Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Jurors Aren't Journalists: Why this Week Is a Turning Point for Donald J. Trump

I spent more time writing here on the True Blue Liberal blog during the 2016 election than I did during the 2020 election or (so far) in the 2024 election, but there was one of the hundreds of blog posts from that election cycle that always stands out for me, because it has become truer and truer as we have gotten to know Donald Trump better and better. On August 17, 2016, my blog post title was a quote from Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now: "When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a certain safety in their very diversity and proportions." You can click on the link to get the context of the longer quote or read the novel to see the position of the longer quote about August Melmotte in the center of a long novel. Knowing Donald Trump and his subsequent history though, the short quote that served as the post title should be self-explanatory. In August 2016, we (voters, the media, casual observers, political professionals of both parties, etc.) had trouble concentrating on the missing Trump tax returns or the fraudulent Trump University or the fraudulent Trump Foundation or the casual racism or the casual sexism or multiple bankruptcies or the Trump modeling agency or the thousands of "minor" lawsuits or Melania's immigration status or... well, you get the picture. It only became worse with scandal after scandal added later in the campaign and during his years in office. On the other hand, all the media needed to focus on about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is that some of her emails seemed to be missing and that Trump liked to call her "Crooked Hillary" and his followers liked to chant "Lock Her Up." In comparison to that simple story, his stories were muddy and complicated and changed day to day, and that became his best defense.

However, this week that may finally be changing. The jurors who are now assembled at the New York Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street are not being asked to think about stolen classified documents and the January 6th insurrection and alternate electors and the current indictments in Florida and D.C. and Georgia (or on Trump University and tax returns and the hundreds of other scandals from 2016). They are not being distracted by the "very diversity and proportions" of the other frauds of the diminished and sleepy man they are currently facing at the defense table. Their only task for the coming weeks is to look at one story, one group of hush money and election interference felonies involving the National Enquirer, Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and the crimes that sent his long-time lawyer Michael Cohen to federal prison while working in service of "Individual-1." 

The jurors are not journalists who will be distracted by the next shiny object of the news cycle. They have one story to concentrate on. 

I served on a couple of juries in my life, and I have great respect for the process and the seriousness with which jurors take that responsibility -- toward the law and the rights of the defendant -- when they start their deliberations.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Kennedy Problem Redux or: RFK, Jr., isn't the first member of the Kennedy clan to sabotage a Democrat's re-election chances

I'll start this off the way I started my "All The Way With LBJ Redux" post by saying that I'm 68-years-old and I'll be voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in seven months, but if I were much younger, I might not be. This time, rather than thinking about my memories of 1968 and 1972, I'm thinking about the election of 1980 and The Kennedy Problem. It's also a mea culpa about my own votes as a 24-year-old during the 1980 elections. 

This year's Kennedy in the presidential race seems like he's so far out that his anti-vaccination and other conspiracy theories might draw more voters from the QAnon fringe that from the left-wing malcontents, but most of the money his campaign is getting is from the MAGA camp, so they are certainly betting that most of his voters will be taken from Biden. I live in a lefty/hippie environment and I'm already seeing RFK, Jr., bumper stickers and yard signs. Even more than sixty years after J.F.K.'s assassination, you never know what the magic of the Kennedy family name will do. One could argue that it also did incalculable damage in 1980, the last time that an incumbent Democratic President was defeated.

For those who weren't around in 1980, it's important to remember that the murders of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy in 1963 and 1968 didn't seem like history or the distant past. They still stung. Their surviving brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, occupied J.F.K.'s Senate seat and carried more than a little bit of the family legacy with him wherever he went. He was also much more conventionally liberal on many issues than the middle-of-the-road Georgia Democrat in the White House, Jimmy Carter. I voted for Ted Kennedy in the New York primary on March 25, when it was still a race and Teddy was still leading Jimmy in many national polls. But, although Kennedy won more delegates in some big blue states like New York and California, by June 3, Carter had won 1,948 delegates to Kennedy's 1,215, and only 1,666 were needed to win the nomination. This is when, of course, most candidates would have conceded to reality. Two months later, Ted was still not conceding; in August he was calling for an open convention in which delegates would not be bound on the first ballot. It wasn't until everyone was at the convention at Madison Square Garden on August 11, when the delegates voted to uphold the voting rules, that he finally agreed to concede. Then, on August 12, he gave one of the great political speeches in American political history, "The Dream Shall Never Die" speech. It was about traditional liberal values. It was about him. It was a speech worthy of his late brothers.  And it mentioned the Democratic nominee, Jimmy Carter, once in the half hour he was on stage: "I congratulate President Carter on his victory here. I am confident that the Democratic party will reunite on the basis of Democratic principles, and that together we will march towards a Democratic victory in 1980." It wasn't even an unequivocal endorsement. I watched Ted's speech with awe and when the convention ended, I was not a Jimmy Carter supporter.

Enter John Anderson, a name that is fading from the collective memory [and from my memory too, so give me a few minutes while I do some research and try to figure out why the f*ck I voted for him in the general election]. He was more liberal than Carter on issues like abortion and guns and gas taxes while being more conservative on fiscal issues. He was a straight-talking independent Republican who had a lot of support on college campuses and from Hollywood liberals like Paul Newman (who had been a prominent Eugene McCarthy supporter in 1968 and had been at the March on Washington in 1963 and the first Earth Day in 1970). 

But, looking back, I think the main reason that I didn't vote for Jimmy Carter was because of the remaining loyalty to Ted Kennedy and the fact that Ted didn't throw his full weight behind the Democratic nominee at the convention or on the campaign trail.

And we ended up with Ronald F*cking Reagan as our president for the next eight years.

I don't want any 24-year-old voters looking back when they're 68 to say, "Maybe we wouldn't have become the Russian Province of Trumpistan if I had voted for Joe Biden rather than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in 2024."

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Joe Biden needs to know that this anti-war movement is not going away.

Today's Washington, D.C., march
captured on CNN, 1/13/2024
Those of us who lived through and participated in the anti-[Vietnam]war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s know that this anti[Gaza]-war movement of 2023-24 will have an effect on the 2024 election, at least at the margins. Joe Biden, who was a politically-aware young adult finishing law school in 1968 when L.B.J. dropped out of the presidential race a little more than seven months before the election, should know this better than most.

Joe Biden needs to take this movement, which immediately brought thousands of students out on college campuses in October and hundreds of thousands of people of all ages to the streets of Washington, D.C., in November, December, and today, as seriously as Johnson took the demonstrators protesting "Johnson's war." For many of these protestors, the bombing of Gaza's civilians is as much "Biden's War" and the product of U.S. foreign policy and weapons as it is the fault of Benjamin Netanyahu.

The people in this march today -- these people and organizations posting on Twitter/X about the #March4Gaza today -- will not be voting for Donald J. Trump in November, but a significant number of them won't be voting for Joe Biden either. He certainly can't take young voters for granted in this cycle.

Monday, December 25, 2023

All the Way with LBJ Redux or: Joe Biden's age problem isn't his age, but the age of his voters.

I'll start this off by coming clean and saying that I'm 68-years-old and I'll be voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in less than eleven months (or for whichever Democrat is running against Donald Trump or another Republican next November), but if I were 18 years old, I might not be.

All the Way LBJ campaign button
We look back at Lyndon Baines Johnson now and many of us see the lasting legacy of his presidency in the triumph of Great Society programs, when Medicare was passed and when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally codified many of the demands of the Civil Rights movement. In 1968, however, there was nothing on many young people's minds but his role as the face of the Vietnam War. I was a young teen and the voting age was still 21 at the time, but I would have voted for anyone other than the president presiding over that war. I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I walk through neighborhoods where the stickers on lampposts are about the killing that is currently happening in Gaza -- killing that is being fueled by U.S. weapons that are being tied to possible war crimes. There are a lot of young voters who aren't as concerned as older voters with Biden victories like the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, the $1.9 trillion in Covid relief, the confirmation of a large and very diverse crop new Federal judges, or falling unemployment, or a falling rate of inflation, or even avoiding the recession that was being almost uniformly predicted for the last three years. I can say that, for me, none of those domestic issues would have mattered until I was married with a child in the depths of the Reagan/Bush era.

All the Way LBJ protest button

In today's New York Times, the headline "In Campus Protests Over Gaza, Echoes of Outcry Over Vietnam" appeared and it only confirms what I've been seeing and fearing about young voters. Gaza will be an overriding issue for some of them, and I don't blame them; if I were fifty years younger, I would be them. Will college protesters and others who are horrified by what they see from Gaza on television and social media shift their votes from Biden to Trump in large numbers? Of course not. But they might stay home or vote for Cornell West or RFK, Jr., or Jill Stein. And us old folks can't tell them they're throwing away their votes. Don't we remember that young people are smarter than their elders? I certainly couldn't have been told that I was throwing away my support when -- as a 16-year-old non-voting anti-war protester -- I was 100% behind Bejamin Spock of the People's Party over the too-moderate-for-me George McGovern.

In these days when pundits like to act as if the major party nominees have already been confirmed nine months before the party conventions, it's hard to remember how late in the process LBJ bowed out of the 1968 contest. 1968 was a year of shocks, from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy [Sr.], through Russian tanks in Prague, general strikes in France, and violent cops on the streets of Chicago, but before all those events came a routine presidential address about the Vietnam War on March 31, 1968, in which Johnson talked in some detail about his plans for peace in Vietnam for forty minutes and then ended by saying, "With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office — the presidency of this country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president." This was on a Sunday night in prime time during a time when presidential addresses pre-empted all broadcast networks and when all we had were broadcast networks; tens of millions of Americans got this same surprise announcement at the same time from a president who had won in a record landslide in 1964.

So, it's not a sure thing that we are predestined to a Biden v. Trump rematch in 2024, but if we are, the oldest major-party candidate of all time* can't take the support of young voters for granted. 


*Speaking of candidates' ages and in trying to put myself into the shoes of young anti-war activists, I do remember myself as a watcher of politics thinking that Lyndon Johnson was ancient; he was only 59 in the video above.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Chapter 34 of East of Eden is about Donald Trump and Elon Musk (and all the Trumps and Musks of our past and future)

I am reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden right now as the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol is recommending criminal charges against the ex-President for some of his obvious crimes; during today's hearing, Hope Hicks was shown on video paraphrasing her ex-boss as saying "nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. So, that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is winning." Late last night I happened to read Chapter 34, which is entirely about legacy and how we are remembered after we're gone (it's also a very short chapter in a very long and great book; if you have seen the movie with James Dean, the events depicted in the movie haven't even begun by Chapter 34). It's an interesting and atypical chapter in the book in that it doesn't even mention a single one of the large cast of characters in the novel by name, but it speaks about and to all of us and gives an insight into John Steinbeck's view of all literature -- of all art.

I want to pull out lines to emphasize, but the chapter is so short that I'm just reproducing it here...


Chapter 34

A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?” 

   I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught–in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too–in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well–or ill? 

   Herodotus, in the Persian War, tells a story of how Croesus, the richest and most-favored king of his time, asked Solon the Athenian a leading question. He would not have asked it if he had not been worried about the answer. “Who,” he asked, “is the luckiest person in the world?” He must have been eaten with doubt and hungry for reassurance. Solon told him of three lucky people in old times. And Croesus more than likely did not listen, so anxious was he about himself. And when Solon did not mention him, Croesus was forced to say, “Do you not consider me lucky?” 

   Solon did not hesitate in his answer. “How can I tell?” he said. “You aren’t dead yet.” 

   And this answer must have haunted Croesus dismally as his luck disappeared, and his wealth and his kingdom. And as he was being burned on a tall fire, he may have thought of it and perhaps wish he had not asked or not been answered. 

   And in our time, when a man dies–if he has had wealth and influence and power and all the vestments that arouse envy, and after the living take stock of the dead man’s property and his eminence and works and monuments–the question is still there: Was his life good or was it evil?–which is another way of putting Croesus’s question. Envies are gone, and the measuring stick is: “Was he loved or was he hated? Is his death felt as a loss or does a kind of joy come from it?” 

   I remember clearly the deaths of three men. One was the richest man of the century, who, having clawed his way to wealth through the souls and bodies of men, spent many years trying to buy back the love he had forfeited and by that process performed great service to the world and, perhaps, had much more than balanced the evils of his rise. I was on a ship when he died. The news was posted on the bulletin board, and nearly everyone received the news with pleasure. Several said, “Thank God that son of a bitch is dead.” 

   Then there was a man, smart as Satan, who lacking some perception of human dignity and knowing all too well every aspect of human weakness and wickedness, used his special knowledge to warp men, to buy men, to bribe and threaten and seduce until he found himself in a position of great power. He clothed his motives in the names of virtue, and I have wondered whether he ever knew that no gift will ever buy back a man’s love when you have removed his self love. A bribed man can only hate his briber. When this man died the nation rang with praise and, just beneath, with gladness that he was dead. 

   There was a third man, who perhaps made many errors in performance but whose effective life was devoted to making men brave and dignified and good in a time when they were poor and frightened and when ugly forces were loose in the world to utilize their fears. This man was hated by the few. When he died the people burst into tears in the streets and their minds wailed, “What can we do now? How can we go on without him?” 

   In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world. 

   We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Why Are You Voting for Democrats on November 8? A True Blue Liberal Twitter Poll.

There are so many reasons, of course, but what's your number one reason to #VoteBlueIn2022?

Do you want to protect democracy and the rule of law by defeating election deniers and #TrumpCoupAttempt co-conspirators and apologists? Protect a woman's right to choose by electing Democrats who will codify the protections of Roe v. Wade legislatively and defeating Republicans, some of whom would outlaw abortion nationally? Protect Social Security and Medicare from Republicans under Rick Scott who promise to end these "entitlement" programs that so many of us depend upon (and have paid dedicated taxes to support throughout our working lives)? Or is it some other issue that rises to the top for you this November (if so, add in the comments here and on Twitter)? 

 This poll will be open for a week.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Twitter Poll: Which member of the #TrumpCrimeFamily will fly the coop first?

The slow drip of Trump investigation news continued today with the report that New York Attorney General Letitia James has subpoenaed Donald Junior and Ivanka as part of the fraud investigation into the Trump Organization. That led me to post a poll on Twitter that I've asked earlier.

Because we all know that the cowardly crime family members would rather live on a Trump-branded golf course in Dubai than in a jail cell in upstate New York, don't we?

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

"The World Is Too Much With Us..." Happy 251st Birthday to William Wordsworth

 The World Is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
And if you're looking for books to read (and who isn't), I'd wholeheartedly recommend a book from Jonathan Bate that published in time for Wordsworth's 250th birthday last year, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet Who Changed the World. Or, even better, the beautiful illustrated and annotated edition of Wordsworth's masterpiece, The Prelude, published by David R. Godine in 2016.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

POLL: Who was the G. Gordon Liddy of #StupidWatergate?

Yesterday the news broke that G. Gordon Liddy died at the age of 90. Liddy was one of the organizers of the original Watergate burglary that eventually led to the downfall of Richard Nixon and he remained totally unrepentant about his actions.

Liddy's return to the news brings up the obvious question. Who was the G. Gordon Liddy for the #StupidWatergate(s) of the twice-impeached ex-president now hiding out at Mar-a-Lago?