President’s Role Reversal

  • While President Donald Trump was unable to join many other leaders in Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of that country, he did forward on a message. “I just want to congratulate Poland.” Whatever.
  • The president’s role during emergencies—such as devastating hurricanes—is to be the comforting, confidence-inducing public face of the federal government advisories—armed with facts, warnings, reassurances, hope, help and empathy. Alas, intemperate, uninformed presidential tweets and drive-by, off-the-cuff media quotes are not the same thing. And worse yet when they undermine NOAA and its apolitical credibility. That was the unfortunate upshot when the president recently relied more on a Sharpie than meteorologists in noting—and re-noting–that Hurricane Dorian was headed to Alabama.  And then the inexplicable acknowledgement that he’d never “even heard of a Category 5 hurricane,” which Michael was when it raked parts of the Florida Panhandle last summer. “Helluva job, Brownie” never seemed so eloquent.
  • “The LameStream media and their Democrat partner should start playing it straight. It would be so much better for our Country.”—Yes, that was the patriot-in-chief.
  • “I have no fear of being under oath … Bring it.”—No, that obviously wasn’t President Trump; it was Stormy Daniels. The porn actress was indicating that she’s ready to testify before Congress regarding Trump’s alleged role in hush-money payments.
  • “The Wall is being built. It’s going up rapidly.”—Donald Trump. Yeah, and El Chapo, not budget sleight of hand at the expense of military families, will pay for it.
  • “He isn’t winning friends in Europe. He’s losing friends at home. His is a government with no mandate, no morals and, as of today, no majority.” No, that wasn’t one of the Democratic presidential candidates lashing out at Trump. That was British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been getting pummeled by (Conservative) party defections over Brexit.
  • “The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party.”—That was Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, sounding every bit like a Trump campaign manager. It’s likely we’ll be seeing this line again—in either party’s primaries. Dynastic rhetoric doesn’t play well in most democratic contexts.
  • Trump legacy: Corey Lewandowski, the punk who was Trump’s pre-Manafort campaign manager, is likely running for the Senate in New Hampshire. The GOP establishment wants Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen defeated, of course, but preferably not by the unsettling wise guy who insults mainstream Republican leaders. “Corey is the original lightning rod—some people love him, some people detest him,” points out Steve Duprey, the New Hampshire State GOP chairman. “But he’s pretty mainstream now because it’s a different party.” We’ve been noticing.
  • You knew it was coming. “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”—a documentary of the flamboyant, ruthless and unapologetically defiant lawyer Roy Cohn–will be released later this month. You knew it was coming because Donald Trump was his protégé; from Cohn, he learned—and continues to practice—lessons that are manifest every day. That includes, points out Cohn documentarian Matt Tyrnauer, these familiar Trumpian “principles”: “Never apologize. If someone hits you, hit them back a thousand times harder. Any publicity is good publicity. And find an ‘other.’” For Cohn, the “other” were Jews as Bolsheviks and gays in the State Department. “With Trump, the other is Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims, fill in the blank,” says Tyrnauer. In effect, Trump has turned the presidency, unsurprisingly, into a Cohn job.

9/11 Foreshadowing

Before there was 9/11, there was the winter of 1962. It was an eerie precursor to what would tragically traumatize New York City nearly four decades later. The National Archives’ 2017-18 release of long-suppressed JFK files provided the forum, much of which deals with the CIA’s Mafia-outsourced operation to take out Fidel Castro.

But there’s also this: Castro wanted revenge for all those assassination attempts. The details are chronicled in Thomas Maier’s “Mafia Spies.” Among them: a payback plan to wreak havoc in New York for the Christmas holiday season. A well-trained terrorism expert, Roberto Santiesteban Casanova, posed as a United Nations diplomatic attaché. He was the ringleader of an elaborate sabotage plot to bomb Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Gimbel’s—plus the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal and military bases and oil refineries in nearby New Jersey.

BTW, “Mafia Spies” is a good, riveting read and another reminder that America’s had dark chapters before the chaos and existential threat of this Administration. But, imagine if that had been President Trump during the October missile crisis.

Dem Notes

  • The DNC has been criticized for not holding a climate-specific debate. Rightly so. Addressing the ultimate global threat is that important.
  • Tech entrepreneur John Yang’s feisty supporters are an eclectic lot, including progressives, libertarians and some Trump supporters. He has a campaign acronym—MATH (Make America Think Harder)–that is even showing up, MAGAesque, on hats.
  • “I think it’s really, really, really important that Donald Trump not be re-elected.” That was Joe Biden’s response to a reporter’s question on why, why, why he wants to be president.
  • “He doesn’t think you need a revolution.”—Anita Dunn, media strategist for Joe Biden.
  • If the Democrats still believe in demographics as destiny and really want to double down on appealing to an increasingly diverse electorate, they may want to consider a Kamala Harris-Bill de Blasio ticket. A black female married to a white man and a white male married to a black woman.

Ultimate Bottom Line

In the mid-1990s, Walmart stopped selling handguns. In 2015, Walmart stopped selling assault rifles. Now Walmart will discontinue the sale of handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition (once inventory runs out). And Walmart is also requesting customers to refrain from openly carrying firearms in Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.

What’s next? Will Walmart stop supporting politicians backed by the NRA?

Assault On Sense

A November 2020 state ballot proposal would prohibit possession of assault weapons, but would provide an exception for people who own the guns at the time the measure takes place. These people would be able to keep their assault weapons if they register their guns with the state. Estimated cost of building such a registry: $4 million.

While too much of our politics are disingenuous, zero-sum bullet points, this one applies. Don’t do it. No nuance. No assault weapons for anybody—because nobody not with the military, local police or national guard has a need for such. And they can—and have—and will again be used in a mass shooting. The laws of unintended consequences are still on the books. So, save lives and dollars. It shouldn’t be a matter of registration and grandfathering–and a year to stock up. It’s a matter of common sense and public safety.

Local Honors

  • Tampa International Airport is well known—nationally and internationally—and often honored for its logistics, aesthetics, location and passengers-as-priority mantra. Ask Orlando International what its model was. Now add this from the Airport Minority Advisory Council. It has named TIA “Airport of the Year” for bringing more diversity to its contracts in its recently completed, $1 billion, first-phase expansion.

This is about more than brick and mortar and planes and passengers. This is also about inclusiveness and prioritizing people working for a living. No, the Airport Minority Advisory Council’s honor isn’t as sexy and resonant as most other airport homages, but it matters a lot right here where it matters most.

  • A shout out to USF for breaking into U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 public universities. USF is now ranked 44th; last year it was 58th. Other state universities to make the top 100: UF, #7; FSU, #17; and UCF, #79.

Sports Shorts

  • It’s never too soon for a Super Bowl countdown if you’re a host city. The pre-planning is that detailed. The 2021 game plan is well underway, including the appointment of former Buccaneer linebacker Derek Brooks as co-chairman of the TB Super Bowl LV Host Committee. What a spot-on choice: a Hall of Famer, a Super Bowl winner and a proven leader, especially by example. More importantly, his track record also includes working for this community and carrying himself in a classy, inclusive fashion. Rob Higgins, the executive director of the TB Sports Commission and president and CEO of the TB Super Bowl LV Host Committee, summed up Brooks’ impact. “We’re so fortunate to have his leadership, his work ethic, everything he brings to the table.”  
  • “I always say to all my quarterbacks: ‘Play great. Great players do.’” That was Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, AKA the “quarterback whisperer.” Hope he has a quarterback whisperee. Didn’t look like it in season-opening, home loss to San Francisco. At least (49er GM) John Lynch was pleased with the outcome.
  • We now know that the upcoming NHL season will be Rick Peckham’s 25th—and last–as the Lightning’s TV play-by-play announcer. Peckham, 65, is retiring after 42 years in the business. Peckham’s good at what he does, and he’s one of the good guys. I still remember his call-it-as-it-is answer to my naïve question of how he handled calling all the action in a fast-paced game rife with line changes and puck turnovers. “I don’t,” he deadpanned. In other words, his job is to convey the big picture to viewers and pick and choose plays and players to keep a flow without sounding frenetic about the back-and-forth dynamics. It’s a skill–and an art–in hockey announcing. You’ll be missed, Rick.


  • “A one-sided United States trade deal that will put us at the mercy of Donald Trump and the biggest American corporations.”—British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s warning of a Trump-touted, post-Brexit trade deal between the U.S. and the U.K.
  • “The United States is ready, willing and able to immediately negotiate a free-trade agreement with the UK.”—Vice President Mike Pence.
  • “They’re dead.”—President Trump on the status of talks to implement the U.S. troop exit from Afghanistan.
  • “I think one of the reasons we’ve been unable to make a deal: We have competing objectives in the Administration. I think that has caused China to be uncertain about where this is all headed.”—Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former acting deputy U.S. trade representative.
  • “To be fair, some kinds of business do thrive under Trumpism—namely, businesses that aren’t in it for the long run, operations whose strategy is to take the money and run. … In other words, under Trump it’s spring time for grifters. … Remaking the U.S. economy in the image of Trump University isn’t exactly making America great again.”—Paul Krugman, New York Times.
  • “To say in the wake of so many mass shootings in so many localities across this country that the people themselves are now to be rendered newly powerless, that all they can do is stand by and watch as federal courts design their destiny—this would deliver a body blow to democracy.”—Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that voted to uphold the Maryland assault weapons ban.
  • “No matter what, the world has to move on from fossil fuels just as we moved on from tallow candles and outhouses and land lines.”—Colorado State University climatologist Scott Denning.
  • “Climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges facing society today. My personal view is that any institution has to actually have climate change risk and protection of the environment at the core of their understanding of their mission.”—Christine Lagarde, former chairwoman of the International Monetary Fund and recently nominated as president of the European Central Bank.
  • “(Trump’s) going the opposite direction on the existential question for Florida—which is sea level rise. That should be the mantra of any campaign.”—Environmentalist Rafe Pomerance.
  • “Wouldn’t it be worth $75,000 a year to pay for a Presidential Proofreader so that you’ll have the semblance of literacy?”—What was tweeted back to Trump from Bryan A. Garner, the author of “Garner’s Modern English Usage,” in response to the president’s routine flouting of writing conventions.
  • “The criteria for a promising protest candidate are not especially stringent. He or she needs to be conservative, without a large asterisk, with a record of sanity and decency. Surely in this great and large nation, anti-Trump Republicans can find someone who meets them.”—Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review.
  • “(Democrats) should choose the candidate who maximizes their chance of winning. … This means—first and foremost—the candidate who has the best chance of carrying the states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) that Mr. Trump pried off the Blue Wall (in 2016).”—William Galston, Wall Street Journal.
  • “Mitch McConnell is the Nancy Pelosi of 2020.”—Cook Political Report analyst Jennifer E. Duffy on the strategic targeting of McConnell by Democrats.
  • “The biggest divide in the (Democratic) party is not between left and center. It’s between those who believe once Trump is gone, things will go back to normal, and those that believe that our democracy is under a threat that goes beyond Trump.”—Dan Pfeiffer, Democratic strategist who served as a top campaign aide to Barack Obama.
  • “I would not see a recession as the most likely outcome for the United States or the global economy.”—Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
  • “Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers.”—New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading a multi-state, bipartisan investigation of Facebook for possible antitrust violations.
  • “Hillsborough County voters exercised a right that the Florida Legislature gave them. The fact that that is being walked back now is incredibly disappointing.”—All for Transportation organizer Christina Barker.
  • “I think it’s time to celebrate what’s underground as much as we celebrate what’s above ground.”—Mayor Jane Castor’s chief of staff John Bennett, after city council had approved a large utility bill hike to fix the city’s aging water and sewer systems.
  • “Investing in ways to increase access to affordable housing is critically important to our communities. When we don’t, we end up with homelessness.”—Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, after the Commission had voted to set aside $10 million a year to subsidize rents and incentivize new construction.
  • “I always say, you have never seen a ribbon cutting on an underground project. Well, just you wait.”—Mayor Jane Castor.

Trump Turbulence Updates

  • “Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither.” That was former Defense Secretary James Mattis still making the case that, alas, still doesn’t resonate with President Donald Trump. That was also former Defense Secretary Mattis underscoring why he no longer serves in the Trump Administration.
  • Anyone not named Donald Trump not think that this is the absolute worst time for Brazil to have Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing, climate-change skeptic, as its president? Brazil’s endangered rainforest is only technically sovereign territory. In effect, as French President Emmanuel Macron noted, it is the “lungs of the planet.” The fires sweeping the rainforest, which is invaluable for absorbing carbon and emitting oxygen, are beyond globally alarming and threatening.

No surprise that Bolsonaro and Trump get along. If you’re given to authoritarian ways and doubt the reality and impact of climate change, you too can make Trump’s (not) short (enough) list of autocratic buds.

  • Sorry, it’s the way I negotiate.”—There ought to be a better presidential response to questions about an untimely, unnecessary trade war; a dismissive attitude toward allies and trade partners; and mixed, confusion-and-chaos-inducing messages from the White House that inevitably impact the global economy.

At some level, Trump seems to equate sitting down with the G-7 or Chinese President Xi Jinping with how he has impulsively, narcissistically handled previous TrumpWorld negotiations. Only problem: China, a major military power with 1.4 billion people, high-tech wherewithal, intellectual property duplicity, authoritarian roots and holdings of more than $1 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds—has a helluva lot more leverage than Queens subcontractors. Any savvy, prepared negotiator would know that. Of course, they would.

Or maybe Trump is hoping somehow to replay the NAFTA card. After having disparaged NAFTA as the “worst deal ever,” Trump reshuffled the deck and declared that he had won by settling for a deal barely distinguishable from the one he had routinely lambasted. But a declared “win” is a de facto win. If only President Xi, who also knows a thing or two about saving face on the world stage, will comply.

  • Because of Hurricane Dorian, Trump was forced to cancel his visit to Poland. As opposed to Denmark, this one had to hurt because Poland is Trump’s kind of European country. It meets NATO military spending commitments, and its president, Andrzej Duda of the right-wing Law and Justice party, stokes cultural division and attacks the free press. No, it’s not the Poland of Lech Walesa anymore.
  • “Badly run and weak companies are blaming these small tariffs instead of themselves for bad management.” That was President Trump adding tweeted insult to unacknowledged injury.
  • For all the fraught scenarios with North Korea, which actually has nukes, it’s easy to miss the reality that we are, in effect, at war with Iran. Only, mercifully, it’s a cyberwar, that tenuous, gray, conflict zone between military confrontation and peace. For now.
  • “First of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you … Our job here is to keep the score, not settle scores.” That was how Fox News host Neil Cavuto responded to Trump criticism that “Fox isn’t working for us.” But, yeah, that was Cavuto speaking for Cavuto—not Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham or “Fox and Friends” fawners.
  • So, Madeleine Westerhout is out. If you haven’t been keeping score at the Trump revolving door, she’s the 20-something Trump special assistant and director of Oval Office operations, who was still in college when Barack Obama was RE-elected. Apparently, she got a bit loose-lipped and tipsy with some journalists and divulged some unflattering, to be sure, Trump family details. Two takeaways: First, this is Exhibit A for whom Trump surrounds himself with: the amoral, less-than-the-best-and-brightest-and-accomplished opportunists. Sean Spicer might even agree. Second, look for Westerhout to be out and about with her diary-turned-book in time for the holiday season. Omarosa Manigault might even agree.
  • Here’s a sobering-but-spot-on forewarning from back in the (Trump inauguration) day. “The evidence suggests (Trump) does not have sufficient concentration power to read a book, or even listen to an audio edition, not to mention receive an exhaustive briefing of the duties of his job. … The American presidency has never been at the whims of an authoritarian personality like Donald Trump. He is going to test our democracy as it has never been tested.” That was John Dean, THAT John Dean, who knows a thing or two about how a president can test American democracy.
  • Speaking of back in the day, like a lot of Trump supporters and even advisers, Kellyanne Conway has her own self-serving, political-hack backstory. Before pragmatically pivoting, she ran the Keep the Promise political action committee that championed the candidacy of Ted Cruz. She was the Cruz surrogate who regularly ripped Trump on CNN. She called him “unpresidential,” “vulgar” and not “transparent” with his tax returns. She also noted that he “built a lot of his business on the backs of the little guy” and didn’t actually understand the basic premises of the “pro-life movement.” But that was then.
  • Attorney General William Barr throws a big, pricey party every holiday season, and this year will be no different—with one exception. The 200 guests will gather in the Presidential Ballroom in Trump International Hotel, blocks from both the White House and the Justice Department. Barr, however, will be paying full price and thus avoiding ethical implications of a steep discount. But, yes, at a time when the Justice Department is working to defend Trump against charges that he’s trying to personally profit from his presidency, it’s ironic timing and bad optics–and yet another subset of the “new normal.”

Foreign Fodder

  • 11/9. 9/11. 8/31. Three infamous international dates from the last 30 years: The Berlin Wall falls in 1989; America is attacked in 2001 and Hong Kong is confronted by a post-colonial turning point. On Aug. 31, 2014, China declared a state of limited democracy for Hong Kong. Locals have still not accepted it, and resistance, as we’ve been seeing daily, has turned violent.
  • As we know, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro remains in power despite sanctions, isolation and military-intervention threats by the Trump Administration. And his country continues apace toward economic collapse and humanitarian disaster. Now, however, the U.S. has softened its approach—promising not to seek punishment of Maduro if he would just voluntarily leave. “This is not a persecution,” stressed Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special envoy for Venezuela. “We’re not after him. We want him to have a dignified exit and go.” Wonder what Stephen Miller and John Bolton think. Buena suerte.