* “They do nothing without our approval.”–President Donald Trump on America’s relationship with South Korea.

* “There is very little evidence to suggest that Haley served Trump as an ‘adult in the  room.’ She was an ally, an apologist and an acolyte of a man she once recognized as irresponsible. That’s not how able diplomats operate, and Nikki Haley will never be confused with an able diplomat.”–John Nichols, The Nation.

* “We are talking to the European Union again, we are talking to Japan again, and we are moving to what I have characterized as a trade coalition of the willing to confront China.”–Larry Kudlow, White House economic adviser.

* “They’re going to use these bilateral deals to strong-arm countries into lining up behind the U.S. on China. But when we get there, what’s the next step? I don’t know what the endgame is.”–Mary E. Lovely, Syracuse University economics professor and a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

* “The Fed’s going loco. … I think the Fed has gone crazy.”–President Donald Trump.

* “Free societies do not die overnight. The growth of a climate of intellectual fear is one sign of their weakening. So are the development of a personality cult, the stripping of meaning from language and the spread of disorientation.”–Roger Cohen, New York Times.

* “The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela. If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run healthcare is just the beginning.”–Donald Trump.

* “Today, with President Donald Trump in office and some countries embracing explicitly nationalist policies, the United Nations has become the symbol of the fading internationalist dream. The choice between ‘America First’ and ‘the international community’ could hardly be starker.”–Martin Perez, former editor-in-chief of The New Republic.

*”While Democrats are largely ducking the topic on the campaign trail, few in Washington doubt that impeachment will be on the table if they win the House on Nov. 6.”–Peter Baker, New York Times.

* “Should American citizens get a new Bill of Rights for the internet? Given all the damage that tech companies have done, including the disaster of the week–a breach at Facebook that exposed tens of millions of accounts and maybe lots more–many Democrats think the answer is yes.”–Kara Swisher, editor at large for Recode, producer of the Recode Decode podcast.

* “From now until November 6th, we’re going to remind voters that they have the power to move the needle on issues like affordable health care, racial justice and climate change.”–Carly Cass, youth director for NextGen Florida, an offshoot of Tom Steyer’s NextGen America. NextGen Florida has registered more than 50,000 Floridians to vote ahead of next month’s general election.

* “The best time to get vaccinated is in October. It takes two weeks for the body to produce antibodies to fight the flu. You don’t want to get it too late.”–Dr. John Morrison, Florida Hospital family medicine physician.

* “Florida does have this kind of disaster amnesia. You’re in that build-disaster-rebuild mode like the old rinse-wash-repeat shampoo commercial.”–Steve Ellis, vice president of Washington-based, Taxpayers for Common Sense.

* “The president is not only inept, he’s prejudiced, he’s a narcissist, he’s angry, he’s not fit to be president. State attorneys general are a line of defense.”–Florida democratic attorney general candidate Sean Shaw.

* “If we’re going to continue the progress that we made under the last three governors of the state of Florida and Republican leadership, we’re going to need to elect Ron DeSantis as our next governor.”–Republican state Sen. Tom Lee of Brandon.

* “As governor, one of the things you have to do effectively is work constructively with the administration in Washington, and I think people running who say they want to impeach Trump, well, when you become governor and that’s your position, how the hell are you going to get anything done for us?”–Ron DeSantis.

* “What Tampa (Bay) has in common with other top 10 cities is that its employment base is growing, its population is growing and the result is an engine for continued economic prosperity.”–Mitch Roschelle, a partner at PwC US and co-author of “Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2019,” which ranked the top American markets for real estate in 2019. Dallas/Fort Worth was ranked no 1; no other Florida market made the top 10.

* “We have a huge transportation problem in this community. We bring people in here to the airport at 500 miles an hour, and then they just stop. We have do something about this.”–TIA CEO Joe Lopano.

* “If it passes there, I think it helps us talk about it here again.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, on the ramifications of Hillsborough County passing a transportation sales tax.

* “I fully acknowledge the district’s funding issues are not our responsibilities. However, I cannot sit back and ignore the issues facing hundreds of thousands of our children.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, on how the county can help the school district tackle its air-conditioning crisis and other critical maintenance priorities.

* “I was shocked. They’ve endorsed me in 10 previous elections since 1992.”–Hillsborough County Republican Commissioner Victor Crist, in response to not getting the endorsement of the Greater Tampa Realtors.


Remember when the biggest issue with Brett Kavanaugh was his right-of-Anthony Kennedy ideology?  And you had to wonder how that would impact cases that could come before the court ranging from abortion and affirmative action to the government’s protection of the environment and the interplay of religious beliefs and gay rights.

And, yeah, there were his past indications that a sitting president was in a legal cocoon until leaving office. Could that be disqualifying? It was legal crunch time.

Relatively speaking, that all now seems to hearken back to a more civil judicial era–instead of the SCOTUS hearing from hell that ultimately resulted and, consequently, demeaned our most revered, constitutional institutions. From senatorial probes about legal precedent, it devolved into a circus with a punk ringmaster. Judicial temperament?  How oxymoronic. Was this about a Supreme Court nomination or the appointment of the next Capitol Hill Ralph Club president? Was this an iconic, deliberative body doing its constitutional duty–or reality TV?

This was supposed to be about a president using or abusing his prerogative to appoint a justice with a certain legal leaning. There’s ample precedent, although justices don’t always turn out the way appointing presidents had envisioned. President Dwight Eisenhower’s appointment of Earl Warren, for example, is as classic example as there is.

But back when we learned that Trump had chosen Kavanaugh from the Federalist Society’s short list, the most immediate concern was about the backdrop of a special prosecutor investigating an incumbent president. After all, Kavanaugh had written that he believed a president should not be distracted by civil suits and criminal investigations while in office. We all know the Oval Office implications.

So Kavanaugh’s appointment looked less about ideological preference–and more like a self-serving, presidential reach. Recall Sen. Kamala Harris’ take. “The president is an unindicted co-conspirator in federal crimes and has nominated someone to the Supreme Court who believes a sitting president should never be indicted.”

Too bad that wasn’t as bad as it would get.

But we’ll give Kavanaugh the last word in this forum. While he has shown himself to be far less credible than, say, Christine Blasey Ford, he can also, as we observed, be brutally candid.

“This confirmation process has become a national disgrace,” he groused in his opening statement. All too true.

Trumpster Diving

* Whatever happened to judicial temperament? Hell, whatever happened to presidential temperament? This is not a coincidence.

* Donald Trump: “self-made billionaire.”  Can’t help thinking about the late Texas Gov. Ann Richard’s line that she used against George W. Bush during their 1994 Texas gubernatorial race. “He was born on third base, looked around and said ‘I guess I hit a triple.'” Trump’s no Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates.

* Hypocritical would be an upgrade for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he scolded Democrats for their partisan, delay tactics on the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. Anyone recall the unconscionably partisan card he played on Merrick Garland’s nomination? There was no hearing to delay.

* Was the Kavanaugh hearing of more help to the GOP or Democratic base going forward? Arguably, the latter. It’s human nature to be more viscerally moved by what stokes protest than by what prompts celebration. Plus, add the #MeToo-fueled momentum for further rallying the female vote.

* The president weighed-in in Trumpian fashion about Columbus Day. What indigenous controversy? “Christopher Columbus’s spirit of determination and adventure has provided inspiration to generations of Americans,” said Trump. No word on prominent Columbus Day shout-outs from Hispaniola, one of the places Columbus actually landed in his four trips–none of which were on what would become the United States of America.

“Country First” Reality

* No. Not a chance.” That was Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona in a candid answer to the “60 Minutes” question of Scott Pelly as to whether he would have gone out on a political limb to push for a delay in the Senate Kavanaugh vote–if he weren’t retiring. It speaks volumes when even a relatively moderate, sensitive Republican can only act on his conscience if he no longer has to worry about re-election. Meanwhile, the rest of us worry about our increasingly authoritarian and dystopian society.

BTW, what happens to a politician of conscience who is not re-elected? How about political commentating, lobbying, book-writing or ambulance-chasing?

* “I did not do any kind of political calculation in making my decision. I have to apply my best judgment. I cannot weigh the political consequences.”–That was Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, addressing her vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. She should want a mulligan: Her vote was disgraceful, her explanation disingenuous.

* Sen. Lindsey Graham deserves his perch atop Trump’s basket of deplorables. He knows better than to be taken in by a cult figure. This is about blatant hypocrisy and opportunism and a frequent golfing partner. Remember he was part of the GOP primary field in 2016. Recall he was the candidate who, in reference to Trump, who he had called the “world’s biggest jackass,” rhetorically asked: “You know how you can make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.” Well, some of us are still taking his advice.

Media Matters

* “Drastic independence.” That was what Joseph Pulitzer–yes, that Pulitzer–argued for when it comes to the relationship between editors and publishers–as well as from government and the general public. Today that would win you a prize for naiveté.

* “I don’t like to hear (“fake news”) aimed at my colleagues, but it’s just white noise now. It has never affected what we do.” That was NBC News Anchor Lester Holt, who was in town this week as part of the network’s “Across America” series. That was a very tactful and professional way of characterizing something that has most media members fuming off camera. Ask Jim Acosta.

* The media spotlight that made Dr. Christine Blasey Ford a household name and a White House nemesis, has adversely impacted her a helluva lot more than less-than-credible, newly-minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “This has been terrifying,” said Ford’s attorney, Debra Katz. “(She and her family) are not living at home. … The threats have been unending.”

In the aftermath of that deplorable SCOTUS crucible, we’re left with a sobering societal message to women wanting to come forward about being victimized by sexual predators. Thanks again, Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and, yes, Susan Collins.

* Where politics, partisanship, opportunism, the Fox network and show business converge: Hope Hicks, former Trump Organization director of communications and former White House communications director, is now executive vice president and chief communications officer for Fox. Seamless career track.

* Should we be adding Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to the list of potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls? The articulate, telegenic 47-year-old is currently on a media-centric “College Tour,” where he is ginning up interest in the critically important mid-term elections.

* Presidential historian Michael Beschloss’ new book, “Presidents of War,” is a sobering, scary reminder that the Cuban missile crisis didn’t teach us all that we thought it had taught. And that includes never again putting this country and this globe in jeopardy of nuclear Armageddon.

Via recently declassified documents, Beschloss reveals a set of preparations by Gen. William C. Westmoreland to have nuclear weapons handy for American forces in Vietnam. Westmoreland had put together a secret operation that involved moving nukes into South Vietnam so that they would be available on short notice against North Vietnamese troops. That was 1968–six years after the missile crisis and 23 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Westmoreland plan was ultimately rejected by President Lyndon Johnson.

Statewide Signs

* For the first time since Florida became a swing state, more vote by mail ballots are being sent to Democrats than to Republicans this year. The change can be seen as a savvy sign of party enthusiasm–and the results of field efforts that placed a priority on VBM requests. It’s also a reminder of a principle that has to be in play: When Democrats vote, Democrats win. MAGA memes notwithstanding.

* Amid notably improved Democratic prospects, the statewide bottom line is still this: The only way Rick Scott wins the senate race is by replicating how he won his previous gubernatorial races. That is, spend a lot of money, robotically repeat a con-jobs mantra about the economy–and then count on an uninspiring opponent and an uninspired, off-year, Democratic base. In short, he can’t win without Democratic complicity.

Sports Shorts

* USF hasn’t been overly impressive so far, just impressive enough to still be unbeaten and ranked 23rd in the country. Next up, Tulsa. Go, Bulls.

* It’s rare to see a MLB home crowd boo one of its own–especially in the post-season. But that’s what happened to pitcher David Price of the Boston Red Sox after lasting less than two innings against the Yankees. It was understandable. Price has been leveraging himself since his Rays days to move from one obscenely-rich contract to another. But he never performs when it matters most; he has been consistently awful in the post season. Boo, indeed, unless he agrees to give some money back.


* “When you see a populist, you always see a demagogue. Societies no longer need demagogues; they need pedagogues–people that can tell a country, ‘Where is it that we want to go, how is it that we want to make it happen, and what is it that everybody has to  put in the basket to achieve those goals?'”–Colombian President Ivan Duque.

* “If you really want to reduce a trade deficit, the way to do it is to bring down spending relative to production, not to demonize trading partners around the world.”–N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard economics professor and the author of “Principles of Economics.”

* “I applaud and congratulate  the U.S. Senate for confirming our GREAT NOMINEE, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to the United States Supreme Court.”–President Donald Trump.

* “What we saw in these (Supreme Court) hearings was the unvarnished tribalization of national life.”–David Brooks, New York Times.

* “Part of the Court’s strength  and part of the Court’s legitimacy depends on people not seeing the Court in the way that people see the rest of the governing structure of this country now.”–Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

* “Most women tell the truth, but not all do.”–NBC’s Megyn Kelly.

* “If I am guilty of harassment, then every employee who stole a pencil is guilty of embezzlement.”–Garrison Keillor.

* “Mr. Trump inherited an empire built on tax evasion. Perhaps we cannot recoup all the taxes he and his family owed. But we can use their example as a call to restructure our tax system so it taxes people who work for their money less heavily–not more–than those born with a golden spoon in their mouth.”–NYU law professor Lily Batchelder, former majority chief counsel for the Senate Finance Committee.

* “If the U.S. has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell.”–Holocaust historian Christopher Brown.

* “This (partisanship) feels worse than the divisions over Vietnam and civil rights because there were three huge forces holding us together  back then that are missing today: a growing middle class, the Cold War and a sane Republican Party.”–Thomas Friedman, New York Times.

* “I remember when we were doing all those crazy shows back in the day and people said, ‘This is the beginning of the end of Western civilization.’ I thought it was sort of a joke, but it turns out they were right.”–Mike Feiss, the creator of “The Bachelor” and “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?”

* “Most fake news on Twitter links to a few established conspiracy and propaganda sites, and coordinated campaigns play a crucial role in spreading fake news.”–From a report by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which supports research in journalism.

* “We’ve got our work cut out with Gillum, there’s no question about it.”–Bill Bunting, Republican state committeeman in Pasco County.

* “(Andrew Gillum) is exciting for Americans, because I think the vast bulk of people in Florida, and the vast bulk of people across the country, think democracy has been hijacked by rich corporations. And that the elected officials don’t put the interests of their constituents first.”–Billionaire Democratic activist and mega-donor Tom Steyer.

* “Our organizations have long supported improvements in transportation in our community, and we proudly support the All for Transportation plan, which will reduce congestion, increase safety and expand transportation options for our fans and the citizens of the region.”–From a joint statement issued by the Bucs, Rays and Lightning.

* “We are going to contribute more than makes business sense for us. That reflects my strong desire to have MLB in Tampa Bay for generations to come.”–Rays owner Stu Sternberg on the proposed Ybor City Rays stadium.

* “Eight years ago, Florida missed an opportunity to connect Tampa and Orlando with a high-speed rail system. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again. … Our growth in Tampa must include higher-speed rail, and we need to keep Tampa’s future on the right track.”–Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

* “I fully acknowledge the districts funding issues are not our responsibilities. However, I cannot sit back and ignore the issues facing hundreds of thousands of our children.”– Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, on how the county can help the school district tackle its air-conditioning crisis and other critical maintenance priorities.

* “If it passes there, I think it helps us talk about it here again.”–St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, on the ramifications of Hillsborough County passing a transportation sales tax next month.

* “The best time to get vaccinated is in October. It takes two weeks for the body to produce antibodies to fight the flu. You don’t want to get it too late.”–Dr. John Morrison, Florida Hospital family medicine physician.

Chaotic Supreme Courtship

I know I’m not the only one.

As I watched Brett Kavanaugh’s last Senate Judiciary Committee appearance–following that of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford–I couldn’t overcome the sense that this might be hard for “Saturday Night Live” to spoof. I mean, how to you satirize a parody? Is the “Honorable Brett Kavanaugh” an oxymoron?

It was obvious from the start that Kavanaugh was doubling down on the tactic that mattered most at sexual-misconduct-allegation crunch time. This was more than damage control. In short, this was about showing viscerally that Kavanaugh was a victim of a reputation-destroying Democratic witch hunt. Plus, he wanted the back-in-the-day theme to be beer for the cool guys, not babes for assaultive sorts.

The hearing was a “circus,” a “sham” and a “national disgrace,” he charged. Moreover, the Senate had “replaced ‘advice and consent’ with ‘search and destroy.’” In response, Kavanaugh had replaced judicial temperament with calculated anguish and anger. Wonder what RBG thought about a punk on the court.

Then it got worse. He was never a “boring Boy Scout,” as Ted Cruz had mischaracterized him. He was just one of the guzzling guys, only the one who was top of his elite, country-club-milieu, prep school class and Yale-and-legal-career bound.

He even worked in a conspiratorial Clinton reference. He was angry, belligerent, defiant and flippant. He liked beer; he liked girls. Who doesn’t? But he had never assaulted anyone, and he had never passed out, even if he had been a member in particularly good standing of the “Beach Week Ralph Club.”

He lacerated the process and all Democratic Party enablers. This was a job interview, and the committee and the nation had just heard the excruciating testimony of Dr. Ford, a relative avatar of authenticity. As a result, he was on the #MeToo ropes–and nobody was more important than his nominator, Donald Trump. Certainly not Christine Blasey Ford, playing the lead in an immorality play to take down his besieged nomination.

Given Kavanaugh’s defiant demeanor and sniffling, thirst-quenching, rage-against-the-machine manner, it was surprising that one of the Democratic senators didn’t ask: “So, Judge, how many beers have you already had today?” I’m even more surprised that “SNL” didn’t go with it.

The bottom line: It was an embarrassing circus, one that should be unworthy of this country and its pre-eminent, “advice and consent” deliberative body.

But, yeah, Matt Damon as Brett Kavanaugh pulled it off on “SNL.” “I’m still an optimist” wryly noted Damon as Kavanaugh. “The keg is half full.” But we’ve all had Kava-nough.

The Cost of Cosby

It’s not that hard to become almost inured to the reality that we’ve always had sexual predators in our society. In every society. The real shock–and rationale for hope–is having victims summoning the public courage to speak out. It’s exactly what predators never expect.

But of all those marquee names–from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey–the worst example, by far, has been Bill Cosby. He wasn’t just a prominent show business personality who was rich, entitled and assaultive. But he was also somebody we needed for our racial tinderbox society. He reminded black-and-white audiences that we had much more in common than in conflict.

His comedy–from early Philly nightclub stand-ups while he was still attending Temple University to movies, syndicated TV shows and national tours–was universal. He didn’t traffic in the gratuitously vulgar or raw or political cheap shots. His humor was as universal as a “Fat Albert” cartoon or a “Noah’s Ark” biblical riff. He defied racial stereotypes and played a funny, empathetic, middle-class physician dad on “The Cosby Show.”

Now, at 81 and legally blind, he is the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be locked up for his predatory ways. His life is over, but the harm he caused has lingered long over the years. He waived his right to address the court after his sentencing. No apology for anything.

Bill Cosby was never who we thought he was and wanted him to be, and that’s the ultimate tragedy. America wanted–and needed–Dr. Huxtable, who was really Mr. Hyde.