Trump Vs. Bloomberg?

* Now we know that parts of “The Wall” along the Mexican border with Arizona have been breached by smugglers using saws and ladders. Apparently steel-and-concrete bollards are no match for power tools. Perhaps a moat with gators and snakes is actually the way to go.  

* No one doubts the leverage of the U.S. on Ukraine. Lest we forget, Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Nothing less than sovereignty is at stake; nothing less than promised U.S. military aid could address it.

* BTW, for the 28th year in a row, the UN has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba. Among the two countries abstaining: Ukraine.

* “He’s a terrible human being.”–That was Mick Mulvaney’s appraisal of Donald Trump a couple of years ago. Now he’s President Trump’s acting chief of staff. Some things you just have to work around.

* “I would love to go if I could.” That was President Trump responding to the invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow, commemorating the allied victory over the Nazis. And what would keep Trump from accepting the invite to the annual parade that also shows off Russia’s military might? Officially, it’s inconvenient timing–because it would be “right in the middle of political season,” said Trump by way of explanation. Or maybe somebody got to him to explain how unhelpful the optics of a Russian military parade in the company of his handler, Vlad Putin, would look. Maybe John Bolton still has influence.

* To the surprise of no one, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has formally, and finally, landed in the Trump White House. The Trump acolyte and apologist will utilize her legal and media skills as part of the WH communications team as it pushes back against Democrats with “proactive impeachment messaging.” The only ones surprised are those who had her signing on for a regular gig with Fox News or being named president of Trump University.

* And look who else has joined the White House in an official capacity: Florida televangelist Paula White, of Without Walls International Church infamy. She’ll work in the Office of Public Liaison. Her role will be to advise the Administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs. In short, she’ll be a high-profile beacon to evangelicals, a key, however blatantly hypocritical, part of the Trump base. No surprise that this gospel grifter has been closely associated with the “prosperity gospel,” an assertion that God rewards believers with personal as well as financial success.

* “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.” That was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s terse response to Trump after the president criticized his handling of wildfires and threatened to cut federal aid.

* Call it another day on the Trump campaign trail, just not as high-profile as the Alabama-LSU game. But there was a lot of overlap in President Trump’s weekend rally in Monroe, La. His chief cheerleader was Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy. Kennedy, an ongoing affront to that name, channeled Trump and vilified a common Democratic target. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach (President Trump),” ranted Kennedy. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb.”

Can only imagine how that would have come out had Kennedy actually intended disrespect.

* Hopefully it’s not too late. Increasingly, Democrats have begun using the blunt-force word “bribery” instead of the Latin-shrouded “quid pro quo.” Even “tit for tat,” which Trump would ironically enjoy saying, is better. Bribery, officially an impeachable act, cuts constitutionally and viscerally to the quick amid the “high crimes and misdemeanors” applications and diversions over a whistleblower’s identity. Not even Lindsey Graham would want to defend “bribery.”

* White House press secretary–and uber toady–Stephanie Grisham has publicly derided “A Warning” by Anonymous as blatantly untrue and unfair. “Reporters who choose to write about this farce should have the journalistic integrity to cover the book as what it is–a work of fiction.” She also labeled the author a “coward.” Speaking of cowards, Grisham can’t even muster the guts–let alone a professional communicator’s executive branch responsibility–to face the public-surrogate press corps at what used to be regular White House briefings.

Dem Notes

* The candidacy of Michael Bloomberg: This could be a bridge too far for the Dems, a 77-year-old billionaire who was a Republican when he was the three-term mayor of New York City. But in the era of Trump, nothing is beyond the pale anymore, including a late-entering candidate who would bypass the first four–momentum-generating–states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and prioritize the Super Tuesday states. It would assume, of course, that no Dem had achieved clear-cut-favorite status by then.

The priority for Dems should be to hit a reset button–with America and the rest of the world–and remove Trump. Then pivot. It’s a matter of being both pragmatic and progressive, but in that order.

There’s also this. Yes, Bloomberg’s a bona fide billionaire, and that’s a de facto affront to hard-core, anti-plutocrat progressives fighting against income inequality. But he has at least earned it the old-fashioned way–without inheritance, without bankruptcy laws. He’s an entrepreneur–not a reality-TV performer and charlatan. He’s also in favor of raising taxes on “upper-income earners” and is a major philanthropist–whose activist causes include environmental issues and gun control. He’s also knowledgeable about government and familiar with running more than a brand business. He would also be immune to Trump caricatures of Dems as haters of capitalism, cops and Israel.

He would please the Democratic donor class and assure that the Dems were not outspent this time. And speaking of money, Bloomberg puts it into a context that might appease skeptical Dems. In an address this year to Harvard Business School grads, he underscored values. “People have a hell of a lot more respect for those who make a difference in society than they do for people who just make money,” he said. “Gordon Gekko was wrong: Greed ain’t good.” Take that, Wall Street.

* Much has been made of Kentucky electing a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, the state’s former attorney general. Partisans and pundits are digging into the details and conclusions. This much seems clear. Beshear pretty much stayed away from impeachment as an issue and concentrated much more on health care and education. His Republican opponent, the incumbent Matt Bevin, used the prospect of impeachment to rally Republicans and send a Trump-support message with his re-election. Others have noticed, of course, including Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, who’s also on the 2020 ballot.

Tampa Tidbits

* Tampa has hosted Super Bowls, a national political convention, Bollywood Oscars, the collegiate national football championship and some Final Fours. They’ve all boosted Tampa’s image and profile–while providing serious economic impact. Now we’ve got WrestleMania headed our way–to Raymond James Stadium–in the spring.

“I think Tampa is going to be a magnet to wrestling fans since we have such a rich history of wrestling coming out of Tampa,” assessed Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada. Indeed, it’s steeped in Tampa’s roots.

In short, the “Super Bowl of Wrestling” is a very big deal, and is expected to result in more than $100 million in tourist spending. WrestleMania could generate more than 50,000 hotel visitor room nights from attendees, including international visitors.

What’s not to like? Well, it’s still “professional” wrestling.

* This just in: Christian comic John Crist has canceled an upcoming Tampa concert–part of a tour–after allegations of sexual misconduct involving multiple women. “I’ve sinned against God, against women and the people I love,” he said. Crist also said he will devote all his “time and energy on getting healthy spiritually, mentally and physically,” which is a lot better than continuing to prey religiously.

* Stumpy’s Hatchet House recently opened in western Hillsborough County. The indoor facility offers hatchet throwing and a bar that serves beer and wine. What could possibly go wrong with this niche-market concept?

Vetted Patriotism

A recent item in the Tampa Bay Times–via the Chicago Tribune–explained (grammatically) why we celebrate “Veterans Day,” as opposed to “Veterans’ Day.” Some journalism professor pointed out that no apostrophe is needed for description, but necessary to show possession. I agree. I used to teach English. Its correct. Just kidding; It’s correct.

Squeezing Citrus

Call it a culture war. Or call it where “Flori-duh” meets Trump World. As we–and many around the country–have noted, the Citrus County Commission formally announced recently that it would not fund its library with digital subscriptions to the New York Times. The commission balked at spending $2,700 annually to enable library cardholders to access something other than paper copies of various newspapers, including the NYT.

This wouldn’t have made news beyond Inverness had not the commission vote highlighted, so to speak, the new normal of divisive invective, partisan chasm and media demonization. “Fake news, I agree with President Trump,” declared Commissioner Scott Carnahan. “I don’t want the New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ’em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no.” Yeah, he actually said that; would that it were fake news.

Sports Shorts

* The Bucs won their first home game of the season last Sunday with that 30-27 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The impact of such a disappointing start was more than evident outside the lines: Many fans showed up disguised as empty seats. The home crowd was generously announced as 40,038, the smallest in 23 years. It was still more than USF-Temple, but not that much more.

* “Licht’s Brigade.” That’s one of the partisan banners draping RJ for Bucs games. It checked a couple of boxes: word play and fan support. But GM Jason Licht?

* Who will FSU hire to replace Willie Taggart? Someone with the surname of Stoops? The next hot-shot at a lower-profile school? Seemingly discounted is the only coach with an undefeated record in leading the Noles. That’s long-time (26 years) assistant Odell Haggins, 52. He played at FSU for Bobby Bowden. He also played in the NFL, including a Super Bowl with the Buffalo Bills. He’s a member of FSU’s athletics hall of fame. He’s beloved by players and alums. He took over for Jimbo Fisher two years ago on an interim basis and went 2-0, including a bowl win. This year, after taking over for Taggart, he’s coaching the final three games. The first of those came last Saturday, a 38-31 road win at Boston College. He’s now 3-0. If he wins the next two, including later this month in Gainesville against Florida, could they pass him over again, because  boosters want a big name to come in and restore the program to national prominence? 

Quoteworthy

* “(Boris) Johnson’s Brexit would leave Northern Ireland more integrated with Ireland than with the rest of Britain. And as religion becomes less important on both sides of the border, pressure for Irish unification will grow.”–Nicholas Kristof, New York Times.

* “I now do recall.”–Pay-to-play diplomat Gordon Sondland’s CYA reversal in corroborating testimony about the quid pro quo with Ukraine pushed by Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

* “The best argument against Trump is simply this: We can’t tolerate another four years like these. We can’t wake up to crazy tweets and gratuitous taunts. That gets in the way of solving problems that affect people’s lives.”–David Axelrod, former Obama strategist.

* “Under Donald Trump, Republicans have chosen to abandon the American center and its moderates. It would be utterly foolish for Democrats to make the same mistake and move the Democratic Party further leftward. With Trump on the ballot, any semblance of moderation will appeal to these valuable voters in swing states in the general election.”–Justin Gest, George Mason public policy professor.

* “The hyper-focus on Obama voters who defected to Mr. Trump in 2016 obscures the fact that more Obama voters stayed home or defected to the Green Party and Libertarian Party than switched to the Republican Party.”–Melanye Price, political science professor at Prairie View A&M University and author of “The Race Whisperer: Barack Obama and the Political Uses of Race.”

* “There is general agreement that black voters, while a small percentage of all voters, could again play an outsized role in determining the Democratic presidential nominee and the outcome of next year’s election. Blacks are concentrated in important primary states, such as South Carolina, as well as the cities of key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin. Perhaps taking them for granted, Hillary Clinton failed to mobilize enough black voters in 2016, when black voter turnout fell in a presidential election for the first time in 20 years.”–Jason Riley, Wall Street Journal.

* “The big picture is that Trump remains unpopular and Democratic voters are energized to kick him out. The Democratic standard-bearer has to be someone who can harness the passion that already exists to move beyond Trump. Primary voters should be confident enough to vote not out of fear but out of hope.”–Jeet Heer, The Nation.

* “Single-payer health care is, in certain ways, the liberal-activist equivalent of the conservative dream of a flat tax.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “The Florida Democratic Party is seeing an unprecedented amount of volunteer engagement for an off-year. Democrats have completed 1,221 percent more volunteer shifts  than we did in 2015.”–Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

* “The Hispanic electorate is not a cohesive vote and never has been.”–Susan MacManus, Florida political analyst and USF professor emerita.

* “I’ve done my public service, and I’ll never run for office again in my life. I don’t have elected official’s disease.”–Ed Turanchik.

* “I’ve been so touched throughout this whole journey with your love, your kindness, your generosity, your loyalty. I will never forget you. You’re in my heart, you’re in every fiber of my being. How could I ever forget?”–Elton John, at his farewell-tour concert at Amalie Arena.

“New Normal” Update

* “Donald Trump is trying to interfere in Britain’s election to get his friend Boris Johnson elected.” That’s been the take of British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. It was made all the more credible when Trump recently called in to a London radio show–hosted by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage–to weigh in on British politics and heap praise on Bo Jo. Interfering in another country’s general election is beyond ironic. Wonder if there’s any post-Brexit quid pro quos?

* “Whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” That was President Trump ad-fibbing about the last minutes of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s evil life on earth. Actually, it might be a more fitting description of what post-impeachment-conviction optics might look like. 

* “He is not the first person to move to Florida to retire.”–Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo’s response to the announcement that President Donald Trump had declared that his permanent address will now be in Palm Beach County. You go, Terri. Political zingers don’t have to be in poor taste.

* Trump moving to Florida: No income or estate tax. We get it. We also get that Trump’s New York popularity is nearing nil among those who have known him over the years. Recall that Trump, a Queens native, didn’t even win his “home” (Manhattan) district in 2016.

* For the record, each time Trump visits Mar-a-Lago, which will become Trump’s permanent address, security costs to taxpayers run around $3 million.

* President Trump has named Chad Wolf to be the next acting head of Homeland Security. Kevin McAleenan resigned last month. Wolf becomes the fifth person in the job in three years. How’s that for a secure feeling?

* The Keystone pipeline recently leaked nearly 400,000 gallons of tar sands oil in North Dakota. The company, TC Energy, is seeking to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas. The project has drawn opposition from those fearing harm to the environment. That’s why it had been rejected by the Obama Administration. That was then. President Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017.

* As of this week, the Trump Administration has formally notified the United Nations that it would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change. That means global diplomats will have to forge on without the cooperation of the world’s largest economy. It’s also a reminder that some campaign promises are easier to keep than others. Just ask Mexico.

* Most of us still go to the movies for escape. Maybe now more than ever. The documentary “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”–while interesting and all-too-relevant–won’t enable escapees. There’s a reason it’s out now, and it has everything to do with the Donald Trump presidency and its corrosive, chaotic impact on America.

Cohn was an unethical, ruthless manipulator who only cared about “winning,” as he defined it. From Sen. Joseph McCarthy to Donald Trump to mafia dons. He was Trump’s personal lawyer as well as mentor and wise guy role model. BTW, the title refers, revealingly, to something President Trump was quoted saying as federal investigators were looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Cohn died more than 30 years ago. So, Rudy Giuliani notwithstanding, it could actually be worse.

* Trump’s recent take on Meghan Markle’s relationship with the British media is that the Duchess of Sussex takes it all too “personally.” What Trump really meant to say: “It’s no big deal if you’re not a narcissist. Just enjoy the spotlight, the suck-ups, the fame and the freebies.  By the way, Sussex sounds like some Nevada brothel. Cool.”

Dem Notes

* “Mathematical gymnastics.” How Joe Biden characterized Elizabeth Warren’s plan to pay for “Medicare for All.” All’s fair in a primary scrum, but you know a line like this will be at the ready for Trump if he’s opposed by a hard-core progressive.

* “You can be committed to the U.S.-Israeli alliance without being supportive of any individual choice by a right-wing government over there. It shouldn’t be hard to be against bad policies and to be against anti-Semitism.”–That was Mayor Pete Buttigieg weighing in on U.S. policy on Israel–and underscoring the growing criticism of Israel by the political left, once thought an untenable position for liberals. An awkward bromance between Trump and Bibi Netanyahu–in the context of land annexation and JerUSAlem as the Israeli capital–has altered the equation.

* Speaking of Mayor Pete, his eloquence, military service, generational status and gayety have been well noted. On the generational front, it’s easy to forget that at 37, Buttigieg is but two years past the constitutional minimum of 35. We tend to want more real life experience–not just generational perspective–from our candidates. We haven’t seen someone making a serious presidential run this young since Jerry Brown. He was also 37 when he declared his candidacy for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination. But he was already governor of California. Buttigieg is mayor of South Bend, Ind.

But there is not a better speaker–or galvanizing presence–among the candidates. If he doesn’t get the nomination, here’s hoping that Buttigieg’s compelling, inspiring rhetoric on the 2020 hustings can help rally the Democratic demographic–from age, gender and sexual persuasion to nationality, race and progressive bona fides. And if the nominee happens to be a septuagenarian, look for Buttigieg to be positioned as an even higher-profile, de facto candidate for upcoming election cycles. Sooner than later.

* “My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.” That was Beto O’Rourke as he formally ended his presidential campaign. “This campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully.” That was O’Rourke’s more candid take.

Emission Not Impossible

When it comes to e-scooters, we’ve seen the issues–from clueless riding to careless littering–playing out around here. Now a North Carolina State University study has added another element to the controversial, however hip, mobility means. Driving around to pick up, recharge and release scooters accounted for 40 percent of a scooter’s total greenhouse gas emissions.