Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Too Long; Didn’t Read -or- Only Half the Story

Earlier this week, Steve Schmidt let fly, on Twitter.

If you watch MSNBC with any regularity, you’ve seen Mr. Schmidt. He’s the fellow with the goatee and otherwise clean-shaven head … whose entire head gets radiantly red when he rails against the current federal leadership in these United States.

He tweeted thusly [punctuation corrected because yeah, I’m a nut about that]:

The 43rd President of the United States listened to Trump’s inaugural and turned to the former Secretary of State and said, “well, that was some weird shit.”

Indeed it was. Trump raged about “American carnage”, and described a [dystopian] America that existed only in the fever dreams of a noxious mix of conspiracy theorists, demagogic commentators and dishonest propaganda platforms getting rich by spreading the disinformation planted by foreign intelligence services.

Three years on, it turns out Trump’s speech was prophecy. He has brought devastation to America. His legacy will be mass death and economic collapse caused by his staggering incompetence and ineptitude. The United States is the epicenter of Covid-19 disease and death, and the reason is because of Trump. Trump has failed at an epic level.

He has divided the country and stoked a cold civil war. He has lied more than 17,000 times, and desecrated the American Presidency. He has assaulted American patriots, [and] our most important institutions, and attacked the rule of law.

He is corrupt, indecent and utterly lacking character. He processes none of the qualities of greatness and goodness that have steered our country through its darkest nights. He is a fool without compare. He is intellectually unfit and mentally fragile. He is unworthy of his office and unfit for its duties.

We are living in a moment of American weakness unlike any of us have ever seen. Trump is the architect of that weakness. He is the instrument of our precipitous national decline. Recovery from this disaster will take many years. Trump is not capable at any level of leading it.

The election ahead is the most important this country has faced since 1864. Let it end this rancid era of the reality-show Presidency. Let it send this tiresome and ignorant bully back to Trump Tower and cleanse the stench of his corruption, idiocy, race-baiting and failure from our national life.

The name Trump will long linger. It will stand for suffering and unnecessary death. It will stand for economic collapse and financial ruin. It will stand for failure and weakness. It will stand for decline and dishonesty. It will stand for stupidity and indecency.

But mostly it will mark a tragic time in America where the worst leader in our long history, a man so outmatched by history’s test was the President. He will be remembered rightfully as the worst one we have ever had.

 

Which is fine, as far as it goes. And it goes fairly far.

But it would be well to note that immediately, a comment appeared, in the form of a multiple-Tweet thread, from a gentleman called Bradley Dlatt. Mr. Dlatt is a Chicago-based insurance attorney, but otherwise not a nationally-known pundit or similar. And this Tweet sets Mr. Schmidt’s commentary in a bit more context … context which will be important to keep in mind, come November.

Mr. Dlatt tweeted thusly:

Good thoughts here, Steve, but any conversation about Trump that divorces his brand of division, cruelty, incompetence, and ineptitude from the political party that elected him and has enabled him only tells half the story.

That story begins in 2008, with a little known Alaska Governor your team plucked from obscurity named Sarah Palin.

The media loved to talk about her, because she made division, incompetence, and ineptitude “cool” by being an “average person” who shunned expertise and science. Sarah Palin also made it “cool” to be objectively wrong and uninformed, thus creating a brand of politics best summarized as: “if your gut believes it, it must be true.”

Sarah Palin also gave us a new brand of conservatism that many call simply “Own the Libs” conservatism – a knee-jerk approach to politics wherein conservatives were taught to believe that any idea proposed by a progressive politician must inherently be wrong.

From Sarah Palin, we get the proliferation of sites like Breitbart News, a mainstream focus for the first time on conspiracy theorists like InfoWars, and the birth of “the tea party” – an anti-government, anti-science, and anti-intellectualist movement where Trump found a home.

The Tea Party was a political melting pot for racism, anti-intellectualism, anti-elitism, “Own the Libs,” and “if my gut believes it, it must be true” politics. Because it was entertaining, the media propped up the Tea Party as the “conservative” response to Obama. Since no other conservatives stepped in to fill the void and the media likes a good story, the Tea Party quickly gained popularity as the “GOP response” to Obama, unseating moderate republicans and bringing the Palin Values into the conservative mainstream.

When Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and others within the GOP mainstream saw that the Tea Party was a credible threat to the hold on the GOP and could whip voters into an Anti-Obama frenzy, they went “all in” and essentially capitulated to the Tea Party worldview. After the Romney Experiment (“run a conventional Republican”) failed in 2012, Mitch and others doubled-down on the Tea Party. The result was that voices like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Tom Cotton, who firmly espouse the Palin Values, were elevated within the GOP.

Enter Donald J. Trump.

Trump, a tea party figure and TV celebrity, took everything that Sarah Palin was saying in 2008 and everything the Tea Party said from 2009-2014 and “turned it up to 11” – the fringiest of the fringe. The Trump Train gathered steam within the GOP, powered by the media’s infatuation with the ever-entertaining candidate.

There was a single moment in early 2016 when Santorum, Cruz, Marco could have united by backing one of their 3 to end Trump. Mitch could have made it happen. Instead, the leaders of “mainstream conservativism” refused to coalesce, capitulating to Trump’s popularity with their “base” much as they did to the Tea Party several years before. The result: Trump wins the GOP nomination.

Fast-forward to January 2016.

Trump is inaugurated after running as a “Tea Party Turned Up to 11” candidate and with almost full backing from the ashes of “mainstream conservativism” who – again – gave in to the “Own the Libs” view whereby Trump > any qualified candidate.

Now, we’ve reached Present Day. Trump is all of the things you say he is, Steve, but he can be those things without limit because any elected Republican with political capital helped put him in the White House, opposed impeachment, and ran on the same Tea Party/Palin Values.

 

With this in mind – the fact that Donald Trump won more primary votes than any candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination ever, and the fact that if the national Republican Party establishment wanted to derail his campaign, they surely could have and would have …

It will be well to remember that Steve Schmidt, former communications and public affairs strategist, has the following on his professional resume:

[] 1995: Managed the unsuccessful campaign for Kentucky attorney general of Republican Will T. Scott.

[] 1998: Managed the unsuccessful campaign for California lieutenant governor of Republican State Senator Tim Leslie.

[] 1998: Was communications director of the unsuccessful campaign to unseat US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) of California’s Republican state treasurer Matt Fong.

[] 1999: Was communications director of the unsuccessful presidential primary campaign of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), leaving in June when the campaign reduced its senior staff.

[] 2001: Was Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush and Counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

[] 2004: Was a member of the senior strategic planning group ran President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign (oversaw the reelection “war room”).

[] 2005/2006: Was the White House strategist responsible for the US Supreme Court nominations of Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

[] 2006: Was campaign manager of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign in 2006.

[] 2008: Was senior campaign strategist and advisor to the presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

[] The New York Times described Schmidt’s management as having transformed the McCain campaign into “an elbows-out, risk-taking, disciplined machine”, crediting him with aggressive responses to press criticism and creative methods of manipulating the news cycle. In a September 2008 Times opinion piece, columnist Michael Scherer nicknamed Schmidt the “lord of outrage”.

[] Schmidt may be best known for pushing John McCain to select Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

 

So, yes, Mr. Schmidt is rightly scathing in his indictment of the current occupant of the White House.

But from a larger perspective … a perspective that requires people to remember recent history, say, before the year 2015 … it is important to note that Steve Schmidt is part of the team that is responsible for all this.

I can think of plenty of people who would be better suited to speak Schmidt’s words on national cable news television – people who played zero role in creating the current state of national Republican politics and in fact were hair-on-fire warning everyone about it.

And I can think of people who would be better suited to sitting down and, in the recent words of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), “keeping their mouths shut.”

May 15, 2020 Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, government, media, news, politics, Twitter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rage

I could go on for seven, or seventeen, or seventy paragraphs specifically about yesterday’s Senate hearing.

I could quote the line from the movie “Bananas” about how these proceedings were “a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham” … but it would be a Woody Allen quote, and that may not be the top thing at this moment either.

So instead I’ll briefly summarize what I’ve read on my versions of Twitter and Facebook, about yesterday’s hearing.

 

In response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s behavior and attitude toward each of the witnesses…

In response to Dr. Ford’s testimony…

In response to Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony…

In response to the comparison between the two…

In response to those testimonies, in the context of the life experiences and backgrounds of each of the witnesses…

In response to what it all said about where we are as a country, on the subject of abuse and assault and women and men…

What I’ve read in those social media posts has been horror and despair, yes.

But, in great measure: rage.

 

What to do with the rage?

At this moment, the only thing – the ONLY THING to do:

Focus that rage.

Channel that rage.

Carry that rage. In a specific direction.

Carry it into the voting booth.

Don’t assume that other people will do so.

Do it yourself.

Make your statement.

It might be our last chance to do so freely and fairly.

The Senate majority has displayed – boldly, without reservation, without hesitation, without shame — just exactly how much they care about their constituents who are women.

The amount of care they have displayed is zero.

The political party with which they are affiliated is the Republican Party.

As the Congressional majority, according to the Constitution, they decide what the Congress does or does not do; hears or does not hear; what policy it makes or does not make.

Do you want to see this change?

It is therefore simple.

Vote for anyone – ANYONE – affiliated with the Democratic Party.

In other times, I might have said “vote for anyone not affiliated with the Republican Party”, leaving the door open for third-party-candidate voting as a “protest vote”. But I don’t now, [1a] because it’s the way our political system is constructed in this moment, [1b] because in the short term that will not change, and [2] the foreign influences who wish to affect our elections (both via hacking and via social media public-opinion influencing) will promote third-party candidates as “protest votes”, because of course Both Sides Are Equally Bad.

Which has been proven, this week, in one Senate committee alone, to be not the case. Which party pushed for proper FBI investigations and which did not? Which party’s members hired a “female assistant” to ask questions of Dr. Ford because for various reasons they didn’t want to be seen asking those questions themselves? Which party’s committee membership was comprised exclusively of older white men and which did not?

Both sides are not equally bad. Both sides do not do it.

 

So, as the saying goes — Vote Blue No Matter Who.

That’s your protest vote.

Bring your friends. Bring their friends.

Vote.

Vote on Congressional races.

Vote on state legislature races.

Vote on stage gubernatorial races.

Vote on local races.

Vote in such overwhelming numbers that no Russian bot or election-machine hacker can have its intended effect.

Vote for Democratic-Party-affiliated candidates.

Where at all possible, vote for female Democratic-Party-affiliated candidates. And people of color.

But Vote Blue first and foremost.

Because the Red side has shown us, this week at the very least, who they are and what they believe in – and whom they don’t believe in. (Take five minutes, go to someplace like ballotpedia.org, do a little research, find out who they are.)

(In my home state of Massachusetts, the actual ballots don’t say which party any candidates are affiliated with; they just list their home addresses. Once, I got into the voting booth without having done the reading, as it were, and had no idea which parties were represented on the ballot. Never. Again.)

((And by the way, y’all – no matter what Fox News and right-wingers say, “Democrat” is a proper noun, NOT an perjorative adjective. Jackwagons.)

So vote.

Elections have consequences. We’ve seen this in the last two (or six) years with an awful connotation. We can see to it again, in a month or so, to a far better end.

 

Take the rage that has gone from fulminating and seething and roiling to exploding out of all our pores … and DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

Vote.

Vote Blue.

Vote Blue No Matter Who.

Carry the rage.

Focus the rage.

Use the rage. Save the Republic.

Vote. Tuesday, November 6.

Let ’em have it.

RAGE VOTE.

September 28, 2018 Posted by | current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fury

Last night on her top-rated news analysis program, Rachel Maddow ran ancient (1991) video of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Anita Hill, with regard to the awful experience that she was alleging: repeated, wholly unprofessional instances of sexual harassment, at the hands (metaphorically) of then-Supreme Court nominee, now Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

I forced myself to stay with it till the end, and it was excruciating. Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because Ms. Hill’s parents were in the room at the time, being forced to listen to stories from their daughter’s life that no parent should have to listen to. At least as excruciating was the dogged determination of the questioners, from an all-male Judiciary Committee, to extract from Hill every last lurid detail of various events and conversations, and to spare no opportunity to take from her the refuge of euphemism. Exactly what physical attributes are we speaking of, Ms. Hill? Exactly what name did Judge Thomas assign to his penis, Ms. Hill?

Notably, all of the coveted seats on the Senate Judiciary Committee then were occupied by older white men. Some professed, uncomfortably but inevitably, the wish to get all the evidence “on the record”. Some of them disguised less well their wish to force Anita Hill to recount nearly-unspeakable things in public, in a Senate hearing, before the eyes and ears of the nation, for reasons other than “getting all the details on the record”. You want to challenge the status quo by carrying out what amounts to a genuine act of bravery, Ms. Hill? You’ll have to endure the humiliation once again, then. That’s how it has to be. We say so; as we have said so for a very long time.

Fast-forward twenty-seven years, and how ’bout that. Here we are again.

If and when there is Senate Judiciary Committee questioning of Prof. Christine Blasey-Ford, with regard to her (so far alleged) awful experience: outright sexual assault, at the hands (literally) of now-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh … is there any guarantee that the questioning will be any less excruciating?

Not merely because of the subject matter; and not merely because as recently as 2012, Prof. Blasey-Ford reportedly engaged the services of a therapist in order to further process an event that she says happened when she was a teenager. Most likely, at least as excruciating will be the dogged determination of Committee questioners to similarly extract from Blasey-Ford every last lurid detail of the event, and to spare no opportunity – in as many words, in effect – humiliate her. You want to challenge us, Dr. Balsey-Ford? We’ll take the opportunity to (metaphorically) take you down.

And the most hostile questioning will come from the Republican, Congressional-majority side of the Committee, which is still completely comprised of older white men. (The chairman of the Committee will be Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) … who was on the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, during the Anita Hill hearings.)

So much has changed, and yet nothing has changed.

And we wonder why women are furious.

In saying this, I will come off sounding like a white knight; a “woke” man trying to ride to the rescue of women; a bandwagon-jumper. Despite numerous blog posts in full-throated support of women, over the last eight years, from Sandra Fluke to the #metoo movement, I recognize that a worthy strategy would be to shut up and step aside. Women can speak for themselves.

(And yet here I go. I know, I know.)

No surprise, then, that the very day after the 2017 Inauguration, a nationwide – no, worldwide – protest … one whose size dwarfed that of said Inauguration, and one which was so large and so vocal that the mainstream corporate media was forced to acknowledge that it had even happened … was called the International Women’s March and was driven by the anger, the rage, the fury of women.

Historically, when women have had it up to here and rightly called BS – whether they were the Suffragettes or Serina Williams – they’ve been called hysterical and shrill and mixed-up and pipe down, little ladies, it’s not your place.

Sorry. That was way too passive-voice. When women have risen up, men have actively worked to shut them down.

In the last month or so, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts being not nearly the only examples … it’s begun to become clear that politically, the force-to-be-reckoned-with will be women. Women of color, in those cases, but not exclusively. It’s a force that looks like, and represents the interests of, a constituency that has long been dismissed as hysterical, shrill, emotional, insubstantial, unimportant, not qualified to make decisions.

And that force, clearly, will be driven by firmly-channeled and tightly-focused fury.

In the words of maybe not the most effective feminist icon ever, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands no more.”

Not long ago, on the floor of the US Senate, a speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was interrupted on allegedly procedural grounds by Senate Majority Leader and ancient male Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Within half a day, Warren (ably assisted by her fellow American citizens and their spectacular meme skills) had turned McConnell’s condescending “nevertheless, she persisted” into a rallying cry and a future campaign slogan. She went on cable news programs and pointedly pushed back against McConnell’s attempt to shut her down. She didn’t yell … but she didn’t whisper either.

This past week, during the early moments of the Kavanaugh hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee member Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) interrogated the Supreme Court nominee in such a clinical and legal-eagle way (“Be sure about your answer, sir,” advised Harris in a tone that was at once glacial and “be reminded that you’re under oath, fella”) that it made me glad not to be the object of her inquiry in that moment. Harris’ voice was calm, but the fuel behind it was more than just one hearing-day worth of frustration and the honed skills of a professional prosecutor.

Flailing anger alone can be dismissed as emotion triumphing over logic, or self-control. Volcanic rage can be written off as short-lived (as demonstrated by a teacher or two of mine, whose explosions at roomfuls of students only had its intended effect for a few minutes) and not worth remembering.

Fury, though … fury is all that emotion, curated. Collected. Concentrated. Unleashed in a specific direction, for a specific purpose, with a specific target.

Such as… well, seven weeks from tonight we get to try and save our democracy, eh?

For my money: as many women as can be elected to Congress, state legislatures, governor’s mansions, local school boards, whatever … will be the best outcome.

No, it isn’t right to generalize about any group of people, whether for weal or for woe. Hashtag “not all fill-in-the-blank”. Not all men…! Not all white people…! Not all people of color…! Not all Republicans…! Not all Bernie supporters…!

Not all women are working for the good of humanity, or even of people who look like they do. Not in a world where people like Ann Coulter and Roseanne Barr and Jeannine Pirro still rate a platform and can behave the way they do.

Not one hundred percent of any group of people are pulling the oars in the same direction.

But I’d be willing to see the world give this particular constituency a whirl, since this is also a world in which people like Rachel Maddow and Carmen Yulin Cruz and Maxine Waters and Aisha Tyler have platforms and behave the way they do.

I can only speak for myself … and I can only offer advice … I can’t force you to do anything.

But I’ll at least let you know … that in November, when I go to the polls, if I look at an election ballot and have a choice one way or the other, I know what choice I’ll make.

September 18, 2018 Posted by | current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment