Sunday, January 15, 2017

On the Transition, There is No Comparison

It is inevitable that United States Presidents are compared not only to who served before them, but to those who came after them. If these past few weeks are any guide to the next four years, if Trump can avoid impeachment and conviction, then we can start making room for Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore.

It's not just the sheer grace, intelligence, humanity, empathy, joy and focus that Obama brought to the office. It's the way he conducted himself and the way he presented the image of the United States to visitors, other heads of state, and anyone else who still believed that this country can be, and must be, a force for good in the world.

Yes, there were times when I wanted President Obama to be full of righteous anger and to show it. To get a little sweaty under the collar. To yell a little more. To get carried away, But at the end of a speech or press conference, I would usually marvel at how he could make a point forcefully without resorting to histrionics or contrived media moments. And there were no scandals, personal or otherwise, and no need to follow the money or worry about a wiretap. He served as a president we could be proud to have lived under. Anyone who is turning 20 this year can honestly say that they lived their formative years under a president who was a political, moral, and family role model.

And compared to what's next in our future, Obama will go down in history as one of the great ones. Perhaps he will be remembered as the last of the presidential presidents, who understood that the Commander-In-Chief and head of the Executive Branch had a responsibility to act like a role model and to be aware that others were watching him, and not just as someone commanding a media audience. He might also be remembered as the last president to actually have a plan as to how to run the country, rather than repealing first and worrying about what happens later. Or who used social media to further a positive agenda, not to denigrate, bully, lie, obfuscate or brag.

I will miss Barack Obama as President of the United States. He broke a major barrier and made this country greater. I hope that we can hold on to that greatness in the face of someone who doesn't recognize that we are great, and have been great for a very long time.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Post Hack, Ergo Propter Hack

News that the Russians, which means Vladimir Putin, wanted Donald Trump to win the election shouldn't surprise anyone. They've clearly sized him up and see him as the friend that he will turn out to be. They also are taking him seriously when he says that he will support torture and doesn't care much for getting the United States involved in other country's affairs. That Trump will help the Russians in Syria is merely icing on the babka. Trump hasn't a clue as to how to conduct foreign policy and Putin knows that.

But I'm not willing to follow others who say that the Russian effort turned the election. After all, if the point was to get more people to vote for Trump, then the Russians failed miserably, as Hillary Clinton's 2.7 million vote majority will attest. And it would be a real stretch to conclude that the Russian hackers focused on blue collar, high-school-educated, former Obama voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania because that's where Trump won the election. Were those voters especially susceptible to fake news? Perhaps some of them went into the last week of the election and weighed the candidate's positions on jobs and, with the Comey letter, concluded that Hillary was not the person to solve the problem. Let's not forget that Clinton ran a bad campaign, taking Michigan for granted in the final weeks when the lesson of Bernie Sanders' shocking performance (or maybe not really shocking) in the primaries should have alerted her team to the potential for an upset.

The real problem with the hacking is that Donald Trump encouraged it as a candidate, and then dismissed it and the professionals who will be advising him once it threatened his fragile hold on his self-esteem. We are now going to be led for the next four years by a classic bully, one who is unsure of himself so he couches his responses in anger, dismissal, disparagement and unthinking emotional outbursts rather than reason and analysis. He's already shown that when he's attacked, he goes into survival mode and lives on twitter. As someone who lived through Chris Christie for eight years, I can tell you that this isn't going to end well.

This strategy has worked to a limited degree when Trump goes after companies that make plans to build plants in Mexico, but it failed miserably with the hacking issue, and it probably won't serve him as well as he thinks once he takes office (shudder). Eventually, Trump is going to realize that Americans want their president to act a certain way, and tweeting your fears every morning won't substitute for policy.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year.

The new year always begins with so much hope, and this year is no different. I hope that my friends will be healthy and happy. I hope that we can solve some of the country's big problems and more of the little ones. I hope that we can come together as a nation and a world and finally realize that we're all in this together and that the deaths and atrocities are a stain on the human race. I hope that I can be a better person, a better friend, a better spouse, a better parent, and a better teacher.

But hope can only get you so far. At some point, you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want done. On that point, this will be a year of fighting. For justice. For the right of everyone to have a healthy body, a healthy mind, and a full stomach. For the right to exercise the vote. For the right to free speech. For a free, quality education. For economic growth that begins to close the gap between wealth and not-so-wealthy. For clean air and water. For facts.

There is more, but you get the point.

There will be challenges as soon as this week because Congress will begin moving towards legislation that will ultimately strip 20 million people of their health insurance. The assaults on Medicare and Social Security are sure to follow as will the foreign policy meanderings that will be endemic to an administration that only sees raw power as worthy of respect.

The good news? That we will turn our attention and energies to fighting for what we believe in.  That's what this year will be about. More people voted against the agenda than for it. Never forget that.

And have a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest