Monthly Archives: June 2017

Never, Neverland


I now know how John King, the host of CNN’s Inside Politics, must feel.  Yesterday, he opened his show by literally tearing up his preparation notes for the broadcast.  The original topics of the day were the Senate health care charade and the pending disassembling of the First Amendment to the Constitution in the form of the limited Muslim travel ban.  Enter Donald Trump and his misogynistic attack on Mika Brzezinski.  Future news anchors, reporters and pundits are better served studying the art of improvisation than journalism as their livelihood now depends on their ability to ad lib  the news rather than follow a script.

I started drafting this blog and chose the title several weeks ago following Trump’s June 9 joint press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.  At that time, the “reality-show-host-in-chief” again teased the press about the existence of recordings of his meeting with ex-FBI director James Comey stating, “I’ll tell you about it over a short period of time.”  This was not the first time we have been told this.

  • On numerous occasions, Trump told us he would soon release his tax returns. Did he? NEVER!
  • At an August 9, 2016 rally in North Carolina, Trump promised his wife Melania would soon hold a press conference to clear up any issues about her immigration status when she first came to the United States.  Did she?  NEVER!
  • During the campaign, Trump claimed to have a secret plan to defeat ISIS which he would share on his first day in office.  Did he?  NEVER!

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  A blog post called “Never, Neverland” was supposed to focus on Trump’s modus operandi for responding to information or data requests  to back up his many questionable claims.  It must depend on the outbreak of an Alzheimer pandemic.  Promise disclosure and hope the American people collectively forget they ever asked for the material.

But there are much more relevant aspects of J. M. Barre’s Neverland which better explain the behavior and mindset of the pretender-in-chief.  Consider the following traits outlined in Wikipedia’s description of this fictional world.

  • It is an imaginary, faraway place.
  • It is a metaphor for eternal childishness and escapism.
  • It exists in the minds of children and is not the same from one child to the next.
  • It is inhabited by fairies, the most famous being Tinkerbell, whose name was meant to imply her main talent was “tinkering” or fixing things.

tinkerbellIt is no stretch to see that Neverland is also a metaphor for the Trump White House.  His denial of the most basic facts–crowd size, climate change or Russian interference in the 2016–suggests he too inhabits “an imaginary, faraway place.” And, as demonstrated again yesterday, he has not grown up.  He is still the ten-year-old playground bully who enjoys demeaning others.  And he has his own Tinkerbell in the form of Kellyanne Conway.  She is the “fixer,” delegated with the unenviable task of rationalizing her boss’s indefensible words and actions.

And in many respects, Trump is Peter Pan.  Again, according to Wikipedia:

Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He claims greatness, even when such claims are questionable (such as congratulating himself when Wendy re-attaches his shadow). In the play and book, Peter symbolises the selfishness of childhood, and is portrayed as being forgetful and self-centred.

There is, however, one major difference.  Peter eventually grows up emotionally if not physically.  He befriends others.  He supports their aspirations.  In contrast, Trump remains the aloof, rich kid who brings the football  to the neighborhood pick-up game.  And, if not catered to, threatens to take his ball and go home.

Pay particular attention to the part of the Trump/Brzezinski story involving the National Enquirer, alluded to in this morning’s Washington Post op-ed piece co-authored by Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.  Following previous negative comments by the Morning Joe duo, Brzezinski, her ex-husband and her two teenage daughters were confronted by Enquirer reporters.  Scarborough then received calls from senior White House staff begging him to call Trump and apologize for the hosts’ negative remarks.  Trump’s henchmen promised, if he did so, Trump would call the Enquirer and kill the story.

One can only hope this is not the Trump Doctrine on which American foreign policy is based.  Except, in this case, the hammer is not a questionable story in a supermarket tabloid, it is the full force and strength of the United States armed services.


Who says Donald Trump has no major accomplishments during his first 150 days in office?  Are they forgetting how effectively he has exposed the hypocrisy of white evangelicals who make up a large portion of his sagging support?  According to the latest Pew Research poll, an overwhelming 80 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance since taking office.

Remember, these are self-proclaimed righteous people whose first principle is to live their lives according to the Scripture which they believe to be the literal Word of God.  One would assume that includes Matthew 53:9 in which, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus implores his followers to turn the other cheek.

Perhaps Trump was without his reading glasses and misread the Gospel.  Maybe he thought it said, “To whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other TWEET.”

For what it’s worth.


Location, Location, Location


America is not a zero-sum game.  You can support both the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement officials.  You can believe in capitalism and still rail against excesses on Wall Street.  You can oppose Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and admit the law has shortcomings which need to be addressed.

Which brings me to the topic du jour: Nancy Pelosi who increasingly has become a scapegoat for what ails the Democratic party, especially in the aftermath of Jon Ossoff’s loss to Karen Handel in the special election to replace Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said the Democratic Party is going to be heading into 2018 with a “damaged” leader in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (Source: The

A dozen unhappy House Democrats met Thursday afternoon to discuss if — and how — they can replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. (Source:

Several lawmakers who have opposed her in the past argued that Ms. Pelosi would undermine the party’s candidates for as long as she holds her post. (Source: New York Times, June 21, 2017)

This morning I am going to make the case that Nancy Pelosi deserves better from a party she has served honorably and yet needs to cede leadership to someone else.  Let’s begin with the positive.  During her four years as Speaker of the House, her legislative accomplishments include:

  • Passage of an economic stimulus package to bring the nation back from the brink of economic collapse.
  • An overhaul of the health care system, though less than perfect, has made health insurance accessible to tens of millions of Americans.
  • Increasing the minimum wage for the first time in a decade.
  • Increased gas mileage standards for automobiles.
  • Increased spending on behalf of veterans.

In addition to her formal duties, she has become one of the most prodigious fundraisers on behalf of the Democratic party and its candidates.

Yet Republicans continue to bolster support for their candidates by associating their opponents with Pelosi.  It is not unreasonable to believe an ad campaign funded by the National Republic Congressional Committee titled, “Jon and Nancy,” which included video of Ossoff returning from a Pelosi fundraiser, as costing the Democrat more than a few votes in the recent special election.

Republicans have made Pelosi into the devil incarnate, especially as it relates to the culture wars which divide the country.  She will destroy the traditional family, take away your guns, erode religious freedom, turn the United States into a nation of illegal immigrants and mandate socialized medicine.  There’s just one problem.  Despite representing one of the most liberal districts in the country, based on her voting record and speeches, Nancy Pelosi is much more moderate than her constituents.  In other words, Republicans are not running against Pelosi, they are running against a caricature of the House minority leader.

And as conservative columnist Marc Thiessen points out in today’s Washington Post, caricaturization of the opposition works both ways.  Thiessen writes:

Sen. Mitch McConnell has called off a vote this week on the Senate Republican health-care bill. That’s a good thing. Because if Republicans want to confirm every liberal caricature of conservatism in a single piece of legislation, they could do no better than vote on the GOP bill in its current form.

Likewise, the Democrats need to consider whether its actions merely confirm the worst disenfranchised voters think of the party.  Which brings me back to Pelosi.  The Republicans have successfully painted the Democratic Party as bi-coastal with little or no interest in voters in the “fly-over states.”  Want to reinforce that perception?  How about casting a San Franciscan (Pelosi) and a New Yorker (Chuck Schumer) as the co-stars of your troupe.  Compare that to the Republican leadership with a Speaker from Wisconsin and a Senate Majority Leader from Kentucky.

In the past Democratic House leadership came from places like Oklahoma (Carl Albert, Jr.), Spokane, Washington (Thomas Foley) and Texas (James Wright Jr.)  Likewise, the home states of past Democratic Senate leadership included Montana (Mike Mansfield), West Virginia (Robert Byrd), Maine (George Mitchell), South Dakota (Thomas Daschle) and Nevada (Harry Reid).

So, it’s not personal Nancy.  It’s just a fact.  When Tom Daschle used to campaign on behalf of Democrats in Wyoming or Kansas, he was viewed as “one of us.”  In contrast, when you tell voters in Iowa and Arizona, “We need CANDIDATE X in Washington,” the response is a resounding, “Huh?”

If the Democrats want to again be seen as a national party, the leadership must reflect that goal. Easier said than done.  But a good start would be to re-position the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as a vehicle to identify and develop party leaders in states and congressional districts between the two coasts.

POSTSCRIPT: Six Degrees of Separation (or fewer)

Those of us who have spent a significant portion of our lives in the political arena have our own version of the Hollywood past time “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”  For those unfamiliar with this popular parlor game, it is said that any actor can trace a connection to Kevin Bacon in six or fewer steps.  Example:  Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation fame) is connected to Kevin Bacon as follows:

  • Offerman and Nick Nolte both had roles in A Walk in the Woods.
  • Nolte and Barbra Streisand shared star billing in The Prince of Tides.
  • Streisand co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in Meet the Fokkers.
  • Hoffman co-starred with Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer.
  • Streep appeared with Bacon in The River Wild.

Likewise, anyone in politics can make a connection between themselves and any other political figure.  Such is the case between Nancy Pelosi, the subject of today’s post, and this blogger.  In fact there are two connections.

  • Pelosi’s father,Thomas D’Alexandro, Jr.,  served as mayor Baltimore where I attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University.
  • In 1978, I worked on Maryland Governor Blair Lee’s re-election campaign.  His running mate was then speaker of the Maryland House Steny Hoyer, who now serves as House minority whip, second-in-command to (drum roll) House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe Walt Disney was right.  “It’s a small world after all.”

For what it’s worth.

When You Assume…

Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.
-Marshall McLuhan

In Max Brooks’ novel World War Z and the film of the same title,  Israel is the only sovereign nation fully prepared for the coming Zombie conflict.  Brooks explains this anomaly as being the result of the method of decision making adopted by the Israeli government following the 1972 Yom Kippur War.  In the movie, it is called the “tenth man rule.”  A surprise attack on the eve of the most sacred of Jewish holidays was  unthinkable. Therefore, none of the generals responsible for the Jewish state’s national defense raised the possibility.  An embarrassed Israeli government needed to ensure this would never happen again.

The theory behind this concept is the belief that when any panel voices unanimous support for a course of action there must be some unconsidered variable.  Thus, it is the role of the designated tenth man to ask the simple question, “What if we are wrong?” A similar concept is employed by the Catholic Church when deliberating whether an individual should be elevated to sainthood.  A “devil’s advocate” is appointed to raise doubt about the nominee’s character and to challenge the miracles on which canonization is based.

Too bad NASA did not have a tenth man rule during the launch of the space shuttle Columbia on January 16, 2003.  During take-off, a chunk of insulation separated from the external fuel tank, striking the edge of the wing on the port side of the spacecraft.  Similar incidents had occurred during six previous shuttle launches including the most recent flight of Atlantis.  NASA engineers saw no need for alarm based on past experience, until the shuttle disintegrated upon re-entry on February 1.  By then, it was tragically too late.  If only one of the flight center staff had been required to ask, “What if we are wrong about this kind of debris striking the shuttle on launch?  What if the shuttle and its crew are in danger?”

I thought about the tenth man rule last Friday when the Washington Post reported how the Obama White House struggled whether to come forward with what they had learned about Vladimir Putin’s role in orchestrating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. And I certainly understand the president’s hesitancy to do so.  Donald Trump had spent much of the fall predicting the outcome was “rigged.”  Therefore, any action perceived as the incumbent Democrat president tipping the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton would be immediately denounced as evidence Trump was correct.

But that was not the fatal flaw in President Obama’s decision.  There was a general belief among the limited number of individuals who had seen the intelligence assessment that Clinton would win anyway.  While the race might be closer following Wikileaks’ disclosure of Russian hacked emails, the outcome was never in doubt.  There does not appear to have been a designated tenth man (or woman) to challenge this assumption.  Consider the following hypothetical conversation in the oval office.

OBAMA: We can deal with this after the election.  The last thing we need is Donny-Boy out there proclaiming, “I told you so.  See.  Obama is trying to rig the election.”  His base is fired up enough already.

TENTH MAN: But what if the Russians can actually affect the outcome?  Shouldn’t we inform voters before  they cast their ballot?

OBAMA: Yes, but going public may do more harm than good.  What if that is exactly what the Russians want?  We have to consider whether we might do more to swing the election in Trump’s favor than either the Russians or Wikileaks by jumping in at the last minute.  The Republicans will label it a desperation move on behalf of a failing candidate.

TENTH MAN: Mr. President, that is certainly a possibility.  But there is a more important imperative.  Regardless of its impact on the election, we are being attacked by a foreign government.  Of course, there will be skeptics.  But the American people have a right to know.

OBAMA: You’re right.  Jeh (Johnson, secretary of homeland security), prepare an announcement.  Bring in the FBI, CIA and NSA.  Ask them to provide as much information as they can to validate the situation without compromising any individuals or operations.  Call Josh (Earnest, press secretary) and tell him to alert the networks I will be addressing the nation this evening.

Neither I nor anyone else, even in hindsight, could predict whether the above course of action would have made a difference on November 8th.  But there is one thing of which we can be sure.  We would not be any worse off than we are today.

For what it’s worth.

No Heavy Petting


There is more than enough evidence Donald Trump’s behavior since January 20th is “unpresidented.”  However, there is one important departure from past history which seems to have alluded the mainstream media.  Of the 44 individuals who have sat behind the desk in the oval office, James K. Polk and Trump are the only incumbents without canine or feline companionship.  From George Washington’s American Staghounds (Sweetlips, Scentwell and Vulcan) to Barack Obama’s Portuguese Water Dogs (Bo and Sunny), every previous president. with these two exceptions, has sought the counsel of four-legged advisers.

Some White House pets have become best-selling authors as in the case of Millie’s Book, co-written by First Lady Barbara Bush.  Others have been called upon as political cover for their masters, the most famous incident involving the Nixon family’s Cocker Spaniel Checkers.  Lesser known was the September 23, 1944 Fala speech, during which President Franklin Roosevelt channeled his Scottish Terrier to undercut charges of malfeasance by his political opponents.

These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him—at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars—his Scotch soul was furious.

While the majority of fauna residing at 1600 Pennsylvania or at the chief executive’s personal residence are canine or feline, there are exceptions.  Consider the following.

  • Thomas Jefferson had two bear cubs.
  • John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator, a gift from the Maquis de Lafayette.
  • James Buchanan had a pet eagle.
  • Andrew Johnson continually cared for white mice he found in his bedroom.
  • Benjamin Harrison kept two opossums (Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection).
  • Theodore Roosevelt, not surprisingly, included a lizard, garter snake, small bear, barn owl, hyena and a one-legged rooster in his personal menagerie.
  • Calvin Coolidge also maintained the equivalent of a private zoo which housed a tiger, bobcat, pygmy hippopotamus, wallaby, antelope and black bear.
  • Not to be outdone by John Quincy Adams, Herbert Hoover included TWO alligators among his pets.

With the arrival of son Barron at the White House, some Trump watchers have speculated a four-legged addition to the executive mansion might be in the offing.  Which of course has lit up social media.  Will the Trumps select a dog, a cat or a more exotic species?  New York Times columnist Alex Beam suggests people often choose a pet that best reflects the owner’s personality.  Beam wonders if a ferret might be most appropriate in this case. (Source: New York Times, April 15, 2017)

My bet is the White House will remain a sanctuary reserved for homo sapiens.  After all, His Orangeness is a known germaphobe.  Dog hair or cat dander seems like an unwelcome intrusion on his sterilized space.  But what about Barron?  Fear not.  He will surely be surrounded by human playmates.  In fact, Barron BFF is rumored to be Sean Spicer’s next job title.

Spoiler: Fake News Alert

According to several unnamed sources, some who were Trump’s classmates at the New York Military Academy, the future oval office occupant’s aversion to household pets stems from an incident during his junior year on the Cornwall, New York campus.  During the morning assembly, the young Donald was attacked and bitten by the school’s mascot, a Siberian husky named Sergei.

LITTLE KNOWN UPDATE: Following the incident, Sergei had to be treated for rabies.

For what it’s worth.

Guilty of Criminal Freud


Today is election day in the Georgia 6th congressional district.  And as much as Republicans are watching the results to determine the extent to which Donald J. Trump may be a drag on the 2018 mid-term elections, Democrats should not take the bait.   Democrats did not lose the 2016 presidential campaign or control of both houses of Congress because of Trump.

I know.  What about Russian interference in the campaign?  Yes, it’s real.  And if and when there is evidence of any direct ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign, the appropriate parties should be charged with treason and punished if found guilty.  But, continuing to focus on Russia’s role in the election, is like blaming game officials for a bad call which resulted in a prohibitive favorite losing a championship.  You know what the sports analysts say EVERY time.  “Yes, it was a bad call, but it never should have come down to that play.”

Neither should the 2016 presidential contest.  And if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) thinks Jon Ossoff’s fate depends on the anti-Trump vote, the 2018 mid-terms promise to be another hand-wringer and head-shaker for the Democrats. Two events this month provide the key to their return to power and neither have anything to do with Agent Orange.

First, there is the famous Michael Kinsley quote, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.”  Such was the case during the June 7, 2017 debate between the Georgia special election candidates Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.  In response to Ossoff’s support for the $15/hour minimum wage, Handel argued:

This is an example of the fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative. I do not support a livable [sic] wage.

No, this is the fundamental difference between a compassionate human being and someone who professes to be for working people but does not believe in community or the social contract in which the common good is linked to the welfare of every individual.  Jay Willis of the Congressional Quarterly summarized Handel’s remark as equivalent to saying, “The difference between me and my opponent is that he wants you to earn enough to eat and I do not.”

On yesterday’s edition of the Stephanie Miller Show, Lee Papa aka “Rude Pundit” warned Democrats not to look for a silver bullet, the one thing they could do differently to try and win back working voters.  He is correct.  This is not about a single program or policy to curry favor with disaffected constituents.  It is about a basic difference in philosophy, not about big versus small government, not about race or gender and not even about the environment.  It is about LIFE (breathable air and potable water), LIBERTY (to choose one’s own lifestyle unless it causes harm or impinges on the rights of others to choose their preferred lifestyle) and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (including the resources needed to enjoy a decent standard of living).

Which brings me to the second event this month, the shameless attempt by Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act under a cloak of secrecy. Who needs the Russians to undermine faith in our government when we have Mitch McConnell and his colleagues behaving more like the defunct Soviet Politburo than the United States Senate? Consider the following description of the Politburo’s decision making process.

Andrei Gromyko described the working style of the Politburo’s weekly meeting during the Brezhnev era as “quiet, orderly, and methodical.  Although an agenda is prepared, there is no quorum call or other form of parliamentary procedure.”   Arkady Shevchenko’s memoir makes it clear that the tense political struggle that could often occur among Politburo members usually did not take place openly during its meetings, but rather behind the backs of one’s rivals. In practice, Soviet Leninism’s democratic centralism often followed a style of unanimous consent rather than majority vote. This style of consensus decision-making had roots not only in the era of the Great Terror, when no one dared demur openly, but also in Brezhnev’s carefully cultivated culture of collective decision-making.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Don’t fool yourself.  This would be happening regardless of which 2016 Republican presidential wannabe occupied the oval office.  The major difference being the McConnell/Ryan cabal would have been aided by a more competent, sane and dignified ally in the White House.  And that, a reminder of the difference between the parties in basic values and adherence to the American system of governance, is the platform on which the DCCC and Democratic candidates should be running in 2018 and beyond.

Maybe we should start selling baseball caps which read, “Make America America Again.”

For what it’s worth.