TRUMP’S A.S.S.: The Top 100*

*Uh, right now, it’s the Bottom 89 of the Top 100

It’s Thursday, October 22, 2020. It’s 12 days until Election Day and the night of the second presidential debate.

So, since July 26, I’ve been counting the 100 days from then until the election with something I call Trump’s A.S.S. – Acts of Shame and Stupidity.

As we get closer to Election Day, the incidents of Trump mishegas keep mounting. That’s making this list hard to manage.

It didn’t require much effort to find 100 acts of shame and stupidity committed by Trump in office.

But he wasn’t going to stop on July 26. And some of the things that have happened since then outstupid many of the early acts.

Why does it matter? Well, for starters, it helps pass the time until the day of reckoning for this cetriolo.

And, with all the efforts he’ll make to divert attention from all the shameful and stupid things he’s done since the Russians helped hand him the keys to the White House, it’s a reminder that we have receipts.

Anyway, here’s the top 100, in reverse order. I’ll add to this each day until the end.

Which, hopefully, is with this jackass getting thrown out of office. Bigly.

100. Crowd claim

A day after his inauguration, Trump claims 1.5 million people attended.

Photographs completely disprove the assertion.

In fact, a march to support women’s rights the next day drew more people, according to crowd scientists.

99. Just a little bit early

Most new presidents embrace a honeymoon period, avoiding strident politics to maintain the goodwill the nation naturally feels.

Not Trump.

Less than a month after taking office, he brings Air Force One to Melbourne, Florida, for the first of many re-election rallies, avoiding the problems facing him in Washington to alternately brag and whine about a range of topics.

98. Spreading Islamophobia

In November 2017, Trump retweets videos from a British ultranationalist group purportedly showing acts of violence by Muslims.

Naturally, the videos are suspect.

One of them, in which Muslim migrant supposedly beats a Dutch boy on crutches, the assailant isn’t Muslim. The others are four-year-old events with no explanation.

Trump’s tweets incur the wrath of – among others – then-British Prime Minister Theresa May.

That leads, of course, to Trump telling her to stop criticizing him and do more to combat “Radical Islamic Terrorism.”

97. Bannon cannoned

“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” Trump told The Washington Post in 2015.

Supposedly, that would include Steve Bannon, the anti-Semitic white nationalist who advised Trump in the campaign and joined him in the White House.

But, after helping shape Trump’s ham-handed response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, an administration full of infighting claims Bannon, who slithers off to aid would-be right-wing dictators around the world.

96. Still smarting

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is an annual event at which the media and president ease some friction and show mutual respect.

But since coming to the White House, Trump has never attended the dinner.

It’s possible that Trump might side with some critics who say the dinner is an unhealthy mix of reporters and those they report about.

It’s more likely the self-proclaimed tough guy still nurses wounds delivered at the dinner by President Barack Obama in 2011 and 2016.

https://www.cnn.com/2016/04/30/politics/white-house-correspondents-dinner-obama-best-lines/index.html

Another reason: Trump has no sense of empathy, respect or humor.

95. ‘Stable genius’

After Michael Wolf’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” quotes a friend as saying he’s “not only crazy but stupid,” Trump makes one of his most famous statements.

He accuses critics of trying to make political points by raising questions about his competence – instead saying that he is, in fact, “a very stable genius.”

Nothing that’s transpired in the days since proves Trump right.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/us/politics/trump-genius-mental-health.html

94. Wild pitch

Trump saw that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health and the leading expert on the pandemic, was invited to throw out the first pitch of the truncated baseball season in Washington.

This apparently riled him – so much so that he announced he was throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in August.

Which came as a surprise to the Yankees, who had extended a general invitation to Trump but had not understood there was a specific date.

After a couple of days of controversy, Trump retreated, saying he had too much to do that Saturday. https://nyti.ms/3hTXyaE

It’s petulant for Trump to be jealous of the guy who’s trying to help him solve the greatest health crisis in a century.

But, for once, he has it right when he explained why people see Fauci – rather than Trump – as the person they trust in the crisis.

“Nobody likes me,” he said.

https://nyti.ms/2PiNdso

93. Dangerous inspiration

Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric has a price.

Radicalized by the speeches, Cesar Sayoc decided to take matters into his own hands. He attempted to mail pipebombs to prominent Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as to the New York headquarters of CNN.

Sayoc eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

He isn’t the only domestic terrorist inspired by someone who’s supposed to be the leader in fighting domestic terrorism.

https://www.npr.org/2019/08/05/748420957/cesar-sayoc-florida-man-who-mailed-bombs-to-democrats-and-media-gets-20-years

92. Insufficiently loyal

In 2016, then-Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama became the first major senator to support Trump’s presidential bid.

For his loyalty, he was rewarded with the post of Attorney General. In that job, Sessions – who once joked that he liked the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoked pot – gleefully enacted all the heavy-handed changes Trump sought.

But.

Finding the one ethical bone in his body, Sessions decided to recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia because he might have been a party to it.

That led to the Mueller investigation, Trump’s bête noire for the first two years in office.

Trump never forgave Sessions, badmouthing him at every opportunity.

Once the 2018 midterm election ended, he dumped him as AG. And, when Sessions sought to regain his Senate seat in Alabama, Trump stumped for his primary opponent.

91. Throw some business his way

The United States was supposed to host the G-7 summit in 2020.

Usually, the setting is a resort location. And that gave Trump an idea. Why not steer the summit to one of the resorts owned by the Trump Organization?

In particular, what about the financially struggling Trump National Doral in Miami? In June, when Doral is normally empty because it’s so hot in south Florida?

Why not get six of the world’s richest countries to run up a tab at the family business? And, of course, there would need to be rooms for the other American representatives besides himself and any of his family-member advisers?

More than a few people began to utter the phrase “conflict of interest.”

After two days of controversy, because of what he called the “both Media & Democrat Crazed and Irrational Hostility” (the unnecessary initial caps are his), the summit was moved to Camp David, Maryland.

Except that the coronavirus pandemic probably means it won’t happen at all. Which would disappoint Trump, who wanted to invite his buddy Vladimir Putin.

90. What are friends for?

At a 2018 meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2018, Trump insists that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada.

Trudeau says otherwise. Turns out Trudeau is right.

Also turns out that Trump knows Trudeau is right, bragging to Republican donors in Missouri that he made up the information he gave Trudeau.Nice way to treat your neighbor and biggest ally.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2018/03/14/in-fundraising-speech-trump-says-he-made-up-facts-in-meeting-with-justin-trudeau/

89. Unity, schmunity

The purpose of the State of the Union message is to inform and unite the country.

On Feb. 4, 2020, Trump was having none of that.

Trump refuses to shake hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to racist radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-perverse-presidential-facade-of-donald-trump-at-the-state-of-the-union

88. More fore

There’s nothing wrong with a President of the United States playing golf.

According to Golf Digest, the only president who didn’t play in the past 50 years is Jimmy Carter.

So Trump is certainly entitled to play 18 every so often – even if the emphasis on the often.

There’s just three things to consider:

First, he lambasted Barack Obama for playing a lot. Except that, so far, he’s played twice as frequently as his predecessor. https://bit.ly/3fIYxcs

Second, he plays at golf courses in which he has a financial interest, such as Mar-A-Lago in Florida and Bedminster in New Jersey. https://bit.ly/3gD9m0Q

Third, the cost of Trump’s golf outings – much of it paid to his businesses – far exceeds the salary he supposedly isn’t taking for the job.

In Trump’s case, the mendacity and conflict of interest are par for the course.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-mar-a-lago-county-security-cost_n_5e213629c5b6321176110b35

87. Omarosa

Omarosa Manigault Newman’s qualifications for working in the White House were that she got Trump good ratings on “The Apprentice” and was one of the few African American women who could stand him.

But after about a year as an adviser, she was fired by chief of staff John Kelly for what was described as money and integrity issues.

In the process of walking out the door, she managed to tape conversations with Trump and others, including them as part of a tell-ail book in which she said Trump used racist language.

Instead of ignoring her, Trump went after her. He called her what he thinks is the ultimate insult to a woman: “that dog.” He also said she was “a crazed, crying lowlife.”

Manigault Newman said Trump’s comments proved the points she made in the book – that Trump has no respect for women or African Americans.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/us/politics/trump-omarosa-dog.html

86. ‘Dumb as a rock,’ says the ‘f—ing moron’

Rex Tillerson was an unlikely choice to be Secretary of State.

He was a career businessman – the CEO of Exxon Mobil – not a diplomat; there’s a different art to those kinds of deals.

Trump didn’t know that when he nominated Tillerson for arguably the most prestigious cabinet post.

Still, Tillerson was perceived as one of the grownups in the room – a clear thinker who could keep Trump’s foreign affairs dealings in check.

Unfortunately, a couple of things happened.

One is that Tillerson discovered that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was doing a lot of freelance foreign policy – with far less experience than Tillerson.

And second is that Tillerson discovered the supposed leader wasn’t the shiniest chip in the casino. According to reports, at one meeting of senior staff, Tillerson called Trump a “f—-ing moron.”

In March 2018, Trump let Tillerson go, replacing him with the more supple Mike Pompeo.

About nine months later, Tillerson told a cancer fundraiser in Houston that Trump pressed him to break the law in some instances and never seemed to be up on the topics he needed to know.

Trump said Tillerson – the guy he supposedly vetted and picked for the most important cabinet position – was “as dumb as a rock.”

85. Unfortunately, they couldn’t translate from Clueless

At a ceremony that was supposed to honor Navajo veterans of World War II, Trump takes a political dig at Sen. Elizabeth Warren with a reference to “Pocahontas” in his comments – which, by the way, are made in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/27/us/politics/trump-elizabeth-warren-pocahontas-navajo.html

84. You’re the bestest, Boss

If you’re like most normal people, when someone praises you in public, you get a little embarrassed.

But for Trump, hosannas are air and water – he can’t seem to live without them.

In June 2017, cable networks showed what they thought was the start of a cabinet meeting. It’s not unusual – often, there’s something going on that a president might want to share with the American people.

But this meeting started with Trump saying how great a job his administration was doing. Then he went around the room to solicit comments from department heads and agency chiefs.

From Vice President Mike Pence (still there) to Attorney General Jeff Sessions (no longer there) to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (gone, too) to HHS Secretary Tom Price (yup, gone), these supposed leaders kowtowed to Trump with embarrassing sycophancy.

It made responsible people cringe. It kept Trump breathing.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/06/donald-trump-cabinet-meeting

83. Thanks. Now get lost.

The cruelty of Trump’s immigration stances stared him in the face whenever he went to one of his properties in the first years of the administration.

According to The New York Times, it wasn’t until 2019 that Trump’s properties – including Mar-A-Lago – began eliminating undocumented employees.

Like so many others seeking cheap, exploitable labor, Trump turned to the same desperate workers that he demonized in rallies before and after being elected.

Then journalists uncovered this slice of hypocrisy amid the gaudiness.

So groundskeepers and housekeepers – who were using the meager pay to support families in the U.S. and in their homeland – were turned out.

It’s the intersection of a lot of Trump themes: one-way loyalty, exploitation, expedience and – worst of all – cruelty.

82. Aw, isn’t she adorable?

For one participant, it was Take Your Child to Work Day at last year’s G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

For some reason, Trump thought it would be – cool? informative? impressive? – to bring his daughter, Ivanka, to the meeting of world leaders.

The G-20 hadn’t planned any activities for Ivanka like coloring sheets or getting to stand in front of the G-20 backdrop like the real leaders.

Instead, she tried to get into conversations with some of them, as if she knew something about what they were discussing. Only to get shrugs, glares and a memorable stink eye from IMF president Christine Lagarde.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stephaniemcneal/ivanka-trump-g20-viral-video

81. The fixer

Trump tried to send Michael Cohen a message: Stay loyal.

But his lawyer and longtime fixer saw that a way to reduce the trouble he was in was to cooperate with prosecutors.

And so, when he revealed he had taped conversations concerning payoffs to women with whom Trump had affairs, Trump lashed out.

He said it was “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

“The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!.” he added.

Cohen eventually pleaded guilty to lying to Congress for “Individual No. 1” about meetings concerning a Trump Tower in Moscow – telling Congress that “Individual No. 1” was Trump.

https://www.vox.com/2019/2/27/18243038/individual-1-cohen-trump-mueller

All this and more is promised in Cohen’s book, “Disloyal, A Memoir,” which is due out before Nov. 3.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/michael-cohen-book-claims-trump-colluded-russia-will-never-leave-n1236693

80. Special sauce

Going to the White House should be a special occasion, especially if you’re a young man whose team just won college football’s national championship.

And, befitting a red carpet occasion, perhaps you’ll get a nice meal or at least some impressive hors d’oeuvres to describe to the folks back home.

So imagine the surprise of Clemson’s football team in January 2019 when they went to the White House to celebrate their national championship – and found stacks of food from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and other fast food outlets.

Not only not special, it’s the kind of food the players’ coaches warn them to stay away from if they want to be world-class athletes.

Trump thought he was being generous – he had to pay for the food himself thanks to the government shutdown he helped orchestrate. Of course, since he’s supposed to be such a wealthy sort, you would think he could afford a little something more than burgers and fries.

One Clemson player was heard on a Twitter video saying “I thought it was a joke.”

It wasn’t. The guy responsible, on the other hand…

https://hyperallergic.com/479898/white-house-pulls-fast-food-one-on-ncaa-football-champs/

79. Shutdown No. 1

He’s listed as the author of “The Art of the Deal.” But Trump’s inability to negotiate leads to a lengthy government shutdown in early 2018.

Democrats refused to agree to a continuing resolution keeping the government open unless Trump offered to extend protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the country as young children.

By the way, don’t confuse this shutdown with the other one that took place a year later. We’ll get to that.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/us/politics/trump-shutdown.html

78. Sikke en joke!

The headline on the NPR.org story about it starts with the words “No joke.”

https://www.npr.org/2019/08/19/752274659/no-joke-trump-really-does-want-to-buy-greenland

Because it’s understandable that intelligent people would consider Trump’s idea of buying Greenland otherwise.

About a year ago, Trump must have looked at a map and saw this big hunk of land in the north Atlantic. How many golf courses could he build on that thing?

And since he hadn’t seen or heard of it before, he thought maybe the Danes had forgotten about it.

So he thought he could make a deal with them. He didn’t understand that while Greenland isn’t completely independent of Denmark, it’s autonomous and has its own government.

The Danes tried to be polite, but told Trump there was nothing to talk about. “Greenland is Greenlandic,” said Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen.

The rejection – particularly coming from a female PM – must have set Trump off. He abruptly canceled a planned trip to Copenhagen, saying there was nothing else to talk about.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/20/trump-greenland-denmark-mette-frederiksen?fbclid=IwAR2f3tiYo9Q5r9KGahzD2DjuqkotgrOYjYpRvTv_f7V1yFTI-VH-66iagM0

77: FULL!

He couldn’t say it about his bankrupt Atlantic City hotels. So he thought he’d try saying it about the United States:

“Our Country is FULL!,” Trump tweeted on April 7, 2019. (Unnecessary capitalization is his)

That’s quite a concept – and quite a head scratcher for anyone who’s driven across stretches of the Midwest, Plains and Southwest.

Trump’s thought is that he doesn’t want anyone else coming into the country. But the problem is the country is going to need immigrants to grow. 

According to experts, a declining birth rate and aging population means that cities are less crowded, businesses are closing and declining tax revenue is making it harder to fund what remains.

What really is FULL! is Trump. Of what? Use your imagination.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/09/upshot/trump-america-full-or-emptying.html

76. Whose law? Whose order?

Trump has been sounding the mantra of “Law and order” a la Richard Nixon since just after the protests against the police murder of George Floyd began.

But Trump’s definition of “law and order” is a little skewed, as Peter Baker’s story in the Times illustrates.

When peaceful protesters gather to complain about police mistreatment – such as the elderly Buffalo man who got knocked to the ground and disregarded by the supposed bringers of law and order, Trump is quick to show his support for the bad cops.

But when law enforcement officials go after him or his cronies (see Stone, Roger or Manafort, Paul) for actual violations of the law, those officials are “human scum” or “dirty cops.”

Hopefully, law and order will actually be restored on January 21, 2021 – when real law enforcement officials begin to investigate whether any crimes have been committed in the White House the past four years.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/us/politics/trump-law-enforcement.html

75. Flush with power

It’s safe to say that nobody who’s occupied the Oval Office has been as preoccupied with toilets as Trump.

The john is supposed to be where he does much of his morning tweeting – sometimes laboring to write a tweet.

But his sustenance – his rallies before crowds of admiring apparent co-sufferers – are where he really jiggles out his frustration with low-flow plumbing.

“Ten times right, 10 times. Bah bah,” Trump says, referring to the number of flushes he apparently needs.

He’s also lashed out at low-flow dishwashers and faucets – and just last week his administration proposed increasing limits on the amount of water that can flow from a shower head after he said he has trouble washing his hair. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53761744

Trump also has issues with newer lightbulbs that last longer and don’t use a lot of energy, claiming they – and not the goop he spreads all over his face – are responsible for his orange glow.

Of course, the whole idea behind these changes in plumbing and lighting is to save water and electricity. Conservation is not an idea that holds water with Trump.

https://www.npr.org/2019/12/27/791707318/trump-vs-toilets-and-showers-dishwashers-and-light-bulbs

74. Person, woman, man, camera, TV

If you’re older, you sometimes need to take a test to determine your cognitive ability. It’s an important way to help find out if you’re on the path to dementia. 

For Trump, however, determined to prove he’s all there mentally, getting past the test was seen as a major accomplishment. 

He bragged about it in several interviews, saying he got “extra points” for getting the words “person, woman, man, camera, TV” in the correct order. 

Unlike the SAT – which his niece said his family paid someone to take for him – there’s nothing competitive about a diagnostic test.  

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/person-woman-man-camera-tv-trumps-mental-health-is-a-test-for-america

73. Into every life, a little hair must fall

The American doughboys who manned the trenches of France in 1918 confronted their own nerves and endless German artillery.

But when it came time to honor their sacrifice in 2018, some terrifying raindrops kept Trump away – or at least that’s what we thought for more than a year.

The purpose of Trump’s trip to France was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. On the day of the ceremony at the American cemetery , rain and fog were given as the reason his helicopter couldn’t take Trump to the site.

It was the same rain and fog that confronted the leaders of France, Britain and Canada visiting gravesites of their countrymen in the French countryside. 

Their solution: Take a car. For Canada’s Justin Trudeau, it was about a two-hour drive from Paris – a small sacrifice especially compared to the trips they were honoring.

Trump instead visited a cemetery closer to Paris.

Britain’s defense secretary took a swipe at this so-called leader. “Rain was a regular feature on the Western Front,” said Tobias Ellwood. “Thankfully it did not prevent our heroes from doing their job.”

As it turned out, Trump’s real excuses for not going, according to Jeffrey Epstein’s recent piece in The Atlantic, were 1) he didn’t want to muss his hair and 2) he thought the soldiers who he was supposed to be honoring were “losers” and “suckers.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46179291

72. Trump’s prince of darkness

Stephen Miller.

(Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you nauseous.)

Miller is Trump’s racism whisperer. He reinforces the impulses that date back to when Trump and his father tried to bar Black residents from their properties.

Immigration is Miller’s specialty. He’s the point person on intimidating officials and spreading the odious message of hate on TV talk shows. 

And, according to reports just this week, he engineered the heartless plan to separate families at the border. https://nbcnews.to/2QegqWa

Miller’s brashness, his rudeness, his affected unlikeabllity rile civilized people. But he’s a hero to the aggrieved who think America is a little too kind to people who aren’t white Christian males.

Qualifications? None, really. Just being a jerk is enough for Trump. https://bit.ly/3hAdu2h

71: Help not wanted

One would think that, after eight years out of power, Republicans would be lined up for posts in the new Trump administration.

But, in 2017, to say Trump took his time filling executive branch posts is putting it mildly. According to Michael Lewis’ book, “The Fifth Risk,” Obama administration officials waited in vain to assist the Trump people in the transition – because no Trump people showed for there to be a transition.

Two weeks into the new administration, major government posts remained unfilled as Trump vetted would-be appointees for suitable loyalty.

This administration – if you can call it that – has been plagued by turnover and unfilled positions. The word “acting” appears more on a roster of this administration than in the cast of a Hollywood movie.

70: Unhealthy choice

The idea of ensuring the “sexual and reproductive health” of women around the world doesn’t seem that controversial, right? After all, it doesn’t just refer to childbirth – it also seeks to protect women against such things as rape and genital mutiliation.

Obviously you don’t think like Trump. Or any of the other religious or political autocrats out there.

Last year, the administration joined some of the more unfriendly nations toward women in demanding that United Nations agencies eliminate the term from their missions. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar calls the term and others like it “ambiguous” and says it can “undermine the critical role of the family and promote practices, like abortion, in circumstances that do not enjoy international consensus and which can be misinterpreted by U.N. agencies.”

How does it feel to live in a nation whose government is pro genital mutilation? 

Of course, given that we’re talking about Trump, is it any surprise?

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/10/trump-war-concept-women-health-sexual-reproductive-rights/

69. Pipelines of pain

Trump was just getting his Twitter finger warm in January 2017 when he decided to go big for the fossil fuel companies that help fund his presidential bid.

Overruling positions taken by President Obama, Trump gave the OK to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, oil and gas lines through vast swatches of the nation’s midsection.

Environmentalists opposed the pipelines because they furthered the use of climate-changing energy at a time when the world is trying to lower emissions. 

Native Americans were infuriated by the Dakota Access line in particular because it threatened the water sources on their land, as well as sacred burial grounds.

Court rulings in 2020 temporarily halted both projects. Trump is determined to fight the halts. Joe Biden is determined to scrap the projects.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/06/politics/keystone-xl-supreme-court-pipeline/index.html

68. No happy returns

He promised them during the 2016 campaign. Then he told us they were too complicated to understand.

Here’s what’s easy to understand: Trump’s failure to release his tax returns hides whatever financial shenanigans he’s been up to – both before and after Jan. 20, 2017. 

And it obscures whatever forces – foreign governments, banks and moguls – have provided financial backing to a man who has spent more time in bankruptcy court than you and I have spent at the motor vehicle bureau.

This year, both the New York County District Attorney and the House Democrats went to the Supreme Court to get the returns. Trump claimed that, as president, he had the God-given right to withhold them.

The court ostensibly ruled against Trump, denying his assertion. But, aided by the fact that at least two of the judges are his hand-picked sycophants, the prosecutor and Congress need to be more specific about what they’re looking for.

New York County is making some progress, although a subpoena for Trump’s accountants is delayed until a forthcoming court ruling.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/24/politics/vance-trump-taxes-subpoena/index.html

And even if the DA gets the returns, he can’t reveal them unless he files legal action. The House is still working on it.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/07/08/supreme-court-trump-tax-returns-financial-records-353428

68. Medicaid for few

The mission of Medicaid is to help low-income and unemployed people get the medical help they need.

This bothers conservatives for some reason. They feel that people are getting something for nothing or for not enough. 

So rather than being concerned that everyone is getting care, they want them to pay some sort of price. Forget that some of them aren’t working because they aren’t healthy enough to do so. Unless you’re not working because you have a trust fund or a portfolio, you are not entitled to be well.

This is one of those issues on which Trump – one of the biggest actual moochers in American history – goes along with the hard right. His administration announced its support of work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

The deal here is that Medicaid is administered by states. Twenty-eight states, most of them Trump lost in 2016, ignored the idea – refusing to impose work requirements.

Other states, mostly those carried by Trump, imposed the restrictions. https://bit.ly/3lteXtd

The good news is that the effort to roll back the cruelty is making progress. In three conservative states – Oklahoma, Missouri and Nebraska – voters have approved Medicaid expansion, overturning the limits imposed by tame GOP lawmakers. In other states, court victories have at least halted the effort. https://nyti.ms/32Bo96b

66. Comes to shove

Dusko Markovic is a big deal in Montenegro. He’s its prime minister.

And that makes him a big deal to NATO, which in 2017 was in the process of adding the Balkan nation to the alliance.

But when Trump is in a room, there can only one big deal in his eyes.

So, at the NATO meeting in Brussels, when it came time for member and soon-to-be-member leaders to pose for a photo, Trump knew he had to get to the front of the stage fast. And something – Markovic – was in the way. 

He shoved him aside without an “excuse me” or even taking notice of the man.

Markovic was cool – he said he understood Trump needed to be in the front and prominent.

At the very least, he certainly understood grace and manners better than the fool representing the United States. https://cbsn.ws/31EsGFS

65:  Ethics limit

Walter Shaub had enough.

He served as director of the Office of Government Ethics under two prior administrations – George W. Bush and Barack Obama – and considered that a honor and privilege. Mainly because he didn’t have a lot of adjudicating ethical issues.

When Trump came in, Shaub realized that the normal standard of ethics couldn’t stand up to the relentless assault. He resigned – which left Trump free to pick an ethics chief that no one’s ever heard about or reasonably expects to.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40522488?fbclid=IwAR1s2VHPg3Ft23o3gDHShjlHR-uvhnIIbCOOtHZikts9UkVoksiwzwPvlioTr

64. No love

Some Republican members of the 115th Congress got a double whammy in November 2018.

The Republicans lost 37 House seats on Election Night, yielding control to the Democrats.

The day after, the folks who lost because of him heard the leader of their party berate them for not supporting him enough.

Of one defeated representative, Mia Love of Utah, Trump said with sarcasm dripping, “Mia Love gave me no love. And she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that, Mia.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/us/politics/trump-midterms-house-senate.html

63. Reagan erased

Even conservatives were shocked when Trump announced in October 2018 – as he was about to attend a rally, of course – that the U.S. was pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

The treaty eliminated short and intermediate-range missiles from land. It made it harder for either side to launch a surprise strike that obliterated the other before there was any chance to respond.

It was an accomplishment of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, which is one reason why Trump’s unilateral withdrawal bothered conservatives. 

But you know who liked the idea? Vladimir Putin, of course. The withdrawal gave him free rein to develop the weapon capability he seeks to intimidate his neighbors in eastern Europe.

Among the statesmen bothered by the move was Gorbachev himself.  He said Trump’s decision to withdraw from the treaty was reckless and not the work of “a great mind.”

62. Miserables attract

Joe Arapio is a miserable excuse for a human being.

As sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, he abused prisoners, conducted a sham investigation claiming Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged and, in July 2017, he was found in contempt of court for holding Hispanic immigrants without suspicion they committed a crime.

So, of course, Trump pardoned him weeks after his conviction. https://bit.ly/34Sn7po

61. Virus blaming

Tyrants look for scapegoats when they screw up. 

It was no different in 2020, as Trump chose to describe the virus infesting America as the “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu.”

The problem is that there are very real consequences. Attacks on Asian Americans, particularly those of Chinese ancestry, increased sharply as Trump’s feeble-minded supporters respond with violence to Trump’s scapegoating.

“They’re parroting Trump’s language; animus that’s tied to China being the source and spread of the virus and the pervasive use of orientalist stereotypes and racist demagoguery,” said Cynthia Choi, a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate.

Trump’s response to the violence: 安静 (silence). https://to.pbs.org/3bmlWjf  

60. Dissing DACA

DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – is designed to prevent a humanitarian tragedy. It’s a program promising undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children that they wouldn’t be deported from the only country they’ve ever really known.

Of course, why should that stop Trump from trying to throw them out?

His administration went to court to try to erase the DACA program and gain the right to eject those eligible. The thinking of the mastermind of this – Stephen Miller – was that Democrats would be so desperate to keep those affected from deportation that they would cave on the administration’s draconian immigration demands.

The Supreme Court foiled the plan for the most part when it ruled in June in favor of keeping DACA – although Trump’s acting Homeland Security stooge Chad Wolf said the program would stop taking applicants and limit renewals to one year.

https://cnn.it/3h6ckKQ

59. Bridge to nowhere

“Infrastructure week” is a running joke in the Trump administration that, in reality, is not so funny.

Trump promised when he won election that he would seek bipartisan consensus in rebuilding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, a major impediment to sustained economic growth. But whenever his administration plans a rollout of ideas, Trump does something to overshadow it.

Some examples: The existing rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey are antiquated and falling apart. A new tunnel is desperately needed.

But Trump announced on a Friday in March 2018 that he asked Republican leaders to withdraw federal support for the project.

Why? Supposedly, in a fit of pique at Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader from New York. https://nyti.ms/2Z7dXBO

Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were his targets again in 2019. He invited them to the White House to discuss infrastructure, walked into the meeting, berated them about congressional investigations into his administration and then walked out to issue a statement in the Rose Garden.

And if you don’t think that was a planned stunt, maybe you’re interested in buying the Brooklyn Bridge. https://politi.co/3h1jlwc

58. Those scary starving kids!

All through the fall of 2018, Fox News viewers got the warning daily: They’re coming!

A so-called caravan of about 15,000 poor, displaced people seeking relief from the danger in their Central American homelands marched slowly through Mexico. They believed that stuff on the Statue of Liberty about tired, poor, masses yearning to breathe free and a lamp by a golden door.

Trump saw this tragedy in motion as an opportunity. With the midterm elections coming up, demonizing these people – many of them women and children – was an opportunity to protect Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

So he sent 5,600 U.S. troops to the border to make sure these demons didn’t invade.

Actually, these migrants posed no threat to anyone. Except for the troops’ well-being.

The soldiers were forced to spend much of November, including Thanksgiving, away from their families for this dubious threat.

It was a waste of money, a morale zapper and – in the end – the Republicans lost the House anyway. https://nyti.ms/3h1LIu7

57: Birth of a, uh, word

Covfefe became a word on May 31, 2017, when Trump tweeted, in toto, “Despite the negative press covfefe ”. 

That was it. People had no idea what he meant. 

It reminded people that he seems to have nothing else to do but pick out these thoughtless thoughtlets on a mobile device and share them with the rest of the world.

It’s a Twitter presidency. Unfortuately.

Since taking office in 2017, Trump has tweeted thousands of time, sometimes more than 100 times a day. It’s the one thing we know he actually does, since his announced schedule is often just plain empty to allow for tweeting and watching cable news.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a president using social media. Sometimes. it’s a way to wisely convey a message to the people of the nation and the world.

But Trump’s overuse of the medium – to sound off about what he sees on “Fox and Friends,” to use as a trial balloon on policy, to go after the media – diminishes the office and the nation for which he’s supposed to be working.

https://bit.ly/3bBNqRP

56. The liar’s club

C.J. Cregg, they’re not.

The man and three women who have served as Trump’s press secretaries have been nothing remotely resembling Allison Janney’s character on “The West Wing.” They’ve willingly spread Trump’s lies, berated reporters doing their job, and otherwise done their best to obfuscate and harass.

At least three of the Fib Four: Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the incumbent, Kayleigh McEnany, actually held briefings.

The third, Stephanie Grisham, never did – the only press secretary in the 91-year history of the job not to do so. https://nyti.ms/2ZgCe8zl

55. That old gangster of mine

Hangin’ with the bad boys seems to be Trump’s theme when it comes to meeting heads of state.

One of his first invitations to the White House upon taking office was to Rodrigo Duterte, the Phillppines president accused of ordering extrajudicial killings of drug suspects and of crudely disparaging Barack Obama. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/30/us/politics/trump-invites-rodrigo-duterte-to-the-white-house.html?ref=todayspaper

But perhaps the worst offender has been president Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

When he came to visit in 2017, members of his security detail charged into a group of protesters outside the Turkish embassy in what Washington police called “a brutal attack.” Nine of the protesters were injured.

Fifteen members of the detail were arrested. In the end, however, the charges were dropped against all of them through the apparent intervention of the Justice Department.

Trump himself said nothing about it as he went about praising Erdogan for winning a referendum to increase his power – most observers called it a sham – and gave Erdogan “very high marks” for leadership.

Erdogan returned in 2019. At a joint news conference, Trump sought a question from “only friendly reporters” from Turkey – where Erdogan has been a world leader in jailing journalists.

As Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said “There aren’t any others left.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/trump-stands-by-while-erdogan-orders-attack-protesters/580093/

https://www.vox.com/world/2019/11/13/20963736/trump-turkey-erdogan

54. Vlad’s dream

Vladimir Putin had a wishlist of things he wanted when he tilted the 2016 election to Trump.

Top on the list had to be the weakening of NATO, which has obstructed some – though not all – of his expansionary plans in eastern Europe.

Trump has accommodated Putin – as he would say – “bigly.”

Relations with traditional U.S. allies are frayed as Trump brays that they don’t pay their fair share of the alliance’s costs.

And, in July, to the chagrin of anyone interested in checking Putin, Trump announced the withdrawal of 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany.

In the words of Bavaria’s state governor: “Unfortunately this seriously damages German-American relations. A military benefit cannot be seen. It weakens NATO and the U.S.A. itself.”

In the words of Putin’s flack: “We never hid that [we think] the less American solders there are on the European continent the calmer it is in Europe.”

Not only is the wolf licking his chops, he’s butchering English grammar.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/02/politics/trump-germany-troops-russia-intl/index.html

53. Placating the haters

Trump himself was – to be kind – reluctant to serve in the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam era, even though he attended military school.

So you would think he would be happy to see anyone else take that responsibility.

Apparently not.

Despite their willingness to serve their country, and over the objections of military leaders, transgender people were banned from service to a country they love.

It’s just one of many ways his administration has placated the extreme views of religious fundamentalists concerning the rights of LGBTQ people.

That includes arguing in court that employers can discriminate on the basis of sexual preference and gender identity, scaling back civil rights enforcement for LGBTQ students, and supporting the legal case of a Colorado baker who sought to refuse service to a gay couple.

https://projects.propublica.org/graphics/lgbtq-rights-rollback

52. Gravitas

John Kelly. James Mattis.

They were retired military leaders – the fact that Trump relied so much on military types was concerning. But they were expected to be the “grownups in the room” as Trump went about playing at being president.

By the end of 2018, Trump rebelled.

Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general who became White House Chief of Staff in July 2017, was forced out after growing frustration with Trump’s erratic behavior.

Mattis, also a retired Marine general, resigned as Secretary of Defense in December 2018 effective the following February. That resignation got moved up to Jan. 1 after Trump actually read – or had someone read him –

Mattis’ resignation letter that basically condemned his world view of belittling traditional allies and showing obeisance to the leaders of Russia and China.

Trump tried to do the “you can’t quit, I fire you” schpiel of wounded bullies, but no one accepted the idea.It does appear as though Kelly and Mattis got their revenge in The Atlantic’s piece published last week.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/05/politics/john-kelly-agrees-with-jim-mattis-on-trump/index.html

51. Subtraction by addition

The Consumer Financial Protection Board was created by the Obama administration to help Americans ravaged by the 2008 financial crisis.

When Richard Cordray, the agency’s head, stepped down in 2017, Trump appointed his budget director – Mick Mulvaney, who once called the agency “a sad, sick joke” – as acting chief while keeping him in his job as budget director.

The goal wasn’t to get a consumer advocate in the post. The goal was to sabotage the agency. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/us/politics/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-cordray-leader-trump-mulvaney.html?ref=todayspaper

50. Sharpie

In the Oval Office last September, Trump wanted to prove that Alabama – a state loyal to him – was on the path of Hurricane Dorian as it prepared to hit Florida and the Carolinas.

So on an enlarged National Weather Service map of the storm’s track, someone – most people think it was Trump itself – used a Sharpie to draw a little black abutment included Alabama.

Let’s be clear: Trump didn’t want Alabama to get hit by the storm.

It’s just that he wanted Alabamans to know he was thinking of them as the storm approached the East Coast – on which Alabama is not.

The problem is the National Weather Service need people to accept the credibility of its forecasts in order to save lives endangered by serious weather.

Thus there was tension between Trump and the weather service. One official changed the service’s position to reflect Trump’s view, which caused the professionals in the service to protest political interference – and pretty stupid interference at that.

https://time.com/5775953/trump-dorian-alabama-sharpiegate-noaa/?fbclid=IwAR2yj8pV-kCPmJGvhSXRX7v_tRRmqtAJvLz6FT_hKY2vDVKux2EcYqS-_68

49. Medicine man

He’s not a doctor – although he bizarrely claims he has an aptitude for medicine inherited from a relative.

But a desperate Trump, looking for some way to stop a pandemic that jeopardizes his presidency, came down big on hydroxycholoroquine.

The drug is an approved treatment for malaria and lupus. And a French study initially indicated that it might – might – be suitable for treating COVID-19.

But the study raised doubts almost immediately. And the FDA determined – more than once – that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for the virus.

That didn’t stop Trump from touting it. “What have you got to lose?.” he asked, a medical ignorant throwing up unproven solutions from the worst health crisis of our generation.

He stockpiled it, gave it to other countries suffering from the pandemic and even said he was taking it as a prophylactic.

And some people found out they had a lot to lose – use of the drug led to complications, including death, for some patients.https://cnn.it/3kkE8Ni

That’s just one of Trump’s “miracle cures” that he thinks will make him seem a hero in this tragedy very much of his making.

He forced the FDA to issue an emergency authorization for the use of blood plasma as a COVID-19 treatment – an authorization on hold after scientists of integrity said data on the treatment was too weak to justify the approval.https://nyti.ms/2GUDOq6

And he gave credence to a treatment promoted by one of his most prominent supporters, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, that’s derived from a deadly plant. Trials of the treatment were halted when they were determined to be inconclusive. https://bit.ly/2Fons97

48. Conspirator-in-chief

It is, amazingly, its own Wikipedia page: Conspiracy theories promoted by Donald Trump https://bit.ly/3iD0lpt

And, yet. that shouldn’t be surprising. He garnered attention by promoting the idea that Barack Obama wasn’t really born in the United States. Having won the presidency, he doubled down on the crazy.

He really won the popular vote because undocumented immigrants voted – multiple times – in California. Obama tapped his phones during the campaign. Antonin Scalia was murdered. Bill and Hillary Clinton arranged for Jeffrey Epstein’s murder in a New York jail cell. The “deep state” is promoting the coronavirus to hurt his re-election chances.

And so on.

Most recently, he’s given credence to the wacky QAnon theorists who believe that somebody working deep in the government is trying to uncover how Democrats are running massive pedophile rings. Since they support him, his reasoning goes, he can’t find anything wrong with them.

By the way, Wikipedia, you’re missing one: Trump promoting the idea that talk show host Joe Scarborough, who became a critic after supporting Trump in 2016, was involved in the death of aide – who actually died of natural causes. https://wapo.st/32xQzPY

It’s the fodder of late night comedians. But it’s more scary than funny.

47. A Doocy of intelligence

The person with the title President of the United States gets, by all accounts, the best available intelligence.

It’s usually condensed into something called the President’s Daily Brief (PDB).

Alas, it doesn’t seem as though the PDB is the source of Trump’s information about the world.

Instead, it’s the on-air personalities at Fox News.Trump has been known to tweet incessantly as “Fox and Friends” spreads its party line each morning. He’s also known to parrot the talking points of Fox personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson. Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Lou Dobbs.

Thus, TV talkers with agendas – and the people who put them on the air – have a disturbingly outsized influence on the nation’s policy.

46. Thanks. Now get lost.

Thousands of Iraqis risked their lives to help the United States in the war to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. Many of them needed to flee from Iraq to protect themselves and their families – and the U.S. seemed a logical place to go.

And it was during the Obama administration, when nearly 10,000 Iraqis were given priority entry in fiscal 2014 alone.

Under Trump, that flow dropped to a trickle – only 153 in the fiscal year ended in September.

A helluva way to treat people who helped American forces.

45. Who needs sage grouses?

Trump’s obeisance to the oil and gas industry manifested itself in Wyoming, where records were set for the sale of public land to be use for fracking.

Climate change be damned: Methane output rose 40%.

The environment be damned: Sage grouses, a bird particularly native to Wyoming whose population had been recovering until 2016, began dying out again.

44. Why Cindy McCain endorsed Biden

De mortuis nil nisi bonum?

The Latin idea of not speaking ill of people who’ve died is Greek to Trump.

That especially applies to John McCain, a bonafide American hero. More than a year after the former GOP presidential candidate and prisoner of war died of cancer, Trump implied that McCain’s afterlife is, uh, less than heavenly.

Speaking of those Republicans who opposed his effort to repeal Obamacare – including McCain who cast a critical “Nay” vote – Trump said, “They’ve gone on to greener pastures—or perhaps far less green pastures.”

It was another episode in a long series of disrespect to McCain, dating back to 2015 when Trump uttered his infamous line about liking people who weren’t captured. While McCain spent more than five years in a Hanoi prison, Trump – not known as an antiwar protester – got deferments for bone spurs. https://bit.ly/3iOm268

And his obsession showed itself in all its fury in The Atlantic article earlier this month, when it was revealed Trump opposed national signs of respect at McCain’s passing. https://bit.ly/3mEFrsj

Qualem blennum! (What a doofus!)

43. Selling out the Kurds

When the U.S. needed allies against Saddam Hussein, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, it could count on Kurdish nationalists seeking an independent state. They partnered with U.S. military forces, who consider the Kurds among the bravest people on the planet.

But, of course, because Trump has hotel properties in Turkey, some of whose territory the Kurds claim, the loyalty equation changed.

In October 2019, after a phone call from his buddy and benefactor, Turkish strongman Recip Erdogan, Trump announced that U.S. forces were withdrawing from the region, no longer protecting the Kurds.

The result was a bloodbath. Kurdish leaders are massacred, sandwiched between the Turks and the Russian-backed Syrians. Bases that flew the U.S. flag became gifts to Russian forces.

42. ‘I wish her well’

The Trumpistas and QAnoners obsessed with pedophilia might want to look at the case of Ghislaine Maxwell.

She’s sitting in a jail cell accused of helping Jeffrey Epstein procure teenage girls for sex – aka rape.

https://hrld.us/32Srz6c

Epstein, a hedge fund manager who served a joke of a short sentence for sex crimes in south Florida in the 2000s, was found dead in his jail cell last year after his arrest on new charges. His death was ruled a suicide.

It turns out among Epstein and Maxwell’s friends is Trump.

In July at his first briefing on the COVID-19 crisis in nearly three months, Trump was asked about the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell.

From the New York Times:

“I’ve met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach,” the president continued, referring to the Florida town where his Mar-a-Lago resort is and where Mr. Epstein had a home. “But I wish her well, whatever it is.”

https://nyti.ms/300XTlg

41. An unhealthy wait

Since the day it became law, Republicans have railed against the Affordable Care Act. They capitalized on some of its early flaws – a balky sign-up site and the undermining of President Obama’s promise that you could keep a doctor you like.

But by the 2016 election, the benefits of Obamacare emerged – in particular, coverage for pre-existing conditions and free annual exams.

Still, Trump wanted to endear himself with the people whose help he needed to win. So, once he took office, he and congressional Republicans crafted an alternative that basically gutted the best features of Obamacare – offering virtually worthless plans under the guise of saving younger people money.

Because Trump and the leadership tried to rush the plan through, a handful of Republicans – most notably John McCain – thwarted it.

Since then, there has no serious effort to reform health care. In fact, the administration is siding with Republican states in an effort to eliminate the ACA – an effort that would get turbocharged if Trump’s effort to fill Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Supreme Court vacancy succeeds.

In a mid-July TV interview, in the midst of a pandemic that has required people to tap whatever health care they have, Trump promised a great comprehensive plan coming in two weeks.

September is winding down – and he’s still promising it

https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/22/politics/donald-trump-health-care-plan-two-weeks/index.html

40. Offensive line

Colin Kaepernick didn’t protest police violence against Black Americans by toting an AR-15 across state lines and killing two people.

He didn’t protest police violence against Black people by ramming his car full speed into protesters.

Those are the kinds of things Trump might have praised him for, as he did after incidents in Kenosha and Charlottesville.*

Instead, when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback respectfully knelt during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black people, he got this response from Trump at an Alabama speech: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

BTW, Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since.

https://bit.ly/2Esl0h4

*if Kaepernick was a white supremacist

39. Money-making scheme

One thing the Founding Fathers could agree on was that the presidency wasn’t supposed to enrich the person holding the office.

But, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Trump has engaged in more than 2,300 acts of conflict of interest since taking office.

The biggest is the more than 360 visits he’s made to properties owned by the Trump Organization. Most of the time, he’s playing golf.

In addition, members of his administration and Republican members of Congress have availed themselves of Trump Organization facilities.

And, in what surely tests if not breaks the Constitution’s emoluments clause, representatives of 57 countries have made Trump properties their stop for business, pleasure or both.

Given the checkered history of his businesses – Trump University, Trump casino, Trump Steaks, etc. – the most important reason he doesn’t want to give up the presidency might be that he doesn’t know how to make money any other way.

Trump’s 2,000 Conflicts of Interest (and Counting)

38. Golden State

California – because of its geography, climate and population density – feels the effect of climate change more than many other states.

Smog from exhaust emissions gets trapped in its valleys. Hot weather leads to drought, which leads to wildfires – and then mudslides when it finally does rain.

Which is why California is at the vanguard of environmental regulation. In particular, it has the strictest auto emission standards in the nation – and because there are so many Californians, that influence emission standards and gas mileage throughout the nation.

Trump’s not having any of that.

Even in the wake of the wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres and killed scores of people, Trump has fought California’s efforts to stop them before they start. He ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back California’s stricter standards, claiming they stifle energy self-sufficiency.

37. Forever wars, revisited

Trump talks a lot about how he’s kept the U.S. from fighting wars in the Middle East.

It’s not for lack of trying. At least when it comes to Iran.

In June 2019, in fact, Trump overreacted to the downing of a surveillance drone by ordering an air strike against Iran. But then – thankfully – he got cold feet and pulled it back with the operation already underway.

https://nyti.ms/30cxC3Q

Early this year, he pulled the trigger. In an air strike on Baghdad’s airport – that would be in Iraq, btw – U.S. forces killed Iran’s top general. Trump blamed him for attacks on Americans.

https://bbc.in/2Givb8r

The Iranians retaliated by attacking U.S. bases in Iraq. Fortunately, no Americans were killed, but some suffered traumatic brain injuries that Trump sloughed off as headaches.

https://bit.ly/3i1iPPq

And, let’s not forget Yemen, where the U.S. is aiding Saudi Arabia’s attacks on civilians in a civil war against rebels backed by Iran.

Some State Department officials believe the U.S. might be a party to war crimes as a result. The Trump administration has tried to suppress any thoughts of that nature.

36. Troublemakers

Trump’s not a big fan of an independent press – particularly when it’s represented by women and especially by women who aren’t white.

Over the course of three days in November 2018, he berated questions asked by three Black women.

He told CNN’s Abby Phillip she asks a lot of “stupid questions,” said April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks “doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing” and accused PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor of asking “racist” questions.

https://wapo.st/3nipMzh

35. Getting away with murder

In October 2018, Washington Post columnist and legal U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, Turkey. By several accounts, his body left it in pieces or was destroyed completely. (It’s never been found.)

At first, Trump paid lip service to demands that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman be held accountable for Khashoggi’s murder.

But Trump has long-standing business ties with the Saudis – and those asses need to be kissed.

At a 2019 meeting with Bin Salman in Osaka, Japan, Trump ignored questions about whether he raised the murder in their talks.

“I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you. You’ve done, really, a spectacular job,” Trump said.

https://politi.co/2HVOrJV

34. Sphere of influence

China has this idea that it – and not the United States – should be the world’s leading economic and political power

.Which is why, despite Trump’s bluster about the Chinese, they want him to win re-election.

So far, the Chinese have taken advantage of Trump’s withdrawal from international alliances. They’ve established economic relationships with developing and developed nations, with Trump offering no resistance or alternative.

And they’ve become a military threat to neighbors in east Asia without any significant pushback from the U.S.

All this while suppressing human rights throughout the nation, from internment camps for Uighur Muslims in northwest China to stomping out democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Disgracefully, in both instances, Trump has given his tacit approval.

https://bit.ly/2GeOuQI

33. Escaping Hatch

Employees of the federal government understand that there are limits to their ability to participate in the political process.

That’s thanks to the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that sets the guidelines for workers – and the penalties if they violate them. The act is designed to prevent corruption and prevent officials from using their power to unfairly influence the electorate.

If you’re a civil servant, you can count on suspensions, fines and possible job loss if you’re caught doing such things as using your government access to assist a candidate or promoting a candidate for office at work.

But if you’re a political appointee in the Trump administration, go right ahead.

So when Trump mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway used her official position to badmouth Democratic presidential candidates, a special counsel cited her for Hatch Act violations – and was ignored by Trump.

The most egregious violations might have come during this year’s Republican convention, during which cabinet officials performed functions – including a naturalization ceremony.

And the fact that Trump gave his acceptance speech at the White House with a crowd of government employees in attendance might have been the most egregious Hatch Act violation ever.

In this case, “Law and order!” apparently doesn’t apply.

https://wapo.st/3jutKT9

32. ‘Right matters’

Thousands of people seek to serve the nation they love – either through the military or through working in one of the departments of government.

Then there are some who do both, like Alexander Vindman.

Vindman, whose family emigrated from the Soviet Union, served in the nation’s military for 21-1/2 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served on the National Security Council as director of European affairs.

But he refused to be an accessory in Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden’s family in exchange for military aid. He told the truth when called to testify before the House inquiry.

And Trump made him pay, stymieing his dream promotion to colonel. Because of that, Vindman retired. As he mentioned in the Washington Post op-ed piece below, he is one of many Americans devoted to their country who have been forced out of government by Trump’s rapaciousness.

During his House testimony, Vindman famously mentioned his father’s fears about his coming forward, conditioned by what happened in the Soviet Union.

Vindman told the committee that this is what he said to his dad: “This is the country I have served and defended, that all my brothers have served, and here, right matters.”

He’s absolutely right. But, in 32 days, we’ll see if he’s correct.

https://wapo.st/3joXhNX

31. The Bounty toss

Underscoring his lack of concern about the suffering caused by Hurricane Maria, Trump went to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd of people seeking serious financial help for the island’s recovery.

It was the visual symbol of his contempt for an island that doesn’t seem to him to be part of the United States. An island that, at one point, he sought to trade to Denmark for Greenland as if Puerto Rico was a player in a Fantasy World Leadership game.

Recently – three years after the fact – Trump finally announced a series of measures aimed at providing relief for Puerto Rico. It’s doubtful anybody saw the move for anything other than what it was – a ploy to get Latino support for his re-election bid.

https://wapo.st/3jqJCpD

30. Weaponizing the courts

Elections and opinion polls have made clear how the American people feel about such issues as a woman’s right to determine the course of her own pregnancy and if health care should be available to as many people as possible.

So why are both those ideas in serious jeopardy?

The Supreme Court.

Republicans ignore the public will in order to champion their narrow base’s positions. And the way to do it wasn’t through democracy. It was through using democracy to stack the federal judiciary.

It didn’t start with Trump. Mitch McConnell is more of the villain here, having stymied President Obama’s picks for the courts, most famously including Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.

But Trump’s acquiescence with this tactic is how he gets to do all the other 99 stupid things on this list.

He’s already pushed two hard-core conservatives onto the Supreme Court – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who was rammed through despite accusations he committed sexual assault.

Now, he’s giving McConnell and his ilk a big gift following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, who is on record opposing abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

The judgeships are what Trump gave to be unconditionally enabled by Republicans. The price could be paid by us and our families for decades.

https://bit.ly/30sZzEs

29. Pocket-lining

Some of the conservative Republicans Trump co-opted to become president are very liberal with taxpayer dollars when it applies to their personal use.

Three of Trump’s initial cabinet level appointees: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Environment Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt were forced to flee the administration amid investigations into how they were spending money.

After Price left, the HHS inspector general said the department should try to get back $341,000 in money spent on private aircraft and military charters.

Zenke was accused of allowing his wife to fly on the government dime and spent $12,000 in taxpayer money on a private plane to visit a hockey team owned by a donor. He was also under investigation for working on deals with companies he was supposed to be regulating.

Pruitt also was said to have made his share of first-class travel. And he tried to get a Chick-Fil-A franchise while working for the government.

And, separately, there’s former Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who, when running for president in 2016, forgot in a debate one of the three departments he wanted to eliminate – the one he ended up running).
According to ProPublica and WNYC, Perry worked on energy deals with Ukrainian officials that would have resulted in windfalls to his friends and donors.

https://bit.ly/2GAvhsv

28. The postman always rings twice

Even people who say they hate government love the U.S. Postal Service.

It is the representation of the nation in every small town and city – there is no place in the United States unserved by it. In many places, it’s the center of town – a combination mail room and general store when all the needs of a small community are handled.

To be accurate, the USPS is semi-autonomous. But it abides by congressional mandates – including an onerous one enacted in the George W. Bush administration requiring it to fully fund retiree health benefits for 75 years.

Trump hates it. For several reasons.

Like other greedy Republicans, he sees the money that could be made if mail service was privatized. While it would cost us more to get a greeting card to a friend, that money would be pocketed by new owners prone to donate to the party responsible for the largesse.

Second, Trump believes the Postal Service subsidizes certain businesses – in particular, Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos. The thing is, Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which reports on his administration’s foibles and offers opinions that rile him. Trump equates the Postal Service with Bob Woodward and George Will.

Finally, Trump seems to think voting by mail – a good idea in the midst of a pandemic – is not a good idea for him. Because Democrats live in places that are less safe from his COVID crisis, they’re more likely to use mail-in voting. He believes stopping that stops them.

Trump’s working two fronts on this. On Capitol Hill, he’s getting Senate Republicans to starve the USPS. And his latest appointee to run the agency, Louis DeJoy, is a big campaign donor who is imposing difficult regulations – and slowing down service.

https://bit.ly/3lioN0d

27. Who’s paying for it?

It was a fixture of Trump’s presidential campaign – his line that he was going to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and Mexico was going to pay for it.

As president, Trump began putting up fencing along the border. But, on Jan. 10, 2019, he said: “When I said ‘Mexico will pay for the wall’ in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a check.”

It’s funny because that’s exactly what his admirers thought they heard all those times – for good reason. https://wapo.st/3d7D8dh

What’s amazing is that the wall might be the most benign thing he’s considered for the border with Mexico – a nation with which we’re supposedly at peace.

Just before the 2018 midterms, when he and Fox News ranted about migrant “caravans” ready to invade the U.S., Trump reportedly sought to deploy a “heat ray” at the border that would make people feel as though their skin was burning. https://nyti.ms/2SAiYPy

And, last year, the Times reported that White House staff actually look into Trump’s suggestion of a moat at the border filled with alligators or snakes.
https://nyti.ms/3jREprv

(Editor’s note: Trying to imagine typing the above two paragraphs a decade ago and how 2010 self would have told 2020 self to stop talking nonsense! Sigh.)

26. Au revoir, Paris

The 2017 G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, ended with 19 nations agreeing to meet the Paris Climate Accords goal – established by President Barack Obama – for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Guess who didn’t?

Instead, a short time later, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement as the administration pushed to roll back limits on carbon emissions.

25. I know nothing, nothing

Trump says he possesses the “world’s greatest memory.”

Which might be true. He remembered not to remember anything when asked questions by special counsel Robert Mueller related to his probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

He remembered nothing about when he learned details of a 2016 Trump Tower in which his son and son-in-law met with Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

He remembered nothing about whether he was informed about Russian hacking of Democratic emails before they were released online.

In all, Trump remembered that he couldn’t answer – in writing – more than 30 questions posed by Mueller.

What he did remember is what he had done countless times before in lawsuits against such schemes as Trump University – don’t answer any questions.

24. Not quite the worst

In the competition for who is the worst person to serve in Trump’s cabinet, Betsy DeVos is high on most lists.

The Education Secretary, wife of the Amway CEO and heiress to the 88th biggest fortune in the nation, has infuriated people interested in educating their children.

She supports charter schools and school vouchers, demeaned public schools, gutted programs aimed at helping college students get out from under predatory loans https://nyti.ms/2GPwHzi and weakened efforts to protect victims of sexual misconduct.

https://nyti.ms/30PEEeQ

Her response to mass shootings has been to propose allowing federal education grants to be used to buy guns for schools https://nyti.ms/2GXDUNF.

DeVos has also parroted Trump’s insistence on reopening schools in the pandemic – but has issued no plans to help those schools determine if it’s safe or to help them achieve the goal. https://nyti.ms/3jNW438

But somehow, as you’ll see in the next few weeks, DeVos doesn’t quite make it to worst Trump cabinet member.

23. The big shutdown

When Democrats won control of the House in the 2018 election, Trump had an idea to mitigate the humiliating loss he suffered.

After failing to do so when Republicans controlled both houses, he demanded the Democrats agree to appropriate $5 billion to build his boondoggle wall on the border with Mexico.

But Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said no.

The result was a shutdown that lasted weeks, essentially crippling the nation and causing financial hardship for thousands of government workers during the holiday season and at the start of the new year.

22. “Losers” and “suckers”

Trump has always made a big show out of how he supports veterans.But it’s more accurate to say he uses veterans to support himself.

Three examples:

— Trump continually claims to have signed legislation aimed at giving veterans more choice at getting health care.

The thing is the legislation – a response to a backlog in providing care at Veterans Administration facilities – was a bipartisan measure proposed by Bernie Sanders and John McCain that passed in 2014. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

In August, Trump walked out of his country club press conference show when a reporter asked him why he’s lied about signing the bill more than 150 times.

https://cnn.it/2Icqw95

— A New York judge ruled last year that Trump has to pay $2 million in damages to settle claims that his foundation raised money for veterans – and then spent it on his campaign.

The money was raised in 2016, when Trump held a dinner -supposedly in support of veterans – as an excuse to skip one of the Republican presidential debates. https://n.pr/33QWFM4

— A ProPublica report shows that VA officials took orders from three men – including the chairman of Marvel Entertainment – who have no experience or congressional authorization to address veterans matters.

The three are friends of Trump and, more important, members of his Mar-A-Lago club in Florida. https://bit.ly/2SNX37u

So what does Trump really think of veterans and those who died in combat? Last month’s Atlantic article – in which witnesses said he described them as “losers” and “suckers” – seems more apt. https://bit.ly/3iRHWEK

21. This infectant’s disinfectant cure

How stupid was it?

It was so stupid that the makers of Lysol and Clorox had to issue statements saying their products should never be ingested.

And it came from the doofus holding the title President of the United States.

Facing the worsening COVID-19 crisis in late April, Trump seemed to flailing about in his daily, um, briefing – which had turned into a small-scale version of his rallies.

And then he said the following: “I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.”

He also said that ultraviolet light could be used as a treatment.

When Trump actually got COVID-19, he was given an experimental antibody treatment that had not yet been approved for general use. Not a drop of Lysol or Clorox.

https://bbc.in/3ofOxNd

20. The bromance to nowhere

The bromance between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has so far produced three summits, several uncomfortable moments – and no discernible end to Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

It started with name-calling. Trump referred to Kim as “little rocket man” after several missile launches. Kim’s state media called Trump a “dotard.”

But then Trump perceived an opportunity for a Nixon-in-China moment with a man responsible for killing thousands of Koreans and leaving much of the rest of the population near starvation. And Kim saw a chance to get recognition on the world stage that he never earned.

So in 2018, the two met in Singapore – where Trump was filmed saluting a North Korean general – and they met again in Hanoi in early 2019. In June of last year, Trump and Kim met for a third time in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

Throughout, Trump talked about the “beautiful” correspondence he received from Kim – even as North Korea proceeded with testing missiles and developing weapons of mass destruction.

And basically thumbs its nose at Trump.

https://cnb.cx/37vHMRj

19. Extralegal

So the idea when protests become unrest is to find a way to deescalate tensions.

By most accounts, state and local police in Portland, Oregon, were attempting to do that in the face of nightly protests that occasionally resulted in violence. The protests were among those that sprouted nationwide against the Minneapolis police officers who murdered George Floyd in May.

The fact that these protests continued were seen as an opportunity for Trump, who believes “law and order” applies to him and his family.

Violating decades of precedent, he sent federal officers from Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the city, which is hundreds of miles from any border. They were unidentified and, according to state officials, unwanted.

The result was escalating tension. The agents launched tear gas against peaceful protesters and grabbed people off the streets without identifying themselves as legitimate law officers.

And, of course, they turned a blind eye when white supremacist groups such as the Proud Boys came into town with semiautomatic weapons to add to the trouble.

Eventually, Trump backed down and pulled out the unwanted forces. Miraculously, tensions eased.

https://bit.ly/3dQLZAs

18. Don’t think there’ll be a Trump Port-Au-Prince

If the Trump administration was going to limit the number of people entering the country, a bipartisan Congressional group thought maybe half the remaining visas should go to people from nations where people are clamoring to come here. Particularly, Haiti and nations in Africa.

To which Trump issued this now famous reply.

“Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?”

Trump went on to say that we needed more immigration from Norway.

As pathetic as these comments are, this was not considered a problem in the White House. Administration officials thought Trump’s racist remarks would play well with his base.

Alas, they were probably right.

https://cnn.it/37y6PDo

17. Sounding the dogwhistle

Flailing to recapture support among suburban voters, particularly women, Trump tweets on July 29 that “people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream” would “no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.”

This was after he rolled back a program started by President Barack Obama to encourage diversification in suburban neighborhoods.

“Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down,” Trump added. 

There is, of course, no evidence that the Obama regulation did anything to increase suburban crime.

Trump’s tweet came two months after the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and as the body of civil rights leader John Lewis lay in state at the Capitol; Trump refused to pay tribute and didn’t attend Lewis’ funeral the next day.

It wasn’t a racist dogwhistle Trump sounded. It was a full-blown air raid siren. 

16. (There’s one in Community Chest, too)

 Like the Chance card in Monopoly, obeisance to Trump offers felons a chance to “Get Out of Jail Free.”

Paul Manafort: Trump’s 2016 campaign manager with ties to Russia was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison for tax and bank fraud. But while convicts with far less serious crimes remained locked up and at risk, Manafort – who never turned on Trump concerning his ties to Russia – somehow managed to get home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Flynn: Named Trump’s national security adviser at the outset, he served for less than a month after it was determined he lied to investigators about conversations with Russian officials undermining U.S. sanctions for election interference.

He at first pleaded guilty to the charges, then withdrew the plea when Trump started lobbying on his behalf.

Earliler this year, Attorney General William Barr, like an obedient spaniel, attempted to drop the charges against Flynn. But the court system has not completely caved – an appeals court rejected Barr’s request and the matter is still being considered. 

Roger Stone: Trump acted himself here, commuting the 40-month sentence of the political operative who was convicted by a jury of lying to federal investigators and witness tampering. 

The commutation came as Stone signaled what a good boy he was being – a hint that by acting on Stone’s sentence, Trump could avoid some messy disclosures.

15. So who won?

“…Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”  

It’s not the sentiment you’d expect to hear from a successful businessman – which is why it’s not so surprising coming from Trump. That’s what he said in March 2018, at the time referring to tariffs being imposed on Mexico.

But the prime target of his trade wars was the nation’s No. 1 trading partner: China. The back-and-forth roiled markets and crippled the producers of American products affected.

For example: Soybeans. An agreement reached earlier this year has resulted in an improvement. But soybean exports to China remain well below the levels before Trump’s supposedly easy-to-win trade war – making American farmers the real losers.

https://reut.rs/2Hn1bc0

And the ill will generated had a truly awful side effect: A level of distrust that might have contributed to China’s irresponsible obfuscation of the seriousness of the COVID outbreak late last year – and Trump’s acceptance, after making the deal, of Xi Jinping’s assurances about the virus.

https://cnb.cx/31mE20z

14. Art of the dealbreaker

By all accounts, Iran was abiding by the 2015 deal that restricted its nuclear ambitions for at least 10 years in exchange for ending sanctions that crippled its economy. 

But that deal was made by Barack Obama. 

Trump couldn’t stand that fact – and therefore broke the agreement, imposing new crippling sanctions on the Iranians. 

The action increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran. That might have satisfied the bloodlust of a Tom Cotton or John Bolton – but it put Iran closer to having a nuclear arsenal.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html

13. Shameful silence

We might disagree on whether or not the U.S. military should be in Afghanistan.

But no sane American wants any harm to befall the men and women who wear this nation’s uniform anywhere in the world.

And yet, when it was revealed that the Russians have been offering a bounty for the killing of American forces in Afghanistan, Trump didn’t respond. 

A month later, in an interview, he said he didn’t even mention the bounty reports in a phone call with his buddy Vladimir Putin.

https://www.axios.com/trump-russia-bounties-taliban-putin-call-4a0f6110-ab58-41c0-96fc-57b507462af1.html

12. Thoughts, prayers, nothing else

Dayton, Ohio; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Pittsburgh; Thousand Oaks, California; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Parkland, Florida; El Paso, Texas; Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas.

So far, there have been nine incidents of mass shootings in the United States in which 10 or more people died since Trump took office. There are numerous more with nine or fewer fatalities.

After every incident, Trump offers thoughts and prayers. Occasionally he meets with selected victims who are guaranteed not to raise any issues.

Because after each of these incidents, after saying he might do something to try to limit the carnage, he’s reminded of how much he owes the gun-crazy National Rifle Association and starts talking about the “sacred” #2A right – the BS argument that the Second Amendment says what the gun lobby believes it does.

And he does nothing.

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GOODBYE, COLUMBUS?

It’s Monday, October 12, 2020. It’s 22 days before Election Day.

On this day in 1492, three ships captained by Genoese sailor Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean island now known as San Salvador.

To mark this occasion, the U.S. government designates this as Columbus Day. You can’t conduct business in federal offices. There’s no mail in your mailbox today – although, thanks to Louis DeJoy, that might not be because the post office is closed.

For the first, oh, half of my 66+ years, no one really questioned this idea. It’s Columbus Day – a day off from school, for sales at department stores and various other little anomalies in the daily routine.

But then the objections of the ancestors of those on Guanahani – that’s what San Salvador was called before Columbus showed up – and the members of tribal nations throughout the Western Hemisphere merged with the scholarship of historians from around the world. And they came up with this:

Columbus was a jerk. He was a slaver. He was a murderer. He was a lot of other godawful things.

But, mamma mia, even though he was working for the Spanish crown, he was Italian.

And that’s why we celebrate Columbus Day.

It has almost nothing to do with what he did. For the first century of American independence, we mostly didn’t give a damn – there were some commemorations of the event, but nobody got the day off.

The making of the holiday came in the 1890s, close to the 400th anniversary of Columbus showing up on Guanahani. Its root is the murder of New Orleans’ police chief – who, in his dying breath, said Italian immigrants were responsible.

At the time, Italians were held in low esteem in New Orleans. How low? Here’s a hint: If you’re an Italian-American who uses the “N” word to slur Black people, you’re betraying your own heritage in the process.

After the chief’s death, as many as 250 Italian immigrants and Italian-Americans were rounded up. Eventually, 19 were charged with the murder. But the trial of the first nine suspects ended with six found not guilty and a hung jury for the other three. 

Unfortunately, all nine went back to jail to spend the night. And that’s when the “upright” citizens of New Orleans rendered their own verdict – attacking the jail and lynching 11 of the original 19 suspects.

This would not sit well with the rising population of Italians in the U.S. – and, in fact, anybody in the whole of Italy. The Italian government made belligerent sounds and threatened to send its navy across the Atlantic to rectify the wrong. 

That sounds foolhardy – except that the U.S. wasn’t the military power it is today. Italy would actually have a pretty good chance of teaching this country a lesson.

So the Benjamin Harrison administration set off to undo the damage. It offered an apology and then, to show its good faith, proposed making Oct. 12 a holiday – a way of paying tribute to Italian-Americans by honoring the man who was, until then, the most prominent Italian ever to visit this side of the Atlantic.

And so it has remained. Until now.

Recognizing that Columbus’ faults weren’t mere quirks, the movement to undo Columbus Day has gathered steam. Chicago took down its statue. Many states renamed the day Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

Because Columbus is from the same part of Italy as my paternal grandfather and my maternal great-grandfather, I’ve been loathe to criticize. We’re Ligurians. 

There’s one other thing about Oct. 12: It’s my mother’s birthday. So I associate the day with her.

She died 11 months ago – this is the first Oct. 12 that she’s not here. I left out the words “to celebrate” because she never particularly liked getting a year older – I think she preferred celebrating Columbus Day than her birthday on Oct. 12.

So I’ve had to cope with a lot of complicated thoughts about this day – especially this Oct. 12 in the starstruck year of 2020.

And here’s what I’ve come up with:

First and foremost, I miss my mother.

Second, she was passionate about being Italian-American, like my father and her father. I am, too. We deserve a day to honor us as Americans.

Third, however, she was equally passionate about fighting injustice. She believed strongly in the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement. And if she thought Columbus wronged people, she would have dismissed himself with her patented glare and a wave of her hand.

And so will I.

But instead of just calling this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I think there’s a better alternative.

Something called Heritage Day. 

Something that allows those of us whose ancestors come from Italy to celebrate. Something that allows those of us who were in this hemisphere when strange people in boats showed up to “discover” them to celebrate. 

And, yes, something that allows all people who came here in boats – willingly, under duress as a refugee or as someone’s property – and, in more recent times, planes to celebrate their heritage as well.

Why not have a national holiday that celebrates Italians and Poles and Nigerians and Koreans and Lakota and everyone else who sees this country as a land of dreams and opportunity? 

My mother would like that. A lot.

Happy Heritage Day! And, even though you’re not crazy about the idea, Happy Birthday, Mom!

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EARTH SHAKING

It’s Wednesday, September 30, 2020. It’s 34 days until the Election Day and the final day of 2020’s third quarter.

On this day 79 years ago, Nazi forces wrapped up the Babi Yar massacre in what is now Ukraine.

All totaled, they managed to kill 33,771 people in two days – about 15 people a minute. Most of those killed were Jewish – pretty much every Jewish person living in Kyiv. But there were Ukrainian nationalists, Romas and Soviet military prisoners as well.

A good reminder, especially this morning, of the result of evil fully encouraged.

There were no significant seismic incidents in the United States last night.

Proving that turning over in the grave isn’t really a thing.

Because, if it was, every American who has advanced democracy for 244 years – from George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to John McCain and John Lewis – would have done so.

Some observations of the TV show most networks called “First Presidential Debate” – a grossly misnamed program that’s one of the lowest moments in American political history. (OK, I support Biden, so you can call BS if you want.)

  1. Stop with the “both sides” stuff!

Equating Joe Biden’s conduct last night with Trump’s in any way embarrasses the equater.

Biden might have been able to articulate his positions on the important issues facing Americans. He might have butchered his positions and gone into word salads that would have shown he might not have the stamina to serve as president.

We’ll never know. He never got a chance.

It’s easy to sit here this morning and say he shouldn’t have taken Trump’s bait. He should have channeled out the bluster and crap coming from what I hope was more than six feet away.

All I know is that if I were standing there – and Trump kept slandering my son in response to questions about his questionable policies – it would have taken some strong Secret Service agents to stop me from belting the son of a bitch in the mouth.

He did the best he could. If this debate was going on in your neighborhood, somebody would have called the cops. A Taser might have been the only thing that could have prevented Trump from disgracing the nation.

2.  Stop blaming Chris Wallace

I am not a big Chris Wallace fan. I understand that he is seen as a tough but fair questioner, but I think occasionally he tries to draw more attention to himself than the subject.

All that said, I don’t know what he could have done differently last night.

He’s getting pushback from people at Fox (they must give you body armor to protect you from knives in the back when you work at that place) that he was unfair to Trump when he chided him on his incessant interrupting. And, of course, he’s getting flak from Biden supporters for not stopping Trump sooner.

So what should he have done? Stopped the debate and told Trump it wouldn’t resume until he shut up? Walked off the stage? 

Journalists picked to moderate presidential and vice presidential debates consider it a high honor. They should. It means that people across the political and media spectrum believe you to be unbiased, fair and above reproach.

The dissonance must have been strong in Wallace for what must have been among the 90 worst minutes of his career. You expect deference and decorum to reflect the gravity of the moment.

Instead, you get a fool spewing crap. The temptation to get cops to come and use a Taser to subdue this guy must have been enormous.

3. Should there be more of these?

The good news for Biden is that a big chunk of the audience last night won’t be watching “Second Presidential Debate” or “Third Presidential Debate.” (Again, I won’t insult previous presidential and vice presidential contenders by think what they did was the same as what Trump did last night.)

That’s usually the case. But, after last night, if you’re not a political masochist, why would you watch?

The usually even-handed Frank Bruni is saying in The New York Times that Biden shouldn’t show up, that it’s beneath his dignity.

Biden can’t do that. It would open him to charges that he’s weak and unfit for the job. 

Yes, by standing there and taking it, he proved he is. So, by the way, did most of the rest of us.

His campaign says he welcomes the opportunity to tell the American people what he would do as president. It’s a quaint notion that is probably the reason he’s ahead in the polls.

My question is what Steve Scully and Kristen Welker are thinking this morning. Scully, the genial C-SPAN moderator, and Welker, the Weekend Today host, moderate the other debates. As I said, it’s an earned honor for both of them.

Will they insist on protection from Trump’s bombast? Do they think they can manage him? Could they threaten to withdraw or walk off if the situation isn’t different?

You have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on today at the debate commission and at the major news organizations.

4.  Even that’s too many

The CNN post-debate poll showed that 60% of those watching the debate thought Biden won it, while 28% thought Trump did. A CBS poll was closer, 48% for Biden, 41% for Trump.

Why does it offend me that even 28% think what they saw last night was acceptable?

That’s more than one out of four. If you’re waiting in line at McDonald’s for a Big Mac and there are three people ahead of you, one of them sees no problem in berating the workers to move their butts and bring that burger.

These are the people who are perfectly fine with personally insulting Biden and trying to use his son’s battle with drug addiction against him. These are people cool with accepting the idea of violence if Trump doesn’t win.

Most galling to me: These are people OK with the idea that Trump doesn’t need to condemn white supremacists – perhaps because that’s what many of them are.

The people who support Trump are like enablers to an alcoholic. They feed his addiction for attention and deference without showing any respect in return. They could give a damn about their neighbors, except for the ones who look and sound like them.

I know. Biden would tell me that he plans to be president of all the people. Even the ones with the “Trump 2020 Fuck Your Feelings” T-shirt I saw getting takeout one night earlier this month.

He’s a better man than I am. These people seem like a big problem to me.

5.  A long way down

In 1996, the vice presidential debate featured the incumbent, Al Gore, and the Republican challenger, former Rep. Jack Kemp.

Gore was four years away from losing the closest election in American history – when he would honorably protect democracy by ending his challenge once the Supreme Court issued its partisan ruling awarding the presidency to George W. Bush.

Kemp was a movement conservative, a former NFL quarterback who really believed in the free market philosophy and trickle-down economics. 

There was pressure on Kemp to go negative. He and his running mate, Bob Dole, trailed President Bill Clinton and Gore in the polls, and the really partisan Republicans wanted blood from Gore (so to speak) to shake things up.

It didn’t happen that way.

Kemp didn’t flinch in stating his positions and attacking the policies of the Democratic administration. Gore defended himself and his president, explaining what the administration and what it wanted to do.

In the end, Gore was declared the winner of the debate in the polls.

Kemp, who died not that many years later, won that day, too.

I didn’t agree with any of his political positions. But I saw a man who put civility above discord. Nation above self-interest. He argued his points and when he was done, he kept quiet and let Gore make his. And vice versa.

It was, as the Baltimore Sun said, “gentlemanly.” It was edifying. If you were watching that debate trying to decide who to vote for, you got the best representation of each side you could possibly get.

It took 24 years for the Republican Party and Trump to degrade our democracy to what we saw last night. To an unlistenable grievance bearer who pandered to white supremacists and threatened not to accept the results of a democratic election.

Add Jack Kemp to the list of patriots who would have turned over in his grave if that were a thing.

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THE END OF SUMMER GAME

It’s Saturday, September 19, 2020. It’s 45 days until Election Day, and one of the last days of summer.

It’s the 100th birthday of Roger Angell, who is still around to celebrate it.

Unfortunately, what he can’t do is attend a Major League Baseball game. No fan can, thanks to this damn pandemic.

But few writers match his eloquence about my favorite sport, one of the greatest contributions America has made to civilization. His recaps of the seasons and the occasional leisurely story about a game or an aspect of the sport are why I subscribed to The New Yorker in the ‘80s and have since.

I know the Mets put a cardboard cutout of him in Citi Field this weekend. They mean well – but Roger Angell needs a full body. He makes baseball whole. His centennial is something to celebrate.

Of course, today is anything but a day for celebration.

At some point, either today or tomorrow, the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker will turn over at 200,000 deaths in the United States. MSNBC’s counter has already reached the grim milestone.

And there’s the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In a sane, civil society, her passing would only be cause to celebrate her remarkable life and her contributions to equal protection under the law for all Americans.

But normal left town a long time ago.

Within two hours of the announcement, Mitch McConnell said he expects there will be a vote on Trump’s nominee – word-twisting his statement four years prior that the Senate shouldn’t take up a Supreme Court nomination before a presidential election.

There’s two ways of looking at that.

One is McConnell knows he has the Democrats over the barrel and has the opportunity to cement the nihilist Republican legacy no matter what happens on Nov. 3.

He might be right. If he picks a calm-looking nominee – a woman like Amy Coney Barrett – it’s going to be hard for Democrats to mount a scorched earth defense and not look bad in the process, no matter how obscene her judicial record.

The other way to look at it is that McConnell took the Democrats’ bait.

Yes, he might get his nominee – and that’s a big deal. But the price might be control of the Senate and the White House.

Forget the hypocrisy of McConnell’s position. He doesn’t give a damn – and neither does Trump or his knee-jerk Republican followers.

But focusing on a Supreme Court nominee while ignoring the other crisis – remember that COVID-19 thing – can’t be a good look.

McConnell has been sitting on proposals to help the millions of unemployed people, the small businesses getting crushed to death, and the states and cities on the brink of financial ruin from the COVID-induced recession.

Voters care about the court. They care more about whether or not they can feed themselves and their families.

If McConnell proceeds now, Joe Biden and the Democrats need to scream bloody murder – an expression my Democrat-to-her-last-breath Mom used to use – about how the Republicans are more interested in power than people.

Now, there’s always the chance McConnell can choose option C – take a Trump nominee, hold hearings and then not vote until he sees what happens in 45 days.

That’s a risk. If the Republicans hold the Senate, he gets his nominee passed, no matter what happens in the Biden-Trump race. 

But if they lose control, he’d be condemning the remaining Republicans – including himself, assuming polls are right and he holds off Amy McGrath’s challenge – to pariah status. 

And if the Democrats are smart, they work with what passes for moderate Republicans – Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, for example – and develop a legislative plan that gives them something for their constituents.

Actions matter. We don’t know how the next six and a-half weeks will play out. But it’s what happens, not what’s said, that will determine the America of the rest of the first half of this century.

No pressure.

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ROCK SPRINGS ETERNAL?

It’s Wednesday, September 2, 2020. It’s 62 days until Election Day.

It’s the 135th anniversary of the massacre of at least 28 Chinese immigrants in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The immigrants worked as miners for the Union Pacific Railroad. In their testimony to the Chinese Consul to the U.S. in New York, the Chinese miners said they were targeted because they refuse to join their white counterparts in a strike for higher wages.

The white miners – men, women and children – chased and murdered the Chinese, who fled their soon-set-ablaze homes for the safety of the nearby hills. Eventually, U.S. troops quelled the rioting.

A grand jury refused to indict any members of the lynch mob, although the railroad did fire 45 of the white miners.

I picked this event over another significant milestone, the 75th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender in World War II.

Because I wonder if we’re closer to the America of Rock Springs than the nation that united to win the fight against fascism.

We should be the latter. Since late February, we should have been in war mode against COVID-19. We should have treated this like the threat to Americans – to people everywhere, of course – that it has proved to be.

We should have been more like the nation that rationed sugar and butter and meat and oil. More like the nation that made sure the lights were out at night so would-be bombers couldn’t see us. The nation that shattered social norms by sending women into factories so men could go into battle.

Instead, a significant chunk of us still can’t be bothered putting on a mask. And nearly 185,000 Americans – significantly more than any other nation – have died. So far.

It seems ironic that the notion of patriotism is turned on its head in 2020. 

Trump supporters believe individual discretion supersedes the public interest. It’s not just the masks. I want a drink at a bar. I want to get together with my biker friends at a rally. I want football games. 

And the ultimate: If I don’t like what somebody is protesting, I can bring my AR-15 to town and shoot them.

Not e pluribus unum. Ubi est mea.

When I see Trump’s inability to criticize the actions of the shooter in Kenosha, when I hear his stooges defend the suspect – one said we need more like him and fewer like Greta Thunberg – I want to vomit.

When I see no compassion for Jacob Blake, no arrest in his case or that of Breonna Taylor, I want to cry.

When I see this push to minimize the COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder if the Trumpites figured out that the disproportionate toll the virus has taken on Black and Latino Americans is winning by attrition. The inevitable day that white America is no longer a majority pushed back if not erased.

Like the white miners of Rock Springs, the 40-something percent that has stayed with Trump persistently is not about being part of a grand national community that works together to solve problems.

It’s about getting what you want by any means. It’s about pointing to others and saying they don’t belong. 

It’s affirming your own existence and denying the humanity of the other 328 million of us.

Denying humanity is what happened in Rock Springs 135 years ago.

But, as President Obama pointed out in his brilliant speech at the Democratic convention, Chinese people like the ones who survived Rock Springs didn’t give up on the promise of America spelled out in the Constitution. As others who faced diversity didn’t, either.

“(I)nstead of giving up, they joined together and said somehow, some way, we are going to make this work,” Obama said. “We are going to bring those words, in our founding documents, to life.”

Martin Luther King Jr said the arc of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice.

Sometimes I wonder. We’ll know more in 62 days.

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TONIGHT, I’M STAYING HERE

It’s Sunday, August 23, 2020. It’s 72 days until Election Day.

On this day in 1831, the Virginia slave rebellion instigated by Nat Turner was suppressed. 

The rebellion killed about 55 white men, women and children. The reaction to it led to the murder of scores of Black people, even harsher anti-fugitive laws and the ridiculous concept that slavery was a benevolent way to treat African Americans.

Turner himself evaded capture for two months. But once he was caught, it didn’t take very long – less than two weeks – for him to end up on the end of a noose. 

The recording itself shouldn’t have made me sad.

It’s a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You,” from a Dylan tribute designed to raise money for Amnesty International. 

The performance is by the country group Sugarland. I’m not a big country fan and this is the only thing by Sugarland I own.

The song itself is as ostensibly happy as Dylan gets. I’ve fallen so much for you that I’m willing to give up everything – throw my ticket and suitcase out the window! – to spend this evening in your embrace.

So why does this version make me sad enough to write 213 words so far – and clearly more to come?

It’s because it’s a live recording. It was made at the New York State Fair in Syracuse in 2011. 

I didn’t go to that one. But I’ve been to the state fair periodically since 1986, with my wife, my kids and even my brother.

We love it.

That’s weird because we’re from downstate. New York City, Long Island and the city’s northern suburbs. Most people who we’ve lived among have no idea New York has a state fair – much less that it’s in Syracuse in late summer.

New York’s a strange state. The people downstate don’t grasp any commonality with people north of Bear Mountain. If you can’t get there by Metro North, it’s upstate.

In fact, for people who live in the city, if you can’t get there on the No. 1 subway, it’s upstate – anything north of 244th Street in the Bronx.

But New York is a beautiful state, full of gorgeous vistas, wondrous agriculture and hard-working people. 

And that’s what the state fair celebrates. If New York City isn’t part of it, so what? The butter sculpture, the Christmas tree judging, the state agencies’ booths, the baked potato stand. Not to mention gaudy food stands and, if you’re really brave, rides.

We went to the State Fair last year and loved it.

We’re not going this year. Because there isn’t one to go to.

Now you figured out why I’m sad.

Summer is a time of little joys that you wait a whole year to relive. Street festivals. Concerts. The beach. The Mets at Citi Field. Their farm teams in Binghamton and Syracuse. Restaurants. Historical sites.

I’m probably omitting one or two of yours. Feel free to insert.

This summer, those joys are lost. A precious summer – I’m 66 and I’m starting to realize that my number of summers is getting smaller – is gone.

And then, to compound this feeling, there’s this idea:

How many of the 176,464 people who have died as of this moment from COVID-19 dreamed, when winter was its fiercest, about the joys of summer. And thought that if they could endure the cold and snow and dark that corn-on-the-cob and meeting friends at the soft swirl stand and a trip to Williamsburg or Yosemite were not so long away?

That, most of all, is why the song made me sad. There are people cheering in Sugarland’s version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying With You.”

Nobody’s cheering now.

It didn’t need to be this way. It. Did. Not. Need. To. Be. This. Way. 

Tonight, I’ll be staying here. Throw my suitcase back in the closet.

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MULTIPLE CHOICE

It’s Friday, July 17, 2020. It’s 109 days until Election Day.

It’s the 118th anniversary of air conditioning.

Willis Carrier unveiled the first plans for a devised that lowered both the temperature and humidity in the space in which it operated.

As we in New York prepare to hang out at home in the midst of the summer’s worst heatwave, appreciation of Carrier is in order.

Your kids carry your hopes and dreams. They’re the extension of your families into – hopefully – the 22nd century. They’re the manifestation of love itself.

So it’s quite understandable that many of you are pissed about having to decide whether or not to send them to school in the midst of this cursed pandemic.

If my kids were young enough, I’d be very leery of sending them back. And that leeriness would come as a surprise to them, since they thought of me as the evil parent who would have them in school 24/7/365 if he could.

And I live in New York. The virus, right now, isn’t nearly as bad here as it is elsewhere – or as it was here just a few months ago. School districts in areas where schools will be allowed to open have until the end of the month to develop plans for the safety of the kids attending.

So those of you around the country in places where COVID is rampant are probably even more reluctant to risk it.

The problem is that kids need an education. They need to go to school. And you know that.

When COVID-19 led to shutdowns in March, we first thought the disruption would last a few weeks. Maybe. Then we thought it would last a few months. Then we realized the rest of the 2019-2020 school year was lost.

But even then, there was no conception of what to do about the 2020-2021 year. Because no one knew what would happen to the virus. Would it just disappear with the warm weather or would it do, well, what it’s done, spread further and wider?

So there’s been no effort to plan for this school year in the event so many of us decided to keep our kids safe at home.

What’s needed here is some guidance on a national level. It would be nice if there’s some kind of federal Department of Education to establish curriculum standards and facilitate methods of delivery. That might help state and local officials develop plans they could adapt to their own requirements.

Instead, we have some organization with the title Department of Education. But its purpose under Trump collaborator Betsy DeVos is to fulfill her master’s political wishes.

So instead of solving the problem, DeVos’ mission is to parrot the open-at-all-costs mantra Trump believes he needs to win re-election.

Forget about them.

The lack of coordination and emphasis on kids learning, rather than on getting their bodies into a possibly virus-infested building, is another failure in this crisis.

State and local education departments – in conjunction with teachers and other professionals – should be establishing on a child-by-child basis the alternatives to in-person learning. Taking into account grade level, economic situation and special needs, and then formulating a plan to make that work.

Parents can’t be expected to teach kids themselves – particularly if they either work at home or actually have to go to a job. With sufficient planning and follow-through from educators, a little creative use of technology, it’s hard to believe kids can’t learn effectively.

But it was going to take an effort – a real effort – to accomplish this. And more than a little money.

Which goes back to how much of a priority education is. Unfortunately, it’s not that much,

For now, I don’t know that it helps any of the parents wrestling with what to do about their kids this fall. But someone should be thinking about how to help them out, instead of making them feel as though they can’t help the most precious parts of their lives.

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THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE?

It’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The presidential election is 19 weeks from today.

On this date 103 years ago, pitcher Ernie Shore of the Boston Red Sox probably expected a quiet day on the bench as his team started a game against the Washington Senators. 

But Boston’s ace, Babe Ruth, walked leadoff batter Ray Morgan. And, not thrilled by the strike zone, Ruth got into it with the umpire.

Not only did the ump throw Ruth out of the game, but Ruth responded by throwing a few punches.

Boston needed a pitcher – so in came Shore, who was no slouch on the mound himself. And the Red Sox manager came in to catch, because Ruth’s battery mate got tossed as well.

Morgan, figuring the new catcher was cold – tried to steal second and got himself thrown out.

And then Shore proceeded to retire the next 26 batters in a row – the only time that’s ever happened in the Major League Baseball history.

For many years, the game was listed in the record books as a perfect game. But the people who decide this stuff ruled that a perfect game really should be up 27 batters up, 27 batters down – no errors, no reaching base by walk, hit by pitch or catcher’s interference.

So Shore and Ruth are credited with a combined no-hitter.

The biggest change I want is, of course, the unceremonious ouster of the incumbent seat warmer in the Oval Office.

But Trump’s stay at the White House might have served a valuable purpose. (And, yes, I just inflicted pain on myself for writing that, but I’ll continue.)

Despite this nation’s deep political polarization, who really thought that the fundamental American political system was rife for a wannabe dictatorship?

In the last elections for president and both houses of Congress, Democrats received more votes than Republicans. Of course, because of the nature of our system, Republicans hold the White House and the Senate.

I understand that. Those are the rules we played by. If Hillary Clinton had won with 3 million fewer votes than Trump, I would have defended her election, too.

But instead of seeking to sway more Americans into supporting him with popular policies and conciliatory leadership, Trump seems to have driven through every loophole his henchpeople can find to enrich himself and entrench his power.

And that extends to the circle around Trump. In no advanced country would anyone as unqualified as Jared Kushner be allowed anywhere near the exercise of authority.

When I lie awake at night upset at the state of American democracy, it’s because of the fear that Trump could care less about its survival.

Lots of progressives talk about making changes to make sure an election like 2016 never occurs again.

Most of these center around eliminating the Electoral College and electing a president by popular vote.

There’s two problems with that.

One is that it’s not going to happen. The Electoral College is there just to thwart what we think should have happened in 2016 from happening. While Clinton won more votes overall, Trump was the candidate who got the most votes in more states.

It’s why a individual voter in Wyoming has more say about who’s in the White House than an individual voter in California. And it’s unlikely that Wyomingers are giving up the power.

Here’s the other problem: Changing the way we elect someone isn’t going to solve the abuses of someone like Trump.

Because in addition to him, Mitch McConnell’s Senate has been complicit in his power grab, So have the complicit judges railroaded onto the bench by McConnell.

And if – this is what’s most important – if these abuses were committed by progressive Democrats, they wouldn’t be any less heinous.

So people throughout the political spectrum might see the benefit of making the following two changes.

  1.   Put some teeth in the Constitution’s emoluments clause

Thanks to reporting led by David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post, we have a pretty fair idea of how much Trump’s businesses have benefitted from his presidency. 

Actually, we don’t need to see the reporting. Trump violates the emoluments clause every time he takes a wretched swing at a golf ball on one of his courses. 

That shouldn’t happen. That’s corrupting. And it applies equally if someone with a liberal bent – let’s say, for argument’s sake, Tom Steyer – was elected and conducted his presidency in a way that steered or encouraged his business to prosper.

So let’s make violation of the idea that the president should not have any business ties of any kind a sticking point. He or she would have to divest themselves and their entire family from those businesses within 60 days of inauguration or forfeit their presidency to the vice president.

2.     Create an independent anti-corruption body to assess and, possibly, adjudicate the performance of elected leaders

And this might be a way to use technology to solve the problem.

The agency could decide on an objective set of principles to determine degree of corruption. Does the president fire a federal prosecutor who was investigating his business? Did a House member from Pennsylvania take money from government contractors for a reelection campaign? Does the senator from Missouri have relatives working in the St. Louis office?

Put these into algorithms and spit out an annual integrity score. If the score is below the standard for honest governance, it would trigger an inquiry from the commission’s members – non-partisan choices from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

If the commission finds an official acted corruptly, the matter is first referred to the appropriate remedial body – if it’s the president, for example, the House would get the case as grounds for impeachment. 

But, if no action is taken, the matter goes to a referendum among the voters of that jurisdiction, national, state or congressional district. And that will be done by popular vote – if the president loses, the vice president succeeds him or her.

Because right now, there is no check on Trump’s abuse of power. He – or more likely, the people around him who actually know how government works – can run roughshod on normal presidential behavior and ethics.

And this Senate, as it proved in February, won’t hold him to account.

I want the Trump era to end now. But I also want there to be nothing like this time in our country ever again.

I don’t know that there’s any sure way to do that – but it would be a failure on our part not to try.

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BEFORE YOU TEAR DOWN THAT COLUMBUS STATUE

It’s Friday, June 12, 2020.

Today is the 57th anniversary of the murder of Medgar Evers outside his Jackson, Mississippi, home.

Evers fought at Normandy before coming home to the same old Jim Crow crap when he tried to exercise his right to vote. So he spent the rest of his life trying to get it and other basic rights for African Americans.

Just before he died, he heard President John F. Kennedy give his strongest speech on the need to pass national civil rights legislation. Then he pulled into his driveway, emerged from his car and got shot in the back by a racist coward. 

He died 50 minutes later, but not before his frantic family convinced a Jackson hospital to make Evers its first-ever black patient. It was about to turn him away because it was whites only, but somebody in the place remembered the Hippocratic Oath thing.

To see Evers’ gravesite. don’t go to Mississippi. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Because he’s an American hero.

Andrew Cuomo, my state’s governor, tackled the question of whether New York City should join the movement to topple the statue of Christopher Columbus in Columbus Circle.

And by “tackled,” I mean he knocked it down hard – much like what those bothered by the statue would do to it given the chance.

“I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support, but the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York,” Cuomo said. 

“So, for that reason, I support it.”

This is tricky ground for me.

I’m not only Italian American, but my paternal grandfather is from Savona, where Columbus spent his boyhood. He’s practically a homie.

So, over the years, I’ve tried to find ways of defending Columbus. I’ve wrestled with this the past few days as Native Americans state their case for demonizing him.

Now that might bother you. Like the governor, I get it – and that’s why you’re now in the midst of my rumination of how to reconcile two things:

  1.   Columbus symbolizes Italian American pride.
  2.   Columbus enslaved, murdered, sickened and colonized the people he supposedly “discovered.” That, understandably, bothers Native Americans and other indigenous people of this hemisphere.

There are seething injustices for which the craven murder of George Floyd is merely the tipping point.

African Americans, in particular, have reason to be aggrieved. 

Add all the unpunished police or wannabe police killing with less-than-human treatment by society, substandard service by government, economic inequality and a disproportionate amount of death from COVID-19 – and I’m still not sure that sums it all up.

So I get this idea of righting wrongs – those from last month and those from the last four centuries. And not just African Americans – everyone else in my household is wholly or partly Asian, and watching videos of jerks blaming Chinese people in America for the pandemic gets all of their blood boiling.

What complicates this is why there’s a Columbus Day and Columbus statues in the first place.

Brent Staples, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial board member of the Times, wrote an amazing piece last fall.

You should read it. But here’s a summary:

In 1891, 11 Italian immigrants were lynched in New Orleans because a jury didn’t convict some of them for the shooting death of the city’s police chief. The city’s leaders had no problem with this. Neither, Staples points out, did his employer, the Times – it called the mob’s victims “a pest without mitigations.”

If the lynched had been black, it wouldn’t have raised much fuss. As African Americans know all too well.

But the Italian immigrants had allies – la patria.

The Italian government was so incensed by the incident that it broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and threatened to go to war over it.

President Benjamin Harrison – a Republican with such a peculiar obsession with his wife’s niece that he married her after his wife died – caved to the Italians. Kinda like Sen. Pat Geary of Nevada in “The Godfather Part II.”

He paid an indemnity and declared a one-time holiday to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the hemisphere.

The holiday stuck. The powers that were realized that Italians are white people, too, and wanted to bring them on board. They might not be as desirable as the British and the Norwegians, but at least they’re not Asian or black.

Why Columbus? After all, he never sailed close to what became the United States.

I guess Harrison had the anniversary in mind, when he wasn’t thinking about his wife’s niece, and there wasn’t anyone else who fit the role.

So that’s where I am. I get why it’s hard for Italian Americans to let go of Columbus. He represents our begrudged acceptance in this country.

But here’s the thing:

Two wrongs, three wrongs, 27 wrongs, thousands upon thousands of wrongs – no number of wrongs make a right.

The evidence is overwhelming that Columbus did what historians say he did. That’s horrible. 

He deserves the vitriol he gets. As an American, Italian- or otherwise, injustice is anathema in whatever form it takes. 

Even – no, especially – when it’s done by a homie.

However, before we knock down Columbus’ statues and change the name of Columbus, Ohio, and Columbia University and the District of Columbia, can I make a suggestion about Columbus Day?

Let’s keep it.

Except that we should honor the original idea behind it rather than who it honors.

Let’s make it a day to celebrate the immigrants who make this country what it is. All of them, not just us Italians.

Let’s make it a day to celebrate where we all come from. A feast day with a dizzying array of food, music and ritual.

A day to celebrate my Italian heritage and my wife’s Chinese heritage and your Mexican heritage and your Senegalese heritage and your British heritage and your Cherokee heritage.

A day for parades down Broadway in New York and Market Street in San Francisco and High Street in whatever we end up calling Columbus, Ohio.

And that statue in New York that Gov. Cuomo opposes tearing down?

I’m perfectly happy replacing it with one of his grandfather. Andrea Cuomo came from southern Italy to run a grocery store in Queens and start a family that gave our state two governors. He’s certainly a more honorable man than Christopher Columbus.

But if that seems vain, maybe a rotating series of statues in the renamed Immigrants Circle reflecting the diversity of New York.

The point here is this:

I get why you might object to a statue of a slaver and murderer in a vaunted spot of your hometown. 

But he’s there to show compassion for the struggles of one of the groups that helped make this country.

If we can be more virtuous about who we honor – and generous about sharing that virtue – sending that statue a tumblin’ down might work.

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REVISIONISM

It’s Wednesday, June 10, 2020.

It’s the 125th anniversary of the birth of Hattie McDaniel.

She was the first African American to win an Academy Award, the best supporting actress for “Gone with the Wind.” 

McDaniel played Scarlett O’Hara’s maid in the movie. Indeed, her movie career, which lasted until she died at age 59 in 1952, was predominantly filled with maid roles. Because black women were pretty much restricted to subservient roles – subservient except to the black men who were portrayed as too weak to stand up to even them.

Even in the 1940s, McDaniel faced some pushback from other African Americans who thought she perpetuated negative stereotypes. In that way, she couldn’t win – criticized by black people on one side and not allowed to attend the movie’s premiere in Atlanta because of Jim Crow.

But, after her death, McDaniel’s reputation improved. When Mo’Nique won the best supporting actress Oscar for “Precious” in 2010, she praised McDaniel for putting up with Hollywood’s racism so that other actresses could be free of it. 

It’s funny how history works. 

I think it’s a coincidence that McDaniel’s birthday is when HBOMax – the latest streaming TV service you didn’t know you needed – announced it’s pulling “Gone with the Wind” temporarily.

The service said it will bring back the film once it’s put some kind of “discussion of historical context” in or around it.

This has been a surprisingly big year for “Gone with the Wind” news.

You’ll remember that at one of his last rallies before stopping them due to the COVID pandemic he said was a hoax, Trump lamented the best picture Oscar going to “Parasite.” And he wondered why they don’t make movies like “GWTW” any more.

Just an aside, my guess is that Trump is one of those assholes who talks during a movie.

Anyway, I believe the first time I saw “Gone with the Wind” was in college. I had heard about it all through childhood – it was the seminal movie event of my parents’ generation and, until “The Sound of Music” came around in the 1960s, was the biggest grossing film of all time.

I remember being unimpressed. 

Movie buffs would say that “Gone with the Wind” was the state of the art of movies in 1939, incorporating CGI-type effects without the benefit of the C. The burning of Atlanta – with Rhett rescuing Scarlett, Melanie and Prissy as the fires rage – is considered the Death Star destruction of its time.

OK, but the story sucks.

It sucked even before our current reawakening of racial tension that led to HBOMax’s decision.

Unless your sense of history is that the wrong side won the Civil War, this movie asks you to sympathize with the biggest collection of losers ever. 

Scarlett is a spoiled brat. Ashley is a mindless dolt who gives himself to this supposedly noble cause. Melanie is a dope who’s always letting Scarlett get off the hook with her lecherous approaches toward her husband. 

And Rhett would be a total jerk – he rapes his wife and exploits the side he’s supposedly on for financial gain – if it weren’t for the fact that he’s played by Clark Gable.

Then there’s the black characters. I’m sympathize with Hattie McDonald, Eddie Anderson and the rest, but it’s hard to watch this and accept the idea that these characters are content with life in bondage. Especially to the people I mention above.

But, I have to say, I long accepted the idea that this was considered a classic film. In the American Film Institute’s initial ranking of the top 100 films of all time, it came in fourth – only behind “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.”

The re-ranking in 2007 put it sixth, raising “Raging Bull” and “Singin’ in the Rain” above it.

So a couple of things happened after that.

When I wonder why I raised two kids who are embarked on show business careers, I think back to the Dad Film Festival – my attempt to show my youngsters what real movies were after being forced to watch “The Doug Movie” and other wastes of my time.

So I showed them movies perceived as classics. Some of them are – “Singin’ in the Rain” remains my son’s favorite movie of all time.

Then there’s “Gone with the Wind.”

They were bored. Not a lot really happens by today’s standards. It’s a freakin’ long movie, almost four hours with the intermission – and they wondered what was up with that.

The other thing that bothered them was the fact that this story is told from the point of view of the Confederate losers I mentioned above. Who cares what happens to them? They were fighting to keep people enslaved and got exactly what they deserved.

It’s a disorienting film for your kids if they’ve been raised to think the good guys won the Civil War.

One other thing to consider.

When I’ve taught my journalism class, I’ve given students an assignment to watch a movie that depicts the profession and critique it. Most of these are the standards: “All the President’s Men,” “Spotlight,” “Citizen Kane” and “Network” are among them.

One movie I considered was “His Girl Friday,” the adaptation of “The Front Page” that featured Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. It’s considered a classic screwball comedy of the 1940s and a depiction of old-time newsrooms.

So I watched it. It certainly has a lot of virtues.

It also is chockablock with racism. Mercifully, it doesn’t use the n word, but any other slur you can think of shows up.

And it’s not even as if it’s essential to the plot – as if the story is even about black people. It’s just casually dropped in there for what I imagine the writers thought was an easy laugh.

I could not imagine any of my students – especially, any of my African American students – considering this movie anything but insulting. What serious discussion could I have about what the movie tells us about journalism when unseen African Americans are so disregarded?

Obviously, this is a time of reflection about our multiracial society.

The COVID-19 pandemic, with the preponderance of African American victims – should have pushed us toward it. The murder of George Floyd did.

One of the things to think about is what is art.

There are people bothered by HBOMax’s decision to pull the film because of “GWTW’s” vaunted status. 

But do black people see art when they see the movie?

Or do they, as Malcolm X said about the movie, feel “like crawling under the rug”?

At the very least, HBOMax is right to frame this movie in some sort of context.

Because there’s a reason Trump sees this as the kind of movie Hollywood should be making – and it’s not because the cinematography stands out in the burning of Atlanta scene.

As far as I’m concerned, keeping “Gone with the Wind” off HBOMax might be a good reason to subscribe.

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