Media Matters

  • Remember when White House press secretaries would hold daily press briefings? The current—and third—WH press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, still hasn’t held one. But if there’s something worthy of WH response, there’s always Twitter and the op-ed page of the Washington (not Post) Examiner. Not that we miss Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the public is entitled to regular, live White House announcements, updates and clarifications as well as the journalistic scrutiny of non-Fox media.
  • “Make no mistake: Neither the fictional character ‘Joker,’ nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind.” That was a Warner Bros. statement, in reaction to criticism of the movie “Joker” for glorifying violence. But imagine having to say that! It’s what you get when you live in a fraught era of visceral societal divisiveness, mass shootings, legal assault weapons and gratuitously violent Marvel-comic movies.
  • “Politics is being consumed like entertainment. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure reality.” That was, alas, Republican digital strategist Eric Wilson’s all too accurate take on the overlapping of politics and show business.
  • “I miss the Senate a lot, but I’m not there, so I want to be a voice.” That was former Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who now has a weekly radio gig on SiriusXM.
  • “They’re scum. These animals in the press. They’re animals, some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.” That was—never mind–you know who the hell that was.

Sports Shorts

  • High fives,fist bumps,congrats and kudos to Plant High alum Pete Alonso, who finished his incredible, rookie Major League Baseball season with the New York Mets by leading MLB with 53 home runs. Alonso also set a Mets franchise record as well as the MLB standard for homers by a rookie.
  • However this ends, the Rays—with all their familiar issues, from attendance and Montreal scenarios to payroll and personnel attrition—deserve big-time credit for making it to the post season with so many cards stacked against them. And imagine if Tyler Glasnow didn’t get hurt, and they had gotten what they expected from Blake Snell and Jose Alvarado?
  • After five years, Joe Maddon is out in Chicago. Savior to scapegoat. The Cubs didn’t renew the contract of the manager who had five winning seasons, four post-season appearances and one memorable World Series win that ended a 108-year drought. It was the most successful stretch in franchise history. In effect, Maddon was a victim of his own, history-making, early success. When you win a World Series in your second year and miss the playoffs in your fifth, it comes down to a familiar, however unfair, bottom-line: What have you done for us lately? Frankly, all Theo Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, had to do was look in the mirror at the guy who overspent on underperforming free agents.

Quoteworthy

  • “All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidize Iran’s bloodlust.”—President Donald Trump at the United Nations.
  • “He’s got some sort of hold on the British psyche.”—Sonia Purnell, author of “Just Boris: A Tale of Blond Ambition.”
  • “What we’ve seen so far is not the kind of climate leadership we need from the major economies.”—World Resources Institute Vice President Helen Mountford.
  • “The easy-to-dodge days for Senate Republicans are coming to an end. … The Democratic House must impeach the president and force the question on the Senate; yea or nay on Donald Trump.”—Mike Murphy, Republican consultant and co-director of the University of Southern California’s Center for the Political Future.
  • “A president telling a president-elect of a well-known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects the US is doing his job.”—Rudy Giuliani.
  • “I think the whistleblower did the right thing.”—Acting Director of National Security Joseph Maguire.
  • “I would like for you to do us a favor.”—Outtake from Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
  • “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme.”—Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee.
  • “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
  • “(Pelosi’s) efforts to restrain her far-left conference have finally crumbled.”—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • “Impeachment will doubtless roil the Democratic primary race in unpredictable ways. The most bellicose candidates may profit as the impeachment wars grow more vitriolic. The moderates may be further marginalized.”—David Brooks, New York Times.
  • “It turns on a basic question. Is it legal for the president of the United States to ask a foreign country to intervene in our election to help him and investigate his potential opponent? And I think it is clearly illegal.”—Larry Noble, former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission.
  • “To impeach any president over a phone call like this would be insane.”—South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
  • “This is Joe Biden’s scandal, and the Democrats are trying to use it to steal the (2020) election.”—Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
  • “Sadly, we’ve known who Donald Trump is for some time. … And now we know that in the course of his duties as president, he’s endangered us all by putting his personal and political interests ahead of the interests of the American people. (He has) turned American diplomacy into a cheap extortion racket.”—Hillary Clinton.
  • “What is immediately striking is that no one who has spoken in defense of the president, including his spokesmen, has said these words: ‘Donald Trump would never do that!’”—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.
  • “What (Trump) learned is you can get away with just about anything if you’re willing to gamble and you have zero shame.”—Trump family biographer Gwenda Blair.
  • “Democrats are on a mission to impeach @POTUS. It’s their entire legislative agenda. They lost the 2016 election and can’t get over it.”—Sen. Rick Scott.
  • “Trump doesn’t need facts to mount a smear campaign. (Did Roy Cohn?) Trump concocts phony conspiracies and misleading narratives all the time. (Remember birtherism?)—David Corn, Mother Jones.
  • “The current burdens on the U.S. immigration system must be alleviated before it is again possible to resettle large numbers of refugees.”—State Department statement announcing that the Trump Administration plans to slash the number of refugees the U.S. will accept to 18,000 in 2020. Last year’s total was 30,000. The cap was 110,000 in President Obama’s last year.
  • “If (Trump) follows through on his tariff threats later this year, then in all likelihood, trade will slow, and we would wind up in a recession next year.”—Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
  • “Policymakers must stand up to Juul and protect our kids by banning flavored e-cigarettes.”—Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
  • “People don’t realize that they’re playing Russian Roulette every time they ingest powder off the street.”—Paul Carey, narcotics division commander for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, on the opioid crisis and the availability of cheap and easily manipulated fentanyl.
  • “I was honored to be a part of President Trump’s successful 2016 campaign, and I remain fully committed to the President’s re-election to a second term.”—Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political chairwoman Susan Wiles.
  • “I’m glad that our community won’t be part of the president’s inhumane child detention policy, and I will keep fighting to ensure that all children are treated with kindness and care.”—Congressman Val Demings, D-Orlando, on news that Central Florida is no longer being considered as a site to house migrant children.
  • “I once again implore Mayor (Rick) Kriseman to quit kicking the can down the road, show some leadership and reach an agreement with the Rays to allow them to explore other possibilities.”—Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, urging St. Petersburg to reopen the Rays’ right to look at Hillsborough County.
  • “Social media is not the place to go criticize your fellow county commissioners.”—Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller.   

Post-Bolton Reality

  • Among the many not lamenting the departure of former National Security Adviser John Bolton is North Korea. Its envoy to nuclear talks with the U.S., Kim Myong-gil, has characterized the ouster of Bolton as a welcome and “wise political decision.” That downright diplomatic language had been absent when it came to the hardline Bolton. Recall that North Korea, which had blamed Bolton and hawkish aides for the nuclear stalemate, had turned up the anti-Bolton, anti-diplomatic rhetoric with references such as “war maniac” and “human scum.” Now the onus is on both sides to finally cut a meaningful denuclearization deal sans scapegoat.
  • New National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien is the author of “While America Slept,” billed as a “wake-up call to the American people.” In it he warned that the world had become more dangerous “under President Obama’s lead-from-behind foreign policy.” And now he’s signed on to the administration of the one who alienates and insults allies and unilaterally misleads from behind Twitter.
  • When it comes to those who testify before Congressional Committees, there are all-too-familiar optics. From preening, agenda-driven committee members to reluctant witnesses. As for the latter, some are terse. Or curt. Or obstinate. Or flat-out combative. And then there’s the contemptible Corey Lewandowski, who recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee on what role he might have played in helping the president curtail the scope of the Russian investigation. Lewandowski is a self-serving, infuriating punk who’s obviously still doing the bidding of Donald Trump—while using the hearing forum to promote that allegiance in a way that could help him politically. Oliver North never seemed so cooperative and pleasant.  
  • Beautiful.”—President Donald Trump’s tweeted reaction to Lewandowski’s opening statement.
  • “He’s filibustering. This is a coverup plain and simple.”—House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s take on Lewandowski’s testimony.
  • We know that there hasn’t been anybody like Trump as president before. Andrew Johnson never seemed so presidential. But there have been periodic foreshadowings, including the Nixon-Agnew take on the media and impeachment scenarios. Here’s another. Before there was Trump’s “basket-of-deplorables” base—as defined by Hillary Clinton in 2016–there was this high-profile incident during the Democratic primary of 2008. It came courtesy of HuffPo putting online audio of Barack Obama speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco. Obama referenced those in Midwestern small towns and rural Pennsylvania where a changing world had claimed traditional jobs. As a result, many white residents felt frustrated and embittered. They blamed government, turned to religion, reveled in their firearms and sought scapegoats.

“So, it’s not surprising then that (people there) get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” said Obama. The “bitter-cling” comments, ironically, were like news-cycle manna for the struggling Clinton campaign. “Americans need a president that will stand up for them,” responded Clinton playing the anti-elitist card. “Not a president that looks down on them.” Yes, that was then.

  • These are America’s biggest challenges: avoiding worst-case showdowns with Iran, North Korea and China; being part of the solution to the climate change threat; and protecting America’s democracy from Russian interference. Could there be a worse time for an ultra-impulsive, unprepared, arrogant, narcissistic commander-in-chief surrounded by career-first sycophants and opportunists? There’s a reason why “Seven Days in May” and “Dr. Strangelove” remain in the conversation.
  • Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve Fail Again. No ‘guts,’ no sense, no vision. A terrible communicator.”—Yes, that was the ‘communicator’-in-chief.  
  • “Is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader?” That was the president’s vintage Trumpian response—as well as a rhetorical question–to an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint about a “promise” allegedly made by Trump to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • TrumpWorld opportunist update: Sean Spicer just made his debut on “Dancing With the Stars.” His take: “Frankly, I’m just making money, trying to enjoy life.” How candid. Too bad he couldn’t be that honest when he was Trump’s sycophantic, tap-dancing spokesman.
  • Trump’s British counterpart, to the degree that’s possible, is Boris Johnson—or BoJo—as he’s known in the UK. And he’s no more popular with traditional western European allies than Trump is. They view Johnson as the villain of the Brexit campaign, and they still miss the early Tony Blair, who could woo the French, for example, in their own language. And the Europeans, ironically, also remember when Johnson was a journalist in the 1990s, spinning highly exaggerated stories about the EU that helped pioneer the outraged Eurosceptic style in the British press. 
  • Linda Ronstadt, the 10-time Grammy winner whose career was ended by Parkinson’s disease, will be honored in December at the Kennedy Center in Washington. She said she will be there to accept the honor—if Trump doesn’t attend. “I don’t think anybody would show up” if he were going, she underscored.
  • Donald Trump: “I think I’m going to get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things, if they gave it out fairly, which they don’t.” Whatever.

Dem Notes

  • All indications, including recent Iowa polling, indicate Elizabeth Warren is notably ascendant among primary candidates. Now she has earned the endorsement of the labor-aligned Working Families Party. In 2016, the WFP endorsed Bernie Sanders.    
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Bill de Blasio: “It’s clearly not my time.” Clearly.
  • Dems have to be careful about overthinking the “electability” approach to the nomination. “Too moderate,” “too progressive,” “too idealistic,” “too old,” “too frenetic,” “too young and gay,” “too much baggage” are not the disqualifiers of another era. That’s because the opponent is Donald Trump, an unhinged con man who morphed from “The Apprentice” to the president, and all bets are off in this deplorably “new normal.”
  • “Joe Biden’s record of getting things done speaks for itself. He has always put the American people above party lines and will continue to as president.” That was Congressman Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, who has endorsed Biden.

Gunning For Rationales

  • So, Colt has suspended its production of rifles, including AR-15s, for the civilian market.  Would that public safety were its overriding motivation. Actually, it’s a pragmatic business decision, because the market is now, alas, saturated with similar weapons.
  • When it comes to gun laws and addressing mass shootings, the Florida Legislature’s rallying cry is still “Incrementalism to the Rescue.” How stupid and spineless. When common sense and public safety cry out for assault weapons bans, non-loophole background checks and more, we get Tallahassee talk about the benefit of a threat-assessment alert system. It doubles down on “See something, say something.” It can help, but not nearly enough if we still allow assault weapons and too many gun sales to bypass serious background checks. Thanks for nothing, Rick Swearingen, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who gave his threat-assessment alert blessing without pushing for more meaningful measures. BTW, “See something, say something” needs updating. How about “See something, say something, actually do something”?
  • President Trump’s MO when it comes to guns is to furrow his brow, feign empathy, offer thoughts and prayers and call for reforms after the latest mass shooting. Then the reality of his white-nationalist, gun-enamored base and Republican fealty to the NRA kicks in and nothing legislatively meaningful happens. Again. And now Beto O’Rourke has been targeted, as only Trump can target, as a scapegoat. “Dummo Beto made it much harder to make a deal,” explained Trump. A lot of people think this is just a way of taking away guns.”

Media Matters

  • The Wall Street Journal was the first media outlet to report that President Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included the president pressing Zelensky for dirt on Joe Biden via his son Hunter. WSJ is not typically characterized by this president as a “witch-hunting,” “fake-news,” “lame-stream” “enemy of the people.”
  • The spring and, especially, summer are not known as prime cinema months. However, this year we’ve seen a spate of music-centric movies that remind us that, indeed, there is more out there than just “Marvel” and video-game movies as well as sequels of sequels. I didn’t see them all, but I can vouch for “Yesterday,” “Rocket Man,” “Echo in the Valley” and “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.” No, you don’t need to be of a certain generation to enjoy the music and appreciate the back stories—but, yes, it helps.
  • “The individual interview with someone who is a mom in a shopping mall can tell you more about what’s going on in the world and how people feel about it than any of those grand (big-stage) things.” Those were the words of the late Cokie Roberts, TV news pioneer, that told you volumes about her perspective and priorities.
  • No, it’s not just former Trump Administration officials who have books out, but also notorious national security leaker Edward Snowden, who just published his memoir, “Permanent Record.” But no reports of book tours or signings from Russia. And, no, Snowden didn’t abide by the non-disclosure agreement he had signed as a condition of receiving access to classified information.

Sports Shorts

  • Not that college football needs any more bowl games, but in 2020 three more will be added to bring the total to 43. That’s how you get matchups that include teams without winning records. One of the three new ones will be the “Fenway Bowl” in Boston. It will pit teams from the ACC and the AAC. Maybe this is how FSU and USF will next meet.    
  • Still seems weird to watch an FSU game, including last Saturday’s win over Louisville, with about half of the Doak Campbell Stadium seats empty.

Quoteworthy

  • “Our fraying world needs international cooperation more than ever, but simply saying it will not make it happen. Let’s face it: We have no time to lose.”—UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
  • “I am making a very serious statement that we don’t want to engage in a military confrontation. But we won’t blink to defend our territory.”—Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
  • “You know, (Trump) drives me crazy. But it is fascinating to watch.”—Former British Prime Minister David Cameron.
  • “Darkening your face, regardless of the context of the circumstances, is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface.”—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • “In fact, my views on Venezuela, and especially Cuba, were far stronger than those of John Bolton. He was holding me back.”—President Donald Trump.
  • “Why doesn’t the president simply release the transcript of the (Ukrainian) call?”—House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
  • “They are going to bring back anybody, as much as they have to, to find something, anything to keep impeachment alive.”—Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas.
  • “Liberal democracy has historically required at least two competing parties committed to playing the democratic game, including one that typically represents conservative interests. But the commitment of America’s conservative party to this system is wavering, threatening our political system as a whole. Until Republicans learn to compete fairly in a diverse society, our democratic institutions will be imperiled.”—Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, co-authors of “How Democracies Die.”
  • “The Federal Reserve’s policy decisions are guided solely by its congressional mandate to maintain price stability and maximum employment. Political considerations play absolutely no role.”—Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith.
  • “Instead of uniting and binding us together, digital has atomized, fragmented and enervated us.”—John Daniel Davidson, the Federalist.
  • “(Black) pain cannot be healed by payments to their descendants any more than dead slave owners can be punished by taxes on their progeny.”—Mona Charen, the National Review.
  • “Florida isn’t ready to be campaigned for yet. But it’s a very rich donor state. Florida has a lot of money to be tapped into.”—Attorney John Morgan, who has raised money for Joe Biden.
  • “This bill will be a huge boost to our state’s economy.”—Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with Sen. Rick Scott, recently introduced the Canadian Snowbirds Act. This would allow Canadian citizens to spend up to eight months in Florida as long as they are older than 50 and own or rent a residence here.
  • “This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here.”—State Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, in response to learning that Florida does not keep track of how many teachers have chosen to carry guns in classrooms.
  • “This jobs report reaffirms that the state’s labor market is in good shape.”—UCF economist Sean Snaith, on statistics showing an additional 22,500 people were employed in August compared to July. The unemployment rate remains near an historic low of 3.3 per cent.
  • “It’s time for conservatives to lead on energy policy, offer solutions that encourage innovation, stimulate economic development and enhance the growth of clean energy sources. … Energy should no longer be treated as a partisan issue.”—Kendall Kelley, State Director of Conservatives for Clean Energy.
  • “Tampa’s 2020 fiscal year budget is the first to start in the black since the beginning of the Great Recession. Thanks to the foresight of prior city leaders, we ended (fiscal year) 2019 with both a surplus and a great credit rating.”—Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
  • “One of the most important things in 21st Century modern law enforcement is to have public trust, and to build public trust you need to have relationships. So, this goes a long way toward building those relationships.”—Elias Vazquez, TPD assistant chief, on Tampa receiving a Department of Justice grant to expand the use of body cameras for police officers.
  • “I’ve gone to Church, I’ve prayed. My prayers aren’t working.”—Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, on why he called on his fellow Clearwater City Council members to ask Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, embrace universal background checks and pass a national red flag law.
  • “The city of Tampa has one of the largest tree canopies in the world, and arborists and developers should not take that for granted.”—Mayor Jane Castor.

Trumpster Diving

  • National Security Adviser John Bolton is out. The self-termed “Americanist” and globalism cynic was Trump’s inner circle skeptic—from objecting to the chatting up of Kim Jong-un to the inviting of the Taliban to Camp David.  Mainly it’s the usual hard-line, regime-change hawks who are upset. Unless, of course, it’s those insiders who fear that this frees up Trump, a narcissistic, instinctive isolationist, to advise himself. Or maybe those who discern that having four NSAs in less than three years can’t possibly be a positive. And there are those who wondered why the hell Trump hired him in the first place; his warmongering views were as much a public record as his pornstache. But there are those who think the National Security Council must surely be less dysfunctional now. Surely. As for Bolton, his book may be out before Sarah Huckabee Sanders’.
  • It’s no secret that President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a synergistic political bromance going. But Netanyahu won’t be kissing up to Trump for dumping John Bolton, a strong, anti-Iran ally.
  • “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, (Fed Chair) Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” Yes, that was the president, and, no, you can’t make this up.
  • Intemperate, narcissistic, unilateral decisions have consequences. To wit: Trump pulling out of the imperfect, multi-nation Iran-nuclear deal was perfectly counterproductive. The Iranian economy was devastated by accompanying sanctions, and the Iranians have been trying to find responsive leverage. Imperiling oil supplies via its Houthi rebel surrogates is obviously a strategic response.

That’s what was behind the drone attack by Yemeni Houthis on Saudi Arabian oil sites, including the world’s largest oil processing facility. The impact is global. America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves are back in the news cycle. It’s what happens when a “master negotiator” unilaterally pulls out of a deal that has made matters worse. It’s what happens when the negotiator is playing solitaire—not poker.

  • Speaking of deals, it’s hard to imagine China agreeing to anything significant right now on trade. The incoherence that passes for Trump Administration policy is one disincentive; the other is that any deal would be awash in re-election—not reciprocity—priorities. And if a deal were cut, why would the Chinese trust him to honor it past Election Day?
  • No, we’ve never seen a president this dangerously and embarrassingly incompetent. But while Trump’s media-demonizing “enemy of the people” rhetoric and “fake news” rationales are authoritarian boxes checked, there is precedent for anti-media bias and targeting emanating from a presidential Administration. Recall the Nixon version. And his vice president, Spiro Agnew, was no better. In fact, Agnew once suggested that certain members of the news media—commentators on television, specifically—be scrutinized by “government personnel” to discover what “types” they were and to determine whether they should be holding the jobs they were in. Yes, we dodged that bullet, but this low-caliber president, who would dearly love to manipulate the news like he did with New York tabloids back in the day, still hasn’t been dodged yet.
  • “Throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.” That was vintage Donald Trump, of course. The obviously begged question: What would this Trump White House, like, look like if its occupant were, like, not stable and smart?
  • “Certainly wide but perhaps much thinner and much more fragile than people realize.” That was the Trump-popularity take of Mark Sanford, the fiscal hawk and former GOP congressman and governor from South Carolina, who plans to challenge the incumbent with a primary bid.
  • As we’ve been seeing—from Washington to Ireland–the emoluments clause as it pertains to Trump-brand properties won’t go away. Alas, the emoluments clause doesn’t deal directly with that other Trump-brand issue. America has now been rebranded as arrogant, unilateral and unreliable.
  • While southern border issues—from humanitarian to security to Wall-funding–remain volatile constants in the news cycle, attention should not be diverted from the need for an enlightened self-interest “Marshall Plan” for Central America. It would be an “investment” for America to prevent, most notably, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador from morphing into failed, refugee-producing states. Honduras, the “murder capital of the world,” is virtually there. Speaking of, finally appointing an ambassador to Honduras would help—literally and symbolically.