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

Send A Message

[Ed. Note: I published this on my Facebook page tonight. I’ve heard too many cable-TV-news pundits gleefully point to polls which suggest that only a small percentage of young Americans will actually vote in the midterm elections tomorrow. I’d like to hope – after Parkland, after Kavanaugh, after children in cages, after a host of awful current events that seemed to awaken a great many American high-school and college students, over the last two years – that there are indeed a great wave of new voters who will end-run the corporate media’s bleatings and the various pollsters that only contact landline-based Americans, and give American representative government a well-deserved kick in the rear. May it be so.

[So here’s that Facebook piece, which I wrote while thinking of all the fine folks who have been students at the public schools and colleges and drum major clinics where I’ve taught, all of whom I’ve been able to watch, via social media, turn into people whom I’d trust to run this country.]

 

All right, my fine FB younger friends — a legion of wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a music classroom, or a rehearsal stage, or a high school or college football field, or a DMA parking lot: pull up a chair while I do my Wise Old Sage Of The Desert act.

I beg you. I mean it: I beg you — prove the pundits wrong tomorrow. There are people who go on the TV and pontificate because they’re paid to convince you that they know something about the world, who say that only a handful of young voters will actually engage in the political process. MAKE THEM EAT THEIR WORDS.

Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that tomorrow’s election — at the all levels, federal, state and local — boils down to a very simple idea:

Empathy vs. selfishness.

Regarding virtually every important issue facing our country right now — climate change, health care, gun violence, public education, women’s health and rights, rights of people of color, LGBTQ and transgender rights, freedom of (or from) religion, immigration (CHILDREN ARE STILL IN CAGES), the Supreme Court, simple human decency, and oh by the way Congressional oversight of this corrupt bunch of pirates masquerading as an executive branch …

… the current Congressional majority and many Republican-held state legislatures have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated BY THEIR ACTIONS an utter lack of human decency and empathy.

So vote them out tomorrow (if you haven’t early-voted already). Vote in such overwhelming numbers that Russian meddlers won’t matter, that voter-suppression schemes won’t matter, that the corporate media’s obsession with pretending that “both sides are equally horrible” … JUST WON’T MATTER.

And at this moment in history, I’m sorry, but it’s more important to vote within the context of the political system as it is, rather than as we wish it were. Which means, I’m sorry again, that independent candidates can’t help us in this election. Down the road, perhaps; but not tomorrow.

Mark Twain once said, not without cause, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

BUT … this time around, Democratic Party majorities in the US House and Senate are the only way to throw the brakes on this miserable Republican-Party-led executive branch (yeah, That Guy). The current Republican Party majorities in the House and Senate have, through their actions, proven themselves willfully incompetent at governmental oversight, and indeed at representative government at all.

So go to the polls. Stand in the lines when you have to. Send a message … to our elected officials, and to the rest of the world (most of which has quite honestly been watching us for the last two years with horror) — that we’re not going to just sit here and take it. That we’re not going to let selfishness win out over empathy.

If you ask me: vote blue. Vote Democratic. But in any case: vote.

My young friends, all of whom I’ve held in very high regard whenever I’ve had the privilege of enjoying your company … this is your golden opportunity, TOMORROW: to take this country back from the (mostly) rich old white guys who have used their control of the government to gather all the riches to themselves, right now — AND to work diligently to make life harder for everybody but themselves, both now and into the future.

Make the Women’s March and the Science March and the March For Our Lives and the Families Belong Together March seem like mere whispering tiny preludes.

VOTE.

November 5, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Recent Last Straw -or- How Did We Get Here?

He’s done this before.

Often.

For the last sixteen months, the Vulgar Talking Yam, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian, the (my most recent favorite moniker) Pumpkin Spice Mussolini … has said or done something that would mean the end of the presidential campaign for any other human alive.

Call Mexicans rapists in your first speech as a candidate? Check.

Dump on John McCain because he became a POW? Check.

I’ll refrain from going on down the list, because you know all the statements and actions I’m thinking of, and as Keith Olbermann has recently noted, there are literally hundreds of them.

This one, though.

 

I have used this space, many and oft, to note the ridiculous behavior of public figures when it comes to treatment of women. (Here, here, here, and here.)

In part, this is because I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!”.

It’s true that if you know someone personally who is a member of a particularly oppressed group – oh, say, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Muslims – and I do happen to know people from all three – it’s much harder to whitewash, to stereotype, to categorize.

Or to objectify. Or to express zero respect for.

Donald Trump boasts that, as a “star,” women let him do anything he wants, in a 2005 video obtained by the Washington Post that features the real estate mogul using salacious language as he brags of kissing and groping women he’s attracted to.

In the video posted Friday, Trump and Billy Bush, the former Access Hollywood host now with NBC’s Today show, engage in graphic discussions en route to the Days of Our Lives set, where Trump is set to record a piece about an upcoming appearance on the soap opera.

I did try and f— her,” Trump tells Bush in reference to a married woman, while acknowledging he was unsuccessful. “I moved on her like a b—- but I couldn’t get there,” Trump says.

Later in the video, as Trump and Bush spot Arianne Zucker – who The Post says was there to escort them to the set for the segment – the real estate mogul says: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” adding that he immediately starts kissing “beautiful” women when he encounters them.

I don’t even wait.” Trump says. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything – grab them by the p—-.”

Enough people in the online world have noted that this man is vile and says vile things – just today! – about this particular instance, and about this particular group of people – women – such that if I were to express my opinion about it, I would only duplicate their work, and probably not as eloquently.

Not that I don’t feel equally outraged, equally disgusted, equally ready to declare this man a loathsome excuse for a human.

I do.

In a statement shortly after the video’s release, Trump dismisses its importance.

This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” the GOP presidential nominee says. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Okay, fella: “that guy did worse things than I did” is, nonetheless, not a defense for bad things you did. Since about 1st-grade recess, as I recall. And also: people don’t fundamentally change.

But instead, I want to dig a little deeper. Take a sneakly lil’ ol’ look behind a curtain…

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a short, but blistering statement Friday night, denouncing the GOP nominee’s language.

No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Priebus said.

Good. The head of the national political party checks in.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by comments of his party’s nominee. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan added. “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow’s event in Wisconsin.”

Great. The current third-in-line to the presidency checks in.

Do you notice what’s missing, in each case?

Along with this…

However, there were no immediate signs that the Republican donors, who only recently have begun to open their wallets to Trump, were abandoning him over the latest controversy.

Texas investor Doug Deason, whose family has contributed a combined $1 million to Trump and the Republican National Committee, called the tape’s release a “big brouhaha about nothing.”

Anybody that’s shocked is faking it,” Deason told USA TODAY Friday evening.

We’re a nation that believes in redemption,” he added. “That’s who he was then, and that’s not who he is now.”

Deason said Trump should quickly issue a new statement, well ahead of Sunday’s town-hall debate, making it clear that “he has changed.”

Not one of the leaders of the party … titular and actual … elected, appointed, and moneyed

Nobody’s told him to go away.

Nobody’s offered any more than tepid, timid, fainting-couch-worthy expressions of “gee whiz, we sure hope he does better than this, in the future”. Because they think he still has a future.

Up and down the Republican Party hierarchy, there are politicians who haven’t endorsed Trump, but at no time have they demanded that he be removed from the Party’s ticket, in response to any of the Last Straws that have come along since, well, let’s just limit this to the three months since he was officially nominated.

Why?

Is he too famous?

Is he too forceful a personality for them to overcome?

Is it that they’re afraid he’ll sue them? Allegedly he has enough money to outlast anybody in civil court.

What is it?

 

Let me suggest what it is … and I’m not the first, but there have been relatively few who have made this suggestion … and exactly nobody in the national political press has dared to breathe a mere hint of this provably true thing:

He’s them.

He hasn’t hijacked the Republican Party.

He IS the Republican Party – at least, the Republican Party which has existed for the last forty years.

He’s the GOP that has gradually, inexorably cultivated a base of voters who resist science and reason, who accept their news reporting and analysis from a very limited, very partisan, very anti-intellectualist set of sources. (Which are led, as it happens, by people who have cultivated reputations for abuse of women.)

He’s the GOP that has done its very best to corporatize and privatize public education, and to denigrate and undermine the efforts of the civil servants who are charged with educating Americans – because a poorly-educated populace is so much more easily hoodwinked. (“I love the poorly-educated!” crowed Trump in one primary-election victory speech – and you perhaps thought he was just pandering to a series of blocs of voters and misspoke, because he was rolling, or on autopilot, or caught up in the moment, or something? Oh, my, no.)

He’s the GOP that has, thanks to the natural tendency of unimaginably wealthy corporations to support conservative viewpoints, acquired the means to influence public perception of public-policy issues and current affairs, to the public’s great detriment.

Take it, Charlie – you write better than I do…

Hell, we’ve been grading Republicans on a curve for decades. We graded Reagan on a curve when he burbled about trees and air pollution. We graded him on a curve during Iran Contra on the grounds that he was too dim to know what was going on around him. We graded W on a curve for the whole 2000 campaign when he didn’t know Utah from Uzbekistan, but Al Gore knew too much stuff and what fun was he, anyway? We graded Republicans on a curve when they attached themselves to the remnants of American apartheid, when they played footsie with the militias out west and with the heirs to the White Citizens Councils in the South. We graded them on a curve every time they won a campaign behind Karl Rove or Lee Atwater or the late Terry Dolan back in the 1970s. We talked about how they were “reaching out” to disillusioned white voters who’d suffered in the changing economy, as though African-American workers didn’t get slugged harder than anyone else by deindustrialization. We pretended not to notice how racial animus was the accelerant for the fire of discontent in the “Reagan Democrats.” That was, and is, grading on a moral curve.

We graded Republicans on a intellectual curve when they embraced a fundamentalist splinter of American Protestantism and brought themselves to a pass in which they are the 21st Century Know Nothings. They have followed movement conservatism to the point where they can ignore science and promote creationism and supply side economic foolishness simply because they can sell it to the same audiences that gobble up the red meat that’s been marinating since George Wallace ran for president. Because they are graded on a curve, they can still claim to be shocked when the purist product of all of that work hijacks the nomination and gives the entire game away. Of course, Trump has been graded on a curve. If the electorate hadn’t graded modern conservatism on an intellectual curve, it would’ve flunked out of Human College decades ago.

It is timidity now that grades this ridiculous man running this ridiculous campaign on the biggest curve of all—the timidity of a people who have declined the responsibilities of serious citizenship and the abdication of its duty under the Constitution of a putatively free press too timid to call them on it.

And yeah, as long as, tonight, we’re talking about Trump’s loathsome attitudes about women … he’s the GOP that added half-term Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to the presidential ticket in 2008. I trust I need say no more about that.

 

The Washington Post has put it this way, in a series of editorials this past month [italics mine]:

it would be reckless not to consider the damage Mr. Trump might wreak. Some of that damage would ensue more from who he is than what he does. His racism and disparagement of women could empower extremists who are now on the margins of American politics, while his lies and conspiracy theories could legitimize discourse that until now has been relegated to the fringe.

Yes, Congress has the power to remove a president who ignores the law. But given the easy GOP capitulation to such an obviously unfit candidate, how far would Mr. Trump have to go for a likely Republican House to impeach him? How much damage would he have to do?

Clearly, if the behavior of the leadership of his party – just today! – is indicative … he would have to do far more damage than we can comfortably imagine.

Thirty-two days.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | current events, education, Famous Persons, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment