Trumpster Diving

* According to Donald Trump, attorney Michael Cohen is “weak, very weak.” In addition, Cohen’s also “not very smart.” Moreover, Cohen “makes up stories.” It’s beyond incredulous how this media-savvy businessman tolerated a weak, less-than-intelligent, lying personal lawyer/fixer for 12 years.

* “I have a no-conflict-of-interest provision as president. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away.”–That was Donald Trump in January 2017. Stay tuned.

* Trump canceled plans to formally meet face to face with Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires. It was pushback over that clash between Russian and Ukrainian ships. Anyone other than Sarah Huckabee Sanders believe that was the real reason? And not the fact that Michael Cohen and the Russian back story were breaking news at home?

* The Artifice-of-the-Deal update. Looks like there is a pause–or “truce”–in the market-roiling tariff war with China, although key specifics are notably still missing. Sounds not unlike the “denuclearization” deal “negotiated” with North Korea that only lacks a mutually acceptable, written definition of “denuclearization.”

Tampa Bay TidBits

* Good luck to the University of South Florida in its presidential search to replace Judy Genshaft, who has been a fixture at USF for 18 years. The challenge is obvious for a major, urban, research-oriented university in 21st century America.

USF needs somebody well suited to be a major regional leader. Someone who’s comfortable being a high-profile part of regional economic synergy–from surrounding counties to Water Street Tampa. Somebody who knows that a university president’s responsibilities transcend campus and departmental priorities. But they also need somebody with serious academic cred, not a glib, political operative.  As noted, good luck.

* There’s been some speculation about how a change in congressional representation could impact defense spending for Florida–and the Tampa Bay area. It’s a reminder of the sheer level of spending involved. It’s about $80 billion annually, including more than $17 billion a year in the Tampa Bay region. Defense spending is critically important to our economy, and a number of elected officials deserve credit for bringing in important, impactful pet projects. Just don’t mention the military industrial complex.

Trump Base Cannot Carry An Election

Repudiate Or Validate

We’re now well within a hopeful-but-still-fearful fortnight of the mid-term elections–and the illumination of a stark reality. Either the Trump-cult phenomenon was an embarrassingly ugly, worrisome, American anomaly or that we’ve inexplicably doubled down on the United States of Autocracy.

We’ve never really played zero-sum politics to this existential degree.

But there is always this. The Trump base is still a minority, however stuffed that deplorables-basket looks.

Because of its arrogant, unhinged leader with his literal bully-pulpit and Fox News bullhorn,  Trumpism has a high-decibel image and outsized impact. But the reality is that demographically diverse Democrats–from moderates to Bernie Sanders acolytes–to independents to old-school Republicans control our destiny.

The words of 18th century Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke still resonate. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

That hasn’t changed, even as the definition and context of evil evolves.

We’ve also experienced first-hand two years of chaos and anxiety that are grim reminders of where we are as an alarmingly polarized society. It’s what can happen with the Oval Office equivalent of the Rev. Jim Jones devolving the presidency with nativist dog whistles, media demonization and international free-lancing that alienates allies and appeases authoritarians.

As a result, the words of 20th century Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana should also resonate. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

But Burke and Santayana notwithstanding, there is this self-evident reality that doesn’t require a quote for the ages. If everybody just votes as if THEIR lives in THIS country depended on it, then this national nightmare will begin its ultimate decline.

Even though he’s not formally on any ticket, Donald Trump is a full, frontal 2018 election presence. That includes the scary reality that Trump’s fidelity to meaningful democracy is nil. These midterms come down to a reality that would fit on a bumper sticker: “Repudiate or Validate.” That’s how every ballot should be interpreted. Don’t give any of his sell-out surrogates–from governors, senators and representatives to state legislators–the rationale and wherewithal to prolong this nightmare.

Sports Shorts

* For those of us following the NBC coverage of the Lightning-Bruins series, it was quite apparent that network analyst Jeremy Roenick and Bolts commentator Bobby Taylor saw a lot of the action from different perspectives. “The Chief” has been with Tampa Bay for decades; it shows. Roenick is a native of Boston; it showed.

* I watched as the Rays Mallex Smith, better known for his speed than his base-running savvy, ran himself into a big out last Sunday with his embarrassingly unsuccessful attempt at stealing home against Toronto. The Rays batter, C.J. Kron, looked, well, incredulous.

It reminded me of one of my worst memories growing up as a Philadelphia Phillies fan–as well as one of the all-time sports quotes that never got national notoriety. The setting: a late September game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium in Philly in 1964. The Phillies had a 6 1/2 game National League lead with 12 games to play. The World Series loomed. The Phillies, however, would lose 10 in a row, and the St. Louis Cardinals would win the pennant. The first of those 10 defeats was a 1-0 loss to the Reds.

It came when Cincinnati journeyman Chico Ruiz stole home. The batter was Frank Robinson. THE Frank Robinson. Ruiz–obviously–did it on his own. After the game, Reds manager Dick Sisler was asked about Ruiz’s daring move with a future Hall of Famer at the plate. “Suppose he had been out?” asked a reporter. “He’d still be running,” replied Sisler. Still a classic.

Lochte’s Gold Medal Tarnish

How ironic.

It was barely a week ago that many of us were appreciating the political-campaign respite that the Olympics were affording: ample servings of patriotism, pride and vicarious victories. The opportunity to play down the pandering and mudslinging and cynical maneuvering for a fortnight.

Enter Ryan Lochte and friends.

It was stupid on steroids unconscionably compounded by classlessness.

Lochte, 32, is a University of Florida grad from the Daytona Beach area. He is second only to Michael Phelps as a bedecked gold-medal winner in swimming. He’s made it by cashing in. He dates a Playboy Playmate and has been collecting seven-figure endorsement checks from Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren, Airweave (mattresses) and Syneron Candela (hair removal). At least he used to.

He’s now utterly damaged goods, as we’ve already seen. The too-little, too-late interview with Matt Lauer won’t help. He did something dumb, lied about it, left his buddies and fled before he could be questioned. Common sense and a social conscience, let alone PR 101, would have told him what to do within 24 hours. Tiger Woods now looks classy by comparison.

You tell the embarrassing–bachelor-party mortification meets frat-boy drunken details–and get it all out of the way (it’s indelicately called the “big dump” in consultant-speak) right away. You don’t let details drip out and dominate multiple news cycles.

Then you “apologize.” None of this Trumpian “regret” stuff (because you looked bad), but an in-person, credible mea culpa to all those adversely impacted. You actually use the word “apologize” and you start with your country, the host country, the host city, the International Olympic Committee and the Olympics, per se, including all participants. And you sound like you mean it, not like you’re reading a hostage statement.

You acknowledge the unique forum that is the Olympics and how your behavior unfairly drew attention from all the competitors enjoying their special moment. You ask for forgiveness and volunteer to work with Special Olympic swimmers in Rio.

You do the right thing. For your country, for the host country, for the host city, for the IOC, for fellow Olympians, for your buddies who used to look up to you–and for yourself. In that order.

Sports Shorts

* Whatever happens next for the Lightning, it has already gone beyond its fellow conference finalists from last year. The Chicago Black Hawks, the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers were eliminated early on. Go, Bolts.

* Maybe Steven Stamkos has played his last game in a Bolts’ uniform–but Nikita Kucherov, 22, hasn’t. He’s a goal-scoring, franchise player in the making who will only get better.

* Not that USF has to be reminded, but nothing would help its case for inclusion in Big 12 expansion scenarios more than a consistently winning, big-crowd drawing football program. Softball, tennis, and women’s basketball are points of Bulls’ pride and achievement, but it’s football success and TV market size that matter most.

Water Taxi Debut

As TBX and Go Hillsborough dominate headlines and polarize residents–while an unacceptable transit status quo continues–something positive on the transportation front is actually happening.

Troy Manthey–of Yacht Starship Dining Cruises fame–will soon expand into the water taxi business. As in regularly scheduled, daily service–with stops along the Riverwalk, in the Channel District and on Davis Islands. Starting next week.

It’s a reminder that Manthey is responding to a marketplace, one that has been evolving into viability. With Tampa’s increasing visitor base and commuting Vinikville doctors part of downtown’s new-urbanism future, Manthey sees an opportunity. One that doesn’t require a tax, and one, mercifully, that doesn’t involve non-Tampa, county voters.

Scott “Epitomizes” MLK Values And Vision

By its nature, MLK Day lends itself to soaring rhetoric. Almost anything goes. Almost.

However, what won’t fly–much less soar–were the MLK Day-themed comments of Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. They had that quizzical “did she say what I think she said?” quality.

“I can’t think of anybody currently in my life right now that more epitomizes the values and the vision of Dr. King than Gov. Rick Scott” is what she said. Honest. Who knew that MLK had a parallel-universe dream of an America that would one day welcome attractive house negroes running for high office to balance a ticket topped by an election-buying right winger?

Perhaps “Birth of a Nation” is her favorite movie too.