Why Bernie Sanders Should Fear a Contested Convention

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. [Photo by Gage Skidmore]

Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas provided fireworks in several ways.

First, there was the audience of almost 20 million people making it the second most-watched presidential debate for either party of all time. Second, was the evisceration (there’s really no other word to describe it) of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, especially at the hands of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Third, there was the open hostility between Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg – they were one step away from being invited to take part in an MMA contest.

There was also another revealing moment. Initially, it was overlooked by most US commentators and talking heads. Surprisingly, Canada’s national network the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) picked up on it right away. (There are reasons for this that I will mention below.)

Towards the end of the debate, the candidates were asked by host Chuck Todd for their views on how to handle a contested convention. Should the candidate with the highest delegate count be awarded the nomination even if they had not reached the 50% +1 mark or should there be a second ballot if no one has enough delegates to win on the first ballot?

Not surprisingly, only Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (considered the current front runner) supported the notion of a candidate with the most delegates being given the nomination. Every other candidate on the debate stage voted for the second option – a contested convention.

Why did the CBC pick up on this moment when it was initially overlooked by US media? Contested conventions are a regular occurrence in Canadian politics. Most recently, Andrew Scheer, the current – but about to be former – leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, was not the favorite going into his party’s convention nor did he have the most delegates. He won the leadership after the first ballot.

Contested conventions, however, are like mastodons – once extremely common, now extinct. Maybe…

As scientists experiment with the idea of using mastodon DNA to resurrect this lost species, the Democratic Party seems to be experimenting with the idea of resurrecting the contested convention.

Pluses and Minuses

There are pluses and minuses for the Democrats in a contested convention.

It would attract a YUUGGEE TV audience. The four days of the convention in Milwaukee would blow all other programming off the air, even if Pres. Trump tried to counter-program it. There is something about a come-from-behind story that Americans love. The “Comeback Kid” and all that.
If it worked, the Democratic nominee would emerge from the convention with broad name recognition and a full head of steam.

On the other hand…

And this is where Bernie comes in. If Bernie Sanders wants to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 he needs to win enough delegates prior to the start of the Milwaukee convention to claim the nomination. If the battle for the nomination goes to a second or third ballot, he will lose.

A large group of dedicated people support Bernie. The reality of the Democratic Party is, however, that about 60% of the party is composed of center-left moderates and about 40% are progressives. So if you took all the delegate support for the Bloombergs, the Bidens, the Klobuchars etc. and put it against the delegates supporting Sanders and Warren, a moderate candidate stands a better chance.

Another important factor is the entrance of superdelegates on the second and subsequent ballots. After 2016, progressive candidates complained that superdelegates had too much power during the initial stages of caucuses and primaries in choosing the party’s representative. As a result, changes were made and superdelegates are no longer eligible to vote in the first ballot.

After the first ballot, however, the shackles are removed and superdelegates (a group of basically comprised of party officials not particularly friendly towards Bernie Sanders and his supporters) can vote. Superdelegates would comprise about 15% of voters on the second ballot, more than enough to throw the nomination to another candidate. Media reports indicate that some candidates have already begun courting superdelegates in case of a second ballot.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, this way danger lies.

Do not believe for a second that if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders goes into the convention with the most delegates and then is denied the nomination, that his supporters will go quietly into that good night. They will not. The Democratic Party will splinter like an old piece of wood.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, my wife and I canvassed for Hillary Clinton in our neighborhood. We were not overly fond of Clinton but she was the Democratic nominee, so we supported her. At one home we stopped and spoke to a man playing catch with his son. He called himself a Democrat but said he would not support Clinton. He was a Sanders man. In a bit of bizarre logic, he said rather than vote for Clinton he planned to vote for Trump.

It’s not hard to see this scenario repeated among other Bernie supporters in 2020. The only hope the Democrats have is that some other candidate – a Biden or a Warren perhaps – will have enough delegates support prior to the convention that it is a legitimate question about who should win the nomination.

If it’s Bernie, the Democrats should just give it to him and live with it. The truth is that most moderates will support Bernie because that’s the way they are and getting rid of Trump is their number one priority. Most Bernie supporters will not support the Democratic nominee if they feel that he has been robbed of the nomination. Like the man above, they may just vote for Trump.

A Mind-Numbing Presidency

They almost got me. Almost. To be honest, they did kind of get me for about a year. But I think I’m back.
No, I wasn’t kidnapped, or held hostage… in a manner of speaking. I was a victim of the most mind-numbing presidency in the history of this country.

I’ve been writing columns for about 40 years for newspapers in Canada and the United States, for broadcast on radio, for magazines, for my own blog, or for other people’ s blogs. I prided myself on the fact that I had something relevant to say.

Well, if truth be told, something relevant most of the time.

The Trump presidency, however, has left me reeling. When I decided to write this blog, My Two Countries, I wanted to use it as a vehicle to comment on issues of importance in the two countries in which I hold citizenship, Canada and United States.

Writing about Canada was not so difficult but covering the US became a constant stream of articles about the terrible things that Donald Trump and the people around him were doing. After writing these articles for several months I reached the point where I felt I had hit a wall. Writing about the high crimes and misdemeanors of the current president, which take place on an almost daily basis, is draining. I can only imagine how tough it is for reporters like Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, or cable TV commentators like Rachel Maddow to name just two, to keep their material fresh and relevant.

In the past, when writing about or covering politicians (which I’ve done most of my lifetime) you would get two or three scandals a year during an administration and two or three important policy issues a year that you could focus on. In the meanwhile, other events would occur outside of the realm of politics that lent themselves to commentary.
But the Trump administration is like a constant fire hose of 24 x 7 lies, misinformation, scandal and questionable activities that literally leave your mouth agape. Every day. Sometimes three or four times a day. It was just too much. And so I stopped.

Which, I now realize, is exactly what Trump wants us to do. Just stop and let him do what he wants. To give the devil his due, Trump knows how to manipulate the media and public sentiment. It’s hard to stay angry or astonished or stunned all the time. Yet this is what Trump wants Americans who oppose his… well, I guess you would call it quasi-authoritarian rule… to feel like. Totally numb. That you can’t make a difference. That no matter what you say, it will just be overwhelmed by the next Trumpian outrage.

I don’t know what made me snap out of my stunned silence. It may have been something I read. It may have been the realization that four more years of this presidency could significantly damage this country I love and that we’re running out of time to do something about it. It could be, to paraphrase the great line from that classic movie Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

I’ve come to realize that even if you must point these things out every day it still needs to be done. Our silence is what Trump and his minions crave. Even if we sound repetitive, we still need to say it every day.

Donald Trump is truly a cancer at the heart of the presidency. He is a liar, a philanderer, a cheat, a grifter, a bully, a racist, an ignoramus, a know-nothing, a bigot, a misogynist, and a crook. (Did I miss anything?) And the more we say it the better.

Ilhan Omar Has a Point About AIPAC

It’s long past time that we moved towards the position that it’s okay to criticize the government of Israel. You can totally support the right of Israel to exist, as I do, and yet criticize a far-right government that’s used racism and has perhaps engaged in war crimes to maintain its position. Nor should we hesitate to criticize its leader, an individual unafraid to use racism to remain in power, nor it seems is he afraid to use allegedly corrupt actions to maintain that position either.

After all, we’re doing it in America about our leader right now.

It should not be something we dither about. Or worry about being called anti-Semitic by far-right individuals who want no criticism of the Israeli government. If this was any other country in the world, criticizing that government would not be seen as a hate crime.

Yes, we should also criticize the actions of corrupt and cruel organizations like Hamas, who has ruled the Gaza Strip with a relentless and brutal thirst for power of its own. Hamas hurts more than helps the Palestinian people. Its actions against the people of Israel also deserve to be condemned.

But it takes two to tango. And many the actions of the Netanyahu government and the Israeli Defense Forces are also relentless and cruel and if they are not war crimes they are very close to being so.

Nor should criticism of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) be off limits either. Which is why Democratic representative Ilhan Omar has a point. AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington along with the NRA and the energy lobby. To deny this is to stick your head in the sand and ignore reality. And it should be noted that Ilhan Omar is not the first person to make this point. The Mearsheimer and Walt report of 2007 presented a strong case of how individuals and organizations work very hard to push US policy in the direction of Israel.

But I would argue that one step farther. I don’t think AIPAC pushes American policy towards “Israel” in a broad sense. I believe they want to push US policy in the direction of a certain kind of Israel, basically one run by a far-right Israeli government. I don’t think AIPAC has much interest in a more liberal form of government in Israel, as it would undermine many of the views AIPAC has promoted or the years. One only has to read Thomas Friedman’s piece in the New York Times this week, critical of both Omar and AIPAC, that outlines many of the actions taken by AIPAC that sought to undermine an American administration that it saw as “unfavorable” toward a far-right Israeli government.

Representative Omar and I may have different reasons for criticizing AIPAC and the actions of the Israeli government and perhaps she needs to learn to hone her criticism so that she does not open herself up so easily to charges of anti-Semitism but I am glad she has moved us in a more open direction. Criticizing the government of Israel or an American lobby group that promotes a far-right agenda does not mean that you “hate Jews.” In fact, one of the most encouraging signs that things are changing was the number of American Jews who actually defended Omar’s right to criticize AIPAC and pointed out how the far-right tries to smear anyone who makes the kind of comments that she did.

The people of Israel deserve far better than the government they have now which has only served to isolate them from the world and undermine their image as one of the great democracies. Open and honest criticism of a far-right Israeli government and of an American lobby group that support it is a step in the right direction.

Conservatives and “Socialism”

Most Americans have probably never heard of Tommy Douglas. He was never prime minister of Canada, a big hockey star or a well-known entertainer. A few Americans might know him as the grandfather of American action-star Keifer Sutherland.

Yet in 2004, when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) did a national show on who was the greatest Canadian of them all, Tommy Douglas won.

And he was a democratic socialist.

Born in Scotland, his family immigrated to Canada when he was six. When Douglas was a child, he injured his right knee and doctors thought they would have to amputate his leg. His family was poor and couldn’t pay the medical bills. It was only because a famous surgeon said he would treat Douglas for free if medical students could observe, was his injury treated successfully.

The experience changed him forever. Years later, Douglas said: “I felt that no boy should have to depend either for his leg or his life upon the ability of his parents to raise enough money to bring a first-class surgeon to his bedside.”

Eventually he became a Baptist minister but was horrified by what was happening to people during the depression. He became an activist and got into politics – as a democratic socialist.

In 1935, he was elected to parliament as a member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) the forerunner of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP). Eventually he switched to provincial politics and became the leader of the CCF in Saskatchewan. In 1944 he was elected premier and the head of the first democratic socialist government in North America.

He introduced a provincial bill of rights and was the first Canadian leader to call for a national bill of rights. (Which eventually happened in 1982 with the Charter of Right and Freedoms). He was the first politician in Canada to create a government-run utility that spread electricity into many rural areas of the province. And his party, which was re-elected five times, introduced the first program to offer free health care to all citizens of the province.

In 1961 he stepped down as premier and became the first leader of the newly formed NDP. Although never elected prime minister, he party held the balance of power during the terms of Lester Pearson who took many of Douglas’s ideas, like universal health care, and made them available to all Canadians.

For his many efforts to improve the life of all Canadians, Douglas was constantly dubbed a “communist’” or worse by the country’s conservative politicians and media pundits. It all became a joke to Douglas. There is a wonderful documentary showing Douglas debating a conservative, who is standing at the microphone using all the worse scare words he could think of to describe Douglas, while Douglas sits quietly sitting in the background, with a delightful smile on his face, looking over his notes, preparing to demolish this pompous idiot who had no idea of what he was talking about.

And speaking of pompous idiots with no idea of what they are talking about, that brings me to CPAC, the conservative gathering of Trumplodytes that happened this past weekend in DC. “Socialism” is their new bug-a-boo word designed to scare Americans into supporting their repressive, anti-democratic agenda.

Speaker after speaker ranted about “socialists” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others who they say want to turn American into a Venzuela-like nightmare. They used almost the same words that the enemies of Tommy Douglas used back in the 30s and 40s to denounce him. That’s the thing about conservatives. Their lack of imagination means their vocabulary rarely differs from country to country, from era to era.

Here’s the thing about democratic socialism. The key word is democratic. Countries like Sweden or Norway use a combination of the best ideas of socialism (free health care, free or very cheap education, etc.) and strong market economies. The result is that they regularly record the highest standards of living in the world. The same for Canada, which led the OCED index of growth for many years.

And let’s not forget Germany, France, Denmark, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, Spain, Finland, Ireland, Belgium, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland or the Netherlands – all countries that have achieved a balance of democratic socialism and capitalism.

Democratic socialism argues that there is an important place for the role of government along with private industry. I find it amusing that so many Americans conservatives denounce the horrors of democratic socialist programs, when so many count on two of them – medicare and social security.

Unbridled capitalism is a lovely system for the top 1%. The gap between rich and poor in this country continues to grow larger and larger. If people are afraid of a Venezuela happening here, that will be the cause not democratic socialism.

The far-right twist words and ideas beyond all recognition and try to shove them down people’s throats to scare them. (For instance, the other day a Republican state representative in Arizona compared mandatory vaccination for measles to “communism.”)

The day when democratic socialism and capitalism work side by side in America is not far away. And America will be a much better country for all its citizens as a result.

The Death of Shame in American Politics

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away but in a time that seems many years ago, when a politician or some other public figure was caught acting in a reprehensible manner, the shame of being caught would normally lead them to step aside. While they might not do so willingly, they eventually did so.

It was only a decade ago when former Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was arrested at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for disorderly conduct. The disorderly conduct involved allegedly seeking sexual connection to another man in an airport restroom.

Although Craig initially denied he had done anything wrong, claiming that he only had used a “wide stance” while in the restroom in regards to his foot touching the foot of the police officer who had stationed himself in the stall next to Craig, the shame of this act, and other questionable activity that emerged from Craig’s past (which might’ve been excused if he had been openly supportive of the LGBTQ community instead of so harshly critical of it) led to his resignation and decision not to run for reelection. The shame of the incident effectively ended Craig’s political career.

Republicans have not been the only ones to fall victim to shame. New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, he of sexting infamy, comes to mind. And who can forget Democratic Congressman Wilbur Mills in 1974, intoxicated, bruised from a fight with stripper Fanny Fox, jumping into the capitol’s Tidal Basin trying to escape the police. Although he did not resign immediately, and in fact won reelection in his Arkansas district, his second intoxicated incident eventually led to his resignation.

Growing up in Canada, I can remember several prominent politicians and public figures resigning their posts as a result of shame. Often these resignations had nothing to do with sexual activity but had to do with lying to the public or some form of public corruption.

That was then. This is now.

Now, shame seems to be a thing of the long forgotten past. It is become the political equivalent of the eight-track tape or the typewriter. It seems a quaint relic of bygone days.

It’s not hard to trace the absence of shame in American politics, because it can be traced to one person in particular: our president, Donald Trump.

Trump doesn’t feel shame about anything. Trump will make racist, bigoted, misogynist, homophobic comments, topped off by more lies than you can use a calculator to count and he doesn’t feel one iota of shame. Not that he ever has. He can cheat on his wive(s) and shrug it off. But when Trump was a minor celebrity in New York, his shameless behavior was smiled at by the media and others in public. “Oh, that’s just Donald,” people would say.

Now that Trump is president, however, his lack of shame is on display for all to see and many others have followed suit. Three that come to immediate mind are Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. None of them seemed to show any pronounced signs of shame for their alleged misdeeds.

Technological giants like Google and Facebook openly lie to our faces about how they use our personal data and when confronted with these lies, show few if any signs of shame. They occasionally mumble something about “making improvements,” and then find some new way to steal our information. The shame of being caught means nothing to them.

Large corporations which have been victimized by sweeping hacker attacks that steal millions of files on credit card information and other personal data don’t release news about these hacks until months or even years after they happened. If they had felt any shame that they had failed to neglect our personal information, it is overwhelmed by the need to keep shareholders happy.

No, instead of feeling shame public figures and corporations now hire public relations resuscitation teams. Instead of admitting fault or relinquishing power, the goal becomes holding onto it all costs. Resurrecting one’s brand or media image is now more important than holding oneself accountable for one’s behavior. Often they feel it is better to to pretend it never happened and full steam ahead.

Which brings us back to Trump. Whether we like it or not, the president of the United States set a tone that worms its way into the public consciousness. Sometimes that tone is good: the resilience of FDR, the courage of JFK, the optimism of Ronald Reagan. In Trump’s case, the tone is bad. Never feel ashamed about anything, anything that you do, no matter how deviant or mendacious.

It’s just another way that Donald Trump is changing America in a bad way. When we lose the ability to feel shame, we lose the ability to hold ourselves and our politicians accountable. And that means problems for America.

Clarence Thomas Threatens the 1st Amendment

Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for Reconsideration of Landmark Libel Ruling

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few notable politicians, writers, entertainers and well-known public figures. It’s one of the side benefits of being a journalist. One of my most memorable experiences was meeting the late New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

I had a chance to meet him when I was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991–92. Basically, Lewis invented the field of legal journalism. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, he had always been one of my favorite writers. They say you should never get a chance to meet your heroes. Anthony Lewis proved that wrong. After he spoke to our Nieman class, we had a chance to talk with him one-on-one. He was funny, thoughtful and super smart.

He also wrote one of my favorite books. “Make No Law.” It is the story of the 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan case that established the 1st Amendment as we know it today. It established what’s known as the concept of actual malice. In order for a libel action to proceed, the individual who claimed libel had to prove that there was actual malice involved. That basically, the speaker or the writer had to absolutely know that they were making a false statement or had acted with “utter disregard” of the truth.

Before the Sullivan decision, public figures and politicians would use libel law like a weapon to silence any and all critics. During the early 60s, many politicians in the South were using the libel laws to attack journalists who were reporting on their racist actions. On March 29, 1960, The New York Times published an ad, “Heed Their Voices,” from civil rights groups that asked for donations to help defend the Rev. Martin Luther King Junior from perjury charges. Here is how the site Oyes describes what happened next.

“The ad contained several minor factual inaccuracies. [It said King had been jailed seven times when it was only four times]. [Montgomery, Alabama] Public Safety Commissioner, L.B. Sullivan, felt that the criticism of his subordinates reflected on him, even though he was not mentioned in the ad. Sullivan sent a written request to the Times to publicly retract the information, as required for a public figure to seek punitive damages in a libel action under Alabama law.

“When the Times refused and claimed that they were puzzled by the request, Sullivan filed a libel action against the Times and a group of African American ministers mentioned in the ad. A jury in state court awarded him $500,000 in damages. The state supreme court affirmed and the Times appealed.”

The resulting decision was a unanimous 9-0 win for the New York Times. The court ruled that if an individual was a public figure, it was not enough to prove that the media had made a false statement, the person who claimed they were libel had to be able to prove that the media knew it was false before it printed the statement and that it had acted with utter disregard for the truth.

I have little doubt that the 1964 Sullivan versus New York Times decision created one of the most important bulwarks in the defense of democracy in the United States. That decision, and the 1st Amendment that it clarified, has made the United States one of freest and safest countries in the world.

So it was with some dismay that I read Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s thoughts about the Sullivan versus New York Times decision in regards to a recently decided Supreme Court case. Thomas, whose judicial acumen is questionable at the best of times, wrote that despite the unanimous decision, the Sullivan case was decided “wrongly.” In an effort to carry water once again for Donald Trump and states’ rights, Thomas wrote that he wanted to take the law back to the early 18th century, arguing that when the founders wrote the new Constitution in 1789 they did not intend to take away states’ rights to protect its citizens from libel. This line of thinking was actually shown to be false in the Sullivan decision itself.

The Sullivan decision wasn’t merely wrong, he continued, it was a “policy driven decision masquerading as constitutional law.”

As might be expected, Thomas wrote for himself in the situation. That’s because his views are so far outside the Constitutional norm that most colleagues on the court would no doubt see them as ridiculous. Thomas, who seldom shown any signs of a sharp legal mind, never should’ve made it to the Supreme Court. His appointment was an example of a president (in this case George Herbert Walker Bush) trying to dumb down the Supreme Court as much as possible. Basically, we should’ve listened to Anita Hill instead of vilifying her. Thomas had no place on the Supreme Court then and really doesn’t now.

It’s interesting to me that an African-American judge would call for overturning Sullivan. If it had not been for Sullivan, much of the reporting that brought the treatment of blacks in the South into the living rooms of Americans across the country would not have been possible. You might even argue that the Sullivan decision, along with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, opened the door for African Americans to progress in the ways that they have, although I will be the first to admit there is still a long way to go. You could even argue that without the Sullivan decision, Clarence Thomas would never have had a chance to be appointed to the Supreme Court, nor would’ve had a chance to make our lives so miserable in every way that he could over the past decades.

I think Thomas would also be surprised that many of his fellow travelers on the far-right would be opposed to overturning Sullivan. Think of the many times that Fox News has libeled or lied or manipulated facts or abused the truth about anyone of a number of individuals. Without Sullivan, they would spend 24 hours a day in a courtroom defending libel cases. Not to mention the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Laura Ingram, Sean Hannity, et al.

I miss Anthony Lewis at a time like this. No doubt he would’ve blown up Clarence Thomas in his column. I am consoled, however, by the fact that there is little if any chance of the Sullivan decision being overturned.

It’s time for Thomas to go away. He’s rambling now. He become a little more a judicial conduit for the ridiculous tweets of the worst president in American history. Maybe, as Charlie Pierce writes in Esquire, Thomas will only be replaced by somebody worse. I doubt it. It’s hard to picture anybody who’s been so consistently wrong and so consistently against the civil liberties and the freedoms of Americans as Clarence Thomas has been during his 27 years on the Supreme Court.

The Tediousness of Howard Schultz

“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me…Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different. ”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

How shall I describe Howard Schultz? The coffee-serving billionaire who wants to be president.

Like his coffee, rather bland. Unprepared for the rigors of presidential combat. More than anything else, however, I find Schultz tedious. Here we go again, another member of the 1% who believes that being a member of the 1% qualifies him to be president.

He doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind whether he wants to be a Republican or Democrat, so he settled on Independent without really understand what it means to be an independent. For Schultz, being an Independent means “Well, I can’t win the Republican or Democratic presidential nomination, but I want to be president, so I’ll just make up one of my own.”

When Schultz announced he’s thinking about running for president you can’t escape the feeling that he expected rose petals to be strewn in his path and distant trumpets to announce his arrival. He would be our savior from the calamity of both the mendacious and ridiculous Donald Trump and those crazy far-left Democrats. Instead, he was greeted with tough questions and more than a healthy dose of circumspection.

The Wall Street Journal opinion page, long a bastion of the very rich and their interests, claimed that Schultz was being “bullied.” No. He was just being treated like a man who would be king. Or president in this case. What Howard Schultz and the Wall Street Journal don’t seem to understand is that the media is no longer buying the “I’m very rich so I know how to run this country” scam, and have no intention of just going along for the ride.

Fool me once…

It is very true that, unlike Donald Trump, Howard Schultz really is an American success story. He came from a poor family. He didn’t have $400 million from his father. He had to borrow money and put himself deeply in debt to open his first coffee shop. He worked his way up until he became a multi-billionaire. One would think that this background of hard work and determination would help him identify with the many millions of Americans who live in economically depressed conditions. But Schultz has been so rich for so long it’s hard to connect him with the childhood background.

Like most of the very rich, Schultz really has no understanding of how America works these days. Except that the rules have been created greatly aid people like him. That’s why he had such a violent reaction against Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s idea about a 70% tax on the very rich. People like Howard Schultz.

The positions that he is taking on important issues indicate that he has no real plan for running for president other than he wants to be president. Like Trump, he wants us to believe that he alone can solve all our problems. Being very rich, he wants us to believe he knows all the answers and that being mega-rich makes him smarter than the rest of us. Oh, he would never admit that out loud, but his true inner feelings were betrayed by his defensive reactions to the quite legitimate criticisms he received this week.

My dad, who worked in politics for much of his life, used to tell me there was a big difference between running for election and governing. Anybody can run for an office, he once said to me, but very few people really know how to govern.

There have been very rich individuals who have been president in the past. Both Roosevelts came from a wealthy family. The Bush family has more than a little bit of money. The members of these families who did run for president, however, first gained extensive experience in government.

You can see this disparity in Schultz. He knows how to run for office – after all any American over the age of 35 can run for president. But does he really have any solid ideas about governing? For instance, his answer to healthcare problems? Get people to sit around a table and talk about it. His answer to poverty? Eliminating two of the most effective anti-poverty programs that exist in the United States. These are the answers of a very rich man who only knows the world of business, not a man who knows how difficult it is to govern.

I, for one, am not worried about Howard Schultz draining enough Democratic votes away to ensure the reelection of that other megarich moron Donald Trump. Americans saw Donald Trump for years on a terrible TV show which helped create the mythical and mistaken image of him as an outstanding businessman and leader. Trump knew how to cultivate the media. Howard Schultz? He doesn’t seem to understand how the media works, let alone how to cultivate it.

Another time, my dad told me if you get too full of yourself, and you want to see how much you impress people, go stick your finger in a bowl of water and see what kind of impression it leaves. I think Howard Schultz needs to do the same thing and then quietly go back to his double lattes and cake pops.

A Confederacy of Morons

Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.
– Mark Twain

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
– Benjamin Franklin

It’s hard to be astonished anymore during the era of Trump. It seems that you barely have time to grasp one amazingly ridiculous proposal, dubious policy, outrageous statement or incredibly inept blunder before another one smacks you right in the gob. I never understood news fatigue until the election of our current president. I have heard talking heads say this is part of some brilliant plan, that the Trump team wants to so overwhelm us with idiotic actions that we become numb to the reality of just what they are doing.

Well, I can’t disagree with the idea that Trump is devious. Nor that he is a greasy, cheap, egotistical serial liar. I think, however, that his greatest attribute is that he is cunning. But not like Dick Cheney was cunning or Lee Atwater was cunning or Henry Kissinger was cunning. There was intelligence behind these examples of cunning, albeit a dark, dangerous intelligence.

There is no intelligence behind Trump’s cunning. There is the street smarts of the greasy snake oil salesman who makes a lot of noise upon his entry into a rural town, peddles his wares and then slides away in the middle of the night before the rubes can realize he’s fleeced them.

He reminds me of the Duke in Huckleberry Finn. One devoutly wishes that Trump could share the same fate.

It would be bad enough if we only had to deal with this intellectual vacuum in the president. Sadly, he has surrounded himself with people who, like him, seem to be as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Take for example the recent comments of Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross, another billionaire of dubious integrity in the Trump administration. While appearing on CNBC Ross said that he was puzzled by stories about federal workers needing to turn to food banks and other forms of relief in order to tide themselves and their families over while waiting for the government to send them their paychecks. “They should just be able to obtain bridge loans to tide them over,” Ross burbled on.

Only a man who is lived most of his life in the 1% could fail to understand why people, many of whom must live paycheck to paycheck, need to seek relief from food banks and other organizations. To label it as the statement of spoiled, out-of-touch asshole is an insult to assholes everywhere.

Then you have the human circus that is Rudy Giuliani. Seldom has one man done so much to undermine his employer then Rudy has recently. Not only has he raised serious questions about Trump’s actions during the 2016 election campaign, he successfully knocked the news about Robert Muller’s team publicly disagreeing with the Buzzfeed story about Trump instructing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress off the front pages, airwaves, and computer screens of media outlets across the country.

Giuliani is Mini-Me to Trump’s Dr. Evil. Very much like him in every way except so much “smaller.”

Nor can we forget KellyAnne Conway, one of the official designated liars of the Trump administration (an appointment she shares with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders). Conway, who invented the unforgettable term “alternative facts,” and make sure she uses them every chance she gets, reminds me of what Dandy Don Meredith once said about a running back in the NFL – she’s slippery than a watermelon seed.

I always used to think Conway was at least somewhat intelligent. But the revelations this week contained in the book Team of Vipers by former White House aide Cliff Sims has caused me to reconsider my evaluation of Conway.

Sims writes in the book about the time he was asked to write an official statement denouncing accusations that Conway was one of the sources leaking information to the media from the White House. Conway lent Sims her Mac Book to write the statement. Meanwhile, Conway went into a corner and started using her smartphone.

What she didn’t realize was that every tweet she was sending was also appearing on her computer, now being used by Sims. Sims watched as she tweeted back and forth with several journalists from media outlets like CNN, the Washington Post, and Politico, bashing other officials in the Trump administration like Jared Kushner and the then Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus. Sims notes that the irony of him writing a statement about her not leaking to journalists as she leaked to journalists was not lost on him.

Sims writes that Conway reminded him of a cartoon villain brought to life. But it appears that like all cartoon villains, she is not quite as smart as she thought she was.

Oh, you can write for days about the imbecility on display every day at the White House. But one only has so much time. I leave you with the unforgettable words of Forrest Gump…

Stupid is as stupid does.

Mueller’s Non-Denial Denial

Michael Cohen (Photo by IowaPolitics.com)

Many years I ago I took a sabbatical from my job at the Halifax Daily News to finish my degree. I took a course in advanced composition from a battleship of a woman named Patricia Monk, who was maybe the best teacher I ever had. Prof. Monk knew I was a journalist and worked me hard because she expected more from me. I remember when we studied “dirty word” (because in Prof. Monk’s world, dirty words were just as good as regular ones). She would write words on the blackboard that would make a sailor blush but I learned the difference between profanity, obscenity, and scatology. She knew the professor who next used the room was a bit of a prude so she would not erase the words at the end of class.

Prof. Monk drilled one lesson into us again and again. If you know how to use words, they can never be used against you.

Which brings me to the present moment. Robert Mueller knows how to use words. So when I read his statement about the Buzzfeed story alleging that President Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, I paid close attention to language. At no point in the story did Mueller and his team say the story was “wrong.”

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,” the statement from the Mueller team read.

Not accurate. Hmmm. That’s the kind of language you use when someone is close to the mark but not quite on target. If something is wrong, then just say it’s wrong or that that story is not true. Not accurate is a completely different kettle of fish.

Then you have Rudy G’s statement made on the talking head shows yesterday that maybe Trump did speak to Cohen before he testified to Congress about him but “So what?” In Rudy’s world, if Trump really did shoot someone on 5th Avenue, Rudy would go on CNN and say “So what?” (Jonathan Swan of Axios explains why it’s not a “so what?” thing.) We already know that after months of Rudy telling us that Trump made no attempt to do business with Russia during the campaign, he now admits that, well, they did talk about it until November of 2016.

Marcia Wheeler of Empty Wheel has a great piece on why Mueller had to make the statement in order to preserve Cohen’s ability to testify in a trail.

I would also argue that Mueller did Trump no favors, especially after Trump then tweeted Mueller his thanks for making the statement about the Buzzfeed story. It’s going to be hard now for Trump to keep crying “WITCH HUNT!!!” It will give the Mueller report much more street cred when it finally comes out.

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed continues to stand behind the story.

And that’s why words matter.

I Smell Impeachment in the Air

President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

So Mueller knows that Trump ordered Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his business dealings with Russia. And Mueller has emails and testimony to back it up. Maybe this is why Rudy G. has thrown everybody overboard except the president.

“The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.”

If the report backs this up, I see no way that the House cannot begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. It will be then very difficult for GOP senators to not convict Trump with such a blatant example of him ordering his subordinates to lie to Congress.

I think the endgame is starting.