Living Large In Carson City: The Politics Of Fear Edition

I believe the Republicans have never thought that democracy was anything but a tribal myth.       Hunter S. Thompson

As far as weeks go, this has been a doozy even for Donald Trump. He has at different times during the week led the country down a dark, twisted path to a near all-out confrontation with Iran that would have thrown the Middle East into even greater chaos. The downing of an unmanned drone by the Iranian army was the flash point that set the plan in motion aided by two of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Mike Pompeo and that neocon madman, John Bolton. While Trump maintains that he called off the attack to avoid killing civilians on the ground, his rationale for the last minute decision seemed dubious to some and an outright lie to others. For whatever reason, his decision was a good thing, however, the entire debacle smacked of the president, yet again, creating a problem then miraculously stepping in to save the day by backtracking on everything he said earlier. The result was he made America look weak and confirmed in the minds of many (allies included) that he is bat shit crazy, and the world should be afraid . . . very afraid.

His threat to begin mass deportations of undocumented immigrants (read millions) caught most of the nation off guard, including his own enforcement arm of Homeland Security – ICE. Once the scope of the mass deportations planned came to light, reality stepped in with  hard, cruel facts that there was no chance that a plan of this scale could be pulled off in a matter of a few days regardless of his highness’s mind farts. The line this morning is that he delayed the deportations at the request of the Democrats for two weeks. During this time, what? Congress is going to come up with a viable Immigration policy that will make everything better? Of course as USA Today and others noted, the announcement of the deportation program came just hours before Trump’s reelection party in Orlando which was surely not lost on the Republican base who live for red meat like this tossed at them. Coincidence?

Rounding out the top three debacles of the weekend, Trump is again a passenger on the sexual deviant roller coaster after prominent advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll, accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room at the Bregdorf Goodman department store over 20 years ago. The allegation comes from a forthcoming book by Carroll in which she chronicles the abuse by prominent men she suffered over the years. Trump denies knowing Carroll, yet New York Magazine posted a picture of Carroll and Trump taken at a party which contradicts his denial. The one outstanding difference that separates most of the other 15 women who have already accused Trump of sexual misconduct is that Carroll claims Trump actually penetrated her, thereby, constituting rape, not just the pawing, kissing, or other sundry attacks he is noted for in the past.

So, over the course of several days, the president had two major policy snafus and a credible accusation of sexual assault. A lesser man wouldn’t be able to overcome the public humiliation or bureaucratic backlash of any one of these three events. Yet, Trump abides as his base and other Republicans stand ready to defend him regardless of how egregious the events or accusations levied against him. Which brings me to the topic of this post.

For far too long, the Democrats have huddled on the sidelines keeping their heads down waiting for Trump to self destruct with little hope of eclipsing his out sized personality and numerous blunders on the national and international stage. Now, the Democrats have found a voice and are speaking out . . . not against Trump . . . but Joe Biden.

For the record, I think Biden is probably a good man. Barack Obama thought enough of him to make him vice-president after all. He comes off as a quintessential avuncular type who everyone would love as a grandfather or trusted adviser. He seems relatively intelligent, well-spoken, and possesses a long track record of public service and loyalty to the party. And that is the problem.

A vote for Joe Biden would be a vote for and a regression to old line party politics and all that entails. Think Hillary Clinton but more likable. His record is not without controversy either. Let’s just say Joe has a lot of baggage and not all of it good. In an article by Paste Magazine, writer Walker Bagman writes in an article “The Case Against Joe Biden”, detailing the non-progressive stances Biden took on many major issues of the day. As a Senator from Delaware, he spent 36 years in Congress, served two terms as vice-president, and toed the party line as would be expected from a loyal “company man”. He was, and probably still is, on the wrong side of just about every issue progressives are pushing for in 2020. And that is not good.

Oddly enough, his past service is also what is fueling his rise in the polls. People are so worn out by the spectacle that Trump has made of the presidency, older, more entrenched Democrats, see in Biden a respite from the wild shenanigans that Trump revels in on a weekly basis. He’s safe in that way that others like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren are not. Judging from how his mainstream supporters have jumped on the bandwagon, he may be hard to beat. A good example is the morning talk show, Morning Joe, and how Biden has taken on an almost mythical persona who Joe and Mika literally fawn over while gloating at Bernie’s slip in the polls. It’s a little disgusting.

The issue I have with Biden is his inability to grasp the fact that Donald Trump has changed American politics forever. Republicans have sold their integrity down the river to bask in the power that Trump brings to his presidency, and his lack of shame over what he will do or say to get his way. Biden rightfully takes offense at this but seems to miss the point that it’s not just Trump who has changed. It’s the entire party.

Americans saw Biden’s blind spot chronicled in an article in Daily Kos earlier this month titled “Delusional Joe Biden thinks Republicans will totally work with him if he’s elected president”. In a Tweet supplied by Sam Stein, Biden said,

“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Or worded differently, when Trump is gone, common sense will return to the Republican Party and government will return to normal (whatever that is). Biden is being naive here if not downright boneheaded. Where does he think all of Trump’s supporters come from in the first place? They are the constituents of the very same people Biden is referring to who are now serving in government. Not only do the Republicans owe allegiance to their base and the radical ideas that they hold, but the Republicans are themselves indoctrinated with the same undemocratic beliefs that they find every time they return home.

In another much ballyhooed misstep, Biden referred to his ability in the “old days” of being able to work with hardcore segregationists (racists) to get things done like major civil rights reform. On this point, I understand why Biden said this. He was trying to show his experience dealing with difficult factions to overcome differences to achieve meaningful legislation that led to change. That was then. This is now. Trump’s supporters are no longer principled dissidents, but frightened people who fear marginalization and loss of the privilege they have known all their lives. It is a frightening prospect for them to contemplate not being in charge or losing the power they have relished throughout most of the nation’s history.

Strangely enough, it is fear that is fueling Biden’s rise in both the polls and the hopes of many older Americans that he will be able to “fix” the chaos Trump will surely leave behind. It is the fear of change that the country so desperately needs that will push Biden through the campaign season and possibly into the White House. Fear will lead many voters to see Sanders as a socialist, Warren as too strident, Harris as an angry prosecutor, and all the rest as threats to the change they do not want and will not support. They want safe, not revolution.

For many Americans, safe is better than even one day of a Trump second term, which is hard to argue against. The question remains, however, is Biden the candidate of “safe” when America needs a candidate of change? Trump and his minions have worked to systematically dismantle a plethora of hard won social and governmental accomplishments dating back well before Obama came to power. On the environment alone, America needs a leader who will face up to the challenges Trump will create over the four years he is in office.

Biden hearkens back to a time that older Americans relate to in their own lives. They understandably want a return to civility and a positive course forward. The problem remains will Biden be up to first winning the primary and then the General Election? Will he ever get the chance to demonstrate his “ability” to work with a disgruntled and weaponized Republican Party across the aisle? Right now at this early date, the verdict is still out.





Living Large In Carson City: In the Kingdom Of The Blind Edition


“Who’s the more foolish: the fool, or the fool who follows him?”

–Alec Guiness (as Obi Wan Kenobi)


Back in my days as a newspaper reporter, editors were the heartbeat of the newsroom. Any story worth looking into came across their desks, and it was their job to pick and choose which topics were given attention and what amount of coverage would be assigned to the beat reporters. The ultimate arbitrator of stories was the managing editor who was the linchpin on which the newspaper survived or withered on the vine. It is their responsibility to be part seer/part social prognosticator with the ability to stay two steps ahead of a story to anticipate future developments to ensure cohesive coverage of all aspects of current stories covered by the publication.

Of course, this was 20 years ago when the world was a different place. There was a certain stability in the news business that was nurtured and protected by both the news makers and the people who covered them. A person in a political office was expected to follow certain rules of conduct that reflected both a modicum of decorum, as well as, a relatively sane approach to the office and how they conducted themselves. Writers respected what was a unique symbiotic relationship much like the one of the tiny pilot fish shares with the great sharks. They live on the morsels left after a shark feeds and moves on.

Those were the pre-Donald Trump days. Gone is the camaraderie, no matter how distant at times, that news makers and those who tell their stories shared. Gone is even the pretense of decorum.  Gone is the respect for the news industry and the people who dedicate their lives to pursuit of the almighty story. Trump has replaced the norms of the business and given it a twisted, grotesque tone that smacks of insincerity, deceit, partisanship, and even lunacy. The one thing Trump does well is control the news cycles by constantly throwing the news industry, the public, and politicians of all stripes curve balls meant, as often as not, to muddy the waters to relieve pressure on the administration from the newest scandal or horrifying policy stance.

It is impossible to understand the stress placed on managing editors who woke up this past weekend to this tease of George Stephanopoulos’ extended interview of the president for a special edition of 20/20.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign this time around, if foreigners, if Russia, if China, if someone else offers you information on opponents, should they accept it or should they call the FBI?

TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen, I don’t, there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, “We have information on your opponent.” Oh, I think I’d want to hear it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It’s not an interference, they have information. I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, that they come up with oppo research. Oh, let’s call the FBI. The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it, they always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research. ABCNews

Normally sane and grounded Americans who have a modicum of intelligence and understanding our democratic process know the president voiced something so taboo that the Founding Fathers must have been spinning gangnam style in their graves. The strength of a democracy depends on the foundation of allegiance to the country first at the exclusion of foreign influence into one of our most sacred institutions: the election process. So egregious were his statements that the Chair of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen L. Wientraub, felt compelled to issue this statement, “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” Strong, but appropriate words that would make a normal human cringe in humiliation at the Chairwoman’s admonishment. Not Trump though.

It is almost a given that managing editors across the nation in newsrooms far and wide lost several hours off their expected lifespans simply trying to figure out where this story was headed. After all, the 20/20 story wouldn’t air until Sunday night which left nearly a full day of speculation on Trump’s words and his intent. Yet, at 6:39 a.m. Sunday morning, Trump spits out yet another of his ubiquitous Tweets that can only be seen as hyperbole of a madman. He wrote,


Not the typical Father’s Day salutation one would expect from the president of the United States, but it did take some of the heat off of him personally due to the Stephanopoulos tease backlash. It is hard not to see Trump’s modus operandi as that of an elaborate shell game where he constantly keeps shifting the shells to confuse and/or distract from his latest political faux pas. The crass audacity of his question “(do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT)” defies not only logic but a sense of mental health that most people expect from their commander in chief. Yet, it is almost a certainty that his shallow and delusional base will eat this idea up. Again, Trump never plays for the fun of it. He has a method to his madness: Always play the angle that makes him look like he is doing the rest of us a favor.

The day, however, was not over. As more of the interview came to light, Americans found Trump trashing his former White House Counsel, Don McGhan, saying he lied to Robert Mueller under oath about being asked by Trump to fire Mueller. When asked by Stephanopoulos why McGhan would lie, Trump’s response was a classic. He said, “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good person. C&L

Regardless, the president maintained, he didn’t fire Mueller, even though he had the right and power to do so. His next statement should sends chills down the spine of all Americans. Claiming Article II gave him the power to do whatever he wants, he maintained he could have fired Mueller, and it would be legal. He didn’t mention that firing Mueller would surely have been found to be obstruction of justice. Something, he claims, Mueller’s report exonerated him on any charges of obstruction or collusion. Collusion, maybe; obstruction, no.

So, over the course of the weekend, Trump affirmed he would gladly listen to foreign governments who want to give him dirt on his opponent. He suggested if the next election doesn’t have the outcome he wants that his base may demand to keep him in power, and that Article II of the Constitution gives him unlimited power to do whatever he wants with no regard to the will of the majority of the American people. These three statements are the things Kings are made of, not a freely elected president of a democracy.

Trump has long ago stopped being cute or funny in his actions or deeds. He has proven himself to be a loose cannon who has little regard to history, the law, or the great institutions of the nation. Still, he is only one man with a anemic base of crazies who will gladly stand by him no matter how outlandish his demands might be. It’s been this way since day one.

The real fear that Americans should be aware of is the Republican Party. The party has lost what semblance of a soul it once had. Time after time, Republican Senators and Representatives have shown just how craven and afraid they are of the president. They refuse to stand up to him regardless how off the wall his statements may be. A case in point is the Stephanopoulos tease where Trump said he would gladly accept “oppo” information from a foreign power, clearly an illegal act that demands outrage by everyone serving in government.

At first, Republicans were vocal in their “mock” horror that anyone, especially Trump, would make such an overtly provocative statement. Yet, as the days have past, the commitments coming from Republicans morphed into a tacit defense of the president and switched from “mock” horror to bait and switch statements to cover for the president in an attempt to draw fire away from him and blame just about everyone but Trump and his statements.

This is the obvious issue Americans should be concerned about in the coming election. If Trump does declare the election null and void, and his rabble rises up to support him, what will run of the mill Republicans do? Will they stand firm in their sworn allegiance to the Constitution and their offices? Or will they seize the opportunity to remain in power and throw their support behind the president? Americans will surely get a better sense of the Republicans’ resolve in the next year and a half as the 2020 election seasons heats up. The question will remain just how far they will go to support a president who is beginning to look like crazy King George III that our Forefathers stood up to in the nascent days of American democracy. We all know how that turned out.

Living Large In Carson City: On Royalty, Yokels, And The Trumps Edition


“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” – Santosh Kalwar

This week is a reminder of an old television show that debuted in 1962 and ran through 1963 in the UK called That Was The Week That Was (TWTWTW). Hosted by David Frost and based on the premise all things political were fair game for satire and lampooning, the show was meant to “prick the pomposity of public figures” who had the misfortune to come under the radar of the show’s writers, cast and director, Ned Sherrin. In 1964 the wildly funny late night comedy program jumped the pond and came to the United States with Frost and others in tow to lambaste American politicians and others. It was by all accounts not only a success but an oddity that may have contributed to its ultimate demise.

If there was ever a week for a revival of TWTWTW, this is it. Shortly after Trump returned to the United States from his disastrous Japanese trip last week , think “hide USS John S McCain, he came up with a real boneheaded idea to place a 5 percent tariff on goods coming from Mexico that will increase monthly up to 25 percent by year’s end. Suffice it to say, the Mexico tariff debacle was at the forefront of news coverage all of this week which has done something that the Democrats have failed to do over the last 2 years: Get the Republicans in the Senate to stand up to Trump and his wack-a-mole approach to governance.

Add to the mix, Trump and entourage left for England midweek to basically wallow in the limelight of the British royal family in hopes that some of their rank and class would rub off on Trump and his boorish family and advisers. The trip is not over yet, but judging by how the first three days went, all bets are off that Trump will not make some awful faux pas that will embarrass himself and the rest of the country before weeks end. On tap is a visit to Ireland and to the beaches of Normandy as the world remembers D-Day and all the memories it has to offer.

While it is easy targeting the Trump family with jest and satire, it is almost too easy a target to really get that worked up over. Much has been written and said about the Trump family tailor who came up with a white tie, jacket and vest that made both Papa and Donnie, Jr. look like seedy carnival barkers coming down from a ten day meth binge with heavy alcohol abuse as a chaser. Of course, there was what one Twitter post called Ivanka’s maxi pad hat which came off as a little mean, but totally accurate. Melania stepped off Air Force One with a white boater precariously balance on the side of her head that was, not just unflattering, but simply odd and out of place. Hint: Trump ladies if you are going to wear hats in Britain do your homework and use the Queen mom and Camilla as guides.

By day two, it was painfully obvious that Trump was on his best behavior, hoping against hope, that he could pull off acting like a man of class and distinction, rather than a genetic mutation spawned by the Yeti monster and some hopped up space queen straight out of Studio 54 that most of America has come to see him as on a day to day basis. He and his stable of yokels left Britain headed for the West Coast of  Ireland where he will stay at one of his decaying golf courses then meet with the Irish Prime Minister at the VIP lounge of Shannon Airport. The president wanted the meeting to be held at his golf club, but the Irish government decided they would have no part in staging what would essentially be a commercial for Trump’s property. After turning down meeting at one of the several local castles in the area, typically, Team Trump opted for the VIP lounge, possibly hoping for free burgers and brews for his intrepid band of travelers.

Even more curious was who attended the royal festivities for no apparent good reason. All four of the grown Trump children appeared on the scene at various times during the first day of the British invasion. Even granting Ivanka and Jared the right to accompany Trump in their dubious roles of “special advisers” to the president, it doesn’t explain Eric, Donnie, Jr. or Tiffany’s presence at the meetings. Still, under the category of delusions of grandeur, it does have a bit of twisted logic. Trump explained it this way,

For the President, bringing his adult children, in his view, is akin to showcasing his version of royalty. In an interview ahead of the trip with the British tabloid newspaper The Sun, Trump said he wanted Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric and Tiffany to hold a “next generation” meeting with the Prince William and his wife, Kate, and Prince Harry.

“I think my children will be meeting them,” said Trump. “It would be nice.” CNN

The entire scenario is problematic on a variety of levels. First, “his version of royalty” is more on par with a Staten Island Mafioso. The Queen mother’s pedigree is much more steeped in history and service than he or his children will ever be. She is the 32nd great-granddaughter of King Alfred the Great who was the first effective King of England 871-899 and has been queen for 67 years and has seen. She has seen 13 United States presidents come and go during her long and distinguished career. 

Second, the odds that any of the Trump children will be the “next generation” meeting with British royalty is comical on its face. Indeed, Ivanka, Jared, Donnie, Jr, and Eric will be lucky if they don’t spend some extended quality time behind bars due to their involvement with Trump, the cover up, and the underhanded machinations of Trump, Inc. Time will tell, but it’s pretty obvious they won’t be curtsying over tea and crumpets anytime in the near future with British or any other royals around the world.

Speaking of Jared, how clueless does one have to be to work in the Trump White House? Obviously, fairly clueless judging by his answers in a freewheeling interview conducted by Johnathan Swan for HBO’s and Axios. While there were several times when Jared either hem hawed or outright tried to spin his answers to put Trump in the best light, on one topic, he was full-metal jacket dumb in his response. Asked by Swan if he could understand why the Palestinian leaders might not trust him, Jared deadpanned, “I am not here to be trusted . . .” which led Swan to interrupt and read off a laundry list of acts that Israel and the United States have committed to suppress any hope of Palestinian independence, much less a two state solution.

Jared doubled down by saying there is a difference between the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people as if to imply the people of Palestine are going to ignore the killing of their friends and relatives by U.S. funded bombs that Israel drops on the disputed land and go behind their leaders’ backs to make peace with the snobbish leaders like himself. Leaders who neither care nor understand the deep mistrust that the Palestinians feel for the West. Granted, part of his answer was pure spin, at times, obviously ill-thought out to keep from revealing too much about his much vaunted Palestinian peace plan, and the Trump’s administration’s kowtowing to the Israeli government. Yet, his interview turned out to be primer for those who want to whitewash, dissimulate, and mislead the people they are ostensibly in power to help get through troubled times. How dumb? Very dumb.

And it’s only Wednesday.