* “Israel is one of the few developed countries where opinion about the United States has improved since Mr. Trump took office. … American Jews, in contrast, see President Trump as their existential threat, a leader who they believe has stoked nationalist bigotry, stirred anti-Semitism and failed to renounce the violent hatred swirling around his political movement.”–Jonathan Weisman, author of “Semitism: Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.”

* “If they agree to hold a second North Korea-U.S. summit in a not-too-distant future, we can see this as a rather optimistic sign that both sides have narrowed their differences on this (denuclearization) issue.”–South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

* “Because we’re a great nation, our challenges seem complex. It will always be this way. But as long as we remember our first principles and believe in ourselves, the future will be ours.”–President Ronald Reagan.

* “We have got to find a middle ground between trying to transform the Middle East and increasingly walking away from the Middle East. We want to wash our hands of it, but history suggests that the Middle East won’t let us.”–Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

* “America is a force for good in the Middle East. Period.”–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

* “A wall, in my view, is an immorality. It’s the least effective way to protect the border and the most costly.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “Governing by shutdown is ignorant, cowardly and destructive.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do.”–President Donald Trump.

* “It is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous. … it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”–Former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbot, on Trump’s success in concealing details of his one-on-one meetings with Vladimir Putin.

* “I never worked for Russia.”–Donald Trump.

* “Donald Trump is going to be impeached whether it is by the ballot box or Congress. It will just be a matter of which one comes first.”–U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Intelligence Committee.

* “You can’t impeach somebody who is doing a great job.”–President Donald Trump.

* “In an era of tribal emotionalism, you’re always going to be able to make a splash reducing a complex problem to a simple narrative that separates the world into the virtuous us, and the evil them.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “Whatever happens in 2019, (Trump’s) false version of reality will not survive history, just as Nixon’s did not. Which side of that history do today’s Republicans want to be on?”–David Leonardt, New York Times.

* “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”–Frederick Douglass.

* “My firing of James B. Comey was a great day for America. He was a Crooked Cop.”–Donald Trump.

* “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”–Former FBI Director James Comey.

* “I don’t understand this guy. I really don’t. (Trump will) get his comeuppance; it’s just a matter of time.”–Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

* “If you look at the last century, the people who did the most, in many ways, to advance progressive politics in the country–F.D.R. and the Kennedys–all came from great wealth.”–Longtime Democratic adviser Bob Shrum, giving Democratic context to an era of populist backlash against the wealthy. Ironically, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, both billionaires, have shown interest in a Democratic presidential run.

* “We have a singular focus over the next two years. And that’s getting our president re-elected.”–State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, the recently elected chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

* “This is different than when Scott first got in. DeSantis is more prepared to hit the ground running.”–David Custin, Miami-based, cross-partisan political strategist and lobbyist.

* “I fully expect the (Rays) to hold the (Tropicana Field) site hostage as long as possible. Why wouldn’t they? It’s their biggest negotiating chip.”–St. Petersburg State Sen. Jeff Brandes.

* “These two downtowns were meant to connect together.”–HMS Ferry president Matt Miller, in announcing that ridership for the first two months of the Cross-Bay Ferry was up nearly 35 percent compared to the ferry’s inaugural season.

* “If it takes six months to determine whether or not this charter amendment meets the letter of the law, to me, that’s well worth it and time well spent.”–Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White, on the rationale behind his suit over a transportation tax approved by voters in 2016.

Trumping Out 2018

* The Pentagon-and-ally-ignoring Syrian pull-out. The lack of a working definition of “denuclearization” with North Korea. The border wall stand-off resulting in a governmental shutdown. The unpaid price for Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Trans Pacific Partnership. The Paris climate-change accord. Too bad we couldn’t have elected a president whose forte was, uh, negotiation.

* Isn’t it telling that England, France, Germany and Israel, among many others, disapprove of the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Syria, but Russia, Iran and Turkey couldn’t be more pleased?

* We should give Trump credit for going to Iraq and visiting with war-zone troops. But, of course, he had to turn it into a campaign-rally dynamic. Indeed, he did work “The Wall” in, lied about military raises and also gloated that “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.” In short, he was equating life-risking, American members of the military with “suckers” who cluelessly fight others’ battles. Enjoy those selfies.

There are only two protocol boxes to check when a president visits troops: giving gratitude and boosting morale. Presidents don’t engage in political rhetoric, because politics and the military must be kept separate. Presidents should never morph those who serve into political pawns. And speaking of protocol, it didn’t go over well with locals that he didn’t deign to meet–even nominally–with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdu-Mahdi.

* How outrageous, frustrating and unfair that we have to endure a government shutdown over a border wall. If only Mexico had kept Trump’s word that it would pay for it. Such bad, unreliable hombres.

* “A made-up fight so the president can look like he’s fighting. The whole thing is juvenile.”–Retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on the battle over border wall funding.

* “Turn me into Hoover.” That’s what Trump narcissistically fears could happen as a result of decisions being made at the Federal Reserve under Fed chairman Jerome Powell.

* The GOP, as we know, lost 40 House seats and ceded majority to the Democrats, which means, among other things, a halt to key parts of Trump’s legislative agenda. It also means that the Dems will have House oversight authority–as in calling the shots on holding hearings, requesting documents and issuing subpoenas. As in having the wherewithal to investigate the president’s family, business, campaign and administration.

So how do Trumpsters spin it? Try this: “It’s absolutely fair to say that it’s better to have Nancy Pelosi as a foil than Paul Ryan as a foil,” pointed out Marc Short, who used to be Trump’s legislative affairs director. “It’s better for the party, and it’s better for unity. The reality is the Democrats could overplay their hand.” So there.

* Speaking of Dems, all the speculation about presidential opponents for Trump will start to solidify before too long. The first candidate debate will be this June.

Florida Fodder

* Any Floridian who cares about a common sense, enlightened self-interest approach to Cuba can’t feel encouraged about the Trump-Scott-Cuban hardliner-influenced Ron DeSantis as governor. And it hardly helps that Lieutenant Gov. Jeanette Nunez, a Cuban-American from Miami, is piling on.

“I think Ron has shown his commitment to ensure that we, as a state, are not going to do business with Cuba,” recently underscored Nunez, a former Marco Rubio supporter. “We’re not going to do business with businesses that do business with Cuba.”

* It speaks volumes that among those opposed to arming any school personnel is the Florida Association of School Resource Officers.


It doesn’t seem that long, but Tampa’s Kathy Castor has now been in Congress for a dozen years. It’s never easy when you are the daughter of an icon, but U.S. Rep. Castor has learned on the job, has acquitted herself well and is carving out her own reputation on issues such as health care, environment and Cuba. And now Democratic House leaders have chosen the six-term lawmaker to lead a new select committee on climate change in the new Congress. Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her directly.

The new committee is not without internal issues–such as whether it will have subpoena power or whether it might be redundant in light of what the House Energy and Commerce Committee does. The latter has prompted intimations of a “turf fight.”

“I’ve already talked with incoming (E&C) Chairman (Frank) Pallone (D-N.J.), about coordinating our efforts,” said Castor. “We have a moral obligation to our kids and our grandkids to address this and do it aggressively.”

Media Matters

* ABC’s George Stephanopolos: “Is Donald Trump unfit to be president?”

   Former FBI Director James Comey: “Yes.”

* ABC’s Martha Raddatz: Would you “accept” a Trump Administration position?

   Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan: “I’d say no. It’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth.”

* “The Times regrets the error.” That’s an all-too-frequent, front-page, Tampa Bay Times note, indicating regret for another one of the editing errors it did manage to catch.

* Mark Zuckerberg reportedly lost nearly $20 billion last year. That’s what a 13 percent stake in Facebook–in the year its self-serving business model is outed over privacy and oversight scandals–will get you. But Zuckerberg is still worth more than $50 billion. And he can still binge watch “The Social Network” for back-in-the-day context.

* For once, I’d like to hear politicians begin their response to a “yes” or “no” question with something other than “look.” That’s a classic heads up that spin and agenda-pivoting are on their way. Don’t you agree?

* I cannot help but hold my breath when I hear a Federal Reserve Chairman, in this case Jerome Powell–giving a post-Fed statement press conference. The chairman is no longer literally on a parsed-wording script–but in a combustible media environment where markets pounce on any uncertainty, any nuance, any misinterpretation.

* If you only get to see one movie this holiday season, make sure you don’t waste your time and money with “The Favourite.” It may be the favorite of numerous critics, but that just proves what can happen with a vintage, British period piece and well-credentialed, famous actresses. But the bottom line: It’s really annoying.

A whole different genre and experience is “Vice.” It’s worth seeing because it has something to do with how we got to where we are right now. And it’s worth seeing just for Christian Bale’s spot-on send-up of Dick Cheney. It has its gimmicks and caricatures. Call it: Where “The Big Short” meets Michael Moore.

Sports Shorts

* “Our relationship to these young people is to educate them, to help them grow. Not to be their agent for financial gain.” That was the Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, on the student-athlete reality in a high-profile, iconic football program. Of course there was some self-serving, Irish spin there, but, all the same, I don’t see the presidents of Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma, for example, having the effrontery to go public with that kind of statement.

* Yes, Urban Meyer is retiring–but won’t actually leave the Ohio State University campus. Meyer, 54, will become an OSU assistant athletic director and will also co-teach a class on “leadership and character.” The latter seems ironic–at best–for one who was suspended this season for mishandling domestic-violations allegations against a former assistant coach.

* One word we can do without when it comes to, especially, football is “swagger” or “swag.” It’s meant to mean playing with “attitude.” We get that–until we’re reminded how swag typically manifests itself. It’s an on-field synonym for arrogance and boorishness. Why not encourage players to play “with confidence“–even if that doesn’t sound very cool or intimidating.


* “We have the ways. What we need is the political will to move forward.”–United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, at the global warming conference in Katowice, Poland.

* “We can’t have a rich government and poor people. … For the good of all, the poor first.”–Recently sworn-in Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

* “The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground. We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.”–Wells Griffith, international energy and climate adviser to President Donald Trump.

* “Our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.”–Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

* “‘Full and rapid’ withdrawal from Syria is a grave error with broader implications beyond just the fight against ISIS.”–Sen. Marco Rubio.

* “The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it.”–From a Nancy Pelosi-Chuck Schumer joint statement.

* “Any time you stand and say, ‘I own the shutdown,’ then you own it.”–Outgoing Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

* “Make no mistake, Democrats will honor our constitutional responsibility to exercise oversight of the Trump Administration and get the American people the answers they deserve.”–Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

* “Trump makes everything personal. Whether it’s a result of his own narcissism, his history as head of a company dependent on his personal celebrity, or his lack of understanding of how government works, it leads to the same place: It’s always and only about him.”–Paul Waldman, Washington Post.

* “The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the market. … The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch–he can’t put.”–President Donald Trump.

* “Things many of us have taken for granted have been called into question, including the endurance of liberal democracy, the political salience of truth and the assumption that it would be a big scandal if a president were caught directing illegal payoffs to a pornographic film actress. Often it feels as if none of the old rules still apply in American politics.”–Michelle Goldberg, New York Times.

* “While Mr. Trump’s case is more complex than (Richard) Nixon’s, the evident dangers of keeping an out-of-control president in office might well impel politicians in both parties, not without controversy, to want to make a deal to get him out of there.”–Elizabeth Drew, author of “Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall.”

* “Politics is a feeling. It’s a visceral reaction to someone. Especially when you’re voting for an executive.”–Former New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

* “There are three kinds of economist in modern America: liberal professional economists, conservative professional economists and professional conservative economists. (Professional conservative economists) are people who even center-right professionals consider charlatans and cranks; they make a living by pretending to do actual economics–often incompetently–but are actually just propagandists.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “The lobby is the new public square.”–Aytan Litwin, founder and chief executive of White Space, a company that designs and furnishes hospitality and commercial spaces.

* “As a self-proclaimed ‘constitutionalist,’ Gov.-elect DeSantis should know better.”–State Senate Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, on DeSantis siding with those who want more time to “implement” Amendment 4. Both DeSantis and Florida Senate President Bill Galvano publicly opposed Amendment 4, which automatically restores voting rights to former felons–and was passed with nearly 65 percent voter approval.

* “Her incredible depth of knowledge in government and the legislative process will be invaluable. He’s going to really come to rely on her.”–Bill Rubin, co-chairman of the Ron DeSantis inaugural committee, on the role that Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nunez will have in the DeSantis Administration.

* “Hindsight is clarity that you don’t have when you’re going through it.”–Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, reflecting on her “painful,” Democratic gubernatorial primary loss.

* Florida historically has been a small business state. As we go from small businesses into larger privately held businesses and publicly traded companies, we are going to attract much more of the higher-wage jobs.”–Greg Kadet, managing director of (the financial firm) UBS.

* “She’s not stuck in the 1950s as a Polk County cowboy. She is somebody who would make the agriculture cabinet position really relevant, instead of just a rubber stamp for sugar and overseeing carnival rides.”–Attorney John “For the People” Morgan, on incoming Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

* “This is going to be a very different place this time next year.”–James Nozar, CEO of Strategic Property Partners, developer of Water Street Tampa.

* “We’re going to go through our blips in the (economic) cycle. The good thing is, the (Water Street Tampa) developers have the wherewithal to withstand those types of cycles. They’re committed to the long-term, 30-year window, not a five-year flip.”–Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

More Trumpster Diving

* So, Mick Mulvaney is now acting chief of staff for President Donald Trump. So much for those Eric Trump, Joe Arpaio and Roy Moore rumors. But, really, who else would want this job–after what we’ve seen the last two years–and more recently from Trump’s border wall sit-down with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Those were the optics from hell, as well as a “Saturday Night Live”cold opening. No credible chief of staff would have signed off on such a sure-fire fiasco. But Trump, in effect, is his own, credibility-be-damned, narcissistic chief of staff–and that’s not changing.   

Mulvaney, who came to the House in the Tea Party surge of 2010, has been the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. He’s a fiscal conservative ideologue. But if he can adjust to presiding over the de facto Office of Deficit and Budget, perhaps he can find a compromised accommodation with Trump whose only ideology is his brand.

And perhaps Trump can overlook the fact that Mulvaney referred to him as a “terrible human being” during a South Carolina congressional debate in November 2016. Perhaps he can overlook it because he’s been called worse by those he’s hired or has campaigned for–and now plays golf with.

* That was a telling letter sent by those 44 ex-senators, including Florida’s Bob Graham, on defending our democracy. It was notable that they represented both parties. “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” it read in part. “Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.”

No less notable, they are all FORMER senators. Sure, it was a reminder of what’s at stake and what our priorities must be, but it was also a foremost reminder that these same principles must be the priorities of those STILL SERVING in Washington. We need senators who aren’t retired or retiring–to step up, speak out and take one for their country–not their party or their career. We need, in short, a show of senatorial guts, especially among Republicans, whose fealty must be to patriotism–not POTUS.

* How do you have a personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is your “fixer” for more than a dozen years and, yet, he only did “low level work” that was “more public relations than law”? Moreover, he’s a “liar.” Only in Trump world, where prevarication is a job requirement.

* No, Time’s “Person of the Year” wasn’t Trump. It was, however, Trump-related. It was journalists: “Guardians of the Truth,” including those whose calling cost them their lives. Call it a rebuke against fake-news and “enemy-of-the-people” demonization by the pathological Liar-in-Chief.  

*New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker has already been to 24 states this mid-terms year. You don’t do that without serious 2020 presidential plans. And it’s hardly coincidental that New Jersey just changed a law that would allow Booker to seek both the presidency and senate re-election in 2020.

* So, could Robert Mueller interview Donald Trump? Rudy Giuliani: “Over my dead body.” Non-Trump consensus: “Offer accepted.”

* The popularity ratings of First Lady Melania Trump continue to head south. But how fair is that? What has Lady MAGA done in what has to be an awkward, no-win FLOTUS role? Well, it started with actually marrying someone so unconscionably unethical and immoral as Donald Trump. You don’t leverage a modeling career and whore out and expect credit for a hypocritical “anti-bullying” campaign.

*This just in on the roiling stock market that never reacts well to uncertainty, let alone chaos: So far, this has been the market’s worst December since, well, 1931.

Truman Doctrine

Ever notice that when oil prices are heading south, which is good for consumers, there is always the other edge of the sword for how that impacts energy stocks that could skew the market. And let’s not forget that when the Fed leaves interest rates low, where so many of us like them–that also can encourage risky lending. But if the Fed hikes them, they could trigger an economic slump. Is there any wonder that President Harry Truman used to yearn for a “one-armed economist,” one who wouldn’t be inclined to say, “But on the other hand.” Bada bing.

Teachable Moment

Let’s hear it for Hillsborough County Schools that went beyond the usual Plan Bs to help some of their system’s struggling schools. These schools, with well-chronicled issues that include embarrassingly low test scores, need help–including, frankly, better teachers. That’s a familiar problem, because teachers with seniority and savvy are likely well established at the better-performing schools. Rookies and the relatively in experienced are asked to do what they can, even if they can’t, at the high-needs schools.

So the county has signed up more than a dozen former teachers who have impressively advanced in the administrative ranks, including to high-profile positions such as assistant superintendent and chief academic officer. They all will, in effect, be on sabbatical for the rest of the school year so they can literally help out in classrooms. More are expected to follow.

They have volunteered for classroom duty after having earned their career promotions. Hopefully, they can make a difference with their presence, as well as through the message that this sends through the ranks. “Do as I do” always goes over better than “do as I say.” This is no struggling-schools panacea, of course, but a recommitment to the pedagogical principle that all students matter, and this is an all-hands-on-deck approach to a problem with serious societal implications.