* “The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and with these and our previous actions we are working to keep the risk low.”–Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, in announcing that America will be temporarily barring entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals believed to be a risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Americans returning from China’s Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine.

* “While we still have to be enormously vigilant about terror, there are still challenges all across the world, the Chinese Communist Party presents the central threat of our times. … China wants to be the dominant economic and military power of the world, spreading its authoritarian vision for society and its corrupt practices worldwide.”–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

* “Russia in my view has become the most important partner of Maduro. A multilateral approach on sanctions is critical.”–Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. for Juan Guaido.

* “It’s worth remembering that liberalism is not just struggling in America, with our Electoral College and right-tilting Senate; it is struggling all around the world. Which, again, suggests that American liberals are fortunate to have Trump as their Great Foe. If he were merely as disciplined and competent  as (the UK’s) Boris Johnson or (Hungary’s)Viktor Orban, to choose leaders with whom he has a few things in common, he would be coasting to re-election.”–Ross Douthat, New York Times.

* “In constructing their defense, the president’s supporters essentially tried to have it both ways in the Ukraine case: They insisted there was no quid pro quo demand for Biden investigations made while withholding aid from Ukraine, and that it would have been entirely proper even if there were.”–Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal.

* “The spectacle of White House censors deciding, without any real constraint, whether to permit a former government official to publish a manuscript critical of the president should provoke alarm.”–Jameel Jaffer and Ramya Krishan, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

* “(The framers of the Constitution) put their faith in checks and balances. We are left with a president unchecked and a system dangerously unbalanced.”–Ruth Marcus, Washington Post.

* “It was exactly what Nancy Pelosi feared would happen before she was reluctantly drawn into the show trial.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “Support for the president remains rock solid in small-county and rural America. … cultural values and class are big, if not bigger, factors than the economy in determining political attitudes. Trump supporters are supporters as much because of the president’s anti-elite rhetoric, his fight against undocumented immigrants and what they see as defense of traditional values as any substantive achievement.”–Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal.

* “We perceive Donald Trump and his corruption to be an existential threat to the county. (Republicans) perceive the deep state and the liberal media to be an existential threat to the country.”–U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

* “In 1992, partisanship was much more elastic than it is now.”–Bill Clinton campaign adviser James Carville.

* “One of the things that has happened in the last, almost four decades in public life is you watch people make a gargoyle of your life.”–Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

* “I haven’t had chips in about10 1/2 months.”–NASA astronaut Christina Koch, on what she craves on her Feb. 6 return from the International Space Station, where she’s been since March.

* “There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated.”–Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

* “Our marketing has become about how unique and how different we are. We don’t want to compete against beach destinations or theme park destinations.”–Santiago C. Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, on the ripple effects of “Gasparilla season.”

* “The heart of the experience around Super Bowl will be in downtown Tampa along the Riverwalk … taking advantage of all the great venues we have.”–Rob Higgins, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee. The Super Bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium next year.

* “I think this is noble, worthy and long overdue.”–Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco, on the need for a ban on one-use plastics.

* “I often say, our city is going to change more in the next 10 years than it has in my entire lifetime, not only above ground but below, and it’s our commitment to financial excellence that will help carve the path.”–Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

* “Our focus is on the Sister City concept, and we will work with all those who believe it is an idea that merits exploration and consideration.”–Statement from the Tampa Bay Rays to the city of St. Petersburg.

Impeachment and Fidget Spinners

* The “world’s greatest deliberative body“? Just how low is the bar on deliberative bodies? No public fist fights?

* “I don’t know if he left on the best of terms. You don’t like people testifying when they don’t leave on good terms.”–That’s President Trump on why he’s opposed to former national security adviser John Bolton, author of the upcoming “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” testifying in his Senate impeachment trial.  

* One argument against impeachment–made formally by White House counsel Pat Cippolone–is that “They’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months.” As in Democrats want to ride roughshod over the will of the people. Nice try. Law school professors can nod in rhetorical acknowledgement.

But such diversionary arguments disingenuously avoid the obvious issue. Accountability for an impeachable offense is not, uh, trumped, by timing. If you believe Trump is guilty of impeachable offenses, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and has a track record that virtually assures that he will continue his MO until the November election, you can’t idealistically and negligently just let it ride for now. If you believe that this unethical, immoral, pathologically impulsive, impeachable president is a threat and a menace to American democracy, to the environment, to race relations and global relationships, you sure and hell don’t give him a pass for nine more months.

* Lewinsky to Zelenskiy: Republicans controlled the Senate during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial–and acquittal. That was the GOP then, hardly avatars of impartiality, but still shy of lockstep, lock-down sycophancy to party fealty. This, alas, is now, with Republicans–including those directly mocked and ridiculed by Trump–whoring out for a leader with an avenging cult following, acting like the party of Lindsey–not Lincoln.     

* In an ironically bizarre way, the introduction of fidget spinners among some peers by North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr seemed more than silly. Given a man-child president with serious attention deficits, a toy designed to be spun to relieve the boredom of having to pay attention to something important seemed appropriate.

* “Lock her up.” “Take her out.”  It’s the way a misogynist-in-chief talks, whether the target is an opponent (Hillary Clinton) or a politically unhelpful ambassador to Ukraine (Marie Yovanovitch).

* Pertinent signs we’ll never see at a Trump rally: “Most Pro-Strife President Ever.” “We Shall Overcomb.”

* “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats. They will take your guns away.”–And this  NRA sop is what happens when you vote for Trump.

* Imagine how worrisome Saudi Arabia would be if it were not an ally?

Dem Notes

* It wouldn’t be a bare-knuckle election year involving Trump without a conspiracy theory. According to former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, the reason that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed sending impeachment articles to the Senate had much more to do with helping Joe Biden, than anything strategic involving pressure on the Republicans to allow witness testimony. “By timing the trial so it takes place during the Iowa lead-up, she has leverage over the liberals,” theorized Fleischer. His online theory metastasized into Fox News fodder and onto presidential tweet material. What gave it legs is the consensus that Trump would rather face Bernie Sanders than Biden, especially in Midwestern battleground states.

* “The Democrats cover everybody from Bernie to Bloomberg, and that does present a real problem in terms of making a decision. It’s not blendable at this point. And if the division continues, you’re not going to get a first-ballot candidate.”–Jerry Brown, former Democratic governor of California.

* It made sense last summer when the presidential debates kicked off–and it still does: a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket. Like any other combination, it’s imperfect, but arguably better than Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine. At some point, Sen. Harris will endorse, and that–as well as the timing–will be telling. And a potential turning point. In a party galvanized by #MeToo, a woman on a winning Biden ticket would be positioned as the de facto nominee in 2024 with the blessing of an octogenarian incumbent.

* “Our younger generation today is the most progressive young generation, I suspect, in the history of this country.” That was Sen. Bernie Sanders, among the many counting on youthful voters to, well, vote.

* “Our first woman president must ward off misogynistic depravity that knows no bottom.” Other than that, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pretty much neutral on gender and presidential politics.

* “I’m the un-Trump. He breaks promises, I keep them. He’s a climate denier, I’m an engineer. He looks out for the people who inherited their wealth. I’m self-made.” That was Michael Bloomberg during his swing-state/Tampa visit. The rest of the candidates are also un-Trump, of course, but nobody can underscore it quite like this billionaire, former mayor of New York. Ironically, nothing will show Bloomberg’s commitment more than the billion dollars he’s pledging to defeat Trump–even if he’s not the Democratic Party’s candidate. 

Environmental Pragmatism

“Republicans have figured out that if you get caught crossways on the environment, you could very well lose an election. That’s how important the issue is to Floridians of all stripes.” That was, alas, the spot-on analysis of Susan MacManus, the former USF political science professor, as quoted by the AP. Would that the motivation for something this existentially menacing and exigent–in a ground-zero state for sea-level rise–were more than political expedience.

The implications for climate change are across-the-board alarming, but if it takes political self-interest to truly motivate to finally do the right thing, however belatedly, we’ll take it. And while Tallahassee is hardly synonymous with progressive mindsets, the absence of Rick Scott is a reminder of how you add by subtracting.

Media Matters

* Jim Lehrer–of PBS News Hour fame–recently died. He will be missed. As will his era. Lehrer personified broadcast journalism as something other than conflict-showcasing show business for political junkies and partisans. It was a service with public understanding more of a goal than ratings-driven optics. We won’t see his kind again.

* The House impeachment managers included Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. Lofgren worked on the congressional staff that investigated Richard Nixon and was serving in congress during the Bill Clinton impeachment. There’s got to be a book there somewhere.

* Most journalists have pet linguistic peeves. I’m no exception. The misuse of “notoriety” and the context-challenged ubiquity of “awesome” are two such. Another is “icon.” The Associated Press recently referred to first-term Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the “progressive icon” acting as an Iowa surrogate for Bernie Sanders. Unless she doubles as a sacred Christian image, how does a 30-year-old, rookie Congresswoman warrant icon status? Or is that unfair, and AOC is just reflective of, well, awesome, societal impact?

* What’s in a name? Even if you are 20th Century Fox, there’s no escaping the contemporary, polarizing connotation of “Fox.” Last year the Walt Disney Co. bought a bunch of Rupert Murdoch’s entertainment assets, including the iconic studio and the Fox Searchlight art house. The newly renamed, Fox-less entity: 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Now nobody will associate Disney with Trump, Ailes or Hannity.

* Being a White House press secretary can have career implications. Some, such as Trump’s first spokesperson, Sean Spicer, have to go on “Dancing With The Stars” to cash in. Others, such as Barack Obama’s Jay Carney, wind up as the spokesman for Amazon.

Tampa Bay Tidbits

* Another Gasparilla Parade has come and gone, and for the first time in memory, I didn’t witness first-hand the seeming need for catheter concessions along the parade route. In part, it’s due to having moved to a location farther from ground zero. But maybe there’s more parade-reveler restraint as well. While high-profile policing could be a factor, cops–in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon pressure-cooker bombs–are not exactly prioritizing those experiencing their annual rite of pissage. Yes, I had to work it in again.

* Whenever the temperatures head south, we are reminded of those among us who have more recently relocated. Nothing like wearing a long-sleeved shirt, jacket, hat and scarf and noticing someone jogging by in shorts and tank top. They’ll learn.


* “No other market is as free and open for U.S. businesses as the E.U. Where else are you as welcome?”–European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan.

 *”As long as we are resolute … we can win the battle of controlling the epidemic.”–Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the threat of the coronavirus.

* “We don’t talk about particular sanctions, but everyone can fully expect that the United States is not done.”–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in promising more action to help Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido.

* “The combination of maximum economic pressure and restoring deterrence by credible threat of military force, if attacked, is going to do more to advance peace and stability in the region than a policy of accommodation with the regime.”–State Department Iran specialist Brian Hook.

* “The current version of the United States doesn’t seem to know quite what it is–global democratic leader or parochial self-protector–and the confusion benefits China.”–David Leonardt, New York Times.

* “Populism makes global governance even harder.”–Walter Russell Mead, Wall Street Journal.

* “I think it’s appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”–Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the impeachment trial.

* “When you open the door to impeachment, there’s a third party in the room. History. It too has its needs, and they are less selfish than those of the political parties. History wants information. It wants data and testimony. It wants as near as possible to know and understand the story.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “Either you want the truth, and you must permit the witnesses, or you want a shameful coverup. History will judge and so will the electorate.”–House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.

* “Once we’ve heard that ‘overwhelming evidence,’ I don’t know that we’ll need to see additional witnesses.”–Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

* “John Bolton has the evidence. It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney and the others with direct knowledge of President Trump’s actions testify in the Senate trial.”–Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

* “(Ken) Starr, who once clutched his pearls over Bill Clinton’s sexual high jinks, is now going to bat for President ‘Access Hollywood.’ After playing an avenging Javert about foreplay in the Oval, Starr will now do his utmost to prove that a real abuse of power undermining Congress and American foreign policy is piffle.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “Trump likes people who are already famous and who defend him on TV. No sensible counselor would pick Starr, Dershowitz or Bondi.”–Frank O. Bowman III, author and professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

* “When an accident happens on Bayshore, it’s major headlines. When an accident happens on some other street, it’s crickets.”–Jean Duncan, Tampa’s transportation and stormwater services department director.

* “We currently don’t have any plans for speed cameras.”–City Hall spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.

* “My job is to listen and learn, to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and what we can do differently.”–Addison Davis, the newly chosen superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District–as well as the first outsider in more than 50 years.

* It is economic development in its purest form.”–Yacht StarShip owner Troy Manthey, on the bottom line of adding vessels and expanding routes.

* “Human trafficking exists; it’s real and it’s ugly. We can no longer pretend otherwise.”–St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, whose department is taking the lead in a new six-county regional task force on human trafficking.

* “(St. Petersburg has) gone from God’s waiting room to God’s craft beer tap room.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

* If construction crews are an indicator of economic outlook, then things are looking pretty nice in the ‘burg. I have the hard-hat hair to prove it. I haven’t had a good hair day in two years because I spend all my time on construction sites.”–St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.

Oval Orifice Update


* “No crime, no impeachment,” no criminal trial, no relevance.

* Here’s the take of the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office on President Donald Trump’s decision to hold up military aid to Ukraine, aid that Congress, of course, had authorized. The federal watchdog agency found the presidential intervention to have been illegal. “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” summarized the GAO–not Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff or Chuck Schumer or Rachel Maddow.

* In the 18th century, Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke cut memorably to the moral chase. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,” he famously declared. Two centuries later, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. doubled down. “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.” The principle, we are reminded, is timeless; its application ongoing.

Would that Republican senators, sitting in “judgment” of Donald Trump, answer the call to combat evil in our contemporary midst. Would that they muster the rectitude and guts to do the right thing unless, of course, they–as self-serving, political cult followers–don’t identify with “good people.”

* “I think Ken Starr is a lunatic.”–That was President Donald Trump’s disparaging take from back in the Clinton-impeachment day. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz would get it. Now Starr’s part of Trump’s made-for-Fox, impeachment-defense team.

* Alan Derschowitz clients: O.J. Simpson. Claus von Bulow. Mike Tyson. Jeffrey Epstein. Donald Trump. There’s a pattern. But did Harvey Weinstein not get the memo?

* Speaking of Trump’s legal representation for the Senate impeachment trial, Pam Bondi is prominently–and reprehensibly–back in the news cycle. At least she’s not dating Lev Parnas.

* Trump welcomed the national champion LSU football team to the White House. To whatever degree it was a diversion, it was undermined by the president’s inimitably impulsive reference to his impeachment as he mocked Democratic priorities for “trying to impeach the son of a bitch.” Sometimes a TelePrompTer does help.

* GOPster Mash: “I spent my day talking to my friend & supporter, the President. You spent yours with Al Sharpton.” That’s Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman, responding in vintage, Trump-punk Gaetz fashion to, ironically, fellow Florida Republican, state Rep. Chris Latvala.

* Next up? It’s now official; Trump’s third Homeland Security and counter-terrorism adviser, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, is out. There may or may not be a replacement, because the best qualified don’t want to work for an impulsive charlatan–or because counterterrorism, cybersecurity and biodefense may or may not be priorities anymore.

* For what it’s worth, the new Trumpian Republican normal includes a budget deficit that is up nearly 12 percent from the same period a year ago. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit for the current 2020 budget year will hit $1 trillion–and will remain at 13 figures for the next decade. At least the Tea Partiers weren’t a menace, just an ideological knee- jerk movement.

* Not OK. It’s likely no one familiar with federal campaign finance laws was anticipating this possible application. Some vested political interests in Oklahoma have proposed specialty license plates that would help market the Trump brand. If approved by the state legislature, “MAGA” plates could be purchased for $35 and ostensibly help the Trump campaign–unless Dems can make the case that such a re-election would surely “Make America Groan Again.”

Dem Notes

* “Let me be very clear. If any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination–I hope that’s not the case, I hope it’s me–but if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of this country.”–That was Bernie Sanders saying what he obviously needed to say. More to the point, his supporters need to heed those words if he is not the candidate. Let’s not revisit 2016. No pouting, no foot-stomping, no sitting out a moral and existential duty–no matter what Hillary Clinton says in her Hulu documentary.

* The New York Times went editorially pragmatic with its recent co-endorsement of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Radical or realist, whatever it takes.

* BTW, Klobuchar’s popularity in Minnesota could be telling. In her most recent re-election, she carried 51 of the state’s 87 counties. In 2016, Hillary Clinton only carried nine of them.

* Not that we need reminding, but Iowa is not always a tell-tale predictor of a party’s presidential nominee–as Presidents Huckabee, Cruz and Santorum can attest.

* “No.” That was Amy Klobuchar’s answer to Chris Matthews’ question: “Do you think the Democrats would have an all-male ticket?”

Wording Matters

* While deflatingly disappointing, it was hardly shocking when the Florida Supreme Court sided with Republican lawmakers on the Amendment 4 decision. The justices ruled that former felons must pay back all court-ordered fees, fines and restitution before registering to vote. This wasn’t just a matter of a Ron De Santis-friendly Court having morphed into a more conservative body.  

This was non-shocking because of the original wording, which stipulated that most non-violent former felons would have their right to vote restored if they had completed “all terms of sentence.” We know what the sentiment and motivation were–and why 65 percent of Florida voters approved it in 2018–but this literal wording betrayed that. The word “ALL” doesn’t even require legal partisans, for whom self-serving language is the first arrow out of the quiver, to do any parsing or nuancing. It’s “all,” alas, there, and a de facto poll tax results. We know that words matter; too bad that a critically important amendment didn’t accurately reflect that.

Worse yet–and not unlike the ultimate rationale for cracking down on texting drivers–is that regardless of politics, this is bad for everybody. Former felons who are not re-integrated into society have huge downsides when it comes to recidivism. That impacts, well, ALL of us.