Sunday, November 24, 2019

Elected to Break the Law?

I've heard many commentators make the point that Donald Trump was elected to shake up the system or to challenges the establishment or, in his words, to drain the swamp.

This opinion piece is just one more example whereby his apologists attempt to tell the majority of voters in this country, you know, the ones who voted against him, that Trump should be given the benefit of his victory to enact whatever policies he wants. Please don't impeach him; he's only doing what he was elected to do.

This is an argument?

I will say from the outset that I do agree with some of the premises of the article because we have elected a class of officials who have enacted policies that enrich themselves and their businesses, foundations, universities, and foreign cronies. Hunter Biden should never have gotten the position with Burisma. We have reenacted the Gilded Age and defended it by elevating money to the point that it's become the point of the discussion. Box office receipts lead the Monday morning news. Salaries for athletes, performers, CEOs and hedge fund managers are defended as what the market will bear, or that their talents are so specialized, that they are worth the (m)(b)illions Stock market programs lead the ratings. And we have, to use a timely phrase, bought the goods. Literally. We are in an unending war in Iraq because George W. Bush decided to lie about the threat it posed to the country. It poses a threat now, but only because of his policies. President Obama never confronted Syria over its use of chemical weapons. The middle of the country was left to rot and ruin while international trade took jobs from the working class.

Donald Trump was elected to clean all this up, and in some ways he's tried to do that. The problem is that his methods and policies are informed by conspiracy theories, FOX News hosts who know he's watching and feed him a steady diet of fear for him to tweet to the general public, and his own wide, bloated, unending ignorance of the law, the constitution, and basic manners. So when I read the article above, I saw the point that Mr. McCarthy was trying to make. The problem is that the course Donald Trump has followed has been disastrous for the country, and now for him.

To address a few of McCarthy's points, Mr. Trump is more than crude. He uses vile, divisive language that attacks people and calls them unfit, traitorous and dangerous simply for disagreeing with him.

He is being impeached not for doing something analogous to Vice President Biden's asking the Ukrainian President to investigate corruption in his own administration, but because Trump believed in a debunked conspiracy theory and wanted Biden investigated to help Trump get elected.

There might not be direct evidence of Trump working with Vladimir Putin, but the effect of Trump's policies and pronouncements have benefited Putin handsomely, from taking his word that Russia didn't interfere in the 2016 election to denying Ukraine aid to fight the Russians.

Donald Trump might have been elected to transform America's foreign policy, but he has done nothing of the sort, except to make it worse. Our allies don't trust us, he's made decisions in a moment based on faulty information, and refuses to think about the long-term effects of his actions. When Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Racep Tayyip Erdogan, and Xi Jinping have all played you, you're not making anything better. Remember that we sold out the Kurds so we could keep the oil, at a time when the last thing the world needs is more oil. Isn't that where our foreign policy went awry in the first place? In 1919?

And now the president is putting himself in the middle of the military justice system, going beyond his powers as Commander-in-Chief to act as both judge and jury. Please tell me how that helps the country.

If a minority of the country's voters want a president who bathes in conspiracy and wants to bend the law to his own benefit, then they should vote for that. It doesn't mean that it's the right thing or the moral thing or the legal thing. Because its isn't.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Conspiracy of One

It began with conspiracy theories and it might well end because of conspiracy theories.

Not that I needed any other reason to oppose Donald Trump before he became president, because he was a publicity-addicted real estate developer who lied, cheated, withheld payments from people who did work from him, declared bankruptcy six times, and was (is) a vile, prejudiced, sexist, but the main reason I disqualified him was his belief in the conspiracy theory that president Obama was not born in this country. That sort of lazy, disjointed intellect is a sign that you are susceptible to other manipulators who can seize on your confusion to sow doubt, fear, and chaos.

Pretty much the Trump presidency so far, no?

Now it's a conspiracy theory that has Ukraine, not Russia, hacking into, and apparently harboring, the Democrats' computer server that led to Hillary Clinton's defeat in 2016. The president has been told that this is, in fact, a conspiracy theory and that his own intelligence services know that it was Russia that hacked the computers, but he either doesn't learn good or doesn't care. Ether way, his failure to analyze is why he's on the brink of impeachment.

And that doesn't even take into account his denial of climate change, labeling it a Chinese hoax, or his saying that millions of illegal immigrant's votes were the reasons why Hillary had more popular votes than he did. 

It's no wonder, then, that he reacts to verified facts in the way he does, lashing out with language that would appall any American, much less the not-ever-again moral Republican party.

Also, for someone who demands blind loyalty in his appointees and employees, the president is remarkably eager to undermine, attack and intimidate anybody who even seems to disagree with him. He's churned through appointees and cabinet members and doesn't even bother to fill vacancies he's not interested in. He doesn't seem to read briefing books or to be interested in policy nuances. What we're left with is being governed by the gut instincts of someone who is ill-informed about how the United States government works, constitutional laws and norms, and plain old decent behavior. 

It's beyond absurd.

Which is why it's imperative that the Democrats nominate a candidate who can stand up to him, expose his ignorance, and attract wavering Republicans and Independents who voted for him last time. I believe that candidate is already in the field and that neither Mike Bloomberg nor Deval Patrick will turn out to be anything other than late entrants who make headlines, but nothing else.

The election in less than one year away. Please register to vote if you are eligible, and help to register people who will vote for common sense and decency.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, November 10, 2019

I Like Mike

And Pete, Joe, Elizabeth, Bernie, Amy and all the rest. As in more presidential election years, I would like to take the best policies of all the candidates and roll them into one person. perhaps in a few years we'll be able to do that, but for now we are limited by scientific laws, or at least the ones that rational people still adhere to. And truth be told, I will likely vote for a rusty nail if the Democrats nominate one, rather than vote for a president who uses vile language and is more comfortable with fear, blame, and fiction than he is with actually running the country.

But back to the nominees. I am at the point now where I don't believe the Democrats should nominate Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. If last week's elections told us anything (again), it's that the vast middle of American voters truly wants a president who will reflect policies that will make their lives easier or more productive. They don't want fear and attacks from the right, so why would they want them from the left? I understand what Sanders and Warren are saying, and in I completely agree that our culture has been too tolerant of social and economic inequality and that we need to fix the problems that are associated with them. Moving too far to the left will not attract the people the Democrats need to win in November.

What about Mike? I think he has some very strong strengths in terms of his style, his ideas, his record, and the fact that he used to be a moderate Republican and is now a moderate Democrat. He certainly has his weaknesses: Stop and Frisk, being a billionaire, being a technocrat, and his policy on guns, which will not be popular with people he'll need to win over. The key will be how he communicates his message and how he will address those on the left who are suspicious of his moderation and his wealth. It would be a great sign if he were to actually and forcefully come out against the carried interest rule, which would send the message that the very wealthy need to pay their fair share. It's a better message than soaking the rich, and it would raise needed revenue to pay for health care and education.

It took 40 years for the country to move as far to the right as we are now. Moving back to the far left will not happen in this one election and nominating a candidate who promises to do that will, I think, be a great mistake. Change occurs slowly and Democrats need to respect the fact that many people like the Republican stances on immigration and foreign policy, but they don't like the way Donald Trump is conducting those policies. The Democratic nominee has to be one who addresses those concerns and offers a more respectable, more responsible, more thoughtful response, as opposed to the disjointed, fearful, emotional screeds we hear daily from the White House.

Nominate a moderate who can talk about the day-to-day issues that concern most Americans in a way that assures them that Democrats will run the country in a fair, equitable manner. Run a hard-fought campaign and don't be afraid to confront the president on his lies and his ignorance.

That's the path to victory.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest

Sunday, November 3, 2019

November's Debate Will Be Decisive

We are at the point now where the Democratic candidates for president need to break out or go home. It looks like we will lose some key voices, such as Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, and Beto O'Rourke has already left the building. The November debate could also be the turning point for Andrew Yang and Julian Castro, though the latter had a late surge in fundraising which allowed him to qualify for the show.

Then there was the Iowa poll that showed Elizabeth Warren leading the pack, and a new national poll that shows Biden with a lead not just among Democrats, but a 12 point lead over the president. And it's got FOX News written all over it. Another poll puts Biden in the lead, but with a smaller margin and some caveats about his policy positions and performance on the campaign trail.

This week also saw Warren give some details about what will likely be a $20 trillion dollar plan to pay for her Medicare for all health policy. Other estimates put the cost at $34 trillion because she seems to be overestimating just how efficient the government can run the program, but you get the idea. It's going to be expensive and it redistributes the tax system so that the ultra wealthy pay a lot more.

Many people have criticized the plan because they say it will ultimately require middle class taxpayers to pay more too, but I'd like to see how much the middle class will save in health insurance premiums in return for tax increases. I'm thinking that those will turn out to be far less than the premiums, making it a net gain for most earners. Warren, and the press, need to publicize that aspect of her plan.

Pete Buttigieg is also rising in these polls and is fourth in both Iowa and nationally. He and Amy Klubichar are hoping they can build on their more moderate positions in the November debate and attract those who are wary of the Warren?Sanders left and the more jittery Biden supporters who are unsure that he can rise above his other debate performances.

November's debate will be key because there are no debates in December, and then only a month before the voting begins, so each candidate will be looking for that signature moment, or to quell any concerns from past debates.  In the end, this election will come down to the Midwestern states that the president won in 2016, and possibly North Carolina. Texas is still a long-shot.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest