* “People who are captured by religious extremism–male or female, old or young–have their consciences destroyed, lose their humanity and murder without blinking an eye.”–Chinese President Xi Jinping.

* “Thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in the U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”–Russian President Vladimir Putin.

* “This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for. They would pit one side of our electorate against the others. We are running out of time to stop them.”–Former White House national security aide Fiona Hill in her testimony before the House Intelligence  Committee.

* “I did say to (Ambassador Gordon Sondland), ‘I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.”–Fiona Hill.

* “Each round of GOP questioning is not meant to interrogate the witnesses … but instead to create moments that can be flipped into Fox News segments, shared as bite-sized Facebook posts or dropped into 4chan threads.”–Ryan Broderick, BuzzFeed News.

* “Today’s democracies don’t die at the hands of generals, but at the hands of elected leaders–presidents, prime ministers. Many citizens are not fully aware of what’s happening until it’s too late. I never thought I would be seeing it in the U.S.”–Steven Levitsky, Harvard political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die.”

* “The myth of the ‘adults in the room’ has persisted since the beginning of the (Trump) Administration, but it has never been accurate. There is no managing Donald Trump, no way to preserve one’s integrity while doing what is necessary to remain powerful in his orbit.”–Susan Glasser, the New Yorker.

* “The reasonable guess (on impeachment conviction) is Republican senators will call to let the people decide. In a divided country, this is the right call. But they should take seriously the idea of censuring (Trump) for abuse of power.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “Trump’s foreign policy has metastasized from bad to worse in recent months. Fighting the good fight, even while losing, might be the useful Dunkirk option in response to the Toddler in Chief–saving what can be saved in the face of overwhelming force. A wholesale exodus of policymakers would make the situation worse, not better.”–Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University.

*  “I no longer share the same understanding with the (president) who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline.”–Former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who was recently dismissed by President Trump.

* “His cyclical urges can’t be suppressed for long.”–“Anonymous,” the author of “A Warning.”

* “The impeachment proceedings this week have shown me how far the left will go to destroy their opponents.”–U.S. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover.

* “Time is running out on the most important trade event of the Trump Administration.”–American Enterprise Institute scholar Derek Scissors, on the prolonged negotiations on a final congressional agreement on the revised NAFTA trade deal. Officials from Canada and Mexico have already signed off on the NAFTA replacement.

* “We very much believe that cause-based advertising has value and can help drive public conversation around important topics. But we still don’t think it should be used with the sort of primary goal of driving  political or judicial or legislative or regulatory outcomes.”–Del Harvey, vice president of trust and safety at Twitter.

* “Polling is one of those things like military battles: You always refight the last war.”–Joshua D. Clinton, Vanderbilt University political scientist and member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research Committee.

* “She took the canon and broke it open.”–Oprah Winfrey, speaking at the celebration-of-life for novelist Toni Morrison.

* “For Florida, it’s working. There are people here who need health insurance, and this is their option.”–Jodi Ray, executive director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, on data released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services showing Florida with nearly half a million people signing up for the Affordable Care Act in the first three weeks of enrollment.

* “David’s commitment to and love of the performing arts and of this community was beyond compare, and we cannot thank him enough for the impact he has made on the lives of so many. His philanthropic legacy will continue to live on our stages and inspire the hearts and minds of us all.”–Judy Lisi, CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, on the death of David A. Straz Jr.

* “The Ybor City market is growing tremendously, with a younger, vibrant demographic moving into the urban core.”–Mario Tricoci, co-founder of Chicago’s Aparium Hotel Group, which is building the four-story, $52-million Hotel Haya in Ybor City. The Haya’s opening is set for the spring of 2020.

* “It’s really about unlocking Tampa, unlocking opportunity and doing that all over the city.”–Carole Post, Tampa’s newly named administrator for development and economic opportunity.

* “This was just a fantastic year, and you’ve got to recognize that.”–Port Tampa Bay Commissioner Patrick Allman, on rewarding Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson with a 5 percent merit raise. Over the past year, the port has seen the arrival of three new weekly container ships from Asia, the completion of a deep-water channel expansion and the patronage of more than a million cruise ship passengers.

* “Rather than just trying to undercut and steal a passenger from another airline, their whole strategy is to convince people to fly that perhaps have not flown before.”–Chris Minner, TIA’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, on the rapid growth of the low-cost, Florida-based Spirit Airlines.

Impeachment Impact

* “If we don’t make a deal, we will substantially raise those tariffs.”–President Donald Trump on status of trade negotiations with China. Less than consoling to soybean farmers.

* “I’m a big fan.”–Trump’s take on Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the autocratic Turkish president, who recently visited the White House.

* Interesting that Mark Mulvaney is still Trump’s acting chief of staff. It’s been more than 10 months–and he’s still in “acting” mode? Maybe he’ll “get over it.”

* Not that we’re naive and didn’t expect the impeachment hearings to look like made-for-TV partisanship, but Sean Hannity’s football-spiking after the first day said it all. It was, the Fox flack declared, “a lousy day for the corrupt, do-nothing-for-three-years, radical extreme socialist Democrats.” And Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan doubled down from there.

* It’s obvious that the only way Nunes, Jordan & Co. will acknowledge the impeachment relevance of the Donald Trump-Volodymyr Zelenskiy phone conversation would be a transcript of a self-incriminating conversation that not even Donald Trump would engage in. To wit: “Look, Volo–OK, if I call you that?–here’s the deal. Take it or–leave it up to Putin. You’ve got about $400 million in military aid headed your way–from the great-again United States of America–that you and I both know Ukraine needs. You need it to survive. But I’m not signing off, Volvo, until you do me a perfect personal favor. I need political dirt on somebody who could be my opponent in 2020, Joe Biden. Perhaps you’ve heard of him–or his son Hunter, who used to sit on the board of, I think it’s called, the Burisma Group. Whatever, I want you to announce a public investigation into corruption that would smear and likely eliminate Biden as my main election threat. You put that out there, and the money is Ukraine’s. If not, lots of luck surviving what Putin has in mind for you. You do know, Zorro, that you have zero leverage here, right? So, what do you say? I need an answer now before I get back to Putin.”

* As we’ve been seeing, Richard Nixon and the Watergate hearings are back in the news cycle for obvious reasons. But the differences are notable between the authoritarian, unhinged, utterly unprepared Trump and Nixon, the dark and deceitful president who pre-empted impeachment conviction by his unprecedented resignation.

First, there was a “smoking gun” tape recording that left no disingenuous wiggle room. Second, an ultimate insider, John Dean, testified credibly and convincingly. Third, Nixon, however deplorable, was not unqualified for the office. Duke law school, Naval service, congressman, senator and vice president. He was the Eisenhower Administration’s point man in Cold War relations with the Soviet Union and historically engaged with Chairman Mao’s China and pushed for the establishment of the EPA during his presidential tenure. Fourth, Nixon didn’t have his own TV network back in the day when the Watergate hearings, sans partisan agendas and ratings-driven hype and optics, were broadcast by PBS with rotating coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC.

* Maybe it’s pathological or karmic. But what Trumpian irony that, having seemingly dodged a Mueller Report bullet on the 2016 Russian meddling in the U.S. election and subsequent cover-up efforts, Trump returns to the impeachment well again to use a foreign country, Ukraine, to meddle in the U.S. 2020 presidential election on his behalf. Then he tampers and intimidates tweetingly with a witness, former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, while–WHILE–she is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, thus gifting House Dems with another impeachment box checked.

Maybe it is pathological. Or karmic. Or maybe it’s part of a Faustian end-game.

* Die-hard Republicans can’t credibly countenance Bill Weld (former Massachusetts governor), Mark Sanford (former South Carolina governor) or Joe Walsh (former Illinois congressman) as alternatives to Trump. And it’s past the time for Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. Much more likely to be the GOP’s first post-Trump nominee is Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who would be running to appeal to the Trump base in 2024.

Haley calculatingly left the Trump Administration on her own terms and she, of course, has a book out to expedite more media attention. As a female former governor of (Indian) color, she would appear the antithesis of Trump while still a self-serving loyalist. She’s also anti-abortion, has impressive government and UN experience and has been accusing former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly of having sought her aid in undermining the president’s policy aims. And given the last three years, Haley knows that being a high-profile, female supporter of the most reviled misogynist in the country won’t, incredulously, count against her in today’s Trump-remade Republican Party.

* Just in from Kanye West: “All of that arrogance and cockiness that ya’ll have seen from me … Jesus has won the victory. Now the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for him.” Wonder what Jesus thinks.  

* Another reminder of why a second term for Trump would be a disaster: Trump could further add to the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, has been missing court arguments recently because she’s not well. She likely won’t make it through another presidential term. A re-elected or newly-elected president in 2020 will name her replacement.

* He’s a respected and successful professional. He’s smart and has a sense of humor. Old school conservative as well, I suspected. The topic turned briefly to politics. He said his views probably made him a “Trump supporter.” The overarching reason: “He keeps his promises. Politicians don’t do that.”    

Normally, this would be game on. Only this time the pushback was minimal. Civility and brevity prevailed. I mentioned that those on the other side of the spectrum would probably contend that a number of promises actually haven’t be kept, and some that were, never should have been made. That’s as far as I took it.

I didn’t get specific–as in who is actually paying for “The Wall,” what the tariff war has done for a lot of farmers, what the tax cut has done for the middle class, what reality the “Dreamers” now face or whatever happened to the ban on e-cigarette flavors. And why credit someone for keeping their word to gut the EPA, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, drop out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and exit from the Iran nuclear deal? We moved on to other, more immediate, non-political topics. I had my reasons.

He’s my doctor.

Dem Notes

* Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, that state’s first black governor, is now running for president. At least his last-minute venture is not coinciding with a book tour. Among those likely less than pleased: Joe Biden. Patrick has close ties to former President Barack Obama and his network of advisers and donors. Could be awkward for a while.

* Speaking of Biden, the co-chairman of his campaign, Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, was blunt–and speaking for more than Biden–in his take on the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the Democratic sweepstakes. “It takes a whole lot of moxie to look at the Democratic field and say, ‘None of them can be president and I’ll enter the race and be the savior.'” Wonder if “moxie” were a last-minute edit replacing “chutzpah”?

* Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the millennial mayor of a city smaller than a New York City Council district. Yes, you’ll hear that reference again as Buttigieg continues to gather momentum, including among donors.

* “I don’t know if America is ready for a woman of color, with an immigrant background to be president of the United States.” Sen. Kamala Harris.

* “Some of the luster has come off of firsts.”–Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Sports Shorts

* I’m not a big NFL fan; the league and its network enablers have turned the pro game into a choreographed, look-at-me lounge act. But that pales next to the image conveyed by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett who assaulted Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph with his own helmet. A concussion–or much worse–could have occurred. Maybe it has. This was no lounge-act performance. This was not another play-to-the-cameras optic. This looked like a thug in attack mode. Appalling. BTW, wonder if Garrett would have done the same to “Big Ben.” That’s Steelers regular quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is injured and out for the season.

* The Bucs’ home field advantage was compromised last Sunday in the loss to New Orleans. A large number of Saints fans cheered on the visitors. Best way to limit that oppo dynamic at RayJay: Win more. That hikes season-ticket sales and increases the possibility of sellouts.  

* Latino outreach: The Rays Class A Stone Crabs minor league affiliate will–for two series–play as the “Frijoles Saltarines de Puerto Carlota” (Jumping Beans of Charlotte Harbor.)


* “We tried.”–The response of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, when asked what he would want his tombstone to say.

* “There was not even the slightest hint that any Republican is taking the evidence that they were given … and reconsidering.”–Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace, on the partisan optics of the impeachment hearings.

* “These hearings should not be occurring at all.”–Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

* “Republicans on the panel didn’t know what to do. … They absolutely know the president muscled an ally, holding public money over its head to get a personal political favor. But they’re (Trump’s) party, they didn’t want to look weak, they had to show the base they had his back.”–Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal.

* “Everybody who runs for office wants to be seen as an outsider and condemns the insiders. That is, until weeks like this one when we realize how much we need them. At this week’s hearings, the civil servant witnesses answering questions inspired a lot more confidence than the elected officials who were asking them.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “These men are talking about duty and honor and country and freedom. Those words mean nothing to Donald Trump.”–George Conway, conservative attorney and husband of Kellyanne Conway, in comparing diplomat William B. Taylor and State Department official George P. Kent to President Trump.

* “If Donald Trump doesn’t agree with what he’s hearing, doesn’t like what he’s been hearing, he shouldn’t tweet. He should come to the committee and testify under oath.”–House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

* “While Ronald Reagan’s legacy will be helping to tear down THAT wall, Trump’s legacy will be turning Republican  lawmakers into dupes assisting Russia as it undermines our democracy–and democracy around the world.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “It’s more dysfunctional than ever–except now it’s not just chaos, the long knives are coming out. Everybody, including the White House chief, seems to be lawyering up.”–Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers.”

* “Getting fired by the American people in 2020 is something the Trump ego will not abide. … If there aren’t serious attorneys already looking at how to respond to the shenanigans Trump will deploy in the event of a narrow defeat next year, it’s time they get started.”–Roger Cohen, New York Times.

* “The Constitution sets a minimum age of 35 to serve as president. Maybe it should be amended to set an upper age limit at 70, 75 or 80. … It’s worth having a conversation about age for future presidential candidates before an age-related crisis strikes a president.”–Pepperdine University law Professor Derek T. Muller.

* “This is not a contest for who is the most established. It’s a contest for who is the most convincing.”–South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

* “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that.”–Former President Barack Obama.

* “I don’t love fashion; I love things that look good.”–Fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

* “The breadth of job gains suggests that the pace of job growth should remain strong for the forseeable future.”–Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vintner, on data showing the state created 21,400 new jobs in October as the workforce grew to 10.5 million. The unemployment rate is 3.2 percent; the all-time low is 3.1 percent (2006).

* “We are not in favor of putting more money into bonus programs. You can’t live on a bonus. You can’t plan for the future on a bonus.”–Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

* “The university, for all its successes, has the potential to be better still. Dr. Currall is a bold and ambitious leader, and he’s a good match for this bold and ambitious university.”–Ned C. Lautenbach, chairman of the Florida Board of Governors, who spoke at the investiture ceremony for new USF President Steven Currall.

* “Tampa’s diversity is our most valuable asset.”–Jeff Vinik, in announcing that the Vinik Family Foundation has committed up to $1 million in support of the restoration of the historic Jackson Rooming House.

* “Adding Pinstripes (bowling) and Cinemax to our premier collection of retail, entertainment and dining further solidifies the center as the dominant destination for shoppers on Florida’s Gulf Coast.”–William Taubman, COO of Taubman Properties, owners of International Plaza. Pinstripes and Cinemax have announced a spring 2021 opening of the more than 60,000-square-foot project at International Plaza.

Trump Vs. Bloomberg?

* Now we know that parts of “The Wall” along the Mexican border with Arizona have been breached by smugglers using saws and ladders. Apparently steel-and-concrete bollards are no match for power tools. Perhaps a moat with gators and snakes is actually the way to go.  

* No one doubts the leverage of the U.S. on Ukraine. Lest we forget, Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Nothing less than sovereignty is at stake; nothing less than promised U.S. military aid could address it.

* BTW, for the 28th year in a row, the UN has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the American economic embargo of Cuba. Among the two countries abstaining: Ukraine.

* “He’s a terrible human being.”–That was Mick Mulvaney’s appraisal of Donald Trump a couple of years ago. Now he’s President Trump’s acting chief of staff. Some things you just have to work around.

* “I would love to go if I could.” That was President Trump responding to the invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow, commemorating the allied victory over the Nazis. And what would keep Trump from accepting the invite to the annual parade that also shows off Russia’s military might? Officially, it’s inconvenient timing–because it would be “right in the middle of political season,” said Trump by way of explanation. Or maybe somebody got to him to explain how unhelpful the optics of a Russian military parade in the company of his handler, Vlad Putin, would look. Maybe John Bolton still has influence.

* To the surprise of no one, former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has formally, and finally, landed in the Trump White House. The Trump acolyte and apologist will utilize her legal and media skills as part of the WH communications team as it pushes back against Democrats with “proactive impeachment messaging.” The only ones surprised are those who had her signing on for a regular gig with Fox News or being named president of Trump University.

* And look who else has joined the White House in an official capacity: Florida televangelist Paula White, of Without Walls International Church infamy. She’ll work in the Office of Public Liaison. Her role will be to advise the Administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which aims to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs. In short, she’ll be a high-profile beacon to evangelicals, a key, however blatantly hypocritical, part of the Trump base. No surprise that this gospel grifter has been closely associated with the “prosperity gospel,” an assertion that God rewards believers with personal as well as financial success.

* “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.” That was California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s terse response to Trump after the president criticized his handling of wildfires and threatened to cut federal aid.

* Call it another day on the Trump campaign trail, just not as high-profile as the Alabama-LSU game. But there was a lot of overlap in President Trump’s weekend rally in Monroe, La. His chief cheerleader was Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy. Kennedy, an ongoing affront to that name, channeled Trump and vilified a common Democratic target. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach (President Trump),” ranted Kennedy. “I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb.”

Can only imagine how that would have come out had Kennedy actually intended disrespect.

* Hopefully it’s not too late. Increasingly, Democrats have begun using the blunt-force word “bribery” instead of the Latin-shrouded “quid pro quo.” Even “tit for tat,” which Trump would ironically enjoy saying, is better. Bribery, officially an impeachable act, cuts constitutionally and viscerally to the quick amid the “high crimes and misdemeanors” applications and diversions over a whistleblower’s identity. Not even Lindsey Graham would want to defend “bribery.”

* White House press secretary–and uber toady–Stephanie Grisham has publicly derided “A Warning” by Anonymous as blatantly untrue and unfair. “Reporters who choose to write about this farce should have the journalistic integrity to cover the book as what it is–a work of fiction.” She also labeled the author a “coward.” Speaking of cowards, Grisham can’t even muster the guts–let alone a professional communicator’s executive branch responsibility–to face the public-surrogate press corps at what used to be regular White House briefings.

Dem Notes

* The candidacy of Michael Bloomberg: This could be a bridge too far for the Dems, a 77-year-old billionaire who was a Republican when he was the three-term mayor of New York City. But in the era of Trump, nothing is beyond the pale anymore, including a late-entering candidate who would bypass the first four–momentum-generating–states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina and prioritize the Super Tuesday states. It would assume, of course, that no Dem had achieved clear-cut-favorite status by then.

The priority for Dems should be to hit a reset button–with America and the rest of the world–and remove Trump. Then pivot. It’s a matter of being both pragmatic and progressive, but in that order.

There’s also this. Yes, Bloomberg’s a bona fide billionaire, and that’s a de facto affront to hard-core, anti-plutocrat progressives fighting against income inequality. But he has at least earned it the old-fashioned way–without inheritance, without bankruptcy laws. He’s an entrepreneur–not a reality-TV performer and charlatan. He’s also in favor of raising taxes on “upper-income earners” and is a major philanthropist–whose activist causes include environmental issues and gun control. He’s also knowledgeable about government and familiar with running more than a brand business. He would also be immune to Trump caricatures of Dems as haters of capitalism, cops and Israel.

He would please the Democratic donor class and assure that the Dems were not outspent this time. And speaking of money, Bloomberg puts it into a context that might appease skeptical Dems. In an address this year to Harvard Business School grads, he underscored values. “People have a hell of a lot more respect for those who make a difference in society than they do for people who just make money,” he said. “Gordon Gekko was wrong: Greed ain’t good.” Take that, Wall Street.

* Much has been made of Kentucky electing a Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, the state’s former attorney general. Partisans and pundits are digging into the details and conclusions. This much seems clear. Beshear pretty much stayed away from impeachment as an issue and concentrated much more on health care and education. His Republican opponent, the incumbent Matt Bevin, used the prospect of impeachment to rally Republicans and send a Trump-support message with his re-election. Others have noticed, of course, including Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, who’s also on the 2020 ballot.

Tampa Tidbits

* Tampa has hosted Super Bowls, a national political convention, Bollywood Oscars, the collegiate national football championship and some Final Fours. They’ve all boosted Tampa’s image and profile–while providing serious economic impact. Now we’ve got WrestleMania headed our way–to Raymond James Stadium–in the spring.

“I think Tampa is going to be a magnet to wrestling fans since we have such a rich history of wrestling coming out of Tampa,” assessed Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada. Indeed, it’s steeped in Tampa’s roots.

In short, the “Super Bowl of Wrestling” is a very big deal, and is expected to result in more than $100 million in tourist spending. WrestleMania could generate more than 50,000 hotel visitor room nights from attendees, including international visitors.

What’s not to like? Well, it’s still “professional” wrestling.

* This just in: Christian comic John Crist has canceled an upcoming Tampa concert–part of a tour–after allegations of sexual misconduct involving multiple women. “I’ve sinned against God, against women and the people I love,” he said. Crist also said he will devote all his “time and energy on getting healthy spiritually, mentally and physically,” which is a lot better than continuing to prey religiously.

* Stumpy’s Hatchet House recently opened in western Hillsborough County. The indoor facility offers hatchet throwing and a bar that serves beer and wine. What could possibly go wrong with this niche-market concept?

Vetted Patriotism

A recent item in the Tampa Bay Times–via the Chicago Tribune–explained (grammatically) why we celebrate “Veterans Day,” as opposed to “Veterans’ Day.” Some journalism professor pointed out that no apostrophe is needed for description, but necessary to show possession. I agree. I used to teach English. Its correct. Just kidding; It’s correct.

Squeezing Citrus

Call it a culture war. Or call it where “Flori-duh” meets Trump World. As we–and many around the country–have noted, the Citrus County Commission formally announced recently that it would not fund its library with digital subscriptions to the New York Times. The commission balked at spending $2,700 annually to enable library cardholders to access something other than paper copies of various newspapers, including the NYT.

This wouldn’t have made news beyond Inverness had not the commission vote highlighted, so to speak, the new normal of divisive invective, partisan chasm and media demonization. “Fake news, I agree with President Trump,” declared Commissioner Scott Carnahan. “I don’t want the New York Times in this county. I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ’em, it’s fake news and I’m voting no.” Yeah, he actually said that; would that it were fake news.