Why Does Dan Patrick want to make certain that Caitlyn Jenner uses the urinal next to me?

Raise your hand if you have ever been accosted by a transgender person in a bathroom.

Uh, nobody?

Then … raise your hand if anyone in your family has ever been accosted by a transgender person in a bathroom.

Uh, nobody again?

Well, okay … raise your hand if you know anyone who says they were accosted by a transgender person in a bathroom.

Still nobody?

Last chance, then … raise your hand if you have ever seen someone whom you knew was transgender actually using the “wrong” bathroom?  [And how would you know?]

I guess this epidemic is just underreported by the biased media.

We’ve got to fix this urgent problem to make sure it never happens again.

 

Cornyn and Cruz — unforced errors

This post is composed mainly of transcript excerpts rather than editorial comments. Texans should know who their United States Senators are—and what they stand for. Although they are licensed attorneys (one a former Texas Supreme Court justice and the other a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk), Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were (or should have been) thoroughly embarrassed from their exchanges with Ms. Sally Yates, a longtime Justice Department professional, during their efforts to sully her motives in declining to approve President Trump’s now-abandoned first step at a selective immigration ban.  The following took place on May 8, in a Senate hearing ostensibly called to discuss the circumstances of Mike Flynn’s belated firing as National Security Adviser.   Our senators waded into the immigration issue, no doubt thinking they would score some points.  After all, Ms. Yates was just another DOJ attorney.  Or was she?

First, the Q & A between Senator Cornyn (R-TX) and Ms. Yates:

“CORNYN: Ms. Yates, this is the first time that you’ve appeared before Congress since you left the Department of Justice, and I just wanted to ask you a question about the — your decision to refuse to defend the president’s executive order.

In the letter that you sent to Congress, you point out that the executive order itself was drafted in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel, and you point out that the Office of Legal Counsel reviewed it to determine whether, in its view, the proposed executive order was lawful on its face and properly drafted.

Is it true that the Office of Legal Counsel did conclude it was lawful on its face and properly drafted?

YATES: Yes, they did. The office of…

CORNYN: And you overruled them?

YATES: … I did. The office of legal…

CORNYN: Did you (ph) — what — what is your authority to — to overrule the Office of Legal Counsel when it comes to a legal determination?

YATES: The Office of Legal Counsel has a narrow function, and that is to look at the face of an executive order and to determine purely on its face whether there is some set of circumstances under which at least some part of the executive order may be lawful. And importantly, they do not look beyond the face of the executive order, for example, statement that are made contemporaneously or prior to the execution of the E.O. that may bear on its intent and purpose.

That office does not look at those factors, and in determining the constitutionality of this executive order, that was an important analysis to engage in and one that I did.

CORNYN: Well, Ms. Yates, I thought the Department of Justice had a long standing tradition of defending a presidential action in court if there are reasonable arguments in its favor, regardless whether those arguments might prove to be ultimately persuasive, which of course is up to the courts to decide and not you, correct?

YATES: It is correct that often times, but not always, the civil division of the Department of Justice will defend an action of the president or an action of Congress if there is a reasonable argument to be made. But in this instance, all – all arguments have to be based on truth because we’re the Department of Justice. We’re not just a law firm, we’re the Department of Justice and the…(CROSSTALK)

CORNYN: You distinguish the truth from lawful?

YATES: Yes, because in this instance, in looking at what the intent was of the executive order, which was derived in part from an analysis of facts outside the face of the order, that is part of what led to our conclusion that it was not lawful, yes.

CORNYN: Well, Ms. Yates, you had a distinguished career for 27 years at the Department of Justice and I voted for your confirmation because I believed that you had a distinguished career. But I have to tell you that I find it enormously disappointing that you somehow vetoed the decision of the Office of Legal Counsel with regard to the lawfulness of the president’s order and decided instead that you would countermand the executive order of the president of the United States because you happen to disagree with it as a policy matter.

YATES: Well, it was…

CORNYN: I just have to say that.

YATES: I appreciate that, Senator, and let me make one thing clear. It is not purely as a policy matter. In fact, I’ll remember my confirmation hearing. In an exchange that I had with you and others of your colleagues where you specifically asked me in that hearing that if the president asked me to do something that was unlawful or unconstitutional and one of your colleagues said or even just that would reflect poorly on the Department of Justice, would I say no? And I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed that it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with principles of the Department of Justice and I said no. And that’s what I promised you I would do and that’s what I did.

CORNYN: I don’t know how you can say that it was lawful and say that it was within your prerogative to refuse to defend it in a court of law and leave it to the court to decide.

YATES: Senator, I did not say it was lawful. I said it was unlawful.

*   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

And now, the exchange between always-self-confident Senator Cruz (R-TX) and Ms. Yates:

CRUZ: OK. Let’s revisit the topic, Ms. Yates, that — that you and Senator Cornyn were talking about.

YATES: OK.

CRUZ: It is correct that the constitution vests the executive authority in the president?

YATES: Yes.

CRUZ: And if an attorney general disagrees with a policy decision of the president — a policy decision that is lawful — does the attorney general have the authority to direct the Department of Justice to defy the president’s order?

YATES: I don’t know whether the attorney general has the authority to do that or not. But I don’t think it would be a good idea. And that’s not what I did in this case.

CRUZ: Well, are you familiar with 8 USC Section 1182?

YATES: Not off the top of my head, no.

CRUZ: Well, it — it — it is the binding statutory authority for the executive order that you refused to implement, and that led to your termination. So it — it certainly is a relevant and not a terribly obscure statute.

By the express text of the statute, it says, quote, “whenever the president finds that entry of any alien or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interest of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.”

Would you agree that is broad statutory authorization?

YATES: I would, and I am familiar with that. And I’m also familiar with an additional provision of the INA that says no person shall receive preference or be discriminated against an issuance of a visa because of race, nationality or place of birth, that I believe was promulgated after the statute that you just quoted.

And that’s been part of the discussion with the courts, with respect to the INA, is whether this more specific statute trumps the first one that you just described.

(CROSSTALK)

YATES: But my concern was not an INA concern here. It, rather, was a constitutional concern, whether or not this — the executive order here violated the Constitution, specifically with the establishment clause and equal protection and due process.

CRUZ: There is no doubt the arguments you laid out are arguments that we could expect litigants to bring, partisan litigants who disagree with the policy decision of the president.

I would note, on January 27th, 2017, the Department of Justice issued an official legal decision, a determination by the Office of Legal Counsel, that the executive order — and I’ll quote from the opinion — “the proposed order is approved with respect to form and legality.”

That’s a determination from OLC on January 27th that it was legal. Three days later, you determined, using your own words, that although OLC had — had opined on legality, it had not addressed whether it was, quote, “wise or just.”

YATES: And I also, in that same directive, Senator, said that I was not convinced it was lawful. I also made the point that the office of — OLC looks purely at the face of the document and, again, makes a determination as to whether there is some set of circumstances under which some portion of that E.O. would be enforceable, would be lawful.

They, importantly, do not look outside the face of the document. And in this particular instance, particularly where we were talking about a fundamental issue of religious freedom — not the interpretation of some arcane statute, but religious freedom — it was appropriate for us to look at the intent behind the president’s actions, and the intent is laid in and out his statements.

CRUZ: A final, very — very brief question. In the over 200 years of the Department of Justice history, are you aware of any instance in which the Department of Justice has formally approved the legality of a policy, and three days later, the attorney general has directed the department not to follow that policy, and to defy that policy?

YATES: I’m not. But I’m also not aware of a situation where the Office of Legal Counsel was advised not to tell the attorney general about it until after it was over.

CRUZ: Thank you, Ms. Yates. I — I — I would note, that might be the case, if there’s reason to suspect partisanship.”

Sooooo, who schooled whom?  Every Texan should think long and hard about supporting politicians who believe that Government attorneys who are sworn to uphold the law should nonetheless blindly line up to support Executive orders that they believe are not only unlawful, but violate the U.S. Constitution.  We’re lucky that a Sally Yates at one time served the American people, but unlucky that she has been removed from DOJ.  And we’re even more unlucky that Texas has two Senators who are blindly partisan and don’t embarrass easily.   But we can do something about that in November 2018 and 2020.

 

TRUMP UNCHAINED –er, UNHINGED

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump, but I think I understand why nearly 63 million Americans did so.  They voted against “business as usual,” even if that meant breaking a lot of china.  They voted for a government that they hoped would be more responsive to their needs.  One can argue whether a vote for either of our November 2016 candidates was wise, but now we have a Trump Administration.  What have we let ourselves in for?  Each time I have started to post an entry, discussing some of the latest outlandish statements and outrageous acts, something new has come along.  In just a few short weeks since the inauguration, all (naïve) hope that I had for a more presidential, wiser Donald Trump has been vaporized.  Here is a short litany of recent outrages:

  • Direct personal attacks on a “so-called judge” for ruling against one of the most hastily-put-together executive orders on a momentous issue (a judge who was nominated by the last Republican President and confirmed 99-0). That followed the assertion that another United States District Judge is “a hater” and biased against him in a private lawsuit because Trump is “strong on immigration and the judge is Hispanic-surnamed (a judge who had previously prosecuted Mexican cartel members and was confirmed by a voice vote).
  • Equating Russia’s autocracy with our system since “we have killers, too. You think our country is so innocent?”  Even Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, no fans of the Fourth Estate, never poisoned journalists.  And they at least listened to their intelligence agencies before dissing them in public.
  • Direct, wrongheaded attacks on the media. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s [terrorism] not even being reported, and in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.  They have their reasons, and you understand that.”  And, most hypocritically, the accusation that they peddle “fake news.” The hydra-headed media has a lot to answer for, but these accusations are flat wrong, and the failure of the President and his courtiers to refute the media’s surgical dissection of his lies proves it.  Nonetheless, just when one might have thought things could not get any worse, the President went further down the sewer and labeled a huge segment of the press the “enemy of the American people.”
  • And the latest – the incredible charge tweeted out several days ago, on zero evidence, that Barack Obama, that “bad (or sick) guy” wiretapped Trump at Trump Tower.

We had hoped that some of the adults in the Cabinet could mitigate some of the damage.  But apparently even the supposedly levelheaded members of the Cabinet have caught the Trump Disease.  In keeping with Sean Spicer’s decision to ban certain news organizations from a February 24 press briefing, on March 7 Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allowed (or directed) the ejection of Andrea Mitchell from a photo-op with the Ukraine Foreign Minister for asking uncomfortable questions.  That is not just shocking; it shows an unprecedented level of cowardice and arrogance by a public official.  And equally shocking is that Bill O’Reilly, jackal-like, claimed that she was “unruly.”  Andrea Mitchell—“unruly”?  Every member of the press should have Andrea Mitchell’s back, but apparently some of them are so blinded by their own political slant, or the desire to curry favor, that they condone, even praise this behavior.

Maybe the last 16 years have been pretty bad – a divided country, an ill-thought-out war, a devastating recession, and the decline of American prestige overseas – but they pale in comparison to what is happening now.  The above events demonstrate that our President is utterly devoid of personal dignity and consumed with self.  Anyone can find a lot of uncomplimentary things to say about the policies of Bush 43 and Barack 44, but these men were, at bottom, decent human beings.  We now are governed by someone of a different ilk entirely … someone whose policy nostrums are truly “stone cold crazy.”  For example,

  • Making Steve Bannon a regular at National Security Council briefings, in place of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. For once I agree with Susan Rice on something  — that really is “stone cold crazy.”  We can apparently credit Bannon and another of his cohort for the wildly under-thought-out travel ban on citizens of seven countries – including persons who already held visas and were returning to family and homes already in the U.S., along with many persons who served alongside our military personnel in the Mideast, often at risk to their own lives and safety.  Now we have a new, revised ban that may pass legal muster, but is completely ineffectual and wrongheaded.
  • Completely dismissing the Trans-Pacific Pact on trade, which would be our best and simplest vehicle for isolating China and binding other Asian countries to our economy and our society. If you want to make America great again, you don’t abandon TPP and create a vacuum to be filled by a rising hegemonist. And it’s ridiculous to bash China for its alleged unfair currency devaluation when China has actually been propping up its currency, not devaluing it.
  • Maintaining the fiction that Mexico should and will pay for an ineffective “wall” and demanding that NAFTA be “renegotiated.” It apparently has never occurred to this real estate mogul (who has employed undocumented workers) that the best way to minimize illegal immigration is to strengthen the economies of Latin American countries so their people do not experience the desperation that impels them to walk thousands of miles to enter the United States. As best one can tell from U.S. Government figures, Texas alone has an $8 billion trade surplus with Mexico.  (Governor Abbott, are you listening?)  Put another way, Mexico is not Rosie O’Donnell.  It is our neighbor.
  • And, if you want to counteract Russian savagery, you don’t cozy up to them by dissing your own country, whose sins are not even a teaspoon compared to the ocean of government-sponsored Russian criminality against its own citizens.  Not to mention Russian support for Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s torturer-in chief.  Trump’s inexplicable behavior towards Russia does just one thing:  it persuades many of us that the Russians really do have something on him.

The list of Trump’s deliberate and dangerous wrongheadedness is already too long for my blog. Others who do this for a living have exposed it with far more eloquence than I can summon in a week or even a month.  In an era of grave dangers, from overseas powers and groups who are utterly hostile to an open, democratic and free society, we need a President who understands and appreciates what we have.  Unfortunately, we don’t, so we are in for a long, excruciating ride.

So, what can we do?

First, we can continue to stay engaged in public affairs.  That doesn’t necessarily mean protests.  It requires much more than marching on occasion, including – most important – voting at every opportunity, whether in primaries, general elections, school bond elections, referenda (and how many of today’s protestors did not even vote in the last election?).   With turnout at a 20-year low (roughly 55% after three cycles of at least 60%), we all have to participate, and we have to encourage everyone around us to do the same.

Second, we can turn to our own communities.  We can live the best lives we can, treat each other with decency, be passionate about our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families, but also show compassion and charity toward others.  By providing these shining examples, sorely lacking in this Administration, we can hope that the American people decide to once again aspire to be a “city on a hill” and figure out by 2020 how to reverse the evil that has befallen us.

OOPS! (Revised) Unsolicited Advice for the President-elect

This is for the President-elect I did not expect.  My advice is only a little different from what I posted last week for the other candidate (whom I thought would prevail).  However, what’s good for the country is good for the country, regardless of who walks into the White House next January 20:

Dear President-elect Trump:

It’s Wednesday.  Half the country is hailing your victory, but the other half is scared.  Here’s what I recommend to hearten your supporters and (slowly) assuage the fears of many of the rest.

Call Mitch McConnell.  Tell him you are too busy to worry about legislation on the right wing’s social agenda, but you’ll give him “safe” conservatives for the Supreme Court, and assure him that you won’t drive the coal industry out of business.  While you’re at it, ask him to help figure out what tweaks and revisions can be made to TPP that will allow you to gracefully reverse your absurd opposition to it (maybe some executive orders?), then ramrod its passage through the Senate with McConnell’s help, and you can both claim victory.

Call Paul Ryan.  Keep calling until he answers.  Tell him you want to make a deal.  Maybe many deals.  Find out what he really wants on the budget/tax front (we know that will be a combination of entitlement cuts and certain tax reforms), and let him make the case to you that those items will stimulate job growth (he’s right — they will).  The Senate Democrats will have the capability to filibuster anything coming out of the House, so add a dollop of some more taxes on people making over $500,000.  Both of you will need to show some backbone and make the case for this compromise to the country, over the heads of the leftwing cranks (read:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and rightwing crazies (too many to name) in both Houses of Congress.

Call Chuck Schumer.  Repeat to him what you said about TPP to McConnell.  Also, tell him (sweetly—see below) that the country is yours, and if he is unnecessarily obstructive, you will bury him.

While you’re at it, promise both Ryan and McConnell that you’ll support under cover of darkness any ideas they have for encasing Ted Cruz in carbonite for at least the next 20 years.  Tell Ted that he can wait 8 years, anyway.

It’s Wednesday evening. Get a good night’s sleep.  Then call Bob Gates and Colin Powell and find out who they think would make a good Secretary of Defense.  Call Condi Rice and ask the same question about State.  Call John McCain and Lindsey Graham and invite them to make Cabinet suggestions.  You may or may not take their advice, but could it really hurt to ask?

Call Philip Zelikow and tell him he must accept the post of National Security Adviser.  He’s up to it.

Announce that you will appoint a blue-ribbon  commission (at least one-third Democrats) to “save” Social Security.  Make sure the commission members know that they must (a) raise the retirement age for non-disabled persons by at least one month per year for the next 36 years, (b) advocate means-testing benefits, and (c) ensure that the COLAs are honest, not manipulated in either direction.  That will give you cover — and it makes sense.

I take you at your word that you want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Appoint a similar blue-ribbon commission for this task, too.  After 7 or 8 years in opposition, surely some Republicans have a few good ideas beyond selling insurance across state lines.  And find some rational Democrats and healthcare experts to appoint to the commission. I realize they will probably issue a scathing minority report, but let’s get all the ideas on the table.

Freeze civilian Government hiring. ‘Nuff said.

Expand the military by 1,000,000 personnel.  This was the stimulus package I advocated waaaayyy back in 2009 when President Obama took office.  Such a program would have had, and will still have, immense benefits: (a) decreasing the ranks of the unemployed, particularly 18- to 25-year-olds, (b) providing discipline in work habits and training in technical skills to those same young persons who most need it, so they ultimately become net contributors and taxpayers in the civilian economy, (c) providing medical care to the same group –- a better alternative than the ACA with its stratospheric deductibles and co-pays — while training them in healthy habits that will ultimately bend the cost curve, and (d) letting Putin and the Iranians and North Koreans know that, while you may be willing to sit down and talk with them, there’s a new sheriff in town.  This will hearten our fearful allies.

Make a speech before Thanksgiving that explicitly supports Israel and a two-state solution, and insist that the Arab world and Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, on pain of isolation.  We don’t need their oil the way we used to.

Don’t call Putin until you have already spoken with Merkel, May, and Pena Nieto.  Please.

It’s time to heal.  When dealing with your political adversaries, try to act like Bush 41, or Ronald Reagan — not like Dick Cheney or your new BFF’s Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani.  Act like Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter (most of the time), not like Harry Reid or Elizabeth Warren.  This will be a hard lesson for you, and old habits die hard.  But you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  And enforce rigorously the same level of civility among your courtiers, advisers, and other minions.   Believe me, if you can do it (and with your iron will you should be able to do it), you’ll be glad you did.

Oh, yes.  Tell Jason Chaffetz to back off.  He should investigate fraud and waste, not Benghazi or the email server.  You won.  Isn’t that enough?

The preceding is unpaid advice, but I think it’s worth something.  I really want you to be successful.

Sincerely,

Lee Kaplan

Unsolicited Advice for the President-elect

On the off-chance that she survives all of her self-inflicted wounds and emerges in a week as our President-elect, I offer the following unsolicited advice to our next President:

Dear President-elect Clinton:

It’s 8 a.m. Wednesday.  Call Paul Ryan.  Keep calling until he answers.  Tell him you want to make a deal.  Maybe many deals.  Tell him that the social issues are off the table, but you want to know what he really wants on the budget/tax front (we know that will be a combination of entitlement cuts and certain tax reforms), and let him make the case to you that those items will stimulate job growth (he’s right — they will).  Trade that for some more taxes on people making over $500,000.  Both of you will need to show some backbone and make the case for this compromise to the country, over the heads of the leftwing cranks (read:  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and rightwing crazies (too many to name) in both Houses of Congress.

Next, call Mitch McConnell, but if he doesn’t answer, just leave a voicemail.  Tell him the train has left the station on the right wing’s social agenda, but if he’ll confirm Merrick Garland, maybe you will hold off on appointing Barack Obama to the Supreme Court, and even wait until your second term to drive the coal industry out of business.  While you’re at it, figure out what tweaks and revisions can be made to TPP that will allow you to gracefully reverse your absurd pre-nomination opposition to it, ramrod its passage through the Senate with McConnell’s help, and you can both claim victory.   Also, tell McConnell (sweetly—see below) that if he thinks he can make you a one-term President, he’s welcome to try.

See, there is something you can do with each of these guys. I promise you, Americans are yearning for bipartisanship.  If you succeed in injecting just a little of that back into public life, you will be the beneficiary.

While you’re at it, promise both Ryan and McConnell that you’ll support under cover of darkness any ideas they have for encasing Ted Cruz in carbonite for at least the next 20 (uh, make that 200) years.

It’s Wednesday afternoon.  Tell the First Gentleman-elect that he can give all the speeches he wants – for free.  And only for free.  After all, isn’t a household net worth of over $100 MM enough already?  You and Bill need to find someone — not Sidney Blumenthal or John Podesta — to take steps to fold all the Clinton “foundations,” “global initiatives,” and “charities” into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or at least turn them over to Melinda to run.  Maybe she’ll give Chelsea a job.  After all, your real daughter appears to be the only one in those outfits with a conscience.  The rest of the hangers-on, sycophants, courtiers, and FOB’s can go out and get real jobs.

When I hear “Abedin/Mills,” I think “Haldeman/Ehrlichman.” And we know how that turned out. Thank Huma and Cheryl for their past service and don’t take their phone calls, emails or texts – and don’t make or send any to this duo, either, and under no circumstances allow them anywhere near the White House.  Really.

Call Bob Gates  and Colin Powell and find out who they think would make a good Secretary of Defense.  Consider James Webb for the job.  Call Condi Rice and ask the same question about State.

Call Philip Zelikow and tell him he must accept the post of National Security Adviser.  He’s up to it.

Announce that you will appoint a blue ribbon (at least one-third Republican) commission to revise Social Security.  Make sure the commission members know that they must (a) raise the retirement age by at least one month per year for the next 36 years, (b) advocate means-testing benefits, and (c) ensure that the COLAs are honest, not manipulated in either direction.

Announce that you will appoint the gaggle of defeated GOP Senators (they’ll all be moderates) to “fix” the ACA.  Put it on their backs, and let’s see what they come up with.

Freeze civilian Government hiring. ‘Nuff said.

Expand the military by 1,000,000 personnel.  This was the stimulus package I advocated waaaayyy back in 2009 when President Obama took office.  Such a program would have had, and will still have, immense benefits: (a) decreasing the ranks of the unemployed, particularly 18- to 25-year-olds, (b) providing discipline in work habits and training in technical skills to those same young persons who most need it, so they ultimately become net contributors and taxpayers in the civilian economy, (c) providing medical care to the same group –- a better alternative than Obamacare with its stratospheric deductibles and co-pays — while training them in healthy habits that will ultimately bend the cost curve, and (d) letting Putin and the Iranians know that there’s a new sheriff in town, while heartening our fearful allies, and moving the fence-sitters in our direction.

Make a speech before Thanksgiving that explicitly supports Israel and a two-state solution, and insist that the Arab world and Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, on pain of isolation.  We don’t need their oil the way we used to.

It’s time to heal.  When dealing with your political adversaries, try to act like Bush 41, or Ronald Reagan — not like Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, or Rudy Giuliani.  Act like Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter (most of the time), not like Harry Reid or Elizabeth Warren.  This will be a hard lesson for you, and old habits die hard.  But you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  And enforce rigorously the same level of civility among your courtiers, advisers, and other minions.   Believe me, if you can do it (and with your iron will you should be able to do it), you’ll be glad you did.

The preceding is unpaid advice, but I think it’s worth a lot more than some of the advice you’ve gotten so far.  I really want you to be successful, even legendary.

Sincerely,

Lee Kaplan

A Four-letter Word

I’ve been looking for a word.  A word to describe Donald Trump.  No word encapsulates the Republican GOP nominee perfectly, but this one about sums it up:  he’s a lout.  Not since Joe McCarthy have we seen a personage on the national scene that so aptly fills, even overflows, that little four-letter word.*

Trump stands alone.  From insulting Megan Kelly (and bringing her to heel), Trump took all the wrong lessons.  In the month since he cleared the field, Trump has managed to double down, or even triple down, on his efforts to alienate huge voter blocs.  It is a commonplace that GOP candidates cannot afford to lose the women’s vote by more than 10 percentage points.  In 2000 George W. Bush eked out a win because, although he was 11 points behind Gore among women, the results were exactly reversed among men–and the Electoral College overcame his losing the national vote.  In 2004 Bush narrowed the gap significantly (48% to 51% for Gore with women voters) and won handily.  Barack Obama crushed McCain and Romney by 13 and 11 percentage points, respectively, in that demographic and cruised to victories.  It’s pretty obvious that women, who are over half the voting public, are a critical group.  So what has Trump done to entice, or at least hold some of them in a race  where his opponent almost certainly will be the first female presidential nominee of a major party?  Uh, nothing.  He keeps calling Hillary Clinton “shrill” – just the kind of borderline sexist comment guaranteed to grate like fingernails on the chalkboard for independent voters—male and female alike.  Why do that?  If it’s calculated, he is a lout.  If it comes naturally to him, he’s still a lout.   Earlier Trump claimed that Hillary Clinton didn’t have the stamina or strength to serve – which has enough unpleasant overtones anyway (not to mention being demonstrably untrue).  But “shrill”? There are plenty of substantive issues where Hillary Clinton is vulnerable, not to mention character issues.  But this?

And now, despite the staring-you-in-the-face facts that Republicans must make inroads in the Hispanic vote for a GOP nominee to have a chance of overcoming the electoral math, Trump continues to assert that a judge with a Hispanic surname is a biased “Mexican”.  And he piles on by claiming that any Muslim is also disqualified from presiding over his many lawsuits.

In Trump’s world, being questioned about his business ethics is sacrilege, and anyone doing so (or merely presiding evenhandedly over one of his lawsuits) must be a sleaze, or a Mexican, or a Muslim, or maybe all three.

Wow.

Even if we give The Lout a pass on the recent rally where he referred to a member of the audience as “my African American,”  Wow again.

Who in the GOP will step up and not merely condemn Trump’s statements, but also affirmatively refuse to endorse this man?     Well, Lindsey Graham, for one.  After Trump’s riff on Judge Curiel’s presumed ancestry-based bias, Senator Graham said, “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy.”  And “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it.”  And, “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Paul Ryan, are you listening?

The Freak Show

November 2016 should be a “no-way-the-Republicans-can-lose” Presidential election.  The country is in a sour mood and senses, rightly, that things have gone awry.  Our President is snubbed at airports all over the world (and it’s cold comfort that the “snubbers” are people “on the wrong side of history”), our best friends the Brits take offense at being lectured and threatened if they don’t vote “the right way” on the EU, true U.S. employment is still millions of jobs below pre-2008 levels, and many of the new jobs pay less than the jobs previously lost.  From ISIS to insurance premiums, Americans feel threatened, anxious and unhappy. That is tailor-made for the opposition party to capture the Presidency.   But it’s highly likely that the next President will be a Democrat, and more specifically, an ethically-challenged, been-on-the-national-scene-too-long, finger-to-the-wind, Nixonian-persona Democrat.  The Republicans really have no one to blame but themselves.  How has this happened?

 

Any Republican with a pulse and an IQ above 85 understands that the GOP must frame this election around just two issues:  jobs and national security.  The Democrats are vulnerable (and should be mortally wounded) on both issues.  To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s 1980 rhetorical checklist:  “Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was? Do you feel that our security is as safe, that we’re as strong as we were four years ago?”  Here we are, nine presidential election cycles later, and the Gipper’s questions should be the Republicans’ talking points.  But they (or at least the ones energized enough to vote in GOP primaries) apparently have all been bonked on the head and suffer from collective amnesia.

 

Jobs

Even now, after almost five years of anemic “recovery,” our true employment rate (not the phony, manipulated unemployment rate) is probably about 73 percent, versus around 75 percent in pre-Great Recession 2007.  Put it another way, we are at least 2 or 3 million jobs lighter than we should be, given the increase in the size of the work force during that time. And the jobs mix is tilted towards lower-paying, less-secure positions.  No matter how much they may try to blame others, neither the Obama Administration, nor its surrogates, nor MSNBC can put much lipstick on this pig.  But other than vague promises, the GOP debates and talking points have touched on jobs only tangentially, having opted instead for an anti-immigration, anti-trade free-for-all and a discussion of small hands and transgender bathroom predators.

 

A strong jobs economy affects almost every aspect of national life:  it means more taxes paid to help decrease the deficit and the appalling national debt; it helps pay for the “entitlements” that many Americans now regard as their birthright; it finances a strong military so that we are more credible overseas, and most important, it contributes to a sense of well-being among American families.  By contrast, our on-again, off-again 7-year “recovery” is angst-inducing.

 

National Security

It is a commonplace that these are troubled times in the world.  However arguable the merits of the Obama/Kerry initiatives in Iran and Cuba, it is beyond dispute that our relationships with traditional allies are frayed.  When Joe Biden discusses the Administration’s “overwhelming frustration” with Israel (read: Prime Minister Netanyahu), and claims that Israeli settlements and land seizures are “moving Israel in the wrong direction,” when the Saudi king greets two-bit Gulf rulers but not the U.S. President at the airport, and when we tell Canada that its natural resources are too dirty to move through the U.S., things aren’t going well.  And when China builds airbases on hitherto-barren reefs, and Russia is unmoved by sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, and sending its pilots to do barrel rolls around U.S. military planes (not to mention being rightly perceived as having displaced the U.S. as the influential player in Syria), Americans are uneasy.  Further, our halting, incremental response to ISIS, which the President unfortunately once called a Jayvee team (a quote he tried to walk back), does not jibe with Americans’ view of what the United States should be able to accomplish.  Our unease is truly justified – the overseas situation is baaaad.  But what has been the GOP response?  Suggestions of carpet-bombing ISIS (Cruz’s non-starter when ISIS is billeted with local populations) and admiration for Putin (Trump’s “he’s just a strong leader” approach) are worse than boneheaded.  The official Ted Cruz response to terror seems to be to forbid all immigration by  “Syrian Muslims” – without any explanation for how one can tell the Syrian Christians from Syrian Muslims.   And the official Donald Trump response to terror is – gee, who can tell?

 

So what ARE they talking about?

As it turns out, the two GOP frontrunners’ main contribution to the national security debate seems to be anti-immigrant talk.  The Republicans’ descent from former California Governor Pete Wilson (who first made this a GOP issue and just emerged from the dustbin of history to endorse Cruz) through strident drumbeaters such as former Rep. Tom Tancredo and current Rep. Steve King to the current Republican contestants virtually guarantees that the Hispanic vote will tilt heavily Democratic.  The odds are overwhelming that in November the Republican nominee will be someone who has so alienated Hispanics that the Democrats will get at least 65 percent of their vote, which could alone be decisive in states such as Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.  That’s a huge chunk of electoral votes (68), and the Republicans lost all of those states but Arizona (11 votes) the last time around.   And, in the meantime, Ted Cruz is railing against letting any Muslim immigrants into this country, because the FBI cannot vet them all. Logically, that means banning all immigration.  After all, Ted, how can you tell if they are Muslims?  What if they claim to be Christians—but they’re lying?

 

What about domestic initiatives?  Apparently the Republicans have also forgotten that at least half of the electorate is female and that a large majority has had enough of the anti-abortion activists.  Maybe these women don’t like abortion, and cannot imagine ever being in the position of wanting, let alone undergoing an abortion, but they don’t particularly think that legislators should be that involved in ruling their bodies.  How is it that the Republicans believe in laissez-faire capitalism (including letting unwanted babies receive little or no social services once they are born) but simultaneously resist letting women choose on this most intimate of decisions?  Does anyone doubt that this position alone dooms Donald Trump and probably Ted Cruz as well in the general election?

 

What else are the Republicans talking about?  Mythical assaults in public restrooms!  Is there some reliable statistic showing that transgendered people (news flash:  they are people) are more likely to assault young girls than oversexed heterosexual frat boys—or that they are more dangerous to young boys than high school gym coaches (and future Congressmen)?  And, just when we thought the debate had already descended below the lowest bar anyone could imagine, out comes Trump citing as gospel a National Enquirer story linking Rafael Cruz to Lee Harvey Oswald.

 

It’s a freak show.  Cruz or Trump, Trump or Cruz…they’re gonna lose, and based on their issue-free, bottom-dwelling campaigns, they deserve to lose.