Overlooked Anniversary

Last week (Nov. 22) marked the 55th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. You’re excused if you forgot; media acknowledgement was negligible.

The JFK killing should always be with us. It was arguably America’s seminal moment in the 20th century. It was a reminder–before Watergate and the Trump presidency–that we can take nothing for granted just because we are America.

Electoral Reality

Now that the “Flori-duh” version of the mid-term election is behind us, there are the usual musings about what we can do better. How we can improve the process and work toward uniformity. Etc. But the bottom line for any version of viable democracy remains this: an electorate that is involved, informed, motivated and not vulnerable to blatant dog whistles, unscrupulous social media and tribal group think. That’s more of a threat than voter suppression or fraud.

Quoteworthy

* “Europe is not only facing Brexit, one country leaving the European Union, but at the same time may also see a Ruxit, that Russia is leaving the European Convention on Human Rights.”–Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe.

* “The European Union was never going to let us leave the club while retaining all the advantages of belonging, any more than a tennis club allows ex-members to use the facilities for free.”–Jenni Russell, The Times of London.

* “I think Europe needs to get a handle on migration, because that is what lit the flame. I admire the very generous and compassionate approaches that were taken particularly by leaders like Angela Merkel, but I think it is fair to say Europe has done its part, and must send a very clear message–‘we are not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support’–because if we don’t deal with the migration issue, it will continue to roil the body politic.”–Hillary Clinton.

* “Economic tensions are reaching a breaking point.”–Former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, on the increasingly strained relationship between the U.S. and China.

* “There was the belief that over time, (President Trump) would better understand, but I don’t know that that’s the case. I don’t think that he understands the proper use and role of the military and what we can, and can’t, do.”–Col. David Lapan, former spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump Administration.

* “It is part of my being to want to respect and support the president as commander in chief. This one makes that very hard for me.”–Retired Gen. James Clapper, director of national intelligence during the Obama Administration.

* “I made a tremendous difference in this country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office and you wouldn’t believe it. Nobody’s done more for the military than me.”–Donald Trump.

* “We may never know all the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. (The United States) intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.”–Donald Trump.

* “If for any reason it becomes necessary, we will close our Southern Border. There is no way that the United States will, after decades of abuse, put up with this costly and dangerous situation anymore!”–Donald Trump.

* “A mature nationalism looks for ways to advance a nation’s interest by joining with others to achieve success.”–Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III.

* “Trump is not being ‘frank’ about his real priorities, and he is not putting America first. He’s putting his own naked self interest over what’s good for America.”–Greg Sargent, Washington Post.

* “I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves.”–Donald Trump, referring to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

* “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. … That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”–Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

* “Brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming?–Donald Trump.

* “There must be decorum at the White House.”–White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

* “In some form, I’d love to have her in the administration.”–Donald Trump, in reference to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

* “America’s most repulsive public figure.”–Conservative commentator George Will’s take on Vice President Mike Pence.

* “There’s a very clear spike in (consumer) sales in the middle of the year obviously driven by the tax cuts, and there’s an equally clear reversal in the second half of the year. It’s the sugar rush, followed by the comedown.”–Ian Shepherdson, economist for the Pantheon Macroeconomics research firm.

* “We estimate sedans operate at a significant loss, hence the need for classic restructuring.”–Citi analyst Itay Michaeli, on the rationale for General Motors cutting up to 14,000 workers in North America as it abandons many of its car models.

* “Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change. And those who deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies that we’re now witnessing, and will continue to witness in the coming years.”–California Gov. Jerry Brown.

* “Come on in, the water’s fine.”–Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in welcoming opponents to the House speaker competition. The floor vote is Jan. 3.

* “As we celebrate the dignity of work, we unify. We do not divide. Populists are not racists. Populists are not anti-Semitic. We do not appeal to some by pushing down others.”–From the re-election, victory speech of Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

* “Just by capturing the House, Democrats achieved one big goal–taking repeal of the Affordable Care Act off the table.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “Being in the minority is entirely different. It’s much easier. You play critic. This is a major responsibility, and I’ve been struck by the conversations how seriously they’ve been.”–Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa, on the Democrats taking back control of the House for the first time since 2011.

* “If we allow ourselves to be told that we must learn to compromise, we will end up in an ideological mush in the center.”–New Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes.

* “There’s a baseline percent of the white vote you have to get to win, and you can’t get to it just through young and progressive excitement.”–Florida-based, Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

* “I am in awe of these children, whose powerful message is amplified by their youthful energy and an unshakable belief that children can–no, must–improve their own futures.”–South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in presenting the International Children’s Peace Prize to Parkland students who created a movement to raise awareness about gun violence.

* “This is a new world for HART financially.”–Jeff Seward, interim chief executive of HART, on the impact of the recently approved transportation sales tax that will boost HART’s yearly operating budget from approximately $80 million to $200 million.

* “(The Lightning) will win (the Stanley Cup) again. I can’t wait. I’ll be here. This town is such a great sports town.”–Marty St. Louis.

Trump’s No Nixon

* It’s no surprise that the longer the Donald Trump Administration continues, the more parallels there are to the presidency of Richard Nixon. The Mueller investigation–and what it possibly portends–guarantees no less. Plus, both were self-serving and duplicitous, both kept enemies’ lists, and both were given to race-baiting to gin up a base.

But there will always be one notable difference.

However impeachment worthy and however unlikable, Nixon was not unqualified for the presidency. He wasn’t jumpstarted by a millionaire father. He was a Duke Law graduate. He served in the Navy. He was a member of the House of Representatives, a U.S. senator and a two-term, Cold War vice president. Trump had no government experience, was largely unread and was best known for branding towers and reality TV. The EPA was started during the Nixon presidency. The EPA has been under assault during the Trump presidency. And while both presidents showed animus toward the press, only Trump has labeled it “the enemy of the people” and encouraged violence against it.

“Tricky Dick” never looked so presidential. Watergate vs. Global Threatgate.

* Trump has told reporters that any new rules for press access would focus on “decorum.” “You have to act with respect,” he (actually) said. “You’re at the White House.” This, of course, from the bully pulpiteer, the disparager-in-chief, the spewer of insults, the one who routinely demonizes the press as “the enemy.”

What we need to remember about presidential press conferences, which are a relative rarity anymore, is that they are often more performance art than information sharing. It’s the convergence of the First Amendment, show business and showboating. Ratings matter for everybody. Fourth Estate elites has been known to preen; presidents have been known to palaver and pivot.

Advice to Trump: Watch some old video of John F. Kennedy press conferences. They weren’t all love-ins. Some were contentious. But never uncivil. This, after all, was America’s commander-in-chief, the one who was speaking to his fellow citizens–and global interests–through a press conference forum. There were always multiple agendas–including how a president handled media push back on controversial subjects. Trump, alas, is still an Apprentice, one who pathologically cannot grow in this job.

I miss Sam Donaldson and Helen Thomas.

* Trump recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which reminded us that this country’s highest civilian commendation is beyond eclectic. Exhibits A, B and C: the late Babe Ruth, the late Elvis Presley and the not-yet-late, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch.

* Speaking of Hatch, the Utah Republican had a take on Trump that defies credulity–but certainly not fealty and sycophancy. “Eight years ago to 10 years ago, Trump was not what I consider to be a pillar of virtue,” he said. “I think he has changed a lot of his life once he was elected. I think Trump is a much better person today than he was then.” Yeah, he really said that.

* While the president was stewing over the mid-terms, what Bob Mueller was up to, how to respond to the Saudis over the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how many soldiers and how much barbed wire to order up to halt a Central American caravan of asylum seekers, Vice President Mike Pence pinch hit for him at the Asia-Pacific summit meeting in Singapore. Pence managed to speak out for human rights for Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar and called for press freedoms in a part of the world known for government-controlled media. Given that he signed on for this and represents moral-cherry-picking evangelicals, he probably doesn’t see any hypocrisy in lecturing others.

Wise Words

This was passed along recently in a yoga class. It helps put our daily regimens and priorities into a context of opportunity and positivity. In effect, don’t wake up each day with a “What-do-I-HAVE-to-do-today?” attitude. Try making that: “What do I GET to do today?”

There’s Riverwalk There

Another day, another accolade. Sometimes it seems like that as City Hall press releases remind us of Tampa niches that have been singled out for praiseworthy citation by various  organizations or online entities. It’s all good, some more substantial than others. Here’s one that notably resonates. The American Planning Association naming Tampa’s Riverwalk as the winner of its “People’s Choice” award. It was part of the APA’s “Great Places in America” contest.

It’s a vivid reminder–especially to those of us whose Tampa tenure dates back multiple decades–that we have lived through a downtown transformation. Where once there was a neglected, industrial river dotted with waterfront warehouses and surface parking lots, there is now a 3-mile-long civic space that is the gateway to museums, parks, hotels and night life, aesthetically pleasing and a tourist draw. Where once there were barges, there are now water taxis. In short, and in a shout out to Gertrude Stein, there is now “there” there in Tampa. And we’re not the only ones noticing.

“Flori-duh” Not “Fraud-ida”

* As it unsurprisingly turns out, no, there was no game-changing fraud afoot in the Florida mid-term election, just the usual incompetence and cluelessness in the usual places. So much for the politically-charged, “rampant fraud” allegations of Senator-elect Rick Scott, who, ironically, should recognize fraud when he sees it. He oversaw it with Columbia-HCA.

* The voting fiasco here is a function of what media members recognize as sausage-making. Process never looks as good as final product–whether it’s the making of a documentary or a law. It’s never pretty behind the scenes, whether it’s editing or legislative compromising. When it comes to voting, most elections don’t warrant re-counts, thereby precluding the sort of scrutiny that would remind us about ballot design, voter carelessness or weird signature scenarios. In fact, from 2000 to 2016, there were only 26 statewide recounts nationally. That’s out of more than 4,600 statewide general elections.

In Florida, we had (an unprecedented) three statewide recounts. That resulted in a lot of sausage and more national ridicule for the state that never really recovered from “hanging chads” notoriety. While incompetence is not the same as corruption, it’s hardly consoling.

BLM?

Aesha Kendrick, a nursing assistant and African-American mother of five, was having breakfast on her front porch at 10:00 a.m. on a recent Sunday when shots rang out. They came from a neighbor’s house across the street and were aimed at a passing vehicle. A stray bullet hit Kendrick, however, and killed her as she was eating a bowl of Trix. An African-American male was arrested for the fatal shooting. It’s not an isolated incident. There’s been a spate of gun violence in South St. Pete. Kendrick is not the only black victim.

It’s tragic, senseless, dystopian and, frightfully, not uncommon. One would hope that a local “Black Lives Matter” affiliate would take a high-profile stand–even though this outrageously lethal act didn’t involve a cop. Unless no one has an issue with the seeming connotation that Black Lives only selectively Matter.

Quoteworthy

* “We now live in a time in which the eyewitnesses of this terrible period (World War II) of German history are dying. In this phase, it will be decided whether we have really learned from history.”–German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

* “Diplomacy cannot be done in tweets.”–French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

* “The biggest problem is the trust issues.”–White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, on trade negotiations with China.

* “Brexsh*t.”–British short hand for the sloppy departure of the UK from the European Union.

* “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts.”–President Donald Trump.

* “At this point, it may be more prudent to view what comes from the Mueller probe as fodder for the 2020 presidential campaign. It may not pave the way for an impeachment conviction by the Senate, but could well pave the way for an electoral ‘impeachment.'”–Charles Blow, New York Times.

* “Business conflicts of interest that violate the Emoluments Clause, obstructions of justice and illegal hush-money payments comprise three ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ mandating impeachment…. Congress should not condone the president’s crimes. The House is honor-bound to impeach. If the Senate decides to acquit, then the people will have the final word in the elections of 2020.”–Eric Orts, University of  Pennsylvania professor of legal studies and business ethics.

* “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor.”–Donald Trump.

* “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. … It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”–Donald Trump.

* “Believing in massive voter fraud is on a par with climate change denial, and sadly both show the Trumpized GOP’s willingness to depart from reality.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “There’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.”–Paul Krugman, New York Times.

* “It’s nothing scientifically proven, but I do feel women legislators have a very different dynamic when they’re working together. I have a network of women members, and when we have ideas we bounce them off each other and no one’s worried about someone stealing credit.”–U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y.

* “I think to older baby boomer women, (Nancy Pelosi) represents change. To younger (House) members, she represents the status quo.”–Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

* “Trump is the Democrats’ biggest fundraiser.”–Kathleen Parker, Washington Post.

* “While there is a sprinkling of good professionals in the Trump Administration, they are there by accident, not by intent. Many of those staffing the White House could not get a job in any normal Republican administration, which selected people according to any traditional criteria of excellence.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “I expect to see a number of people running (for president) as if this is the Kentucky Derby with 17 stalls to fill.”–Democratic political consultant Jerry Austin.

* “The concentration of young people, poor people and people of color who used to sit on the sidelines because Democrats have not inspired them, will upend the (2020) map.”–Tory Gavito, president and co-founder of Way to Win, a coalition of mostly female donors.

* “Labeling someone as an ‘-ist’ who believes in an ‘ism’ because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology. It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid counter-argument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.”–Dan Crenshaw, former Navy SEAL and Republican representative-elect from Texas. He recently appeared on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” to receive an apology from cast member Pete Davidson.

* “The reality of running a company of more than 10,000 people is that you’re not  going to know everything that’s going on.”–Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive and chairman.

* “I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.”–Comedian Bill Maher.

* “Humans are generally not good at counting a large number of things. Humans get tired. We’re talking about people who’ve been working, at this point, incredibly long days and for well over a week.”–David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research.

* “We have been the laughing stock of the world election after election, and we chose not to fix this.”–Tallahassee federal Judge Mark Walker.

* “The law is an ass.”–Ion Sancho, former supervisor of elections in Leon County, on Florida law that mandates signature mismatches be “cured” by 5 p.m. the day before an election.

* “Right now a lot of people, and I’m talking Republicans as well as Democrats, see (Ron DeSantis) as an appendage of Trump. We all know very little about him. His platform during the campaign was virtually nonexistent. So I hope he’s serious when he talks about reaching out to all Floridians.”–State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Coral Gables.

* “You’re never going to win a war of attrition with Rick Scott.”–Democratic strategist Steve Schale.

* “To all Floridians, whether you voted for me or for my opponent or you didn’t vote at all, I ask that you never give up this fight.”–Sen. Bill Nelson.

* “I don’t see any reason why that trend won’t continue at least through the middle of 2019.”–Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, on news that the state added 17,800 jobs in October–with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.

* “Everyone wants the actual perpetrator caught and no one wants an innocent person to go to prison. We have an imperfect system. And wrongful convictions, although rare, do exist. And this is why it’s important to have a system in place to fix and minimize wrongful convictions.”–Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, on his office’s establishment of a Conviction Review Unit.

* “You can’t regulate stupid.”–Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez, on what could possibly go wrong as a result of a proposed ordinance allowing motorized scooters on certain sidewalks.

* “That’s just the tip of the iceberg.”–Tampa Bay Rays 2020 co-founder Ron Christaldi, on the amount of new corporate support–$16 million–pledged for a new Ybor ball park.