THE DISTRACTION CHAMBER

1. It’s Friday, August 18, 2017.

2. It’s the 83rd birthday of Roberto Clemente. A baseball player so revered for his goodness that things are named for him outside Pittsburgh, where he played, and Puerto Rico, his home.

Roberto Clemente is an antidote for what ails the world this week.

Of course, he was a great player, helping the Pirates win two World Series and batting .300 or better just about every year of his career. He is the standard for playing right field well, even 45 years after his death.

But he used his baseball success to help others. Indeed, he died while trying to make sure that aid he had collected to help victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake got to whom it was intended.

One of baseball’s coveted postseason honors is the Roberto Clemente Award, going to a player whose work off the field benefits communities in need.

In a week that has seen Charlottesville and Barcelona, maybe it helps to remember that this is a world that once saw a Roberto Clemente – and hope that there’s others like him.

3. At this moment, social media and the political world are agog with the departure – not clear if it’s a firing or a resignation, but that’s no big deal – of Steve Bannon from the White House.

Will Bannon turn on Trump and launch brickbats from confines of Breitbart? Will Bannon be a mouthpiece for Trump? Who emerges as the new White House power figure?

And my question: Who cares?

In the past week, Trump has defended racists and Nazis after their actions led to the death of a woman in a terrorist attack.

In the past two weeks, he has put this nation at risk of nuclear war with North Korea.

In the past three months, he has embarrassed this country in his trips overseas, tried mightily to strip millions of their health care and attempted to harass an investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to swing the election his way.

Steve Bannon can spew whatever the hell he wants from Breitbart world headquarters in one of Dante’s circles of hell.

The fact of the matter that this meatball, Trump, remains president. He’s still using the office to enrich himself, still trying to undo any government activity that helps people in need and dividing this nation in ways not seen since the Civil War.

Steve Bannon is out. Great. It’s just too bad he can’t take out the orange trash with him.

Stay focused on Trump and what he’s trying to do to this country. All this White House churn – from Spicer to Scaramucci to Bannon – is a shiny object meant to distract you and everyone else from the real stuff.

 

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TWO IMPEACHMENTS OR NONE

1. It’s Thursday, August 17, 2017.

2. It’s the 103rd birthday of Franklin D. Roosevelt Junior, the son of the 32nd President of the United States and Eleanor Roosevelt.

It’s also the 29th anniversary of the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt Junior.

I guess there’s a 1-in-365 chance that this sort of thing happens. It’s still a little weird.

3. Republicans are becoming more and more uncomfortable with their Frankenstinian creation in the White House.

This morning’s tweets lamented the damage being done to our urban landscapes by the idea that monuments to traitors are getting taken down. With that, Trump continues his embrace of creatures who his victory empowered to emerge from under their rocks.

4. Despite all this, impeachment seems highly unlikely.

I know that there are people chanting it and hashtagging it and what have you. But Trump was right the first time – if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, the idiots who support him and the party officials who have hung on would be unfazed.

And as much as I hate Trump, I don’t think impeachment is a great solution. It might, in fact, make matters worse.

Mike Pence is just about as horrendous a human being as Trump. This is a guy who once wrote a piece that was pro-smoking! This is a guy who looks at “The Handmaid’s Tale” as utopian.

But he’s not going to tweet nonsense at 3 in the morning, so people would be able to sleep through the night again. Thus, he’d put more of a smiling face on the horrid things this administration has tried to do – particularly in matters such as health care and civil rights.

So let’s say the Republicans – who, because of their majorities in the House and Senate, have to be on board for any impeachment to succeed – decide Trump’s longterm impact on the party is to smash it to pieces.

And they think, we can be heroes. Get rid of Trump, and his mid 30s approval ratings, and get Pence, who’s right in line with how we think about the world anyway.

5. If this happens, here is what I want Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to say:

No.

The Republicans cannot get rid of Trump unless they also get rid of Pence.

I mean, let’s face it, there isn’t anyone in the current line of succession that I want to be president. But I’d rather take my chances with President Paul Ryan, the House Speaker being next in line, or even President Orrin Hatch, the president pro tempore of the Senate who’s after Ryan.

If Trump is thrown out of office, it will be a trauma, as loathed as he is. Unless Robert Mueller’s case is even stronger than we think, Trump was duly elected under the existing rules. He received a majority of the electoral college votes, if not the popular vote.

Even people who want Trump dumped would be saddened by it.

OK, maybe just some of them. But enough of them to create a vacuum of leadership that his successor will automatically step into.

That’s true even if that successor is Pence. There will be a tendency for the country to unify somewhat behind him as he steers America through this constitutional crisis.

And that would be unfortunate. Because Pence has been a Trump apologist, sucking up to him to get on the ticket when other Republican politicians shunned the idea.

Pence is on board with all of the horrendous Trump policies. And he has been a staunch defender – even in the past week, when Trump pretty much gave his blessing to Nazis and secessionists.

Pence is complicit with everything Trump has done. He should not get to play the role of hero.

The problem for Republicans is that while as much as a majority of them might get to the point when impeachment is a political expedient, not all of them will. Can you imagine a Neanderthal such as Steve King of Iowa or one of those Texas knuckleheads voting for impeachment when Trump is supporting the same crap they always have?

Impeachment would need Democratic votes.

And that’s why Pelosi says no way – not unless we get Pence along with Trump. A President Pence gets a honeymoon in which he gets to pass some of his godawful legislation. And Democrats shouldn’t live with that.

It’s a tough spot. It’s hard to imagine three and a-half more years of this crap every single day.

And yet, as hard as it is to believe, there are worse things. Mike Pence as president is one of them.

I’m no Paul Ryan fan, but I like our chances of survival better. Without a twofer, it should be no go.

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TYLER TWO

1. It’s Wednesday, August 16, 2017.

2. It’s the 176th anniversary of what is considered the most violent demonstration in the history of the White House (if you don’t count the British burning it in 1814).

On August 16, 1841, President John Tyler vetoed Congress’ effort to re-establish the Bank of the United States, a national bank that Andrew Jackson dismantled years before.

Tyler, who succeeded William Henry Harrison four months earlier, in name belonged to the Whig party, which controlled Congress and passed the bank law. But Tyler was kind of a hard-headed jerk, and he really didn’t give a damn what Congress or anyone else thought.

The Whig politicians reacted by marching with supporters from Capitol Hill to the White House. They stormed the ground, burning Tyler in effigy.

In later years, the Whigs made noises about impeaching Tyler, to no avail. But his independence cost him – neither the Whigs nor the Democrats wanted him as their standard bearer in 1844. In 1861, Tyler voted in a special convention for Virginia’s secession from the Union and he was elected to the Confederate House but died before he could take his seat.

Tyler had been a Democrat before the 1840 election, but joined Harrison – a hero at the Battle of Tippecanoe against the Shawnee tribe – on the Whig ticket. The most famous thing about both men is their campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too.”

3. John Tyler might resemble Trump more than any other of Trump’s 43 predecessors – counting Grover Cleveland only once.

He thought that once he became president, he could just run the country. Forget that Congress had other ideas. He managed to piss off both Whigs and Democrats.

But somehow, Tyler staved off impeachment. The Whigs tried, but just couldn’t muster the articles of impeachment needed for a vote in the House.

Republicans are in a different place in 2017.

Unlike the Whigs, who claimed they were double-crossed by Tyler, the Republicans knew what they were getting with Trump. The party leaders backed him once he got the nomination, and were on board with his agenda when he won.

The only reason Obamacare remains on life support is that three Republicans had the integrity to say that what was being done to the American people – ramming through a bill that would take insurance away from millions of them – wasn’t right.

But still, they remain teammates. Democrats can scream all they want – they can’t do anything to Trump.

Even if Robert Mueller finds out that Trump collaborated with the Russians in an attempt to tilt the 2016 election in his favor, Republicans will have to be the ones to see the crime as high enough to warrant action.

So I’m skeptical that, even with yesterday’s sheer debacle of a news conference, even with the condemnation of every politician and other national figure with a shred of decency, even with the outcry on every major TV channel and news organization, that Trump is going anywhere soon.

And even if congressional Republicans have had enough, do you really want Mike Pence in the White House? He’s been complicit with all of this, and all he would do is put a more respectable face on the same crap.

It might give people some sense of relief to type #ImpeachTrump in their Twitter feed. But the reality is that impeachment might not be the solution. It will be just as hard to do that as it was to get rid of Tyler in the 1840s.

Which reminds me that there’s one other thing Tyler and Trump have in common.

They’re both traitors.

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WRONG TRACK

1. It’s Tuesday, August 15, 2017

2. It’s the 70th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan.

It’s the 48th anniversary of the opening of the Woodstock music festival in Bethel Woods, New York. And it’s Napoleon Bonaparte’s 248th birthday.

3. Admittedly I’m biased. I worked at CNN for nearly 16 years.

But a lot of people I care a great deal about inhabit the halls of its offices in New York, Atlanta, Washington, London and other places.

So I mean it when I say this:

Cowards tweet pictures like the one that went out on Twitter earlier today.

People who aren’t fit to be in the same room with the people who work at CNN tweet pictures like the one that went out on Twitter earlier today.

Lowlifes whose integrity doesn’t register in comparison to the men and women I know and worked with at CNN tweet pictures like the one that went out on Twitter earlier today.

Scum whose sole contribution to the planet is what they flush down a toilet tweet pictures like the one that went out on Twitter earlier today.

And all of that goes double for Nazi-sympathizing retweeters.

The people I worked with at CNN do and did their jobs with integrity, courage, perseverance and adherence to the highest standards of their profession. They did their jobs without fear or favor, without bias and with fairness as their guiding star.

They’ll own up to a mistake. They’ll stand by their work. And they’ll do it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 or 366 days a year, for more than 37 years.

Their record of accomplishment is difficult to top. It certainly hasn’t been approached by the meatball occupying the Oval Office – who seems more accustomed to bankruptcy than success.

I might not work at CNN any more. But I’m proud to have done so.

If you think a miserable hate train is enough to stop the people of CNN, you’re as stupid as you are wrong.

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AFRAID TO GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY

1. It’s Monday, August 14, 2017.

2. It’s the 82nd anniversary of Social Security.

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the legislation that is now the lifeblood for millions of elderly Americans.

One of the tack-on benefits of having stalled the Trump-Ryan-McConnell effort to gut Americans’ health care is that they haven’t had a chance to act on gutting Americans’ Social Security – or Medicare, for that matter.

That’s going to be trickier. It’s not that they don’t want to – Republicans are on a mission to gut the legacies of every Democratic president from FDR to Obama, and especially those two.

But the older white people who are the core of the GOP support rely a great deal on Social Security and Medicare. And until the Republicans, in their usual serpentine way, figure out how to sell seniors on the idea that taking away those programs makes them more secure, it’s something they might avoid for a while.

3. Trump’s Charlottesville comments pissed off anyone with a brain who heard them.

The fact that he couldn’t condemn Nazis or white supremacists or traitors carrying Confederate flags by name. The fact that he thought that there were “many sides” in the wrong.

That’s all been rehashed the past few days, and there’s really little to add. Like Putin, Nazis and white supremacists seemed to be on Trump’s side in his crusade against Hillary Clinton, so they warrant his protection. It shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But I was curious about something in his rambling, insipid remarks.

What prompted him to talk about children playing?

“What is vital now is the swift restoration of law and order, and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society,” Trump said.

“And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play, or be with their parents, and have a good time.”

What does Trump know about going outside and playing?

Can you imagine little Donnie traipsing through the streets of Jamaica in the 1950s? Would daddy Fred, who might have been arrested at a KKK rally before his son was born, let his son out among the unwashed?

Playing stickball with the other kids and crying because one of the bigger kids struck him out? Spending a day in the neighborhood ring-a-levio “jail”?

Can you imagine that any of Trump kids ever wandered off the gaudy estate to meet up with the neighborhood kids? Donnie Junior shooting hoops in a playground?

Does he think that little waifs wander the streets of Charlottesville on a Saturday afternoon, getting ice cream and spending a quarter on one of those devices that look like a car or horse and rocks around for about a minute.

A 32-year-old woman died because somebody rammed a car into her and other counter-protestors. But instead of condemning the people who sparked this, this idiot is talking about kids as if they would be running through sprinklers and flipping baseball cards if she and everyone else weren’t around.

So forget the fact that, in real 21st century America, parents just don’t send their kids outside to play the way they did when I was little. That, for better or worse, most kids interact in organized settings like playgroups or community programs, with the older ones playing video games and connecting on social media.

Perhaps Trump believes making America great again means going back to those times when parents sent their kids outside at 10 a.m. and didn’t expect to see them until dinner, except maybe for lunch.

But if that’s the case, maybe it would behoove Trump to tell his little Nazi buddies and Confederate sympathizers that America would be great if they stayed off the streets so that kids can play. Maybe urge them to crawl back under the rock with their fellow pillbugs.

Because that scum is out on the streets. And that’s not a fit sight for any child.

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THEY’RE STILL LOUSY

My father hated Nazis.

He was a child of World War II, and believed heart and soul in the great cause of ridding the world of them.

I don’t think it had so much to do with the fact his father and uncles fled the Nazis’ allies, Mussolini’s Fascists, leading to the execution of his grandfather.

All right, maybe that was a factor.

I think it was just that Nazis were evil. And he couldn’t stand that.

So when he was a boy, he participated in scrap metal drives that gave away free Brooklyn Dodger tickets – not so much for the tickets, since he was a Yankee fan, as for the fact that he was doing something to beat the Nazis.

He hated the Nazis so much that, as a grown man, he would shout at the Folger’s coffee commercials because he thought – mistakenly – that the actress who played Mrs. Olsen also was a Nazi in a movie made during the war.

“I wouldn’t drink your coffee, you lousy Nazi,” he shouted.

If he were alive, seeing Nazi salutes on TV today would have made him snap out of his living room chair in red-faced anger.

But since he isn’t, I did it for him.

Nazism is vile. Among its satanic tenets are genocide – the too-close-to-being-successful effort to eliminate Judaism from the planet – and terrorism. The elimination of anyone’s right to speak except those who share your disgusting philosophy.

Add Nazis to people waving the ultimate symbol of treason, the Army of Northern Virginia banner widely viewed as the Confederate flag, and you have one side of people who have no concept or respect for this country and all of its 300 million plus people.

That’s the only side Trump needed to condemn today. Not “many sides,” one. Admittedly with several divisions, but still the same crap.

That he can’t is to his shame. That he can’t is a message that these people are just one petitioner among many for the American soul – and that all should be accommodated. Let’s put America first and work it out – that’s basically what Trump said at his golf course.

That’s crap.

There is no accommodating Nazis. There is no accommodating treasonous supporters of slavery. There is no accommodating those who believe being white – and you can add Christian and male, albeit unsaid – makes them superior to any other American.

People voted for Trump to make America great. But today is not a great day for this country. It is a tragedy that the hope of the world is being reduced to a clash of “many sides” by the man sworn to uphold its Constitution.

Speaking for my dad and most of the decent people of the United States, you and the Nazis are both lousy, Trump.

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STARTING POINTS

1. It’s Tuesday, August 8, 2017.

2. It’s Dustin Hoffman’s 80th birthday.

It’s the 43rd anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation announcement.

At noon ET, the Trump administration completed 200 days.

3. In yesterday’s post, I said the nearly two-thirds of Americans who don’t support Trump need to take control of the national agenda. The reeling from tweet to tweet has to stop.

So what should be the first cause? What banner should thousands of Americans rally to in an effort to shake off the toxicity of this administration?

My first choice is a little abstract, but still worthwhile.

4. Respect.

The election of Trump has sparked a surge in disrespect. Most of it is directed at people who aren’t white Christians. A lot is targeted at women.

Two recent incidents highlight the poison infiltrating our society, particularly since Nov. 8, 2016.

On Saturday, as people were gathering for prayers, a bomb tore through the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Mercifully, and perhaps miraculously, there were no injuries.

There was something else of which there’s been nothing.

A condemnation by the President of the United States.

For some reason, Trump doesn’t see the bombing of the mosque as something as worthy of his comment as a senator’s criticism of him and his war on the nation’s news media.

What happened in Bloomington on Saturday is terrorism. And to go around claiming you’re some sort of scourge on terrorists without taking a strong stand against this kind of crap makes you a hypocrite.

Attacks on mosques, synagogues or churches reek of bigotry and hatred, and are designed to make people fearful.

That’s terrorism, Trump. Not sure why he can’t say that, and put the weight of the most powerful office in the world behind something any decent human on the planet can support. And, in the process, make more Americans feel as though they’re part of the nation’s fabric, instead of outcasts.

But, hey, good luck missing those bunkers on the 15th hole.

5. The second thing is the controversial memo issued by a now former Google engineer tackling the problem of diversity in the tech conglomerate.

In the memo, the engineer starts out fine (other than using the ridiculous Oxford comma). “I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes.”

Alas, as the furor attests, there’s a but in here.

It begins on page three of the memo with a section titles “Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap.” He starts talking about inherited traits of men and women.

And then he steps in it. He says things such as women prefer jobs in social and artistic areas, don’t have the biological capability to speak up on their behalf, and tend to be more neurotic – with higher anxiety levels – than men.

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf writes that news organizations are miscovering this memo as an anti-diversity screed. He says by reading it, you understand that the author’s intentions are good.

Sorry, Conor. It’s a stereotype. It’s a lie. And once you reach that point in the memo, it’s like mold on bread – the whole loaf is headed for the garbage.

It really seems long past time we stop judging people by what they look like and instead see what each individual brings to the task at hand.

6. So back to my original point.

A rally to respect all Americans would establish the idea that everyone is part of the American experiment. Regardless of race, sex, religion, gender orientation and ethnicity.

And one more thing – and this part is how you appeal to so-called Trump voters: Geography.

While we all have our preferences about where we live and where we visit, in this country there should be no bias toward people of any locale. The people who feel slighted because they’re Iowans or Mississippians should not feel that way.

A respect rally would be a good starting point to show that opposition to Trump isn’t the only point we share.

And yet, is there any doubt this is something Trump would have a hard time participating? It belies the whole foundation of his presidency.

Besides, there’s an obvious performer for the crowd. Fire up the train for Aretha!

 

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