Archive for the ‘GOP’ category

In Comparison…

July 6, 2019

The “neo-conservative” foreign policies of the Trump Administration should remind Americans of George W Bush Administration’s hubris days, and where hubris can lead.  The Trump Administration has put forth some amazing policy initiatives and to date, none have yielded anything close to what the President advertised.

As a reminder,

  • “W” didn’t need regulations and deemphasized picking sound Department leaders.  Along comes Hurricane Katrina (not Bush’s fault) and the world got to see third world relief when FEMA couldn’t get out of its own way.  
  • 9/11 was arguably also not Bush’s fault but his administration had been dismissive of al Qaeda before the airplanes crashed. 
  • The invasion of Afghanistan was a positive Bush move but the morphing of the Afghan campaign into “nation building” was a decision made by amateurs. 
  • Not content with one miscalculation, the Bush team (read Vice President Dick Cheney), concocted a story about Iraq, its connection to 9/11 (there was none) and that Iraq was building nuclear weapons (it was not), and the Iraq invasion and Occupation proceeded. 
  • But not done with mega mess ups, Bush and company looked the other way on regulatory controls over the banking system.  Soon bank liquidity dried up and the world stood at the brink of a Depression Era contraction.  Hmmm.

The Trump white House, not to be outdone,

  • opened with a series of unforced errors as Trump seemingly attempted to undo anything and everything President Obama had overseen.  Americans got used to hearing “worst ever”, “ a complete disaster”, and “unfair”. 
  • Latin Americans, especially the “dreamers”, an educated Latin American group who were brought to the US as children were targeted for deportation.  Why? 
  • Muslims were next with visa severe restrictions. Why?
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership, a multi-lateral trade group, which would have given the US leverage in any subsequent trade or foreign policy dispute with China was rejected.  Why? 
  • The Paris Climate Agreement, the only tool the US possessed to help curb global green house increases, was scuttled.  Why?
  • Next came the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action where Iran’s nuclear development programs was halted, was not good enough for the Trump Administration.  Result: US unilateral withdrawal.  Why? 
  • And then came the tariffs.  Steel and Aluminum tariffs were introduced under national defense claims which were clearly unjustified and will in the future provided an bad example to any other country.  Why?
  • And more tariffs.  Canada and Mexico!  South Korea, Japan and India.  Europe and China followed, and then trouble arose. Both Europe and China are capable of tit for tat reciprocity which translates into higher prices for US consumers and reduced exports for American businesses. Why?

What is the common thread between Bush and Trump.  There are several:

  • Bush was never involved enough.
  • Trump is involved too much.
  • Both surrounded themselves with conservative/republican advisors who hosted extreme views about America’s “exceptionalism”.

IMO, President Trump naively assumed his real estate bully tactics would apply to foreign and domestic affairs.  Trump’s goals was primarily reelection while his family businesses prospered in the background.  The President has enlisted extreme advisors (Stephen Miller, Peter Navaro, Robert Litehaiser, John Bolton, and Larry Kudlow) who perform the detail work on unworkable ideas.  So what lies ahead?

Hmmm.

  • Trump’s Mexican (Latin American) policies are inadequate, immoral, and are not working.  The US needs workers and there is no process to ensure a steady flow.
  • Trade based upon punching the other country first, then negotiating back from this position does not work.  Trust disappears and global realities overwhelm unilateralism.
  • Both China and Russia represent global threats for which the strongest and most cost effective deterrent comes from a coalition of allies.  Trump has alienated most of our traditional allies.
  • Climate change represents the most serious global unknown and the US has abdicated any leadership role.  Consequences could lead to wars and civil rebellions.  Global trade could evaporate.

In short, President Trump, in just 2 1/2 years has set the table for potentially an even worse Presidency than George W Bush delivered.  In comparison, Bush was a decent (if dull light bulb) person, while Trump is a narcissistic, highly overrated bully.  But it is the factions within the conservative and republican ranks which have crafted the specifics of each President’s policies which are to be singled out. 

Defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is a must and returning all of Congress to a Democrat majority will be necessary to clean up the mess Trump has created. 

The Week That Wasn’t

June 24, 2019

If one looks and listens closely, there is evidence that President Trump is getting his “number” called fairly often. In addition, it appears his rhetoric is not as effective as in the past to get the public’s eye off his mistake. 

China is sinking the President’s ship without much effort.  China’s selective tariffs have hurt farmers and Trump’s tariffs have hurt untold businesses and are now hurting Americans in their pocketbooks.  The President claims China is hurting big time but where is the evidence to support that claim?

The southern border continues to be a joke where each blustery Trump statement acts like a puff of smoke.  When the air clears, the immigrant situation is the same or worse.

This past week the President struck new colors with Iran and diplomacy.  Chicken hawks such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both whooping up a war cry against Iran (recognize that it will be other Americans sons and daughters going off to fight), the President talked tough and then he didn’t.  The President blinked and called off punitive airstrikes at the last minute showing his own “red line” was mostly pink or white.

The President offered a humanitarian justification for choking at the last minute.  Hmmm.  From someone who doesn’t know how to tell the truth, and believing now the President suddenly tell the truth, is a big pill to swallow.   Most Americans assume Trump was telling another falsehood.  Americans were relieved since there is little stomach in the nation for another Middle East conflict. 

Why the pull back?  Maybe, the President got concerned about getting involved in a Middle East War, this one on his watch.   And, without a doubt, President Trump was cognizant of the 2020 campaign and the promises of no interventions.  While voters can’t be sure what the President’s reasoning really was, past experience strongly suggests Trump wanted no parts of anything that could blow back on him.

Not to be outdone by foreign affairs, the President hyped a stepped up ICE campaign to “round up millions” of illegal residents.  The tough guy had spoken.  At the last minute, once again the President blinked and called off the program for at least two weeks.

“The program”, even in its suspended state, is unclear.  News reports identified up to a million refugees who sought asylum, were given a court date, released, and then disappeared.  Pundits, however, suggest that ICE lacks the capability to find a million people as well as the resources to deport them. 

Just the same, the President probably thinks he scored a victory with his supporters with his threat and by not following through, never revealed how hollow a threat he had made.

The lesson involved in these two situation is sadly that both never should have occurred and calling them off at the last minute teaches all others how to call the President’s bluff.  Hmmm.

Iran is a bad regional actor and as a theocracy, should be carefully watched and even more carefully approached.  As a theocracy, Iran can always justify its action (no matter how devastating to Iranians) because god (Allah) said so.

There is practically nothing this President or any one else can do to shut off the flood of refugees and undocumented immigrants… at the border.  Central America is poor and America is wealthy.  If the President, instead, devoted his attention to finding a political solution with a comprehensive immigration reform, there is hope that undocumented immigration could be controlled.  But it is clear that a solution does not fit the President’s needs and he will continue to use the border as a campaign prop.   

Liberals Attack Biden

June 3, 2019

There are currently a lot of candidates running for the 2020 Democrat Presidential nomination.  Over 23 and still room for more.  One candidate, however, has a huge lead.  That candidate is Joe Biden.  Hmmm.

Each of the Democrat hopefuls has been searching for ways to gain attention and increase their standing in opinion polls.  Elizabeth Warren has offered policy after policy (read regulation).  Kamala Harris has put forward her favorites.  Kristin Gillibrand has even defended her past attacks on former Senator Al Franken over #MeToo incidents. But attacking Joe Biden as not liberal enough makes one wonder what these candidates are thinking.

Of course one can understand that the size of Biden’s lead could close out many of the other candidates before the race has hardly begun.  But common sense would suggest that “being too liberal” is not the surest way to a November 2020 Democrat win.  Even more obvious, Joe Biden stands for (and has stood for) centrist thinking which when compared to Trump and the current crop of GOP legislators, appears very liberal indeed. Slinging the charge “not liberal enough” makes no sense.

Biden may not be the best Democrat candidate, and even if elected President, may not be the best President possible.  There should be no question, however, that Joe Biden will be a far better President than Donald Trump.

Consider the absolute mess President Trump is creating each day. Trump’s divisive domestic policies championing false religious freedom claims or stimulating coal, oil, and gas production while looking the other way on renewables, is short sighted and destructive.  On the international stage, the trade wars with China, Mexico, and potentially with other countries will upset global trade, slow global growth, and in the end cost American consumers a small fortune.  Thanks to Trump, international relations are in tatters and future prospects are no better.  There will be so much to fix in the next Administration that Americans need to focus upon a rounded, broadly experienced leader.

Democrat primary contenders ought focus upon showing their individual broad set of skills.  One (or, two or three) issue candidates may appear to have sizzle, but the next President will have such a mess to clean up that broad leadership experience will be necessary.  

“Liberals” certainly include Biden if the GOP opposition is Donald Trump.

Smoke Screen

May 31, 2019

For many who have lived in New York City, knowing what Donald Trump meant, was a no brainer.  His shenanigans were well know from tabloids and call in talk radio. 

If one paid attention to the 2016 Republican Presidential primaries, there was adequate information to gain understanding that a rudderless narcissist was about to bloom. 

And the 2016 Presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton should have answered any questions about how shallow, hateful, and self centered, candidate Trump was.

Seventeen months have now past in Trump’s Presidency, and no reasonable person should remain deluded that Trump will grow into the stature demanded by the “office”.   With Democrats in control of the House, the country is safe from any draconian legislation, and that is good.  Americans (or at least 65% of them) can sleep at night with the belief that 2020 will bring the end to Trump’s American nightmare.

But Americans must also come to realize that Donald J Trump has served as a “smoke screen” for Team Red’s special interest.  Trump the circus master has kept the focus on himself and thereby kept the American collective mind off the recognition that Republicans, funded by special interests have supported the President and enabled his most destructive behaviors. 

Now the President has made a move to bite the second hand that feeds these backers.  First the trade war with China makes no practical sense but now threatening tariffs on Mexican trade boggles the mind.  The ramifications will recoil across the country including most “red” States and therefore GOP legislators.  Not only are tariffs the wrong tool to “fix” the influx of Latin American refugees, Trump’s actions are a clear indicator to all other nations just what being a “friend” means to Trump… and his Administration.

The threat of tariffs as high as 25% on all Mexican exports to the US is so egregious that GOP legislators have no excuse to not act to stop the President. 

  • First, the tariff will be a tax on all Americans as prices of Mexican imported goods rise. 
  • Second, should Americans substitute automobiles or watermelon or avocados from Mexico with the same products from a different country, the economic impact upon Mexico could be devastating.  Does Trump and the GOP want a failed State of 80 million citizens on the southern border?

Trump’s motivation behind the tariff threat is unclear at this time.  If Americans are talking about the border and tariffs, however, they are not talking about the Mueller Report.  Hmmm.

Running To The Left

March 3, 2019

Political pundits are aghast that Democrat 2020 Presidential hopefuls are trying out “leftist” each other.  “The Green Deal”, “Medicare For All”, and “Free College Education” are slogans which can trigger the label “socialist”.  Republicans and President Trump smile and see a pathway to victory.  Why?

I think the reasoning goes as follows, 35% who identify as the President’s “base” would not vote for someone else regardless of what Donald Trump has done or will do.  So the task becomes attracting 15% more from the population in general.  The GOP’s reasoning is to play the “communism/socialism” card and create enough fear that otherwise sensible citizens will vote Republican.  Hmmm.

It is difficult to imagine any other strategy available to Republicans.  Could they run on “more walls”, “more green house gas emissions”, or “more tariffs paid for by US tax payers”?  For sure “abortion” and “another Supreme Court Justice” are Republican crowd pleasers but those promises are already foreseen in the 35%.  So, let’s try the socialist path.

Democrats need to take a deep breath and appreciate that “The Green Deal” is about protecting the environment for future generations not providing jobs, “Medicare For All” is about truly affordable healthcare for all Americans, not free healthcare, and “Free College Educations” is about producing a population that can think critically and possess the necessary skills to provide a living for themselves and their family.  In short, Democrats should be about helping the average person thrive and have a chance to see their children do even better.

Practically speaking, without a sweep of the Senate and House along with winning the Presidency there is no chance that the “Green Deal” or “Medicare For All” or “Free College Education” could be enacted into law.  So why promise something that arguably can’t be delivered? 

Aspirational objectives with promises of manageable incremental steps is more believable and less likely to scare voters.  Add to that commonsense trade objectives, a return to our time honored respect for immigrants, and a promise to return fiscal sanity to our nation’s finances should complete the list for Democrats.

Unfortunately this perspective does not include what candidates think is necessary to win the nomination (how each candidate can make themselves distinctive).  The notion of running far left in the primaries and then tacking towards the middle is an oft practiced tactic.  With social media as it is, this “extreme to middle” approach is open to unkind surprises.

Hmmm.

The “I” And “P” Words

August 27, 2018

Some members of the news media continue to attempt making “Impeachment” and “Pelosi” subjects for the upcoming mid-term elections.  That is, these media reporters ask candidates their views on impeachment after these same reporters have asked about whether the candidate will support Nancy Pelosi becoming Speaker of the House should Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.  The cleverest candidates sense the land mines around both of these questions and find some innocuous, say nothing, comment hoping to move onto other questions.

For Pelosi, a “yes I support her” begs Republican opponents to toss innuendo after innuendo into the political debate thereby shifting attention from failed Republican policies to someone not running in the candidate’s district.  Strangely, the negative, “no I would not support her becoming speaker”  accomplishes about the same amount of distraction, in essence helping the Republican candidates escape defending Republican policies and the Trump’s Presidency.  Answering the Pelosi question leads no place prodcutive.

The Impeachment question is also unproductive but for different reasons.  First, the Mueller investigation has not issued a report and that begs the question, “on what grounds is an impeachment based”?  Second, speaking of impeachment now has the smell of political motivations rather than “high crimes and misdemeanors”.  Once again the subject turns from a totally unfit President to cheap, low level gutter politics.

Cooler minds can see that having Trump in the White House speaks for itself and the longer it speaks the more Democrats and Independents will turn out to vote in 2020.  In addition, were President Trump to be removed from office, next up would be President Pence who presents as much risk to our Democracy as the Donald.  Pence would be at home with a theocracy (or as he would say, religious freedom (providing it is his religion), and would rubber stamp any position his supporters propose (seeking to gain their financial help).   

The wise Democrat candidate needs to focus on policy issues (healthcare, education, jobs) while pointing out the pointing out the dangerous and ineffective GOP policies like the tax cut for the wealthy, exiting the Paris Environmental Accord, the whole bundle of tariffs including the shabby treatment of our largest trading partner Canada for example.

Should Democrats somehow take control of one or both houses of Congress, the risks presented by President Trump would be diminished although not eliminated.  America would be a safer place and the next two years could demonstrate the wrong headedness of GOP policies… for most voters.

More Than A New Voice

May 30, 2018

For many who believed Donald Trump was a terrible choice for America, there is little in his first term that would give one pause over that belief.  President Trump has been a national disgrace in dealing with foreign affairs and foreign leaders.  The President has been for, and then against, a wide range of domestic issues.  And, the President’s wanton disregard for the “Emolument” clause has brought the specter of a two bit, third world Presidency to the forefront. 

The Republican controlled Congress has amazingly been silent on President Trump’s behavior and cheered his partisan behavior on issue such as unfunded tax cuts, abandonment of 11 million undocumented residents, and naked attacks on groups hated by evangelicals such as LGBTQ, pro-choice, and women’s rights.  

As midterms approach, the question being asked more often is whether Democrats can put forward a “voice” whose message will persuade enough voters to return Democrats to control of Congress.

So, what might that voice say to voters to earn their vote?

Jobs.  From the 2016 Presidential election results it should be clear that emphasis on any other issue(s) without first establishing believable policies which will produce better jobs are non-starters.  “I’m With Her” or “Inclusion”, while admirable, miss the hot button for most Americans.   Even retraining proposals, while essential, are not the “voice” under employed or out of work Americans want to hear.

Keeping America’s Promise.  Republicans see the growing deficit and debt as an opportunity to make the case for sharp reduction in entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and a wide range of healthcare and “safety net” programs.  Republicans are prone to say when referring to the growing national debt, “America has a spending problem not a taxing problem”.  For most Americans, however, even the ones who are resolutely Trump supporters, simply cutting entitlements, healthcare, and safety net items is tantamount to breaking a promise the US Government has made to all Americans.

Restoring the American Dream.  The bulk of Americans (bottom 98% of incomes) do not believe they will achieve more than their parents.  Income inequality has continued, if not accelerated, to grow under President Trump.  Democrats need to emphasize policies which will allow ALL boats to rise, not just the top 2 % of earners.

But is that all it will take?

Maybe.  These three points will speak to most Americans.  If Democrat candidates follow a reasonably moderate path and speak animatedly about Jobs, Keeping America’s Promise, and Restoring the American Dream, the chances of Democrats gaining majorities in Congress are good.  But is that enough?

Probably, it is enough to flip Congress for the next two years but Americans are suspicious of politicians and their slippery words.  Sustaining Democrat control and winning the White House in 2020 will take more.

What is needed, more importantly, is a quiet commitment for integrity and avoidance of personal gain associated with Congressional business.  There is no way either party can deliver on campaign promises when Congress members are preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by integrity issues.

The Progressive Missteps

April 26, 2018

Today, the Republican Party and especially its extreme conservative and libertarian wings are undermining our  country’s social safety net, environmental protections, and world standing. Will future generations be able to put the Country back together?  

We hear from our Conservative and Libertarian friends that their policies are based upon the firm belief that money earned is ones personal property and not the province of the government.  Reduce government spending (on everything but defense) is the prescription.  This will allow the government to lower, if not eliminate income taxes.  

Most Americans are still stuck in the “free lunch” phase.  Who doesn’t prefer lower taxes?  But since there are no free lunches, Americans will soon learn “you get what you pay for”.  As this realization settles in, voters will have an opportunity to shift the balance of power back to progressives.

But what were the Progressive Missteps which facilitate the Republican take over?

  • How about electing the first woman President
  • Or, nominating the first openly gay or lesbian Mayor
  • Or, applauding the first transgender
  • Or, hailing government support for wind and solar energy while not announcing confirmed retraining programs for displaced coal workers.

One might think these missteps were simply a messaging issue.  Maybe these choice were just messaging but the perception too many Americans received was that being gay, lesbian, or transgender was more important than merit qualifications for the job in question.  

Without a doubt for some Americans the woman’s place is in the home, gays et al are an abomination, and America is being bullied into killing coal.  Far more Americans, however, are interested in results and merit and the color, gender, religion, or country of origin are irrelevant.  Fairness and earning the chance on the basis of ability is the American way. 

In addition, the advancement of automation or renewable fuels, no matter how sensible, appear naked without some reference coupled with action for those left behind (retraining, supplemental aid, new jobs).

The 2020 Presidential election will test whether Democrats, liberals, and progressives have learned from the bitter 2016 election.  There will be no shortage of real world examples of the poor choices the Trump Administration has made.  

The 2018 midterms will offer progressives a chance to offer new messaging.  For the sake of the country, let us hope there is more to the “messaging” and center and left of center candidates have meaningful policies too. 

If not “missteps” will change to “marching in the wrong direction”.

Conor Lamb and Consequences

March 14, 2018

Yesterday, in the Pennsylvania 18th District, Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in an election of dubious consequences. The 18th District has in recent years been a relatively safe Republican seat due largely to the disaffected large union population and generous gerrymandering.  President Trump carried this district by 20 points as an example.

So, what was so bad about Saccone or what was so good about Lamb?

Interviews with Trump voters in the 18th and several other districts across the country have revealed that many Trump voters are souring on the President as a person but overwhelmingly like the President because “Trump  gets things done”. Hmmm.

This comment suggests that these voters were disgusted with other politicians claiming they would change this or that, and in the end do nothing.

So, let’s look at some of President Trump’s successes. Lamb did not reject the President’s actions but asked 18th District voters what consequences might follow,.

For example,  Republicans gloated about tax cuts. Lamb asked, what government programs, important to the 18th District, might not happen or might need to be cut back when the Federal Government realizes it has too little money.  How about badly needed investment in roads, bridges, and ports?

Lamb did not say tax cuts are unfair or a bad idea because they grossly benefit the already wealthy (which they do). Rather Lamb framed the Trump action in terms where the consequences would be real to his district’s voters. Lower taxes would also put pressure upon Medicare, Medicaid, and social security Lamb said. Infrastructure projects would be slowed along with the new jobs that would be associated with development.

The key to Lamb’s approach was treating respectively potential voters, many of whom had voted for President Trump. He did not slam Trump as a person but kept the focus upon the President’s policies and what the consequences would likely be.

Even with healthcare, Lamb refrained from advocating universal healthcare but instead spoke of the right of all sick Americans to receive healthcare they could afford. Read more of Conor Lamb’s policies.  Hmmm.

Lamb’s intangibles came through as honesty and bias for action. Lamb appears clean-cut, honest, and hard working. In this contest, that was enough.

Questions About Guns

February 26, 2018

The big question this week is how long will the news media keep reporting on the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting and in particular whether any changes to gun laws will follow. Here are three questions and some observations.

The Second Amendment speaks to the “right to bear arms” but does not refer to what type of arms. Were the founding fathers speaking of single action, ball and cartridge muskets, or did they perceive the coming of bullets and the civil war lever action repeater rifles?

The Supreme Court construed the 2nd Amendment as the right of any citizen to possess a gun for personal protection in the home. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and States legislatures could pass reasonable controls clarifying what type of guns, and where beyond the home, guns could be used. The Court also stated that reasonable controls could also include suspending a citizens right to a fire arm if due process was served.

Question #1: Fully automative guns, both hand and long guns, are illegal to possess, why is it accepted that a military style AR-15 (and other similar brands) are ok?

Leading politicians, Governors, Representatives, and Senators (not to mention the President) are all citing the need to study this latest incident carefully. Most all these politicians sigh and confess that it is difficult to see what could have been done to have avoided the Parkland shootings. These pro-gun politicians allow that tougher background checks, while good, would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from acquiring legally his AR-15, extra clips and unnecessarily large amount of ammunition (because the FBI did not act upon tips called in by concerned citizens).

Question #2: What is the logic that allows Cruz (age 19) to legally buy an AR-15 when Cruz could not by a hand gun nor buy beer?

Probably the most often heard statement when a pro-gun politicians is asked about simply banning assault weapons is that most AR-15 owners are law abiding citizens and why should they have to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights? These politicians then follow with they support stronger background checks as long as the Federal checks do not inconvenience those lawfully seeking a weapon.

If you listen carefully, pro-gun supporters might accept some toughening of background checks (but not national gun registration list), accept the idea of mental health screening (but no government capability to link gun ownership to some future mental health condition), and at the end of the day, believe guns in the hands of good people is the best defense to guns in the hands of bad people (more guns is the answer to Parkland).

Does this sound disingenuous?

Question #3: If the conclusion to this open discussion does not include further restrictions on availability of guns (e.g. assault weapon ban, restriction on clip size, age and training criteria before guns could be owned), why should we not expect another “Parkland” or “Las Vegas” type mass shooting again soon?

When our politicians discuss publicly guns and gun control, they present a disquieting image which screams their words are insincere.  Some try the “wise man” approach (our society is very complex and the restrictions being suggested will not eliminate gun violence and seem very unfair to law abiding citizens), while others dismiss the subject as inevitable (guns don’t kill, people kill).

Comment: How can our youth not become further disenchanted with government and our elected leaders?