Monthly Archives: May 2017

Sir, You Are No Bo Jackson


My head is spinning.  Why?  Because there is a story to tell and there are so many ways to approach it, I have no idea which path is the best to take.  So forgive me if this post seems somewhat disjointed.

The working title for this article was originally, “The Wrong Analogy.”  It was triggered by the constant comparison by journalists and pundits of the Trump experience to that of Richard Nixon.  Even Hillary Clinton took the opportunity during her commencement address at Wellesley College to remind graduates of the coincidence of her twice speaking on the same stage, as student and now alumna, at the outset of two administrations hurtling towards a disastrous conclusion.  (I can hear Carl Jung whispering, “Synchronicity strikes again!”)

Putting aside Trump’s possible charges of obstruction of justice or worse, I cannot help but wonder if a better analogy for the disarray on Pennsylvania Avenue is the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).  When the former peanut farmer turned Georgia governor announced his candidacy on December 12, 1974,  a full two years before the election, it too was considered a joke.  As late as January 1976, Carter was the choice for the party’s presidential nomination of only four percent of registered Democrats.  However, as documented in Jules Witcover’s excellent recounting of the 1976 election–Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976–Carter beat the odds and took office on January 20, 1977.

Image result for jimmy carter cabinetAlthough Carter had both political and military experience, having graduated 60th out of a class of 820 from the U.S. Naval Academy, the new president was also viewed as a Washington outsider.  His peers had little confidence in his leadership ability as noted by his failed attempt to garner support to serve as chairman of the National Governors Association in 1972.  And like Trump, he surrounded himself with a cadre of very close friends and associates who were tagged “the Georgia mafia.”  For example, Carter picked Griffin Bell, someone who grew up in Americus, Georgia, 10 miles away from the president’s home town of Plains.   And many of his closest advisers, such as Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell, were holdovers from the campaign staff (sound familiar?).  The most documented of Carter’s ill-advised personnel decisions (including an article in the October 2008 Harvard Business Review titled, “Jimmy Carter’s Biggest Management Mistake”) was when he selected Frank Moore, his legislative coordinator in Georgia, to serve the same role in Washington.

It did not end well.   On July 18, 1979,  all 13 cabinet members and 18 of Carter’s personal assistants submitted their resignations, giving the President an opportunity to completely reshape his team.  Despite the shake-up, Carter lost re-election in 1980 by a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

But that’s not what I came here to talk about.  The idea for the subject of today’s tweet “Sir, You Are No Bo Jackson” came to me while reading Harold Guskin’s book How to Stop Acting: A Renown Acting Coach Shares His Revolutionary Approach to Landing Roles, Developing Them and Keeping Them Alive.  His advice to clients when approaching an audition is to surprise the casting director, give them something they do not expect.

Easier said than done.  Just ask Michael Jordan.  After nine years of being the best player in the National Basketball Association, Jordan tried his hand at professional baseball.  After the 1994 season with the Double-A Birmingham Barons, in which he batted .202 with three home runs and 11 errors, Jordan hung up his mitt and returned to the Chicago Bulls.  It is the rare individual who can shift careers in mid-stream and succeed at the highest level in both.

Two examples come to mind.  In sports, the ultimate two-sport success was Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson.  He is the only player ever to be named to the all-star teams in both Major League Baseball and the National Football League.  Sadly, Jackson’s career was cut short as the result of a hip injury during an NFL playoff game in January 1991.

The second is the”over-rated” Meryl Streep.  From 1977 to 1988, she was every casting director’s actor of choice for the most demanding dramatic female leads in movies such as The Deerhunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, Silkwood, Out of Africa, Ironweed and A Cry in the Dark.  When New York Times film critic Pauline Kael complained Streep “needs to Image result for death becomes her meryl streepgiggle more and suffer less,” her response was to go against type with four straight comedic performances–She Devil, Postcards form the Edge, Defending Your Life and Death Becomes Her.  In December 2006, Nina Easton of the Los Angeles Times described Streep’s transformation as follows.

Whether her motives come from an inner drive, or are the result of the air quality around her, Streep–for now at least–is adding a new chapter to her career. She has turned the page on Lindy Chamberlain, the persecuted Australian mother in “Cry in the Dark”; on Helen, the ragged transient in “Ironweed”; on the death camp survivor Sophie in “Sophie’s Choice”; on Baroness Karen Blixen in “Out of Africa”; on Joanna Kramer, the conflicted mother in “Kramer v. Kramer.”

Jimmy Carter could not turn that page.  Nor to date has Comrade Trump.  And among all the things His Orangeness declares “are much harder than anyone thought,” this has proven to be the most difficult so far.

Wednesday Morning Transcript

Republican hypocrisy just shifted into warp drive.  Consider the following comments from Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks.  In response to a question about Russian hacking during the 2016 election, Franks replied:

But the bottom line, if they succeeded – if Russia succeeded – in giving the American people information that was accurate, then they merely did what the media should have done. (Source: MSNBC, December 29, 2016)

Compare that to his denunciation of sources who are providing inside information about the Trump/Russia connection and White House dysfunction.

These incessant leaks are becoming so pernicious and corrosive to the success of government and the public’s ability to trust in it. The leaks are becoming more dangerous than the substance of what is being leaked. (Source: The Hill, May 26, 2017)

Waitress, can I have a side order of a “hill of beans” to go along with these Franks?  And make it a big one, a REALLY big one.

For what it’s worth.


Fool Me Three Times


In his dissent of the Supreme Court decision in the 1932 case New State Ice Co. v Liebmann, Justice Louis Brandeis introduced the now oft-quoted phrase “laboratories of democracy.”  The case revolved around the ability of a state, in the absence of any federal regulation, to issue a license in cases where that government claimed such restrictions were necessary to protect public health and safety.  In the justification for his minority vote, Brandeis wrote:

To stay experimentation in things social and economic is a grave responsibility. Denial of the right to experiment may be fraught with serious consequences to the nation. It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.

This mechanism provided valuable input into two recent policy debates.  National legislation related to welfare reform in 1996 was based on a similar program initiated in Wisconsin by then governor Tommy Thompson.  And of course, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was modeled after a similar Massachusetts program under Governor Mitt Romney.  State-based social or economic experiments can lay the foundation for better policies and programs.

But just as often, these initiatives instruct us what we should avoid.  I thought about Justice Brandeis and my years of experience in state government while reading an under-reported story in this morning’s Washington Post titled, “With State Budget in Crisis, Many Oklahoma Schools Hold Classes Four Days a Week.”  As a result of Republican Governor Mary Fallin’s bet on supply-side, trickle down economic policy, the Post reports:

A deepening budget crisis here has forced schools across the Sooner State to make painful decisions. Class sizes have ballooned, art and foreign-language programs have shrunk or disappeared, and with no money for new textbooks, children go without. Perhaps the most significant consequence: Students in scores of districts are now going to school just four days a week.

Sadly, the only thing news-worthy about this story is recognition that Oklahoma is the latest jurisdiction to fall for this con game.  In June 2015, MarketWatch reported how Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (another Republican) had bankrupted his state.

There are two clear takeaways: first, supply-side economics didn’t even work with the deck stacked in its favor, and second, we’re seeing what happens when supply-side tax cuts on the rich fail to produce badly needed revenue. The end result is that the wealthy get to keep their tax cuts and everyone else gets to close the gap.

And like Oklahoma, public school support has been among the hardest hit with draconian budget cuts resulting in larger classes and a shorter school year.

Which brings us to Louisiana where the Republican Governor Bobby Jindal hoped to ride his supply-side experiment all the way to the White House.  In February 2016, Salon summarized Louisiana’s budget situation as follows.

This is not to say that the budget deficit ($940 million) is entirely Jindal’s fault. But it does stem in large part from his instituting in Louisiana the same kinds of budget-busting tax cuts that Sam Brownback has used to turn Kansas into a fiscal insane asylum. And it underscores the damage that could be done to the country as a whole if any of the supply-side-espousing Arthur Laffer wannabes currently running for the Republican nomination win the White House in November.

Again, public education took the sword while tax cuts benefited those who least needed them.

I leave you with Albert Einstein’s definiton of insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Unless, of course, you are Donald Trump who, upon winning the Nevada Republican primary in February 2016, professed his adoration for the “poorly educated.”  Instead of calling his FY2018 budget proposal “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” a more appropriate title for a document which mirrors the experiences in Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma might be, “Making the Poorly Educated Less Educated Again.”

Sunday Morning Postscript

Sometimes, the devil really is in the details.  Yesterday, a CNN report on Jared Kushner’s growing involvement in the Trump/Russia connection flashed a picture of Kushner Tower, one of the Trump-in-law’s major investments.  There, for all to see, was the street address, and I promise, I am not making this up:  666 Fifth Avenue.  Who would have thought the  1976 blockbuster movie “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick was a documentary.

For what it’s worth.


You’re Going to Need a Bigger Bed!


In response to Tuesday’s post “Numbers Matter,” a reader commented, “Still, is it not an accomplishment of monumental proportions for Trump, against such slings and arrows, to hold even a 37 percent approval?”  If Comrade Trump had seen this response, he probably would have tweeted, “Blog agrees my approval rating is the most ‘monumental accomplishment’ in history!”  However, a serious question deserves a serious answer.

bigger-boatWhich leads me to the title of today’s post, an obvious play on a pivotal moment in the movie Jaws.  Amity Island Sheriff Martin Brody (portrayed by Roy Scheider) realizes the great white shark, which has been snacking on residents and vacationers, represents a bigger threat than originally imagined.  (Some may say the same about the current White House occupant.)  He then tells professional shark-hunter Quint (Robert Shaw), “You’re going to need a bigger boat!”  But why substitute the word “bed” for “boat?”

In a nation as diverse as the United States, winning campaigns are built on coalitions.  And when you examine the individual segments within the coalition you realize exactly what American journalist Charles Dudley Warner meant when he famously paraphrased William Shakespeare’s “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” from which we get the phrase, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.”  One thing I can say with “absolute surety.” The members of the coalition bunking with Trump represent a strange lot.  Consider the following most pro-Trump voting blocs based on their Trump versus Clinton support last November. (Source: CNN Exit Poll Update 23 November 2016)

Republicans (88-8%)

There is really no need to document how the Republican establishment felt about Trump in 2016, except that it is informative to see how little soul the party has as it kisses up to His Orangeness to achieve their domestic agenda.

A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country has ever seen. (Ted Cruz)
The most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency. (Marco Rubio)
One part unhinged and one part foolish. (Jeb Bush)
Race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. (Lindsey Graham)
Playing the American people for suckers. (Mitt Romney)

But when it comes to adding to the national debt with tax cuts for the wealthiest, increased defense spending and appointing Supreme Court justices who take away rather than protect civil rights, at least Trump is “OUR narcissist, vulgar person and unhinged bigot.”

Conservatives (81-16%)

The majority of conservatives paid little, if any, heed to intellectual arguments from right leaning stalwarts like George Will, who left the Republican party pending Trump’s nomination last July, or Peggy Noonan, who admitted Trump “doesn’t have the skill set needed now.”  No problem.  Thoughtful arguments about Trump’s unfitness to hold office had no chance against lower taxes and deregulation.

White Evangelicals (80-16%)

The inclusion of white evangelicals at Trump sleepovers is just plain “kinky.”  One need only compare the principles espoused by Protestant evangelicals with Trump’s behavior and rhetoric to see they have sacrificed a majority of these tenets in return for promises of overturning Roe v. Wade.  I get the link to principle #1 “sanctity of human life.”  But how do these self-appointed apostles reconcile Trump’s agenda with:

#2: The nurturing of family life and the protection of children.
#3: Seeking justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable.
#4: Protection of religious freedom.
#5: Seeking peace and restraining violence.

(NOTE:  Liberty University’s motto is, I kid you not, “Knowledge Aflame.”  I guess that explains Franklin Graham’s decision to invite Trump as the 2017 commencement speaker.  Trump’s march through history and science can only be compared with Atlanta’s conflagration in Gone with the Wind.)

There’s just one problem.  Such lopsided support does not come without unrealistic expectations.  Just ask former President Obama.  Some of his staunchest early supporters, e.g. Harvard professor Cornell West and liberal talk show host Bill Press, lost faith in their vision of  how an Obama administration would fulfill its promise of “hope and change.”  To some extent, we are already hearing from disaffected Trump supporters.  Barring a cataclysmic event or a “smoking Makarov (Russian manufactured pistol)” revealed by Robert Mueller, do not expect a stampede of the most loyal Trump advocates.  The defections will come in drips, not floods.

My unsolicited advice to Donald Trump.  Don’t buy an over-sized mattress for that bed.  Rent one.  Eventually, your slumber parties will be limited to family and paid-off friends.

For what it’s worth.


Numbers Matter


Two stories about seemingly unrelated statistics explain why Donald Trump is in danger of losing EVERYONE except his basest supporters.


This week there was a convergence of numbers unseen in recent history.  Yesterday’s Gallup poll showed Trump’s approval at a new low of 37 percent.  Disapproval is now 56 percent.  Considering the drip-drip-drip of news stories suggesting Trump engaged in efforts to inhibit or even stop the Trump/Russian investigation, no one should be surprised Comrade Trump’s popularity is in free-fall.

However, a perhaps more significant poll is last Tuesday’s Public Policy Polling survey which included a question related to voter preference in the next congressional election.  For the first time in decades, the margin of support for Democrats over Republicans reached double digits (49-38 percent).  It’s hard to argue the side-by-side tracking of Trump’s approval rating and generic congressional voter preference is mere correlation.  So I repeat Kevin Gottlieb’s observation, “When politicians feel the heat, they see the light.”

Much criticism has been aimed at Republican senators and representatives for “putting party before country”  Even if that is true, the one thing they will not do is put party ahead of re-election.  Especially in defense of someone who routinely uses and abuses his supporters for his own, selfish purposes.  Just ask Devin Nunes,  Jason Chaffetz or General McMaster.

Rest assured, every potential Democrat challenger is stocking up on pictures of their Republican opponent next to Trump, the 2018 version of “political pornography.”

Cable News Ratings

For the week of May 14-19, Variety reports, ” For the first time in its history, MSNBC ranked number one in both total viewers and the key adults 25-54 demographic during prime time for a full week among the big three cable news networks, according to Nielsen data.”  Fox News placed second in total viewership and third–behind MSNBC and CNN–with the key adults.

Fox News’ decline can only be described as a “perfect storm.”  First, revelations about payments to numerous victims of sexual harassment superseded by even larger several packages for Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.  Second, the replacement of Reilly with Tucker Carlson.  (Where is Lloyd Benson when we really need him?  “Mr. Carlson, you are no Bill O’Reilly.)   And third, the media outlet’s increasing inability to convince its audience, in light of the daily exposure of White House incompetence and malfeasance, there is no there there.  As more and more viewers abandon the Fox News “spin zone,”  reinforcement of Trump’s excuses, finger-pointing and ever-changing justifications for the unjustifiable also diminishes.

It is yet to be seen how these numbers will impact the political landscape.  But something is happening here.  As Daniel Boorstin writes in his 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America,  “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance–it is the illusion of knowledge.”  A first step in overcoming an illusion of knowledge is changing one’s sources of information.

For what it’s worth.


Can You Top This?


This morning’s edition of the Miami Herald included an article titled, “Conan Jokes May Have Killed, But He Stands Accused of Theft.”  The plaintiff in the copyright infringement case is Robert Kaseberg, who among other credits was a staff writer for Jay Leno.  According to the story, Kaseberg claimed, “he posted several jokes online that the late-night comedian repeated almost verbatim later that day or the next on his ‘Conan’ show on TBS.”

I know how Kaseberg feels.  On May 10, 2017, I published a story about all the people Donald Trump has used as “human shields.”  Last night, several news outlets referred to National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster as Trump’s “human shield,” denying that His Orangeness shared third party classified information with Russian officials last Wednesday.  It is not beyond possibility that multiple people independently came up with the idea of referring to Trump apologists as human shields.  So, any threat of legal action would be hard to justify.

But I did start thinking about some of the original ideas I shared with friends over the past couple of days.  And as we always reminded our students at Miami University, you cannot copyright an idea.  There must be a physical manifestation of the content.  Therefore, I am presenting the following two pieces of political satire both for your enjoyment and to establish a record of creative origin.

Mein Furor

Though short-lived, there is a certain consistency in the initial White House explanations for each of Trump’s missteps.  Last Tuesday, we were told Trump fired FBI director James Comey based on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions in response to Comey’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.  Two days later, Trump stated he had met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the “request” of Vladamir Putin.  When transmitting the request to the oval office via the Russian embassy, I wonder if Putin included the phrase, “Make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Maybe it is his German heritage, but I would not be surprised if Trump’s defense against charges of obstruction of justice and treason is, “I was only following orders.”

Strategic Impatience

I have often referenced former Naval intelligence officer Malcolm Nance’s call for “strategic patience” as the case unfolds for impeachment, resignation or removal under procedures contained in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.  Taking down a president of the United States is serious business and must be done right.  However, even Nance now admits the pace at which events are occurring suggests a resolution to this national nightmare sooner rather than later.  Why?  Because Comrade Trump, rather than slowing down the process, has instead become the lead investigator, laying out new evidence daily to support charges and possible conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors.

This suggests the only person who wants Trump removed from office more than an increasing majority of the American people seems to be Trump himself.  But that doesn’t make sense until you put this story together with the one above.  Say what you will, Trump seems to be good at following orders.  So who is pulling the strings this time?  My best guess?  Melania.  One thing we know about the absentee first lady is her devotion to her son.  One indication is her demanding Barron complete the current school year in New York City.  So, the last thing she would want to do is to pull him out of St. Andrews Episcopal School in the middle of the next school year.  For the 2017-18 academic year, the first day of school is August 14.  Just in case, rumor has it Chief Justice Roberts has been practicing administering the presidential oath of office for a late summer Rose Garden ceremony.

I Need Your Help

While I try to watch clips from several of the late night talk shows to ensure this blog does not merely rehash otherwise available content, it is impossible to catch them all.  Therefore, I would appreciate your reporting if any of the above stories are used by the host or guests.  As a reward for ensuring the creative integrity of this material, you will receive a free life-time subscription to

For what it’s worth.