surprise that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will soon be
leaving his position. The surprise is that he has lasted this long. His input
was routinely ignored by Donald Trump when it came to Russian interference
in the 2016 campaign and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The frayed
White House relationship had become a public, personal affront and departmentally
demoralizing across the 17 intelligence agencies Coats oversaw–let alone all
of those obvious implications for national security.
Coats was also an ongoing reminder to
this narcissistic president that the implications of Russian interference on
his behalf undermined his election validity even more than losing the
popular vote did. Few things perturb this president like a vanity hit.
And no surprise that Coats’
replacement is likely to be Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a
proven Trump acolyte and staunch congressional loyalist who’s notably
credential-challenged on security matters. Obviously Ratcliffe passed his
casting call with his snarky questioning of special counsel Robert Mueller.
One upside: We will now hear much
more from Coats about the challenges the U.S.—not just Donald Trump—faces. You
know MSNBC and CNN are already on the case.
Trump—for all that he is not in terms of being presidential—is right in the
wheel house of modern media. He was pop-culturally good at “The Apprentice,” which
was a major, albeit embarrassing, stepping stone to his presidency. Alas, former
FBI Director Robert Mueller, decorated marine war veteran, avatar of
rectitude, and government careerist beyond reproach, was not made for 21st
century media, where optics and sound-bite facility and flair matter much more
than they should. That was painfully evident in his recent House testimony.
Mueller looked the part of post-prime prosecutor put in a reluctant-witness
role. Hardly a character flaw, but awful timing for those who wanted—and
needed–a riveting, passionate, center-stage performance.
How ironic that Trump had
wanted him canned.
kept hearing references to Watergate, but there are obviously a number
of differences, including the lack of an ultimate “smoking gun.” Another
difference: Leon Jaworski was not a witness. And, no, Don McGahn will
not be the next John Dean.
final takeaways from the Mueller investigation that will never go away: First, why
did Russia want—to the degree that it attacked America’s electoral
process—Trump to be president in the first place? Second, amid
all the “I’m not going to comment on that” and “I’m going to pass on that”
terseness, Mueller did deliver a statement that should resonate far into our
vulnerable democracy’s future. In acknowledging that the Russians interfered
in a “sweeping and systematic fashion” in the 2016 election, Mueller actually
underscored the ominous reality. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” he
stressed. “They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in
the next campaign.” If we don’t respond to that, it’s on us—not Mueller.
And third, can anyone beyond the basket of deplorables truly conclude that
there were not at least serious attempts at justice obstruction and
witness tampering? And “attempting” is not exactly exculpatory, as was often
noted. Remember Nixonian “plausible deniability”? It never seemed so
American people deserve more!” That was no less than Michael Cohen,
penning one in from prison.
one should be surprised—merely frustrated and worried—that the U.S. and key
European allies, England and France, can’t agree on a united approach to
Iran over the protection of ships passing through the Persian Gulf. It’s
logical and counterproductive fallout from the Trump Administration’s
unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Yes, poorly-informed,
narcissistic, unhinged temperaments have consequences sooner or later.
Big VICTORY on the Wall.”—That was President Donald Trump celebrating
over the Supreme Court’s (5-4) decision that helps clear the way for his Administration
to tap billions of dollars in Pentagon funds to build sections of a
border wall with Mexico.
Another Big VICTORY on the Wall. Mexico’s Paying For It. Muchas
Gracias, non-rapists!” That’s the White House celebration we will never
Trump’s more enabling congressional henchmen is Rep. Mark Meadows of
North Carolina, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Here’s what Meadows
recently said about Trump’s racist-immigrant rants, including the infamous “go
back” recommendation: “He’s not a racist. I probably talk to him more than
anyone else, and I can tell you he is certainly not a racist.”
No wonder they get on so well. Here’s
a classic Meadows quote from 2012—aimed at then-President Barack Obama. “We
will send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is,” he exhorted a
between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump will be increasingly noted and
satirized–including on “SNL” this fall. That will be just in time for Brexit
to be dominating news cycles—as well as the countdown to the 2020 election-alternative-to-impeachment:
you don’t want to revisit Dwight Eisenhower warnings about a military
industrial complex, then it would be prudent not to have a defense
secretary, as in Mark Esper, who is only two years removed from being Raytheon’s
top government lobbyist.
disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” That’s how Donald Trump
characterized the majority-black, Baltimore area district represented by
Rep. Elijah Cummings, House Oversight & Reform Committee chairman.
to have a few rats than to be one.” That was the editorial response from
the Baltimore Sun.
the president’s on the phone, you want your friends to hear it, because it gets
the heart racing. … The power of that is pretty amazing. But you have to use it
wisely. You can overdo anything.”—That was Sen. Lindsey Graham on
Trump’s penchant for frequently phoning up legislators. Speaking of overdoing,
that apparently doesn’t apply to former rivals who have sold their sycophantic
souls to become regular presidential golf partners.
indicted Trump aides must be kicking themselves. If POTUS is totally innocent,
why did they all perjure themselves? These guys too dumb NOT to be in jail.”
No, that wasn’t someone weighing in on MSNBC or CNN. That was Gary Trudeau,
channeling Roland B. Hedley Jr. in his “Doonesbury” strip. Another
reason to further ponder what this commentary is still doing on the comics page
with “Beetle Bailey” and “Blondie.”
the hell of it: Boss Tweet. Boldfinger. Darth Taxe Vader. King Leer.
Demander-in-chief. Adolph Twitler. Benedict Donald.
Longwood Republican David
Simmons, the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, still believes in a
no-sanctuary cities position for Florida, but he leavens that position with his
plans for legislation that would give undocumented immigrantslegal
permits to work and drive in Florida. It’s an effort to bring them “out of the
shadows” and have them follow state laws. It matters because it would impact
about 800,000undocumented immigrants living in this state. It also
matters that in a 2020 election year, this could resonate with Florida’s
Hispanic voters. Even if Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of
Florida and Sunshine State suck-up to
Donald Trump, doesn’t exactly approve.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and his agency have put out a YouTube video advising the public on how to spot a fake law enforcement officer. There are tips about uniforms and badges–and this salient piece of advice: “If you’re suspicious of an unmarked car pulling you over, turn on your hazard lights, reduce speed and keep driving until reaching a well-lit area. Then call 911.” But, yes, this is another sobering sign of the new normal.
Now that the celebrations
have subsided over Puerto Rico’s admirable, democratic mobilization to rid themselves of an
unpopular governor, sobering reality remains. Gubernatorial succession has morphed
into constitutional chaos, and so much about the economy, crime,
infrastructure, emigration and relationship with the U.S., including statehood
scenarios, remains frustrating and unaddressed.
And ironically Puerto Rico’s only representative in Congress, Republican Jenniffer González-Colón, chairs “Latinos for Trump,” which supports the president’s re-election campaign. And we know how less than expeditious this Administration has been to the island territory battered in disparate ways—from hurricane Irma to tax-break removal.
Puerto Rico and its 3.2 million residents—nominal American citizens–deserve better than just the removal of Ricardo Roselló.
been said, but not in a complimentary way, that Joe Biden has the appealing
persona of a 1960s TV dad. There’s some charm to that, but Ward Cleaver for
president can’t resonate.
of the infighting over health care. Dems are on the correct side of the
issue, whatever the labeling, whatever the rhetoric. So, instead of “Medicare
for All,” which plays into Republican-speak about undefined “socialism,” just
call it “Medicare Option For All.” As in, “If you can do even better,
opt for it; we’ve got you covered.”
whole “Trump vs. ‘The Squad’” fight should be seen for what it
manifestly is: A racist president leading his loud, deplorable base in
demonizing the Dems and trying to further fuel opposition party infighting. Advantage
Trump campaign if the Dems don’t rally around the right cause in the right united
Dems need to get smart about what to do about this existential threat to
America. We don’t need a revolution; just the best strategy for removing
Trump then pivoting to what’s best for Americans—from climate change, health
care, humanitarian border security and living wages to infrastructure, free
trade and international allies. Revolutions are best directed against the entrenched
status quo, not against a perverted populist anomaly.
Squad: Here’s hoping at some point we see a truly well-reasoned,
well-strategized press conference by “The Squad” that puts the onus
where it squarely belongs: on the racist, xenophobic, faux populist Trump presidency.
A couple of suggestions, starting with having Massachusetts Congresswoman
Ayanna Pressley, 46, taking the lead. It should be well-scripted because nobody
is immune from off-the-cuff remarks too easily turned into oppo-memes. To wit:
“Fellow Americans. My
progressive sisters and I come before you today to put into perspective what we
as the Democratic Party stand for—and stand united against.
“We want secure borders and believe
that goal is not incompatible with our humanitarian better angels. We want
health care considered a right–not an ad hoc, emergency-room bail-out. We want
serious, go-for-green, climate change legislation now—for all of us and all
those generations yet to come. We want living wages for those not impacted by
the tax-cut bill and those not swooning over stock buybacks, inroads on a
budget deficit ratcheting up at an alarming rate, and a relationship with the
world that is not at odds with our country’s best interests. It’s a
“And while too much limelight has
been shed on myself and my congressional sisters, make no mistake, every
congressional Democrat is behind this agenda. We have our differences on
details and strategies—of course we do, and it’s part of democratic
sausage-making–but ultimately we will funnel our priorities through our
Speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi. We are not the face of this
Democratic Party. We are part of this greater body politic that looks out for
all Americans—regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. And we stand united
against any devious attempt to divide us—and our country. The Democratic Party
stands tall and proud that we will never waver in advocating for a just cause. And
we will never back down to would-be racist intimidation. Never. It’s who we
are—and who the other side isn’t.
“In his North Carolina campaign pep
rally, President Trump said, as only he can say, that maybe I was ‘related to
Elvis. Who knows?’ Well, for the record, I am not related to Elvis, but,
frankly, his iconic song “Don’t Be Cruel” has never resonated more. Thank
you, fellow Americans, and we now have work to do—to get us to post-Trump
“impeachment” may be a rallying cry for a number of Democrats, it’s hardly a
pragmatic political tool right now. We saw the upshot of that recently with
that ill-considered impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Al Green,
D-Texas. That Trump is “unfit to be president” and “unfit to represent American
values” is more than manifest. But also obvious is that odious character flaws
are hardly high crimes and misdemeanors.
No wonder it was shot down—including by a majority of Democrats. Trump
then spiked the failed effort in his Twitter end zone. Hardly helpful.
Impeachment should definitely be on the Dems’ agenda, but it’s about moving relentlessly
forward on investigations of abuse of power and obstruction of justice—not
about presidential propriety.
lose hope. The Democrat’s demographically-favorable coalition still
outnumbers the Trump base. It’s a matter of getting the vote out—and
no unforced errors. Recent history reminds us that it’s a formidable parlay,
but the reality is that a re-elected Trump can’t happen without
No, it doesn’t compare to the repugnant,
hateful, immigrant animus of today, but here’s a reminder—circa Gilded Age
1890s—that there’s been a lot of put-down precedent for where we are right now.
Here’s a sobering, nativist rhyme from Worcester, Mass.
“The Irish and the Dutch, they don’t
amount to much.
“For the Micks have their whiskey and
the Germans guzzle their beer.
“And all we Americans wish they had
never come here.”
Recently deceased Justice John Paul
Stevens, appointed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, was confirmed by a 98-0
Senate vote. Those were the days. But Justice Stevens’ take on SCOTUS still
stands. “Learning on the job is essential to the process of judging,” he sagely
good that a network, in this case CNN, is hosting the next round of Democratic
debates. Americans need to get a first-person feel for who can take on Donald
Trump. But it’s too bad it’s still a mess with too many candidates to have an
actual “debate.” It’s political performance art. As a result, it’s
teased like other prime-time programming. To wit: The digitally clocked “Countdown
to ‘The Draw,’” two weeks before the Detroit gathering. A presidential-candidate
forum shouldn’t be shilled like the NFL Draft. And are they “contestants”
The network touts the dynamics, “face-offs,”
“match-ups” and “rematches.” Everything but “starring Wolf Blitzer.” It is what
it is: Show business embedded into our media and politics and there’s no
rebottling that grandstanding, societal genie. The sooner we get to less than a
half dozen candidates, the better it will be for democracy—and the Democrats.
to CNN’s retrospective on “The 60s,” I caught up with some old “Laugh-In”
clips. Including the segments it regularly did on “News of the Future.” One in
particular still resonates. It referenced the still-futuristic 1970s with
something like: “Secretary of Defense John Wayne announced today that he
was leaving for Hanoi where he will punch the Vietnamese in the mouth.” A half
century later, a “Defense Secretary Wayne” no longer seems so far-fetched and farcical.
xenophobic, counterfactual and politically stupid.” That was conservative
journalist Brit Hume characterizing Trump’s racist rant at the four
high-profile, minority female progressives in Congress. Too bad that wasn’t Sean
Miami Herald has been hammering Marco Rubio for his oh-so-parsed “criticism”
of Trump’s racist rants against the four Democratic congresswomen of color. The
Herald’s editorial board called his response “pathetic,” and later wrote
that “he has transformed from Trump critic to sycophantic cheerleader.”
if Time magazine would like a mulligan on that dated cover story
on Rubio that labeled him “The Savior of the Republican Party.”
are the network footage of Mexican drug-and-murder lord Joaquin “El
Chapo” Guzman being sentenced to life in a U.S. prison is the last
we’ll see of him. He’s getting the ultimate punishment shy of the capital version:
Supermax confinement, which is a solitary cell and no access to tunnels. His
only hope: Pay for The Wall.