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

“The Crying Babies Doesn’t Look Good Politically”

A couple of weekends ago, as part of my church musician work, I helped wrangle a pack of Sunday School kids as they stood up at the front of the church sanctuary and sang a couple of songs they’d been working on. I smiled and sang along with them and encouraged them to try to remember the words. I was reminded, strongly, of my experience with teaching public-school music to packs of kindergarten kids nearly a decade ago. I got back up to speed really, really fast. I was reminded, strongly, of just what kind of backflips can go into working with kids that small … never mind teaching them; just helping them be comfortable in new situations, doing unfamiliar things, for the first time.

That Sunday, in church, there were kids as old as sixth grade, and as young as pre-school. Some of them walked to the front steps of the church; some of them toddled, led by Mom or Dad. Some of them stood straight and smiled. Some of them were inclined to wander off (so we gently guided them back to the steps). Some of them threw their heads back and sang lustily, just like the United Methodist Hymnal suggests; some of the kids mouthed the words a split-second after they heard the rest of the group sing them.

Some of them I’ve known all their lives; some of them I haven’t known very long at all. Some of them were from families who had come to our church pretty recently; some of them had been part of our church family for a very long time (relatively). Some of them looked totally at ease with standing up in front of the congregation and singing. Some of them looked more than a little bewildered, because they don’t often stand up in front of the congregation and have everybody lookin’ at ’em.

I remember being more than a little bewildered — pretty freaked out, really — the first time my mom delivered pre-school-age me to a Sunday School classroom in the church where our family were members, a building where I’d spent plenty of time, a building where I already recognized plenty of people. I was more than a little nervous that she was going away … even though she’d always picked me back up from whatever classroom she’d delivered me to, in my life to that point. Intellectually (at age 4?), I knew she always would. But in that moment, the parallel instinctive separation-anxiety wiring kicked right in, and I got really really freaked out.

This morning I tried to imagine myself taken away from my mom, and parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of the kindergarten kids that I taught, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine any of our Sunday School kids, or all of them, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

This morning I tried to imagine my niece and nephew, when they were toddlers, or infants, parked in a “tender age shelter”.

Oh, hell no.

My mind recoiled at the prospect.

Someone’s mind didn’t, though.

 

People in our government, working for our government, representing us by doing so … have acquired the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows them to not merely consider that prospect in the abstract and not retch, but to actually create and implement and enforce an immigration-control policy that takes toddlers and infants away from parents (who are seeking asylum from places that are dangerous enough that they want to remove their children to keep them safe) … and chucks ’em into a holding pen. (Or, as has been postulated by people who are putting one and one together and getting at least two, in the case of all the girls that no one can find, chucks ’em into an even worse place.)

There are monsters running our government.

There is only one remedy for this.

There are members of our elected government –- members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives –- who support this policy wholeheartedly. There are those who are remaining mealy-mouthed or dead-silent in the service of political expedience, political ideology, and political campaign contributions. In a meeting with the Congressional majority yesterday, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian who currently occupies the Oval Office reportedly declared, “The crying babies doesn’t look good politically.”

There are, astoundingly, plenty of elected officials who refuse to condemn taking babies from parents and parking them in “tender age shelters” — should we call them detention playpens? – no, we should cut the delicate-sensibility-preserving bull-pucky and call them baby jails, because that’s what they are …

We must identify them. Mark them. Tag them.

And vote the bastards out.

And thereby send a message to them and to anybody who supports them. Big sign in the window: “Congress inside. Only humans need apply.”

It’s long past time to stop “trying to understand” any of these people. Because there is no way for a compassionate person to understand this. The cognitive dissonance-fueled gap between “pro-life” and “pro-family”, “family values”, “What-Would-Jesus-Do?” … and THIS … is too vast to bridge.

 

It’s time to stop pulling punches. With respect to Mrs. Obama, who had the right idea … nonetheless it’s time to stop “going high when they go low”. If it isn’t time to take to the streets on this, it’s awfully damn close.

In November, remember this moment … even along with all the other moments, the Parklands and Pulses, the Pruitts and Princes, the “thoughts and prayers” and rage-Tweeting … remember this moment, when the Republican Congressional majority entirely failed to access some basic humanity and call this policy what it is: domestic terrorism.

In November, flood the polling places with so many people voting to rid our government of these conscience-less, soul-less ghouls that no amount of Putin-driven Russian bot farms and Kremlin election-machinery-hacking will remotely matter.

November.

Remember.

Remember the people who are okay with traumatizing infants and toddlers, who are okay with scarring them for life, on purpose.

Remember these domestic terrorists.

Remember these monsters.

And vanquish them.

June 20, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment