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.

Dem Notes

  • At the recent Democratic debate in Houston, Julian (“Areyou forgetting what you saidtwo minutes ago?”) Castro picked up where Kamala Harris left off in the first debate with a pre-planned skewering of Biden. The self-serving cheap shot was a snarky ageism insult—one that had to please Fox and the Trump base. It may have done in his long-shot candidacy and pleased certain South Floridians who cringed at the very thought of an American “President Castro.” No surprise that the Castro “spin room” was later referenced as a “field hospital.”
  • “Houston, we have a problem.”—That was Amy Klobuchar’s all-too-apt, opening line.
  • Thrust-and-parry health care exchanges were not in short supply. Castro: “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not.” Biden: “That’ll be a surprise to him.”
  • Biden: “I know that the senator (Elizabeth Warren) says she’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack. I think Obamacare worked.”
  • Warren: “We all owe a huge debt to President Obama who fundamentally transformed healthcare in America. Now the question is how best to improve it.”
  • Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren looked good and likely enhanced their appeal. Beto O’Rourke spoke well, especially on guns. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.” His El Paso hometown was more than enough context. When it comes to confiscation, O’Rourke makes sense by actually using the “C” word.  

But this was more than a calculated soundbite. This was the truth. Nobody’s coming after the Second Amendment, per se, but to not come after assault weapons would be shameful, negligent and, frankly, un-American. Unless, of course, perversely prescient Founding Fathers actually envisioned weapons of mass murder being available to ordinary citizens.

  • “(Although) he didn’t pull the trigger, he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.” That was Kamala Harris on Trump’s role in the El Paso mass shooting.
  • Protestors loudly and rudely interrupted Biden as he began his closing remarks, which addressed the candidates’ most significant personal setback. You knew where Biden was going with his tragic back story. Then the loud, clamorous protests. It wasn’t fair to the candidates, especially Biden, but it also wasn’t fair to the protestors’ DACA cause.
  • “THIS IS F**KED UP.” That’s what some Beto O’Rourke campaign T-shirts say. Not good to respond—even in frustration over continued mass shootings–in kind. In short, don’t sound worse than those you’re criticizing.

Gun Violence Crisis

Not that it much matters to Donald Trump and his Senate sycophant Mitch McConnell, but the heads of some 150 companies signed a national letter urging the Senate to act meaningfully to curb gun violence. From Airbnb, Conde Nast and Levi Strauss to Royal Caribbean Cruises, Twitter and Yelp. Also, interestingly enough, among the signees: Bain Capital and Thrive Capital. The former was co-founded by Mitt Romney, the latter was founded by Joshua Kushner, brother of the president’s son-in-law. In short, there’s serious societal pushback on a government that only does the politically acceptable minimum to combat mass murder. It complements what the consensus of polls now tells us: The majority of Americans support banning assault weapons.

But there were prominent no-shows on the national letter, including Apple, Bank of America, Citigroup, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. Google’s rationale was deplorably summed up in a policy statement that said, in part: “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.” America is in crisis, and that’s Google’s overriding priority?

That has to change (in a country with 10 million AR-15s), because when the business community goes all in on something, something gets done. It has that much leverage, including political contributions. But when there are still impactful corporate giants on the sidelines, that leverage is undercut. When DICK’S Sporting Goods has more of a social conscience than Facebook, America is in crisis.

It’s all enough to prompt nostalgia for the 1994 assault weapons ban—part of an overall crime bill–that expired after a decade. But it’s sure in hell not enough to prompt action in this NRA- and-Trump-neutered Congress. It’s nothing like ’94 when a key ban proponent was Republican Rep. John Kasich of Ohio. Today, neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nor Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have said anything encouraging about prospects for reviving the ban. Not even California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who sponsored that ’94 ban, holds out much hope. “We don’t have the votes to pass it,” she bluntly assessed.

Sports Shorts

  • The U.S. flamed out early in the (basketball) FIBA World Cup in China that was won by Spain. Yes, it’s startling and humbling, even if marquee NBA players opted out. It’s still BASKETBALL, and the USA–we would have thought–should have been able to beat Serbia with John Calipari’s next one-and-done Kentucky class. The “upside”: no awkward announcements or optics over a White House invitation had the U.S. won gold again.
  • Too bad MLB, unlike its basketball, football and hockey counterparts, doesn’t have a salary cap. It creates a double standard, even with a luxury tax. This year’s payroll rankings: Boston Red Sox ($228 million); NY Yankees ($225 million); Chicago Cubs ($217 million); and Los Angeles Dodgers ($201 million) are the top four. Number 30—and last: the Tampa Bay Rays ($66 million). That the Rays are post-season contenders—despite poor attendance, Montreal distractions and some blindsiding injuries–speaks volumes about their front office and manager Kevin Cash.

Quoteworthy

  • “Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on the drone attacks by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabian oil sites.
  • “My advice to the Administration is, let’s focus on trying to shore up our relationship with Pakistan.”—Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
  • “I’m just thankful we got through Bolton’s tenure without him starting a war.”—Max Bergmann, Center for American Progress senior fellow.
  • “John (Bolton) wasn’t in line with what we were doing.”—President Donald Trump.
  • “Pompeo played the game of Trump whisperer better than Bolton.”—CNN global affairs analyst Aaron David Miller.
  • “(Trump) supporters care far more about the persona than the policy.”—Brendan Buck, one-time spokesman for former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
  • “Trump is not a valiant defender of the West and protector of our allies. He’s a dangerous and corrupt patsy in the hands of strongmen.”—Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.
  • “While Mr. Trump’s thermonuclear politics may rally both his base and Democrats who slumbered in 2016, it is the paralyzing disorder and anxiety his bilious behavior creates that is a distressing turnoff to voters at the margins who will make the difference. To win, the Democrats will have to turn Mr. Trump’s negative energy against him without embodying it themselves.”—David Axelrod, former senior strategist for Barack Obama.
  • “Confrontation, which has become the Democrats’ de facto political operating system on the Hill and in the presidential primaries, excites their increasingly doctrinaire base; but it turns off independents.”—David Winston, CQ-Roll Call.
  • “I know people on the Second Amendment side go nuts when you say this, but what is the purpose of an assault weapon?”—New York Republican Rep. Peter T. King.
  • “The United States has shown the world that it is capable of putting someone like Trump in office, and that can’t be undone. He’s left the whole country compromised.”—Michelle Goldberg, New York Times.
  • “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.”—The late author, essayist, poet and humorist E.B. White.
  • “The message of this report is either we delay and pay or we plan and prosper.”—Christiana Figueres, former UN climate change official and a member of the Global Commission on Adaptation that has issued a report arguing for drastic increases in adaptation measures such as early-warning systems and resilient infrastructure.
  • “I pray there are no schisms. But I’m not scared.”—Pope Francis, referring to some alienated conservatives within the Catholic Church.
  • “We simply have to remove these attractive (non-tobacco) flavored (vaping) products from the marketplace until they secure FDA approval.”—HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
  • “When your technology changes the world, you bear a responsibility to help address the world that you have helped create. (Governments) need to move faster and start to catch up with the pace of technology.”—Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.
  • “Like all other films we’d done, it’s an opportunity to understand who we are.”—Filmmaker Ken Burns, on his latest documentary project, the 8-part PBS miniseries “Country Music.”
  • “I want to be the last father who could say, ‘I didn’t know what was going on in the schools.’”—Andrew Pollock, the father of a student killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. and the author of “Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created the Parkland Shooter and Endangered America’s Students.”
  • “Even where I’m from, which is a very conservative area, they want this offshore drilling ban—even though they follow Trump significantly.”—Congressman Francis Rooney, R-Naples, who sponsored legislation, which was passed by the House, to permanently ban offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast.
  • “Publix respectfully requests that only law enforcement officials openly carry firearms in our stores.”—Publix spokesman Brian West.
  • “There was once a perception that we could not grow international here in this airport. There’s pent-up demand in this market.”—TIA CEO Joe Lopano.
  • “Our needs are more urgent than ever. We are out of space completely on the research side … On the hospital side, we have the same number of beds we did 12 years ago. We’re nearly always full or near capacity.”—Dr. Alan List, CEO and president of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institution, who’s making a pitch for more state funding.
  • “We are on a journey here. We are making fantastic progress, but we still have some milestones coming up.”—USF President Steve Currall, referring to the upcoming implementation of recently unveiled campus-consolidation plans.

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.