Wretched Rhetoric Matters

“We are all going to start slitting throats on Day One.”

No, that wasn’t some ISIS monster declaring what looms for helpless hostages. That was presidential candidate Ron DiSastrous, underscoring his priority to clean up the “deep state.”

Words, of course, do matter, especially when they’re spewed—not spoken. Sure, it’s only rhetoric, but it’s abhorrent, dangerous and disgusting—especially at a time when this country needs healing from hateful divisiveness—not a rhetorical doubling down on our worst instincts.

“Carnage” never sounded so benign.

Iowa Stage Show

Rarely does a presidential-candidate debate turn into a, well, debate. It’s a lowest common denominator performance-art exercise that no forensic society would ever countenance. Now let’s see who drops out. Vanity or an audition for Fox News hosting can keep some candidates on stage longer than political viability would suggest.

Trump, the serially indicted huckster, of course, was a no-show. He’s ahead, still has an alarmingly hefty cult following and awaits coronation, not incarceration. The GOP, as we’ve seen, is now more nativist, tribal movement than party.

The pro-Trump Milwaukee debate crowd loudly booed any unflattering references to Trump—especially by Chris Christie. “Booing is allowed,” responded Christie, “but it doesn’t change the truth.”

Takeaways: Nikki Haley never seemed so reasonable. Mike Pence still showcases his pious, evangelical chops. Ron DiSastrous still hopes no one notices when he looks for cues and tentatively raises his hand in response to a moderator question for all and then avoids a direct question and immediately pivots to his platitude agenda. He spoke in stump speech argot and even worked in a George Soros reference. Is there a Trump-Ramaswamy ticket coming our way?

Dem Notes

  • The welcome reality from the Ohio vote that rejected attempts to weaken voters’ voices and further erode a woman’s right to choose: Abortion remains a highly motivating issue for voters.
  • Speaking of motivating, President Biden needs to make more headway and drum up more support from young voters, voters of color and women. The pressure is on for VP Kamala Harris, who’s better at fund-raising than popularity, to make a high-profile difference on the hustings.
  • And head’s up for Gavin Newsom and his challenge to debate Ron DiSastrous. A lot of political tea leaves to read. Is he doing what a good surrogate does in defending Biden against a would-be opponent? Is he running a shadow 2024 campaign? Or is he positioning himself for 2028? Just ask VP Harris.
  • Joe Manchin an Independent? What else is new for the swing-vote-enamored West Virginia Demopublican.
  • No diplomatic concessions. Proper response to North Korea over the soldier who defected: “Keep him.”
  • “I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised.”—President Biden, on the plane crash that killed Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who had led a brief armed rebellion against the Russian military.
  • The U.S. has had the fastest recovery from the pandemic recession among the Group of Seven industrialized Western economies. That won’t be mentioned in Iowa.
  • Reminder: Not a single Republican voted for the Inflation Recovery Act, the one Nikki Haley called a “communist manifesto.”
  • Reminder: The unemployment rate is 3.5 percent. A record 13 million jobs have been added during Biden’s first term.
  • How did Nikki Haley alter the GOP candidates’ pledge to “Beat President Biden”? She wrote in “Beat President Harris”—to keep an octogenarian incumbent in partisan context.
  • The White House is prepping for an impeachment inquiry in the fall. That means, alas, Kevin McCarthy and Hunter Biden will dominate some news cycles.
  • Apportionment … has been either deliberately rigged or shamefully ignored so as to deny the cities and their voters that full and proportionate voice in government to which they are entitled.” That was John F. Kennedy back in 1958.
  • No, it’s not a reset of Obama policy, but it was encouraging to see that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is reopening its Havana office.
  • Remember “No drama Obama”? Seems like ancient history.


  • License plates are about more than vehicle I.Ds. Typically, they also carry a brand slogan. Ad hoc marketing on the road. Such as the “Sunshine State” (Florida) or “Dairy State” (Wisconsin). Then there’s the “Empire State” (New York) as well as “Virginia Is For Lovers” (but celibates are allowed). And North Carolina, of course, still has those “First in Flight” plates. Given Americans’ notorious ignorance of history, including our own, it probably includes the Wright Brothers historic role in aviation. Too many Americans wouldn’t know the Wright Brothers from the Everly Brothers. And to non-North Carolinians “Flight” can also mean flee, not just fly. Imagine, North Carolina: The “First in getting the hell out of here” state. Just sayin’.
  • Animal yoga. Naked yoga. Nightclub yoga. Laughter yoga. What would the Maharishi say? Hopefully, “Do you really need gimmicks?”
  • Saw the George Foreman bio-pic on Netflix. He’s a former champ, turned preacher, who makes an unlikely comeback in the ring to reclaim the crown at age 45. But boxing, where the credo is first do some harm, is an ironic, unholy metaphor. What would Jesus say: “Maybe: “Do unto others as you would never allow them to do unto you—or else you lose.”
  • Assault on common sense: Banning books—not assault weapons.
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez quits, oops, “suspends” his presidential bid.
  • San Francisco has approved robotaxis. What could possibly go wrong with that?


  • Gubernatorial/presidential priorities: Gov. Ron DiSastrous has appointed his Tallahassee chief of staff, James Uthmeier as his new presidential campaign manager. Uthmeier, ironically, is a former senior adviser in the, yes, Trump Administration.
  • “Be Likable, Ron!”: A snarky message for the Florida governor on a banner being pulled by an airplane flying over the Iowa State Fair.
  • “I will be able to destroy leftism in this country and leave woke ideology on the dustbin of history.”—Gov. DiSastrous.
  • Twenty-three and counting: Since 2019, Gov. DiSastrous has suspended 23 elected officials.
  • “Another illegal and unconstitutional attack on democracy by a small, scared man who is desperate to save his political career.” That was former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, on the governor’s suspension of Monique Worrell, the elected state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties.
  • “This is a political hit job.”—Monique Worrell.
  • State law allows taxpayers to pick up all costs for travel and security for its governor, even when they are engaged in political campaigning. Exhibit A: Florida’s governor, who has spent considerable time running for president and promoting his memoir.
  • This state collects about 25 cents a gallon in gas taxes. Those collections, of course, will decrease as electric vehicles increase in popularity.
  • Low-caliber priorities: The Florida Legislature approved bulletproof windows at the Capitol complex, while still making it easier for people to carry weapons into public areas.
  • Banning “And Tango Makes Three” but not “Art of the Deal”?

Tampa Bay

  • No, Shakespeare has not been excluded from Hillsborough’s high school curriculum. Imagine that was even up for discussion. What would The Bard say? Maybe “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”
  • The city of Tampa’s median household income: $60,000.
  • Mess Transit update. The (2020) state DOT grant money—worth some $67 million—is intended to help modernize the streetcar and extend the line north into Tampa Heights—remains unused. Tampa has been unable to produce a local match that is required to secure the hefty state funding.
  • Tampa has launched the HEATSAFE text alert system. To sign up: text HEATSAFE to 888-777.
  • Trump attorney John Lauro of Tampa will never live this down. Although Pam Bondi might not agree.

Media Matters

  • Took in “Opperman” recently and, even before entering the theater, it felt like a Cold War, nuclear-Armageddon, back-in-the-day experience. The activist group, “Back from the Brink,” was handing out “Life With Nuclear Weapons: Not a Hollywood Movie” flyers. But it was “Opperman”—not “Fail Safe.”
  • Remember G-rated movies? This year it’s likely that there will be no full-length, G-rated movies.

Sports Shorts

  • However this season turns out, heroic or heartbreaking, it will have been an emotional and chaotic Rays roller coaster ride—from a historically great start to devastating injuries of pitchers to Wonder Franco’s legal status to a challenging finish. But it could be even more frustrating and devastating. I can attest.

The year was 1964. My Philadelphia family was gearing up for the World Series. (No playoffs back then–only league winners qualified.) The Phillies were coasting with a 6.5-game lead and only 12 games to go.

And we were big Phillies fans. The starting shortstop (Granny Hamner) lived three blocks away in a Magee Street row house. My dad played with several of the starters in Army camp games. We had serious skin in the game.

The Phillies then proceeded to lose 10 straight, and St. Louis won the pennant. To this day, it’s still called the big “Phold.” The first of those 10 was most notable: a 1-0 loss at home to Cincinnati. The winning run game on a steal of home by Chico Ruiz with Frank Robinson—THAT Frank Robinson—at bat. After the game, came one of the more memorable quotes in Philly baseball lore. Reds manager Dick Sisler was asked about Ruiz’s steal of home with Robinson at the plate. As in, what would have happened to Ruiz had he been out? His response: “He’d still be runnin’.”

  • Wander Franco: Play the game you’re richly over-compensated for; don’t be a bling punk; respect others, notably women and teammates; learn some English; and become an impactful, positive part of the community that you are, at least for now, a de facto member of.
  • The ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) is adding California, Stanford and SMU. Is it now the Any Coast Conference?
  • Boca brainiac: FAU head coach Tom Herman is a member of Mensa.

Trumpster Diving

  • Trump the RICO actor made more unconscionable history by becoming the first-ever former president to have a mug shot. So, instead of debate prep, he just practiced poses to perfect a fund-raising scowl.
  • The more indictments (91 counts in four jurisdictions), the more Trump’s poll numbers rise, the more we wonder and worry over what’s happening to America.
  • Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp has not backed off. “We’re going to follow the law and the constitution regardless of who it helps or harms politically.” There was a time when that was a given. These are not those times.
  • “I think what (Trump as the Republican nominee) means for folks across the country is four more years of Joe Biden.”—Chris Christie.
  • “The American people are not going to vote for a convicted criminal.”—Nikki Haley.
  • Judge Tanya Chutkan, the one overseeing special counsel Jack Smith’s Jan. 6 case against Donald Trump: “Mr. Trump, like any American, has a right to free speech. But that right is not absolute.” Truth Social notwithstanding.
  • “In Trump World, incitement + indictment = excitement, plus big bucks.”—Barry Golson, author of “Gringos in Paradise.”
  • *Trumpster Congressman Matt Gaetz has said it was his “dream” to become U.S. attorney general. Judge Judy’s chances are better.
  • * “We don’t do plea deals.” –Art of the Dealer Donald Trump, still pleading his “witch hunt” case.


  • “These are the times that try men’s souls.”—Thomas Paine.
  • “My dear friend.” How Recep Erdogan, the president of NATO-member Turkey, refers to Vladimir Putin.
  • “The age of pop-up movements and celebrity takeovers in our politics is likely just beginning, I’m afraid. And the time for loyalty oaths–to any party–is rapidly coming to an end.”—Matt Bai, Washington Post.
  • “You can’t truly love this country and love the man who did everything in his power to destroy it.”—Bill Press, author of “Trump Must Go.”
  • “Ensuring access to higher education for students from different backgrounds is one of the most powerful tools we have to prepare graduates to lead an increasingly diverse nation and make real our country’s promise of opportunity for all.”—Attorney General Merrick Garland.
  • “If music be the food of love, play on.”—William Shakespeare.
  • “Royalty and the political elite can stay in power until their deaths. … We need an age-limit constitutional amendment.”—Gary Franks, former Connecticut GOP congressman and podcast host of “We Speak Frankly.”
  • “Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”—President Ronald Reagan.
  • “In a republic, legitimacy is derived from popular consent. But the only oath officials take is to the Constitution, not the people who elected them (or to their bosses).”—Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch.
  • “The most horrific element of slavery in the American South: the ‘chattel principle,’ the legal definition of human beings as property.”—Williams College American History Professor Emeritus Charles B. Dew.
  • “You’ve heard me say a million times that I’m not a Washington Democrat.”—West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
  • “If you want the rainbow, you must take the rain.”—The late New York Democratic Congressman Emanuel Celler.
  • “This is a despicable act beyond politics.”—Los Angeles Mayor Karren Bass, in reference to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sending immigrant families to L.A., which was part of a Hurricane Hilary-caused (Southern California) state of emergency.
  • “By today’s social standards, which forbid any suggestion of the ‘N-word,’ the right has supplanted the epithet with what it now derides as ‘wokeness.’”—Anthony Conwright, Mother Jones.
  • “As owners increasingly turn to electric vehicles, gas tax collections will face continuing downward pressure and, in so doing, reduce the state’s primary funding stream for transportation.”—Florida Revenue Estimating Conference
  • “The current combination of three at-large and four single-member districts benefits all county voters. Each voter currently has four commissioners representing them. Switching to all single-member districts means each voter has only one commissioner representing them.”—Teresa Potter, president of the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
  • “Our literacy rates are so low. … Our focus is to educate you. Nobody wants to brainwash your children.”—Hillsborough County School Board chairperson Nadia Combs.