Sunday, December 18, 2016

We Are the Majority. Shout It.

I think what's sustaining me, and alternatively giving me strength, is the knowledge that the United States is not going to become a second-rate nation and that our form of government is not being irrevocably damaged by the Russians, Wikileaks, right wing white nationalists or Donald Trump's cabinet nominations. No, we cannot let these entities knock us off center or dissuade us from our message as a nation. We alone can lend legitimacy and commitment to democratic republicanism throughout the world, and we alone can fix our internal problems. If anything, the election and its aftermath must make those of us in the majority of voters who rejected the hateful, negative, xenophobic, blame-filled rhetoric of the Trump campaign more committed to the good fight, more convinced that we have history on our side, and more vocal in the coming years to speak truth to power.

OK, we can put our gloved fists down now. On second thought, keep them up.

The right wing ideologues who will run our government come January 20 will certainly do some damage to the environment, to the middle class, to those who need society's protection from the ravages of a less caring government, and to our commitment to freedom and equality. But it is incumbent upon those of us who see the country's mission as different to make our wishes known, to take to the streets if necessary and to monitor every move, covert and otherwise, that the new administration makes. And that includes filibusters, lawsuits, social media and nonviolent protests whenever we deem it necessary.

Remember that Donald Trump ran a terrible campaign, has no clue as to how to be a competent president, and that he has nominated people who don't like government to, well, run the government. There will be some shockingly embarrassing moments in the next year alone, much less the next four, and we need to exploit them at every turn. Do not be hesitant. Do not be silent. Do not do the Democratic, left-wing thing where we say that we don't want to be strident or uncompromising because that's what Republicans do. Be difficult. Call out the perpetrators whenever possible. Take charge.

That's the only way to fight against a group that has no shame when it comes to power grabs, fake news, and outrageously false accusations. We are the majority and we have to act like one.

Have a great holiday season. I'll be back in 2017.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Military-Government Complex

Just in case you thought you'd get an early political holiday present in the form of Donald Trump actually being more moderate than his campaign promises, it's time to start planning for that wrapped lump of coal to show up via Amazon drone. Which might be good news for the coal miners and executives waiting for a rebound (not going to happen), but is terrible for the majority of the country that voted for a science-based, constitution-respecting, human rights-defending, livable wage-proposing administration that will now be delayed for at least four years, much to the shame and detriment of the United States.

No, what we are seeing is the flowering of an idea that I suspect most Americans have forgotten about after cramming it for their high school history final exam questions and assuming it was nothing they needed to remember. That's right, folks, I'm talking about good old Dwight Eisenhower's warning about the emergence and power of the Military-Industrial Complex. And Ike didn't just warn us about how the complex would corrupt democracy. He also presciently said that we can't continue to take our natural resources for granted:
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Eisenhower is a terrific role model for us today because he was a military man who understood the danger of too much military influence in what is supposed to be a civilian-run government. He respected that the constitution gave him the power to be commander-in-chief, but that power must be wielded responsibly, pragmatically, and in conjunction with the people. Ike used it well, especially when you consider that the 1950s saw a significant increase in the number and power of nuclear weapons, the Suez Crisis, attempted uprisings in Hungary and Poland, and attacks on our ally Israel.

This is why Trump's infatuation with the military, and the fact that he's appointed generals to a significant number of cabinet and government posts, is so disturbing. He is using his power to surround himself with other people who see power differently than civilians with no military experience. And he seems to continue to believe that the military has the answers to many of our policy questions.

As for the industrial part of the equation, nominating a Labor Secretary who's against a livable minimum wage, an Education Secretary who bashes public schools, a true know-nothing for Housing, an anti-science guy at the EPA, and what looks like the mother of all oil executives as Secretary of State proves pretty conclusively that this is going to be a government-by-testosterone with little to no moderating influences from what's left of the sensible Republican Party. Trump is going to rule by the Only I Can Fix It credo he ran on, and it looks like he's going to keep his hands in his business dealings despite all of the evidence that suggests that decision will be his ultimate undoing.

What's even more disturbing is the news that the president-elect is not electing to attend the daily intelligence briefings that are vital in this time in our history. And if anyone needed more intelligence, it's Donald Trump. This weekend he is bashing the professionals who are saying that the Russians were far more involved in the election that previously reported and he's also questioning whether the Russians or "some guy in New Jersey (not me)" is responsible for the hacking.

These are the tidbits that let you know that Trump thinks that nothing is possible because anything is possible. He's not anti-intellectual, he's un-intellectual. It's hubris, and we all know how that ends.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Foreign Affairs: Be Very Afraid

I think I've decided that the best way to incorporate the reality of Donald Trump being president is to just assume that what he's saying at the time is undergirded by willful ignorance, lack of knowledge, boasts, and the idea that he's a huckster showman who has little working knowledge of the United States Constitution, the country's history, and his responsibilities as the head of its executive branch. In fact, I have begun to sleep better at night assuming that he's going to make a shockingly terrible decision on a weekly (daily?) basis, and at some point will provoke both domestic and foreign crises simply to keep himself in the news.

Perverse? Yes, but such is the state of our politics.

The litany of Trump's ignorance of diplomatic and presidential protocol is concerning, especially for a 70 year old man who has some impressive educational accomplishments. I certainly understand that he believes that he was elected to shake up the system and to drain the political swamp in DC. The problem is that there is a right way and a wrong way to make great change. The right way is to have a comprehensive plan as to how you're going to do it and to tell your friends first how your approach might affect them. Gushing over the dictators in Pakistan, the Philippines and Kazakhstan is not the way to do that, especially when British PM Theresa May only gets a "come by if you're in the US" invitation. Trump is playing the businessman who doesn't want to upset any potential customers, but this is reason one why electing business people with no political experience is a terrible idea.

And then there's Taiwan and China. Somebody needs to tell the know-nothing who will occupy the Oval Office come January, that the Chinese have a great deal of power and that they are not afraid to use it. He can't treat the Chinese as some backwater nation that can be cowed with 45% tariffs or threats about undercutting American companies with cheap materials and labor. Might Trump be the one who ultimately tames China and revives US trade? Possibly, but he's not going to do that by wading into the one issue that China cannot abide, which is recognition of Taiwan. Perhaps Obama can save this bit of face before he leaves, but he and his team need to pointedly remind Trump that there are still some rules he needs to respect.

But what do you expect from a man who is surrounding himself with generals. Talk about sending a message. The problem, again, is that Trump is sending the message that he doesn't really understand the constitution. The military is supposed to be under civilian control, not making major decisions about the country's policies. And the bigger problem is that because Trump doesn't have a clear plan and is ignorant of both policy and world events, he's going to have to rely on those generals for advice, and there are going to be a lot of them in the room during cabinet meetings. If he appoints a Secretary of States that he doesn't really respect, like Mitt Romney, Trump will more likely minimize his advice and turn to his military men. Not that Mitt Romney knows how to be Secretary of State. On-the-job training is going to be a hallmark of this administration. The will make unnecessary mistakes. I hope they learn from them.

If we could only have General Tso. But, alas, his creator is gone.

As for domestic affairs, the deal with United Technologies and Carrier was a public relations win for Trump, but at the expense of the taxpayers in Indiana who will pay more and get less because Trump and Mike Pence did the Republican thing and gave the company a tax break. Bribery? Yes. Smart? No. Because Trump will not be able to replicate what he did with Carrier with other companies. If he had thought about a long-term strategy, maybe he would have a template to work with., but he's making it up as he goes along and the people who voted for him based on his jobs promise will be terrifically disappointed with the trade-off.

And my bet is that those 1,000 saved jobs will ultimately go to Mexico. After all, as Trump has said, it's just good business.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest