Thursday, September 29, 2016
I grew up in a Republican family and I understand it can be difficult to let go of past habits in one's voting pattern. But in my grandparents' and parents' day, the Republican Party valued knowledge, science, and looked down on out right racism. Fiscal conservatism was a must, but so was staying out of people's bedrooms. And for the most part, the GOP selected sane and responsible candidates, especially at the presidential level. All of that has changed, yet too many otherwise sane Republicans cannot let go and recognize that the GOP has this year nominated a horrible individual as its standard bearer and that for the good of the country, they need to abandon him. A piece in New York Magazine looks at the denial plaguing the GOP voters. Here are excerpts:
If you’re a Republican who has been clinging to the wan hope that Donald Trump might somehow, in his eighth decade on Earth, develop into a plausibly competent president of the United States, the first debate should have been your moment to abandon ship.
Trump displayed the factual command of a small child, the emotional stability of a hormonal teen, and the stamina of an old man, staggering and losing the thread as the 90 minutes wore on. Instead, Republicans — without a single exception I have seen — have responded very differently. They have treated their candidate’s glaring unsuitability for high office as, at worst, a handful of discrete errors that in no way reflect on his character, and at best, the dastardly unfairness of the liberal media.
Among the optimists was conservative columnist Holman Jenkins, who registered his approval with the candidate’s ability to clear two impressive hurdles: make it through the debate without literally dying, and display the ability to make at least one planned action. “He is not a lifelong politician like Mrs. Clinton and it showed,” writes Jenkins. “But he survived on stage.
National Review, which had published a splashy issue devoted to denouncing Trump during the primary, used its post-debate editorial not to remind readers that the array of disqualifying traits it had once denounced were on vivid display, but instead to chastise moderator Lester Holt for exposing them.
Holt’s alleged bias was a favorite subject on the right. Every question that exposed Trump’s unprecedented violation of political norms simply proved to conservatives that their party was being singled out for unprecedented scrutiny. Conservatives expressed a mix of resentment and confusion that Trump faced hostile questions and scrutiny for his refusal to take the expected and routine step of releasing his tax returns. “These columns warned Mr. Trump—and GOP voters—during the primaries that by not releasing his returns he was giving Democrats an opening to assert what he might be ‘hiding,’” warns The Wall Street Journal. Note the scare quotes around the term “hiding,” as if it is a hyperbolic and unfair term to apply to the act of not revealing something that is customarily shared.
The New York Times, which recently published a harrowing account of Trump’s debate preparation, or lack thereof, today has an equally harrowing account of his failures. Trump surrounds himself with completely unqualified advisers offering bad advice (a “large number of voluble people on his prep team, including two retired military figures with no political background”). His advisers are hoping after the first debate to “impress upon him the need to stick to a strategy and a plan of battle.” Trump has a childlike attention span . . . .
So Trump, according to the people trying to help him win, is unable to pick good staff, manage his time, follow advice, or even accept the connection between preparing for an event and succeeding at it. Republicans have so internalized Trump’s wild unsuitability for the presidency that they have decided to treat these facts as mere hurdles to overcome on the path to the presidency. But why are they trying to help him win in the first place?
For over 40 years Saturday Night Live ("SNL") has delivered blistering political satire and at times has helped to underscore negative aspects of candidates and to get across prevailing character flaws the mainstream media is too spineless to attack. This past year has been no different. Yet, in the wake of Monday's presidential debate and Donald Trump's disastrous performance, some are conjecturing that SNL may be particularly brutal on Trump - and deservedly so in my opinion. A piece in Politico looks at the process underway at SNL in the lead up to Saturday's show. Here are highlights:
Monday night was live from Hofstra. Saturday night is live from New York.
While Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton argue over who won Monday night’s debate, inside 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the winner in the all-important satirical showdown is still being scripted.
That’s where the cast and crew of “Saturday Night Live” gathered Monday night to watch the debate. And it’s where they’re still sketching out portrayals that will shape how Americans see their presidential candidates.
SNL, which timed the launch of its 42nd season for the weekend after the first Clinton-Trump clash, made one big reveal Wednesday: Actor Alec Baldwin will debut as Trump. But heading into Saturday, the biggest drama is how Baldwin and SNL will parody the GOP nominee: Will they mock his sniffles? His hair? His orange hue? His gesticulations? His supposed microphone malfunction? Or do they cast him in more ominous terms: as a racist hate-monger? Some comedians are pressing for the latter. Dean Obeidallah, who worked on the production staff of SNL for eight years and now has a radio show on SiriusXM, said late-night comedians “have a moral obligation” to highlight the darker elements of Trump’s candidacy. “Donald Trump is not a normal candidate. This is not Mitt Romney, not John McCain. This is a man who has trafficked in racism, sexism and bigotry,” Obeidallah said.
“Maybe it’s going to take comedians to do the job that cable news has relinquished for so much of the campaign.”
for coddling Trump and inviting him on their programs. “I guess because ratings matter more than brown people,” Bee exclaimed. “Sure, he’s making life palpably dangerous for Muslims and immigrants, but, hey, he’s good at entertainment!”took some of her comedy colleagues and network executives to task
stirring testimonials from what at first appeared to be everyday Americans who ended up as a Nazi, a woman ironing a Ku Klux Klan hood, and a white supremacist.faux pro-Trump SNL ad featured
It was Will Ferrell as George W. Bush who coined “strategery,” not Bush himself. And it was Tina Fey as Sarah Palin who claimed, “I can see Russia from my house,” not Palin. The skewering tradition dates all the way back to Chevy Chase’s 1976 portrayal of President Gerald Ford as a klutz, and Jon Lovitz’s disbelief, as Michael Dukakis in 1988, that “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.” In 2000, Al Gore’s own advisers made him watch Darrell Hammond’s stilted, stiff, sighing impersonation of his debate performances to show Gore how poorly he was coming off to others.
Lorne Michaels, the creator and executive producer of SNL, told Parade this week that “fundamentally we’re non-partisan,“ but there are growing pressures inside the satire world to wage a comedic war on Trump in the election’s final weeks.
“It’s among the things I can’t control,” Palmieri said with a hearty laugh. “‘Saturday Night Live’ — among the things I can’t control.”
Again, I hope SNL brutalizes Trump. The husband and I will be at a wedding at The Greenbrier on Saturday, but we will be sure to tune into SNL afterwards.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The previous post noted how Hitler's rise to power was aided by sycophants who thought they could control him and/or by those who put personal advancement ahead of the best interests of the nation. Some of the later ended up losing their lives when Hitler turned on them and others lost everything when Germany was crushed in defeat. Thankfully, some of America's career defense and intelligence are not ready to sell out the nation for a few pieces of silver and put the interests of the nation first. A column in the Washington Post by a former undersecretary of defense for intelligence from 2011 to 2015 and assistant secretary of defense for special operations from 2007 to 2011, and former deputy director of the CIA underscores why Donald Trump is unfit for the office of the presidency and the danger that he poses for America. Here are excerpts:
Donald Trump showed again during Monday’s presidential debate the many ways in which he is unfit to be president. But nowhere did he reveal himself to be as temperamentally unfit, unserious, unprepared and incoherent as he did on the topic of national security.
Trump continued to question the global alliance system that has served U.S. national security interests so well since World War II. He continues to see our relationships with our closest allies and partners solely in terms of cost — who is paying how much of the bill. He does not see all the benefits that have accrued to the United States from this system, including the stability of Europe and East Asia that has made this a more secure and prosperous nation.
Trump spoke off the cuff about the most important responsibility of our commander in chief: U.S. nuclear weapons policy. Apparently unaware of the meaning of the words, he first said he believed in “no first use” of nuclear weapons, then contradicted himself by saying he would keep his options open as president. One of us (Michael Vickers) had oversight for U.S. nuclear weapons policy during the George W. Bush administration, and we can say unequivocally that absolute clarity is critical to the strength of our nuclear deterrent. And these comments come on top of Trump’s already-reckless pattern of remarks on allowing more countries to obtain nuclear weapons and the potential scenarios in which he would consider using such weapons.
Trump failed to articulate a plan to defeat the Islamic State, and he baldly lied about initially opposing the Iraq War. He continued his silly argument that to talk about his plan would give away secrets to the enemy. Nonsense. As two people who fought terrorists for almost two decades, we can assure Trump that offering the broad outlines of a policy gives nothing away.
Trump has repeatedly claimed on the campaign trail, as he did again Monday night, that the United States would have prevented the emergence of the Islamic State if we had “taken the oil” in the aftermath of the Iraq War. Trump is apparently unaware that the terrorist group got its oil from fields in Syria, not Iraq. Trump likewise dubiously asserted that had the United States maintained 10,000 troops in Iraq after 2011 — against the wishes of the Iraqi government — it would have prevented the Islamic State from becoming a threat. Again, Trump is seemingly unaware of the facts. The Islamic State’s most rapid growth occurred when it crossed the border into Syria, where most of its forces remain today.
And Trump was not serious when he was discussing one of the most significant threats of our time: cyber. In discussing Russia’s possible involvement in the recent hack of the Democratic National Committee, he posited that a 400-pound person sitting on a bed could have been responsible. It is highly unlikely that a lone hacker conducted this attack. Trump did not want to admit that the most likely culprit was Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump actually encouraged to conduct cyber espionage against his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
As bad as he was on the issues, Trump was even worse on temperament and style. He was clearly not prepared for the debate, rambling through answers with many digressions that had nothing to do with what he was asked or even the point he was trying to make.
If Donald Trump thinks preparation is overrated and that a seat-of-the-pants approach makes sense for the most important debate of his life, why do we think he would treat meetings in the White House Situation Room any differently?
Trump is not only a threat to America but to the world at large. No wonder so many of America's allies are worried about the outcome of November's election. I find the thought of Trump in the White House nothing short of terrifying.
I have been blasted by some for my comparisons of Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler. In my opinion both represent narcissistic demagogues subject to tempestuous love affairs with themselves. Both pandered/pander to hate and bigotry and viewed scapegoating others as a means to power. Trump may have come a background of wealth and comfort whereas Hitler came from a meager background, yet the self-importance ascribed to themselves is remarkably similar. Likewise, temper tantrums and violent out bursts follow criticism or suggestions that they were not always right. If you don't believe me, you need to read a new New York Times book review of “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939,” by historian Volker Ullrich, and think of Trump as you read the review. The book could as easily describe Trump's tactics today as those of Hitler in his rise to power. Here are review highlights:
How did Adolf Hitler — described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?
A host of earlier biographers (most notably Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest and Ian Kershaw) have advanced theories about Hitler’s rise, and the dynamic between the man and his times. Some have focused on the social and political conditions in post-World War I Germany, which Hitler expertly exploited — bitterness over the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and a yearning for a return to German greatness; unemployment and economic distress amid the worldwide Depression of the early 1930s; and longstanding ethnic prejudices and fears of “foreignization.”
Other writers — including the dictator’s latest biographer, the historian Volker Ullrich — have focused on Hitler as a politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses.
In “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939,” Mr. Ullrich sets out to strip away the mythology that Hitler created around himself in “Mein Kampf,” and he also tries to look at this “mysterious, calamitous figure” not as a monster or madman, but as a human being with “undeniable talents and obviously deep-seated psychological complexes.” This is the first of two volumes (it ends in 1939 with the dictator’s 50th birthday) and there is little here that is substantially new. However, Mr. Ullrich offers a fascinating Shakespearean parable about how the confluence of circumstance, chance, a ruthless individual and the willful blindness of others can transform a country — and, in Hitler’s case, lead to an unimaginable nightmare for the world.
Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”
• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”
• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”
• Hitler was an effective orator and actor, Mr. Ullrich reminds readers, adept at assuming various masks and feeding off the energy of his audiences. Although he concealed his anti-Semitism beneath a “mask of moderation” when trying to win the support of the socially liberal middle classes, he specialized in big, theatrical rallies staged with spectacular elements borrowed from the circus. Here, “Hitler adapted the content of his speeches to suit the tastes of his lower-middle-class, nationalist-conservative, ethnic-chauvinist and anti-Semitic listeners,” Mr. Ullrich writes. He peppered his speeches with coarse phrases and put-downs of hecklers. Even as he fomented chaos by playing to crowds’ fears and resentments, he offered himself as the visionary leader who could restore law and order.
• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better “to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.”
• Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.” But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in “Mein Kampf” that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its “purely intellectual level,” Hitler said, “will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.” Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”
• Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. Early on, revulsion at Hitler’s style and appearance, Mr. Ullrich writes, led some critics to underestimate the man and his popularity, while others dismissed him as a celebrity, a repellent but fascinating “evening’s entertainment.” Politicians, for their part, suffered from the delusion that the dominance of traditional conservatives in the cabinet would neutralize the threat of Nazi abuse of power and “fence Hitler in.”
• “Many Germans jumped on the Nazi bandwagon not out of political conviction but in hopes of improving their career opportunities, he argues, while fear kept others from speaking out against the persecution of the Jews. The independent press was banned or suppressed and books deemed “un-German” were burned. By March 1933, Hitler had made it clear, Mr. Ullrich says, “that his government was going to do away with all norms of separation of powers and the rule of law.”
• Hitler had a dark, Darwinian view of the world. And he would not only become, in Mr. Ullrich’s words, “a mouthpiece of the cultural pessimism” growing in right-wing circles in the Weimar Republic, but also the avatar of what Thomas Mann identified as a turning away from reason and the fundamental principles of a civil society — namely, “liberty, equality, education, optimism and belief in progress.”
Sound frighteningly familiar? I hope and pray that a majority of voters will wake up and save America from repeating the tragedy of Germany. Having read a great deal about Hitler's rise to power, I continue to be amazed at how the man manipulated people and played to their ugliest instincts - just like Donald Trump.
Back in my days as a Republican activist, Republican City Committee member and precinct captain I got to meet former Senator John Warner on numerous occasions and worked with his staff on a number of campaigns. Warner always put his principles first and put the best interests of America ahead of partisanship - something in rare supply nowadays as too many in the GOP have cast principle and decency aside to support a narcissistic demagogue for the presidency. A case in point from the past is Warner's refusal to support Oliver North when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Yes, North was charismatic (I knew him as well and two of my children liked him for the attention he gave them at political events), but he was not fit for office. Continuing this trend, Warner is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president. A piece in the Washington Post looks at Warner's decision. Here are excerpts:
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will score another high-powered Republican endorsement on Wednesday, according to a campaign aide: retired senator John Warner of Virginia, a popular GOP maverick with renowned military credentials.
Warner’s decision not to support his party’s nominee, Donald Trump, is intended to send a signal in the five-term senator’s battleground home state and beyond that mainstream, security-minded Republicans should side with Clinton.
Virginia is an important, military-rich state that both candidates see as essential to winning the White House as the race tightens nationally. Clinton is making a pitch across the country that she is the more seasoned and responsible candidate on military and national security issues.
Perhaps best known by some for marrying actress Elizabeth Taylor, Warner, 89, is also known for bucking his party. A World War II veteran, former U.S. Navy secretary and former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Warner famously opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, as well as the 1994 Senate candidacy of Oliver North of Iran-contra notoriety. He endorsed Democrat Mark R. Warner over Republican Jim Gilmore to fill his own seat in the U.S. Senate.
John Warner’s ability to withstand the Republican criticism he endured for those decisions stemmed largely from the gravitas he had built over a lengthy Senate career in which he mastered national security issues and diligently delivered for the state’s military bases and defense contractors.
He has never before endorsed a Democrat for president.
“For 30 years, Virginians trusted John Warner in the Senate, and for good reason: He has dedicated his life to defending our country, from serving in the Navy in World War II to chairing the Senate Armed Services Committee, where I had the honor of working with him to support our men and women in uniform and their families,” Clinton wrote in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “I am proud to have John’s support, and to know that someone with his decades of
Warner retired in 2009, leaving office with approval ratings that any politician would covet. A Washington Post poll conducted a little more than a year before his retirement found that 72 percent of likely voters approved of the job he was doing.
In military-heavy Virginia, more voters think Clinton would make a better commander in chief than Trump, 50 percent to 40 percent, with female voters saying so by a 2-to-1 margin.
Warner will become perhaps the most high-profile former GOP elected official whom Clinton has trotted out in recent weeks to try to make the case that she is the superior candidate on foreign affairs, in particular.
Other names well known in the foreign affairs establishment include John Negroponte, who held high-level positions in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush; Brent Scowcroft, a national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush; and Richard Armitage, a deputy secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration.
Warner’s pick could also bolster the standing of the Democratic ticket in Virginia at a time when Republicans are trying to keep the state competitive.
With Kaine on the ticket this year, Clinton has maintained a lead that suggests a long-term realignment. As Trump has risen in the polls nationally, the race in Virginia has grown somewhat tighter, but the Democrats still enjoy a nearly 7 percentage point lead, according to the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls.
Other former elected Republican officeholders who have endorsed Clinton include: Michael Bloomberg, a mayor of New York; Arne Carlson, a governor of Minnesota; David Durenberger, a senator from Minnesota; Constance A. Morella, a congresswoman from Maryland; Larry Pressler, a senator and congressman from South Dakota; Christopher Shays, a congressman from Connecticut; and John J.H. Schwarz, a congressman from Michigan.
The trend of conservative, historically pro-Republican newspapers fleeing the GOP and endorsing Hillary Clinton continues. This time it is the Arizona Republic which has never endorsed a Democrat in its 126 year history - or at least until now. Indeed, the paper's editorial board said that Clinton was the only choice to move the nation forward. How much the endorsement will help Clinton and harm Trump will remain to be seen, but it certainly is an indication of how low the GOP has fallen that conservative editorial board see Trump as anathema to the well-being of the nation. In my view, the endorsement is dead on point. Trump is unfit for the office of the presidency and sane, thinking Republicans need to break the knee jerk reaction of always voting for Republicans no matter how flawed. Too much is at risk in this election and it requires voting for a sane candidate who despite many flaws offers the best prospects for moving America forward. That candidate is NOT Donald Trump. Here are editorial highlights:Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.
This year is different.
The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.
That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.
The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.
Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.
Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.
Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state.
She has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians. The vehemence of some of the anti-Clinton attacks strains credulity.
Trump hasn’t even let the American people scrutinize his tax returns, which could help the nation judge his claims of business acumen.
Make no mistake: Hillary Clinton has flaws. She has made serious missteps. . . . . Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice.
She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.
That cannot be said of her opponent. . . . Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.
She is intimately familiar with the challenges we face in our relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. She’ll stand by our friends and she’s not afraid to confront our enemies.
Contrast Clinton’s tenacity and professionalism with Trump, who began his campaign with gross generalities about Mexico and Mexicans as criminals and rapists. These were careless slaps at a valued trading partner and Arizona’s neighbor. They were thoughtless insults about people whose labor and energy enrich our country.
As secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This is an extension of Clinton’s bold “women’s rights are human rights” speech in 1995.
It reflects an understanding that America’s commitment to human rights is a critically needed beacon in today’s troubled world.
Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes. They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.
Many Republicans understand this. But they shudder at the thought of Hillary Clinton naming Supreme Court justices. So they stick with Trump. We get that. But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not.
Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing. There is no guarantee he will name solid conservatives to the Supreme Court.
Hillary Clinton has long been a centrist. Despite her tack left to woo Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton retains her centrist roots. Her justices might not be in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but they will be accomplished individuals with the experience, education and intelligence to handle the job. . They will be competent. Just as she is competent.
Trump’s inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security. His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phony.
The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric.
Were he to become president, his casual remarks — such as saying he wouldn’t defend NATO partners from invasion — could have devastating consequences.
Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, a thug who has made it clear he wants to expand Russia’s international footprint.
Being the leader of the free world requires a sense of propriety that Trump lacks.
We understand that Trump’s candidacy tapped a deep discontent among those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics. Their concerns deserve to be discussed with respect.
Ironically, Trump hasn’t done that. He has merely pandered. Instead of offering solutions, he hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing.
America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class.
This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns. She can move us beyond rancor and incivility.