspoken avatar of all things progressive–but she has also checked off some boxes besides the economy, healthcare, housing and education. She’s also called for the elimination of the Electoral College, the end to the Senate filibuster–and, what the hell, the impeachment of Trump.

* Later this month (June 26-27) in Miami we’ll see the first Democratic Presidential Debate with up to 20 (DNC limit) candidates vying for attention, sponsors and momentum. It will be broadcast on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. Next month the Dems will host another 2-day debate in Detroit (CNN). By the (ABC/Univision) third debate in September, we should see updated signs of campaign attrition and viability–and controversy. That’s because the DNC will rein in the sheer number of participants with a stipulation that all candidates must have at least 130,000 donors to qualify. More than half of the field of 23 are at serious risk of falling short of that threshold, which is double the donor minimum for the first two debates.

Cuban Disconnect

As we well know, what happens in Washington doesn’t stay in Washington. The ripple effects are impactful and not always helpful. The most recent, and all-too-familiar, Exhibit A: the Trump Administration’s crackdown on travel to Cuba. It has banned “people to people” group travel. It also has banned cruise ships, yachts, fishing boats and private aircraft from stopping in Cuba. It’s all about squeezing the Cuban government for its “destabilizing” support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. As if anything were more Hemispherically destabilizing than the Trump presidency. Too bad we can’t ban bullying, pandering and hypocrisy.

More to the point, it’s all about squeezing as much political capital out of a renewed, neo-con approach to Cuba after the Obama Administration’s rapprochement. Florida is the ultimate swing state and there is still enough hard-line South Florida sentiment favoring a crackdown on the Cuban government to make it politically expedient for Donald Trump, Ron De Santis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio in a close-call state. Too bad most Americans remain indifferent to the issue. There’s never enough pushback–even if it’s just to say how dare Trump and John Bolton dictate where we can travel. We’re not talking Yemen.

And how ironic that this heavy-handed, Cold War approach is so blatantly counterproductive. It further diminishes the U.S.–from the OAS to the UN–as a credible, non-hypocritical force for what is right. It adversely affects the Cuban people, and no state is more impacted than Florida. Travel-related economic synergy is a reality, and collateral damage to port and transfer-point cities, such as Tampa, is a given.

“(This) does nothing to hurt the Cuban government,” underscores Tampa Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, “rather Cuban entrepreneurs, American businesses and the American public will be the ones to suffer.

“The Cold War policies of the past were ineffective in improving human rights, and yet the Trump Administration takes America backwards to a dark time of isolation and suspicion.”

Sports Shorts

* While it’s still surprising that there is no Lee Roy Selmon statue in front of Raymond James Stadium, it’s totally appropriate to have one in downtown Tampa. Near the Riverwalk at the corner of E Brorein Street and S Florida Avenue, to be precise. Selmon is depicted in business casual, which includes his retired No. 63 Bucs jersey over a collared dress shirt. He’s smiling, as was his wont.

Selmon was no mere Hall of Fame talent. He was the face of the early Bucs franchise. He was their first-ever draft pick, and he was their best, still most-iconic player. But he was also a major community presence–from business ventures to USF athletic director to mentoring and charitable contributions. He also epitomized class. Before there was Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Gerald McCoy, there was Lee Roy Selmon.

The first time I met Selmon–as a journalist–was not in a locker room or on a field. It was in a Barnett Bank office. I was doing a story on athletes and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. As in how they prepared for life after the sports spotlight. He was working as a banker in the off-season. Not as a “greeter” or an advertising shill, but as someone actually learning the banking business. He was soft spoken and accommodating. He would later become a vice president at Barnett as well as First Florida Bank of Tampa.

He said that he wanted to be able to work WITH his agent–not just blindly assign him to cut some deals. He wanted to know the business side as a businessman–not as a marketable athlete. He wanted to be the best he could be at whatever he did. And he succeeded in everything but longevity. He left us much too soon.

* “Don’t be that guy.” That was Bucs head coach Bruce Arian’s pointed advice to his players after the end of the recent mini-camp. It basically means: “Don’t make headlines for all the wrong reasons.” Indeed, there’s ample precedent. The Bucs will reassemble next month to begin pre-season training.

* “Right now, they’re better than us.” That was the candid assessment of the Rays by Boston manager Joey Cora after the Red Sox recently lost three of four to the Rays at Fenway and were outscored 21-9.

* Congrats, University of Tampa, NCAA Division II national baseball champions. Again. It was the Spartans’ eighth, the fifth under head coach Joey Urso. And congrats Mike Martin, 75, and the FSU Seminoles, who have advanced as underdogs to the College World Series in Martin’s 40th–and last–season. Martin, the all-time wins leader in all NCAA sports, and the ‘Noles have been there 16 times before–and haven’t won–yet. So good luck, Mike Martin, in your final shot before retirement. Go, ‘Noles.

Quoteworthy

* “As we face the challenges of the 21st century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together.”–Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

“What we learned from D-Day and the Second World War is that we need allies.”–Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

* “Lies written in ink cannot disguise facts written in blood.”–Chinese writer Lu Xun, a quote often applied to the Chinese government’s efforts to scrub the Tiananmen Square massacre from history.

* “There is a clear limit to what we can negotiate, and the limit is Mexican dignity.”–Martha Barcena, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States.

* “The Saudis and Emiratis have become so intertwined with the Trump Administration that I don’t think the president is capable of distinguishing America’s national interests from theirs.”–Rep. Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

* “The European Union treats us, I would say, worse than China. They’re just smaller.”–Donald Trump.

* When tigers fight in the valley, the smart monkey sits aside and waits to see who wins.”–Russian President Vladimir Putin’s (Chinese-proverb) response when asked if he would take sides in the trade war between the U.S. and China.

* “Tantrums are no way to negotiate.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “Trump is taking his contempt of Congress to new levels now by refusing to acknowledge any legitimate congressional oversight role.”–Fred Hiatt, Washington Post.

* “It is Congress’ responsibility to investigate the president’s actions and hold him accountable. … If the Administration fails to comply, creating a constitutional crisis, all measures to respond should be on the table.”–U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.

* “When the future of the planet is at stake, there is no ‘middle ground.'”–Sen. Bernie Sanders.

* “Everyone agrees a president can be indicted once he is out of office. That (in addition to impeachment) is a reason to gather the evidence now while docs are available and memories fresh.”–Walter Dellinger, acting solicitor general in the Clinton Administration.

* “Robert Mueller is as elliptical as William Barr is diabolical.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “I don’t like what (Trump) says about John McCain. But when we play golf, it’s fun. And I think he’s seen my ability to help him, that I can actually help put deals together.”–Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

* “As infuriating and frightening as the Trump presidency is, the 2018 midterm elections demonstrated that the electorate does self-correct from time to time.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “To put it bluntly, both of these cases have major implications for the future of the Republican Party.”–Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, in reference to two key cases–involving partisan gerrymandering and a citizenship question on the 2020 census–coming soon before the Supreme Court.

* “Went from monopoly to franchise to competitive to … toast.”–Warren Buffet, referring to the newspaper business.

* “If we’re even marginally successful in this effort … that can be pivotal to what happens to Florida’s 29 electoral votes.”–Andrew Gillum, who has pledged to engage 1 million new voters by 2020 with the $3 million he has left over from his gubernatorial campaign.  

* “You can encourage people to do the right thing, but I have to be able to say we’re doing the right thing first.”–Mayor Jane Castor.

* “Visit Tampa Bay is thrilled to see tourism receive such strong support from our industry partners and from the community as a whole.”–Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO, in response to Hillsborough County commissioners voting to raise the county’s tax on overnight stays to 6 percent. The increase from 5 percent is expected to net the county an extra $6.4 million annually.

* “Downtown Tampa has a new level of excitement and vibrancy that people across the country are noticing.”–Jay Tallman, president of Ascentia Development Group, that’s planning the 34-story, 80-unit Arris condominium at the corner of Ashley Drive and Twiggs Street.

* “Bold, innovative works that reflect Tampa Bay’s rich heritage and natural resources, and celebrate our history as the birthplace of commercial aviation.”–Chris Minner, TIA’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, on the expanding airport’s budget of $3.1 million for more public art.

* “There is a bit more of a sense of urgency, not just in Tampa or Florida. It’s affordable housing nationwide.”–Thomas Snelling, Tampa’s director of planning and development.  

Trumpster Diving

* If President Donald Trump’s priorities were in sync with national priorities, he would be pushing to build a digital wall. One that would address adversaries with an agenda aimed at undermining America by tampering with elections. That’s a threat to our democracy–in the perilous age of social media, misinformation and gullibility. That’s the real existential threat, not the cruel, anti-immigrant one stoked and ginned up along the Mexican border.

* The opposition to Trump’s Mexican strategy of addressing border security via taunting tariff tweets has prompted pushback from manufacturers to consumer advocates to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. None, however, cut to the quick quite like Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. “This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent,” he stated. “I support nearly every one of President Trump’s immigration policies, but this is not one of them.”

* Doesn’t it speak volumes when the Treasury secretary and the Trump Administration’s top trade negotiator advised–OK, warned–the president not to impose tariffs on Mexico as border-security strategy? Both Steve Mnuchin and Robert Lighthizer opposed the plans because they could very well imperil other priorities, such as the passage of a revised North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. In short, ad hoc, mercurial policy tweets have obvious collateral effects–from consumer prices to roiled stock markets to chaotic foreign policy. Notably, Jared Kushner has sided with Mnuchin and Lighthizer. Wonder what Rex Tillerson thinks?

*Later this month we all will be viscerally reminded that super swing state Florida is a must for President Donald Trump’s re-election. Here’s the official, as it were, Twitter announcement: “I will be announcing my Second Term Presidential Run with First Lady Melania, Vice President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence on June 18th in Orlando, Florida at the 20,000 seat Amway Center.” Presumably DisneyWorld was not available.  

* Robert Mueller obviously needs to do a lot more than let his report “stand for itself.” Not in this partisan, cacophonous age. What his old-school circumspection does, in effect, is create an agenda vacuum and partisan opportunities for William Barr, Lindsey Graham, Trump and others to, as we’ve been seeing, frame the narrative for too many before the House Democrats go any further.

When Mueller has declared “that there were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and that “that allegation deserves the attention of every American,” he needs to further expedite the attention-getting. Or maybe we should wait for the HBO movie.

* As a result of the tariff war with China, Mexico is now the U.S.’s largest trading partner–pending the next presidential tweet. That’s how that happens. And the ripple effects of a chaotic trade policy far transcend that quantitative pairing. “I don’t see how our trading partners will continue to negotiate with us as if we have any credibility going forward,” assesses Dartmouth trade economist Emily Blanchard. “They’re going to have a much harder time selling any costly domestic reform or sacrifice that is a concession to the U.S., because the U.S. is acting like an erratic bully.”

* It was unconscionably shameful that the fear of bad visuals, borne of an infamous grudge, was enough for White House officials to request that the Navy “minimize the visibility” of the USS John S. McCain during Trump’s Japan visit. It gives petty vindictiveness a bad name.

Trump insisted he knew nothing of the hide-the-ship’s-identity scheme. That might very well be the literal truth. That’s because key staffers always know what the president wants and doesn’t want–and don’t want to be blamed for antagonizing him. The result, even if it’s the politicization of the armed forces, is “plausible deniability.” Craven enablers don’t need evidentiary marching orders.

And what does it say about this president that he publicly despised and demeaned the patriot McCain–but “fell in love” with the murderous North Korean thug Kim Jong-un, who is now suspected of having ordered even more executions of those, including family, who have fallen out of his authoritarian favor.

* Richard Nixon has never looked so presidential.

* “Never been stronger.” That’s how Vice President Mike Pence characterized the US relationship with Canada–while in Ottawa recently. And that the president, moreover, was “a great friend of the Canadian people.” In other words, so much for Trump having labeled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “weak” and “dishonest,” which he either meant–or didn’t mean.

* We’re often reminded of how critical Florida is to Trump. The state went twice for Obama–and then Trump. Florida, the biggest, most impactful swing state, is a must win again for Trump. Expect more Sunshine State rallies. “If we were to see something where Trump lost Florida, it would be indicative of a very bad night for him,” assessed Rob Schmidt, who polls for Trump’s campaign. “It becomes a domino effect.”

* The way Trump pro-actively keeps stoking the issue of impeachment, investigations, “witch hunts,” “fake news” and certain  “Never Trumpers,” it makes Bill Clinton look downright classy for how he handled the countdown to his impeachment. Clinton could, and did, rant in private, but he didn’t go public. Instead he was, in effect, reminding Americans–not just a support base–that he was prioritizing the responsibility of running the government.

* Non-essential American personnel have recently been evacuated from Iraq. That’s got to be a double-edged sword. Relocation to a safer place–but confirmation that what you do is, indeed, “non-essential.”

Tampa Tidbits

* It’s a good sign that Mayor Jane Castor is appointing study groups–which include outside stakeholders–to make recommendations on priorities such as affordable housing. This is a gut issue for a city in the midst of morphing into revitalization. Crunch time will be the follow-up. We’ll be watching.

*This just in: Tampa is nationally notorious for pedestrian-and-bicyclist safety. Yeah, let’s add scooters. Hip is worth it.

* Call it Tampa’s contribution to “Flori-duh.” Or maybe the cough heard round the council. It even made overseas media. So, did Carrie Henriquez, a (since resigned) legislative aide to Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, say “a– hole” or not when standing behind chairman Mark Vieri? Was it a faux-cough vulgarity? Or was she targeting Vieri, who won the chairmanship vote over Maniscalco a month ago, by merely labeling him a “crass soul”? Or was she looking for any forum for her “grassy knoll” theories?  

Sports Shorts

* The Rays non-Red Sox, non-Yankees attendance is embarrassing. It’s no longer a shock to see it dip below 6,000. Among other things, that makes it hard to look down on the even-worse-attended Miami Marlins, whose stay-away fans at least have the disincentive of a bad team.

* There’s a reason why every Major League Baseball ticket has a disclaimer that says the spectator assumes all risks of attending a game. That’s because, as opposed to footballs, tennis balls or soccer balls, a line-drive baseball can severely injure–or kill a spectator.

Two points. First, MLB has to mandate that every franchise extend its netting well beyond the dugouts. Closer to the action, however cool, is also closer to an accident. It comes with the game. No net neutrality here.

Second, there’s some onus on spectators as well, especially those with small children. All professional sports know they can’t exist just by appealing to hard-core fans. They need families and dates. Distractions to what’s actually happening, from scoreboard announcements to variations on a social media theme, are a given. Attention is easily diverted, especially in a sport that has pedestrian-pace interludes. The in-game “experience” may simulate some of the ambience of a sports-themed picnic or an interactive social event, but it’s still Major League baseball with players throwing and hitting harder than ever. High-velocity foul balls are a part of the game. Life-threatening–or ending–accidents shouldn’t be.

* The Bucs Ndamukong Suh has a well-known–and well-earned–reputation as a dirty player. Stomping on the opposition–and incurring the resultant fines–will do that. It can lead to a stereotype that the NFL doesn’t need. But not everything about run-aground Suh fits that stereotype. He didn’t major in eligibility at the University of Nebraska; he earned an engineering degree. He also owns a real-estate development company, and his business mentor is Warren Buffet–not Warren Sapp.

Quoteworthy

* “If they want to talk, I’m available.”–President Donald Trump, in signaling that he would meet with Iranians.

* “I experienced firsthand how nothing has to stay the way it is. … Anything that seems set in stone or unalterable can indeed change.”–German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her commencement address at Harvard.

* “Imposing tariffs on goods from Mexico is exactly the wrong move.”–Neil Bradley, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

* “Intertwining difficult trade, tariff and immigration issues creates a Molotov cocktail of policy, and America’s manufacturing workers should not be forced to suffer.”–Jay Simmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.

* “Republicans in Washington have become the silence of the lambs when it comes to Trump.”–Former Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, who has officially announced that he will run against Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primaries. Weld was the vice-presidential running mate to the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, in 2016.

* “It is one thing to have a president of conventionally bad character, or even questionable character. But it is such another scale entirely with Trump.”–Conservative pundit–and co-founder of The Weekly StandardWilliam Kristol.

* “Millions of good people believe what a president of the United States says. In normal times, that’s healthy. But not now, when the president is a liar who doesn’t care what damage he does to vital institutions.”–Former FBI Director James Comey.

* “William Barr is not so much the attorney general as the minister of information.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “While Facebook moved quickly to limit the spread of the doctored Pelosi clip, Fox is neither apologizing for airing its (Pelosi) montage nor taking it down, because this sort of manipulated video fits within the network’s ethical bounds. … And it is devastatingly effective: Just about every political lie that has dominated American discourse in the past two decades–the Swift Boaters and the birthers, death panels, the idea that undocumented immigrants pose an existential threat but climate change does not–depended, for its mainstream dissemination, on the Fox News machine.”–Farhad Manjoo, New York Times.

* “The volatile and challenging macroeconomic backdrop has continued into the second quarter, with particular softness across the U.S. and China retail landscape.”–Emanuel Chirico, chairman and CEO of PVH Corp., the owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, weighing in on ramifications of the U.S.-China trade dispute.

* “We skipped from being in the kitchen to being in the tank, and there’s nothing in between.”–The actress Emma Thompson on women’s roles.

* “Whatever edge you have (in Florida) is insignificant. It’s still a hyper-competitive state.”–Democratic political strategist Steve Schale, who led Barack Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign.

* “Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio will work to deliver Trump the state that Republicans consider essential. At the same time, they will work to deliver themselves as the first president from this state.”–Randy Schultz, South Florida Sun Sentinel.

* “There are great supporters of Israel on both sides of the aisle. The support of the state of Israel is not something we should be divided on D or R.”–Florida  Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the state’s highest ranked Democrat and first Jewish women in the cabinet.

* “During the last several years, we’ve seen larger and larger outbreaks of … Red Tide. Listening to scientists, economists and local business owners working on this issue, the one thing I hear over and over again is that we need more science.”–U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg.

* “I have never once … advocated for (simply) arming teachers. What I advocate for is (doing so) under the right circumstances and with the right people.”–Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

* “We think, long term, that drives value.”–James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners, in response to the announcement that the Water Street Tampa project is the first neighborhood anywhere to be certified by the International WELL Building Institute as a healthy community for walking, working and living.

* “The good fortune of our market is we’re testing a unique moment where we’re able to add inventory while continuing to grow and sustain profitability.”–Bob Morrison, director of the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association.

* “You can encourage people to do the right thing, but I have to be able to say we’re doing the right thing first.”–Mayor Jane Castor.

* “Bold, innovative works that reflect Tampa Bay’s rich heritage and natural resources, and celebrate our history as the birthplace of commercial aviation.”–Chris Minner, TIA’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, on the expanding airport’s budget of $3.1 million for more public art.

The “I’s” Have It

The Dems continue to roil among themselves over the “I” word. “Impeachment,” however merited, may or may not be the best strategy for actually removing Donald Trump. We know the rationales for and against. This manifest menace deserves no less, but a non-convicting, spineless Senate could help rally and rile the base even more. Dangerously so.

But there is no doubt about that other “I” word that isn’t as politically riveting. That’s “Infrastructure.”America is in dire need of two scenarios: the ouster of Trump and the upgrading of our way-of-life, way-of-business infrastructure. But let’s not get neither.

Trumpster Diving

* It’s obvious that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gets to Trump. As only a strong woman can. She doesn’t suffer the female fealty fools that shill for Trump. Her reference to “intervention” likely cut to the quick. It’s not just calling out the “stable genius,” but it’s also a euphemism for impeachment and the 25th Amendment.    

* BTW, in another era, the flap over the altered Pelosi video would have been considered a satire of a political figure with all the accompanying legal rationales and ample precedents. But not in the era of formalized, nefarious “misinformation.” And not with Trump personally passing it along–as part of his character-assaulting-of-political-enemies MO.

* The bottom line, impeachment priorities notwithstanding, on all things Trump–from tax returns to Russian cooperation to justice obstruction to witness tampering: Bullies need confronting, not appeasing.

* White House Press Harlot Sarah Sanders recently passed along an insider tidbit that Kim Jongun agrees with Trump about Joe Biden. Sounding eerily Trump like, the North Korean leader had labeled Biden a “fool of low IQ” for having referenced Kim as one of those “dictators and tyrants” that Trump is obviously enamored of. It is unconscionable for Sanders to be exploiting such foreign insults. There was a time when partisan politics ended at the water’s edge, so to speak. But that was before the “new normal” unraveled revered precedents.

Moreover, Sanders’ repugnant enabling of such thuggish foreign criticism of an American presidential candidate is not even smart. You really want Kim on your side as an anti-Biden partisan? This is like Mussolini saying, “Even Hitler doesn’t like him.” Surely there’s a limit to what even the Trump base will rally around. Surely.

* It’s never too early to speculate on how Barack Obama will figure into the 2020 election. And it’s never too early for Obama to begin leveraging his input and impact to help guide and stoke Democratic support–across the liberal spectrum–for all things anti-Trump.

* Whether Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee or not, we can expect the designated candidate to use a variation of a recent Biden line against Trump and the robust economy he takes all credit for. “President Trump inherited an economy from the Obama/Biden administration just like he inherited everything else in his life,” noted Biden at his recent Philadelphia rally.

* “I don’t do cover-ups.” That was Donald Trump coming close to the truth. Had he only said: “I don’t do cover-ups very well anymore.” That’s despite having had plenty of practice with his academic record, health reports, finances, marital affairs and family history.

* So that redesigned $20 bill, the one that will feature black abolitionist Harriet Tubman, will not be unveiled in 2020 as previously announced. More like 2028. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but maybe, just maybe, Trump didn’t want Tubman replacing his favorite president, Andrew Jackson, on his watch, with his white-nativist base watching.

* We know Trump doesn’t traditionally prep for meetings with other world leaders, including the recent one with Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who has more concerns about North Korea than does Trump. That’s mainly because Japan is close enough to North Korea for short-range missiles to target. And 54,000 U.S. troops would be among the de facto targets, as Trump presumably knows. And then there’s some chaotic tariff stuff. A lot to prep for. But you have to believe that somewhere–on hotel stationery or an index card or a last-second, whispered aside–there was a reminder to Trump that this guy’s first name is NOT ABE, as in “Honest Abe.” Some “SNL” gaffes are worse than others.

* So Trump agrees to present a trophy to the 390-pound winner of the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament. Maybe it’s what he does to accommodate his hosts and look like a friendly ally. Or maybe it’s what he does when he will be juxtaposed to someone with worse abs than him.

* If it weren’t so scary, it would merely be spot-on funny. That’s David Axelrod’s line about not being sure what movie John Bolton is starring in: “Dr. Strangelove” or “Wag the Dog.”

* Speaking of Bolton, he recently conjectured that “Maybe now is an appropriate time to talk about the return of the U.S.S. Pueblo.” It’s still being held in a Pyongyang river since its 1968 capture. Can only imagine Trump’s response–quite possibly: “What the hell is the Pueblo?”