Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

IL DUCE LIVES

In 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, then governor of New York, wrote in a letter what became his presidential philosophy: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” If only Donald Trump had the judgment to heed TR.

Trump wants to hold a grand military parade in Washington. The U.S. last held one in 1991 after a U.S.-led coalition drove Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. I suggest that the parade under the auspices of President George H.W. Bush sought not only to honor our troops victorious in a 100-hour war but also make amends for the terrible treatment of American military personnel during and after the Vietnam War.

Why a parade now? Trump was impressed with the Bastille Day parade he attended in Paris last summer. But France long has been a secondary military power. In 1914, Germany overran much of France. In May 1940, Germany outflanked the heralded Maginot Line. France fell in six weeks. In 1954, the Vietnamese defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. France bid adieu to its Indo-Chinese colonies. French forces have fought well in Afghanistan, Iraq and its former African colonies. But French military parades honor ancient glories.

What other countries hold military parades? Dictatorships and autocracies. Vladimir Putin loves seeing soldiers, tanks and rockets roll through Moscow’s Red Square. Kim Jong Un shows off the same in Pyongyang. China also gets in on the act. And Iran, under supreme leader Ali Khamenei, showcases rockets and missiles to menace America and Israel.

All draw on precedent. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler loved military parades and being worshiped at enormous theatrical rallies. So, too, Josef Stalin. Dictators believe in speaking loudly and brandishing their big sticks. This enables them, they believe, to both cow other nations and intimidate internal opposition.

All of which paints Donald Trump as something of a junior Mussolini. Like Il Duce, Trump struts, glowers and preens. Hurls insults with abandon. And equates dissent with treason. Duce Jr. demands personal loyalty at home while disdaining America’s allies and eschewing diplomacy. This provokes hostile nations and troubles our friends, all of whom understand that America’s stick is very big indeed.

Still, even the biggest (read nuclear) stick can be challenged. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq taught us how critical it is to know when to hold back. And that small nations and non-state actors can vex us with asymmetric warfare and terrorism.

But Duce Jr.’s bloated ego demands showing off his big stick—a sign not only of U.S. military might but of his own manliness. When the troops pass the reviewing stand, Trump will applaud not them but himself. He will believe that the troops are saluting him personally. And he will, again, be wrong. They will salute his office. That’s how the Constitution rolls.

A lover of our military, Trump never served (military school doesn’t count) unlike Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he publicly disparaged as a prisoner of war. During Vietnam, Trump received five deferments—four for college and one medical deferment after graduation.

Last Saturday, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) referred to Trump as “Cadet Bone Spurs.” She earned the right, having lost both legs flying combat helicopter missions in Iraq. I might rephrase that, “Cadet Bone Spurious.” This all would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening.

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ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Several weeks ago, I realized why the president of the United States so often speaks like a seventh-grader. Three old men turned on the lightbulb for me.

I met the first two—elderly African-Americans using walkers—on the 38-Geary bus. They didn’t know each other but chatted amiably about life in San Francisco and growing up in the South. When one stood to get off, his walker’s wheels tangled with the other man’s. I pulled them apart. They offered smiling thankyou’s.

A simple lesson presented itself. As men age, their testosterone levels drop. Their aggressiveness dissipates. Older men—yes, cranks exist—tend to be polite and non-confrontational. They prefer talking over coffee, making conversation on a park bench or just chilling. Thus, the elderly define “cool.”

The third man was Senator John McCain. He recently had surgery for a blood clot above the eye. President Trump praised McCain and wished him a speedy recovery. Then he added, “We also need his vote [on the healthcare bill.]” Trump’s uncalled-for aside sounded awkward and childish, as well as selfish. Yet it represented, I believe, an attempt at humor. The attempt bombed. But I know where the approach came from.

Donald Trump and I grew up in the New York City borough of Queens. He lived in wealthy Jamaica Estates. I lived in middle-class Rego Park. We both developed a very New York sense of humor. As kids, my friends and I insulted each other good naturedly and people we didn’t like with the sharpest (and stupidest) barbs we could hone. Then we grew up. We learned when humor may be appropriate in private but unacceptable in public.

We didn’t abandon humor, though. Men rib their friends in private. It’s a guy thing. But unlike the Donald, my friends and I also love laughing at ourselves. Importantly, we understand that joking about people close to us is fine—if they buy in. And that even among friends, some lines are not to be crossed. That’s why a friend asked if he could joke about my hormone therapy (ending this Wednesday) for prostate cancer. I said, “Of course. I do.” Because we care about each other, the jokes and insults remain confidential and within bounds.

Trump knows no bounds. It appears he suffers from arrested development. While our peers ascertained the limits of making other people objects of humor, Trump continues speaking like an adolescent. Watch his televised remarks about others. They’re uniformly unfunny, tasteless and cruel. No adult, let alone the president, should say those things in public. Yet Trump does and remains clueless.

Last Monday, he delivered a highly-politicized speech to boys at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. He was way off base. The Boy Scouts of America acknowledged that.

With education and mentoring, twelve-year-olds mature and develop judgement. I Corinthians 13:11 offers a sound guideline. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

Donald Trump failed to learn that lesson. It’s sad. It’s also pathetic that so many of his supporters applaud him for “saying what’s on his mind” even when Trump utters remarks for which they’d march their own children off to the woodshed.

And now you know why Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci as his f*****g White House communications director.

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TRUMP THE UNITER

Many Americans view Donald Trump’s presidency as off to a rocky start. Yesterday’s Gallup’s daily poll showed Trump with a 43 percent approval rating, quite low for a president two weeks into the job. But one day, if courage overtakes ideology, historians may see Mr. Trump as having rescued America from political stagnation.

Last June, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Mr. Trump’s comments about federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, a Mexican-American born in Indiana, “racist.” Still, he supported, if nominally, the Trump candidacy. On January 31, however, Ryan acknowledged the ineptitude of the implementation of Trump’s immigration ban. But Ryan withheld comment on Trump’s recent statement that the U.S. murder rate was the highest in 45 years. FBI statistics show the murder rate just off its lowest point. Will Paul Ryan ever take a stand?

Last Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vehemently disagreed with Trump’s comparing the United States with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as did Arizona senator John McCain. As to Trump’s calling federal Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” because Robart issued a stay of the “Muslim ban,” McConnell said, “I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism.”

Yet two days ago, McConnell said of congressional Republicans, “I think there is a high level of satisfaction with the new administration. Our members are not obsessed with the daily tweets, but are looking at the results.” Note that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, former labor secretary under George W. Bush, serves as Trump’s secretary of transportation. Will McConnell ever draw a line in the political sand?

Some Americans with conservative credentials have been more forthcoming. Michael Mullen, retired navy admiral and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in the New York Times about Trump’s adding Steve Bannon to the National Security Council: “Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation.”

John Yoo, White House legal counsel under Bush and a defender of torture, wrote in the Times: “Faced with President Trump’s executive orders suspending immigration from several Muslim nations and ordering the building of a border wall… even Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s most ardent proponent of executive power, would be worried by now.”

And last Wednesday, Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, called Trump’s remarks about Judge Robart “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Bernie Sanders sums up the situation: “I would hope that people like Sen. McConnell and other Republicans have the courage to stand up to Trump’s movement toward authoritarianism. We’re a democracy, not a one-man show… We’re not a business run by Mr. Trump.”

Whether Republicans (and in other situations, far-left Democrats) will put the nation above personal political concerns remains to be seen. But it’s not far-fetched to believe that Mr. Trump will, in a fit of pique or hubris, step over Constitutional boundaries. In response, Republicans and Democrats in Congress may feel compelled to reach across the aisle and demonstrate a renewed sense of common purpose.

Congress and all Americans have the power to put aside partisanship, listen to each other and embrace a truly United States of America. The willingness to exercise that power will determine the nation’s fate.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And have faith in America. People of good will can, even if late, find common ground.

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FAKE NEWS

One of my favorite comic strips is “The Knight Life” by Keith Knight. Tuesday’s included a schoolteacher’s statement: “Facts are overrated!! All you need is a loud mouth & some Macedonian teenagers!!” Websites with fake news created by kids in Europe abound—fake news many Americans give credence.

On December 9th, Yahoo News (real) reported that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, considered by President-elect Trump for Secretary of Agriculture, posts unsubstantiated stories on Facebook, such as the U.S. Communist Party endorsing Hillary Clinton and the FBI restrained from acting after discovering a jihadi training compound in Texas. Said Miller: “I’m not a news source. I shouldn’t be held to that standard…. I’ll put it up there and let the readers decide.” Reasonable?

Ten days ago, Edgar Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., fired a shot in a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. Welch went there to investigate online “news reports” of a child sex slave ring linked to Hillary Clinton. He told the New York Times (12-7-16), “I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way.” He added, “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.” Welch refused to dismiss the online claims.

Around the same time, President-elect Donald Trump selected retired army general Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. CNN Politics (12-7-16) reported that Flynn has “spread false stories and re-tweeted anti-Semitic threats.” He also refused to disavow the “Pizzagate” story, which led Welch to fire a semi-automatic weapon at Comet Ping Pong. Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., also promoted the “Pizzagate” story. Flynn Jr. was dropped from his father’s transition team. General Flynn remains Trump’s selection.

So how do we respond to real news? The Central Intelligence Agency believes with “high confidence” that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee. The rest of the U.S. intelligence community does, too. (The FBI takes a neutral stance.) Russia’s purpose may have been to embarrass Hillary Clinton and swing the election to Donald Trump. Mrs. Clinton believes Vladimir Putin was out to get her. Republican Congressional leaders have expressed concern. Mitch McConnell (Senate majority leader), Paul Ryan (House speaker) and Senator John McCain all support an investigation.

President Obama says that the U.S. will act against Russia. He likely knows details unavailable to the American public. What will he do? Stay tuned.

As to the broader issue, knowing the truth remains a requisite for democracy to thrive. The real media play a critical role by reporting what’s happening in our world, as well as questioning authorities at the highest level. Sometimes, leading news purveyors get it wrong. But America’s mainstream media deserves high grades and serious attention from the public.

Sadly, the digital age has polluted what we call news. Yes, there are websites offering serious, professional reporting. But as Keith Knight points out, anyone can post a “news story,” which many Americans will accept at face value and pass on via social media. Witness “Pizzagate.” That’s why our political leaders must embrace truth to keep themselves grounded and help us do the same.

Donald Trump’s response to broad concerns about Russian hacking? “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.” It’s possible to live in an alternate reality, believing or disbelieving anything and creating your own truth—if facts don’t get in your way.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And follow the sound advice to think before you speak—and read (legitimate media) before you think.

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SAVING SPEAKER RYAN

Tuesday night, following California’s primaries, Donald Trump explained his “America First” policies. In any global interaction—economic, military, political—he will put America’s interests first. But I suspect that a President Trump would make one exception.

Germany (West Germany until unification) has been a friend of the United States since the end of World War Two. But its views don’t always match America’s. That’s normal. Every nation puts its own interests first. Suppose a rift occurred. Mr. Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel get on the phone. “Here’s what I want America to do,” says Mrs. Merkel. “Yes, ma’am,” says Mr. Trump.

Far-fetched? I don’t doubt that Donald Trump is an American. But he’s also a hyphenated American like all but the Native Americans who populated the country before the arrival of Europeans, Africans and others. On his father’s side, the Trump heritage is German. Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, came to the U.S. from Germany in 1885. Can a President Trump—a German-American—represent the United States’ best interests when dealing with Germany?

If this seems like the hyphenated American bit is being stretched thin, you’re right. What makes America great is that we all share common ground on the right aside of the hyphen. We’re Americans. Unless, that is, we’re Mexican-Americans. Witness Mr. Trump’s claims that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, born and raised in Indiana, cannot be impartial hearing a lawsuit against Trump University because a President Trump would build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.

Now to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R.–Wisconsin). He’s been put through the ringer. Speaker Ryan doesn’t seem to care for Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. It took him some time before throwing to Mr. Trump his half-hearted support. On Tuesday, he called Mr. Trump’s statement about Judge Curiel, “a textbook definition of a racist comment.” Still, he finds more common ground with Mr. Trump than with Hillary Clinton. America first? Or ideology and party first?

On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called for the formation of a New Republican Party (“Dump the G.O.P. for a Grand New Party”). Friedman wrote, “Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education — an ethically challenged enterprise…” Good luck, Tom. When Barack Obama was nominated by the Democrats in 2008, Republicans went ballistic. The birther movement, including Mr. Trump, erupted. The Tea Party coalesced and lashed out. When John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate and went down in flames, the G.O.P. seemed doomed. It lost the presidency again in 2012. It’s still here.

I suspect that the Republican Party will be embarrassed in this November’s presidential election despite the convenient target of Hillary Clinton, like Donald Trump a candidate with low approval ratings. But what about Speaker Ryan? He, along with many Republican leaders, will wind up giving at least nominal support to a candidate who makes racist comments, which he and they find off-putting to say the least. If Mr. Trump wins, Speaker Ryan becomes a factor in establishing the legitimacy of a nasty approach to politics and the denigration of a great many Americans (myself included). Only a Clinton win will keep Speaker Ryan from emerging as a big loser.

If you enjoy these posts, suggest to family and friends that they check out davidperlstein.com. Post something on Facebook, too. And pray for Paul Ryan.

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LOYALTY AND BETRAYAL

Something ordinary drew my attention during President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The ordinary being rather sense numbing, most Americans undoubtedly noticed but had no particular response. We should all be concerned.

If you saw the speech on TV, you know that Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, responded quite differently. Mr. Biden smiled, applauded almost every remark made by the President and rose often to his feet. Mr. Ryan looked pained. He stood only when Mr. Obama mentioned the military and applauded Mr. Obama’s goal of tackling poverty. Yet in the context of American politics, Mr. Ryan was not acting up.

When Republican presidents have addressed Congress with a Republican VP and a Democratic Speaker behind him, the results have been the same. So there’s no good party and bad party here. What we have is a crisis of loyalty overriding the general welfare.

Yes, we all have our loyalties. They begin with our family, extend to our friends, houses of worship, clubs, political parties certainly, cities and states. If you’re an ethnic, you have a certain loyalty to your country of ethnic, or in my case religious, origin. But at what point do the positives of loyalty—assisting others, advocating for fairness and justice, and making sacrifices—become betrayal?

Three incidents struck me in this regard. Two took place hours before the State of the Union. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval forces commandeered two American Navy boats and their crews—ten sailors in all—near an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf. When CNN host Wolf Blitzer interviewed Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Blitzer mentioned the White House saying that the incident didn’t seem to be hostile. Mr. Cotton nearly went ballistic: President Obama was not only clueless but actually defending Iran. What would you expect? That’s the Republican Party line. Less than 24 hours later, Iran released the boats and their crews.

The second matter struck me during the CBS Evening News. White House correspondent Major Garrett reported that Senator John McCain (R–Arizona) had considerable differences with Donald Trump but would support Trump if he were nominated for the presidency and won that office. The inference: Loyalty to party takes precedence, even if it includes accepting a distasteful candidate.

Finally, when President Obama mentioned the military, almost all Republicans stood. That was the only time they did so. Surely the President offered a few thoughts worthy of praise. But party loyalty demands that Republicans recognize Democratic ideas at their own risk. The Republican base along with billionaire donors to Political Action Committees (PACs) can oust incumbents in primaries not because they can’t win but because they won’t repeat the far-right mantra.

In 1816 Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. (1779–1820) offered an after-dinner toast: “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” At what point does demonstrating uncompromising loyalty betray the ideals we profess, in effect throwing the nation under the bus?

In 1872, U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (1829–1906) took a different approach. “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Schurz got it.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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TRUMPING THE DONALD

I don’t support saying negative things about people. The Rabbis consider lashon hara—evil speech—one of humanity’s great sins. But let’s get real. Negativity can be part of a grand strategy to achieve something necessary. Something great. That’s why American political life revolves around attack ads. So I’m adding my own wisdom to the political scene: Donald Trump is a schmuck.

Before you condemn me for engaging in evil speech, let me offer sound reasons for such a statement. I’ll begin with evidence—something politicians tend to avoid.

The Donald slammed Mexicans as rapists and murderers. Mexican immigrants anyway. Well, illegal Mexican immigrants if you’re picky. Lots of people come here from Mexico illegally. That’s wrong. But they come to work—and they work hard. Yet a number of recent mass murders in this nation were perpetrated not by Mexicans but by white American citizens.

Then the Donald attacked John McCain’s war record. “He’s not a hero,” said the Donald. Why? McCain, a Navy fighter pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and held captive for 5-1/2 years. POWs, according to the Donald, can’t be heroes. As it happens, McCain’s father was Admiral John McCain, Jr. The North Vietnamese offered to release the current senator from Arizona during the war—without his captive brothers. McCain refused special treatment. Of course, capturing the Donald would have been impossible. In college, he received student deferments then a 4-F medical deferment before getting a high draft lottery number. In fairness though, he did spend his high school years at a military school.

Campaigning for all he’s worth (“I’m really rich,” he boasts proudly), the Donald flew to Laredo, Texas to speak about immigration. He claimed great personal risk. Bravely, he eschewed body armor and a helmet—if he could find one large enough to cover his comb-over. Still, no one else in attendance appeared worried. The Donald also attacked former Texas governor Rick Perry for wearing glasses, supposedly to make him look intelligent. (I might give him a pass there.) And The Des Moines Register claimed that the Donald denied their reporters press credentials for an event in Osklaoosa, Iowa because the paper urged him to drop out of the Republican primaries, calling him a “feckless blowhard.”

Now let’s move to a better reason for me to castigate the Donald. I’m hoping he gets so riled up that to spite me, he buys 100 copies each of my novels—Slick!, San Café, The Boy Walker and Flight of the Spumonis—and burns them publicly. Nothing spurs an author’s sales like a good-old-fashioned book burning. Those bright orange embers are dollar signs. Trust me, you can’t buy that kind of media exposure and excitement. In fact, I’ll cut the Donald in for one-third of my royalties. It’s the least I can do; we’re both from Queens.

But wait. Could the Donald be playing me? Has he been waiting for me to call him a schmuck so he can burn books so my sales can soar so he can direct yet another revenue stream towards his bottom line? Suddenly, I’m feeling anxious. Out of control. Maybe I should have titled this post “Trumping the David.”

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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